Telepathy is Hard [#AuthorToolboxBlogHop]

There’s been a sense of dissonance with my author groups that I’m part of lately. So many of my friends used to be pushing toward that next book, that next project, the next book festival, and getting excited about what was coming next. Now though so many of them are despondent when they look at their author career, and it really isn’t surprising why.

Some of us have been in quarantine for over three months even while others are able to go freely where they want. Many authors I’ve spoken with are in the same boat, either due to their own health issues or for loves ones. Then the protests began and the excessive use of force from police departments kept me glued to live feeds every evening near curfew to see what would happen, to keep an eye out for people on the ground. I had friends get involved in protests who had to run away from tear gas and rubber bullets. Still the violence hasn’t stopped. Just the other day a police officer killed a black man for falling asleep in his car here in Atlanta. There’s a constant sense of outrage and desperation right now that’s impossible to miss.

It’s difficult to write when your heart is bleeding for the world around you. It’s difficult to put aside your fears and worries when you see all the people risking their lives daily to be heard.

Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

Stephen King called writing telepathy. After describing a scene, he writes the following in his book, On Writing.

This is what we’re looking at, and we all see it. I didn’t tell you. You didn’t ask me. I never opened my mouth and you never opened yours. We’re not even in the same year together, let alone the same room… except we are together. We are close. We’re having a meeting of the minds. […] We’ve engaged in an act of telepathy.

I think back to this concept regularly when I’m struggling with my writing. Creating a scene or a character for readers to identify and care for is an act of telepathy, and if an author has a hard time expressing the image they have in their head, or worse yet, if they have a hard time even picturing the scene they want to convey, then static comes across the line. Readers pick up on that static, whether they realize it or not. They feel the loss of focus or a character doing something that doesn’t make sense. They feel that discontinuity.

When the world feels like it’s on fire, authors can have a hard time channeling their minds into words. It’s understandable that there’s static. It’s understandable to get frustrated because it’s too hard to focus and the words won’t come out. It’s okay to feel like the characters aren’t behaving properly. It’s impossible to extract writing from the time and place that it was written. As creators of worlds, people, and locations, authors need to be aware of the static that gets in the way and allow it to exist. Sometimes the static is there for a reason.

Somehow over the past couple of months I found the mindset to write a book, Chosen, the last book in the Stolen series. I finished writing it a month into quarantine and finished editing it after the police violence at protests began dying down last week. I focused my outrage and pain into my novel, into my characters, and into scenes which ended up being eerily similar to the scenes I read about online. I had characters house protagonists despite risking their lives to do it. I had enemies hide behind their military troops. I had powerful characters admit that they were in too much pain to carry on in battle.

Basically I allowed the real world to infiltrate my book world in a way that expanded the world. I allowed some crossover, but only if it made sense. I channeled the emotions I felt from hearing these stories and from watching these horrors. Sometimes I realized the crossover was happening as I wrote the book, but other times I didn’t realize it until I was editing.

I know that the writing process is very different for everyone, and that we all have different ways of coping with the stress going on in the world, but I hope that hearing how I have come to terms with it helped. Chosen was meant to be written during this time and it is truly reflected in the storyline.

My advice is to listen to that static and see if it can push you in the right direction. See if it’s trying to encourage a change of direction or a change in a character. I hope you find a way to continue your craft despite the difficulties we are dealing with now and on the long road ahead.

A Bittersweet Ending

The last month or two have been crazy, both with the world in general and in my very busy writing corner. It’s led me to be a little behind on posting here, but I’m hoping to fix that! So first up some announcements.

Updates on Chosen

I have officially turned in my fully written and fully edited copy of Chosen, book 3 of the Stolen series! Somehow through everything that has been going on, between the COVID-19 outbreak and all the violence and tears of the last few weeks, I was able to focus and finish this book. It really is a culmination of years of work since I first started writing Stolen in 2013. That’s a good seven years of work to get here, and wow, what a ride!

Shaleigh has grown so much throughout the books, but so have the other characters too. Each one of them have grown into their unique selves and I’m really happy with that. I’m so excited to share the final chapter of this emotional trilogy with everyone.

However it’s also bittersweet. I’ve fallen in love with these characters and the world, and it’s going to be very difficult to let go of them. I’ve had these characters in my head for years, so it’s difficult to just let go of them. However I also have a very full plate of other books in my brain that also want attention.

In Progress

Speaking of… the next book I’ll be tackling is Colton Fen’s novel, currently titled Descent. It’s the first of the Colton Fen series and Night Feeders is going to be book 0.5. This book has had an ongoing facelift and I’m going in to work on it more with a long list of to-do items to tackle.

After that, I’ll be working on the long-awaited sequel to The She-Wolf of Kanta, which I plan to make a full-length book. I have a whole outline figured out and plan to write the entire book long-hand. I’ve already started writing on it, but it still has a long way to go to reach completion.

There are the projects I’m comfortable sharing now, but there are a bunch more I’ve hinted at during interviews or in chats that are on the horizon. So expect to hear more announcements and progress updates as I go.

The Seeking is now available to pre-order!

I’m thrilled to share that The Seeking is now available to pre-order on Amazon! This dark young adult horror novel has already had reviews come in on Goodreads, and I’m thrilled with the feedback so far! This book features weird creatures, a diverse cast of characters, and terrifying monsters.

How Long Did It Take?

Image of cactus and typewriter from Florencia Viadana on Unsplash

“How long did it take you to write that book?”

This is something I hear from people often. They ask how long a book took to write, and regardless of what you tell them, there’s usually a nod and an unspoken understanding. What they take away from the answer depends on what they’re really asking. Sometimes they ask out of curiosity, but sometimes it’s because they’re trying to decide if their work is worth trying to complete. Sometimes they’re judging themselves for writing too quickly or too slowly for what they see as a standard speed.

Let me just take a moment to say: it doesn’t matter.

The speed of your first draft does not determine how good it is or whether it’s worth publishing. You can take thirty days or thirty years to write it, and it will still need to be edited, proofread, and formatted. It will still need to be shopped around to publishers, reviewed, and marketed.

One of the things I love as a reader and as an author is that every book has its own story from inception to landing in your hands. Sometimes its been written in fits and starts over decades. Sometimes it was trunked, or buried away somewhere and abandoned, before being dusted off and given new life. Sometimes it’s written in a month and given a few months of editing before being published. All of these methods are completely valid and absolutely normal. There is no right speed for crafting a book.

Do you know what every book has in common? It was finished.

Now, I don’t mean it’s perfect because there is no perfect book, but it is pushed as close as it can be before being allowed to fly on its own. Art is all about striving for that impossibility, for making the story match the pictures you have in your head, but it will never completely match up, and that’s okay. As long as you can create a similar story in the heads of your readers, that’s the real win.

So to all those people working on a book slowly over time, or to those hopping from one partially finished manuscript to the next, remember that finishing it is the only real requirement. Even thirty minutes a day, or even a week, is all it takes.

You can finish it, I promise.

Writing a Trilogy: The Lessons I Have Learned [#AuthorToolboxBlogHop]

It’s a new year, a new decade, and here I am starting on book three of my Stolen trilogy, the first series of books I’ve written. As I ease back into the world and the characters that give this series so much life, I realize how very different it has been for me to write each book. I thought it might be helpful to share what I’ve learned in this month’s Author Toolbox Blog Hop.

AuthorToolboxBlogHop Title Image

This hop is made up of a bunch of authors all sharing advice and experiences to help out other authors. I’m always thrilled to be part of this, and I hope you’ll take the time to go check out some of the other author blogs!

Cover for Stolen, Book 1 of the Stolen series
Stolen, Book 1 of the Stolen series

Book one (Stolen – now available) had its own challenges, as I explained way back in 2013 when I struggled with drafting it. It sometimes baffles me when I look back on that post at how much I’ve learned since then, and how much more refined my writing has become. Somehow it was easy for me then to talk about how books ought to end, how stories ought to progress, and how characters ought to evolve. It’s really different when the blank page is staring at you and you realize that you’re the only one who can create those things and finish the story. When the stakes are higher you suddenly understand why writing series is so difficult.

Cover for Broken, Book 2 of the Stolen series
Broken, Book 2 of the Stolen series

Book two (Broken – coming April 7th) had its own set of problems. I thought I had handled all the loose ends in book one quite well. I thought the sequel would just continue the story, but then details came up during writing like they do, and I couldn’t remember a character’s eye color or the color of their hair. Where was that scar again? What was that background? I have the utmost respect for people who have written ten and twenty books in a series because I think I might need to write a reference book just for myself to keep track of all the details. Needless to say, it was a learning experience–though the end product was so very worth it.

Now here I am, finally on book three (Chosen – coming soon), and I have once again a whole new challenge. All those parts and pieces I dripped in those early books now have their calling. All those last minute scenes I want to include need to be written. And this is the last call for character development. It’s honestly daunting but also thrilling at the same time. As a pantser, I too want to see how these characters get to where I want them to be. I’m looking forward to wrapping up this series and preparing for new projects, but I’m also worried about the finality of this tale coming to a close. Of course I can write spin-offs and extended universes, but this will be the end of the main story for these characters that I’ve molded and directed for eight years. I want to do the right thing for them.

This will certainly not be the last series I write, I’ve already started gathering inspiration for the next one, but I’ve learned a lot during this time and wanted to share some of my takeaways with other authors who are starting their first series. Hopefully my experiences help you!

Lessons Learned from Writing 2/3 Books in my Trilogy

  • Use a comprehensive writing system like Scrivener if you can, or make really organized folders.
    • I know, I talk about Scrivener a lot, but being able to keep all of my writing in a single file has been so helpful to keep things straight.
  • Take the time to make those character sheets.
    • You’ll miss them so much if you forget to make one for your background character in book 2. Not that I’m speaking from experience or anything…
  • Know generally where each book should start and end.
    • I know, it’s hard to do for us pantsers, but having a general cut-off point will help in pacing. Especially for the middle child if you’re writing a trilogy.
  • When in doubt, make a map.
    • I’ve made maps for the inside of buildings so I can make sure I can describe it properly. Just draw it out and take a picture of it to put it into your writing system so you can reference it later.
  • If possible, take breaks in between books.
    • I know for a fact this just isn’t possible for so many authors. Taking time off from a project or a world or series means it’ll take longer to get back into it again. However getting away from the world (if you can) will help enrich it. Remember to replenish that creative well!

Experimentation is of course the best teacher with these things. I’ll have to report back in a few years on whether it got easier with the next series. I would love to write very long series, but I can’t quite do it yet. I think I need to “level up” my author skills a bit more first.

I’ll probably come back and add onto this list at some point. I’m sure I’m missing some things, but I hope this helps. There’s a seemingly endless supply of advice on how to write books out there, but not so much is focused specifically on series. Hopefully this helps bridge that gap.

Have you considered writing a series? Why or why not? Any advice for those who have completed one?

Happy writing, everyone!

Help An Author Out!

So you’ll probably see posts go up on a regular basis from authors talking about ways that you can help them out without necessarily having to spend money. There are plenty of tried and true ways to do it, such as requesting that your local library stock copies of your favorite author’s books, or telling all your friends about how much you enjoyed a book, or posting a review up on Amazon or even Youtube. Even just sharing their website or social media posts can help.

There are also lists that you can vote on too!

Right now I’ve got several of my books up on various Listopia lists, and if you have a Goodreads account (which is free to get if you don’t), you can vote on them! This makes my work more visible for other readers looking for new books to read, but it also might actually give my books a chance to get awards too!

How To Vote?

  • Login with your Goodreads account
  • Look for the book on the list. Sometimes you have to search for it on several pages if it’s a long list.
  • Click on the button for: Vote For This Book

Where Do I Vote?

  • Goodreads Choice Awards 2019 (eligible for write-in only) – So the only way indie authors can really get a chance on the Goodreads Choice Awards listing is if they can rally their fans to vote on their work. I’m happy to say that Stolen is now on this list! (Currently on page 6!)
  • YA Novels of 2020 – A listing of Young Adult novels releasing in 2020! You can find both Broken and The Seeking on this list. Currently both books are on Page 7, but that might change.
  • YA Releases of April, 2020 – YA books set to be released in April 2020! You can find Broken on this list. Fortunately it’s pretty short, so it shouldn’t be hard to find!
  • The Seeking is scheduled for Fall 2020, but doesn’t have a firm release date yet – but I’ll probably come back and add it once it gets confirmed!

While you’re voting on my books, I hope you’ll consider voting on my fellow Parliament House authors too. They’ve all had book releases this year, and I’ve had the honor of working alongside every one of these incredible authors in person.

  • Candace Robinson
  • Sarah Lampkin
  • Amber R. Duell
  • M. B. Dalto
  • Tracy Auerbach