Monday, December 28, 2015

Guest Post by Indie Author Deanna Dee

I’ve heard many authors say some variation of “I’d love to be able to write full-time." I often stay quiet if I’m in a position to reply because, like anything else, writing full-time isn’t perfect. I currently write as my day job, and I feel lucky that I have the ability to pursue my dreams, but having twenty-four hours, seven days a week to write has a downside. Most obviously is the logistics of essentially running a small business by myself. I not only have to write and publish...there’s also marketing, scheduling, formatting, budgeting. You name it, I’m doing it. Perhaps more challenging is…finding time to write. In addition to learning much about the non-writing aspects of the business, I've learned about time management. I've also learned much about myself. For example, I’ve learned that afternoons are not my creative time; I work much better in the morning and evening. So I try to compensate for this by fitting other things into afternoons, like laundry and errands. (Move over, tightrope artists, my balance is becoming flawless!) And finally, the most challenging: getting motivated. If I know I have a deadline coming, I work. The zing accompanying a book release also helps keep me on track. There are times, though, when I just flag. When those times hit, I take time away and only write when something strikes. After all, even 9-to-5 jobs have weekends off. The trick is to take a day and get back in the saddle. I’ve learned a lot about that, too. So the next time you wish you could write full-time, think about what that means. Writing as a day job lacks imposed structure, so you'll need to make your own structure. I’m good at regulating my own schedule, but doing so is not for everyone. If you think you can train yourself, try it. There’s nothing like having plenty of time to write.


Thursday, December 17, 2015


Q: Kelli...what made you become a writer?

A: I've always loved to write, ever since I was a little kid. I would always tell stories and my mom would type them up and print them out like they were books. I guess I got serious about writing a couple years ago when I came up with an idea for a book that I couldn't stop thinking about. Ever since then, I've been writing novels and short stories. I've published one and another is on the way.

Q: What is your typical writing day like?

A: Writing days are the kind of days that you don't get out of your pajamas for. I like to make hot chocolate or grab something that goes with peanut butter. Food is important. And then I reread what I wrote or edited the day before and go on from there. Some writing days are different, though. Sometimes I'll write in an environment that's similar to the scene I plan to write that day, like going into a dark attic for a creepy scene or sitting outside for a more lighthearted scene. And sometimes I don't have writing days. Writing all night is way easier because there aren't as many distractions and nothing is going to interrupt you when you get into the story.

Q: Do you outline? If so, how extensive are your outlines?

A: Yes! I love to outline. It's kind of how I hype myself up for writing the first draft because it will help me get through it. My outlines are fairly extensive. I start with sticky notes on a poster board to figure out the basic plot and then elaborate from there, filling in the blanks. Of course I also plan out characters and settings and all of the little details in research. My story never quite sticks to the outline, though. I like it better that way, so I'm not in control and the story can run free. That's the fun of it.

Q: How many revisions will you typically do on a novel?

A: It depends on how bad I mess up with the first draft. Sometimes I'll go through ten drafts and sometimes I'll go through five or six. For the one I'm writing now, it's looking to be around six or seven... I've got my work cut out for me. I do keep a lot of my first draft in there, but the best parts come out in editing.

Q: What is your best tip for editing a manuscript?

A: Don't give up. That is the single hardest thing about editing. I just started editing my second novel, and all I want to do is read. I'm three days from winter break and no school and I couldn't be happier. That means I'm going to be editing and I can actually get into it. Editing is monotonous and boring at first, especially if you don't like your first draft, but you can't give up. Don't start writing something else. You've just got to look at how much you've done and find inspiration for another draft.

Q: Which writing habits and/or tricks of the trade have made you a better writer?

A: Avoiding laziness is my main problem, but I'm changing that. You see, I am an expert in procrastination. I love NaNoWriMo because it doesn't allow you to be lazy. Laziness is what makes us overlook misspellings and grammatical errors. It makes us ignore things that tell us we'll have to rewrite a whole chapter. To fix that, I got into a habit of writing every day, and now I can't stand to be lazy with my work. It's all or nothing when I write now, and that's something that has already made me a better writer. 

Q: Do you ever suffer through writer’s block? If so, how do you fight it?

A: Yes, unfortunately. Writer's block is something that is in the mind, not the fingers, which is great, because as long as I can type, I'm writing. Even if I'm not feeling the story that day or if I just can't figure out what comes next, I write anyway. Even if it's trash, I can edit it later. Sometimes I'll write parts of the story that I am looking forward to getting to, and then connect the dots on how to get there. Sometimes I just remind myself that it's a first draft and it's okay if it sucks, because I'm the only one reading it. 

Q: What drew you to write your preferred genre(s)?

A: I love to write about things that gets people on the edge of their seat; things that get your blood pumping and make you turn the pages faster. I don't know why, but that has always been my preferred genre to read, so I guess writing it came naturally. Even when I don't intend to, my stories all lead to some kind of huge, dangerous, perilous climax.

Q: Do you utilize beta readers?

A: Yes! Beta readers are a great way to get input. It's even better when beta readers have discussions about things in the book. This gives you insight into how they see it versus how you saw it when you were writing.

Q: In your most recently published novel, what’s one scene you really enjoyed writing—and why?

A: My most recently published novel is Looking for Lily. I would actually consider it more of a novella, since it's short. My favorite scene was the climax, when the main character is face to face with the antagonists, having no idea whether or not he is about to die for what he believes in. I liked writing this part because it was so real to me, and it pulled me into the story like no other part in the novella. Of course, now when I read it I can't help but think about how much I've improved and how much more editing I should have done on it.

Q: What makes the main character(s) of your most recent novel so special?

A: I'm going to answer with my upcoming novel, Holding My Breath. My main character is so much more developed than any character I've written so far. Maybe it's the fact that she's nothing like me, or because of her backstory, but she is real in my head. I was talking about it to another writer and she had to stop me and reminded me that my character isn't real. I'm not kidding. This character was so real to me that I didn't even feel like I was controlling her anymore...that's when you know you have a well-rounded character. They can just be so stubborn sometimes. The other characters in my book are unique too and I'm looking forward to developing them more in the second draft. 

Q: What is your best advice for author self-promotion?

A: Give back to your readers somehow. Even if it isn't through giveaways or tours, that's fine. Get social media. Answer questions from fans. Meet them. I'm writing a blog all about writing and novelizing because it is something that I like to write about and there are people who want to read it because they say it inspires them. I love inspiring people, so I keep writing. And I love writing, so I keep writing. Just try to give back and don't get full of yourself or anything because then it isn't about the writing or the readers anymore. And that's what matters.

Q: How do you deal with negative reviews?

A: It depends. If the review is bad because of something in the writing that I agree with, then I write it down. I have a list of things that I have to remind myself not to do with the story when I go back to edit. Like when I get in the habit of using this one word as an adjective and it happens too much. If the bad review is because somebody doesn't like me, then I just shake it off. If they haven't read the book or don't know me and they are just criticizing me, then I'm not going to bother with them. When someone criticizes the writing, though, I seriously do try to take it into account and work on it.

Q: What is your favorite aspect of being an indie author?

A: It's not even something that comes with being an author, exactly. I just love the writing. Being an author, though, is amazing because the writing I do turns into books that I can hold in my hands. It's awesome to meet people who have read my book and talk with them about it. Or when someone asks me to sign their copy or something. I love meeting people who love my stories as much as I do. But the best thing has to be writing the story itself. I love to come up with the characters and their lives and what they are going to do about the problems they face. I love coming up with new worlds and exploring them. Writing is like reading but better, because you can make it whatever you want.

Q: What is your least favorite aspect of being an indie author?

A: To be honest, my least favorite part is when people judge me because of my age. I'm still a teenager, and I know there are so many other writers out there who are more experienced and have more developed writing styles. I know I'm not going to get famous or anything off of my books. That's not why I write. Writing, for me, is something that I love to do and I'll keep doing it. You can't judge the writing based off my age, even if it does mean I'm not experienced or whatever. I share what I write because there are people out there who want to read it, but if you don't want to, nobody is making you. Just because I'm young, doesn't mean I'm not allowed to follow my dreams. Of course, most people don't say it to my face, even if they think what I do is just some kiddish phase. Most people encourage me and stop to talk to me about my work. Especially friends and family, but it isn't just the people who I know I can count on. I've gotten to talk and connect with a ton of other writers and authors over Twitter, writing conferences, and NaNoWriMo. They've all been super supportive and understand what it's like to write.

Q: What is your current writing project?

A: I just finished NaNoWriMo with a 116,000 word book called Holding My Breath. Obviously, I've got a ton of editing to do since I just started my second draft. The book is something I've wanted to write for a while, since I can get into the minds of characters who are nothing like me and I can explore a story that I haven't completely finished developing yet. In fact, by the end of my editing, the odds of it being the same story is not likely. It's something I'm excited about and that means it's something I'm going to bring to a whole new level.

Q: What are three of your favorite novels?

A: This is a hard question. The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken is definitely one of them. The writing and development of that story is simply amazing, and I have looked up to this book for a while. It's that awesome. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green is also up on my list. Overall, the story sent a beautiful and touching message and I love his writing style. Finally, I just read Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell and it's still stuck in my head. Rowell is great at capturing that essence of writing and the whole dynamic of why we write, why writers need to finish a story and how real it can become, even when we know it's fiction.

Q: If you could have lunch with any novelist, living or dead, who would it be? What would talk to them about?

A. I'd love to meet Alexandra Bracken, but I feel like my answer to this question changes from day to day. There are so many authors that I look up to and would love to meet. So many. Too many to name. I just wrote a blog post about the writing style of Bracken and how she uses such unique description and I wish I could talk to her about that. Even just the dialogue and everything in the Darkest Minds trilogy that has stuck with me. I would love to know how she came up with the story.

Q: What is your best piece of advice for budding authors?

A. Don't give up. You might face judgment from others or momentary doubts of your writing ability. You might have people who think that what you do is a joke. You might not want to keep going until the end. I'm telling you now: If you like to write, and you have a story you want to tell, don't let anything stop you from  telling it. Even if it is yourself, even if you get bored and want to move on to something more interesting, don't give up. I promise you won't regret it.

Q: What is your favorite inspirational quote?

A: "The best way out is always through."— Robert Frost


No witches, warlocks or vampires...
just a sexy tale about trying to live the Hollywood dream...

Friday, December 4, 2015

Guest Post by Indie Author Kathy Zebert...

Chapter 3, Page 55

Hi!  I’m Kathy Zebert, and this is the short story of my transition from court reporter to novelist over the last five months.  This is the third chapter in the novel of my life, and the 55th page, because, well, I’m 55, and each year seems to be blazing by similar to the amount of time it takes to read a page in a book. 

The first chapter in my life lasted 32 years, until I finally figured out that I needed a career, a profession, a way to be financially independent.  I began the second chapter more than 21 years ago; a career in court reporting, a.k.a. stenographer.  I’m the lady that sits in court and depositions and moves her fingers on that little machine no one really knows anything about.  You’ve seen them in movies, TV crime shows, maybe even if you’ve been in a courtroom.  The camera will pan past her, but rarely does anyone make mention of her, talk to her, or even know her name. 

But that’s sort of the point of the profession.  Court reporters are supposed to be silent guardians of the record.  They are trained listeners, taking down every word and making a record of a legal case, the tragic stories of other people’s lives.  They are crucial to the process of litigation, with a required knowledge base like none other in the world, ethics beyond reproach, and the skillset similar to that of an Olympian athlete.  They work very long hours, under unbelievable deadlines, through holidays and weekends, to be sure that the transcripts that result from those legal proceedings are as perfect as humanly possible.  An entire novel could be written about what goes into this profession, but that’s the synopsis of Chapter 2 for me.

As you can imagine, after 21 years in this profession, there have been many changes.  In the last decade, seeing the “writing” on the wall, I began to think about where I wanted to be in Chapter 3.  I’ve been writing in some form or fashion since the early ‘70s, and along the way, I’ve been published in trade journals, newsletters, et cetera.  But the real push to write began about two years ago, with the passing of my dad.  You see, he was a jurist, and because I was in the legal services business, we loved talking about it. After his death, and along with all of the other changes in the profession, I knew I needed joy.  There is no joy in the subject matter of litigation, so my pursuit of joy threw me into a frenzy of a full year of a baking business before I realized that although it was extremely joyful, it was not physically or financially beneficial for my life’s Chapter 3.  Let’s just say I gained pounds and lost dollars.

Not to be discouraged from my pursuit of joy, I began to think about my experience as a court reporter, speaker and writer, and thought, Hey, what about a novel about a court reporter?  I can give them a voice.   My daughter had just completed her master’s degree in linguistics, and she’s an excellent editor/graphic artist.  Perfect!  In talking with her about my idea for the novel, she said, “Mom, it’s a great story, but you won’t write it.”  It was then that Incredulity was born and Chapter 3 began for me.  I needed to show my daughter what her mom was made of.  And the bonus was that I got to work with her on it as my editor.  That was June of this year, and through a move from one state to another, Incredulity was not only written, but self-published in both print and e-book and available all over the world.  Joy just became incredulity!

The writing was easy.  The story fell together as if it was planned.  It wasn’t, really, but it poured out of me so quickly that my fingers couldn’t keep up.  The process of getting it formatted for both e-book and print was a little frustrating because I didn’t have the money to pay a service to do it for me.  But I found videos, articles, reached out to strangers, and it finally came to fruition.  Next stop, beta readers.  Easy.  Everyone wants to be helpful and read it first.  Next stop, marketing.  Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, oh, my!  I’m in!  I’m still floundering around with marketing, but I already had an audience of court reporters, and they began to purchase, read and review.

Everyone who knows me is completely aware that I’m no stranger to conversation, and I needed a site for my launch party, a press release, and who knows what else!  And because Incredulity is an over-the-top romance between a court reporter and a Texas rancher, who shows up on her docket for murder, I really wanted a cowboy at the party.  Phone call after phone call, my wishes came true.  The party was booked at a bookstore, the professional cowboy showed up, and the ranch offered up their PR person, who amazingly brought her horse, Chico, to the party!  Yes, I got on a horse for the very first time in my life!
Then the local radio station owner asked for an interview, twice.  He read the book and said he thought it was a screenplay and that I needed an agent!  What?!  (I haven’t found one…yet.)  I published on October 4th, and in the first month, I had 150 combined e-book and paperback sales!  That’s huge for someone who has no outside help, no experience in the industry, and no real connections.  I’m learning something new every day.

Chapter 3 has been a blessing so far.  Although I’m still standing in the middle of the street between the courthouse and the bookstore, hoping not to be run over by a truck, I know I’ve found my new purpose.  Book 2, Madame Court Reporter, will be out in early 2016.  The business aspect of writing is very much the same as court reporting.  Both focus on words, both rely on sales of copies for financial success, and both are seeing a decline in the value of the person responsible for getting those words on paper.  The one major difference, however, is the joy that writing brings, not just to me, but to the reader. When readers ask if they can date your character or suggest an actor for the role in the movie, again... Incredulity!


No witches, warlocks or vampires...
just a sexy tale about trying to live the Hollywood dream...