editing

There is Snow

Natalia learned how to muffle her crying, how to put on a mask that said to the rest of the world I am a well-adjusted individual. Pay no attention to me.

Winter isn’t like I remember it. When I was a youngun’ in Kelowna I remember heaps of snow that dominated the world. They peaked like egg whites whipped to perfection, so thick you could burrow into them and tunnel like a prairie dog to the other side of the world.

I’m sure climate change is the reason for the grey, barren world outside of this bus depot now. I find it strange when there is no snow to hide the earth in the winter. Snow is like a magician’s cape pulled over a box containing a rabbit. In the spring it is pulled back to reveal flowers where there was once something else. Without snow, the magic of the seasons seem somehow more hollow, almost exhausting. I’m happy for the blue sky, and the sense of infinity that comes from living on the prairies during this time of year, but I wish there was snow to blanket the earth and create that sense of incredible wonder again.

In the winter I always find myself stalling when it comes to writing. Maybe it’s the fact that I am cold 90% of the time and my fingers would much rather be buried in a blanket than tapping away at a keyboard. I can’t do that now. There is a sense of ownership to this journey, that even the three or four people who have read Between Fire and Pines and The Skeletal Bird are owed an ending, and unfortunately I am still rather far away from that. There is a lot of work to be done this winter, and I have to drag myself out of this melancholia that had set in and remind myself that in my very tiny world, I too am a magician.

Plot, characters, setting, events, deaths, births. They are all woven together to make my cloak, and beneath them exists a final product, another book. It isn’t as simple as the cry of Abracadabra or Alakazam. The end product of this magical act must be tended to like the snow tends to the earth in the winter. It is done beneath the surface, where no one can see what is taking place.

I like being a magician with words, although I’d hardly call myself adept at the craft yet. But magic can be learned and the bulbs in the frozen ground can be tended to, and amazing things can grow where you least expect it.

Book 3 has been a challenge for me, and I’m not sure why. It is at least  partially a case of “I wrote the original plot so long ago that it no longer fits with the overall narrative, and also it was stupid.” At the same time, something hasn’t been fitting quite right. It’s like a shirt that’s been washed too many times. It no longer fits right. Without a finished draft I can hardly go back and begin to identify the problematic feature. Instead I have to barrel on through the whole thing until I have that beginning, middle, and end. That’s when my favorite part of the magic show takes place. The illusions, the  misdirection, all the bits and pieces that I get to put into place. The moments of quiet reflection and the other moments of explosive action.

I was speaking to a writer friend of mine not too long ago and he was just about halfway through The Skeletal Bird. I always get nervous when it comes to my friends reading my work, especially when they have the same desires that I do to succeed in the industry. We’re hard on each other, if only to help each other improve and succeed. This friend told me that he was enjoying it, but in particular he loved the moments between action and dialogue. The little reflective moments that don’t build on plot or characters, but create a striking visual and help cement an author’s voice. I was extraordinary happy with that, and quite embarrassed by the praise. It meant a lot to me, and helped carry me through some severe moments of doubt.

At the same time, I think maybe doubt it a product of a winter without snow. You look around the world and wonder if its possible this cold will ever cleave itself from the earth, if you’ll ever feel the warmth of a spring sun. Winter is a time of doubt, and it can be remarkably exhausting if you don’t have the means to survive it. I have words; a little bit of magic in my hands.

I wouldn’t mind a bit of snow either.


Between Fire and Pines  and The Skeletal Bird are both available on Amazon, Kindle, and Kobo! If you’e read them, please consider leaving a review on Goodreads! It helps readers make informed decisions. Like, “This book wasn’t as bad as I thought”, or “This book is like a Michael Bay wet-dream”.

Fractals

She was built of fractals that continued to break down, leaving behind smaller halves of the same person.

Several days ago I finished the second draft of Book 2 of The Code Series. It was a little surreal. I’ve spoken before about earworms, and how some idea can get nestled down into your skull and refuse to leave until you rewrite your entire manuscript. The original draft of book 2 was a bit different. I finished it and didn’t feel satisfied. It felt disjointed and not the least bit cohesive. Whether or not that was true, it’s hard to say. I generally go with my gut on these things, so I took a couple days away from the draft, figured out where I went wrong, and deleted 70k words. And while I shed a bitter tear for all the words lost, I knew that it was the right thing to do.

Now with the second draft finished I feel much better. I have the same stomach squirm (elusive cousin of the ear worm) that is telling me this is it. Now I’m on the right path. This is a draft I can, and will, work with.

Enter my favorite part of the process. Not rewrites, because screw rewrites. No one likes them. No, this is the part where I go through the manuscript and begin to develop the ideas that were half assed. Increase that, add more blood to that, throw in another explosion here, more drama, less mystery, more ghosts. Any and all of it. It is essentially a full rewrite, but I start with major changes (13 at last count) that need to be addressed. And these changes are what give the story an air of mystery. They are the pieces of thread that connect all the stories together.

love this part of the process.

And yet, while I’m busy writing, and moving, and dealing with a huge barrel of drama at work (and the barrel is full of bees and the bees are on fire) I have mistakenly forgotten that marketing is a valuable part of the whole process. If I want people to read Book 2, I really need them to read book 1. I am no good at marketing. I get into slumps where I’d rather read or write new things. Anything than create another tweet that says “Hey! Look at me!”

Okay, story time…

The other day at work I got a call. Usually when people call me at work it is to ask about consignment which I, bizarrely, agreed to take over when the Consignment Manager left. This time, however, the phone call was for me, Kathleen, the author. The woman on the other end explained her son had bought my book and wanted to come in to introduce his Grandma to me, who had been reading the book with him over the last few weeks.

I knew this kid, because he was there at my signing and bought the book while I nervously looked at my mom, telepathically screaming to her What do I do oh my god this isn’t appropriate for someone his age oh my god oh my god oh my god!

Since my signing, the kid, Yago, has come to see me at work a couple times. We’ve had lots of fun talking about the book and Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. On the day his mom called I was having a brutal day. I was miserable from all the drama and getting accused of things I hadn’t done. I was tired of being part of the rumor mill and just wanted to go home. Getting to see Yago again would be a highlight so obviously I enthusiastically told his mom to bring him on over.

A few hours later I was standing at the front, being introduced to his grandma, who slyly told me that Book 1 was the only time she would ever say those words around him. (Oh my god, how many times did I drop the F-bomb? I’m so sorry, Grandma!) I explained that I was having a miserable day until they showed up, and how happy it made me to see them. I gave Yago my card so we could email if he wanted to.

He wasn’t happy that [Spoilers] died, but he liked the book all the same.

It was an amazing experience. My first real fan. The first person who has no real reason to care about my writing, and he liked it. It was remarkable and heartwarming and made me feel like, despite all the mistakes of the first one, it was still a palatable book and was worth the marketing effort and the exhaustive hours and the tears and struggles. That the fact the series is going to be 9 books long isn’t ridiculous – it’s worth it, because it is a good story that is worthy of being completed.

It felt like a renewal. It sparked the flame again. It was marvelous. Now, with only 9 days until we move, I’m saying screw it to packing for a while, and I’m going to sit down and edit the hell out of Book 2. Because someone out there is waiting eagerly to see what happens next, and I don’t want to disappoint him.

Fun reminder! You can buy a copy of my debut novel, The Code: Book 1 – Between Fire and Pines, from Amazon right here or read an excerpt here!

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.