Inspired

A few have asked me if I’m still writing. I’ll admit life has been very chaotic since I published my last book. Moving to France has been more intense than I imagined, and although we’ve had some amazing moments, it is still a lot of work to create a whole new life overseas.

But, the really incredible thing is this: Northern France is the dream world I always wanted to live in. I am surrounded by things that inspire me at every turn. A wall of ivy, a set of ruins, a moss-covered pathway, fog creeping through the trees, a chateau peeking above the forest in the distance, ancient stones with faded markings… there is something new to discover every day.

And there are funny things, too, that stick in my head. For instance, the way someone looks at you when you try to explain you are moving here…on purpose. The way some words sound the same, but mean something VERY different. The odd little social rules that no one seems to realize are actual rules, but you seem to be breaking every single one. We weren’t here a week before I began to imagine myself as a character in a story that was equal parts ridiculous and adventurous. This lead me to invent other characters, people I could send off into the woods the way I wanted to be able to roam, or into a chateau where some local can embarass her and woo her all at the same time. I was writing stories in my head every day for weeks before I finally had the time to sit down and write a single word. Then, one day, my husband said, “I think it’s time for you to write. Tonight, I want you to sit down and write for a few hours. If you do that every night before we leave, you’ll have a rough draft of your next book finished.”

Okay, first of all, how lucky am I to have a guy who sees the story inside of me itching to get out and helps me prioritize that passion? I am so blessed! Secondly, I really thought I would be writing one of the two books I have slated to finish next. Instead, I found myself pouring out the first few chapters of a new contemporary romantic comedy. It’s fun to let the story take over and see where it goes. It’s so much fun to write characters who are desperate to be heard. I can’t wait for you to see a little of what life is like here in France through the eyes of my main character.

There are other stories to be told here, too. The village, the chateau, the medieval fortress, they all are fabulous settings. I can imagine Merrilyn and Justan here as I walk through the forest, and I’m eager to return to their journey with all of these beautiful scenes to help make it come alive. My mind is full of ideas to bring a troupe here to eastern France and see how the world I’ve created in the Soul Ties series takes on new dimension with the added cultures and history of Europe. I mean, just imagine a troupe of gypsies, or a scene that included the gargoyles of Notre Dame! Wouldn’t that be amazing?

There is so much writing to do here, and I’m only just getting started. So, don’t give up on me, friends. If you want to see me writing more, then share my books with your friends. Introduce them to one of my series. You can start them all for FREE! Here’s how:

The Light of Loian Series: A Light in the Darkness

The Wanderer Series: Seen

The Soul Ties Series: A Familiar Darkness

 

Retreat

Untitled designLast week was a roller coaster.

Let me back up. This year I decided to pursue writing with a new intensity and a greater focus. I set goals. I made plans. I took risk. And I set things in motion. Last week it all came crashing down on my head. I had bills to pay, I had projects that weren’t working out the way I thought they would. I had a calendar full of to do lists with little time left for writing, and then on top of it all, I had writer’s block. Ugh!

So, what’s a girl to do when everything feels a little (a lot) too intense and you’re in danger of losing all your dreams? RETREAT! I set aside three days to join an online writing challenge a few friends had put together and I logged out of my life to dive into my next project. My husband, bless him, offered me his office for the weekend and worked from home so that I could have some privacy. He even brought me lunch each day! Isn’t that the sweetest?

I hid away in my little writing cave from Thursday morning to Saturday night coming home to sleep each evening. The first day was a little rough. I had a lot of unexpected interruptions that were all really nice, but ultimately kept me from adding more than my daily average word count which falls between 1500 and 2000 words. Then on Friday, something magical happened. I started the day in prayer, literally asking God to give me words to write for the day and inviting him to shape the story. Then, I went to my desk and at 9am I began typing. That day I added nearly 9,000 words to my new novel. I didn’t want to stop! The story was getting exciting and my heart was racing as I typed those last few words of the day. I could hardly believe my final word count! Then, the next day I did the same thing and it happened again. Amazing!

By the end of the third day my brain was definitely feeling the wear and tear. In the middle of Friday I was writing an average of 1200 words per hour, but by the end of Saturday I was struggling to do half that. My last entry for the weekend was just over 200 words. My brain was mush and it was time to call it quits. I had earned a day of rest.

In the end, I had added 20,000 words to my new novel. That’s nearly a third of a book! I learned a lot from this experience.

Sometimes you just need to RETREAT.

I was overworked and overwhelmed. Next time I feel that way I’m going to set aside time to focus on my creative work and escape the daily stress that keeps me from producing good work.

It is possible to write all day.

Until this writing challenge, I didn’t really know if I could write more than three or four hours at a time. It’s really hard to find time to write longer periods in my busy life and I honestly wasn’t sure if I could focus that long. The best part about this challenge was seeing how my husband reacted because now he’s dreaming of a day when I can write full-time, too. A shared vision will always be more likely to become a reality.

Know when to stop and give your body rest.

My brain clearly had a breaking point where it could no longer continue at its maximum capacity. However, just 48 hours later I was able to sit down and pick up right where I’d left off with a great writing session. Writing like a maniac might be fun, but it can’t last forever. You have to know when to rest.

Have you ever taken a personal retreat? How did it affect your stress levels and your work productivity? Let us know in the comments about your favorite retreat.

 

Filling the Well

Since we returned home from our summer of adventure, I’ve been writing like a girl on fire. It’s been powerful and cathartic, filling me with a sudden clarity of purpose after five years of inner soul searching. I find in the midst of my writing that I suddenly know myself and it brings a sense of peace I’ve found elusive for too long.

A Lot of New
Last week I finished final revisions for The Light Within and sent it off to my editor, eager to turn my attention to a new project. But, I sat down at the computer and for the first time ever as a writer stared into the void of the dreaded blank screen. New ideas is not really a problem for me, I have notebooks and computer files full of novel ideas, some with nearly 10,000 words already attached to them. So, I knew the problem wasn’t lack of inspiration. There was something else wrong. As I began to try to force my way through it, I finally realized that the real problem was that I was working in completely new territory:
A New Genre – Steampunk
A New Style – Serial Novel
A New Format – Journal/Epistolary
New Demands – Lots of required research

And what’s more, this idea felt huge and beautiful in my mind, full of potential…and I wanted to get it just right. Which meant, of course, that I was starting out with a ton of pressure already piled on my shoulders and I hadn’t even written the first page. No wonder I was stuck! I waded through it for a while and then finally decided that I was going to have to make a choice. Either I could embrace all the new this project held, believing that the extra work it brought would be worth it, or I could give it up now and move on. In the end, I decided to tackle the project. I really feel strongly that it is going to open all new doors for me as a writer and become something truly great. Accepting this meant facing the work from new perspectives with new strategies. Instead of just sitting down and writing, I would have to do some research, a lot of planning, and more than my fair share of daydreaming.

Rules & Lessons
I have a very strict rule for myself that I made up when I wrote my very first book: No reading in the genre you’re writing in. This may seem crazy, but it started with a genuine desire to be unique in my story and voice. I didn’t want to be too heavily influenced by any other work in the midst of writing, and I was appalled at the idea of being accused of relying too heavily on someone else’s work. So, I gave up reading in the genre I was working in. This turned out to be easier than I imagined as I quickly realized that writing meant I had even less time for reading anyway. All the hours I used to spend curled up with a book were now spent hunched over the computer desk, telling myself stories late into the night. Well, this new project happens to be in a genre I don’t read. So this week, staring at that blank screen, I decided it was time I broke a few rules. I went into my library and pulled steampunk novels off the shelves that I’d always wanted to read. I went to the bookstore and bought the entire Infernal Devices series I’d always wanted to find time for because I enjoyed her writing style. I pulled up books on my kindle that I’d bought and never read. In the end I had a very ecclectic stack of books piled high on the bed beside my journal and planning album. This would be my world. Instead of writing for the next few days, I would pour myself into reading and soak up the work of talented authors with completely different styles and stories. From clockwork automatons to airships, from an India-inspired fantasy world to the streets of London, I explored it all.

I learned a few things, too. I learned that I needed to fill my first few pages with buzz words that would clue readers into the genre and the overall story elements I planned to use. I learned that I was letting my characters off the hook too easily, running away from their pain or disappointment instead of dealing with it. As a reader, I cherish those moments where I get to feel what the character is feeling, the deeper the better. As a writer, I want my readers to not only feel that, but to lay the book down and wrestle in that moment with thier own pain or fear or whatever it is they are facing with my characters. Because, in the end, this is what makes a novel worth reading, worth creating. Through books, we discover bits of our own broken souls and in seeing the characters triumph, we find hope for ourselves, too.

Filling the Well
My talented friend, Susan Kaye Quinn, calls this process Filling the Creative Well.

Reading, free writing, watching movies, TV, engaging in erudite discussions – all of this feeds the creative well. It will fill your subconscious mind with the raw stuffs you will use to create your work when the time comes. This isn’t TV-as-distraction or a brain-dead-reception of whatever is put in front of you, but an active, voracious consumption of creative works. This will renew – and inspire – you when your creative work block-time comes around again.

I remember when I first read this advice in her book, The Indie Author Survival Guide, I laughed out loud. When do I have time to do that? But, now I know she’s right. If I don’t make time to fill the well, then I end up dry and empty with nothing to give to the blank page.

Last night I was up to 4 am reading (and crying with) The Clockwork Prince. I remember lying there in a puddle of tears and thinking, “I hope this is worth it. I will probably be a complete waste of space today after a night like this, but oh how I want to be able to make readers feel this way.”

And you know what happened when I set aside my writing and devoted myself to reading? It led to more writing. I went to bed at 4 and woke up at 8:30 with my phone ringing. It was my sister and I couldn’t wait to tell her all about the stuff in my head. Character ideas, story ideas, settings, devices, plot twists… And almost none of it had much at all to do with what was in the stories I read. I emerged from that marathon reading session with new and beautiful ideas that were NOT in the books I’d just consumed. This blew my little rule out of the water. Most important of all, I walked away with a lot of ideas about how I want my readers to feel when they put down one of my books. This is invaluable. This is a well full of creative energy and focus that I need to tackle this great big beautiful project.

Feel the Pain
I also realized something huge about my work: I don’t allow my characters feel their pain too deeply. I let them run away. Death, heartbreak, loneliness, fear…I lead them right up to those moments, give a nod to those emotions, and then off we go to chase down the next plot line. Two of my projects in particular deal with some heavy pain and I realized that I was doing a disservice not only to my characters, but to my readers as well, when I let them run away from their pain without looking too closely at the source of it. I sat and thought about that for a while and realized something else, too. In the end, I’m really the one running away. I, the writer, don’t want to face their pain. I don’t want to have to think about it, to dwell on their loss. I want them to be happy and move on to the next happily ever after. But life brings pain and to truly grasp our happily ever afters, we have to first face the pain.

This could probably have been an entirely separate blog post. I’m curious how you feel about it, readers, writers. Do you need to fill the well? Do you run from the pain in your story? Or, do you find strength in facing the pain and rising up to meet it?

Productive Procrastination

My deskWriting is fun. But like everything on earth, once you’ve made it your “job” it inevitably reveals areas that are more work than fun. For me, the revision phase of writing is that work.

I just finished two separate first drafts last month. That is two new books that granted me the immense pleasure of typing The End. It’s not exactly normal for a writer to finish two books in a month. And as exciting as that was, it means I now have no choice but to enter into the revision phase for the foreseeable future. Or, as I like to call it, the Get Your Life Together phase.

Writing, for me, is beautifully messy work. The piling on of ideas, the sculpting of concept into reality…it takes a certain “letting go” for me to craft fantasy. And it shows. My desk becomes a cluttered mess of “organized chaos” which really just translates to piles and piles of notebooks and papers. A thesaurus holds down a stack of revision notes hastily scribbled during a frantic late night writing session. A cluster of worn notebooks teeters on the edge, a forgotten friend after hours of searching for random notes I buried in whatever journal was closest over the course of three years brainstorming. It’s a tangled mess that closely resembles my own inner work space at the end of a book’s birth into the world.

But editing and revising is another monster altogether. It is analytical, logical, organized. I can’t hope to sort out plot holes and character flaws if I don’t start it with the end in mind: a clearly articulated story that will transform your everyday mess of a life into magic for a few blissful hours. This is the goal. And it all starts with a clean desk.

Cleaning my desk is step one in the Get Your Life Together Phase. At first glance it feels harder than writing a book from scratch. But, little by little, it gets done. And then, we have a clear work space for clear thinking. Next, I tackle all of the forgotten and neglected chores of a responsible human being. Namely, laundry.

Laundry has no doubt piled up IMG_2990around me while I slaved away at the keyboard and though my family is incredibly helpful and supportive, no one cherishes a love for putting laundry in its proper place. So, the sorting and stuffing of clean laundry begins. I say stuffing because I gave up folding years ago. Stuffing it into drawers is the best I can do, people. You can have wrinkle free t-shirts, or you can have a magical fantasy adventure, but you can’t have both. (Someone please embroider this on a pillow for me. Thanks.)

All of this work seemed at first like walking away from writing. It was labelled “not writing” in my brain for too long. Now I see that it, like many other seemingly random parts of my life, is just a small part of the work I do as a writer. Get Your Life Together phase is what you might call productive procrastination. I may be putting off the less desirable work to be done next in writing, but I am setting the stage for clear thinking and guilt-free work. When I sit down to my desk with no chores undone, no nagging thoughts of what must be taken care of for me to be a good mother, wife, friend, or student, then I am able to focus. And focus gets work done. It is hard for creative brains to focus half-heartedly. Multi-tasking doesn’t fly when you’re a writer, an artist, or a composer. To finish your masterpiece, you must pour yourself into it 100%. That only happens when I’m not distracted by other things like laundry.

This makes some stages of an artist’s life harder than others. For instance, writing with small children at home. When my kids were littles, I wrote late at night. It was what I did to wind down after they went to bed. While friends might sit down to their favorite guilty pleasure tv show, I was sitting down to the computer to find out what happened next in my story. It was fun and felt like my own secret life. No one else knew except my husband and I’m sure he didn’t think anything would come of it at the time. Honestly, neither did I. I was doing it for myself because I’m a writer at heart and writing is essential. I can give it up for a little while, but eventually it bleeds out somewhere or I explode.

So, I’ll tackle this phase and revise books until they are beautiful, well crafted and ready for you to enjoy. But all along, the thing that will drive me to get it finished, to get it done, will be the desire to start anew. New adventures are waiting for me. But first…laundry.

 

Whew! What a Summer!

my summer hatWhat an amazing summer! Last night we stumbled in from a long weekend at the beach with my family and I’m telling you – we were exhausted!  This morning as I sipped my coffee in relative tranquility I thought back over the last few months and could hardly believe all that has happened. Here are a few highlights:

June

  • I attended my first EVER writers’ conference: The Arkansas Writers’ Conference. I even managed to win a few prizes for a short story or two.
  • I had my first EVER book signing event in Nashville, TN and got to meet some amazing YA authors and a few fabulous fans.
  • I went to UTOPYA! It’s a conference for “women who write paranormal YA books and the fans who love them.” This was epic and I already have my tickets for next year’s stellar event. Can. NOT. Wait!

    My very first book signing!

    My very first book signing!

July

  • Traveled to Colorado on what turned out to be a grand adventure and spent the better part of a week working on the characters for my new book series. 
  • Went to camp for a week and met some of the most incredible teens you could ever know. A powerful reminder that many of our young people carry terribly heavy burdens on their beautiful shoulders.
  • Spoke at the Arkansas Reading Association‘s annual leadership conference. Let me tell you, these girls ROCK! Love them!
  • Record sales month! I nearly cried when the numbers passed the mark it would normally take me three months to reach. Amazing!

    Arkansas Reading Association's Leadership Conference 2013

    Arkansas Reading Association’s
    Leadership Conference 2013

August

  • Family vacation into the Smokey Mountains left me breathless. It was so relaxing and stunningly beautiful. I spent the week writing on book three of my Light Series just because it wouldn’t leave me alone.
  • Came home and started our 5th year homeschooling and this year I have a freshman in high school. Wow!
  • Invited to be part of the writing team for a local 48 hour Film Project team. We went from brainstorming to finished film in less than 48 hours and our film is already creating some local buzz. What an incredible experience!
  • Quick weekend trip to Gulf Shores with my entire family. It was amazing!

         Writers on the set! LR 48 Hour Film Project

    Writers on the set!
    LR 48 Hour Film Project

So, now that my crazy amazing busy summer is over… What next? Well, here’s what I’m working on this fall:

  • Finish writing book three in The Light Series, The Light Within.
  • Begin work on the audio versions of The Light Series and The Wanderer Series.
  • Possible book signings and conference appearances
    (Watch my Events page for more details!)
  • Finish up a contemporary romance story just in time for Christmas.

How about you? Was your summer incredible? What fabulous plans do you have for the fall? I can’t wait to see what you’ve been up to while I was away.

Happy writing!
Heather

Categorizing Books

YA Indie CarnivalHappy Friday, friends! This week the YA Indie Carnival is discussing the complicated topic of book categories. If you’re an author, I’m sure you know how hard it is to fit your book into just one (or even two!) categories. For the rest of you, please let me explain…

When I finished writing my first book, A Light In The Darkness, I called a fantasy. And it is a fantasy novel. Characters with magical powers, fighting an evil sorcerer, set out on an impossible quest across the kingdom only to battle the very essence of darkness. Add a few dragons and we’d call this thing an epic fantasy.

Well, the problem is…it’s not an epic fantasy. As a matter of fact, die-hard fantasy fans would say it’s hardly a fantasy at all since I didn’t use a lot of the traditional and expected elements of a fantasy. No wizards, no elves or dwarves, no dragons. Even the magic is very different. So, is it really a fantasy?

And another problem – I call this series “young adult” (YA) because the main characters are older teens. When I started shopping it around to agents the year after I finished it, I labeled it MG (middle grade) because it isn’t very “mature”, meaning there isn’t any bad language or sex or even much violence despite several battle scenes. It’s safe to hand to a 5th grader who loves to read adventure stories and you won’t be corrupting their brain or giving them anything too heavy to handle. Still, this creates a problem. Which category is it? MG or YA?

Then, the problem gets messier. Several people reading it started to comment about how “religious” the story was in their opinion. I knew when I finished it that the theme of the story was faith and how it affects our relationships and our choices. Although I had set out to write a fantasy adventure, I somehow ended up with something a lot deeper. It wasn’t really intentional. I wish I could credit for it, but I can’t. It just sort of happened along the way and then as I’m reading through the book, I kept thinking, “Wow. Is that symbolism there? Huh.” Apparently other readers felt pretty strongly about it. Some were even offended, as though I were using the book to trick them into believing my own beliefs. I wish I were that clever! Instead, it looks to me like the book could be speaking about any sort of religion or belief system that someone really held on to. For that matter, the way the main character, Merrilyn believes in Loian doesn’t seem that far off from how some people might believe in aliens or big foot or fairies if they claim to have seen them. The difference is, Loian is telling her to do something and she does it. You can imagine the problems this creates around her when other people don’t understand her actions. THAT is what I believe the story is really about – how a person’s faith in something affects their relationships and the choices they make for their own lives. That seems interesting to me. Anyway, you can see how some began to categorize the book as “religious” or “inspirational”.

So what is it? An action adventure set in a fantasy setting with some magic and still some possible inspirational meaning that chronicles a “coming of age” between middle grade and young adult. Wait. That seems too long. Amazon only allows me to choose one main category. I can tag it in a few more categories. What should I choose? Ugh! This is tough! And for every single book I write, I find myself in the same predicament. How do I narrow this story down into one category?

For many of us indie authors, that difficulty may be one of the reason we’re indie authors in the first place – our books just don’t fit in with the mainstream books you’ll find on bookstore shelves. They won’t be chosen by agents or publishers because they cross enough genres to make marketing a little tricky. Does that mean the story isn’t good or that the writing isn’t excellent? No! It just means that we don’t fit in their nice little boxes that they’ve created to label stories that earn them the big bucks. For a publisher, it all comes down to the money. They must choose books that they can sell quickly and with the least amount of effort or investment.That’s business.But as a reader, that isn’t what I’m looking for exactly. I want a story that intrigues me, that pushes the boundaries of the expected. If you only publish books that fit into 4 or 5 categories, eventually all the books look the same.

Do you ever feel that way? Like all the books and tv shows and movies are all the same? Well, there’s a reason for that! But the indie writers are shouting, “It doesn’t have to be that way!” Give us a chance and we’ll knock your socks off! Grab an indie book and see the diversity you’ll find in our stories. We’re not offering you the same old boring product. We’ve got new things to share and we’re just looking for a few good readers. If that’s you, then check out my books and the books of these other fabulous indie authors listed below. Maybe you’ll find a new favorite and give up the same old boring for something new. Then, be a good friend and share it with others. An indie author will be forever grateful.

The Young Adult Author Club

1. Laura A. H. Elliott 2. Bryna Butler, author Midnight Guardian series
3. T. R. Graves, Author of The Warrior Series 4. Suzy Turner, author of The Raven Saga
5. Rachel Coles, author of Into The Ruins, geek mom blog 6. K. C. Blake, author of Vampires Rule and Crushed
7. Gwenn Wright, author of Filter 8. Liz Long | Just another writer on the loose.
9. Ella James 10. Maureen Murrish
11. YA Sci Fi Author’s Ramblings 12. A Little Bit of R&R
13. Melissa Pearl 14. Terah Edun – YA Fantasy
15. Heather Sutherlin – YA Fantasy

A New Direction

Heather headshotI mentioned last week that I’ve been searching for a new design for my website. We worked on ideas for ages, it seemed, sketching out new headers and debating the overall direction of my website. The more we worked on it, the more we discovered that I needed a clearer picture of what I want readers to know about me and my work. It’s hard to look at yourself and try to sum up your entire persona in one image or phrase. That’s called personal branding, and I’m not sure I’m quite there yet. Still, I feel that we’re getting closer. Here’s how we came up with my new theme:

1. Each of my books (so far) includes a big forest scene and to me a forest is always full of mystery and adventures lurk just around the next tree. I wanted to capture that air of mystery and excitement. Also, my lovely assistant suggested that I reminded her of a tree. So, there’s that…

2. We looked at illustrations and clipart of trees, but none of them seemed to capture the mood we were going for. So, in the end we opted for a stock photo. This was when we knew we were getting closer to our goal. The dark forest with it’s rugged pathway bathed in light and beckoning seemed to fit perfectly with the image we had in mind. It would’ve been easier to brand with an illustrated logo of a tree/forest, but we’ll have to find some way to work out that dilemma in the future. (If you’ve got any ideas, PLEASE share them in the comments below!)

3. Next for the tag line. How on earth do I narrow my work down to one short sentence? I’m basically summing up my entire mission as a writer. Yikes! We played with a lot of ideas, but most of them leaned toward one story line or another. I needed something that would work whether I was writing YA fantasy or contemporary romance (hey! It could happen!) Finally we decided on “Escape to another world” because it seemed to sum up what I hope readers will feel as they read my books. Some readers want to experience reality in a deeper way, but I write for those of you who want to escape reality altogether.

In the last week I’ve been reminded once again that I have no natural aptitude for graphic design, no matter how much I wish it weren’t true. I love images and the idea of creating just the right picture to illustrate a thought or a concept to the world. I deeply wish I could design my own covers and all of my own branding material, but it is a TON of work and in the end I”m not very good at it. After fighting with graphics for the last week we’ve decided to start learning Photoshop, so that should be an adventure! I’ll keep you posted on how that goes.

We have a lot more to reveal in the next few weeks. I think it’s time you met my incredible assistant, LA. She has been working hard to give me young reader’s perspective and I’ve put her to work researching the best of the best. I can hardly wait to show you all that we’ve been working on lately. I’ve invited her to introduce herself to all of you tomorrow and she’s getting her own weekly spot on this blog so that you can see a little more of the behind-the-scenes work that goes on in this indie life. So, come back tomorrow and say hi to my sidekick.

What do you think of my new website header? What else do you hope to find here on HeatherSutherlin.com? Leave your suggestions in the comments below and maybe you’ll find your wish is granted the next time you stop by to visit.

Happy reading!

~Heather

What Do YOU Want to See Here?

I’ve been thinking about updating my website lately, but I’m not sure where to start. So, I browsed through a few author websites and found that I’m not the only one whose site could use some TLC! That made me feel better. I roped my daughter into helping me surf the web for the best of the best author websites. We found a few really gorgeous sites and started making a list of our favorite things. Here’ what I’ve got so far:

We loved Trisha Leigh’s graphics. Her site is beautiful and fun.

Author Trisha Wolfe releases new bonus material when her street team helps her reach 50 reviews. I also love that you can tell what kind of books she writes just by looking at her page.

My music-loving daughter voted A.M. Hargrove‘s site the best because she included playlists for each of her books. Wouldn’t that be fun?

That’s as far as we’ve gotten so far in our search for the most fabulous author website. I’m sure some of the big name authors have fancy expensive sites (J.K. Rowling, cough, cough) but I’m just looking for what makes readers and fans want to come back for more. So, what do you think? Do you have any author websites you love to visit? What makes them memorable? What do you wish you could find here on my website? Leave your thoughts in the comments below and maybe I’ll be adding your request sooner than you think!

Happy web-surfing!

~ Heather

Confession: I Hibernate for the Winter

I admit it – I fell a little behind. Okay. A LOT behind. I haven’t blogged in a month and I haven’t written any new material in almost three months. THREE MONTHS! How did that happen?

Well, winter came along and took all of my energy and tossed it in a deep dark hole somewhere. I’ve always had trouble with winter, but this one seemed extra dark and depressing for some reason. I’m not sure I have ever documented exactly how crazy my life as a writer has been in the last year, but it started to catch up with me around Christmas time and by mid-January I was burnt out. It went something like this:

March 2012: Decide to become a full-time writer. Rewrite 1st book.
April 2012 : Start a blog, edit 1st book, research self-publishing
May 2012: Find an editor, blog like crazy, start working on book 2.
June 2012: Finish rewrite of book 2, start work on cover art
July 2012: Read editor’s notes, revise book 1, finalize cover art
August 2012: Publish 1st book (A Light In The Darkness), send book 2 to editor
Sept 2012: Read editor’s notes and revise book 2, photo shoot for cover
Oct 2012: Publish 2nd book (To Light the Path)
Nov. 2012: Finish book 3 and send to editor. Get elected president of Fiction Writers of Central Arkansas
Dec. 2012: Read editor’s notes and revise, finalize cover art plans
Jan. 2013: Publish book 3 (Seen) and work on book 4
Feb. 2013: Host a month of book giveaways and call it “Share the Love Scavenger Hunt”
March2013:  CRAWL IN BED AND DON’T COME OUT UNTIL SPRING!

So, here it is spring and I’m finally coming out of hiding. I apologize to all of you and especially to my Young Adult Author Club friends who missed out on a month’s worth of author promos and personal indie author chatter. I am so deeply sorry that I dropped the ball. I’m going to make it up to you. Cross my heart! As a matter of fact, starting tomorrow I’m going to be posting all the fabulous author awesomeness that I missed while hibernating. In the meantime, hop on over to the YA Carnival website and check out what you’ve been missing. Those girls have got it going on!

Love you guys!

Heather

 

 

The Real Me

photo (3)An icy milkshake is just what my sore throat needed this morning. And a bunch of fabulous friends is just what my heart needed after saying goodbye to my sweet friend T last week. I was blown away by all of the Facebook shares and comments I received when I took a leap of faith and shared my heartache with all of you. I am surrounded by such fabulous people who stood together to lift me up when my heart was broken. Thank you for your incredible gift of kindness!

Last week I poured out a bit of my pain and you all took my breath away with your response. It gave me hope that maybe I could be myself after all. Maybe a blog written by a real, live person (flaws and all) is something worth reading. Maybe even preferred? I know my favorite moments with authors have been when I got a glimpse of them as real people with real passions and ideas and questions. So, that is where I’m headed. I hope you’ll be along for the ride. I want to be real with you. I realize that this means I may put my true self out there and you, dear reader, may decide you can’t stand the real me. I hope not. I can fully admit that I want you to like me. No, that’s not true. I want you to adore me. There. I said it. I want us all to be friends and I want you to come over and have dinner. I’ll bake bread and we’ll have tea. I want to hear all about your hopes and dreams and then we’ll stay up late playing cards (I prefer Dominion) and end the night with hugs and smiles and promises of another night soon. THAT is what I wish for as I write this post.

If that’s ever going to happen, then I can no longer hide behind an impersonal persona on this website or in my business life in general. I started out thinking it was best business practice to appeal to as many as possible. So, I tried to focus on what I thought my audience wanted to hear. It wasn’t long before that began to wear on me. It’s hard to keep up a neutral image and really, in the end, quite pointless. I’m a passionate person full of big ideas (those who know me are snickering. I can hear you!) and I want to share those ideas with the world. That’s part of why I’m a writer. But it’s a scary thing to put yourself out there in the world where someone might come along and stomp on your dream right in front of everyone. It took me seven years to tell anyone other than family that I was writing. So, I guess it shouldn’t surprise me that I’ve spent my first seven months as a published writer hiding behind a pristine business image and hoping none of you would notice the real me.

So, here it is. Here’s the real me, like it or not:

  • I’m a Christian. I believe in one true God and I worship Him. I go to church several times a week and can’t quite get enough.
  • I love people. I love being with people, I love serving people, I love feeding people. I love people.
  • I am a talker. I have a hard time keeping my thoughts and comments to myself. (And I have the marks on my report cards to prove it!)
  • I love to feed people. I enjoy cooking, but it’s really seeing the smile on someone’s face when I hand them a homemade dish that makes me happy. I especially enjoy cooking for those who are living with true hunger. I want to invite the hungry world to dinner and see them well fed and happy.
  • I care about the homeless and hopeless. I have served in soup kitchens and in shelters. I especially mourn for all of the millions of single moms in America who are trying to raise their babies without living on the streets. This often drives them into desperate situations and it breaks my heart to hear their cries of pain and fear and loneliness as they feel judged and abandoned by the world. This needs to stop. I’m going to do everything in my power to help.
  • I am a homeschooling mom. I love exploring the world with my kids and watching them learn new things. We have a blast and they are growing fast. Soon they’ll leave me behind to explore on their own. Until then, I’m going to soak up every minute I can!
  • I am a writer. I write stories that let you escape this world for just a bit and travel on new adventures with some fabulous people. My characters aren’t terribly flawed, my stories aren’t tragic, and I’m certainly no literary expert. However, I believe this world holds more magic than we suspect and I try to tempt you to wonder about it just a bit as you journey along with a few characters as they discover their own surprising reality. Maybe you’ll find your reality a bit surprising, too.

If any of that makes you think you don’t want to be my friend, then I wish you the best of luck. Thanks for hanging with me this long. I hope your life is fabulous and you pursue your purpose with passion.

If, however, you have reached this sentence and still want to give me a chance… I consider myself blessed. Thank you for showing me kindness and sticking around. I’m not perfect. I’m deeply flawed. But I have a few stories to tell and I would love to share them with you. From here on it, it’s the real me.

Thanks for reading!

~ Heather