Monday, September 26, 2011

The Pressure to Produce

In the not to distant past, I joined an online group that allows me to upload my work and connect with my target audience. This should come as no surprise as I’ve discussed it on prior posts and mention it daily on my Twitter feed.

Since joining this group, I’ve posted two of the books in a trilogy I’ve written. Given the subject matter of the novel, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how well it’s been received. Not only is the work about the son of Satan, but I’ve made him a sympathetic character. With so much of the western world practicing Christianity, I took the proverbial leap of faith that fans could look past their perception of what they think the story is and give it a real chance before passing judgment. To date, I have 1,293 fans that have been more than willing to do that.

The work, entitled The Unholy Trinity series, has been available since March of this year. Books one and two have already been posted, and I’m pleased to say fans are clamoring for book three. While the largest chunk of my fan base are females aged thirteen to twenty-five, my popularity has been gaining among males as well. I’ve also got quite a few readers who, like me, are parents of teenagers and enjoy reading the works. Each day, another fan is added to my list and it’s all because of these books. In fact, I had one just today send me a message to tell me the books are amazing and she couldn’t stop thinking about the main characters after she finished reading.

As much as I love the praise and validation of my talent, there’s a certain amount of pressure that comes with this sort of popularity. Most of my current fans are panning the vampire series I wrote and asking for something along the vein of The Unholy Trinity series. One fan sent me a message to tell me I made paranormal cool again and to beg me not to write a sellout vampire romance novel.

To be honest, after the completion of the third and final book of The Unholy Trinity series, I’ve been asking myself the now what question. Now what do I do? Now what do I write to make this diverse fan base happy and keep them interested in my work? The question was so perplexing, it kept me up at night. It also kept me from writing. I couldn’t come up with ideas I thought were good enough to follow up the success of The Unholy Trinity series. Even more daunting was the realization of how many well known and more successful authors of late have fallen into that category. Consider the case of Lemony Snickett whose Series of Unfortunate Events novels were wildly popular. Barring the possibility that he’s produced additional works under a pen name, I’ve not seen anything new since the conclusion of that series. While both JK Rowling and Stephanie Meyer have written books following the finales of their smashing series’, the books were a spin off of the series. If they’ve written books with new characters, they’ve not achieved the accolades of their original works. That begs the question of how I can do it on a smaller scale if they can’t on a larger scale.

There’s also one other thing I forgot to mention. Paranormal young adult books aren’t my normal genre. Before becoming a young adult author, I wrote chic lit novels more in keeping with Nicholas Sparks or James Patterson. When I made the transition to young adult, it was seamless since I wrote teen lit novels. Like my chic lit novels, the teen lit novels had a time tested formula. Boy and girl meet and fall in love but confront obstacles along the way before living happily ever after. The story of how I then became a paranormal young adult novelist is long and convoluted and best saved for another time. The point is that being that it’s out of my normal comfort zone, I’ve really been challenged to come up with something fans are used to seeing from me and quite frankly deserve after being so supportive.

Rather than force the issue by cranking out something substandard, I’ve let it marinate over the last few weeks. In this process, I’ve been able to come up with a few concepts. Some were not so good but a few of them were quite satisfactory; at least I hope they were. Only time will tell the tale. No pun intended.

This whole experience has been an eye opener for me. Until I became so successful, I never understood the pressure to maintain that success. Since trying and failing so many times to break into the business, my mantra has been give me a chance. Now I’ve had that chance. Now I embrace it to the best of my ability.

Let’s just hope I don’t let my fans down. Let’s hope I live up to the hype.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Is Originality Dead

As I was drifting off to sleep last night, it occurred to me that today was Monday, and I had yet to come up with a topic for my weekly blog. That kept me up for a bit as I debated what to write about. After finally coming up with an idea, I was able to sleep peacefully. When I woke up this morning, I was all set to write about the topic I'd come up with last night. An email I received from Writer's Digest this morning changed my mind.

Having previously entered a Writer's Digest contest, I'm now a member of their email listing. I don't mind at all as they send lots of good industry tips and tricks as well as contest reminders. The email I received this morning was to let me know the deadline for the annual genre fiction contest had been extended. In that email, they made mention of the void left in young adult novels with the conclusion of the Harry Potter and Twilight series. Being an aspiring young adult novelist, that really got me to thinking about my newest trilogy.

When I wrote a book with the tagline 'what happens when the daughter of a mass murderer falls for the son of Satan?', I truly thought I'd hit upon something original. I couldn't have been more wrong. After I posted the first chapter on Wattpad, one of my scenes drew comparisons to one that takes place in Twilight. I can honestly say I've never read this novel nor seen the movies so I have to take the readers' word for it. The concept was also likened to a novel called Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte, another I've never read.

In addition to the first two books of what fans call my Unholy Trilogy, I've also posted the first of my four book vampire series. The basic premise is that a vampire prince falls for a human girl who's destined to be his mate. The twist, or at least I thought it was a twist, is that the story contains both day and night vampires. I realize with the Blade movies the idea of day walking vampires isn't unique, but I didn't realize how similar this idea was to something called Vampire Knight.

These two comparisons have really started me thinking. Has originality become a foreign concept? It seems so if you think about it. Many modern movies are remakes of classics and those that aren't remakes follow a fairly predictable formula. Once in a while something comes along that breaks the mold, but it's few and far between. With that in mind, I'd think the same could be said for novels as well, especially in my case.

Keeping that in mind, I've already started to pen my newest novel. I won't go into any details, not because I fear copyright infringement but because I'm content to keep my illusion that it's an original idea.

Is originality dead? Perhaps not in its entirety, but it seems to have taken a beating over the years!

Monday, September 12, 2011

It's Never too late to Remember

Ten years ago yesterday, I was late to work.  I was at home, getting ready to go to my dental appointment to have my teeth cleaned.  Back then, I liked to schedule my appointments first thing in the morning and then go to work afterward. I reasoned it cost me less time from work.  Since then, I’ve undergone a shift in feelings. I now prefer to schedule my appointments at the end of the day so I can have both my work day and my appointment over and done with. 

On September 11, 2001, I was finishing up a glass of tea and preparing to leave when my husband called to tell me a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. Being that I live in California, and I had an appointment to make, I didn’t allow myself to fully grasp what he was telling me. Instead, I recall giving some muted response about that being terrible and I’d talk to him later.  The news still didn’t seem particularly grave when I arrived at the dentist’s office. The tiny office was pretty empty at eight thirty in the morning. I do remember Kelly, my hygienist, asking me if I’d heard about the attack on the World Trade Center to which I could only give a garbled affirmative reply owing to the fact that her hands were crammed into my mouth.

It wasn’t until I got to work an hour later that I began to understand what was happening and just how serious it was. All of my coworkers were gathered around the radio atop one person’s desk. Work was forgotten and the mood was somber as we listened to the reports pouring in about not only the World Trade Center but the Pentagon and the high jacked United flights. It all seemed unreal, and I had no idea the influence it would have on my life as well as my writing career.

Like many Americans, my sense of Patriotism heightened after the nine eleven terrorist attacks. I watched the news reports closely and became more emotionally invested in the United States military. It was that investment that prompted me to join an organization that participates in outreach to deployed service members. I made donations to my local veteran’s hospital as well as the United Service Organization and still wished I could do more. I can only attribute this feeling to the fact that it was the first war of my adult life. The first Gulf war took place when I was a na├»ve teen with no real grasp on its far reaching consequences. With a little more maturity and experience under my belt, I suppose came more empathy and perhaps even a little fear.

Doing more came just a few short years later. The attack of one of our convoys carrying non combat service members and the kidnapping of Jessica Lynch had a profound effect on me as did the kidnapping and beheading of American civilian workers. Overwhelmed with a myriad of emotions, I did what most writers do best when they need a way to express themselves. I wrote. Not only did I write, but I wrote a contemporary chick lit novel entitled Letters from Linc. The crux of the story explores the relationship between twenty-two year old Marine private Todd Lincoln and his new wife, Erica. I wrote the story for me, as a way to purge my soul, and I had no idea just how much it would resonate. So many people felt a connection to Linc and Erica and their story.

Not long after the novel was released, revelations about the conditions of our nation’s military hospitals began to surface. I was appalled to hear our beleaguered hospitals were nothing short of squalid. Overcome with a combination of rage and sadness, I made the decision to donate 100% of the royalties from the sales of Letters from Linc to our nation’s military hospitals, a decision still in practice today.

As a result of this decision, I’ve had the privilege of meeting people I might not have otherwise met and doing things I likely wouldn’t have done. I’ve appeared on radio and television in the name of this cause. I’ve shared it with veteran’s publications who’ve shared with their readers. I’ve participated in events designed to bring awareness to issues our troops are facing and even had the honor of meeting local veterans with amazing accomplishments. I’ve spoken on the telephone with an aspiring congressman keen to improve things for our vets, and I’ve made friends with people involved in veteran’s organizations designed to provide the best opportunities for vets coming home from the war.

Ten years ago yesterday, when I stood in my kitchen, I didn’t know what I’d be inspired to do or what I’d accomplish. Though I’d rather have the ability to rewrite history and undo this tragedy, I can take comfort in the creation of something good from something so senseless.