Edits I’d Love to Make for When Stars Die

Edits I’d Love to Make for When Stars Die

trees dark deserts gothic_wallpaperswaWhen a book is published, every author feels like he or she could have made that book better. Yet, by the time that book hits the shelves, it’s too late. Well, my book has a second chance, so I thought it’d be interesting to write a post on changes I’d like to make to When Stars Die, even though I know–or am hoping–my publisher, or whatever path I choose, will have edits for me. (Of course, I’d still like to make these edits regardless.)

  1. I would like to edit some of the dialogue to make it richer and give the characters more unique voices than they already have.
  2. I want to make Nathaniel’s–Amelia’s younger brother–character much stronger, primarily through dialogue, emotion, and action.
  3. I want to sweeten the romance between Oliver and Amelia more. Though this is not something I originally wanted to do because I didn’t want the romance to be the focus, I don’t think it’d kill the book to add some nice sugar to it.
  4. More back story for Amelia. I’d like to reveal bits and pieces of her life before Cathedral Reims. It won’t be too much, as she’ll have plenty of this in the third book, but it can serve to make her a richer character than she already is.
  5. Darkness. The book is already dark enough, but perhaps adding a smidge more will add more literary depth to it. I’m a combo commercial-literary writer, so it makes sense to me. I already have a few ideas in mind, such as focusing more on Amelia’s psychological state. I want to show her instability more, because she isn’t stable when the book begins, which is obvious, of course.
  6. My own experiences. I’ve gone through so many things this year, one of those things being a suicide watch at a mental hospital. I understand Amelia more now, and I feel like I can make her much richer by being able to use these experiences and feelings I’ve gained to add more to the situations she finds herself in. After all, I understand those situations now because I have been in them, when, before, I hadn’t been.
  7. Beauty in darkness. There is a lot of darkness, but I’d like to show that beauty can exist in it, even if there are no lights.
  8. More relevance on a certain character. Yeah, I want to shine a spotlight on a certain character a tad bit more. After all, she will be the protagonist for The Stars Are Infinite.
  9. The trials at the beginning of the book Amelia goes through. I want to make these more symbolic, possibly a way of beating the Seven Deadly Sins out of the girls going through trials to become professed nuns.

Well, these are pretty much all of the changes I’d like to make. Hopefully you guys find this interesting. And hopefully if you’ve already bought the book and enjoyed it, you’ll snag a copy of the second edition!

Year in Review: 2013 Edition

Year in Review: 2013 Edition

This is Wind.
This is Wind.

2013 started out with sort of a bang, but it’s overall been a fairly crap year for me, because I spent a lot more time being depressed than not, and have considered, on several occasions, ways to take my own life. Thankfully I didn’t, but as you all know from my last post, I’m still scared that I’m going to, once again, be caught up in those feelings, make an attempt, and have that attempt be successful. But there were moments of light and hope, and I’m going to share them with all of you.

  1. The Roar of Love. I did not expect to be casted in this recital not only because I was an adult ballet dancer and too old for the company, but because I had not done ballet for half of the semester ever since ballet started in August (but EVERYONE can be in this recital, even the alumni who have not danced there in several years). I spent my time being depressed, missing a week because of said depression, missing another week, I think, and missing an entire month because of hospitalizations. But I was casted, and I was so happy that I cried, because one of my dreams was being en pointe and then performing in a recital en pointe. I also didn’t expect to get the roles that I did, and one of those roles was Wind, which involves a lot of bourrees and being en pointe for mostly every scene. It showed me that Mr. Ron, owner of the studio, had the confidence that I would be able to handle such a role in spite of being en pointe for half a year and missing an entire month and a half of pointe class.
  2. When Stars Die. Okay, as you all know, I jumped headfirst into the querying process. It arguably makes me an amateur, but you know what? I knew the risks of going with a publisher who did not yet have a track record of publication; however, they did have authors. But I am no longer an amateur, and you can’t say that I am, not when AEC Stellar has proven to be a very smart, flexible company, with fantastic transparency. I feel like I could ask my publisher how many times he’s been toWSD2 the bathroom in his life, and he’ll tell me (okay, maybe not that, but you get the point). I was thrilled to get the contract because it meant my dream was finally coming true, after 15 years of waiting for it to come to fruition. Now my dream is to be a bestseller, so that is what I’m striving for next. Of course, I know that one trilogy being published doesn’t guarantee other works will be taken on, as ALL writers are freelance, except for maybe those who self-publish, but having credentials under your belt makes the process a little bit easier.
  3. Freelance Editing. It had been a while since I’d flexed my freelance muscles, but it was really nice to be able to edit a sample for someone who was impressed with what I did. That same someone also sent the sample off to a professional editor who works with the Big 5, and our comments roughly aligned, so it told me that I definitely had the skills necessary to be one. I was also able to edit two manuscripts this year for people. My first client wanted me to edit his again because he had a positive experience with me the first time, but I was, once again, struggling with depression and had to recommend someone else for him–but he was grateful. However, the experience with my last client was horrible, but I at least got my money, and I will write a blog post about that, mostly pointing to what clients looking for an editor should expect (and what you should and should not do when interacting with your editor). In conclusion, my last client was unable to handle my criticism, and I did apologize to him that he did not like my feedback.
  4. Ballet Summer Intensive. I was both terrified and excited to take this intensive because I was finally starting the ‘Big Girl’ level, where you really start to begin to dance instead of just doing tiny, short exercises where you worked on mastering the technique of one or two moves. With Mrs. Renee Toole, it was fun and showed me that I had improved since taking juniors the year before–I had been taking the junior class during Roar because I had to since I had rehearsal right after, but the class still intimidated me every time I took it. With Mr. Ron, the class was tougher, and I royally screwed up on the across-the-floor exercise he gave us, but I practiced it and nailed it the next time we had to do it. I was also okay with his center work, but the intensive made me realize that I was indeed ready for the junior level.
  5. Ballet Senior Class. For the longest time this semester I was terrified to take this class–the highest level–because I had no idea what to expect. But I finally decided to dive in headfirst with my junior buddies, and the class was not as bad as I thought it’d be. In fact, it was a million times easier than Mr. Viator’s junior classes, where he gives us ridiculously long exercises I have a hard time remembering. I’ve taken the senior class twice, and I am no longer scared to do so. In fact, I welcome it because I got tired of taking the Petite II class, which no longer offers anything to me any more, other than allowing me to work on technique. However, by the time you reach my level, a challenge class often improves you more than a lower class. So I will be taking it from now on and will take one senior and one junior class starting over the summer. I have no idea what the senior class will be like for Mr. Ron, as he primarily utilizes the Russian technique, something I am not used to, but I do welcome the challenge.
  6. Pointe Work. I am so happy with how much I have improved with pointe work since beginning it a year and a half ago. I can now just about do everything en pointe, including Italian Fouettes. I can’t do regular fouettes just yet, which are included in the video at the end, but hopefully I can at least do a few by the end of the ballet year. Otherwise, I can do just about everything else,even though I have to work on cleaning up some of the technique, like the Italian ones. The funniest thing, however, is it has become a practical tradition for me to fall at least once when practicing a move before ballet class actually begins. And it happens every single class. But I don’t mind these falls because it means I am giving everything I’ve got, even though it’s often too much. But you at least learn your limits by doing it that way, and I am not afraid to fall. Not afraid at all. I am also not afraid of injuries, although I will be in a lot of pain if one happens. But, hey, injuries are part of any athletic endeavor.
  7. The Stars Are Infinite. I am very, very pleased to have finally finished this novel after nine years of working on it. This novel has been such an arduous undertaking, the second most difficult novel I have ever worked on. And, no, When Stars Die was a relatively easy novel to write, to be honest. But I know some1497758_565921593490151_1533230412_n novels are going to be easier to write than others. However, TSAI was so difficult to work on because you want the second book in a series to outshine your first book, and I hope it will, because I REALLY considered the criticism of a 3 star reviewer who is looking forward to the sequel and has faith that it will be better. So I treated her as my number one fan in that moment when doing serious edits to TSAI. When Stars 1465364_666263030061307_580854722_nDie, even though it has only 33 reviews so far, has mostly received praise, and I think that by the time you receive the 30th review, you roughly know where your novel stands–at least I hope. I am waiting for the 70th review to do a signed giveaway of one of my paperback WSD copies. I do know books who have about 30 reviews and have low-average ratings. I consider average to be in the 3 star range, or the 3 point something range. But, yes, I REALLY hope the sequel outshines the first because a lot of new authors like me have a hard time trying to do that.
  8. All Shattered Ones. This book, by far, is the most difficult to write because it stems from something very personal and deep inside of me, that being of depression and suicidal ideation. The basic premise is that a young boy struggling with chronic depression takes his own life, being urged by a haunting voice to do so. After taking his life, he wakes up in another world called Silvaria, a place for people who have lived painful lives, and need another chance in a place that is meant to be a paradise for them. In Silvaria, there are beings called Lightveils who help these people overcome their tragedies. They then help these people become Lightveils themselves so they can continue the cycle of helping those just like them. However, the voice still haunts Gene, and despite being in a promising place of paradise, the voice drives Gene to self-harm, worsens his depression, and makes him wish for a death that is impossible in a world where death does not exist. It originally started out as When Heaven Was Blue, the character having the same name. But Gene was saved from a suicide attempt by a puppeteer who took him to a place called Stolentime that would allow Gene to heal from his mental illness. He was stalked by the same haunting voice, but I didn’t like the set-up, even though I was slightly satisfied with the direction of the story. However, I do draw from bits and pieces of WHWB to form ASO, so ASO is the third draft.
  9. Completing My Last Year as a Junior. I had to miss an entire year of school because of bipolar disorder so I could focus on getting better. Well, when I registered for the fall, I was feeling great; however, when the semester began, I was back to being depressed, so it was a very, very difficult struggle to get through the semester, and I had so many doubts that I would survive it because there were times where I felt like I needed to be hospitalized again. In fact, my therapist told me that if I continued to worsen, I would have to be so that I could be kept safe from myself. But that didn’t happen. I struggled through mid-terms, having several panic attacks and crying spells when studying for these, and flying through finals, when I finally found stability by the end of the semester. Now I am a senior in college, which I should have been a year ago, but I will hopefully graduate one of these days. So I survived despite the intense depression.

Well, this has been my year in review with my most memorable moments in spite of the dark times I dealt with. What are some of your most memorable moments from this year?

Merry Christmas, and let’s all make 2014 our best!

The Oldest Piece of Writing: The Haunted City (Reader Participation Encouraged)

The Oldest Piece of Writing: The Haunted City (Reader Participation Encouraged)

The Haunted City, by my fourth grade self.
The Haunted City, by my fourth grade self.

I was obsessed with Sailor Moon and Harry Potter back when I was in the fourth grade–as was just about any kid. They heavily influenced my writing. Since I wasn’t much of a reader, I really only had Harry Potter as an influence. I wasn’t wild about books for my grade level, which were, well, fourth grade level books. You couldn’t read outside your grade level at my school, even if you had a high reading level, which I naturally did. It wasn’t until fifth grade did I fall in love with reading because *GASP!* I had one teacher who had middle grade AND young adult. Books my grade level just didn’t challenge me.

But because I only had Harry Potter and Sailor Moon as my current influences, I wrote a series called The Dark Cat series, which spanned like 30 some odd installations. Needless to say it was all bad, but I was just beginning to flex my writerly muscles with no intentions of pursuing publication with it. Luckily, in fifth grade I wrote my first novel, influenced by all the new material I was reading. It was called “The Ancient Book.” I don’t think I have any copies, but my writing did improve a lot and I began taking it more seriously.

And as you can tell with the picture on the left, I did all my own illustrations. I hate drawing now, but I do love photography and painting.

In any case, I’m going to torture you all with an excerpt from “The Haunted City,” just so I can show you how I got my start as a writer. Here it is:

We had to get ready to go to a haunted city. We flew on our wands. Selsies finally had her own wand.  We arrived at dawn. Electrical things were broken apart. The place had broken windows and such. A black cat crossed our path. We were relieved that it was Tarina. “Dark…cat…power!” me and Selsies said. We were all in our dark form.

The sky was all shady and black. “Watch out!” yelled Michelle. An evil mayor came behind us and almost killed us. I saw two shadows. “I am Dark Forest!” said Sary. “I am Dark Raven!” said Marietta. “You never told me you were witches,” Amber said. “We thought you were not a witch,” they said. “Forest poison,” said Sary. It poisoned the mayor. “Dark cat,” said Marietta. “Right!” she said. “Spurow, protector of Maize. Dark scream. Three elements destroy!” Amber called out.

There are so many things wrong with this that make me laugh. For one thing, the dialogue isn’t standing on its own (because, really, they don’t teach this type of stuff well in school anymore. My brother actually taught me). The story is also clearly first person, but I keep referring to myself in the third person (Amber). I do nothing but tell. Since the dialogue is all clustered together, it’s difficult to even tell what’s going on. Also, the fact that it’s clearly a Sailor Moon rip-off doesn’t help. And an evil mayor…the whole thing makes no sense period.

But it’s cool to look where I started and then to see where I’ve come today.  This story I posted a few days ago on this blog is a perfect example of how far my writing has come. Of course, I’ve improved even more since this story, but that is a surprise I’m saving for Tuesday.

I would love it if you guys posted examples of some of your earliest pieces of writing in the comments below. It’s just great to see where we all started and where we’re all now.

Self-Publishing Success from the Unknown

Self-Publishing Success from the Unknown

Lately the media has been in a tizzy about successful self-published authors and their books. But guess what? The success of these self-published books is coming from writers who were already established in the traditional route and were successful in the traditional route. Little is there spoken of on the unknown authors finding success with the self-publishing route, unless you’re selling like JK Rowling, like Amanda Hopkins or J.A. Konrath. But there are plenty of unknowns finding success with the self-publishing route, and even though they’re not making millions, they’re still selling enough to arguably be considered bestsellers in regards to sells. Now I haven’t read all these books. I perused Amazon to find self-published books with good ratings and and a decent amount of reviews to justify buying the book. I’m not too concerned about the Amazon Bestseller ranking. I would say 80 or more reviews usually means the books are selling relatively well–but, of course, most people who buy won’t leave reviews. I chose five of them, and some of these are on my Wish List. There are many, many more that you can find on Amazon. At first glance you can’t even tell they’re self-published, but a mere glance at the publisher can tell you whether or not the book is self-published: if the authors use their name as the publisher or createspace or another self-publishing entity, such as their own publisher, it is usually self-published–so that’s how I was able to tell these ones were. Here are the five books:

This is Tess Oliver’s Camille. Has 90 ratings and 4 star reviews. Tess Oliver is her penname. I actually interviewed her back when The Corner Club Press had a blog. She told me she simply threw up an ad and saw her sales begin to steadily rise, but this was when the e-reader was steadily rising in popularity, so back then it was probably easier to get attention. But the last time I talked to her, she told me she had the interests of a few agents. Nonetheless, she was a complete unknown before publishing Camille. You can find her book here.

Megan Thomason’s ‘daynight’

This is Megan Thomason’s ‘daynight.’ This book has 142 customer reviews and has a 4.5 star rating. This is also her first book, but her fourth written one. You can find it here.

Samantha Durante’s ‘Stitch’

This is Samantha Durante’s ‘Stitch.’ It has 119 customer reviews and a 4.5 star rating. This is her first novel as well. Notice a trend here? Some self-publishing advice blogs will tell you to keep publishing and you’ll eventually rise in sales. Perhaps these people are so far lucky, but look at their cover photos, read the blurbs, and also look at the reviews they have for their books. You can tell these authors marketed big time before releasing their books. You can find her book here.

K. A. Robinson’s ‘Twisted’

This is K.A. Robinson’s ‘Twisted.’ This book has 194 customer reviews and a 4.5 star rating. This is the author’s second novel. Her first novel ‘Torn’ was on Amazon’s Kindle Top 100 for a month. You can find her book here.

Mayandree Michel’s ‘Betrayal’

This is Mayandree Michel’s ‘Betrayal.’ While this book does not have 100 reviews, it still has 92 and a 4.5 star rating. This is her first published book and is in ‘The Descendants’ series. I wanted to put this book up here because in spite of not yet having 100 reviews, the cover is phenomenal and eye catching, a great example of what aspiring self-published writers should strive for when creating their cover art.

Now granted all these books are young adult books and written by women, but I can assure you I wasn’t deliberately looking for women. My recommendations just give me young adult books because they’re what I primarily read, and female writers because that is who primarily writes young adult. But these authors alone found success with self-publishing, and while many probably don’t, many also do not find success with the traditional route. So study the crap out of self-publishing, market hard, work your butt off on your cover, edit the crap out of your book, and keep marketing, even after the release of your book.

My Defense of Self-Publishing

My Defense of Self-Publishing

I’m going to come out as a hardcore proponent of self-publishing, so steel yourself for possible bias. You can read my post on my decision to self-publish here.


I’m going to admit I have never sent out a single query letter or manuscript. I have subbed short stories, and most magazines I never heard back from. I expect that, but I vow that my literary magazine never does that, no matter how many submissions we receive.

In any case, why am I going the self-publishing route when I’ve never given traditional a chance? Because I don’t need the validation of an agent or publisher. I really don’t. I don’t care how much experience they have. The books I write aren’t for them. They are for the readers who are interested in the type of material I write. As I’ve mentioned before, readers are the best gatekeepers of them all. Even in the traditional world they determine whether or not a book is worth keeping around.

I used to be so enamored with the traditional route before, so in awe of those who were honorable enough to have literary agents and contracts. I wanted to be among them. I wanted the prestige that came with professional validation. But then something changed. I saw my friends being shot down left and right by agents who enjoyed their work but didn’t think it’d sale. I understand all businesses take a risk and what will sell is just guesswork, but to query for a few years, only to be shot down again and again when you know your book has what it takes, I decided I no longer wanted any part of that world. I didn’t even want to try. Life is short. I want to take control of making my own dream come true because, honestly, I need to. I felt dispassionate about writing for some time because I knew publication was a distant dream. I’m depressed, I suffer with suicidal ideation, there is no reason to stick around when publication could take years.

I knew I needed to change something in my life to make me hang on.

By my nature I am a control freak to a certain extent. I am more than happy to accept criticism on my writing, especially if it makes it better, but I don’t want to have to argue with an editor to keep certain parts of my book alive. I don’t want to have to edit my book to make it fit purely for marketing or try to fit it within a specific word count. I’ll get rid of needless words and needless things, but I refuse to mold my story so that it fits within a word count they think won’t scare teen readers off.

I also want control of my own book covers. I frankly am appalled by many YA book covers, which mostly feature people who look too sultry and sexy and are obviously in mid-adult.

Sure, I’ll have to spend money, but if I were given an advance, I’d probably have to spend it anyway on marketing, so what’s the difference? With self-publishing, I’ll make 70% for each book. Even if I don’t make more than what I spent, I can always write another book and another and another. The good thing about e-publishing is Amazon isn’t going to penalize me if my book doesn’t sell a certain amount in a certain time. Just because it won’t sell now doesn’t mean it won’t sell later.

I also like that I get to create my own brand, that I can be independent, that I can stand on my own two feet. It’s marvelous knowing I’m taking control of this dream instead of working my ass off and waiting for someone else to choose when and where it happens.

I once held disdain for self-publishing. Self-publishing was for the fearful, the ones who couldn’t make it. Once you told me you were self-published, you lost credibility as a writer in my eyes. No more. I primarily read self-published now because these books are satiating the tastes traditional is not satisfying. I am so impressed that writers are taking control of their own dreams and knowing they need to produce quality work to make it. This opens up self-publishing as a viable option to anyone who has ever dreamt of getting published. This adds more prestige to this option too.

Do I wonder why some people still want to be traditionally published? A little bit, but then some people really need that validation. Some people are intimidated by marketing and may need a little bit of help, if the publisher offers at least that much. Some want to see their books in bookstores and not just online. Some prefer physical books over e-books. And there is nothing wrong with any of these things.

But I’m a huge proponent of self-publishing now, so this blog will barely touch on traditional publication as a means to get one’s book out there.

Review of Saint Jude by DeAnna Wilson

Review of Saint Jude by DeAnna Wilson

In keeping with the spirit of cover art for e-books, I'm going to have to rate this down. Frame is too crowded, text is dull, and it's not eye-catching.
In keeping with the spirit of cover art for e-books, I’m going to have to rate this down. Frame is too crowded, text is dull, and it’s not eye-catching.

Because I am a writer who naturally creates psychologically tortured characters, I decided I’d do a book review over a novel that came out in 2011 that I think does a good job of portraying a struggling teen with bipolar disorder.

Taylor is placed in a group home for teens struggling with mental illnesses, hers being bipolar disorder. There she meets a few other teens coping with their own illnesses who, Taylor soon discovers, do not take the program at Saint Jude too seriously, as they involve themselves in quirky antics that only serve to anger “Big Daddy,” the therapist and director. Soon “Big Daddy” leaves his position when something tragic happens, and Dalton replaces him. Dalton uses unconventional techniques to force the teens to face their own issues–and the tragic losses that occurred at Saint Jude.

This book attracted my attention because I was searching for a young adult book with a protagonist who suffered from bipolar disorder. I was tired of reading YA books that merely alluded to bipolar disorder because, of course, books like that never touch upon the intricacies this illness contains. Needless to say, Saint Jude did a marvelous job of expressing bipolar disorder, including a small manic episode Taylor has that ends in short-term hospitalization.

Taylor herself is an interesting character, not because of her illness, but because she does not fall into the woe-is-me trap that can happen when writing about a character with mental illness. Instead she accepts she struggles with bipolar and simply wants to move on with her life–if only she can get out of Saint Jude. The other teen characters are solid as well. Princess (her nickname) supposedly struggles with an anxiety disorder, but the other characters view her as spoiled because her anxiety occurs when she does not get her way. Reno struggles with depression and becomes Taylor’s main support. Blaine is schizophrenic and is not ashamed to admit that he has this illness. Isaac loses touch with reality every so often and has undergone several ECT treatments, a last resort method when meds fail. “Big Daddy” is the coddling sort of therapist that doesn’t make the teens own up to their own actions. Dalton is just the opposite: a no-nonsense therapist who does expect the teens to accept full responsibility for their actions.

However, while the characters are strong, the plot falls apart at the end and leaves me as a reader feeling both hopeless and disappointed because not everything seems tied off. The ending also felt rushed, as if the author tired of her own story. I felt hopeless at the end because as someone struggling with mental illness herself, it was rather discouraging (SPOILER) to find that none of the teens discover true happiness as an adult. I understand there are people struggling with mental illness who never get better, but the fact that none of the teens seem to get better leaves me with the feeling that the author is trying to point out that happiness is not possible for someone dealing with a mental illness. And while I enjoyed Dalton’s no-nonsense approach, his doom-and-gloom view of the world left an acrid taste in my mouth that made me wonder why anyone in the book is fighting at all when Dalton’s worldview makes fighting seem hopeless–even worse considering that he consistently shares this view with sensitive teens who do not need this.

Overall, I’d give this book 3.5 stars out of five. If you’re looking for a book with strong characters, this book is perfect. But if you’re someone struggling with mental illness and looking for a little bit of hope, this book is not for you.