“Here, Mr. Kittens. You sit here. No. You have to sit up. You can’t fall in your tea cup or you’ll drown.” Zoe propped the stuffed animal up in one of her pink chairs. She wasn’t sure Mr. Kittens would actually drown but that was something her Mother told her when she tried to doze off at the dining room table. That usually only happened when her Mother had to go to work and woke Zoe up too early.
“Now you sit here, Giraffe. I have your favorite kind of cookie but you can only have one. If you eat them all you’ll get fat.” That was also something her Mother told her. Zoe didn’t want to be fat so she listened. But sometimes she stole a few cookies just so her Mother wouldn’t see her eat them. Then she could get fat without blaming it on her favorite lemon cookies. She nibbled a piece of the stolen cookie and placed the remnants on the Tinkerbell plate in front of Giraffe.
She nearly tripped over her princess dress but she managed to sit in the chair at the only empty spot at her pink table. It was late in the afternoon now. Zoe and her mother were waiting on Zoe’s father to pick her up for her visit. Zoe hoped he would come this time. But she also kind of hoped he didn’t. He never played with her or talked to her when she came to spend the night. He put her to bed way too early and spent the rest of the night playing video games with his friends. Zoe tried to tell him that she knew how to play video games too but he didn’t listen to her. Eventually she gave up asking and spent her time coloring in his books. One day when he opened them up he was going to be real mad. She was okay with that. At least he’d notice her then.
Thump, thump, thump.
Zoe looked behind her but didn’t see anyone in the hallway.
“Mommy?” she called but nobody answered. She heard her mother arguing with her father over the phone. It sounded as if he wasn’t coming again. And Mommy had to work the night shift at the big blue store.
She turned back to her party determined to have a good time. She waved her magic wand over the gathering hoping that the animals would finally come to life and share a joke or two with her. Zoe liked jokes, especially knock-knock jokes. Sometimes her babysitter, Ashley told her knock-knock jokes. She liked Ashley. Most of the time. She really wanted a little sister to play with but Mommy said that was never going to happen. She said if it did, she’d kill herself. That made Zoe sad because she really wanted a sister but she didn’t want her Mommy to die.
Thump, thump, thump.
Zoe smelled something bad. She covered her nose until the stench passed. “Poo-wee, Mr. Kittens. You stink.”
She thought maybe something was banging in her closet but that couldn’t be right. Toys and clothes didn’t bang on the closet door. What if Ashley was right? What if there was such thing as a Closet Monster? Carrying her magic wand with her for protection Zoe slowly walked to the half-open closet door.
A shadow passed over her and Zoe froze. The sound wasn’t coming from inside the closet door but from her window. A gray man was banging on the glass with his head. His banging left greasy marks on the glass, just as if he were made of mushy, moldy marshmallows. Zoe wanted to pee now but she didn’t dare pee in her princess dress. Mommy would be so mad if she wet in her clothes like a baby. She was five now and not a baby anymore.
“Mommy…” she whispered as she backed away from the window. The Gray Man banged on the window again, this time he pressed his horrible face against the glass. His eyes were green and snotty, like her nose was when she got sick a few weeks ago. She had to go to the doctor for a shot to feel better and make the snot go away. Zoe didn’t think a shot would help the man. She could smell his stinkiness through the glass. “Mommy,” she yelled now as she ran for the door. She scrambled down the hall sliding on the frilly hem of her too long pink princess gown. The fall made her bump her mouth and she was sure she’d knocked her loose tooth out. “Mommy!” she screamed again.
“Hold on, Shane. Don’t you dare hang up! Shane!” Mommy walked in the hallway with the phone in her hand. Clearly Zoe’s father hung up. “Zoe, what are you doing in that? You’re supposed to be getting dressed to go to Daddy’s house. Baby? What did you do to your lip? You’re bleeding! Come to the kitchen and let me look at it.”
“Mommy,” Zoe cried now. “There’s a gray man banging on my window. He’s got snotty eyes and he stinks really bad.”
“Zoe Michelle. Are you lying to me?”
“No, Mommy,” her lip quivered and she sobbed. “He’s horrible.” Mommy handed her a paper towel and the girl patted her mouth tentatively not wanting to see the blood that she knew was already there. She could taste it. It tasted like pennies and she knew those tasted like. She tried to swallow one when she was just a kid.
“Sit here, Zoe. Don’t move!” Mommy took the phone and grabbed something out of the silverware drawer and ran down the hallway. Zoe tossed the paper towel to the side, the sight of the blood made her cry harder. She picked up the kitchen towel off the table and pressed it on the gap in her mouth. She would have to go back and find the tooth if she expected the Tooth Fairy to leave her some change. She stared at the blue and white kitchen towel. Yep, there was blood on it. She held the towel in place and quietly sneaked down the hall, half-looking for the tooth and half following her mother.
She could hear Mommy swearing and she heard the glass breaking. “Oh God! No!”
Zoe stood in the hallway wondering what to do. She could hear the banging on the front door now.
Her mother was screaming and there were other sounds, horrible sounds, growling and more things breaking. They were tearing up her room and Mommy was in there! She had to help her Mother and Mr. Kittens! Zoe realized she still had her magic wand in her hands. Maybe if she used her magic she could make the Gray Man disappear. Maybe that would work.
Her mother’s screams suddenly stopped and Zoe peeked around the corner of the door. Mommy was lying on the floor face up and the gray man was on top of her doing something to her face. She couldn’t see exactly what but there was so much blood. That wasn’t Zoe’s blood. She’d fallen in the hallway not the bedroom. The Gray Man turned around and saw Zoe standing in the hallway. Blood poured down his chin and she could see Mommy now. She was dead. Very dead and some of her face was missing. Her magic wand hit the floor.
“Mommy?” she whimpered. The Gray Man was crawling to her now on his hands and knees and she ran. But where? Suddenly there was banging at the front door and more banging coming from somewhere else. She had to hide. She was good at hiding. She was the hide-and-seek champion at summer camp. She ran back to the kitchen and screamed at the sight of a Gray Lady now standing at the kitchen window. She stared at Zoe like she wanted to chew on her, just like the Gray Man chewed on Mommy. Zoe couldn’t help herself, she threw up on the floor. The only place she could go was downstairs into the dark basement. Maybe they wouldn’t find her there. She knew the perfect place to hide.
She jiggled the handle of the basement door. It was always hard to open. She wanted to throw up again but she had to get away. She had to hide from the Gray People! She heard the Gray Man’s footsteps coming down the hall heavy and slow. Finally the door sprung open and she stepped inside. She closed and it remembered to lock it behind her. She stood on the wooden steps with her ear close to the door. After a few seconds she heard the sound again.
Thump. Thump. Thump.
Zoe went down the stairs descending into the darkness. Now she wasn’t afraid of the dark.
It comforted her.
It would hide her.
Zoe heard the thumping get louder. She knew the Gray Man wouldn’t stop smashing the door. He wouldn’t give up until he broke this door just like he broke Zoe’s window. Time to hide and count to a hundred. Zoe wasn’t sure how to count to a hundred but she would try. She ran to the far side of the basement and opened the dryer door. With the door cracking behind her she climbed inside and closed it. She had to close it all the way or the light would come on. Luckily for her, her blanket was inside. She could cuddle up in it and hid.
One, two, three…she counted. Once she got to twenty she got confused but she didn’t give up. She counted in her head and not with her mouth. She couldn’t talk or the monster would find her. She thought about the numbers and not the sounds of growling or the stinkiness that now filled the room.
Keep counting, she told herself trying not to pee.
She had gotten all the way up to thirty when he found her.
Now he was ten and began to desire the respect of his small group of peers. They liked to provoke him, to mock him, but he’d proven to be up to whatever challenge they put before him. Until recently.
And because of his mother, his group had become even smaller of late. He was both relieved and resentful. Relieved that his mother had cut off all ties with Ona LaGrange and her terrible son Philip, Gage’s thirteen-year-old cousin, but also resentful that he had not been allowed to prove himself to be anything but a coward.
He tore off a piece of ham, the remnants of his earlier lunch, and tossed it to Tremble as they strolled through the tall grasses. It was getting late. It would be dark soon, but Gage didn’t want to return to Idlewood just yet. He hated the place, even though he knew he was doomed to live out his days there. Or so he believed.
No, he didn’t want to go back. There were too many shades there, shadows of the dead, as Moseley liked to call them. Those horrible shadows reached for Gage from dark closets and damp corners of the house. That’s why he never closed doors behind him and did his best to burn candles night and day. Even in his closet. He’d nearly set his coats ablaze just a few nights ago. His friend Moseley had saved his jackets and complained to his mother, but Mother had only laughed at the episode.
“It wasn’t serious,” she said. “We know where to buy more jackets. Let the boy do battle as he sees fit.”
Moseley didn’t buck his mistress in this, but he had privately warned Gage about setting things alight. Although Gage didn’t say so, he had taken this warning to heart. He would not burn candles in closets anymore. Instead, he took the closet door off the hinges. That seemed a suitable solution. He no longer hung his coats or anything else in there now. It was a bare space. The shades could not hide there, he told himself. They could no longer slide out of the door crack and grow on the wall beside his bed. They would not reach for him with their long, black fingers. He had seen to that. Surely his clever solution would defeat them for good. Now if he could talk Moseley into removing the rest of the closet doors in the house all would be well. Perhaps he would talk to Mother. She would understand if he explained it properly. She would reason it to be a smart and intelligent solution to his problem. Yes, that’s what he would do. And he would do it tonight at dinner.
Tremble nuzzled his empty hand and licked the ham juice from his fingers. “Now there’s a good dog. Good dog, Tremble. Let’s run!” And they did. Around the house they ran until the sun began to drop perilously low in the sky. He could see the shadows creeping up from the surrounding forest—they would be both on and inside the house soon.
He had to go in now. But he had one more thing to do.
He had promised himself he would do it, despite his mother’s warning. She’d forbidden Philip from returning to Idlewood because of it, but Gage needed to prove to himself that he was no coward. Yes, he had to show himself because that was the deeper question. The one that plagued him night and day.
Am I a coward?
Now he faced the line of hickory and oak trees that waved at him from the edge of the forest. “This is how you do it,” Philip had told him. “You have to face the woods when you say the words. The creature has to hear you summon him. And when he comes out, you must immediately send him away. All the other LaGrange men have done it, Gage. I have. Our cousin Arthur has as well. Oh, how angry the creature was, but you cannot be afraid!”
“I am not afraid of anything, and I don’t believe you! There are no creatures in these woods except some deer, cats and rabbits. I am as much a LaGrange as you, Philip.”
Philip had pursed his fat lips at Gage. Gage knew what he was thinking, that Gage wasn’t a true LaGrange because he had “mad Ferguson blood running through his veins.” He knew what his cousins and other LaGrange relatives said about him. He wasn’t deaf, although at times he chose to pretend he couldn’t hear them.
“Stop being so childish, Gage, and listen. It’s time to become a man now. Summon the wolf and then send him back. Don’t fail to send him back, cousin, or he’ll gobble you up!” Philip had raised his hands, curling them like claws, and pawed at Gage. Gage had punched him in the gut, but it hadn’t hurt Philip.
“Is that all the strength you have? On second thought, don’t summon him up. You won’t be strong enough to send him back. My mother is right—you come from inferior stock, Gage LaGrange. Like all the crazy Fergusons.” At that, Gage found a strength he didn’t know he had. His dark eyes welled up with angry tears, and with a scream, he punched Philip in his puffy blue eye. It immediately began to blacken and swell. Gage had grinned at the sight. He laughed too, which infuriated his cousin. He didn’t laugh because he had hurt Philip; he laughed because he had no idea he had so much strength. It was a freeing moment, in a strange sort of way.
Of course, Philip had wasted no time running back to Idlewood to tell on him; when Gage returned to the house, Aunt Ona had boxed his ears repeatedly. Unlike Philip, he didn’t scream or flail about but yelled at her as sternly as possible. He tried to make her see reason, but she wasn’t having a word of it. When Gage’s mother saw her sister-in-law’s acts of violence toward her son, she boxed Aunt Ona’s oversized ears for her trouble before tossing her out of Idlewood. In her punishment she was relentless. Gage didn’t intervene. He never liked it when Aunt Ona came to visit. She spent much of her time plundering through drawers and boxes and poking about in places where she should not be. She never spent time with Mother or Gage, except to cluck her tongue, roll her eyes and scold Mother for her “unladylike” behavior. Gage wondered why she ever came if she disliked them so much. And then he remembered the fortune. The one Aunt Ona whispered about, the one Philip often asked him about. And they weren’t the only ones.
But Gage didn’t know about such things. He had no idea where the money came from or if they even had money. Not at all.
Can’t keep procrastinating, Old Boy.
Gage liked to call himself Old Boy. It made him feel important. When he wrote his secret letters to his dead father, he often referred to himself as Old Boy. If he ever had a friend, a true friend and not a horrible cousin or a servant’s son, he would insist that his friend call him Old Boy. It seemed a very proper thing to do.
He faced the forest with his hands on his hips and held his breath while he tried to recall the words. Then they came to him. They poured out of his memory easily, once he grabbed a hold of the first few words. Still uncertain about it all, he whispered, “Black Wolf, Black Wolf, come and find me. Black Wolf, Black Wolf, I summon thee.”
Nothing happened. Had it all been a joke? Philip’s grand joke? It angered Gage that it might be.
Louder now he said the words, “Black Wolf, Black Wolf, come and find me! Black Wolf, Black Wolf, I summon thee!” A horrible sound came from the woods, a shrill howl that surprised even Tremble. The dog who was usually his constant companion abandoned him, immediately running for the shelter of the home behind them.
“Wait, Tremble! Don’t leave me!” The dog barked in response and paused but didn’t return to his young master. The spaniel bolted toward Idlewood, but Gage’s legs wouldn’t move.
There was a crashing sound in the brush ahead of him. The sound of something big moving toward him. Closer and closer. He couldn’t see it, but it was clearly there. And it had its eyes set on Gage. He searched the forest, sure he’d see a pair of red eyes glaring back at him. But so far, nothing. Yet the creature was there, perhaps hoping he would say the words again. Gage imagined it running on black furred legs.
Now he heard purposeful strides. Not a wolf—but a man, a large man. Perhaps the biggest man he’d ever seen. He could hear the footsteps, the sounds of leaves crunching beneath the feet of the Black Wolf. There were too many trees for Gage to see anything clearly. The underbrush had not been cleared since before his father died, Moseley said. A snorting blast and then an angry howl sounded, and the air became still. No birds sang. No squirrels scrambled. He heard nothing. Not even the buzzing of a fly.
Transfixed, Gage couldn’t move. He’d done it. He’d summoned the thing. It had not been a lie, not a fantasy. He had called it forth from wherever it lived.
Hell, no doubt.
He was a true LaGrange. He could do it! The thought filled him with no joy. He had indeed summoned the family monster, and now he had to put it back.
Philip never told him that. Gage had punched him before he could tell him the words to send it back. He never learned them.
And then he heard another sound, a scream. A loud scream.
It came from his own lips.
Weeks went by after the Footsteps in My Bedroom incident and things began to feel normal again. It was summer and my sister and I spent more time outdoors than we did inside the confines of the house. Dad surprised us with a wooden playhouse which we lovingly named the Blue Whale. To say we practically lived in that thing is an understatement.
On rainy days, Mom took us to the library and I fell in love with the small but interesting ghost story section. I couldn’t get enough of those stories and I got acquainted with the Lady in White and the Hitchhiker. (A ghost who disappears after you pick him up.) I studied everything I could about ghosts and the paranormal world. I desperately tried to understand what happened to us just a few months earlier but eventually the fear and wonder of it all faded. After a while I began to believe we’d all imagined the footsteps. Kind of like a group hysteria thing. (That was my initial diagnosis because ghosts weren't actually real, right?)
I went back to reading Raggedy Ann books to my sister and I fell hard for Nancy Drew novels. I was hooked on that TV show. (Mostly because Shaun Cassidy was on there.)
And just when life was normal again, whatever had been running around our room returned.
As I mentioned before, my sister and I had twin beds which were situated on opposite sides of the room. Going to sleep was always a struggle for me. I’m one of those people that don’t require a straight six to eight hours of shut eye but when you’re eight years old that excuse didn’t fly with my parents.
Everything changed when the bed shaking started happening. Just when I’d get tired, hanging on the edge of asleep and awake, my eyes heavy, my mind still, the end of my wooden bed began to shake. And it shook like it was sitting on top of a washing machine. Like someone or something didn’t want me to sleep—It (whatever It was) wanted me to stare into the dark and search for It.
Wait for It.
I whispered to my sister, afraid to get out of my bed in case the thing that shook the bed might grab me as soon as my feet touched the floor. I mean, if it could shake my heavy wooden bed it could surely wrap its cold hands around me.
“Katrina…Katrina…” I called to my sister in the darkness.
She’d wake up, grab her Playskool flashlight and scan under my bed for me. When she gave me the “all clear” I’d run to her praying to the Lord above that I’d make it without getting caught by It. She’d hold me until I stopped shaking and eventually we’d fall asleep. Eventually.
Again, things would stop and I’d allow myself to believe the activity never happened. To this day I don't know why I didn't tell my parents about those fearful nights. It seems silly now but at the time it made perfect sense.
One night, as I was there again, in the place between asleep and awake, my sister whispered, “Monica…Monica…come over here. Hurry!”
Feeling aggravated and not quite with it, I growled at her, “What? Do you have to go to the bathroom again?” The only bathroom was downstairs and I wasn't looking forward to going down there again. It was so cold that night.
“There’s a lady over your bed. She’s got her hands out.”
That woke me up. “What does she look like?”
“She’s got her hair in a bun and she’s wearing a long dress.”
I froze, unsure what to do. I waited a minute, I didn’t feel anything, except cold. Very cold. But it wasn't like Katrina to make up scary stuff. She hated ghost stories, and the idea of ghosts. She sure wouldn't make that up.
Unicorns, yes. Ghosts, no.
“What is happening now?” I couldn’t see the woman but I didn’t believe my sister would lie about such a thing.
“Come here! She’s reaching for your neck. She wants to strangle you.”
Her Playskool flashlight came on again but only for a few seconds. The batteries died suddenly and the flash of illumination didn’t do anything but blind me.
I cried and suddenly my sister was beside me. She grabbed my hand in her littler one and together we ran back to her bed.
I think that was the last time I slept in the bed alone. At least until Mom caught on. She was stickler for her daughters to act like big girls. But as long as we stayed together, the ghost didn’t bother me. And it seemed like it never bothered Katrina.
But then it came after my little brother…
I am often asked if the stories I tell in my books are true. The honest answer is some of the ghosts featured in my stories are inspired by real events--my personal experiences. You see since I was a small girl I have been encountering the supernatural world, often in unusual and surprising ways. Since I'm well over the age of 30 now, (we won't go there) I have quite a collection of personal experiences to drawn on but I have always been an avid reader that only fueled the fire. Between those two factors I have plenty of material to draw upon for my paranormal series and standalone novels.
I thought it might be fun for the next few days to share with you some of my most memorable ghost story moments. Surprisingly enough many of these stories occurred in Ohio. My family is from lower Mississippi and Alabama, namely Mobile, although I was born in Antigua in the British West Indies. My father served in the military and we spent a lot of time traveling to different cities because every three years the Navy would reassign him. (Dad was a teletype expert and worked in cryptic technologies. Brilliant man.)
Anyway the most memorable house, the one that I think about the most often was in a small town called Mount Perry. It was a two-story house, and up until that time it was the largest house our family had ever owned. I remember the first day we saw it, it looked like a magical palace. My little sister and I ran up the stairs to find our shared bedroom and we both claimed one side of the room and one large window that overlooked a garden below. Down in the garden were all sorts of tasty fruits and even one we never tried before, rhubarb. (Is rhubarb or fruit? I'm not sure.) As a huge believer in fairies, I could see the potential for fairy hideouts.
Across the hall from us was another bedroom and this one belong to my little brother. At the time I was eight years old, my sister was five and my little brother was only two. We had a happy family and like most kids in my neighborhood I spent much of my free time riding bicycles up and down the hills of Mount Perry.
After a few months things began to happen but I get ahead of myself. My father decided it would be a good idea to renovate some sections of the old home. One of those planned renovations was to open the unused storage under the staircase. For some reason it had been walled up and was no longer in use. My mom really wanted to use this area for canning jar storage and thought it would be a good place to stash other supplies too. The trouble began almost immediately. As the first wall came down we found old newspapers dating back into the 1800s stuffed in them. We found other weird objects too, like buttons and coins. Mom thought they were fascinating and put them in a scrapbook. After a few more hours of work my dad found another door, this one led into the master bedroom. We had no idea that that door was there and why would anyone want that?
That night we went to bed thinking everything was as it always had been in our nice home but it wasn't. As soon as my sister and I went to bed the trouble started. My sister and I had twin beds, one on each side of the room next to the windows. There was good 20 feet between us and an unused fireplace. That night as we drifted off to sleep my mom began to yell up the stairs at us. "You girls stop running back and forth! This is ridiculous!” We hadn’t heard a thing but fear gripped my stomach. If there was someone up here, I didn’t see them. Or hear them.
Moonlight was shining in our windows, filling the room with weird light. That didn’t help. And even though we were young, we know that my mother was hearing footsteps and she believed they were ours. Immediately I took off running for my sister’s bed and jumped in. The two of us covered up our heads and waited for my mother to come upstairs. Eventually she would, she would scold us for running around the room when we were supposed to be in our beds. We protested. We told her it was not us I'm not quite sure she believed this.
This happened night after night. It frightened my sister and I so much that we did not want to sleep in our rooms anymore. Frustrated with us, but not sure whether to scold us or not, our mother agreed to a compromise. My sister and I could have a sleep over in our own living room. We rolled out our sleeping bags and made ourselves a fort with blankets and for the first time in a long time, slept peacefully.
But sure enough, around 11 PM the footsteps returned. They sounded like the feet of a small child running across our bedroom floor only we were not there. My mother raced into the living room just to make sure that we girls had not pulled a trick on her. That was the night that our mother and our little brother slept in the fort with us.
The next morning when my father came home from the late shift he was amazed to find us all sleeping in the living room. My mother demanded that he close the closet back up and end the renovations. He didn't argue much because he knew how upset we were and soon that particular phenomenon ended. My sister and I could sleep in our beds again without worry that little footsteps would run around keeping us up all night.
And for a while all was well in our Ohio home.
Until something else began to happened…
Ready to plot a novel? Are you a pantser or a plotter? If you are new to the writing community, let me explain what the heck I’m talking about. Usually writers fall in one of three--no make that FOUR categories:
1) PLOTTER: Outlines are the order of the day! That includes characters, beats and everything in between. That could also include timelines and settings.
2) PANTSER: Basically, stream of conscious writing with no map or a minimal outline.
3) DICTATION: Some writers use Dragon software or some other dictation set up. It didn't work for me at first because I love the tactile experience of creating. (I have a mechanical keyboard that lights up! Woo hoo!) But I’ve learned to make it work.
4) HYBRID: This writer is a combination of any of these. This is the method I have chosen. I actually do all four.
You might have to try a few of these before you perfect your process. Don't be afraid to try something new!
Here's a picture of my current writing process.
1. Deliver a big prologue and first chapter. A good hook is so important. I usually type this.
2. Keep up the pace! Distribute good hooks throughout the book. I dictate large portions or whole chapters, then go back into the chapter and fluff it out with important details.
3. I keep my eyes on the prize. I jot down any mysteries that have to be solved by the end of the book. (Keep in mind I write in a series and it is important to lead readers to the next book. However you never want readers to feel cheated her feel as if they didn't get the primary question answered.)
A few more goodies from my desk.
Before I get started, I do these things.
1. Decide on my ghost and work up a spellbinding prologue to introduce them. I write first person point of view except my prologues which are most often in third person.
2. Write one or two sentences for the first 3 to 4 chapters. Example: Carrie Joe wants to skydive. Ashland refuses to go.
During the process, I do these things:
3. After I write my chapter, I go back to the beginning of the chapter and fill in the blanks. I add descriptions, dialogue, and of course Easter eggs. Also read the chapter aloud.
4. Record a few bullet points in my "after" outline. I add to my after outline after every chapter and I use it as a road map for the next book. This helps me when/if I go to another book.
5. Write regularly. Practice, practice, practice.
Points to consider when plotting:
– Your subconscious is trustworthy. It won't let you down if you follow it. Many times I wondered what to do about a plot problem. When I got there the answer came. As they say, “Trust emergence!"
— Know the tropes for your genre. Hit those tropes but don't be afraid to think outside of the box.
– Consume what you want to write. Know what's happening in your genre. Read within your genre! Even if it's only samples or blurbs.
*Bonus tip! If you get stuck here’s something that helps me. I think like a movie producer and not a novelist. I get into the scene and tell the story the way it I would want it to be shown on the big screen. As weird as that sounds it helps me gain momentum and push through.
Let me end this by saying that the process will be different for you. That's not a copout – it's the truth. I promise you, if you stick with it you'll find methods that work for you and that's all part of the fun.
Writing a novel is a journey of self exploration. You should enjoy it, embrace it because it's all about you, Brave Author.
You can do this!
How to begin? I’ll keep it as simple as possible. Promise.
2014 was a stressful year for me but I rediscovered an outlet that propelled me through—writing. I’d been a lifelong reader but like many folks, didn’t believe that I could make a living writing fiction. It didn’t help that nobody else believed it was possible, but I digress.
To be honest, I knew I could make an “okay” living with freelance writing. I’d been part of the Associated Content and Yahoo Contributors debacle (writing 400 word posts for $8) and Demands Studios. I learned so much from those places about online writing and I proved to everyone that I could make a living with freelance writing.
Until I couldn’t.
That streamed dried up for various reasons which I won’t waste my time talking about here. (Curse you Google Panda!)
After losing those streams of income I put up a post on an online talent website offering my services as a ghostwriter. I heard other displaced DS writers had done the same so why not? The pay was terrible but I enjoyed writing fiction—even if it wasn’t mine. Many times “authors” would send me a bare bones outline and say, “Run with it.” Other times I was writing coming up with ideas, writing outlines and writing books with no supervision whatsoever. More times than not the author loved it and soon I began to see the books I wrote appear in the Top 100 lists of the Amazon store. (That was both thrilling and sucky.) Please don’t ask who that was. I signed NDA’s (that’s non-disclosure agreements) so I can’t and won’t reveal the names of those books or out those authors but I learned a valuable lesson from that six months.
And that lesson was, “I was a bestselling author, even if it wasn’t my name on the book. I HAD the skills to do it and I COULD do it for MYSELF.”
Now that was an eye-opener.
Although I was in big time demand now as a ghostwriter, I turned away new work and decided to write my own story. And that’s how Seven Sisters was born. We’ll talk about the mechanics of that first book in later episodes. Promise.
I published Seven Sisters in August of 2014. By the end of 2014 I made a whopping $106.
I wrote book two Moonlight Falls on Seven Sisters in November 2014 and followed up with book three in March 2015.
In 2015, I made over 30k. That’s $30,000, folks.
In 2016, with my Seven Sisters series, Desert Queen series, Idlewood and Sirens Gate series, I earned over 100k. $100,000 in just two years. Really less than two years because I didn’t publish Seven Sisters until August of 2014.
So it can be done. I have no degree. I had no one to mentor me. I made many mistakes but I muddled through it. And now here we are.
So why am I doing this? Because there’s room for more of us. The indie market can handle more #SixFigureAuthors. Because I want to help you succeed. And I want to build a community of like-minded authors. People who want to change their lives and their families lives. That's also why I'm writing Getting Started With Writing Your Novel.
Will you write the Great American (or insert your country of origin here) Novel? I can't promise that.
Will you make a hundred thousand dollars in two years? Can't promise that either but what I will do is show you how I did it.
So, if you're prepared to DO THE WORK, I'm ready to teach you!
You may have the idea for a novel, or you may not. For now, put that to the side.
I want you to spend some time dreaming. Dreaming about your story. You know mine now, warts and all.
Let's hear yours. Yes, I want to hear it because a year from now, we'll look back at this moment together and we'll see how far you've come. And we'll both be inspired! Tell me what you're doing. What you've tried, what you want to try. Let's talk about your Point A and next week, I'll show you how to move to Point B.
Add your name to our Facebook Group and stay connected. Who's with me?
I want to write a book but…”
That’s usually the first sentence I hear after my mother or some other well-meaning person announces to the world that I am a published author.
There’s one thing I know about those buts—whenever you hear one you know an excuse is coming. No, I’m not judging. How do I know who has a valid excuse and who does not? (No sir-ree! I don’t have those kinds of skills.) I just know from my OWN experiences that the word “but” is merely a filler word for whatever excuse the person has. And it may be that the person has a valid excuse. Whether valid or not, it’s definitely an impediment. So is that you? Are you hiding your first novel behind a big ol’ but? Is your excuse valid or is it something you could do something about. Like right now. This year?
Let me show you what I mean.
For example: “I’d like to lift that car off your foot but I’m not strong enough.” See? That’s a valid excuse but it still hasn’t rescued my foot. Although the person attempting to rescue me can’t lift the car by themselves they should at least go find a tool or a few other pair of hands to get the job done. Maybe that’s you. Maybe you haven’t found the right tool yet. Or you need someone to help you get started.
Another excuse I hear frequently is this one: “I would like to write a book but I don’t know how to start.” Another valid excuse but it’s only a temporary one. If the potential writer wanted to overcome this but he or she could certainly do it.
How about these other excuses? I hear these quite a bit.
Good news for newbie writers! I’m preparing a course for my local library. Actually it is two courses. One is called, Getting Started with Writing a Novel and the second is An Intro for New Self Published Authors.
If you’d like to join me you guys will be my guinea pigs for these two courses and I’ll be sharing what I know about them every week on my blog here. I’m really excited about Getting Started with Writing a Novel. The getting started part is my favorite part. Hands down.
Look for a series of new blog posts from me soon on the subject—and in April a book! In it, I will be helping you get started with a novel when you have no ideas at all. I hope you tune in. Did I mention this would be a video blog post? Oh yeah! I’ll put a reminder on my Facebook page when it’s up.
So are you ready to take this journey with me? I challenge you to take both of my free courses. Learn as much as you can and get in there and get writing!