Cassie Scot,still stinging from her parents’ betrayal, wants out of the magical world. But it isn’t letting her go. Her family is falling apart and despite everything, it looks like she may be the only one who can save them.
To complicate matters, Cassie owes Evan her life, making it difficult for her to deny him anything he really wants. And he wants her. Sparks fly when they team up to find two girls missing from summer camp, but long-buried secrets may ruin their hopes for happiness.
Flames now filled the room, along with the smoke. It was incredibly hot, like an oven. The metal doorknob was beginning to glow.
With tears stinging my eyes I dropped the crystal back in my pocket, picked up the mallet, and swung it with all my strength at the wall. It landed with a satisfying thunk, but only managed to inflict a small dent in the heavy wood.
Trying not to feel discouraged, I repeated the exercise. Again and again I swung, throwing all my weight into the movement.
I couldn’t take a full breath. My lungs burned. Tears filled my eyes so I could scarcely see.
Reaching down to pick up my shirt, I draped it over my head and swung again. Finally, I managed to beat a chunk out of the wall.
The flames licked my heels. If I got out of this alive, I would need to take a bath in Nicolas’s burn ointment, but I tried not to think about that as I swung again and again.
My swings were getting weaker. I couldn’t breathe. Racking coughs had claimed my body and the hole in the wall was still too small.
Sinking to my knees, I struggled to hold on to consciousness, but I was no longer sure if I should. My hands and knees against the floorboards were pure agony. Blackness could only hurt less.
Christine Amsden Guest Post:
Secrets and Lies Teasers
If you read Cassie Scot: ParaNormal Detective, here’s some of what’s in store for you in book two…
1. Cassie is going to learn something very important about her mother that she never knew.
2. Kaitlin and Madison will take on bigger roles, and each will develop a problem of her own.
3. Edward Scot (Cassie’s dad) and Victor Blackwood (Evan’s dad) will come face to face. Their mutual enmity will not be in doubt.
4. The reader will learn one more of the reasons why Edward hates Victor.
5. The life debt Cassie owes Evan will be a big deal.
Love is a Verb
From our earliest pre-teen days, chatting about boys and wondering over the mystery that is romance, we’ve tried to define love. We’ve asked our girlfriends (who didn’t know any better than we did), and our parents (who may also not have known). We watched TV and we read books. But it seems to mean something a little different to everyone, so what exactly is it?
I won’t pretend like I know the answer better than the rest of you, but I’ve spent the past few years of my life writing a romantic series with one idea in mind: Love is a verb. I know – it’s not a definition, it’s a part of speech – but that’s the best I’ve got.
Love is something you do. It’s the act of loving, and it’s a little different for everyone because we’re all a little different. We want and need different things.
Love is a choice you make, every day. It’s thinking of someone else’s needs before your own, and considering their feelings as at least as important as yours. It’s making a big sacrifice because what he needs is more important than what you want. It’s about making little sacrifices just because, well, you may not like kale but he does so every once in a while you make it for dinner.
Chemistry is great. Aside from feeling good, it makes the choice to love someone a little bit easier. Good thing, too, because loving can be a difficult thing to do.
A lot of people say the words, but actions speak louder. That’s why I get frustrated with romance novels that hinge on the utterance of those three magic words – you know which ones I mean. 🙂
Cassie Scot: ParaNormal Detective is the first book in a four-part fantasy series. Cassie is the only ungifted member of a magical family, trying to earn a living as a “normal” detective in a town where everyone knows her family’s reputation. So of course, she’s going to get pulled into a paranormal investigation.
Cassie is extremely attracted to powerful, sexy, and dangerous Evan Blackwood. Who wouldn’t be? But will she choose to love him? After all, love is a verb.
Larger Than Life Antagonists
“There is nothing so evil in the world as what humans can do to one another.” – Edward Scot (Cassie’s dad)
The fantasy genre loves larger-than-life heroes, which is probably why we tend to turn to larger-than-life antagonists. Who can stand up to a man with the ability to crush a tree into splinters using only his mind? Not you or me, for sure. So instead we turn to werewolves, vampires, orcs, goblins, and demons, just to name a few.
But for some time I have felt that in the search for evil, we really need look no further than our own backyards. Human beings have an amazing capacity to hurt one another, and many of us even manage to rationalize that it’s all for a greater good.
If my hero can crush a tree to splinters using only the power of his mind, then I can give you an anti-hero with the same power. Using that formula, you could say we may as well cancel the magic out and just write about regular people, but where’s the fun in that? I do love make believe, or I wouldn’t write fantasy. 🙂
There are serious advantages to writing human anti-heroes, chief among them being that it’s rare to find a human who is pure good or pure evil. My kids may like knowing who the good guy is and who the bad guy is at all times, but life isn’t like that. When you go beyond demons, you have the opportunity to figure out why the antagonist does what he does in terms that the average reader can understand.
On the flipside, why is your hero basically good? How did a two-year-old with some destructive power learn that he doesn’t always get his way? Or did he?
As the fantasy genre matures, the demons themselves are becoming less evil in response to authors’ instinctive realization that “BWAHAHA!” is not a great motivation for sowing destruction. Dark heroes are becoming the norm rather than the exception, vampires are simply misunderstood, and shape shifters are getting cuddly.
In Eagle Rock, Missouri, where Cassie Scot makes her home, I opted to create a world of mostly human sorcerers to prey upon one another. And in Secrets and Lies, you’ll see some of the worst humanity has to offer.
Character Interview with Evan Blackwood
I’m pleased to reintroduce you to Evan Blackwood, a powerful sorcerer from Eagle Rock, MO who has once again agreed to a short interview. He spoke with me when my first Cassie Scot novel came out in May 2013. Now he’s back, although he has once again made it clear that he will not answer any direct questions about magic.
Christine (author): Thank you so much for being here again.
Evan: I wish I could say I was happy to be here. You nearly killed Cassie and now, thanks to you, I think she’s afraid of me.
Christine: Sorry about that. For those who haven’t read Cassie Scot: ParaNormal Detective, can you tell us why you think so?
Evan: I saved her life. She owes me big time. That makes it impossible for her to deny anything I demand of her and difficult for her to deny me anything she knows I want, even if I don’t order it.
Christine: Can’t you just let her go?
Evan: Technically, yes.
Christine: So what’s the problem?
Evan: I don’t want to.
Evan: Don’t turn this around on me.
Christine: I wouldn’t dream of it. So, what are your plans for Cassie?
Evan: I don’t know. I’ve been in love with her for a long time. I thought she felt the same way.
Christine: Her parents did just hurt her. Maybe it’s not the right time.
Evan: I hope so. I’m giving her as much space as I can, but other men are showing interest. One of them is a mind mage.
Christine: So I hear you’ve recently finished an apprenticeship. What do you plan to do now?
Evan: There’s a magical unification movement taking place right now to bring order to the magical world. Terrible things happen all the time – people drained of their magic then sold, blood magic, and cursed objects, just to name a few – I want to be a part of stopping it.
Christine: That sounds heroic.
Evan: Maybe. At the moment I’m a bit more focused on Cassie though. Speaking of which, you weren’t planning to try to kill her again, were you?
Evan: I don’t want her hurt.
Christine: Unfortunately, you’re more likely to hurt her than I am.
Evan: What does that mean? And don’t say “spoilers.”
Christine: All right, all right. Ask your grandmother. She’s a seer.
Evan: I did. She’s not saying much.
Christine: Grace Blair might.
Evan: Like I’d trust anything she said! She wants Cassie for her grandson.
Christine: In that case, you’ll just have to wait and see. And since I’ve clearly lost control of this interview, that’s going to have to be it. Usually, the interviewer asks the questions.
Evan: Wait! Is everything going to work out?
Christine: It’s been nice chatting with you again.
Evan: I’m not done yet. I’ve still got lots of questions.
Christine: How about another little talk when Mind Games come out?
Evan: Maybe. Do you think I’ll still be speaking to you at the end of Secrets and Lies?
Christine: Um… That’s all the time we have today. Thanks so much for being here
The Jewels of Critique (how to handle negative criticism)
If you are serious about becoming a writer then at some point you will need to show others your work and ask them what they think. When your pet project comes back, scarred beyond recognition in red ink, you have three choices: You can quit writing. You can decide to be a poor, misunderstood artist and never learn or grow. Finally, you can use the feedback to become an even better writer.
The truth is, everyone has room for improvement, but even after you realize this you may not know what to do with those red marks. Do you always make changes where suggested? What if two people contradict one another? What if someone clearly did not “get it?” Do you compromise integrity to make others happy? This workshop addresses all these questions and more as we seek to make sense of constructive (and even destructive) criticism.
- Good Critique
Before I get into how to interpret other’s critique, I wanted to briefly discuss good criticism. While you will not always receive great criticism, you should always give it. Also, understanding what makes criticism good will help you to interpret it.
- Critique the story, not the author: This should be self explanatory but basically, never make any assumptions about what the author thinks, feels, or is trying to do. You are reporting your feelings about a piece of literature, not performing psychoanalysis.
- Make it an opinion: “I thought Frank was a jerk.” is an absolutely true statement. “Frank is a jerk.” is up for debate. Authors tend to receive criticism better when it is written as an opinion rather than as fact, because it is less confrontational and controversial. If you are the author receiving the feedback, you should always interpret comments as an opinion even if the person giving the feedback was less than sensitive.
- Look for problems, not solutions: It is usually more useful for an author to gauge your reaction to a piece rather than to hear how you would rewrite it. When you start prescribing solutions rather than diagnosing problems, you may not be in tune with the author’s vision and therefore may not be giving useful information. If you do decide to give suggestions for rewriting, you should always pinpoint the problem (as you see it) first. That way, the author can take the information and use it in a way that best serves the story.
- Be a wise reader: A strategy I picked up from Orson Scott Card (see his books on writing) that works very well for me is the wise reader critique. Anyone who reads can be trained to be a wise reader, and the information they give is golden. When you read a book, you naturally ask certain questions about it. A wise reader notices when they ask the questions and they write it down for the benefit of the author.
- i. Oh Yeah? (I don’t believe this.)
- ii. So What? (I don’t care.)
- iii. Huh? (I don’t get it.)
- Getting to the heart of the problem
Whether you receive good criticism or not, you need to attempt to understand what the reader felt was the problem with the story. If your car engine stalled you would not start randomly replacing parts before you understood what was wrong. The same thing is true with writing.
- Diagnosis: If your reader gave you diagnostic information such as a wise reader critique, then your task is much easier. You know the problem and can move on to what (if anything) to do about it.
- Prescription: If someone gave you suggestions for change without telling you the problem, you are going to have to work backwards. Ask yourself why they would think the change was necessary. Try to look at it through a reader’s eyes and realize that they may not have been reading the story you thought you wrote. (See ‘C’ below)
- They didn’t seem to “get it”: They very well may not have. I am often amazed to find out what story people actually read when I send something out for feedback. They aren’t wrong. Keep in mind that the story in your head is a separate entity from the story on the paper. Likewise, the story on the paper takes on a life of its own when read by someone else. They bring into it their own biases and personal experiences. They may think Frank is a jerk because they dated this guy in college named Frank who really hurt them. You cannot always control for that but you need to be prepared for it.
- Should I make a change?
- There are exactly two times when you should consider making a change.
- i. Resonance: If a comment resonates with you, if it just makes sense based on what you are trying to accomplish with your work (be it a short story, novel, or article) then you should, of course, make a change.
- ii. Agreement: If many people agree on a problem or weak spot, you should also seriously consider making a change. You may not agree on the solution that any or all of them offered, but it is typically no coincidence when several people all spot the same issue. It can be hard to decide to make a change in this case, if there is no resonance to go along with it, but here are some things you can do.
- Put it aside for a period of time and re-read it with a fresh eye.
- Look for creative solutions to a problem. For example, if many people tell you a section is too long you may decide, instead, to make it longer. I often find that the boredom that causes people to suggest cutting can also be remedied by going into more depth, drawing the reader in further, and really highlighting the importance of a certain portion of a story or novel.
- Contradictions: It can be frustrating when people disagree on an aspect of a story. When one person loves Frank and another thinks he is a jerk, you may find yourself unsure what to do. Let me start by making some observations that may help you put this into perspective.
- i. No one’s work will be universally loved.
- ii. The very things that make one person fall in love with your work will make someone else hate it. This is true in all aspects of life. I don’t like raspberries, but I bet most of you do. If you were hosting a large dinner party, would you choose a different dessert to accommodate my dislike of raspberries? Perhaps a yummy apple crumble or a turtle cheesecake? Now I like your dessert option but Brian hates cheesecake and Beth isn’t into apples.
In the end, whether the feedback is contradictory or not, you need to consider the same two questions: “Did it resonate? Do many people agree?” If one naysayer contradicts a group, it is probably safe to listen to the majority opinion. If a group seems split down the middle you will simply have to be the tiebreaker.
- Compromising Integrity: I bring this up only because many beginning writers ask this question. Should I compromise my integrity to please others? Well, that depends upon what you mean by integrity. Obviously, it is your story to tell and in the end you are the person who will tell it. If making a change to please people will make you hate the story or in some way go against your values, then of course you should not make the change. But don’t be the poor, misunderstood artist, either. If you want to be a great writer then you need to understand that the creative process is fluid and that sometimes you need to let the story decide what it wants to be, rather than forcing it to be what you want it to be.
- Responding to Feedback
- Thank you: This is the only appropriate response to someone who has offered to help you by reading your work. Even if you disagree with everything they wrote, even if they were downright mean in their comments, you thank them and do not argue. Your story has to stand alone when it goes out into the world – you won’t be there to hold its hand and back it up with your own answers to people’s comments. If someone asks a question in their feedback, it is rhetorical. You answer it in the rewrite, if at all.
- Destructive criticism: It happens. Someone may give you back some feedback that says, “You suck as a writer. Don’t quit your day job.” If a person gives you criticism that is downright mean, you simply ignore it and do not ask for their help again. Throw it away.
- The follow-up question: While it is not okay to try to explain yourself, your story, or argue with someone who has given you advice, it may be acceptable to ask an occasional follow-up question for the sake of clarity. When I sent an early chapter of Touch of Fate out for criticism, I learned that someone felt Marianne, the protagonist, was unsympathetic. I wrote back to him and asked if he could tell me what had given him that impression. He was kind enough to highlight some careless turns of phrase that made her seem uncaring towards her daughter. I was then able to make the changes that helped me sell the book.
- From the same group: This is usually a bad idea, in my opinion. Personally, I usually refuse to look at the same story or part of a novel more than one time. Either you followed my advice in the first place or you did not. If you did take my advice, I will be inclined to like it whether or not it works and if you did not take my advice I will be disinclined to like it whether or not your chosen solution was appropriate. Moreover, I know how it ends – or ended, which might even be worse. I cannot give you a fresh, unbiased opinion on a second read-through.
- From a different person/people: This can work, but I caution you to remember that your story will never be perfect. As many times as you send your work out, you will receive that many suggestions. You cannot please everyone and that is not your goal – it may be your dream but it is not your goal. So go ahead and get a few different opinions, but try not to lose sight of your own intentions as you make change after change and at some point, decide that you are done.
- When is it done? At some point, you have to decide to stop. It will never be done, but you can stop writing and send it to a publisher. Don’t forget that there will always be other stories, other articles, and even other novels. Growing as a writer happens over multiple pieces, not just multiple rewrites of the same piece. Try new things. Be adventurous. Be done.
How I met Cassie
Cassie came to me, I didn’t go to her.
I finished The Immortality Virus late in the fall of 2008, and though I took pride in my second novel, I felt worn out (creatively). When the new year came, bringing with it the opportunity for all kinds of writerly resolutions, I decided I needed to take the year off. I would read, blog, journal, but otherwise give my muse time to heal.
I didn’t make it a year. It turns out, I really am a writer. Writers write. We can’t not write. Taking the pressure off my muse did turn out to have been a great idea, but putting a time frame on it was a bit naive.
Cassie came to me in mid-February, as I played on the floor with me (then) 9-month-old daughter. I won’t go so far as to say she popped into my head fully formed, but it was close. I sat bolt upright, my eyes probably doing that cartoon bulge, as a light bulb appeared over my head.
What if… What if the hero of a fantasy story was the only one in it without magic?
I wrote the first line of the story as soon as my daughter went down for a nap. It read: “My parents think the longer the name, the more powerful the sorcerer, so they named me Nicolas Merlin Apollonius Roger Scot. You can call me Nick.”
Okay, so it needed work. It didn’t take me long to realize I wanted a female heroine. Nicolas (who does not go by Nick and might set you on fire if you tried) became the oldest of Cassie’s siblings.
After that, Cassie told me new things about herself every day. I had a rough draft by the end of June.
Where do ideas come from?
Ideas come from everywhere. Good ideas are another story.
The thing about ideas is that in two different author’s hands, they become two different stories. An idea is not a story. Ideas are cheap, in fact. The right dressing can make any idea – even one that has been told into the ground – seem brilliant, shiny, and new.
I don’t like to force ideas. When I came up with Cassie, in fact, I was taking a break from writing. It wasn’t a long one – I didn’t seem capable of not writing for more than a few weeks! But I was struggling to come up with my next idea, a little burned out, and so I gave my muse a break. It was the best decision I could have made. With the pressure off my muse found – not an idea I had forced upon her – but the next idea I could get excited about. It’s a good thing, because it took me years to tell Cassie’s story.
I don’t know what one thing made Cassie pop into my mind. I had been doing a lot of reading. I’d just looked up the date of Jim Butcher’s next book release and seen that it wasn’t too far off. I was excited about it, and thinking of Harry Dresden. I was also thinking of Monk from the USA Network. Monk was another sleuth I enjoyed, and for the same reason – strong character. “Characters Welcome” came to mind – the USA tagline. That’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to come up with the next great character. I wanted to write a fantasy novel, but what could I do that hadn’t been done before? The urban fantasy world is swimming in (wonderful) characters who are the chosen one, or immensely powerful, or who are haunted by that very power.
And then it came to me… What if… What if my character were the only one in the magical world without magic? The word squib flashed through my mind for an instant. Then I went upstairs to write the first few paragraphs which haven’t changed much from that first effort.
The best ideas are… personal. That is to say, they are something that the author is excited about and connects to in a unique way. Readers can tell when an author loves an idea, loves a story. Which is why the only advice I give about ideas is: Don’t force it. You’ll know when it’s right.
Why We Write
There are a lot of reasons to write. Most of us who spend any length of time learning the process, going through draft after draft, and ultimately turning out finished products dream of career success and recognition. Yeah, I want to sell a million books. I want a movie deal — not because I think the movie will add anything to the book (The book is my life’s work, not the movie!) but because Hollywood interest would mean I’d sold enough copies to claim a measure of success.
That’s the dream. My goal is to develop a following of dedicated readers who truly enjoy what I write. If I can count sales in the thousands of copies, I’m happy.
Most writers never even get that far. There are over a million books published each year — most self-published. Most books don’t even sell 100 copies.
So why are we doing this? Why do a million people put books out every year only to sell a handful of copies? And why do they do it again?
I hope it makes them happy.
There are some careers you get into for the money but writing isn’t one of them. I am amazed by how many people think, when I say that I’m a published writer, that I’m comfortably well off or moderately rich. Most think my books will be stocked at Target or Wal-Mart, as if the tiny book sections in either of these stores represents 1/100th of the books published through MAJOR publishing houses, let alone smaller presses.
The dream is fun. Dreaming is a big part of fiction writing, after all! I would never discourage such a practise. But if the dream is why you write you’re in for a world of disappointment. My suggestion: Go do what you love and dream of ultimate success in that area. Dream of being a rock star or a football star or a movie star or a high-powered lawyer or the best cardiologist in the country.
In the meantime, if you still want to write begin from the love of what you’re doing. Here are a few things to love about writing:
1. Research — Some people really enjoy the challenge of putting information together. If this is primarily what you love, nonfiction may be for you.
2.Story telling — If you love to tell a good story then enjoy writing fiction.
3. Using words to create beauty — This may mean you’re really a poet at heart, although some prose can be beautiful as well.
4. Leaving behind a legacy — There’s nothing wrong with telling your own story for no other purpose than to leave it for your children to read.
Whatever you love, find joy in the process of doing it. You can dream fantastic dreams while setting reasonable goals, but you’re going to spend too much time working toward that goal not to be in love with the moment of creation.
If you look around it won’t take you long to find any number of character generation tools. Some of them even ask astute questions that go beyond hair color, such as personal history, religious preference, and important relationships. But I don’t think strong characters come from a fill-in-the-blank form.
Making a character is a little like making a friend – if you got to decide exactly how your new friend would answer the questions you ask. You start slowly. You have something in common, something that draws the character into the story. When you first meet a new friend the only thing you may have in common is children of about the same age playing on the playground. Likewise, when your character first enters the story you may know only that you need a sleuth.
So what do you do? You ask questions! You get to know your friend/character a bit more with each new question until you start to sense a connection that grows beyond the superficial.
That’s when I sit down and write first person journals. It doesn’t matter if I’m writing a first person book or not, but I pretend to be a character for a few minutes and write. What’s important to me? What is the first thing I think to say?
Somewhere in the journals, if you let yourself go, if you let yourself become the character for a few minutes, you’ll find more than rote facts and answers to questions. You’ll find attitude and personality – the heart and soul of a character that betas off the page.
5 musts every urban fantasy or paranormal novel should have
1. A well-developed main character. And there’s a reason this is number one! I confess, I’m a character girl. I look for character wherever I go, and I think it’s the #1 most important aspect of almost any book. A handful of stories really aren’t about people – there are mysteries that are just about solving a puzzle and fantasies that are just about a fun alternative world. But by this point so many fantasy stories have already been told that the cleverest world isn’t going to be as affective as a well-drawn character. Magic is meaningless without people to use it, and as long as you’ve got people using it you may as well look deep into the human soul for inspiration.
2. Magic as a complicating force, not a cure-all. This is actually a pet peeve of mine – magic being used as a cure-all. Far too many paranormal stories do it, especially when the paranormal subplot is secondary to a romance or mystery. The clairvoyant whose power doesn’t cause problems is nothing more than a deus ex machina. And then the hand of God (the author) comes down from on high to solve the mystery. No! For a truly fantastic plot, magic must cause as many problems as it solves.
3. Growth and change. I started with strong characters at point one, but down here on point three I will add that these characters shouldn’t remain stagnant, particularly since urban fantasy novels tend to run in series.
4. Solid world-building. In a world where literally anything can happen, it’s not particularly interesting when it does. A strong world is almost like a character itself. And while it may look like a lot of the other urban fantasy books out there (we all draw upon the same pool of myths and legends), it should stand on its own.
5. Imagination. When it comes to fantasy, I don’t like to get too bogged down in shoulds. The genre is as vast as human imagination, which is infinite.
If I’d never heard of me would I read my book?
If I’d never heard of me, I would probably not read my book. And it would be a terrible shame.
I know I’m supposed to say that of course I’d read my book! It’s awesome and has great characters and… But I’ve never heard of me so I don’t know that.
If I’d never heard of me then the first thing I know about my book is that it’s urban fantasy, a genre I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with. When it’s on form, I love it. It’s not on form nearly as often as I like. So much of it is the same story being told over and over again. Powerful hero/heroine fights supernatural evil. Not only am I growing bored with that story, but it isn’t even told very well most of the time. There’s only one Jim Butcher. I’ve been poking around for another one, but haven’t found him or her yet. (One of the reasons I wrote urban fantasy is because I wasn’t finding that story I wanted to read. So I wrote it instead.)
I might also be wary of picking up my book because a lot of reviewers are classifying it as YA. Let me stop and say that I do not classify it as YA, but looking around the Internet, that’s what I’m seeing. I’m thirty-six years old. I like grown up books. I particularly like grown up romance. There were a lot of reasons I made my characters 21, but part of the reason was that it is an age when people can move out of their parents’ house and start thinking about the future. When I think of a character on the verge of self-discovery, 20-something makes a lot of sense. It’s when I made a lot of those discoveries. I’m not saying teens won’t like the book, I’m just saying I didn’t write it for them. But if I’d never heard of me then looking around, I might think this book was too young for me. And again, that would be a shame.
I do like the title of the first book in the series – Cassie Scot: ParaNormal Detective. I was proud of the crossed-out “para” in “paranormal” and it is possible that would intrigue me. I meant it to intrigue. The cover art is nice, although it is one of those covers that grew on me the more I looked at it. I can’t honestly say it popped the first time I saw it. I like the cover for Secrets and Lies better. It’s brighter. More colorful.
The back of the book blurb might have intrigued me had I gotten that far – I’ve described a character who is the only one in a magical family without magic. That’s different. If I hadn’t heard of me, I would wonder if the author meant it, or if she was going to give Cassie a heretofore undiscovered magical power by chapter ten (pssst…I didn’t!). If I was having a cynical day, I’d decide that the author wouldn’t own it – that Cassie wouldn’t really have to rely on her wits and knowledge. But if I were having an optimistic day, then maybe I would pick it up.
Finding good books is such a matter of luck and timing. Everything has to fall into place. I may be a writer, but when it comes to giving a new author a chance I’m the same as any other reader – wary until proven otherwise.
What would I tell a new author?
Mean it. You can write for fun or for personal reasons, but if you want to be an author (of a published work intended for public consumption) than you can’t dabble. You have to mean it. Meaning it is more than just loving it. You can be in love with the idea of writing, or particularly with the idea of getting published. To mean it, you have to embrace the entire process from fledgling attempts that belong in the trash can, through YEARS of growth and practice, culminating in the publication of a work of art. And that work of art isn’t going to be the next Harry Potter. If you mean it, then you love it for what it is and not for how many books it sells.
The biggest problem I see with new authors – and I run into a lot of them since I teach workshops and do mentoring – is that they don’t want to work for it. They want it to be easy. Somehow they get it in their heads that it is easy. That you’re born knowing how to write or that some people are natural writers whereas others never could be.
Do you know why I can write? Because I’ve been doing it nearly every day of my life since I was eight years old. And I’m still learning knew things. I get better every year.
New authors these days are often seduced by the ease of publishing. You don’t have to jump through the same hoops you used to have to jump through. You don’t have to get published – you can self-publish. It takes a few minutes to put a kindle up on amazon. And it shows.
I’m not making a case for traditional vs. self-publishing, but I am saying that when I look into the world of authorship I see new authors getting into the professional arena too soon and for all the wrong reasons.
So bottom line: If you want to be an author mean it. Do the work. Do the time. Spend years practicing. Decades. Accept rejection and don’t let it discourage you or convince you to take meaningless shortcuts. If it’s not hard, it’s not worth doing. Mean it.
The hardest part about writing is…
Letting a story go. I’m working on a spin-off sequel to the Cassie Scot series right now – the one for her friend, Madison. The rough draft is finished, but it needs a lot of work. I just heard back from a critiquer whose insights will help me make the story what it needs to be so at the moment I don’t have a terrible rough draft. I have a world of possibilities.
At some point in the life of every story, you have to decide it’s done. Not that it’s perfect – there’s no such thing – but that it’s done. Your story remains open to scrutiny and critique, only now it’s a fixed point. Immutable. With luck, many will love it, but even if they do there will always be a point in the future when you wish you could just go back and tweak this one little thing here.
Letting go is a transition from what may be to what is. And that is the hardest part about writing for me.
Ideal writing space
My ideal writing space doesn’t exist on my budget, unfortunately! I want my own private sanctuary where no one else could enter.
My dream space would have a desk and a computer – basic tools of the trade these days. It would also have a comfortable couch for thinking and dreaming. A lot of writing work is done away from the computer. Sometimes I need to get up and go for a walk, or take a bath, or clean the house… okay, not that last one so much. But I need to get away and do something different when I’m stuck. I would love a private sanctuary in the heart of my writing world where I could think, read, and dream.
Besides the desk and the couch, there would be enough space to dance – badly. But that’s not the point. Movement is great for thinking.
The walls would be red. Blood red. And I’d hang digital photo frames so I didn’t have to look at the same picture every day.
In the real world, I share an office with my husband. We have a great big T-shaped desk too big for the “bedroom” it’s in. There are two closets, one of which won’t open because there’s no way to position the desk that doesn’t block one of the closet doors. We have two bookshelves full of books neither of us read anymore but which neither of us seem to be willing to get rid of. And the bane of my existence – wires. Everywhere, there are wires. (My husband is a software engineer and all-around geek.) Oh, what I wouldn’t give for the removal of the wires!
It works okay. I work while my husband is away at work so at least I get the room to myself most of the time. It’s just me and the wires. And my paper to-do lists. I’m not sure why, but I can’t manage an electronic schedule. I want to write appointments down, cross them out, and write them back in somewhere else. I also like to be able to flip to my schedule immediately, rather than having to bring up an application that takes an age to load and/or log into.
I do have the outdoors. Summer is fading into fall and the weather is great for going outside and being with the world. In the real world, I’d say that’s my ideal writing space – the fresh air outside.