Painful Beginnings

Going back to the beginning.

Starting anew.

Getting a fresh start.

It doesn’t matter how you phrase it, when you’re starting something over, it’s hard.  Ever tried to save a batch of chocolate chip cookies with too much salt?  Trust me, despite the agony of throwing it all out, it is the better choice.

I started an exercise program several months ago.  I made great progress, dropped several pounds, even lost a clothing size.  Then life got hectic as life is want to do at times. I quit going to the gym, stopped following the diet, and found the pounds I’d lost had come back with a vengeance. So I went back to the gym and started over with everything, and I’m pretty sure it hurts worse by 200 percent more than it did when I started originally.

Now I’m doing something almost as painful: I’m rewriting one of my novels, starting over from scratch because I just can’t seem to fix it in bits and pieces. I’m rethinking the characters, I’m reworking the plot, and I’m sorting through some of the subplots and secondary characters to decide what I want to keep and what I want to get rid of. It’s a far more painful process than I had anticipated it would be, and I find that I come to the writing part of my day and I am reluctant, even a bit bitter, about going through with the work. After all, I created this world and populated it and set it in motion – I liked it enough at the time to see it through, and I liked it enough when I finished it to begin submitting it. Now, here I am, the fickle god who is destroying my beloved creation.

God-of-War-Destroying-Earth-56260-215x300

The truth is, though, that I didn’t get it right the first time. I need to start over because the story isn’t working as it is, and simple revisions won’t be enough to fix the issues. As much as I like some of the characters, and as much as I thought I had worked out a solid plot, I realize now that the story really needs a new start – no matter how painful it might feel right now.

In a way, I’m hopeful that this process will seem easier – eventually – than writing the original story did. I already know the basic thread of the plot, and I know the key characters (even if they will change a bit), so in a way, the story is somewhat written already. I’m trying to think of this in terms of a piece of clay: I molded it one way, but the result wasn’t as appealing as I’d hoped, so now I’m reshaping it into something more attractive and useful.

dirtyHands

It would be easy to toss the whole story aside and say, “Oh well, better luck next time,” but I really believe in this story, and I really think it will find a home and finds its life outside my computer. I think I know the answers to the issues I’ve uncovered, and I’ve had good readers willing to look it over to share their insights as well. I know it will be better, but that doesn’t make it any easier. Writing at its very core is a painful process, but now I’m compounding that pain, and doing it on purpose. I guess that makes me some kind of masochist – which is a pretty funny thought.

So, it’s off to work again on a novel called The Afterward. Hopefully this time I can release its full potential. I just don’t think I have the heart to rip it apart yet again.

Guest Blog: Anna Del C. Dye

Writer and fellow member of the League of Utah Writers (Oquirrh Chapter) Anna Del C. Dye has a new book coming out, so I’m turning the reins over to her to tell us all about it! It’s a fantasy novel, and of course that always means big adventure! So without further delay – Anna, please tell us about it!

annadye

 

Kim, thank you so much for participating in The Roilden Stone of Elf Mountain’s tour. We will have an ebook Giveaway between Feb 24 – Mar 8: You have a chance to win The Roilden Stone of Elf Mountain. Leave a comment about this interview with your e-mail. One ebook will be given in each stop in this tour and the entries can be international. The Roilden Stone of Elf Mountain is book seven and the pre-sequel to all of Anna del C.’s elf books. The Roilden Stones of Elf Mountain, a Blurb Liberty … or Monarchy? Should the wisest of races choose such a path, or return to the traditional council? Their queen has lost the Roilden Stones of Elf Mountain to a power-hungry wizard. After all, one can be deceived, but twenty? With the stones missing, a fatal drought grips Andoriah, the new elfin home. Death to all is imminent. Who will retrieve the Stones when the Gold Elfs won’t act? Will heroes arise before Andoriah burns in eternal fire? Can the missing elf queen and her daughter be found? The Roilden Stones of Elf Mountain is the long awaited prequel, and final installment in Anna del C.’s elf series. Discover the Elfs, an eternal race who chose to live in a world of woes away from their motherland. Love them, feel their pain and their happiness in a land that will test the core of their beliefs and bravery. Written in the genre of The Lord of the Rings and the Shannara series, The Roilden Stones of Elf Mountain comes alive with battles, heroism, action and romance.

Thanks Anna! Very exciting! Here is a little bit more about Anna, her website, and where to find her books:

About the author: Anna del C. has received numerous awards like “First Page” “First Chapter” in three of her books. A bronze Medal for book three in The Silent Warrior Trilogy and honor place for others. Anna is fluent in Spanish and English and loves to travel the world.

You can find The Roilden Stones of Elf Mountain here: My website: www.annadelc.com Amazon: http://j.mp/1dvqXP6

Resolutions – The 2013 Edition

It has been a VERY successful year for me, and I am grateful for the support of friends, family, teachers, librarians, and most of all readers! In June of this year, Angelic Knight Press made an offer for Death’s Kiss. In August, I sold a horror short story under my pen name Mimi A. Williams. That story, entitled Rita, will be part of the Axes of Evil: Heavy Metal Horror Anthology that will be released on February 1, 2014.  The Deepest Blue was released from Tanglewood Press in September of this year. This book has a long, winding history behind it, and it’s one that I am incredibly proud to see in print. All of this exceeded my goals for the year, although there were a few places I fell short

This is the seventh year in a row that I’ve done this exercise. It is a tradition now, and something I look forward in some sick and twisted way. It actually started further back even than the posts on this blog! All credit is due to Carol Lynch Williams who started the whole thing at least a dozen years ago and maybe even more. We are members of several list serves together, and every year about this time, we would publicly post our writing goals, and at the end of the year, Carol would hold us all accountable by posting our objectives on the list.

I like to do it this way: First, I review my resolutions from the beginning of the year to see how I did. That usually provides the motivation for my new resolutions. So here is what I aspired to a year ago and how I did:

1) I will revise my book The Afterward and continue to send it out.

The Afterward did not get the work I had hoped it would. It was shoved aside in favor of other projects. That’s not entirely bad. The other projects were both getting revised for publication. The Deepest Blue was the one that required the most time, followed closely by Death’s Kiss, which will be released early in 2014.

2) I will revise my book Death Kiss and continue submitting it and looking for its home.

Death Kiss was revised, and it was bought by Angelic Knight Press. It did find a home, and as I mentioned, it will be released soon under the revised title of “Death’s Kiss”

deathkiss final-front

3) I will participate in as many promotional and marketing events as possible (like Authorpalooza, Writing for Charity, and others) to promote my books and my availability for speaking.

I did quite well with this! I attended 10 different events, including a workshop at Whitmore Library, Writing for Charity, Davis School District Literacy Night, SCBWI’s The Inside Story, and others. I have also upgraded my website, and learned new ways to use social media to help promote my books. The results have been very positive, and as I anticipate my upcoming royalty payments, I should have a more concrete idea of how effective these efforts have been.

4) I will begin offering writing workshops 3 or 4 times a year through different sources as a means of income and to promote my books.

I didn’t quite follow through with this, though I did teach two workshops with good results. This year, though, I will follow through with the workshops, and I have recruited my talented writer friend C. Michelle Jefferies to be part of the fun! We have already laid the plans for the first workshop the first week of February.

And now it’s time to commit to the page (such as it is) my goals for the coming year. They came pretty easily this year, and I feel like I am stretching a bit and giving myself a challenge, but I don’t sense I’m setting myself up for failure. So here they are:

1. I will get an agent this year. Period.

2. I will finish at least three novels this year, including rewriting The Afterward, finishing Namesake, and a third novel (yet to be determined).

3. I will continue to look for opportunities to promote my work and to participate in at least one writing-related event each month.

4. I will attend two writing conferences or workshops to benefit my own writing.

5. I will offer four writing workshops  during the year.

That’s a lot to do in the next year, but I’m feeling confident and enthusiastic. It’s as much giving as it is taking. I’m focusing on quality and quantity. Overall, I think 2014 holds more promise than even this past year held, and that just makes me even more eager to get started!

Here’s to the coming year! My propellers are spinning and I’m ready to fly!

airplane

The Benefits (and Drawbacks) of Multiple Personalities

It’s a pretty well-known fact that writers are crazy. You have to have a certain level of mental imbalance in order to create people, bring them to life, and then tell stories about them. There are, in fact, books written on this subject (The Midnight Disease by Alice Flaherty being one of my favorites), but for my purposes, that’s not exactly what I’m talking about.

I’ve always written under my real name because, well, I just didn’t see any reason to do anything differently. Then I got talked into co-writing a very graphic crime/horror novel, and I began to worry that someone would see my name on KISS KISS BARK, then see it on BEAUTIFUL MONSTER, and mistakenly would assume they should be sold or shelved side-by side!

kisskissbarkfrontBeautifulMonster_150dpi_eBook

 

Thus, it became clear that I needed to come up with a pen name – which I did and I’ve explained before, but just in case you missed it: My niece has always called me Aunt Mimi, and I had two Aunt Mimis growing up, so the name Mimi was a natural choice. Then I just added my middle initial and my maiden name and – voila! – pen name! And I love the fact that Mimi sounds so cute and innocent, and I use it for my horror writing! I’m twisted . . . what can I say.

It was fine for a while. I had two Facebook pages set up: the original one under my real name and one under my pen name. But then I started a new job, and time constraints led me to decide to limit my social networking time. I closed down the page for Mimi and focused on my original page instead.  Interestingly, it didn’t take long for me to realize that I was spending the same amount of time on one page as I had been on two. I realized another thing: my other half wanted her own territory.

dark_half_by_anondeadpool-d67ucao

Mimi wants her time, her space, her voice. So I’ve reopened Mimi’s Facebook page, and she has her own author page there as well. Mimi has her own email account, and now she also has her own Twitter account (@MimiAWilliams). And very soon, Mimi will have her own blog and her own website! Mimi is the channel for my darker side (come on, we all have one!), and she has been getting short-changed lately. Believe it or not, this makes so many things so much easier for me! There are very few people who think that we are actually two different people, so if I have friends who cross-over between the two personas, that’s just fine. This just makes it less of a challenge for me to keep my ideas straight, and it serves as an appropriate outlet for that darker element in me who also requires attention.

So you can friend me on Facebook at Kim Williams Justesen, the author page Kim Williams-Justesen, Mimi A. Williams (or MA Williams), and her author page Mimiloveshorror. You can tweet me at @kwjwrites, or@MimiAWilliams. My web site is http://www.kwjustesen.com, and as soon as Mimi’s page and her blog are up, I’ll send out word! OH – and we are both on Goodreads under our separate names.

There are things about the writing world that truly can make me crazy, but separating my two sides and giving them each a voice is making at least part of it a little less crazy than before!

Things of a Symbolic Nature – Take 2

Symbolism is a subject that I have a lot of interest in. I like finding it when I read (which was the only thing that saved me when I read MOBY DICK), and I love using it when I write. Obviously, not every story will have a place for symbols, but I like looking for places that I can include them, even if it’s very subtle and limited.

A symbol, as described by Robert Di Yanni in Literature: Approaches to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama, is any action, object, person, or event that conveys a meaning beyond the literal interpretation or significance. An author will make a symbol known either by giving it emphasis, repeating is use in a story, by giving it detailed description, or by placing it in key moments within the story. These techniques may (though not absolutely always) indicate that the element in question is being used symbolically. Throughout literary tradition, symbolism is used to enhance and add meaning to a story; to bring the reader to a deeper understanding of the story.

Here’s an example: In Eudora Welty’s short story, A Worn Path, the main character’s name is Phoenix Jackson. The name Phoenix is a clue to the personality of the character – someone is resilient, determined, and perhaps mythical. The color black features prominently in the story as well. Phoenix is a black woman, she expresses her admiration for a large black dog that takes on the dog of white man who threatens Phoenix. And there are other examples. This story also features an assortment of birds, everything from little bobwhites to a buzzard among big dead trees which remind her of lynched men. Throughout the story, the symbolism is woven into plot, building upon critical moments, showing us more about the place and time where Phoenix lives, and giving us a greater insight into aspects of human nature.

a worn path

 

In my own work, I’ve used these techniques as well. Though it isn’t easy to spot (because I limited the use and held back) the shiny red dog collar in Kiss Kiss Bark serves as a symbol. Mattie sees the collar as everything that is wrong in her life: her unfair babysitting responsibilities; how her brother gets away with things she would never get away with; and ultimately, of her love for her brother and her acceptance of his role in her life.

kisskissbarkfront

 

In a much more obvious attempt at symbolism, The Deepest Blue  uses several symbols throughout the book. The first, most obvious symbol is the color blue. Because it represents depression, it is an appropriate color to use at key moments in the story when the main character, Michael, is feeling the loss in his life. But a blue sky can also represent hope, the lifting of a storm, or the start of a new and better day.  Another symbol I used was the storm. It builds at important moments, it rattles windows and reflects the turmoil that Michael feels, and threatens him physically as well.  The last significant symbol is water. Sometimes the water is in the form of rain, sometimes it’s the ocean, and there are other uses as well. Water is an emotional connection for Michael, reflecting his feelings, tying him to his father, and signifying the importance of place in his life.

deepestblue

 

So why incorporate symbols? Well, for one thing, I think it’s fun! It’s an aspect of writing that appeals to me at a deep level. Another reason is that I respect the readers I’m writing for. They like the challenge that symbolic meaning represents, they like a deeper story. As a reader, I like this, too.  There are wonderful stories out there that use symbolism, but that aspect isn’t one that is often given much attention.

The book I’m working on now also has symbolic elements to it, and I’m enjoying the process of giving deeper meaning to the story as I find new ways to incorporate these symbols. Of course, my greater hope is that my readers enjoy it just as much as I do.

The Truth about the Publishing World (According to Me)

Sometimes when I do school visits, I will ask kids how long they think it takes to write and publish a book. I’ve heard responses ranging from two months, to five years. The good news is, it doesn’t often take five years – but sometimes it can be that long depending on the book. Truthfully, once you’ve finished writing a book, you can expect it to take anywhere from one to three years to see it in print. There are a lot of factors that go into this timeline. For example, the book has to be accepted by a publisher, and that can take a very long time. The shortest time in my personal experience is three months, the longest is three years.

calendar

This timing also includes the publisher’s calendar. Again, the shortest time from acceptance to release in my personal experience was six months; the longest has been two years. There are other variables, too, such as what the market is doing, what type of publisher you are using, or whether or not you are using an agent. All of these things will make a difference.

One of the most important skills to develop if you want to be a writer is patience.

patience

This is one of the most first lessons that I teach in any of my workshops. Not only does the publishing world take time, but you can’t control almost all of the factors involved in that timeline. The only thing you can control is what you submit and to whom you submit it. One of my novels was submitted, and after collecting about 30 rejections (probably more, I tend to block those things out), I decided to work on revisions. About a year after I submitted it for the first round, I was contacted by a publisher who wanted to buy the work. The editor hadn’t even seen the revisions – the publisher had been holding the original manuscript for over about a year and had just gotten to reading it.

 

 

 

 

 

Another lesson is to keep writing. Most of the writers I know are working on two or three manuscripts at a time. It isn’t because we have ADHD – in fact, that would make it quite hard to focus on writing at all. It’s because the first book you write may not be the first book you sell. The first book(s) I sold were my nonfiction series HEY, RANGER. But I had written at least four other complete manuscripts (and untold numbers of incomplete ones) prior to getting that contract.

heyrangeryellowstone

Even the first novel I sold was not the first novel I had written. The danger here is that, if you launch into another project, it often becomes an excuse for not finishing one you are struggling with (see my previously mentioned untold numbers comment). Traditional publishers will ask for anything between one month to six months once they’ve received your manuscript to give them time to sort through the hundreds or thousands of others that came in before yours. Even with the new e-publishers, it can take 30 to 60 days before you receive a response (and I recently read the submission guidelines of an e-publisher who said to allow eight to twelve weeks). If all you do is sit around waiting, checking your inbox, and fretting over responses you haven’t received, you will go nuts in a very short time.

crazy

Another part of the publishing world is editing. No matter how perfect you think your story is, your editor is going to find things that you didn’t see, and will recommend changes.

redpen

Right here is where many writers choose to part company with traditional publishing and opt for self-publishing. Some – though clearly NOT all – of these writers believe that an editor will just try to rewrite their story for his or her own purposes. These writers are so in love with their own words that they can’t bear the thought of anyone making even the slightest change. The truth is that editors just want to help you tighten your story, make it more compelling and interesting to readers, and therefore, make it a better selling book. An editor’s primary focus is making sure that the product that publisher puts out is as finely crafted as a diamond ring from Tiffany’s. Some writers choose self-publishing for other reasons, but that’s a topic for another blog.

s73293b.tif

The last thing about the publishing world is that they operate on budgets. When it’s time for your book to be released, your publisher will do what it can to promote your work. They have a vested interest in seeing your book do well. But unless your name is Stephen King or James Patterson or Janet Evanovich, the likelihood of your book getting a million dollar ad campaign is pretty slim. Every publisher is a little different in what they are willing to do, so you should be willing to ask about this in advance of your book being published. Anything they are willing to do (such as bookmarks, posters, postcards, etc.) will need to be scheduled early on. If you wait until the book is about to be released, it will be too late. You will also need to be willing to do some work yourself. Social networking, emails, postcard mailings, contacting local bookstores, and other activities are something you can do at a minimal cost. I sign up for book fairs at schools, offer to speak to writing groups, and take just about any opportunity to get my name and the name of my books out to the public. For several years I even judged a high school poetry slam!

???????????????????????????????

These are just some fundamentals, and again, they are based on my personal experience. I have worked with seven different publishers throughout my writing career, but I don’t claim to know every detail about every publisher. This industry changes constantly (when I started, snail mail was the only way to submit and now the majority of publishers prefer email), and anyone who wants to be successful in this weird and wonderful business needs to learn what he or she can about targeting publishers, crafting and fine-tuning a manuscript, and surviving the wait until the next sale.

Research, Reviews, Revisions – Oh My!

revision

I’ll start with revisions. For one book, they’re done, for another, they’re just beginning. Two weeks ago I received the Advanced Unedited copies of my contemporary young adult novel THE DEEPEST BLUE from my publisher.

deepestblue

This was the last possible chance to make any kind of changes to the book before publication. Nothing major – like I couldn’t change the ending, make big alterations to scenes, or anything of that nature. A few extra spaces were found, and a line that should have been deleted was probably the biggest glitch. The thing is, it was just an amazing thing to read the story all the way through for the first time since all the major revisions were done. It was frightening, but it was also exhilarating. I can tell you that at the end of it, I’m pleased – very pleased. I’m very critical of my work, and typically I’m harder on myself than anyone else ever would be, so the fact that I read through the entire book and didn’t hate it says something.

Now I’m gearing up for the revision process for my young adult paranormal novel called DEATH’S KISS. My publisher told me to expect the work to begin in earnest at the beginning of August. I actually like revisions because it’s a second chance (or third, or fourth, or whatever) to fine tune the story. It’s like working on a painting only now I get to go in with a tiny brush and add the details that bring the picture to life. And believe me, the excitement of having two books coming out within a month of each other is only getting bigger with each passing day!

review

This brings me to reviews. The verbal feedback I’ve received from those who have read the two stories has, thus far,  been incredibly positive. I’m grateful for the comments of my beta readers and my editors. Their input has guided both stories and helped to make them stronger. But last week I got word that Kirkus Reviews was planning to publish a review of THE DEEPEST BLUE in their August 1st edition.

kirkus

I got a copy of the review, and while it is very positive, it is fairly critical of one aspect of the book, and that stung a bit. Well, no, it stung a lot. I’d be lying to say that my feelings weren’t just a bit hurt. The only remedy is to remind myself of the same words I’ve given to other writer friends in the same situation: reviews are really only one person’s opinion. If readers respond, that’s all that matters. Soon enough, I’ll have the answer.

So research – I’m working on a new young adult novel, a murder mystery. When I worked with my writing partner on BEAUTIFUL MONSTER, we interviewed a friend of mine who is a mortician to be sure that we got certain icky details correct.

Beautiful Monster Blue.2

Now, I’ve started interviewing a good friend who is an attorney, and a friend of my parents’ who is a retired city detective. They are helping me to verify the details of  a cold case murder. I’m learning all sorts of legal and forensic information that will help me tell a better story. The cycle has started over, and I’m excited to be launching into a new adventure.  Of course, with three books in the works, I’m at three different stages in the writing process, so to say I’m starting over is only partially true.

This time in my writing life is busy, rewarding, and always interesting! I’ve worked hard for this, and I am thoroughly enjoying it. I have spent 15 years of my life (minus a few I took off when I didn’t think I could write) working toward the experience I am having right now. When I hear other writers whine that they haven’t achieved some level of literary greatness after three or four years, I just have to laugh. I’m happy. I’ve worked hard for this happiness. I will enjoy it to the fullest, and I will continue working to maintain it. Research will not slow me, revisions will not dissuade me, and reviews will not take it away. I’m having a blast!