Tag Archives: romance

Interview with Debut Author C. Elle Kent

Welcome to the second week of Saturday Coffee with Authors! Grab your cuppa, sit back, and relax. If you have a muffin, bring that too! Today we welcome C. Elle Kent, whose debut novel will be released in late summer.

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Tell us about yourself.  When did you start writing and what made you start? 

Just yesterday I stumbled upon one of my very first stories. I was eleven. I’m sure it was a school writing assignment but I remember loving the writing process nonetheless.  (And, apparently, I was a horrible big sister because, in this story, I tell about how I left my baby sister in the bathtub alone when she was two. Hey, I was eleven. What did I know? Hmmm…perhaps I need to burn this evidence.)

My first memory of writing something for pleasure was in the sixth grade when I wrote a short play with my best friend at a sleepover. We decided on the characters, wrote the script, threw in a song, practiced until Letterman was over (when we knew my dad would be coming upstairs), turned my dad’s bedroom into the set, and performed the two-girl/five-character ditty for my dad, who gave his usual nod of encouragement and then told us to go to bed. I remember the story vividly. I’m sure I have that script somewhere in my hoarder’s attic. Hmmmm…..

My latest stint with writing came courtesy of NaNoWriMo in 2009. I was perusing the Internet one October night while feeling all mid-life crisis-ey and thinking about all those bucket list items I really should get started on. I stumbled upon National Novel Writer’s Month and signed up immediately. It took me a week to tell my husband (I was afraid he’d shake his head at yet another item I was adding to my already-chaotic life. His response? “It’s about time! I’ve been telling you that you need to write a book!” Whew. Disaster averted.) I’ve done NaNo every year since then and I find I look forward to it more and more. It’s the only time I feel truly justified locking myself in my room for days on end, making my kids bring me food and wait on me hand and foot. How many months ‘til November?

Tell us a little bit about your latest books. My debut novel is expected out in late August. I’m in the home stretch of the final edit (though I’ve been saying that for months now) and I am anxious to be done with this one, the product of the first NaNo back in 2009, so I can move on to the others I’ve written throughout the other NaNo’s. (My characters miss me I just know it.)

Where did you come up with this idea? I dreamed part of the first book one night, woke up at 3am, flipped open my computer, and started writing down my ideas. When NaNo started, I wrote the beginning chapters and the ending, then had to fill in the middle.

Who did the cover art for your book? Streetlight Graphics. Glendon is my hero.

Did you learn anything about yourself or your writing while working on this book? I have a hard time keeping my inner editor at bay during Nano. I’m an editor by trade, so it’s super difficult to write during NaNo without editing. I’m trying to get better at separating the two because it really slows me down! The good news is that my final edits, though uber laborious, should be fairly thorough, saving me the cost of a real editor.

I also struggle with over-thinking the story. I’m so Type-A and I just can’t help it. It has been, by far, the hardest habit I have ever had to break (and that includes giving up sugar). I’m trying to remind myself that over-thinking things will eventually start to hurt the story and I should just leave well enough alone. My beta readers probably aren’t going to wait forever.  Actually, I think they have already given up on me and are probably reading something else by now. *sigh*

Who do you find to be a huge inspiration for your writing? And why is that? Ahem…..YOU! (Jennings Wright) After hearing about all the things you had going on (business, homeschooling, non-profit, health issues, wedding, house on the market) and the number of books you managed to write and release at the same time, I really have no excuses for my ONE book taking so long. I have been so lucky and blessed to have you in my life, showing me the way and being the epitome of “No excuses. IT CAN BE DONE!” Drat. I was hoping for a legitimate out. (But thank you!)

Which one of your characters would be the best to meet in real life? Seth. He’s the guy everyone wants to know. He’s firm in his faith, completely non-judgmental, and gentle in his delivery of encouragement and accountability. I actually do already know “him.” I kind of modeled him after my kids’ youth pastor. But don’t tell him (the youth pastor) that!

What are you reading right now? Nothing. I am forcing myself to use any available reading time I *might* have otherwise had for finishing my book. Oh, wait!! I am beta reading a friend’s novel. Aaaaaaand I just realized it’s due soon. Pause! Pause the interview!

Besides the genre you write, what genres do you like to read? Mystery. I really should have been a detective in real life. I love a good crime. Clue was my favorite game growing up. I wish my parents had noticed this about me and told me detectives were real.

What is the most embarrassing mistake you’ve made as a writer? Grammar. I hate hitting the “post” button on my FB page as I post teasers and such and then realize I – the writer, editor, grammar-geek – made a mistake. Delete! Delete! Two likes already? Dang it!

If you had to pick one trait that makes you a better writer, what would it be? I think I can be fairly witty. I also have radically witty friends (they were witty long before I ever was) and I use actual conversations in my books. They tell me I’m funny. Hmmm…I hope that’s not a conspiracy.

What is the one thing that seems to always get in the way of writing time? Ugh…I have to pick one? Seriously. Everything gets in the way. Homeschooling. Business-running. Leading my daughter’s American Heritage Girls Troop. Teaching Yoga. Sleeping. I am so bad at setting a writing schedule and sticking to it. If I had to narrow it down, I would say it’s my ability to allow myself the time to sit down and write. I have a hard time justifying sitting still for that long when my bed is covered in laundry.

When you are not writing, what are you doing? Did you not read the answer to the above question? See above question.

What is one of your favorite places to write? The beach. I have a friend with a condo there that overlooks the water and I try to go a few times a year. I do my best writing when I can go clear my head oceanside and get into a zone.

What is one of your favorite places in the world?  Hawaii. We took a family trip there in 2005 and did a lesser-known (read difficult) hike to the top of a ridge where we had the most breathtaking 360 degree view. With the ocean on one side, mountains on another, and gorgeous valley below, I could have sat there and marveled at that view forever (okay, fine. Also because I didn’t want to hike back down.) Seriously. When I die, scatter my ashes there. Yosemite National Park is a close second.

What is one thing about you most people find interesting (or unusual etc.)? I have a fairly serious heart condition and have had a pacemaker since I was 21. I was looking like a criminal at airport security long before all the hype over the TSA pat-downs.

Are there any more projects you are currently working on? Do you know when we might get to see those? Once my debut novel is released, I’m diving right into editing book two (NaNo 2010.) I’m trying to get that done by November so I can attempt my first series, which I hope to tackle for this year’s NaNo. (This may require an entire week at the beach. Or two. Or four.)

What is your favorite quote? “When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me.”  – Erma Bombeck

What secrets would you share with aspiring authors? You don’t need a big-time publishing company to fulfill your dream of being an accomplished writer. Write because it’s what you love to do, and if you make money from it, consider it a bonus.

Name one author you’d love to meet and tell us why. Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John. They knew what they were talking about, and they weren’t afraid to share it with the world. OR Corrie Ten Boom. To sit with this woman and hear her stories first-hand would be amazing. The Hiding Place is my favorite novel…ever.

You’re throwing a fiction character party.  What fictional characters would you like to invite (name and where they are from (book/TV/Movie/etc.) and why? This is such a hard question to answer because I read so little fiction. (Yes, I know, it’s what I write so it’s what I should be reading.) I would have to with Jean Valjean from Les Miserables. I’ve loved his story of repentance and redemption ever since high school. He may be fictional, but we should all take note and be inspired.

How about a little “this or that?”

Hot/Cold                               Cold

Summer/Winter                  Summer

Coke/Pepsi                           Neither! Soda bad

Cat/Dog                                Dog

Water skiing/snow skiing         Water sliding 😉                 

Beach/Mountains                Mountains

Romance/Action                  Action-filled romance?

Convertible/SUV                 Convertible

Flip Flops/Dress shoes         Flip flops

Historical/Futuristic            Historical

Hero/Villain                          Hero

Car/Plane                             Plane

London/Paris                        Paris                                              

Mexico/Canada                    Canada

Ice cream/Chips                   Chips

Hot dog/Hamburger            Zweigle’s white hots!

Beer/Wine                             Wine

Skittles/Hershey Bar            Hershey Bar

BIO:

C. Elle Kent has always had a deep love for writing stories. She is thrilled to release her first novel, Finding Grace, this fall and has two more novels waiting in the wings. A singer before she could talk, she can be found on any given Sunday singing on stage at her church. C. Elle lives in North Carolina with her husband and two children, whom she homeschools.

Want to find out more about Finding Grace and C. Elle Kent? Here’s where to find her!

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Website

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A word about IXEOS

Calvin & Hobbes, always on an adventure!

Calvin & Hobbes, always on an adventure!

A new genre adventure is about to begin! As some of you know, to date I’ve published 3 books in 2 genres. I have two “cozy adventure” treasure hunts (what that means is that they’re clean and fun, and you don’t have to worry about anything embarrassing or gross) called Solomon’s Throne and The Hoard of the Doges. I also have a Christian historical romance set in the Civil War that’s also a mystery. It’s called Undaunted Love.

But now (maybe even today — we’ll see!) I am about to set off into a whole new genre: Young Adult sci-fi fantasy. With a lot of dystopian and a little romance thrown in. I’m really excited about IXEOS and the two books that will follow, IXEOS: Rebellion (April) and Darian’s War (June). I have had a complete blast writing them, for one thing, and I think the plot is fun, unique and interesting. There are lots of characters doing really cool things and trying to save the world. That’s what we all really want, isn’t it? To be the one to save the world?

IXEOS 800 Cover reveal and Promotional

Here are a few of the main characters from IXEOS:

Neahle McClelland.  Neahle is 18 when she gets lured to Ixeos, and she doesn’t feel like she has any special talents to offer the outsiders. She does feel like she might have something to offer the young French rebel leader, Gilles, though.

Clay McClelland.  When Clay arrives in Ixeos with his sister Neahle and his cousin Marty, he’s not excited by the adventure. He’s just plain mad. But he soon finds out he has a big part to play in freeing Darian, the rebel leader who’s been in prison for fifteen years.

Marty McClelland. When it came to looks, God didn’t take a lot of time on Marty, at least in comparison to his cousin Clay. But He made up for it in brains, because Marty is a primo hacker. When he finds out he can hack to his heart’s content on Ixeos, he thinks he’s in heaven. His fellow computer geek Marissa isn’t so bad, either.

Abacus & Vasco. These brothers were the first to arrive in Ixeos from Earth and are the leaders of the outsiders. Abacus is the planner and commander-in-chief, and Vasco is the adventurer. Together they’ve been fighting the Firsts and helping the rebels for over twenty years.

Landon. Landon is the man who got all the outsiders into this mess to begin with. No one knows how he brought them to Ixeos, but they sure know he won’t let them go home. With mysterious powers and a mission to free Darian and drive out the Firsts, he is the sole recruiter of his reluctant outsider army.

The situation on Ixeos is dire:  a humanoid alien race has taken over the planet, killed most of the humans and enslaved the rest. Small pockets of rebels inhabit the cities, but on their own, they can’t defeat the Firsts. Landon has brought teens from Earth to help, and with this ragtag army they will free Darian or die trying.

The book will be out this week — I hope you’ll pick up a copy and let me know what you think!

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The Birth of a Novel

Every time I publish a novel, I get a call from my dad about a month later. He says the same thing in every call: WHERE did you learn all this stuff? Followed by: Where in the world did you get that idea?

I reblogged this guest post about my backwards way of coming up with my ideas, starting with location and ending with characters. I’ve guest posted about my process of research. and I did one about sending it off to my production team. But I’ve never really written about the whole process all in one place.

Right now I have 5 novels that I’m planning to write, produce and release in 2013. One is in production now, having been written in 2012. The second is currently an almost-finished first draft. The third is pretty well fleshed out. The other two… Well, I know they’ll be Quinn adventures, and that’s about it. I think one will be in/around Egypt. I’ve been to Egypt and obviously it’s got enough history to make an interesting story.

So that’s the first step: location. Once I get to the point of researching that one, I’ll start with Egypt and begin searching for interesting trivia. I’ll make tons of notes, most of which I won’t use. I’ll research Alexander and Napoleon and their forays into the country. I’ll research the Kingdoms, the Ptolemies, and the rulers. Something I come across will tickle my imagination and I’ll follow that thread to other countries and interesting trivia. When I’ve got enough locations to make a good hunt I’ll figure out a way to connect those locations, which will give me a plot. I’ve already got my character: Rei and Gideon Quinn and their pal Mac McDonald, plus their boss Luis Xavier (aka the money man), so that’s one less thing to figure out.

By the time I’m ready to start writing I’ll have dozens of pages of scribbled notes (if you saw my handwriting you’d know that ‘scribbled’ is an accurate description). I’ll have a timeline and a list of my locations, plus some information about each location. I’ll know the beginning, the main plot, and the end. That’s about it. Then I’ll start a new file on Scrivener and start typing.

My daily goal is a minimum of 3,000 words a day. For me, that’s about 2-3 hours, even with a good amount of research while I’m writing, although there are days where it seems harder and takes longer. If all goes well, I’ll have the first rough draft in a month, typically about 90,000 words. I’ll do a quick edit for major things like typos, secondary characters whose names change for no apparent reason, and to add in some description, and then send the book to my beta readers. I try to enlist a dozen beta readers, because my experience has been that only about half will actually be able to do it. (This isn’t intentional — they all want to. But life happens, and it’s a lot to take on as a favor!)

I usually give my beta readers several weeks to a month to get back to me. In the meantime, I also start an edit, this time on paper. I find that I tend to skim when I read on a computer screen, so I print it out and use a red pen (not purple – I’m not worried about my self-esteem!). When the beta readers’ comments come back, I incorporate those that resonate with me, or anything that’s mentioned by more than one person, and then do the “big edit.”

The “big edit” is the one that takes the longest. This one merges my own on-paper edits with the beta readers’ ideas, plus involves a very detailed reading of the work on the computer. I take it one page at a time, putting in my edits and then rereading that section and making more changes. This is where word selection, overused words (my most overused word is ‘just’), and adding description comes in heavily. Obviously, this edit takes the longest. I pay attention to Scrivener’s grammar and spelling checks, too.

After this, I move the document from Scrivener to Word and add the chapter breaks. I move it to my pc and employ Grammarly, fixing the spelling problems Scrivener’s tool didn’t catch (an amazing number), checking for comma usage, and doing a Find for overused words (again). I’ll catch things I didn’t catch up to this point, even though I’m trying to be very thorough. Once this is done, I move it back to Word on my Mac and use yet another spelling and grammar checking tool. Believe it or not, Word will catch things that neither Grammarly nor Scrivener caught! In IXEOS, there were three instances where I had “the” twice in a row. Neither of the other programs caught that!

One more quick read-through and I’m done. At this point, I communicate all the pertinent information to my production team at Streetlight Graphics. I’ve written here, here and here what questions I answer for each book. The hardest of these is the blurb, although I’ve gotten a lot better at those the more of them I’ve done. I usually do a lot of back and forth emailing with my daughter and my husband with these until we’ve gotten it fine-tuned. My daughter is especially helpful here because she’s my best beta reader, and so she’s read the books. My husband used to be in advertising, so his input is good, but he hasn’t read the books, so he is limited on what he can suggest. (He did read – and like – Solomon’s Throne, to be fair!)

After Streetlight Graphics has my information, my role changes to advisor and critic. We currently have the cover of IXEOS in draft form. It needs some tweaking, though, so it’s back on Glendon’s desk. Once I get a cover I like, though, I stick with that brand within that genre, so it gets easier. (You can see from this list that the 2 Quinn books have very similar covers, but different from the romance. The upcoming YA sci-fi fantasy is totally different from these. As a multi-genre author, it’s important that each have its own brand so that readers can readily identify those in the genre that they prefer — I probably won’t get a huge amount of crossover.)

After the cover I’ll be reviewing the formatting. I produce my novels in both print and ebook formats, so we’ll check them out and make sure the font and the flourishes that separate scenes are good, the gutters are right, the chapter breaks are correct, etc. The same goes for ebooks. When all those are correct, I get my baby back and it’s time to upload. CreateSpace and Amazon are super easy, and Amazon’s KDP program gets the ebooks up and running usually within 12 hours. CreateSpace will have a draft copy ready for approval in about the same amount of time. Apple is a real pain and takes weeks for approval. Kobo and Barnes & Noble are easy. Smashwords is somewhere in between. For IXEOS, since it’s book 1 in a trilogy, I may only put it on Amazon and enroll it in KDP Select, which will mean a very easy upload process indeed.

Once it’s up, it’s time to promote. Actually, the promotion starts before this point, with “coming soon” posts on my personal Facebook page, my Facebook author page, Twitter, and this blog. As I’ve had success with the other books, I’ve got more money to put in outside advertising and will be having 2 launch blog tours in March. I don’t like to use Twitter and Facebook as scrolling bulletin boards, but I do put information on new books and promotions there regularly (and hopefully inoffensively!).

Even after the initial launch phase is done, the books need constant TLC in the form of paid and free advertising, short and sweet updates on Facebook, Twitter and the blog, blog tours and guest blogging, and word of mouth. The beauty of being an indie publisher is that I don’t have a short window to make money before my book is pulled like a traditionally published author. My books will be around as long as the internet and ebook stores are, so I don’t have to go nuts, I just need to keep exposure going. I’m less panicked about it all now because I’ve figured out that I do better taking a Saturday and planning my marketing for about a 6 week period all at once. Then I don’t have to worry about it. I have a Mac calendar set up just for marketing so I can quickly refer to it.

And that’s about it. Once it’s out there, it’s out there! The beauty of indie publishing is that you can revise and republish very easily, and I’ve done that for 2 of the books. But otherwise, it’s just doing your best to see that they succeed once they’ve left the nest, and believing in yourself and your product. After all, this is a business, and you have to believe in what you’re selling. If you don’t, no one else will!

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“Habit” vs “Voice”

Having a great time... not thinking about grammar!

Let me begin by saying that I do not want to be unteachable or uneditable. I do not claim to know everything about the craft of writing. I have read many thousands of books in the last 45 years, I “hear” my writing in my head and so have a good feel for how it will read, but I don’t claim to be JRR Tolkien or even Stephen King. This post is not coming from a place of pride, just musing through something an agent told me, that I’m not sure I agree with… but I might be talked into it. Or not.

So all that being said, here’s the deal. I wrote a historical romance at the suggestion of an agent, and in the middle of writing it, I discovered self publishing. I am really sold on self publishing, even taking my marketing *skills* (lack thereof) into consideration. But after much internal debate I sent it to her, after having a dozen beta readers read and comment. So I had a pretty good idea on it going in.

One of her 2 comments was that I had too many “abrupt” sentences. Here are some examples:

  • He stared at her, loathing in his eyes. She stayed still, afraid to move, afraid to speak.
  • His blue eyes were the color of the sky at sunrise, tears threatening to fall.
  • The master bedroom was dark, heavy draperies pulled over the tall windows.

First of all, are they abrupt? Do they need conjunctions and other grammatical structures to make them more “readable?” I don’t know… I don’t think so. Reading them now, I’m happy with them. I’ve heard back from one beta reader so far (I just heard from the agent at 2:30), and she didn’t find the writing abrupt at all. I’ve contacted my most detailed beta readers and asked, so we’ll see.

My question really is this: IS this a “bad habit”, or is it just “voice?” I taught a lot about voice when I taught creative writing, especially when I was teaching “reluctant writers” (my favorite). One of the biggest killers of children’s enthusiasm for writing is killing their voice. I think voice is probably the most important thing in a novel, and the most sanitized by the publishing establishment. Some get it through — Janet Evanovich definitely has a voice, and boy, does she use short staccato sentences! But I love the Stephanie Plum books, as do millions of others.

I wrote this romance and really enjoyed it, much to my surprise. My romance reading friends really enjoyed it (also much to my surprise!). It’s not a “typical” romance, probably because I don’t read typical romance. I don’t want to write in the voice of typical romance, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t fall in the genre and isn’t something romance readers would like.

I guess it’s a good, old fashioned conundrum. What do you think?

Oh – the other thing. Ellipses and m-dashes. In my day, ellipses were for pauses, and m-dashes were for asides. That’s how I use them, as I did in this post. Is there some new rule that I missed the memo on? She said I should use m-dashes in place of ellipses, which makes no sense in the context I just stated. Those aren’t indicating asides. Have the grammar police passed some new regulation? Anybody know??

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Editing Frenzy… Now what?

This week was, admittedly, a little bit nuts. I finished the first draft of The Hoard of the Doges, the Quinn sequel; got the ebooks up and running on Kindle and Nook; did the first quick edit of The Hoard of the Doges; did the final edit of Undaunted Love; emailed the agent who suggested the romance that it was done; did several hours of plotting for the August Camp NaNo novel (working title is “Where the Ducks Went” but be assured that’s not the title!); and started figuring out about marketing.

I’ve written about my editing process here before, but it seems to be a frequent question, on all forums (and in person), so I thought I’d share it briefly again. Keeping in mind that, for whatever reason, I write very clean first drafts, here’s what I do:

*  Print it out. There is something really satisfying about a couple hundred sheets of paper, filled with words that your wrote.

*  Quick edit. This is my first run through, as I do zero editing during the writing phase. Zero. My inner editor is on vacation. This edit is for typos, name changes (I always have at least one secondary character whose name has changed mysteriously during the writing process), and anything obviously flawed. What I am not doing is checking for grammar, sentence structure, perfect word placement, etc.

*  Beta readers. I have a few people who are always my go-to’s, but if I’m writing in a new genre, I get more. For Undaunted Love, my foray into Christian historical romance, I asked a dozen people to read it. All they are reading for is the big stuff: characters, dialogue, plot, believability, etc. NO small stuff.

*  Word-by-word edit. Now we come to the big edit, first on paper. This is where I take (or don’t) suggestions by beta readers (my rule of thumb is that at least 30% need to comment on the same thing before I make a change, although I consider all the comments and decide for myself if I agree). I read for word placement. I do spellcheck. I fix grammar. I change the formatting if necessary (for instance, there are a lot of letters, and one song, in Undaunted Love, and it took me awhile to decide how to structure those from a formatting standpoint). I add chapter numbers (not always successfully, unfortunately!). In short, I am thorough.

*  Make all the above changes in the document. Sometimes I decide, reading it on the computer, that I like the original better. Sometimes I change it differently than I changed it on the printed manuscript. Basically, I’m trying to re-re-read, and polish it up.

And that’s it. That’s my editing. The writing takes me 3-4 weeks (usually), and the editing process, from first edit to betas to final, between 4-6 more. Most of that depends on how long I give the beta readers to get back to me – and I tell them up front what that deadline will be, and don’t bug them. Out of the 12 betas for Undaunted Love, I got detailed feedback from half, spotty from a couple, and nothing from the rest. And that’s OK – your betas are doing you a HUGE favor, for free… They have lives, and things happen! Ask enough that, if you only get 50% response, that’s workable.

So now what? My goal was to get Undaunted Love finished and the agent contacted by the end of the weekend. I was on a roll yesterday, though, and pushed through, so now I have two days. The August Camp NaNo doesn’t start until Wednesday, and I’m mostly done with plotting, just need to do some research on EMPs, the Enigma machine, non-viral WMDs, and some geography.

My thought is, marketing.  I know, it’s a bad thought. At least for non-marketing professionals like myself. But, other than word of mouth, an author has to do it (even if you’re published by a traditional publisher, anymore you have to do it). I’ve saved a lot of links in a folder, so I think this weekend is the time I get those out, see what I need to do next, and start tooting my own horn… Not my strong suit, by any means, but I believe in Solomon’s Throne, and the Quinn series, and I really think you’d like it. And your friends. And your neighbors. I just have to figure out a way to convince you of that, too! Hence my crash course in marketing.

Trust me, I’ll keep you posted!

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