For Teachers and Librarians

Basic Info for Author Visits

This is what my humble beginning as a writer looked like:
When I told a friend of mine back in 1995 that I was thinking about writing a book, she said to me, “Ah, you have something to say.” I frowned, and said, “No. I just have this awesome story in my head.”

So, with those words planted in your mind, “Let me tell you a story…” 
My journey to publication started in the mid-90s. One evening while I was reading, I thought how simple the structure and dialogue was in this particular novel. You can write, you can do this, a voice urged inside my head. Let me tell you, I almost fell off my chair. But the words rang true for me. So, I decided to act on this truth, and took a writing course—Writing your Novel—where I met a great couple of like-minded would-be writer gals. Together we started a writing support group, and I wrote my first novel—a paranormal romance. This manuscript caught the eye of an agent, but I was hardly ready, and I see that now. What I needed to do was to hone my craft and get better and better with the process of writing. And that takes making lots of mistakes at the expense of your ego. In other words: lots of rejection, rejection, rejection! Ouch!

Then one night, during my writer’s group, one of my friends said something that floored me. She mentioned that I hit my twelve-year-old character’s voice bang on. So, this got me to thinking—how hard would it be to write a young adult novel? It was a stupid question. Of course it was hard! After thinking about what my friend had said to me, I decided I’d challenge myself and write not just a novel—but a series—that would appeal to my son, who at the time was the target age of my audience. Since I’ve always loved the time travel genre, it was a no-brainer for me.
The origin, inspiration, and development of The Last Timekeepers series…

The idea for The Last Timekeepers and the Arch of Atlantis came to me in a dream I had around 1998. In this dream, I saw seven arches, and there were seven people (five kids, two adults) with crystals in their hands, walking up to these arches. It definitely had an Indiana Jones feel to it. I wanted to create a book series for young adults that had a different slant to the time travel genre. I love history. I also love myths and legends. There’s a few time travel series out there, but nothing that has roots leading back to Atlantis—at least what I know about or have read. Since there’s no concrete evidence that Atlantis did exist, then that left the door wide open to possibilities. I had to do a lot of digging into the legend of Atlantis, reading many books—especially Edgar Cayce’s psychic readings—and surfing the internet, until I had a fixed idea on how to present this in story form, and into a series of books.
The whole idea of the series is based on not changing our past, because it’s been written—a huge challenge for my time traveling characters who must keep time safe from an evil Atlantean force released back into the world. In the first book of the series, The Last Timekeepers and the Arch of Atlantis, the Timekeepers time travel to Nottingham, England in 1214 where they must find an adolescent Robin Hood and his band of merry teens before history is turned upside-down.

FYI—originally I had called the series The Timeliners, because their prime directive was to keep time in line. Then, it became The Timekeepers, and finally The Last Timekeepers, as the series became more evolved and developed.
It took 15 years of writing in the trenches—querying publishers and agents, writing more books, getting rejected again and again—before I finally signed a publishing contract with Musa Publishing (a new epublisher) for The Last Timekeepers series. And after all this time there was still one catch—I had to rewrite the entire manuscript in the point of view of only one of the characters. Originally, I had written the series with each kid having their own chapter throughout the book. The publishing company found this confusing and suggested I write the first book in only one of the character’s voices, starting with Amanda Sault. That way, the next book would feature another character’s point of view. However daunting a task this sounds, it was sage advice and made the book stronger.

The process involved in epublishing…
Once all the revisions are completed, then the edits begin. With my publisher this is done in three steps – the first round, second round, and third round. If I make this sound like a boxing match it kind of is. The first round of edits entails looking at your story structure, the plot, the pacing, even changing some of the character names if there’s too many names starting with ‘S’ or ‘A’, like what happened in one of my manuscripts. Is there any hiccups or does the storytelling run smooth? Should an entire scene be removed because it slows the pace and breaks the tension? These questions are put to the raw material of your novel.

Ding, ding, round number two of edits! This round is not as intense, but any factors or flaws are brought to my attention and changes are made. A good author/editor relationship is about trust, but also standing up for yourself too. If I don’t like a certain change, I’ll explain the reason to my editor, but in most cases I trust her instincts. The third round is not so harsh, but requires at least two read-throughs by my editor to make any last minute changes that will make the book better and stronger.  
Next is line editing. Another editor goes through your manuscript line by line, catching any grammatical errors, spelling mistakes, or anything that stands out. This is the polishing stage, and the author gets their manuscript back in the form of a galley. Now it’s crunch time depending on the deadline and release date. Usually the author gets about a week to go over their manuscript (again), until he or she feels completely happy with the job. Any mistakes I find are logged on the galley sheet, and sent back to the line editor.

I should mention that about a month before the author’s release date, their book cover is designed. With the publishing company who I’m contracted with, I do have some input when it comes to the design of my book cover. This is a fun process for me. I get to suggest graphics, colors, and the overall tone I want my book to represent. When both the author and the artist are satisfied that the book cover represents the story, then the cover is signed off, and ready to be shared with the public.
Finally, there’s the tagline and blurb to create, and the book excerpt to pick out. Besides the book cover, these are the only other sales tools for your book. The hook, line, and hopefully sinker for a sale. A tagline is—or should be—one of the simplest things to create. A tagline is—plain and simply—a one sentence summation of the theme of your book. Something quick and catchy. What you want to do is to catch a reader's—or an agent's or an editor's—attention with a one-sentence description.

The blurb is the next step in getting your book ready for publication. With a blurb, you want to entice the reader—to get them engaged with your story so they can come along as you unravel the plot for them.
And finally, choose the excerpt. This is actually easy. You've already written it.  Now you just have to find it.  The advice I was given is to pick an excerpt from the first third of your book. With a novel, you want to select a scene that sets up the story and above all makes a reader want to read MORE. In other words—a cliff hanger.    

Coming up with ideas for books…
I find ideas come to me naturally, whether they’re in my dreams (like the Last Timekeepers) or while I’m sitting watching a television show, doing housework or walking the dog. I love all things time travel, paranormal, and mysterious, so I naturally fell into those genres.

The life of a writer…
First thing you need to learn is to have structure and discipline. Without those two things, there’s chaos. Get a day planner and jot down your priorities for each day. Create a schedule and stick to it. Pick the days you write, the days you blog, the time to check emails, do your social media stuff, promote, market, and all that other business an author has to do nowadays. It’s crucial. Once you’ve established structure in your writing life, stick to it. Trust me, you’ll have days you need to juggle or cross off, just do your best. And keep a timer by your side. Use it. Being a writer in this new publishing world has been a challenge, but it’s been a blessing too!

The techniques I use to write…

Sometimes I’m a pantser (writing by the seat of my pants), sometimes a plotter (outline entire storyline)—it all depends on the tone of the book and where my imagination directs me. I have many notebooks and pads and sticky notes at my disposal. I also have a file full of ideas. I guess I start with the characters and build the story around them. The characters, my characters, must carry the story to completion, give readers closure. It’s a must. In order to do this, I begin writing out character tracking sheets (stats on characters’ appearances, clothing, likes and dislikes, etc.) which have served me well throughout the writing process. Then the fun begins. Research, research, and more research. When you’re writing time travel, you’ve got to know your facts to create the fiction. I love this part of the journey too. Only when I have enough facts, and I feel my characters are fleshed out sufficiently, then I begin to start writing the novel.

One other thing—I keep a series guidebook stuffed with all the vital information on my main characters—and recurring side characters. Info like the color of their hair and eyes, their brother’s or sister’s names, or any allergies is vital to log. Believe me readers know when something is amiss and will call you on it.

I’ll leave you with this…

“When it comes down to it, the author’s job is to make readers care. Care about the characters, and care about the story. That, and give their readers an experience they'll never forget.”

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