LizAnn Carson

Releasing stories into the world


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The Agony of the First Draft

I’m about two-thirds of the way to finishing the final book in the Calder Creek series. What this means, in terms of my process and my sanity, is that I’ve got the figurative bit in my teeth, I’m obsessed, I couldn’t stop writing if I tried, the finish line is so close I can almost touch it …

Unfortunately, it also means that as of now, everything I’ve written and everything I’ll write until the first draft is done is officially garbage. Awful. Boring. The worst tripe I, or anyone else, has ever produced.

Why, oh why, do we do this to ourselves? Writing is bliss, writing is hell.

For me, getting the first draft down on the page/screen is the hardest part. I become convinced that I can’t do it, that it will never be any good. I hate this. And the sad reality is that a lot of that first draft needs attention. I’ll put the whole thing aside for a few weeks, then go back to it. That’s when the fun starts. For some reason I don’t mind the revising, reworking, rewording, reordering, and generally cleaning up the mess that is currently Calder Creek 3: Mel.

This may not be usual. A fellow writer sweats her first drafts so they’ll be as good as they can be, because she dreads revising. Most articles I read imply that the revision process is akin to pulling teeth without novocaine. So maybe I’m lucky. All I have to do is survive that first draft and the rest is play.

I write quickly, and I put in the hours, so I fully expect to get to first-draft-completion nirvana in a couple of weeks. I sure hope so. This not-good-enough feeling is depressing. Those around me suffer. I eat too many carbs. I resent it when friends want me to come out to play. My sleep patterns go skewed. Not pretty. Not pretty at all.

I can already see some of where the book falls short: I don’t have a good enough handle on my hero. I know what he does, I know his motivations, I know what he looks like and how he feels. But there’s something in the essence of him that I haven’t been able to capture yet. I’m relying on that few weeks’ breathing room and the revision process to bring him to life.

Well, never mind. I love my heroine and I’m having a good time with the mess … er … situation she finds herself in. I’m glad she has a happy-ever-after in her future. There’s nothing wrong with a little romance, especially as winter drags on. (Even here in the Pacific Northwest where the plum trees and rhododendrons are in bloom and the spring bulbs are all up, days are chilly and gray.)

I’m going to stop typing now and make some supper; at this stage in the process I’m a master of fast meals. Then, I think I’ll write for a while. That finish line’s getting closer …


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Free Book, plus Reflections on Book Marketing

First, the big news. Seducing Adam is free on Kindle this weekend, February 13-15. Happy Valentine’s Day, and happy reading! I hope you’ll enjoy it.

Now for some thoughts on a big boogieman for me: publicizing your book.

Writing is one thing. Publicizing what you write is something else entirely. And it’s fair to say, it’s tough.

Well, tough. That’s life, if you’re a writer in the modern world, and especially if you’re an indie published writer.

I’m playing around with various routes to publicizing a novel, and not having too much fun at it. Tools and advice keep coming at me, which I suppose is a good thing. It gives me options, anyway.

A lot of it circles around to social media. But the thing is, the whole social media thing is a mystery to me. I don’t mean how it works, I mean why I’d do it at all. Let’s face it, I’m the kind of person who’s never learned to text on her smart phone because I really don’t have anyone to text. (Besides, the thing’s usually dead when I need to use it. I can’t even remember to keep it charged.) This new world of interconnections feels very strange to me.

Seducing Adam, besides being my first published book, is my publicity guinea pig. My goal is to try things out, find publicity avenues that work, and that I’m comfortable with. For instance, there’ll be a book blog tour in early March (I’ll keep you posted), and some free days on Amazon. I’m also thinking about branching out onto other sales outlets, such as Apple and Kobo.

In the meantime, I’m so grateful when I hear from someone who has loved Seducing Adam. A friend said she spent all one afternoon reading it, and it was just what she needed. That’s the kind of positive reinforcement a writer hopes for. Because, when you tell people you’ve written a novel, their typical reaction is akin to an email I received from another friend: “Loved your book. I was afraid I wouldn’t, but I did.” Of course your friends are going to be scared to read what you wrote, because what if it’s a dog’s breakfast? What if they hate it? How are they ever going to look you in the eye again?

Don’t even ask me how I feel about putting my book on the line for a review. I’m thrilled (aren’t we all?) when a positive review turns up on the web spontaneously, but to actually submit my baby for a “professional” review? Scary times. Bite the bullet, I tell myself. Because I do believe in Seducing Adam, and I’m realistic enough to know it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. I shouldn’t be so nervous about it. But still …

Thanks for dropping by. Why not pick up a freebie of Seducing Adam for weekend reading? If you like it, why not leave a short review on Amazon? Trust me, my heart would be thrilled.


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Reflections on Poetry and News about Books

SA with GotE coversThings have settled down in my writing world, and now I can look at not one but two books complete, published, and off to meet their fates in the real world.

Major lesson learned: don’t change versions of your software half way through the process. Word 2010 and Word 2013 are not the same, and they don’t handle some things the same way. Even the font I used (Book Antiqua) doesn’t look quite the same in 2013.

But never mind. It’s done. Seducing Adam is out in paperback. Hooray! Hats flying in the air in mad celebration!

There’s more, though. I belong to this fabulous book club, and for several years now they’ve been the main audience for my occasional forays into poetry. I have loose-leaf notebooks full of the stuff. Some of my fellow readers have encouraged me to publish a volume of poetry, and I’ve dreamed for years of exactly the same thing, so this past December I finally buckled down to it. And Goddess of the Edges is a reality.

The process was much, much easier than it was for Seducing Adam, despite having to merge about a hundred Word files, some of them dating back to Word 2000, with poems formatted in assorted ways – and of course the inevitable tweaking of words here and there. Is it possible I’ve learned something?

One reason I’m proud of Goddess of the Edges is that it’s entirely my own, including the cover design and photography. (I designed the cover of Seducing Adam, but using stock photography.) Start to finish, my baby. And yes, I’ve found a mistake (a title missing from the alphabetical list of titles in the back) but I’m living with it. I gather that in Islam there’s a belief that the artist never creates a work that is perfect, because only God can do that. I like this idea and will adhere to it as I move further into my writing career.

I’ve also learned through poetry that everything’s mutable. I attended a day-long event with the poet David Whyte here in Victoria a couple of years ago. I have his collected works (River Flow: New and Selected Poems), and was happily following along as he recited some of his poetry – and realized that what he was saying and what I was reading weren’t the same. I furiously made notes in the margins, then asked him about it when it was my turn to get his autograph in my book. What he told me changed the way I look at the printed word in general, and poetry in particular. To paraphrase, he said, “I realized I could do it better.” So he is – and he also said the ebook version of his collected works would have the new wording.

Revelation. Just because it’s in print doesn’t mean it’s dead.

I seriously doubt I’d ever go in and change one of my novels. But poetry is an art form unto itself, capable of changing the shape and direction of its flow. Why not?

I’ve posted a couple of my poems on the website – look for the “Goddess of the Edges” page. I hope you’ll enjoy them.


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Writing Winter Memories: Snow

Back story: I grew up in Columbus, Ohio. Later, when I had a young family, I lived in Montreal.

So when I write about the Solstice/Christmas season, what do I write about? Snow.

Depending on the setting, of course. Seducing Adam occurs in coastal British Columbia, in the springtime; no snow in this one. But when the setting works … oh, yes.

As someone who’s lived in Atlanta and New Zealand and now lives in the Pacific Northwest, I can testify, first-hand, that a lot of the world doesn’t have snow at the end of the year. But somehow that’s become the staple romantic image, hasn’t it? All the stuff about sleigh bells, snowmen, ruddy-cheeked kids coming in for hot chocolate … you get the idea. In fact, whether you live in a snow-coated part of the world or not, by now, you may be heartily sick of it.

Well, I agree. And yet I scoured my little city looking for artificial snow to add romance to my (artificial) Yule tree – and failed. I’d left it too late. All the rest of Victoria got there first. I envy them their romantic trees with sprayed-on snow.

I haven’t seen snow at Christmas in years. And I’m old enough now to put that longing for the whole sugary image aside and be grateful for clear sidewalks. Christmas Day in Victoria was brilliantly sunny and about ten degrees (call it fifty Farenheit). We went for a walk along the waterfront, along with every other resident and dog in the city. Would I, in my wildest imaginings, trade a snowscape for this? Not likely.

So, as I work on the first two volumes of the Calder Creek Trilogy, what do I write? Snow. In Amanda there’s a whole Christmas day in which half of Calder Creek has no power and the storm of all storms is raging. In Pat there’s a family snowball fight. Writing those scenes had a funny effect on me. The setting and the events stayed with me for days: the whole package of cooking the celebratory dinner, taking the kids out to play, collapsing around the fire feeling warm and loved … and the snow, always the snow.

How do you write a snow day that fires the romantic imagination? Well, you throw in all the tropes – almost incidentally, without clichés. You include the romance of watching snow fall through a window, perhaps with a hot drink. Add a fire, and cozy pyjamas. If it’s a holiday, add food to die for – and let your characters overeat (just a little, we don’t want discomfort here). If your story has kids in it, give them an afternoon of happy play, indoors or out. Allow everyone a time at the end of the day to collapse in blissful content. In short, buy into the myth, using that writers’ rule: show, don’t tell.

Once you’ve got all that, by all means throw in the emotion and conflict of a good novel. They’ll play well together; trust me. In fact, a romantic setting with less than romantic events ramps up the tension very nicely.

If you’re in snow now, I hope you enjoy it. If you’re not, rest assured life’s just as good! And you can share the snow experience when you read, listen to seasonal music, dream. With the advantage that you don’t have to shovel sidewalks …

Best wishes for 2015.


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Book Launch

OMG, I did it. Seducing Adam is available on Kindle. I’m not a mere writer anymore; I’m an author!

Golly gee. It’s even selling!

Amazement and total exhaustion. Because this has been, and still is, a labor intensive process.

It’s my own fault. I’m a do-it-yourself kind of gal, working on a do-it-yourself kind of budget. I have friends who have had someone else produce their (admittedly gorgeous) book covers. Who have hired editors and copy editors. Who, being better organized (or more in the know) than I am, launched their baby with blog and Facebook fanfare. Who had someone else do all the technical stuff to get a book Kindle-ready and on the e-shelves.

Not me. Do-it-yourself all the way, although the only part of launching Seducing Adam that was even remotely fun was the book cover. I do a lot of collage work, including electronically, so at least I know how to work with layers in my graphics editing tool (Paint.net – and a big shout-out to them, it’s a wonderful product, and free). But that doesn’t mean I’m perfect at it. The book was barely out there when I spotted a big hole – How did that get there? How did I miss it? – in one of the roses on the cover. Recreate, resubmit. Pray.

Those are basically the steps to self-publishing an ebook – rework, submit, pray, rework, resubmit, pray, repeat.

And the editing. Part of the rework-resubmit sequence has to do with stumbling over just one more typo in there. I hate to admit it, but by the time you’re satisfied that it’s as good as you can make it, you may still love your baby, but you’re thoroughly sick of it at the same time. There’s a reason they say you shouldn’t proofread your own stuff. Even dragging your pace down to one sentence at a time, your eye glosses right over the word you know is in there, because it should be in there – but for some inexplicable reason, it isn’t.

Isn’t this fun?

I’m doing the same kind of process with Createspace now, and I hope to have the paperback released within the month. Not sure though, because it’s the holiday season, and that’s going to slow down cross-border traffic for ordering a proof copy. (I’m in Canada, Createspace headquarters isn’t.)

What you don’t see is the stiff neck and sore shoulder muscles. The neglected housework. The nerves. Oh dear goddess, the nerves. Rather like watching your firstborn get on the bus to kindergarten for the first time. It seems simple, but you’re well advised to plan to devote your life to it for a while. Or be very patient.

I’m just about ready now to move on. I have two more books written, the first volumes of a trilogy. (You’ll find the first chapter of Calder Creek 1: Amanda at the back of Seducing Adam.) These need work – but revising is more fun than writing, for me. First drafts are killers.

Sick of it or not, I’ll miss Adam and Stacie. They’ve been such a part of my life for the last many months. I know them. I love them. I like that my chosen genre is romance, so I can give them their happy ending.

Please check the Seducing Adam tab on the website to see Chapter 1. I’d be so happy if you bought a copy, doubly happy if you left a good review. Whatever, I wish you happy reading.


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One Week to Launch – Give or Take

What happens when you’re within, say, a week of seeing your first book published?

Nothing. As far as ordinary living is concerned, you cease to exist.

Because there’s no time; you have a gazillion things to do. There’s no space in your brain box; your neural pathways are basically fried. You are, in a word, obsessed.

So anything approaching normal life is out the window. Back-burnered. Non-existent.

Furthermore, you risk nervous wreck-hood. The house doesn’t get cleaned. The meals get made, provided that making them involves taking them out of the freezer and heating them. You’re up an hour earlier than usual, because you know – you know – that there are typos in there you haven’t found, or that the last cut-and-paste left half a paragraph missing.

You know that the whole thing should be rewritten. Because it isn’t good enough, is it? Is it? Maybe it is. Never mind, you can always tack on another hour at the end of the day.

And then there’s everything that goes with the launch date. Formatting and learning how to submit to – in this case – Kindle. Write the blog, get the new page up there. And then there’s the dreaded publicity thing. Sad but very true to say, social media and I seem to live on different planets. I write this blog, and I’ve made a stab at Google + (since I seem to have ended up on it by default anyway), but somehow I can’t get into it.

Did I mention that I picked this moment in my life (thank you, Black Friday) to buy my first Windows 8 computer? Truth to tell, I’m afraid to turn it on. Maybe next week.

Okay. Calm. Focus. Here’s the deal. I’m working  toward a launch of Seducing Adam next week, on Kindle, a little later in paperback. I can do this. I. Can. Do. This. There seems to be a combination of excitement and terror and too-much-to-do-at-once that rolls over all the good intentions. And naturally I’m convinced about those typos and missing chunks of paragraphs, so in the re-read of course I’m finding things to re-word, to clean up, to enhance, to … to … oh heck.

Did I mention my thumbs? Woke up this morning with aches in both thumbs. Who knew that being a romance novelist was dangerous to your health? Typing is a challenge this morning, which may mean it’s time to stop for coffee and a scone, give the poor thumbs a rest.

Do you have time for coffee and a scone? Really? Can you edit while you eat? Don’t stop. Don’t stop!

Okay, time for some balance. I could revise Seducing Adam until the proverbial cows come home. My deadlines are self-imposed. Sometimes it’s a better plan to remember to take a breath. Enjoy the scone. Go to yoga. Or at least, get up from the computer and go see if the sun is shining. (I call my dark little office space “The Cave”.)

I hope that next week I’ll be announcing a book launch. Today, I’m showing off a book cover and a blurb. Look for the new page – and fingers crossed, everyone. Here comes the plunge.


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But When Is It Done?

I wish I knew.

You learn a lot of unexpected things when you sit down to write a book – including how much you don’t know, and how blind you can be.

I’ve had a career in which I did a lot of writing and reviewing documents. I’m a good proofreader.  Or so I believed. I’ve been through Seducing Adam, my first book, so many times I recite it in my sleep. There can’t be anything left to improve, can there?

Can’t there?

Well, on the verge of finalizing the cover and sending it off to Kindle for publication, I decided to take one last step. I’d already read it (over and over) on my computer screen, with various levels of magnification. I’d converted it to an ebook and read it on my tablet. I’d had two advance readers read it. I thought I’d covered the bases. But, just to be sure, I decided to take absolutely everybody’s advice and print it out.

Now, printing a document over two hundred pages long is a challenge for me. All that paper, all that ink … I must have a miser in my heritage somewhere. Maybe it’s that these pages will end up in the shredder? But when you get right down to it, writing is a relatively inexpensive thing to do, once you have the computer (or the pen and pad – but I’m too impatient for that). You just sit down and do it.

I’m not always a miser. It’s sort of embarrassing, how much I’ve spent on beads to make jewelry (which I almost never wear, but that’s another story). But with the thought of my cabinets of beads tickling my brain, I recognized the utter absurdity of worrying about printing a stack of pages. I piled a the cheapest printer paper the office supply store had in stock into my printer – and ended up with a blue binder full of more changes than I could have imagined possible.

Yes, there were a few typos, weird grammar tenses, and wonky punctuations, but not all that many. Mostly, the changes had to do with improving the wording, sorting out logical inconsistencies (scenes out of order, characters knowing something they logically couldn’t know, etc.), adding to the background descriptions … sigh. Not done after all.

So Seducing Adam isn’t going to be out as soon as I’d hoped it would, and I’m working to convince myself that it’s a journey, right? Not the destination. That I’m having fun with all this.

One thing’s for sure. You have to love your book. You have to believe in it, believe that someone out there will be as crazy for it as you will. You have to believe that the work you do will enrich someone’ s life, bring a little happiness or enlightenment into it. Otherwise, why do it? Because it’s a joy, but it’s work, too.

Well, most of the changes are done now, but I’m not entirely out of tweaking mode yet. In the meantime, I’ve added a board for Seducing Adam to Pinterest, so you can get a feel for the Pacific Northwest island environment. Have a look! It’s at http://pinterest.com/lizanncarson .