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Indie Chicks Spotlight: Michelle Muto


THE MAGIC WITHIN AND THE LITTLE BOOK THAT COULD

 

That’s what I’ve been calling The Book of Lost Souls, the book that started my path to publication. I’ve always loved to write. I’ve always loved the way imagination and words blend on a page, the way they transport a reader to faraway worlds, or right next door, where witches live. From the time I was very young, books were an amazing world to me. There was no greater joy than going to the library with my mother whose love of books knew no measure. When I was very young, my mother read to me every night. As I grew older, we’d talk about the books we were reading.

Even as a young child, I knew I wanted to be a writer when I grew up. But, writing wasn’t what paid the bills. I got a regular job and life went on, although I still dreamed of writing. My father always told me to believe in myself and to never give up on what I firmly believed in. A few years after his death, I took up writing again. My mother, who was now ill and who had moved in with my husband and me, was happy to read what I wrote, or to set the table in order to give me a few more minutes of writing time.

And so I wrote and edited and revised. Just before the book was ready to send to agents, my mother died. I set the book aside. Writing was too painful, too full of memories.

But, the stories in my head wouldn’t let up, and so after a few years I started writing again. This time, I wrote about a teen witch named Ivy and her life in a small town, and I quickly fell in love with the story and the eclectic group of characters. I think of it as Buffy meets Harry Potter. When I typed the last line, I actually felt a pang of sorrow—I didn’t want to say goodbye. Ivy and her story became The Book of Lost Souls, and after polishing it up, I sent it off to agents. Plenty were interested and requested the full manuscript. Unfortunately, most of them thought the book was too light. Too cute. Too Disney. They offered to read whatever else I had, as long as it was darker. Darker sells! Or so they said.

So, after two revisions for two separate agents that eventually didn’t pan out (they said the book still had a lighthearted feel to it that wouldn’t appeal to publishing houses), I set The Book of Lost Souls aside and started working on an outline for a much darker book.

It was around this time that the economy began to collapse—hard—and I was given the pink slip on Friday the 13th, right after I had completed a project that saved the company $400,000 annually. Say goodbye to eighteen years of loyal service! Suddenly, writing a darker, more dystopian book about the afterlife on top of losing my job seemed too much to take. Still, I recalled my father’s wisdom of believing in myself even when no one else did. I wrote and finished the next book, Don’t Fear the Reaper, in about seven months.

Still unemployed despite literally hundreds of applications, I began to worry we would lose our home or deplete our savings before I found a job. My career in IT was gone—off shored as they call it. I also wondered if I’d ever see any of my books published. I was so close to getting an agent so many times. Agents wrote back: You’re a strong writer. Or, The Book of Lost Souls is a great story and is well-written, but it’s not for me.

Nearly every morning, my inbox was filled with rejection letters from jobs and agents, yet I tried to stay positive. I kept repeating my father’s words to believe, to never give up. For every rejection, I sent out twice as many applications, twice as many query letters. I just tried harder.

I had been querying Reaper for about three months when I got an editorial letter from one of New York’s biggest literary agencies who’d had The Book of Lost Souls for nearly a year. A year! But, the letter was so enthusiastic about the story and my writing that I sat down and made every last revision they suggested. I turned it in and waited. Months went by. In the end, they rejected the story—not because they didn’t love it, but because in the year and change they’d had the manuscript, another client had submitted a proposal for a story about a teen witch. Conflict of interest, they called it.

And that was that. My novel, the book that was finished, was dumped for someone else’s book that hadn’t yet been written. Somewhat angry and depressed, I set The Book of Lost Souls aside. Again. By now, I was at the end of my rope. I was still unemployed and out of unemployment benefits. The only work I could find was the occasional short-term computer job, some tech writing gigs, or dog-sitting. Nothing full-time, and certainly nothing we could count on.

If the near-miss with Super Agency wasn’t enough, I found myself running into similar situations with Don’t Fear the Reaper. Now, agents were saying, Too dark! But, you’re a talented writer and we’d love to see other work. Or, You’re capable of incredibly incisive scenes—the opener is still one of the best things I read all year. And, my personal favorite, In this economy…

It was then that I learned about self-published authors such as Karen McQuestion and Amanda Hocking. I decided to go indie as well, starting with The Book of Lost Souls. What did I have to lose? A lot if I didn’t figure out a way for our household to stop hemorrhaging money. The only problem? I had no idea where to start. I sent an email to Ms. McQuestion, in the hopes she could point me in the right direction. She was so incredibly kind! Not only did she reply, she sent me a wealth of information on self-publishing. Today, she shares all that information on her blog. I’m incredibly grateful to her.

I got a cover I could afford with the help of another indie, Sam Torode. Two editor friends went over my work. Finally, I formatted the book and the rest is history. I uploaded The Book of Lost Souls in early March, and it’s been getting consistently great reviews ever since. As for being too lighthearted? I receive emails all the time from people who love that the book is funny, upbeat, and clean.

Within my first five weeks of self-publishing, I hit three best seller lists on Amazon. Me. An indie author without a publicist or a big agency or publisher behind them. Just me, my computer, my loving husband, and the devotion of two dogs at my feet.

I’ve been asked if there will be a sequel to The Book of Lost Souls. The answer is yes. Two more books, maybe a third. I just haven’t thought that far out yet.

And the other, darker book? After some revisions, Don’t Fear the Reaper debuted in late September 2011. On its first day, the book reached lucky #13 on Amazon’s Hot New Releases, Children’s Fiction, Spine-Tingling Horror. 

I’m only sorry that my parents aren’t here to see this. I took my father’s advice and my mother’s faith and reinvented myself. I still dog-sit and take on small computer jobs and tech writing gigs to help keep us afloat financially. But one day, I hope that my hard work will pay even more of the bills. Until then, I’m at peace with the way things are. 

Henry Ford once said, “If you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right.” Great advice. And so, The Book of Lost Souls, the book that nearly wasn’t, became the little book that could. I’m a firm believer that hopes and dreams are something to hold onto and fight for. Believe in the magic that is you. Keep your dreams close, and set your imagination free.

I’d like to dedicate my section of this anthology to readers everywhere—words alone cannot express how much I appreciate you believing in me. You’re every bit as much a part of the magic as Ivy herself. 

So, thank you, Dear Reader. Sincerely. Because, every author with a story to tell writes with you in mind.

Come connect with me. I’d love to hear from you:

Blog

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Where to find my books:

 

Amazon US

Amazon UK  

Barnes & Noble

iTunes

Smashwords 

Createspace:     The Book of Lost Souls          Don’t Fear the Reaper

 

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Indie Chicks Spotlight: Talia Jager


Paper, Pen, and Chocolate

Talia Jager

 

“Mom!” a voice yelled from the other room. “Make her stop!”

“I didn’t do anything!” another voice yelled before I could even get up to see what was going on.

I sighed and struggled to get off the couch where I had just started writing a scene. Four months pregnant with our sixth child and the varicose veins were already causing problems for me. I wondered where my husband was hiding that he couldn’t handle this.

Fortunately, the yelling quieted down. Instead of checking on them, I made an Executive Decision. I snuck into my closet, grabbed some Hershey’s chocolate from my stash, and slipped into the bathroom where I ate it with the lights turned off. Nobody would find me there.

Flicking on my flashlight, I took out the notepad and pen I had stashed in the magazine rack and wrote down some thoughts on the scene I had been writing.

The quiet lasted 3.5 minutes. Then my time in the bathroom was up. I crept back out to the living room where I settled a new argument, secretly wishing I could go back to the bathroom.

Now, you may ask…Married with how many kids? And you write books? WHY? HOW? Let me tell you.

From the time I was a little girl, I have had two dreams. One: To have a large family. Two: To be an author. There was a time not long ago when it seemed neither would come true.

Maybe it was being an only child that allowed my imagination to run wild and my mind to create stories; it definitely made me wish for a big family of my own. It’s lonely to grow up without a sibling.

In school, writing was my passion. I wrote constantly. I’d slip my story under a notebook in class and when I was supposed to be taking notes, I’d really be writing my story. At night when I was supposed to be asleep, I’d hide under the covers in bed with a flashlight, pen, and paper.

Time went on, and although I had many stories written, I was too chicken to do anything with them. So, they sat. When I fell in love and started a family, writing got pushed to the side. Sure, I still loved it, but I never had time. Deep down, I was mad at myself for not at least trying to do something with them. But, at the time, I felt I couldn’t. Family came first.

My dream of having a large family wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be, but it had begun to come true. We had two beautiful little girls and wanted more. Unfortunately, I suffered through many miscarriages over the years. After having a number of tests done, I was diagnosed with a blood disorder so complicated that I have no idea what it actually is except that it can cause miscarriages. Getting pregnant had never been an issue; staying pregnant was. When I didn’t get and stay pregnant for over a year, the depression got worse.

Losing a baby is a devastating thing to go through; losing six is downright depressing. There’s no amount of crying, begging, negotiating, or praying that brings them back. Believe me, I tried it all. It didn’t matter how many people told me it wasn’t my fault–I blamed myself anyway. Finding out that it was due to a blood disorder made my guilt that much worse. It was my fault. My body’s fault anyway. Then I started asking myself: Why do some of my babies live and others don’t? What did I do different? I had children before I started medication for the disorder, and I’ve had miscarriages since getting on the medication. None of it makes sense and it’s still something I struggle to understand. I was in such a deep depression; it was like my creative button had been turned off. I had no desire to write.

When we finally “gave up” and decided that we’d be a family of six, we found out I was pregnant again with our fifth daughter.

This pregnancy was much harder on my body than the others. I found myself on the couch most of the day with my legs up. It was around this time that some online friends found out that I loved to write and encouraged me to share my stories. I did so nervously and they loved them! I reached deep down and found the courage to start submitting queries to agents. Each time my hopes were smashed to pieces.

My husband started talking about eBooks and self-publishing. I wasn’t too sure about going that route. I wanted to see my books in print, so I could hold them in front of my face. I wanted to smell my book. But, as time went on, eReaders became more popular and I figured…why not?

So, here I am, with five children, trying to find the time to write, while juggling mom-duty, wife-duty, household chores, errands, and more. During the earlier part of this year, you could find me up until the wee hours of the morning writing. You see, that is the only time it’s quiet enough to get anything done. Three a.m. is the time when all little girls are sleeping, the husband is snoring away, and my mind is clear. I can throw myself into a character’s psyche and let my imagination flow. Everything was going perfectly. I was getting a lot of writing done and then we got a surprise. Baby #6 was on the way.

As happy as we were, this put a serious damper on staying up until three a.m. I just couldn’t do it. My one-year-old is at the age where she needs to be followed around and supervised constantly. If I don’t, I find my computer monitor has become a coloring book.

My four-year-old is in between the “play with me” stage and the “playing alone” stage. The older three are in school, which provides a break for me, but since my four year old adores her older sisters, it makes it hard. She’s constantly whining for them to come home.

It’s hard enough juggling the four younger ones, but throw in a hormonal teenager and chaos ensues. Dealing with her has made me positive that my mother cursed me for acting out as a teenager. Not a week goes by that I don’t find myself in tears over something she does or says. Like the time recently when I told her I was pregnant again, she made nasty comments accusing me of ruining her life. Or the time I had to punish her for kicking her sister, and she informed us that she could run away and be adopted by her friend’s parents.

I’m sure you find yourself wanting to ask how I get a minute to myself. Or how do I deal with no time alone? Or what if I get an idea during the day?

Remember that stash of chocolate in the closet? I simply get some, slip into the bathroom, and take a few minutes. Sometimes I just think. Sometimes I jot down a few ideas on that hidden notepad.

As crazy and chaotic my life is, I wouldn’t change a thing. And it sure gives me plenty of things to write about.

So, when life hands you lemons…toss them out, grab your stash of chocolate, your writing materials, and head for the bathroom. You may just end up writing a book.

 

This is one story from Indie Chicks: 25 Women 25 Personal Stories available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. To read all of the stories, buy your copy today.

Also included are sneak peeks into 25 novels!

My young adult drama, Damaged: Natalie’s Story,

is one of the novels featured.

 

Amazon

Apple iBooks

Barnes & Noble

Smashwords

 

Find out more about Talia and her books:

http://taliajager.blogspot.com

http://www.facebook.com/taliajager

http://www.twitter.com/taliajager

http://amazon.com/author/taliajager

 

 

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Indie Chicks Spotlight: Carol Davis Luce


SELF-TAUGHT LATE BLOOMER

Carol Davis Luce


My motto is, “If I can do it, anyone can do it.” I wasn’t born to write. I didn’t aspire to be a writer from the time I could hold a Crayon. I could, however, draw, and make things take shape through form and color on paper and canvas, and that’s the path I traveled well into midlife. The artist’s life opened up my eyes and mind to expression and sometimes stories through composition on that blank eighteen by twenty-four inch stretched canvas. Then one day it changed.

            As a voracious reader, I was content to read what others wrote. I admired those writers who had mastered the craft. I was happy to dwell in their world for 300 pages, to laugh, cry, and be enlightened and surprised. Until one day when I closed a book by my favorite author and felt something was missing. The novel was a mystery/suspense with elements of romance. The suspense was killer. The romance, however, was lacking, missing those subtleties that resonated with me. I wanted more. The promise of romance was there, but fizzled somewhere along the way. For me, it wasn’t about graphic sex. It was about sexual tension, passion, love. After searching unsuccessfully for novels to satisfy my romantic suspense fixation, looking for just the right balance, I realized I had to write the book myself.

            Only I knew nothing about writing a novel, let alone a genre book with a sub-genre. So I went to the library and checked out a reference book titled, HOW TO WRITE A NOVEL. Easy enough, right? If dedication is easy, then it was easy because I was driven. My artist’s passion shifted to focus on the writer’s canvas. That canvas was structure, words, emotion, and truth. And the rest is history.

Well, almost.

I burned up two electric typewriters before investing in a computer. I checked out every book on the “book writing” reference shelf, and many grammar and stylebooks, and two years later, my 800-page opus, NIGHT STALKER, was finished—

Almost.

I learned about the important shaping process, without which most stories would be unreadable. Editing. The passion and pain of cutting and revising. Finding the jewels that lie buried in too many, or misguided, words. Three years and a dozen revisions later, 400 pages lighter, it found a home with a traditional publisher. Within the first few months of release, it went into three printings and became the flagship for the sub-genre “Woman in Jeopardy/Romantic Suspense” at Kensington Publishing.

            Where it started. . .

I left school at sixteen to marry my high school sweetheart. Six years later, as a housewife and mother, I channeled my artistic talent into sketching and painting, selling my work at a local art gallery. A quarter century later, I traded in my paints and brushes to hit the keyboard. Our three sons, not much for novel reading, are waiting for my books to be made into movies. That childhood sweetheart I married a lifetime ago is now my soul mate of 50 plus years. His encouragement fueled me, and his support allowed me to pursue my goals.  

            Going back to my motto of, “if I can do it, anyone can.” There has never been a more opportunistic time to try your hand at writing a book. Or taking the plunge and self-publishing. My decision to self-publish my upcoming suspense novels came about when I hit the proverbial brick wall after five published books. With a stalled career, I had a choice. Teach, or see my stories in print again. I chose the latter. My first self-published book is the short story trilogy, BROKEN JUSTICE, followed by my suspense novel, NIGHT WIDOW.

Agents and editors think they know what readers want. They don’t always know. Readers know what readers want, and they’re expressing their wants by buying books written by indie authors. Give yourself a hardy pat on the back if you’ve completed a manuscript, but the big applause goes to our devoted fans and readers. Without them, we would be nothing.

 

 

 

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Indie Chicks Spotlight: Christine Kersey


Never Give Up On Your Dreams

by Christine Kersey

I love to read and lose myself in a good story – forget all that is going on around me and be in the story with the characters. One day in 1997 I finished reading a novel by Joy Fielding and realized she hadn’t needed to be an expert in a particular field, like medicine or law, to write a good suspense story. This fact inspired me to try my hand at writing. It also didn’t hurt that we’d just gotten our first computer and I can type much faster than I can write longhand.

At this time in my life I was thirty-two and my youngest child was three. I also had three other children who were in elementary school. A stay-at-home mom, I was able to carve out some time to work on this project. At first I didn’t tell anyone what I was doing. What if I couldn’t complete it? What if I failed? After a short time I told my husband, mother, and sister and they were supportive.

I kept working at it, day by day, until after about four weeks I’d finished a complete novel. At that point it was nowhere near ready to be published, but I’d proven to myself that I could write a novel with a beginning, middle, and end. I continued working on the story, then put it aside and began working on another.

I gathered the courage to have a few friends read it and they all said they loved it. Encouraged, I decided to attend a conference called Bouchercon , which is for fans of mysteries. At the conference I mingled with published writers and talked to an agent or two. Afterwards I sent queries to several agents, but none of them were interested in my completed novel.

Shortly afterwards I started working part-time and didn’t spend as much time writing as I had before. When my youngest child started first grade I decided to go back to college full-time and earn my degree. Over the next four years I did very little fiction writing and focused on getting my education.

As I approached my final semester my schedule wasn’t quite as heavy and I decided to do some revisions on one of my two completed novels. When I felt the story was ready, I submitted it to a small, regional publisher. In April, 2004 I graduated with a B.S. in Information Technology. That same week the publisher got back to me and said they were interested in publishing my book, but first they wanted me to do revisions. Though they hadn’t offered a contract yet, I did the revisions and resubmitted the manuscript. They were pleased, but wanted yet more revisions. In 2004 the job market was down and I was spending a lot of time job-hunting, but I did the revisions as requested.

In October of that year I finally found a full-time position and within two weeks of starting my new job, the publisher got back to me and offered a contract. Needless to say, I was thrilled. Seven and a half years after I’d written my first book and I was finally getting published!

I was assigned an editor and worked closely with her. The book hit bookstores in July, 2005. I thought I was on my way. I had one book published with a real publisher, so now I was set, right?

The book sold reasonably well, but when I submitted another manuscript, my publisher decided not to publish it. Discouraged, I focused on my family and my job and didn’t spend very much time writing. However, I still read as much as ever. In fact, when the nook eReader became available I bought one and started loading dozens of books onto it. I was in reader heaven.

I’d had my nook for nearly a year before I caught on to the possibilities indie publishing presented. The book I’d published with a traditional publisher had gone out of print and I was able to get the rights back. That book, No Way Out, was the first book I made available as an indie publisher. The first month it was available I sold exactly one copy. But that one sale was very exciting. Since then I’ve published three more novels and have sold thousands of copies. I love that I have complete control over what I publish. I also love to read the work of other indie authors. There are so many talented people that are now able to publish their work.

I’m glad I didn’t give up on my dream to be published and am so excited at the endless opportunities that are now available. One thing I’ve learned is that if you persist in following your dreams, eventually you will be able to accomplish what you’ve set out to do, whatever it may be.

That three-year-old child that sat near me as I began my writing career is now a senior in high school. Whether or not I had chosen to continue writing, time inexorably moved forward. It’s never too late to follow your dreams, but why wait?

 

Visit my blog

 

No Way Out, about a woman whose husband disappears, is available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble 

 

He Loves Me Not is currently only available at Amazon, although if you have a nook, email me and I’ll send you a free epub copy.

 

Don’t Look Back is the sequel to He Loves Me Not and is available at Amazon as well as Barnes & Noble.

 

 

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