New Year, New Story, New Plan

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So I took a break, after finishing the final draft of Moonlight and Moss (working title – but probably actual title, too!) to clear my mind before diving into Query Hell once again.

During the month of November, I participated in NaNoWriMo and wrote a little (for me) vignette about what Christmas is like in Woodley, USA. I really like how it came out! It’s been fascinating to find out why it snows every Christmas in Woodley, in a part of the country that ordinary doesn’t get snow at all. And, I found out what happens if you don’t have a wish to whisper into Santa’s ear at midnight on Christmas Eve.

Christmas at Vale House

I’m so pleased with it I’m going to polish it up and self-publish it as a gift to my readers. Someday I’ll also include it in the boxed set once the third Woodley novel comes out. The title is A Midnight Clear. Chronologically, it falls between Moonlight and Moss and the third volume which does not, yet, have a working title.

Now that I’ve got all the Beta-reader input back on Moonlight and Moss, I’m going to comb through it one last time to make sure it’s as perfect as possible before I begin submitting it for publication. I have received some great coaching on querying from people in the industry (particularly from Meg LaTorre at iWriterly, who gives a great online class on query-writing) and maybe I’ll have better luck this time finding good representation for traditional publishing.

That was my New Year Resolution for 2019: to find a new traditional publisher.

And here I must apologize to you, dear readers. Since I am, in fact, looking for a new publisher for “Moonlight and Moss,” this means it will take longer to hit the shelves than I anticipated, had I stayed with my current publisher. I feel terrible about this, because I know so many of you are clamoring for the next story. Believe me, I can’t wait for you to see it, either! But I really do feel these stories at least deserve a publisher which has distribution and marketing capabilities, and I must do right by them and find one.

To make it up to you for this delay, I’m going make the story I wrote about Luke, the proprietor of Motherboard Pizza, available for free. I can do this for the e-book version, anyway, though Amazon does require I put a minimum price of $2.99 on paperback copies. It includes a map of Woodley and the floor plan of the ground floor of Vale House, if that sweetens the bitter pill at all!

Also, I intend, in the interim, to give you some sneak-peeks at sample chapters of Moonlight and Moss, here on my blog. Stay tuned…

I know that’s not what you’re asking for, though, and I do promise to get “Moonlight and Moss” out there as soon as humanly possible. Without taking shortcuts on quality or on carefully reviewing publishers’ qualifications, of course!

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NaNoWriMo Preptober 2018

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Do you NaNo? If you’ve ever had even a hankering to try your hand at contributing something to the worldwide body of fiction, National Novel Writing Month is a good place to start. For one thing, you’ll get lots of support and encouragement, and afterward the whole idea of “writing a book” will seem far less daunting. It’s amazing, it’s true: you actually can do this. I am not kidding.

In addition, you’ll discover a community of writers you never knew existed all around you, and you’ll find out another thing I was amazed to discover: Writers, as a body, are really amazingly nice people! Most nerds are. (Oh, yah, if you’re a nerd, you’ll also find, among writers, a much higher percentage of nerds than you’ll find anywhere else. What’s your nerddom? Doctor Who? Night Vale? Local indy bands nobody else has heard of? Chances are, everyone in your local NaNo group will also have at least one of these interests – and some of them might share all of them with you. It’s mind-boggling!)

I started Moonlight and Moss as my 2017 NaNo project, though I knew it was going to run well over the requisite 50,000 words required to “Win” NaNoWriMo. This year, I am going to work on a short (well, short for me!) novella revolving around what it must be like to experience the Christmas season in Woodley, USA. I can well imagine that, at Vale House, Santa Claus really does slide down the chimney on Christmas Eve. He probably hangs around eating hors d’oeuvres (I wonder if Katarina will finally make tacos?) and drinking the special Christmas brandy.

This won’t really be part of the current “trilogy” featuring Cally, Ben, and Emerald, though they will be present for Christmas this year. Maybe someday I’ll include a bound copy of the story as bonus content with the boxed set.

Best of all, NaNoWriMo is for a good cause, whether your participate as a writer or by supporting an aspiring writer you know. Proceeds from donations to National Novel Writing Month provide the structure, community, and encouragement to help people find their voices, achieve creative goals, and build new worlds—on and off the page. Their Young Writers Program promotes writing fluency, creative education, and the sheer joy of writing in K-12 classrooms by providing free classroom kits, writing workbooks, Common Core-aligned curricula, and virtual class management tools to more than 2,000 educators from Dubai to Boston. For more information please visit their web site: NaNoWriMo.org

 

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Writing is a Collaboration

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Yesterday a lady said to me: “I think writing must be the hardest form of art. With painting or sculpture, at least you can see what you’re making but with writing you have to imagine it all in addition to writing it.”

My first thought was that writing is certainly easier for me than, say, basic arithmetic. Seriously, I get anxiety symptoms just thinking about adding two two-digit numbers! But I also found myself thinking that readers, also, have to imagine everything they’re reading.  Reading is not just a passive form of entertainment that is merely presented to you wholly formed: you are required, also, to imagine everything the written words are telling you.

I wonder why we do this? It sounds like work! Yet we eagerly take it on. It really doesn’t feel like work at all, to me, and I’m sure it doesn’t to you, either. We may be nuts, but we are happy nuts!

Storytelling, whether written or oral, is a collaboration between a storyteller and a listener. I don’t know about other forms of art, but this one, at least, requires input and the capacity to imagine from both ends, in order to happen at all. I find that very humbling. I recognize my responsibility to my readers – and I have complete faith they will not let me down on their end, either.

So I want to tell you flat out: Readers, I appreciate you! Without you, the art of writing would be incomplete. Your imagination, in addition to mine, is not just appreciated but necessary in order to make the story happen. Without you, your mind and your imagination, everything I write would be nothing more than a bunch of letters on a page.

 

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Luke’s Tale

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When I first created Luke, near the beginning of Seven Turns, I really didn’t mean for him to be anything more than a one-time walk-on character who would say a few lines, serve his purpose and exit stage left. Apparently he wasn’t satisfied with a bit part, though. By Chapter 24 he had decided to stick around, and had developed a personality of his own. I discovered he was into computer repair, gourmet pizza toppings, bad jokes and winding up the town elders. Who knew? Certainly not I.

As I began work on Moonlight and Moss I learned that he also plays keyboards and that he, well, he understands a lot of things about Woodley that most of its denizens just turn their heads and avoid talking about. When I ran into a few plot conundrums, I decided to interview him to get his perspective on the story. (I had done this with Seven Turns, at this point in crafting that story, as well. That time, I had asked Foster to tell the story from his point of view and, let me tell you, I was constantly worried I would end up in jail if I ever got pulled over and the cops found that notebook on me!)

Turns out, young Luke had quite a lot to say. He’s really a remarkable young man, and Woodley is more fortunate than it realizes to have him around. He took the ball and ran with it, and he not only helped me find the answers to the plot holes that had been plaguing me, he gave me a lot of other insights, as well, into what makes Woodley tick.

The fact is, all characters will do this sort of thing if you let them.

I found Luke’s voice so delightful, though, that I decided to write it up as a short story to give as a gift to my beta readers and my initial fans. This was my first foray into Self Publishing and, I have to say, it was kind of a rush! I can totally see why everyone is so enthusiastic about it. I don’t have any intention of making a profit from it at all, of course, so I have priced it at the absolute minimum Amazon allows. Of course, if you have Kindle Unlimited, it’s free with your monthly subscription anyway. Oh, and if you were one of my beta readers, I’ve already ordered you a copy – look for it soon in a mailbox near you!

I also put a map of Woodley and a floor plan of Vale House inside the front and back covers, because I thought fans of the series would appreciate being able to see those. I hope you enjoy it as much as Luke enjoys wild mushroom and artichoke heart pizza with cave-aged gorgonzola!

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It’s what they call timing…

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On Wednesday I penned the last lines of the sequel to “Seven Turns” (working title: “Moonlight and Moss“.) Looking at my Twitter feed in retrospect, I found it a bit remarkable that this happened at about the same time as the Launch Party for Seven Turns, and I wonder, now: is it just me, or if there really is some kind of synergistic synchronicity that happens when we write, whether or not we are aware of it?

Probably it’s just me noticing things that happen to be coincidental if you look at them in a specific light. (You may recall my blue funk, about this time last year, over the passing of the mighty Gregg Allman at about the same time I was penning the dénouement to Seven Turns.)

The fact is, I am making a deliberate effort to have this arc of stories about Woodley, USA come out approximately one year apart. I still lave loads of editing and adjusting to do, and then the beta reader phase to go through, and then the very special hell of appealing to agents and publishers to please, please, please take on Moonlight and Moss as a project but, considering how crazy my life has become since the publication of Seven Turns, I’m really only a couple of months behind the curve here. As any writer will tell you: a novel takes exactly as long as it needs to take to be completed: no more, no less. I think this little coincidence is a definite sign that I am at least almost sort of meeting that goal!

And, after all, this is part of why I started keeping a blog and a Twitter feed and a Facebook in the first place: to document the history of this contribution of mine to the world of literature, so that I and perhaps others might look back someday and say, “Oh, hey, did you realize…?”

As the equally (perhaps, someday) mighty Johnny Sinatra has lyricized: “I’ve seen it a thousand times before – it’s what they call timing.”

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Launch Party

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Kay Watley (editor of the Gray Area News and author of Making Corrections) and I at the Literacy Day event at the Zebulon Farm Fresh Market
Kay Watley (editor of the Gray Area News and author of Making Corrections) and I at the Literacy Day event at the Zebulon Farm Fresh Market

I thought I didn’t like “Marketing,” and maybe I don’t, but seriously, the marketing and networking stuff I’ve been doing lately doesn’t feel like work at all. I’ve been meeting so many wonderful people, and through them, other people. I’ll tell you what: Writers are Nice! I never really knew any, before, and I had no idea they were such great people. Maybe I have finally found my Tribe?

First off, on Saturday, I went to the Zebulon NC Farm Fresh Market, where a lady from my local writers’ coffee-clatch (via the Franklin County Arts Council) was hosting a booth for Literacy Day. I got to meet more fellow authors, some newspaper folks, and librarians … AND! I got a free cantaloupe! How can a day get any better?

Well, there was still more in store. Saturday evening, the long-anticipated Launch Party for Seven Turns went off at the Wake Forest Coffee Company, where most of Seven Turns was written (and where the first draft of Moonlight and Moss is about to be completed. I’ll blog separately about that later!) I had been sweating this for so long: I was so sure I’d forget something, or that nobody would show up, or that I would drop the cake…

Oh, yes, the cake! That came out great! I showed the fine folks at Sweet Traditions the cover of my book and asked: “Can you make a cake to look like this?” and they said “Challenge accepted!” I think it came out fabulous! (It tasted pretty good, too!)

I really could not have pulled it off without all the help I got, though. I am so grateful for the support I have received all along from the Wake Forest Coffee Company, where most of my writing gets done due to both the peaceful atmosphere there and (or, perhaps, especially due to) the great coffee. My wonderful husband, who speaks for a living, emceed the event so I could concentrate on signing books and sucking up to potential fans. My wonderful daughter operated the camera for the Facebook Livestream of the entire event. An amazing local band, Clairvoyance, provided background ambiance (to tell you the truth, they have provided much calm and inspiration all along for my writing at the coffee shop, where they play almost every Sunday morning.) Even my grandson took care of making sure everyone had a program and a door-prize ticket.

I was so nervous before this event, but now that I have safely got over this hump, I am hoping upcoming book signings (next up: Book Signing at Page 158 Books) will start to feel more like just going to work every day. Or, wait… maybe I actually hope I never start to feel like any of this is “just going to work!”

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Jumping the Shark

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Lately it appears to me that I am always going to have a point, in any book I write, wherein I feel I am totally jumping the shark. I find myself arguing with my muse. “What, are you crazy? People are going to just throw the book across the room when they get to this part. I can’t write this!”

My muse won, last time. When the story took a sharp left turn I had totally not seen coming, I tried to fight it. I did eventually end up writing it, though, and it took the story just where it needed to go. I had grave doubts at the time, but when I gave the third draft to my beloved Beta Readers, I asked them to please tell me at what point they rolled their eyes and/or wanted to just put the book down. They came back to me saying there really had not been a point where they’d rolled their eyes, and they really couldn’t put the book down at all and had lost a lot of sleep because of this. I said “Are you sure? Are you just being nice to me? What about that part where That Thing Happened? Don’t you think that was kind of hard to swallow? I think I’m going to need to at least tone that down a bit.”

And they said, “No! No, no, leave it as it is! That was perfect; please don’t change it!”

I seriously wonder if they’re going to be able to feel the same way with what’s going on in Moonlight and Moss right now. This scene is already jumping the shark, and the scene that comes after it is going to be the shark jumping the shark jumper while being jumped over, possibly by a grizzly bear, itself. Or so it seems to me. I am shaking my head the entire time I’m writing it, and my muse (I shall have to give him a name. How about Gus?) just keeps saying, “No, no, don’t worry, just go with it. You can change it later if you want to, right?”

Gus has been right before, so… Well, we’ll see.

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Press!

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I guess I expected to get some press eventually. I thought it would take a long time, months, maybe, of networking and hammering out press releases. Didn’t take that long at all, it turns out, and I don’t know whether to feel excited or overwhelmed. For one thing, the photos I’m using as “official author photos” are really kind of low-resolution and don’t have clear backgrounds and I’m finding I need a new one. I’ll post later about my Photo Shoot!

Meanwhile, my first interview ever as an author was by fellow Solstice Publishing author Nancy Wood.
Ms. Wood writes some pretty amazing mysteries, with a very unique twist – you can find her titles listed on her blog along with this article:  nancywoodbooks.wordpress.com/2018/05/21/meet-kim-beall/

Just a few days later I was interviewed by a really cool newspaper I didn’t even know existed. I’m glad I know about it now – this paper is right up my alley! It’s a local paper called the Gray Area News and it really does cover those gray areas that intrigue me so much. They didn’t ask me (as everyone asks Callaghan McCarthy) whether or not I believe in ghosts, but they did ask if I believe in UFOs! Gotta love it. Of course I subscribed as soon as I found out about them! Anyway here’s the article: greyareanews.com/news/local-nc/nc-author-kim-beall/

Really, I promise I won’t go on and on like this every time I get some press. I just had to blog about my first ones, because I was [am!] so excited about them!

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Final Edit!

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What an exciting phrase! My primary editor just told me she’s sent the final edit of Seven Turns to the Editor in Chief for…whatever comes next. Something about a proofreader. I thought that’s what editors did, but what do I know? Though it’s true that one more pair of eyes is always a good thing.

It’s definitely interesting working with an editor. One that isn’t me, that is. Having been an editor in a past life, myself, I know for a fact that one can absolutely not edit one’s own work.

But the most interesting thing was that, while I’ve heard all kinds of horror stories about how editors completely butcher manuscripts and ruin stories,  none of that happened to me. There was some stuff about commas and apostrophes, but that’s the bulk of it. I was asked to re-word a few awkward sentences, and my editor did offer suggestions on possible alternatives, but the final call was mine. All together a mostly painless experience, I would say. Certainly not as painful as They would lead you to believe, anyway. Never listen to Them!

Anyway, I hope this means I will have a release date for you soon. Watch this space!

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A High and Lonely Calling

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I remember, back when I first started writing Seven Turns, I had spent many years trying to kill my urge to write, trying to get practical and stick to “real” jobs. Then one day, with the, um, encouragement, of the really lousy current job market, I made up my mind to just do what I am meant to do: write fiction. To contribute something, to give something back, to the world of literature.

I made myself a writing schedule and I committed myself to sticking to it. I kicked Word and Scrivener to the curb (they had been drawing me down into a morass of eternal revision and rewriting for years – possibly decades) and I bought myself a composition book and a ten-pack of Bic Atlantis pens, and I went to my favorite local coffee shop. I sat myself and my notebook down at a little wooden table with a plain latte at my elbow. (I actually prefer black coffee, but I figured that was too cheap a price to pay to rent the table I was about to start claiming for six hours a day three days a week!) Before I knew it, I had written, as it turned out, the first three chapters of Seven Turns.

Walking out of the Wake Forest Coffee Company at the end of that day, walking down White Street to the municipal parking lot, I was over the moon. I mean I literally felt like my feet were not even touching the ground. Not only had I written, for a change, but I also actually liked what I had written!

But I had this deep, rending feeling of sorrow going on, too. Because I wanted to tell someone about it, and I didn’t have anyone to tell. I mean, yes, I could tell my family. Family will always be happy for you and congratulate you and tell you you’re awesome no matter what you just did. And that’s great! But I wished I had a friend who was also a writer, or some other kind of creator, someone who would know just what I was talking about when I said I was so far off Earth at the moment that I seriously thought maybe it wasn’t such a great idea to get back in my car and try to drive home. I wished – I really did – that the character Emerald in my story were real. She would understand!

I actually searched the internet for a bot that I could talk to and pretend it was Emerald or someone to whom I could really tell all the crazy things I was feeling. That was, in fact, what drove me to break down and start this blog. I had never before felt the need for one. Now I wish all my own favorite authors had been blogging back when they first started writing the books I love today. How fascinating it would be to be able to peek into what was going on in their hearts back then!

Since then I’ve made the acquaintance of a lot of fellow writers who might have been able to relate to what I was feeling that first day. But on some level, this blog still remains my “Emerald.”

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