Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Reading Anyone?

I'm going to make this post short and sweet. I told you that I love to read and I am always looking for a good book. Here are three books that I've read recently and enjoyed.

1. City of Bones by Cassandra Clare (This is a series of six books. Three of them are out now and book four comes out on April 5th.)

2. Matched by Ally Condie (First book in a trilogy)

3. Impossible by Nancy Werlin

If you are reading or have read a good book lately please comment about it and share it with the rest of us.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Never Judge a Book By Its Cover?

One of the funnest things about e-publishing is getting to help design the cover of my book. Ever since I started writing I've know what I wanted my first book's cover to look like, that is until I actually saw it. I gave my idea to my cover designer and then told him to see what he could come up with on his own. It didn't take him very long to get several rough draft designs ready for me to view and I would have to say I was surprised. The idea I've had in my head for over two years was not the one I would have picked.

Although I still like my idea I was more impressed with his. To make things even more interesting he gave me a few more idea's that he thought might work even better. I loved them right away, but the only problem is they don't necessarily match any specific scene from the book. He believes it's more important for the cover to be eye catching and intriguing then telling the books story. The covers he came up with would be eye catching and match the title perfectly, but I had always envisioned something else.

Now I'm stuck. The covers he came up with are very cool. I think they would create a desire to read the book not necessarily paint a direct image from the book. I don't think the covers are misleading by any means and they do match the title of the book.

So what's the problem? Maybe nothing, but that's what I'm now asking you. What do you think? What is the main purpose of a book's cover? What books have you read just because of the cover? (Name title's people!) Was the cover anything like the book? If not, were you disappointed? Please let me know what you think.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Art of Writing...

A friend of mine once told me the art of writing is rewriting. When he said this I had already rewritten my first book twice and I mean a totally overhaul not just a few sentences here and there. So the idea of rewriting it again and again was not something I was signing up for. It was perfect just the way it was.

To date I have rewritten part, if not all, of the first book at least seven or eight times. I've edited or had someone else edit it for me more than I can count. Writing is a process that never ends. If you set a project aside long enough and then come back to it you can always find ways to make it different. The question you have to ask yourself is although it makes it different does it really make it better?

I am sure when it's all said and done and available for people to read I will still look at it and think, "Maybe I should have done this or maybe I should have left that part out." But eventually I will have to let it go knowing I did the best job I could with the experience I had at the time.

So how do you know you've reached the point that changing anything will be for the sake of change and not necessarily for improving the book? Enlist people you trust and let them read it. If they like it then find a reading/critique group and let them read it. Make sure that the people who read it actually like to read and like the genre you write. If you let someone who only likes mystery and you've written a nonfiction you will probably get poor feedback.

Sounds pretty simple, right? It is if you don't care about the project you've been working on, but if you're like most writers you've put your blood, sweat and tears into it and love it like it's your own child. Taking criticism on something you love that much is hard. It's would be like putting your child on a stage and letting everyone tell you everything they don't like about them. It hurts and can make you angry if you let it and what usually ends up happening is you stop writing, you don't believe them even if it's true or you stop showing people your work.

All three of those options are fine if that is how you want to deal with it, but if you really want to become a better writer you have to be able to take the criticism and make it work for you. If your kid has an ugly haircut, change it. If they are wearing ugly shoes, change them. If your kid is just ugly consider plastic surgery or total makeover. (Remember that when I say kid I mean book or project. I am not promoting plastic surgery if someone says you have ugly children.)

If you want people to read your work and give you feedback you have to be able to take criticism. Some of this criticism will be constructive and that's the kind you're looking for in order to become a better writer, but some is going to be plain criticism. That kind of criticism is the hardest kind to take because they don't tell you how to make it better they just tear it apart and leave you hurting.

Remember you are going to get plenty of both and take it for what it is, someone's opinion. If their opinions are right change what needs to be changed. If they are wrong, forget about it and keep writing. Just make sure you know the difference.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Sexual Chocolate...Just Kidding, Mom

Our topic for today is how different authors get in the "mood" to write. There are many answers to that question and it varies from writer to writer. I've read that some authors can only write at night, some can only write in perfect silence, and others like to surround themselves with loud noises and people. There really isn't a wrong way to do it although I believe one of the most productive ways to write is to set a writing schedule and write at the same time everyday.

Now when I say I believe that's the most productive way that doesn't mean it's what I do. Writing is my second career choice, my first being domestic engineer. I love both jobs, but because of this I need to be flexible in order to keep my writing life and my family life in balance. With three of my four kids in school you would think I'd have lots of time to write, but you would be wrong. My almost five year old stays at home with me and without his siblings to keep him occupied I am the main source of entertainment for him.

I can sit down with my laptop with every intention to get some writing done when my son suddenly needs a second breakfast or help typing in his "passcode" (password) for Club Penguin or whatever child appropriate website he's interested in at the time. The getting up and down to help him with all his needs leaves me unable to focus. I can't say this is a bad thing because honestly I tend to zone out when I'm writing. I can have the best intentions to only write for thirty minutes and end up spending several hours. This would leave my son to fend for himself and I don't want the Internet raising him. (I prefer to let the television do that. ;)

So how do I get into a writing mood? Music. It's a big motivator for me. It's gets me into a writing mindset. I listen to different types of music depending on what I plan on writing that day. If I need to write a fight scene then I listen to something with a fast tempo and strong beat. If I'm trying to write a romantic scene I listen to a love song. I think you get where I'm going with this. Music has a big influence on my writing.

So what are my favorites? There are several songs that even now when I hear them it immediately brings me to certain parts in my books. One of those songs are All Around Me by Flyleaf. I love that song. If I had to pick a theme song for Forbidden that would be it. I listened to Snow Patrol's Eyes Open album a lot while writing Forbidden as well as Second Serenade's Fall For You and Vulnerable, Celtic Women for obvious reasons, Timberland's The Way I Are, and Erin McCarley's Love Save the Empty to name a few. I also listened to quiet a bit of classical music.

The list goes on and on depending on what book I was writing at the time. I use music to get into my writing mood. I also prefer it to be quiet if possible and if I had to choose I would probably have to say night time is my favorite time to write, but I'm not too picky. Give me my laptop, my Zune, and few uninterrupted minutes and I'm a happy girl.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Fighting Doubt

I would have to say that part of the writing process for me is continuously dealing with self doubt. I am always thinking that I am never going to be a good enough writer or that the story is never good enough to share with other people and to a certain point I'm right. Nothing I write is ever going to be perfect. I do hope to continue to grow as a writer as I continue to practice, but I will probably always look back at a manuscript I've written and find mistakes. They will always be there glaring at me, but they will also be there to remind me of how far I've come as a writer over the years.

One thing that does make me feeling better when I start to self doubt is that on different levels we all deal with the fear of not being good enough. My mom is also a writer, but more than that she is an artist and illustrator. She is very talented, but for the most part self taught and worries that she isn't a real artist because she hasn't had traditional art training. You know this thought process is complete garbage when you see her work, but she still battles with self doubt all the time because of this.

I do want to point out that some really talented artist did not receive traditional training just as some of the most financially successful people are high school drops outs. That being said if you asked them most will tell you they had to work really hard to get to where they are and lets just be honest some people are just really lucky. They just happened to be in the right place at the right time.

And just to be clear, so I don't get calls from parents saying I told their child to drop out of school, I am by no means telling you to forget about getting an education. I'm telling you right now you probably aren't that lucky. Get all the education you can and use it teach yourself whatever it is you dream of doing. Do not let the fact that you don't have the means to obtain specific training stop you for getting to where you want to be....

Unless you want to be a surgeon and especially if you want to be my surgeon. If this is the case then I have to insist you obtain the necessary education and training so I can keep living my dreams.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Chapter One As Promised

Copyright 2011 Tasha Marshall

Chapter One

Her lungs burned and her legs felt like they would give out at any moment, but she had to keep going. She could feel it behind her. It was catching up to her. One misstep and it would over take her. The voices in her head told her to keep running, to hide and keep hidden. They were calling her name, the voices in her head. They were calling to her, trying to help her, telling her to keeping running, but she couldn't run fast enough. Even now she could feel the hot breath of her pursuer on the back of her neck. There would be no chance of escape if it got its hands on her. She had to keep going.

She could feel the soft ground under her feet giving way. She wasn’t going to make it. Lifting her feet was becoming more and more difficult with each step she took. The air was becoming sticky, making each breath harder and harder to take.

It had her. She could feel its icy cold fingers grab the back of her neck, dragging her down to the ground. Darkness closed in around her as she struggled to take one last breath…

Tristana shot up in bed, gasping for air. It had been the same nightmare for the last few months. Shivering she took another deep breath as she slipped back under the covers. The dream was coming more frequently now. She wondered if it was some kind of warning or if it was something her mind was creating to deal with the issues she’d faced the past several months. It was the same thing over and over, always ending the same way, leaving her feeling uneasy and anxious.

Her body jerked involuntarily and she made an audible gasp as she brushed her right leg over a cold spot on the bed. She hated being cold. Glancing over to the window she checked to see if it had snowed again. She couldn’t tell for sure although it probably had. It had snow everyday that week. Why would today be any different?

“Ana, are you up yet? You’re going to be late if you don’t hurry.”

Tristana groaned at the sound of her mom’s voice floating up the stairs from the kitchen of the old farm house. Her parents, June and Bill Martin, had moved her from a busy life in Washington, D.C to the small rural town of Heyburn, Idaho, a little over two weeks ago. It had been a culture shock to say the least, but she had only herself to blame. She had been the cause that had required the cross country exodus. Had she been able to get along better with her fellow female classmates she and her parents would still be living in the brownstone on Sixteenth Street back in D.C. instead of in the freezing cold tomb she referred to as her room now.

Although, to be fair, living in the little farm house wouldn’t be all that bad if her father had thought to check the furnace before they’d moved in. Now they were stuck living in an iceberg until the furnace repair man could get them a replacement. Until then the only source of heat was a fireplace in the front room that actually only heated the room it occupied and the adjoining kitchen.

“Ana, did you hear me?”

Second warning.

Tristana had one more call before she had to worry her mom might come up and drag her frozen remains out bed. She looked at the chair sitting next to the window covered in clothes. She had made a habit of leaving the outfit she planned to wear the next day there so she could quickly grab them on her way downstairs to sit next to the fireplace to defrost. She didn’t dare dress in her room because of a genuine fear of frostbite.

“Okay, Ana, I’m coming up!”

Tristana could hear her mother’s footsteps on the stairs and hastily replied, “I heard you. I’m getting up.” Then she added lightheartedly, “But if you still insist on joining me in the frozen north you might want to consider bring a parka and pick axe.”

She listened to the sound of her mom’s laughter and smiled. They had started joking back and forth a week ago about who was going to die of hypothermia first, although with Tristana’s room being the coldest in the house they both knew she’d win hands down.

“Okay, you win, Ana. But if you want to eat breakfast before school you better hurry.”

Tristana glanced at the chair one last time trying to build up her courage. Then with a quick breath she jumped from her bed, grabbed her clothes and sprinted down the stairs finding the warmest spot next to the fireplace to get dressed. As she finished pulling on her sweatshirt the wonderful smell of her mother’s cooking drifted into the front room reminding Tristana it was Tuesday, blueberry pancake day.

Her mother was a very efficient person. She was happy being a housewife and she took her job seriously. June Martin had schedules for everything from when she did her laundry to what she made for breakfast each morning. Occasionally it got a little annoying when she refused to deviate from her strict schedule, but Tristana just continued to remind herself that she might be the only teenager in the world that had a mother who still stayed home and cooked breakfast for her each morning, something Tristana stomach was exceedingly grateful for.

“Hey sleepy head, it took you long enough,” her mother smiled as Tristana walked into the kitchen. “Your breakfast is on the table. If you hurry it might still be warm.”

Tristana grumbled at her mom’s advice to hurry.

“You know, Mom, if you had let Dad buy that house down by the river I wouldn’t have to hurry. That house had really cool upgrades, like a working furnace,” Tristana smiled sarcastically. “You would have been the envy of the whole town with a luxury like that.”

“Cute, Ana,” her mother returned the sarcasm. “Anyone can buy a fancy house by a river, but not everyone gets a chance to live in a real piece of history.”

Tristana rolled her eyes. The moment the realtor had shown them the old farm house her mother had fallen in love with it and any time they even mentioned the house her mother got a dreamy look on her face. It was comical to hear her mother describe the house to her friends back in D.C., like it was Mount Vernon or something.

It really wasn’t all bad though. The two story red brick house had real character and Tristana loved the rustic feeling of the aged barn and sheds that came with the purchase of the house. The whole area reminded Tristana of a Norman Rockwell painting with the fields that surrounded the property stretching as far as the eye could see and the tree lined irrigation canal running in front giving the house a feeling of seclusion. You even had to drive down a small lane to really get a good view of the house. If she had been younger she would have thought she’d moved to her own secret garden, but being seventeen it just made her feel more alone than she already did.

“Ana, are you listening,” mother asked, waving a hand in front of her face.

“What?” Tristana started with a confused frown.

Her mother gave her a concerned look. “I just asked you how school was going.”

Tristana grimaced at the question. She hated lying to her mom, but after all the sacrifices her parent’s had made on her behalf she didn’t have the heart to tell her the truth. Today was the second day into her third week at Minico High School and all of the optimism she’d had starting into her new school quickly dissolved when she discovered her problems had followed her here from D.C.

Both she and her parents had anticipated Tristana’s issues at her private school back in D.C. would disappear once they moved to a school in a different state, but things were even worse. The girls here had sped quickly past hurtful name-calling and straight onto the destruction of her personal property by egging her precious car, which was a gift her father had given her upon moving to Idaho. She had spent almost two hours after school gentle rubbing the hardened egg yolk off the exterior of her car so as not to ruin the paint job. Her mom had been furious with her for being so late and not calling.

“Tristana,” her mother prompted impatiently.

“Everything fine, Mom,” she lied uncomfortably making herself focus in on the plate in front of her instead of memories from the past.

Her mother gave her a knowing look. “Are you sure? I know it was rough back in D.C. and it’s going to take some time to get over it, but I was really hoping you would have found a few friends by now.”

Tristana would rather have rolled up and died than cause her parents anymore worry so she put on her bravest face and continued to lie. “I’m fine. I’m just still trying to put all the new faces with the right names.”

Her mother nodded understandingly and seemed satisfied with her generic answer. “Well, you’d better go now if you want to avoid being late.” Then frowning as she looked at Tristana’s plate still piled with pancakes added, “I guess I can wrap one of those up with a napkin and you can eat it on your way to school.”

“That would be great, Mom,” Tristana flashed a smile, happy to be moving on. “I’m just going to brush my hair real quick and put on some makeup. Then I’ll be ready to go.”

Tristana was in and out of the bathroom, calling back a quick bye before the screen door swung shut behind her. It had snowed again which meant it was going to take her at least five minutes to brush the snow off her car and scrap the windows, one of the many downsides to buying an older home. No garage.

Hurrying to her car she paused for a brief moment to take in all its automotive beauty. When her father had purchased the car he had said it was so Tristana had something reliable to drive to school. Tristana knew the car was more because he was afraid of her riding the bus without any teacher or parental supervision, but for whatever the reason Tristana about leaped out of her skin when he had pulled up the lane in the sporty BMW. He had even managed to get her favorite color, silver.

Her mom had thought it was a little over the top and made the comment that no teenage girl needed a car that could go from zero to sixty in under five seconds. Her father had only laughed at the comment and Tristana was just happy her mom hadn’t made him return the car for something more practical.

After managing to brush off the remaining snow from the hood and scrap the windows without completely being covered in ice shavings, Tristana jumped into the driver’s seat and waited for it to warm up enough so she could feel her fingers again.

In all honestly, she was in no hurry to get to school. She usually tried to be one of the first students there so she could get her books and go to class to avoid running into any of the other female students. She had been pretty successful so far, only experiencing a few problems one of them being named Clarissa Fuller. Clarissa was a short blond who seemed to really have it out for Tristana after seeing her boyfriend following Tristana around like a little puppy during her first week at Minico. Clarissa was reason enough for Tristana to sign up for extra classes in order to graduate early.

Right now she was on track to graduate a semester into her senior year. It was already January which meant she only had to suffer through nine more months of school if she counted the rest of her junior year and the beginning of her senior year. All she had to do during those nine months was stay invisible to the female population and she would be home free. Graduating early was her way of making sure her parents hadn’t wasted their time, money, and energy moving her cross country, and her way of escaping the nightmare that had become her high school experience.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

What Started as a Challenge

I know I said I was going to post the first chapter of the book and I promise I will, but I wanted to tell you about how I got started writing in the first place. I never dreamed of being a writer when I was younger. A love of writing was something that came later for me, but when I turned eleven and read Return to Red Castle by Dorothy Keddington for the first time, (definitely not the last), I was hooked on reading.

I had always been a reader even before that, but reading that book was my first taste of reading for pure pleasure. The interesting thing is I wasn't even suppose to read it. It's a romance that my older sisters had read and overheard them while they were discussing with my mom. When I asked them about it they all immediately said I was too young to read it and that I probably wouldn't even enjoy it or understand it for that matter.

And right there is what got me to read sister's telling me I wouldn't be able to do it. If there is one thing I hate it's when someone tells me when I am or am not capable of doing something. So of course I took the book hostage and hid in my room until I had finished reading it. I was hooked on pleasure reading at that point and I don't think I have gone more than a few weeks without reading a book.

I love books. I have so many favorite books at this point that I can't pick just one. I would have to say that my favorite book is usually the one I am reading at the time. When I get a really good book I like to dive into it like I'm diving underwater and I don't like to come up until I'm finished. This usually means really late nights which of course leads to really late mornings. This is something that has to be carefully managed as a mother of four children because without enough sleep I tend to be a "little" grumpy ;)

So now that you know my obsessive reading habits I should probably move onto the subject of this post. About three and a half years ago I was given a book for Christmas from my dear husband and like usual I got my kids settled in with their new Christmas toys and I started reading.

This book was one I had heard so many good reviews on so I was excited, if not a bit giddy to get started in on. I read all of Christmas day and late into the next morning before I finished. (Don't worry my husband kept the children alive.) After finishing I would have to say I was a little disappointed. After everything I had heard about it I was sad that it hadn't met with my expectations.

Now this is where the challenge comes into play. If I've not mentioned before now minus my dad my whole family loves to read, but more than that we love to analyze what we've read. We all love to read the same book and than spend hours discussing it with one another. I had already discussed the book I had gotten for Christmas with one of my sisters, who unlike myself, absolutely loved it. Not getting the support I'd hoped for on my disappointment of the book I decided to move my discussion onto my younger brother who had recently finished reading the book as well.

He agreed with my reasons for not liking the book, but got quiet when I mentioned that anyone with a word processor could have written a better one. I quickly noticed how quiet he had become after this comment and I asked him why. I could almost hear the wheels in his brain clicking away and I knew what he was going to say before he even said it.

(But you probably don't so I guess I better tell you.)

He said, "If you think you can do a better job then why don't you do it? Go write a book with better characters and a more satisfying ending."

So that's exactly what I did. I got off the phone and started thinking up good book ideas. I spent a good couple of hours honing in on my idea and then I started writing. It only took about an hour to get the first chapter. I was so excited I took it down to my parents house to show my mom. She read it quietly and then said, "I think you've got a promising idea."

I have to tell you I was a bit let down by that comment because a "promising idea" was not what I had expected to hear. I had the first chapter already finished and ready for print in my mind. This book was already on the verge of becoming a masterpiece! I could already see people lining up all over the world to have a chance to buy it and the greatest part of all was I had a fantastic time writing it.

Feeling this way I of course ignored my mom's comment and continue on to the next couple of chapters. I spent hours writing for several days. When I finally finished my seventh chapter I had my brother and one of my sisters read it and tell me what they thought. I was prepared for a few helpful criticisms, but over all I was expecting them to be thrilled. Not only did I believe it was almost ready for publication I was feeling pretty smug that in a little under a week I had been able to writing the start of a promising work of fiction. I was a literary genius.

At the end of that evening I had discovered that I actually was a literary genius and for those of you who know me well enough you know exactly what I believe a "genius" is. If you don't know what I am referring too feel free to leave a comment and ask me, but keep in mind my answer is about as far from politically correct as a person can possible get.

The one thing I can say about my brother and sister is they love me and because they love me they would never have allowed me to make a complete and utter fool of myself by letting anyone else read the ridiculous jumble of words I just allowed them read. They both told me their opinion as gently as possible without leaving me any hope to believe for a moment that my "masterpiece" was ready to be read by anyone else. They left that night with me sitting shell shocked on my living room couch.

And that was it. That was the moment that I discovered that writing a novel was really hard. (Yes if you haven't already started go ahead and laugh, but I really didn't think there was going to be much to it.)

I received a new respect for the art of writing that night, but I also received a new respect for myself. I knew that I was up to the challenge my brother had set before me and I knew that I really wanted to meet that challenge head on. So for the next nine months I allowed myself to get sucked into the world of writing. I spend at least eight hours a day writing and then rewriting. It was like a drug. I thought about my book all the time. I was hooked on writing.

So what had initially started out as a challenge ended up becoming a passion.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Taking the Plunge

Deep breath. Here we go. This is it. I've made my decision and I'm ready to move forward. I can't say I'm not a little disappointed. This wasn't the way I dreamed it would happened, but for some reason I feel it's the right way for me to go. I'm ready to send my baby out into the world for it to be torn apart, criticized and hopefully overall enjoyed.

Now that I've been so completely and annoyingly vague I guess I should get to the point of this blog and what I'm talking about. Ready for this. I'm getting ready to e-publish the first book of my Celtic Knots series. You know the one I'm talking about, right? The series that I've spent over three years writing, editing, rewriting, editing again, obsessing over, talking to anyone who would listen, editing again, bugging my wonderful friends and family to read over and over again so I could get it just right and trying so hard to get traditionally published, but not before editing at least eighty more times. Yeah that series.

So why e-publish instead of going with a traditionally publishing house? I guess the answer to that would have to be love. Yep love. I'm in love with my characters. I'm in love with my story and I love sharing the excitement of someone who is reading it for the first time wanting know what happens next. It's the best feeling ever when someone is as in love with your characters and story as you are and I want to share that experience with everyone and that's not going to happen if I keep it hidden on my hard drive waiting for my big break. I need to take action if I want to make this happen.

I'm sure if any of you know the publishing world you know how hard it is to get published. It's not like in the movies where someone writes a book, wraps it up in brown paper and twine and sends it off to be accepted or rejected. I only wish it was that easy. Now a days you have to get a literary agent in order to even submit to most publishing houses and the process of getting a respectable agent is harder than getting into the Oval Office.

I've probably written well over thirty query letters to different agents trying cater to their individual preferences. I even went to a query letter writing conference and got professional help writing one and still I came out empty handed. I did however find a very respectable publishing house, (no names to protect the innocent) who didn't require an agent. They only required the first few chapters of the manuscript to send out to their acceptance committee. I was thrilled when I was notified that their acceptance committee had accepted my manuscript with great reviews and it was on it's way to the last level of the acceptance process.

I was so excited, but three months later was told that although they loved the book they didn't have the budget to publish it at the time because they had similar genre projects lined up until 2012 and asked me to resubmit it to them again in a year or so if I didn't find someone else in the mean time.

This happened about a year ago and I was absolutely crushed at the time. I had been certain that my book would be published, but after that final blow I decided for my own sanity I needed to put it aside for a while. I had been pushing really hard trying to get it published and felt I need to take a step back and focus on other things that needed my attention.

Then recently I read on the blog of an editor from a large publishing house that you had a better chance of winning the lottery than you had of being successfully published. On the same day I also read on three other literary blog that if you aren't having luck with tradition publishing and you really believe in your work you might want to consider e-publishing. They promised it would be just as hard if not harder to be successful, but if you had a great product, the drive to work hard and did your homework it might be the way to go.

I decided at that moment to take their words as my sign to move forward. I do believe in my work. I'm ready to work hard, but most of all I want to share the love I have for great characters and wonderful story with everyone I know...and don't know for that matter!

So I am publicly announcing today that, Forbidden, the first book in my Celtic Knot Series will be released as an e-book through Amazon for $0.99. Yep you read that right. I want everyone to be able to read it without having to worry about the cost, but don't let the cost fool you it's a fun and entertaining read. If you like young adult fantasies this will be well worth your ninety nine cents.

I don't have a solid release date yet, but as soon as I do I will post it. Until then check back soon for the first sneak peek at the official cover and into the first chapter of my book, Forbidden.