Class is in Session

Pop quiz!

What do you think is the best part of being an author?

Having to self-promote? (No…) Getting to actually sit down & write? (Close!) Basking in my millions from royalties? (Ha, don’t make me laugh!  )

Far and away the most enjoyable part of this journey so far has been getting to meet and talk with people who have read and fallen in love with Winged Descent. I know I can write… I even know that I can write well, but to write stuff people get excited about is a whole other level of cool.

On Monday May 6th I had the pleasure of being invited to Osceola Creek Middle School in Loxahatchee, FL to discuss Winged Descent with a group of thirty-eight eighth graders who read it as a part of their reading class. Their teacher is the fabulous Mrs. Mayes who I reference on my acknowledgments page and who continues to be a loyal supporter of my endeavors. LOVE HER!

Turns out I love her students, too! I’ve never met a young adult who has read my book, so I went in to the classroom with no expectations. Within twenty minutes, we were having a lively discussion of all things wings, and I floated up to Cloud 9. While I maintain that Conner is my favorite character in the story, they almost unanimously voted for Kendrick.

Why? “Because he’s sexy,” one student called out. Well… can’t argue there!

Students who received Winged t-shirts by answering trivia questions

She got a free series t-shirt for being the first student to speak up, and after that the conversation started to flow. It was undoubtedly awesome to be able to talk about the experience of writing and publishing Winged Descent, but it was even better to hear their impressions of the novel, address questions they brought up, and listen as they mused aloud about what might happen in the sequel.

One frequent question: Would I like for the book to become a movie?

Oh, yes, yes, yes… and I’m counting on one of them to study filmmaking and directing as an adult so we can make that happen!

Another question that seemed to be burning a hole in their curious minds: Who will Savannah choose in the end? She’s already chosen… it’s Kendrick. (That’s no spoiler, it’s just a fact.) We just have to get her back to Centaura so she can be with him. And yes, we’ll go to Centaura in the sequel. In fact, we’ll visit Lapithia, as well!

It always amazes me when readers bring up questions that I never thought of. I should probably have a ready answer for everything, but the truth is I get stumped, too! Those questions are the best, though, because they open the floor for debate.

An example: Is there a Lapith leader on Lapithia?

In my mind, no. I picture Lapithia as a former democratic society that went downhill. Currently they do not have a leader that can regain control of their failing country/planet/whatever-you-want-to-refer-to-it-as. Remember that Timoreo is mentioned as the terrorist group Landon is a part of in Winged Descent… it will be explained more in the sequel, but Timoreo is a force to be reckoned with. And even though it appears that Landon is an important Lapith leader—he’s really not. He’s more of a tool of said terrorist group.

with Mrs. Delores Mayes, teacher extraordinaire

One student wanted to know—assuming Centaurs & Lapiths find a way to settle their differences & come together in the end—what will children born to this new mixed race be called?

Never thought of it! This student suggested CenLaps, which made me smile, but in all honesty I think they would drop their former names and embrace what unites them—the fact that they are both Apollo’s descendants. So I think I’m leaning toward something with his name in the word if I decide to name them at all. Great question!

This one has come up in the past and continues to surprise me: Is Savannah a supernatural creature? The response on the tip of my tongue is always, “do you want her to be?” A lot of readers seem to feel that there must be something “in” her to draw these supernatural beings to her. Or that it would just make a really good plot twist if she turned out to be something other than human. I agree with them—it would be a great twist. However, she is human & I plan to keep her that way. There needs to be a tether to the real world in the midst of all the fantasy.

How about this one: Why did the Lapiths torture Fidel’s wife? I think several answers could apply here. They could have done it to send a message to the centaurs, they could have done it simply to be spiteful, or they could have done it out of jealousy that the centaurs have some tangible claim on Earth. I think my intent in writing that scene was for the Lapiths to target Kendrick more than Fidel & punish him & the other half-bloods for coming to Earth. Remember, Lapithia is a dying planet (because of war & natural decay) and it is partly out of necessity that the Lapiths are on Earth. They feel extremely territorial and are threatened when they find out Centaurans are there, too.

One astute reader asked how I thought to write the book from multiple perspectives. So glad this was asked because it gave me a chance to talk about the fabulous Jodi PIcoult who inspired me to try out this style of writing! (If you haven’t read her books then exit out of this screen right now & go download “The Pact”.  ) When I started Winged Descent I decided I wanted to give all three main characters a voice. That’s it. Looking back, I can’t imagine doing it any other way. If you’ve read Winged Decision, you know that I can’t resist from letting other characters speak their mind at times. In my opinion, it makes for a richer story.

And finally… a big hug for the reader who asked this question: Is Fidel going to die?

I’m so glad someone out there is concerned for him like I am! Can you believe that as the author of this series I actually worry about this sometimes? The only answer I can give is, “I hope not!” Those who know me know that I don’t plan my deaths before they happen. If—as a storyline develops—it turns out to be the logical end to that character’s journey for him/her to die, I have to “let” it happen. But I love Fidel dearly & will be trying my darndest to keep him safe. However, I can tell you he is going to have a VERY rough time of it in the sequel.

After our discussion, I became a rock star for a few minutes & had my head swell when I was asked for autographs. Always a mind-boggling experience… Hope it’s worth something someday, guys!

Several students received copies of the prequel! Woohoo!

I left the school that day with a spring in my step & hope bubbling in my chest. There are fewer things more exciting than a group of young people who are stoked about reading. Hearing a classroom full of students talk passionately about the written word makes me a incredibly optimistic about the future of this technology-fueled generation. So a huge THANK YOU to this special class for giving me this experience!

I wish you all the best, I encourage you to keep reading, & I sincerely hope you’ll write to me with your thoughts regarding the prequel/sequel or if ever you have any questions about the writing industry. My email box is always open!

For the rest of you… any thoughts on the questions they raised? Leave a comment below!

Happy 3rd Birthday, Kendrick!

On this day, three years ago, I gave birth to my first child.

Well… my first brainchild, anyway.

I don’t have children of my own, so three years ago, I decided to adopt. Instead of choosing babies or school-age children, I went with three twenty-somethings. I christened them Kendrick, Savannah, & Conner, and I have to say that for being non-existent, they quickly consumed my life. I created them, nurtured them, loved on them, and protected them fiercely with the power of my pen… er, keyboard.

When it was time to send them off into the dark and scary world of beta readers, I sat alone and wrung my hands and worried over whether people would accept my babies and love them like I did.

When women started to obsess over Kendrick and say they wished he was real, I held my head high like any proud momma and thought to myself, “yep, that’s my boy!”

When people criticized Savannah for being too indecisive and for leading both men on, I ground my teeth in righteous indignation and staunchly defended her choices.

Oh, and when people say how much they can’t stand Conner… my Mama Bear instincts come out strong.

My triplets have a handful of friends, enemies, and acquaintances that I have to contend with. Some are fictional (Landon, Roma, Fidel… I can handle them); others, not so much (critics, bloggers, readers… they require a bit more delicacy). They also have to accept that they have peers out in the world who are a lot more successful & well-liked than they are. (That’s hard for me to accept sometimes, too.) The upside is this means they also have a plethora of predecessors from which to choose and emulate. (ie: “Savannah, you may NOT behave like that Anastasia Steele!”… “Kendrick, you could learn a thing or two from Mr. Darcy– take notes.”)

Anyway, if you’ve raised a child, you know the importance of milestones. For whatever reason, we’ve gotta know where our kids are, where they’ve been, where they’re likely going… & how soon they’ll get there. So, in the spirit of my “kids’” third birthday, here is my unprofessional opinion of where they are as determined by the yardstick set forth by the CDC:

By the age of three, one should be able to:

  • Show a wide range of emotions– Conner covered this one the moment Roma slapped a Ciferous on him. He’s up! He’s down! He’s kissing Norana! He’s knocking her against the wall! He’s trying to kill Kendrick! He’s trying to save Kendrick! GOAL MET.
  • Understands what “two” means– No, I’m not kidding. This is really listed. Savannah met this benchmark the day she allowed both Kendrick & Conner to stay under her roof. She not only understands what “two” means, but she’s mastered what it means to love, wrangle, and try to please two very different men. (Don’t take this to mean I’m admitting that’s she’s indecisive…  )
  •  Walks up & down stairs, one foot on each step– “Kendrick continued to haul me away, and he did not stop until we were at the foot of the stairs. I made it as hard as possible for him to contain me, and kept my feet running against the floor so if he made an error and let me go I could race back to Conner. He just sighed and scooped me up into his arms.” Needless to say, we’re still working on this one…
  • Says first name, age, and sex– Savannah pretty much tells Kendrick she wants sex… does this count?
  • Separates easily from mom and dad– Conner has no problem telling others he’s an orphan who lost his parents in a freak boating accident as a teenager… only problem is, they’re very much alive.
  • Shows affection for friends without prompting– Savannah makes out with Conner after guzzling some wine, then later tells him she thinks of him like a brother. If that ain’t affection…
  • Dresses and undresses self– Thankfully, Kendrick is very adept at taking off his own shirt so we can see his rippling muscles and feel his strong arms as they wrap around  Savannah. And for those moments when he’s not able to dress himself, like when it comes to complicated trenchcoats? Savannah’s happy to do it for him. And we’re happy to watch. (Now, if only we could see that scene in movie form…!)
  • May get upset with major changes in routine– “Conner looked as if the idea amused him. ‘Uncomfortable? Who said anything about uncomfortable? Savannah invited you to stay here, and it’s her house. As long as she doesn’t mind all the extra work that comes with a bunch of houseguests, I’m cool. It’ll be like a slumber party.’”
  • Shows concern for crying friend– My boy Conner decides to put everything on the line and save Kendrick from Landon’s threats once he sees Savannah embrace him tearfully and beg him to return to her someday. WELL DONE, son.
  • Understands the idea of “mine” and “his” or “hers”– And, in a less noble moment:  “Savannah… this house… this town—all my territory. You got that?” To be fair, this attitude DID help him meet this benchmark.
  • Runs easily– Pssh. Run? Please. My kids can fly & teleport.

There you have it. We’re not perfect, but I think we’re doing okay. While we haven’t made it on any national bestseller lists yet, we do have a strong group of loyal friends & followers invested in our well-being and determined to see us succeed in the literary world.

That’s all any mom wants for her children.

Adventures in Atlanta: Eyecon 2012

First thought that comes to mind: the weekend is over. Seriously?! How is it already Sunday night?

Kyle & I last went to a convention together in May 2009, the day I graduated with my Masters degree, to be exact. I was knee-deep in my Twilight obsession, and he was a good husband who came along, wore a Twilight shirt (correction: a Twilight husband shirt that was so awesome the actual Twilight book hand-model asked to take her photo with him), and took a picture with celebrities with me. (He still swears that Jackson Rathbone’s hand dipped a little too low when they had their arms around each other’s backs.) Anyway, on a day when I received my degree for 3 years of graduate work, I think the best memory is still getting to meet the cast of Twilight. Yep, my name is Heather Dencker, & I am a celebriholic.

See? Pic with the hand model! First Eyecon convention ever, 2009

For the next couple of years, I left the hubby behind and took my mom to several more conventions, all Twilight, of course. They began to be an event that I looked forward to every year. Meeting celebrities, talking with other passionate fans, winning trivia contests– what’s not to love?

It seemed like the next natural step to attend a convention as a vendor once I published Winged Descent. My good friend (and ridiculously awesome publicist–yes, I’m officially giving her the title) Virginia Coe began volunteering for Eyecon as I continued attending, so I figured she could help me learn the ropes a bit about what goes on from the OTHER side of a convention. I signed up as a vendor, spent a week or so getting advertising materials together, & then this past Friday Kyle and I made the 7 hour trip up to Atlanta for Eyecon’s The Vampire Diaries convention.

My dear friend Virginia… who has been rooting for this story since she first read it in a 3-ring binder. Love you!

I really had no preconceived notions of what would happen once I got there. As you can guess by now from reading my blog, I’m really flying blind when it comes to this book. Everything is new, everything is unprecedented, and I have no yardstick to measure anything by. I’ve gotten into the habit of just saying a prayer (or a few hundred), giving it up to God, and jumping in feet first because what else can you do?!

Ready for whatever the weekend will bring!

We arrived to the convention at 3pm on Friday, me feeling like a complete fish out of water. The vendor room was slow, we did sell a couple books and a tshirt, but for the most part it was just an exercise in feeling out the event and trying to get our bearings. I met another author, Shayne Leighton, who published her fantasy novel through an independent company, and that was a very cool experience. Her novel is actually being made into a film with Michael Welch of Twilight. Check out her work at OfLightandDarknessSeries.com!

With Shayne Leighton. Great to meet another author!

Friday ended early, we went to the local mall for a delish food court dinner (topped off by an Orange Julius- score! Haven’t had one of those in years), and turned in relatively early to prepare for the next day.

Yay for a successful first day!

Saturday kicked off with meeting two fabulous women that I have gotten to know online through Winged Descent (& Virginia) but had yet to see in real life: Jennifer Balan & Susan Howell Hogan. Both were super nice & supportive, we took pictures together, and reveled in the anticipation of a fun weekend. It was very fun (& surreal, as it always is) to meet people who knew my book before they knew me. Thank you to both of you for the love & for welcoming me into your special Eyecon family!

with Jennifer!

With Susan! Of course, that’s Winged Descent on her Kindle.

On Saturday mid-morning the lovely Kat Graham (Bonnie from TVD) came into the vendor room to sign autographs, which was a blessing for everyone in the room because suddenly the space was filled with people. It was by far the best sales activity of the weekend. Plus she’s just gorgeous and fun to watch, even if all she’s doing is smiling & signing autographs. My publicist Virginia passed her first test with flying colors and got me a pic with Kat after she was done signing, which was awesome. Kat also graciously accepted a copy of Winged Descent, commenting, “you wrote this? That’s awesome! Would you sign it for me?” So cool.

with the “bewitching” Kat Graham

Throughout the rest of the day Saturday, I met Amy & the rest of the crew of VRO (Variety Radio Online), a website that does book/TV/movie commentaries, reviews, & interviews. Awesome people that I can’t wait to connect with more in the future. One of the women bought my book—looking forward to a forthcoming interview with her!  I met a young woman with cerebral palsy who loves to write about people with disabilities and asked me about the self-publishing process. Mothers and daughters came up to each buy a copy of my book, and it was fun to hear that they had the intention of reading it “together”. One highlight was meeting the two creators from HonestReviewsCorner.com, Hillary & Rachel, who bought Winged Descent and promised to set up a review/interview.

I went to bed Saturday night with the full intention of waking up the next day to An Ian-Filled Sunday. My one goal for Sunday was to meet Ian Somerhalder and give him a signed copy of my book. He IS, after all, the original Kendrick. My early readers who got the 3-ring-binder version of Winged Descent can attest that I gave out these silly little flyers with my ideal movie cast so people could see who I envisioned as each character. Thankfully, I did get to meet Ian & give him the book (he said it was awesome that I wrote it), but there was so much more to Sunday than this one encounter.

with Ian Somerhalder… aka, the original Kendrick.

Some of the actors were incredibly kind about coming into the vendor room and looking at what everyone had to offer. When Trent Ford from TVD came by my table, my guardian angel Virginia was by his side & made sure to point out that I got her started in Eyecon conventions (as well as being “the most amazing special needs teacher”… thanks, girl!  ). Trent stopped to say hi, Kyle & I introduced ourselves, then he started asking about the book. Turns out, he used to work for a publishing company and worked his way up to a publisher’s assistant. He examined Winged Descent closely, commented that it looked very clean & he liked the font, then read the dedication and said it was lovely. (shout-out to my momma!) We started talking about Greek mythology, and I confessed to being very interested but NOT well-versed in the topic, and he listened as I described the central conflict between the centaurs & Lapiths. Then, he treated me to a story about one of Apollo’s other sons, a human named Phaethon. Hmm…. a possible spin-off series?? As it were, Trent holds an MA in literature from Cambridge…. Impressive, no? And kind of intimidating, since he promised to read the book and email me his honest thoughts. It was a true pleasure to meet him. Oh! And he shocked the heck out of me when he wouldn’t let me give him a free book & instead insisted on paying. I stopped just short of asking him to sign the bills.

with Trent Ford

Another treat was meeting Nathaniel Buzolic, also from TVD. Earlier in Nathaniel’s Q&A session, he mentioned that he was a Christian (& actually invited the entire audience to church with him that night in Atlanta) and one of his goals in LA was to be a light for others in the business. He said that sometimes he gets the feedback that it’s hypocritical for a Christian to be in a paranormal show playing a vampire. However, he brought up the point that in his line of work, he can introduce others to Jesus who might have never otherwise known about Him. He reiterated several times that he is far from perfect, and that he would need the grace of God whether he was an actor, a mechanic, a plumber, or what have you. After his Q&A, he came into the vendor room, too, and I went up to him to tell him that I had listened to the session and was so impressed by how he infused Christianity into his acting career. I told him that as a fellow Christian, I understood the difficulty with diving into a paranormal world when church kind of teaches you to stay away from it. I told him that he was very inspiring and to keep doing what he was doing…. then I finally shut up and handed him my book. He, like the others, was very gracious & asked if I would sign it. After giving me a hug and taking a picture together, I retreated back to my table, feeling wholly uplifted by the experience.

with Nathaniel Buzolic… scary original vamp on TVD, super nice guy in real life!

Aside from the celebs, I had a woman stop by on Sunday and tell me that she had already started the book and was 35 pages in and she loved it so far. A young man who was one of the vendor’s sons told me he took his sister’s copy the night before and started reading it and thought it was great, and very different from other stories. A woman who bought my shirt on Friday came back to buy the novel, saying she read the free excerpt on Amazon and loved it. When I passed out business cards at the Q&A session, Susan was nearby and made sure to tell everyone in the nearby vicinity that it was an awesome book and that they should all get it.

Meeting new people & making new friends

Comments like these are worth more than a hundred sold copies, any day. It is such a damn GOOD FEELING when people say that they enjoyed the book, fell in love with Kendrick, or recommended it to their friend/sister/mom/boss. Writers don’t write for money or fame—we write for READERS. The highlight of the weekend by far was meeting people who were genuinely interested in reading Winged Descent, or had already read it and just wanted to share what it meant to them. A mere 4 months ago, this book only belonged to me. Now, it’s gotten to the point where I can barely keep track of it anymore. The range of people who have read it, downloaded it , and shared it with other people is exponentially growing.

And it blows my mind that not only did God put two celebrities who I never planned on meeting in my path this weekend, but that one of them is a Christian & the other had ties in the publishing business. As people are always saying to me, “you just never know!” It’s true. You can’t plan for life! So might as well just jump with both feet.

Finally, a huge thank you to my husband for being by my side throughout the entire weekend. His elevator speeches were spot on, he was a great support system, & he put on a good facade of never being bored though I made him sit for 10 hours a day all weekend long. It was a blessing to have a partner to rely on during one of the most exciting & intimidating experiences of my life. Thank you, babe!

My Morning on the Radio

 

<— with Claire, Brian, Laura, & Johnny from the XL morning show!

I need to write this down while every moment is still fresh in my mind and I am still on this outrageous high from the events of this morning.

Yesterday evening I received my newest shipment of books in from Amazon, and I decided with only two more days to go of summer break, I had to make the most of my time. I made a plan to go to XL 106.7′s headquarters the next morning to bring the DJs copies of Winged Descent. People who know me well know that I am big on doing things “by the book” and will not take many risks. I kept asking my husband & mom, “I can do that, right? I can just walk into a radio station, right?” They both agreed that yes, I probably could…. but, as my mom advised, my chances of getting in would increase if I brought donuts.

Well… fast forward to 5:15 this morning, and the hubby & I are up and ready to go to Maitland to ambush the radio station. After making a quick stop at Krispy Kreme (because, as Johnny Magic says, they can make even boots taste good) and signing personalized notes for the DJs in their respective books, we arrived at Clear Channel Communications.

Turns out, you CAN’T just mosey into a radio station & expect to be seen. We were hoping for a receptionist, a waiting area, an unlocked door… something to let us in. No dice. We stood in the lobby for about 5 minutes watching people come in and out of doors, but I was too shy to ask anyone for help. I sent a desperate text to Johnny’s House (the morning show) in hopes that someone would come get me, but…… no luck there, either.

Then… oh, the skies opened & God smiled down on me.

Who should walk through the lobby but Johnny Magic himself!

The morning show host, the man I’ve listened to every day for the past 10 years, the guy I obsessively take pictures of at XL events……. turned to us & asked, “Have you been helped yet?”

NOPE.

“Who are you here to see?”

“Um… you, actually!”

“Me? Well, what do you need?”

“I brought you guys donuts.” (Thanks, mom!)

“Oh! Okay, well, why’d you bring us donuts?”

“And books. I’m a local author and I was hoping to give you all a copy of my book.”

One thing led to another, he invited us back to their studio, and 15 minutes later… I WAS ON THE AIR PROMOTING WINGED DESCENT!

Johnny made sure to tell me before I went on that he was going to have me speak because “you’ve got balls… and I don’t mean that disrespectfully.” I kinda wanna tattoo that somewhere on my body now.

The morning crew was incredibly nice & welcoming. Within minutes of being there, Claire followed me on Twitter & Facebook, posted on Johnny’s House’s feed that I crashed the studio, and Brian linked up my Amazon page to their FB page. It was unbelievably humbling & overwhelming.

Then… I actually went on the air. To talk about a book. MY book. My book that I wrote! I wrote a book! I talked about it! I got to promote it! Holy crap!

**Sorry… stream of consciousness writing for a minute there. I’m back.**

Anyway, I really have no idea how long I was on. 3 minutes? 5? Something like that. It felt like 10 seconds… or an hour, give or take. I was flying high on so much adrenaline that it was all I could do to think straight & say the right name of the book when I was asked.

I can’t remember much of the experience, but it made me smile hugely when Johnny introduced me by saying “We get asked all the time by listeners to play their song on the radio or talk about what they’re doing, and we really don’t have say over that. We can’t just play a song by anybody. I never do this. I don’t just bring people into the studio to talk, but this morning I saw this young lady in the lobby and I asked her if she needed help…. (he replayed our conversation)…. so I brought her in because that takes guts. I like that. She believes in her product enough to come down here and ambush a radio station with donuts (again, thanks mom!) to try and get her book out there. I admire that.”

Holy cow. HE admires ME? Does he have any idea how much I admire HIM? Brain about to explode here.

After talking, the mass texts came rolling in from friends & family that they heard me on the radio. One friend told me she couldn’t believe it & was crying (me too– join the club!)… Kyle’s former boss even wrote to say, “Dude… your wife’s on the radio!” It was quite possibly the most surreal moment I’ve ever had.

I got pics of the morning show hosts with their books. Laura opened hers right away and saw the personalized message… then asked Brian what his said. Brian said “I don’t even read, but I might try this! This is so cool.” & Claire said several times that she really admired me. My heart is BURSTING. Brian said texts were coming in on XL mobile asking about the book, & Claire got a call about what website I used to publish it. How cool is that?!

By the time we left the station and got in the car, I had 21 new fans on FB, and 7 new followers on Twitter. I was all smiles until I sat down in the car & started to drive. Then the tears came pouring down. My poor hubby was a bit out of his element, I think (I don’t cry much). I can’t explain the rush of emotions that came from this morning.

Anyone who writes knows what a huge, life-changing accomplishment it is just to finish a book. Having others read your first draft is another major event, met with fear, anxiety, and endless hope. Sending out query letters  & hearing NO over and over again is so heartbreaking, even though it’s expected. Going through this self-publishing process and having people actually buy & hold & read my book is the most mind-blowing thing. Reading positive reviews & hearing readers’ comments that they love the book always manages to surprise me. This concept started in my head… it was a small idea that turned into a bigger idea and I just ran with it. Never in my wildest dreams could I have expected people to actually LIKE it, you know?

Then came today. I was hoping to drop off my books & donuts. I was praying for the chance to set up a meeting & come back at a later time to talk on the radio. I was inwardly begging that I might get a photo with one of the DJs actually holding my book.

Not only did all 3 happen, but in a better way than I could have imagined. I am so grateful. The fact that the station cared enough to help me out is an act of kindness that I will never forget. I was a loyal listener of XL 106.7 before today; I am a lifelong listener now.

This was a God thing. Of epic proportions. No way could I have planned to be at the station at just the right time and say all the right things to make this happen. I’m not bold. I don’t have balls. Half the time, I don’t believe in myself. But with God, all things are truly possible!

Thank you so much for reading, & let me end with the trite adage to follow your dreams. Make the impossible possible. This may go absolutely nowhere & in a year my book might be completely forgotten about… but at least I’ll be able to say I tried.

(oh, & have I thanked my mom yet for the donuts idea?)

Opportunities– grab ’em where you can get ’em!

Exciting updates abound!

I contacted the Orlando public library about opportunities to promote my book, and they got back to me to say that they would love (yes, love!  ) to have me come in to do a Meet the Author talk, Q & A, book sale, and signing. In a month where there have been a lot of “so-excited-I-could-cry” moments, this was definitely another one of them!

My date is set for Saturday, September 22. So you better believe that if you know me personally or live in the Orlando area, you will be getting a massive amount of texts/FB invites/email reminders over the next 6 weeks!  I want to PACK THAT HOUSE!

My other big news: I decided to attend an upcoming Vampire Diaries convention in Atlanta hosted by EyeCon. EyeCon has been an important part of my life since May 2009, when I met four actors from the Twilight cast on the same day I graduated with my masters degree. It is a huge, amazing, life-changing memory in my mind, and it totally excites me & simultaneously freaks me out that I’m going to attend for the purpose of selling a book I wrote. (In May 2009 I definitely would never have believed this could happen, that’s for sure!)

I feel like I’m at a juncture where I just need to do anything & everything to get Winged Descent out there. It started as a fun side project, but I remember that moment in spring 2010 where I re-read some of my chapters (I probably only had like 3 at the time) and thought to myself, “wow, this could really go somewhere.”

I HAVE to hold on to that feeling. I have to believe the many people who have read it and told me it’s good, that it’s worth something. I have to take that feeling and run with it. This could go nowhere… but it COULD go somewhere big. It just takes the right person at the right time to see my book & take a chance on it. Crazier things have happened!

Prayers, good thoughts, & well wishes happily accepted.  Thank you & love you all.

Published! Yes, you read that right.

It was sometime around January when I first started to seriously entertain the idea of self-publishing my novel. I wasn’t getting many bites from literary agents, I didn’t have the time to dedicate to sending and re-sending query letters all over the U.S., and I really yearned for a physical copy of my book. Something I could hold in my hands and say, “Wow, yes, I did that!”

Thankfully, we live in 2012 and this dream that so many unpublished writers have is possible. I am a faithful reader of Entertainment Weekly and they’ve had quite a few spotlights lately on self-published writers who have managed to hit it big with book deals… and even movies. I have to say it definitely gives me chills to hear stories like that. And rather than feel jealous, it just makes me incredibly happy for those hardworking people out there making their dreams come true and motivates me to try to do the same.

I’ve always been a writer. You don’t need royalties or an ISBN number to be one. But to make that leap from writer to published writer is something I’ve always wanted to do. Moreover, it’s something I promised myself I would make happen, one way or another.

My husband started encouraging me in the spring to consider publishing my book on Amazon, just to see how it would be received. I toyed with the idea… then he found CreateSpace. CS is a wonderful little hidden gem that allows you to self-publish your book for free using a template and online assistance. Add to that the fact that you only print out what you want to, and it’s a win-win situation.

So… after much prayer and deliberation (and editing… always editing!) I signed up for CS and made it happen. I got my proof in this past Tuesday, June 26, and it’s hard to put into words how I felt the first moment I held it in my hands. Exhilarated? Overjoyed? Astonished? Those words come close. What’s meant even more has been sharing my excitement with others and having it doubled as they mirror my own joy. A support system is so important when taking a leap like this because it requires so much vulnerability. I’m forever indebted to everyone who has encouraged me along the way.

So….. here is the website to purchase my baby: https://www.createspace.com/3884732

(You can also get there by the fancy new link Kyle added to my website’s homepage.)

In the next week, it will be up on Amazon. THAT’S a scary thought! Kyle asked me yesterday how I would feel when I eventually read my first negative review. I can’t truthfully answer that right now, but let’s hope that someday my book is ubiquitous enough that it has lovers as well as haters.

In its first day up for sale, it sold 4 copies. I have to say that it felt just as large an accomplishment as selling a million. I just stood in front of the computer gawking for a full minute. This is the precious time where I am transitioning from me being the only person in the world to have a copy of my novel, to others owning it. It is a very humbling feeling, knowing that it isn’t just mine anymore. Hopefully, though, its other owners will treasure it just as much as I do.

Thanks for reading! God bless.

Signed, Sealed, Delivered… I’m Yours!

Immediate thought comes to mind: if I ever DO sell this novel & become a published author, I am really gonna have to improve my self-promotion skills. It’s been way too long since I’ve updated on here!

Well, it’s the end of July 2011, a little over a year since this site went live, and I just finished sending out 15 more query letters to 15 highly talented, attractive, fabulous agents. (If you’re one of them and reading this right now, I mean every word… *wink wink*)

In all seriousness, it hasn’t gotten any easier. It’s still the most nerve-wracking process I’ve ever endured, and just the thought of checking my email for the next few months causes instant nausea and fear.

I spent the last 6 months revising my book. By revising, I mean revamping. And by revamping, I mean rewriting. A significant amount has been retooled and rewritten for clarity, interest, plot acceleration, and general trying-to-make-it-better-ness. The most helpful advice I got from an agent so far is “MUCH could be cut out.” (They are a people of few words.) I wasn’t told what could be cut out, so I just went with that advice and started choppin’. I found out as I went along that she was right- MUCH could be edited and fixed. A lot of the language was too formal and needed to be brought up to modern times. A lot of the information dump just slowed the story down. I needed to take more risks- wanna kill a character? Go for it! Does someone need to make a painful decision? Sure, why not! I had to put everything on the line and stop playing it safe. I had to write a book that I wanted to read… not just what I thought might sell.

Chloe has become a tertiary character. Her part is so small now that I no longer obsess over who will play her in the movie. She has a minor crush on Kendrick, but it’s not mutual and it doesn’t lead to anything.

Kendrick & Savannah have gotten an upgrade from PG to PG-13 and I am THRILLED for that. There are no longer any questions of “if they might kinda sorta like each other in the broadest sense of the term”. No- they have fallen for each other hard.

Conner has grown into a much more dynamic and interesting character. He has layers now, people! Yes, he’s still got it bad for Savannah, but that doesn’t define him anymore. He definitely goes through the most changes of anyone in the novel, and his scenes provide the most humor… and the most cringe-worthy moments, IMO.

Fidel & Norana have gotten upgrades to secondary characters. They are in more scenes now, their decisions matter, and they both affect change for our three main characters. I continue to love them both.

Landon & Roma are still my badasses with capital Bs, and they continue to produce chills throughout the latter half of the book. Unfortunately, they no longer get a voice in the epilogue (it was changed to just one character’s POV), which is a real loss, but they still induce vim and vigor in every scene they’re in. I just wish Lucy Hale would stop aging so she could play Roma in the movie adaptation. :-/

As for plot differences, there’s more romance and action now, and the dialogue between the characters feels so much more natural. Kendrick and Conner don’t play it safe when it comes to going at it with each other, and neither one is unclear about their feelings for Savannah. They are bolder, gutsier, and ultimately more interesting.

The overall theme of the rewrite seems to be, let’s take this mythical battle between the Centaurs and the Lapiths and bring it to 2011. For the record, the two races really DID battle each other the way Kendrick describes it in the book… er, they really did if you believe in Greek mythology. Basically, I wanted to take a little-known story and blow it up. Let’s say these people were real. Let’s say these two races really did start to hate each other after drama at a family wedding. Let’s say they never got past their differences. Thousands of years later… where would their descendents be? Boom: You have Kendrick, Fidel, Norana vs. Conner, Landon, Roma. Savannah is the unfortunate human exposed to something that never should have involved her in the first place.

The other major theme that emerged was: how much can one choice matter? The characters make so many decisions along the course of the prequel and novel that end up having devastating or rewarding effects. The centaurs decide to come to Earth, _________ decides to turn his back on Lapithia and come to Earth, Savannah decides to believe Kendrick, __________ decides to stay on Earth and reject Centaura, __________ accepts the Ciferous and all that comes with it, etc. etc. Call it the butterfly effect if you will, but I enjoyed exploring the after-effects of the decisions my characters made.

And now, once again, it’s out of my hands. Into God’s (not “the gods’”, as Kendrick might suggest, but the One & Only) and into the inboxes of those 15 talented people I mentioned earlier. The wonderful thing about technology nowadays is I feel that I know these agents even though they haven’t a clue who I am. After researching them for the past few weeks, I now know who updates their Twitter obsessively, who enjoys vampire romance novels as much as me, who has a son with autism, and who flips out when her dog chews books but not her shoes.

The one thing I still have left to discover is… who will fall in love with Kendrick as much as I have? Yet to be determined… stay tuned!

Eternally optimistic,

Heather

(PS: If you were one of my beta readers for Winged Descent and have any interest in reading the novel after all edits & changes have been made, please contact me. I’d love to share!)

The Journey of a Lifetime

It is said that the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

I took that first step on April 1, 2010. I can’t remember exactly how it happened, but I started to think to myself about what my ideal romantic hero would be like in my dream novel. What would he do? What would he say? Where would he be from? One feature stood out in my mind: Wings. He would have to fly.

There is something beautiful and poetic about the metaphor of flight. Angels fly. Fairies fly. Eagles fly. Pegasus flies. There are so many gorgeous creatures that are known for flight, and in my mind they are always both strong and delicate, fearsome and gentle.

I’ve always been taken with the idea of “what if” when it comes to flight… specifically, what if humans could fly? What a perfect way to get around, what a lovely way to see the world. I can remember reading the story of Icarus & Daedalus in middle school and being captivated with the idea of humans achieving flight. I’ve read novels about angels, novels about shape-shifters, novels about superheroes… and the one common feature that intrigues me is the ability to fly.

Anyway, Kendrick was born out of the idea that my ideal romantic hero would have to fly. After that, it was a fun exploration of diving deeper into his character. Okay, so he can fly. But where is he from? How does he fly? Why does he fly? Why the heck is he on Earth? Who does he meet here? What’s his personality like? How old is he? What’s his backstory?

I decided he would be good. Truly good. None of this scary-alien-come-to-take-over-the-world stuff. He is beautiful, kind, smart, and brings out the best in others. However, he’s got one major flaw, as all heroes do. He can’t produce a child, and that greatly diminishes his worth, at least where he is from.

Savannah was fairly easy to come up with. Surprisingly, she’s not “me”. I didn’t try to imagine myself falling in love with Kendrick. I tried to imagine WHO would fall in love with Kendrick, and WHO he would fall in love with. (I’m much more suited to Conner, if truth be told.) I always knew it would be Savannah’s story, even though she is only 1/3 of the narration. The human has to hold some weight, and she can do that through starting and finishing the story.

Conner is more of an amalgamation of me than anyone else in the story. No, not because he’s a teacher or a reader, although that certainly helps.  Conner thinks with his heart first; he is impulsive and passionate, tortured and always wanting more. He tries to rise above his situation but just can’t get it right. He is the most real to me out of all the characters, because he messes up so much but his heart is in the right place.

The rest of the characters just came to me very naturally. They would speak, and I would hear them. There was no Landon or Roma originally, but I am so SO glad they fought their way into the novel. They are so much fun to write.

Fidel & Norana were always there, and always meant to be minor characters, although they grew into their own throughout the novel, too. Fidel is one of my loves; I wish I could write more about him. I just feel so bad for him and want to reach out and give him a hug every time I think about him. Norana… well, I can’t go into much detail here, but she has a bright future ahead. She deserves it.

Chloe… Chloe had to be there because I can’t make it easy for Savannah & Kendrick. Realistically, Savannah is Conner’s, and it would be weird (I think) for Kendrick to intervene. Whether Savannah admits it or not, she & Conner have a strong tie to each other that can’t be ignored. Chloe makes it easy(er) for Kendrick to not pursue Savannah. **edit on 7/28/11: the novel has since been reworked & Chloe has been reduced to a very minor character. Pursue Savannah all you want, Kendrick!

So, on April 1, 2010, I thought to myself, “What if…?” and went to town writing the novel. Thankfully, I was on spring break and had about 50 pages done by the Sunday night before I had to go to work. This little project became an obsession then and it took over all my time. I found myself searching for any excuse to sit and write, and on a good weekend I would get 20-30 pages done. I brought my laptop to work and would write on my lunch break. I went on long walks and listened to moody music to put myself in the right frame of mind. I talked (CONSTANTLY) in my head, having conversations between all of my characters. I acted out scenes in my house when my husband wasn’t home. I would drive to work and interview myself out loud on my characters, just so I could know every little thing about them. Most of all, I just listened. I let the characters talk to me and most of time they would write everything themselves. Scenes I hadn’t even thought of would pop into my head and I would feel like, “Oh, my God! So THAT’S why he’s like that. Of course!” Sometimes I would try to force my characters to say something, and I swear they’d fight me on it. An example- I never wanted Savannah to kick Kendrick out of the house. I tried to change that, but it didn’t work. She had to get him out to move along certain relationships. And I could almost hear her protest that her loyalty would be to Conner, not to Kendrick, despite everything that had happened. **edit on 7/28/11- Kendrick still leaves Savannah’s house, but in a different way, per the rewrite.

It felt like the journey ended on July 10, 2010, when I finished the novel, but that’s not true. That’s just when the next phase began: the hunt for guest readers. Talk about terrifying! I remember my dad was the first one to pick up the novel and start reading it, and to my horror, he read it IN FRONT OF ME! I almost vomited when I saw him reading it. I was so afraid of hearing “ummm, it kinda sucks” that I thought I would pass out. I didn’t even tell anyone the plot because I was so nervous of hearing that it sounded stupid. At this point, my heart and soul was poured onto 450 pages about three characters I deeply adored. Even if it never gets published, Savannah, Kendrick, & Conner are completely real to me, and I love them fiercely.

Thankfully, my guest readers were awesome and gave very constructive criticism, for which I am so grateful. Now I am entrenched in the “find an agent” stage (another totally vomit-inducing situation), and it isn’t easy. It is time-consuming, laborious, and results in way too much fingernail-chewing.

But I wouldn’t have it any other way. Looking for an agent means I’ve written a novel, and that is something I’ve wanted to accomplish since I was seven years old. Thanks to the internet, people actually know about Kendrick even though he’s never made it inside a bookstore. That in itself blows my mind.

Hopefully, this exhilarating journey is nowhere near over. As long as I can dream, I can write. As long as I can write, I can pursue. As long as I can pursue, I have a chance. As long as I have a chance, I have something to hold on to. There are 3 weeks left ’til I am “supposed” to hear from the agent who requested my novel. I pray every day that she will find something in it worth publishing. It feels so good to have that chance to hold on to. Regardless of the outcome, no one can take that away from me.