81% of Americans claim to have a book inside of them, but only 3% of people who try to write a book actually finish it. Why?
I had the great opportunity to sit on a writer’s panel and answer questions from aspiring writers. There is one common, ultimate question that I am asked – How did I do it? We’ve all got wild imaginations and great stories, but how can we get them down? How did I have the time, the motivation, and the patience? It does seem overwhelming, but as a teacher, I have to say that writing is for everyone, and writing a book is possible for everyone. I hate articles like this one à http://www.nytimes.com/2002/09/28/opinion/think-you-have-a-book-in-you-think-again.html that discourage everyone and anyone. The difference between talent and skill is that talent is natural and a skill can be learned. It’s just a matter of how bad you want it. Of course writing a book isn’t for the faint of heart, but the process is challenging and wonderful.
There are traits that great writers have – they see the big picture, they are articulate (duh), they go deep, they’re imaginative, patient, explorative, great at critiquing, a little crazy, confident (at least most of the time); and become so completely absorbed, the rest of the world disappears. Ah, my happy place. Luckily, I get to escape to the future where there are aliens and cities inside of asteroids.
I would like to expound on one trait I believe is essential for an author. You’ve got to be insanely vulnerable, open, and fearless. My fiancé (husband in 5 weeks, eek!) is a mental health therapist…thank God ;) I’ve always been an emotional person. I cry at commercials, sunsets, and old couples walking down the street holding hands. Instead of fearing the wetness coming out of my face, Ryan smiles and lets me be without any judgment or critisism. Wouldn't that be wonderful if everyone could be so free? If little boys weren't told to "stop being a girl" or to "be a man." Psh, no wonder so many people have communication issues. Crying is just an extension of an overwhelming feeling, and feelings are the most beautiful thing about being a human. I’ve always trusted my emotions, whether they be good or bad, and this has allowed me to trust my instincts, trust myself, and ultimetely, trust my writing. If you’re scared of or routinely quench feelings, how can your characters have a believable sense of humanity? You are their literary liaison, after all.
Positive psychology is “the scientific study of human flourishing, and an applied approach to optimal functioning. It has also been defined as the study of the strengths and virtues that enable individuals to thrive.” Everyone is different, and that is why there are so many unique and wonderful books out there. I truly believe that being positive and believing in yourself may be the single MOST important thing when it comes to finishing a book. Say those affirmations in the mirror every day to pump yourself up. But positive psychology isn't about thinking you're the best person out there- althouth affirmations do work - rather it is about knowing your strengths and weaknesses. For example, my strength, as evidenced by my degrees, is in science. I would be a horrible historical fiction writer. Got it. I also know my weaknesses and what I need to do to overcome them. Every writer thinks they suck a hundred times while they write a book, so don't let your weaknesses become your fears. Let them become something you dissect and probe and experiment with until they are no longer weakensses. Is yours your writing ability? Lack of time? An underdeveloped storyline? An inability to empathize? Personal issues outside of writing?
I taught a college-level life skills class last year where the students took a dozen surveys including personality tests, work ethic tests, strengths and weakensses tests, etc. I was amazed at how many of them had no idea about themselves. "I'm an introvert!" one of them yelled very surprised once. I peronally do best writing in cafe's, but maybe an introvert would rather have a home office. You can't improve yourself or overcome things if you have no idea who you are. And you have to take care of yourself. I'll admit, the first book for me was probably an escape as I was dealing with heartbreak, but is that bad? Perhaps you cannot write until you have come to peace with an unbalance in your life. You should know what's best for you. We are all different and need different things. Listen to your mind and body. I won't go on a rant about meditation here ;)
I do hear procrastination though as a main reason people cannot finish a book...
Why are you having procrastiaiton issues? Is it because you don't know where the story goes next? Sometimes reading other books helps rekindle my momentum spark. The important thing is to remember that it is OK to have your ups and downs – everything in nature cycles – but have the guts and belief in yourself that the ebbs and flows are healthy and inevitable. You’re not a robot after all! My second book came out 7 months later than I wanted.
Motivation is defined differently depending on the book, but I like the four “M’s” – mastery, momentum, mating, and money. When you get motivation to complete a goal, any goal, what drives you forward? If your motivation for writing a book is money, well then…excuse me, I just took a break to laugh. Trust me, I have dreams of being the next J.K Rowling or Stephen King too, but there’s a difference between positive psychology and practicality. You have to be motivated by something else. Is it mastery? Being the best at your craft? Do you want to experience fame and notoriety? How about mating? This is when you need to hear your loved ones or your crush say they are proud of you. Mine is momentum. I feel a sense of accomplishment pushing past hurdles and barriers and making progress even if it’s just a step in the right direction. When my positive momentum and kick-life’s-butt drive is stopped by something, it throws me completely off. I liken this to cheating on a diet for just one day and you throwing your hands up and giving up. That happens to momentum people.
Now, most likely you do not have just one type of motivation – I do have to put out a valuable product that I think is worthy of a best seller and I need Ryan to say he is proud of me too – but I do feel like my other momentum peeps out there make the best writers, just because the process is so long. I definitely make an excel sheet with small tangible goals EVERY DAY. Without my excel sheet, where I can look at my progress, albiet slow; I cannot seem to reach my goals. Is that a weakness? Maybe, but it gets me to where I want to go. I have an entire spreadsheet for health and nutrition goals too, haha.
As for having the time, most writers have other jobs...I teach full time and belly dance Friday and Saturday nights. With all things, if it's a priority, you will make time. Imagine if you wrote 300 words a day...that's 3 small paragraphs. You could write a 90,000 word book (VERY good size, going on too long for many genres) in 10 months! What are you waiting for? Now editing and marketing are whole other monsters, but if you can sit down and write a book, you're already a bad ass.
I hope I’ve given you some food for thought. Since this blog is getting a little long, I am going to stop it here. I need to find the motivation to start book #3! Talk to you all soon! Until then…
Keep Writing and Righting,
Ashley L. Grapes
Writing a book was one of the hardest things I've ever done. It takes discipline, time, bravery and serious commitment. When I finally submitted my quirky science fiction book, "Journey to Ohmani," I felt like I had just busted through the finish line ribbon at a marathon. Then, I remembered, there's a second one and I felt this heaviness come over me. This blog is about my experience and thoughts on writing a sequel. It really came with an entirely different dose of challenges, but I busted through the ribbon again.
This book was much harder to push through. I had writer's block that would last weeks! One time I even took a three month hiatus. I would sit down to write and go on social media. I would set-up somewhere without internet and start mixing wedding music. It was BAD.
"Journey to Ohmani" has done pretty well. My goal was never to make money, just for the story to be well-received. In general, I just felt more pressure with book 2. It had to be just as good because no one likes a crappy sequel. Most of the pressure came from my own fear that I couldn't produce another great story. Would I be a one-book-wonder? I don't know who to give credit to for this quote, but I love it...bad writers say "I suck, I suck, I suck," and stop writing. Good writers say "I suck, I suck, I suck," and keep writing. I've learned that pressure and fear of failure are so natural and even important in the writing process. You just have to make one with it and embrace the fact that you will be second-guessing yourself a lot.
I knew from the beginning that "Across the Infinite Void" was going to be a series, but writing book one was definitely a fluid process where I let the story take me along with it. The experience was fun and I was very open to the twists and turns that came along. A weird analogy I can think of is book 1 was almost like a "fling" where I wasn't committed to an overall storyline or ending. One of the hardest parts about writing a sequel in a three-part series is that the story has to tie in to the first and the third books. I know...duh, right? But I found myself really pressured. I needed to write a book that made the series cohesive, yet was able to stand on its own as a great read.
One of the reasons it took a year and a half to get the second one out was that I actually had to completely re-write the first quarter of the book. I wasn't happy with it. I was writing another adventure, this time with Talon, and I felt like I was wasting time taking the reader on a frolicking story of chaos (which, in this case, is a good thing as a space adventure). I decided to put the computer away and take some time. I thought for hours walking the beach with my dog or just minutes sitting at a traffic light. This book had to be just as entertaining, but I didn't have so much freedom. I feel like not jumping back into the writing, not letting the pressure get to me, was what I needed to relax, regroup, and tighten up the storyline. It was an important lesson for me that some of the most critical times as a writer are those that are spent not writing.
Another challenge was character development. A lot of the reviews from readers praise how much they love the characters...especially Bockie ;) On one hand, writing a sequel means you get to stick with the same characters. I feel like I know them. I know what each of them would do and say in certain situations, which makes it easier to write scenes. On the other hand, this book takes place five years later, and so your characters are not the same...at least I hope they are not static. They have grown and matured and experienced things that have influenced them. What has it been and why? It was a challenge and a joy to write my characters anew. Now to the biggest challenge...
As an author, you hold people's hearts in your hands sometimes. They trust you. I have a confession to make. Everyone has loved the second book more than the first, but not everyone has liked the ending. It's not a cliffhanger, it's just not entirely cheery. It's hard to hear, but I challenged people's expectations and I believe in the art I am creating. People were hoping for the same tone and happy ending as "Journey to Ohmani," but from the beginning I wanted to make this book and the next more mature. The characters have grown, after all. Levi and Talon are now working adults who have been dating for five years and there is a very serious terror threat looming in their world. Bockie will be there to make you laugh, but I will warn you, it's going to get darker before anyone gets a happy ending. I'm 100% happy with my vision, and another lesson I have learned is to trust myself. As much as you want to please everybody, you need to stand by your vision and see it through. In the meantime, I am just taking it as a compliment that people are that invested in the characters to be upset by an ending.
I'm sure my third book will come with its own set of challenges, which I look forward to. I plan on taking a few months break to mull and process and brainstorm. I want to finish my series with a worthy ending. Please buy my book when it comes out on JULY 20th! You can buy it early at Ancient City Con. Jacksonville friends, you can also get the second book for $5 if you review the first one!!!!! Thanks for sticking with it and supporting me. I do it because I believe in the stories and it's so amazing to know that there are so many of you that believe in them too!
My first novel, “Journey to Ohmani,” is a cri-fi – a murder-mystery science-fiction that takes place in a futuristic space city dubbed ‘Ohmani.’ The people of the future refer to this city as the ‘Las Vegas of Space’ for its vibrancy, diversity and progressiveness. The most interesting aspect about the metropolis, however, may be its location inside of an asteroid. This city is so vital to the plot of the book that it inspired the front cover design (thank you Mike Phillips!)
As a science teacher, it was important to me that my world-building is based on practicality and possibility. So why would a city be inside an asteroid in the first place, and what would it be like to live there? Great questions! There are several things that make life on Earth possible. It is in the Goldilocks zone between extreme temperatures, it has an atmosphere, and is abound with liquid water. These are just a few things I had to take into consideration when making my book’s setting realistic.
Before Ohmani became a habitable place, it was a monstrous and unstoppable bullet on a straight trajectory towards planet Earth. The human race was saved from destruction by the friendly midaki aliens – subject of another blog, I’m sure. They helped us hollow out the asteroid and move it to Lagrangian Point Five. This location for a potential space colony is not something I came up with on my own. In fact, there was an L5 Society in the 1960’s when the space program was well funded and immensely popular. This Society was essentially a big group of nerds that had picked L5 to be the location of a space station, if one was ever built. Placing an object at L5 is ideal in many ways. For one, it would require no energy to keep the asteroid at L5 because it is a location where all the gravitational pulls from the moon, Earth, and sun cancel out, i.e. reach equilibrium. The location is also ideal because the asteroid would never move out of the habitable strip taking care of the temperature problem.
Before my brain kicked in, I originally had Ohmani sitting on top of the rock, but that is a huge problem for many reasons. One, earth has this invisible layer called the magnetosphere, thanks to the liquid iron core churning below our feet. This magnetic shell, along with the atmosphere, protects us from daily doses of killer radiation. The ‘spaceflight radiation carcinogenesis’ phenomenon exists because of the sole fact that astronauts leave this protected bubble. As a side note, the aurora lights result from solar flares (radiation bursts) being fed by the magnetosphere to the poles and exciting the atoms in the atmosphere. Talk about beautiful but deadly!
Another reason Ohmani is inside of an asteroid is because building an artificial atmosphere would be much easier in an enclosed space…especially on an asteroid where there isn’t even a foundation of one. In my book, the main character learns a little bit about the creation of Ohmani’s biosphere when he gets into a hairy situation and ends up in a factory running through rows of bubbling algae vats. Our atmosphere is only 21% oxygen, and so it is entirely possible…albeit expensive…to build artificial atmospheres. In fact, there are plenty of companies that do this today for testing specialized equipment. My book takes place decades after the atmosphere was first established, and so these factories are losing money. During the time of the storyline, enough plants have established so that much of the oxygen is naturally produced.
You can’t think about living in space without thinking of floating or bouncing around like the moon. There is a minor gravitational pull on an asteroid, especially on one the size of Ohmani, but it would not be enough to work with functionally on a daily basis. With the help of the alien technologies, Ohmani spins to create centripetal force. Much like a gravitron at a county fair, this spinning creates artificial gravity all the way around the perimeter. Since the equation gravity is well known (ugh, physics), one could simply plug in numbers and change the rate of spin to get that nice sweet spot of 9.8 meters per second squared we feel here at home.
This idea of spinning the asteroid led to the city being “double deckered.” If you were standing on Ohmani right now, inside the asteroid’s belly, you could look above you and see the tops of buildings coming down at you. It would be quite a strange sight indeed! People would be bustling around and cars would be driving on roads all seemingly upside down. Transport to the other side and your world would be suddenly flipped, like you were right side up and the place you just left was now upside down. This was a really cool element to the book because I had to come up with ways the city inhabitants could go from the “ceiling” to the “floor” rather easily. That was made even more interesting when you consider the fact that the centripetal force caused by the spinning would not be felt in the dead center the asteroid…so you would float there. This would not be good if you barfed, as one of my characters unfortunately found out!
It was a blast world-building not only the physical environment of the city, but the socio-economic fabric that any realistic metropolis would have. Every city on Earth has every type of person and every type of neighborhood. In Ohmani, the higher-class people live in high rise apartments where gravity is lower and the view is spectacular, but its lower income citizens and rough areas were located in what I called, “the Underground.” New York City and D.C have underground metro stations, but Ohmani has a whole underground portion that is described as a dark, cramped, and stuffy warren-like series of labyrinthine corridors. It houses all types of business from dance clubs to political lounges, and it made for a great setting for bad things to happen.
Thank you for taking the time to read my little blog about the world I have come to love and please stick with me on my own journey of writing stories worth sharing.
I was watching The Great Courses, "The Inexplicable Universe," with Neil DeGrasse Tyson and he said something that got my wheels turning. Our DNA is only 1% different from our closest cousins, the chimpanzee, and look what that 1% can do as far as intelligence. The smartest ape may be able to stack some boxes to get a banana and do some rudimentary sign language, but they are no more intelligent than a toddler (as far as our definition). It is pretty audacious to believe that we will run into aliens who are exactly the same as us genetically. Even if they have DNA as their molecular code for life, they will probably be more or less than 1% different from us. We can't even communicate with another species on the planet, so what makes us believe we will be able to communicate with an intelligent life form? And what about intelligence? What if to them, we are like the chimps and their toddlers are doing algebra and writing term papers in school and then grow up to be "genius" to a degree we cannot fathom? He even goes on to say that we stick chimps in zoos for our entertainment, so would they do the same to us?
My argument is, evolution works by natural selection to increase fitness - fitness as defined by a population being able to breed and pass on their genes. Therefore, we became more intelligent over time as a means to problem solve to survive - find food, compete with other species, communicate, etc. I do not see why we would see a significant growth in intelligence past the point we are at now. Evolution has no need to make us more intelligent because we have conquered the planet. There is no more selection pressure for our population to be smarter. The same goes for another species on another planet, unless their is some niche I just cannot think of that would require ever-increasing smartness. Hmm...
So, I do not believe that if we run into another alien species they will be vastly different from us intellectually. In other ways, yes, of course. The aliens in my book are humanoid because it is well known that the human hand is the greatest tool of all time. In order for another intelligent species to build ships to even get here, they would need something similar. Now if we go to another planet there could very well be an intelligent species that looks completely different physically - but they won't be making the tools they need to go anywhere, knows what I'm sayin'?
Thanks Mr. Tyson for making me think!
Phew! I am finally rested after my first "real" three-day con, Ancient City Con here in my hometown of Jacksonville, Florida. I had so many cool things happen that I just had to blog about it! I'm not an expert at marketing...in fact I think it's the worst part about writing books...but I definitely learned a lot about selling yourself and your product at cons. Not only that, but I learned the important lesson that comic cons are for a WHOLE lot more than selling your books.
Friday, I'm not going to lie, I was sitting at my table with my books piled high and a giant eager smile on my face. That smile quickly faded a few hours later when I hadn't sold a single book. I got the "Friday Comic Con Blues" really fast. Of course people work on Fridays and I knew it wasn't going to be the best day, but I still couldn't help but feel a little disheartened. Even the curls I spent an hour ironing and hair-spraying were barely there anymore. But we always have a negativity bias, don't we? It's what helped our ancestors survive. Whenever I feel like that, I take a step back and check myself. I began to list all the things I was grateful for in that moment.
One was SaLydia, my best friend and my book's biggest fan. She had painted herself green, cosplaying as the political science student named Eela from the book. And if that wasn't supportive enough, she had even made note cards for her talking points, and printed out bookmarks that were fake flyers for the political conference that was going on between the midaki and humans in my book. She stood from her chair when two young cosplayers passed by our booth.
"May I have a moment of your time?," she asked. "I am holding a petition for equal right for intergalactic exploration. Don't you think humans should have the right to travel freely in space?" She held out the clipboard and I laughed as the two girls signed their name, albeit confused, on the piece of paper that read "Say No to DSO." She went off by herself and talked to the people at the convention. One guy even told me the only reason he was buying the book was because of her enthusiasm for it.
R.J Jojola also gave me a pep-talk and helped me put things into perspective. She has had way more experience than me and I wouldn't have even been there if it weren't for her encouragement, support and insane organizational skills.
With a little attitude check and heeding advice from the more experienced, I stood from my chair and walked in front of the table. Now I was out, standing in the aisle, and ready to just let the experience come as it may. The weekend wasn't about selling books, but about putting myself out there and meeting people. It wasn't five minutes later I sold a book! And then another!
As R.J said, no one was going to walk by our table and think we were special for writing a book. We needed to constantly engage and make them believe that their $10 was well spent. I asked everyone that passed if they loved to read. That one sentence was probably responsible for half my sales that weekend. There were aisles and aisles of creators and artists that had booths much more visually stimulating than a table piled high with books. But pulling them in with a simple question was a way I could initiate conversation. I didn't lie, verbally push, or emotionally manipulate; I just talked to them, made them understand where I was coming from and what my book was about. Most people are happy to support a local author of a book that sounds, to them, even remotely interesting.
Here is my advice to others selling their work at comic cons:
1. Be visually appealing. There's no need to sex it up, but you also don't want to dress down either. Cosplaying as a character in my book was a huge conversation starter and it made our booth much more interesting.
2. $10 books as opposed to $15 books. It's hard to get people to buy a book these days, and even if they do a lot of people can get books for super cheap on Kindle. I sold a lot of books when people found out my book was $10. It's a nice even number, and I am still making a 45% profit from the wholesale price. Also, no charging for pictures or autographs. A lot of writers do that, and I don't know why. It takes an extra 15 seconds to sign a book and take a picture and you get a lot more worth out of not penny pinching every customer. They will remember it in the long run and help your word of mouth marketing.
3. Don't sit at your booth. That's boring and impersonal. You need to be at eye-level with your customers. Like I said, I was standing up in front of the booth, which I think is the best option. Of course I got tired and had to take a break and sit down but you shouldn't be sitting the whole time if you want to engage the most people.
4. Personality matters. I'm glad I am not an introverted person, because Comic Cons are an incredibly social event. But people respond to positive energy and if they take a liking to you as a person, they are way more likely to buy your book. Some people only bought my book because they liked me :)
5. Make friends and connections. I can't even list off the amazing people I either met for the first time there, or saw again from other events. You make lots of friends at Comic Cons. Awesome, nerdy, interesting friends that help you spread your story and hope you do the same for them. Who simply want to nerd out with you for the pleasure of embracing their nerdiness with people who share similar interests. The people side of comic cons is my favorite part! I got two interviews, an invite to be a sci-fi video game consultant, and tons of pictures and social media shout outs. Next month I'm going to St. Augustine to hang out with a professional pirate on his monthly dinner tour for creators. So cool! I am so grateful to all my friends, old and new, who are helping me. SaLydia, R.J, J.C, Mica, Fragged Nation, Ted...love you guys! You are only as strong as your support system.
6. Always be yourself, believe in your product, and be natural. I don't run into much non-authenticity at comic cons, which is a good thing. But if you put 100% into the product you are selling, selling the product won't be hard or fake. You don't need to practice a bunch of one-liners or selling points (although these naturally arise after you've talked for six hours in a day). Like I've already said, people will want to help you if they can feel who you are.
7. Social media. Ugh, my least favorite, but I am improving. These days, you have to have a facebook page, twitter, a website and an instagram...although I can't figure out how to use the last one yet. Social media is free marketing and it's a way to connect with people who want to know more about you and what you are doing. I really shouldn't complain about it, because it is something to be grateful for.
8. Never put down others. There are millions of books from self-published authors now. You can't think about statistics, or let money and attention be your motivator for doing this. You have to do it for the love of it, and you have to realize that there are many others like you with the same dreams and aspirations. Competition between peers can be good as long as it stays healthy. Never do anything that purposefully hurts another writer's credibility or sales. R.J Jojola and I work as a team and support each other 100%. That is why we can share a booth and use it to our advantage. We sold the same number of books this past weekend working together.
And that's what I have learned from my first real comic con! It was a blast and I can't wait for the next on!!!!
Ashley L. Grapes
In An Eagle's Revenge, Talon finds herself on the moon for a few chapters, where, let's just say, there's some lunar drama. So what would it take for people to live on the moon? What issues did I have to keep in mind to keep it realistic? It may surprise you, that it is entirely possible, sci-fi book or not.
First, is the good question, who would the moon belong to? Politics have already kept certain countries like the US and Japan from building permanent bases on the moon in the dispute of ownership. How do you decide who get's it? Antarctica has been a great lesson for future lunar policies, but unlike Antarctica, the moon is actually a desirable place to live and make lots of money in the future. Why? It would be economically more efficient to build and launch ships from the moon.
The fact that the moon has a lower gravitational pull and no atmosphere would save massive amounts of energy by giving the ships a lower escape velocity. Not to mention solar energy could be harvested, along with regolith mining. So, in my book, the UN has enacted a Corporate Homestead Act wherein companies have the ability to buy and "possess" land. Let's just say, they did not foresee the hidden agenda of some of these companies from a sociocultural standpoint. You'll have to read the book to know what I'm talking about here :)
So where would the people on the moon live exactly? On the crust where they would be subjected to radiation and extreme temperatures and have no oxygen to breath? Nope :) If people were ever going to live on the moon, they would probably live in the lunar lava tubes. Earth has lava tubes as well, or ancient conduits where lava once flowed millions of years ago. Because of the lower gravity of the moon, the lava tubes are much larger. Check out this picture from Purdue that depicts just how large these lave tubes can get. Yes, that's Philadelphia in there!
If we had the technologies that are available in my book, lava tubes (and there are dozens of lava tubes big enough for human habitation) could be terraformed to have constant temperatures, an atmosphere, and light (albeit artificial). Pretty cool!
So, what would it be like physically to live on the moon? Your weight would be a sixth of your weight here on earth. I would weigh 22 pounds! You could jump six times higher, throw a ball six times further. An American football field would need to be 600 yards across. Basketball would be a much different sport. The ceilings in every building would need to be much higher. And you would need to go to the gym often for resistance training so your muscles would not become weakened.
When you look at videos of astronauts on the moon, they often bunny hop. With less weight and the same momentum, it would be difficult to get the traction needed to walk normally and you would have trouble taking corners without running into the wall in front of you. The lunar people in my book wear special shoes that are weighted and have sticky bottoms that take care of this challenge. But, let's just say it gets very fun and Spiderman-ish when Talon has to go on a chase after bad guys!
After writing about living the moon, dang, I want to be there! Maybe in my lifetime...
One day in my Biology class I had a student casually ask if I was going to the mini Comic Con here at the beaches in Jacksonville. Not only was I not going at this point, but somehow, going to Comic Cons had never even crossed my mind. How is that possible?! I am writing young-adult science-fiction after all! I emailed the website's contact two days before the Comic Con with little hope of a reply. To my surprise, only an hour later I received confirmation that I now had a booth (for free!) with my name on it. Whoa!
I belly danced the night before and honestly, had little time to prepare. In my mind a ran through a checklist of the things I would need - lots of copies of my books, business cards, and an easel for my poster. SaLydia had a great idea of doing something with our appearance and so we decided to become Ohmanians, or residents of Ohmani. In my book people can dye the color of their skin or put patterns on their skin (temporarily) and so an hour before the convention started she painted herself blue and I painted a rainbow pattern down one side of my upper body. It looked like a last-minute botch job of cosplaying but, hey, it was better than nothing!
So we get there and my table is set-up in the best spot in the room - by the door! As I looked around the room I realized I was a little over my head. Many of the artists had customized table cloths, had gigantic banner advertisements or even full-on walls behind them with their work. Again, none of this crossed my mind...although I wouldn't have had time to get them designed and printed anyways. I forgot to think of book stands, business card stands, and the little square to take credit card payments.
Well...you live and you learn. I smiled and said hello to everyone who walked by, and many times they would come over. Once that happened I tried to give a short interesting synopsis of my book, which I had plenty of practice perfecting. In the end, I sold 12 books in the three hours it was open! Not bad for my first convention!
Seriously, I felt re-energized about the whole book selling experience after finding out marketing was like talking to a brick wall. I thought to myself, THIS IS IT! This is what I need to do! This is my market! A bunch of proud nerds and geeks :) I loved talking to this diverse and interesting group of people and talking all things comics, books, movies, and TV-shows (except I had little to contribute on the Anime genre). I had a blast!
The best part about the convention though was meeting other artists like me. One gentlemen, Jeff Harmon, was sitting next to me. Jeff's also a self-published author who does the east coast convention circuit. He informed me that conventions were the way to go for book sales, and I must say, after my experience I believe him! He also let me know about several writing clubs...and Jax even has a sci-fi writer association! Um...yes please!
I also met the lovely and talented R.J Jojola (https://www.facebook.com/rjjojolaauthor?fref=ts
). She is a dark epic fantasy writer, and such an awesome person! We've already signed up for a few Comic Cons together and I'm so excited to be sharing in the adventure of conventions with another female writer.
To prepare, I bought my first cosplay outfit :) I will be sporting a leather catsuit and a long auburn wig as I represent Talon for my next book, "An Eagle's Revenge." One of the conventions I'm most excited about is MegaCon2016 in Orlando next year! That's right...MEGACON! I'm stoked and I can't wait! But alas...I must. Catch R.J and I at Ancient City Con here in Jacksonville starting July 17th!
Conventions here I come!
It is true that Americans are not reading as much as they used to with so many other forms of entertainment around. Some of my students down-right hate to read, and it's unfortunate that their schooling has played a large part in their opinions. Reading has become a chore to traditionally educated teenagers - a "boring" story they are forced to over-analyze and be graded on. I wish I could convince my students that reading is like a drawn-out version of their favorite movies! Oh to dream...but there is plenty of research and data proving that children who read have higher test scores, richer vocabularies, better communication skills, enhanced concentration...and the list really does go on and on.
I LOVED reading growing up, having wanting to do everything my parents did. They would lie on the porch swing on the weekends, feet entangled in the summer heat, with their nose in books for hours. "Ashley, bring us some ice tea!" they would yell into the house, and I delivered it...and that's how I started loving unsweetened ice tea too. I wish parents knew (or remembered) how much modeling behaviors make such a difference in their children's lives.
My first genre of choice was historical romance. They are sweet, simple, romantic (maybe too mush so), and sometimes have a great mystery or adventure thrown into the mix. As I got older though, these types of books became repetitive and shallow to me and so I moved onto my next genre - non-fiction. I became a big nerd and started to read science books on a weekly basis (thanks dad!). But then I went to college and the last thing I wanted to do was read more books on science in my spare time. I liked books that truly helped me escape - science fiction, fantasy, and thrillers. I got into young-adult books mostly with Harry Potter, Hunger Games, and Twilight being among my bestsellers reads.
I am sad to admit that for those years in graduate school, I did very little reading - but I guess I have an excuse. Now I read a book every three weeks on average, and I seem to have expanded my genres of choice (can you believe Vampire is considered a genre now?I And no, I am not on that train). When I hear people say they don't like reading I can't help but thing, "But you do! You just haven't found the right genre yet!"
I find it especially important to read now that I am writing. The last two series I've read, the steam punk fantasy "Emperor's Edge" series by Lindsay Boroker and the post-apocalypic Silo series by Hugh Howey have been great. These authors have been especially helpful because of their expert writing styles. I already feel like my next book will be a better written piece of art from continued reading and reflection.
Seriously, though, if you have been slacking on your reading, pick up a book! Reading has been proven to decrease your risk of dementia later in life. And if you've lost your passion for reading, maybe try a different genre. Not much time because of, you know, life? Just aim for 15 minutes a night before you go to bed. Do yourself a favor and escape into another place for a few minutes a day.
Let me know what books you're reading and love and I will definitely look into them!
Through belly dancing, I have met some incredible people from all walks of life. One place where I dance regularly in downtown Jacksonville, Zodiac Bar & Grille, has been one such place. The owners are so down to earth and their food is soooo good! They allow me to sell my book between my dancing sets, thus many of the regulars have read it. Before I get into talking about the book club I feel like I have to thank the first Zodiac patron to have finished reading my book, John Daughtry (known to many as J.D). Not only is he one of the most community-oriented people in this city-town, but he has also been one of the biggest fans of Journey to Ohmani and gone out of his way to promote it for me. It's amazing how fast a stranger can become such a good friend! One of the waitresses there, Tricia, has also been so incredibly supportive of me. She and Liz Cline decided to make Journey to Ohmani their book of April for their ladies book club. I was surprised and delighted!
So last Saturday night I waltzed into a condiminuim complex in downtown Jax and made my way up to the penthouse common area with my best friend, SaLydia. Wine was overflowing, food was plentiful, and as I met the attendees I knew right away I was surrounded by women with kind hearts and sharp intellects. Many were teachers - there was even an English professor from UNF - and conversation was thought-provoking and genuine.
It was very informal, a Q&A mostly, and it was so fun to talk about my book in a critical and interpretive way. Many of them noticed my shout-outs to Jax (the main character being named after Avondale near Riverside and one of the main characters being named Fletch after Fletcher High School). I found myself excited to tell them more about my naming inspirations. For example, "the rail" that they order at one of the bars in the book is named after a real signature drink one cannot go to Virginia Tech without ordering (at TOTs). "Sydces" is named after my best friend SaLydia and her husband Frances. Talon tells Levi she will be at the bar in a "red shirt" - something I texted to Ryan on our first date.
I could go on and on, but it reminded me of why this book is so personal to me...as all writing should be. I hid away secrets of my life and personal experiences in the names, places and experiences of the characters - not in a way that would drive the plot or even stand-out, but would just give me some sort of inner satisfaction. And as I'm sure many on you have experienced from your own writings, you really care about the characters you write. You get to know them like your getting to know a friend. How in the world does George R.R. Martin kill so many beloved characters?! I even love the world I dreamed up - Ohmani - the "Las Vegas of Space." Now I understand why it cuts so deep when people do not like your writing. You can't help but feel like they don't like your "friends," your "world," "their" story. I guess what I am saying is that I was surprisingly delighted at just how personal writing can be .
But writing isn't about the author...its about the reader. No matter how much it means to me on a personal level, people should find it a page-turner. That's why this book club meant so much to me. Amazon reviews and conversations here and there are great feedback, but this felt like months of great feedback in the course of a couple of hours. Overall, they really loved it (one person did say sci-fi was not their genre so she did not read it) and I appreciated their interpretations and personal thoughts on the plot, pace, and prose. I also made friends and found a new book club along the way! So I would like to say THANK YOU to these ladies one more time - for reading my book, for speaking honestly about it, and for being kind, supportive individuals.
Until next time...
It's crazy to think that it is already time to engross myself in all things "An Eagles Revenge," the second book in the Across the Infinite Void series. I will admit, a wanted more of it done by now, but with AP testing just around the corner I've been working hard to end the year strong and prepare my students for success. Once the summer hits, it will be on though! I will wake up, write for eight hours, and do it again the next day. So far, I've written the first two chapters and I'm already collaborating with Mike Phillips, my front cover designer, about the art for the second book's cover. I'm so excited! The part that's going to be new for me is that while my deadlines are the same (book written by August 15th, editing done by December 15th, book published on January 1st), I have to continue to market and campaign my first book. Ugh, marketing. That will be a blog in itself!
Although I am excited for the challenging and fulfilling journey of writing a book again, I have to admit I find myself a little nervous too. My first book flowed out of me so organically, and it has been received very well by readers. Success! You start to ask yourself, can I do that again? Will it come out of me as easily? Will the story be as epic? No doubt my readers will analyze and compare - will they like it as much? I don't want to let them down! I am told these are perfectly natural feelings for a novice writer.
In the end, I know the bare bones of my next story and I believe in it. Although the question still remains whether or not I can get the story out successfully. That is one reason why I loved the Harry Potter series so much. J.K Rowling just has this awesome way of story-telling - the books were so easy to read that you never have to stop and think about the prose or grammar; you never had to put the book down and try to create your own imagery. They were effortless and beautiful books.
So to myself, I say just relax and do what you did last summer. Sometimes I forget how much editing I did on the first book! It's a process - a marathon. The best advice I gave my school's Creative Writing class is to not over-think the plot or rules of English writing (until editing). Let the character's surprise you and take you on the journey instead of the other way around. If they are developed enough, you will know what happens next :) And man, am I excited to get into Talon's brain and be taken on a spy-trekking adventure across The Void.
Until next time...