Wandering Beautiful – Therapeutic Poetry

Me in Seville, Spain finding inspiration in my traveling journal. This photo sums up everything, pretty much.

 

I like poetry, I always have. Several of my favorite authors also wrote poetry: Milne, Carroll, Tolkien, Poe for starters. I found them first as authors and later recognized them as poets. Though, Shel Silverstein is STILL one of my all-time favorite poets. Poetry is reflective and tricky, and the best part… it’s short.

Poetry is something I’ve always done, but never realized I did, if that makes sense. It’s been a way to express my thoughts and feelings, as I know many of us do. I’ve journaled like this since I was a teen, and oh boy, those early poem??? I’m embarrassed by the drippy/sappy/teenage angst of those early, tender writing.

And I thought poems were supposed to rhyme. My English teacher Mrs. Sawaya was the one that taught me more about the feeling of poetry is more important than straining a rhyme and ruining it completely. She said the best poems don’t rhyme. I can’t exactly agree with her, some of the old limericks have amazing composition. But this lesson taught me that a poem is more than just silly rhyming fluff, but can be a heart-driven search for understand using words, flow, and purpose. Through poems, I really found my author voice. It’s taught me how to write and that I have a poetic voice to my writing.

In my writing exercises, I use poetry as a tool to stretch my use of language. I like poetic voicing. I like using fresh words and lyrical sentencing. I have tender years of doubt, depression, insecurities, and basic figuring out who I am and what, if anything, I have to say. Poetry was a tool (is a tool) that has helped me overcome several of those hurtles.

Writing has always been a joy, like the wonderful freedom you feel when writing in the sun on the beach listening to waves and birds and rhythmic chatter. But when I became published the joy changed and become more like writing in a small closet with a sketchy swinging light bulb. This may surprise people, though I’ve talked about it before. Being published is every aspiring writer’s dream (and please don’t lose that dream, aspiring writers), but with it came a different side of publishing that I didn’t understand and had to adjust to.

There is a lot of pressure in the authoring world, things that you don’t know until you are in it, and a lot of them aren’t writing related. It’s hard being a face for your books. I have to keep and maintain a respectable media presence, I am public and need to be found EVERYWHERE. I have to sell my own work and convince others that it’s good and they want to buy it, and it’s hard when they don’t, because you KNOW they will love it. You can’t just give away books, you have to sell them. I have to be likable and sought after for cons and panels. And I always need to have my foot forward to what’s next. This to me is not writing, it’s marketing – and I’m not so great at numbers. There is a cusp for readership that when your book reaches it, the perpetual reputation of the book steamrolls into a public consciousness, so an author no longer needs to worry so much about all the things I just mentioned. Just think of your favorite books that made it to you by word-of-mouth or recommended to you on Goodreads. I have yet to steamroll into anyone’s bookshelves, I’m still climbing the monstrous hill before me. It was hard enough sharing with the world writing that was once so private. To make me push it and promote it is like dying inside. Creating is joy, but with that coin flip comes misery.

How I combat this is through poetry…

and a good group of author friends that understand the ups and downs of publishing.

Over the years since I first published, I would write poetry to keep my authentic author voice, keep my creative juices flowing, and help me through the writer’s block and other rough patches. It helped keep my sanity. The various poems have been quietly resting in different notebooks for years. I would revisit it often when I needed it, like a letter from a dear friend. A year ago I shared some of my poems with my sister to help her on a day she was particularly down. She loved them and that was very encouraging. I then shared a poem with a writing group asking for critique. I called it Flash Fiction at the time, thinking it wasn’t poetry at all. They were astonished and clearly called it ‘Poetry’ and encouraged me to seek out my poetic voice. That was when I first started thinking very differently about what I was journaling and embrace that maybe I am a poet too.

Pre-order Wandering Beautiful on Kindle here

WANDERING BEAUTIFUL is a selection of my poems that have helped me during dark moments. Some are reflective, some are silly, but all of them were inspired by writing in one form or another. Poetry is a tangible horcrux, the slivers of soul lace each stanza. It’s not easy to share, and frankly, I’m still surprised I put this thing together.

My thoughts in sharing these poems were that it might help others gently wander the paths before them.

I don’t think there is one path, I think there are several. And I don’t think one is better than the other, I just think our paths are different. I’m a cautious, but curious person. I’m exploratory. I like the forgotten paths or more mysterious, and the ones that have stories to tell.

I feel the paths I have wandered down have not been easy, but keep leading me to new paths, ones that I didn’t know were there. I have opportunities that others don’t get, because I’ve wandered. That’s what I’d like to share. We have similar feelings and fears. Let me share with you mine, in hopes it will help you with yours.

This collection is deeply personal about my talent, self-worth, and frankly, my insecurities. I don’t specifically write romantic poetry, but there are a few that might flutter your heartstrings. Mostly though, it’s about the magic of words and the power we give them.

WANDERING BEAUTIFUL will be released September 6th at the FanX Comic Convention. If ebooks are your thing, pre-orders are now being taken here for a release September 30th. Click here

Salt Lake Comic Con 2017 – 1001 Author Tales!

Ten days! Salt Lake Comic Con is in TEN DAYS! And we are in Booth 1001! I expect to see everyone there.

I’m anxious. I’m excited. I’m nervous. I’m… just… so many things I might burst!

Salt Lake Comic Con has kinda become home to me. The first year was insane. No one knew what to expect or do. Everyone was new at it, my newby-ness didn’t show so much. I completely winged it and learned on the fly. Now, I’m a professional (right?) and know exactly how it runs (right?), however, it still gives me butterflies putting on the face of the author I’m supposed to be.

Tada!

This year, like other years, I am surrounding myself with authors, both promoting their works and buoying their spirits. I’ve done a booth by myself at these things and it is hard, so hard, and very lonely. When I join with other authors, there is a valuable sense of commendatory, a deep-rooted understanding of the creative process that comes from creating a book, and most importantly, a security blanket, a safe place beyond the crowds and people, where we can be ourselves and share the author world and experience.

There are six other authors in our booth. Here is a snippet of each one and there creative works:


Christine Haggerty writes dark fantasy.She calls it darker than Grimm. Her little novellas are a hit for those fairy tale lovers that like a taste of the the macabre. Her stories are mature, intended for a more sophisticated teen and up.

The Grimm Chronicles Cinderella FINAL COVER 1800x2400

Pre-Order her Cinderella story here: True Love.

Christine is my mechanical arms, the organization of this booth. I take more of a cheerleader role, but someone needs to guide the ship to dock. She holds everything together. Thank you Christine! Mwah!


Marion G. Harmon writes Superhero fiction in a comicbook styling. His series, “Wearing the Cape” made it to Amazon.UK #1 in Superhero fiction. Great for those searching for some strength. It’s perfect for 14+.

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C.K. Johnson also writes fairy tales, but unlike Christine, this is for the tamer, sweeter disposition. This is good for any age. C.K. and I have worked together before. I’m really excited to work with her again.

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Ben Ireland writes Urban Fantasy. His Billy Blacksmith Legacy series surrounds an unlikely hero and 300 lb spider trying to drink his blood. It’s a story for everyone, even the arachnophobes. 36067163Pre-order Billy Blacksmith: The Hellforged here and get the pre-order price. And Demonslayer is currently on sale for Comic Con. It’s fantastic, and seriously, so much fun!


Jessica Parker‘s The Bride Trial is a combination of the Bachelor and the Hunger Games. I think I just got every teen girl’s attention. I think her cover is so stunning. Perfect for those romantic types and teens looking for an adventurous romance. 31930741


Quinn Coleridge coined her work “Gaslight Fantasy” leaning on the Steampunk crowd but with a delicate elegance to the stories. I’m really excited for this rather dark, Sherlockian duo, solving the mysteries of the fantastical.35213244


And if you didn’t know, my Build A World is new also for Comic Con as well, for those would be writers. I sometimes forget that I need to sell my stuff as well, but I promise, here it is if anyone is interested. Pre-order is only $.99! Remember BOOTH 1001! See you there! 😉

Build A World

Adventures in Audio

I’ve been testing the waters in Audio Books

A few courageous years ago, I thought about performing my own audio books. It sounded like a lot of fun. Audio and voice recording is something I’ve dreamed about doing since I was little – probably since Gurgi in Black Cauldron, after I realized I could do cool things with my voice. 

When the opportunity came to create a studio in my home, this was just the push I needed to get into voice acting… right? I thought about starting a podcast, a vocal art studio, possibly composing the music for the intros, and really expanding my reach as an author. What a WONDERFUL dream. I currently hold all my audio rights for my series and I felt like this was a golden opportunity….

This was two (plus) years ago. And though I still have delusions of recording, different opportunities and challenges took precedence over my starring role as recording artist and composer.

But here is what happened to help branch my books into audio…

My grandmother, who is a personal hero of mine, is blind, Macular Degeneration, where the eyes just slowly lose vision. I fear this will eventually happen to me as well, something to look forward to, I suppose. She is currently in assisted living, but the crazy girl is teaching exercise (within reason) to the other residents. She’s spry and sharp, and a well of experiences. I don’t ever have the time to visit (I’m the worst offender out of all her grandchildren) and she wouldn’t be able to read my books anyway. Around her 95th birthday back in May, the thought came to me that I wished my grandmother knew my stories while she is still here.

Now was the time to get into audio.

A friend asked why I didn’t read Vampire-ish myself, with all my audio talk and whatnot. Very simply… well, I’m not a guy. I can’t even fake this on a good day. The thing about Oliver (Vampire-ish: A Hypochondriac’s Tale), it is told in first person narration. I needed a guy.

I looked into ACX and decided to give it a try. I went for halvies, profit share, and received a lot of incredible auditions, but none were right for Oliver. My main character needed a specific, youthful, yet slightly nerdy voice. All these deep baritones just wouldn’t work out. When I heard Ryan Jeanmaire, I knew immediately this was my Oliver. Ryan not only had the vocal sound I needed, but the comic timing required for the part, and it was a bonus that he studied acting and currently lives in New York City. I’m VERY excited to announce that Vampire-ish: A Hypochondriac’s Tale will be available in audio – Audible, iTunes, and Amazon – at the end of this month, July 31st. (link to come)

 

But, another incredible thing happened.

A few years ago, an author friend and someone I’ve mentioned before, probablyAlyson Grauer (Whimsy and ArtificeDreams To Become), talked casually about recording my books. She loved Vivatera and always wanted to do it, but at the time her life was circumnavigated by change and the timing wasn’t right. Last month, Aly contacted me and approach the subject of recording my books. My series is finished and this was a great chance to get all three done by the same person, and field into another arena of book lovers. A slot had opened in her artistic life to read my books, and I jumped at the opportunity for her to audition.

Salt Lake Comic Con 2015: Aly in the Steampunk cowgirl and me as Honey Lemon. You can tell it’s the end of the con. I was exhausted. Photo credit: Bryan Rasmussen, Chisledlight Photography

I have a lot of professional artistic working relationships, and working with friends, especially the dear ones, can be very delicate sometimes.

Here is some advice:

  • Always draft a contract
  • Follow the contract
  • Remember this phrase – “It’s Business.” (coined while editing the Blacksmith Series) Don’t take it personal, it’s business.

Aly sent me the Prologue and First Chapter for Vivatera and my jaw hit the floor. Unlike Oliver’s 1st person narrative, Vivatera is 3rd person limited view. It spines a vivid cast of characters, all across this world I created. Aly asked several questions about the characters before starting, comprehensive questions about region and dialect, audio samples and word pronunciations. We also audio chatted in :22-ish audio clips, just bouncing back and forth about specifics while I was in my car.

From what I have heard, this will be an audio experience. Aly is an actor, storyteller, a dialect coach, a creator, and for me, a very fortuitous friend to have in my life. Contract is drafted and I’ll have more details later.

I can’t wait to share this with my grandma, and all of you when it comes out. Stay tuned!

**If you are interesting following Aly and her projects, please click on her Patreon link here: Whimsy and Artifice

 

 

FanX 2017 – Supporting Local Fantasy Authors

Authors Rebecca Rode, Me, and Jen Greyson, with the talent Kermit the Frog and his handler (getting his name now)

 

Today, I’m reflecting on my past experiences as I get ready for another FanX.

Lissa (amazing editor) and I FanX 2014

My first FanX was an experiment. It was only me and my family and friends helping out. I was NOBODY – a fledgling author with one book and a BIG award. I coughed up the money (YIKES!) for a booth without any special discount beyond being a repeat vendor. (I think they were nervous it would suck.) Along with my book VIVATERA, and a short story in an anthology, I was eves away from my second book CONJECTRIX, being published. I met my editor for the first time – Lissa – and I was placed on the end RIGHT in front of Patrick Stewart’s and Karen Gillan’s line. It was hard, HARD work. I filled it with other Xchyler’s (my publisher) books, those who could participate, and did my best at selling them.

Xchyler Authors 2016: Jay Barnson, Scott Taylor, Ben Ireland, Jon Olsen, Sarah Seeley, and ME!

Last year, we collaborated as Xchyler authors, plus having our sponsor Kelly Olsen, in a booth together. We were generating some buzz at other conventions. Still hard work, but completely worth it. I got the chance to grow in friendship with some of these amazing people. The experience also set me in a new direction as an editor.

This year for FanX, I’m helping other authors get the chance to let their books shine by hosting a booth for Local Fantasy Authors. With both FanX and Salt Lake Comic Con, I have established relationships and respect within the community, something I feel very humble and honored to have. I get to participate again as a panelist and special guest at this convention. The idea still blows me away. But with that, I can help others make their mark in the community. Attending these conventions can be expensive, but the exposure is VITAL. And WOW I’ve got a great crew with me for this con.

The authors are:

Badges for the authors! AWESOME!

I’m incredibly impressed with the talent in our little booth. We have Amazon top sellers and award-winning talent, among some stunning new fiction. If you are in Salt Lake City attending FanX, we are in booth 721. If you don’t get the chance, check out the links and look at these wonderful authors.

FanX is so much fun – hard work, but so worth it. I can’t wait to be an author again.

Bones, Muscle, Skin: NaNoWriMo Philosophy Revisit

I originally posted this back in 2011, that’s before I was published, people.

I have since revisited and revised my original philosophy, but it’s still how I approach a project. 


NaNoWriMo… Here I go!!!

It’s now November (well, almost nearly) and I am participating in National Novel Writing Month again. This will be my third (in 2011 – it’s now 2016, so insert sixth) year doing it. The goal, as always, is to reach 50,000 words. And it is not about having a perfect product, it’s about getting the story out of you.

 

If I give advice, which I don’t ever like to do, since what might work for me may not work the same for another, my advice is get the story out. People who want to write many times get stuck on the little details and rewrite… and rewrite… Truth is you could rewrite forever and never feel satisfied. Many published books are published simply because the author finished them.

UPDATE: This is still true – I don’t like to give advice. 🙂 The guidance (what a better word) I tell people, in the kindest way I can… Finish the EFFING story, PLEASE! Ending a story sometimes (most of the time) alters the original idea. Did you know that? It totally does. And a story doesn’t always end as you had thought it would when you started it. So, just write. Keep going. Don’t stop. Hardly look back! Just finish and kiss your manuscript when you’re done.

As I see it, there are three stages in writing – Bones, Muscle, and Skin. (Still true)

Dem’ Bones

The Bones of a story comes out when you complete a manuscript, but is never perfect. Bones are only the framework of what can be accomplished. If you are worried and missing details, I wouldn’t. If they are in your head at one moment, they return, I promise.

UPDATE: A very simple way of saying “You have a lot of work ahead of you.” Many look at the bones as the outline. Don’t. I suggest always outlining, but leave room to run and create. As much as I love being a Pantser, I don’t like meandering in the forest. I do need to understand the full story and an outline does this. But, first time writers, know that a finished manuscript is ONLY bones, it’s not ready for the world. 50k words is a great accomplishment. Be Proud. But, your 50k from NaNo is ONLY bones. It is a very fulfilling feeling to finish a manuscript, and YES, you should be excited, but it still needs work. Send it to your best friend, your mom, your sister, but not to agents. No no no. Not yet.

Need Some Muscles

The Muscle is the second pass – gives your work strength and a strong bond to characters, situations, and gives you better clarity and understanding of, not only the reality of the story, but also background, or what’s to come.

UPDATE: What a long, strange sentence… Okay, this is what I MEANT to say. Your writing needs strength. You now have clarity of the story and know where it needs more. I say, get a little artsy – write the overly glorious details surrounding each situation. Color in the scenery with description. Explore the dialogue and add in the conversation. Don’t be afraid to be fanciful here. Strengthen what works and see what doesn’t. No one wants a flabby muscle, tighten it up. Fill in near the hinges, so your story will be able to move on its own. There will be a time when it will need to live without you, so this is your opportunity to help it grow stronger. Is that better?

Slap Me Some Skin

And finally, the Skin. The skin, of course, is the beautiful package. It is where the story begins to live on its own. The Characters could make decisions and stand on their own without you; the world turns, the plants grow – you believe it and then others will believe it too.

UPDATE: How beautiful. But it doesn’t tell you anything. Skin is the beautiful smooth, tight manuscript. This is your THIRD time looking at this, so it’s time to be critical. Sentence structure, word choice, commas, em-dashes… ellipsis. 🙂 Look at the blemishes and clean them up. Read it out loud – YES! Read it out loud! Your brain likes to fill in the details, it’s been trained to do so. By reading it out loud, the blemishes show up. It’s a fantastic way to understand if what you are attempting works. The Skin needs be to clean, scrubbed, and polished. Don’t be afraid to take a razor to it either. After the sting it will look really nice (and smell great). You need this creation to look its best. Because at this point, there is not much left to do with it. You could always go in there and fix and rewrite, but your best is there already. You know your creation very well. You’ve done your best with what you can at this point. This is when you can brave the world to take a peek and see if they like it: agents, beta readers, your grandma. 

You are giving birth in a sense, to this child and soon it will walk away from you. So don’t stop writing, give your ideas a chance to live. NaNoWriMo is a great opportunity for that. Give that idea you have been kicking around some bones and see what happens.

UPDATE: I think the world can tell that I had a little one around at this time. Let’s not say giving birth (ick!), but the creation is there – like Frankenstein’s monster. Your book will eventually go on without you. You are the perpetual machine, but it will find it’s own audience. THEY will all have something in common, and THEY will Snapchat and Tweet and Facebook Group and Gif, and THEY will nearly forget about you, until THEY tag you on Twitter and ask “Where the hell is book 3?” (available Nov. 4th everyone!) Saying all this – there has to be an end at some point. You, as the mad scientist, will need to move on to something else. If it’s book two of the series or something completely different, it’s time for your brain to get active in creating again, something new and sparkly. It has different things to create then rewrite the same story.

What I’ve learned as an author – it’s not about one book, it’s about ALL the books. I’m creating a BRAND. And if people like one, they will look to see what else I’ve done. So, once the skin is on (and completely nude) set it out and see if someone can get it some clothes. (Or dress it yourself, if you like.) Don’t be afraid to share it. It’s time to let your creation live!

NaNoWriMo is a great place to start your skeleton. I’m starting something COMPLETELY new this year with a contemporary romance. If that doesn’t go over well, which it might fail in epic fashion, I’ve still got my winterscape dystopian that I’m very excited about too.  

Wish me luck!

UPDATE: Wish me luck!

If any of you are thinking about doing NaNoWriMo, search for me – cani-jo and see how we do.

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http://nanowrimo.org/