One of the things I love about doing honest book reviews from ARCs (advance review copies) is that I get to find some really talented authors. Kayla is one of these. She kindly offered her work The Council for a review. What I had to say was “Read this now.” It reminded me a bit of the Harry Potter Series by JK Rowling and a bit of the All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness. Kayla graciously agreed to offer this interview and share some of her experience with writing that novel. Thanks Kayla!
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m a psychological horror/thriller writer originally from Roseville, Michigan. A few years back, I moved across the country to Texas where I currently live with my husband and son. I love to read and write things in the psychological fiction genre. When I get free time, I like to go for walks in the woods and listen to ‘80’s music. My favorite author is Stephen King—he’s actually the reason I began writing, but I also have a soft spot for Edgar Allen Poe and Shakespeare as well.
What are some of the challenges of being an author?
The biggest challenge of being an author to me is simply getting the time to write. Life can be hectic sometimes so there will be days or even weeks that pass without me getting the time to write which can be bad if I leave off in the middle of a scene.
What process or routine do you follow to get so much writing done?
My writing process is actually quite complicated. When I begin a new project, I first write it all down in a spiral college-ruled notebook with a fountain pen. Pen on paper helps me gather my thoughts better than writing on a computer. After I finish my first draft in the notebook, I transfer all the writing to loose-leaf paper that I keep in a binder. After this draft is when I finally type it on the computer and look for things such as plot holes or areas where characters need development.
Which of your books do you love the most? Why?
I love The Council the most because at its heart, it tells the story of a girl figuring out who she is in a chaotic world and I think that’s something everyone can relate to on some level.
Which of your books do you feel the least affection towards? Why?
I think I feel the least affection toward my series The Blood Moon trilogy. While this was the first series that I wrote, I feel that the idea of vampires and werewolves has been done to the point where people will judge my books without even giving them a chance.
What are you working on right now?
Currently, I’m working on a handful of projects including The Elemental Coven, book two of The Witch’s Ambitions trilogy as well as Comatose at Dusk, book five of the Rituals of the Night series.
What advice would you give to authors just starting out?
Develop the toughest skin you can manage and then some. Writing is a hard business, and on most days you’ll want to bury your head in your pillows and stay there but there is light at the end of the tunnel if you have the determination and willingness to put in the effort it takes to get there. Just remember to write because it makes you happy. Don’t lose sight of that.
What do you want to know from readers?
From my readers, I’d like to know what it is about my work that drew them in to read something from me. First impressions are everything, after all. Being an indie author means news of my books travels by word of mouth. How did they hear from me and what made them decide to take the risk and show their literary love?
What do you want readers to know?
I appreciate every single person that takes time out of their day to read my work and support me. Writing is hard so having people who are there for me on days when I want to give up make all the difference. Without my readers, I’m nothing.
Where can readers find out more about your books or get in touch with you?
I’m available on just about every social media site known to man.
Here’s my most frequented sites:
Google +: https://plus.google.com/108956159394665688329
Facebook is always the best way to get in touch with me.
What is your favorite movie, comic, or book?
My favorite movie of all time is the 1988 movie Heathers. This dark comedy appealed to my twisted sense of humor and strengthened my faith in my Rituals of the Night series. No matter how many times I watch it, I never get sick of it.
What is your favorite food?
Pizza. I don’t know why but I could eat pizza for every meal and never get sick of it.
Who is your favorite character from The Council?
Lilith is my favorite character because of the way she’s not afraid to speak her mind. She doesn’t care what other people think of her and will do what she needs to do for herself and to protect the people that she loves.
What can’t that character live without?
The truth. If something is bothering her, Lilith MUST get to the bottom of it at all costs.
Tell us a little bit about your journey as an author.
I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. When I was in high school, I wrote a number of novella-length works but nothing too serious. Then I wrote my first series, The Blood Moon Trilogy. I never published it but instead, I moved onto the Rituals of the Night Series. I had written a handful of books for this series when I got the idea for The Council, my first fantasy book.
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?
I have a team of wonderful beta and advanced readers that give me essential story feedback before it goes onto my editor, Miss Crystal MM Burton to be polished and perfected. Finally, Laura Callender creates beautiful covers to help them stand out.
What do you love most about being an author?
That feeling I get when all the ideas I have for a novel begin to come together in complicated waves and I create a fantastic world from nothing. It’s the best feeling in the world.
What do you dislike most about being an author?
Promotion. Being that I’m a small-time author, I don’t have the funds to hire a PA or anything of the sort. That means that some time that should be devoted to writing, goes to promoting the books I have out instead.
What is the most important piece of advice you have for other writers and authors?
Never give up. Writing is a tough business but wear your battle scars proudly and never let anyone take away the joy it gives you.
What is your favorite TV show?
I love American Horror Story because of the way it takes taboo subjects and twists them psychologically to build on the horror and suspense. I feel like each season is fascinating because it blends real life horrors with fictional to create something truly unique and original.
Do you ever have moments of self-doubt or novel-doubt?
I have a lot of moments of self-doubt and I think that’s what makes me a better writer. I’m always looking for ways to improve my craft and without self-doubt I wouldn’t do whatever possible to make myself a better writer.
Are there any unpublished manuscripts you have created? Will you ever publish them?
I have handfuls of unpublished manuscripts, most of which were written during my high school days. A put a few up on my Wattpad page but I’ve never given them much serious thought. Maybe one day once I’ve finished writing my two series, I’ll look at the ones with potential and see if they can be polished up a bit.
If you could go back in time and meet anyone, who would it be?
I would love to meet Eminem. His music has been such a huge motivating factor in my life both writing-wise and otherwise. A lot of my characters were developed with the aid of his music, and I think it would be an amazing opportunity to sit down and talk with him about what inspired him to create his music.
Is there anything you would like to add?
I just want to say another big thank you to everyone supporting my writing career. Thank you, Catherine, for having me. It’s been fun!
Visitors, thank you for coming to the new and improved Inglenook, a Catherine Milos website. Author Spotlights were a regular feature on CatherineMilos.com and the tradition will continue here on this author-geared webpage.
Our most recent guest is author and speaker, Adam Dreece. Adam Dreece is the best-selling author of The Yellow Hoods series, The Wizard Killer Episodes, and The Man of Cloud 9. He’s seen enormous success as a self-published author in just a few years.
Thanks for being with us here today Adam!
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m a run of the mill dyslexic, severe asthmatic, chronic pain ‘enjoying’, prolific author. There are few incentives more great that pain on one side, and knowing that you’re “not supposed to be doing this”, to get you writing and building your author career and every day.
What is your favorite movie, comic, or book?
There are two recent movies that I feel capture two sides of me: Mr. Right and John Wick. I’ve been a HUGE comic book fan ever since I was about 7 years old. My favorites would shift depending on the writing, though my first favorites were Spider-Man, Iron Man, Superman, and Batman.
What are you most grateful for?
Despite my health challenges, I’m able to enjoy my family and do something I’m deeply passionate about. Every book has a “HOLY CRAP, I DID IT! I DID IT!” moment.
What is your favorite food?
Dairy-free, egg-free, soy-free pizza. My wife makes the most amazing crust, and we turn it into a true marvel like few others.
What does storytelling mean to you?
Storytelling for me is about creating a world, tale, and characters that the reader can really experience. I’m told that I write video, that people feel like they are standing right there in the room with the characters, and that’s what I’m after. It’s the oldest of human traditions, and in my mind, one of the most sacred. Without our stories, we are lost. Stories bring hope, warning, sorrow, joy, and more. There’s nothing like being a weaver of all that. Nothing.
It’s all carpe diem, seize the day. After twenty-five years of doing nothing with my writing, I had two medical events in 2009/2010 that flipped my life upside down. I decided that I would not dream of being an author, but I would start now. I had no idea what I was doing, but I was committed to trying to learn as I go and outrun my mistakes.
What are some of the challenges of self-publishing?
There are many, so let’s look at three:
1. You are the everything department. From selecting an editor and cover, formatting and production, never mind MARKETING MARKETING MARKETING of the book. You have to make all of the decisions and everything is reliant on you. When I started, I knew nothing and had a mammoth amount to learn.
2. Echo-chamber. It’s very easy to isolate yourself from getting real feedback about what you’re writing. In particular, this is dangerous when you’re writing something that’s very unclear in terms of its audience. I’ve seen some works that were intended for a blur between two audiences however it had natural turn offs for both audiences. The net result? A lot of effort went into putting out a book that couldn’t be appreciated and was hammered in reviews. Getting some real feedback or hiring a development editor could have avoided the issue.
3. Time. On top of the writing, there’s social media engagement, newsletters, and all of those tasks that I mentioned in #1. Where’s the time? You’ve got to become ruthless with your time as well as make sure that you don’t severe the tie with those that support you the most. What’s the point of “succeeding” if it means you scorched the soil from which you grew it?
Which of your books do you love the most? Why?
I had to stop and think about this question. Right now, I’d say it’s the fifth and final installment in The Yellow Hoods. There’s some much emotion and power in that book, so many gets wrapped up, all the while so much new fertile ground is laid for where things are going. In particular, what happens with Tee and Elly gets me emotional just thinking about it.
Which of your books do you feel the least affection towards? Why?
It’s one thing to say that all of my books are my children, and I love all of them, but honestly there’s not one that I love less. I put my heart and soul in each and every one of them. Take The Man of Cloud 9, for example. To date, it’s my book that has sold the least, however I know that as a sci-fi thriller novel I’m building a nearly entirely new audience and that’s going to have a longer burn to build up a level of audience like The Wizard Killer did quickly. However, there’s is so much me in that book on so many levels, as well as so much misunderstanding of me in that book, that it will forever have a special place in my heart. It’s also a goodbye to my software career in many ways.
So what about the first book of the Yellow Hoods, Along Came a Wolf? That was me not just taking down the dream of being a writer off the shelf, taking it apart, and doing something about it, but it has a tenderness and sophistication that I know if I try to touch it, I will dispel the most important part of what enchants so many readers. Never mind that it was my daughter’s nudge, and a silly bedtime story that I told her, that created a crack in the damn of excuses which was that book, and it caused a best-selling series to gush out.
At the end of the day, maybe it’s because I leave nothing emotionally, intellectually, or imaginatively on the table when I write a book. I truly love each out and could go into details as to why.
What are you working on right now?
I’ve drafted my first non-fiction book which is about hand-selling books. It’s based on a popular seminar I’ve given a number of times. I’m also writing my first fantasy space-opera, Tilruna. Season One will launch in September and I’m going to bringing a whole universe into people’s lives.
There’s an extra-special part to Tilruna for me, which was a world and tale that I created for Dungeons and Dragons eons ago. I still have the duo-tang of notes for it. While what I’m doing uses in a limited way, the essence and mythos I created, are there. I’m SO excited about it.
You ran into a bit of a stumbling block by going Amazon exclusive. Can you offer a bit about what happened and where people can learn more from your experience?
For those that would like to know the full story, here’s my blog post and the YouTube videos (One, Two).
But in brief, I put my Yellow Hoods books into the KDP Select program around December 9th. I thought I’d see if I could get more readers from Kindle Unlimited. I did a hard push on promotions, and one of those came back to bite me. Whether its because they are directly associated with scammers, or because scammers are looking for victims through those that advertise with this particular service, I saw an unbelievable spike in my page read count (Amazon pays per page read). One day I had an extra 25k, the next day 0, then day three had 10k. All of those page reads were accounted for by the time I got up in the morning.
I reported it to Amazon, and they told me that there was nothing weird or wrong. Around January 12th, I was informed that my account was being terminated. All of my books vanished.
They ended up restoring my books and apologizing. The department that had told me everything was fine was supposed to have shared my emails with the anti-fraud department as a matter of protocol, but didn’t. Well, the fraud folks defected bots reading my books.
Scammers will upload their fake books (i.e. nonsense books or books with the same page 1000 times or whatever) and will use bots to read them, generating money for them. However, to make those bots harder to detect, the scammers will make them read other peoples books. Amazon assumes that if someone is benefiting from it, i.e. the innocent author who would potentially get 5 cents from the reads, is in on it. Then wham, author gets shutdown hard. In Amazon’s defense, this is an extremely hard problem to resolve, and I believe they’re looking at ways to get better at determining those that are in on it versus those who are innocent victims.
You have developed significant success in such a short period of time. How did you do it? How do you feel about it?
One of the things that I’m notoriously bad at is recognizing what I’ve actually accomplished and appreciating it. I feel like I’m in a kayak looking at the rapids ahead and getting all tense, not realizing how far down the river I’ve gone. It’s by spending time helping out other authors, which I try to make sure I do each and every week, that helps me realize I have things to offer that I picked up along the way.
How did I do it? Sacrificing 90%+ of my TV time and all of my video game time was one of the things. Another was by giving myself deadlines that were hard but achievable, and sticking to them.
I had no idea what I was doing, but I wasn’t willing to let that stop me.
What advice would you give to authors just starting out?
Give yourself permission to make a mess. Also, if anyone’s discouraging you or trying to help you by telling you “the hard truth,” find a way to block them out.
What do you want to know from readers?
I love hearing what touched them, what moments or characters did they connect with.
Also, you can get ISBNs and other details to order them from your favorite store here.
There’s also my blog.
AND lastly, if anyone would like an “Adam Dreece 3 book sampler”, go here.
Catherine: Thank you for agreeing to be featured here today as the Author Spotlight guest.
I recently finished the first book in your Bound series and immediately picked up your second. It was a great YA read that kept me up to the early morning hours.
Could you offer a bit about the Bound series?
Stormy: The Bound series is my baby. Bound by Duty is the first book I ever wrote and I’ve been absolutely astonished at the response I’ve received to the series. I write clean, coming of age stories and with Bound, my focus was really on telling a layered, complex story through the eyes of those directly affected. I used multiple POVs as the series progressed to show you the other side of things and wanted to hone in on what it takes as an 18-year-old (with or without powers) to determine the person you want to be and what you’re willing to do to become that person.
Catherine: Do you have a favorite character in the series?
Stormy: Bethany is probably my favorite. She is truly a hybrid of my best friends throughout my lifetime and she’s the exact grounding that Amelia needed throughout the story.
Catherine: What would that character’s (or the main character if no favorite) favorite ice cream be?
Stormy: Bethany – likely twist. She wants the best of both worlds.
Catherine: Tell us a little bit about your journey as an author.
Stormy: This was a journey I never expected to be on. I never wanted to be an author but one day the story appeared and I couldn’t not write it. Or the next one. Or the next three. I quit my dream job to make time in my life for writing and marketing my books and I hope to one day be full time. My first series is self-published and my next stand alone book is currently being queried to agents so I can make the jump to hybrid publishing.
Catherine: What is one lesson you’ve learned as a self-published independent author?
Stormy: Being an author isn’t about writing books, it’s about being an entrepreneur. It’s about investing time, money, sanity, tears and sleep for something you believe in more than anyone else can fathom. If all you want to do is write the books, don’t expect success because it’s impossible. It sounds harsh, but it really is true. Between my day job and writing/marketing, I’ve put in 80+ hour weeks for more than three years.
Catherine: Is there something about the industry – a piece of advice or an idealized image – that you’ve learned to be completely true or untrue?
Stormy: No one cares as much about your books as you. No one will work as hard (i.e. a vendor, publicist, etc.), no one will have your expectations and no one will want to put in the hours. This isn’t a one man show, you need other people, but you have to give them a break when it comes to your expectations because they simply cannot be as passionate about your work as you are.
Catherine: Is there something you would like readers to know, or would like to know from your readers?
Stormy: I would love to tell readers that my joy comes from connecting with you. I try to develop layered characters who have gone through their own personal traumas (we all have!) but don’t let those traumas define them. I want to show you that growing up is hard but doable and that it’s so much easier when you surround yourself with the right people. I hope you see that mistakes will happen but the real truth is what you do once you’ve acknowledged the mistake. My books are about helping you live your best life, so I hope you find someone to connect to in the story that touches you.
Catherine: What is one thing that always brings a smile to your face?
Stormy: Getting messages from readers! Nothing makes my day more than a tweet, review or Facebook post from someone who has read my books.
Catherine: What keeps you grounded/sane during the intensive creative and business moments of being a self-published author?
Stormy: My husband. He reminds me that in order to write about life, I have to live it. He gets me out of my cave and he always makes me laugh.
Catherine: What is your favorite place?
Stormy: Anywhere I can put my feet in an ocean (and preferably have someone bring me a glass of wine).
Catherine: What is one thing you couldn’t live without?
Stormy: My laptop. I can hand write, but there’s something about the connection to the keys that I need.
Catherine: What is your favorite TV show?
Stormy: NCIS, but that’s now debatable with Michael Weatherly (aka Tony DiNozzo) gone.
Catherine: How can readers get their hands on the Bound books?
Stormy: You will find them on every e-book retailer, with the first book (Bound by Duty) always FREE! And the paperbacks are available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble (online or requested at your local store) and Book Depository.
Catherine: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Stormy: I write because books were the place I escaped to growing up. They were my sanity and my closest friends. I can only aspire to write a book that touches someone like books have touched me. I do hope you stick around to see where I go from here. J
Catherine: Thank you Stormy. Interested in reaching out to Stormy or following her? Check out her website http://www.stormysmith.com/
Catherine: Hello Readers, Writers, everyone. Today we have author Andris Bear joining us to tell us a bit about her paranormal fiction (with angels) Angel Unborn. It is part of a series by the way. Thank you Andris for being here, it is an honor to be able to interview you.
Andris: Hi Catherine! Thanks so much for having me.
- Tell us a bit about Angel Unborn.
Angel Unborn is a paranormal romance about a woman, Joey Benton, who thinks her life is falling apart when, in reality, it’s finally coming together. Her assigned protector is even less enthused about their pairing than she is, and she fights him at every turn, but destiny will not be denied. And hers is to stand in defense of humanity against the darkest being ever created.
- Who is your favorite character from the first book?
Hmmm, that’s a hard one—I have so many for so many different reasons. If I had to choose just one, I’d say Devi, the Angel of Destiny. She is meddlesome, conniving, and half crazy. Not to mention the life of the party. She is a lot of fun to write.
- What can’t that character live without?
Purpose. Her greatest satisfaction comes from a soul meeting its destiny, and she will manipulate whoever and whatever to make sure that happens. Whether said soul likes it or not.
- What do you love most about being an author?
I love the creativity and the fact that only I can bring these stories to life as they are in my head—there is no right or wrong, just what comes out on the page. It’s freeing to create worlds and characters and guide them to their fate. But the best part is sharing my stories with others and hearing from them that they loved them. That anyone else loves my characters as much as I do is such a joy.
- What do you dislike most about being an author?
I’m a control freak. Lol. I have writer friends who can write a full length novel in two months—it takes me eight months to a year because it must be just right! I stress and fret over every stinking detail that it’s a miracle I haven’t given myself a stroke yet.
- What is the most important piece of advice you have for other writers and authors?
I don’t have to follow my own advice, do I? Because I’m not good at that. Lol. I think the best advice is to give up control (See?! Can’t do it!) and take it one step at a time. All the details that seem overwhelming at the beginning will fall in line little by little, and the next thing you know, it’s a done deal. And then you can have a nice, stiff drink.
- If you could travel anywhere, where would you go?
I’d love to see Scotland and The Vatican, but I’m a homebody, so the idea of putting on a bra and pants to leave the house holds little appeal to me. I know, I know, I’m terrible!
- What is your favorite TV show or movie?
My favorite TV show would have to be Supernatural because Dean. Just Dean. I love me some him. My favorite movie is Clue. Tim Curry makes me happy on every level.
- How can readers get their hands on your book(s)?
All of my books are available across all major e-book retailers (Amazon, iBooks, Barnes and Noble, Google Play, and Kobo), and the first in my Deadly Sins, Angel Unborn, is free, so you can try it without risk.
- I hope you folks caught that – her first book is free. Did you know, many of the authors featured on this blog have free works to introduce you to their story? Andris, what is the best way for folks to get in touch with you?
- Do you ever have moments of self-doubt or novel-doubt?
Only with every breath. 😉
- If you could go back in time and meet anyone, who would it be?
Lucille Ball. She was strong, classy, and determined. She was beautiful, but I love that she was admired for her work ethic and willingness to make people laugh, often at her own expense.
- Is there anything you would like to add?
Other than thank you for having me, nope!
Well thank you for your time Andris and hope future readers will pick up your books, all of them. Right now!
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.