Okay, maybe you aren’t all that confused about Alpha and Beta Readers. Maybe you’ve got an awesome team behind you. Great! But a quick internet survey clearly indicates there is confusion abundant for new and veteran authors and those readers who might be interested in such a role.
What is an Alpha or a Beta Reader?
Well, the short of it is:
Alpha Readers assist writers by offering a reader’s perspective for a manuscript after an initial draft. The manuscript often has not been edited. It’s not uncommon for an Alpha to read before the author edits the first draft.
Beta Readers assist writers by offering a reader’s perspective for a manuscript which has been edited and is shortly due for publication.
What do they do?
They read. The main goal is to provide feedback to the author to help them gauge audience reception, improve and catch last-minute plot/story holes, and catch embarrassing errors that can easily occur after review after review and hour after hour an author and their professional editor put into a work.
How are they different?
Alphas look at a book for general issues in the story, they don’t concentrate on grammar or punctuation or syntax. They do focus on abhorrent characterization, missing dialogue, missing description and general appeal of the work.
Betas look at a book for appeal to an audience, they catch plot holes, grammar, punctuation, spelling issues, characterization issues, and focus on reader experience including why they loved sections or were thrown out of the book by something.
What’s so great about them?
For the Readers
Alpha/Beta Reading offers the reader sneak peaks into upcoming books, or gives them an opportunity to get goodies from the writers they love before anyone else does (alphas usually get the work even before the editor). It’s a pretty awesome gig for the bibliophile.
For the Authors
Alpha and Beta Readers offer invaluable perspectives from different walks of life. Some authors seek out Alpha and Beta Readers for their experience, cultural awareness, profession, and genre likes to ensure their work is on the mark with facts, industry, and reader perspectives. They’re a first or last line of defense against the never-ending edit stream, helping to stop major problems and minor annoyances.
What isn’t so great about them?
For the Readers
Good Alpha and Beta Readers can also end up spending time on a manuscript they despise or by an author who is ‘precious’ about their work – as my communications consultant has described. Authors who are precious about their work, who struggle with criticism can be a big turn-off for great readers. As with all art, which is a very personal creative endeavor, it makes sense for authors to hold their works close to their hearts. As a professional artist who seeks to make a living off of their talent, it doesn’t make sense to let that care and investment create a barrier to growth and connection with fans. The impact on reputation is strong. Adam Dreece offers a great example for how to handle criticism point blank from a fan (and Alpha and Beta Readers are fans).
For the Authors
Good Alpha and Beta Readers are hard to find. Authors need constructive criticism, keen eyes, and willing hearts. The reader who just reads works to offer an ‘it’s good’ or ‘it was okay’ is a hindrance on a team of professionals. This is why I advocate that Alpha and Beta Readers be compensated for their time. Good ones are working for the author. They deserve to be paid or somehow appreciated for the time and energy they’re going to put into a work.
There is a great deal of contention in the community about this. Some readers and authors believe whole-heartedly they should not charge or pay for these services. Others won’t waste the time on readers who aren’t professionals. Why? Professional Beta Readers tend to offer higher quality works, are often other authors and editors and reviewers with industry experience, and can deliver constructive criticism. But not always. There can be a great number of fee charging individuals who also just don’t cut it.
How Do I Become an Alpha or Beta Reader?
It’s all about networking, and how you present yourself. But first, you have to decide if you’re going to do it for free, or professionally. If professionally, you may have to set up an actual business. Check with your local municipal, provincial/state, and federal offices regarding a home-based business.
You’ll need to decide if you’re Alpha or Beta Reading or both.
Next, decide how much time you’re willing to dedicate. Make sure you’re willing to offer constructive feedback by deadlines. A little research can go a long way – find question sheets or checklists online to help identify key issues to look for.
Know any authors? Ask them if they need one.
Another great resource is Goodreads.com. There are many groups set up just for readers and authors to connect. Find an author’s post seeking a reader, or put a post in the right group/topic indicating your favorite genres, themes, topics and authors and that you’re available to Alpha or Beta Read.
There are some online groups and community groups set up as well. Check your local library, writing association and guilds to see if they have any connections you can tap into.
Not a professional? Don’t worry. Audience readers who enjoy the genres they read in still have a lot to offer. If there are sections you hate or love, the authors need to know that.
How Do I Get an Alpha or Beta Reader on My Team?
Ask supportive friends and family who can offer truthful, constructive feedback. Or check out Goodreads.com (which you should be on already if you’re a published author). There are many groups set up just for readers and authors to connect.
A google search or inquiry to your author community might yield professional reader groups or editors willing to Alpha or Beta read for a nominal fee. An editor Alpha/Beta reader is good, they’ll catch a lot of things audience readers won’t. Have both on your team, audience and professionals, but make sure you offer compensation to both. You’ll create a team of loyal supporters who can help bring magic to your manuscripts for years to come. Not to mention, you have a small group to tap into for reviews. I recommend you have no less than 5 and no more than 15 for a manuscript. Integrating comments can be a real challenge from more than 15. If you have more than 15, split the group. Have two phases of read through with two different Alpha/Beta teams. Alternatively, ask some to offer reviews online shortly after/before the book is published and some to Alpha or Beta Read. While reading the reviews, you should take notes on areas for improvement and success.
Want to know more or want Catherine on your team (she’s an editor/Alpha/Beta Reader too!)? Contact her.
Nine ways to conquer your writing stress from thesis to novel to essay and everything in between. Come to think of it, these nine things apply to just about all types of stress…
1. Retrain Your Brain
You obsess about not writing and are riddled with guilt because you should be writing.
Stop it. Silence those unhealthy, intrusive thoughts. If you are obsessing about ‘shoulds,’ you won’t be able to write when you actually sit down to do it. You burn out your brain and body by expending energy worrying instead of actually writing. Focus on Whatever You are Doing Right Now. Breathe. Count to Three. Focus on what you are doing right now. Are you sitting still? What is around you? Walking? What do you hear? Staring at a computer screen? What do the keyboard and mouse feel like beneath your hands? When you are done, do the same for whatever comes next. Stop wasting time on ‘shoulds’. Live in right now. You will write. You will finish the project. It’s more important that you be mindful. If you are having trouble breaking the obsession cycle, reach out to a professional therapist or doctor in your community. Workplaces, universities and schools, health programs and clinics often have free or low-cost resources.
2. Create a Schedule and Stick to It
Writing is a project: Conception – Composition – Completion. You have deadlines. Set milestones and reachable goals. One day you may dedicate six hours to researching and the next two hours to outlining. You may do a lot of prep work. You might not actually write anything for a while, but it’s still writing work. Don’t know where to start? Try AuthorMedia.com. Make your schedule achievable. We all want to finish and move on to what is next. It’s human nature. It’s natural. Don’t fight it, it’s part of the driving force behind your creativity and creation, but DO set it aside.
DON’T allot 10-16 hours to work. You will turn into an exhausted, angry, caffeine fueled ball of chaos with anxiety so tangible you will pixelate before your friends’ very eyes. A human mind can only focus for so long (anywhere from 8 seconds to 20 minutes according to various sources). The body can only be in one position for so long. You will do your best work in shorter, focused bursts when you are rested and healthy.
3. Take Breaks
You know the negative effects of sitting too long. You start to shift after 20 minutes. You perch on the edge of your chair, unaware of or ignoring your need to get up. Move.
You are torturing your body. You are working against yourself. Move. Not only will your body thank you, your mind will to. And, your project will get done faster. Author James Patterson takes breaks during his writing routine. Put these in your schedule and stick to them. Take them when you need, but remember, this is work. Keep your breaks under control. They are not an excuse to procrastinate.
4. This is Work
Treat writing like work. A thesis, a novel, a short story, a poem, a blog, they are all work. They require research, time, and effort. Make and keep a schedule, set goals within reasonable time frames, and reward your successes. Stop making excuses, stop torturing yourself. Stop avoiding and stop overworking. Be present and be focused. Act like this is a professional task. Get the resources and materials you need. Consult experts. Operate with professionalism. Do your job.
5. Have a Sacred Space
“A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.”
― Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own
Dedicate a box, a table space, a library or café, or an office to your writing. You don’t have to have an entire room, but a room or space designated solely for writing will make you more productive and help your focus. Appreciate the space you choose, settle in, and blaze ahead. Lock the door to your mind and ignore distractions. Find inspiration from Writing Spaces: Where 9 Famous Creatives Do Their Best Work. The work you are doing is important. Treat it so.
Creativity and focus are yours when you are healthy. Exercise is a need. Stop avoiding it. You want to do it. Your body sends signals of stress through muscle tension, stiffness, feeling cold, nausea, headaches, blurred vision and itchy eyes. Fidgeting? When was the last time you went for a walk, to the gym, or ran through yoga or martial art poses? An exercised body is an exercised mind. Sitting for extended period of time can restrict circulation, causing lapses in memory and cognition. Get up and go.
7. Eat Properly
You want that comfort food. You need that comfort food. You crave it. You might even rage until you get it. Having a complete meal feeds your brain and body – your most important writing tools. Skipping meals or grabbing quick fixes increases your costs and adds empty calories, which drives you to eat more. They also deprive you of the nutrients you need to keep your work flowing. Invest in yourself. You are the only way this project of yours is getting done. That novel won’t write itself. That brain and body won’t write without food.
8. Get a Life
Take care of all of your needs. Your brain is built to do more than one thing. So is your body. Dedicate your time and energy to other areas of your life and watch your creativity spark and stamina grow. Walk away from that computer and socialize. Take a shower or a bubble bath. Take care of those other to-dos. Go on a mini-vacation, or even a real vacation. Get enough sleep. Most importantly, have fun. And lots of it. It can help inform your writing. It’s the best way to overcome that writer’s block. There are a number of models in psychology regarding the dimensions of wellness/well-being. Check out eight of them here: http://campusrec.eku.edu/eight-dimensions-wellness
9. Reward Yourself
You are working hard. Compensate yourself for it. Spend time in your favorite place, go out to your favorite restaurant with friends. Go on a date (with yourself, significant other, a friend). Read a book for pleasure. Do nothing for a bit. Reward that hard work and dedication. You deserve it.
Catherine: In October, I read Hear the Crickets by BJ Sheldon. I won this book as part of a giveaway through Goodreads’ Book Nerd Paradise Author Interview. This book knocked my socks off as a pinnacle of YA fantasy and the Angel/Paranormal niche. Author BJ Sheldon has graciously offered to lend her time to an interview for the Author Spotlight blog here on Catherinemilos.com.
BJ, thank you for the opportunity to interview you.
Tell us a little bit about Hear the Crickets.
BJ Sheldon: Hear the Crickets is a story about an impossible girl named Skyy with an impossible life. She’s a suicidal immortal with wings, and from there it gets even more complicated. When a pair of siblings arrive on her doorstep with a story about her past, she is forced into facing her future which includes the Fallen Watchers from the Book of Enoch. Her best friend is a mortal named Sean, a man after my own heart. He’s a comic book store owner, nerd, and is full of secrets of his own. Life gets interesting when she’s forced to accept her fate and travels to the Badlands of South Dakota to enter into a war that’s been brewing for thousands of years.
You broach the topic of suicide in your book. Was it difficult to write about?
It was a bit difficult to write about. Both my husband and I have had to deal with the deaths of close friends by their own hand, and it certainly affected us both far more than we ever realized it would. But for the sake of digging deep into Skyy’s psyche, I thought it was important to delve into what makes people want to end their lives – to understand it’s just more than giving up or feeling depressed. I can tell you from experience that it can be a lack of self-esteem or simply living a life without purpose. There is no one exact reason that can push someone to the edge, and for the sake of being true to the character, I felt it was important to investigate that part of her.
How did you come up with the title?
Titles are always hard if you don’t have one selected from the get go. And while I could have gone with something that came right out and said something about Watchers, Angels, or wings, I waited for the story to tell me what the title should be, instead. The moment I wrote the first scene that involved hearing the crickets in the distance and how it made Skyy feel connected to the earth, I knew that I had my title.
Did you have to do a lot of research for the book?
In one word – absolutely. The story initially came to me one day while watching a show on the History Channel about the Book of Enoch. The seeds were planted, so I began to research everything I could about the Fallen Angels that God sent to be buried in a desert deep within the earth. It was a punishment for showing humanity the secrets of Heaven and for mating with mortal women, creating the giants called Nephillim. I searched in books and on the Internet and even talked to a professor of archeology at a local college to ensure I got that particular piece correct, as well. Sometimes I think I enjoy the research aspect of writing a book just as much as actually writing the book. Either way, it’s still one hundred times better than editing.
Who is your least favorite character in the book?
My least favorite? Raja, without a doubt. A Watcher with wings of fire, given to him as a punishment for following the Fallen Watchers and their leader. He’s despicable and dangerous in the aspect that he truly believes that what he’s doing is right. In the real world, it isn’t the people who know without a doubt that what they’re doing is evil or wrong that are the most dangerous to society. I believe it’s those people who truly and wholly believe they’re right in their convictions. Raja is one of those beings. He feels that humanity must be wiped out and will do anything to see it come to fruition.
What is their weapon of choice?
I don’t make mention of a specific weapon during his battle scenes, but I always envisioned Raja using a longsword like many of the other Watchers. Broadswords, a sabre, and even a Chakram make an appearance during the various battles that take place. But what Raja wants most is the Spear of Azazel, and is willing to do anything to get it.
Are there any books you have read that have changed you as a person or as a writer?
There are 2 separate books that affected me for 2 very different reasons. One is “To Kill a Mockingbird”. It is my favorite book of all time. It was honest, compelling, and the characters were believable. The moral of the story, especially for the day in which it was written, stayed with me for years, and it was the book that gave me my love for reading. The other book is “You Are a Badass” by Jen Sincero. For the most part, it has a lot of the same “self-help” material as every other self-help book out there. But Jen’s book is different in that her personal experiences and her take on what holds us back is fairly unique. It made me realize that my dreams and goals weren’t silly and that I needed to let go of other people’s preconceived notion of whom I should be and just…be.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
When I wrote my first actual novel back in 2009. It was called “Saga of the Sages”, and to be perfectly honest…it was horrible (and will never be published). I look back at it now, and while the story itself had potential, I tried to put too much into it and it became an amalgamation of bits of pieces of a story all thrown together. But in the end, that awful, horrible book lit a fire within me, and I fought to improve my writing and technique. I worked hard to develop characters more, build a believable world, and improve my basic writing skills. I spent every spare minute of every day writing, rewriting, and editing until I eventually ended up with my first published book, “Haunting”.
I looked at a lot of different options when first starting out as a writer. I think like most starry-eyed beginners, I had my eye on the big prize. A huge, 6-figure deal with a New York City publishing house was what I thought I needed to achieve to be successful. But over time, I realized that there were other options available to me. I thought about self-publishing, but my understanding of technology is rather poor and I was worried that I’d screw something up while trying to get it up on Amazon or other platforms. I also didn’t know anything about professional editing or cover design, so when I was offered a 3-book deal with a small indie press, it made sense to go that route for my first series. Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about the indie world and have grown as a writer. As an indie, I believe I’ve learned a lot about the actual publishing side of things and what goes into each book before it’s published. It’s given me a greater appreciation for the entire process.
Any advice for other indie authors?
Network, network, network. Anything I’ve ever achieved in my indie career has come from those meaningful relationships that I’ve made over the years. Before delving into the industry, I was very much the quintessential introvert. It took a herculean effort to step outside of my comfort zone and talk to other authors either on social media or in person. But once I developed friendships, I was able to ask questions and ask for advice. As time passed, the more people I met (in person and online), the more people began to know who I was. Through those relationships, I landed 2 separate publishing deals and my future literary agent. But do not network just out of selfish gain. Go into those relationships for the right reasons: to support one another, learn from each other, and make real friendships. Ask the right questions, and when the time comes, do the same for someone else. The rest will fall into place over time.
What inspires you?
My husband and daughters. They inspire me every day to keep reaching for my goals and chasing down my dreams. If it wasn’t for them, I might have given up years ago. But because of their belief in me, I kept going. And now, things seem to be heading in a positive direction. There’s nothing more I want to do than show my daughters that they can accomplish anything they set their minds to with enough hard work and persistence.
What do you love most about writing?
I love everything about the paranormal and the supernatural. So, my favorite thing about writing is taking those things and creating something new and unique that people haven’t read before – taking something like ghosts and putting a new twist on why they exist, spinning the story of the Book of Enoch into something modern, or even a new take on parallel worlds. For me, I enjoy creating fantasy stories with characters they’ve never seen before with a storyline that a reader can get lost in. The creativity part of writing is what drives me, and in turn I hope it keeps my readers glued to the page all the way to the end.
What is the most challenging part of the process of writing or publishing?
Marketing. No matter what publisher you have, you are still expected to self-promote yourself and your books, and it isn’t always easy to locate your potential readers or fan base. There’s no magic formula for marketing a book. What works one week is passé the next, so it’s always a struggle to find that one thing that will get your books into the right readers’ hands.
Is there anything you want readers to know?
I now have a literary agent who not only specializes in getting books traditionally published but also has her hands in TV and movie rights which is something I’ve dreamed of for years. So, you never know…maybe one day you’ll see something I’ve written on a screen near you. I also hope to begin writing a few standalones after The Gibborim Series has been completed with the hopes of one day seeing one of them (or all) in a brick and mortar store.
What is on the horizon for The Gibborim Series?
The first draft of book 2 should be completed in the next few weeks and should hopefully be out around March 2017. Once I submit it to my publisher to begin edits, I will begin work on the final book in the series. Book 2 will grow a bit darker as Skyy discovers there’s more to her mysterious past than she realized. Watchers, demons, and mysterious strangers will all play a part in keeping humanity safe one more time.
Where can folks get the book Hear the Crickets: The Gibborim Series Book One?
You can get my book through any online platform where ebooks are available: Amazon, B&N, Google, Kobo, and iTunes. You can also purchase a paperback from Amazon. And if you love audio books, you can also find the audio version on the Audible app.
Where can folks connect with you?
1 Zombies, Alchemy, Mausoleums, and… Amnesia?
After an explosion, Addie faces amnesia. On her journey to regain her memories, Addie must face the mysterious embodiment of fire. Is he responsible for the explosion that robbed her of her memories and destroyed the school of alchemy? Author Becca Andre’s urban fantasy novel The Final Formula is the start of an addictive series that will haunt you. Check out Becca’s Author Spotlight!
Ireland, Sorcery, Spirits, and Romance 2
The infamous Nora Roberts. The Dark Witch is a dark and beautiful tale with wickedly awesome magic. Iona moves from America, called by a magical family legacy to County Mayo, Ireland. An ancient evil that cursed her family threatens to take away everything. As she learns how to control her newly acquired power, her charmed cousins explore an old legend that might help them defeat their family curse. The one will tug at the heart-strings and feed that Halloween hunger.
3 Cat-Wizards, Kittens, Alternate Dimensions, Underground
Set in New York, author Diane Duane’s The Book of Night with Moon is an adult novel set in the YA Young Wizard’s series world. Wizard-cats charged with protecting the network of magical world-gates have a new initiate. Feline Rhiow has to mentor a wild kitten with magical powers while her partners and her try to stop the Lone Power. Duane will make you laugh -and cry- in this magical tale.
Time-travel, Vampires, Witches, and Academics 4
A Discovery of Witches by Debra Harkness has a legacy among readers. Diana Bishop, historian, can’t escape her paranormal heritage when she discovers a magical manuscript. Awakened power draws magical creatures into Diana’s life, including vampire geneticist, Matthew Clairmont. This work has dark corners and deep intellect. You’ll enjoy staying up until witching-hour with this book.
5 Circus Magic, Curses, Color and Mystery
Nocturnal Le Cirque des Rêves vanishes as quickly as it appears. Two illusionists are caught in a magical war decided for them. This picturesque tale The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern will seduce you with dinner parties and fantastically painted scenes. This is one grand, but doomed, circus act.
Zombie Apocalypse, Terror, and Secret Ops. 6
Voted #1 Zombie Novel of the Decade by the Barns and Noble’s blog, Rhiannon Frater’s The Last Bastion of the Living will keep you entrenched in science-fiction paranormal action. With humanity running out of food, Vanguard Maria Martinez is selected by the Science Warfare Division to defend the human race in a secret operation. The catch, she’s infected with the scourge. This terror filled read will appeal to all your senses this Halloween.
7 Royalty, Mystery, A Psychic, and the Blood of Innocents
Mina Hepsen’s Under the Blood Red Moon is moody, sensual, and bursting at the seems with vampires. Telepathic Princess Angelica has a knack for getting into trouble. This time, she tumbles into a murderous plot. To escape the noise of all the thoughts of a ball’s attendees, Angelica finds refuge in conversation with Alexander. The Prince of the vampires, the telepathic princess realizes Alexander is in danger and works to unravel the mystery, putting her own life at risk.
A Mythical City, the Dead, and the Supernatural 8
The Book of the Dead (Secret Books of Paradys) by the recently deceased (2015) Tanith Lee is a compilation of short gothic stories of those who were buried in the lost city of Paradys. This is one of those books you’ll get nostalgic over: a scary-stories-around-the-fire-type of book. So grab this one and curl up by the flames with your favorite Halloween potion. It’s sure to raise spirits.
9 Werewolves, World War II, Spies, and Mythos
Written by Robert McCammon, The Wolf’s Hour is set in WWII. Russian spy Michael Gallatin is chosen to infiltrate the rising Nazi threat in France. He’s perfect for the job not only because of his talent as an operative, but also because he is uniquely qualified to hunt down the enemy. This distinctive take on werewolves will leave you howling for more.
Voodoo, Crime, Death, and a Detective 10
Detective Max Mingus has enough problems, but the disappearance of a billionaire’s son is the last case he wants to take on. Chasing the legend of voodoo spirit, Mr.Clarinet, Max finds himself struggling to keep himself alive in this Haiti set mystery thriller with pied piper overtones. Award-winning author Nick Stone’s Haitian heritage may have helped this novel win the numerous awards it received.
11 The Afterlife, Drunk Angels, A Pirate Ship, and Reapers
Really anything by Angela Roquet will fit on this list. Internationally acclaimed author wrote a comical, delicious tale about the afterlife through a reaper’s point of view. Graveyard Shift is the first novel in the Lana Harvey, Reapers Inc. series. The characterization of the Archangel Gabriel is hilariously wonderful. The narrative voice is smart and compellingly comical. Did I mention that is just in the first 10 pages? Author Spotlight!
Haunted Houses, Family, Secrets, and Silence 12
Told from aspiring author Trevor Riddell’s 14 year old point of view, this book sends shivers down the spine in the best way. As he explores Riddell House, secrets of his family’s past come to light in an era-bending, gripping story. A Sudden Light by Garth Stein has a separate website all to itself with extras like themes, characters, and artistic renderings of the Riddell House itself.
13 Psychic Detective, Steampunk, Mystery, and Tea
It may be set during Christmas, but the steampunk psychic detective novel will be sure the revive your ‘bump-in-the-night’ fears. As the bodies pile up, god-daughter to the Queen and forensic psychic reader Alexandrina Victoria Pendlebury gets more mystery and malevolence than she counted on. A Sherlockian, dark fantasy, steampunk thriller The Hanged Man (Her Majesty’s Psychic Service #1) by P.N. Elrod is a solid, festive choice.
Angela Roquet is an international bestselling author. Some of the books to her name include the Lana Harvey, Reapers Inc. Series, Crazy Ex-Ghoulfriend, Blood Moon and more. She is also a member/founder of the Four Horsemen of the Bookocalypse book critique group. What an honor to have such a prestigious writer! Welcome and thank you for joining us.
Thanks for inviting me! : )
GRAVEYARD SHIFT is the first novel in the Lana Harvey, Reapers Inc. series. It is FREE on Kindle, Nook, iBooks, Kobo, & more. I recently reviewed GRAVEYAR SHIFT on Goodreads. It is a comical and delicious take on Reapers and the afterlife.
- Tell us a bit about Graveyard Shift and the Lana Harvey, Reapers Inc. Series.
Graveyard Shift marks the beginning of Lana’s adventures in Limbo City, the capital of my fictional version of the afterlife, where deities of all faiths are forced to co-exist, much like we try to do here in the real world. We meet Lana at the end of a long stretch of peace, when a disgruntled deity begins to stir up a war. Lana’s just a low-risk soul harvester at Reapers Inc., and she doesn’t quite see her place in the grand scheme of things yet, but she’s getting there.
- Who is your favorite character from the first book?
I have a soft spot for the archangel Gabriel. He’s the best friend who just wants to have a good time. He doesn’t really have many expectations of Lana, so she can relax around him. He’s always up for a John Wayne marathon or a beer at Purgatory Lounge. Everyone needs a friend like that.
- What can’t that character live without?
His comfy, tattered drawstring pants, a case of Ambrosia Ale, and a bag of Cheetos.
- Tell us a little bit about your journey as an author.
As a young teen, I aspired to write for Disney or Cartoon Network, and I had notebooks full of scripts for shows I wanted to create. An English teacher my junior year of high school read one of those scripts and suggested I turn it into a novel. So from 17 to 21 I wrote my first novel. It was a fair deal harder than writing a script, but it was also more fun—even though that book was pretty terrible. It was also waaay too long, I found out after shopping it around to a few agents. At that point, I knew it was time to research the industry, and a few false starts later, I began writing Graveyard Shift.
- What do you love most about being an author?
Working from home in my PJs. Pretty sure my patronus is a hermit. It’s not that I don’t like people—I love social media, and I enjoy signings and conventions from time to time—I just really enjoy my solitude too. Also, no makeup, no bra, and I can listen to whatever weird music or background noise I want to. (Right now I’m loving this YouTube track that sounds like a creaky old pirate ship: https://youtu.be/3RTjHwJXxkA )
- What do you dislike most about being an author?
Deadlines. Does anyone like those? As an indie author, I set them for myself, but they still suck. Big time.
- Do you ever have moments of self-doubt or novel-doubt?
I’m pretty confident in my abilities as a writer—though I have to thank my lovely readers for that. The online reviews and emails I receive go a really long way in the confidence department. There’s always room to grow and something new to learn, but I don’t find that cause for self-doubt. That’s just part of life. The most exciting part, I think.
- Are there any unpublished manuscripts you have created? Will you ever publish them?
I think most writers have a well of lost plots they’d rather not revisit, and I’m no exception. lol. But there are a couple stories I’ve considered going back and revising. In fact, that very first, very terrible novel I wrote has found its way into my 5-year plan. I think I’m going to restructure it and break it up into a trilogy.
- Is there any piece of advice you would offer to other authors?
It’s the same thing almost every author says, but for good reason: READ. Read everything. Read books on writing, books in your genre, books in genres outside your comfort zone, nonfiction books, articles and blogs about books and about writing and about publishing… There is nothing that will help you more as an author than becoming a well-rounded reader.
- What would you like to tell or ask of your readers?
I’m pretty happy with my readers. I really can’t ask more of them. They leave online reviews, they email the kindest messages, and they tell their friends about my books. So I guess the only thing to tell them, which I do as often as possible, is thank you, from the bottom of my heart. ♥
- What couldn’t you live without?
My family. First and foremost. My husband and son are my favorite people in the world, and I love spending time with them. If this is more of a “What would you take with you on a deserted island?” sort of questions, then I’d say a LifeStraw. But if there’s a fully stocked cabana nearby, then I’ll go with my Kindle. I really love having millions of books at my fingertips and still being able to travel light. It makes me feel like Merlin in the Sword in the Stone, with his magic suitcase.
- What is your favorite food?
Sushi with heaps of pickled ginger.
- If you could go back in time and meet anyone, who would it be?
Hmmm. I think the Byzantine Empress Theodora. I’ve always seen her as the original Cinderella, a true rags to riches story, but so much more than that. It would be interesting to see which version of her presented by historians was most accurate.
- Where can people find your books?
On Kindle, Nook, Kobo, iBooks, Smashwords—and a few other digital retailers. If you prefer physical books, they can be ordered through most bookstores, though I also sell autographed copies online here: https://squareup.com/store/limbocitygiftshop
- How can people contact and learn more about you?
I’m pretty active on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/adroquet but I also reply to readers via email too firstname.lastname@example.org and if you’d like to know more about me and my books, you can find all of that on my website http://www.angelaroquet.com
- Is there anything you would like to add?
Thanks again for having me on your blog, and happy reading to everyone checking out Graveyard Shift for free. Hope you enjoy Lana’s adventures! 🙂
Juggling multiple jobs, family life, and additional responsibilities (school, charity, elder-care, etc) on top of being self-employed as an author, editor, and consultant means a regular balancing act. I am no expert, but I have achieved a working peace with the Work-Life balance I have in my life now. The thing is, it keeps changing on me.
Many of us have long days that end in being overwhelmed. A typical day in the life of the average indie author may include: kids (sleep schedules, extracurricular activities, daycare, homework, health care, education, recreation, feeding, clothing, cleaning), parents and extended family (care for the elderly, errands, family get-togethers), ourselves (exercise, eating, sleep schedules, recreation), our partners (coordinating schedules, building relationships, quality time, emotional and psychological support), piled on to that are education, friends, errands, volunteering, repairing and maintaining dwellings, finances, pets, commuting, vehicle maintenance, work (deadlines, changes, restrictions, conflict, networking), self-publishing, writing, editing, working as our own publicist and accountant and not to mention the hundreds of passwords, pins, names, faces, emails, tasks, dates, events we need to remember. We feel at a loss as time passes us by.
Declutter. Our lives are filled with clutter that throw off our author work-life balance: thoughts, noise, stuff, schedules as full as possible in fear of missing out on something. Declutter your work space, declutter your home, your mind, heart and spirit. Let go of anything that is not serving you, anything that collects dust in the corners, that creates unnecessary work or that you are not willing to dedicate your time to. Check out Becoming Minimalist’s Blog for 10 Creative Ways to Declutter.
Set reasonable boundaries for your time. In the words of a wise comedian Bob Newhart, STOP it! Take a deep breath, exhale. Focus on what you are doing right now. Stop worrying about what is to come. Be aware of what you are looking at, doing, and saying fully, mindfully. In a world of multitasking mayhem, the art of focusing and finishing one thing at a time has been lost. Stop working through breaks and lunches, or skipping meals. If you are on a phone call, focus completely on that phone call. Slow down and become immersed in what you are experiencing right now. Set clear boundaries and don’t compromise yourself or your time for anything that isn’t a priority. Oprah offers great guidance about beginning to set personal boundaries. A lack of reasonable boundaries around your time is a sure-fire way to undermine work-life balance and increase your stress. It can be especially difficult for self-published authors who wear a dozen or more hats to get the job done, but trust me when I say your creativity and writing will thank you.
Plan and Prioritize. Take your days one at a time, but plan ahead. This may sound contradictory, and it is in a way. It’s a difficult practice. Plan and prioritize a strict sleep schedule, more time in the morning or evening for yourself, and quality time for your family and you. Plan meals in advance, this also helps save money and time on groceries. Plan and prioritize going outdoors and exercise. Prioritize and plan fun. But be open and flexible to changes. Stick to what is important and necessary at work, and at home. Mike Robbins offers 3 Ways to Re-Prioritize Your Life. Stuck on prioritizing at work when everything seems to be important? LiquidPlanner has a solution for you.
Learn to say NO without feeling guilty. To truly declutter our lives, we must learn to say no gently, but firmly. We can only handle so much in life. Is it healthy? Is the stress it brings manageable? Is it enjoyable? If it isn’t absolutely and truly necessary or important just say no. Don’t know how? Start with 11 steps from Wiki-How. Saying yes to too many things both at work and home is one of the biggest reasons people become off-balance.
Acceptance. Accept and respect that you have limits. Accept that there are things that you cannot change, that you cannot control (especially other people). Balance is a practice whether you are at work or home, accept that you will never achieve perfect balance. Adjust your focus, effort, and time that as your boundaries and priorities change and don’t feel guilt over it. Working yourself to exhaustion will lead to worse consequences down the road; not to mention, it will deprive your creative brain of the space it needs. GoodLifeCoaching Blog – Living the Creative Life offers a great article about accepting your limitations.
Author Becca Andre joins me today. She has an interesting history: chemist, mother, wife and author. Ms. Andre recently released The Catalyst of Corruption, the fourth book of her wildly exciting, alchemy filled paranormal fantasy series.
Let me start by thanking you for this opportunity. Your series, The Final Formula has been inspirational and so much fun to read.
I understand The Final Formula series arose out of an exercise to write what you know. Your website offered a bit about your history, and it sounds like you have been writing for quite a while. Could you tell me a bit more about some of the key moments that helped you mature as a writer?
Becca: Yes, I have been writing for quite a while. Decades, actually. But for most of that time, writing was just a hobby. Something I did to amuse myself with no serious thoughts toward publication. Sure, I entertained the occasional fantasy about being a full-time writer, but I never pursued it—until I wrote The Final Formula.
As you mentioned, The Final Formula arose from a write-what-you-know exercise where I took my everyday world and gave it a magical twist. I’m a chemist, so I made my main character an alchemist, and set my story in our modern world. I really liked the finished product and for the first time, I wanted to share what I had written.
Since I live in a small town and didn’t know anyone else who wrote, I joined an online workshop. I would credit that as the best thing I did on my journey to becoming an author. By getting feedback on what I had written and learning to critique other writers, I began to see what worked and what didn’t. I also made some great friends who I still rely on to beta-read for me.
All your characters are so interesting and well crafted. What process do you follow to create them?
I’m not the kind of writer who uses character sheets or writes loads of backstory about their characters before starting a story. My characters are my story, and the two come into being by playing off each other. Often, I’ll start with a character in a situation, or a pair of characters and build the story from there. The key is to work in conflict right from the start. If I start with two characters, they’re going to be on opposite sides of an issue, or their personality types will naturally conflict. Take Addie and Rowan for example. She’s headstrong and confident, and he’s a control freak. Throw them in a situation where they both think they’re right and…fireworks!
I do think there are some necessary skills that every writer should to develop in order to create believable characters that come to life on the page. Two key components are natural sounding dialogue and portraying emotions honestly (no melodrama!). The easiest way I find to do this is to put my characters in a situation and let them react. When it feels like I’m just the scribe and they’re telling the story, I know it’s working.
How many more books can we expect in The Final Formula series?
The plan for The Final Formula Series is five novels with a novella between each. This is a slightly different take on the typical series format. The novellas are part of the overall story, but they are told from a different point of view than the main novels. Unfortunately, shorter works aren’t as popular with readers, so I can’t do as much with the novellas as I would like.
Published works require more than just an author. What sort of team members do you have to help you reach the final point of publishing a work?
Once I complete the first draft, I send it out for a couple rounds of beta-reads. The first readers are fellow writers (whose work I beta-read in turn). As writers themselves, they’re great at spotting problems with plot, pacing, and other places where I fall short in the craft department. I address their concerns, then send the draft out to a second group of beta readers. These folks tend to be avid readers and/or grammar junkies. They’re great at catching my mistakes with story details, logic, and general grammatical shortcomings. Once I fix all those problems, the book goes to my awesome editor, Shelley Holloway who fixes everything that’s left. Finally, the gang over at Streetlight Graphics does my formatting and cover art (they also designed my website).
It sounds like you have quite a team! What do you love most about being an author?
Not having to leave the house? 😉 Seriously, my favorite part is interacting with readers. It’s so cool that other people enjoy hanging out with my imaginary friends as much as I do.
What is the most important piece of advice you have for other writers and authors?
Write every day and once you feel comfortable with sharing what you’ve written, seek out feedback. And by feedback, I mean from someone other than your mom or significant other. Preferably other writers who are serious about their craft
What is one thing you couldn’t live without?
If you could travel anywhere, where would you go?
Do I have to pick just one place? I love to travel. It’s been our family goal to visit all fifty states here in the USA. So far, Hubby and I have 48, and the kids have 46. Outside mown country, I would love to see some of the famous landmarks/cities the world over. Places that are geographically interesting or places that are steeped in history. The list is endless.
What is your favorite TV show or movie?
I don’t watch much TV, although my son and I watch Ghost Adventures most weekends. My favorite movie would have to be Pride & Prejudice – the 1995 BBC/A&E miniseries. It’s a great adaptation of my favorite novel.
How can readers get their hands on The Final Formula series?
The Final Formula Series is available at most online retailers. The first book, The Final Formula is free.
Last question. What is the best way for folks to get in touch with you?
Thank you Becca. It has been a pleasure getting to know you!
Thanks for having me, Catherine!
Well, that is all for now folks. I seriously recommend Becca’s books. I could not put them down. Take care out there!
A recent article by the Encyclopædia Britannica identified 6 fictional languages. As a nerd, my reaction was How cool! But why learn an additional language, fictional or not? And for that matter, what does it take for masters like Tolkien to create languages? While I don’t have a linguistics background like Tolkien, I did do some research.
According to the Telegraph , several different psychological studies have investigated and identified the benefits of learning an additional language. These included not only the obvious social perks, but also improvements in thought processing and memory, intelligence levels, and observational and decision making skills. As well, by learning another language’s mechanics -tense, grammar, punctuation, phrasing, slang, pronunciations- individuals improve their first or initial language skills. After all, language learners can compare structures and gain a better understanding of mechanics between new and older languages. The article also claims that additional language learning improves multitasking development and can add an average of 4 years before a person’s onset of Alzheimer’s and dementia related disease.
I would guess that benefits aren’t exclusive to fictional, pictorial, and alphabet based languages. Numerical languages, like computer programming languages and mathematics offer the ability to communicate with machines, manipulate, and understand our world in alternative manners, for example.
Languages have been created or altered for as long as humans have existed for many reasons such as alleviate isolation, oppression, or communicate secretly like cryptic languages and codes or Nushu the women’s writing developed in China. Another unique linguistic development is sign languages and other non-verbal languages like body language.
Fictionally, creating a language adds a sense of reality or quality to the work. A language can solidify a new culture or race – like Gene Roddenberry did with Star Trek or Tolkien did in his Middle Earth.
If you’re curious as to the how part, we live in a world now where there is a wiki how for that.
In case you were wondering, I have created a language. It was done as an exercise for education not for an actual piece of fiction I have worked on or published yet. Here is the process I followed.
- Create a character or two.
- Consider: culture, origin, location, birth, family, setting (modern, ancient, fictional), sound, values of the culture and character(s), what does the character or culture communicate about? Maybe the character is an animal – consider how animals communicate now – body language, noises, chemically, psychically?
- Decide if your language is pictorial, alphabetical, or numerical.
- Create an alphabet.
- If you are using phonetics, grammar, special phrasing, tense, suffixes, pluralization, and conjugation – decide on some of the rules. If you want/have to – create a dictionary.
- Write a journal from the character’s point of view, in the new language for a few days, weeks, or even years.
- Further develop.
Additional steps could include grabbing friends who are nerdy and teach them the language, talk in the language, then work things out further. Store it in a special folder, book, or document. Season to taste.
Writing is not an easy task. Especially for those of us writers with such an intense calling to the profession that to deny its call means physical discomfort, emotional turmoil, and psychological strain. You think raw talent, storytelling, and the imaginings inside your head are enough to make you a successful writer? Think again.
Let us start with the basics. The foundation of any writing endeavor is the language in which it is written. Language holds very technical components that are not always easy to navigate, from syntax and grammar, to rhythm and flow, to word choice or meaning, to placement and sound. Those terms you learned (or were supposed to learn) in school like plot, antagonist, protagonist, denouement, and tense are critical to a successful story. If you don’t have a grasp of your language’s structures and tools, you won’t be able to learn to manipulate them to create meaning, capture audiences, or take artistic licence. Which brings us to the second must-have for any aspiring writer: Creativity.
The majority of humans imagine from an early age. Children imagine invisible friends and invent stories. Imagination is part of the human condition and it is good for the development and conditioning of the mind. But creativity is so much more than imagination. Creativity is what grasps the seed of imagination and cares for it, shapes it, and guides it to grow into something more. Creativity is a process of careful consideration, discipline, and the utilization of tools developed over time. It is the artist’s goals and community coming together to solidify, communicate, and unify ideas and emotions.
Where creativity is the process which hones the spark of imagination, drive is what ensures you actually start and finish what you set out to do. Without drive or will power, you can’t overcome those lonely moments where self-doubt creeps in and you are tempted to destroy the work you’ve done or just give up. Writing requires commitment and something deeper than just creativity to keep you going in the darkness. Often this will be a message that must be shared, a calling, or a curiosity to see it through.
Perhaps the most important aspect of writing is the company a writer keeps. Community – those you surround yourself with before, during, and after the writing process – is what ensures the success of your writing. The people who support and encourage you, who offer honest feedback, who inspire and guide your work, will be the people that ensure the success of anything you write. Without community, your writing is never as good as it could be. Errors are missed that affect your story’s message and appeal. Your work never reaches its audience. Without a strong community, your work will could be limited to the confines of your own imagination.
And those are only the basics. Then you have to develop and refine these basics through years of study, practice, and mistakes before you reach success. Writing includes character construction, exposition, setting, and structure. It includes learning how to engage with your audience, how to market and sell your work and your skills as a writer. It includes using your own experiences to inform your writing. It requires research, revisions, and determining how you measure success. It requires self-awareness and a willingness to learn. It includes an understanding the publishing industry and knowing the rights, regulations, and risks of a writer in your country. Writing is hundreds of hours of review, revision, and rewriting.
In professional writing there are no quick wins or easy paths to success. There is an unending supply of trial and error. It isn’t an anybody-can-do-it profession, contrary to what the cheap e-books or blogs or online magazines would have you believe. A successful career as a writer is difficult; it is work. It can also be a great deal of fun, but only if you are willing to put in the effort required to succeed. Yes, it is possible. Yes, it is absolutely amazing to be able to create stories out of your imagination. No, it is not easy to be a writer. But if you believe the work is worth it, it can be a very rewarding profession.