Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Guest Post by A.C. James

I could use this opportunity for hawking my books randomly at writers who read Joe’s blog and may or may not read the genre that I write.

I could talk about craft or any number of writing tips that you probably already know. Although, I’m sure Joe or someone more experienced than me has already shared their knowledge more fluently than I ever could.

I could even tell you that I’ve been writing ever since I held my first crayon. After all, I was a very advanced toddler ;)

It would be wise to market my books and show you how much I’ve learned about writing. But I figure if you’re interested in learning more about me or about what I write you can visit my website.

The reason I donated to Tess Gerritsen’s War on Alzheimer’s actually had nothing to do with Joe’s generous guest post offer. While that was a very appealing incentive, Alzheimer’s disease has been a cause near and dear to my heart.

In fact, this February I’ll be releasing a poetry anthology called Poems With Heart. Its proceeds will benefit two charities. If you support heart related health or Alzheimer’s disease charities please check it out.

Besides sharing this cause with you, I wanted to talk about just one thing…

I wanted to use this guest post to say thank you!

When I was growing up books were a huge part of my life. I’d read them voraciously when I was grounded. And I was grounded a lot.

From high fantasy, to horror, to paranormal, and of course romance, I absorbed every word on those pages like a sponge.

Reading supported the creative outlet of writing.

And then life happened.

Books fell to the background.

Throughout my life, kind of like Hugh Howey, I did a lot of different things that produced a rather random resume. And like most people that are considered jacks-of-all-trades we’re good at a lot of different things but we’re masters of nothing. We’re really good at bullshitting our way through just about anything.

My work experience ranged from beta testing software to environmental activism.

I loved figuring out how things worked and why. I drove my catechism teacher crazy with my unrelenting questions and my first computer was a 286 :)

I was one of those kids that sat in a cracked vinyl chair in the guidance counselor’s office staring at the clock rather than listening to them prattle on about the future.

It wasn’t disrespect or boredom. I didn’t want to sit there one more minute. I wanted to go out and experience as much as I could. That’s why I’ve done so many different things. It wasn’t because I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up but I loved trying new things. I loved the journey.

Through that journey of living in three different states and over twenty moves, I carted a bunch of books. Those life experiences shaped my world view and my writing in ways that I’m eternally grateful for.

August of 2012 a major life changing event happened. October, I found myself reading The Angel by Tiffany Reisz.

That winter I found myself writing again. Writing couldn’t change what happened but it changed the way I viewed the situation and dealt with it. Suddenly, I realized that I’d been investing my energy in things that were out of my control.

What started as a blank page quickly turned into 50K before I discovered outlining and rewrote the whole thing. I hung out at the AW Water Cooler and received my first critique.

It was brutal, harsh, and it was exactly what I needed. Thankfully, they pointed me in the direction of this blog and the Write About Dragons website. Brandon Sanderson allowed one of his students to record his classes and my writing has benefited from watching his lectures tremendously.

Admittedly, I read more writing blogs than I should probably be allowed to considering my time should actually be spent writing. And Chuck Wendig really needs to stop blogging so much and cracking me up because he’s really tying up my valuable writing time.

I also joined two writing groups and started attending conferences. The gals at my local RWA chapter, the Pocono-Lehigh Romance Writers are a wonderful group of people. The books on my Kindle and by my bed started to reflect not only the fiction genres I read, but anything I could get my hands on to help me become a better writer. I’m also on a lot of loops that are very informative.

I started this journey wanting to find an agent and publish traditionally. Pitching at conferences, I never walked away from a single one without a request for pages or they wanted to see my full manuscript. My rejections weren’t just form letters. Some were depressingly positive or I was told that no one wants to hear about vampires—they’re sick to death of them at the moment. Oh, forget about zombies and shifters too. So show me something else and stick this manuscript in a drawer.

But I didn’t want to.

The more time I spent reading Joe’s blog, Dean Wesley Smith and his wife’s blog, David Gaughran, and Jane Friedman (among others), the more I discovered I wanted to go the indie route.

That’s not to say that if I’m ever lucky enough to get a print only deal or the right contract comes along that I won’t be open to it.

I’ve always been one of those people that when told they can’t do something, it only motivates them more. No one is ever going to drag you into leading the life that you’re meant to live.

And I’m not saying that one day I wouldn’t love to be able to monetarily justify the time I spend doing what I love. It’s just not how I measure success.

I think it was Stephen King that said if you write something that someone buys and you can pay a light bill, then you’re talented. I’m paraphrasing but you’ve probably read On Writing. Well I didn’t pay a light bill but I’ve made enough pocket change that I could buy a pedicure, a massage, and a few other things if I wanted to. Everything goes back into writing expenses like editing, cover art, etc. so I can continue to publish more books. I don’t know what Stephen King would think, but happy doing what I’m doing and I’ve met a lot of really incredible people along the way.

Finishing Let’s Get Visible, David’s book, was the final push that led me to experiment with self-publishing a short story. The first time I clicked publish was scary as hell.

Will people love it, will they hate it, or will they even download it?

But I’m doing what I love.

There’s nothing better than that.

Write because you feel something and you want to make someone else feel it too.

Would it be great to be a bestseller?


It’s just that success is measured in ways that can’t be defined by a sales report. Next month I’ll be doing a reading from my debut novel at Lady Jane’s Salon in New York. No one will even know my name. But I’ll be standing on the stage where some of my literary idols have stood reading their books.

My thanks goes to Tiffany Reisz for writing the books that helped me discover my genre even though I can’t help but throw paranormal into it. Her books got me through a challenging time in my life.

I’m grateful to Brandon Sanderson for allowing a student to record his lectures.

A huge thanks to Jane, Joe, Barry Eisler, Dean, Kristine, and David for their blogs and their books—from Be the Monkey to Let’s Get Digital and Let’s Get Visible.

I love the frog.

Thank you to fellow sysop Chuck Wendig for making me laugh my ass off on an almost daily basis.

Lastly, I’d like to thank Marie Force for the self-publishing loop.

I have way too many people to thank for the books they’ve written on craft. So I’m not even going to try.

What I’ve always enjoyed the most is the journey and you should too. Don’t let anything or anyone stop you.


tonyl said...

Nicely said!
Thank you. *Goes back to editing*

Jill James said...

What an amazing post. Books have helped me get through most of my life. They are the doorway that lets us escape our everyday life. Good luck with all your endeavors, A.C.

Colin M said...

Hi A.C.

Thanks for posting. I really enjoy hearing of what others have found educational and/or inspiring with respect to writing and self-publishing. As I am very new to fiction writing, I also like to hear of people's success who were once in my position. I checked all the sites and names you mentioned and book-marked them. I also checked out your website. You have a nice looking site, great covers and titles. It won't be long and you'll have a bathtub full of cash like Joe, although I know having fun is most important. It sounds like you are enjoying the ride.

Best of luck to go with your hard work.


Kim said...

Wow, great story. It really sounds like my life-- growing up surrounded by books, dabbling in writing early on, living in several states... and then rediscovering writing after a myriad of jobs.

For me, I have so many wheels spinning at any given time that writing is still a creative outlet and not a vocation yet. But I'm passionate about it. However, I also get excited about the written word, in general, so I edit and proofread... and actually do make a living that way.

Thanks for sharing such personal insights here!


Steven M. Moore said...

Just a comment on your crayon remark: I started writing around three or four. Loved comic books and tried to make my own, so my mother started showing me simple words to put into my balloons. One consequence was boredom in the early primary years along with having my hands whacked a few times for not making my letter like the teachers wanted (they forcefully taught penmanship back in those days...ugh!). Mixed bag on the nostalgic thoughts, I guess....

A.C. James said...

Thank you Joe for having me on the blog and thanks to everyone for commenting. Crayons aside which of course I meant nothing by... if I'm honest that was my thing too-comics and manga included ;)

Kathy Kulig said...

Great post, A.C. Books we've read throughout our lives have shaped or inspired our writing in ways we'll never know. There is no right or wrong way to publication. Only the best way for you. Keep following your dream.

Unknown said...

"Sick to death of vampires" - oh, the irony of that!

All the best, and thanks for the heartfelt article.