Monday, September 30, 2013

News From the R.A.G.E. Publishing Front

People are always surprised when I announce I have a book coming out but that not for 9-12 months. "Really?!" They say. "Haven't you finished writing it yet?"

I have to laugh and other authors will get the humor. What a non-writer, authorly type doesn't understand is that finishing the actual writing of the book is just the beginning.

Let's go back 5-6 years ago when I "finished" writing R.A.G.E.  Yes, really, that far in the past the book was finished, complete. I'd written THE END and was excited to let people read it. Way back then I didn't even yet understand the massive venture I was setting myself on.

So, okay, I finished writing my book. Then what took another 5-6 years to get it to this nearly-published point? Editing. Yes, that pesky little word that seems like a side note to the exciting world of writing. And yet without it these shiny books we pick up in the store would barely make sense. I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one who writes crappy first drafts that need lots of editing.

Not that editing should take half a decade to accomplish, but since R.A.G.E. was my first novel and thereby my training novel, I also had to go through a massive education about everything from commas and adverbs to query letters and submissions.

Well, fine, having to learn the industry is one thing, but what about now? I have a publisher, I have a nice edited manuscript, why then is it still about 9-12 months before this "completed" book can be held in your excited, little hands?

Editing......again.......and again......until it's freakin' perfect.........

........well, that and the cover design, formatting, requests for blurbs, printing, and lots and lots of marketing. Suddenly that small 9-12 month window to get all my ducks in a row to give my book baby the best chance of success seems almost miniscule. I only have 9-12 months?!?!

For those of you having to anxiously wait your way through my months of hard work, let me tell you what's happening with R.A.G.E. right now.

Nothing. At least not in my house. R.A.G.E. is in the hands of my very capable editor who is picking through it as we speak with a bloody-red pen. Eeeek!

Not to worry, I know she only wants to best for my precious book baby. The good news is, she contacted me the other day and said that my book was, "too good. LOL," meaning that since it's been edited to the brink of death so many times before, she was struggling to find any developmental errors and she just wanted to go straight to line editing. Love!

And yet, while R.A.G.E. sits in edits, I still sit at home on my computer, sometimes working on marketing, budgeting and all those other non-creative, soul-sucking activities that an author needs to do these days to make a go of it, and sometimes pulling out book 2 and 3 in my 12th Dimension series. That is much more fun. See, even 2-3 years before these books will ever see print, they are already well under way. Book 2 is "finished" and book 3 is under heavy construction.

Take a look at that wonderful book you're plowing delightfully through right now, yes the one on your bedside table that you can't put down and will have finished within a day or two. That world and those characters that you've grown to love are a result of the toil and love an author put YEARS into, not for the money but because they wanted to tell you a story that you will think about for years to come.

That is the magic of a book.

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Announcement!

Yep, the very one I've been hinting at in the last few posts. About a month ago I was offered a contract with WiDo publishing! As it's been my dream for many years to get this book in print, I won't regale you with the drama or embarrassing displays of emotion when that acceptance email came in. Just know that it is and will forever be one of the high points in my life.
Here's the very action-packed shot of me signing the actual contract.
You can read more about my journey in the press release on WiDo's website here.

Watch for R.A.G.E. summer 2014. It's going to be epic!!

Monday, August 5, 2013

The Unreliable Narrator

Blast from the past post from

So you’ve got this great story in the works. Excitement, tension, wonderful characters. But someone has to tell the story. Which of these characters should it be? Let’s pick one. The villain? The hero? The secondary character?

Ah, I have it. Let’s call our narrator Ezra. Now Ezra has been misunderstood and victimized his whole life. He’s ready to make a change, and not just for himself, but for poor, misunderstood victims the world over. So he gathers his courage. He plans. He collects resources. He sacrifices everything he has for the greater good. He is a hero, or will be when it’s all over.

The day arrives. Ezra kisses his cat farewell, grabs his bag of tools. He gets into his car, drives to the nearby police precinct and bravely blows the entire building sky high with everyone inside.

Ah hah! So not the hero then. But he sounded like the hero. Courage, sacrifice, greater good. Aren’t these words we usually use when speaking of a hero? Of course. To Ezra, he’s a hero. To the mass population he’s a monster.

Ezra speaks from his experience and his tainted view of the world. He sees the police as an evil entity, destroying his freedom and that of others. He sees himself as the champion, saving all those other misjudged victims(criminals)from having to answer for their unorthodox activities(crimes).

You can’t believe anything he says because chances are he’s not seeing the world as it actually is. He is completely unreliable.

This isn’t bad writing, or even bad characterization. Unreliable narrators are some of my all-time favorites. They lead you along. They make you believe in their world. They give you the gift of walking in another's shoes and understanding them no matter how misguided they may be.

Now this doesn’t only apply to villains. Your hero can also have a very tainted view of the world. They may see everything too rosy or too dark. Too black and white or too grey.

The trick is to allow the true world to be visible to the reader. You must allow the reader to be able to read between the lines or see past the narrator’s blinders. This takes the reactions of other characters to your narrator and using the world’s standard moral code to do your work for you among other things.

Sometimes you don’t even know the narrator is unreliable until you find yourself questioning their thoughts or actions. Hey, you totally thought Ezra was a good guy. Right? Right!!??

If done with skill and subtlety, the unreliable narrator makes a wonderful character filled with depth and interest. If used to your greatest advantage, the unreliable narrator can give you the greatest twists and surprise endings of all time.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

R.A.G.E. Original Artwork

Way back a few years ago, I ran the query gambit with R.A.G.E., and while I'd had a few hopeful moments, it was clear I was getting no where with traditional publishing. While it was depressing at the time, I realize now that it was because the manuscript wasn't ready yet. Not by a long shot. There was still just so much I needed to learn.

But in true ADD-Stauna fashion, that wasn't good enough. I had a darn good story that deserved to be read and by golly I was going to make it happen. So I set about to self-publish. I sent my manuscript off on a final edit with my writing buddies, I did all the legwork on Amazon's Create Space, and (not knowing much about computer graphics but a whole lot about oil painting) I painted the picture below to use as my cover art.

R.A.G.E.  Oil on canvas with metallic silver highlights. 2011

A few days after I got my proof copy from Amazon, I was picked up by a small publisher and would spend the next two years feeling like I'd never be good enough to warrant print. Now years later, I've learned what I needed to attract the attention of another publisher. (Announcement coming soon, no really.)

Now while this painting will never be used for the cover art of my book, I'm still really fond of it. It conveys the feel and energy of the novel.

And hey, who doesn't like a gal in uniform with electricity coming from one hand, while holding an M-16?

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Importance of Invisible Writing

I'm dragging some of my writing posts from my old blog over here, ya'know, to consolidate any blog-stalking you might be doing. ;-)

So you've just finished your novel. No, not just any novel, the Great American Novel. No, your magnum opus! This novel has been designed to make people perk up and listen. You had a theme and you stuck to it and now everyone will be talking about it. The word will go out and awareness will be raised for those trees in the Amazon rain forest, those civil rights issues in the south, the sea turtles off the Eastern seaboard facing extinction, the sexism across the country.

Well, I hate to tell you this but if you've just finished writing a novel under this mindset, you have a problem. Notice I said novel, not nonfiction. The trouble is people read novels to be entertained. They want to be taken away with a cast of characters. They want to see what they see and feel what they feel. They want to be brought into the emotions of another person and learn their story and savor the conclusion. No one wants to be preached to. That’s what textbooks and scriptures are for.

We've heard it time and time again: The story must be king.

When anything in your novel bounces the reader out of the story and takes them away from the vividness of those characters and settings, I’m afraid to tell you that your writing is showing through. You worked hard on those words but really, no one wants to actually see them. They just want a story.

Now unfortunately this doesn't just apply to those larger themes mentioned above. This applies on a much smaller scale. You may have that novel where nothing is more important that the conflict and the characters. And yet your readers are constantly being pulled out of the story for some reason or another and forced to examine the actual words you've put on the page.

I’m talking of course about the technicalities of writing. I recently read two books back to back. One, an absolutely fantastic work where the only thing that took me out of the book was the use of OK vs. okay (okay, I admit, I really like “okay” better. OK looks like it’s being shouted). Is that OK with you!!

On the other hand, the other book was so full of passive writing, telling vs. showing, adverbs and other bothersome things you may think are not so important, that there were times where I would go for pages only seeing the words and never being drawn into the story at all. I spent more time mentally editing sentences than I did actually reading the stupid thing.

I’m sure someone is yelling at me at this point that not all readers see or even know about these silly writing rules. I agree. Most readers don’t know about them. They simply read the book with a vague sense of annoyance. They’re never drawn fully into the story and they probably don’t even know why.

Writing rules are in place for a reason. They allow us to smooth down those sharp edges into a silky piece of work. People will read it and walk away talking about your characters as though they are real people. They’ll make fan pages for the fantasy world you've created and sport t-shirts with your brilliant magic system brought to life.

The only people who appreciate purple prose are the ones who write it. You will never be able to sell the importance of your theme to a group of people if they can’t get into your novel. People will never get to know your characters unless you can make them seem like something other than words on a page.

So here’s the kicker. You know your characters better than anyone. You can go to any page of your Work in Progress and see their faces and feel their emotions and see their thoughts. To you they are real because you created them. You saw them before they were those words on the page. So how do you know if you've actually made your writing invisible?

1. Alpha readers. Beta readers. Writing groups. Editors. I can’t stress enough how you need an outside opinion on your work. Someone honest who won’t tell you what you want to hear. Allow them to tell you when they can’t stay connected to parts of the story. Or when that same freakin' word keeps jumping out at them. Or when they've had to read that sentence five times in order to discern the meaning.

2. Learn those all-important rules. Active vs. passive writing. Limited adverbs. Varying word choice, point of view, etc, etc, etc. Don’t just learn them, embrace them. Make them become as natural as typing. The rules are in place for a reason. They are formulaic devices honed over the years by people much more brilliant than ourselves to pull the story forward and make the words sink quietly into the background.

3. You know if you've themed your writing. It’s good to have a theme. It’s better to have a story where readers feel for the characters plight and worry about said characters surviving in that doomed rain forest in the Amazon.

Make the story the King.

So let’s be honest here. Is your writing invisible?

Friday, July 19, 2013

Sometimes when your manuscript is on submission........

So when I parted ways with Shelfstealers late last year, I spent a good 5-6 months doing some heavy duty editing, revising and major rewriting of R.A.G.E. in an attempt to get it submission-worthy again. When I felt it was as good as it was going to get without the help of a professional editor, I sent it out once again into the big, bad world in the hopes that a publisher out there somewhere would love R.A.G.E. as much as I.

Normally after I've sent my baby out on submission I spend my time checking my email obsessively, desperately hoping that R.A.G.E. is being read at this very moment and X publisher has to contact me immediately just to tell me how much they adore and want to publish my book. In between the email-checking, I would continue on with my writing, firm in the belief that R.A.G.E. will be such a rip-roaring success that  fans the world over will be clamoring for a sequel.

Well, I'd already written the sequel and gotten a darn good start on the 3rd book in the series and let's face it, I was exhausted after 6+ years of constant writing and editing. So instead of twiddling my thumbs and thinking dark thoughts directed at the publishing industry as well as inward at my compulsion to write, I focused my energies elsewhere.

I learned  how to crochet (courtesy of YouTube) hats, booties and blankets.

And flowers....

Lots and lots of flowers.

I faced my fear of tall ladders and painted the family room with the 20 foot ceilings

I turned the old Rex Jet wagon from my childhood that I'd found rusting in the field behind my parents house from this..... this.

And in having success with the wagon I begged the old Schwinn Tandem bike off of my parents as well, turning it from this....

....into this. It's still incomplete, needing seats, the chain put on and probably a professional adjustment from a bike shop before it's ride-able.

Now here we are in the middle of the summer and I'm running out of projects.

But that's okay because there is excellent news on the horizon publishing-wise. Stay tuned for an announcement in the next month or so.

I may even open up a word document and start writing something new to calm my underfed, compulsive writing demon.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Projects!! And a confession......

There may be a deeper reason that my newest Work in Progress (WIP) is entitled Project Specter. I LOVE projects!

Ready for a moment of honesty? A confession of sorts?

I have ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). Well, more like ADD. I’m not a hyperactive person but apparently it’s no longer classified without the H, so there we have it.

I’ve had it my whole life but was only officially diagnosed with it last year. It’s not something I like to talk about as a general rule. For a long time I was ashamed of this disability, as though I was broken or mentally ill and people should keep their small children away from me. But remember that honesty I was talking about? How’s this for honesty?

For many the term ADHD brings to mind the worst kid in their elementary school class. You all know who I’m talking about. The one who could never sit still, the one who would make you lose class points toward your popcorn party, the one who got the bad grades because they weren’t listening, or were lazy etc.

Well, that wasn’t me, but I’d own it if I could. I was more the quiet type. I’d sit in my chair, listen to the teacher with my eyes glazed over and proceed to fail in a lot of subjects because they just weren’t interesting to me. I was also the kid who would hyperfocus on English, reading and art projects. And you know why? 

Because for those moments, the very real disconnect in my brain that refused to allow me to focus on the mundane, boring, or just not-in-my-interest-zone, would go into overdrive. This is when I would wake up, see the world in Technicolor and really come alive.

Well, it didn’t get better when I became an adult. Now instead of failing in math, I was failing in things like laundry, dinner dishes and toilet cleaning. I say WAS because since my diagnoses, I’ve found new ways to cope and turn on that other side of my brain that simply refuses to work right.

That doesn’t mean my ADD has gone away. No, it’s still there, determined to make me finish my book rather than the mounds of laundry piling up around the house. It can often be a dreary place. On one hand I know that not wearing smelly clothes is important to the entire family, on the other hand I can’t help craving that feeling of being awake and alive in all its Technicolor detail.

This is why I love projects. Writing projects, art projects, home improvement projects, yard projects. Ya’know, just projects! And as a bonus, I find when I have a project, some of that alertness, wakefulness, whatever you want to call it, bleeds over into the more mundane parts of my life.

I’ve heard it said before that many brilliant artists of our time had ADHD. I would agree with that statement wholeheartedly. ADHD may be considered a disability, but at least for me, it contributes more than its fair share to my art, writing, and other brightly-colored projects. And those, my friends, make the world a more beautiful place for everyone.
And if that means I have to suffer through the dreariness when my brain is not turned on, it’s a small price to pay for even small moments of Technicolor brilliance.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Being Honest, Mostly with Myself

I consider myself a pretty moral person. I don’t steal, cheat, murder…..or lie. At least not much….on the lying part that is. Did I just admit to the blogging world that I’m a big fat liar? Erm, yes. There. That was at least a bit more honest than I’ve been in a long time.

Now don’t panic and wonder if you really know me at all. It’s not that I’m a bald face liar. I won’t lie to get out of things, I won’t lie to get what I want, I won’t lie to your face (unless it’s a courtesy to spare your feeling.) What I will do is omit the truth. A LOT.

The truth is (yes the TRUTH!) that I’m an excellent faker. I’ll be having the worst day of my life and yet you’ll see me and I’ll smile sweetly, ask you how you’re doing, tell you I’m fine and leave it at that. Now that’s not such a bad thing in my mind. Who want to be burdened with everyone’s problems on a daily basis? We all have our own traumas that we’re going through and if we had to shoulder everyone else’s, we’d crack.

The danger (for me, at least) comes when I don’t think I’ll be able to fake my way through the day… or week or month. Then what? Well, I stop going out in public where I may need to fake it. I tend to go silent and become absent from my favorite social situations and social networking sites. If you cared to hunt me down during one of these times when I’m suddenly just missing from online and elsewhere, you’d probably find me curled into a little ball in my bedroom, watching episode after episode of ANGEL or FIREFLY or DR. WHO. Really, there’s no shortage of my favorite shows on Netflix to keep me in self-imposed exile indefinitely.

So what does all this have to do with honesty?

It has everything to do with it. The reason I fall into these bouts of depression (well there are many) but one of the reasons is because I’m not being honest with myself. Just like when I smile sweetly to your face and tell you I’m fine, I do the same thing to myself. You’re fine, Christauna. Everything is fine. Now pass me the cheetoes and a leaded Dr. Pepper.

In the past couple of months I have had to face myself, look myself in the eye and become brutally honest. I may not have to shoulder everyone else’s burdens but I for darn sure need to shoulder my own.

Yes, I do have issues with depression and have for many years. I’m beginning understand exactly what that means and how to deal with it. This involves being honest with myself and confiding in a trusted few when I find myself curled in my room with my Dr. Pepper and remote.

It’s no longer good enough to lie to myself, survive and be an excellent faker.

Which is why in conjunction with the reboot of my writing career and this new blog, I’ll tell you right now, I will be totally honest here. If you’d rather not shoulder a particular burden of mine, you’re welcome not to read the blogpost.

That being said, I will not generally pour out my darkest secrets and desires here. I enjoy a certain amount of privacy, but for things that are relevant to this blog, you may get an earful.

Today is a beautiful, sunshiny day and I am happy and fine. And that is the honest truth.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Unicorn in the Morning Mist

In an attempt to be a more rounded blogger (and because sometimes I don't have a lot to say) I will be posting my artwork from time to time. A lot of it will be old stuff that's collecting dust on the walls of my home, or on other people's walls. Sometimes it will be new stuff, because what artist doesn't want to show off their blood, sweat and tears?

Today's offering is a painting I did way back in 1999, several months after I was first married and while I was pregnant with my first child. Even after all these years, and all I've learned about oil painting since, this is still one of my favorites. I love the contrast between the soothing lavender mist and the bright red sky. Originally the unicorn started out as a white horse, but back in those days I could never get excited about a painting unless it had some fantasy element in it (which you will notice in later artsy posts). The fairy hovering before her nose was put in over a year later as an afterthought. This particular painting is framed in a gorgeous gold and red frame (not shown here), as a birthday gift from my Mother-in-Law. It is hanging in my formal living room which was decorated to match.

Unicorn in the Morning Mist  oil on canvas 1999

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

New Beginnings

In an effort to reboot my writing career, I thought it was a sign of change to start with a new blog. As many of you know (or don't know, or possibly don't care) my dream for being published was dealt a pretty heavy setback a few months ago. Everything had been going well, I'd landed a small publisher and was all excited for my debut novel R.A.G.E. to finally see print. I won't bore ya'll with the details, but after nearly two years in the holding tank, (and, as Seinfeld would say, yada yada yada) I decided to part ways with my publisher.

Not that my long journey with my previous publisher was a waste of time by any means. Before they picked me up I was on the verge of self-publishing. Looking back and the enormous faults of the manuscript at that time...well you can imagine what a disaster that would have been. I learned so much in the last few years writing-wise, and R.A.G.E. has grown in leaps and bounds.

Now, even though this was my own choice to leave my publisher, it was still a painful time. Depressing would be a good word. Combine that with the winter blues and I sometimes wondered if I would ever pull out of it. A lot of authors would decide this is a good time for a writing hiatus, or perhaps a walkabout.

It's been a steep uphill climb the past few months. My confidence in my writing had been shattered. My imagination and creativity was at an all time low. However, by golly, when it came right down to it, I knew I couldn't give up writing, even if not a single one of my books ever saw print.

I'm happy to report that R.A.G.E. is now in the last round of edits before it's off to some new publishers for review and (finger and toe crossies) possibly publication. I'm also working on another manuscript that I'm quickly falling in love with. It's a sci-fi horror novel entitled Project Specter which includes a haunted house, a crazy lady, a suburban neighborhood and an entity from another world.

So here is the beginning of my reboot with Nonsensical Essentials. I'd love if you followers of Art n' Writin' (which is going into the dusty archives of my past) would come on over here and hear all the super important gibberish that I have to say.

Until then, a big thank you to Spring for showing up early and setting the scene for a new beginning. 2013 is going to be a wonderful year!