Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Insanity of Being a Multi-genre Writer

So many people ask me--when they hear I'm an author-- "What do you write?" My response: "A little bit of everything." Then I proceed to rattle off the list: Military Thriller, Romance, Sci-fi, Supernatural Thriller, Fantasy, Drama, and Erotica. Then they give me the "deer in the headlights" look. Yeah, it's weird, I admit. Most writers who are famous (I'm still patiently waiting) will write only one genre. Those of us intrepid individuals in the literary world who write more than one tend to get looked down upon. Most figure: "How can you write more than one thing with any kind of experience?" Simple- YOU CAN! It's not easy; I'll be the first to admit. You have to be willing to do your homework in the chosen genre. There's no just sitting down and banging out a 44,000 word sci-fi story without first having a clue about some science. For the series I'm working on (the "Space" trilogy), I had to do some research on warp drives, galaxies, space, and create an entire fictional galaxy for my characters to live. I poured tens of hours into the project, and even have a big piece of cardboard with "The Ontarrin Galaxy" laid out on it- drawings included! 

The same thing applies for my military thrillers (The Dragonslayers Saga)- loads and loads of homework. Depending on the story line, I'm researching drug cartels, terror organizations, human trafficking rings, explosives, weapons, aircraft, and a host of other things that are needed to make my stories believable and relevant. The reader needs to think this is (or could) really happen. And they need to believe in your characters as well. Having spent 20+ years in the military, I know how officers and enlisted interact, and how officers interact with each other. You must understand the chain of command, and the rules and codes of the military. Otherwise, the books won't have the right feel to them, and anyone who is military will immediately discredit them. Funny enough, many of my fans are former vets- they love the books and that makes me feel good.

I have been accused of bending genres. I can throw romance into a military thriller, and make it work quite well. Add a helping of comedy into sci-fi; and contemporary issues into a romance. It's really all in how you see your characters interacting with the world around them. In my romance "Cowboys and Olympians" the main character, Leo Richards, is struggling to keep his family's ranch in the beautiful Red River Valley of Texas. At one point, he's so desperate that he's selling off his prized rodeo trophies just to get enough money to pay his bills. I think we all can feel his pain in these hard economic times.

There isn't one genre that I'd call all my own. Over time I've grown in my writing and branched out. I started out writing the military thriller series, and then I had a thought pop into my head. Before I joined the military, I'd lived in Memphis, TN. There was an old castle-like building that I passed on my way to work. I'd long thought it would be a great place to set a horror novel. Twenty years later, I had a working draft of "The Hall." In speaking with other writers, I was told it wasn't exactly a horror, but a supernatural thriller- yeah, OK, whatever; but it was a step away from what I'd known. I found a horror writer on Facebook and asked if he'd read it. He did, and couldn't believe how good it was. The book still isn't published; I'm needing to make a trip to Memphis to do some final research before I send it to press.

It was that same horror writer, who goes by the name of Blaze McRob, who DARED me to write sci-fi. I told him I thought he was out of his mind- what do I know about sci-fi?! He persisted, saying that I had it in me, and it was only a matter of getting a start on a story line and I'd be off and running. I swore he was nuts. But I took him up on his dare, and "Space Junk" was born. Blaze read it and said that it needed to be a trilogy. Again, I thought he was nuts. Then a thought hit me- maybe start from the beginning. I sat down at the laptop and played around with ideas. It wasn't a matter of a few days and "Space Crazy" was taking shape. I decided to do that as a prequel to Space Junk, and then came up with a great title for the sequel: "Space Available."

Like all writers, I have a very busy mind. Ideas pop in like popcorn; and I've learned if I don't write them down, POOF! They will disappear. So I have folders on my laptop for all my ideas. In the beginning, I wasn't too great about writing synopsis--I figured them a real pain. But after using them to write erotic short stories, and taking bits of them to do back copy on books, I realized I needed them. Now, one of the first things I do when forming a story is to write a brief (and sometimes it's really brief!) synopsis of what I plan to do. Does the story always follow this? Heck no! But it gives me a place to start if I need to do research, and helps me with choosing character names. Once I have a name and a general idea of the character, I'm off and running. 

Finding my target audience has been the hardest. Since I write such a variety of genres, folks aren't sure they want to take a chance on me. I have a good number of what I call "die hard" fans that have read my books and really like my style. Getting new readers is difficult. I've talked to successful Indie authors and asked what they have done to get successful. I've been told to write a "freebie" book that they can download, read, and hopefully get hooked. Check, have done that. "Space Crazy" is a free ebook on Smashwords. For the erotica side, I published, well, the aptly named "The Freebie." I've had hundreds of downloads of each, but I have yet to see any appreciable sales. Maybe that will change--I hope so. I've been doing my best to politely promote on Facebook, Twitter, and any other sites I can. But truth of the matter is, it may still take 6-9 years to get a good following.

In the meantime, I continue to write and publish. It's not something I can just quit doing, it's part of me and I don't feel really whole unless I'm up to my knees with a character in one of their adventures, either helping or hindering them in the quest toward their goals. They are just as much of a part of my life as I am theirs.

Until next time, my creatively obsessed friends,


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Putting it all together

Being an Indie author sometimes means you're a one man (or in my case, woman) show. With minor exception, the Indie is the beginning, middle, and end to a project. You write, edit, edit, edit, edit, edit, and then write some more, then edit a few hundred more times before you're basically happy with it. Once you think you got a good piece, you take the great leap of faith and ask someone to read it- praying that it's well received. Beta readers (and friends) are some of your best assets when it comes to field testing a manuscript. 

Once you get your work back from the beta readers, look at their suggestions and decide if they will improve your story. Many are well-read and know a good story when they see one, and can help you make yours just that much better. After much contemplation, you make some changes and continue. Then you run into more editing. Nothing beats a second set of eyes. Paid copy editors are worth their weight in gold. I have one, and I love her to bits, but sometimes, the budget just doesn't allow. Or, in this case, I'm putting out a "free" ebook, and wanted to invest as little as possible in the whole venture.

How do you put out a good book without much invested? Friends. Friends are your best help in getting a book together. They are your sounding board, your wealth of knowledge, and your critics. Do they like the story? Do they like the cover? The back copy? What can be fixed before it goes to press? The more eyes you have for catching things, the better. 

Making a flashy cover is helpful- especially if you want folks to read it. I use a combination of PhotoShop Elements 9 and Book Cover Pro to put mine together. Don't forget to field test your cover to anyone you can. I post mine up on my Facebook pages and send it out to my friends to critique.

Now you're ready to release your book. Don't forget to thank everyone who was a part. Send them a personalized, autographed book; or make a special point to mention them in a post or blog. Which is precisely what I am going to do now. 

Thank you to:

Jessica Betancourt- for being my best friend and toughest critic. You push me to higher levels in my writing.
Blaze McRob- master horror author, and the one who dared me to step out of my comfort zone and write sci-fi. And he dared me to write a trilogy! So two books down, one to go.
Joyce Gilmour- my editor. Although she didn't have a part in this book, she did indirectly. I hope I've learned enough from her to avoid many mistakes as I have made in the past. I have enough editing projects lined up for her, so she'll be busy with more Dragonslayers books, and many others.
Erika Brown- who is creating Dar for an appearance on the back of book 2- Space Junk. Although I have a  cozy little spot on the bottom of the back cover for Space Crazy, I may see if she'll do up a head shot. Hmmm, maybe...
Michael Hicks- author of the "In Her Name" series- whom suggested I put out a free ebook, and stir some interest in my other books. Hope it works! I'd like to quit my day job too, but being a farmer, that's kinda tough. But I won't argue the extra income.
William Shore- for giving me some help with the cover- hard to photograph your own hand! And his brother, Chance, for his input as well.
To my peers in all the Facebook groups, who have shown me support, even when things weren't going to swell.
And lastly, I want to thank my husband, Scott. Who has tolerated all my hundreds of hours working on books and trying my best to make a career (and a paying one) out of it.

I hope this book will be well received by everyone that reads it. It has become a labor of love, and I've created characters which have a special place in my heart. Space Crazy will be released Christmas day on Smashwords for free. A print copy will be available on Amazon as well- unfortunately not free, but it will be as inexpensive as possible.

As always, I appreciate feedback and reviews. Have a Merry Christmas!

Until next time my creatively obsessed friends,

You can meet Dar here on the 25th:

Monday, November 28, 2011

Put on those Wellies!

Okay, I've been amiss about blogging again. But things around the farm have been busy, and downright muddy. I was stationed in the UK for 6 years and I've never seen it rain more than in Kentucky. The commonwealth needs to be renamed "Mudtucky" due to the 500% of our annual rainfall having dumped on us before the year is out. Yikes! Some of our fields are half way up my calf in water. I'm glad I had on my wellies for my walk today. It's even making it difficult to move into our new house- not currently having a truck, we've been using our little John Deere Gator to move some of the smaller furniture. Yes, now you can say you've heard it all- a Gator being used as a moving van!

Well, another part of being busy has been publishing. I'm happy (and finally relieved to announce) that the third book in the Dragonslayers Saga is out. "Battle Rhythm" brings you hard hitting action on the battlefield, but it also brings the battle to the home front as the characters interact more with their families and significant others, which in many cases, brings out the worst in them. Captain Westmoreland finds it difficult to communicate with his parents (his mother particularly) because she just assumes he's her little boy that's come home from the war and everything will be just fine. Lieutenant Jake Collins is madly in love with Monica, but can she handle his PTSD and aggressive nature? Only time will tell if that relationship can survive. And Captain Tige St. Ivor is tasked to do the unthinkable: he must hunt down and kill one of his best friends who has gone rouge from the SASR and is now killing innocent people.

On to lighter things: I've been busy working on Space Crazy- the first book in Dar's adventures in space. You'll meet the lonely, downtrodden alien as he's finishing "high school" on Erotis 3. Being a half breed, he's picked on and beaten regularly. It seems the only thing that makes sense in his life are the stars- they are calling to him, and he wants to be among them. So his mother apprentices him to a freighter captain, where he's able to sail the stars. Dar learns valuable lessons along the way, and grows into a fine adult. He may not always have the nicest personality, but his heart is in the right place. And when a lucky hand of cards drops the unexpected in his lap, Dar discovers what he's really made of. This will be published as a FREE ebook on Smashwords to start, and on for .99 (since you can't put books up for free there, but if I get enough feedback stating the book is free on another site, Amazon will drop the price). There will be a paperback version (sorry, not free) for any of you who love the feel of paper. It will be on Amazon as well. I plan to have the ebook released about Christmas. The finishing touches have just been put on it, and now I can start formatting. The print version will be along later. The second book, Space Junk is complete, getting my round of edits and then probably off to Joyce for her edits. It won't be a free book, but if you get addicted to Dar, then you'll have to get this one and see what happens to him.

Funny to think that I've been retired almost 2 whole months now. Do I miss the military? Hell no! But I do miss the friends I've made during the 20 years I was in. I don't miss the politics and the ass kissing that went on, and I don't miss many of the people who were over me. Much of what is going on is the reason the military is as screwed up as it is. Everyone is in it for themselves, not for the good of the country. OK, off the soap box now.

I hope the sun will shine soon, can't take much more rain. The horses are going bonkers in their stalls, but I hardly think they're ready to swim in their paddocks. One upside is I've been getting lots of writing done. Maybe one day it really will help pay the bills. For right now, I write and I farm.

Until next time my creatively obsessed friends,

Monday, October 31, 2011

The Thrills and Chills of Being an Indie Author and Farmer

It's not easy being Indie, I'll probably be the first to admit that. And it's especially hard when times are trying. Case in point- careless drivers. What would've been a routine trip to the hardware store turned into a major accident just a few miles from home. Hubby was driving our farm truck to get a roll of wire fence when he was ran off the road by an inconsiderate driver. No, and the person didn't stop. The truck rolled and ended upside-down on an embankment. When you see the pix, you'll wonder how someone could've survived with only a bump on the noggin. Yeah, we got insurance, but of course it'll only cover the Blue Book cost of the truck. So, we're going to end up scraping to pay a truck note again. Just when you think you're starting to get ahead, then something happens. I know, that happens to everyone. I'm sure you're asking why is it such a big deal to me? Well, if you were a farmer and you only had one truck, it'd be a big deal. Not to mention we're both living on retired pay--which isn't always enough.

So, being the author I am (and desperately wishing I was really famous), I needed to think of something to help out. Another author suggested that I release a series of short stories instead of doing them all as one book. OK, good idea. Most will blush at my chosen subject matter: erotica, but hey, smut sells! Or so I'm hoping. Living in the middle of nowhere doesn't give you many job options, what little I make from writing goes into an "emergency" account. Well, there's about $1,000 in the account- hardly enough to get a truck and get what we need on it to haul horses and supplies. I'd love to make that account MUCH bigger.

And this may or may not have an outcome of being Indie. Had I gone with a large publishing house (if one would even take a woman who writes military thrillers) and pitched a story to them, they would probably him-and-haw around for a year making up their minds if they liked it. Then it would be sent back for numerous rewrites and editing. After all that, they may decide to release it in a few years. I'd probably only get a $2000 advance- if that, and I'd be waiting several years for my book to be published. As it stands, being Indie allows me to take a work, give it the best edits I can (with what my budget can afford at times) and design a cover, then get it all together and publish. I did just that with the "farmer aid" erotic short story: "Farm Girls are Dirty."- Yeah, go ahead and laugh at the title! I had it reasonably well edited (no, it's not perfect, but it'll have to do) the cover done, and up for sale in less than 24 hours. I've had a few sample downloads and one purchase so far. But I also have a great network of other Indie authors and erotica writers that have reposted on Facebook, Twitter, and on their blogs- thank you all for helping out!

Being Indie I've made lots of friends who are willing to read stories and give feedback- even if it's not always what I wanted to hear. I take that feedback and digest it, then try to improve my writing. Along the way we trade helpful hints and story ideas, sometimes leading each other to write a new story based off a comment. The Indie community is a wonderful, free-flowing, dynamic environment that should really be used to better ourselves in the craft of storytelling. I can tell already that my style has changed, and I have other writers to thank for pushing me to my limits.

For now, I'll leave you all with a link and a few pix.

Until next time my creatively obsessed friends.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Back to the grind

OK, this is going to be a short post, mostly because I seem to be having issues with Networked Blogs not sending the feed to FB and Twitter. The link is obviously good, it appears on my Amazon author's page. Can't figure it out. All was love and roses before I went away to MWSA, but upon returning home, it's no longer working, and I haven't changed a thing! Damned technology!

Hubby and I thought we would be nice and re-string the paddock fences so the horses could have some fresh grass. Our thoughts are: the more grass they eat, the less hay they consume, and the more $$ we save over the winter. Yeah, being nice to horses is a mute point. Not even 5 hours after moving 2 of the three horses, we had a jail break with the stallion deciding to jump his fence. He's not at all a jumper, so we figured Mr. Zappy would keep him behind his fence. Nope. And he managed to do so very quietly. Then he ran down the hill and busted out the gelding and they decided to have a grand ol time. Fortunately, the mare decided to stay behind her prison of wire and ran around like an idiot. Not a sound was heard, and we were in the house with the door open not even 100 yards away. Sneaky buggers. After all were remanded to their cells, we found 4 areas with broken fence tape that needed repair. Then I went over to the neighbors house and got 8 tobacco stakes and the stallion paddock is now fenced 4 strands and 5' high. So far, no attempts at escape, but the day is young...

Today brought sun and loads of work. I mowed, raked, and seeded various paddocks and the orchard, hoping grass instead of weeds will sprout. Still have more work to do, but need to start working on the final edit of Battle Rhythm so it can hopefully be out by Christmas.

Until next time, my creatively obsessed friends,


The cover still needs some work, getting there slowly.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

What I took away from MWSA

Well, home, safe, and no longer on speaking terms with Shelia (the GPS). She decided that I just had to go through Ohio to get home. Yes, it was pretty taking the scenic byway down the Ohio river, but I needed to go faster than the slowest person I was stuck behind on a one lane road. So, after some choice words, I shut her off and managed to get to Charleston WV and then west home. Warp 8.0 or better made me happy, and it took me nearly 8 hours to finally get home.

One thing I noticed when traveling to the conference: my route to get there and back took me on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Highway, the Korean War Veterans Highway, the Purple Heart Trail, and the Tuskegee Airmans' Memorial Highway. Fascinating. I was reminded going and coming of what this country has gone through to get where we are. I'm just wondering when (or if we already do) have a Gulf War Veterans Highway. If not, there should be one considering what they all went through.

The Military Writers Society of America annual conference was held in Pittsburgh at the Airport Marriott. Hmm, funny, I hardly saw a plane the whole time we were there. And, ouch, the prices to do anything  or even eat were beyond painful. There wasn't much close, you had to drive to go anywhere else. But the folks who put the conference on made sure we had a hospitality room with munchies- a big help, thank you!

I got the opportunity to hang around and learn things from some great authors, poets and speakers. The classes were very relevant to what we were all trying to do, and there was lots of input from everyone. I enjoyed the screenwriting seminar, the PTSD writing lecture, and promoting your books with social media. Probably the one thing that tickled me the most, was catching award winning author Jack London in the lobby, starting up a conversation, and ending up teaching him about Smashwords. He was thrilled! And I somehow ended up in the poetry class with jim greenwald and Mike Mullins, and as you will see below, was inspired to wrote a poem with what I saw on my travels home.

Saturday night was the awards banquet. My first novel, Project: Dragonslayers was up for an award in the fiction-thriller category. Although I didn't place anywhere near the top three, it was a valuable learning experience that found me thanking lead reviewer jim greenwald for his time, effort, and the personal email that he sent me, telling me my book was great, but it needed major editing help. He gave me his editor's email, and she and I have been working together ever since. I thanked him for pushing me to a higher level of writing, and to make me a better writer because of his kind, yet truthful feelings about my first book. I got to see many of my new friends win great awards, and I hope to see them next year a Dayton.-- much closer drive this next time!

I made quite a few new friends and hope I can see them all next year. Betsy Beard touched us all with her stories of her son, and why she is a Gold Star Mom. Dwight Zimmerman and Louis Intres kept us entertained with their costumes and characters; and Dick Hrebic serenaded us at the banquet. But I don't think there was a dry eye in the house when Fr. Ron Camarda read a passage from a book about a dying cancer patient and his nurse. It especially hit home for me, since I lost my mother to cancer back in '98 and really wished she could've been there to see me that night. I know she would be proud.

Next year I hope to be there in Dayton. I've even mentioned to Joyce Faulkner that I could teach a class on Book Cover Pro and maybe an intro to Smashwords. And I hope I can earn enough Buckaroos to have more fun at the auction on Sunday. I'd like to have another book nominated next year, and God willing, I hope I will. Certainly my editing will be much better, so perhaps there is a chance. I've also learned a lot about the craft of writing and hope that will apply.  In closing, I'd like to leave you with a poem that I wrote after I got home.

Raping Mother

She's hot, she's warm, she's cold
From her womb is ripped the blackness

The blackness mankind craves
The blackness keeping him alive

Into her depths man roughly intrudes
Pulling her blackness into the light

He takes it by land, by river, by sea
The blackness burns; mother is hurt

Without remorse he burns and burns
Tears from mother rain down black

She cries for help, but no one hears
Our lives too dependent on her to care

And then one day she will say no more
The blackness of her womb will vanish

She's had enough of our raping
It's just a matter of time before she dies.

Until next time my creatively obsessed friends,