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: