Thursday, October 2, 2014

Torn Between Worlds

Thanksgiving 2005: The weekend my series of novels was born. Two months later, the first draft of the first book was completed. What an exhilarating sense of accomplishment!

After the first book was initially published in late 2006, I began working on the second book in the series. This one took more time to write; it was longer and the plot was darker. I’ve always heard that you should write what you know, so I did – painfully at times. Certain parts were especially difficult because I drew from personal experiences, which brought up a lot of emotional muck from my childhood. What I didn’t know, I researched – which turned out to be just as fun much as writing the story. Despite some challenges in putting parts of the second book together, I was excited about the whole project. I already had an plan for the third book and an idea for the fourth, yet the second hadn’t even been completed.

Of course, I couldn’t contain my enthusiasm about this project and would talk about the books to anyone who would listen. After a while, I realized people really weren’t all that interested in hearing about it, so I’d mention it only if someone asked what I did for a “living.” I loved seeing their expressions when I’d say, “I’m writing a series of fantasy novels.” For a brief moment, I would manage to impress someone.

However, it seemed as though every time I told someone what my books were about, I was asked if I had read the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon. I got so tired of hearing that question, especially since I hadn’t read those books and hadn’t even heard of them until I started writing my own series. Eventually, I stopped telling people about the time travel aspect of my story.

So who was this Diana person and why were her books so special?

I was envious, I admit. I still don’t know why. It took me about six years to finally pick up the first Outlander book to see what all the fuss was about. Honestly, I hated it. I muddled through the first chapter and couldn’t get past the next. I didn’t like the way it was written and it seemed quite depressing to me. I couldn’t understand why people liked it so much. I put the book away and never finished it or gave it a second thought.

Then I heard that the books were being made into a television series, and that green-eyed monster tapped me on the shoulder again. From the very beginning, I wrote my story by envisioning how it would look as a scene in a movie – in fact, it was originally going to be a screenplay. It’s still my ambition to make a movie of it and I believe that one day it will be. However, Diana’s books went down that road first. I had unwittingly made her my writing nemesis; she became like Mozart to Antonio Salieri in the movie Amadeus. Yes, it’s silly, but now it’s out there. I wonder how many other authors go through something like this. (Feel free to leave a comment, “Oh, yes, me too!” It would really make me feel less crazy.)

And I couldn’t seem to get past the fact that everyone was swooning over a character named Jamie. That name just didn’t do it for me. Nope, not interested at all in a man with this weak-sounding name. Of course, I was too busy swooning over the love interest in my own book, a man who has a strong name and a mysterious past. Naturally, in my mind, no one could ever compare to Merrick; but I wondered if his love story wouldn’t feel as epic to everyone else as it did to me.

Anyway, I decided that I needed to read the books, but couldn’t bring myself to spend the money on them because funds were tight. I figured I’d watch the first episode of the new show online for free and see if that might help me justify giving the books another try. I enjoyed the episode more than I thought I would and concluded that perhaps I had been too hasty in my judgment.

I watched more episodes and by the third one, I was hooked. Still, I didn’t understand why people seemed to think my story would be anything like Outlander, as their comments usually implied. Both stories revolve around a strong female lead, but the only other thing my stories in The Traveler’s Saga have in common with Diana’s is time travel. However, my main character doesn’t just travel through time like Claire Randall; she also travels to other worlds. Then I discovered her main character has a time-traveling child with the same name as my time-traveling main character. I just couldn't escape the Outlander connection.

There are plot twists and revelations in my character’s story of discovery. So far, I haven’t seen anything like that yet in Outlander, not to say that there won’t be as I get further into the story. Although, I was intrigued by the overlapping of time in the beginning, where Frank Randall saw a man looking up at Claire through a window and how this man (presumably Jamie) disappeared as Frank approached from the street to confront him about staring at his wife.

That visual depiction of a ghostly figure transcending time got my attention right away. The book didn’t do that. The first chapter failed miserably to grab and hold my attention, so much that I couldn’t bring myself to give the rest of the book a chance. I wasn’t invested in the character. Claire did not interest me, nor did her talk of her marriage. It was boring. That being said, I’ll probably try reading the books again.

I didn’t want readers to dismiss my first book, The Shopkeeper and The Traveler, as I had done with Outlander, so I submitted the first few chapters to a critique group. After getting some excellent feedback and suggestions from the other writers, I gave it a facelift. I deleted some non-essential passages, fixed a few technical aspects, and added some important information to the first chapter, as well as Celtic graphics for aesthetics sake in the printed version. Finally, last month, I made it available in ebook format – a milestone for me.

I’d like to thank everyone who has given me feedback on my stories since I began this journey. It’s important to note that not all of the comments I received were nice, but they were all helpful

Not everyone is going to like my work, and that’s okay; but it is good to know there are people who do. “Good to know” being the key words in that last sentence. I welcome feedback and constructive criticism. And while I don’t need kudos, I do enjoy them on occasion – kudos don’t make a writer’s work better. I miss being part of the critique group in Durango because I learned so much from everyone. Learning and growing through my work is important. Sharing my work with others who enjoy it is my reward.

The most unexpected accolade I’ve ever received for my books was a comment from one of the first people to read the story before it was published. She told me, “You know, when a friend hands you a manuscript and asks you to read it, you really don’t think it’s going to be any good; but I was surprised. This was  good.” It gave me hope, anyway.

Now when someone asks me what I do for a living, I tell them I’m a writer, I write fantasy novels. While writing isn’t my day job and it certainly doesn’t pay the bills, it still feels good to say that’s what I do. Somehow, it legitimizes me as an author. I just want people to know the story and experience it like I have. And maybe, just maybe, one day, my books will sell as well as Outlander and I’ll be able to see my characters come to life on the big screen too.


Thanks to Marc Fishman for allowing me to use the photo of his painting, Tristan and Isolde, on my blog and website! I fell in love with it immediately. The rest of the world may see two other people in that picture, but I will always see Merrick and Brianna.

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