We are thrilled to announce the immediate availability of Beguiling Voices, the third book in the Glass Bottles series, by J Dark.
Never trust magic … or the people that hire you.
Fern Fatelli dives back into her job as a ‘trapper’, and is hired to kidnap a girl away from an abusive household — only to find that she’s delivered the child into a far greater danger than she could have ever imagined.
Beguiling Voices is available in hardcover, trade paperback, and digital editions. Signed editions are also available.
For a limited time this month, each of the first two books in the series, Best Intentions and Broken Bridge, will be available for 99¢.
This is Part 4 of a four-part series reporting on the “Why Haven’t You Written Your Book?” survey we offered last year. You can read Part 3 here.
I would consider my book to be a success if …
The answers we received showed a clear distribution of the responses. Here is how all of the answers ranked:
- I get it finished and published.
- I sell X number of copies during the first year.
- I get X positive reviews for it on Amazon/Goodreads.
- My friends and family all buy copies of it.
Based on these results, we might conclude that writers:
- are far more interested in actually completing their book and seeing it published than selling a specific number of copies or receiving a certain number of reviews. That sense of accomplishment appears to drive many writers more than any of the other factors we measured.
- measure a great deal of their success by looking at the number of copies of their books have been sold. Based on our experience, each author has a different number in mind. Some authors are satisfied if only a few dozen copies are sold, while others measure their success in the hundreds or thousands of copies. (Of course, what author would dislike that?)
- value review feedback. It helps them to know whether they have reached an audience and also what readers responded to — both positively and negatively. While a less-than-favorable review might sting, it can often provide valuable insights.
- would like to see those close to them purchase copies of their books, but this is not the highest criteria by which they will measure the success of their work. This makes sense, as we expect our family and friends to support us in our efforts (and many of them are probably getting free copies anyway).
The is Part 3 of a four-part series reporting on the “Why Haven’t You Written Your Book?” survey we offered last year. You can read Part 2 here.
I’m afraid to write (or submit) my book because …
A clear margin shows that the two highest-ranked responses held true for most authors, while the remaining three ranked very close together. Here is how all of the answers ranked:
- I don’t know if it will be any good.
- I don’t know how to distribute/market it.
- I don’t think anyone will read it.
- I’m afraid people will judge me.
- I don’t know how to turn it from a manuscript into a real book.
Based on these results, we might conclude that writers:
- suffer fears about the quality of their work. There are likely many reasons for this, the discussion of which is potentially fodder for (many) future blog posts. Certainly, however, the generic rejection letters returned by the vast majority of publishers are of little help, in terms of offering authors insights into why their story might have been rejected and how to improve in the future. One of the interesting things that we’ve observed in relation to this item is how many authors, after completing the milestone of publishing their first book, seem to feel the stress even greater with their second book, fearing that the same creative lightning won’t strike twice.
- don’t understand — or are intimidated by — by the process, even for self-publishing, of taking a story from completed manuscript to saleable format and then market it. Not all authors want, or have time to, develop the skill sets necessary to do this. This is one area in which publishers can add value for the author. Many authors can grasp the basic understanding behind what it takes to create a printed edition of a book, but generating a digital edition feels technical, complicated, and somewhat magical.
- are afraid that, once they have completed and published their work, they will fail to find an audience for it. This is why getting the word out about it (marketing and promotion) is so important (which, of course, leads back to #2). One way to reduce this fear is by finding your audience (and helping your audience find you) by talking about your book before it even comes out, to help create demand and develop an audience well before it becomes available for sale.
- fear what people might think about them or their work while reading. It’s no secret that stories often reveal as much about the writer as they do to the reader, so this can be a daunting fear for many authors. This can be tough to get past, “What will my friends and family think?” This is also, of course, why pseudonyms are a thing. This is something that authors need to be prepared for because, even if their response might be “That’s nothing like me! It’s just how the character behaves.” or the infamous “I based that character on someone I know …”
Next week, we will be looking at how authors responded to “I would consider my book to be a success if …“.
The is the second part in a four-part series reporting on the “Why Haven’t You Written Your Book?” survey we offered last year. You can read Part 1 here.
I would write my book if …
The answers we received ranked fairly close in terms of the numbers of responses received. Here is how all of the answers ranked:
- I knew someone would be interested in publishing it.
- I had more time to do it.
- I had a support group to help me along the way.
As the results were close across all three responses, we might conclude that writers:
- are looking for a return on their investment in time writing and editing their work by knowing that, at the end of that process, someone will be interested in making sure that it finds an audience.
- wish that they had more time to actually, well … write. Finding — or making — time to pursue their writing is perhaps one of the most challenging obstacles that authors (or, indeed, most creative people) face in this fast-paced, over-scheduled world.
- want someone to assist them, or at least cheer them on, during the creative process. While the act of writing is a solitary activity, it’s nice to know that there are others out there who share both the passion and the pain of the creative process.
Next week, we will be looking at how authors responded to “I’m afraid to write (or submit) my book because …”.
Many of us know people who have written — or threatened to write — books, but then those books never seem to materialize in a final form. Even after we started Paper Angel Press, and positioned it as an author-friendly platform for getting your written creations read, we still experienced the same hesitation among writers, even those with whom we had good working relationships. Why was this happening?, we wondered.
So, last fall we ran a survey with two different audiences in order to try to understand why writers don’t complete or submit their books. We also sought to understand how writers might measure the “success” of their work after it has been published.
In an effort to keep the survey as brief and accessible as possible, we offered only three statements for the respondents to complete:
- I would write my book if …
- I’m afraid to write (or submit) my book because …
- I would consider my book to be a success if …
During the course of the next few blog posts, we will share the results of this survey with you.
We hope you enjoy them and find them useful. Maybe you’ll see yourself in our results and ask yourself, “Why Haven’t You Written Your Book?”.
We are thrilled to announce the immediate availability of Broken Bridge, the second book in the Glass Bottles series, by J Dark.
Sometimes a broken bridge has to be crossed.
Talk about Byzantine influences.
Fern Fatelli is approached by a desperate father to find his daughter before something bad happens to her, only to find that the job is really a diversion made to have her owe a service to a fae lord.
Cobb, the fae lord, then contracts Fern, not as a finder, but as a wizard, and forces her to re-open the Anolyn way.
As this is going on, Cobb is deliberately obstructing her research, and, more sinisterly, sending creatures to attack her, all the while expecting results.
What does a girl do to get a break?
The first question I’d like to ask is about the book in general. If I remember correctly, Grimaulkin is written for Young Adults?
Yes, mostly in the high-school plus range. The main character is 18 years old.
Did you find that focusing on that particular age range influenced the style of your writing?
Oh, definitely. My first draft, the one I wrote when I wasn’t paying attention to words, had a lot more detail and swear words than the final version did. Since the time period is in the year 2000, I didn’t have to worry about modern lingo and slang, as I was familiar with the slang at that time.
So, why 18 years old for the main character? Was this a deliberate choice for the character? Or did you feel that the character “evolved” to be 18 as you created the story?
I wanted him to be at least at the age of consent, because. in this book, and in subsequent books, there will be an awful lot of sex talk. Boys that age think and talk a lot about sex, and I wanted to make sure that I didn’t shock the reader — or their parents — by not having characters be at least at the young adult age.
That makes sense. Do you see this as a series of books, rather than just a single story?
I’m working on the second one now. There’s a third one in my mind, at least. I want to culminate in a relationship between him and Scott, so there will be at least three books in total.
You have another series you’re writing, called War Mage. I’ve read it, and liked the great detail in it. In Grimaulkin, the magic feels very similar. Do both series take place in the same “universe”?
Yes and no. The magic systems are the same, but in Grimaulkin‘s universe, I’m trying to keep out the extra little beasties, such as vampires and werewolves. The magic is similar to how magic would work in the real world (which I believe it does), but on an instantaneous basis. For example, I do believe that magic works, but only if the Universe chooses to let it work for your own higher good. In Grimaulkin‘s universe, it works, but as blatant obvious workings, not subtly, as it does in our own world.
I noticed that Grimaulkin has a very different opening, with the main character being released from prison as the book opens. What prompted the choice to start at his release?
I initially wrote Grimaulkin as a coming-of-age story, starting from when he was a little child and growing up, how he became strong in magic, and how he learned at his aunt’s knee. But it was so boring. Then I tried to write some prison scenes, but they were just too rough. He was getting beaten up all the time. So, I wanted to start from a place where he was a new person, changed from the old child that he’d been, and contrast that with his family, how Evie (his sister), would accept him for whatever he was, however he was.
War Mage a very rich background detail. In comparison, Grimaulkin has a very sparse background, with just enough detail to get a general idea of the setting. Was this a deliberate choice to make the story stand out more?
Sort of. I was writing about places I was familiar with — I mean they’re right down the street from where I live right now. War Mage, although still within an hour’s drive, was unfamiliar territory. I also typically write without much detail to setting, because I want the characters to drive the narrative, and I want the reader to pay attention to the characters and their actions.
There are some intense scenes in Grimaulkin. How close to personal experiences of your own do these scenes come? Did that make it difficult or easy to include those scenes in the story?
A lot of those scenes come from the emotions that I feel, not necessarily the action. I was more trying to find the scene to fit the emotion, rather than actually finding the emotion to fit the scene. I’m a method writer, and put myself in the shoes of my character. Although a few things come from my own experiences — such as getting bullied in high school — I hold onto the emotion and look for scenes that will express it.
A book almost never goes smoothly. What was the most difficult part of writing Grimaulkin for you?
I had problems right in the middle. When the first body shows up dead, I said to myself, “What do I do now?” I am an organic writer as well — a “pantser” as they’re called, or a “discovery” writer. I write to see what’s next in the story. I went back, reread it, and thought, “Well, I’ll just add in another demon.” So, the second half of the book flowed from there.
The other hard part was the ending. I knew what had to be done, but I kept writing it too short. I talked to my beta reader, who gave me some ideas which I used, and it came out much better. Organic writers have a habit of writing short, to the point endings, because it’s, well … the end.
With having two series, War Mage and Grimaulkin, do you find that ideas might start as an idea for one series and, on occasion, become a better idea for the other series?
Yes. In War Mage, Brent has a “knack” — a limited telekinesis as well as his magic. Mike doesn’t have that additional knack; he just has an excellent memory. But as we talked about before, the magic systems are the same, in general. In addition, War Mage is more military-based, and is a whole different world than Grimaulkin, which is the civilian world, and four years before War Mage takes place. Some of the ideas cross over, but I try to keep them fresh and original, not knowing if the same person will read both books and notice I’m reusing stuff.
When you write stories like Grimaulkin or War Mage, do you find that it comes in spurts, or more in a continuous period of writing?
The muse usually grabs a hold of me for days — if not weeks — and does not let go. I’ve found that if I try to write things in spurts, that I lose the context of the story and have to re-read what I’ve done. That turns into (more) editing of what I’ve done. I wrote Homecoming in one month, and Grimaulkin, this version, in just under a month as well. Grimaulkin has been in my head for three years.
There are a lot of nascent authors out there. What would you give them as advice?
To write. To not think about writing. To write the story, however it comes out, and not care who will see it, but that it’s yours, and it needs to be told.
This is probably one the most common question asked of authors: What made you decide to become an author?
After working for 23+ years in the fitness/yoga/wellness industries, I had decided to write a book about creating a career in those areas. I had begun that project when Sex on Fire demanded to be written.
You book is a very intense self-exploration of how trauma is begun and perpetuated over time. How did you step from recognition to writing?
I had struggled a lot with elements of shame in my trauma experience, and it took me years of different therapy modalities to personally get beyond the shame, and then there was another layer of fear when I wrote down and verbally shared many elements of my story in a small women’s circle about a year before I began the formal writing process. I used a couple of voices in the book: teenage/young adult Leah, and adult/healed Leah. Using multiple voices allowed me to write both the experience as well as the recognition. They both had to be there for the book to be written.
Your background in Personal Training seems a recurring theme for you in the book. Did personal training help with possibly recognizing the developing trauma, or did it provide a place of stability to recognize and come to terms with your personal experiences?
Personal training really came after the trauma, but it was a great teaching tool as I was doing the bulk of my healing work. Personal training was one of the arenas where I fumbled through creating personal and professional boundaries. Also, I found that having an outlet for body movement really helped me to stay grounded in my physical self. So even though one of my trauma symptoms was dissociation (mentally “leaving” your body until the trauma or flashback is over), I maybe didn’t suffer as many lingering or long lasting dissociative tendencies as other trauma survivors because of my strong foundation of bodily “connection.” I’m grateful for that. My body generally feels like a pretty safe place to be, and many trauma survivors really struggle to get to that place in their healing processes.
Sex on Fire: Finding Embodied Intimacy After Trauma is a very interesting choice for a title. What was the defining idea that triggered this as the title from other possibilities?
Frankly, I wanted something that would catch the eyes of potential readers surfing the shelves at a bookstore. It was harder to land upon the right subtitle, but after some help from the publishers, I think we have got it.
Writing from personal experience is very intensely emotional. with your revelations in the book, did you find the experiences easier writing in sequence, or was there less stress in writing them non-sequentially?
Sequence was the way to go for me, even though I had to go back and make a few additions when certain memories were triggered that had been stored away for a long while. For instance, I had almost forgotten about the interaction I had with a youth pastor. That particular experience was not as traumatic as the others, so I think I stored it a little deeper in my memory than the really painful stuff. Yet, as I was writing, I saw so many patterns of my interactions with adult men when I was a kid. It was like I one memory would trigger another with varying positions on the “yuck” scale. Being able to look back on those patterns actually helped me more with understanding some of my behavior as an adult on a deeper and more forgiving level as well.
As you detailed this personal journey, what was easiest to write about?
I really enjoyed recounting and showing myself my own power and independence when I moved with my daughter from Milan, Tennessee to Nashville on my own. It was a leap of faith, but I also had the hard work and smarts to back it up. The Universe helped so much — seeing that whole community be created around my daughter and myself in writing was very cool.
What was the most difficult part of your writing journey with this book?
Recounting the trauma pieces was hard, for sure, but I was surprised to feel a lot of fear and anxiety when I was writing about my relationship with my mother.
As your book deals with helping oneself find “good intimacy”, some might want to lump your book in the “self-help” category. To me it feels that “self-help” is a very catch-all term for books. Do you find this category accurate or misleading for describing your book?
I hope that my book is helpful for anyone who reads it. However, I did not set out to write a “self-help” book. I view most books in that genre as pretty surface-oriented. As in, “do these things exactly the way I, the author, have laid them out and get the desired result.” My book offers a non-clinical account of how several therapy modalities worked to help me heal myself. If anything, I hope the book communicates that healing is possible, shows some good examples of what the reader might expect if he or she were to try out some of the tools, and encourages that trauma sufferer to search and try stuff until she finds her unique way through the pain and emotions to a level of wholeness she may not have experienced before.
Finally, while this book is primarily aimed at women, would you recommend men read it also?
Men who have suffered sexual trauma or who have partners (male, female, trans) who have suffered (trauma does not discriminate between gay and straight relationships, the relationship behavior holds the same patterns) sexual trauma can really benefit from this material. My husband had to do a lot of “behavior decoding” with his own therapist while I went through a lot of anxiety about trusting him and getting close to him at the beginning of our relationship. This book can shed a lot of light on how it really feels to open oneself to a safe relationship after trauma, regardless of which partner had the trauma.
By your own admission, you say that you came late to the writing game. What prompted you to start and want to get published?
I was having a rough go of it back in 2006 when, on a whim, I got into the online game City of Heroes. When I joined, this group called “Futura Force” that had these players, “Kill Favored”, and “Electroidium” that got me interested in posting short little stories on the forums. Then both of those players started talking about “National Novel Writing Month”, and how they were going to participate because they liked writing. I’d had a taste of doing it and decided “why not try something new?” The rest, as is often said, is history.
What led you down the path to your first novel, Best Intentions? Were there any specific inspirations for it?
My daughter. We’d lost a good friend recently and that got me to thinking about what people leave behind. A story seemed like a way to give my daughter something special, and leave something behind when it’s my time to go. She wanted me to try and publish it after reading it through, so I got an editor to clean it up, then submitted it to Paper Angel Press. I was shocked when the contract was sent.
How did that feel? What advice would you give to other first-time authors based on your experience with the entire writing and publishing process?
It felt amazing that I actually finished a story and had it to share. For first time authors, go for it! It’s a tough road, and you need to expect rejection, nothing worth doing has instant gratification associated with it. If you really want to be an author, be ready to put the time and effort in. That doesn’t mean 50 gazillion words. Often it means just sitting down each day and writing a paragraph or two just to keep the story building and learn to be consistent.
What have you find to be the most exciting part of being a published author? What has been the most difficult or challenging?
The most exciting part is right next to me at the moment. I look at this book with my name on it and keep asking how it is that this author has the same name as me. That kind of goes with the most difficult too. You write a manuscript, it gets accepted, and suddenly you have a book, and now you have to write another. Will it be good enough? Will it be better than the first one? Will this be what it’s like each time with a new book? It’s easy to get neurotic about writing, and for me, who is a bit neurotic anyway, it’s hard to keep from spiraling down that hole. I want to get feedback on my writing, so I can do better with each story. It’s kind of hard to get that starting out. No one knows your book and when you don’t have friends that read, good, critical feedback is rare.
How do you write? By that, I mean, do you have a set schedule or do you wait for inspiration to strike?
I’ve never had much luck with trying to build a plot. I find writing “off the cuff”, letting the story develop without a plan, works best for me. I have a goal of X words a day, so I can learn consistency of writing. I’ve had layoffs of time without writing a thing in the past, and I find that my skill and feel for writing erodes without practice. So, I try to be consistent to learn more about writing and try to improve my skills.
What do you see as your next milestone achievement in being an author?
Someone once said you’re only as good as your last book. Each story is a milestone, and it’s that story that becomes the current beginning, and end, and judgment of your storytelling skill. It’s not so much a milestone as a new beginning each time. And each time I want to do a little better. Better characters, story, dialog, background, emotion. It all creates the story. My milestone is the next book, and that the next book is better than the previous one.
Best Intentions is the first book in a planned series. Do you have any other books you would like to do?
I plan to keep writing until I can’t any more. As for the Glass Bottles series, there are four planned books. I am collaborating with some other writers on a cyberpunk-style story, and with another in an urban fantasy theme. I am really excited by them and want to see where each story goes. I want to explore everything I can. One nice thing about writing is that there is no mandatory retirement age. As long as I can write, I can write, and share stories.
What makes a story interesting to you—both as a writer and a reader?
Like anyone, if it catches my imagination, I’ll enjoy it. A story has to involve the reader, and invite them to turn the page and read what happens next. I enjoy most anything. I have a preference for stories that make me think, and feel, as I read them. As a writer, I want to make people think, and at the same time, write so that they have a visceral reaction to the story. I want to engage them so they can feel the story, enjoy the highs, and lows, the stress and tension, and relief. In essence, I want to make the story real.
Are there any writers who were major influences on you: in terms of style, theme, or story?
Any book I’ve read has probably influenced me one way or another. Likewise, anyone I’ve collaborated with, or currently am collaborating with, has influenced me. I’m an unashamed borrower of anything the feels right. Every story comes from parts of imagination and memory. I’d never write if I couldn’t read. Seeing imagination in print fires my own imagination with ‘what if’ all the time. Anything can be a prompt, an idea for a story. A story could be the start, or something I see, or hear, or smell. Anything’s a possibility, you just have to give yourself permission to dream, and to write that dream onto paper, or a computer.
What inspired you to get into writing?
I was always a voracious reader. I had been surrounded by books since childhood, and my mother was always a big reader. In junior high, I started reading “adult” authors like Stephen King and Sidney Sheldon, books my mom read. I finished The Shining and I thought to myself, I can write like this. So I started writing fan fiction for a few TV shows—this was way before fan fiction was a “thing.” My first original novel was written during the summer from 8th to 9th grade, and really improved my typing skills. Then I entered a contest and won an award. I was hooked.
How did you get your idea for your book? What in the development of the idea made you feel the need to write it as a book?
Homecoming was presented to me in a dream about a soldier who could shoot fireballs. I was playing a character named Combat Medic in a game online, and it must have blurred into the possibility of the soldier knowing magic. I woke up and wrote down the dream immediately. Then I started thinking of what ifs. What if it took place in Afghanistan? What if he comes home on leave?
Most of my ideas come from my own thirst for revenge. I see injustice, or I have had injustice done to me, so I write it out as catharsis.
I’ve found that stories never seem to flow smoothly. There are days where it just seems to leap from thought to paper, and other days where it takes seven or eight attempts to get the scene right. What portions or scenes were the hardest to get the way you wanted?
I’ve discovered that I am better at being a pantser than a plotter. I’ve tried both. When I plot, I feel like I’m shoehorning the round story peg into a square pre-defined hole. When I do that, everything is a problem: the dialogue, the description, the setting, because I have to get it “just right” on the first go-round. When I just let the story flow, I get to a part that the muse doesn’t care about and I say, “Worry about tha during the edit.” I flag it somehow with << more cowbell >> or INSERT MORE COWBELL HERE.
Homecoming, the War Mage prequel if that’s the correct to describe the book, takes place in Worcester, Massachusetts. You do an amazing job of describing the opening scene. Is that location something that comes from your own memories?
Google Maps is your friend! No, really…I live in New England, and one suburb of New England looks like many others. Google Maps helped when I needed to picture the exact streets, the placement of the buildings. I could, if necessary, drive there, since it really isn’t that far.
I prefer to write some places that I have pictures of. War Mage, the next book in the series, it takes place in Afghanistan. I’ve never been there (and have no plans to go there). So I have maps, and a few picture books, and other pictures from websites saved in a folder.
What do you see as your strongest ability as a writer? How does that affect your writing style?
I think I have a good ear for dialogue. Because of that, I try to put the story in dialogue. Also, I was trained as a journalist, so I’m used to keeping paragraphs short and concise. Because of that, I don’t write too much in description or setting, and I suffer often from “talking head” syndrome—when characters are talking in a vacuum. That’s something I have to watch out for in editing.
It’s been said that every author has authors that they look at as inspirations. Do you have any? If so, what influence do you see in your writing?
Stephen King, especially when he uses new paragraphs and italics for thoughts. Mercedes Lackey introduced me to women who wrote male heroes. Charles Dickens in the art of the cliffhanger.
All authors have things that they have to help them concentrate on writing. Where and when do you like to write? I know that Steven Radecki says he prefers a location that’s quiet, where he can lose himself in his imaginary world. What are your favorite conditions for writing?
I have been blessed with a 10-room colonial house, so there’s plenty of places to hide. I have two computers, a Mac in my cellar that I’ve named “Hemingway”, and Windows on the main living floor named “Asterisk.” I like the option of music. I often listen to AC/DC or Two Steps From Hell, or action movie soundtracks like 300 or the SiriusXM station for soundtracks. That’s usually for action sequences. For general background music, I will produce a playlist for each novel as I go along.
One thing I absolutely need is no one else to be in the room or my immediate vicinity. I can’t write with an audience. So coffeehouses are totally out.
Characters in any book are a mix of deep background and just a passing note or two as they wave or say hello to the main character. Do you find that creating a background for these peripheral characters helps with developing the story, or can a peripheral character be over-developed for their purpose in the story, and detract from it?
For War Mage and Homecoming, I kept small, tiny notebooks of each character, major and minor. It included their background, family, thoughts about current events (in 2004-5). For the novel I just finished, Grimaulkin, I didn’t bother with that at all. I kept a general “novel notebook” instead, and as I wrote, I would take note of things said in the book that I could refer to later.
That being said, I found that the extensive background development of minor characters was a waste of time. I didn’t use half of the information that I created. I never went into Lori’s detailed sex life, though I had plotted it out in that notebook. It was tossed away with a mere mention that she was promiscuous.
I believe that if a peripheral character is overdeveloped in the story, then maybe the story needs to be about him/her.
Let’s switch to the other side of writing, and that’s appearances. What’s it like to go to a book sale, or a Convention to support your books?
There’s a sense of comfortable camaraderie. You’re all writers. Some are out to make money, others are out to display their art. But all of you have something to teach each other. If it’s not about how to sell at conventions, it could be how each writer approaches his/her craft. I’ve learned a lot by watching one particular person sell his book assertively. Luckily, I’ve been with people who are supportive and not competitive.
Sometimes during a convention, there’s a Q&A for authors. What’s it like to sit in on that? Does the Q&A help with developing the next novel?
If the next novel hasn’t already been written, it gives you good feedback as to what the readers noticed. Maybe just a throw-away line made someone remember a particular scene.