With my best palace herald voice...I am pleased to announce the arrival of my completely silly, crazy, fun, and humorous novel Once Upon a Heist.
This is a lighthearted mash-up of beloved fairy tale characters, twisting all their classic moments into diversions. While one princess is being rescued by her prince, her friends are stealing his jewels! As a friend told me, it's like Ocean's Eleven meets the Disney princesses. With a little Princess Bride thrown in the mix.
Instead of using the traditional names, I changed things up a bit. I've assigned names to all the princes, too. As I've written in the past, I enjoy using names that mean something, rather than ones that just sound good.
Emberly (Cinderella) is the word "ember" with "ly" attached.
Gwyn (Snow White) is Welsh for "white."
Crimson (Little Red Riding Hood) is a shade of red.
Aisling (Sleeping Beauty) is French for "dream."
Tressa (Rapunzel) is a derivative of the word "tresses."
Leila (Beauty and the Beast) is a name meaning "night beauty."
The princes are:
Chalmus is a name meaning "prince."
Magnus is Latin for "noble."
Vilkas is Lithuanian for "wolf."
Zavus is Lithuanian for "enchanting."
Emir is a name meaning "prince."
Zariel is a name meaning "prince."
Regalis is Latin for "royal."
Even my villains' names have meaning.
Venefica is Latin for "witch."
Noverca is Latin for "stepmother."
I broke a lot of writing rules with this novel, mostly because I wanted to. I wanted you, the reader, to get that narrator feel, while still indulging in a bit of the closeness of deep point of view. I also aimed for more humorous moments. (Honestly, I laughed quite often while writing this one. It was fun!)
As you're reading, look for some of those well-known lines from the fairy tales. And throughout the story, I wove in all seven names of Disney's Dwarfs. Try to find them!
I'd love to hear what you think of this book. It's very much outside my box, but I really enjoyed writing it. If you're up for writing a review, please do so. If not, shoot me an email. I treasure the feedback!
As writers, we're told about the things we're supposed to do - learn the craft, follow the rules, break the rules, get an agent, go indie, dream big, be practical. The list goes on, but rounding it out, you'll usually see "Attend a writers' conference."
I love being home. I love hiding behind my computer and exploring the world of my imagination with a steamy cup of tea. I'm good when I don't have to interact with many human beings. I am a classic introvert. So venturing into an unfamiliar conference center full of strangers isn't my favorite thing to do.
But I did it. And I recommend you do, too.
My experience is with the Pikes Peak Writers' Conference, known to be "the friendliest conference around." I'd like to share how I - quite possibly the world's worst introvert-not-yet-hermit - not only survived, but learned to thrive at conference.
Pikes Peak Writers offers wonderful workshops year round cleverly titled Write Brains. These are free and open to the public. I don't remember the first one I went to, but I know I instantly fell in love. Great content, amazing people. But I sat toward the back rather quietly keeping to myself and ducked out the instant the workshop was over.
A few months before conference, PPW hosts a conference preview event called Write Your Heart Out. The first one I went to, I was way intimidated. It was held in an enormous ballroom at the Marriott (the location of the conference). I arrived close to start time, and most of the seats were gone. The introvert won out, and sadly, I ended up leaving early.
I was determined, though, not to let the introvert get the best of me. I wanted to be part of that writers' conference somehow or other. I've always done behind-the-scenes work (theatre, radio production), so I figured if I could get "in", I could handle it. I made the proper connections and landed a volunteer position. In an impulsive moment, I also volunteered to moderate a few sessions. Yes, this meant I'd have to (*gasp*) speak in front of people, but I'd have a semi-script and I was told to be invisible. I could handle it. Really.
PPWC 2013 was my first conference. I went back last year, and I'm going back again this year. I've gotten to know some great people, and I am really looking forward to that weekend in April. No more fears. No more introverted worries. And here's how I do it:
1. Take advantage of everything the conference has to offer. Pikes Peak Writers offers Read and Critique sessions and Query 1-on-1 appointments. These allow you to get valuable feedback on your work, as well as give you the opportunity to speak with a professional in the industry. It's not as scary as it sounds. Your lifeline is your work, and you don't have to speak much.
2. Volunteer! It's a great way to meet people. And the staff you're working with are extraordinarily grateful for your time. You will be remembered and make an impact.
3. The best piece of advice I received is to strike up a conversation with a fellow writer by asking, "So, what do you write?" Works every time! They'll share a little about their writing and return the favor. Boom! Instant conversation.
4. Be prepared when someone asks you what you write. It will happen. You don't have to have a memorized logline or 300 word summary. Even just sharing your genre is enough of a springboard.
5. When you get your registration information, look at it. It's full of valuable information. Take a few moments to study the map of the areas you'll be in. You may even be able to help someone else! (My first year, I got to help an agent find where she needed to go. That earned a few extra brownie/pitching points!)
6. Don't feel pressured to pitch to every agent or editor you come in contact with. And if you do, remember, they are human. While they have done great things for authors, they're just normal people. Try not to put them on too high a pedestal. If you know something about them, strike up a casual conversation. (Again, my first year, I was pitching to an acquisitions editor for a pretty major sci-fi house. We had lunch together before my scheduled appointment. Instead of coming right out with my work, I spoke to him about Disney's Star Wars takeover. Great conversation!)
7. Speaking of lunch...or any mealtime...it's nearly impossible to hear anyone unless they have a microphone. Just be prepared for that. Don't get discouraged. You'll find time to talk with the right people. And if you can hear folks at your table, listen closely. You'll get to hear how others talk about their work which you can apply later.
8. Sometimes, you'll need a break to refresh and recharge. Find a quiet room (at PPWC, there's a lovely room behind the bar near the restaurant that's usually empty) or even a bench off to the side where you can take a few calming breaths. For the introvert, it's necessary. I've even seen a few people skip out on sessions to do this.
9. Along those same lines, allow yourself some space writing-wise. At conference, you're drinking from the firehouse when it comes to craft information. You'll take in so much...and sometimes, that just needs to soak in. I've know folks who go back to their hotel room and stay up until the wee hours writing. Personally, I put writing on hold during conference time. Be a sponge.
10. Again, referring to the previous point, get some good rest at night. The temptation to stick around or stay up late is there. It's an exciting time to be sure! But in order to function, your brain and body need sleep. Taking care of yourself in general is always a good idea. Eat, hydrate, and sleep.
I'm sure I'll think of a hundred other things as we get closer to conference time. But for now, I send forth my fellow introverts with this knowledge. And if you need introvert sympathy, you can hunt me down. I'll probably be at my post at the Query 1-on-1 desk or on the 7th floor. I promise not to overwhelm you with flashy conversation or disregard for your personal space. Just a knowing smile and a comforting nod.
As it says on the t-shirt, "Introverts unite! Separately!"
Pikes Peak Writers Conference is April 24-26. You can still register! For more information, check out their website at PikesPeakWriters.com.
Well, we've made it to Wednesday! On my way into work today, I heard a great song, and yes, I'll admit, I jammed out in my car. So with that in mind, here's that awesome groove to get you through the day...
My brother and I lived together for a while before I married my husband. I am an avid tea drinker, and in the evenings, my little stove top kettle would whistle its mournful tune. My brother would laugh and say, "It's whining 'Pour me. Poor me!'"
Okay, so you had to be there.
Did you notice how I changed it from "Pour" to "Poor", though? The connotation of the whine certainly implied "poor." And that's what I want to share with you today. No, this isn't a pity party. This isn't going to make you feel badly. This is just to shine a light on how I've done things related to my books. This is "How to Be an Author without Spending a Dime."
Well, perhaps a little more than a dime...but as little as possible!
My husband was a pastor. I was a stay-at-home mom. We didn't have a lot of extra funds to go crazy with. Writing helped because it distracted me from going places to spend money, but that also meant I wouldn't be able to invest a lot into it. And I also placed a lot of hope in making a little extra from it.
With that hope in mind, I began to query. When nothing came of that, I started looking at contests. Any that had an entry fee, I disregarded immediately. I found a few that were free to enter. I first received a couple of honorable mentions, but then one of my manuscripts took the grand prize. That led to my first published book.
After earning a contract with a small press publisher, I thought my writing career was secure. Unfortunately, that didn't work out. This started me on the path of self-publishing. Now, it's quite possible to spend thousands of dollars getting your book launched. You need a cover design, editing, typesetting, marketing...the list goes on and on. It just depends on the quality of product you want your name on.
I've been blessed to have an amazing designer in my family who created my book covers. I have friends who have fantastic editing skills. I've painstakingly learned about typesetting, and I structure my own interior. As for the marketing, I'm a little on the lame side, and to be quite honest, I need to work more on this. But that's another blog post in itself.
Another important thing for writers to partake in are conferences. I became involved with a local writing group that holds an annual conference. I knew I needed to be part of that, but there was no way we could afford the fees. With scholarship assistance and a volunteer position, I was able to attend two years in a row. I'm now working as staff, which is awesome! I love helping out with the inner workings of this event!
It is possible to be a published author and not spend a lot of money. But again, I feel it important to stress the quality of the product. If you can't make a decent looking book--inside and out--then seek assistance! But if you're willing to learn and invest your time, you can do it.
During a recent conversation with my nine-year-old son about future occupations, he said, "I need to show you my career paper." I figured it would be something about being a rock band manager, as that was a previous aspiration. What I read brought tears to my eyes. I have to share...
When I am old enough to have a career, I would choose to be an author. Inspiring me, my mom is a space-science-fiction author who will help me write. To be an amazing, published writer, I will take writing classes and get help from my mom. As a fun, helpful, inspiring author, I need to budget my time to write like my mom because I might have another job, children, and I need to have fun sometimes too. I am going to write a mixture of mystery, adventure, and fiction books. I like these genres because my mom writes fiction, adventure, and mystery, and they are out of this world. My mom self-publishes her books and has her younger brother help. I will need a printer, a computer, and ideas. I am going to do the same. This is why my career is going to be an author.
The finest tribute a mom...and an author...could ask for!
I've written before about how my dad was instrumental (forgive me for the pun!) in shaping my musical tastes. He taught me all about classical music and introduced me to some of the finest artists out there. A favorite that has come to play in my later years is Harry Chapin. He wrote this amazing song...Dreams Go By. It fits so well with my thoughts for today... (And you can listen to it below!)
The chorus says, "And so you and I, We'll watch our years go by, We'll watch our sweet dreams fly, Far away, but maybe someday, I don't know when, But we will dream again, And we'll be happy then, Till our time just drifts away." The gist of the song is about a couple whose lives take different paths than what they dreamed about as children.
Doesn't that ring true for all of us?
I like to tell my kids about my adult aspirations from childhood. I wanted to train monkeys in the deserts of Arizona. As I grew older, my mom and I had a dream about finding a little Thomas Kinkade cottage where we could raise geese. I became involved with theatre, and I was sure I was going to be a stage manager on Broadway, where my hidden talents would be discovered, launching me into super stage stardom.
Life had a different plan, though. No monkeys (although now I have three kids.) No geese or Thomas Kinkade cottage (although I live in a beautiful home and I'm currently writing about a character named Kincade.) And I never made it Broadway (although I got to travel to NYC and see a show once.)
I'm not complaining. I wouldn't trade the differences for anything. I've done some pretty awesome things, if I do say so myself. And that's why I'm not too worried about what might lie ahead.
I took on this dream of being an author. I will admit, when I first put words on the page, I thought for certain I'd be on the New York Times bestseller list. A publisher would pick up my first draft, recognize the brilliance, and I'd be an overnight success.
Not so much.
I've faced more rejection than I ever thought possible. That rejection prompted me to learn more about the craft of writing. Once I had more knowledge under my belt, I tried a different avenue. That resulted in success as my manuscript won a writing contest. I thought for sure that this would be my springboard into the upper echelons of writers. Nope! The path twisted again, sending me down a rabbit trail of learning about the publishing industry. All the while, I kept writing, kept hoping.
Agent after agent. Editor after editor. I'd get so close, but not quite there. Until I finally got a contract with a small press! No, it wasn't Del Rey or Tor or any of the other big sci-fi publishers. But it was a contract!
And that didn't pan out, either. My standards and expectations were just too high. With my contract dissolved and my rights reverting back to me, I had two choices. I could hide, lick my wounds, and hope that maybe down the road I'd find another contact, or I could take matters into my own hands and jump into the frying pan.
I never wanted to be a self-published author. I never wanted to learn about typesetting and how to create different headers for different pages in the same document. I never wanted to face the frustrations of an ill-fated marketing promotion.
Yet, here I am.
And I wouldn't change it.
I no longer have to face rejection. Sure, it's a bit of a hurdle to win over readers. It's tough work to get my books out there. But my dreams have changed, and I've learned to accept it. I'm okay with selling just a few books to my friends and family. I no longer have to make compromises on my work. I no longer have to compete with other writers.
I am free.
And although I've watched some dreams go by, I'm enjoying living out the ones that fill my every day. My amazing husband and children. My job. My friends. And the worlds I've created in my stories.
That's what it's all about, after all.
March is finally upon us! This month holds all sorts of excitement. The Ides (beware if your name is Julius Caesar), my ten year anniversary (has it really been that long?), and the promise of spring (unless you live in Colorado...like me.)
This is a month of preparation for me:
~I am getting my latest novel Once Upon a Heist off the ground. I plan to release it at a local library event called Mountain of Authors on April 4th. At that point, it will be ready for all you lovely people to enjoy!
~I am teaching a class for my co-workers on self-publishing. While I've gone through the process myself, I will help others learn how by sharing my experiences.
~I am working with Pikes Peak Writers as their Query Coordinator. Any interested attendees can meet with an agent or editor to review their query, and I will be scheduling all the requests. The conference is toward the end of April, and there's still time to sign up! (It's a great experience!)
~I'm also in the midst of writing Reconciled (Book Three in the Heralds of the Crown trilogy). This one has been a little hard to get going, as I know it's the last one that will wrap up this sub-series and set up the next one.
Definitely an exciting month ahead! I'm glad you're along for the ride!
Award-winning sci-fi author * Christ follower, wife, and mom * broadcast content producer. And yes, I am a real duchess. http://amzn.to/2eLTlH3