Finding My Place in the Literary Alliance: A Fantasy Writer and Audience Marketing Professional’s Perspective

Joining Balance of Seven today is D Y Freeman, a new addition to our literary alliance:

At five years old, I knew I wanted to be a writer. I remember it clearly—sitting in Mrs. Steinmark’s first-grade class with an orange crayon in hand and a “Happy Halloween” coloring book front of me. We were each supposed to pick a page and write a description about what we saw. I wrote a story about peeking into a secret portal and meeting mummies, goblins, and vampires.

Like so many creatives, I’ve dreamt of becoming a world-famous author for most of my life. So much so that I went “off the beaten path” after high school and—against all reasonable advice—I declared myself a Literature major. (If I had a dollar for every time someone joked about how I had a very promising career ahead of me as a McDonald’s fry cook, I’d probably own the whole franchise by now!)

I got my first job while I was in university as a receptionist at a downtown law firm. I was terrible at it. So abysmally bad, in fact, that they fired me just three weeks after I started. I probably broke some kind of speed record. I do have to say, it was probably a wise move on their part. I really do make a lousy front desk rep—a fact my administrative assistants would come to poke fun at me about often.

After my failed attempt in the world of customer service, I found work as the “Arts and Entertainment” newspaper columnist for the school paper—at a whopping $6 an hour. That job lasted about a week; I got scared off when the editor-in-chief locked herself in her office and sobbed at the top of her lungs for three consecutive days.

I decided that the world of journalism just wasn’t for me.

The following week—almost on a whim—I decided to post an advertisement up in the University Center offering my services as an editor. And unbelievably, I actually got a few clients. Eventually I took my freelance editing experience to the next level and contracted with the university’s Writing Center, where I would spend the next two and a half years as a writing consultant.

It was there that I discovered I was good at helping other writers.

Really good at it.

I had a knack for working with the engineering students, and after graduating from university (with my Literature degree), I was hired on full-time as a technical editor at an engineering society. I worked with more than 300 committees on technical standards, reports, symposium papers, and guidebooks. I exceled to a point where I was hired on to become the manager of that division, working with a team of editors and administrative assistants in addition to the committees.

Together, my team and I helped more than 1,300 authors publish—many for the first time.

I eventually gravitated toward our company’s publishing unit, as an audience marketing professional. That’s where I’ve been for the past five years, and where I am today. Audience marketing for publications.

Throughout my journey, I have discovered I am both a writer AND . . . something else.

It has taken me 10+ years to figure out exactly what that “something else” is. Some days, I’m still not entirely sure what, exactly, I do, but what I can say with total confidence is this.

I am a publishing professional.

And I am your ally in this industry.

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The Winding Road from Missing Heir to Lost King

I mentioned to someone once that I was planning two books for my Peace of Evon series: Missing Heir and Lost King.  Their response was that I seemed to have trouble keeping track of my nobles.

Keeping track of the nobles in my worlds has never really been my problem, fortunately.  Time, on the other hand, is a different story.  Like many people, time has a way of slipping away from me before I can accomplish all that I hope to.  Or, more accurately, things are never as simple as I plan, and they, therefore, take longer to achieve.

I published my first book, Peace of Evon: Missing Heir, in December 2013.  At the time, I had only planned for the series to span two books, as I mentioned before.  My plan was to finish the series within a year (which I laugh to think about now) and continue on with other stories.

Well, good intentions and all that.

The Peace of Evon series actually began as a single story, an idea for a single book.  But, as most creators know, a single idea can grow much larger than anticipated.  So is it really any surprise that, after a single story turned into a two-book series, the Peace of Evon series is now expected to be a quartet?

Not really.  These days, it just seems obvious.

When I hit the half-way point of my story, I realized it would be too long to fit into a single book.  Even then, the story was already 200,000 words long.  At the time, my father asked if I could divide it into a trilogy (the number three seems to have become quite popular in literature these days).  I said no; while the story covered three months, there was no good way to divide it into three.

A few months after I published Missing Heir, I spoke with a small publishing company.  When they asked if I could break it up, I came to a sudden, jarring revelation: I might no be able to break the story in three, but it had the perfect subplots to divide it into four.

Which included breaking Missing Heir into two books.

By now, Missing Heir is retired, and in its place I have published the first two books of the Peace of Evon series: Peace of Evon and Gift of War.

And so the road of creativity winds.

After months of little tweaks, new covers, and seemingly endless publishing, I am proud to announce that, not only is the reconstruction debacle of Missing Heir finally complete, but the third book of the Peace of Evon series (and the promised sequel to the original Missing Heir) is finally available in both paperback and ebook.

As of March 31, 2015, Evon has found her Lost King.

Now if only I can get her to remember her Forgotten Goddess.

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Gift of War brings poison to Evon.

War wants to play The Game, but Peace doesn’t remember the rules.

After a month of traveling together, Ferez and Gemi have grown close, but Ferez still thinks Gemi is just James, a peasant-born boy known to most as the Ghost. As they enter a new province, they face an otherworldly power out to destroy the peace they seek and the spreading chaotic poison of enemy nomads. Can they find peace together, or will their enemies’ poison infect them both?

The second book in my Peace of Evon series, Gift of War is now available in paperback and ebook from most online retailers. Check out the Gift of War page for more information.

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Peace of Evon is out on Paperback and eBook

Two centuries after Peace disappeared into the Cycle of Incarnation, a young noblewoman takes on the persona of a peasant-born boy to seek peace for her country.  By the age of 16, her male persona has become known as a rebel leader among the nobles and an icon to the people.  What happens when an unexpected encounter with the country’s young king threatens the secrets she’s kept for so long?

The first of a fantasy quartet, Peace of Evon is now available in paperback and ebook.  You can find it on my website or on Smashwords, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and many others of your favorite online retailers.

I am also giving away 24 copies on Goodreads.  The giveaway ends October 14, so make your way to Goodreads soon to join in the giveaway.

If you attempt to purchase the Kindle version through Amazon instead of Smashwords, you will only find Peace of Evon:  Missing Heir.  This is my original book, of which Peace of Evon is the first half.  There is no major difference between Peace of Evon and the first half of Peace of Evon:  Missing Heir.  Just understand that if you buy Peace of Evon:  Missing Heir, you are essentially purchasing the first two books of the quartet.

I expect to have the sequel, Gift of War, available by November 25.  Subscribe to my newsletter for updates on the process.

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Peace of Evon is now available!

Despite some hiccoughs with the ebook, Peace of Evon is now available in paperback.  While it will take a couple of days for it to show up on Amazon, anyone who is interested can check it out through my website here.

Since it has been nearly a year since I last published book, I had forgotten how much trouble an ebook could be to publish (formatting and deciding just who to publish with).  After wasting hours yesterday on a program I couldn’t even use with the company I was trying to publish with, I finally broke down and decided to go with Smashwords.

And, so far, Smashwords seems like a great company.

I’ve seen some people complain about having to read the Smashwords Style Guide, but the style guide gives step-by-step instructions and makes formatting my story into an ebook fairly easy.  My only complaint is that my story uses a lot of italics, and I have had to go back through the entire story to replace them after using the nuclear method that the style guide recommends to remove all possibly funky formatting.  However, searching for italics in a backup of my story now is preferable to searching for whatever messed up formatting gets flagged later.

I’m also interested in seeing how my story does in ebook formats other than Kindle’s Mobi.  For reasons I still don’t understand, Lulu refused to upload my original story (never even got to the point of trying to convert it with them).  Since I didn’t know about Smashwords back then, I ended up with a Kindle ebook and nothing else.

Hopefully, I’ll have better luck with Peace of Evon.

No matter what, though, I have learned that self-publishing can be like anything else:  trial and error until you get it right.

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Designing Author Website

I’m currently working with a website designer to design my website. The design is up and running, and it looks great, but I’m still learning how to use it (I originally published this post on WordPress instead of my website) and I need to reorganize my pages and their contents.

I am currently thinking of having the home page start with a news feed that will show the beginning of the blog post that I consider to be most important at the moment, with a list of books associated with the site (currently just my Peace of Evon series) beneath it. Each title in the list will link to a description of the book on a separate page (all book descriptions, with cover, link to store for purchasing, and, if available, link to excerpt on Wattpad, will be on the same page, which can be accessed from a tab at the top of the screen).

Other than the “Home” and “Books” tabs, I also plan to have an “About the Author” tab, a “Contact” tab, and an “Explore Evon” tab. The first two are self-explanatory, but the “Explore Evon” tab will have a drop-down menu with links to pages with maps, lists and descriptions of gods, language glossaries, and various songs, poems, and games associated with the world of my series.

Along the sides of the screen, I currently have sign-up for newsletter, like on Facebook, lists of posts, and Archives, and I am contemplating the addition of widgets for my Goodreads author page and Book Giveaway. I would also like to add links to my Wattpad and perhaps LinkedIn, but I’m not sure where to put them.

At this point, I feel like I should reach out to others for advice.

As authors, whether self-published or traditional, does this seem like a good start for a site? Is there anything you would change or add to my description? Where do you think I should put the widgets and links that I’m uncertain about?

If you’re a reader only, that’s great! What would you, as a reader, wish and expect to find on your favorite author’s website? Does my description of what I want to do sound appealing, or is there something you think I should do differently?

Please feel free to leave comments with any advice or suggestions. I’m open to any help I can get right now.

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Whimsy of My Life

Years ago, I began writing short stories based off real nightmares I have had throughout my life.  Not many translated well, but I decided that I wanted to continue this collection.  I also decided I wanted to write some based on dreams, as well, and form the stories into an anthology called Dreams & Nightmares.

Unfortunately, pleasant dreams are harder for me to remember.  Even if I decided to write the stories without real dreams for their bases, I found my inspiration for such things was lacking.

Until last night.

I’m not sure what prompted me to start writing a dream story last night, but I finished it fairly quickly.  I’ve posted in on Wattpad for any who might be interested in a whimsical story about the pull of the dream world.

“I don’t dream often, but, when I do, the dreams are real and vibrant, and I have yet to forget one.”

–Whimsy of My Life

Feel free to take a look (the story’s not long) and let me know what you think.

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Four Week Countdown has Begun

Now that September has begun, I have begun a (at the very least, mental) countdown to publication for Peace of Evon, the first book in the Peace of Evon series.

September 30 is publication day, and I am feeling both relieved and stressed (if it’s even possible to feel both at once).  I don’t think I’ll be able to complete everything I’d planned to before the book is published, but, at the same time, this isn’t the first book I’ve published, so I already know I can at least complete publication successfully.

(Technically, this is the first half of the first book I published, but that just means I’m that much more familiar with the process.)

What I won’t be able to complete before publication is all of the advertising and contacting booksellers that I wanted to do.  However, those can be done after publication just as easily as before (in some cases, after might be easier).

I’d say this has taught me not to bite off more than I can chew, but, since my entire life feels that way right now, I probably haven’t learned the lesson yet.  As long as I can accomplish my rigid goals by the time I set for myself, I believe the more flexible ones will fall into place.  Eventually.

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Culture-Building: Mourning

Where there is war, there is death and, ultimately, the mourning of it.

In my series, the country of Evon has been steeped in war.  In fact, it has been defending its soil from an empire many times larger than it for more than half of its two century existence.

This, as one might imagine, has led to the creation of a mourning “ceremony” that is simple, can be performed by anyone at any time, and is general enough that it can be used for one or more dead at one time.

By the time the series takes place, the mourning “ceremony” is simply a song.  Whether it was once something grander matters little to a people that wish to mourn those they’ve lost without risking the loss of more.  To them, the Song of Mourning is poignant and reminds everyone who hears it of what they’ve lost.

The Song of Mourning

Send me away from the place I call home,
Send me away from the one that I love,
Send me away on the tides of tomorrow,
Send me away, send me away.

Send me away o’er fields and o’er mountains,
Send me away under blue skies and clouds,
Send me away with the rush of the river,
Send me away, send me away.

Send me away with the morning’s first sunlight,
Send me away in the darkness of night,
Send me away to Carith, Creator,
Send me away, send me away.

How do you mourn?  How do the characters you write mourn?  Please share.  I would love to learn about it.

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Mental Creation or Spiritual Observation

Have you ever heard a writer complain about his/her characters taking over the story he/she is writing?  Taking on lives of their own, against all wishes of the writer?  Or maybe the writer has marveled at the ease with which a story idea came into being, no matter how difficult the actual details or scenes became to write?  How easy the history formed itself together, even if he/she can’t fit it into the current story?

Maybe you’ve experienced this yourself?

I’m not writing this to make anyone feel bad if they haven’t found the creative process so easy.  After all, everybody’s process is different, and people get inspiration from different things.

Even so, have you ever wondered how our collective minds manage to create such vast and wondrous worlds?  Yes, I’m mostly referring to the Scifi and Fantasy genres, but even some non-scifi/fantasy fiction works have tweaks and twists that are unique to their author.  And, sometimes, they beg the question, “From where do they come?”

I grew up with a Catholic father and a more spiritual, less religious mother.  They divorced when I was twelve, at which point I became more heavily involved in both aspects.  One the one hand, I’ve gone through Confirmation in the Catholic Church, and I loved singing in the choir.  One the other, I’ve gone through Reiki II attunement (if you haven’t heard of Reiki, think ‘laying on of hands to act as a channel for universal healing energy’, and you might get the gist), and I believe in Oneness, past lives, and the ability of some people to connect with and channel spiritual entities.

It might not come as a surprise, then, that my mother believes some of what I write is channeled.

And, honestly, I wonder it myself, sometimes.

My mom tells me a story occasionally about a channeling session she once attended.  During such sessions, various people tap into and channel various spiritual entities:  angels, Jesus, Buddha, and many other spiritual leaders who have moved on to a position that is more of spiritual guidance than physical experience.  Whether or not you believe that this is possible (and I won’t ask you to if you don’t), the people who attend and experience these sessions do.  As do I, which is one of the reasons I believe in Oneness and past lives.

Now, the story my mother tells involves the past life of one of the session’s participants.  I can’t remember if she said he was channeling it, or claiming it, or if another channeler was claiming it, but, as my mother tells me, one of the participant’s past lives was claimed to be a Jedi.  It was claimed that George Lucas actually channeled (at least some of) the world and story of the Star Wars trilogies, and that it actually was a ‘long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away’.

You might scoff at this.  That’s all right.  I try not to force others to see the world as I do because I hate it when others do that to me (if you can’t tell, I no longer consider myself Christian).  I simply lay this story out to make a point.

When writers come up with the worlds and stories for their books (and even other creators in other media) are they creating all of this in their minds or simply acting as spiritual observers to worlds that have existed, or will exist, in this universe or even alternate ones?

My opinion is that we do a combination of both.  I have had too many ah-ha moments in the creation of my world and its history, as well as the constantly increasing chain of stories to write in it, to believe that there isn’t some higher knowledge into which I am tapping.

Yes, I make my own tweaks to the world.  For example, there is no way the people on another world could actually speak English, German, Spanish, Italian, and Japanese, even under different names.  But aspects of each language and culture are what speak to me when I choose them for my cultures, not specifically the languages themselves.

But I sometimes believe that it’s the channeling that gives this world to me and drives me to share it with others.

I’m not the only writer who might feel this way, either.  My best friend and roommate, who has done the occasional writing throughout his life, once thought he was not capable of writing something unless it was based on real-world people and situations.  Then, he began to dream of a fantastical world with deities and their champions, and now the characters won’t shut up.  They drive him to write their stories.

I once teased him that I infected him with the desire to write fantasy, but it might be more than that.  We’ll probably never know the truth of it, but that won’t keep me from wondering.

Are we the ultimate creators of the stories we write?  Or are we often spiritual observers, accessing other worlds that we are driven to share with our own?

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