Category Archives: SXSW

A Writer’s Top Ten: Behavior & Perks


I’m always excited to do a blog post with fellow writer Valerie Day Sanchez. Today we are going to explore our shared opinions on being a writer and what that means.

Being a writer is like no other job. It is fraught with a plethora of emotions and quirks that are unique to the profession. Valerie and I decided to do a combined top ten list that describes each individual aspect.

Unsurprisingly, we both share many attributes and this is probably the easiest collaboration we have ever done together,


Val’s Take 

10. Isolation: I have this intense desire to be alone so I can finish my novel but that rarely if ever is granted. So I have to find ways to be alone while surrounded my others. Headphones, Pandora, YouTube,  (in case I need a particular song on repeat to get the chapter completed) are gold. My family knows not to talk to mean if I have a pen, paper, and headphones in.

9. Comfort and ultimately extremely unhealthy food eaten in mass quantity: There’s lots of chocolate and popcorn, because there is no way I’m stopping to eat unless it’s very simple and provides lots of calories to keep me going. If I can be writing why would I be cooking? I pack snacks and refreshments so that all I need to do is take a quick trip to the kitchen to refuel rather than stop.

8. PJs: There’s no time to get dressed and besides writing for me me means burrowing in my cave and not interacting with the outside world.

7. Insomnia: Sleep is my reward for when the book is done (I know Arianna Huffington wouldn’t approve). Early mornings when no one else is awake yet and very late at night when the rest of the house is quiet but my mind is screaming pivotal plot points are my favorite times to write. These times of day i don’t feel guilty for ignoring my family because they are far away in dreamland.

6. Obsessive: I become hyper focused in a way that is borderline sickness but I can’t help, it, it’s much more powerful than me. I think about my novel all the time, the characters, where they end it up, how they get there, who they meet along the way, the why of it all is always present until it’s published.

My Take

5. Daydreaming. Is there any job in the world that includes, and is almost a requirement, to stare off into space as we dream up stories? I love to put on my headphones and think of my story as I turn it into a live action movie in my head. If I can see it play out then I know I’m ready to write it down.

4. Freedom. There is a delicious sense of freedom being a writer. We are not bound to do the same thing every single day for the next thirty years. We can write what we want, when we want too. If we don’t want to write romance, we can write gritty science fiction. We can expand young minds in one children’s book to fouling it up the next time with an erotic thriller.

3. We own the word Crazy. Everyone knows writers are nuts. We isolate ourselves. We talk to ourselves. We create unrealistic realities and bury ourselves in them to the point where we almost can’t find our way out. We’re proud of it and where you see a straight jacket in our future, we see a potential story we can write in the asylum as we mingle amongst our peeps.

2. The accomplishment of writing a book is like no other feeling. I don’t know if it’s because few people who start actually finish or if it’s because when you do finish writing a book you’re so exhausted, but typing out the words ‘The End’ is almost indescribable. It’s an euphoric feeling of epic magnitude to us writers and we remember each and every time we finish our novels.

  1. Identity. Yes, we isolate ourselves and live in dream worlds. We make up stories and imagine details that you may not read about, but we know are there. ( I actually wrote a whole paragraph one time about a mailbox, but decided to cut it. I still remember it though). We create characters that become our friends and we laugh with them, and cry with them. We know their secrets and we may or may not share them with you, but they will always be with us

We forgo sleep because we have this aching need to not only get the story out of our heads, but because we desperately want to share them with our readers. Our diet is akin to a 7th grader being left on their own for a weekend.

We daydream. We crash. We burn. We straddle the line of insanity all while trying to maintain normality in front of our kids and families.

We obsess about everything we have ever written and we do this because we are so focused on trying to convey our stories to the best of our ability.

It’s emotionally and physically draining sometimes, but at the end of the day though, I wouldn’t trade being a writer for any other job in the world.


Want more Val? Check out her blog and books!



SXSW Monthly Collaboration: Juggling Writing and Editing at the same time.



How excited am I to be working with the fabulous Val Day-Sanchez again?! Our monthly SXSW articles have been hard to write because we are both so busy and it’s nice to get back into the collaborative swing of things. This month we are focusing on the art of juggling both writing and editing.


Shannon’s Take:

It’s always difficult to brainstorm for articles with Val. We always have so many ideas and we are always on the same page that it is hard to pick just one. I have had several questions running through my mind lately and I recently asked one to a Facebook group for Indie Authors. It was fairly simple, but the answers I received were astounding.

I wanted to know what other authors thought about editing one book and writing another book at the same time. It turned into an extremely interesting forum because the more responses I got, the more insight I gained into the mind of fellow writers.

I almost had to laugh because it started to feel like a pissing contest. I had a few that answered right away and one of them them mirrored my thoughts that it almost feels like your cheating on one book if you write another.

I mentioned that I also think it’s important to take time in between each project and I was almost scoffed at, but not in an unfriendly way. The conversations were cordial, supportive and helpful, but again, I couldn’t help feel that everyone was trying to one up another.

One woman has four different books in various stages of production. She wrote that if you want to publish several books in a year then you have to work all the time. There were several other individuals that made similar statements.

I had an uncomfortable thought though, and it is one that I did not share because I did not want to seem rude, but if you’re focused on so many different books that you’re writing, can you really be churning out decent stories at such a fast pace?

Now, I have to be honest, I can’t imagine writing three or four different stories at once. When I write, I become deeply involved with my characters and their situations. The thought of even trying to disassociate myself from one book to another is impossible for me.

If I do have an idea for another story then I make notes so I can reference it later, but I have never even attempted to try and start another book when I am writing.

One man mentioned that it is possible to edit one book and write another at the same time, but it requires discipline and I agree. I think it easier to do that when you are writing a series and I have done it before with The Fae Witch Series.

I also vowed not to do that again, but here I am starting on book two of The Hidden Realm Series, The Fairyland Queen, while I wait for The Fairy Door to come back from my editor.

I have to be honest at the end of the discussion thread I almost felt an amateur loser, but then I realized something. We are all in the same boat. We’re all Indie authors trying to make our way in this tough world and we have to be on top of our game all the time.

We are the writer, the publisher, the promoter, and all those different hats have to be presented, as well as, articulated whenever we have that chance.

I do believe that each person that responded wanted me to know that it was possible to do several different aspects of writing at once, but I also feel that they were in a way promoting their abilities.

I was envious of the lot, I must say. There are some truly talented authors out there, but at the end of the day I need to do what’s best for me.

I tip my cap off to those that can achieve so much in a short amount of time. I know that I will never be able to write three or four different books at once. When I start something I need to finish it before I can move forward.

I have no interest in creating and writing several different characters, and stories because I feel that my characters deserve my full attention. Their story is important and one I must tell with every attention to detail, as well as, with my heart.

I’ve accepted that I will never be the kind of writer that publishes seven or eight books a year. I’m honest with the fact that I suck at promoting, and I have no interest in a Pulitzer.

I write for me. The stories I tell are what I want to read. Writing is not about making money, it’s about being able to express your creativity. I wish I could be more driven, but I can’t and frankly I don’t want too.

Again, I applaud you authors who are cranking books out left and right. I am amazed by the way some of you can compartmentalize different stories and characters at once.

Writing is my passion and if it ever started to feel like noose around my neck then I would probably stop publishing my stories. I know that the lure of fame and fortune can cloud your judgment as you type and edit furiously, but isn’t the process of writing enough to make your soul enriched with a deep sense of creative joy?

I think I’ll just stick with one at a time and adopt my son Wyatt’s favorite quote:

Slow and steady wins the race…


Val’s Take:


After a brief break, Shannon and I are back with our joint articles!!!  I missed her deeply and so this week when I emailed her it was kismet, as it so often is with the two of us.  We each had a few ideas for a topic to blog about and they were very similar (seriously I think she lives in my head, weird and a tad creepy I know, if I haven’t lost you yet, read on I promise it gets better/less weird).  We decided to talk about something that we’re both going through, juggling multiple writing projects.

I know that both Shannon and I, like most writers perhaps, have written the majority of their lives.  However they don’t get to pursue it full time, it’s a hobby until it make you money right?  That’s the society a lot of us grew up in?  Writing is something we love but could never dedicate the time to it that it truly deserved.  A little over 5 years ago I decided to do just that.  I was lucky to have the opportunity that was becoming a stay-at-home mom to an infant. It provided a work schedule all of its own doing but I got to write again and after I finished my manuscript I was determined to publish it.  And when I told people about it, it was described as a “once and lifetime experience.” But then, I had started a trilogy, I had never planned on once.  I didn’t let myself, I completely ripped the option from the table.  I was going to be a full-time writer.  And so in the beginning I could never conceive of multiple projects I was just so happy to be able to write. To make sense of my life; what it had been, what it was becoming that I was still feeling lucky.

Then Harlow was released.  Others were reading about her. The second book, when I asked for it, was hard-coming so I changed my life’s course again.  And when things had worked themselves out, I wrote the second book in three months, with ease.  But it had come clamoring through me, a mind of its own, I had no time to doubt. I wrote as if no one would ever see it.

Book 3 began the same way because we were going home, me and my characters knew who they were and what they wanted so again I didn’t ask for it, it appeared on the page, every line, every sentence.  Even when I edited, it finished my thoughts.

As Book three was seemingly flowing through my fingers Lucas Saavadra had showed up, said without much bossiness but full of confidence, that he was the protagonist of my first standalone novel.  How could I deny it?  I was going to write a book that I had no idea about except this singular character???  The moment I ignored it, went to back Book 3 to edit or complete it.  (An emotional wreck because it was over). I would have these conversations with Lucas and every time I tried to write it…It was garbage, nonsensical first draft ugliness.

I can’t be surprised that is how the entire project went.  So when I was finally publishing Harlow 3 Threshold was coming to a close.  But there lies the question.  Is it fair?

Are you cheating on your work?  I’ll let you know after I edit Threshold next week…​
Want more Val? Check out her links below:

January SXSW Collaboration: Inspiration and Character Development



This month’s SXSW collaboration with my fabulous author in crime Valerie Day-Sanchez is about creating characters and finding inspiration before, during and after writing a novel. Let’s start with what inspires me as a writer.

I’m going to be honest with you. I find inspiration in the craziest and sometimes most mundane things in everyday life. I recently experienced a complete lack of direction after taking a few weeks off before starting my third book in The Fae Witch Series, The Cursed Dagger.

The problem wasn’t that I didn’t know what direction my book was going to go because I always have a clear picture and general outline of what I want to convey in each story. Any author who has written a trilogy or series, can relate to the fact that you are essentially writing all the books in your head when you start the first one, but no my friends, the issue with me just a few short days ago was the dreaded first chapter.

You have to do some sort of recap because just in case there is that one reader (you know who I’m talking about) starts reading your book and has no clue there was a first or second book before that, you as the author, are obligated to go over every important piece of information to bring them up to speed, but you also don’t want your faithful readers to roll their eyes and shout, “I already know this crap, come on!”

I struggled with this, as I always do, and then one simple phrase from my teenage son had me scrambling to my laptop. He had to write an essay explaining the famous quote from the Charles Dickens classic, A Tale of Two Cities, and when he flung out, ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,’ I suddenly had this flash of inspiration.



The third book in my series is a bit darker and my main character goes through a lot of emotional upheaval and self-discovery. The quote inspired me to firmly see that I needed to have, even with all the recapping, a faint premonition of what was to come and that is how the inspiration of setting an effect of the calm before the storm came about in my mind.

Character development to me is more organic. I always have a pretty good idea of who my characters are but until you really start writing their thoughts and words, I don’t think you can truly connect with them.

I have always been a big proponent of imagining and daydreaming about your story much like a mini movie before sitting down to write it out. I think it gives you a clearer vision of the path you are setting for yourself as a writer and for your potential readers. I like to write the characters names out in my outlines and give myself specific guidelines on who I want them to be, but eventually, in the end, I am always surprised at some of the quirks that seem to flow from my mind as their personalities begin to take shape the further I delve deeper into the story.

Any inspiration you have, whether it is, about your story or your characters can either be gradual or hit you like a freight train. Yes, sometimes you have to look for it, but in some cases it can just be one little phrase that you hear or a picture that you see on your Facebook news feed that can drag you out of the depressing writing doldrums and into the creative light.


So I guess my advice is to just wing it and see what happens… 😉


Val’s take:


Inspiration?  If you’re a writer or involved in any of the arts I’m sure people ask you, how did you come up with that?  I always think of what inspired me.  That is something that changes constantly.  Sometimes it is a song that I hear on my way to work.  Other times it’s an experience, not even anything profound but just a dinner with good friends, and one sentence from our conversation that evening will linger in my mind and evolve into a story.

Inspiration is different than ideas or focus it is the driving force that makes you feel like you are going to explode unless you get something written.  It is what pushes a story forward even when you’re tired or hungry or completely consumed with other things.  It is what makes you feel that you are creating something of importance.  It is reassurance.

More than anything inspiration is about being open, allowing your mind to wander; giving yourself permission to daydream.  Inspiration comes from anywhere and usually when you least expect it.  As a writer that’s why it is so important to always have something to write on.  For me, once I am knee deep into a story I will often get ideas or storylines out of nowhere.  But there are times when I am working on one project and something will come to my attention, sparking an idea for a whole different story.  I don’t discount whatever that new project may be, instead I write it down and save it for when I actually have time to fully flush it out and provide it the attention that it deserves.

This may sound maddening and counter-productive and believe me it can be, there are at least three different story ideas going on in my mind on any given day, not to mention the regular grocery lists, kid’s playdates, work, puppy appointments, and all the other stuff that is also floating around in there.  But my simple mandate of writing it all down, even when it doesn’t make sense seems to help.  This is why inspiration tome is a bit of sly devil.  It never seems to come when you need it.  It never appears when I have the house to myself and a blank document opened in MSword.  No instead it will rear its trixy head when I have two kids in the bath, and a stack of papers that I need to grade.  Oh the arts, no one ever said it’s easy.




Want more Valerie?




SXSW October Collaboration: Doing it Our way!




  1. To ask for with proper authority, claim as a right.
  2. To ask for peremptorily or urgently.
  3. To call for or require as just, proper, or necessary.


There is a moment when you are writing a book when you feel an almost expeditious fear. These words which you have slaved over are going to be read by hundreds, even thousands, of people. The worst feeling though is when you realize that individuals you know are going to pore over your thoughts and you now have opened yourself up to either criticism or adulation.

I remember when I was almost finished writing Isle of Skye. I was sitting by the fire late at night and all of a sudden I had this slight panic attack at the thought of putting myself out there. It was not even a thought in my mind when I started my book but the wave of reality that washed over me was terrifying.

I got over my fear once I published, but then something else reared its ugly head. I now had fans. I actually had people who I was not related too or friends with that really enjoyed my book. I was elated, but put them out of my head as I wrote Isle of Night. I knew exactly how this book was going to be written and I had not a care in the world about other people’s opinions.

Isle of Dawn, the third book in my trilogy was different. I felt an overwhelming pressure to complete the story with an ending that my characters and my fans deserved. I know that I took readers through a bit of emotional hell, but I finished it with a fairytale ending. I wanted to stay true to myself and the fact is, if you want a depressing or thought provoking ending, read Hemingway.

I’m in final edits for The Cursed Charm and I have heard a bit of feedback. Some of it I have listened too but some I have not. It’s always hard to explain to people that even though they might have questions or feel I may have left a few loose ends, I know precisely how this series is going to progress through all four books. I am not revealing everything in book one and I now have no doubts about the cliffhanger ending that I fretted about over the past few months.

I love my fans. I love my family and my friends, who have read my books and have given me an amazing amount of support, but I will not cave into peer pressure nor have I ever been one to respond well to demands or ultimatums. I started writing because I wanted to read something that I loved and believed in with all my heart.

I will always write for one person and one person only…and that’s me.


Valerie’s Take:



When I decided to publish my first novel, Harlow Whittaker & The Soothsayers.  A thousand thoughts entered my mind.  They all were along the lines of, “Are you crazy, now everyone is going to read it, or no one is going to read it.”  I was actually so self-conscious about putting three years of my imagination in print, out there that I didn’t really tell anyone until it was already done and over with.  The people that did know before I actually published it were on a need to know basis and even that small tight-nit group was enough to cause me mini-anxiety attacks.  

For those of you who don’t write, but sing, or draw, or play music, you can relate.  It’s like letting the public read your journal.  The only thing worse than that are your friends and family reading your journal because they will actually know what you’re referring to.  And they all think that a particular character, or song verse is about them.  

More confusing is, how elated you are that someone has read your work, even if it is your mom, but then it’s swiftly regrettable because they then have their own ideas and perceptions of how they think the book should have been or what your marketing move should be.  They all have their own ideas and as a writer you have to stay true to your characters.  I definitely think that writing the second book of the Harlow Whittaker Trilogy was much easier than the first because I already knew where my characters were going.  

In contrast however working on the third book is difficult because I already have readers who have envisioned an ending and I had to stop and release their influence from my mind in order to complete the final installment because I wanted something that would be true to Harlow, Larken, Hendrix, Fin, Elias, and even Ezequiel.  

So as much as I love that people are reading what I wrote it does create a new obstacle; staying true to the story.  It’s not my vision of where I think the characters or even the story should go, but if you’re doing it right, it’s the characters leading the writer through the story-Just as they do with the reader. 

I love the input, I love that something that I wrote creates such strong opinions in others, and even when I hear criticism I relish in it because it means that they actually care enough to read it.  But once it’s time to sit and write I have to ignore all of that and ask the characters what their plans are.  

I love you all, keep reading an critiquing-I can take it.  

Want more Valerie?



SXSW Monthly Collaboration: Life, pain and the pursuit of writing.



I am horribly happy to be collaborating once again with the fabulous Valerie Day-Sanchez. Last month was a real doozy for both of us and funny enough it has inspired this month’s column on life as a writer with all the many outside interferences we face on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. We all have several different hats we wear and sometimes our passions can get pushed to the side for the mundane or for circumstances that are not entirely our doing.

I have been laid up with a pinched nerve in my neck for a whole month now. It has literally kicked me in the ass and my recovery has been decidedly slow and painful. I can’t even begin to describe the agony of pain but I can try to offer some insight into the horrific realization that I could not write.

Now, I am perfectly aware that my injury occurred because of my tenaciousness and let’s face it, downright stupid resolute goal, which led me to sit at my desk for hours on end and write out a book in three and a half weeks. I have only myself to blame and even though I have accepted my fault in this incident I was still faced with something remarkable.

You see, I never realized how much I would miss writing until it was taken away from me.

If you are a parent, a professional, or both, then you know how hard it is to carve out time for your work and artistic expression each and every day. When the opportunity is ripped from your life though, it is rather like losing something extremely precious. So how do we authors do it? How do we deal with our lives and incorporate writing without hurting ourselves or pissing off our family and friends?

I’m not sure if I have the answer but I do know that not being able to work on my book or other writing projects was like a blow to my heart and soul. I realized that my long desired and new found occupation as an author was what kept me fulfilled on previously unknown levels as of late. I had to do something or else I was going to go mad.

I decided to take control and went back to the doctor, was ordered physical therapy and I also purchased a laptop. I have always been pro desktop but I have caved into the pressures of modern technology. I sit now in mild pain but my heart is happy and light as I type.

I figured out that it is not so much as making time for my writing that has given me pleasure it is simply the fact that I am writing again. I realized that as an artist, you don’t make the time; you create the time for your passions. It’s not about punching a clock. It’s about ignoring the tick tock of that clock and listening to the beating of your heart.

We all have busy lives to lead. Each and every one of us has demands and obligations to fulfill every day. As a writer though, we need to feed our souls with our work otherwise what’s the point of this so-called life if we can’t make the effort to live our dream.

Besides, we’re writers. Sleep is of no consequence for us nor is pain. The only real torture is not being able to pour our heart and soul onto paper with our words. In the words of Anais Nin:

~If you do not breathe through writing, if you do not cry out in writing, or sing in writing , then don’t write, because our culture has no use for it.~

 Valerie’s Take:


It’s funny that this month, fellow fantasy author, Shannon Barczak and I decided to write about the trouble of juggling all of the rigmarole of life along with our passions because I swear this month has been a whirlwind.  Remember my piece will appear in orange, while Shannon’s will be white.

I honestly don’t know how I find time to write, Although I do find myself doing it EVERYDAY.  Like Shannon said, we all wear many hats, but I noticed that no matter if I’m wearing the “mom hat,” the “wife hat,” the “home-school teacher hat,” or my new, Realtor hat, I have to express myself with the written word at some point of the day.  

So no, I don’t always have time to crank out a novel, or to edit one of my projects- maybe I’m just writing a cover letter for a job, or commenting on my student’s assignments, but, I have to write.  I know some of you “novel purists” are thinking, ‘hey that’s cheating, that’s not really writing,’ but I disagree.  

One of the most spoken tips for authors from authors is to write everyday and if we interpret that as, we have to write a short story, or begin a bestseller everyday, we will feel like failures.  

I define writing as, getting my ideas coherently on paper.  I strive for my ideas to be as similar to what I envisioned in my mind as possible.  It doesn’t matter if it’s nonfiction, if it’s for work or personal use.  So when I define it that way, I’m ecstatic that I was allowed the opportunity to write outside my genre. It keeps me fresh and it allows me to force my mind to work in a different direction than it would naturally go.  This has led to the development of characters that I may have never stumbled upon had I not had to write a nonfiction piece for work.  It makes me extend my vocabulary which I’m sure my readers appreciate.

Life happens, no matter what, and while Shannon discusses having the gift of writing taking away, I have to admit that I too have felt that way when life (kids, husband, dog, work) didn’t allow me to work on my trilogy, or complete my SciFi novel, but the truth is, that is just the way it is.

Sometimes it seems as though, when you have uninterrupted hours on end to write we don’t have an idea, and when we have an idea, everybody wants a piece of us.  So being an author is all about adaptability and knowing ourselves.  I know that if I get an idea I have to hurry and jot it down before it’s lost in between diaper changes and showing houses.  And then when I get a free minute I can fully utilize it as opposed to dicking around on Facebook.


Writing is less about the time, or slowing life down, it’s about recognizing what you love and going for it, even if it means you have to do it five minutes at a time.


July SXSW Collaboration: Writing Chapter One



For this month’s July SXSW collaboration, Valerie and I are talking about starting anew. We both have finished our trilogies, and we are both embarking on the journey of creating a new series. I have to be honest; it really did take me awhile to get excited to begin writing again. I was still so wrapped up in The Skye Trilogy that I had a hard time saying goodbye, but now that the time has come to publish my third book, Isle of Dawn, I am feeling the proverbial butterflies in my stomach.

Before I even begin to write I always buy a fresh notebook and sit-down to outline my book. I start off with writing the characters, where the book is going to take place and a short plot summary. I then delve a little deeper with an outline of the book as a whole. I think it is important to get those details done first so you can have them for a reference later as you are writing.

The next thing I do is the chapter outlines. Now, I don’t always follow them religiously but I do like to keep them in my rearview mirror as much as possible. Usually when I hit the middle of a book I go back over them and adjust my former vision to fit where I’m now at in the writing process.

Then it’s time to daydream. Yes, I said daydream folks. I like to sit and write the book out in my head for a few weeks. I think it’s of the utmost importance to see the story in your head before you start writing. I know it sounds a little weird but trust me when I say that I would much rather have a clearer picture of my characters and my story before I begin writing.

Lastly, it’s time for the real deal. No more notes, no more daydreams, and no more talking. The first chapter is the hardest chapter to write. Period. End of story. Class is dismissed. To be honest, the first page is really the killer. You want to establish the entire book and the direction it is headed right away or else your readers will say sayonara, so long, see you later, I would rather be sleeping than reading this crap.

No pressure or anything.

When you finish writing the first chapter of your book, it’s like; a giant weight has been lifted off your shoulders. You did it; you started a book. Yes, there’s a lot more work ahead of you but live in the moment, forget about the past, and be hopeful of the future.

Now if you’ll excuse me I’m off to follow my own advice and start writing! My next series will be called The Fae Witch Series, and it will be a spin-off The Skye Trilogy. I’m hoping for the first book, The Cursed Charm, to be published in February… That is, if I ever get past writing the first chapter!



Valerie’s Viewpoint:

This month Shannon Barczak and I decided to write about starting over. With both of our trilogies completed we have each begun writing new projects. We each have different experiences with this and we wanted to share it with you all.  

This is the first book that I have written that does not begin with Harlow Whittaker & 

And to be perfectly honest it is rather refreshing. To be able to bury myself inside of another world, with a whole other list of characters has been my salvation in a way.  Last time we discussed saying goodbye and how hard it was to end our respective trilogies, well bear with me as I try and explain the other side of that.  

Writing has always been my escape and since currently my life is filled with a series of new beginnings, change, although the only constant in life, can also be very scary, even when it’s for the better.  Having a new project, something to distract me, that demands my full attention is a tremendous gift.

Ideas for this book, which is a sci-fi alien invasion novel, started seeping into my mind before I started writing the final installment in my YA Trilogy and I would jot down notes like, character names or simple plot ideas and when I did finally sit down to start writing I had notes inside of various magazines, backs of receipts and a worn out yellow spiral notebook that I keep next to my bed in case I get an idea first thing in the morning (or I just have an obnoxious/nocturnal character that keeps me up all night). And I try and string all the notes together-they serve as plot points and I fill in all the story.

It may not be the most organized or even coherent way to do it but it’s my process.  And somehow I decipher my rushed handwriting and incorporate it all until it’s one cohesive story that I then let sit for a few months before I read it and edit it for the first time.  I think the trick is to do what works for you no matter how ‘crazy’ it may sound to the rest of us, as long as the work get’s done right?

Surprisingly starting a new project wasn’t necessarily difficult instead it was more like a friend that helped me to cope with the ending of my trilogy. Writing my new book helped me to move forward from my other characters.  It proved to me that once again books were my comfort and my therapy. 

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June SXSW Collaboration: The End of the Beginning



It’s over. It’s done. It’s finished. Those three phrases are almost heart wrenching when it comes to writing a trilogy. On one hand, you feel like you have accomplished something truly extraordinary while on the other you feel an immense sense of sadness. It’s hard to put into words the emotions that are running through your entire being when you finish writing a book, when you write a trilogy those feelings are magnified even more so.

Valerie and I have both finished writing our third books to our respective trilogies, and I am again amazed at how our lives are almost running in sync with one another. She was the first person I sent an email to when I finished. I knew if anyone could relate to what I was going through; it was her. A few weeks later I received an email from her telling me she had just completed her third book crying, and I understood exactly what she was feeling.

The characters in my book have been my constant companions for some time now. I not only connected with them on paper but in my heart as well. To write the words; ‘The End,’ was one of the most emotional things I have ever done. I think I was halfway into the third book when I had a sudden realization that this journey was coming to a close and for a moment I contemplated scrapping that plan and continuing the series.

I became aware though that I wasn’t doing this for the story’s sake but my own, and that’s when I knew I had to find the courage to finish writing Isle of Dawn. I owed it not only to myself, but to my readers and my characters.

I’m now into my final edits, and I still have this sense of amazement that 1) I actually wrote this book and 2) I actually finished writing a trilogy!

I suppose in a way I am feeding a monster because my next series is going to be a continuation of The Skye Trilogy. My old characters will be making sporadic appearances, but it will never be the same. I have made peace with that though, and I am finally getting excited to begin writing a fresh story with new, exciting, people and creatures that I get to dream up in my mind.

There is a part of me that’s worried. What if I don’t connect to my new characters? Do I have it in me to write four books next time instead of three? What if it sucks? What if I come down with a dreaded case of writers block?

Then there’s the other part of me that takes over and laughs at my newfound insecurities. That part is also the one that cocks her eyebrow and swears like a sailor. You can’t go through your existence with the words what if as the first words in your sentence. You have to go balls to the wall and say, “Hell ya, I can do it,” because at the end of the day being able to move forward is the only way to truly live life.



For this month’s collaboration Shannon and I decided to write about saying goodbye, to our characters. Although each of us just recently released the second book in our Paranormal trilogies, we both also just completed writing the third and final chapters of our trilogies. Each of us cried and binged on ice cream and no one really understood except other writers.  So we needed an emotional release and decided to blog it out this month. 

We’ve moved three times since my oldest son was born which wasn’t too big of deal for me because I moved quite often when I was a kid.  I learned long ago not to be attached to things like houses or schools because change was all around us.  But when I became pregnant with my second son something inside me changed and I felt this constant tug, this ever-present nag that I needed to buy a house. I needed to plant some roots, because leaving the houses where I had watched my son crawl for the first time, or where he projectile vomited on me for the first time (yes projectile, it is real) it became harder and harder.  It was like those memories were no longer as close and after my second son was born I felt those first memories of motherhood begin to fade away and I needed a physical structure that could house those memories.  

I needed to be able to walk past a room and remember what had happened there, who got their first bloody nose there because my mind wasn’t large enough.  So we bought our house and that is exactly what happens but guess what else I realized?  So much of those memories are in my books.  

When I re-read something I’ve written, I see more than just the characters and the setting in my mind, I see exactly where I was when I was writing it.  Just like I picture my one year old running through the kitchen pushing a dump truck even when he’s not home, I see him playing in his kiddy pool in our backyard when I read the second book in my trilogy. Because I wrote that book in the summer, while my boys played in the backyard, I’d sit with my laptop on the back patio.    

My characters in the Harlow Whittaker Trilogy have been fighting to tell their story for the past four years. They have been a part of my life for four years.   This is why when I typed the final sentence in my trilogy I cried.  It’s more than saying goodbye to a story that has been playing in your mind for years, but also saying goodbye to everything that happened in those four years.  Writing is my escape so during times of stress, or even bliss I would write, because I would need to capture those emotions.  I would remind myself of certain things to add depth to my characters, to make sure that their feelings were genuine.  You honestly do give a piece of yourself in everything you create and when that’s over, when the project is complete, you mourn for that piece.

Shannon and I each dove into new projects after the completion of our trilogies and I hope it’s not just a rebound from my last relationship (HW Trilogy).  But I’m sure when this new book is finished I will feel the same sadness that often accompanies goodbyes.  It will be just as bittersweet. The contrast between the pride of completing something that has been unfinished for so long mixed with the emptiness that comes from having to never see the people that you’ve had thousands of conversations with.  I think this hit me so hard because I have never finished a work of fiction.  Even though I have been writing since I was nine years old, I never finished anything until my Master’s Thesis.  That was the first time I wrote something massive (220 pages) that had a beginning, middle, and end.  So all the charterers I’d created in my past still lived on until I just forgot about them.  With Harlow, having to dream up the final moments for these characters that I loved, that I had created worlds for, making sure that I gave them what they truly deserved weighed heavily on me as well.  So Cheers, I think the conclusion here is, art is difficult in more ways than one, and if you just completed a book, my heart goes out to you 🙂  


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