Tag Archive | publish

Why I Write

Many people are under the impression that authors write because they want to be famous. This is true in some cases. However, that isn’t always the case. Some do it to supplement their income. Others do it just for the joy of writing. Many do it because they feel they have something to share. For me, the reason I write is personal.

Growing up, I was told I could do anything I set my mind to. But each time I made a decision on what kind of career to pursue, someone in my life told me why I shouldn’t.

“You can’t go to school for journalism. No daughter of mine is going to be a filthy liar for a living.”

“I think becoming a radio D.J. is a bad idea. There’s no future in it.”

“You’ll join the military over my dead body.”

“You want to go to school to study literature? There’s no money in that. You need to be more realistic in your goals. Dreams don’t pay the bills.”

You get the point.

So, for years I went along with all of it and did what was expected of me. I went back to college and earned a degree in business. Any love of writing that I had left in me went dormant. I went about raising my daughters and going through my 9 to 5 days as if nothing was amiss.

And then in 2009, something happened that changed my life. I didn’t realize it at the time, but it was the start of something amazing. Something big. Humongous.

I lost my job.

Yep.

So there I was. No job and no way to help support my family. I tried to find a new job, but it was tough out there. I became withdrawn thinking I had disappointed my children and my husband. I cried almost daily and couldn’t get out bed. But after a few months, I discovered something that consistently seemed to cheer me up.

At the time, the Harry Potter movies (at least the ones I owned up to that point on DVD) played 24/7 in my bedroom. I watched them over and over – and over and over and over. They made me smile. They gave me hope. And they gave me an idea.

I pulled out my husband’s old laptop and just began to type. I’m not sure where the words came from, or the story for that matter, but they started to flow nonetheless. It began to develop into a narrative about a girl who discovered an ancient secret that was handed down from mother to daughter. Her newfound powers were to be used to save the world and her family. And since my oldest daughter’s birthday was coming up, I decided that I would finish it and give to her as a birthday gift.

When I finished, I thought the story was brilliant.

Looking back, the story was crap.

But I wrote it. I wrote every single word. I poured my heart and soul into the story, and in the end I dusted away any of the cobwebs that had gathered in my brain throughout the years. My juices began to flow and I wrote another book. Then another, and another, and another.

And then those same people who discouraged my dreams early in life came back and said all the same things.

“You can’t make any money writing books.”

“So after you write this book and get it out of your system, are you going to quit writing and get a real job?”

“Don’t you think your time would be better served cleaning your messy house than writing books? It’s not like you’ll ever be famous.”

But this time, I didn’t listen. I smiled politely and walked away.

Why did I continue to write? It wasn’t necessarily to become famous, or make a lot of money, or even to get noticed – although those are all nice goals.

It was because I’m not just an author. I’m also a mother to three amazing young ladies. They look to me for guidance in life – a role model to show them how life should be lived. And what kind of role model would I be if I gave up on my dream?

“Don’t do as I do. Do as I say.” I heard it a lot growing up – almost daily. But as the years passed, I realized that it was some of the worst advice anyone could have ever given me. Actions speak far louder than words. My daughters look to me to learn how to deal with life’s situations through my actions and reactions. Because – come on – let’s get real. How often do our kids really hear what we have to say?

I write because I want to show them that following your dreams isn’t folly. It’s important. It’s the dreamers in this world that have given us movies, books, music, television shows, new medicines, prosthetics, art, and a whole slew of other things that are important in this life. Einstein was a dreamer as was Edgar Allen Poe. They all dreamed of giving the world something we’d never seen before. Where would we be if they had given up?

My 2 oldest daughters

My 2 oldest daughters

My daughters need to know that failure happens. People fail every day. But if you get up each time, dust yourself off, and keep moving you haven’t truly failed. The only time you really fail is if you stop trying.

I have one daughter who dreams of one day working in TV, film, or Broadway as a make-up artist. I have another daughter who wants to become a pastry chef. Neither of these are “practical” goals. Some might even say they’re unrealistic or impractical. But why should that stop them from following their dreams?

My youngest daughter

My youngest daughter

So I continue to write – push ahead – improve my craft in an effort to make my children proud and show them how to succeed in life through example. I don’t need to be famous. I don’t need to make a million dollars. I only need to show them my resolve, and then maybe…just maybe…one day I can show them how that hard work pays off.

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I am Not a Bestselling Author – But I am a Success

Far too often, people consistently look back at their lives and focus on the wrong things. They dwell on abuse, financial pitfalls, break-ups, or just the unfairness of life in general. I know. I’ve gotten hung up on every single one of those things myself. But over the years, I learned a valuable lesson. And I’d like to share that with you here.

My entire life has been one wrong move after another. In my early years, I made a lot of wrong turns and tended to be rash when making decisions. As I grew older, I tried to rectify that, but it seemed that bad luck just seemed to follow me no matter how hard I tried.

I was beginning to think I was cursed.

But then something happened. Something wonderfully – awful. And it changed my life.

I got fired from a job I hated.

Yep. I got fired.

At the time, I was thrilled (I really, really hated working there) and simultaneously thought it was the end of the world – that I was an incredible failure and had let my family down. Here, I was a smart, intelligent, well-educated woman whom – for the next 9 months – was unemployed and couldn’t find a job to save her life. And to top it off, my husband was having a difficult time acclimating to civilian life again after a deployment and was suffering from anxiety, depression, and PTSD. His work prospects weren’t great, and he took a graveyard job cleaning up parking lots.

Paying the bills became difficult. At one point, we went 4 months without hot water. Taking showers became a whole new kind of adventure. I boiled water every night so the kids could bathe. A friend paid our past due electric bill so our lights wouldn’t go out. We tried our hardest to make things as transparent for our children as we could, but it wasn’t easy.

It was one of the lowest points of our lives.

With only days to spare and on the verge of having to live in our mini-van, we managed to move out of the rental home we loved and into a cramped apartment we hated with neighbors who were the epitome of awful. We ended having my husband’s GTO repossessed and nearly filed for bankruptcy.

I became withdrawn and stopped hanging out with people I cared about. I kept myself secluded, not wanting people to realize how bad it had become. I kept my friends and family away so they didn’t see what a failure I was.

Now, look. I’m not trying to get you to feel sorry for me. Quite the opposite actually. Just bear with me.

It was during this very bleak time in my life that I rediscovered my love of writing. I used to write all the time when I was younger. Poems, short stories. I used to love the release it gave me from whatever thing I was going through at the time. It was like my own, personal therapy. And since money was extremely tight, and my oldest daughter’s 15th birthday approaching, I decided to give her something different that year.

I wrote her a book.

I called it “Schuyler and the Saga of the Sages”. It was a medieval fantasy about a girl who realized she had magical powers that had been handed down through the women in her family. I loved it when I wrote it. Looking back at it…it was god-awful. But writing that story – spending all my free time on allowing the words and characters to flow from my head onto the pages on that hand-me-down laptop – it gave me a sense of purpose. Like something had been missing from my life. It had taken those cobwebs in my brain and dusted them away.

I was hooked.

I needed to keep writing.

After 9 months, I managed to find a temp job in a call center. I was told that I was over-qualified, but I didn’t care. We needed the money, and I was willing to work as hard as I could to be the best phone representative I could be.

During this time, I came up with the idea of Dusty and Jack and quickly began developing their story in my head. I spent my lunches and evenings (after the kids went to bed) working on “Haunting”. I quickly realized that I was on to something and couldn’t get the story out on paper fast enough.

Once it was done, I revised it, edited it, and revised it again. It was a never-ending process while I tried to make the story as close to perfect as I could. My husband deployed again. He was off to serve his country, and I was left to raise 3 girls on my own. It made finding time to get any writing done difficult, but I always managed to find time.

Then one day while browsing the Internet, I discovered a contest called “Reader’s Favorite”. I could submit my manuscript, even though I wasn’t published, and have it critiqued and judged. I knew I wouldn’t win – after all – I was a nobody. But, I thought that I could use the critique to develop my writing. So, I went through “Haunting” one more time, made sure it was perfect, and submitted it before the deadline.

And then I forgot all about it.

I went about my days working 40 hours a week and taking care of my daughters’ needs. I was hired permanently at the call center and was promoted to supervisor in less than a year. That was when I began outlining the sequel to Dusty and Jack’s story.

And then I received an email stating that I was a finalist in the “Readers Favorite” awards.

Whaaaa???!!!!!

I freaked. I thought, no way! That’s not even remotely possible.

And then I calmed down. Just the fact that I was a finalist gave me confidence that maybe – just maybe – I could do this. Maybe I could do this writing thing on the side and make something of it.

And then the day came to announce the winners.

My finger moved down the computer screen until I got to my category. There were gold, silver and bronze medal and 2 honorable mentions. When I saw my book and my name in the silver medal spot, I thought I was hallucinating. My body went numb. And I began to cry.

My silver medal

My silver medal

The past few years had been difficult. We had struggled financially – nearly hitting rock bottom. And it almost destroyed us. But we kept pushing forward. And here I just won 2nd place in a competition where the other 4 finalists were already published. My self-confidence shot up. And for the first time in years, I felt invincible.

That was in 2011.

In 2012, I was offered a publishing contract by a small, indie press and the rest was history.

Author, BJ Sheldon, and The Dusty Chronicles

Author, BJ Sheldon, and The Dusty Chronicles

Now, in 2015, I’m preparing to publish the final book in The Dusty Chronicles trilogy – the final chapter of Dusty and Jack’s romance. And I’ve also been working on a brand new stand-alone novel involving fallen angels.

Here’s where I try to make my point.

I’m not well-known. I’m not a famous writer. I’m not a New York Times bestselling author.

But I am a success.

How, you ask?

Because I am able to look back at all the bad times and see how far I’ve come. I don’t dwell on the past – I use it to me stronger. I use all of the shame and embarrassment as a learning experience – a way to inspire myself and others when it feels as though things can’t get any better.

Getting fired was the best thing that could have happened to me. If that hadn’t happened, I never would have started writing again, and I wouldn’t be where I am today. I followed my dreams, and they led me here.

I’m a success. It has nothing to do with money. It has nothing to do with fame. It’s because I am able to do something I love – something I’m passionate about – and it makes me happy.

And even though I’m not a bestselling author, that doesn’t mean it can’t happen in the future.

Tell yourself you can. Then do it.

Tell yourself you can.
Then do it.

So, no matter what’s happened to you, I’m here to tell you that anything is possible. Don’t let your mistakes dictate your future. You are more than your past.

You are a success just waiting to happen.

Young Adult Books and The Not-So-Young Adults Who Love Them

I often find myself in a bookstore these days. Perhaps it’s a necessary evil for my profession. Maybe I simply call it market research to see what’s out there and what’s hot. Or it could be that I tell myself I’m just browsing to get inspired. But most likely it’s just because I love books.

But if there’s one thing I’ve noticed as I peruse the aisles, it’s the influx of New Adult, or NA, books on the shelves. Their stories involve college age characters that will usually incorporate “hotter” story lines, allowing the writer to pursue topics or sexual situations that may be considered inappropriate for younger characters. There’s clearly a market for New Adult, and authors are taking advantage of the newfound enthusiasm in that particular genre…and rightfully so. In fact, I have quite a few friends who focus primarily on writing NA. I’m thrilled that these authors have created a niche for themselves and have given so many people a reason to pick up a book and read. To spin a familiar phrase – if you write it, they will come!

As for me, I am still in love with Young Adult. It’s the genre that got me to fall in love with reading all those years ago as a preteen. It focuses on an age that introduced us to first love, first heartbreak, complicated friendships, strained parental relationships, and searching for who we will one day become. And in high school, escape becomes vital to those kids that need a way to forget their own problems and issues. Being a teenager is rough – but reading about other teens who face, and defeat, adversity can offer the reader a positive outlet for their anxiety.

Now, there are those who will try to make you believe that YA books belong only in the hands of teenagers. They insist that adults who read YA are only looking for a simple and easy read – that these same adults are looking for uncomplicated stories that are nothing more than typical teenage angst. But I can tell you that those people are wrong There is nothing simple or easy about Young Adult. In fact, just head over to your local bookstore and pick up the hottest YA reads out right now. “Maze Runner”, “If I Stay”, “The Fault in Our Stars”, and “The Hunger Games” are just a few that prove that there’s nothing simple about the fictional life of a teenager. These characters are deep, complicated and thoughtful. They deal with real life issues like death, fear, love, hate, and injustice and handle it all with the grace and dignity that most adults would envy. They believe in the unbelievable and carry with them the unmistakable teenage spirit.

It isn’t so much about the age of those young characters as it is their attitude toward life. Think back to your own teenage years. You thought you’d live forever. You thought that you were indestructible. And when someone broke your heart or tore open your soul, you felt like your life was over and that you’d never be whole again. Yet, somehow you managed to bounce back each time and move on. As we grow older, we somehow become jaded and forget how to be as resilient as our younger selves. Bravery is something we seem to lose as we age, but I for one regain some of it each time I open my laptop and give my characters the strength to face anything that comes their way.

This is why I love to write YA as much as I love to read it. I’m able to discover strengths in my own characters that I didn’t know they had when I first began writing them. And somewhere inside those characters, I discover that I’ve placed a bit of myself in each one – the good, the bad, the fearful, and the brave.  I live vicariously through those characters every time I pick up a book. By reading (and writing) YA, we  can remind ourselves what it is to be young again – to be truly free from society’s idea of who we should be and how we should act. My characters say what I could never say at that age – do what I was too afraid to act on myself.

I recently reached out to a few of my friends and asked them why they loved YA and what it meant to them. Their responses were overwhelming, and I wanted to share some of them with you.

Author, Jo Michaels – “I get a kid’s perspective on things and get to watch someone grow up on the pages as they do things most adults secretly dream of doing.”

Author, Amy Miles – “Teens want to have a voice. To feel like they matter. That people hear them. Books give them an outlet to experience the world and feel like they can escape the terrible things that may be happening in their real life.”

Author, Eva Pohler – “I love YA because they usually portray a coming of age in which the protagonist comes into her own – becomes empowered. To me, that is very inspirational.”

Editor, Wendy Felber – “I read YA because there is a side of me that believes in the impossible possibilities. I think, as adults we are jaded, having to be so realistic that we lose the wonder and mystery, the innocence of not knowing our limits, of having no limits. In YA, I can live in those moments, remember what it is like to have no boundaries, and know that the older I get, I need to find some fiction to fit into my life and not live so seriously.”

Author, Chelsea Starling – “I admit to sometimes feeling jaded as an adult, and YA stories remind me what it feels like to be faced with responsibilities, huge mistakes (that seem so small now) and that soul-aching first love, which can never be repeated, no matter how we pine for it. It’s fun to live in those moments again, when all was wrong and yet so right with the world.”

Author, Elizabeth Sharp – “The characters aren’t jaded and they can still believe in magic. Their lives are still ahead of them, and everything that entails. And their emotions are so exaggerated – they love with all their heart, hate with every fiber, sorrow comes from their toes.”

Author, Morgan Wylie – “It’s about the ‘firsts’: First kiss, first breakup, first romance, etc. Especially as I read and write fantasy and paranormal, it’s also about the journey, about adventure, and escape…escaping the day-to-day things, the drama, the dullness – whatever it may be.”

So, to those who feel that YA books belong in the hands of teenagers – you are partly correct. The truth is that YA books belong in the hands of the young, both in age and in spirit.

HAUNTING’s One Year Anniversary

One year ago today, I released my very first book…a ghostly paranormal romance that centers around a teenage girl and the ghost that haunts both her home AND her dreams. Together, they search for answers in the mystery behind the death of a soldier from decades earlier.

To celebrate my 1 year anniversary, I’ve permanently dropped the price to $0.99. Get yours today!

Its sequel, IMPRINT-Book Two, releases 4 weeks from today on May 27, 2014.

 

http://www.amazon.com/Haunting-Dusty-Chronicles-BJ-Sheldon-ebook/dp/B00CLIATCS/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1398770475&sr=1-1&keywords=bj+sheldon+haunting

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How I Got Here (or How Twitter Changed my Life)

Edits are underway. The cover art should begin in approximately 4 weeks. There are book signings to schedule and gift baskets to organize for raffles. These and a hundred other things are all parading through my mind as I prepare for one of the most exciting moments of my life…the birth of my book, “Haunting”.

As I take a much needed break from reviewing edits from my incredibly brilliant editor, Jennifer, I look back at the last few years and remember how I got here.

The year 2009 was rough. But I pulled myself up by my bootstraps and began to do something I hadn’t done in years – write. The first book I wrote was for my oldest daughter’s 15th birthday called “Schuyler and the Saga of the Sages”. At the time, I thought it was a brilliant piece of work. Looking back at it now, I realize it was a great concept with wonderful possibilities…but was horribly written. Why?  I was out of practice. But writing that book gave me the opportunity to clear away the cobwebs in my mind and start all over again. It reminded me the importance of structure, dialogue and character building.

So, in 2010 I came up with the concept of “Haunting”. I didn’t outline it. In fact, I had no idea where the story was going until approximately the 3rd chapter. By then, the characters began to dictate where they wanted to go and how they wanted the story to develop. At that point, I was at their mercy. That may sound strange, but many authors will tell you the same thing. If you force your characters to do something they’re not meant to do, they just won’t cooperate on paper.

In May of 2011, I decided to enter my simple paranormal romance/thriller to Readers Favorite for their 2011 competition. If I’d been asked to put money down on my chances of making it to the top 100, I would have laughed in their face. Then came the email stating I was a finalist in one of the Young Adult categories. First, I questioned the validity of the contest. I mean, come on!  I’d just gone up against numerous other authors, many of whom already had books published…and I was a finalist? After the doubt came excitement. Then, finally, came the anxiety. I was a finalist! I began to daydream of winning and of the advantages it would give me in my search for a literary agent. Around this time, I opened up a Facebook fan account as a way to update all my friends and family on my progress. It was slow going getting people to “like” my page since I think most people thought the writing thing was just a phase.

The day I received the email with the final results was exhilarating. I clicked on the link and scrolled down the page to my category. Not expecting to see my name at all, I froze when I realized that my name was not only listed in the top 6 finalists, but I had been awarded the silver medal.  Second place…I had come in second place! Out of those six who placed in my category, I was the only one who wasn’t previously published. My lowly manuscript beat out numerous other books and authors. I was humbled beyond belief.2011-silver

That is when I began submitting queries to agents and waited for the offers to come rolling in. I received two requests for partials and one request for a full, but no offers of representation. After nearly 11 months, I began to wonder if I’d ever get published. In the meantime, I began to plan out and write the sequel to “Haunting”, tentatively titled “Imprint”.

Deciding it was time to take my future into my own hands, I set up a Twitter account in July 2012…something I swore I would never do. Then, in October of 2012, I was invited by someone with Wandering in the Words Press to submit my manuscript to them…and the rest is history.

Yep.  I got my publishing contract through Twitter.

So, now here I sit with a publishing date and looming deadlines. It’s all work and no play, but that’s okay. A woman my age doesn’t need that much sleep anyway, right? But all this work is going to be worth it in the end. The day I receive that  package in the mail with the first printed copy of “Haunting” and hold it in my hands, the smile on my face will take years to fade.

Hurry Up and Wait

All right folks. We’re approximately three months away from the release of my debut novel, “Haunting”. The first round of edits will be arriving soon, my stress level has started to rise and my sense of reality has taken a back seat to the possibilities of publication. All in all, I’m in the same situation as every other debut author.

See that empty spot? That's where "Haunting" by BJ Sheldon will go on library shelves.

See that empty spot? That’s where “Haunting” by BJ Sheldon will go on library shelves.

Now that the initial shock and excitement has worn off, the real work begins. Already working on the sequel, there never seems to be enough days in the week to get it all done. My husband and daughters as well as Facebook, Twitter, WordPress and my website have all been seriously neglected in lieu of going to a “real” job by day and writing by night.  Only God knows how I’m going to find time to do the essential things in life, like eat and sleep, when my lovely editor, Jennifer, starts sending the edits in the next week or two. I may need to invest in some serious under-eye-dark-circle creams and strong coffee to get me through the next few months. It’s times like this where I wish magic was real…where is Hermione’s time turner when I need it?!

I can’t really spend a straight 24 hours hunched over my laptop. While it’s a lovely concept to be able to sit and write all day long, it’s not realistic. So, time management is now rearing its ugly head and is forcing me to rethink my daily schedule in order to fit in more writing time and prepare for the forthcoming edits…reprioritize, if you will. The problem is this…everything demands my attention and wants to be first on my list. My children, my husband, the gym, laundry…you get the picture. But in the end, that’s what life is…finding time to do everything you need to do in a 24-hour day.

Being an Army wife, I am very familiar with the phrase, “Hurry up and wait.” Anyone who has ever been in, or married to, the military knows how true this can be. The same can be said for the process of publishing.

1) Receive offer of publication – Check

2) Accept offer of publication – Check

3) Wait – Check

4) Wait some more – Check

5) Work on the sequel while waiting for edits – Check

6) Continue to wait for edits and dream about what the final cover art will be – Check

For a person who has had a lifelong struggle with patience, the entire publishing process has proved to be pure torture, to say the least. But as I say quite often, this too shall pass. In a few short months, my edits will be complete, my cover reveal will be promoted, and my book signings will be planned. As each days comes to an end, I have to remind myself that I am another day closer to the end goal. People will download my book onto their eReaders or will be flipping through the pages of a bound copy of “Haunting”…and they will be reading the words that I lovingly and painstakingly put to paper night after night with nothing but a pad of paper and a used laptop. The characters created through my ridiculous imagination will come to life every time someone decides to read my story. And therein lies the reason I began to write again after all those years…to make people smile, cry and inspire each of them to search their own imaginations.

This is the face of 40.

This is the face of 40.

This year, I turn 41. Yes…41. Call me a late bloomer if you want, but here’s the point I wanted to make.  I’ve waited my entire life for this opportunity. I’ve essentially waited nearly 23 years to see my dream of becoming a published author come to fruition. Go take a look at yourself in the mirror.  How old are you? What are your dreams?  What’s holding you back?  Why are you waiting?  The time for excuses has passed, and now it’s time to take an honest look at where you want to go and who you want to be.  If a woman entering into “middle-aged” territory can finally realize her dream, why can’t you?

So hurry up and get started…just be prepared to wait.

Huge Announcement

I’m going to be a published author.

Yep. You read that correctly. I recently accepted an offer of publication by Wandering in the Words Press, an indie publisher.

How excited am I, you ask?

Let’s review the events of the day in question from the moment I received the news. It went a little something like this:

1)      I screamed

2)      I danced

3)      I sang

4)      I cried

5)      Repeated 1-4

All kidding aside, this is something I’ve worked toward most of my life. Someone once asked me what kind of legacy I wanted to leave for my children. My answer then is the same as it is now: I want to be the example of what hard work and persistence can achieve, and that it’s never too late to follow your dreams.

When I began to write as a child, it was a reflection of my favorite books and authors.  I dreamed that one day others like myself would read my work. Now, over thirty years later, that dream is coming to fruition. People, places and plots traipse through my mind on a daily basis and need to come out on paper before they start to seep from my ears. I can’t stop the words from flowing out of my brain and into characters and settings that need to be brought to life.

In approximately six months, people are going to be reading my debut, young adult paranormal romance, Haunting, and will be judging it on its merit. I’m simultaneously excited and terrified. The adventure has only just begun. There is a lot to accomplish over the next six months. So, I better get going and get started. I invite you to strap in and hang on. I hope you will all follow me as we go through this together.