The Art of Writing

The Art of Writing

I’ve always loved language. Using a different word might completely change the subtle shading of what I am trying to say—how each and every word contributes to the look, the feel, and the texture of a book. Words deepen the experience a reader has with a book, or drags the reader out of the story if something is jarring or out of place. Words are also one of my favorite “geek out” places.  

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Holiday Musings

Holiday Musings

The 4th of July is almost upon us, and I found myself thinking about the holiday and just what this particular holiday is all about. This one is a commemoration of a very important event to us, culturally—the day we have earmarked as our "Independence Day”, a date in history that marked our official separation from England, and the formation of a new country. It’s a marker of our identity as a country, as well as an excuse to get a day or two off from work.

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Triangle is here! From Vision to Reality: Achieving a Dream

Triangle is here! From Vision to Reality: Achieving a Dream

When I first moved to Colorado in the 90’s, a fresh faced young woman without a clue, I walked into a Denver landmark—the Tattered Cover in LoDo (lower Downtown for anyone not familiar with Denver, an area of Denver that has seen quite a bit of change over the past fifty years, but has recently become quite trendy). As I walked into the store, I had a flash of an impression that I had no way of understanding or interpreting: my book, in the store, on the shelves. 

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Book Two Release Date: Nothing Worth Having is Easy

Book Two Release Date: Nothing Worth Having is Easy

It’s been a while since my last update. A lot has been happening personally and professionally, which has made blog updates challenging—but in this case, no news is good news!! I am thrilled to say that Triangle: Book Two of the Azellian Affairs now has a release date! We will be learning more about the continuing adventures of Tamara, Merran, Alarin and the rest of the Azellians and their supporters in the late summer of 2018 (very likely September). A sneak preview of the new cover is attached to this blog post, and I will be updating my website to reflect the new book (plus release date) in the next few weeks, as we start to finalize everything.   

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What if I’m Not Good Enough: Challenges of Writing

What if I’m Not Good Enough: Challenges of Writing

As I take a break from the production piece of Triangle: Book Two of the Azellian Affairs, I find myself reflecting a bit on writing. One aspiring writer I met recently worried that she couldn’t write stories as good as the ones she was reading. I, too, still face this concern. With every new book it pokes at me—I’ve just gotten better at facing it, because fear doesn’t change my behavior any more. 

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The Other Side of the Rainbow: Book 2 Update!

It’s been a while since my last post—but the good news is, editing is finally done on book 2! It officially has a title, too, and is going to be called Triangle: Book Two of the Azellian Affairs. Within the next month or so, we will be moving from editing to production, which means we should see a finalized book in the next few months—maybe even before summer! 

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Climbing Another Mountain: The Journey of Writing a Sequel

It’s been months since my last blog post, as I have been completely and totally buried in editing my second novel. When I began this journey to publication years ago, I had thought the biggest mountain to climb was getting published in the first place. While, yes, that was a challenge requiring courage and support, little did I know that the process of editing a sequel was going to be quite so vigorous. 

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Remembering the Editing Process -- Take Two

Much like childbirth, one forgets the pain—and utter joy—of any huge creative endeavor. I don’t know what other artists feel like, but it is a mix of emotions that face me as I get the first edit of Book 2 back from the editor and see what she has to say. 

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The Beginning

My first foray into writing occurred when I was a very young child, about 8 years old. I lived in a very rural area, up in the Northern part of Maine, 400 miles away from the nearest city of any size, which was Boston. I used to go outside at night and just look up at the night sky. It was absolutely gorgeous, too many stars to count. When you look at that many stars, your brain just boggles. It just looks like a mass of starlight. The stars always captured my imagination. I would look at the stars and wonder what planets there were surrounding them. Even as a young child, I didn’t even question that there were planets there, and probably other beings living on those planets. What were they like? What were some of the things they did? How were they different? How were they the same?

One particular heavenly body really fascinated me when I was growing up. Titan, which is a moon of Saturn. I would imagine this moon, which is one of the few moons in the solar system that has an atmosphere, and it completely mesmerized me. I didn’t know a lot about it, obviously, but it was just a jumping off point. I imagined what it would be like to live on another planet like Titan with a different colored sky. I imagined what it might be like to see something rise and set in that sky every day, whether it be another moon or a planet. I found all of that really fascinating.

When I was 8-years-old, most of my writing was very basic: “We went up the hill. We got a drink of water at the top of the hill and watched a beautiful planet rise.” Needless to say, I didn’t have a lot of descriptors, or dialogue. The dialogue I did include was very basic, very simple. I would also draw pictures of what I thought the planet might look like. The creatures that lived there. The people that lived there. My drawing skills were also right on par with what an 8-year-old is capable of. Let’s just say, there were lots of stick people and stick creatures. Everything was beautiful, everything was something to be explored.

As I entered my teens, I continued to write, but moved away from Titan as a subject matter. Astronomy continued to be a fascination of mine, although I didn’t end up going into it because the math intimidated me. Explorations within astronomy absolutely captured me. I would read anything I could get my hands on by NASA, and took astronomy classes. I wanted to do anything I possibly could to learn more about planets that might exist out there.

Since, of course, it’s all based on what humanity knows, my lessons were mostly about the solar system. It was mostly our solar system that I was exploring, but it provided a jumping off point. As I got into my teens, I also started to write plays. For the most part, I would act out the plays that I wrote with my friends. We would actually go through and role play through the dialogue. I found plays to be too restrictive. There were so many details in my imagination that didn’t necessarily translate to a play, so I found myself gravitating toward a narrative style, rather than play writing. Those stories morphed and became Alawahea.

There were stories before Alawahea. There were many different characters. Whatever I happened to be reading at the time would definitely influence my writing style. There were times when I was reading thigs that weren’t really that great, so my writing followed suit.

When I got into college, I began to write the basic story of Alawahea. I told the story from my own viewpoint because my writing experience tells me, “start where you are.” When you start writing, start where you are. I wrote about a young girl who was in college and started to bring in elements of the fantastic when she encountered aliens. The questions I asked myself to drive the narrative were things like: How did meeting aliens impact her? What are some of the things she said? What are some of the things she imagined? How were the aliens different from her? How were they the same? I contrasted things by getting into the aliens heads and seeing things from their perspective. What did they think of humans? What was confusing to them? What things were the same?

All of that gave me room for the birth of a planet. It gave me the ability to create Azelle, which is the fictional planet that I’ve been able to tap into. The story just started jumping off the page. As I wrote the novel, I also wrote backstory and all kinds of things that built into the characters. All of the little details of their lives just started flowing through me. I currently have 8 stories and they came so easily. It all just started with a little girl’s fascination with the stars in the night sky, and developed into a whole other way of life that feels so very real to me.

Get to participate in the look of an entire series!

Creating a look for a series has a whole different set of challenges and joys to recommend it. When I first started, I was looking for some symbolic and interesting art that suggested what was going on in the book. It’s taken me several months to realize that a series is a different set of thought processes than a single book and that having the input of other people is very important.

I’m beginning to launch the process of starting the second book and am taking a moment to review the first one and what I’ve learned so far. Where do I want to go with the series? What look do I want to create? What would be fun on the cover, giving hints about the story behind it, but also is eye-catching? I recently discovered 99 Designs, which runs a contest for designers all around the world to compete for a chance to design a cover. I’ve seen some beautiful artwork based on a short paragraph I gave them about the story…and they responded. And best of all, it’s led to some really great concepts for covers!

For the next four days, I’m going to be running a poll to help me decide the direction of the covers for my series. I want to know what you like! And of course, I’m showing the work of some very talented designers in the world of 99 Designs. Some of these designers have really floored me with their talent and insight—they all created these pictures from a description I wrote about the story. There are some really amazing artists listed here. Which is your favorite? 

The voting link is here:

https://99designs.com/book-cover-design/vote-bkwok5

Tell me what you think!

A Thank You To Merry Dissonance Press

Although I am not technically self-published (I am working with an indie publisher), there is a certain power to publishing through the indie circuit that reminds me of the edgy, remarkable, very powerful movies that get made through the indie industry. My publisher, Merry Dissonance Press, has been a blessing and a huge help as I wandered into a brand new world, sometimes quite literally. I had to learn a new language, a new set of rules, an entirely new paradigm from which to function, and Donna Mazzitelli helped me do that. Step by step, as my book went from edited manuscript through to final product, Donna helped me navigate the steps to actually holding a copy of my book in my hand.

So much goes into the production of a book: cover art design, layout design, putting the book up into various e-book outlets (from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, all the way to Smashwords), making sure it looks good and is professional at every step of the way, and even registering it with the Library of Congress and getting an IBSN number. Even help with the book launch party and making sure I had all the supplies for that….I had no idea you even needed any of that to launch a book. No idea of the sheer work that goes into the background of getting a book out there. I have quite a bit more sympathy for the publishers of the world, and for the authors who self-publish. Diving into the world of publication, while it is very different than it used to be, can still be a bit bewildering to the novice. Merry Dissonance Press helped me face that challenge and really navigate it. I’m very excited for book 2 and where it will take us!

Merging Sci-Fi and Romance

I just had my first experience with being on a radio show being interviewed by someone. I really loved the experience! The interviewer, Briar Lee Mitchell, was supportive and helped me bring up some really neat information I never put into words before: how do you merge the romance and sci-fi genres? The answer gave me a sneak peek into my own psyche, which I love. I read quite a bit of classic science fiction and fantasy. When I was in my teens and early 20’s, I also had time to read novels that required you to learn a huge amount about another world before you could even begin to enjoy the story. That ability ended for me in my mid 20’s, after I graduated from college and entered the working world. Work and family slowly ate at my free time, and I no longer had the energy after a long work day to focus on a complex book for hours on end.

But as I continued to read and write, my stories evolved and my tastes slowly shifted. Growing up between two cultures myself (French and English), I witnessed the confusion and heart break that can come from cultural assumptions, and perhaps not surprisingly, that theme crept into the stories I was writing. Yet it was very important to me to keep a story simple, easy to read and enjoyable. While I did at one point adore complex stories that built incredible worlds, my brain filled up with the complexities of life and I stopped wanting to read about the complexities of other worlds.

How to balance the two? Bringing to life a culture, yet keeping it simple, believable and interesting as I spun a story? Enter romance, which I also read quite a bit of during my formative years. I didn’t need a complex plot, as I already had a complex situation playing out in the conflict and character interactions. Most romance novels are pretty simple: man meets woman, they fall in love and after some problems which they invariably resolve, they end up living happily ever after. How did that impact my writing? Move the story to Earth, pair the aliens with human characters people could relate to…and voila, I had a story that bridged the two genres.

Do my characters end up living happily ever after? Spoilers are never fun: I can say, though, while I do enjoy HEA’s (happily ever afters) and usually end up there, who said a book needs to end on it EVERY time? I’m playing between genres, after all, and science fiction encourages lots of series. Romance encourages HEA’s….merge the two and you get six more books currently written and just waiting for publication. Stay tuned and we’ll all learn more together!

 

My top 5 authors who inspired me to write

The top authors who inspired me to write when I first got started:

  1. J.R.R Tolkien: I love how he created stories, developed worlds and cultures. As a linguist, he had a fine understanding of not only language, but culture itself. I am still in awe that he created a language. It’s quite a bit tougher than it sounds. My own efforts in that direction were never all that successful beyond words and concepts.
  2. Marion Zimmer Bradley: Her Darkover series is a masterful creation of a culture, which she then pits against humans in culture clash. Although the series became darker than I tend to like to read, she has had a considerable impact on my writing and my story building over the years. I voraciously read any Darkover novels I could get my hands on.
  3. Julian May: Her Pliocene Exile and Galactic Milieu series were incredibly intricate, interwoven through six million years of history. Each character (and there were a large number of them, long before George R. R. Martin appeared on the scene with large numbers of disposable characters) was meticulously drawn, down to the sub characters and characters who appeared only for several arcs in the story, then disappeared. Even after reading that series more times than I can count, I could never manage to find any holes or consistency errors. That intricacy and interconnectedness of the story has always been something I’ve aspired to.
  4. Katherine Kurtz: Deryni series. Historical novels set in an alternate past England-ish. I adored this series when I was a teenager. She followed several characters in different story “arcs”, offering clash between humans and humans with “extra” psychic abilities, something that inspired me and made me realize you didn’t need to follow one set of characters to keep a story interesting. As I’ve read more about the actual Earth history of the region, the attention to detail, the historical and political accuracies always made that series feel so realistic, and is something I’ve always wanted to reach toward. I want you to think you could meet my characters walking down the street, or I wouldn’t have done my job as an author.
  5. Jennifer Roberson: Chronicles of the Cheysuli. This series made me more interested in dynasties (as did my endless fascination with English and French aristocracy). Although this series got rather darker than I liked, it definitely left an impact on my writing and the dynasties I created in my culture.

By the time I was in college, much of my writing style and story was formed and the authors I read, while quite enjoyable, were no longer as influential on my writing. They still inspire me now, though, and there is nothing more I love than a series that gets my creative muse whispering in my ear.

 

 

It's HERE...The Book is Launching

So many changes since I last posted an update! It’s official…my book is launching tomorrow!! After a long journey and lots and lots of details I never knew went into publishing, I have finally reached that milestone…I am published! And Alawahea: The Azellian Affairs Book One is now fully birthed into this plane of existence. To help send this baby of mine on its way, I am also starting a blog tour this month. That means I will be visiting twenty  five or so different blogs over the next month, offering free excerpts, interviews and in general enjoying the wonderful and amazing writers/readers out there who are willing to feature Alawahea on their blogs. Such excitement! I can hardly wait to see how avid readers interact and play with the story.

I will be posting each week with updates on each of the stops. The possibilities are endless…I’m very excited to see how this all plays out! And for those of you who can be there, I look forward to seeing you at the launch. For those of you who can’t, you’ll be with us in spirit. Lots of love to all of you, and see you all in the world of Azelle!

Dissolving Myths: The Editing Process

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IMG_0312

Now that the primary jobs I have (my “day jobs”) have eased up a bit, I’ve started to focus again on my writing and the editing process. One of life’s biggest mysteries has always been that I have never carved out time to write. Yet it’s something I just love to do! Why do we typically block ourselves from doing what we love? We create so many excuses! So many “reasons” why NOT to do something, when it’s really that we’re just not willing to give ourselves the time to do something that is so fulfilling, so caring toward ourselves. We allow ourselves to get distracted by the little things in life—whether it be our children, our spouses, our jobs, our hobbies, the news, the plight of those around us—all of those things are nothing more than a distraction from this bigger picture. What do we love? And will we allow ourselves to just do it?

For me, writing is one of the ways in which I express that love. I’ve been writing since I was eight, and been doing it constantly since then. I might take a year off here, a year off there, and the writing might change shape and not look like a novel, but I have been writing since I could write.

There has been nothing more fascinating for me than the actual process of writing and editing. I had told myself, as part of the “excuse” for why I didn’t send my writing in, was the fear of what the editor would say. What if it’s bad? What if they tear it apart? It’s my baby!! I can’t stand the idea that someone might tear apart my baby!

Except that’s not how it worked. My wonderful, amazing, incredible editor instead pointed out the places I already knew the story had holes—which was why I went to her in the first place, for help in realizing the story around the holes. Her questions told me immediately that there were spots I hadn’t explained adequately. Her comments highlighted the areas I hadn’t fully visualized the character, so there might be inconsistencies. Her perspective helped me visualize the somewhat squashed timeline that I had to expand. And her ability to see the overall picture with completely fresh eyes—I wasn’t there to explain the story, so it had to stand on its own—well, all of that was hugely invaluable to me. And in the end, the second edit produced something I had hoped to see: a stronger story that would pop on its own. We are a team, my editor and me…and together we are going to see this story brought into the fullness of what it can be. Thank you, Donna! So glad I found you!

The Journey to Publication

Sara headshot 1 edits
Sara headshot 1 edits

I’m so excited for publication! Today is the launch of my new website!! It’s finally happening; the unfolding of a dream I’ve had since I was a young child. Publishing a story….it’s been with me a long time, the whisper of possibilities in my ear, the ideas about what could be. It’s time to let that out, to see what’s hidden in the whisper of the infinite.

Such a journey it has been—after spending most of my life telling myself I couldn’t do it, and coming up with a thousand reasons why not, I’ve finally woken up to the realization that all of it, the excuses, the reasons, the hundreds of piled of “because’s” were just more stories. Entertaining, but only true if I allowed them to be true. Why not spread my wings and fly? We’ve forgotten that we could have fun with our lives. I’m ready to remember what that feels like!

As I work through the editing/rewrite process all the way to the finished work, I’d like to share the process, the fun and the joys of it all. Allowing loved ones to read what I’d written, getting an editor who would support me in my vision, starting a website, revealing to friends on social media that I’d done these things, getting involved with an entrepreneurial mastermind group….so much support from everyone. My story was that no one knew what I really wanted, that I was hidden from the world. Yet when I told everyone I was stepping onto this path, there was no surprise from anyone. I write. It’s what I love to do. So I’m doing it, following my heart…and the possibilities are infinite.

It’s time to see what we can create when we play! Are we ready for creative power of what if, what then, what more?