Affirmation

It’s strange how our minds’ work. It has this strange habit of sowing doubts, making us question things we were once confident about. Let me explain . . .

After finally publishing Heart Search, book one: Lost, I was euphoric. My dream of seeing something I’d written on the pages of Amazon had come true and I was riding a wave of triumph; I’d achieved my goal!

I knew early on in the writing of Heart Search: Lost that the story wouldn’t fit into just one book and made the decision to spread it over three. It didn’t faze me in the slightest, at the time, and I looked forward to getting the next section drafted. Once the blog tour was underway, I began making my plans to push forward with it during NaNoWriMo. It would give me the discipline and momentum I needed to get it written quickly, I told myself, and was eager to start.

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November 1st came and I sat down to write, full of ideas and inspiration, confidence running high, and then my mind decided to throw a spanner in the works.

Despite the fact the story was flowing quite well and I’d written over ten thousand words by the end of day three, I began to doubt my abilities. I suffered a crisis of confidence. Just because I’d successfully written one book, did that automatically mean I would be able to complete another one? Did I have another novel in me? Would I find enough of a story to finish it? Was I a good enough author to write a second book?

doubt

All these questions and more spun around in my head like a Tasmanian devil on crack, and it was a horrible feeling. On one level I truly believed I could achieve this second goal, but those niggling doubts had taken root and the tendrils were spreading. I kept my own counsel during this worrying time, dug my heels in and gave myself a strongly-worded lecture. And I carried on writing.

As the word count grew, and one chapter led to another and another, my confidence began to come back a little at a time. The fears didn’t go away, but instead of letting them overpower me, I took back control. I was determined to prove to myself that I wasn’t a ‘one-trick pony’!

I finished the first draft of Heart Search, book two, on 11th January – just eleven days ago – and have now begun the revisions and edits. I can honestly say I experienced the same sense of achievement and joy as when I finished writing book one; I’d overcome my misgivings, my confidence crisis and affirmed that yes, I did have it in me to produce another novel.

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I have no idea where the doubts came from or why my mind decided to throw me a major curve ball. What I do know is, I can fight it and win!

Reflections

First off – Happy New Year to you all. I wish you health, happiness and success in all your endeavours.

looking back

 

In the first few days of a new year, most people are making resolutions and setting goals, and whilst I do that, I also take some time to reflect on the year just passed and ask myself some questions:

 

What was my biggest trial during 2012?

This would have to be the major problem with my spine. The first signs appeared mid-February, but by the third week in April, it had deteriorated to the extent I could no longer work, drive my car, dance, sit for longer than half an hour, stand for more than fifteen minutes, bend, and needed a stick to help me walk. Suddenly I was taking medication by the handful (or that’s how it seemed); muscle relaxants, pain killers, anti-inflamatories and nerve blockers were thrown down my neck in the vain hope they would take the pain away. Yeah, they took the edge off, but that was about it. The doctor could have given me stronger tablets, but I really didn’t want to become a barely-functioning zombie.

There were two things which helped me through this nightmare (until I had surgery at the end of September) – my daughter and my writing. It was because of both I refused the more powerful drugs. My writing and editing work kept me sane; in my writing I was able to immerse myself in the world I was creating, and in between I had the honour of editing fantastic novels by Connie J Jasperson, Johanna Garth, Alison DeLuca and Nicole Antonia Carson; Johanna’s (Losing Hope), Alison’s (Crown Phoenix: Lamplighter’s Special) and Nicole’s (Yum) are already available, and Connie’s (Forbidden Road) is due to be published within the next couple of months. In the rare times I wasn’t writing or editing, my lovely daughter kept my spirits up.

What was my biggest achievement?

Without a doubt, the publication of Heart Search: Lost through Myrrdin Publishing Group. The joy I felt seeing it up on Amazon for the very first time was indescribable; I still get a buzz from it three months after the launch! When the paperback arrived, I turned it over and over in my hands, scarcely able to believe my dream of publishing a book had come true, especially after the difficult time I had trying to get it written in the first place.

What was my greatest challenge?

I think this would have to be organising and running the blog tour to celebrate the launch of Heart Search: Lost. I’d never done one before so was feeling my way with it a bit, but I had a clear idea of what I wanted to achieve. I also wanted to combine the tour with a giveaway, so had to choose and design the items too. I wanted each participating blog to have original guest posts and excerpts – if people were kind enough to support my launch, the very least I could do was ensure they had exclusive pieces to share with their followers.

I had some wonderful people supporting me on the tour, a number of which have become dear friends as a result. The fact that the tour began just ten days after the surgery on my spine, when I could only sit for 10-15 minutes at a time, increased the challenge. I had 17 guest posts to write, 14 interviews, and to pick out 20 suitable excerpts. Add this to the actual administration of the tour, the launch itself and all the requisite publicity, it would be fair to say it was a challenge I wondered if I could rise to. I managed it, somehow, mainly by ignoring doctor’s orders and sitting for longer than I should have done!

What was unexpected?

Finding myself holding the reins of a writers group! I had only been a member of Writebulb for about four months when the leader and last remaining founder had to bow out. It had taken me quite a while to find a group I was happy in and I didn’t want to see it close. I volunteered to take over and have been running Writebulb ever since.

I’m proud of the achievements of the group since I took over. Apart from myself, others have published their work for the first time and collectively we published a charity anthology, The Other Way Is Essex, to raise money for our local hospice.

What surprised me the most?

People! To be more specific, how wonderfully supportive my fellow authors, bloggers, followers and readers were. Every member of Myrrdin Publishing were incredible and I’ve found some wonderful new friends as well as very talented authors. The Heart Search Blog Tour crew were all fantastic, most going out of their way to help publicise all the activities/posts/reviews etc as well as their own and offering me loads of encouragement. My fellow writers at Writebulb have been responsive and supportive of my leadership and ideas. Last, but by no means least, my wonderful readers who have given me such fabulous feedback on my debut novel.

What have I learned?

Loads! I’ve learned to stare adversity in the face and find a coping mechanism to deal with pain (admitedly doing something I love and would have done anyway, but still . . .). I’ve been honing my craft, trying to improve my writing, so as to give my readers better quality stories to enjoy. I’ve learned how wonderfully supportive other authors and my blog and social media followers are. Finally, although I’ve been writing since I was a child, I’ve come to realise it’s a much bigger part of my life than I ever expected and I can never stop doing what I love so much!

 

 

A Writer’s Journey

I’ve loved to read as far back as I can remember. I had a lonely childhood and immersed myself in the wonderful tales spun like magic on the pages in my hands. The characters became my playmates when I was unable to see my friends for whatever reason.

It’s funny though – I never once stopped to think about the authors or the process they go through to get that wonderful gift into my hands. Obviously I knew someone had sat down and lovingly created the story, but in my ignorance I didn’t stop to think about them as people.

I would go into the library in school or town or into my local bookshop and see row upon row of hardback and paperback capsules of knowledge, wonderful worlds and people and pure escapism. I would pick books off the shelves and consume the synopsis on the back, letting my imagination ride over green fields ringed with trees that spoke and animals that were almost human, when seeing words like ‘magic’, ‘castle’, ‘witches’, ‘fairies’ etc.

Even when writing my own short stories I still never considered all the hard work each and every author does in order to get their fabulous stories onto those library and bookshop shelves. In my naiveté, I guess I thought they wrote the stories, took them to a printer and voila, out pops a book.

You know, it wasn’t until I wrote Heart Search: Lost that I finally understood.

It took me 9-months to write the first draft, most of that while holding down a full-time job, teaching two nights a week and looking after a home and my daughter. It took my editor about 2-months to get through it (she was working on other things at the time as well), then I had the first round of revisions to do. I then edited the manuscript myself to check all my revisions worked before sending it out to an alpha reader.

My alpha reader doesn’t normally read novels in the Fantasy genre, so perhaps I was taking a bit of a gamble . . . but then again, maybe not . . . SHE LOVED IT!! She gave me some very useful feedback, which was great, but the fact that she loved what I’d written gave me a tremendous boost. It gave me hope that maybe I was quite good at this, that my writing had some value and was entertaining.

Taking the feedback I received, I revised and edited again before sending it to a beta reader. This lady is a friend who is also a senior editor at a US publishing company. I trusted her, not only with my manuscript, but also impartial and honest feedback. That was exactly what I got! She suggested structural changes for some of the chapters and a few other things that I hadn’t really thought too much about. She was (and still is) incredibly supportive of me and my work and what makes it even more amazing – Alison and I have never met in person! (This is a whole other story for another blog post – maybe . . .).

So back I went again and revised for the third, or was it fourth time, implementing Alison’s insightful suggestions. I then gave it to my editor again and whip in hand, told her I needed it back within two weeks. She gave me one of her ‘looks’ (you know the one – peering over the top of her specs, eyebrows raised and lips slightly pursed in disapproval – I can see you picturing it now!), and said she’d do her best. Bless her heart, Maria (my editor) pulled the proverbial rabbit out of the hat and got it done within the two weeks. Thankfully I only had minimal changes to make and then it was done.

Then the hard work really started. Oh, please don’t get me wrong; writing the novel, doing revision after revision after revision, edits etc., is hard work, but because you have so much of yourself invested in the plotlines and characters, it’s more a labour of love. What I’m talking about is the next phase of the process – trying to get published.

The first thing to do is decide which route is right for you and the research in itself is quite time consuming. There’s traditional publishing with an agent; traditional publishing without an agent (very tricky to get a deal, especially these days); independent publishers – printed books; independent publishers – ebooks; or self-publishing.

Having decided which route you want to take, you then need to research the submission guidelines for each agent/publisher you want to submit to and ensure that you stick rigidly to their guidelines. Each one is a little different so you have to tailor the next stages to their precise requirements.

The next stage is to write a synopsis of your book. This is not a chapter by chapter account, more a page or two giving the main story line, highlights, and most importantly, the ending. This document has to grab the publisher or agent’s interest so needs to be written, revised, revised again and edited to ensure excellent grammar and spelling.

Then comes the query letter which includes a one-paragraph synopsis of your novel. Again grammar and spelling is of the utmost importance, but more than this, the letter has to be professional, succinct and powerful enough for the agent/publisher to want to read your entire novel (you only normally send the first couple of chapters at this stage). More revisions and editing until this is the best it can possibly be.

Finally, you need to write a short biography. They don’t want your life history so a short paragraph about you will do.

Having done all the above it’s time to bite the bullet and submit your work to your chosen agent/publisher. And wait. And wait. And wait.

This is the stage I’m currently at. I decided to try the traditional publishing route through an agent. I picked the agent carefully, followed their submission guidelines and sent everything off on Friday 13th April (Friday 13th??? I know – crazy right?!). I’m now waiting in a densely populated place called Hope. I’m not naïve enough to think that I’ll get picked up by the first agent I approach, but who knows? Maybe I’ve done everything right. Maybe they will like what I’ve sent them enough to want to see my entire manuscript (all 152,000 words of it). And maybe they won’t.

It’s all a learning curve and I’m strong enough to face rejection if that’s what comes my way. I have other options and a plan in place should they not accept me. Whatever happens, I’m not giving up. I’ve already started writing book 2 and have plans for a third novel to round off the story. I’m going to keep trying to get my work out there and hope that my writing will give another person the same level of enjoyment and entertainment that I’ve taken for granted for too many years.

This post would not be complete without acknowledging the three people who got me this far.

My alpha reader and best friend, Jakki

My wonderful editor, Maria http://twitter.com/Maria7627

 

My dear friend and beta reader, Alison DeLuca (author of The Night Watchman Express & Devil’s Kitchen and senior editor at Fantasy Island Book Publishing)

http://twitter.com/AlisonDeLuca

Author Spotlight: Roger Grubbs (and A Fab Contest)

I have two, yes two, really special treats for you today (so make sure you read all the way to the end!); I’m so pleased to welcome Roger Grubbs, author of over 38 books, to my blog today.

Welcome, Roger. Could you please tell us when you started writing and where you get your inspiration from?

Actually I began my writing career in 1979 as a market analyst.  In order to get my information in the hands of my clients, I was forced to learn the art of writing.  The next step was to market my services.  To be truthful, copywriting helped boost my career.  That is one of the toughest things to write.  There is a limited amount of space and so much to tell in order for it to be successful.  I became interested in writing novels in 2008.  Since then, I have written thirty-eight books, some of which have not yet been released.  I find that editing is the most difficult process to do before releasing a novel.  Writing stories seems to be a breeze for me because I enjoy it.  I feel it shows because my readers like them too.  

What inspires me the most is ‘good’ winning out over ‘evil’.  I have seen a lot of injustices in the world, and because of that I choose to write about characters that are instrumental in bringing about justice.  This motivates me and is expressed throughout my works.  My readers generally love the endings of my stories and are ready to read another one of my books when they finish.  

I’m sure our readers would love to know, of all the books you have written, what is your favourite and why?

I’m sorry but I have trouble picking just one, but I will choose three of my favorites if that is okay with you.  The Twelve SEALs was written to create awareness about the global problem of human trafficking.  I have just finished the 5th book in that series.  A team of former Navy SEALs is bringing about justice for the victims.  Survival is another book that readers love.  The story is centered about two young people of different social circles that really like each other.  But because of peer pressure, they have been unable to have a relationship.  After being stranded on a desolate island, that barrier is broken down.  Still they have a problem with telling each other that they are in love.  I cannot tell you how that turns out; you will just have to read the story.  Be prepared for a surprise ending.  The third book that I consider one of my favorites is A Mountain’s Secret.  There are four major plots going on at the same time in this Adventure Series.  The book ends in dramatic fashion when a storm prevents Dr. Andrew Rogers and his two companions from leaving Mt. Ararat.  There is something strange about this mountain that holds its visitors captive.  It is a test of endurance.

I can understand how difficult it is to pick just one out of 38! I’m curious – have you based any of your characters on yourself?

I would have to admit there is a little bit of me in all of my main characters.  I determined long ago that the best way to live a successful life is to stand for truth, justice, and honor.  My goal is for my characters to be good role models for everyone, especially young people.  It really makes me feel good when they get involved with the characters and want to imitate what they see.  Once they do that, they will follow them in the series if there is one.  Some of my single titles are so strong that readers return to them over and over again.  It is nice to see them enjoying those stories and characters.  

If you were to give one tip to an aspiring author, what would it be?

Always consider the reader.  I consider the most important aspect of my novels to be presenting the story and characters in a way that will be entertaining and interesting.  I refuse to bore my readers.  That is one of the things that kept me from reading more during my younger days.  If our novels are not capable of keeping the reader involved, then do not release it.  Put it aside, and work on another one.  Most importantly, do not become discouraged.  It takes time for a new author to reach the level of notoriety.  Patience is the key.  

That’s great advice there!

Now I happen to know a couple of random things about you, like you go weak at the knees for homemade meatloaf and sweet tea with plain cake and fresh strawberries on the side, is that true?

Well, yes! My favorite meal of all time is something most may consider unusual, but I don’t mind at all because I am a country boy. My knees go weak just thinking of it. It would be a plate filled with meatloaf, fried potatoes, cold slaw, and iron skillet cornbread. To the side would be a bowl of piping hot dried northern beans, seasoned to perfection. Top that off with sweet iced tea, and you have a meal fit for a king. And for dessert, picture this: a big slab of homemade yellow cake with white frosting, piled high with luscious fresh strawberries, crowned with whipped cream. Now that is what I call a meal. Barring any unforeseen complications, I am always served this meal for my birthday, Father’s Day, anniversary, or any other special day my wife feels I deserve such a treat. When my beautiful wife (excellent cook) moved in the front door, the canned chili went out the back. It can’t get any better than that!

Sounds yummy! While we’re on the subject of things you like…what type of books do you like to read?

Not to sound boastful, but I have to be truthful.  All of my works are original.  When I have time to read, I love going back and picking stories from my own library.  Every time I do that, it seems like a new experience for me; and I really enjoy it.

I think that’s pretty cool actually. Now what is your favourite holiday and why?

While most holidays hold something special, Christmas would have to be at the top of the list.  I have even written a book entitled, “The Greatest Gift of All”.  The reason I like this holiday best is because it brings families together and encourages sharing.  It also provides opportunities for us to do something good for someone else.  The best way to do that is anonymously.  You will find that out by reading this novel.  

I must admit, Christmas is my favourite holiday too and for the same reasons as you.

Finally, is there anything you would like to say to your readers?

Readers are my reason for writing novels.  I respect you and want to make sure that you are not disappointed with my novels.  We have a stringent checklist that each one must pass before it is released.  If at any time it does not measure up, my readers will never see it.  They deserve the best and that is what I strive to provide.  I write books in a lot of different genres.  I encourage you to pick out one that is right for you.  If you do that, you won’t be disappointed.  Finally I want to thank my readers that keep coming back for more.  That is the greatest compliment any author could ever receive.  

Roger, thank you so much for visiting today and letting us get to know you a bit better. I wish you every success with SEALS III, Big Trouble in Aruba!

It was my pleasure, Carlie, and I consider it an honor to be featured in this interview. This is a great way for readers to get to know authors on a personal basis. I have found that once a person reads one of my books, they come back for more. It is a matter of more people finding me. The connection between me and my readers is personal, and this opens the door to meet new people. Thanks for your help!

Readers are very pleased with the SEALs Series. It is being used to create awareness concerning human trafficking. There will be two more installments in the near future to add to this series. If you get a chance, check out SEALs III – Big Trouble in Aruba. Most people will be surprised by what is revealed.

 EXTRA SPECIAL CONTEST

Roger and I have come up with an incredible opportunity for you:

To enter this contest you need to come up with a name and description of a hero or villain. You have a limit of 300 words. It has to be a person and not a fantasy or sci-fi creature.

The winning entry will have a choice of one of two of Roger’s latest books for free, personally autographed AND their character will be featured in Roger’s next book.

How awesome is that?

Email your entries to carliecullenWP@yahoo.com by midnight GMT on 7th April 2012. Please include your name, location and email address in your entry. Entries received without contact details will not be considered. The winner will be announced on this blog no later than 21st April 2012.

So go get creative peeps and GOOD LUCK!

BIO: Roger Grubbs is a Market Analyst and proud owner of Market Consultants. Born in Alabama and a graduate of Auburn University, he currently resides in Central Florida where he enjoys running his company and writing.  He is also the proud owner of his very own publishing company.  This is not just any book publisher, but one that puts the emphasis on the readers. 

The motivating factor behind Roger’s writings is to entertain his readers.  His motto is simple.  “I want my readers to be eager to continue the story, long for the ending, and – when the experience is over – be happy they took the time to read my book.”  After all, reading can and should be enjoyable.

Follow Roger on Twitter: http://twitter.com/RogerGrubbs