Unfiltered Podcast.

Do you have any friends that simply allow you to be your crazy, goofy, immature, and unfiltered self? I’m fortunate to have several, but Melanie Dale is one in a million. Maybe because she is likes to talk about pooping and farting as much as I do. So you can imagine, it was pretty dangerous when she asked me to join her on her podcast. Well, dangerous and entertaining!

Check it out here!

We talk about my book, my business, my kids, my faith, and other wildly inappropriate things. I think you will love Melanie as much as I do after listening.

Let me know what you think!

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Open your eyes.

White Butterfly

Yesterday, I sat in a lounge chair by the pool while my kids splashed and played. Earlier that afternoon, a blue and black butterfly had flown around the pool, sending the kids on a wild goose chase trying to catch it. As I sat there, listening to the kids laughing (fighting) and the birds chirping, a white butterfly flew up beside me. It landed on the flower pot next to me, then flew off into the woods. A white butterfly. It was so beautiful and for a split second, time froze as I looked at it perched next to me. The whole encounter lasted less than 5 seconds. But it sparked something and it was all I needed. Before it had reached the tree line, I thought “What if there was a world that was completely white?” Boom, a new world was born. Then, of course I spent the next hour researching the science behind the color white.

Sometimes we just need to open our eyes.

My friends asked me where I come up with this stuff (different worlds, fictitious stories, etc.) And to be honest, this is it. I just notice things, things that trigger something else; an idea or a thought. This is where almost everything I have ever created comes from. Once I sat on the beach, watching the gentle lapping of the waves pulling and pushing each other in different directions when I was inspired to create an entire world around that idea. Not too long ago, I sat by the Chattahoochee River and watched a huge swan (could have been a goose, lol) fly and gracefully land in the river,  which inspired a major detail in that same world. One of the other worlds I’d imagined had been inspired by sitting in a hammock by the lake staring up into the trees. One time, I woke up after having the most vivid dream of skipping rocks on a lake. It was so beautiful I wrote it down immediately because I thought it such a beautiful scene. It ended up making it into the book.

You never know when inspiration might strike. It could be on vacation, or at work, or while cooking, or dreaming in your sleep. All I know, is if we are too busy to notice, we might miss out on a beautiful opportunity or a beautiful moment of inspiration and creativity.

Are you a writer? Or a creator? Artist? Or are you just curious if you could be any of those things? My advice for you today is simple.

Just open your eyes and take notice of the things around you…then of course, make sure you write it down.

How it happened.

I’ve had a few people ask me how I got a contract. So here is the condensed version of the process of the last seven months.

I finished my first draft of my novel in the fall of last year. My first draft was only 50,000 words, which for a fiction novel, is very short. After I had some friends, (way smarter than me), edit it for me, I started querying. I knew that self publishing was a viable option for me, but I wasn’t in a hurry to get my book out there and just wanted to see if I could do it the traditional route. (Find an agent, let the agent try to sell it to large publishers, etc.) Now, I got some great advice from a couple of author friends. (And all of this goes for querying publishers as well.) They told me to:

Query to a handful of agents at a time.

Try to find agents that fit your style and were people you would want to work with.

Query your letter to them personally. (Why are you querying them?)

Every rejection you get, send another query out into the world.

I sent out my first query letters in January. I picked 4 agents that represented authors like me, and slowly the rejections came. Some were in the form of emails, and some were just deadlines crossed. (FYI, most agents/publishers will just tell you if you don’t hear from them in 6 weeks, they aren’t interested. How’s that for testing patience! 🙂 I always had 4 or 5 queries out at any given time.

Also, I found the agents I queried by looking in some of my favorite novels and saw who their agents were. Some I found online by simply googling “fantasy fiction agents.” As my husband always says, “When in doubt, google it.” I’ve done more googling in the past year than I ever imagined possible!

Through this entire process I had started writing the sequel to The Door Keeper. It wasn’t long before it was finished also. It too, was short, finished at just under 50,000 words.

In the spring when I wasn’t getting any traction or feedback, I talked to a friend of mine who had written an awesome trilogy and had it published. She said something that changed everything for me! She was honest enough to tell me the book was too short, that I needed to consider putting my 2 books together, and to not be afraid I would run out of ideas. She was right! I had wanted a trilogy so bad and was afraid I would run out of story. So I decided to try it…what could it hurt? If nothing happened, then I could just self publish eventually and re-seperate them.

During this same time, I had also decided to quit focusing on trying to query agents and attempt to query straight to publishers. Side note: most publishers will not accept unsolicited material, but a few of the smaller ones do. Also, some publishers will open their gates for a short, determined amount of time to read unsolicited manuscripts, so you need to keep a look out.

Around this time I also decided to start a blog and Instagram just in case I ended up self-publishing. I wanted to set myself up to be able to build a platform for my writing and have a place promote my book. My first follower on my blog was Royal James Publishing. They were in the first batch of queries I sent with my 2 manuscripts together, and the rest is history.

The main reason I decided to start looking for a smaller publisher was I wanted a partnership. I wanted collaboration. Having lived in the non-profit, social enterprise, small business, and start-up world for the past 5 years…I’m super comfortable here. I watched tiny business explode, watched some grow slowly, and always work hard to achieve success. I enjoy watching and being a part of that process. Plus, I have a weird obsession with getting in with things on the ground floor. I love being able to say I was apart of something back when it wasn’t big or important. (I guess it’s the deep rooted hipster in me.)

Honestly, I was prepared for this process to take years, but thankfully it didn’t. I think the main thing to learn from my journey up until this point is: learn as much as you can about a process and then tailor it to fit you. I’ve learned that the writing world is full of many different ways to get to one final result: a book for sale. Don’t be afraid to go traditional, or to be a trailblazer, or simply do something in between.

And when in doubt, just google it.

Sunflowers at Sunset.

Sunflowers at sunset

Photograph by: Matteo Righi

My eyes are closed. Immense beauty glows all around me, but I want to experience it through every sense. I smell the scent of my skin, having been under the sun all day. The faint breeze brings familiar odors of grass and nature. The smell of summer.

My face is warm under the sun, as it begins it’s decent after a long day of shining bright. I feel the leaves and tall stalks brushing up against my legs as I walk past each flower. Reaching out my hand, I feel the tiny flower petals tickle each of my fingers, like little feathers. The large, hard centers felt so rough compared to their soft and supple surroundings. I continue walking, eyes closed, toward the light source.

Until I can’t take it any more.

I open my eyes to see heaven meeting the most glorious part of earth. A smile spreads across my face as I take a deep involuntary breath. I love being in this place; hearing nothing but birds chirping in the distance and the occasional bee pass from one sunflower to the next. It is my escape and my one of my few constants. Every year, for as long as I can remember, I travel here to walk these wild sunflower fields. It brings me such joy, to witness the beauty of nature. It’s hard to be in a bad mood surrounded by golden flowers that mimic the source of life itself. I look forward to my trips here, at the end of summer; when the days are long and time moves slower. My yearly pilgrimage.

No matter what changes in my life; these sunflowers stay the same. No matter my work, my family, or the friends that come and go; these sunflowers are always here. Every year they grow tall, bloom, spread their seeds, and then die. All to begin anew. This is my welcomed reminder that nothing stays the same forever; beauty, pain, joy, or sadness. It reminds me that nature, and even life itself are one big cycle.

And that if you are patient, beauty and joy will always bloom again.

 

 

Picture vs. words.

Honestly, I would consider myself a storyteller rather than a writer. I love to tell stories. One of my favorite things is to make my friends laugh or gasp in surprise. And if I can make you do both, well then I’ve had a top night.

I am a very visual person. I’ve been a painter most of my life. So writing came along and surprised me. How can I make someone visualize what I see in my head? How do I describe things that don’t exist, in a way that makes you believe they might? Interestingly enough, I fell back on one of my other passions.

Movies.

I get lost in movies. The more magical and imaginative the world, the more I love it. So, when I found myself trying to describe what my characters saw or experienced, I imagined I was shooting a movie. Camera angels, different shots, wide pans, and tight lenses. I described scenes based on where the camera (our viewpoint) was. As a result, I believe The Door Keeper would make a fantastic movie. Imagine that, a writer who wants their book to be adapted to film. Lol.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. But what they don’t tell you is how difficult it is to actually get someone to see everything in the picture using only words. But I’ve found the challenge fun. Although my first love is the visual world and using my eyes to ingest the beauty around me, I’ve found words to be a beautiful tool to share it with others. Like paint, language allows me to show you only what I desire to, and leave the rest to our imaginations.