Authors and Characters: A Symbiotic Relationship

My Delilah Bard character cosplay from A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab. I love dressing up as literary characters.

While I was in the spirit of the holidays, I sat down recently and decided to watch The Man Who Invented Christmas with my mother while she was visiting with me. Dan Stevens is irresistibly amazing in it, as you might expect if you follow him at all, but what you might find surprising, or at least I did, was the introspective glance it had in the mind of a writer.

In the movie, Charles Dickens struggles with finding his characters. As I watched the vision of Scrooge appear and start talking, Dickens asked his character questions to help define him more. And my mouth dropped to the floor and I nudged my mother, “This is so true.” The constant interruptions while in a mid-stream of creativity; the name collecting; the environmental influences… all made sense to me.

Creating characters is a strange business, honestly. And writing is solitary, but it’s not. It makes sense to us that we spend time with other people, even if they are the ones in our heads that are informing us about themselves and the adventure they want to take.

It Starts With A Name

In this movie, Dickens states it all starts with a name; once the character has a name, the character comes to him.

I recently was in a class on developing characters, and throughout the class a theme developed for me about emotional connection. There needs to be a reason to care. I think a lot of that starts with a name too. The right name can say so much about your book. Sometimes a character comes with a name and then demonstrates why they have that name.

In this class, I focused on a character named Browneyes. This is a character I created in my series, but felt she had more to say. She came with her name. It was a nickname that I gave my little girl. I loved her brown eyes. I thought it was cool and unusual. I was at the time also in Imagination Training my good friend and fellow writer Michael Jensen was developing (more to come). In this training, he asked me to invite a character to the safe space in my mind and ask questions. This was an amazing experience for my imagination to just play with. One of the questions I asked her was how she got her name. I was not prepared for this answer. I had always assumed it was a nickname, but not until that experience did I understand it. And when I understood why, her story started to come into place. It was Browneyes’ name, or the name she was hiding behind, that told me her story.

I adore names and always have. I collect them much like Dickens did, or JK Rowling for that fact. The right name can set things in motion.

My character in the book Vampire-ish is named Oliver Brixby. What does that say to a reader? Bookishly nerdy? Unpopular? Insecure? A bit lost and hopeless? Springy? (I know, why is that?) I needed him to have the right name in order for the own story to come together. Both names were ones I had collected. Oliver was a name I had always liked but never used (since it didn’t fit any of my girls).

Atticus Finch. Sirius Black. Bilbo Baggins. Sherlock Holmes. A name is a badge that says a lot about a character.

When I first was signed on with my first publisher, they asked me to change the name of a few of my characters. This was hard for me. The character Taren was originally called Ry. I changed it because it was too close to Reynolds. I understand the change but was not familiar with Taren as a character until the later books, because I hadn’t written Taren before, I had written Ry. My perspective of his ideals changed as well. Ry to me was much more selfish and dark. Taren felt more accepting to change. If I would have kept him as Ry, would he have had the same story arch? I’ll never know.

AND ONE MORE THING . . . In authoring, I am Candace – a princessy name that means “Glowing Queen.” It’s my birth name and I think it’s pretty cool. I always have liked it. It’s not crazy popular and it’s sweet sounding. I like the way it’s spelled, and when I meet another Candace, we are immediately in the exclusive Candace Club. I was never called Candace growing up. I went by Candy. Okay. Right? Candy gives you a very different idea of a person. Candy is a name no one takes seriously. This is a sweet, bubbly sounding name, someone that likes to have fun (maybe too much fun), a people person, a drag queen, a hairdresser with expressive eyes and stunning lashes and gorgeous nails. And I won’t lie, the name Candy suits me in specific ways, but not in authoring. To my family and friends, PLEASE call me Candy, but as a professional, I can’t use this name because of how it’s represented.

I’ve always felt that naming someone is one of the most important things you do as an author. Sometimes it comes easy. I know when a great name crosses my path, a story almost immediately comes to my mind just in the name alone. Spend some time on the name you pick for your character and understand why they have that name, why they identify with it. Just like your name means something to you, give your characters the same chance to tell what it means to them.

Slam Books

There are so many guides, character sheets, books, websites, card games. . . on getting to know your character. But I don’t think you really know your character until you put them in a situation where they need to act.

“It begins with a character, usually, and once he stands up on his feet and begins to move, all I can do is trot along behind him with a paper and pencil trying to keep up long enough to put down what he says and does.”

– William Faulkner.

In middle school we had these things called Slam Books. Does anyone know what I’m talking about? A Slam Book was a regular ruled notebook where the person who owns it writes a question on the top of the page and then numbers it all the way down. Then they give it to a friend, the friend selects a number to be, and then answer the question on each page. I would most likely try and write the funniest answers, because at the time my job was to be the funniest person in the room – not the class clown, oh no, just the wittiest, funniest person in the room. (I kinda still try to do that. It was my way of getting over my insecurities.) I look at my GETTING TO KNOW YOU stage as what would they write in a Slam Book. (Post on Slam Books here.)

The characters in my novels feel like people I knew in high school, so it’s only logical to me that they would write in my Slam Book (even though that’s more of a junior high thing). I know them well enough, I never forget their names, we shared experiences. As I start to move through the story with them, I find that they become their own people and that I’m no longer seeking to create them, but more they are telling more about them. It’s a nature friendship like any friendship.

I asked a few different author friends about how a character comes to them. A similar response came from them that they don’t get a huge character talking and dictating how to write the story, like Scrooge did in the movie, but more getting to know them as they go.

Alyson Grauer, author of On the Isle of Sound and Wonder stated, “They aren’t super vocal, but they have opinions. The form kind of is like feelings first or textures or colors… I always put myself in their shoes? I guess it comes from acting. But they start as like a feeling or a combination of feelings, and then once I figure out what they look like and how they move and how they talk and all that, then they can talk to me. But mostly, it’s just they have opinions on things. They don’t like have full conversations with me.”

Ben Ireland, author of the Billy Blacksmith books stated this about characters, “It’s more like sculpting. I know what i’m going to do, but the details reveal themselves as I work.”

Jodi L. Milner, author of Stonebearer’s Betrayal, said when I asked about character sheets, “I find more often than not, if I have to fill out a character worksheet, half the stuff I put on there doesn’t feel right later. What helps me more than anything is to find two existing characters I love and mash them together to create something I can use. It really helps with the voice and mannerisms.”

So many of us have our own way of getting to know our characters, but the best way I feel, is to be with them, spend time with them and see what they will do when put under pressure, when they have to make a decision, and why they would choose it.

Characters Have a Mind of Their Own

I remember having a conversation with a new mother. This was several years ago before I had kids of my own. She was complaining about how hard of a time she was having with her toddler and his behavior. I’ll never forget her saying, “It’s like he has a mind of his own.” Really? Like they exist outside of your body? And have their own pulse and lungs and opinions? I still laugh at this statement.

Characters also exist without the writer. It has to. A writer’s job is to send it out in the world to be shared. These characters need to become real in the mind of the reader. When creating characters they often become so real that I miss them when they aren’t around.

When I was writing my first book Vivatera, the idea was only a stand-alone idea. But during the creative process, I found that I really liked my characters and wanted them to succeed. I became carried away with sending them on adventures, so much so that I turned it into a series, with continuing stories beyond the series, just because of how much I want to explore who they become. My second book, Conjectrix, had an overarching concept, but three separate stories. And all I did in this book was put them in a situation and see how they would react: let’s put them in a den of dragons; or let’s meet Katia’s father; or look I put a bunch of mountain trolls right here . . . whatcha gonna do now? Every chapter was me exploring my characters and how they think and react and communicate with others. And I have to say, it’s my favorite book I’ve written because I had the best time getting to know them.

I liked how Dickens was depicted as having conversations with his characters as real people. I remember reading Harry Potter and knowing these characters so well. I also remember having the briefest sadness that there wasn’t an actual Hogwarts and I couldn’t go see my friends there. I think this is a shared problem and why we now have two theme parks dedicated to him.

Characters should exist beyond the words we write. Just imagine all the shenanigans your characters do when they are not appearing in your book. As part of my writing exercises, I like to do journal entries as part of my research. I like thinking of stories that happen with my characters. And not that this research will show on the page, but it strengthens my voice in telling about them. It makes them more real understanding what they would do or what they have been through. I have had one thing come up in the third book in my series that I wrote in a journal entry for the first. I’m very glad I did that, because it became important later on when I needed that information.

Quirks and Cuteness

My daughter is an artist and is always drawing characters she wants to develop into stories; each one has a little bit of a background and a quirk, like hair sticking up or covering one eye. In drawing them, these characters become real people to her. She is definitely my daughter finding the adorable quirk in everything, but I feel very powerless when drawing characters I imagine.

Cute and quirky Greyson

I highlight her art because of the quirk and cuteness of it. The best characters are ones that have a bit of flavor to them. Characters that look like oatmeal, will taste like oatmeal. Without some flavor, the audience will all have a bit of bland in their mouths.

Some of my favorites characters are those that are not perfect and that have a relatable quality to them. Within the first few pages of Percy Jackson, we already know that he’s not a normal kid. He has ADHD, doesn’t pay attention, isn’t good in school – so relatable to Percy’s audience. not just personality-wise, but physically and mentally too. Those details are important.

I have a friend named “Big Al.” He’s a voracious reader and a rather big guy, like the larger than life type, super jolly and wears his heart on his sleeve. He read my series and liked it, and asked for recommendations. At this time I had just finished editing the second in the Billy Blacksmith series. Billy is a big kid, uncomfortable in his own skin, bullied, but always trying to do the right thing. I told Big Al about it and he gave the first book a try. He LOVED it. He identified with the character of Billy, the trials, the struggles of being young and awkward, the WHOLE thing. He quickly grabbed the next one and hounded me before the third came out. Suddenly, this character wasn’t just a character, but a friend, someone that he identified with. These kind of characters can be life-defining. I think a lot of readers search for these type of characters that through their quirks and imperfections, make them perfect for us to love.

I highlight Delilah Bard from A Darker Shade of Magic. V. E. Schwab really makes her characters likable, relatable, yet complicated. Delilah is not perfect. She is a thief and will always be a thief. She’s dark and mysterious and only looks out for herself. I can’t trust her, but that makes me like her more. She doesn’t turn into someone unexpected; she doesn’t suddenly grow a heart of gold like Darth Vader and throw the Emperor down a shaft in the Death Star. She is the love interest, but not lovable. She will not be the character that takes the bullet – that’s Kell’s job. Delilah stays true to herself the entire series.

And that is not easy. After building a friendship with these characters, one wants them to be in a Happily Ever After. But you know truth of your characters. Not all of them would choose that. Each should have likes and dislikes, but most of all, they should have personality. Make them quirky, imperfect, relatable. Those make up our favorite characters.

Letting Them Go

My job as an author is created believable characters and set them off on an adventure. My characters really do steer the boat. They live so deeply in my head that I know what they need to do when it’s time to act. But once the adventure is over, the characters need to go out on a new, different adventure, one that isn’t hooked to me and my mind, but one that is hooked to yours . They now need to tell their story to readers. Their journey is far from over, even after I type THE END.

If you find those characters that speak to you, much like my friend Big Al did, those character will stay with you forever. They are friends that you are always friends with. It feels like they go away, but you can always revisit them and share them with others. I love it when I share books with others. It’s an introduction to a friend, and hopefully those whom I share it with become their friends too. This journey can be slow, but every encounter with a new fan is someone knew my characters just met. It’s magical and transcending to get a review or message from a fan. My characters are doing their job, inviting these other people to a world and adventure I created for them. It’s wonderful and surreal.

Let’s Be Authors: Impostor Syndrome and the Curse of Viking Blood

My pink jacket vs my pink legs. Just a few hours after the burn.

Impostor Syndrome can be defined as a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist despite evident success. For many people I know this has to do with writing and success. I have felt it to a degree. It might be possible that all authors (excluding Stephen King, Jim Butcher, and Orson Scott Card) have felt it before. My impostor-ness comes from pretending to be someone I’m not.

I have Viking blood, if you didn’t know. My heritage is very Scandinavian. Norse, Danish, Swedish, all the fairness and DNA markings of a people that don’t see the sun very often. My mother has the English and Welsh to balance some things, but if anyone knows me, they can attest that I look much like my Scandinavian-heritaged, honey-blonde father.

I’m not stating that I’m not human, but truly, that I am more human than I wish to be. Being an author is a weird gig. At first, before I was published, the world was huge and dreams were big, and anything seemed possible. Being published was the ultimate goal, and when I signed that contract, I mean – I remember the moment I did it and where I was and EVERYTHING, I knew it would change my life and I was ready for it.

…or at least I felt as ready as I could be at the moment. The words we write are very personal in nature. Even when describing a mountainous scene with a dreamsicle sunset, the words can become very intimate and personal to how you feel about it. To become an author you expose those words publicly for others to judge either privately or publicly, or even VERY publicly if they strongly dislike it. Craft wordplay is art in a very pure form. So people will love what you do, but others (more than you wish) will not like what you do. And this is when doubt seeps in.

So, nice rambling Candie, but what does that have to do with your Viking blood?

Good question, You.

I often call my skin “transparent” since it is so white it’s pink. I don’t tan. I don’t freckle either. I pink and then fade back to transparent. Those who have this kind of skin totally know what I’m talking about. I have several friends with natural melanin and I find myself often envious that they don’t know what a sunburn feels like.

For some reason buried deep within my psyche, I have hated being fair and taught myself that beauty is tan and dark and exotic. I don’t know if it was Mattel and the Malibu Barbie tan that reinforced this or my own fear of the sun.

I’ve always been attracted to darker skin. I married a darker-skinned, honey tanned man. I’ve found many times mesmerized by the bravery of a browned bikini body without tan lines, so much so that I don’t like going swimming, fearing the burn and being made fun of or stared at because of my fairness. I have fought with my fair skin my whole life and I have lost.

So when I say I don’t feel comfortable in my own skin, I mean that literally.

Last year I planned to take a trip to Portugal and Spain. I decided to go tanning before I left. I hadn’t been tanning before. I had no idea what to do. The girl at the counter advised me that I shouldn’t stay in for more that five minutes because of how fair I was. I went in, stripped, put these bug-like things in my eyes and had no idea the direction I should lay. I couldn’t figure out the dial, but was too embarrassed to ask for help because of my lack of clothing. Once I adjusted things and lay there under strange heat, I found out that I was, indeed, laying the wrong way, but was locked in until the 4 minutes was over.

I expected to get some color, but was informed that that was just the first one and it wouldn’t do much. This was after my humiliating experience. I still thought that it might be enough to help prevent me from a really bad burn. I was very, very wrong.

DISCLAIMER: THOSE WITH A SENSITIVITY TO PAIN AND HURT AND BURNS OF ANY KIND SHOULD NOT LOOK AT THIS NEXT PICTURE.

On day four of a two-week trip, we went to Lagos in the southern part of Portugal. I had already received a sunburn on my neck and arms, but nothing I couldn’t handle. I put on the sunscreen that I had, which was from Portugal and not for white non-melanin skin. They all had bronzers in them, if that makes sense. PLUS, everything was in Portuguese, so I had no idea what was really in it to begin with.

The Sun Rash

On the beach day, I put on sunscreen. I DID! I was not prepared for the reflection of the water, nor the expiration time of the water resistance. And even though we only were there a few hours, because I could feel we needed to leave and I needed to find some aloe vera, I still got severely burned. A petite Portuguese baker in the grocery store couldn’t believe the state of my legs and quickly rambled out in her beautiful language what I should do and what I needed. And I bless her every time I think about my burn, even though I couldn’t understand a word she was saying to me. There was a lot of pointing and startled looks.

This is at least second degree. I got a sun rash, sun sickness, and had to constantly be on ibuprofen the rest of the trip. I couldn’t wear anything on my legs, yet couldn’t have the sun touch it. I had to constantly put aloe vera on it, even though it was so hard to find aloe vera there. We finally found some in Gibraltar because it’s owned by the pasty Brits who understand sunburns. I grew water blisters under my skin and after a while, my skin started sluffing off. THAT’S RIGHT! No tanning bed would have prepared my skin for this anyway.

So, why are you pointing this out??

I’m getting to it.

I can’t fake tan. I can’t real tan. I can’t prevent the sun from wanting to kill me anytime we come in contact. So why do I do it?

Because I love the sun.

I love the sun so much. I love feeling the warm glow of morning, the way it colors the sky and wakes up everything. I love letting it heat up my dark shirts. I love the energy the sun feeds me. Seeing the sun makes me happy. I love sunflowers and I love so much the color yellow. After a long day of being in a basement with no windows, the sun greets me, reminding me that it’s okay, everything is fine – I’m here in a steady state, reliable and constant.

In Everstar, the capstone in my trilogy, the sun plays a huge part. The Atmos stone was the first to be stolen, causing chaotic storms over the capital city of Southwick and casting shadows over the world of Parbraven. The little bit of sun that shines on my heroes supplies hope when they feel everything is lost. It’s incredibly powerful.

Writing (more authoring for me) is much like the sun. It is hope and happiness and incredible warmth, and sometimes tries to kill me. I can prepare with all the sunscreen I want when sending out a book into the world, but it still doesn’t work 100% of the time.

I recently had my first book up on the review site Netgalley and was surprised by how many people didn’t get it. It gave me a real taste of what the world was saying about my work. Regardless of the accolades Vivatera had received (Novel of the Year being one of them), I started to feel like I disappointed my readers.

And then the doubt starts . . . and those voices are very hard to silence.

A few weeks ago was Salt Lake’s FanX, and I had prepared to do amazing again this year, but sadly, no one was buying. And it was hard to not feel like a failure in those moments, even the ones that you can’t control.

So as much as I hate my skin and sometimes doubt my talent, I have to remember that I have Viking blood. In some ancestral website, it has my line going all the way back to Odin. Strength is IN my blood – LITERALLY! But we all have the strength to follow dreams. Grabbing onto those wispy little dreams isn’t easy, holding onto them is harder. I have friends that have completely given up on being an author because they got burned to a crisp by the sun of doubt. And I feel so bad for them; to give up on the dream they had and feel the sting of failure on their skin hurts my soul. I ache just thinking about it.

Even though I get burned every once in a while, I have to think of it as a good burn, reminding me how human I am, and also how lucky I am to live my dream. I am not an impostor but a believer – ready to defend my talents and the people who stand with me.

And underneath the skin is the heartbeat of it all, the loyal fans that find me at every con, that search me out at signings, that are impressed by the content I’m still creating, and are glad I haven’t given up. Impostor Syndrome happens, but when the cheerleaders surround you, it’s hard to hear the voices of doubt.

So to everyone PLEASE DON’T FORGET SUNSCREEN!

And if you have a dream, chase it. Believe in it. Seek out your blood and find the strength in it. Don’t regret not trying. You were created to do amazing things regardless of what the voices of doubt say.

Fight on, little Viking Queen.

Let’s Be Authors – 6 Reasons Authors Struggle With Blogging

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I feel ya kitty. #sundaynap #archerthecat

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So….. I haven’t blogged in a while

…and I’m pretty sure the world is still turning. The sun still creeps in my room every morning, reminding me of all the things that I have to do that are not “Blogging.” But before I get into my list of excuses, let me deeply say that I’m sorry if you have been anxiously awaiting my return. I have missed you too. I labeled this generally with “why authors struggle,” but it’s personal reasons, more “why I haven’t blogged.”

1. Little Things Become Big Things:

What is an author’s job? That’s right, writing. So, one would think that the first thing that keeps them from blogging would be writing, but it’s not. It’s all the other things that take over their time. When you are in, what I call, “WRITER MODE,” words are what you should be concentrating on. But Writer Mode is a small part of the big job of being an author. There are several “Modes” a writer can get into, much like wearing hats:

  • Editor
  • Publisher
  • Typographer
  • Publicist
  • Marketing Director
  • Plummer
  • Electrician
  • Cruise Director

I haven’t had a chance to actually BE in Writer Mode, because of all these other hats I have had to wear. It’s the little decisions that I have had to make involving being my own publisher. From design to logo to price to distribution to everything else – every decision is important. With my series slowly trickling out, I have been in Publicist and Marketing Director mode. The re-release of Vivatera happened on February. 22, with Conjectrix following on March 19th. Everstar will be released April 19th at Salt Lake’s FanX Conference. And preparing for all of that has also been challenging.

But saying all that, I don’t regret the releases, it’s been a focus, and I’m very proud with what is happening and the direction the books are heading. This experience has opened my eyes and is preparing me for the adventure ahead of me.

2. Learning Is Hard

I always wanted to be a writer, but when I was in college, it was a pipe dream, not a real career. And I tried a few different things, but the addiction to writing was not going away. It IS not going away. So, sometimes the dreams that you had when you were young do come true. And I feel very blessed with this very cool avenue of life that has opened up.

So, I decided to go back to school. I’ve been wanting to for a while, but the circumstances have never been right. The day job field is not writing based, but science based, and as much as I love the work I do… I don’t. It’s not the dream. I’m not a traditional student with my busy home and work life, so even though I work AT a university, the environment is not right for what I want to specialize in and how I need to learn more about the craft of writing.

So, I looked into online options and found one that I was very impressed with and it’s at UC San Diego. I’m working toward a Creative Writing and Copy Editing Certification. And so far, I think it’s fantastic. This will not only help my confidence as a writer, understanding my craft and helping teach more to others, It will help my editing business as well.

3. An Accidental Project

As many of you know, but not everyone, I took an editing job a few years ago called “Billy Blacksmith” written by my friend Ben Ireland. This is a series I absolutely love and have had a great time working on it. I figured my time was over with Billy, since book three came out in September and that closes Act 1. But Ben asked me to just beta-read a collection of Billy-based short stories called “Bleakwood Lore.” I jumped up and down at this invitation.

Beta-reading is no pressure, and I became super excited about this. If you don’t know much about Billy, the series has a deep mythological lore, with complicated characters that each bring a new level to the storytelling. What Bleakwood is about is eleven side stories about characters to help lay a platform for Act 2.

I had a great time doing this. As I suggested things or saw things in the stories, my tiny encouragements made a big impact, to the end that Ben is looking at a quick release date of May 2nd, 2019. The book just came together in the funnest way possible. There are also secrets, reveals, and really fun illustrations to elevate your experience. I can’t claim this as an edit, but I did have a great time helping.

4. Life-ing and Loss-ing

The year didn’t start well. I had a dear cousin pass from this world at the end of 2018 and I started this year wearing black. Since that chilly January burial, I have had three more people pass from my life. With each death, I have become more acutely aware of how fast things can happen. And though this selection doesn’t have much elaboration to it, because I think we have all felt the same emptiness to our own extent, it has affected my life, my drive and motivation, and mostly my creativity. It’s hard to be creative when you’re depressed. Everyone could agree with that.

5. Goodies

I am not one to claim housewifery. In fact, I may be the LAST person to claim any domestic inclination. But, when it got closer to my book release, I decided I really wanted to do something special for those that came to my book signing.

I don’t like spotlight. I don’t do well with reading. And though I have always liked parties, when it comes to the private nature of something I’ve created, like a book, I don’t exactly know how to party. This being a re-release was a special occasion. A lot of these people have supported me over and over. It’s like I am pulling a George Lucas and repackaging something that they already own and believe in. So, I really wanted to make sure they understood how much I appreciated them and their support over the years.

How else, but cookies. I don’t know why, but I thought maybe I would try to make sugar cookies that looked like stars. I have never made a good sugar cookie. I always burn them or make them too thin. And I needed an easy cookie to do, as well. It had to be super simple because I don’t want to cut a hundred or so cookies.

I stumbled upon a recipe from my own collection and tried it. And I’ve never been so in love with a recipe. It did need some tweaking, because I have never seen an extra large egg, so I add an egg and a half. 🙂 I used a sandwich cutter with a cute fox, bear, kitty, and heart, so I cut it way faster than regular cookies and sugar dusted it before jt bakes. And oh my freak! They are amazing. I’m so impressed with my non-domestic self. I have craved these nearly every day since. So, yes, this has kept me from blogging. 🙂

6. Finishing What You Start

And through all of this, there is still light in writing. I came up with an idea about five years ago about two people who meet in dreams. Dreams have always meant a lot to me. They are a fascination I will never get over. My sub-conscious is vivid and wild, and sometimes uses the dream time to connect the dots of my creative thinking. Several writing ideas came from dreams, and to have a book that has dreaming as its central point, has intrigued me.

I started to dabble in the characters last summer and they really came to life. In my quiet hours, I have let them tell me how to tell their story. This is a little different from my other books, it is written differently, using different voicing with the characters and the dream sequences. I find the telling clever and unique, and I am very, very intrigued with how this will be received.

I am minutes away from finishing it. The only thing stopping me is blogging to you all now. The book has yet to have a title, and I have yet to know exactly what to do with it. It would make an excellent screenplay, and I may look at adapting it. But as for now, I think I will just plan on finishing it and then editing as my usual habits. I haven’t finished a novel in two and a half years, so I am so proud of my efforts.

I wish I had better excuses for not blogging more but I hope this will give you a little depth in to how my real life and creative life are constantly butting heads. There’s still a life that goes on beyond words. And though you may not see it, it’s still here, heart beating, living and breathing. It may be some comfort that I carry my crafts with me always. I’m always ready to write at a moment’s notice. I hope with the spring I will get a chance to blog more, that is as long as I have something interesting to say. I hope you’ll be there with me.

Let’s Be Authors! – Making It at FanX 2018

My panel: The Rise and Fall of Sega. Had a good crowd and a great discussion.

I had a discussion years ago, actually on a road trip to Portland with my author gal pals, about when someone “Makes It” in this business of writing. What is the threshold? I mean, I’m sure that once you need a personal assistant or a publicist to do things for you, you have definitely “Made It” in some way or another. Just having enough to pay your car payment each month is a huge accomplishment. It’s a hard classification, because my internal view of being an author is not what is reflected in the external view to the reader.

So the idea of “Making It” is difficult. And as I really thought about it, it’s only important to one person. . . That’s me.

In all these years of being an author, I’ve never really felt that I “Made It.” I’ve taught classes and been on panels at different writing conferences, with really, really cool people too, by the way. But I didn’t feel successful, I kinda felt like I was a cool kid, but not a success. My audience is not my peers, so writing conferences are not the best place to sell books or engage with your audience. Online sales are difficult to judge, because I have no engagement what so ever. It’s all just numbers, not people. My books are very buried in the doldrums of Amazon, and only with promotion do my books get any attention.

Booth set up, Christine and Conor being cool.

But when I really feel like an author and really feel an impact of what I’m doing, is when I physically get to place a book in someone’s hands. I’m handing them an adventure, my adventure that I’ve created for them. And when I get to personalize it? It’s the best! Because I am offering a part of me in this book, a special message just for them. It’s a special feeling.

The Green Room offers the best view of dinosaurs.

FanX 2018 offers a great way to find your fan base and connect with readers one on one. It was a different experience this year than our other times at the Con Formally Known As Salt Lake Comic Con. In previous years, I had filled the booth with other authors – last year, we had NINE authors. My ideas were to give other people a chance to shine, and make back the cost of the booth, without thinking that I would profit anything. This made for a very crowded and stressful environment.

Me, with my boothmates, Ben and Christine.

This year, I decided to do things differently. I didn’t want to be stressed. I wanted to enjoy being at this con. It should be fun. So, I scaled it way down to working with only my closest and best friends in my writing circle: authors Christine Haggerty and Ben Ireland. Each of us write for a different audience, so no competition in sales, and also, we genuinely really want each other to succeed, so selling each other’s books was easy. It’s all about the reader. That is so important, the MOST important thing we did in the booth.

“Waiting for all my rabid fans to arrive.” – Christine

We got lucky booth 1203, a corner very close to the opening doors and main staircase. We set Christine and I on opposite sides of the corner and gave Ben the front corner spot (picture above), so every book had its own place to shine. We all had something new for our booth: Christine’s Middle Grade – Lucas and the House of Lies, Ben’s third in the Blacksmith Legacy – Billy Blacksmith: The Ironsoul, and my new poetry book – Wandering Beautiful.

“Uhura, from an alternate timeline, signing a Wandering Beautiful.” – Candace

Historically, we never sold very well on the first day. Most people were waiting to buy everything on the third day. I don’t know if it was the phase of the moon or something, but once those doors opened, people found us immediately and we started selling.

“FanX was an absolutely wonderful experience. Sharing with fans who really get a show generates an energy you can’t find anywhere else. And meeting Anna Graves was an incredible bonus. She struck me as a genuine fan, and she was wonderfully gracious.” – Ben (Photo by CB Lee)

Hands down, this was the BEST year at FanX. The crowd was amazing, we had exceptional stars (I witnessed Jason Momoa, he is real, we breathe the same air, and rotate around the same sun. . . ), but the panels were amazing. Both Ben and I got to participate on panels. My retrogaming panel went amazingly, but not as fabulously as Ben’s Voltron panel. And Christine cosplayed as her pocket pin-ups and drew quite the crowd, plus a free red top hat.

“Cute little Paige was the 60th Harley Quinn I counted at FanX and she got a free copy of Lucas and the House of Lies.” – Christine

We had fun. We were everywhere. But the best part was talking with fans, fellow creators, fellow readers, who were interested in getting to know us and know what our books were about. We were an impressive force. Many people asked about who we were, how we became a group in a booth, and other authors were anxious for a spot with us next year. I sold out of two titles as well, Ben sold out of his first title. We were not expecting to sell so much. I under-prepared for the crowd, because it’s hard to haul unsold books back. It’s discouraging. I have one, small box of books now sitting in my empty garage instead of several. I’m just still stunned and impressed.

Goofing off with Julie, who helped us Friday and Saturday.

I’ve had a few days to let things settle, but my glow has not faded. As I was driving in on Day 3 of FanX, it was a little cloudy, but the sun was peeking through little breaks, making gorgeous little spots of sun. I thought those lucky people may not even know they are in this spotlight right now.

Check out this guy, he bought Ben’s series and I totally stole a picture of it.

“Making it as an author is much like being in that spot of sun, not until it has passed can you see and recognize how truly beautiful it is.”

I felt the admiration from each person who purchased my books, and those buying my friends’ books. We all felt the energy, which brought us closer as a group. We were making a difference in their lives, even for a fraction of a moment, but it is imprinted on me forever.

“Me and the new Doctor. It was a great year.” – Candace

I feel invincible and ready for any challenge. I’m feeling creative and set to finish my book. To all my new friends that I met at this conference, thank you from ALL OF US! FanX has made me the author I had always felt I could be and I will forever be grateful for the opportunity to be in that spot of sun.

Let’s Be Authors! – Experiment #1

Experiment #1

Congratulations! You’re an Author! Now what?

This expression is felt by every author. The excitement. The thrill. The CULMINATION of the pinnacle of your creative expression bound and wrapped and now burning your fingertips, as an alive, breathing thing.

A BOOK!!!

It’s so beautiful. The perfect moment. And it truly is… a perfect moment, with the reverence, and silence, and noise, and wonderment. It is everything you hoped for and nothing you expected. The moment is totally worth it… but it all starts there. I know, you thought the hard part was over. Nope! Not even close.

All I could think about before publishing was PUBLISHING!

This is nature.
There was an envy I felt when I spoke to authors, you know, REAL AUTHORS. They had done it, so I knew it was possible. They had scaled the wall of the publishing world, like a ninja or at least maybe Spiderman, and knew what it’s like on the other side. How I dreamed to know what was on that spendiforous other side.
I’ve often described publishing like a door to a spectacular house. And so many people are trying to figure out how to get to the door, or open the door, navigating a way to the door – whatever and however they can. And it’s soooo exciting to open that door. Seriously! It’s a great feeling to push past all those others scrambling to get in, and you do. Finally!
And then you, yes YOU, are in the house. And what do you find on the other side of the door??
It’s a room packed full of authors – all searching for another door.

This is my dedication to the Door Openers

 

I will explain everything I’ve tried through a series of experiments. I have a scientific background and need logic and method when organizing my thoughts. I feel much like a trailblazer in my own publishing right, as I think, many authors feel. I had no compass and no guide to get where I have, so experiments were the best way to test the world I had ventured in. Not every author’s story starts with a six figure deal. Yes, I know some of them who have, but as lovely as that sounds, authoring comes with a set of hurdles every author faces – Relevance, Visibility, Validation, and most importantly, a Backlist. And I can’t say I clawed to recognition either, but tried, regardless of the blows that would come (and they came). Trying gave me experience and perspective. I tried and failed and tried again. It’s just an experiment.

Simple Scientific Method –

  • Come up with a hypothesis
  • Experiment
  • Analyze your findings
Simple. Some experiments worked better than others. Some were absolute dismiss failures. In a general statement, writing is a personal thing, being an author is public. It takes a lot of courage to first read or let others read your stuff, and when people have some type of critique, it can be difficult at first to take. When published, an author has to develop a tough skin, because all the critiques are on public display for everyone to read. In a sense, it’s the same with experimenting. There is excitement, trepidation, and recognition when something isn’t working and still moving on.
As the blog goes I will list a number of experiments, not in any specific order, I can’t keep track of all that, to highlight the “Success” the world sees and the failure an author feels.

And here, my Experiment #1 is this blog.

I don’t think it is necessary to rehash my first fleeting attempts to get published, but know they happened, over hard years of rewriting and rejection.

Scared little bird, aren’t I? Happily having no idea what I was doing. 1st Salt Lake Comic Con Sept. 2013

For me, being an author started after the hoopla died down from the first release of my debut novel with a publisher. I first published with a smaller publisher, not one of the big houses. I had no marketing team to help me. I quickly found out what I could do and couldn’t do in the publishing world. There are a lot of rules placed on publishing houses that are not part of the BIG SIX. And a secret world, run by the Illumanati, of rules, restrictions, and secret handshakes that the author is never a part of, and I learned every kind of rejection finding this out.
And you need to be really good, and freaking CHARMING, in order to get your books in stores. But, even then it was through consignment, because of rules. 
I learned over time about being present, actively participating in writing groups or conferences, return policies and book store signings, social FREAKING media, engaging an audience, outside book festivals, writing communities and leadership – and adding to that PTSD, getting over the insecurities and pretending to be someone I’m not, the idea that everyone will not read your books, and the expectation that everyone should… and so, so many battles and experiments that worked, failed, or failed in epic proportion… all just trying to get noticed. This, and more embarrassing or insightful hilarities to come.
But, beyond all that I have said, the point of LET’S BE AUTHORS! is to have fun, to see the you are not alone in the world of publishing, and to laugh at the pitfalls we all have. WELCOME TO PUBLISHING, PEOPLE!
I thought for kicks, I would add my post from the day I signed my contract with my publisher, from my silly, retired blog I had. You can see all the lights shining in my words, the brilliance of each sentence gleaning the possibilities of this strange, new world were I had no idea, no clue what waited for me. Thanks for joining me.

TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 27, 2012

More Adventures in Awesomeness!!

News! News! News!

It’s never a boring time with me.  There is always something crazy happening in my life.  Besides stuffing myself like a Turkey Dinner this holiday, I also did something a little insane.

What could it be??? you ask….

Let’s take some questions from the audience…

  • Did you win the lottery?  sadly no, but I feel like I did.
  • Did you get your braces off?  – I WISH.  My news isn’t that cool, but on that note, they will come off in DECEMBER! Santa is delivering my Christmas wish a little early.
  • Did you finally get that gum out of the carpet?  Nope, but better than that – I REPLACED IT!

Have you given up yet??  No???

  • Did medical science decide to freeze my embryos for future generations to bask in the presence of awesome me?  Umm… no, but that would be cool.  And on that other note, no I’m not pregnant, but thank you for thinking that I could.
  • Did you get your midnight tickets for THE HOBBIT?  OF COURSE!! And my shirts are hot and ready to feel the magic, but that’s not it, though it’s cool too.

Oh…. did you give up? Fine, I will tell you.

I decided to try and get my book published and guess what?  It worked.  I am now a contracted author with Xchyler Pubishing. (it’s pronounced Skyler, for those of you who are thinking about some crazy baby name spellings).  I’m just getting started, but they are super excited to have me with them.

Next you’ll see my very own theme park in Florida.  Cool huh?

If you have read my story and know the genre, just take a look at the website and you’ll know my book is a perfect fit. http://xchylerpublishing.com/

Wish me luck!!!

 


With this blog I hope to highlight not just me, but other authors and what they tried, the different experiments we have tried to get our books in readers hands. It’s a humorous blog, though tongue and cheek, but it’s meant to enjoy and share the feelings us authors feel. I hope, also, to add a podcast as will, because authors are whores when it comes to talking about themselves and how they failed too.


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