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...
Well, I probably should have started a blog awhile ago. After all, I have already gone through the process of writing, editing, publishing, and marketing one book! Phew! I think maybe this blog is really for me...a way to motivate myself to keep going...keep writing, keep pushing...even though discouragement is always around the next bend. Even though these books are for my readers in the end, writing them is for me. Believing in myself is the catalyst to all of this. So here I go a bloggaling :)