Brain to Books Cyber Convention

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As an author participating in the 2016 Brain to Books Cyber Convention, I was asked to post answers to these interview questions.  So…I’m going to expose a bit of myself here and do my best to answer them.

1. Describe your favorite scene in your your book and tell us why it’s your favorite.

My favorite scenes in Scrubs involve the interactions between Randy and his best friend, Jim Ryan.  Their relationship was fun to write and their friendship is inspiring.  They have unconditional love and support for one another.  They stand together through the worst times and celebrate each other’s successes.  They joke around, as friends do, yet can have a serious discussion all in the same breath.  I love their conversations.

2. Which of your characters, do you relate to the most (or) who is your favorite character and why?

The character in Scrubs I relate to the most is Jane.  She went through some hardships in her life, but with a little love and encouragement, eventually found her strength and overcame those obstacles.  She’s a sensitive, emotional woman who is strong when she needs to be.

My favorite character is Jim.  He’s a fun-loving surfer wannabe medical student who has a snarky disposition, a sharp tongue, and is an all around laidback guy.  He speaks in surfer slang, which took quite a bit of research for me to create, but in the end, he’s a fun character.

3. “Story” has always been the center of all human cultures. We need it. We seek it out. When we lack it, we invent it. What does “story” mean to you?

Story means expressing thoughts and imaginings people can relate to.  Story is showing emotion and displaying the human side of characters.   Story is allowing your imagination to run wild and creating characters and scenarios that you not only enjoy writing about but that readers will also enjoy reading.

4.  What story has recently inspired/moved you?

I’ve had several stories/ books over the years that have inspired me.   Back in Junior High, I enjoyed The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton.  To this day it has stuck with me because the characters were easy to relate to.  They were “real” people encountering “real” situations and I found myself rooting for them.  I recently reread this book, and it still moved me.

Several years ago I read Fear Nothing by Dean Koontz.  This is one of my favorite books  Although the chain of events in the story are pretty unlikely to happen, the author made them feel real.  I was able to follow the characters throughout and experience emotions right along with them.

The most recent book that moved me was The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks.  I think each of us has gone through some sort of emotional confusion both characters experienced in this book.  I felt the heartache and joy they felt.  This was a moving love story that touched my heart.

Star Wars.  I saw the first movie when it first came out in theatres.  The characters tell the story and the story evolves with the characters.  I’ve followed the series over the years, and recently watched the latest movie.  I still love it, and will always be a Star Wars fan.

5.  Characters begin with their strengths and weaknesses. Many authors reflect their own strengths and weaknesses in their characters. What are some strengths and weaknesses that you relate to, and how have these traits influenced your characters?

I’m an emotional person.  I’m also an introvert who is highly driven and sets high standards for myself and others.   In fact, I’ve been told I’m too hard on myself.   I don’t like drama, try to avoid conflict, and don’t dwell on the past or let hardships drag me down.  I relate to characters who have struggles, but at the same time aren’t afraid to admit their fears.  They take action to overcome their problems and are motivated, driven, and don’t give up easily.   Just as people in real life learn and grow through interactions and relationships they have with other people, the characters in my stories learn and grow, either outwardly or internally, because of personal encounters with other characters.

When I write, I create my characters first.  I get into their heads, think how they think, and envision the world through their eyes.  A bit of me is in each of my characters.  Randy, for instance, doesn’t like conflict and is a highly driven, goal oriented guy.  Although he does encounter struggles, he doesn’t dwell on them.  He pushes through or works around the problem and tries to find a solution.  Unlike me, he’s social, but tends to keep his emotions hidden from others around him.  He only shares his deepest thoughts with people he’s closest to, which makes him hard to read sometimes.  Although Jane is emotional like me, much of her personality is the complete opposite of mine.   She’s a social butterfly and openly speaks her mind.  Jim is sarcastic and enjoys life to its fullest.  Bruce processes things internally and won’t let life’s circumstances stand in his way.  Mandy has random tendencies, much like me, and Sarah is quiet and shy.

My characters tell their own story, and the story evolves through them.  They build on their strengths and learn from their weakness.

5.  What did story mean to you as a child?

Character.  Imagination.  Creativity.  Adventure.  From childhood, I loved to read and write stories about imaginary places, people, and things.  I created stories in my head and on paper and even acted out adventures with these characters I created.  Whether watching movies, reading books, listening to music, or writing, I’ve always had a story in my head.

Book Signing at The Twig

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Had a great experience at my book signing at The Twig today.  Talked to some wonderful people and saw a friend I haven’t seen in a long time.

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I was surprised to see this flier plastered all over the doors and grateful that my husband was there to help me set up.

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Several people asked me about my book and I even sold a few copies.  Thank you to all who stopped by to offer their support.

Book Signing Event

Reposting for anyone who lives around San Antonio who might have missed it the first time.

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twig_toptenad031315I will be doing a public book signing at The Twig Book Shop in San Antonio, TX on Saturday, August 29th from 11:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m.  This is the same time as Farmer’s Market, so after you select your fresh produce, stop by and say hello.

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A Writer’s Journey

i-love-to-writeWriting has always been a part of my life, and I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember.  Throughout my youth I kept a journal where I wrote diary entries, song lyrics, poems I made up, cartoon sketches, and facts about animals I liked.   I created characters, wrote stories, drew maps of imaginary worlds, and doodled conversations using speech bubbles.  Aside from the contents of this journal, I also wrote letters and notes to family and friends, had a pen pal in New Zealand that I kept in touch with for nearly ten years, wrote lists to Santa asking for gifts I wanted for Christmas, made up movie scenes, and wrote out scripts for my friends to act out.  In school I took pages of notes and wrote creative stories, research reports, informative and persuasive papers, chapter summaries, and literary analyses.  Unlike most kids, this kind of writing didn’t bother me.  I actually enjoyed it.  In fact, in seventh grade I won a trophy for writing the best term paper of the year and my High School History teacher displayed my research paper in the hallway for months.  I never wrote anything to gain recognition, win awards, or make money.  And growing up, I never wanted to be an author. I wrote simply because I loved to write.

The first piece of writing I ever had published was a poem I wrote my Junior year of High School.  It was included in my school’s literary magazine.  I had two more published a year later, one of which earned me a college scholarship and a national publication in a book of collected poems.  While working toward my teaching degree, I continued to write poetry and jotted down story ideas and drafts in a spiral notebook.  All through college I wrote many research papers, thematic units, lesson plans, lab reports, article summaries, critical book reviews, child case studies, and persuasive papers explaining my philosophical insights about various topics.  For the brief time I was in grad school, I co-wrote an article that was published in a state educational journal.

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After graduation, my writing focus switched a bit.  I wrote mostly for professional purposes.  As a teacher I write every day, and most of the writing I do involves curriculum, lesson planning, newsletters, data analysis, short and long-term units, student files, and behavior initiatives.  I am also the department chair and lead teacher in my grade level, so my professional life is consumed by paperwork.  But when I’m not at work, I go into creative mode.  Part of this creative writing involves taking the many notebooks I have written story ideas in and turning them into books.

I began composing my first book fresh out of college.  As the story progressed, I became so invested in the research, storyline, and characters that the original novel I intended to write ended up being a four book series instead.  Of course I didn’t write it all at once.  With a full time job and trying to raise a family, it took me many years to write this series.  At the time I wrote it I had no intention of ever getting it published.  So I sat on this series for years, tweaking it here and there, before I finally allowed some friends and family members to read it.  They loved the characters and tried to convince me to pursue publication.  I was very hesitant.  Being a published author was never in the game plan for me.  After all, I was a teacher and a mother with a busy schedule and didn’t have time for anything that complex in my life.  Publishing a book was something I’d always hoped to achieve, but it was a dream I never thought would see the light of day.  Finally, after much coaxing, I bit the bullet and pursued publication.

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The entire process leading up to publication was time consuming and extremely stressful.  Researching publication options to decide which route to pursue, developing a book synopsis and author bio, writing query letters, reading and re-reading the manuscript over and over again, finding an editor, designing a cover, revising, cutting, editing…the list goes on.  It’s enough to make your head spin.  After months of prep work, the first novel of my series was released.   Scrubs has only been out for about two months now.  I’ve sold a few copies here and there.  But whether I sell copies or not, I find great satisfaction in knowing that I’ve spent years working hard on this project.  The frustration (almost to the verge of tears) associated with the whole process– editorial debates, feelings of self-doubt, wanting several times to bag the whole publication idea, nightmarish formatting issues and marketing woes, exposing myself to the public (which, being an introvert, is extremely difficult to do), and enduring criticism from strangers– has been worth the time and effort.  It’s been a wild ride to say the least.

Even though my first novel is out for the general public to read, I don’t write to reap any benefits, gain rewards, win prizes, or earn money.  If I sell copies of my book and gain readers, I’m ecstatic.  But if I don’t, I will continue to write.  Nothing will deter me from doing what I love.

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My four book series is complete.  The first one is on the market.  The other three need to go through revising and editing before they are printed.  I’m hoping to have the entire series out within year and a half, but with life and work responsibilities, we’ll see how that goes.  Aside from this four book series, I still write poetry and am currently working on writing a children’s fantasy book and an adult crime novel.

Writing is something I love to do and will continue to do.  Writing is my life.

I’d love to hear about your journey as a writer.  Comment below or contact me to share your story.

Indie Bookfest

10406761_1609943489238937_7753897263943418510_n (2)San Antonio will hold its first Indie Bookfest this Sunday from 11:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. at Wonderland of America, 4522 Fredericksburg Rd, Balcones Heights, Texas 78201.  I have the lovely privilege of being included in this event.  If you live in or around this area, stop by and support your local Indie Authors.  See promo video here!

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Blood, Sweat, and Tears

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“How do you do it all?”  I can’t even begin to tell you how many times friends, family members, and colleagues have asked me that question.  And there really isn’t a definitive answer other than blood, sweat, and tears.  Well, maybe not the blood part, except for that time I had a paper cut.  But then again, if bleeding ink counts, then blood does apply.

Real writers work ridiculously hard.  I never realized how hard until I became a part of the author melting pot.  Sweating over deadlines, crying because your editor wants to cut a scene you spent months perfecting, tearing your hair out over marketing, and coming to the realization that following your dream of becoming an author has sucked every ounce of energy from you.  The entire writing, rewriting, editing, revising, polishing, publishing process is a walk in the park, except you’re not walking, you’re running with rabid dogs chasing you and the park in on fire.  Ok…it’s not that bad.  I’d describe it more like a marathon where you’re pouring out all of your energy and sweating like crazy hoping to reach the finish line without collapsing.

The market for books and e-books is huge.  Authors of every age, with varying levels of experience ranging from big names with large-scale international profiles to indie authors no one has ever heard of, write and publish books from every genre imaginable, and all seek the same thing–to gain readers, which will hopefully lead to book sales.  Authors participate in book signings and readings, keep up on social media, and some even conduct interviews or offer writing workshops to teach others how to write.  The list goes on.  All of this is challenging, but when you consider the fact that many of these authors are married, raising children, paying mortgages and car payments, and some of them even go to school or carry full time jobs when they aren’t writing (myself included), the entire writing process seems daunting.

So how does a writer with a normal life do all of this?  Caffeine is certainly helpful, although I don’t recommend drinking 50 cups of coffee a day.  In fact, I don’t even like coffee.  Tea works nicely though.

Being a writer, carrying a full time job, and raising a family definitely falls into the balancing act realm.  My first priority is my family.  My children are older now and don’t require my attention 24/7, but I still make sure they have what they need and make it a point to spend some quality time with them.  My husband and I need time to connect as well, so we make time every night to talk.  Weekends, for the most part, are family time.  Housework, yard work, and taking care of our pets is a group effort.  We all work together, taking ownership of the tasks at hand, so we are able to complete chores fairly quickly.  This way all of us have time to pursue whatever our passions and interests are.  Less sweat, less tears, and hopefully no blood.

My job occupies my day, five days a week.  I’m technically on the clock from 7:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m., although I don’t recall in the 20 some years I’ve been in this profession a time when I’ve actually left work at 3:30.  I’m usually in the building until at least 5:00 p.m., often later in order to avoid rush hour traffic.  My profession is one that requires me to work with children all day, which, as those of you who are around children know, can be physically draining. Endless paperwork, countless meetings…I won’t get into all the details.  The point is I probably work anywhere between 50 and 70 hours a week.  But I’ve made it a point over the last few years to leave my work at work and not bring any of it home.  If that means I stay a little later that day, then that’s what I do.  Less sweat, less tears.  I have, however, seen blood in my profession, including my own.

My evenings, after dinner with the family, are dedicated to writing.  Whether it’s reading a good book by a great author, editing and revising a book I’ve written, working on a first draft of another book, or networking, etc… I’m writing.  I keep a notebook and a pen in my possession at all times in case an inspiration pops into my head (which happens more often than you think it does.)  I use this time to relax and unwind from my busy day.  That’s what writing does for me.  It’s my stress relief.  No sweat.  No tears, unless I’m reading or writing an emotional scene, and definitely no blood.  Although I have written scenes that have blood in them.

It all sounds chaotic and overwhelming, but would I have it any other way?  Not on your life.  Balance.  Balance leads to harmony.  Harmony lessens stress.  Less stress means less sweat, fewer tears, and only occasional blood loss.  So pursue your dream, and most importantly, take some time for yourself.  Live.  Laugh.  Love.  Read.  Write.

L.M. Nelson, Author of Scrubs

What Inspires You to Write?

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Almost every writer is inspired by something, whether it be another person, music, photos, books, movies, or a number of other things.  Inspiration to write doesn’t always come easily.  Often times a story idea just pops into my head, and I take off with it.  Other times an inspiration-seeking session is in order.

As a writer, I find myself reading constantly.  I read from a variety of genres and from many different authors.  Books allow my imagination to run wild.  Not only can a book create images in my head, but reading also allows me to see different author’s writing styles.  Sometimes a phrase or particular scene from a book gets the creative juices flowing, but in all honesty, gaining inspiration isn’t why I read.  I read simply because I enjoy a good book.

An author can gain a lot of insights from watching people, which I do almost subconsciously now.  I write realistic fiction, so I spend a lot of time watching how people react to certain events or stimuli. I strive to make my characters as real and believable as possible.  Making mental notes about how people act or jotting down what they say often inspires me to write.  I create scenes based on what I hear or witness people do.  Although my characters are not based on real people, some of their personality traits or dialogue bits may reflect those of people I’ve come into contact with.  This makes my characters real and easier to relate to.

Interesting photographs grab my attention.  In fact, I have a bad habit of taking pictures of interesting things during routine shopping trips or when I’m sharing lunch with my family.  An example of this is when my husband, my kids, and I were eating lunch together and a framed picture on the wall called out to me.  It was a photograph of a man in a black trench coat and black fedora walking down a lonely street holding hands with a woman in a black dress.  It was raining outside so the woman held a black umbrella in her hand to retract the rain.  The man, however, walked unsheltered, with rainwater dripping off his hat.  That particular photograph had a story behind it, a story I intended to write.  So I pulled out my phone and snapped a picture of it.

I listen to music regularly.  I don’t usually do this while I’m writing, but song lyrics often lead to a story.  I’ve heard it said that music stirs up memories–memories of a particular person or event in your life, whether joyous or disheartening.  I firmly believe this is true.  This may seem odd to non-writers, but certain songs bring particular characters or scenes to mind.  Music often inspires me to write.  I place my characters in a scene and imagine a song playing in the background.  The song in my head fits the scene, and my character’s actions and words could easily be a part of the lyrics.

Writers are inspired by just about everything, and inspiration comes differently for every writer.  Share your thoughts.  What inspires you to write?

L.M. Nelson, Author of Scrubs