Wednesday, September 23, 2009

When I Make It Big...

It's my pleasure to have Diana Castilleja, author of Aiza Clan Shifter series, as my guest today. Diana writes paranormal, romantic suspense, and erotica as Diana DeRicci.

Diana discusses how writing has evolved over the last decade, as well as some well thought out advice about the writing process, our attitude towards rejections, and knowing the market we're for which we're writing.

I can say "I knew me when". Yep. I knew me when I didn't know a thing. Still don't know much, but I fake it pretty well now. After five years of near solid writing, how can I say I don't know much? Pretty easily. The written word is always changing, the publishing market is as fluid as the tides and this is one career and industry that is in constant flux to stay in tune with the reading voracious. But I've always loved a challenge.

That's one of the best things about being an author, in any genre. There never ceases to be opportunities to learn, from any starting point at any level. Creative exploration starts with you. An idea, a spark, a smile, a storm, a tragedy. Song writers, sculptors, painters and authors, just to list a few, are the behind the scenes creators of your favorite band's songs, the abstract art that is as breathtaking as it is confusing, and the best selling books that you buy the second they hit the shelves. (Yep, I totally do that.) Except what a lot of people don't understand about the creative industries is that overnight success everyone hears of and longs for? That success can take anywhere from a couple years to fifteen or more. A lot can be learned, shared, dissected and rebuilt in that time period. Think how much music has changed in the last thirty years. Or just the last ten. Writing has evolved also.

It will continue to evolve, and I'm not discussing the procurement of the product--just the content, the way we read, the way we speak and interpret the written word. That has changed exponentially in the last few decades. So when I reach the point that I'm on one of those nice lists (I love to dream big), I can say I knew me when, and hopefully won't forget how I got there, or the hard work.

One of the other wonderful things about being an author is the chain of support that can be found. There’s very little about this “job” that can be called fun. It’s long hours, working alone, being self-motivated and needing to trust in yourself when sometimes no one else will. Understand that not every snip of advice will suit you, and no, you don’t have to try to fit them all into a mish-mash writing style for yourself. Time develops those traits. Every word written or typed is another word toward cementing what will eventually be the basis of your style and voice. I’ve heard said it’s best to consider your first million words on the job training. Less or more depends on what you do with those words. I did find that to be mostly true. My own style didn’t solidify into something I was really happy with until after the four year mark. And it’s still evolving.

I’m asked often what my advice would be for new writers just starting out.

There’s the basics:

  • Learn your craft, the skill of writing correctly without losing your innate flair and voice. Remember, the story you write, can only be told by you. Also understand that all the ‘rules’ out there, aren’t in stone. Write the story the way you would want to read it. Only written words can be corrected and improved. A blank page is fodder for the crayon box.

  • Realize rejection, while tough, isn’t personal. It truly, really isn’t. Your story with all its wonderful twists and characters, is one of probably a hundred different story lines the agent, editor or publisher has looked at just that week when they finally reach yours. There’s places all over the web that discuss the most common rejections and why they happen. Everyone gets rejected. It’s part of the business. You’re not failing because you receive rejections. You’re succeeding because you are pushing forward, because you are driving yourself for more. Be proud.

  • Understand the market you’re writing for. Sounds simple enough, huh? Not exactly. Your market is going to change probably close to yearly as your style, voice and talent improve, as new authors arrive on the scene and mold the current reading selections, and favorites inspire whole new worlds. Sometimes the best thing you can do is generalize your story and let the publisher et al decide where to place it. Remember, this is a very fluid industry. Trends change on a nearly quarterly cycle with publishing. Aim for your genre and learn where your writing fits best. It’s not a reason to panic.

  • Lastly, glaciers move faster than any facet of the publishing industry. Different methods are faster (ebook/small press) or slower (New York) but it all still takes time. The best way to combat that impatience sitting on your shoulder? Write your next story. You might just discover something new that hadn’t appeared in the previous one. A new tangent, a new skill, a new idea. That’s what makes writing so rewarding, at least for me.

So when I make it big, I can say I knew me when, because I’ve already experienced a lot of this, and know I have a lot more rolling down that hill to smack into me at any given moment. Is that impending trouble enough to make me stop writing? Honestly, no. I have locked up with writer’s block, for a whole year once. I refuse to let that happen again, but I can’t see myself willingly tossing in the towel and never writing a tortured hero or a messed-up heroine again. I’d probably drive my family insane if I did. I’m sure they’d be grateful if I didn’t.

Do you see rejections as failures?
How have you evolved as a writer?

With more than half a dozen ebooks currently to her credit and her first print book released in 2008 to rave reviews, Diana Castilleja has kept busy since she started writing professionally in late 2004.

Diana currently resides in central Texas with her husband and son. When not focusing her energy on her family and her writing, she loves to travel and haunt bookstores. She's lived in several states across the south and midwest, as well as traveling to Mexico. With moving every year or changing schools since the fourth grade to her sophomore year, she learned reading was a fast escape. The freedom to read about anything and everything has fueled her adult imagination. She is most likely currently sitting at her desk, having it out with her keyboard writing her next book.

Diana's Castilleja's Website

Diana DeRicci Sizzle That Satisfies

Crowning A Warrior King: Life has been calm and quiet for Aran for almost seven years since moving into Banter. She is a prosperous business owner, has friends, and helps those in need without question. Yet a delivery of a mysterious jewel encrusted box changes all of that for her in an instant.

Not only is the mysterious box enchanted, revealing someone knows of her deepest secrets, it imprisons a man unlike any other. Bold, fearsome, strong. A warrior from a place she's never heard of, a land she's never known. And the most glaring fact to his arrival is she is the only one with the knowledge to set him free, with a magic he cannot trust.

Rordan must return to the kingdom of Eglandor to stop the wicked sorceress who has imprisoned him, deliver the throne to King Tah-lel's appointed heir, and fulfill his destiny with the woman from another time, another world. And there's only so much time to do it all with the King's health failing and an uprising from within only waiting for the moment to claim the throne.

To purchase this book in print, please visit Barnes & Noble or any print bookseller. For a signed copy, please visit this order page to make a secure purchase direct from the author.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Is Writing A Novel Hard?

Debut author, Teresa Burrell, is my guest today. She's an author with real life experience as a child advocate representing thousands of children in juvenile court and uses this knowledge to write action packed legal suspense. The end result is The Advocate.

Teresa talks about the need to love what you're doing, whatever your career choice. If you love it, how can it be hard?

When people find out I wrote a book, they inevitably ask me if it was hard. I don’t know exactly what “hard” means. I mean, it didn’t seem hard. I sat down with a computer and an idea and six months later I had written 150,000 words. I guess it can’t be too hard. Even the twelve rewrites that followed didn’t seem that hard. They were time consuming, but I wouldn’t say hard. My second book which is almost finished won’t require as many rewrites because I’ve learned a lot since the first one. So I guess in that respect, it was even easier than the first.

I taught school for many years and I know a lot of people who think that is hard. I knew a few teachers who hated what they were doing and I think it was “hard” for them to just get up in the morning. But to me it didn’t seem so bad either. Although, if I were to rank the two professions, teaching would definitely be ranked “harder” than writing. But is it harder, or do I just enjoy writing more than teaching?

I also practiced law for twelve years, not hard…getting through law school was hard, studying for the bar was hard, and passing the bar was hard…practicing, not so much. I was fortunate to find myself in an area of law, where although the content was unnerving, the work was very interesting. If you asked a professional football player if it’s hard playing football, I would expect very few would say it is difficult. The bottom line is they enjoy it and as a result it doesn’t seem “hard.”

I’ve enjoyed each profession I’ve had just a little more than the one preceding it. Teaching school was an incredible experience for me. I loved seeing the light bulb go on when a child figured something out. Practicing law, especially being in the courtroom, was like playing a giant board game. As long as you knew the rules, and played by them, you could maneuver your way through, winning some, losing some, but always enjoying the sport.

I also had an import business where I manufactured and sold tiki huts and bamboo bars. Until I figured out the whole “customs” thing, I thought it was hard. Once I figured it out, I realized it wasn’t hard, just plain frustrating whether you knew what you were doing or not.

And now writing, being published, and the whole marketing thing is a real head trip for me. It’s exhilarating. And I get to travel, which is probably what I would do for a living if I could find someone to pay me for it. So, now I get to write and travel. Who can ask for a better life? Consequently, writing doesn’t seem hard. So, if you really want to write…just write. If you don’t like to write, then don’t. Because if you expect to get in this business for the money I think you’ll find it really “hard.”

Writing a letter for me is hard. Writing blogs are hard. Writing a novel…not so hard.

Is writing “hard” for you?


Teresa Burrell has dedicated her life to helping children and their families in both the courtroom and the classroom. As an attorney in San Diego, Burrell maintained a private law practice for twelve years, which specialized in domestic, criminal, and civil cases. Her work in juvenile court focused on representing abused minors and juvenile delinquents. Burrell has received several awards and special recognition from the San Diego Bar Association for her countless hours of pro bono work with children and their families. Burrell has also enjoyed a satisfying career as a teacher. She has taught children of all ages with diverse backgrounds and special needs. After creating an after-school program that kept kids off the street, she received a community service award. Now in semi-retirement in California, Burrell continues to educate groups about social issues impacting children and write novels, many of which are inspired by actual legal cases.

The Advocate: For Sabre Orin Brown, life is good; she has it all...or would have, if only she could solve the mysterious disappearance of her brother. The search for her brother and her career as a Juvenile Court attorney collide when she defends a nine-year-old whose father will go to any length to obtain custody. Sabre suddenly finds herself immersed in a case with too many unanswered questions. Her quest for the truth takes her coast to coast and five years into the past. Confronted with mysterious clues and strange occurrences, Sabre is threatened by someone wanting to make her suffer the unbearable anguish of losing everything--including her life. As Sabre's passion to find the answers intensifies, she discovers a twisted history of desperation, deceit, and revenge. And she discovers how obscure and treacherous the truth can be.

Visit with Teresa: