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Character Inspiration 

Inspiration is a funny little muse. 

She can be elusive, explosive, and unpredictable. There are times when I expect her to arrive only to be disappointed when she doesn’t, and other times she shows up unexpectedly like a long-lost friend. Anytime I find her I am thrilled that she is with me, for as long as she chooses to stay.

Often, characters are inspired by real-life. I find that people I know, stories in the news, and people I meet can inspire the creation of a character that I never realized existed. They will often set off a  spark  of creativity then ultimately the characters take on a life of their own. They evolve to the story around them or to the others who arrive to share the story with them, uncontrolled and unfettered, they become their own beautiful creation.

In The Lost Children, I found my inspiration in my own children and in other children I’ve known throughout my life. In I Run to You,  I was inspired by my niece and her battle with cancer. But in Leaving Eva I was inspired by myself and my own sense of abandonment and sadness. Leaving Eva was therapy for me as most of my writing has the tendency to be.

And as I’m constantly observing the world around me I’m also searching for insight into the souls of others, inspired by everything and everyone. Even the most unsavory or unpleasant people of circumstances can create a story within my brain, some that I share and others that sit on a shelf waiting for the right time or story to appear in. 

Until I began writing consistently I used to hear the voices in my head that never made sense, like a constant narration in my mind. There was always a stready voice explaining the world around me until writing quieted the madness and made sense of it all. Now the characters roam throughout my stories instead of in my mind, and I feel more at peace now than I’ve ever been. 

I’m thankful for my muse, in whatever shape or form she may come in because has finally made me sane.

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Six Book Marketing Tips

Hmmmm …

Disclaimer. This is a difficult subject for me this week, but I’ll attempt to tackle it anyway though I DO NOT claim to be an expert. I read somewhere that a new author should be happy to sell over one-hundred books and when I hit that mark I stopped counting. I’ve never made it onto a major bestseller list, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to be there one day. But this journey has been tremendous and far more than I ever hoped for.

Selling books is not only an art,  but it’s mostly a business. Author Taylor Dawn recently shared an article written by Nicholas Sparks about the pitfalls of the book business. Book selling is not for the faint of heart yet as authors whose hearts are full of our stories, we continue to try and share them with the world despite knowing that it’s an uphill battle at times. 

I’m happy to share what I’ve learned in the past few years of doing this crazy book-thing especially if it helps someone even a tiny bit.

  1. Be grateful … for everything. Every reader, every review, every like, every connection, everything that tells you that someone chose YOU. With the millions of books in the world, I’m grateful every time someone chooses one of mine, even if they didn’t love it or didn’t connect with the story or the characters. Someone still chose my book to read and I’m constantly amazed that they would. Saying THANK YOU and participating in giveaways and supporting fellow authors with hops is a great way to show gratitude. 
  2.  It’s been said a million times but don’t spam people with your books 24/7. It’s annoying! They’ll unfollow, block, and ignore you for all of eternity. Enough said.
  3. Try new things. Some things will work and some won’t but there is value in trying. Before I try a new opportunity, I always do my research and read comments or ask questions of other authors who’ve done it. Some marketing avenues will work and give you great exposure while others will boost sales. Know your audience and know what they like. 
  4. Share the love! There is strength in numbers and supporting other authors/bloggers not only shows how awesome you are to new fans, but can introduce your readers to wonderful new people as well. It’s a win-win to get involved in giveaways, cover reveals, celebrations, and anything that can get your name out there.
  5. Be true, be you! Show your readers who you are, inside and out. They are readers and people, just like you are. Interact, listen, and respond … consistently. Every single reader is important!
  6. Do your research and don’t keep doing what doesn’t work. It’s important to ask around and take your time when making a decision. But don’t be afraid to try, although you do wanti be selective when it comes to spending marketing dollars!

It’s important to remember that this is a journey; a marathon and not a sprint. It can take time to build an audience so don’t get discouraged and don’t compare yourself to others. Marketing involves taking risks, trying new approaches, and being brave. Try all of the free stuff and be selective about what costs money because not all of it is tried and true.

If bloggers offer to help, interview, or spread the word about your books, then let them, and don’t forget to THANK them! Many of them do it just because they love books and for no other reason.

Be true, be you, and have fun while your doing it! 

My Bookshelf 

I’ve read so many books in my lifetime that I’ve forgotten many of them.Being a voracious and fast reader, there was a time in my life when I read three or four books in a week. As I’ve grown older and my free time has dwindled with working, having babies, doing laundry, and writing, it’s become far more difficult to maintain such a pace.

My reading has shifted from novels, to articles, and from series to blogs. I’m still a constant reader but I plan my reading time around the rest of my life, knowing it won’t always be this way. One day the babies will be in college and the laundry will be less and my pace will have picked up. When I’m really lucky, I get to binge read, like I did when I first got my Kindle. I wish I could read at the pace that I did when I was younger. I read anything that was written by Judy Blume or Beverly Cleary and my fondest first memories of reading were “See Spot Run” and the adventures of Dick and Jane that my parents must’ve had tucked away from their own childhood.

As a teenager I graduated to reading VC Andrews, Sweet Valley High, and anything that intrigued me at the local library. I remember reading some of Jackie Collins’  famous stories about sex and Hollywood, which was the furthest I dared to venture into the adult section at that time. I became addicted to anything by Mary Higgins Clark; murder, mystery, and strong heroines always drew me in.

As an adult I curtailed my reading as I grew my career and social life, and eventfully got married and had babies. But being a reader and a writer has always been a part of who I am. The desire to do both had never left me, surfacing during the difficult times in my life, and comforting me like a warm blanket and an old friend.

Most recently, I read Letters in White by Kathryn Perez, which told the beautiful and sad story of a woman struggling with depression, ultimately taking her own life. Books that make you think always get to me and this one did. I still think about it even weeks later, and I love that about this book. My most recent read was Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng, which I loved with every fiber of my being. I sank into the story as though it were my own, because in a lot of ways it was. I became lost in every page, relating to each character as though Ms. Ng had seen into my soul and created them from within me. It’s one that I’ll probably read again and again because as an Asian-American, a woman, and at times, a lost soul, this book speaks to me.

I still have many books waiting for me on my Kindle, though I fight the urge to #oneclick daily. While I adore my Kindle, I still love paperbacks and always will. There is nothing like having a book in my hand and turning the pages. The act of turning the page, anticipating the end of the book, is both disheartening and exhilarating and nothing will ever replace that feeling for me. Unfortunately my book collection has grown anemic over the years, lost during a time when I lived out of my car or lost boxes while moving from one place to the next, until I decided to and find a home.

As life has settled down I do try and collect the older  books as I find them, C.S. Lewis’ books about love and faith, Anne Rice’s books about witches and vampires, the classics that I love so much and try and reread once every few years. I also try and collect new books a long the way telling myself that they’ll be happy on my bookshelf. Many are stored on my Kindle but I do dream about a house with many bookshelves, and books to fill them,  in the near future.




Some of my favorite books are Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, the Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, and the Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom. I love anything my C.S.Lewis, John Steinbeck, and Shel Silverstein. My reading tastes are as eclectic as my preference in music, dependent upon my mood and my situation in life. When I read a book that I’ve read before, often it reads differently to me depending on where I am in my life and I love that about books.

I love reading and getting lost in a story or in the characters and I can’t wait to dive into my next set of books, the Twilight Series by Stephenie Meyer.  I know that I’m about a decade later than most when it comes to reading these books, but I do tend to run behind at times. I’ve read all of the Hunger Games books by Suzanne Collins but I’ve never seen the movies. I still haven’t read every Harry Potter book by J.K. Rowling, but the ones I have read, I’ve enjoyed immensely. I have yet to see the movie Fifty Shades of Grey, but I’ve read the books by E.L. James. While I’ve seen a few of the Twilight movies, I have yet to see them all, and I’m looking forward to the books, which I’ve been told are far better than the movies are.

I’m looking forward to growing my bookshelf and if you look really closely at the pictures, you’ll see the original Leaving Eva sitting on the shelf as well.  I’m beyond excited that I can put my books on a shelf with so many other amazing works and fulfilling a lifelong dream of being a writer.

Books are made of dreams and dreams are a beautiful thing to never give up on, which this author and reader never intends to.

 

My Writing Room

In short … I don’t have one.

The end.

Kidding. 😆😆😆

In reality, my writing room is wherever I am. On the couch covered with kids, at the dining room table, in front of the fireplace, in the waiting room at the doctor’s office … 

I write where and when I can which means that I can’t be too selective, at least not right now. I do have an office but it’s not a room that I would hole away in and write for hours. It’s big and clean but it’s not ideal for nurturing creative ideas and expressing thought. I do the best that I can where I can, when I am able.  

I do wish that I had a writing nest. I envision it to be a sunroom with a desk, a few comfortable chairs, books, and a lot of plants where each word and thought has no choice but to flow. I’ve been looking for it in my next house and will have it there. 

Fortunately, I’ve never needed the ideal environment to read or write. Even when I was younger, pre-technology, with pen and paper in hand, anywhere, always worked for me. When I would read, I could do it wherever I was as long as I had a book in my hand. My parents used to say that the house could fall down around me while I was reading and I would never know it, which was true.

While I don’t need complete silence, I can’t read or write to music because I get too caught up in the words. While music often inspires stories, I get too lost in it, to create while I’m listening.

If you’ve ever seen the movie For Love of the Game, when Kevin Costner prepares to pitch he says to himself “Clear the mechanism” and suddenly the noise of the crowd, the pressure, and the sounds of the stadium all disappear into blessed nothingness so that he’s able to focus. 

This is a very similar process for me when I begin writing. Sportscenter, dogs barking, children fighting, all of the residual sounds of life just fall away. Once  I start writing, no matter where I am, the rest of the world disappears and I am lost until something brings me back. Once I begin, hours become minutes and minutes become seconds, and I find that I am made whole once again.

Even as I write this, a child is beckoning one of the dogs, the news is on, and my husband is being goofy and singing and playing the song “Only Time Will Tell” on his phone. Controlled chaos, which is my preferred environment. If I waited for peace and quiet to write in, I would never write again.

I’m not complaining about this at all! I love that I carry my writing room with me wherever I go. One day, I do hope to write in a room with books and a lot of sunlight, surrounded by nature. 

But for now, I’m good.

 As long as I am writing at all … I’m good.