Tag Archives: writing a novel

Give feedback on new writing!


I can finally talk about it. Amazon has a new site called WriteOn Kindle. You can go there and join the community as a reader or a writer – or both! AND, if you’ve enjoyed anything I’ve written, you can find me there and read the first draft chapters of “Mining the Dark” and other work. I will also begin spotlighting my poetry in a more organized way.

Stop by and let me know what you think. Plus you can find many more new writers looking for reader feedback.

Fang on! v–v

The Evolution of a Character


cartoon+crows+and+moon

I almost threw “Mining the Dark” in the garbage. 

As you may recall from one of my previous posts, I realized that the character of Emma is highly influenced by my own trials and tribulations. Once I realized that, I somehow thought that the characterization was “fake,” which is odd given that we’re talking about a fiction book. I guess “fake” in the sense that it was too real, too me.

I discussed this with a friend, specifically in talking about how art impacts life and life impacts art. For those of us who are creative, not having an outlet for expression can just about drive you crazy. It should be no surprise that some of the greatest artists struggled with some type of emotional/mental challenges. My favorite example is Edgar Allan Poe. Poe is one of my favorite authors of all time. He, quite naturally, struggled with depression due to the untimely death of his wife, which many have said suggested influenced much of his writing. Another favored author is Emily Dickinson, who was widely known to be deeply troubled by thoughts of death, as many around her died when she was young. Her depression was so significant that as an adult, she became more and more reclusive. And then there is the ultimate example of Sylvia Plath, an acclaimed poet and novelist who committed suicide not long after being prescribed anti-depressants.

Extraordinary artists are all a bit…askew. Given their challenges, they are able to see life through a lens that some find shocking, while others shout, “Yes! I’m not the only one!” They always make an impression, a very emotional one. This type of response is the reason why I always said that I appreciated it when someone hated Emma, because I marvel at the fact that a character I created could evoke such strong feelings in another person. That is, until I accepted that Emma is somewhat an aspect of my own personality. When you hate her, you hate that part of me. Although I may not know you, the thought of that terrifies me. 

I’m embracing the fear. When I was a teenager, writing poetry was a great way to release the pent-up thoughts and feelings that would’ve otherwise consumed me. It’s foolish for me to think that I cannot use my own writing to do the same thing now…and maybe help another person along the way.

Love her or hate her, Emma is here to stay. I’m not throwing out “Mining the Dark.” If anything, I’m more committed than ever in completing the manuscript as soon as possible. 63,000 words and counting….

To Print or Not to Print


I posted this on my Facebook page, but thought it would be a good message for the blog, too.

I have struggled with something over the past couple of weeks. Now that I’ve made a decision, I wanted to share it with you all.

“Mining the Dark” will (initially) only be available in digital format. This was a very hard decision because I would rather that anyone who wants to read the book have choices. The unfortunate reality is that print books don’t make a lot of money.

I know, I know – it’s not like I’m having to front the cost since I self-publish. What I do have to provide is my time and effort. When you self-publish books, depending on which services you use, you will likely have to format your manuscript in a different way. For example, what works in digital self-publishing doesn’t necessarily work in print self-publishing. Right now in this industry you usually have to have one version of the manuscript formatted for digital and one for print – and this doesn’t even include cover imaging which typically have to be different and just because there’s a copyright on the digital image doesn’t mean it’s on the print image.

I went ahead and did this for “The Source” and set the price HIGHER for print than what I wanted because I personally don’t feel that people should have to pay a lot for a little mental vacation. Even with the price that I set for the print version, I only make $0.78 every time a copy sells because of the overhead costs of the paper, binding, print ink, etc.

Right now, at this point in my career, the time and effort outweighs the benefits…which actually does upset me because one of the biggest benefits is that readers can enjoy (or hate) the book in whichever format they choose.

After thinking through all of this and getting feedback from many of you over which format you read “The Source,” I have decided that when “Mining the Dark” is released, it will only be in digital format.

I wanted to post this so I could be honest with y’all and didn’t want anyone to have certain expectations only to be disappointed.

Beta Readers – LOVE Them


As a writer who as at the beginning of her journey, I rely a lot on feedback. Actually, I want to always rely on feedback regardless of where I’m at in my writing career. I know some writers will wax poetic on their art and how they need to tell the story. That’s all well and good – I don’t disagree. I do put a twist on this though. If I was only doing this for the sake of my art and not really caring what others thought, why would I publish in the first place? The icing on the delicious cake of writing is actually having people enjoy and respond to your stories!

This is why fans are so important to me. Heck, not just fans – readers in general. Even if you read my stories and hate them, I want to hear the feedback. Why? Because it can only help me improve my storytelling so that people actually want to read my books.

Now, I know what some of you may be thinking. How could I possibly enjoy being torn apart in a bad review? I don’t! Yes, it does sting. And yes, there are some negative criticisms I take with a grain of salt. For example, if you attack one of my paranormal stories, but you don’t usually read paranormal fiction…I will not make adjustments in future stories based on everything you say. Why? Well, to be blunt, if you’re not a paranormal fiction fan, I’m not writing for your enjoyment, so if you don’t like it…well, that really wasn’t the goal, now was it? I’m a writer, not some egomaniac who thinks that I can use my writing to make people who hate paranormal fiction into lifelong fans. However, that doesn’t mean I won’t think about what you’ve said. Even the most hateful reviewers can have some good ideas – unless of course for those few individuals who attack authors out of greed, envy and competition.

But, for the most part, I’m going to pay even more attention to the feedback from fans of the genre. These are the readers that I’m trying to entertain, so of course their opinion is of the highest value to me. And that is why I LOVE my beta readers. These are the people who know the genre, have read other paranormal fiction works – some of them being fans of some of the more well-known series – and they’re attuned to the themes, action, discourse and even phrasing that has come to be expected with this type of fiction. They keep me on the right track with my storytelling – and I love it when they point out where I’m, ahem, sucking.

I can’t say it enough – I love my beta readers. They’re not only helping me be a better writer, but they’re helping me produce more enjoyable paranormal fiction for the rest of you. That is, if you’re a fan of that sort of thing. 😉

Much love and respect! v–v

$0.99 for a Great Book!


For December, “The Source” is only $0.99 for Amazon Kindle, B&N Nook and Smashwords! An awesome deal for a great book!

And even better, 80% of the royalties go to help the family of Megan Beckett-Foltz, an 8-year-old who is battling AML leukemia and had a bone marrow transplant on November 28th! The family needs all the help they can get, so spread the word about “The Source” and let’s get as much money for the family as possible!

http://www.amazon.com/Source-Mountain-State-Vampire-ebook/dp/B008XDNVXY/

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-source-jb-stilwell/1113786761?ean=2940015847178

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/254580

Fang on! v–v

When the Dream Gets Lost


I wrote a lot during my middle school/high school time. By the age of 18, I had written over 500 pages of poetry. It’s all gone.

I don’t know what happened to it. I used to keep all of my writing in a black binder, but I couldn’t tell you what happened to it. Something happened when I was 18-19 years old that was so emotionally traumatic that even my knack for writing dark odes was helpless in saving me. I went from feeling like I was living in a world of darkness to being hollow. I couldn’t even feel the darkness. It was like the writer within had died along with my muse, twin graves that I wanted to visit but didn’t know how.

Although I had stopped writing, I tried on several occasions to find that binder. I would practically tear our house apart, from the top floor to the basement. I wanted to write again, and I had hoped that reading through those old poems would awaken my muse. Maybe if I could’ve been reminded of what it was like, I could replicate that feeling of release that I got when I purged my thoughts on a piece of lined paper. But it never happened. I never found that binder. Over 500 pages of poetry gone forever.

I did eventually start to write again, but only essays on political issues that I felt passionate about at the time. I even contemplated a regular contribution to a state magazine as a way to embrace writing again. My first column with the magazine was on the persecution of transpeople and the social construct of gender. To many people, it would be quite snooze-worthy. To others, it would piss them off. For me, I envisioned a regular contribution of post-second-wave feminist ramblings that I would call “The Angry Beaver.” As seductive as I found the idea, I never pursued it.

Through those years I tried many times to write new poetry and short stories. I never kept any of it because it all sucked. I decided that I had to accept that the  trauma I felt in my late teens was really that part of me dying. And regardless of how hard I tried, there was no resurrecting her.

Then it happened. I had an idea. An original idea. It had been so long since I had one that it came as a bit of a shock, like someone had slapped me. That original idea is turning into my first novel, “The Source.” It’s like seeing your first love again and although you have both changed, you are still so deeply connected that a different type of love blossoms.

My love affair with writing has started again. My muse didn’t need to be resurrected. She just needed a 17-year vacation to sort some things out, and now we’re both more mature and mentally prepared to get the story out to the masses.

Wait for it. It’s coming soon.

A Writer’s Muse


If art imitates life, does that mean that life is my muse?

One of many actually.

When I first started writing in middle school, it wasn’t long before I had a moment of clarity regarding my work – it’s not original. I’m not being overly-critical of myself here, just that I came to realize what my role as a writer was in some ways like that of an artist – at least my view of artists, coming from someone who would have loved to be a painter but just couldn’t embrace that particular form of media.

What I realized is that words are overused. The world is so big and there are so many languages and there have been so many people to have lived this crazy life that anything I could express was most likely expressed by someone else already. So why even bother? Because even if someone has said it before, that doesn’t mean my audience has heard/read it before. At the risk of sounding off my nut, I came to embrace an almost ethereal muse. I would meditate on this idea that everything has been said before and then just let the words come to me, almost as if someone else was talking through me. Many times, it was like I could view all of the words, and I was picking them out to arrange them in a number of sequences that made sense to me – almost like an artist will take many different colors of paint and mix them together to create a painting. I wrote in this method for so long that it became as if the poems and stories already existed, I was just giving them a voice.

I no longer meditate on this idea…much. But the method has in some ways continued to live on within me. When I first started writing my first novel, “The Source,” the characters took on a life of their own. I would sit down to write and scenes would develop in a way I never expected, characters actually shocking me with the things they said and did. After so many years of not seriously writing, this experience amazes me again and again every time it happens. And if it doesn’t happen, I start to wonder if the plot is really going in the direction it should.

I now understand when novelists like Laurell K. Hamilton often refer to their characters as if they are real people. Life is not just our muse. Our muses are living entities that we “literarily” give birth to and often refer to as loved ones.

Does this make us crazy? Maybe. It definitely makes us good storytellers because a good story comes from someone who lives comfortably in her own imagination.

I’m not going to worry about any possible pathology until I start preferring my characters over real people, and on some days, that becomes way too difficult to resist.