Monday, September 16, 2019

I Waffle Between Two Kinds of Wonder--By: Kimberly Sabatini

This month on the blog we're talking about our first books and what we'd change about them as time has passed.

My answer is kind of a Mobius strip. 
I'd change so much and at the same time, nothing at all.

1. Graphical representation of a Möbius strip.

Let me try and explain...
Although I've yet to publish my next book, as I'm creating and writing new projects, I'm learning and growing. 
In my opinion--becoming a better writer. 
And I love every moment of engaging with my creative self. 
The process is a joy to me.

But publication is damn cool, too. 
And I plan to be back there when the time and the writing is right. 

Hence I write for myself and I write to share myself with others.
So, at the moment, the intersection of creating art for myself and chasing publication seems to be best represented by the book I already have out in the world.

And when I have the nerve or curiosity to reexamine TOUCHING THE SURFACE, I find myself stuck in a strange dichotomy of feelings and understanding about what I created.
 The truth is I waffle between two kinds of wonder when I think about TTS. 
I'm both amazed at what I created and equally amazed by what I didn't. 

It's like taking a walk on a Mobius Strip and thinking your moving in one direction to find you're upside down and moving in another.
But if you keep moving long and far enough through the work--you're back at the start again. 

But here's the real truth...
all of the roads--upside-down or right side up--lead to the same destination.

We are an accumulation of a lifetime of our work and our choices. 
Perfection is the enemy of the good and the done.
Growth requires change.
History is a powerful learning tool.
Self-examination can change our future, but not our past.
And remember to revel in all you've created--because when you are making something it means you are also actively engaged in not destroying something else. 

But if I were going to change one small thing about TOUCHING THE SURFACE...I wouldn't waffle about cutting down on the number of times I used the word THAT. 😂

Just for fun--if you've read TOUCHING THE SURFACE--what would you have wanted me to change? 

Friday, September 13, 2019

Fly, Dragon, Fly! (Jodi Moore)

I’m a huge fan of the Butterfly Effect. Not only of the movie, but of the theory alleging that one tiny action in a system can inspire huge effects elsewhere, or as the analogy states: one flap of a butterfly’s wing in Brazil can result in a tornado in Texas.   

Not that I want a tornado in Texas. Hmm. Maybe I believe in the Kindness Effect. Where one act of kindness can inspire large change...

But I digress. This month, we’re questioning whether or not we’d change anything on the journey to publishing our first book.

To which I answer, absolutely not.

I wouldn’t change the fact my husband and I were in the throes of Empty Nest. Because hard as it is to let go, it was time to let our little birdies fly. And their accomplishments, spirit and drive continue to fill our hearts.

I wouldn’t change the fact my husband brought their sand toys to the lake anyway, that Labor Day after they left for college. Because with the help of the other children on the beach, he built a castle. The castle that inspired When A Dragon Moves In.

I wouldn’t change the fact that although some renowned publishers (from the big six) insisted I determine whether the dragon in the story was real or imaginary before the book could ever be published, I stuck to my original of idea of wanting the reader to decide. Because finally, one editor, my editor, Shari Dash Greenspan of FlashlightPress, “got it.” And then she gave the manuscript to brilliant illustrator Howard McWilliam, who took the idea and elevated it to heights I’d never even imagined.

If I’d changed anything along the way, When A Dragon Moves In may never have seen the light of day. Two more Dragons have followed: When A Dragon Moves In Again and (the newly released) I Love My Dragon. Would they have been “born?”

Look, all of us wish at times we’d made different decisions. Especially when things don’t turn out the way we’d hoped.

But When A Dragon Moves In turned out better than I’d hoped. So, would I change anything? Would I restrain one flap of that butterfly, er, Dragon?

Simply put, nope.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Don't Tell Anyone - I Have A Big Nose by Sydney Salter

My first published book, My Big Nose And Other Natural Disasters, is probably my most personal story. I stole many scenes and characters from my teenage years in Reno, Nevada. And the whole hating my nose business was 100% teenage me.

I was so excited to finally be published - after writing three other manuscripts that were less commercial.

But then it hit me.

People would find out that I had a big nose. Or find out that I thought that I had a big nose. Or start observing and judging my nose. Nose, nose, nose, NOOOOOOSE!

I didn't even want to tell people the title of my book - sometimes I blushed embarrassingly when saying the words "My Big Nose" out loud. Why did I have to call it that? Why?!?!?!

It turns out that nothing gets you over your nose issues more quickly than writing a book about nose issues.

So while I really wish I could go back to teenage me with my newfound wisdom, I would also tell new author me to calm down.

Any story, once published, takes on a life of its own. Readers add their own interpretations to the words on the page. So while I did suffer through a few awkward conversations about my personal nose, I loved watching how my story impacted other people.

I am - finally - 100% over my nose issues!

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Ten Years and Still Kicking by Joy Preble

This month marks the 10th anniversary of my debut novel, DREAMING ANASTASIA. Ten years. A decade. In publishing years, I think that's like a million. Possibly a million and one. A long, darn time.

Our topic this month asks what we'd change, knowing what we know now.  Honestly? Probably nothing. Which is not to say everything was perfect. It wasn't. But things have a way working out, especially when you don't know any better!  Contract could have been stronger. But my first novel was getting published! Losing my editor a few months before publication date wasn't spiffy. But he was replaced by someone who loved the book. And okay, there were two or three more in the course of a trilogy, which was also a struggle, but it all led to places I could never imagine.

The book wasn't front list. Actually, ten years in, I've never had a front list title. Never hit a major list. Never gotten star. Not yet, anyway. Yet, here I am. Seven books and some anthologies later. So don't let anyone tell you that a career works only one way. It doesn't.

But as I've mentioned before, Dreaming Anastasia broke out anyway. It was an in house bestseller. It was on its third or fourth printing before the end of the year. It is still in print. Still for sale. Still being read and reviewed. One kind soul at a university analyzed the entire trilogy for a thesis paper. The fairy tale sites generally like it. It made me contacts and industry friends for life, people who are dear to me in so many ways.

It led to everything else that has come after.

Are there portions I'd probably re-write? Yes. The writer I am today is not the writer I was over ten years ago. But it will probably always be the book closest to my heart, the book influenced by love of fairy tales, fantasy, girl power, all things Romanov, and an obsessive Buffy fandom that combined to make me write about a girl who didn't want to be chosen but was chosen anyway, who didn't want witchy power, but got it anyway, who fell in love with someone who she had to fight for and who had to fight for her, whose family was a mess and whose best friend was loyal as they come. She was brave and funny and wildly imperfect and sometimes very selfish, but when you're the hero sometimes you have to be.

DREAMING ANASTASIA was the product of every hope and dream I ever had for a writing career that I had to fight for, that I had to be selfish for, that was messy and imperfect but was where I needed to be if I could get there.

So. Would I change anything? I don't have a clue. I chose it. It chose me. We're both imperfect but still hanging in there.

Friday, September 6, 2019

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes (Mary Strand)

This month’s topic: knowing what I know now, what would I change in my first book?

Hemingway-esque answer: Not a damn thing. (Mostly.)

My first published book, coincidentally, is the very first manuscript I wrote: Cooper’s Folly. I started writing it during maternity leave in 2000 (because what else are you supposed to do during maternity leave, right?) and entered it in RWA’s Golden Heart contest four months later. I was practicing law at the time, and four months seemed like a good deadline for writing a book.

(I’m no longer practicing law, but I still think deadlines are fun. Sick, I know.)

That manuscript won the Golden Heart. I knew I’d undoubtedly sell the book immediately and soon be on my way to fame, glory, and untold riches.

Ha ha ha ha ha.

Twelve years later, thanks to a conversation at an RWA conference, I dusted off that (unsold) manuscript, shrieking at my inability in 200o to speak or write using contractions. (While practicing law, you DO NOT use contractions in documents, and I spoke like I wrote. I recently found out that I’m still more geeky and anal-compulsive with language than most people. Oooops.)

BUT I revised the manuscript and threw in some contractions and more cell phones and made it sound like a somewhat normal person had written it. More precisely, it sounded how I wrote in 2012 as opposed to 2000, but the book itself was essentially unchanged in plot, structure, etc., from my 2000 version. I submitted it to Bell Bridge Books. They bought it. It came out in 2014.

 So I’ve already had the chance to go back, knowing what I know now (or at least knowing what I knew 12 years after first writing a book), and see what I’d change.

Hardly anything.

Yeah, I fiddle around with word choices. (Who doesn’t?) But every book I’ve written since I started writing in 2000 remains the book I was supposed to write at that time. I don’t think a book needs “fixing” in a fundamental way (unless an editor thinks so; ha ha), because it’s a portrait of who I was at the moment I wrote it.

I’ve had bad hair decades (in the case of the Perm Years) and octagon glasses and freckles and broken noses and ugly scars and heartbreak and all sorts of things that are not the envy of anyone. But all of that is part of me. (Alas! lol.) In the same way, each of my manuscripts is part of me. I don’t apologize for who I am or who I’ve been. (Okay, except maybe the Perm Years.) For better or worse, I’m me.

I write different types of stories now from the ones I wrote years ago. Five or ten years from now, I’ll undoubtedly write different stories from what I’m writing now. And that’s great. But each of them is part of me, and I like every part of me.

No major additions or deletions for me, thanks. Unless you’re my editor. J

Mary Strand is the author of Pride, Prejudice, and Push-Up Bras and three other novels in the Bennet Sisters YA series. You can find out more about her at

Thursday, September 5, 2019

My Favorite First—My First YA Heroine

by Fae Rowen

It's hard to look back at a body of work (no matter how small that body is) and pick out favorites. The truth is that my favorite is whatever I'm working on now, although I do have tender spots for each of my books, based on the "firsts" associated with it.

The first book I wrote was a medieval romance set "almost" in the real past. I was so in love with the hero, when I finally had to name him I used an anagram of my husband's first and middle names. The result sounded medieval British and everyone loved it.

But I wrote that book before I knew anything about writing a novel. I didn't know about POV, so I could be in five characters heads in five lines. Well, it worked for me.

That book will be the proverbial "under the bed" book for me.

The second book was an adult science fiction space war story that I wrote while watching the movie of the book in my head. I'd been to some classes and Keeping Athena was so solid it took first place in several contests. That's when I knew this math teacher could write.

I wrote a second book in that world, but then I wrote the young adult science fiction, with romantic elements in a different time and space, that I couldn't get out of my head. I didn't realize, until I sent it to my editor for the first pass, how much the main character was like me. It wasn't easy for me to respond to my editor's comments and prodding, but I did. O'Neill came alive with her own goals and attitude. She struggled to change her belief system when the bottom fell out of the one she'd grown up with—for the second time. She doesn't see how strong she is; she worries if she can do what is necessary. And she is me.

P.R.I.S.M. is speculative fiction. It takes today's society and teases out what could happen.What kind of changes would make a different world in a few generations? It doesn't have the technology that I so enjoyed dreaming up for Keeping Athena, but the world has challenges that must be met by its residents with sweat, muscles, and cleverness. And the people have to work together to survive. (Not that they get along that well while working together...)

While I was starting P.R.I.S.M. I started blogging as one of the founding members of Writers in the Storm. That was a first that will be forever interlinked with my first Young Adult book because I was beginning to "build my platform." I had started thinking about finally publishing the books I'd been writing. Up to that point, I wrote only for my own entertainment and enjoyment. I didn't want to expose myself by letting one of my books "loose" in the universe. Talk about revealing myself! What would my students think?

This past year I've been working on the sequel to P.R.I.S.M. I haven't ever done a "two-part" book before, so besides taking longer than I thought it would, it presented it's own unique problems. But it was full of firsts, even though it was a "second" book.

I have enjoyed going deeper into O'Neill's choices, her determination to live life on her own terms, and what she was willing to give up to do that. All while her world spins out of control presenting possibilities for horrific changes for her. P.R.I.S.M. Rebellion will be available for pre-order on Halloween 2019 and delivered before Christmas 2019. And while having twice my normal word count (already large at over 125, 000 words per book) to complete my story and fully flesh out my characters over two books, I probably won't do that again. It took almost two years to finish this second book in the series, I got way too many e-mails about when the next book would be out,  and I have too many more books to write to spend that long on one!

Keeping Athena will be available for pre-order by December 31, 2019 with delivery by February 22, 2020. The second book in that universe will be available for pre-order in late Spring 2020.