If you have followed my blog at all, you’ve probably heard me mention Marie Force a time or two. I started as a HUGE fan of her work – I even went to her first Reader Weekend in Rhode Island where I got to meet her. I was a total fan girl! I had just started my journey on becoming an author. My goals at that time were to write and publish one book in that year…you’ve heard me talk about how that went…
Fast forward to today. Marie recently gave an interview on what it’s like to write erotic novels for a living and in addition to being a fan girl and reading it, I also related as an author. Now, I’m far from an erotic author – in fact, by most standards, I’m really tame. But I could definitely understand the reactions she encountered from people who knew her when she published her first erotic novel (Virtuous – in the Quantum Series – an excellent book/series). I was born and bred in the Bible Belt – we simply don’t talk about such things. And we definitely don’t admit to reading them! Imagine the surprise from the people who know me when they picked up the first Tip of the Spear book!
I published my first romantic suspense novel, In the Shadows, in March of 2015. This was the first of what will be six (possibly seven) books in the Tip of the Spear series. I will admit that I had to be totally alone to write the first sex scene of my career. I’ve yet to progress to being able to dictate one… When it was finished, I re-read it and thought it was not too bad. There wasn’t anything too graphic. I avoided all the weird words for body parts that drive me nuts as a reader. Overall, I thought it walked the line between too much and leaving you wanting more.
Then my family read it…
My aunt was the first to call me. Thankfully this conversation took place over the phone. All she said was she had gotten to “that part” in the book. She was surprised that something like that came from me – the good girl of the family. I think I turned five shades of red. Really, I don’t know why I was embarrassed. I mean everybody has sex, don’t they?
Then my mother called. Thankfully I live in a different state. She said, “Julie Louise (in the south, pulling out the middle name is dangerous…), I cannot believe chapter sixteen!” We now use “chapter sixteen” as a euphemism to warn about upcoming questionable content. I’m just thankful that she hasn’t read the Devil Mountain Shifter series!
I’m still not sure why they found it so shocking. But I do know that if I ever venture into anything more steamy, I’ll be using a pen name!
2016 has been a rough year for celebrities. We’ve lost so many. Additionally, I recently lost my beloved grandmother. It got me thinking about women who have shaped me into the person I am today. First, let me say I love women who are the first in their field – those who break out of the mold that they are forced into. Women who dare to go where no woman has gone before are truly inspirational. That’s where I chose to start my list of women that I find inspirational. I originally called this the “Top 5,” but I’m not sure that I can truly quantify a top 5. So, here are my thoughts on women I look up to.
Zora Neale Hurston. Who is that, you might ask? Ms. Hurston was an African-American woman who came to prominence during the Harlem Renaissance. I first discovered her work while taking an African-American Literature class in college. We had to read her book Their Eyes were Watching God, and I thought it was amazing. I read the book in several other courses after that first time, and it had no less of an impact with each re-read. Ms. Hurston detailed the struggle of a black woman in the south who overcame several obstacles, but it was so much more than that. She wrote at a time when there wasn’t a platform for African-American women, or their works of art. In fact, she is said to have died penniless. I’d like to think that she knows of her impact on the world of literature once her books were rediscovered.
Amelia Earhart. Have you ever wondered how many times she was told that a woman couldn’t fly? Think about it. She flew across the Atlantic Ocean in 1928 – just 8 short years after women were given the right to vote! I’ve spent a lot of time imagining her conversations with people who doubted her or tried to convince her that she couldn’t achieve her dreams. I’m glad she proved them wrong!
Pat Summitt. Her death at the end of June is really what started me thinking about this blog post. I wrote a paper on her for my Master’s program and discovered how inspiring she was. The winningest coach in basketball history – men OR women! Think about that!! I’m a HUGE basketball fan – as any of you who followed me on Twitter during March Madness know. I was born and bred on UK Basketball – it’s practically a religion down here. Though I was never a UT fan, Pat Summitt stood out. She represented grace, strength, power, humility, eloquence, and so much more. Her attitude was inspiring, both on and off the court. Google her – some of her more popular quotes will bring tears to your eyes.
Marie Force. Of course I couldn’t go without listing the one person who has made self-publishing into an art form. This woman went from a working mom and wife to an author who has published 50 books! She has established her own business, helped other authors begin to achieve their dreams, and still manages to keep in touch with her fans. I am exactly 10 years behind her in this adventure, and I hope when I reach the mark she is at now, I have a quarter of her success, and 100% of her character.
Connie Mellon – my mother. I know, I know…she isn’t famous… But what she has in common with all of the women above is her support. I am sure that there was one person who supported each and every one of the women I listed in #1-4. I’ve read that Earhart’s husband published a book lavishing praise on his wife after her death. Pat Summitt had a family, both related by blood and by sport, that stood beside her during her final years. Marie Force has often talked about the support she receives from her family – namely her husband and father. For me, that support has come from my mother. She never fails to encourage my dream or to believe that it’s possible (p.s. I should say that if this was a list that included men, my father would be on it, too!).
My lesson to you by including my mother is that word do mean something. Look around at the people you love – support their dreams. What would have happened if Amelia had never taken off the first time? Or if Pat had never accepted a job as head coach? Women are making strides to accomplish their dreams. There aren’t many fields that haven’t felt the impact women bring to the table. Now, it’s time to build higher – go further –dream bigger.
I know you think I’m crazy, but I’m truly not. It’s still snowing out, even though the groundhog says spring is coming. However, the reason I say “’tis the season” is because Lent is upon us. Now, I’ve never been one for making New Year’s resolutions. I think they borderline on the ridiculous, and one never sticks to them. How many times have you made a New Year’s resolution and neglected to follow through on it? Yeah, that’s what I thought. But, for Lent, I try to do a little bit better. I’m not Catholic, but I do think that doing something to improve yourself is admirable. We are always changing, so why not work on making those changes positive? And what better way than to have a specific number of days in which to do this? I’ve always heard that establishing a new habit takes 30 days, so Lent gives you an extra 10 to reinforce any new goal.
So this year I’ve been going back-and-forth on what to do for Lent. When I was in college, the obvious thing to do was to give up cursing. Well, that’s just not gonna happen! I’ve outgrown that notion… I’ve done the whole exercise ‘every day for 40 days,’ or ‘I’ll do this diet for 40 days,’ but really, it kind of gets treated just like a New Year’s resolution – meaning it goes out the window within the first week. Last year I did a challenge that involved my writing. I decided that for the 40 days I was going to write a certain number of words every single day. And I did it too! This year however, I think I’m going back to an old standby: I’m give up sugar for 40 days! For those of you that don’t know me, you don’t understand what a big deal this is. My two biggest addictions are sweet tea and bite-size Snickers bars. Lately, the Snickers is kind of a ruling my life. So I decided that for the next 40 days I’m gonna work to change that. Wish me luck and here we go! Happy fat Tuesday everyone.
In all the research I did for self-publishing, one thing was repeated several times: look for an editor in time to get on their schedule. The recommended timeframe for this was two months. I started looking four months before I needed an editor. What I discovered is that most editors have a six-month waiting period. Oops! What is a new author to do? I knew that my book couldn’t be published without a professional editor getting their hands on it. The last thing I wanted was to put something out there that would cause the reader to cringe. I have read those book – the ones that have so many mistakes that it distracts from the story. I just finished a book where one of the two characters in the scene kept switching names. In that same book there was a scene where one minor character was given two different names. It happens! And it is easier than you might think for these things to get through the rereading and beta reader process.
So, I contacted the first editor. I was told that she had no availability until March…MARCH!! Well, since I want my book published in December, March is simply not going to work. I thanked her for her time and moved on.
Then I contacted three more with the same results.
The third of these had availability! Imagine my excitement! We emailed back and forth, clarified her process, talked pricing and payment options; it was great! Then the moment of truth: she asked for a sample from me so she could edit it and we could see if her process worked for me. I had editing samples ready that had been sent to all the other people. I thought this was the easy part. Oh, how wrong I was. I mistakenly thought that those who edit did so because it was their job. In my naivety, I attached that little sample to an email and sent it right off. To my surprise, I received an email a scant two hours later with an, “I’m sorry, but I cannot do this.” My heart sank. Was my book really that bad?
It turns out that the editor wouldn’t work with the subject matter contained in my book. Admittedly murder can be a touchy subject, but that wasn’t the issue here. We exchanged a few emails back and forth; I thanked her for her time; we wished each other luck…and I was back to square one with only three months left until my publishing goal…
Then my life was saved! I was referred to Mike Spring. Mike is a published author (both print and audio), a voice coach, and runs his own company. This man can do it all! And did I mention that he was available?!? Mike literally saved my dream. He was professional, courteous, quick, and responsive. He responded to all my concerns and questions. He never made me feel discouraged, and even better, he said he liked my book! I think that was the moment my nerves calmed down some about actually putting my work out there for the public.
I am still nervous about people reading what I have written. These are thoughts in my head, it’s almost like walking into a room naked. Everyone is going to see everything – yikes! But I am slowly coming terms with this. But working with an editor that has confidence in my work has done a lot to boost my courage.
The lesson in all this: surround yourself with the right people. That doesn’t mean these people should be like-minded. They need to be strong in their opinions and they need to be able to express them in a way that demonstrates how your work can be better, but without making you feel demoralized. I have a great team around me and I would not be where I am on this journey without them.