Tag Archives: writing

Being a writer

What’s it like to be a writer?

Here’s the truth. Being a writer sucks.

Being a writer is glorious. Being a writer is frustrating. In today’s world, it’s nearly impossible to be successful at being a writer. You spend half your time wishing you were something else.

But it’s not like you choose to be a writer. It’s something you’re born to be, some might say a “calling.” God puts a voice in your head and your heart and it haunts you until you do your best to translate it to the written word. Then you edit and hone and rewrite and, finally, you send it out into the world where it’s mostly ignored when it’s not published with a shiny hardback cover by a huge publisher that sends you on a world book tour with big posters and lots of bling to give away at ever stop.

And yet.

Being a writer is not something you choose, and it’s also not something you can deny. I love being a writer. I love my books that are a part of me and a pale echo of that voice God spoke to me. I know I didn’t get it right because I’m human, but I do my best, and I think I’m getting better at it with every try.

So I keep trying. I keep translating and honing and editing and rewriting. And publishing.

About a month and a half ago I sent one of my books, Movie Magic, out into the world. A few people have read it. One of them was kind enough to review it and tell me he liked it. He’s a fellow writer and a magician I’ve gotten to know through our mutual love of writing and magic. He gave it five stars and a glowing review I’m very proud of.

Tomorrow I begin a review tour. These will be strangers reviewing my book. I personally think Movie Magic is the best book I’ve written so far. I guess I’ll find out if others agree.

Until tomorrow.

 

 

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Buy local: Support independent authors

Studies show that buying local is important to local economies, right? More of the money you spend returns to your own local economy. Did you know buying from an independent local author has the same benefits?

Authors published by large publishing companies get much less of the profits from sales of their books. Therefore, the majority of the money you spend on a bestseller in the bookstore goes national, not local. However, if you buy a book that is independently published or published by a small press, the author gets much more of their proceeds. Therefore, more of that money returns to your local economy, growing local businesses and

True, you may only be able to find independently published books at online retailers, meaning part of your money goes to support those retailers. However, this pales in comparison to the portion of money that goes to traditional publishers. The average traditionally published authors makes, on average, a ten percent royalty, but this is on net profit, so any discounts or overhead are taken out of the proceeds before the author gets a check. So an eight dollar book does not make the author eighty cents per book sold.

By contrast, independently published authors (read self-published here), can make up to a seventy percent royalty on a book. Usually independently published books sold in ebook format online are priced much lower than traditionally published ebooks (mine range from free to $2.99). Paperbacks can be more expensive because, at the moment, they are print-on-demand, which means there are no warehouses full of my books anywhere. I keep a few on hand for promotional purposes, but basically, if you order a physical copy of my book, somewhere a press fires up and prints it off.

It’s kind of cool to think of that.

In truth, though, you as a consumer have the chance to change the way books are made. You can go into a bookstore and suggest that they carry my books. The bookstore could then contact me and we could haggle out a price, which would result in me shipping them a few copies of my books, which would then share brick-and-mortar shelf space with traditionally published books. In most cases, larger chains are less likely to do this than the independent book stores which are, sadly, becoming fewer in number.

Consumers can change that, too.

So, buy local. Chances are good that no matter what subject matter or genre interests you, there’s a local author who’s got it covered. Please feel free to list your favorite independent author’s website in the comments.

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Filed under Publishing, self-publishing, traditional publishing, Writing

How I spent November and what NaNoWriMo means

NaNo-2017-Winner-BadgeYes, you can tell a lot from a picture. This particular one is not worth a mere thousand words, though. It’s worth 50,000. And yes, it means I did indeed “win” National Novel Writing Month.

What does that mean? It means I spent a month learning, again, how to refocus whatever writing talent I actually do possess into a businesslike attitude. I did not allow life to get in the way of my writing for a change. I wrote, consistently, almost every single day of November. (I did skip one day due to being sick.) And almost every one of those days, I wrote more than I actually wanted to.

It means a lot to me this month in particular. I didn’t know if I would make it through this National Novel Writing Month. If I had known at the beginning of the month what would be happening throughout the month, I might not have begun. But I did begin. And in spite of everything, I finished. I won.

But what do you win at the end of NaNoWriMo? Fifty thousand words are not $50,000. Do you at least have a complete novel, ready to send out to publishers? No. I always end up with what I consider to be a sort of fleshed out outline of a novel that is probably lacking between ten and twenty thousand words. The story and plot and characters are there, but some of the connections and scenes are not. Heavy editing and rewriting are required to turn such an outline into an actual book. So what’s the point? Why give up daily workouts, binge-watching Netflix, and going to bed at regular hours?

It’s not just for the accomplishment, though writing 50,000 words is an accomplishment. It’s not to have a completed product at the end of the month. As I’ve said, it’ll be another year or more before this novel is ready for public consumption. As a matter of fact, tomorrow I get to work on editing last year’s NaNo.

To me, what National Novel Writing Month really is is a renewal. It’s a pilgrimage back into the writing world, a sort of training session that will help me stay on track for the next year. Finishing the 50,000 word goal—and recognizing that it is not yet a book—remind me of what I really am. A writer.

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What a Review Actually Means to a Writer

tourbanner_moviemagic

Review Tour of Movie Magic begins December 14. Watch my blog for details!

As I wait impatiently for more reviews for Movie Magic, I have been reflecting on the nature of the review machine. Authors are constantly asking for reviews. As a reader, maybe you wonder why. Why would we open ourselves up to criticism?

Here’s the thing, though. Reviews—even critical reviews—are not a bad thing for a writer. Sure, we gloat when we get a good review. What writer doesn’t count their five-star reviews on Amazon and feel a little gratified? But it’s the other reviews that truly reveal something to us.

For instance, my book Where the Heart Lies, published by Carina Press in 2012, has 14 reviews and a total of 3.7 stars. This book garnered me my first (though I am sure not last) two-star review on Amazon. It actually has two. Which were kind of “ouch” at the time, but both reviews are chock full of advice that I’ve put into play in my growth as a writer.

I read every review I get and I try to learn something from every review that doesn’t just say “not my cup of tea”. Because, you know, if it’s not your cup of tea, don’t drink it. If you do drink it and feel moved to say something, then say why it’s not your cup of tea. I can’t help it if you picked up the wrong cup of tea, but if I put something in your tea that you didn’t like, definitely tell me!

This is all a rambling way of saying reviews are not just status symbols for writers and we don’t just want you to write a review if you loved the book. Yes, I’d like to see a hundred or more five-star reviews on all my books, but not just because. I want them because I earned them. But if you feel I earned two or three stars instead, tell me why. Then read my next book and see if I paid attention. You might be surprised.

Would you like to review Movie Magic? Contact me for a free copy or sign up here:

Goddess Fish Review Tour

XPresso Book Tours Review Opportunity

Please note, all review requests subject to approval by tour service/author.

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Filed under Movie Magic, Reviews, Writing

Interview with a magician: R.J. Lewis

With no further ado, then, please help me welcome R.J. Lewis (Arjay) to my blog.

Arjay interviewMGF: You started out as a puppeteer, went from there to performing magic and Broadway. You’ve written screenplays and been in movies and on television, and you’re now a resident magician for Princess Cruise Lines. I hesitate to ask, but how does all that lead you to write dark fantasy and horror?

Arjay: Actually I write in several genres, wherever the story takes me. My main series is a collection of murder mysteries that feature a psychic detective who is a professor of parapsychology. I have two books released in that series, Fire In The Mind and Seduction In The Mind. The Muse is a stand-alone, inspired by my writing of a short story The Dark, which appeared in H.P. Lovecraft Magazine of Horror. I used to avoid scary books, as I was a bit of a sensitive child. However, I have been won over by the writing of Dean Koontz and Stephen King. As a reader I just get pulled in so strongly by the writing and the excitement of the situations, despite the dark overtones.

MGF: Have you always wanted to be a writer?

Arjay: My entire life I have been surrounded by writers. My father wrote a novel, which I never saw, and the manuscript is long gone. I have written plays and live shows since I was fifteen or sixteen. Finally two of my mentors and friends were writers, Parke Godwin and Marvin Kaye. I learned early on the discipline of the work and the joy of when you have a good writing day.

MGF: You’ve mentioned the “call of the odd” to me. I used to write a little horror myself (not very successfully), and I’m still a consumer of horror, so I have an idea what this phrase means to me. What does it mean to you as a writer?

Arjay: I am attracted to the paranormal. Which is interesting, as I am a major skeptic. Since ancient times we have been handed down stories of unusual creatures and concepts that defy explanation, as well as tales of those with extraordinary gifts. I think there is a desire within us as a species to explore those concepts, and fiction is the perfect outlet. We can create entire worlds, but as writers we must people them with characters that will appeal and pull the reader into the story. If so, the reader will go anywhere you want to take them and they will enjoy the ride.

MGF: I have to ask, since it’s the anniversary of Harry Houdini’s death. Some people think performing magic led him to a belief in the occult and then to a desire to debunk fake psychics in his quest to find the real thing. Do you think your career in magic affected your decision to write about odd things like psychic detectives and parasitic creatures?

Arjay: Absolutely. On one hand I am a complete skeptic, and can debunk people who bend spoons and “read minds” with ease. But underneath, a part of me wishes to believe in the impossible. And that part is what makes me strive in my act to create effects that will leave the audience wondering. My act is the perfect counterpoint. On one hand, I tell the audience it is all a trick, but then I do things that leave them unsure.

MGF: The Muse was definitely part of that “call of the odd”. I know there’s a little story about how it came to be written. Can you tell us?

Arjay: In June of 1999, I had the desire to write a horror tale about a night guard who saw things in the dark—that were actually there. I had been a guard in my youth and always found the dark places in the warehouse I worked creepy and for some reason those feelings came to the forefront with that story. It wasn’t until the next day, when I read the news that Stephen King had been hit by a truck in Maine. I was overcome with an odd sense that something needed that story to be written and since he couldn’t, it moved to me. The thought stuck with me and I wondered what it would be like if there was something—an actual physical entity that could make people write—and not just write, but write best sellers. That concept became The Muse.

MGF: Okay, so your characters in The Muse go through some pretty dark stuff. Do you ever write something and wonder, Where did that come from?

Arjay: For me that sort of sums up that entire book. My villain in The Muse is a famous writer who is secretly a serial killer, and who has a symbiont living within him that influences him. I knew that the creature had to leave him, but I didn’t expect him to devolve into a monstrous killing machine. A lot of the book revealed itself to me as I went, and I kept saying “I didn’t see that coming” which was great fun.

MGF: I have to admit I haven’t started your series about the psychic detective (Fire in the Mind, Seduction in the Mind, Reunion in the Mind)—yet. They are definitely on my list. These books are coming out pretty rapidly. June, September and November of this year respectively. Any chance you’re going to take a break and let us readers catch up?

Arjay: I have six books in that series already written, so I intend to release the next three next year, fairly quickly as well. I have over a dozen finished manuscripts and I want to start to release them to build momentum and establish myself as a writer. After that I will have to write the new ones, so that will slow down the release a lot. However, I have rough outlines for eighteen In The Mind books, which will not only cover the lead character’s growth but the ups and downs of his relationship with the female lead.

MGF: So your first book was published in June of this year and you already have a backlist. You obviously write a lot. What is your writing routine like?

Arjay: I write every day and usually block out nine to noon for writing new material. I live on the cruise ship, The Ruby Princess , which allows me to wander to various place I have to write, even outside in a deck chair. In the late afternoon, I will do rewrites on books that are getting cleaned up for the copy editor. If I have a release date looming, I put in evening hours as well.

MGF: Not that you need to, but because it starts tomorrow—any chance you’ll be joining National Novel Writing Month?

Arjay: My daughter, also a writer, is rising to that challenge. My rule is that I do not start a new book while one is sitting half done. This is why I have over a dozen finished novels. I have a book that I must turn my attention to in the In The Mind series, and I have a release on November 20 of Reunion In The Mind, so I must focus on getting that work finalized. However I will attempt to raise my word count for the month.

MGF: Finally, thank you very much for being my special guest today. It means a lot to have you here. I know my readers can go to your website (http://arjaylewis.com) to find out more about you and your novels. Anything else you’d like to include?

Arjay: Yes, I want to take a moment to praise YOUR writing. I went through your novel, Movie Magic all in one day and it is a great read. My complaint with many romance novels is that they sometime can be slow—often as a device to build the amorous tension. However, your book takes off like a rocket and keeps going, with vivid descriptions and fully developed characters, plus a four act structure that kept me turning pages. Since I have a background in magic and filmmaking, you really got the “feel” of what it is like to work in those industries. Plus the male lead is a magician! What more could I want?

What more indeed? Again, many thanks to Arjay for taking the time to answer my questions (and read Movie Magic). I’m looking forward to reading the In the Mind series and I highly recommend The Muse to anyone who enjoys horror. It’s fast-paced, horrifying and fun. And the twist ending caught even me off guard. Check out Arjay’s author page here: https://www.amazon.com/Arjay-Lewis/e/B071P9NND3/ref=dp_byline_cont_book_1

 

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Introducing Arjay, writer and magician

I’m lucky enough to have a very special guest today. Arjay/R.J. Lewis has won awards for his screenplays and is the author of three novels. He is also an accomplished actor who has appeared on Broadway, in film and on television. And he’s a professional magician who I’ve actually seen in action, so having him on my blog today to help me celebrate the release of Movie Magic is a tremendous event for me.

Before I get to Arjay’s actual interview, though, I’d like to give you a little background about how our paths crossed this past August.

I’d been looking forward to the first week of August for the better part of a year. We all had because we were going as a family on a cruise to Alaska. That doesn’t happen every day, right? Little did we know what that cruise had in store for us.

Arjay in action

R.J. Lewis, magician, in action on the Ruby Princess. This is from the kids’ fair, not the show we saw earlier in the week.

On the second day of our cruise on the Ruby Princess, all three kids went off to do their own thing, my husband had a meeting, and I decided to use the afternoon to write. I sat on my balcony looking out at the water speeding past and began a new novel, which I’d already titled in my head, Magic at Sea. I knew it was silly to write this already. I have plans to write the next Sleight of Hand novel during National Novel Writing Month. Magic at Sea would be the one after that one. But I write what I write when I write it and always have, so I began Magic at Sea, created characters I fell in love with and started the quest to get them together.

A few hours later, my daughter came back from her youth club glowing and chattering about her afternoon. “There was a magician and he picked me to help him. And I don’t know how he did it. He told me to hold the ball in my fist and he held one in his hand and then it disappeared and I opened my hand and it was there!”

I couldn’t help but smile. I have a working knowledge of some simple magic tricks, so I have an idea of how it was pulled off. But I also know most of the magic is in the presentation, so I figured this guy must be pretty good, especially when she said, solemnly, “I think it was real magic.”

No way was I going to kill that. Especially when my teenage sons joined us for dinner, also talking about the same magician and a trick he did with a big penny. “He was hilarious!” said the middle one.

Understand that I collect magical experiences, all starting with that magic carpet trick when I was a little girl. I hired a local magician for one of my kids’ birthday parties. I’ve seen David Copperfield and Mac King and Penn & Teller. I never pass up a chance to see a magician in action. It’s kind of my thing. So naturally, I asked, “What’s his name?”

“R.J. something,” my oldest said. “He’s going to be in one of the lounges this week.”

His name, as it turned out, was R.J. Lewis, and he had two shows scheduled in the Explorers’ Lounge. We got there in time to stand in the back for the first one. I could tell it was very good, even from that distance. So when the lounge emptied out from the first show, my kids and I got right up front for seats for the second, and ended up thoroughly enjoying it.

He kicked it off with a song sung in a splendid baritone voice. He continued with some card tricks and even called my middle son up to help with one of the better performances of the Chinese linking rings that I’ve seen.

At the end of the show, R.J. introduced us to the fact that he is also a writer whose book The Muse would be out later that week under the author name Arjay Lewis. How cool, I thought. A magician who’s also a writer. And I write about magicians. Maybe I should introduce myself.

So…I approached him, half intending to do so. But I chickened out and just took the signed postcard he offered and told him we’d enjoyed his show. I decided, in my usual introverted way, to read his book and then tweet him if I liked it.

I did like it. I read most of it on the plane ride home. The Muse is a dark, twisted, addictive journey through the lives of some pretty compelling characters. I recommend it to my horror fanatic friends.

And that’s the story of how I met Arjay Lewis. Now that you know who Arjay is and how I met him, I hope you’ll join us for the interview that’s coming up in the next hour.

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October 31 and magic

Why do I launch my magic books on October 31? Could be one of several reasons. For instance, did you know on October 31, 2011, the global population reached seven billion for the first time in history? Yep. That day is officially known as the Day of Seven Billion. So, you know, lots of potential readers out there.

But that’s not it.

October 31 is, of course, All Hallow’s Eve, All Saints’ Day or Halloween, depending on your religion or lack of it. It’s a day for remembering the dead. A day for spirits and magick.

But that’s not it.

When I first started out my quest to make magic romantic, I did a lot of research about magicians. I read about magicians and magic through history. I researched different types of magic from illusion to mentalism. I watched videos, old and new. From David Copperfield and David Blaine to Houdini. I found out that Harry Houdini, master escape magician whose water torture escapes still elude much of the magical community, died on October 31.

And that’s it.

That’s it because not only did he die on October 31 but because of a pact with his wife, Bess, to do his best to contact her from beyond the grave, a seance is still held every year on the anniversary of his death. In fact, multiple seances are held. There’s even an online one. Harry Houdini, 91 years after death, is still encouraging people to believe.

That’s what I want to do with my writing. It’s why I started writing about magicians. I love that magicians can help us believe in something beyond ourselves, even when we know there’s a trick. A well-performed magic trick can, even for an instant, help us believe that maybe there’s something more out there.

Speaking of believing: This is the 90th year of the Houdini Seance. Do you believe Houdini will choose this year to contact us?

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