Saturday, October 15, 2011

My New Blog - Please Join Me

I will no longer be adding content to this blog. If you would like join me on my new blog, I'd love to have you!

http://authorashleylynnwillis.blogspot.com/

Saturday, July 23, 2011

My Choice to Self Publish (It wasn't an easy one.)


Well, after much soul searching and gnashing of teeth, I’ve finally made the difficult decision that I am going to self-publish The Calling.  No queries or synopsis writing for me.  Nope, I’m going to try my hand at doing it myself.  Is that a scary proposition?  Yep.  But it’s also a challenge, and I LOVE a challenge.  So for anyone wondering why I’m doing this, I’ve come up with a list below. 
v  I cannot spend more than a year on a novel before I want to poke my eyes out.  Any more than that, with the writing, the rewriting, the editing, the rewriting, the text to speech, the editing and the rewriting, and I’m ready to throw my computer into a wood chipper.  Once I’ve hit the year mark, I have three options, I can send queries to agents (and pray the gatekeeper’s drunk enough to let me in), let the novel languish on my hard drive indefinitely or self-publish.  Which leads to my second bullet.

v  I hate writing synopsis’s.  And I mean I’d rather skin myself with a potato peeler and jump into a bath of acid than write one.  Queries are fun to perfect.  They’re a few paragraphs, and my friends are more than happy to provide feedback, but if I ask them to look at my one page, three page and five page synopsis, they disappear, never to be seen again.  Anyway, just the thought of the evil thing makes my skin prickle like spiders are scurrying up my back.  Eeeecks! 

v  So my next reason has to do with the support of my wonderful husband.  He suggested that I self-publish when I mentioned the success a fellow critique partner of mine was having.  He knows how much time I spend on my novels and to him, the thought of saving them on my computer, never be read again was just really annoying.  (He watches the kids many evenings so I can have a few hours of writing time.)  Even though he was irritated at the thought of my novels never seeing the light of day, I felt guilty because if I was going to do it, I wanted to do it right.  That meant hiring an editor and a cover artist.  I explained this to my husband and this is basically how the conversation went:

“Is a thousand enough to get your book published?” Hubby asked.
Even though I knew that was exactly what I needed, I said, “That’s too much.”
Hubby scowled as he crossed his arms over his broad, manly chest and said, “We have a thousand dollars of workout equipment that’s used exclusively as monkey bars by our kids.  At least you might make a few bucks with this investment.”
“Good point,” I said, doe-eyed. “Have I ever told you that you’re the most handsome man in the world and the smartest?”  Then I gave him my best come hither stare and the rest of my “thank you” took place in the bedroom.    
Needless to say, I now have a budget of fifteen-hundred.   

v  My next reason has to do with marketing.  From what I’ve heard, most publishers now expect their mid-list authors to do the brunt of the marketing, from blog tours to setting up book signings.  Through chatting with Indie Authors on the Kindle forums, I’m learning what that entails, but talking about it and actually doing it are two different things.  If I have a book available, I will learn firsthand the ropes of marketing and gain experience that might make me more desirable later when I do try to publish traditionally. 

v  By self-publishing I would also meet other self-published authors and learn from them.  I’m on the Kindle boards now and I love it, but half the time I don’t know what they’re talking about with tags, sales charts, monthly trends.  If I was living it with them, then it would make more sense and I’d shorten my learning curve. 
 
v  Last but not least, I love to write.  Like most authors, I have more stories to tell than time to write them.  And while I love writing for myself, I’d love it even more if I could share my work with others.  I have no guarantee that I’ll ever be traditionally published.  The chances are slim at best.  I will still pursue that avenue with my Killing Abel series, but for now, I’d like the accomplishment of having a novel out there for the public to read if they want.  They can love it, they can hate it, but at least I’m in the game. 

  

Friday, June 24, 2011

Cover Dilemma Solved, I Think.

Below is the new cover from my cover designer, complete with water action.  My character hair color is resolved, and Mandy even has short blunt nails, just like in my book.  Let me know what you think. 
Thanks!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Cover Dilemma

For those of you who don’t know, I’ve decided to self-publish The Calling.  I’ll do a more detailed blog for the reasons why I’ve made that decision.  Mostly it revolves around wanting to understand the marketing side of publishing.  What better way to do that than to market my own book. 

Anyway, my cover artist came up with this image.  I’m so in love with it, that I’m thinking about changing the color of my character’s hair to match these models.  Is that insane?  I can’t decide.  In the final product, the male model will be melting into water.  That effect has not been added yet, but I love the couple.  They are so sweet, and the picture is beautiful.  Ugh!  If anyone knows of a picture of a couple like this that is for sale but has a blonde woman and dark haired man, let me know. 



Oh, and I apologize for not commenting on comments.  For about a week, I had no access to my blog.  And now that I have access back, I still can’t leave comments even though I’ve erased all my cookies as instructed.   It's very, very annoying to say the least.  I've got a few more tricks up my sleeve so hopefully this week, I'll be up and running again. 

Sunday, June 12, 2011

A Surprised Audience Is A Happy Audience

WARNING: SPOILERS FOR TANGLED
When I first joined CC, I was reading a book from a fellow critique buddy.  At the end of the novel, I remember thinking, this is it?  No, wait!  There has to be something more!  I didn’t just spend twenty chapters with these characters to have the finale include the heroine tied to a train track while the hero has to save her before the train smashes her into pâté.  But that was exactly what the author did.  Okay, it wasn’t train tracks, but it was something just as cliché.  Sure the characters were great.  Sure the quest was fun.  Sure I had the hots for one of the sidekicks, but the ending was uninspired.  And that’s being kind.  (No, the author of the story is no longer active on CC and is not a follower of my blog so don’t try to insert your story into the above.) 
Anyway, what got me to thinking about this CC story again was a movie I watched a few days ago called Tangled.  It’s a story that’s loosely based on Rapunzel by the Grim Brothers.  I’ll say it right now, Disney is not known for their inspired storylines, in my opinion.  They are fun to watch but very rarely, if ever, have I been caught off guard by something truly unexpected in one of their movies.  But I was happy to discover that Tangled was different. 
Here come the spoilers so close your eyes if you haven’t seen the movie yet and plan to. 
Lead in:  First and foremost, Rapunzel has magical hair that can heal wounds and can render whoever touches it, while she sings, young.  Hence the reason the hag (mean mother) steals her when she’s a baby and raises Rapunzel as her daughter.  This way the mean mother can stay young forever by combing Rapunzel’s hair as she sings – the mother’s youthfulness stays intact from the contact. 
Unexpected Scene 1:  The heroine and hero are in a tunnel, the water is rising, and they are stuck in an air pocket that gets smaller and smaller and smaller.  Seen it done before?  Me, too.  What did I expect to happen?  The same thing that always happens.  A boulder or dam or something gives way and all the water comes rushing out, leaving them happily sucking in deep lungful’s of air.  Or they die.  I’ve seen it go both ways. 
I got my first big smile during this scene because no one dies (its Disney after all), and it was Rapunzel that saved the day.   I like my girls cheeky.   So while the air pocket is diminishing by the second, the hero is swimming underwater trying to find a way out, but it’s too dark to see anything.  They give up hope.  In their last moments, the hero tells Rapunzel his real name.  No one knows it, and he doesn’t want to die without someone knowing his true identity.  Okay, that’s kinda cute.  So in reciprocation, Rapunzel, tells him a secret.  Her hair glows when she sings.  Tada!  Light for them to use to find a way out.  I was surprised.  I didn’t expect her glowing hair to resolve the issue of their imminent death.  I smiled. J     
Unexpected Scene 2:   The mean mother recruits two thieves to help retrieve Rapunzel and bring her back to the lonesome tower where she will spend the rest of her life.  The men kidnap Rapunzel, holding her hostage.  In a bid to win back her daughter’s love, Rapunzel’s mother knocks out the two thieves and pretends to have done it to save her daughter from the marauding thieves.  Some of you probably saw this coming, and I knew that Rapunzel’s mean mother would dupe the two accomplices, but I didn’t expect her to do it in a way that would convince her daughter to come home.  I cringed. L  That really was a brilliant moment that made my heart sink in my chest.  I won’t go into any more detail here because the last unexpected scene took the cake.
Unexpected Scene Three:  The hero, trying to save Rapunzel from a lifetime of solitude with her mean mother, receives a mortal wound from said mean mother.  Horrified at what her pseudo mother has done, Rapunzel agrees to stay with her forever if she is allowed to heal the hero.  If she is not allowed to save the hero, she says she will fight the mother every second of every minute of every hour of every day.  The mother agrees.  (No one wants to put up with a testy daughter, after all.)  So what did I expect to happen?  Rapunzel would heal the hero.  The hero would somehow get free of the chains that the mean mother had put him in.  He’d slays the mean mother, and the hero and Heroine will live happily ever after. 
Nope, I wasn’t even close. 
Instead, the hero cuts off Rapunzel’s hair to save her from the mean mother!  And this was before Rapunzel had healed him!  I one hundred percent did not see that coming!  I cried! :,( The script writer saw an alternative that I didn’t, and I loved them for it.   Without her hair, Rapunzel couldn’t heal the hero, but she also couldn’t be used by the mean mother to stay young forever any longer.  Brilliant!  In one swoop, the hero made the ultimate sacrifice of his own life.  But his sacrifice also killed the mother (she was like a zillion years old and turned to dust) and freed Rapunzel from a life of isolation.  I loved him for it.  That scene alone made the movie worth watching. 
Did the hero survive?  I’m not telling.  (But remember people, it’s Disney.)
Anyway, maybe I’m dense.  Maybe you all saw everything that was going to happen, but I sure didn’t and I loved the movie because of it.  This is saying a lot, because at thirty-four, I mildly tolerate the Disney movies my kids force me to watch, but this one I loved.
If the screenwriters had relied on spectacular computer animation to make the story memorable, they would have failed.  There’s only so much room in my brain for dams cracking open and huge rivers of water unleashing on unsuspecting characters, swallowing them up and forcing them into impossible situations.  Sure, when I was watching, I enjoyed the big action scenes, but it was the unexpected moments, the ones that made me gasp in surprise, that I’ll remember long after I’ve slipped the movie into a red envelope and mailed it back to Netflix.     
As novelists, our books are the same.  It’s the moments that take our readers aback, that make them say, I never saw that coming, that will stick with them long after they’ve closed the book and nestled it into the shelf for safekeeping. 
Is this easy?  Heck, no.  Is it fun?  Heck, yes.  Everyone has their own ways of calling their muse.  Mine happens to be thinking about my work-in-process while I shower, drive or before I go to bed.  It may take a month, sometimes it takes longer, but the ideas that spring forth in my quest to write fresh have been worth the wait.        
As an author we have to work hard to dream up the alternatives that the reader cannot see.  If you give them a cliché, expect that to reflect in their response to your work.  And nobody wants to write a forgettable book.    

Friday, April 15, 2011

Oops, My MC Killed His Ex-Best Friend



If you’re writing a romance, and you aren't a master at manipulating your reader's emotions (I'm not), don’t do that!  I haven’t read many romances in my lifetime.  (I know, funny that I should decide to write one.) Luckily, I have two critique buddies that write romance and have probably read enough books between the two of them to stock the Chicago Public Library.  Anyway, it turns out there are rules in romance, and true romance junkies expect them to be adhered to.  They are as follows: (Feel free to add to the list.)
·         Thou shalt not have the hero cheat on the heroine or vice versa.
·         Thou shalt not have more than one love interest for the heroine.
·         Thou shalt not kill off the hero.
·         Thou shalt not have the hero commit murder.
Yeah, I kinda fell on my butt for that last one.  As one of my critique partners said, “If I hadn’t liked the author so much, I probably wouldn’t have finished the book.”  Since I’d only make about twenty bucks selling this book to my friends, I figured I’d better do some major rewriting.  Though I will say that the ex-best friend deserved it, but as a law abiding man, my hero will refrain from killing anybody in cold blood.  Dang-it.  That was such a fun scene to write.      

Saturday, January 22, 2011

When Writing Jobs For Your Characters, The Little Things Count

This post is going to seem so obvious it may hurt.  Don’t write what you don’t know unless you plan to do a lot of research or have a subject matter expert (SME) to guide you.  This holds true when giving your characters jobs, too. 
My main character (MC) of my current Work in Process (WIP) is a pediatric nurse at a hospital.  I’ve had two kids recently, so I’ve been to the hospital more times than I’d like to admit.  How hard could it be to write the day-to-day activities of a nurse?  As long as I stayed general, not hard.  But when my female MC’s boyfriend ended up in the ER and she was on duty at the same hospital, lines got crossed. 
Lucky for me, I have a nurse in my critique group.  Can anyone say, “SME?”  (I know I’m a little acronym happy, but I work in aviation.  Using them is part of our job description.)  Anyway, here is a scene that I thought worked just great if I do say so myself.  It’s been abbreviated for this post so don’t expect anything fabulous. 
Excerpt from The Calling: 
Lori stood in front of Mandy, her eyes wide and her hand pressed to her stomach. 
“Is something wrong?” Mandy asked, wondering if the toddler in room 253 had been moved to ICU.  Her stomach twisted into a knot.  The whole floor had become attached to that curly haired girl with big brown eyes.
Lori’s jaw stiffened.  “Justin’s in the ER.”   
Mandy stilled, sure she’d heard Lori wrong.  “What?” 
“He had an accident.”
“How bad?” Her breath faltered.     
“Bad.”
The pen clutched in Mandy's hand fell to the ground and rattled at her feet. Without giving Lori a second glance, she raced to the ER.

Mandy finds out the love of her life is possibly dying in the ER.  She runs to find him.  Works great for me. 
Not so fast.  This is what the nurse in my group had to say about that. 

Critique comment:  Okay, no matter how much you want to run, until you have someone to cover your patients, you won't. Nurses are like cops and firemen. Our coworkers are like family.   This is what I would have done. Word the way you want.
———————————————————————————————————————-
The pen rattled at Mandy's feet. Turning to Lori, her face drawn with fear, she rasped, "Please, please cover my patients."
Lori reached out and pushed Mandy toward the elevators at the end of the hall. "Go! I'll let the charge nurse know what's happen. Don’t' worry, we've got your back."
————————————————————————————————————————-
The wording “got your back” in the nursing world is used for good or bad because they either do or they don't. If you’re considered family, and you work at the hospital, they have it and will go to the ends of the earth to help their own. 

There are nuances in what my critique buddy suggested that only nurses are aware of.  At my job, if someone found out a loved one was at the hospital, they’d take off without a second thought.  That’s an engineer's psyche, not a nurse's psyche.  Without an SME, I would never have been privy to a nurse’s inner workings.  So I’m lucky, I have a nurse critiquing me.  Well, I’m also not so lucky, because my male MC is a Coast Guard rescue swimmer.  Do I know any of those?  Since there are only like three hundred in all of North America, the answer is a resounding no.  I don’t even know anyone in the Coast Guard.
Aware that I was plunging myself into a difficult task, but too stubborn to change Justin’s occupation, the first thing I did was rent The Perfect Storm and The Guardian.  That gave me an idea of what I was up against.  The second thing I did was join a Coast Guard message board.  There is a wealth of info there. 
The last thing I’m going to do, and by far the scariest, is ask on the Coast Guard message board if anyone would read the chapters involving rescues.  I may get heckled relentlessly.  It is a paranormal romance after all.  But it will be worth it if I can solicit someone to help make my Coastie scenes as realistic as possible.             

Quick last message:  Suzie Quint, on the blog Falling In Love With Romance, is going to start interviewing individuals with interesting jobs.  She’s hoping to make a repository of jobs with enough information that an author could realistically write their occupation.  If you’ve had an interesting job and would like to contribute or you want to use it as a reference, head to her site.