Well, Katie Freeman #5 is in the hands of my beta-readers! Yay! I spent the weekend taking a break and having a little fun. While they were doing the hard work, I was splashing in the pool with my nieces and nephews – they had the tough job of reading about Katie Freeman’s latest case and giving feedback.
Beta readers are an important part of my process. It’s through them that I know whether or not my book hits all the buttons that I intended. They tell me if something is off, or doesn’t flow, or just doesn’t fit. Sometimes, they say, “Are you sure you want to say that, it doesn’t make sense?”
Basically, they keep me in touch with reality. It’s thanks to them that I have a story without major holes. They have a very different job than an editor, but one that is just as important. I’m sure you’ve heard the saying ‘it takes a village to raise a child.’ Well, my beta readers are my village – they raise my “children” to higher standards and help make them the books they become. So, here’s a huge THANK YOU to Michelle, Sarah, Nancy, Laura, and Dana – I couldn’t do this without you!
I’ve had a rough two weeks. I’m sure all of you all can relate – more to be done than there are hours in the day? My pay-the-bills job has been over-the-top for the past few weeks – I hired two new employees who report directly to me, so I have to train them. We had a board meeting and then I had to prepare for facilitating a two-day seminar. All of that while still staying on top of Katie Freeman #5.
Good news: the book is written!
Slightly less good news: It’s in the editing stages. Whoa can editing be a chore. I’m not one to edit as I go. Some authors do, but I get so bogged down and change the story line too many times. So I do a full version and then go back and attack. Sometimes that’s good – I have a whole manuscript to look at. Other times, that’s bad – I have a major mistake that will require rewriting major portions of the plot…but that’s how I do things.
What I’ve learned over the past few weeks is that self-care is very important. I didn’t do a good job of it and as a result was completely exhausted this weekend. So, I decided to treat myself. I took a float out to the pool on Sunday and the most strenuous thing I did all day was roll over. I’m slightly burned…but much more relaxed. Now I can finish Katie Freeman and get her newest escapade out to you!
I ran across this post today: http://markmanson.net/passion and it made me stop and reflect a little on the journey I have taken to become a published author.
As my bio points out, I have spent 20+ years in the world of higher education administration and finance. Two years ago I had an “ah hah” moment and realized I wasn’t happy. I WASN’T HAPPY! Who just decides they aren’t happy with something they have thought they enjoyed for 20 years? It happens more often than you think.
I decided to do something about it. My first thought was, “What am I passionate about?” Exactly like Mark Manson pointed out, I started thinking really hard about what made me “happy.” All the while, I was drowning myself in books so I could escape how much I hated my job. I spent hours dreaming up stories about people I would encounter, or articles I would read that inspired a new daydream for me.
My only saving grace at work was the people I interacted with every day. They encouraged me, made me laugh, and listened when I needed to blow off steam. They were my lifesavers. And they were truly the only reason I made it two more years in that job.
One of the people I interacted with daily was Michelle Bukowski. She has become my inspiration and my sanity on this new journey to figure out where I’m going. As a talented artist, she pursues her passion because she loves it. Does she hope to make a living from it someday? Sure. But for now, she works a job and then goes home to do what she loves. She puts the effort into gallery showings and delving into the art community in Middle Tennessee. I remember the day I first thought, “Wow, I wish I had a marketable skill like she does.”
Then I slapped myself on the back of the head and told myself to get back to work. Six months later and I was still dredging through every day, being sucked deeper and deeper into the mire that my life had become.
Then one day, I was going through this seminar on some kind of self-help/financial success program. I listened to a lot of them due to my job and the relevance of student indebtedness. One of the points was “Make your money work for you.” And to sum it up, it talked about doing something that paid you back. The example – probably because we were in Music City – was to record an album and sell it. “It will pay you royalties,” the guy said. I could only think that any demo I recorded would be burned or used as a method of torture for prisoners of war. But the idea stuck.
Several weeks later, I read a series of popular Young Adult fiction. I was so angry at the end of it that I wanted to go back and erase it from my mind, but you can’t unread something. It was such a strong reaction that I rewrote the ending in my mind just to appease myself, to assuage my pain – kind of like I did when Fred Weasley was killed in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows…to this day I insist that it was Percy who died. I mean, he had his moment of redemption, so he could die without too much heartache for those around, right?
After I rewrote the ending in my head, a friend mentioned that there were several fan fiction rewrites online. So I googled them. Some were good. Some were okay. Some were downright horrible. But you know what? There were people out there who were passionate enough to attempt to right a terrible wrong.
The fan fiction sight took me to a page about self-publishing. I read an article about a woman who had launched an extremely successful career this way. She has become my idol… ☺ I thought, why not write these stories that are in my head?
The problem is not a lack of passion for something.
The problem is productivity.
The problem is perception.
The problem is acceptance.
I started by making a three-year goal. In year one, I wanted to write one book and publish it. I never imagined how much of a process this could be. Writing was just the tip of the iceberg. I had to find an editor, a cover artist, and figure out how to get it online to name a few. It was time consuming work! But I did it! I not only wrote one book that first year, I wrote FOUR! And I published my first book one month shy of the end of the first year. Whew! I could taste success.
Then I sold 45 copies in the first three months…not exactly enough to pay the bills, right?
The problem isn’t passion. It’s never passion.
I started to wonder, is this really what I’m passionate about? My fictional characters screamed, “YES!” Now that I had given them a voice, they weren’t going to be silenced again. I stopped to reevaluate. And you know what? They were right. I love writing. I love coming home and relaxing by cuddling with my dogs and talking to my imaginary friends. They sometimes do terrible things (like murder people) and sometimes they do incredible things (like turn into bears). But I love every minute I get to spend with them. Sure the other stuff is a drag, having to format and upload and listen to harsh criticism from beta readers. But in the end, I have a book that makes me proud.
I meet so many people like him.
He doesn’t need to find his passion.
His passion already found him.
He’s just ignoring it.
He just refuses to believe it’s viable.
He is just afraid of giving it an honest-to-god try.
This may not pay my bills. I still have to get up and go to work, granted it is now at a different place than where I was. I still have responsibilities that require working a full-time job. But I have realized that what I was passionate about, what made me happy, was always a part of me. It just got buried under the pressure and expectations put upon me by myself and others. I let the “You can’t buy a BMW” mentality dictate my priorities. I was afraid to step out there. I was afraid of failure, or being laughed at.
What have I learned as I am nearing the end of my 3 year goal? Stop listening to the negative. If you love something, DO IT! I have found an amazing amount of support from places I least expected it. There are people out there who will enjoy my stories – just as there are those who won’t. I just have to be proud of the product I put out there.
So, you can expect to continue seeing my books appear. In December, I will have published 7 books this year! That is amazing to me. Have I loved every minute of it? No. But as Mark Manson said, that is unrealistic. You will never love 100% of what you do 100% of the time. But I love it enough to continue!
Special Agent Katie Freeman and her partner, Michael Powell, step in to assist the local authorities after the discovery of thirteen bodies buried in a small park. The chilling pose of each body and the gruesome manner in which they died indicate a particularly sadistic killer. As Katie and Michael begin investigating the case, they encounter more questions than answers – are these hate crimes or crimes of passion? How did so many men go missing without someone noticing? How are all these victims connected? With more bodies than they can handle and time running out, can they catch the killer before another victim disappears, or will they lose one of their own in the process?
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.
I started January of this year evaluating the goals in my life. I am not a big fan of resolutions. That is really a recipe for disaster for me. I can count on one hand the number of resolutions I have made and kept in my life. About three years ago, I decided: NO MORE RESOLUTIONS. Instead, I set goals. They can be life goals, career goals, personal development goals, or just basically anything to improve where I am or where I want to go in my life. They cannot be things like: lose weight, join a gym, start a diet, etc. So, in the evaluation of my life for 2014, I decided that my career needed some evaluation. I have been doing the same thing for 15 years now. FIFTEEN YEARS! That seems like forever when I look back, but in reality, the years have flown by. I decided that it was time to let lose some of the ideas that have been circling in my head for so long. My goal: write one book and have it ready to publish by year end.
Well, I now have two and a half books under my belt and I feel I’m no more of an expert than the day I started. The first thing I learned: writing is HARD! I mean, seriously, it’s A LOT of work. All these characters are running around in my head screaming to get their voice on the page. My poor fingers can’t keep up with the speed at which my brain is thinking.
The second thing I have learned is to train my brain to only think about the book I am writing and not go off on tangents that will be developed in a subsequent book. This was especially difficult as I started writing The Academy: Book One (yet to be titled). There are several secondary characters in book one that will eventually get their own story before the series is over. As I started developing those characters, their stories started coming to life in my head. I even started dreaming of them! But…dreaming of future stories does nothing to help complete the one you are currently writing… FOCUS!!
Anyway, back on topic. J Book three is going to be finished by the end of November and I am very excited. AND…book one, Free to Kill, is going to be published December 9. I am very happy to say that my life goal is well on its way to being realized. I look forward to evaluating for 2015