Inspiration (Step To My Bones, Day Three)

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I can’t talk much yet about what Step To My Bones is about. I explained a bit about why in my Day One post. In addition to what I shared there, there’s also one other reason. There’s a little part of me that believes if I say too much, I’ll jinx the whole thing. I’m 8,000 words into this little story of mine, and I don’t want to risk things going completely sideways and having to stop the bus again.

At the same time, I really want to share my excitement around the story with you, so I’m going to have to get creative from time to time to temper that with giving too much away. So I figured I’d start out with an easy bit of info for the time being, and answer a question that I get asked a lot when I tell people that I’m an author.

How do you come up with the ideas for your stories?

Inspiration can come from a lot of different places for me. For Edge of Shadows, it was two different mansions that were built in the same general area that came together in my mind and formed the Bradford mansion. That whole series sprung from the creation of that house in my mind.

In another burst of inspiration, I had a clear vision of a young woman who was a royal riding out to a secluded canyon where she is attacked by a bunch of thieves. That idea gave birth to the first (and later lost) draft of Heiress of Lies.

For another story, I saw this huge, ornate fountain set in the middle of a lush, green garden. Although the setting was serene at face value, it had a serious, threatening undertone. This, of course, was what become the Fountain of Souls in The Soul Garden (later renamed The Soul Ripper).

So what was the inspiration for Step to My Bones? It wasn’t a location or character like my other stories. Here, I can’t get Dean Koontz’s story, Intensity, out of my head.

I read this story probably fifteen years ago, and it still freaks me out. I have read a lot of books in my day, but rarely have I read one that had me on the edge of my seat in a frantic state of panic throughout the entire book. Although I might not remember each and every detail of the story, I remember the overall flow of it and the struggles and downright horrific events that the main character was forced to endure to survive. That story gripped me like few others ever have because the psychological aspect was far more frightening than the actual physical events depicted.

There is a serial killer in Intensity. There is a serial killer in Step To My Bones. Both have young, female protagonists. But that’s where the similarities end in terms of characters or plot. But my intention is to create for my readers that same dark, intense, edge-of-your-seat psychological experience that I felt the first time I read Dean Koontz’s novel. (At least, that’s what I hope to do if I do it right.)

That’s no small order. That book was incredible, and just talking about it now makes me want to read it again. 🙂

Step To My Bones Progress

90 somewhat distracted minutes = 2033 words = Chapter Three draft complete

(Photo credit: BK)

Sleep is Overrated (Step To My Bones, Day Two)

Picture by Moyan Brenn on Flickr

Picture by Moyan Brenn on Flickr

It doesn’t take long before life attempts to intervene with whatever schedule you’ve set out on to reach your goals. There are a multitude of things that compete for your time and attention at any given moment. Even with a time management strategy that works 90% of the time, you have those days where you feel underwater from the moment you wake up until the moment you fall back into bed.

When I add attainment of a daily word count into the mix, things seem to get really hectic really fast. So that’s when the to-do list comes out and things have to be prioritized down to a more granular level then before. And what moves to the bottom of that list?

Sleep.

There’s never enough time in the day, or enough time for sleep, in my humble opinion. I LOVE sleep. I enjoy taking a nap on a quiet weekend afternoon. I’ll sleep in late whenever I have the opportunity. It’s truly one of my favorite things.

Unfortunately for me, it’s also the one thing that takes up a big chunk of my precious time so, like my Netflix addiction, it goes out the window when I’m in the throes of writing a new book.

I was really hoping that I’d make it further in than Day Two before I had to sacrifice some Zzzzz’s, but yesterday got me. The day job, followed by a kid’s lacrosse game, followed by the lacrosse team pizza party meant that I didn’t sit down in front of my computer until 9:30pm. Then there’s the requisite “unwind” time that’s necessary before I could settle back into the story, so I didn’t start on my word count until almost 10:15pm. During the week for the last six months, that has been my bedtime. But- I can’t complain because I got ‘er done.

75 minutes of sacrificed sleep = 2183 words = Chapter Two draft complete

So long sleep. I’ll miss you.

(Photo credit: Moyan Brenn)

Step To My Bones: Day One… Again

 

SONY DSCI promised in one of my posts a few days ago that I would give you guys a front row seat to my writing process as I draft, craft, and complete my next writing project. I wanted to do this for two reasons:

  1. It holds me accountable to getting it done in a timely manner.
  2. Hopefully you’ll get excited about what’s coming and want to read it when it’s done

I’m not going to be divulging too many details quite yet. My books usually clock in about 65,000 words. That was the case for the Shadows and Bloodtruth books. The Twisted Souls series fell out to be a novella series with the 2nd-4th books clocking in at just around 40,000 words. I tell you this because my original thought was that Step To My Bones was going to be another novella, but I’m not sure now, and I probably won’t know until I cross the 15,000 word mark.

At that point, the story is going to be pretty well baked in my mind, and I’ll have a good grasp of the major characters and the story’s main conflict. Being a pantster through and through, there is a certain amount of fluidity that I have to be comfortable with when I’m writing- so it’s one of those cases of I’ll share with you what I know when I know it.

I’ve started this story three times previously. For whatever reason, the front end just didn’t click which is why I kept going back to square one and eventually set it aside for another time. As you can tell by the title of this post, that time has finally arrived.

I travel for my day job, and I’ve found that being closeted on a plane for 2-3 hours without wifi is an ideal time to pound out the daily word count. So that’s exactly what I did last night on my flight home. I didn’t even bother with music. The hum of activity throughout the cabin was enough to provide the required level of noise I need to be productive. (I can’t stand trying to write in complete silence. It drives me batty.)

End result?

1 hour writing time = 2,040 words = Chapter One draft complete

The best part is, I feel good about it. The chalk outline of the guardrails for the story are there, and I’m ready to rock it.

(Photo credit: Dewey Beach)

When You Want to Quit, Do This Instead

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There’s nothing quite like setting out to do something amazingly big and exciting, and then promptly falling on your butt. All of that enthusiasm you initially had evaporates in an instant, and you feel a myriad of emotions that range from chagrin to outright nausea.

Whether we want to admit it or not, failure at any level hurts. The idyllic shine of the unknown that we found so intoxicating gets a little bit tarnished. We grow a bit more jaded. Worse yet, we might swing toward taking the conservative approach the next time we face the same challenge. Nobody likes getting knocked down twice.

Although it’s hard to see in the heat (or despair) of the moment, making a rash decision and quitting is the exact opposite thing you should do in these types of situations.

The best way that I’ve found to work through the emotional rollercoaster of failure is to take swift and immediate action. Any action is better than no action at all, but hopefully the action is guided by what I learned in my spectacular fall. I truly believe that it takes a lot more guts to dust yourself off and start again, and I consider myself up to the challenge (most days anyway). The sooner I do it, the sooner I find that my focus shifts back in a positive and productive direction.

In my writing, I’ve set deadlines and missed them. I’ve gotten less than favorable (and sometimes brutal) feedback about my books. I’ve been positive that certain stories would resonate with readers and then released the work to the resounding sound of crickets. Nonetheless, I continue to write, and I continue to publish. That’s because the act of writing itself is cathartic to me, and adding to the growing bookshelf of work available to purchase is a unique and heady rush. I love it and hate it all at the same time, and I’ve learned that sometimes the story works for readers and sometimes it doesn’t. But those readers who love my books and my characters rave about them, and hearing that kind of feedback never gets old for me, and I don’t take it for granted. Putting myself and my work out there the way I do is a risk, but the reward has a huge upside.

When it comes to my life and my day job, I’ve had some epic failures- some of them painfully visible to family, friends, and colleagues. What I can’t do is crawl into bed and try to forget that life exists. Pity and self-loathing gets me nowhere. At some point, I have to stop feeling sorry for myself, pull my chin up, and face the world. And you know what I find? People are usually gracious, and second chances come easier when the other person sees that you aren’t willing to give up. In fact, moving forward and learning from a failure like that will often earn you respect that you couldn’t have found otherwise.

It’s hard to take action in the face of failure, no doubt about it. But at the end of the day, it’s easier to look at yourself in the mirror when you know that you’ve given it your all, and you’re still willing to get back in the ring and fight another day. With that kind of attitude in your life, you’ll be unstoppable.

(photo credit Krissy Venosdale)

Out In the Open: One Author’s Creative Process Exposed

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My process for starting a new story is pretty simple.

  1. I have an inkling of the location where the story takes place. I definitely have the main character profile figured out (gender, age, background).
  2. I identify the genre of the story (very important so that you know the expected genre requirements).
  3. I pick a name for my main character.
  4. I might jot down a few notes that serve as an outline in the loosest possible way. This is because secretly I love the idea of being a plotter and declare to myself that this time I will be more organized.
  5. I give myself a deadline for finishing the story (following up on #4).
  6. I buy myself a lovely new planner so that I can assign myself a daily word count goal and track it.
  7. I sit down at the keyboard and start to write.

That’s it. At some point rather early on (usually within the first 10,000 words), the notes get tossed to the side because my characters have taken over. After writing as many stories as I have, I have gotten used to that happening, which is why I don’t bother doing a ton of plotting upfront. (For all you plotters out there, I bet that comment makes your skin feel itchy.)

As much as I love the idea of trackers, word counts, Excel spreadsheets, and the like, #6 gets tossed out the door because I’m clinging to dear life just trying to make sure I write something everyday. Some days, life gets the better of me and nothing gets down on the page. Other days, I am a writing goddess and bust through 10K words across several writing sessions in one day.

I tell you this because I’m currently gearing up to write another story. I’ve written about 800 words on it so far. It’s actually a story I’ve started and stopped several times because I haven’t gotten the front end quite right yet. This time though is different, and I’ll tell you why.

My character has a face. She has a name. She’s made herself known to me.

Until you feel that strong sense of who you’re writing about, the writing can feel flimsy, awkward, and disconnected. It’s work. Now I’m not saying that writing isn’t work, but when you aren’t connecting with the characters you’re writing about, it’s the kind of work that sucks out your soul.

Definitely no fun.

Two nights ago, as I was contemplating where I was going to go next in my writing journey, I stumbled across a cover reveal that I did over a year ago, and I remembered this little story that had gone nowhere.

And then BAM! She was there in my head. I had her and she couldn’t stop talking to me. I know more about her now then I ever have, and I know it’s time to tell her story.

That’s the amazing thing about opening the casting door and letting the characters in at will. Who shows up will always surprise you.

This is the first story that I’m going to “write out in the open”, if you will. In a post I did a few days ago, I emphasized the importance of simply finishing the story. To many people, that step feels very hard. So I’m going to let you into my world to see how I do it from beginning to end. That serves three purposes- you guys will be able to see that I am actually working on something new, I’m holding myself publicly accountable, and you’ll get to see first hand how the creative process works for me.

Happy Writing? 😉

(photo credit fabrizio q)