Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Writer Insomnia - It's a Real Thing

Writer insomnia. If you’re a writer, you’re probably familiar with it. Personally I find it easy to fall asleep, but hard to stay asleep. I often wake up in the middle of the night with my mind whirring with story ideas or lists of writing-related tasks. I’m tired but wide awake. Ack. Talk about aggravating.

I used to blame lack of exercise, which makes sense, somewhat. Writing is only a notch above watching television as far as energy expended. But I’ve noticed that other sedentary people sleep just fine. Not only that, but when I do have active days, I still have sleep interruptions. 

Another writer I know has a theory about this. Writers, he said, spend so much time in the equivalent of a dream state that our bodies think we've already slept a good many hours. So then, when we do sleep, it seems excessive. His idea sounds logical to me. Sometimes after a particularly fruitful writing session, I do feel like I've awoken from a dream.

Some time ago, a story idea came to me during one of my middle-of-the-night sessions. I saw it clearly in my mind. There was a guy, a teenager, who couldn’t sleep, so he began to go out walking after his parents had turned in for the night.

The story started out like this: I couldn’t believe it was happening again. Couldn’t sleep, couldn’t sleep, couldn’t sleep. It was a Monday night; school started the next day at 7:20 a.m., and I was exhausted, but my body didn’t care. I shifted in bed and punched my pillow into different shapes, like that would help, even though it never did before.

I knew he would witness something amazing during one of his nighttime walks, and he did, but even I was surprised at how the plot unfolded. Turned out my main character, Russ Becker, saw a strange astronomical event and then later found out that he had superpowers. The book I eventually wrote is titled Edgewood and it is now book one in a three-book series. The books were big fun to write and I’m happy to say they’re getting great reviews.

So I can thank writer insomnia for the inspiration, and my subconscious for putting it into story form. Now when I wake up in the middle of the night, I don’t fight it. I just get up and make lists, read, or get some writing done.  Because you never know when the ideas keeping you awake might just turn into something more.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Coolest Giveaway Ever!

I exaggerate on occasion, but this time around it's true. I've seen a lot of author giveaways and this is the coolest I've ever seen, and I say that even though I'm part of it.

Kudos to the ever clever and creative author Kay Bratt, who thought this up and did all the work, so all I have to do is contribute my third and watch the fun! 

So here's the deal. This is our Around the World Giveaway!  Those who enter have a chance of winning a suitcase (adorably decorated by Kay and her daughter) full of books by one of three authors: myself, Kay Bratt, and Kate Danley,  In addition, your name will be entered to win a brand new Kindle! You can enter up to nine times, and it's free and easy.

Please enter and feel free to share this with friends and on FB and Twitter etc. Thank you and good luck!

This contest is limited to those in the U.S and Canada. My apologies if that's not you!

(Click on the little arrows on each side to see all of the prizes! Cool, huh?)

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/baac981/" rel="nofollow">a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, March 14, 2014

Where Do You Get Your Ideas?

As a kid I struggled against my inclination to daydream, and I mean struggled in the literal sense. The old school style of teaching--talking at kids while writing on the board or using the overhead projector, created the perfect environment for daydreaming. Able to create whole worlds in my mind, why would I want to listen to someone talk about the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act? (And if that sounds familiar, it’s probably because of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Ben Stein’s deadpan delivery: “Did it work? Anyone? Anyone know the effects? It did not work, and the United States sank deeper into the Great Depression.”)

Daydreaming meant you weren’t paying attention. You weren’t listening. You were lazy. Bad. And it was embarrassing when you were called on and had no idea what the class was discussing.

Other kids managed to pay attention. They were better. More focused. More disciplined.

So I tried not to daydream, but still it happened. I couldn’t seem to not do it. And every night before I fell asleep it would be to the stories I made up in my head. A continuing saga that shifted and changed depending on what was going on in my life: movies I’d seen, books I’d read, conversations I’d overhead. Literally anything might be brought into the mix and it was always more interesting than my own life.

Fast forward to me sitting at one of those little tables listening to a fourth grade teacher telling me that one of my own sons was smart, creative, and advanced for his age, but had “a tendency to daydream.” I sympathized with my son since even during this fifteen minute conference my mind had started wandering. The teacher had such a soothing voice, almost hypnotic, and I had to really work to focus on our conversation.

Everywhere I went I noticed something that could be the jumping off point for a story. An aggressive driver had, I imagined, a pregnant wife in labor in the backseat. Or was on the lam, having just robbed a bank. A homeless person was really a college student in disguise taking part in a study to see how people treated the less fortunate. The changing sky was more than just a storm brewing; it was the beginning of end days for all of us.

I sort of assumed everyone thought this way, but that others kept it under wraps and managed to do a better job staying alert at lectures and during small talk at social functions (both places where I struggle to stay present).

I can remember when it first occurred to me that other people didn’t necessarily experience the world the same way I did. I was in my early twenties and my husband and I were driving somewhere. He was at the wheel and I was next to him in the passenger seat. We’d stopped at a red light and a pedestrian, a young man, crossed in front of our car. As he walked past I noticed he wore a long dark coat, too heavy for the weather, and he had a scowl on his face. I imagined that he had some kind of weapon underneath his coat. An uzi. Or a knife. No wait, a samurai sword! And right now he was heading over to the apartment buildings across the street to seek vengeance on the man who’d raped his sister. Or maybe he was going to threaten someone who owed him money.

As these possibilities went through my mind, Greg said, “What are you thinking about?” By this time the guy was already across the street, but I went ahead and told him everything I’d been thinking, starting with the long coat and the look on his face and my stream of consciousness thoughts about where this guy was going and why. I could tell Greg didn’t get what I was talking about, so I asked, “Why? What were you thinking about?”

And he said, “Everything I have to do tomorrow at work.” As we talked, it came out that the imaginings that were second nature to me almost never happened to him. Rather, his mind stayed on real world things--making lists, solving problems, scheduling, etc.

He’s an engineer, by the way.

After that I saw my daydreaming in a whole new light, a positive instead of a negative. The way my mind works defines who I am; it’s the undercurrent that fuels my novel-writing ability. When people ask, “Where do you get your ideas?” (a commonly asked question for writers) it’s hard to find an answer that satisfies them if they haven’t experienced the world in the same way.

Story ideas are everywhere. All around us. Endless. New ideas will occasionally try to push out old ideas and sometimes I'm tempted to stop writing a novel midway and switch. But I don't. Usually the idea will wait, but even if it doesn't, I know another one is right around the corner. I only hope to live long enough to write all the stories I want to write, but I’m pretty sure I won’t. I’m going to try though.

So to all the daydreamers out there, old and young, embrace your creativity. You're not weird, you're just different. Some might even say special. The world needs us as much as it needs the engineers. Some days I think it needs us even more.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Advice from a Formerly-Failed Novelist

Since childhood, my biggest dream has been to become a published novelist. I’ve always been a reader and couldn’t think of anything better than making a living writing the kinds of stories I loved.

I was lucky. After ten years of trying to get my books published traditionally, I stumbled upon the idea of uploading my books to Amazon’s Kindle in 2009. Everything lined up perfectly. My timing was good and early readers recommended my books on message boards. On my own, I sold 100,000 ebooks and it only got better when my books were acquired by Amazon Publishing and helped by their marketing reach.
Today I have ten books published in print, ebook, and audio through Amazon Publishing, Kindle Direct Publishing, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and Brilliance Audio. Many of my titles have spent time on the top 100 Kindle list. My publishing story has been covered by the Wall Street Journal, Entertainment Weekly, and the national NPR show, The Story with Dick Gordon. I’ve also appeared on ABC's World News Now and America This Morning. I get complimentary reader emails on a regular basis, something that continues to amaze and thrill me.

I’m not sure I deserve this success, but I’ll take it anyway. Other writers email and ask for specific information regarding marketing tips and and tech advice. Regretfully, I tell them I’m not the best person to ask since a lot of my good fortune came as a result of timing and luck. The publishing world is changing so quickly that any strategies I used are now outdated.

The advice I can give comes from a lifetime of reading, writing, and (more recently) publishing. Here goes:

·   Don’t be afraid to try something different whether it’s crossing genre-lines or finding new ways to get the word out about your book. Be open and listen to your gut. After I’d started selling on Kindle, I told several writer friends what I’d done, and I tried to convince them to put their novels up as ebooks but none were interested. A few of them said, “What’s a Kindle?” (Seriously, this was 2009) and most of them were dismissive of self-publishing, which admittedly did have a major stigma back then.
·   Write the book of your heart, the story only you can tell. Write it with the thought that even if it doesn't make a cent, the joy of creation is enough. I’ve seen plenty of writers try to write to the market. Usually the books lack heart and don’t do well, which infuriates the authors who believe they’d put in all the necessary components. Novels aren’t widgets. Readers can tell when a story has been constructed instead of emotionally crafted.
·   Keep going. Write more than one book and then do it again. Some really great books never get their due. What can I say? Life isn’t fair. Having multiple titles increases your chances of discoverability. Personally, I’ve written ten books and some do really well and others not so much. Could I have predicted which was which? I could have tried, but I would have been wrong. Just keep writing.
·   Think of every book sale as a gift. Someone out there parted with their hard-earned money in the hope your story would pull them into another world. Appreciate their trust and never take it for granted.
·   There’s a Kurt Vonnegut quote that writing teachers like to trot out: “Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.” To this I’d add that it helps if the character is thirsty. Besides wanting something, there should be some pain involved, whether it’s physical or emotional. As readers we empathize with characters and want to root for them. Their pain becomes our pain and we’ll keep turning pages to see how it all comes out.
·   Avoid info dumps. They reek and interrupt the story. Description and information becomes more palatable when it’s filtered through the eyes or actions of a character.
The good news and the bad news is that you’re not going to find definitive step-by-step directions for writing a novel here or anywhere else. You might disagree with something I’ve said, and that’s okay with me. No one appointed me the Grand Poobah of fiction writing. I’m figuring it out as I go along, just like everyone else.
So find your own way, use your own voice, craft your own story. In my opinion, this is a wonderful time to be a writer. It’s still not easy, but if you wanted easy you’d probably be doing something else.
Happy writing!


Thursday, November 21, 2013

Win signed copies of all three books in the Edgewood Series!

Enter here to win signed copies of all three books in the Edgewood Series! The holidays are just ahead and the books would make a great gift.

Good luck,


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Author Donna Fasano on why she writes romance novels!

I connected with Donna Fasano online a few years ago, and we hit it off right away. Right now our conversations are limited to email, but I'm hoping that someday we'll meet in person.

 In honor of her new book release, Reclaim My Heart, I asked if she'd mind doing a guest post explaining how she got her start writing romance novels. Generous as always, Donna agreed.

Why I Write Romance Novels

By Donna Fasano

I can’t tell you how many times over the course of my 20-plus year career as a published romance author I have been asked, “When are you going to write a real book? You know, a [insert genre of choice: mystery, historical, thriller, etc].” So I’d like to take this opportunity to tell readers why I write romance novels.

I suffered a lot of tragedy while I was growing up, the worst of which was the death of my mother just as I was entering my teens. I felt as though I went from 13 to 35 overnight, and when my friends were off having fun, I was cooking and cleaning and helping my little brother with his homework. Romance novels were an escape for me. The Wolf and the Dove, The Far Pavilions, Whitney My Love, Rebecca, The Thorne Birds… if the book featured one man and one woman falling in love, I read it! Romance novels offered me hope for a happy future filled with love (hokey, maybe, but I was a na├»ve teen). As a young wife and mother, I discovered Silhouette Romance Novels. These books were short and sweet and uplifting. Each and every story put a smile on my face, and the happily-ever-after endings always boosted my spirits. Are romance novels real? No. Does every real-life relationship end in HEA? Of course not. But if I wanted doom and gloom, I’d watch the evening news.

As an author, I can’t think of a better way to use my talent than to bring pure enjoyment to my readers. I tell people that I write cotton candy for the mind. Think about that. When you were a kid and you put a small cloud of that wispy confection on your tongue, what did you do? You smiled. And maybe you even laughed. That’s the reaction I’m going for with my short, upbeat stories. That’s why I write romance novels. So if you’re looking to get lost for a few hours in a fun, cheery story, I hope you’ll try one of my books.

Sixteen years ago, Tyne Whitlock cut all ties to her past and left town under the shameful shadow of a teenage pregnancy. Now her fifteen-year-old son is in trouble with the law and she is desperate for help. But reaching out to high-powered attorney Lucas Silver Hawk will tear open the heart-wrenching past in ways Tyne never imagined.

Forced to return to the Delaware Indian community where Lucas was raised, Tyne and Lucas are tempted by the heated passion that consumed them as teens. Tyne rediscovers all the reasons she found this man irresistible, but there are scandalous secrets waiting to be revealed, disgraceful choices made in the past that cannot be denied. Love is a powerful force that could heal them both—if the truth doesn't rip them apart.

About Donna:

USA TODAY Bestselling Author Donna Fasano is a three time winner of the HOLT Medallion, a CataRomance Reviewers Choice Award winner for Best Single Title, a Desert Rose Golden Quill Award finalist, and a Golden Heart finalist. Her books have sold nearly 4 million copies worldwide and have been published in two dozen languages. Her books have made the Kindle Top 10 List, the Nook Top 10 List, and the iBooks Top 10 List.

What others are saying about Donna's books:

"...complex, funny, and realistic..." ~Wilmington News Journal

"Excellent!" ~Bookreview.com

"Could not help myself from reading excerpts to my husband and friends. This book is well written, the characters are real, everyday folks. It is very easy to identify with them. Donna Fasano is a talented author." ~Elizabeth M. Caldwell on Amazon

"...a fast paced riotous look at family life today. Donna Fasano is right on target!" ~Donna Zapf, SingleTitles.com

Friday, November 8, 2013

Finally! Absolution, Book 3 in the Edgewood Series is out in the world

Today's the day and it seems like it's been a long time coming!

I'm pleased to announce the release of Absolution, Book 3 in the Edgewood Series. Both the Kindle version and paperback are now available.

I'm especially pleased with the new covers. Designer Georgina Gibson did an excellent job accurately representing each book while making it clear that this is a series.

Thanks to all the readers who waited so patiently, and also a thank you to those who emailed, messaged, DM'd, etc. to let me know they loved the series and were eager to read more. Your support means more than I can say.