Posts Tagged: suspense

Don’t Stifle the Creative Genius!

There are a lot of debates about writing styles. Are you a plotter or a pantser? This is one of those I hear most often. I think I’m a combination, depending on the book I’m writing. I come up with ideas from several places and my creative mind takes over. I can’t fully be a pantser, or my books would have no purpose or cohesiveness. They would wander from scene to scene without ever accomplishing a plot.

As I found out this week, I can’t fully be a plotter either. I generally start off by outlining a book – especially my mysteries. I need to have an idea of where the story is going. The evidence and innuendo needs to be set up so that it comes together at the end. I generally have an idea of who committed the crime before I start writing, though sometimes the characters talk back and let me know it wasn’t them.

Well, I’ve been writing book 4 in the Tip of the Spear series and I started with an idea for the occupation of one of the characters. I was determined that this character had to have this occupation. I researched what that would entail, how much money he would make, the restrictions he would face, etc. I’ve been working on this book for a few weeks, but over the last week, I’ve been stuck. No matter how I tried to tie the events together, it just didn’t work. I rewrote sections, I tried to mentally rearrange events to make them fit. I wore myself out trying to defend my decision that this character had to have this occupation. Finally, I put the book aside for a few days and let the ideas swirl – and came to the decision that he just couldn’t be what I wanted him to be. And you know what? The story started flowing furiously!

My conclusion: don’t stifle the Creative Genius!

Passion…or Happiness?

inspirationI 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?

I digress…

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.
It’s priorities.

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!

I accept bribes

I have struggled this week with self-motivation. I have always been a procrastinator – the one who waited until the night before a paper was due to write it… the one who waited until the final deadline to submit a project. Honestly, it drives my mom nuts! Which, of course, is why I originally liked to do it.  But there comes a time to break the habits formed in youth. Unfortunately, I am a creature of habit and I detest change. How do I manage to complete a book, you ask? Well, mostly through determination, bribery, external influences, and character persistence.

First, is my determination. I have always enjoyed writing. I have an overactive imagination and can easily get lost in a daydream for hours. Now, I make myself write down those daydreams. They become the stories that you will hopefully one day read.

Next is bribery. Sometimes, it’s a matter of ‘finish this chapter and you can have a brownie.’ Other days, like today, it’s ‘write 500 words and you can have a gummy bear.’ My bribes are not always food related. Sometimes it’s watching television, or going for a walk, or going out to dinner with friends. My goal today is 10,000 words. When I’m done, I get to have dinner and see The Martian at the movies (and let’s face it, Matt Damon is a reward all his own!). Great motivation, except that it’s taking the gummy bears to get me there.

External influences help as well. I can tell myself, “You have to have this book done by Oct 15, or else.” But that doesn’t always work. So I usually make a reservation with my editor to have the book to her (or him…) by a certain date. Of course, it needs to go through the beta readers first, so I try to leave a little room for that – sometimes that gets close. Having someone else waiting on me keeps me motivated to hit that deadline.

Finally, my characters tend to be persistent. Once I have dreamed a character to life, they aren’t happy being left to languish in whatever state I previously left them. They like their HEA and are downright demanding that I get them there as quick as possible. Sometimes, I have dreamed several characters at once and I have to take a little time to write down the basics of one while I develop the other into a story. But I know if I don’t write it down, the character will pester me until I go slowly insane…

That’s pretty much how my books get written. Of course, I am supposed to be writing a story now, instead I’m writing this blog… do these 500 words count toward a gummy bear? I think so!

The men from Tip of the Spear are back!

Sneak peak of image for book cover! Photo by Ryan Bukowski

Sneak peak of image for book cover!
Photo by Ryan Bukowski

As promised, the men from Tip of the Spear are back! In the Dark is coming September 1, 2015. Just in time for Labor Day vacation!!

Avery Powell has a problem – well really, someone has a problem with her. After discovering dead flowers and a cryptic note on her front porch, she turns to the one person she knows will keep her safe – Jeremy McCall. She has been chasing after him for more than a decade. Despite his continual rejection, she knows that under all that armor beats a heart made for her.

Jeremy is a founding partner in the investigative firm Tip of the Spear and best friends with Avery’s brother. He has silently been in love with Avery for eleven years – since the first time he laid eyes on her. The last thing he’ll allow is for any harm to come to her, even if he can’t claim her as his own. But can he keep his emotions out of the picture long enough to keep her safe? Or will he give in to those forbidden desires and make them both happy?

Taking this case will light a match, but will the inferno ignite the sparks, or will it consume them?

Keep checking back for sneak peeks in the coming weeks.

 

In the Shadows – Tip of the Spear Book One

Check out the first book in my Tip of the Spear Series.

Jessica Ross is on the verge of achieving her dreams until one poor decision threatens to derail everything she has wTOS---3dorked so hard for. Now on the run from her ex-boyfriend, will she have to give up everything in order to survive?

Jason Powell has everything he ever wanted. After years in the military, he lives life on his own terms. Now a partner in a private investigation firm, his job allows him to travel to exotic places and he has his pick of women – what more could he ask for? Then he meets Jessica and his world is turned upside down.

Can Jason protect Jessica from her ex-boyfriend while also accepting his feelings for her? Can Jessica trust her growing feelings for Jason, or is she convinced that they exist because he is her savior? Will these two live to see a happily ever after, or will the danger hiding in the shadows take everything away?

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Thanks so much for reading! If you read In the Shadows, I’d love it if you would leave a review on the platform where you purchased my book.

Best,
Julie