Tuesday, November 30, 2010

official release of Second Kiss - TODAY!!!

to celebrate this day i thought it would be fun to outline a few of the prominent events that led me here.  many people have asked me questions like how did you get started?, how did you get it all finished? and how did you find a publisher? While those were challeging parts of the process i have to say that the real work - the real mind wrenching portion of the process came after my book was accepted by the publisher.  but let's start from the beginning. 
There was so much to this journey and so much to tell that i thought to make it easier for myself and more reader friendly for you i would cut it down into the 10 major events that brought me to this point.  (not the end by any means because let's be honest... i'm just at the beginning of this journey.)

1. Microsoft Word - Blank Document:  it sounds simple.  its something we've all pulled up on our computer a million times but this first step was extremely challenging.  to pull up that document telling myself, "i'm going to write a book" and then to acutally stick with it has been a huge accomplishment in my life as i'm sure many of you can relate to.  its easy to have ideas, dreams and hopes for writing a book.  but to actually type those first words, and then the hundredth word, and then the five thousandth word... it's huge, its life chaning, its officially a journey.

2. Seen by a Second Set of Eyes: okay, this sounds weird but i absolutely would not let another soul read my manuscript for the longest time.  this included the most important person in my life (not to mention the kindest and least judgemental person in my life) my husband.  i have to give him credit though, he was very patient with me through the year and a half that i was off writing this mystery book without letting him have so much as a peek.  why was i so nervous to let anyone else read it?  maybe because having someone else read your work is like giving them a magnifying glass into your soul.  it's like laying your diary open on the cafeteria table at school and letting the boy you like have a good read before fourth period. its like showing someone a mole on your back and asking them to give you their "honest" opinion. and if they hesitate or pause for even nano-second you know that they truthfully think its the absolutely most horrible mole they've ever seen in their whole life but they just don't know how to tell you it. anything you write is personal.  anything you write is a part of you.  and when you share that with others you have to let go of your dignity, your pride and lay it all out there to be scrutinized. 
the first person that i ever let read a portion of my book was my sister.  she let me read something she was writing so i had to let her read mine - which at the time was a whopping 7 pages.  she was perfect at praising me.  whether or not it was a true assessment i'll never know, but her high apraisal left me leaping into the next two hundred and fifty pages.  i'd like to say that if she would have hated it, torn it apart, marked it all up with a fine point red pen that i still would have finished it.  but i honestly don't know.  her reaction was vital to my journey.  i later came to hate those first seven pages so much that i deleted them altogether. so i thank my sister today for faking it well. 

3. Submitting My Soul to a Publisher:  one day i woke up and thought, i've worked on this book for a long time, its not quite finished but its close, and i just have to see what can come of it.  so what did i do?  i pulled up google.  i typed some words into the search field - probably something as simple as "publishers" and picked two at random.  okay, thats not completely accurate.  there was one that i was quite a bit more impressed with.  it was called tate publishing and when i clicked on the link a video of a past miss america came up endorsing their company.  i was impressd by that.  if miss america says they're good, then they got to be good... right?  maybe.  maybe not.  but i was willing to find out.  so i sent them my info and a sample chapter and i then i hit the submit button.

signing my contract with tate publishing
4. Accepting the Acceptance:  this sounds easy... a no brainer.  but it was maybe the hardest step of all.  i mean here i was feeling all inadequate - expecting no one to accept my book - actually expecting to be rejected, when all of a sudden, out of the clear blue sky this publishing company wants my manuscript.  my first thought?  this is a scam.  its some made up company telling me they are going to publish and market my book but really they're not going to.  i almost said no.  i really did.  it was too big.  too fast. and too sureal for me to accept as reality.  but after a lot of discussion with my husband and  a lot of prayer to make sure it was the right decision - i went for it.  and i haven't felt an ounce of regret. 

5. The Editing Process:  i have to take in a deep sigh when i think of that time.  it was grueling and time consuming and oh! so invigorating!  to have an actual professional editor (who i LOVED by the way) read my book and give it some good solid criticism was the most energizing experience... it made me come alive. and it made me realize that it is okay to be critizised.  more than that... it is vital.  the book i wrote before my editor read it and the final product that you can purchase today are two different books.  her suggestions, questions and down right deletions made the book SO much better than what it was before.  and i thank her for that. 

6. The Final Product:  after my editor gave her suggestions i had about a month to mold it into the final product.  the product that was going to be released to the masses, to whoever wanted to read it. and that was a scary realization.  of course i wanted it to be perfect.  but that is impossible.  a novel is much to abstract to ever be made perfect.  so i worked and worked and worked (and worked) up until the very last possible minute and then i emailed the last and final copy to my editor.  talk about the hardest and most liberating point of the journey all wrapped into one!

7. Waiting:  after all that work and pushing deadlines what did i have to do next? wait.  i had to wait for the cover to be made (i had a say but i didn't design it so no work was required on my part), i had to wait for the layout ( i had to approve it but again, no work just waiting), then i had to wait for the final product to be put together, then i had to wait for it to be available to purchase and at that point i realized that waiting wasn't all that bad.

8. Availabe For Purchase:  i wasn't prepared for this moment at all.  i was under the impression that i still had a good three months before it would be released (which was true) but i didn't know that it would be availabe to purchase from my publisher much earlier and it was my responsibility to get the word out to my family and friends (what, no billboard on the side of the freeway? darn.)  i know i've said this with every step so far but THIS was (and still is) by far the most difficult part of the process.  to actually reach  my neck out and ask people to please buy my book.  to spend their hard earned cash on words that matriculated from my imagination and then to know that those words actually were being read! by high school friends, cousins, strangers, best friends, old friends, new friends, old boyfriends, my husband, my mom... it was scary.  what would they think? what would they say?  how would they react?  and then about three weeks in i realized, it doesn't matter.  every book that was ever written in the history of mankind has been loved by some and hated by others.  my book is no different.  it will be loved and hated.  finished by some and put down after the third page by others.  i'll have good reviews and i'll have bad reviews.  and the fact of the matter is, that's just fine.  i wrote a book.  the book is finished, is published, is being read... by strangers.  i have accomplished something.  and that is what matters.

9.  Keeping Up the Writing: just because my book was getting published didn't mean i was done writing.  but there were a lot of challenges.  finding time was one challenge but an even bigger challenge was dealing with discouragement.  the hardest brain freeze to break through was the will to keep writing after getting a negative review on my book.  to keep using my time to work toward a goal after having days where i think "i'm not a writer... this isn't going to work."  but i keep plowing through, if for no the reason than to indulge in some personal entertainment.  i love to write and no matter how many wonderful or negative reviews i get i have to keep typing one word after another. 

10. The Official Release Date:  well, that's today.  and today is when all the "real" marketing takes place by my publishing company.  which means more waiting and more wondering where this journey will take me.  i'll let you know how it goes...

Monday, November 22, 2010

the name game

Wordle: Untitledpicking the perfect name for your unborn child is hard.  picking the perfect name for your fictional character? nearly impossible. 
just think about it, you don't even know your child yet.  you don't know what their personality will be like. you don't know if your son will be athletic or artistic, you don't know if your daughter will be a journalist or an astronaut.  and whether you  name her heather or claire really isn't going to make the difference.
but your character, on the other hand, is already born.  you've been thinking about him for months.  he's short, he always wears hats, he talks in questions.  his name can't be Charles.  that would be too predictable.  but it can't be Sterling either, that just doesn't fit.  Billy sounds made up but Brian sounds like you didn't try hard enough.
as if the technicalities of naming your characters aren't hard enough... there's also the matter of dodging names of people you know.  i'm bad at this. for instance, my first born son was named after my father (safe enough) but about three months AFTER he was born my husband brought to my attention the fact that it was also the same name as the guy i was dating when he (my husband) and i met.  i had to swear to him with my fingers crossed over my heart that it was just a coincidence!
the same thing happened with my first novel.  you see, there was this boy.  he lived in my neighborhood - i could see his house from my front window.  my mom wanted me to marry him someday and the whole world knew it - including him.  his name was tyler.  (if you're reading this tyler, you know who you are) but i haven't seen or talked him in YEARS!  we're both happily married (to other people) and living on opposite sides of the country.  so how was i supposed to realize the irony of the name of my main character, the best friend, the boy that lives across the street, the main love interest... which just happens to be jess tyler
my book was already published, for sale and being purchased before i realized the horrible mistake.  and now the name is out there.  the story is written and tyler (wherever you are) is hopefully not thinking that i'm secretly still in love with him. 
so let me stress to you one more time.  naming your kids?  important.  naming your characters?  critical!  think long and hard about this.  this isn't a flippant decision. 
some tips from my short history of experience:
1. as previously mentioned, DON'T name characters after real people in your life. 
2. DON'T even try to change the name of a real person in your life by a few letters (i.e. mark stevenson into clark beevenson)
3. DO say the name over and over in your head and out loud to make sure it doesn't sound made-up or like a mother goose rhyme. 
4. DON'T make different characters names rhyme either.  (i.e. the main characters should never be named jane jones and blaine bones)
5. DON'T choose stereotypical names.  everyone is expecting the most popular cheerleader in the school to be named Brittany.  Try naming her Gretta and see where it takes you. 
6. DO give your characters names that are easy to pronounce.  I hate reading books where the main character's name is completely unpronounceable and no one at the book club meeting can agree on how your supposed to say it.  how are you supposed to bond with a character whose name you don't even know?

that's all i have for now.  i've only written one complete book so my expertise on the subject is limited.  i'd love to know how you have chosen the names of your characters.  the process.  your favorite names (i promise i won't steal them.) maybe you disagree with my tips.  maybe you love rhyming names.  maybe all your characters are named after real people in your life.  let us know how it works for you.

after all, it's one of the most important decisions you can make. because you may not be naming your unborn child, but the name will definitely determine how your characters and eventually your story come to life.

Monday, November 15, 2010

the delete button


whether they're action words, dialogue or simply "once upon a time" the fact of the matter is that someday you'll hate them.  you'll inevitably get to the point where those first words don't match the last words or anything in between - even if they were the words that led you to start writing in the first place.  even if at one time they were perfect.   

so you erase them.  maybe its a few words maybe its an entire chapter.  maybe its the first half of the book...  you cringe as you highlight the endless hours of work and press "delete".  but its worth it.  i promise.  and even a tiny bit liberating. 

afterall, there's no room for the good stuff... for the meat and potatoes of your story... if its bogged down with flat, uninteresting, filler words that are just leading you farther away from where you want to be.

so my challenge to you today?  hit that delete button.  just do it.  take a fine toothed comb,  weave it through your writing and throw away what's not working. it's going to be hard.  trust me, i know.  you're going to consider the sleepless nights and the cold early mornings when you worked through sweat, blood and tears to get those words down on paper and you're going to think "there's got to be some way i can make this work!"  okay, maybe there is.  but consider this.  maybe there isn't.  and instead of spending even more time trying to rework the gross, the bad and the ugly, try getting rid of it.  just try.  even if all you can do is cut and repaste it to another document somewhere on your lap top... try it.  and then let me know how it goes. 

p.s. the same advice works in life.  if something's not getting you to where you need to be... hit the delete button. 

photo curtesy of unplggd.com

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

voices in my head

sometimes i feel a little bit like a crazy person because i constantly have voices in my head.  i'm not talking good angel/bad angel trying to control my universe.  i'm talking imaginary voices, that i've created.  talking, gabbing, fighting, laughing... the list goes on.  and these voices turn into a conversation which eventually ends up as some scattered story in my brain that i want to hurry and write down on paper. 
so my question that i want to send out to you all... to the cyber world... is, am i alone?  am i actually a little bit crazy?  or is this more normal than i think?  maybe everybody has voices in their heads, just none of us want to admit it.  or maybe the same way some people can look at a blank canvas and create an artistic masterpiece, i can come up with drama, dialogue and intrigue in my head without even trying. 
i was in college trying to figure out what on earth i wanted to do with my life, what talents did i have, what direction should i go?  when i realized that maybe this urge, this passion, this need to create a story wasn't something that everybody possessed.  maybe it was something special.  and maybe i'd be doing myself an injustice if i didn't embrace it.
don't get me wrong, i love the constant companionship of my stories.  but there are times when i want to tear out my eyeballs just to make them stop.  just to have five minutes to lay on my pillow, put on mascara, drive to the grocery store... without this mental movie constantly rolling through my brain.
so once again, i'm begging you to tell me... to disclose your deep dark secrets. have you felt this way?  do you hear the voices, too?  are there others out there???

Sunday, November 7, 2010

the first of many...

i never said i wanted to write a book someday. it was never some goal to be checked off a list of things "to do". i never hoped to have a one hit wonder that made me millions of dollars and a household name. what i wanted... what i dreamed of... was to be an author. to see my first book in print. to hold its thickness between my fingers knowing the sweat and tears that went into it. and to know that it was the first (and probably even the worst)... of many. this is that first book. a teen fiction novel with a 'coming of age' theme. it's a simple and easy read. there's nothing overly complex or nobel prize worthy in it. but its mine. i've taken the first step.
its available at http://www.tatepublishing.com/. though it won't be officially released until november 30, 2010, and i'm still waiting to see exactly what that means.
will it be in bookstores? maybe.
will it be a big hit? that would be nice.
will that make a difference whether i write another book or not? nope!
i just started this "natalie's book" blog as a sort of outlet for my literary thoughts and ideas. and if along the way it helps inspire someone else to write more books or look at the books they read with a different light then i will feel successful.