Recently, I stumbled on a social media post talking about how you shouldn’t tear out seeds before they are given a chance to grow. This struck a chord with me. The idea is so simple and the thought of new endeavors as seeds so perfect that I wanted to spend more time with it.
Have you ever taken a moment to look at a truly beautiful garden? Flowers and plants grow together in ways that both surprise and delight. Accent pieces and sculptures glisten among the flowers, drawing the eye and telling their own stories. There’s a magic flowing through the space that invites the viewer to slow down and breathe.
Now I want you to imagine all your hopes, dreams, and goals; all your accomplishments; and all your failures are represented as a garden. What does your garden look like? Are the various flowerbeds of your different interests and passions alive and well? Are there hobbies that are overgrown and taking over more space than they should? Are there personal care areas that have shriveled and grown weeds from lack of attention?
Just as a gorgeous garden requires consistent time, effort, and love from a gardener with both skill and experience, your soul garden requires the same. All areas of your life deserve the attention they need to thrive without overwhelming the others. Take time to prune back unruly pursuits (Diner Dash, I’m looking at you) and devote more time to growing the things that bring you joy.
Personally, my soul garden probably looks more like a zoo right now. There are errant sentient plants wandering around and messing up flowerbeds. One is trying to build a shed using toothpicks and chewing gum. The few nice flowers I’ve managed to curate must be kept under bulletproof glass domes to protect them from the roving hoards of plot bunnies that munch on literally everything. There’s a treehouse in there somewhere. It’s chaos, but it’s my chaos, and there’s beauty in that too.
This whole authoring business has encouraged me to plant new seeds while continuing to care for for the ones that are starting to sprout. These seeds represent skills and connections that need to be built and strengthened. It might be a while before I see real growth, but I know the possibility is out there. I trust that with proper care and attention they will grow into something beautiful. And where skill is lacking, thankfully there’s always Google, YouTube, and fellow indies I can randomly text on random Tuesday nights with my questions.
I raise my glass to those amazing indie authors out there with gorgeous gardens – thank you for sharing the fruit of your experience. It’s not an easy road, but it’s easier because I have you trailblazers to follow and learn from.
Everyone wants to hear some fantastic story about how their favorite books came to be. While it would be easy to say that a dream angel gifted me with such a powerful idea that I stayed up for the next three nights feverishly writing down every beautiful word until my fingers bled, it wouldn’t be true. The fact is, Stonebearer’s Betrayal came into the world much like an unruly apple tree.
It started with an idea, parts of which were tactfully borrowed from my favorite fiction tropes. This idea burrowed into the soil of my imagination and poked at my waking thoughts from time to time. When the time was right, I watered it with my attention until it started to grow, and grow, and grow. It was an ugly thing, overgrown, shapeless, and crowded by weeds. Over time I learned to prune away each unneeded character and subplot. It hurt but was necessary to allow the healthy branches to grow strong and bear fruit.
I still remember the moment when I decided I’d give this whole writing thing a try. In the sleep-deprived weeks and months following my daughter’s birth, the stress of caring for a newborn, paired with exhaustion, tacked on to also having a toddler to care for, pushed me past the breaking point. I had to escape. Some women shop. I dive into worlds created by the written word.
It was on one of these dives when I noticed that my reading experience had changed from when I was younger. I used to allow stories to eat me whole and I would only come up for air when I absolutely had to. As a parent, the distractions and needs of a busy family came first. I couldn’t dive deep, yet I craved that immersive experience.
So I started writing. During nap time I typed away at dark ideas wanting to be explored. Every late night feeding was a chance to imagine different story twists and possibilities. It kept me sane and gave much-needed release. Years later, and a lot of learning about the craft of writing, I finally felt ready to let someone else take a look.
And … it wasn’t awful, but it wasn’t great either. Inside the bloated and unwieldy story there were ideas that accidentally got sucked into the void alongside whole side stories that didn’t really matter. World building ideas needed to be solidified and developed and character motivations needed lots of shining up.
Bit by bit, year after year, I made agonizingly slow progress as the chapters and scenes started coming together and behaving nicely with each other. The big turning point was when my youngest started to attend school and I could have a few hours of undisturbed headspace to dig in and finish.
The book went under contract when he was in kindergarten and was published when he was in 1st grade.
Where did some of the key ideas come from? I’ll admit, this book is my love letter to all my favorite books and TV shows I used to enjoy as a teen. I adore the Wheel of Time and Lord of the Rings, alongside pulpy favorites such as Highlander: The Series and Kung Fu: the Legend Continues. There might be a dash of Life in the ER as well…
Currently, I’m eyeballs deep in finishing final edits on the sequel and letting the characters drive the story to where it was always meant to go. Man, this is going to be good.
Stonebearer’s Betrayal is available in print at all major online retailers and in ebook exclusively through Amazon.com.
Back in December I wrote, in super dramatic terms, about bringing my first book into the world and how it was way more like being a first-time mom than I ever expected. Looking back, I agree with every word.
It’s been almost six months since the release of Stonebearer’s Betrayal and the roller coaster of emotion is now more like a carousel. There are still ups and downs, but they don’t make me scream and I only get motion sick if I close my eyes for too long. Each turn is predictable with each next step already planned. Each tiny up has its own tiny down.
It’s all very manageable and to be honest – a little boring. It’s work. Plain and simple. I create goals to complete. Some are big, like finishing 2000 minutes of editing each month to finish Stonebearer’s #2. Some are tiny, like making sure my email stays under control. Some can be tedious, like ensuring my social media presence stays solid. (By the way, my Instagram is fabulous.) Some are fun, like attending conferences and signings.
I find myself hoarding time like a miser. Each minute I can work in peace while the kids are at school is measured and optimized. The hours of the day are sliced and diced into focused chunks, 45 minutes here to write today’s blog post, 10 minutes there to fold the laundry, 15 minutes here to answer an email, another hour there to edit another scene.
Right in the beginning, when the world of possibilities was wide open, I lost focus on my big goal, to earn my success by creating great novels, and instead spent way too much time chasing micro opportunities down rabbit holes. Whole days were eaten in the search for podcasts and book review sites willing to even look at me. I didn’t write or edit a word of fiction for months.
I turned into a crazy person. I collected every bit of data and studied each analytic hoping to see an upturn that said I’d won the author lottery and the mainstream market had noticed my little book. After months of working and watching, I realized the only way to continue growing my fan base would be to keep writing more books for people to enjoy.
So here I am. Working. Hard. Everyday.
I don’t regret my weeks and months spent being a little crazy and obsessive – it comes with the whole becoming an author package and needs to be experienced to be understood.
I’m all better now. Here, have a smiling potato.
Interested in checking out my book baby? It’s a great read for fans of Wheel of Time, appropriate for ages 12 and up (although my 11-year-old loved it too!) Here’s a handy link to Amazon to learn more.
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I believe I’ve said it here before, but creating a book is a lot like having a baby, morning sickness and all.
Over the past few weeks I’ve had several people want to hear about my journey of what it’s been like to publish a book. Last year, I wrote a post about my experience with querying and finding a publisher. Ironically, that post was immediately preceded by one talking about rejection and accepting yourself as you are, proving that this industry is indeed a roller-coaster ride of emotion.
What a year it’s been!
If my book “pregnancy” officially began the day I signed the contract, then the morning sickness set in when I started work with my editor. Women suffering from morning sickness will tell themselves it will all be worth it in the end as a way to cope with the misery. During the editing process, I kept telling myself that the nauseating discomfort of learning about all the weak parts of my book had to be a good thing as well. My editor at one point in the process may, or may not, have compared my main character to Bella Swan from Twilight. Ouch.
Editing is hard work. Each chapter, sometimes each page, takes long hours of intense focused thought to bring it to the next level. When I’ve done my own rounds of polishing and editing it’s taken months to work from cover to cover. Under contract, I’m given thirty days to complete an editing pass. Fun fact – if I spend one hour per page, editing the book would take over 300 hours. That’s THIRTY ten hour work days back-to-back with no breaks. Which is why it really wasn’t fair for my kids to be off-track during the first crucial editing pass as I transformed my main character Katira away from being a passive Bella and into a strong, capable protagonist.
Deadlines are aptly named. If you aren’t feeling half-dead with exhaustion as you slide your edited manuscript back, you probably have better time management practices in place than I do. In the first pass, we cut away almost 15,000 words of dead weight and replaced them with hundreds of small additions sprinkled through the book like salt. I learned quickly that one of my writing weaknesses (besides poor Bella) was not tagging dialogue in a way that added motion and life into a scene. After spending days of work inserting more action into my dialogue sequences, I think I’ve learned my lesson.
This process is repeated until both editor and author agree the book is as good as it can get, or can’t stand to look at it again. I’m still not sure which. Morning sickness fades into a period of waiting, preparation, and sheer terror contemplating the vastness of all that should be done. There’s waiting for the proofreader to finish, waiting for the cover artist, waiting for formatting, waiting for proofs, waiting for digital copies, waiting for early reviewers – so much waiting.
At this point self-publishing starts to look good. While I’ve loved having the support of a company to help me through this process, especially since it’s my first time, the waiting and not knowing what’s happening – or if anything is happening – can drive anyone a little nuts.
Just like a first-time mom, a first-time author (despite all their research, and best efforts, and fellow author friends who try to show them the way) experiences so much uncertainty with the whole process that the stress is unbelievable. Looking back, I could have done so much more with this waiting period to prepare for the books release, but I was naive. Now I’ve been through it I know what really needs to be done, and when I go through this again I’ll have a much better plan.
Launch day is literally a book’s birthday. It is pushed out into the world and is on display for all to see, warts and all. All the early teasers, quotes, articles, and efforts that happen before the launch are the same as showing people ultrasounds. As the author, I can see the cute little nose and the tiny precious fingers, and all that amazing potential inside because I’ve studied it – but to everyone else it’s just another static filled picture.
There’s no way to feel truly prepared for launch day. Some authors do hundreds of hours of prep and set up and marketing and a blog tour – the options are dizzying. Some moms fill their freezer with weeks’ worth of meals and create and fill a schedule for people to come help them.
The results are the same. The book still comes, the baby is born. The family and friends that planned on supporting and helping the author still show up. Sometimes friends of friends are dragged in as well.
Unlike a baby who demands care, feeding, and endless love and attention, a book won’t demand anything and immediately starts fading into obscurity unless the author continues to push and work to keep it in the public eye.
This is where I am now. My book has entered its infancy where it still doesn’t know its place in the world. I’m working everyday, trying hard just to keep it alive until it can start building momentum on its own. Just like a real infant, the work keeps me awake at night and requires a steady stream of care and feeding for it to thrive.
It’s exhausting, but worth it.
My family will tell you that this process has changed me. I believe it. I’m a stronger more confident person than I was before. I’ve learned how to squeeze the most out of short periods of time, and utilize every moment – especially when I’m under a deadline. These skills have transferred into home life as well. Putting off doing something I don’t like doing, like creating a meal plan, only serves to prolong stress. Get it over with. Having a messy house won’t kill me, but it doesn’t help me find peace either. It’s important to seek out ways to feel centered, even when lots of crazy is going on.
While I wrote the book because it was one of my life goals, it has helped my kids see that they can reach hard goals as well and that anything worth doing takes real work. I love hearing the pride in their voices as they tell their teachers and friends that their mom is an author.
Hopefully they don’t mind too much that this book baby might be expecting a little brother in 2020…!
Interested in checking out my book baby? It’s a great read for fans of Wheel of Time, appropriate for ages 12 and up (although my 11-year-old loved it too!)