The Code Series

Sometimes I only think about The Code.

The Wicked Earworms: Part Deux

So, ha-ha, funny story. Ha, oh boy. Remember… hahah, remember how I finished the draft of Book 2 and it was like, Woaaa, draft done in record time! Hooray!

I may have been jumping the gun a tiny bit on that.

Not that I was displeased with how Book 2 worked out. It followed my previously written draft precisely. Each element fell into place without hesitation. Wait, no, that might be a bit of a lie. Each piece was gently forced into place with a mallet. I was writing to get to the end of it and, as I learned somewhere along the line with book 1, that is not way to write a strong piece of literature. I’m not suggesting you have to love it every step of the way, but I think there is something to be said for understanding that what you write has value, even if it isn’t immediately apparent.

In this case, I couldn’t see the value, and believe me, I tried. I loved the ending. It was strong, full of action leading into the next book. Maybe, just maybe, a bit to much action.

And then I deleted 75,000 words and was like, “Yeah, I should probably rewrite that.”

The problem was that somewhere between finishing the draft and deleting 75,000 words, I wondered what would happen if…

If… Jim’s family were involved more heavily in the plot.

If… I cut the traitor of Lena Barnett

If… I didn’t send them all the way to Russia, but kept them closer to home.

If… Pete were my secondary antagonist.

If, if, if… damn you earworms, making me think about things. But there you have it. The seeds were planted, and I couldn’t very well ignore them. And in many ways I’m glad it happened so quickly. If I had been attempting to rewrite Book 2 over and over again, knowing that deep down I was never satisfied with the outcome, I would end up wasting a lot of precious time on trying to fit a square peg up my nose (which is a roundish hole, I suppose.)

Still, 75k is a lot to lose, even if I have saved it elsewhere just in case I change my mind. But I won’t. Because Jim’s family is now involved, and Pete is back and there is no more traitor named Lena Barnett, and somehow, in erasing and creating new threads I can see how the whole woven story has pulled closer together to keep out the breeze.

75k is a small price to pay for a stronger story.

 

(Header By sarefo – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=716296)

The Validation of Publication in the Writing Nation

How many months has it been? Only two, two and a half if we’re being exact. Two and a half since I released the monster that is Between Fire and Pines into the universe to see what corpses it might drag back with it. The response has been quietly enthusiastic. Friends and family and coworkers have been wonderfully supportive, buying excessive copies and getting me to sign them, making me feel like a celebrity with a coy smile. They have joked about my future career in writing and, during my first ever book signing, a manager and coworker ran to the table and started screaming, “I can’t believe I’m seeing the Kathleen Sawisky!”

It was hilarious, and made even more amusing when a random stranger decided to take a picture of me, as if I was someone important.

It’s been fun and challenging and, at the same time, I don’t feel much about it. And it took me nearly two months to realize why.

It doesn’t feel legitimate.

Oh sure, self-publishing is tough. You take every aspect of it into your own hands. You pay for the editor, the artist. You learn how to format, you make changes, order another proof, make more changes, until you’re satisfied. Or you do what I did, get so excited that you just roll with it and discover all the errors after and realize that you will simply have to call it a SPECIAL FIRST EDITION WITH ORIGINAL AUTHOR ERRORS, and hope you can market the shit out of it that way while subtly making changes for the second edition.

Self-publishing is hard work. It involves a lot of sweat and tears. It means sitting alone at tables, trying to convince random strangers to buy your book, or in my case last weekend, try to convince random strangers that, while you want them to buy your book, no, you do not think it is appropriate for their 12 year old. Whatever. I warned them and I signed the copies so no taksies backsies.

So, yeah, self-publishing is hard. And at the end of all of it you would think that I would be able to stand back and look at my work and think, ‘Yeah, I did it. I made it. This is mine. This work is mine.’

Except I could also poop on a piece of paper, call it my life’s greatest achievement, and self-publish it right now.

As difficult as it is, there is no denying that self-publishing lacks a sense of validation or legitimacy in the eyes of writers. The public, at least according to my boss, who keeps telling me to be more enthusiastic about it, doesn’t care. It is a book. It is a complete story arc that was created from nothing. It is one hell of an accomplishment. So why am I not giddy about what I’ve done?

God damn it all to hell. I want validation.

I only realized it after a friend of mine, there ever charming animal whisperer, Amber Pierce, told us she had not one but two offers for representation! Don’t get me wrong. I nearly peed myself, I was so excited for her! But damn it, jealousy is a fickle mistress. Then Ashley Whitt, who is my favorite Canadian ever and my critique partner, got requests for her brilliant work, The Fairer Sex, and I was, and continue to be, so damn excited for her! These ladies have worked their asses off. They’ve queried and gone into contests and queried again, and I assume stapled small non-denominational bills to the queries maybe? I don’t know what the rule is on bribery.

The point is, their hard work paid off. And mine is too, in its own subtle way.

I guess deep down I still just want someone with some industry oomph to look at my work and tell me, “Hey Kathleen, this is an awesome book. Those who have read it and said that it grips you right from page one and doesn’t let go are correct and also your hair is lovely and no one notices your bad posture.”

Okay, maybe I don’t need that last part.

And I fully admitted both to Ashley and Amber that I was a wee bit jealous, because it is amazing and of course I would be! And that got us talking about validation, and how sometimes we need it.

I don’t want to believe that I do, that I can be content in what I am doing here and now, but honestly… Yeah, it would be nice. It would be nice to have more reviews, and have an agent in your corner who is as enthusiastic about your manuscript as you are, who will go to other people in the industry and gush endlessly about your brilliant thriller.

I don’t know. I don’t want to say I’m experiencing an existential crisis, but it sure feels like it. That’s not to say I won’t keep going. The plan is to self-publish book 2, hopefully with another brilliant cover by David Fross, hopefully after my wonderful copy editor has sunk her claws into it (this time I will be more aware about my own changes after the fact and carefully go through the proof copy so I don’t bollocks up all her hard work.) And maybe, just maybe, someone will notice. Some random stranger might buy a copy on Amazon and leave an okay review and tell a friend. And maybe, just maybe, that okay review will lead to two or three more. Who knows! And then, when I feel like I’ve earned it, I’ll query. I’ll present the series to an agent and tell them about the hard work and the self-publishing and how I worked my ass off to make a name for myself.

And maybe, just maybe, they will say, “Okay, sign here on the dotted line.”

 

Between Fire and Pines Update and Other Such Stuff

Between Fire and Pines has been out for just under a month n0w, and what a month it has been. At the insistence of one of my managers our store is now stocking numerous copies. I also have my first author signing planned for June 25th. I’ve sold 15 copies in-store, another 15 hardcopies online, and roughly 10 ebooks. So either somewhere out there 40 people are about to start demanding their money back or I’ve just ruined my reputation in the eyes of these 40 individuals.

But through all that, one thing has remained consistent. The feedback has been the same.

I couldn’t put it down. It just kept moving.

I call that a win. From the manager who definitely doesn’t read gore-suspense-thriller to the friend who offered the single review on Amazon, they just had to keep reading.

Now somehow book club has learned of it, and I can never go back to book club. Too bad. It was fun while it lasted.

I’ve paid for a small amount of marketing, which didn’t result in any sales; lowered ebook prices to extreme measures, which did result in sales; stared in bewilderment at the hardcopy of my novel, realizing I can never rewrite it again.

 

And that was when I hit the brick wall. Both metaphorically and literally because I wasn’t watching where I was going. It was bound to happen. I’ve heard people say it time and time again. When you finish that first book you experience this sort of atmospheric burn-out, probably from sheer bewilderment that it could possibly be done and in print. This is a problem because I have 8 more books I need to write, and yes, for those of you wondering, I do have enough ideas for all 8 books. This may be my first rodeo, but I have been training with this horse for thirteen years. Yeah, how do you like them metaphors?

So I hit the wall, and then the wall resulted in a strange mental stress which, perhaps unexpectedly, resulted in an intense, holy-shit sort of physical stress that, for the last week, has made my body just… just awful. Cranky, bitchy, chronic painy awful. Screw you, chronic pain. You’re such a dick.

We got a dog this week as well. Alex’s compensation for canceling the trip to Japan. Her name is Whiskey. She is an 8 year-old shepherd mix and she is derpy as hell.

Stress after stress. There was an article in CBC about Prince’s Fentanyl overdose. They spoke to several doctors who stressed the challenges of dealing with chronic pain patients. They did not speak to any patients themselves though, because… reasons, I suppose. It irked me. Not because what they were saying was wrong. I imagine it must be difficult to deal with chronic pain patients. I agree, opiates are over-prescribed. But if you are going to talk about chronic pain, perhaps CBC readers would benefit from actually hearing from someone who suffers from it.

It upset me, to hear that the conversations were difficult for doctors with no concept of how much of a challenge it is for patients to come to doctors, with all their fears and flaws exposed, and say “I need help.” Then to top it all off be told that, “Hey, it’s as much psychological maintenance as it is the physical pain. There is no magic cure.” You can’t just throw that at someone who is looking at pain for the rest of their life. At least ease them into it, jeez.

Where was I? Oh yes, stress led to pain and pain did a number on my creative juices, and it’s only after a couple days of writing notes by hand that I really feel like I can accomplish something again. Book 2. Because book 1 is finished and out of my hands. Nope. Still surreal. I’m probably 2/3rds of the way through the draft. Plenty of explosions and emotional highs and lows. Less gore though. I needed to tone that back. The ending will be more succinct, and Natalia’s growth as a character will be clear. At least, it will be if you’ve read the first book, which you can buy from any of these fine establishments:

Amazon.com

Amazon.ca

Directly from CreateSpace (So I get more moneys)

You can also check it out on Goodsreads, unless you are in book club. If you are in book club, please forget everything.

 

 

Between Fire and Pines – Now Available!

Yup. You read it here first, folks. Or maybe this is just the continuation of a series of exceedingly annoying adverts that you have received from me thanks to my social media prowess. Whatever the case may be, my debut novel is now available for purchase!

Amazon.com is (very slowly) getting it together here.

Amazon.ca is also doing the same.

Or maybe you have a Kindle.

The easiest way to purchase it for now is directly through CreateSpace.

Also other amazons like this one.

And this one.

Not this one.

Win a Copy of ‘Between Fire and Pines’!

With the release date for Between Fire and Pines nearly hear (28 days, oh my god, I’m going to puke) I figured I ought to do, you know, a contest or something. Would you like to win a copy of my debut novel? Maybe? Maybe not. Who knows! It might be trash! But free things are fun! Contests are fun!

Between Fire and Pines takes place heavily in a newly reopened Alcatraz. It also contains what I am told is just a plethora of explosions and fire. Therefore, the rules of the contest are simple:

(In the immortal words of my buddy, Keith)

Photoshop your Alcatraz pictures to include some fucking fire.

I like it. Thanks, Keith!

Tweet the pictures to me (@KathleenSawisky) and tag them with #BetweenFireAndPines, because I am a major egomaniac. All tweets get entered to win, so the more pictures, the more chances you have to earn a sweet ass debut novel signed by yours truly (also, I wrote it. I wrote that thing.) And no taking screencaps from films that involved Alcatraz blowing up. I’ll know. I’ve seen all those films.

 

Between Fire and Pines Release Date Announcement (and other such tripe)

You know what I like about May? It is a fun month. It is about as springy as we can expect here in Calgary, given that June is generally nonstop rain. That means May is the month of warm breezes and sprouting pants. We eagerly anticipate the sight of crocuses peering out of the dirt. We wake up to the sound of robins, returning after the seemingly unending winter.

Now, this May, we may also look forward to goddamned explosions, some badass gunfire, and one racial slur which I was very uncertain about including.

Because, ladies an gentleman, Book One of The Code series, Between Fire and Pines, will be released officially on May 30th, 2016.

It has an ISBN number. It has been formatted. A cover is being made as we speak. Two lovely friends of mine are working on postcards and a t-shirt design respectively (which will be available for purchase from somewhere at some point once I learn stuff and things.) Physical copies may even be available from the bookstore where I work, depending on how my bosses feel about it.

It’s been a strange, elaborate journey. There have been so many ups and downs and misadventures along the way. As I’ve grown so have the characters, which is perhaps why only now does it feel right to be publishing it. And despite all that, it still hasn’t hit me. Maybe it’s because I’m dead inside. I’m not sure. All I know is that come hell or high water, I will be publishing a book on May 30th, and that’s kind of cool.

An Open Letter to Gregg Hurwitz “Thank you for the perpetual fear of mantoids”

Sometimes I write open letters to people who annoy me. Sometimes I write letters to people who inspire me. Sometimes I write letters to my openly passive aggressive neighbours. Today’s letter falls into column ‘B’.

Dear Mr. Hurwitz,

Over ten years ago I managed to get my paws on a copy of The Kill Clause.  I was wandering around the local Chapters in Kelowna, searching for books to take with me on my latest hospital stay. Having previously read The Surgeon by Tess Gerritsen before my first surgery, I decided it was in my best interest to not read about anything surgical, but instead focus on my favorite subject: Revenge. The Kill Clause stood out to me because A) It had kill in the title, and B) Clearly involved a vengeful parent, which in my angsty teenage mind was just perfect. Soon enough I had read every book of yours I could get my hands on. I turned to Amazon to find copies of Minutes to Burn and The Tower (and thank you so much for the perpetual, unending fear of mutant praying mantoids. I am never travelling to the Galapagos.)

Your books have accompanied me to the hospital numerous times, have been my go-to when I need something familiar to sink my teeth into. Even now, older and mercifully educated, I open them and discover subtleties that were certainly over my thirteen-year-old head.

By the time I turned seventeen I was, let’s say, a little more… brash. And having taken to writing as a means to not lose my mind in between spinal surgeries and the perpetual angst, I began to suspect that what I was pursuing was not so much a hobby as it was a calling. Who knows?  Years later, as I venture round amateur writing communities I find there is a shared surreal sensibility, that a writers words call to them, that their characters speak  to them. Personally, I just like writing about explosions and a badass female character.

But seventeen-year-old me was in a different state, and she very much wanted to believe that what she was doing was more than just a way to pass the time in between lucid moments, free from (totally legal, honest) drugs. So stupid, idiotic, naive, dumb-dumb me did a stupid dumb-dumb thing, and emailed you for advice. Make no mistake. The minute I pressed send I had instant email regrets. Even to this day I get embarrassed just thinking about it. I very quickly pushed the whole incident from my mind, figuring that you, holy balls favourite author ever would in no way have time to email back a silly person such as myself. I may have even blocked out the entire incident just to protect my own self-respect.

Then something fantastic happened. You emailed silly, dumb-dumb, moronic, teenage me back.

And I may have peed myself with excitement. Just a little bit.

It was a huge moment. Holy SHIT, I thought. I worship the ground this man writes on! Holy flippin’, ass-crackery shit! 

I can’t recall much of what I wrote to you, but I do recall including a vague request for advice on how to pursue writing as a career, and you told me something that I have followed religiously for the last 8, lordy, almost 9 years.

Write every day. Even if it is just a sentence.

At the time it didn’t mean much to me. Write every day? Uh, okay. But I’m already doing that. So…

But I figured, what the hell, if Gregg Hurwitz tells you to write every day, you damn well do it. You take your medicine and you be grateful you live in Canada and the medicine is covered under your provincial health care (sorry.)

I continued to write and read. Every day. A sentence here. A paragraph there. An idea scrawled onto a post-it that has become part of an impressive collection of half-ideas. I never stopped. When I move from my winter to spring jacket, I find the pockets stuffed with scraps of paper, covered in ideas that, quite frankly, may have been written in a drunken haze given how unclear they are.

Still, I wrote, and indeed, write.

And last year, after almost 9 years of working away at it, observing how my own understanding of writing has grown and matured and, in many ways, thrived, I made a desion that is was time to publish. I briefly considered traditional publishing when it occurred to me that I didn’t want the hassle. It was never about fame or fortune, but just getting this damn series out of my head.

Several months ago I ran a GoFundMe to pay for an editor. Two and a half months ago I paid that editor and sent her my manuscript, desperately hoping the end result would not be her calling CSIS on me (so far so good.) Three weeks ago, give or take, I got my manuscript back, filled with changes to be made. Now, today, I am sitting on 42 changes left to be made, each one seemingly more intricate than the last.

This is coming off far too self-congratulatory. It isn’t meant to be. What I wish to say is thank you. Because at a time when a silly, dumb-dumb teenager from a broken household, with a mangy spine, was trying to find her place in the world, you told her that it was okay to keep writing. Without meaning to, you gave me the permission I needed to continue doing something I loved. To those around me, writing was always just the hobby. The something that Overly Awkward Kathleen did during her free time because she couldn’t socialize well with others.

Overly Awkward Kathleen socializes much better, still puts her foot in her mouth, and has learned to adapt to the world around her. Overly Awkward Kathleen never stopped writing, not even for a second. And it never occurred to me what an accomplishment it could be, or how remarkable crafting and honing a story can be until just recently, when I realized the end of my (first) journey was in sight.

I still buy every one of your books on the day they are released, and I always look for inspiration, to see how you yourself have grown as an author from one book to the next. You continue to inspire me each time I reread any of your work. That being said, I always skip the first chapter of The Kill Clause, because it is too sad, and parts of The Tower are just a bit too graphic for my brain to handle. And I won’t ever reread Minutes to Burn because goddamned giant mantoids and an entire Navy SEALS team.

Mantis_silhouette

LOL NOPE

Thank you.

Most sincerely,

Kathleen Sawisky