On Letting Someone Go (In Fiction and In Life)

Harsh truths out of the way first: there’s no such thing as forever.

We grow apart from where we started out. Whether or not we change or just better understand why we feel the way we feel, we grow, we evolve, and time is the greatest catalyst of all. We can’t escape change. We can say that there’s no way that we right now, in our late twenties and early thirties (my peers, in this case) are the same as we were when we were just starting college, or graduating it, etc.

Same can be said for relationships and friendships, whether written or real-life.

I’ve always said that blood is water-soluble. It’s true in chemistry and in life. While you can’t choose the people whom you’re born to, you have every freedom in the world to choose your association with them. Just because someone is born as your blood family member doesn’t automatically qualify them as a good person to be around. Ask the survivors of narcissistic parents, ask abuse survivors whether or not they will ever associate with their family members, and you will find that their answer will be an immediate and unequivocal no way.

Why is that? Simple: just because someone is family doesn’t mean they 1. are a good person and 2. deserve a relationship.

There’s a pretty great meme that has gone around, a meme that says, “You are the CEO of your life. Promote, demote, and terminate accordingly” – paraphrased. It’s a sentiment I wholly agree with, having done all of the above to nearly every relationship I’ve had.

Yes, you can pick your family, if you let go of the idea that family = blood. And you will find that the family you pick can sometimes be a lot better than the family you were born into.

Consider this, ladies and gents: you are under no obligation to accept someone’s bad behavior if their behavior affects your own quality of life. You’re also under no obligation to allow someone to make you feel bad just because you happen to be related to them or their friend for multiple years. You, and yourself, are the first priority in your life and livelihood, regardless of whether or not there are other people in your immediate life. If you don’t take care of yourself, and if you don’t take the time to make yourself the best you are capable of being, then who else will?

This isn’t the time to say “my husband” or “my children” or “my wife”. No. YOU are the first and sole person responsible for your well-being at the end of the day. Marriages can end. Your children can move away from you and get busy in their own lives, since they are people in their own right. Where would that leave you?

And that is the primary reason why I, once again, say: be selective with who is allowed in your life. Be selective. Be picky. Be very, very, very picky. Yes, it can be a lonely road to follow, but what you will see, some years down the line, is that you will be surrounding yourself with far better quality individuals than before. Your life and well-being are both influenced by the people you surround yourself with, and if you surround yourself with people that lift you up as opposed to bring you down – well, the possibilities become endless.

But life and living stuff aside, let’s not forget that we, as writers, create our own relationships, especially with our characters. They are our children, of sorts, regardless of whether or not we have kids; these characters have been created by us, created down to the way they take their coffee in the morning, and there is nothing quite like the relationship that we, the authors, build with them.

When it comes to Arriella in particular, my main character in The Index Series,  I feel like a mixture of friend and parent to her, even though 1. she’s not technically real outside of my books, and 2. she’s a product of my own brainpan. But that’s exactly why I feel that way about her: she’s the product of my brain. I conceived her, her abilities, her personality, her hang-ups, and put it down on paper (or screen, if you must get technical), and I also conceived her relationship, especially to the brothers Shou and Kian. In determining how they started and how they ended up, well, you can just say my own brain is a mess, but in writing Books 1 through 4, I couldn’t help but become the “parent” figure to Arriella, in a sense. Her need to protect people clashed mightily with the fact that she had very strong and obvious feelings that she didn’t know what to do with.

But when it came to Shou – and those of you who hadn’t read Book 4, you may not like me very much for this – I realized that even though I killed him off pretty quickly, I couldn’t quite let him go. Not easily. Not yet.

Sure, technically he was dead. But his cause of death in and of itself was a plotline, but moreover, I wasn’t ready to let him go. Arriella certainly wasn’t, and she had gone to some extreme lengths to try and keep her grief at losing him under wraps, including but not limited to fighting a war. But she was too close to him, and I had invested too much time entirely in writing the brothers to let Shou go so easily. He was not just Kian’s twin, but he was Arriella’s closest friend and, for a while, lover. To just yank him out of the story as a victim was just too abrupt. So yes, there will be signs of Shou to follow, but I can’t tell you what’s where as of yet. I have to edit Book 5, but before I do that, I need to spend some time and actually finish Book 8. -_- Yeaaah. The boon of multitasking and writing.

But you can see the problem and the benefit in the fact that I wasn’t able to let the character of Shou go just yet. The benefit is the storyline, obviously, but the problem is one that, in real life, has drastic consequences: holding onto something- or someone – that has long outworn its welcome creates more problems than there have been in the first place. Yeah, I got my plotline all right, but the more I think about it, the more I think that it may have broken the canon of the world I’ve spent years writing into existence, even if everything looks to be fitting well together.

There is nothing wrong with drifting away from people, whether they’re fictional or not, but I warn you, as someone who spends quite a bit of time around people and lives in one of the most densely populated places in the world: when you start to feel like the person you’re around is really  not bringing anything to the table anymore, and if you see more drawbacks than benefits to being in the friendship/relationship, it may well be time to reconsider letting it continue. And blood is water-soluble; it isn’t thicker than water in the least, and, as I have said before time and again, just because you’re related to someone doesn’t mean you’re obligated to 1. like them and 2. associate with them. There’s no shame in saying no to something negative.

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Ends, Means, and In Betweens

You may’ve heard it asked aplenty. “Do the ends justify the means?”

Now I’ll ask you the same question that my character, Kataria, is facing: which means will justify your end?

This is actually the sort of a dilemma that I’ve directed my characters into, especially with Book 7. We already know that if the means don’t justify the end, then perhaps the end goal is not worth it, but what about if you have an ultimate end goal in mind? What means will you undertake if you already decided on your end result?

This theme echoes a lot of things in my life, and a major streak of mine is to go for whatever it is I am wanting at the time, with little regard to what the effect on others will be. It’s something that I have largely exercised myself out of, if only in respect to considering others, but when it comes to maintaining focus on something I really want to do, or to have, then there’s little that can be done to dissuade me from that path. I’m one of the most goal-oriented individuals you will ever come across. Like with most of my travels: I will pay towards whatever trips I will take with a single, singular determination. The bottom line that I put before myself is, “I will go on this trip, by hook or crook.” Everything else is jut a matter of how, and I’ve gotten myself into more than one tight spot in trying to achieve it. It taught me a lesson in money management, for sure, and it also taught me to pace myself. But above all, it taught me that the means I undertake do justify the end – in only this case, though.

But that’s just traveling and budgeting. There are certain other end goals for which I am nowhere near as scrupulous. Protecting myself and my own? I have very little limit. Protecting people I love? Trust me, you don’t want to cross friends of mine unless you actually want my wrath. Protecting my business and my integrity? I get vicious. There’s certain things – and certain people – whom I will protect by means that most other people will shy away from.

One of my characters, Kataria, who started as a member of the supporting cast in Book 3 and slowly evolved to the main stage in Books 5 and 6 – both of which are to be released later on – has to face this exact dilemma. She has to protect something important to her. She has to protect it in a war. But if she wants to succeed in making herself safe, she has to do something that will risk losing everything that she’s striving to protect.

So does she go through with it?

Would you go through with it? Would you do something that you’d never ordinarily agree with otherwise in order to protect what’s important to you?

Food for thought, folks.


On Taking a Hiatus/More on The Index Series

You may’ve noticed that, apart from the couple of posts on my day job, I’ve not been writing very much.

Unfortunately, that’s an in-general sort of nonwriting, because as of late, between being an active realtor and a very active freelancer – real estate income takes a lot of time and effort, and my bill collectors aren’t quite as understanding as my brokerage or myself – my free time and ability to write have evaporated. Between brokering and bookkeeping, I found myself working much longer hours, getting even less rest, and my muse decided that until I took an actual break – a genuine, real break – from things, it wasn’t going to happen.

And you know what happens when I get stressed, right? If you answer, “you get sick as a dog”, congratulations, you get a cookie. To those of you who know how bad my illnesses can get – don’t groan and pass the damn Ricola. :)

It was a good week, even though I was sick as all unholy crap. I actually started waking up refreshed, learned to prioritize and to stretch out my money (which has been more than paying off, considering real estate is commission-only and my freelancing is minute), and most of all, learned to relax. I stay up late much less than I used to, and am willing to forgo a long trip if it means getting in a bit more Z’s.

Some people may say, “Well, it’s you getting older”. Perhaps it’s true. I’m 27, yeah, but I’m no spring chicken, like I was at 21. At 21/22 I was willing to jump and go, wherever the muse calls. At 24, I started planning things a bit more in terms of distance, cash outlay, and value. At 27, I’m now valuing my trips and travels in terms of the energy it would take.

But lately, I’ve started looking at my books again, and doing so with some serious measure of where I want them to go. The beautiful part about this is, this time I’m using Scrivener, and there is a whole lot more perspective in terms of cohesion and outline. I don’t technically follow an outline, but I like to sketch out a plot summary, at the very least, just so I don’t get tangled in my own story. This happened before, and catching it while editing is a royal pain. Scrivener actually greatly helps in clarifying the tangled spots in the story and, even better, helps me keep track of the multiple arcs.

So what’s on the menu for the next full arc of The Index Series? *ahem, Ragan Whiteside, I’m looking at you when I’m writing this!*

One thing’s for sure: the characters have unraveled the mystery. They got to know exactly what happened that had led to this stage of events. They are a little older, a hell of a lot wiser…and they have to deal with the consequences. Every major upheaval has a consequence, especially here, mainly because some people take secrets to the grave, and others don’t stop until they get revenge.

That’s a hint, by the by. :)

Book 5 picks up with exactly where Book 4 had left off, and introduces a couple of new characters, and a couple of new concepts, too. For example, when does one start redefining what they’ve been taught? We see this a lot in people who, after copious soul-searching, realize that they’ve been taught a whole mess of BS about something. I have a character who is, as of right now, trying to reconcile that exact thing. It’s a very curious consideration, to boot.

There’s also another project on the horizon. Yes, again. But this time, I’m thanking a dear friend, who had asked me about having The Index as an audio series. I never thought about it, but the more I think on it, the more I like the idea. More on that as things continue to develop.

The Book 1 script is complete! If you’d like to read a copy, feel free to drop me a message. As a courtesy, I’m offering one to anyone who has picked up a copy of Book 1 on the promo day. And yes, I’ll do the script version of the other books.

And yes, taking a break feels very, very good. :)



Who’s Your Audience?

When we the writers do our job and write our story, we focus more on plot nuances, grammar, spelling – all important things, and all essential in creating a good book. But we cannot discount than, when we endeavor to write a book, we have to keep our audience in mind and market to it.

Think about it. Let’s say you’re writing a hard-nose detective story. People who are in their early teens may not be as likely to read it unless it’s their thing. People with an eye for mystery likely would, regardless of age. YA stories are also read by people far older than the typical YA range of 13-19, but you would not market a YA story to forty-year-olds. Primarily, it’s marketing. If you feel that anyone can enjoy your story, great – but your marketing would need a slant.

To change gears just a little, let’s talk about gearing towards YA. I’ve been reading The Hunger Games lately, and I love the way it’s written. Sure, it’s out of my age range, so to speak, me being newly twenty-seven. However, the plot is brilliant, and I find myself getting into the story the same way I got into Caroline B. Cooney when I was in the YA age range. However, if I had to really analyze the plot of The Hunger Games, I have to ask myself: how did this classify as YA? Is it suitable for a fourteen-year-old to read about a battle-royale played out between poverty-stricken kids for people’s entertainment? Because that’s what The Hunger Games boil down toward. But teens are reading it, they’re liking it, and they’re asking The Tough Questions that Collins raises in the Games. And of course, Suzanne Collins’s publisher is well aware of it and models the marketing towards the audience best suited towards it: teens who are wanting to read and think.

That is the key: best suited. And that matters a great bit as to what happens with the book’s success.

I’ll be the first to admit, I had no idea how to market when I published Mages. First books for a self-pub author are usually trial-and-error; unless you study your marketing beforehand, you find yourself learning on the fly. What I knew about my audience was this:

– They’re artistic, eclectic people who ask questions

– They’re older than 15

– They’re younger than 50

– They like to follow the characters.

Theoretically, I should’ve gone to my campus and pushed this book to people in the theater major programs. The Pace University theater people were a cool, varied, hippie bunch who never hesitated to follow along with a great character. I got some interesting book recommendations from them. But I published this after I graduated, and considering that my knowledge of marketing back then was next to nonexistent, I never thought to actually use the Pace campus as a marketing platform.

Big mistake. I will admit: it cost me sales in the long run. But know what? You live, you learn, and you try again.

However, now that the first arc of the story is wrapped up, I can definitely go ahead and go back on campus and say, “Hey. You like The Hunger Games. You like sci-fi and adventure. You will like this.” Why? Because as dystopian fiction such as The Hunger Games is getting more acclaim, paranormal-fic series as a whole are gaining a steady audience, one that isn’t necessarily constrained to an age group. Major caveat: the younger people do gravitate more towards this brand of fiction. 8 our of 10 of my readers are under 30.

Therefore, I will have to gear my efforts towards YA. I also have to market in a magazine, possibly, if I want it to reach my target audience. Which means my marketing budget needs an overhaul.

This sort of knowledge, however you come to acquire it, is possibly the most valuable knowledge that you can acquire in your publication journey, whether you’re already published, or stepping into the pool for the first time.


Updates! New cover! Book 4!

So apparently someone found me by Googling “kg creative writing my best toy”. Wha-huh? Okay.

Now. It’s March in New York City, it’s pushing at the corporate tax deadline, so this is coming to you on a very quick tea break, because lunch has become something I work through. Phone just doesn’t stop ringing, and paper just doesn’t stop flying at this time of year in my world.

So! Onwards to the news du jour in writing, my series, the world…you get the idea.

I’m not keeping an eye too closely on sales right now, and I have realized that Goodreads also has e-book uploads available. I have messaged them and asked them to take down Book 1’s e-book upload.

Now. Considering that I’m effectively ceasing distribution of Book 1 through any medium other than Kindle and print, if you have a Nook and would like to read the first book in the series, per KDP Select terms of service, I can’t distribute it through electronic means other than Amazon for 90 days. Kindle has computer-ready reading apps for every operating system, so please download. Google “Kindle for PC” or “Kindle for Mac” and enjoy. Kindle comes in app form for your mobile device of choice too. After the 90 days, please contact me directly; I’ll be able to take a look at the TOS and tell you for sure when/if I can re-release Book 1 for Nook. I will not go back to Smashwords, and I will explore iBook uploads at a later point as well.

I won’t be able to keep an eye on the numbers in KDP Select much either, damned tax season… But I’ll keep everyone who’s reading posted on how it goes. Part of me is debating pulling the entire series off Nook and enrolling it, but first let’s see how March pans out.

The first prototype for the cover. Image copyright (c) Marion Meadows, used with permission.

Now! I’ve been noodling around with the prototypes for the cover of Book 4. Jenna is working on the character art that will comprise part of the wraparound, but I have yet to see what’ll unfold. I do know one thing: Marion Meadows’s scenery artwork knows no comparison. Case in point, have a glimpse at the first prototype…and I will likely keep it as the main cover, and work around it with the character art.

The fonts may change, and I definitely want some characters in there. Jenna, however, rocks that bit, and I got a glimpse, via email, of what to expect for one of the characters of whom it can be said that she is much-maligned.

The other thing is, I’m trying a new style with the font. Considering that The Index is so named because it’s a collection of the characters’ stories, I had always delineated them with Book 1, Book 2, etc. This time, I’m showing the number in the series by background Roman numerals, and I think I will carry this style forward to the second arc. It’s a little more…I won’t quite say grown up, but it’s definitely a step up from the previous version.

This brings me to the marketing angle of all of this. The postcards that had done a great job with Book 3? I will recreate them with this cover image, and harness the QR codes for sales purposes. If I can, somehow, miraculously, turn this around before Newport Beach, I will be good for maybe, hopefully, turning a good sales number for the launch.

Now, far as the launch…

Ladies and gentlemen, this one is for you: if you would like to beta read/review Book 4, please let me know privately. You may do so via Facebook, Twitter Direct Messaging, email, or a comment to this blog. I won’t be able to give you an e-book as a pre-release, but I will happily give you a PDF. Please keep in mind that the rewrite/edit is ongoing, and it may be a while until you receive the file. But if I can at least know who’s interested, that would be great. And remember: post your review, whether on your blog, the Amazon page for the book, or Goodreads.

Also! If there will be opportunity, I am thinking of engineering a blog tour for the launch. Again, if you’d like to have me, just message me.

I will have some copies for giveaway, and if financial opportunity allows (because the promo copies from CreateSpace, though cheap, still cost money), I am thinking of holding giveaways for the entire first arc set. Four books, ladies and gents, and it is a story that has been my heart and soul for the past six years. Additionally, Jenna has told me that she wants to re-do the covers for Books 1 and 2, so there’s a pretty good chance that the covers that you will see on those two books will be wholly different from the covers that you see in Amazon right now.

Man, this is…happening. Holy crap, I have a book series, and I’m about to launch another one, aren’t I…

Major, major, major thanks to Marion Meadows (yes, the same guy who plays the sax, in case anyone wonders) for letting me use his artwork for my books. It’s truly stellar. He also dabbles pretty heavily in photography, and you can buy his 2012 calendar, featuring various shots taken in Hawaii, right here. Warning: will not be held responsible for anyone’s urge to drop money on a flight to Maui. (and yes, I almost did that, until I balked at the price. Dammit!!!)

Also, I should perhaps mention that the bulk of this has been written in November of 2009, when I boarded a plane and ended up in Montego Bay, Jamaica, with Warren Hill and the rest of the Jammin’ in Jamaica attendees. This festival/music retreat had not repeated since, which I am quite sad about, because…the Ritz-Carlton resort in Montego Bay defies the definition of beautiful. And I have to thank Warren for organizing that one event, because I was able to win NaNoWriMo 2009 while gazing at a beautiful beach.

As far as the anthology – I’m now wondering. If I submit any of the short stories to magazines and online publications, would I still be able to publish them in the antho? Maybe?

I’m also starting to wonder if the Haunted Nightclub series I have been thinking about is even feasible. I do not want it to come off as fanfiction (because really, I’m WAY past that age), but I definitely see it happening in a surreal, dream-sequence-type of story. I just really don’t want to cross certain lines in a story like this, because it will obviously feature and concern some real individuals (though deceased). So…yes, time for me to do some thinking, and some planning.

Oh, and… Gayle is writing a small side-story to Book 3. :) Its start is hilarious, and I cannot wait to see what she had cooked up after Jason and Kai have their initial repartee.

Until next time…