Guest Blogs

A Guest Blog Post from Will Entrekin

Today’s guest blog post is from the amazingly talented Will Entrekin.

You may recall that awhile back I reviewed his novel Meets Girl, as well as interviewed him. Since then, we’ve kept in touch. At one point I mentioned to him I would love for him to write up a guest blog post for my site once the release date for The Prodigal Hour, his forthcoming novel, drew closer. Well, that day is just around the corner, so Will dropped me an email yesterday with this lovely post. If you enjoy what he has to say, I strongly suggest you stop by his site. I do on a regular basis.

I must note that I’m not sure why he panicked when I asked him to contribute my site. I think he has a brilliant mind and a wonderful way with words, so he’s welcome here at any time.

So without further ado, here’s Will!

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When Nikki asked me to do an interview with her, I leapt at the opportunity. When she asked after a guest post, though, I panicked a bit, like I generally do, because there’s so much to write about I never know where to begin. But then I thought of a couple of questions she had asked me that had made me pause: what has been most rewarding to me as an author, and what has been the greatest challenge? I thought this would be a good opportunity to elaborate on my responses to those questions, because they’re the ones I’ve been most concerned with as I’ve grown into independence.

For authors, independence is yet a tricky beast. We still live in a culture of writing and publishing that values contracts with corporations as among the hallmarks of legitimacy–and often, such a contract is required for consideration for various prizes and awards. Oddly, this seems to be demanded mainly by the major genre associations, including the MWA, the SFWA, and the RWA. One would think that the science fiction culture, which is all about spaceships and other worlds and the future and technology, would be quick to embrace new methods and modes, but such is sadly not the case. So far as I can tell, the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction still requires submissions on the pulp of dead trees, which seems utterly backward.

In practice, these requirements are often an attempt at either maintaining or in some cases creating a hierarchy. Genre has rarely been held in similar regard to what many would call “literary fiction”–consider the quality of fiction for Chandler and Hammett and King and then their reputation when regarded next to Fitzgerald’s or Faulkner’s or Delillo’s. But independence gives genre authors colleagues to sneer about.

Many independent authors counter this with a sales defense. Joe Konrath, for one, has become known as something of an advocate for what he calls “self-publishing” (a term I dislike and tend to avoid except when other people use it. There’s a lot of power in words. Witness popular support for “the public option” but not “government-mandated universal health insurance” during those healthcare debates despite that both are the same thing). His blog is a regular fount of knowledge regarding publishing, formatting, marketing, and other considerations with which indie authors must concern themselves–and a must read. He also tends to talk regularly about his sales.

Now, don’t take me wrong: I admire his transparency, and even appreciate it. It’s great to know the figures, and even greater when he talks about his royalties and experiments with pricing.

On the other hand, Konrath is pretty clearly what Malcom Gladwell would call an outlier–an exceptional example on an outside end of a success curve. I’d say most independent authors will never achieve that level of success, but the truth is that most authors in general–no matter their method of distribution and who is behind it (which is pretty much what publishing ultimately comes down to)–never achieve that sort of success either. (Here there is probably an argument about whether it’s easier for an author published by a corporation to achieve that success. I think the answer is probably, but not by much.)

And on the other other hand, I fear that discussion of sales figures is employed as a way to counter the contempt with which so many regard indie authors. Even authors who got their start with what they call “self-publishing”–and who subsequently went on to sign with corporations–deride authors who call themselves independent, imploring us to “own” self-publishing. (To which my response was, fine. I own it. Now I’m going to rethink it, recondition it, rebrand it, remarket it, repackage it, and rebuild it from the ground up, and I’m going to call it independent publishing, thank you very much. It’s also worth noting most of the authors and publishing professionals who propagate this mindset are tied in some concrete ways to corporate publishing.)

And on the other other other hand–well, this part’s personal, but I was raised that discussions of money and finances is personal business and not meant for polite company. I don’t see doctors or lawyers–or editors or agents, for that matter–tending to discuss things like salaries (though I suppose we do generally know that a standard contract nets literary agents fifteen percent of an author’s income from the sales the agents brokered).

I think part of it, too, is my personal movement away from that ultimate goal of a publication contract with a corporation. For years, it was all I wanted. I was concerned about the quality of my writing only insofar as it was a means to that publication goal. I wanted a book deal. I wanted a six-figure advance and royalties. I wanted to call myself an author.

That last part there was, for so long, contingent on the others, if only because corporations were the only real way to distribution that didn’t involve door-to-door sales and a stack of “vanity” books in your garage. Things aren’t that way anymore. Nowadays, writers can write a good book, and then start Twitter and blog accounts to network and connect their work with people. Some connect more successfully, more deeply, or more widely than others, but the reason I’m discussing all this is that, at least for me, my own personal and professional challenge for the past several years has been to focus more on the “write a good book” part of things, which I fear is so often neglected by authors and corporations alike. I used to post something and follow blog views and subscribers, retweets and followers, friends and likes.

My goal right now is not so much to forget those things but to get back to that first part. To write good stories and connect with people. Like I’ve connected with Nikki, for example.

I don’t know how people will respond to The Prodigal Hour. It’s a big, bold, epic time-travel adventure story that’s the world’s first pre-/post-9/11 novel, and it concerns faith and grief and love and loss, and it’s got a huge cast of characters that includes historical figures (it’s got time travel in it, after all), not to mention key historical events in locales both temporally and geographically exotic. I don’t know how many copies it will sell. Probably not many at first, because while I’ve been concentrated on writing a better book, I’ve also very much neglected my online presence–that oft-mentioned platform so necessary nowadays.

But the thing is, I’m proud of it. I think it’s my best book so far, and it’s certainly my most ambitious. I hope it does well–extraordinarily, egregiously well–but my real hope is that I remain as pleased as I am with it regardless of its reception.

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On a slight side note, keep an eye out for my review of The Prodigal Hour. Will was kind of enough to send me an advanced copy of it. I’m thoroughly enjoying it, and I can’t wait to see how it ends.

A Guest Blog Post From J. Gunnar Grey, Author of Deal with the Devil

Today’s special guest blogger is the very talented J. Gunnar Grey, the author of Deal with the Devil. Enjoy!

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The story of the monster manuscript, or maybe my husband’s got the right idea

For writers, books can be strange places. Those who can stay outside the story while drafting the manuscript have my envy. But I’m one who works best by immersing myself in the plotline and characters, living the story and experiencing the themes. Otherwise the prose tends to be stale, and where’s the fun in that?

Deal with the Devil began with an idea for a World War II no-win scenario and a character, who I named Major Hans-Joachim Faust. He and I spent about a year on courteous speaking terms, getting to know each other and sorting through various possibilities, before I began writing the rough draft. But after four or five chapters, which bear practically no resemblance to the finished book, the writing stuttered to a halt. This book wanted to be more than a relatively simple murder mystery. It, and Faust, wanted to make a statement, and they gave me no choice in that matter. Nor much clue as to what said statement entailed.

Back to square one. This time I started out by drafting a four-page outline. Then I added a bit. Then a bit more. Subplots happened, characters expanded their roles, and I had a blast. By the time the outline was complete, it numbered 48 single-spaced pages. I’d never successfully worked with an outline before but I was game, so the four of us–outline, Faust, novel in progress, and me–started writing again.

(By the way, writers, have you ever tried to describe those voices in your head to a non-writer? First time I tried explaining them to my husband, who’s actually a pretty creative guy, I thought he was going to force-feed me anti-psychotics. And he doesn’t like prescription medications.)

Everybody was happy, so I spent the next year tapping away on the rough draft, finishing a new chapter every few days. (Before you get too impressed, understand that some chapters in Deal are really short.) But about two-thirds of the way through the outline, I realized I was stuffing pages into a second three-inch binder. The book was getting long. Some quick calculations added up to 140,000 words, altogether too long for a publisher to take a chance on an unknown writer in the mystery genre, and I hadn’t wrapped up either plotline.

Yep, you got it. I panicked. I figured I had to slice the book’s length. I went looking for ways to shorten this monster manuscript. But nobody cooperated, not the book, the outline, nor Faust, who can be particularly stubborn when he thinks he’s right. The argument lasted for six months. They won. None of the subplots, and only a few extraneous chapters, could be cut without gutting the storyline. It was that tightly entwined.

So I finished the rough draft and sent it to the world’s greatest critique partners, Melanie Card (romantic fantasy and UF) and Alexa Grave (SF/F/horror). Mel suggested one subplot should go and so could one character’s point of view; she’s very professional and rather cold-blooded about these things. Alexa highlighted every unnecessary (in her opinion) word in the book; note that she and I have equally good but entirely opposite methods of stringing words together.

But neither solution worked for me, which certainly was no fault of theirs, and it’s possible such a pathway would have resulted in a better book. Instead, I trimmed some fat, polished the remainder, and reluctantly put the book aside. Perhaps I could break it out, not as a first novel, but as a third or fourth one. As a historical mystery, the final length at 157,000 words was just doable for a writer with a few notches on the e-reader.

But every story I tried to write for the next year froze. The characters refused to play with me and the plotlines stank. Deal haunted me. The outline was sated, but neither the story nor Faust would let me go. They wanted to be read. At their prodding, I wrote a query and synopsis for a nice epublisher I’d met on Facebook, Stephanie Taylor of Astraea Press, and fell on my keyboard when she accepted it–the first publisher who saw the monster manuscript.

Oh, and her solution? Publish the book in two halves, as a two-part serial novel with a cliffhanger ending between halves, rather than a two-book series of standalone novels. I’d never thought of it. And if Faust doesn’t quit grinning in that smug manner, I’ll give him an even harder time in the sequel.

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Deal with the Devil is currently available via Amazon, Amazon UK, Amazon DE, Smashwords and Barnes & Noble.

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If you would like to contribute a guest blog post to my site, please feel free to contact me at nicole@nicoleireland.com. I look forward to hearing from you.

What Would You Do if You Knew You Couldn’t Fail? – A Guest Blog Post From Tymothy Longoria

I’ve been very fortunate over the past couple of years to meet some truly inspiring and talented people that have taught me that I can be and do anything as long as I believe in myself and am willing to work hard. One such person that I’ve met is author Tymothy Longoria, a seriously talented man. To say he’s one of the nicest, most encouraging people I’ve ever met would be an understatement. He always has a kind word to offer, no matter what. So please take a few moments and read his guest blog post below. It’s one of my favorites, and I hope it inspires you as much as it did me.

And when you’re done, please take some time to stop by Tymothy’s site and check out all the exciting things that are happening in his life. And if you need a word of encouragement and would like to be inspired, you can also find him on Twitter.

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First, of course I would like to sincerely thank Nicole for having me. I am honored and my hope is that my words will touch at least one person. That’s all it takes. Something I said or did inspired others to create something out of nothing. I’m no different than you.

I, like many of my Fellow Writers and friends, am a quote junkie. You know what that is. I even like to make up my own. One of my favorites is: “Writing is second nature to me. Sometimes I forget that.”

But the question above has been floating around the internet for a very long time, and rightly so. It asks a very meaningful and profound question that every single one of us can ponder the answer.

Thing is…I have yet to see an answer. I mean I’m sure those of us who have seen this have asked ourselves this over and over…or even once. But have we ever answered this? Have we said, “Well, I would do this and that.” Or even “Hmm, good question. I think I would achieve my dreams.”

Yes. Great answers, but also very generic ones.

Today let’s answer this question. A line in one of my favorite songs goes like this: “This is the now. No longer will I wait my time.” I’m speaking of writing of course but this is universal. Apply this to any area of your life. Any.

So, what would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail? What would you do if ahead of you was a prize. You name it. What could you achieve if you saw a guaranteed win in your favor?

Well, let’s be reasonable. Nah, let’s not. Reason has its place. But not here. Dreams and Reason are second cousins twice removed.

Let’s imagine. If you knew you’d win, what would you do?

Well, every step is a step closer to the realization of your dream. This quote implies that we have to do something. My most “seen” tagline is “Legends will be reborn.” I thought of that because I have the confidence that these characters will be entirely new. That an entirely new way of seeing something we are all very familiar with is possible. Hey, they did it with vampires and werewolves, right? In short I just want to share my few thoughts with you.

Okay, time to do. First. Clear your heart and mind and remember that brilliant story idea you had. Or maybe it wasn’t so brilliant. What could make it so? The popular bit of advice says to write what you know. I’m no one to disagree. So do that. Ignore the doubt in your head. It’s voice will get thinner and thinner as you progress.

Find your muse. What inspires you? For me it’s God. The things of God. My beliefs are my greatest inspiration. My family. Music. Epic fantasy. My Twitter Friends. Facebook. Seriously. They are all great inspirations. I learn so much from all of you.

Find your voice. How do you feel about certain things in life? What do you want to see written? Write it. Write that line of dialogue. Create that character that will live forever. Your character.

Can you imagine that with me?

A few days ago I tweeted this: How beautiful a sight it is seeing the title of your book on top of your name. That’s the beginning. I consider myself to be a reminder of the good things. So, I took this opportunity to remind you all that you can, especially now-achieve.

Now continue to do what you know you can do.

Continue to believe in yourself.

Continue to ask yourself:

What will I do now that I know I’m going to accomplish my dreams and goals?

Say it with me: I can and will do this.

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If you would like to contribute a guest blog post to my site, please feel free to email me at nicole@nicoleireland.com. I look forward to hearing from you.

Of Airships and Automatons: A Guest Blog Post From Alison DeLuca

Today’s guest blog post is courtesy of Alison DeLuca, the author of the  The Night Watchman Express, currently available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Please stop by her site for more information.

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Steampunk is a mutt, a hybrid. It is sci fi mixed with ersatz historical fiction: a strange monster indeed. Purebred genres have their good points, of course, but sometimes readers are looking for a place to escape to in a world tired of vampires.

Is it new? No. It’s been here, after all, since the days of H.G. Wells and Jules Verne. It was resurrected in the late 80’s by the likes of William Gibson and James Blaylock. Perhaps those writers were tired of the slick, aseptic world of 2001 and wanted something grittier that was at once urban and urbane.

In this past year, however, steampunk has really taken off. It has been given new life in the publishing world as well as on programming like Fringe. It even appears in a Lady Gaga video:

There are amazing books that have recently come out in the genre; there are collections like Corsets and Clockwork, series like the Behemoth books, and stand-alone works like The Windup Girl. They are edgy; they are filled with cogs and wheels and drawing room manners; they are sexy, like The Girl in the Steel Corset.

Hang on – how about those corsets, though? I write Steampunk, but I write books for a YA audience. I have deliberately decided to keep my work G-rated. There are no corsets there, except for those well hidden under riding habits and tea gowns.

I’m an editor as well as a writer, so “Will it sell?” is a question I’m learning to ask. What is steampunk without the steam? Will a younger audience be interested in an antique world?

There are YA collections out there for kids and teens, the Nickie Nick vampire hunter novels by O. M. Grey, the Blackfeather Chronicles, and the Girl Genius series by the Foglios. There are stand-alone books like Beltbuckle and Flash Gold. How popular they will be, and whether they will remain on Barnes & Noble bookshelves remains to be seen.

It makes sense that some books about cogs, wheels, and automatons should cater to kids. After all, children and adolescents were Verne’s and Wells’s and Doyle’s main audiences. I do believe that there must be quality in the story, however.

Steampunk, in order to save it from becoming steampulp, needs to have the Victorian or Edwardian technology serve a purpose. The airships should be there for a reason, not just floating around in order to give the author an excuse to slap a steampunk genre sticker on her book.

The airships and automatons must be an integral part of the plot, adding to the action and even, if I dare, the character development. I believe that kids appreciate character as much as any group of readers; they are just as turned off by poorly written protagonists. The characters in the books must be real, with flaws to overcome and problems to solves, as well as human feelings and hopes and desires. They cannot, in other words, be corset-wearing automatons.

I firmly believe that we will continue to see amazing books in the genre for YA. As the interest grows (there are already Steampunk festivals and exhibits all over the world, after all,) more authors will discover the fascinating fantasy that comes from opening the door to the old factory and discovering the possibilities of the alien machinery that waits inside.

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Alison DeLuca, author of the YA steampunk trilogy The Night Watchman Express, lives and writes in New Jersey.

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If you’d like to guest blog on my site, please feel free to contact me at nicole@nicoleireland.com. I look forward to hearing from you.

 

The Opportunity of a Lifetime: Eh, Too Much Work

 

Today’s guest blog comes from the über talented Ania Ahlborn, author of the novel SEED, which is slated for a June 2011 release. To find out more about her upcoming novel, and to read samples, please stop by her official website. You can also find Ania on Twitter.

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Just a handful of years ago, being an author meant something completely different from what it means today. Once upon a time, we were doomed to countless years of sweating over the perfect novel only to spend more countless years collecting crookedly scissored rejection slips that have been Xeroxed a dozen times over; a copy of a copy of a copy. To most NYC fat-cat agents, that’s all we were worth.

Those times have vanished like David Copperfield during a show-closing trick. Poof! And in a dramatic burst of smoke and glitter, writers have been handed the keys to the kingdom. Just like Alice, we’ve wanted to fit through that tiny publisher’s door, desperately trying to squeeze an arm through if only to say that we almost fit, we almost made it… hell, we fit our entire arm in there… if we had just pushed a little harder we could have broken down the wall. And then, a tiny miracle: a little cake with ‘eat me’ scrawled across it—though for us, it says e-me. E for ebook. E for e-publishing. E for everything we’ve ever wanted.

The Red Queen’s garden is a dangerous place. One misstep and it’s ‘off with your head’. The same goes for being an indie author. If you screw up once, and you screw up badly enough, you may never have a chance to recover. Sure, you won’t have a publisher breathing down your neck like an angry bull. You won’t have an agent yapping at you about deadlines and royalty fees. You won’t have any of that because, as an indie, you’re completely alone in this. That knowledge alone cripples many a writer. Because alone is just as scary as failure.

As an indie, I’m constantly on Twitter, and because I advertise my upcoming novel Seed on a perpetual rotation, I attract a lot of writers. It’s interesting to watch writers talk amongst themselves, forgetting that a million eyes could be watching their conversation. I constantly see writers talking about editing and revision—those topics are so commonplace they hardly catch my attention anymore. It’s the topic of queries and rejection letters that get me. Every once in a while I run into a traditionalist—a writer who’s still determined to be traditionally published despite the ebook boom. They still want that Big 6 contract. They still want the book signings, the almighty royalty advance. Once, I asked one of these writers if they’ve looked into e-publishing. The answer I received floored me.

“It’s so much research.”

I couldn’t believe it. I wanted to grab that person by the shoulders and shake them. The idea of someone being afraid to do the research at the cost of making their dream of publishing come true, well, quite honestly it sickened me. How can someone be so passive? How can someone who says they want to be an author shrug their shoulders and say ‘eh, it’s way too hard’? Is it hard? Hell yes. Is it worth it? Well I don’t know… how bad do you want it? 

With ebooks outselling print books, a lot of authors are worried that the market will become saturated with writers who are painfully self-published. I’m talking bad covers, bad writing, bad stories. I used to wonder about that as well, but that agent-seeking writer put that worry to rest. Being self-published isn’t a big deal. Being successfully self-published is; and I’m not talking monetary success here either. In my belief, being successfully self-published is being so well put-together that people have no idea you did it yourself. I’ll be the first to tell you that takes some investment, and it also takes a hell of a lot of work. Once, I was convinced that everyone was putting in the same amount of effort as me. Now, I know that isn’t true; now, I know that some people give up before they even try.

You’ve been handed an opportunity of a lifetime, and you don’t need anyone’s approval to make your dream of being a published author come true. But as indies, we are not all created equal. We’re in this alone, and we have nobody to blame for our shortcomings but ourselves.

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If you would like to write a guest blog post for my site, please contact me at nicole@nicoleireland.com. I look forward to hearing from you.

I Don’t Just Write Books: A Guest Ramble by Allie Burke

Today I’d like to welcome author Allie Burke to The Evolution of Nikki. Allie is the author of three-part series The Enchanters, which includes Violet Midnight, Emerald Destiny and Amber Passion.

You can find out more about The Enchanters series and Allie via her official website. If you’d like to connect with her, you can find her on Twitter and Facebook.

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I’m a writer.

An… indie… writer.

What’s the difference? If you write, you write. Right?

Um. I think the writers in us like to think so.

But, I don’t just write books. I… write… on Twitter. I write on my blog. On other’s blogs. On Facebook. I write e-mails to writers who I think are amazing. I did that today, now that I’m thinking about it. Actually, all of this I did today.

I haven’t written in a while. In about a week. I mean, I’ve written a little bit here and there, but, for me, sitting down to accomplish anything less than a couple thousand words is kind of… bleh.

A week? A week can’t be that bad, right? Some writers don’t write for months at a time.

True. But, I don’t… I don’t do that. I write every day. In two years I’ve written two books, half of another one, and am about halfway through my latest project. Is that a lot? I really have no idea. I don’t really force myself to write or have some strict goal that says I must write every day. I just… well, I love it. I love writing. I love books. I love what I do. It’s a passion, really.

So, how, as I praise this love of mine, can I say that I haven’t written lately? Writers block? A lack of inspiration? A blank mind void of ideas? Um. No. Not really.

The truth is… I don’t have time. I know. I shouldn’t have said that. I’m sorry.

The moment that I sit down at my computer I open Facebook. Maybe I shouldn’t do that. I don’t know. But, I need to know what’s going on in my community. Guest blogs. Interviews. Giveaways. Releases. Excerpts. Short Stories. What are my nerds doing?!

Twitter is next. It’s important to me that peeps are following those who they should be following.

Goodreads. Books that need to be added to my list. Then, my own reviews. My sales. My blog. My promises of “go buy Violet Midnight and I’ll love you forever”.

There’s more. I follow a lot of blogs. Some deeply inspire me. Every single day I type in their URL, in the back of my mind figuratively crossing my fingers with hopes that there will be a new post to read.

And, between the reposts, the comments, the blogging, the tweeting, the… reading, by the time I’m ready to shut it all down and write, its midnight, four hours before I have to get up for work, and I realize I forgot to eat again.

Yes. I get up at 4 A.M. And yes. I work full time.

I work as a Case Manager at… are you ready for this? Go ahead, take a deep breath. I’ll wait.

I work as a Case Manager at… a call center. Yeah. This writer who speaks of love, of love for rock music, books, art and the rain, of other worlds and imaginary friends, spends eight hours of every day hidden inside a cubicle that exists in the deepest level of Corporate America.

Customer Service. I’ve learned it. I’ve managed it. For seven years I’ve dedicated myself to it. Some people say Customer Service is the hardest job in the world. I like to say that I’m pretty good at it. Most days.

It’s not bad. I like my job. In my line of work, where I get to speak to people all over the world, all day long—it’s interesting. Fun, at times.

But it is not fulfilling. What did I say? I’m a writer. Call center? That’s not writerish.

I’m a writer. A writer who hasn’t written anything. Lately.

But, what I do now, I cannot stop. The day I believe my journey REALLY started, months after my first book was released and after my second book was ready to release, the day I was inspired by one amazing writer, a writer who, today, I am proud to call my Epic friend, I blogged about what had touched my heart. The title of my blog that day was simple.

Love. Support. Read. Write. Repeat.

I love my friends. My WRITER friends (not to say I don’t love my friends that aren’t writers, or anything… I love you guys, too!). I read all books. Indie published or not, YA, paranormal, romance, suspense, mystery, fiction… you name it. I. Read. Everything. I write books that could be considered as members of many different genres. And…

I support. SUPPORT. Why? Because people need… someone. That someone does not necessarily need to be me, but… why not? I’m here. Why not me?

Late one night last week, as I stared at my computer screen, trying to remember the last time I ate something, I saw a tweet that broke my heart.

I wish I had the confidence that all of these other amazing aspiring authors have. Seriously. #AmJealous #MustFixThis

I don’t know how or why other writers are so confident. I only know why I am. First of all. That writer I spoke of? Who inspired me? This writer, a couple more writers, and a group of nerds known as the #BNFF’s (BestNerdFriendsForever), instilled it in me. They invited me to join them. As they read what I’d written, they said “Wow”. They said, “You are a very gifted writer”. They said that, with my words, I have inspired. Me. An inspiration. What. Are. You. Talking. About.

What else gives me confidence? Supporters of me. People that LOVE to not only write, but love those that are like them. A five star review. Yeah. Those help, too.

So, the tweet. I couldn’t answer her question, because I didn’t know about everyone else. But, she’s a writer. She knows that. She loves what she does. I know that. ‘Cause if she didn’t, she wouldn’t do it. People get discouraged. It happens. I was discouraged this morning, until one of my #BNFF’s stepped in and made me laugh. Then, I wasn’t.

How could I let something like that go unanswered?

There’s no reason you shouldn’t. Keep your head up. Do what you do. <3

This is what I wrote back. I couldn’t tell you why. Where it came from. At that moment my heart bled through my fingertips like it often does.

The moment that I received the next tweet would be the moment that the most fulfilling smile would reflect in my expression. I would fall asleep that night with that smile pasted on my face.

thank you! <3 i’m working on it! 🙂

I really don’t know if, in the days or weeks or months that would follow, if this aspiring writer would, as her own heart bled through her fingertips, feel confidence. If I helped at all. But, as I think of it now, I still smile. I smile, because, it feels like I did… something… to help. Anything is better than nothing, I think.

As a writer, I obviously have some time issues I need to work out. I should… not… forget to eat. That’s probably bad. I should set a more… structured… writing goal. Maybe I shouldn’t drink so much coffee. What that has to do with anything, I really don’t know. While I’m throwing stuff out there. Just saying.

But, I believe writing is many things. Supporting your fellows, reading their books, blogging about them, blogging about you, for hours disappearing within that wild imagination of yours…

Writing. It’s quite unlike anything else in the world. Only writers… know writing. Honestly. The other day I attempted to explain writing to someone… who is not a writer. It did not go well.

I, personally, as a writer, would love your support. Your love. Supporting you, all of you, it’s the right thing to do. Deeply, I feel it. I know it. I embrace it.

I don’t just write books. I write… indie. How about you?

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If you’re interested in writing a guest blog post for my site, please contact me at nicole@nicoleireland.com for more info. I look forward to hearing from you.

This Typey-typey Thing Is Hard! (dedicated to all potential writers) by Jake Bible

Today I’d like to welcome author and podcaster Jake Bible to The Evolution of Nikki. Jake is the author of DEAD MECH, the world’s first drabble novel.

You can find out more about Jake via his official website.

Now onto today’s post. (If you’re a potential writer, this one is most definitely for you.)

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So, I am a writer. Impressive, eh?

Sure, I get to sit around in my PJs clacking at my keyboard, getting multiple refills of delisciousssssss coffee while snacking on donut holes. Then watch Doctor Who re-runs for the other seven hours of the “work” day. It’s the life!

Except, none of that is true. Oh, I wish it was. I could use a good pair of PJs. But, alas, I am part of the 90%-95% of professional writers that is afflicted with a condition that the average reader (even sub-average reader) is not aware of.

I am speaking of: The Day Job.

Yep, I work for a living.

Sure, I may make enough from my ebook sales and (soon) my print book sales to keep my fridge stocked with craft beer on the weekends (can’t afford beer on weeknights), but I won’t be buying a summer cottage on The Cape anytime soon. (Where is “The Cape”, by the way?)

Yes, I even have a literary agent that is busy trying to sell my work out there, but selling and sold are two different words. And even when sold I will be lucky if I can pay off my Best Buy card. Not that I regret the HDTV in the living room. I do regret I got suckered into buying the over priced HDMI cable, though. I should have read CNET first.

I digress. Won’t be the last time in this post.

What many readers don’t know is that only between 5%-10% of professional writers make enough money to support themselves (and possibly their families, as well). Yep, see all those books on your bookshelf, dear potential writer? 90% of those are written by folks that are schlepping it to work each day just like you. Oh, the glamour!

Now, before you feel sorry for me and get your wallets out…be sure and click here. I kid. …Or do I?

Okay, I better get to the point before you go back to watching The View. Or that YouTube video of the cat playing with the dolphin. That is just so damn cute! Can’t wait for the sequel where the cat plays with a shark. Hijinks will ensue, I guarantee it!

Here is why I am writing this post (after six plus paragraphs of nonsense): if you want to be a writer, be prepared to work your butt off like never before. If you are lucky! That’s right, you’ll be working your tuchas to the bone even if you catch a break. I am.

I launched my first novel, DEAD MECH, as a free podcast. I was lucky (there’s that word again) that it took off and caught the attention of some other big authors/podcasters. With help I was able to gain a rather large following right away which lead to a publishing contract (which I have since nullified because I am a control freak). But, my following was a following of folks that liked FREE content. Did that translate to sales when the novel was printed? No. No, it didn’t.

So, I had to start the hustle that all writers go through. I had to self-promote my novel (as well as the podcast), I had to work on getting my next novel written (and recorded for podcast), I had to plan my third novel (maybe a podcast?) plus all the website maintenance, correspondence, ebook publishing, writing, revising, editing, writing, revising, etc.

And do it all while working 40+ hours a week at my day job.

Sure, you still want to be a writer?

Or, if you don’t want to be a writer, do you still believe writing is easy?

I’m sure many of you are unconvinced, so let’s break it down.

My month has consisted of the following:

  1. Prep/proof two manuscripts for print publication.
  2. Revise said manuscripts and coordinate with my formatter for revisions.
  3. Write a new YA novel (still in progress).
  4. Edit my current novel.
  5. Record/edit the podcast release of my current novel.
  6. Start the first draft of a zombie musical (yes, you read that right).
  7. Update all of me ebooks because of late errors found.
  8. Update my website to reflect the new info constantly being generated by new work.
  9. Write several guest blog posts.
  10. Be part of a few interviews.
  11. Work on publicity/promotion.
  12. Get frustrated with publicity/promotion and get drunk instead.
  13. Post on Facebook/Twitter/The Ether.
  14. Respond to comments on Facebook/Twitter (can’t respond to The Ether, that’s just crazy talk).
  15. Take notes for next novel.
  16. Take notes for the novel after that.
  17. Drink coffee (okay, drink whiskey with coffee in it).
  18. Work at day job.
  19. Keep wife and children healthy and fed (I do all the cooking).
  20. Sleep (yep, I’m a wuss that way).

There’s more but I’ve had too much “coffee” to remember what the rest is. Let me know if I missed anything.

How’s that writing dream feeling? Have I crushed it yet? I sure as hell hope not. Because if you have read all of this and still want to be a writer then you probably have the stuff to be successful at it. However, if this list freaks you out (or you don’t like “coffee”) then maybe you should just keep working on that manuscript until you do have what it takes.

Now, if you get one thing from this post, I hope it’s this: It’s easy to fail, it’s hard to succeed. Be prepared for success. You don’t need preparation for failure. We’re humans, failure is in our DNA. Success is what will really kill you. As a writer, your biggest regret in life won’t be that you failed at writing, but that you succeeded at writing then failed at success. That’ll break your soul.

But, even with all of this craziness I absolutely love writing and I wouldn’t go back to my pre-writing days if someone paid me. Well, I guess it depends on how much they paid me…

And, on that note, I wish you all great success!

Cheers!

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Bio:

Jake Bible lives in Asheville, NC with his wife and two kids. He is the author of many published short stories and the creator of a new literary form: the Drabble Novel. DEAD MECH is his first novel and represents the introduction to the world of the Drabble Novel, a novel written 100 words at a time.

Learn more about Jake and his work at www.jakebible.com. Links to his Facebook fan page, Twitter and his forum can be found there, as well as his weekly drabble release, Friday Night Drabble Party, and his weekly free audio fiction podcast.

 

Backing Up the Info Dump Truck by Jim Ryan

Today’s special guest is Jim Ryan, a caffeine-loving podcaster and writer who can be found at his official website Jim – Yes, THAT Jim and via Twitter, Facebook and MySpace. (Yes, MySpace is still around. It’s hard to believe, I know.) Also, please feel free to check out Jim’s two podcasts, The Great Debate and The Everyworld News Podcast.

Now, onto Jim’s thoughts on providing readers with too much information at once. (Yes, the old saying is true. Sometimes less is more.)

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I have a confession to make.  I’m addicted to world-building.

Whenever I write something that takes place in a fictional world, I like to spell out details about that world to the Nth degree.  My material leans in the direction of science fiction and fantasy, so more often than not I find myself creating races and societies and – depending on the setting – sorting out rules for how magic works or how advanced technology works.

Why bother with all that?  Because my OCD-riddled brain likes to sort out every last piece of information and put it in its proper place.

The problem is that once I’ve got the details written up, I often feel a compulsion to share them with my readers.  From what I understand this can be a malady that strikes many writers.  It’s only natural, of course.  After working for hours on the complete history of every major spacefaring race in a given galaxy, the desire to share the pride I have in such a massive creation is a perfectly normal one.

Normal, but sadly, not helpful.

I may feel as though providing pages and pages of information on the mating habits of the rock people of Quar is the right and just thing to do, but deep down I know that producing a story the approximate length of the Great Wall of China might not be the best strategy.  Not if I want to retain any of my readers, anyway.

So, how do I avoid including info-dumps in my fiction?

I’ve tried having clueless minor characters standing by to ask, “What’s going on?” so the clever protagonist can tell them.  But that only really seems to work for me up to a point, after which it can start getting ridiculous.  Sometimes there’s a fine line between having a main character who’s a genius and having one who’s basically a tape recorder.

(For those of you who may be a bit younger, we used to have these things called “tape recorders.” Google them some time if you’d like to get an insight into how the ancient folk of the late 20th century lived.)

What I’ve found works better is to seed the information in appropriate passages a bit at a time – just hinting at the greater depth of background instead of throwing it all out there.  I try only to include the bits of information that are relevant to the story. So, for example, instead of getting into the specifics of how the Quarren race reproduces, I can instead have the Quarren ambassador mention that he’s recently carved out a son.

The key here is letting the readers fill in the missing bits with their imagination.  I haven’t explained HOW the ambassador had a son, but I’ve 1) communicated what I need to (that the ambassador has a family, which helps explain his motivations) and 2) hopefully made the reader curious about the Quarren race.  The readers can’t help but try to picture what I’m talking about, but because the picture is incomplete there’s now a mystery to which they’ll want to learn the answer.

Stringing folks along by revealing only tiny bits of the world you’ve created can be a bit cruel, perhaps, but ultimately they’ll love you for it. Because a world that looks like it’s got a lot of potential is way cooler than one that’s finished.

So consider hoarding all of those excruciating details and letting them out a bit at a time. That way, when they ask for more, you’ll have a ready supply.

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If you’d like to guest blog on my site, please feel free to contact me at nicole@nicoleireland.com. I look forward to hearing from you.

Guest Blog Post: Author Suzy Turner on ePublishing

Today’s guest blog post on ePublishing comes from author Suzy Turner. Her debut YA novel, Raven, will be available for purchase through Amazon in the near future. To read an excerpt from Raven, please visit her official site.

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About a month ago I had an epiphany. A light bulb illuminated inside my head… ‘epublish your book’, it said.

I know in the past, many indie authors have had a bad name but times, they are a changing, and authors are doing it for themselves (isn’t that a song?). So why not jump on the bandwagon, so to speak?

Like many (if not all) authors before me, I have received my fair share of rejections, but I’ve also received my fair share of compliments about my style of writing (and my over active imagination, but that’s another story altogether), enough to make me think ‘why shouldn’t I try and do it my way?’

So I began to read up about the process of epublishing and, to be honest, I can’t find a reason why I shouldn’t do it.

Provided your book is the best it can be and it has been edited and proofread to within an inch of its life, then there is no reason why you can’t try and make a go of it yourself. You keep the profits. You maintain integrity over your project. You choose the cover, etc, etc.

My YA novel, Raven, will be my first ebook. The first person to read it was a friend who also happens to teach kids at a London school. She helped me improve the story by pointing out inconsistencies, anything that was just plain wrong and spelling mistakes. She also suggested I make a few changes to my main character (she was too naïve to be 16 so I made her a little younger, for example). I have since completed the revision and the book is now in the hands of four other friends – all, except one – in the editing / publishing industry so I trust what they will have to say.

While I wait for them to finish (with full time jobs, it’s taking a little longer than I’d hoped), I am working on the cover art. I’d love to pay someone to do this for me but as this is my first book, I simply can’t afford it at the moment. However, I do believe my cover image is coming along quite nicely. Taking the picture was fun…although I’m 35 and no longer the shape of a teenager, I donned my best teenlike clothes and my husband and I drove up to the nearby mountains to get a shot of me running into a forest. When we got back, I chose the best photo and then went to work. Not having Photoshop on my laptop, I used an online image editing site (http://pixlr.com) to tweak the image, reducing the size of my curves (!) to make me appear to be much (much) younger, and making the image darker and eerier. I posted the initial image on my blog to gauge response and was pleasantly surprised. It just needs a little more alteration and then it will be ready. Not bad for a first timer, I guess.

To follow my journey, visit http://suzyturner.com.

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If you would like to guest blog on my site, please email me at nicole@nicoleireland.com for more information. I look forward to hearing from you.

 

Guest Blog Post: Tony Faville on Music

Tony FavilleToday I’d like to welcome friend and fellow author Tony Faville to The Evolution of Nikki. Tony is the author of the post-zombie apocalypse novel Kings of the Dead, currently available on Amazon. If you’d like to get in touch with Tony, you can find him on Twitter and Facebook or you can visit his official website.

Now sit back and enjoy what Tony had to say about music and how it can, at times, inspire our writing. (It definitely inspires mine as you’ll see in a future post.)

 

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Music (noun) – 1. The art or science of combining vocal or instrumental sounds (or both) to produce beauty of form, harmony, and expression of emotion.

For some people, music is more than just a noun, it is a way of life. You can see them all over the place, dancing, singing or just moving like they do not have a care in the world. All they feel at that point in time, is the music.

For some people, myself included, the right song can be like a time machine, instantly transporting you back through the very fibers of space and time to an event in life that helped form them into who they are today. For example:

Journey, Frontiers, Faithfully, it’s 1983 and I am in Colorado Springs, Colorado sitting across the pool from a young lady that I thought I was in love with. A year later I would do something to her that I will spend the rest of my life wishing I could find her just so I could apologize to her for what I did.

We are the World, 1985 and I am having one of the best summers of my life in San Diego, California

Kenny Loggins, Danger Zone, it is 1986, I am 16 years old drving my 1967 VW 21 Window Deluxe Microbus up to Seattle for the day while being seriously hotboxed by my buddies.

Guns and Roses, Appetite for Destruction, Sweet Child of Mine….Axl is sliding his feet left and right, Slash may or may not be awake, Izzy is doing his best Ronnie Woods impersonation, Duff was wailing on the bass, and Steven was pounding the hell out of the drums. It is 1988 and I am not quite 19 years old, in the US Navy driving a piece of crap 1970 Datsun 240z at well over 100 miles per hour through the southern California high desert while smoking filterless Pall Mall cigarettes like they are going out of style.

Alanis Morissette, You Ought To Know, it’s 1996, I have asked for a divorce from a loveless marriage and my brain is inundated with this song every minute of every day until she finally moves out.

In My Life, The Beatles, it is 1998 and I am getting married to my soulmate this time, and the song is sung by a friend of ours. Since originally sung by The Beatles, it has been covered by multiple other singers, but my absolute favorite version is Johnny Cash with a close second by Ozzy Osbourne.

Eros Ramazotti, 9, Un Attimo di Pace, in 2003 my wife and I took a long two week dream vacation to Italy and truly had the trip of a lifetime. Upon our arrival in Roma, there was a transportation strike and we had to walk from the train station to our hotel on the other side of Largo di Torre Argentina. As we walked we found armed Carbineri blocking the road ahead as there were protests taking place ahead at the base of the Vittorio Emanuelle National Monument. By the time we got there, the crowd had grown to easily a hundred thousand angry Romans, and we had to pass through the crowd. A pair of American tourists, at a time when American tourists were hated more than ever. This song was playing everywhere along our route to the hotel, which we arrived at safely.

See what I mean? All I have to do is hear any of those songs and I am instantly transported through space and time and I either get to, or have to live through those moments in time once more.

As writers, many of us have used past experiences for our writing. Now, I am not saying we necessarily write down specific experiences that have happened in our lives, At least not always, but sometimes the feelings that remain from the things we have experienced do in fact come through in our writing. When this happens, it can certainly affect the tone of what we put down on paper.

These days when I sit down and start writing, I find myself listening to a lot of Mister Johnny Cash as I find it helps me be a little more retrospective than if I were to be listening to Duran Duran, or Metallica, or the Rolling Stones. As I sit their and listen to The Man Comes Around, or We’ll Meet Again, I begin to feel what he may have felt while singing the songs. While he sings, I start to remember, and I start to feel, and I start to write. Sometimes what I wrote works, and sometimes it does not. That is just the way things go sometimes.

When the writing works though, it really works.

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If you’d like to guest blog on my site, please contact me via email at nicole@nicoleireland.com for more information. I look forward to hearing from you.