Tag Archive | write

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 I became withdrawn thinking I had disappointed my children and my husband.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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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.

Ever Wonder What I Sound Like?

I was recently interviewed by the lovely Amy Jones of YA Podcasts. If you’d like to hear the full interview, click on the link and download the MP3 where you can hear my man-voice (I like to compare it to Cathy Moriarty’s…well, maybe not quite THAT deep).

I discuss how I choose my characters’ names, why I absolutely LOVE writing Young Adult, what it’s like to balance being a writer and the wife of a US soldier, as well as listen to men as I read chapter 1 of the first book in my trilogy, HAUNTING.

Haunting: The Dusty Chronicles-Book One

Haunting: The Dusty Chronicles-Book One

And don’t forget to enter the Rafflecopter on the bottom of their page for a chance to win a Kindle version of HAUNTING. Don’t miss out!

http://www.yapodcasts.com

 

Inspiration is Everywhere

As a writer, people often ask me, “Where do you come up with your ideas?”

There are some who believe that authors merely sit in an office with a laptop in front of them and just come up with ideas on the fly…that somehow plots and story lines come to us as we pound away on the keys.

Wrong.

Truth is, most of us find inspiration in everyday situations. Many authors will sleep with a pen and paper next to their bed in case they wake up from an ingenious dream. Some will overhear a person say something clever, causing the author to think, “I should put that in a book.” There are others who will simply walk down the street, look up, and see a cloud that resembles a dragon, and voila…a story is born.

Boy wearing a hoodie. Artist: Remi Martin

Boy wearing a hoodie. Artist: Remi Martin

Inspiration is everywhere. I have often found that the best ideas come from the most unexpected places. I love strolling through antique stores and finding odd items and photographs that make me wonder what kind of story they can tell. My 16-year-old daughter will draw sketches that have been known to give me ideas for characters in my books. I’ve also been known to browse social media and find photographs or phrases that influence my creativity on that particular day.

Even people themselves are great walking-billboards of ideas. The way they look, the way they talk, what they say…I can’t help but wonder who they really are and why they act the way they do. I guess I have a way of constantly wondering what makes people tick – a student of human nature.

Women working in a haberdashery in the 1930's.

Women working in a haberdashery in the 1930’s.

But what I really love is discovering new places. Comic book stores, rolling hills, a deserted gas station, a downed tree, a long stretch of highway, a tire swing, or an alleged haunted hotel…who knows what kind of stories could have taken place there in the past…or even the near future?

And that’s where it starts.

I escape in to my mind and begin to contemplate the “what-ifs”. What if fallen angels were real? What if ghosts could really interact with people? What if time travel was real? If I could go back in time, who would I want to talk to and what would I change? What if the apocalypse happened tomorrow? What if the world suddenly changed? What if the future we fear actually happens?

Then, I take those what-ifs and put them together with the items, places, or people I’ve met along the way. That guy that works behind the counter at the local coffee shop? What if he was a demon? Or maybe a demon hunter. What if an entire town of people suddenly vanished and no one noticed? How will society function one hundred years from now? Two hundred years? What if everyone you loved was tragically taken away from you? How would you react? In the end, one idea ultimately flows in to another until the basic plot becomes words on a page.

There are currently 8 pages in a Word document on my laptop with ideas for future story lines. My next project was inspired by the hills that surround my home in South Dakota and the idea that they would make a great battleground for a an epic battle. The main character came to me after seeing a dark photo of a girl curled up on a sidewalk when I was browsing through Pinterest late one night. The best friend of the protagonist is a frumpy nerd who loves comic books and role-playing games…and just happens to be inspired by one of the funniest, smartest, sweetest, nerdiest guys I know.

The comic book in my hometown in South Dakota. Can you say “nerd-vana”?

Creativity can strike anytime and in any form, and I have to be open to it when it does. I have become quite good at taking the ordinary and turning them in to something that I would like to read myself.

Which brings me to this. For those of you who have always wanted to write, allow me to give you some advice.

1) Write. Stop making excuses. Even if you can’t write every day, just write.

2) Your writing doesn’t have to be perfect. Get the story on paper and worry about making it perfect later.

3) The more you write, the better you’ll get. So write as often as you can.

4) Read, read, read. And don’t just read one kind of genre. Read them all.

5) Don’t play in to what is hot at the moment. If you want to write dystopian, write dystopian. If you want to create a world of vampires, write about vampires. They’re telling you that sci-fi is a dead genre? Write it anyway.

6) Open your eyes to everything around you. The places you visit. The people you meet. The items you see lying in the street.

Don’t ever underestimate your ability to create worlds. Every night when you close your eyes, your brain goes in to overdrive and generates amazing and colorful scenarios and narratives. The trick is channeling your subconscious and making it…conscious.

Go forth and write. And remember…inspiration is everywhere.

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

3D

Typing 101

It all began many years ago – first period of my freshman year of high school. Typing 101. Now for those of you from the younger generation following along, let me explain what a typewriter is. It’s a box with a keyboard…kind of like a computer keyboard…only different. And instead of a screen you put blank paper into it and press really hard on the keys. And you didn’t need a printer to print what you just typed, and if you made a mistake…there was a white paint in a bottle you used to cover up the mistake on the paper. Crazy, I know. Well, during this class we learned many things, one of which was you were to never look at your fingers while typing. Also, you always (and I cannot stress this enough) ALWAYS put 2 spaces after each period before starting the next sentence.

This was how I learned to type. Now, none of my kids have taken a typing class…they’ve taken computer classes where they learn the ins and outs of a computer but not how to actually type on the keyboard.  Instead, they hunt and peck, and after about an hour of typing one page, they beg me to type the rest of their paper so they don’t have to stay up all night to type it themselves. I’m sorry…what happened to Typing 101?

This is a portable typewriter...the original laptop.

This is a portable typewriter…the original laptop.

But I digress.

Thanks to this typing class some (mumble) years ago, I’m able to type out my thoughts at breakneck speed. I still pound the keys of the laptop keyboard as if I’m punching the keys on a typewriter. I have had to teach myself that it is no longer acceptable to place 2 spaces after each period. But this class…this simple high school course…has ultimately given me the ability to do what I do. Write.

So, I’d like to publicly thank my typing teacher, Mrs. Syrkel, for giving me the tools to type quickly and effectively. Thanks.

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.