As many of you know, I’ve been working on a project with fellow author Wayne Lemmons. It’s an amazing and wild ride, this novel. As we near the release date (which hasn’t been set in stone yet, but it’s soon), I thought I would give you, the reader, an opportunity to be involved.
I recently asked on Facebook what readers like to find at the end of a novel. For example, interviews with the author, bonus stories, deleted scenes, etc. Many folks said they wanted to know things about the book. Like how the story came to be, where the idea came from, etc.
At the end of this novel, there will be extras, including an interview between Wayne and me. Here’s where you come in.
If you have a question that you’d like to ask us, ask us now and your question and the answer may be included in the bonus content of the new book, accompanied by your name, of course. Sound good? Let’s do this!
You can leave your question in the comments section of this post, on my Facebook page–personal or author–as a private message through Facebook, or as an email at kimberlyabettes at yahoo dot com.
A friend once asked me how I keep all the different characters in my stories straight, how I keep from getting them all confused.
My reply came swiftly.
You have more than one friend, right? Of course you do. You probably have many friends. Each of them have very different lives with many different things going on. Do you get them confused? Do you mistake one friend for another or forget which friend is going through what? No. You keep them all straight. You remember that Pam got a new job while Brian is battling cancer and Joe just got a divorce. You remember these things because they’re real people with real lives. That’s how I see my characters. I created them from nothing so I know everything about them. If I live to be a hundred and create a thousand characters, I’ll always keep them straight and be able to tell them apart because to me, they’re real.
In high school, I wrote essays for fun. I know. Crazy, right? Well maybe writing for fun isn’t as cool as, say, smoking cigarettes behind the gym or getting drunk at parties and running around with my shirt off, but it worked for me because none of that other stuff interested me in the least.
Anyway, I finally decided to occasionally publish a couple of essays. I doubt I’ll ever become the next David Sedaris or anything like that, but from time to time I’d like to put my thoughts on a specific topic out there for the world to see. That feels pretty strange to me because I’m very careful on public platforms to keep my opinions to myself. But what the hell. You only live once, right?
So I present to you the first essay I’ve made public on a topic that all writers can relate to. It’s called Everybody Wants to Write a Book. It’s available now at Amazon and Smashwords and will soon be available at other online stores.
I think most writers have that one novel they’ve written that they don’t want anyone to ever read, or even know about. Usually, it’s from early on in their career and for whatever reason, they don’t feel it’s up to par with the rest of their work. It isn’t good enough, it’s horrible, it needs a lot of work, whatever. I know I do. My first novel, started at 14 and finished at 16 years of age, has never been seen by eyes other than my own. It never will. Despite the constant begging of certain people, I’ve kept that sucker hidden, locked away where the pages will eventually turn brown and crumble to dust. Why? It isn’t good enough. Plus, I think on some level I like the fact that it’s mine. I remember every keystroke, every thought and idea, every late night spent hunched over the keyboard typing on a manual typewriter with keys that stuck. It was my experiment and my memory. To publish that would be to share it with the world. Which would be fine if it was good enough, but in my mind it isn’t. It would need a lot of work to be public-ready, and I don’t think I’ll ever do it. For some twisted reason, I like it the way it is.
In my mingling with other writers over the years, I’ve learned that I’m not the only one who keeps a bastard manuscript locked away. I’d venture to say we all do. And we all have our reasons for doing it.
That being said, I’m not sure how I’d feel if I was Harper Lee and they were publishing my second novel 60 years after I wrote it. Lee’s known for her novel To Kill a Mockingbird. It’s her only published novel, and until recently it was thought to be her only novel. Now another novel penned by Lee in the 1950s, Go Set a Watchman, is scheduled for publication. It will be released July 14th of this year.
Apparently, Lee is pleased with the book’s publication. But this story makes me ask myself this question: What if half a century from now someone were to publish my first novel, the one I keep hidden? How would I feel about that? I wouldn’t like it. Maybe if I polished and edited and made it print-ready, maybe then I wouldn’t mind as much. But as of now, I shudder in horror at the thought of anyone reading what my adolescent mind concocted. Who knows? Maybe in 60 years I’ll change my mind.
Read about the upcoming publication of Harper Lee’s second novel here.
I don’t know how I get sucked into these things. My unending curiosity, I suppose. But I just spent several nonrefundable minutes of my life looking through before and after photos of celebrities who’ve ruined their face with plastic surgery. There’s just something about it that gets to me. So if you don’t mind, I’m gonna rant about it for a minute.
When I was a kid, I really wanted to be an actress. However, now that I’m grown and see how the world really is, I’m glad I never pursued that dream.
I’m a writer. I sit at my keyboard and pound on the keys in the privacy of my own home. No one sees me. I don’t wear make-up, I don’t fix my hair, and I don’t have to look glamorous. Most of the time I’m not even wearing pants, if you want to know the truth. Like now. No pants. I also pretty much live in t-shirts and sweatpants. Ask anyone who knows me and they’ll tell you it’s true. Sure, I have jeans and dress clothes, but I’m much more comfortable being, well, comfortable. I hate wearing make-up. I hate fixing my hair. I hate dressing up. And in my line of work, I don’t have to do any of those things. I can be whatever I want to be and look any way I want to look.
Actors don’t have that luxury. If they dare to go out without all the glitz and glamor that fans expect from their celebrities, then photos of the star are spread throughout the media, garnering laughs and jokes because how dare they go out like that? How dare they venture out into the world as they really are? When you’re an actor, your entire career is based on your looks. It should be based on your ability to act, but let’s be honest, it’s not. It’s based on looks. And once those looks fade, bye-bye career. Bye-bye A list. It’s over.
So the celebrities do what they feel is necessary to boost their career. They get cosmetic surgery. They desperately try to hold on to that glory, to stay on top of the world as the #1 actor or actress. And they’ll do whatever it takes to stay there. They’ll starve themselves. They’ll suck fat out of their asses and shoot it into their lips. They’ll slice off pieces of their face and sew it up to smooth out a few wrinkles. They’ll rearrange the cartilage in their nose. They’ll sew bags of saline into their breasts. They’ll do whatever it takes to stay on top. And that’s absolutely horrible.
See, for them, for the celebrities, it’s a no-win situation. If they grow old gracefully, they’ll be ridiculed for letting themselves go, for not getting a little touch-up here and there. And if they do go under the knife, they’re ridiculed for getting the surgery, especially when it’s botched or they go overboard and get one or two too many surgeries. I hate to name names here, but let’s look at what happened to Jennifer Grey. All she had was a nose job and it basically ended her career. Before she had the surgery, people said she was beautiful ‘but her nose is ugly, she should do something about it’. Do you see? Do you see how unfair it is? Have some celebrities gone absolutely over the top with their surgeries? Definitely. But I see why they did it. And that’s why I’m glad I chose not to purse my acting dream.
J.A. Konrath’s blog is invaluable to me, as well as thousands of other authors. Probably hundreds of thousands. Maybe more. He’s informative and entertaining. If not for him, I wouldn’t be where I am now. This latest post, Here’s What I Know, is one of my favorites. Wise words we should all live by.
Ah yes. We’ve all had ’em. Hell, I’m having one right now. Chuck Wendig is a wise man. If his writing career ever tanks, he should consider motivational speaking. Every time I read a post on his blog, it’s like a firm kick in the arse. And it’s always the kick I need.
Every trade has its tools. I know this because I’ve seen people using them as they worked. I’ve seen mechanics turning wrenches, seen carpenters using saws. That’s right. I’ve been around.
So what are the tools of a writer’s trade?
Well back in the day, the tools of the trade were few and simple. Quill pen and parchment paper. If you want to go back even farther, you had chisels and stone. Even farther back, you had a pigment and oil mixture and cave walls. But today, the tools are far more complicated. You’d think they would’ve grown simpler over time, wouldn’t you? And I suppose the tools are simpler. That is, if you want to write with an ink pen and paper. A Bic ball point is more advanced than a quill pen. And a Mead 5 Subject is better than parchment paper. But no one writes that way these days. Well, okay. There are a few writers still holding onto that method. But not many.
I think I can safely speak for the majority of authors when I tell you the current tools of the trade. (I’ve become privy to this information via Facebook photos and tweets.)
First, you have to have a cat. I know. Cats don’t seem to be necessary to the writing process. In fact, they often hinder it. However, most writers have cats, and those cats can be found most any time perched on the lap or laptop of the writer as they do all they can to keep the words from spilling onto the page. They’re devious that way, but seem to be a vital part of it all.
Second, you definitely need a laptop. Or a desktop. Or a tablet. Just some sort of electronic device to speed this thing along. I mean, have you ever tried to write an 80,000 word novel by hand? I have. That’s why I have a laptop. Actually, I have 2 laptops, a desktop, and a tablet. And just in case all those things fail, I have a lot of pens and notebooks.
Which brings me to the third and fourth tools of the trade. A lot of pens and notebooks. I’ve noticed through internet conversations that it’s not just me that collects notebooks and ink pens. Apparently, nearly all writers do. We don’t know why. Most of us have laptops to write, so it doesn’t make sense that we keep an arsenal of ink and paper at our disposal. But we do. Maybe it’s because we know we have to get those words out of us, even if it means a raging case of carpal tunnel. Maybe we’re afraid that the apocalypse will come in the dead of night, taking with it our beloved electricity and rendering our laptops useless. How will we tell future generations our stories? All the cave walls have been taken, so that leaves pen and paper.
The fifth thing all writers need is a place for inspiration. Now I can’t tell you what this place is for other writers, but I can tell you where my place is. Just don’t steal it. I can’t have you draining my spot of ideas. Here it is. My bed. I know. An unlikely place, for sure. But every night when I lie down, no matter how tired I am, my brain comes alive. Thoughts and ideas whirl around with lightning speed. One brilliant idea after another. It’s no wonder it takes me forever to go to sleep. And if I wake in the middle of the night (as I so often do), it starts again. I’m often awake in the middle of the night for hours, thinking of new stories or elaborating on ones I’ve already thought of. It’s not just at night. If I go in there during the day and try to nap, same thing. It’s like a vortex for ideas. So stay off my bed. They’re mine!
There are other tools that writers use that I personally don’t deem necessary. Alcohol, index cards, lucky pajamas, whatever. To each his own.
So what are the tools of your trade?
As more people become aware of who I am and what I do, I’ve noticed a few things about them. This is no surprise; I’m an observer of all things human. If you’re picking your nose because you think no one is looking, rest assured I see you. If you’re checking out some chick from the corner of your eye so your wife won’t catch you looking, I see that too. I see it all. It’s not that I’m a stalker or that I find you so friggin’ fascinating. It’s just a part of the job. I can’t exactly write about people, give them unique characteristics if I have no idea how the humans operate, now can I? Before I stray too far from the path here, let me tell you what I’ve noticed as of late.
Anytime the subject of conversation is my books, someone is always there with I’m gonna write a book. Oh are you now? You think you can just slap down some words and boom, awesome book that everyone wants to read? Okay, sunshine. You go ahead and do that. Let me know how it works out for ya.
Don’t get me wrong. If you’re a writer, you can do it. But if you’re the average Joe who doesn’t even know when to say My brother and me and My brother and I, then you can’t. I’m not saying writing a book is rocket science or brain surgery, after all we are just fiddling with the alphabet, but I am saying that not just anyone can do it. Real writers know this. Wanna-be writers do not.
But if you want to give it a shot, by all means do it. Don’t let me stop you. Sit down at your computer one day and start cranking out this masterpiece of yours that the world is waiting for with baited breath. Spend hour after hour trying to get what’s in your head onto the page without losing anything. Then, months or years later when you’ve purged yourself of the story, spend the next thousand hours or so going over it and over it, looking for typos and misspellings, proper word arrangement and grammar. Then when you’re done with the first round of editing, take a deep breath and hit it again, harder this time. Don’t let the fact that you’re getting tired of reading the same story over and over stop you. No, you’re a writer and this is what writers do. Polish that story till it shines, then polish it some more. And when that story is finally done and out there in the world, immediately start your next book, just in case you’re a hit. But don’t be surprised when your book flops. Unless you’re Stephanie Meyer, the chances are good that your first book will fail miserably. Here come the reviews. Oh look at that. Negative reviews with one star and a nasty attitude. Wow. They said some pretty mean things about you and the fruits of your labor. Oh don’t let that discourage you. You’re a writer and that’s part of it. Keep writing. After all, it’s easy and anyone can do it, right?
There are some people out there who really do have the gift of writing and haven’t yet got started. To them I say, GET GOING! Life is too short to wait. Don’t worry about whether it’s going to be good or people will like it. Just write.
To all the people who think writing is easy and anyone can slap down some words and call themselves a writer, I say try it. Instead of telling people you’re going to write a book, just write it. You’ll know within the first few pages if you’re ready to fiddle with the alphabet.
I stared into the darkness of my bedroom last night like so many nights before, and thought about what life must be like for those who live with a writer. I can’t speak for each individual writer, but I believe that as a whole, this pretty much nails it.
Writers may always be there, especially those who are lucky enough to make writing a full time career. They’re always there, in the bedroom or the office or on the patio; wherever it is they hole up and weave worlds. But are they really there? If you talk to them, do they listen? Do they hear you? When you sit down to dinner and make conversation, is their heart really in it? In many cases, for me at least, the answer is no. They’re not always there. Not 100%.
So if writers aren’t there, where are they? Where is their mind that they can’t give the people they love the most their undivided attention? The answer is – they’re lost. In another time, another place, another galaxy, another plane of existence altogether. They’re off living another life. They haven’t forgotten about you. But they’ve became so deeply engrossed in this other world that they’ve created, so mesmerized by all that they’ve found there, that it consumes them entirely. They’re constantly thinking of new ways to torture people, different ways to describe the same thing so as to not be redundant, obstacles to be thrown out and how to overcome them, and details. Always with the details. They’re wondering if they’ve forgotten something vital to the story, if every word is perfect, if the tension is tense enough and the drama is dramatic enough. Sure, they may carry on a conversation with you, but their mind is elsewhere. And it isn’t their fault. You can’t blame them for doing what they do. It’s part of the job.
And where does that leave the family of writers? Lurking nearby, waiting for that small window of opportunity between stories where they can get not all but most of our attention for however long they can. We can’t ever give our loved ones every ounce of our attention, because there’s always a story calling to us, demanding to be written, screaming at us to get it and get it out NOW. But we do what we can. And considering the constant chaos in our heads, I think we do a pretty good job of balancing the world in which we live and the worlds which we create.