I already hear you saying, thatâ€™s a long title for a blog post. I agree, but itâ€™s the truth. A while back I shared how I came to be an Indie Writer and promised to talk about the book that sort of kick-started my writing career. Because the story is a little long and filled with more twists than a rollercoaster, I thought Iâ€™d share it over the course of my next few posts or until the book is launchedâ€¦whichever comes first. God, I hope the book is published before this series of posts becomes as long as a novella.
Iâ€™m almost afraid to tell you when I wrote my first book, or as it will from hence on be referred to as Alex One. I started writing Alex One in 2005. Yesâ€¦yesâ€¦yesâ€¦I hear all you judging me, and I donâ€™t care. Iâ€™ve already beat myself up several times.
Anyway, I remember I was watching a chick flickâ€¦which I loveâ€¦donâ€™t hate. As I was saying. I thought to myself, I should do that, write a book about people that reflect meâ€¦women who love, God, Fashion and Cute Guys [thus the tagline for my writing career]. Let me back up; when I was in college, I did a semester of screenwriting and even wrote a couple of â€œbadâ€ scripts. I even tried my hand at a few â€œbadâ€ short stories. Looking back, I wonder if I should have taken some creative writing courses. Probably, but at the time, thatâ€™s not what I wanted to do. I wanted to be a sports reporter. I had my own sports segment that aired once a week on campus television and local cable, and I was an intern in at the local Tulsa NBC Affiliate in the Sports Department. I was on my wayâ€¦nowhere. I couldnâ€™t get hired anywhere after graduation. But I digress.
Back to writing. So no, it never occurred to me to take creative writing courses. Fast forward and I move back home and go to work for a public relations company and then a record company. I figured Iâ€™d work my way up the ranks to a high-level executive position. I came close. While at the record company, I went from working in the temp pool to assistant for the General Manager. When he was promoted, so was I. Now I was Executive Assistant to the President and CEO. I was on the fast track. I had the whole package, travel, a great office, an assistant, a very good salary and long hours. All this and with the company less than three years. Then I was promoted to Director of New York Operations. I relocated to New York and remained there for almost two years, then I was downsized and out of work.
Bear with me, this all does tie into my writing career. Remember I told you this is a post in parts.
When I was â€œLaid Off,â€ I took a little time off before starting my own business. Iâ€™ll skip over that history. I hear you saying, â€œThank Youâ€ and youâ€™re welcome.
The thought of writing was always deep in the back of my mind. I had even attempted to write long before 2005, picking it up every now and again. I think what nudged me, was my computer. In down times at my store, I would tinker with writing. However, when my old computer died, and my parents gifted me with a new one, I got the urge to try writing again. I had visions of writing an amazing book, signing a huge contract and going on book tours. Iâ€™d hire reliable staff to work in my store, and the book money would just be gravy. The fantasy got bigger when I got a laptop; now I could write anywhere.
As I got closer to the end of writing Alex One, I had an epiphany. I needed income for my business and thought, Iâ€™d sell the book and use the money for my business. Thatâ€™s where the story turns. I didnâ€™t have a clue as to how the publishing industry worked and all I knew about Indie Writers is thatâ€™s what you did when no one thought your book was good enough to buy.
Up until this point, I hadnâ€™t told anyone I was writing or had written a book.
To test my skills, I conveyed what I now know is called a â€œBeta groupâ€ of friends and one stranger, to read Alex One. This group ripped through my book with a fine tooth red comb. They found things wrong, I didnâ€™t even realize. A crucial error was a pregnancy. I had the character get pregnant and deliver in three months…MAJOR ERROR! Then they said one of the men sounded too feminine. Oh man, this was so not the reaction I was expecting, but needed.
I have a friend who is a popular Christian Fiction writer; we met via the internet [weâ€™ll keep that story for a later post] and she suggested I write an ebook. I didnâ€™t want to do that. I had visions of going into book stores and seeing my books on the shelves, not on the internet. I fought that until I finally decided to submit to her epublisher. Once I finally acquiesced, it was too late. They were no longer taking submissions.
The night before meeting with the Harlequin editor, I attended a late night workshop she hosted, where she gave a list of what Harlequin was looking for. She also gave a list of what they didnâ€™t want. By the end of the session, I knew me meeting with her was going to be a waste of my time, but I still went. I needed to keep my word. I handed her my summary and like I thought, no. My book was a little too out there. See at the time (maybe theyâ€™ve changed their policy for their Christian line) it wasnâ€™t customary for the hero and heroine to be divorced. Strike One. My heroine is divorced. The characters canâ€™t mention how attracted they are towards each other (i.e. no comments about how hot she thinks he is and vise versa). Strike Two. And definitely no hot kisses. Strike Three.
On to my meeting with the agent. I made my pitch, and she said I can write about God or Sex, but not both. With that said, she said she liked my concept and to send it to her. I was over the moon. I went back to my room and called my mom. We were excited someone that didnâ€™t know me wanted my book. A month later, a gut punch. The agent said it wasnâ€™t a romance. I knew that. In fact, I never said it was a romance, but womenâ€™s fiction with romantic elements. At the time, thatâ€™s how I referred to Alex One, womenâ€™s fiction with romantic elements. I sulked for a little while before hitting the internet in search of an agent that understood my style.
I went to ACFW the following year with a tweaked book, still hoping to secure an agent. There were two agents I wanted to talk to. One was completely booked, however, at lunch you had an opportunity to eat with an agent. I rushed inside the crowded banquet room and grabbed a sit at my dream agentâ€™s table. She went around the table and asked us all for our one line pitch. I gave mine and no reaction. Crap! All this time, Iâ€™d been following her blog, even occasionally emailing her and nothing. No problem. I ran into the other agent of choice in the restroom and thanked her for being honest in her rejection. She turned me down because her roster was too full. I told her I appreciated her honesty and went on to my other meeting which was a bust. I left the conference without a request. However, I shared a ride to the airport with the editor of a magazine Iâ€™d written a short story for a few months earlier and after some small talk, she asked me to submit another story, which I did. I was an official writer with two published short stories.
What does all of this have to do with Alex One? I was a little discouraged, but I kept writing. I say Alex One is the sweetest book Iâ€™ve written, that was before I started reading a lot more and the birth of my first published book, GENERATIONAL CURSE.
Iâ€™ve told the story about the agent I had and how we came to part ways. By the way, the agent I ran into in the restroom, is the agent that later became my agent. While I was waiting for her to shop Alex One, I wrote the sequel, letâ€™s call it Alex Two. Alex Two would make the editor at Harlequinâ€™s eyes pop out of their sockets. For that matter, the way Alex One was changed would probably make her pull her hair out. I broke every rule they have for their Christian line.
Finally to the title of this post series.
When I wrote Alex One, I wrote it based on what I had been reading at the time â€¦sweet but edgy Christian Fiction â€¦what I thought the Christian Fiction market would like. However, when I went back and reread the series [currently there are three books in this series], the characters sounded a little young, naive and not real. To me, they lacked life. I got my red pen and post-its and went crazy. Then I joined OCC and learned how important it is to read any and everything. I was told by someone not associated with RWA that wasnâ€™t a good thing to do because it could influence what youâ€™re writing, or you might subconsciously commit plagiary. However, I learned at OCC what you read inspires what you write, at least it does for me.
So hereâ€™s the first thing that happened.
As I said, there are three books in this series. Let me back up. When the agent and I parted ways, I didnâ€™t know what to do. I felt I had written what God inspired me to write. However, agents didnâ€™t seem to agree with me. I canâ€™t remember how it happened, but Laura Drake suggested I take Debra Hollandâ€™s Self-Publishing class. She said, â€œDebra writes non-traditional and is self-published. You should talk to her. In fact, sheâ€™s going to be teaching a class, you should take it.â€ So I did.
After the first class, my eyes were opened. When Debra gave a list of questions and situations for us to ask ourselves to determine if indie publishing was for us, I had my answer. I needed to self-publish.
The other reason I liked the idea of self-publishing is, I liked my title and knew traditional publishing wouldnâ€™t like my title or the concept of the story. The Alex books are told in multiple POV. I hear you now . . .too confusing. Not to me, but to be sure, I RESEARCHED and found books written this way and it worked. Okay, so I wasnâ€™t weird, and my story is good. The reason I was getting rejected by traditional publishing was the God and Sex themes.
I was on my way. I was joining the ranks of the Self-Published or Indie Writers. I was no longer beholden to the system. I could tell the kinds of stories I wanted. All good things. Now for the overwhelming things. Everything was my responsibility. I had to decide if I wanted to do ebooks or print or both. I wanted to do both. I was pulling my hair out. My mother/cheerleader suggested I not release Alex One first, but go with Generational Curse. I wrestled with this for a while. If youâ€™ve read that book, it starts out very steamy, unlike the Alex books. I thought I should launch my writing career a little tamer. Itâ€™s sort of like that go big or go home saying. I went big.
I knew how I wanted the cover to look. In fact I found an amazing image; however, it was going to cost me $2,000 . . .not in the budget. I searched for a very long time for the right image. [see images A and B], until I found something I could work with. Looking for a cover, I decided to broaden my horizon and not just look at African American images, but at anything that fit the tone of my story. I finally decided to go with something more sophisticated and not overtly sexy.
What I also discovered in searching for an image, there are very few black/African American images that weren’t duplicated. I wanted something that had a little sass but didnâ€™t look like every other black/African American cover. I knew my character was honey colored, so I got an image from Masterfile and with help from Photoshop I got what I wanted.
So what does this have to do with Alex One you ask? Everything. When I originally wrote the Alex series, I had a certain vision; however, it changed. Remember I wrote book one in 2005. Then about a year later I wrote book two. By the time I got to book two, I knew the agent and I were probably not going to see eye to eye . . .book two was very hot. Thatâ€™s why I was fine with us parting ways.
I have revised Alex One so much, it barely resembles the draft I sent out to agents. Hereâ€™s what happened. While I was looking for GENERATIONAL CURSE images, I sent revised Alex One to my editor. She made her notes, and I cleaned it up. I canâ€™t remember what happened, but I put Alex One to the side and concentrated on GENERATIONAL CURSE or Kyla as I call her. I dedicated my time to my fourth born. After I released her, I went back to Alex One and reread her and felt she needed a little more tweaking. Keep in mind, I had already sent this to my editor. I even had a cover [see image C].
I liked this cover. However, when I went back and started preparing Alex One for release, I discovered, I didnâ€™t like the cover. I felt it gave people the impression the story was about a man and his friends. The Alex series is about Alexandra Miller and her four best friends. And my cover no longer worked with the story. Whatâ€™s ever worse, I had this image on my website and on GoodReads as a future release.
Now on top of doing a rewrite, I was looking for a new cover. Again I wanted something a little more sophisticated but didn’t show a face. I didnâ€™t want the readers trying to figure out which of the characters was on the cover.
About this time Bonnie Bliss and I were talking about covers for our Fling Box Set books, and she suggested I try shutterstock.com. Oh my God, after a few visits to the site I found something I thought might work. I did a test and ta da, I had a new cover to match the new story. So hereâ€™s a little peak at Alex One all grown up [Images D and E]. I freakinâ€™ love my new cover. I also love Alex Twoâ€™s cover, but I canâ€™t show you that one yet. Alex Oneâ€™s new look is sophisticated, and it matches the revised story.
Thanks for being patient with me on this post, but thereâ€™s one last thing.
When I started the revisions or, letâ€™s be real, the rewrite on Alex One, the first six chapters werenâ€™t working for me. I did one of the hardest things Iâ€™ve ever had to do to my baby; I deleted them. It was hard, but it was the right thing to do. When I did that, it gave the story new life and really allowed more of the characterâ€™s personalities to shine.
I liked those chapters, but they just didnâ€™t work with the book. I told my friend Kitty Bucholtz about my book amputation, and she suggested I turn them into a novella. Ding â€¦Dingâ€¦Ding â€¦what a brilliant idea. Then we started talking about marketing tools and free books. Ding â€¦Dingâ€¦Ding â€¦another idea was born. Iâ€™d do what Kitty suggested and turn those deleted chapters into a free novella. Only problem, they werenâ€™t quite novella length. Fret not, with a little tweaking, theyâ€™ve become a novelette.
This â€œPrequel,â€ makes use of deleted chapters, plus it gives me time to get Alex One ready, and itâ€™s great way to get to drum up interest in Alex One. So hereâ€™s a sneak peak at my next title â€¦The Alex Chronicles: Girlfriends & Secrets.
If I didnâ€™t bore you, stop by next month for Part Two.