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One Fictionista’s Literary Bliss
By: Katherine Owen
I was anointed a female fictionista by an overzealous Georgia Bulldog fan on Twitter. I immediately took it for my job description. So, here’s what you should know. I write. I write a lot. And, when I’m not writing, I think about writing a lot. You may think we’re having a conversation, but invariably I’m stealing your name, asking how to spell it, and secretly describing the look on your face in five words or less in my mind. My writing tends to be dark, moody, and sometimes funny. Sometimes, it can be a bit lyrical or even literary. It’s often edgy, so be forewarned. My readers complain they can’t put my books down. Or, just when they think they’ve figured the story out, it changes and becomes something else. My stories tend to be dark and comprised of broken heroines; even the heroes in my books have a few flaws that cause trouble. It’s true; my characters may disappoint you or surprise you or piss you off, but I think you’ll understand why they do what they do because of the way I write them. I strive to reveal the deepest underpinnings about life, about love, and about human nature, but it’s not for the faint of heart. I’ll take you through a proverbial emotional ringer before reaching resolution and it’s never as predictable as you might think. Do I sound like your kind of fictionista? Come along, darling. This way.
Something else you should know about me is that I’m a huge George Clooney fan. Maybe, Up In The Air wasn’t one of his usual gigs, but I loved that movie. And, let’s be frank, I watched ER without him for years, but it was never the same. Never. Anyway, I digress. There’s a scene in Up In The Air where he’s telling this guy to follow his dream after George has told him he’s been laid off. When I saw that scene, it was as if George was practically speaking to me because I was there, two years ago, when I was laid off from a high tech sales job, had always harbored a dream to write full-time, and went for it after that. Is it a coincidence that Up In The Air came out about the same time? I think not.
So now, this is what I do. Write. Write all the time. I’ll admit it was hard at first. It still is—hard, harrowing, humbling. Believe me, it would be easier to go out and get another high paying sales job than write for a living because writing causes me to question my mental toughness so much of the time. Can I do this? Am I good enough?
Yet, here’s what I’ve learned: you just have to turn off that voice in your head off or ignore what is being said. Sometimes, all you need to do is stand up for yourself, stop depending upon the opinions of others, and just go after what you really want.
For me, that’s writing. For you, it might be anything else, but just pursue your passion whatever it is.
With this anthology, my debut novel, Seeing Julia is featured. Seeing Julia is a labor of love and represents a lot of hard work. Truly, this book has caused me as much grief as it has joy. After I first wrote this novel, I entered it into a literary contest and promptly forgot about it. I was busy. I was taking classes at The Writer’s Studio, becoming literary savvy, and writing another novel called Not To Us.
I remember it was a Monday morning in early June of 2010 when I received a call from the president of the Pacific Northwest Writers Association telling me I was a finalist in the romance category with my entry of Seeing Julia. “What?” She asked me if I planned on attending the conference. “Well, I guess so.” Lucky for me, I attended the summer conference, bought a new outfit, and won the Zola Award and first place with Seeing Julia the night of the awards dinner. It was a surreal moment, when I had to go up to the front of the room with those seven hundred people watching and accept my award. But, truly? I was more concerned about navigating all those tables and chairs on my way up to the podium than actually seizing the moment. As word spread about my writing award win, self-doubt had already set in. It was a fluke. It was dumb luck. As high as my emotions soared about winning; they fell just as fast when literary agents still rejected my work. Yes, the win opened a number of literary agent doors for me, but I wrote several different versions of that novel when a number of them took greater interest, but then wanted to change everything about the story. One agent called me up and lectured me for forty-five minutes about the book and then promised to take a look if I made more changes. I sent her the revised manuscript, but she never called again.
This was a year ago. I was at a crossroads with my writing and myself. I kept thinking if I did what they said and changed it, yet again, I would get to the next step—literary bliss. But I wasn’t getting anywhere.
Discouraged, but still determined, I reviewed what the critiques and feedback about Seeing Julia had been. Based on those, I sifted through what I thought would need to be changed and began rewriting the story, working day and night through most of November. With just getting a few hours of sleep each night, I kept up the intense pace and by the time the novel was finished; I knew it was. I’m extremely proud of Seeing Julia. During the process of rewriting it for the last time, I reached an important pinnacle with my writing: I trusted myself. Confidence entered into the realm. And, along with it, swift understanding: I had to make my own literary bliss.
Two additional things became clear. First, it was essential for me to have complete control over the publishing of my work; and second, the publishing industry was in the midst of a perfect storm because of e-books and I needed to take full advantage. And, so I did.
In late April and early May of this year, I released two novels: Seeing Julia and Not To Us. These books are available as e-books as well as print trade paperbacks.
Many wonderful readers have responded to my work. They often reach out to me and let me know how they love my novels. I love and cherish their enthusiasm for my work.
This is literary bliss.
Of course, my family’s number one complaint is that I write too much and all the time. Now, add to that the twittering and the facebooking and the wordpressing and now google plus-ing, and checking Amazon, and taking writing classes; it’s a full-time gig. But, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
The good news is that with the encouragement of my readers and confidence in my writing, I’m working on my third novel, When I See You, and hope to release this book before the end of this year. And, I already have drafts for two other novels, Saving Valentines and Finding Amy.
Oh yes, there are occasions, rare ones, when I’m not writing. That’s when I like to drink a fine wine, check in with my family, and look at my awesome view which I can see when I look up long enough from my computer screen in my writing refuge.
And so, welcome. Welcome to my little piece of the universe.
I’ll leave you with this—a philosophy I now live by, borrowed from one of the greatest women tennis players of all time: “You’ve got to take the initiative and play your game. In a decisive set, confidence is the difference.” Chris Evert
Oh, Chrissy, you are so right!
This is one story from Indie Chicks: 25 Women 25 Personal Stories available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. To read all of the stories, buy your copy today. All proceeds go to the Susan G. Komen Foundation for Breast Cancer.
Also included are sneak peeks into 25 novels! My novel, Seeing Julia, is one of the novel excerpts featured. It is available at most online retailers in trade paperback as well as e-book formats.
Smashwords (various e-book formats for Sony e-book, Kobo, Apple iBooks and Diesel)
For more information about Katherine Owen, visit these links:
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Katherine-Owen/e/B004Z3BG3I/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0
Follow her on Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/KatherineOwen01
Connect on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KatherineOwenauthor
I’m on Tumblr, here: http://katherineowen.tumblr.com/
Donna Fasano wrote for Harlequin Books for 20 years before becoming a proud Independent Author. She’s the written over 30 romance and women’s fiction novels that have sold over 3.5 million copies worldwide. Her books have won awards and made best-seller lists. Below is the story she contributed to the anthology Indie Chicks: 25 Independent Women, 25 Inspiring Stories.
Stepping Into The Light
I sit in the back row, shoulders rounded, knees jumping, my left thumb rubbing a raw spot in the center of my right palm. The sad and lonely sufferings being expressed in the dank, dimly-lit basement are all too real and much too close for comfort. I glance at the door and contemplate escape, but it’s too late. All eyes are upon me. I hesitate only a moment before standing on quaking legs, clearing my throat softly and confessing, “My name is Donna. I’m a writer. And I need to come out of the closet because it’s dark in here.”
Twenty years ago, had there been a group called Writers Anonymous, I would have attended faithfully, pouring out my heart at the weekly meetings. You see, for the couple of years that I spent writing my first novel, I told almost no one what I was doing. My husband knew; in fact, he’s the reason I even attempted what felt like the insurmountable task of plotting out and finishing that first book. He’s also the reason I ended up in this glorious, chaotic, roller-coaster life I’ve lived as an author; however, that’s a story for another day. But when I first started scratching words on a yellow legal pad with a no. 2 pencil (there’s nothing else that stirs my creativity more than the feel of graphite gliding against paper), I didn’t tell a single family member or friend.
Why would I keep my dreams and aspirations such a tightly guarded secret?
I would hazard to guess the answer is the same reason anyone else hides things that could have life-altering potential: fear.
What if I failed? What if I had no talent? What if I didn’t possess the perseverance to finish that first manuscript?
The mere thought of the snide remarks, tittering laughter and looks of skepticism and ridicule I might receive were enough to keep me silent. My imagination has always been strong, and I easily saw the scenes play out in my head.
So you think you’re going to write a book, huh?
But you didn’t go to college.
A romance novel? Really?
If you’re going to try to write, why not write a real book? You know, like a mystery or a thriller; something someone is going to want to read.
My ability to conjure fantasy has always been a blessing and a bane. When reading a book or listening to someone tell a story or imagining repercussions of actions, visions will take shape in my head. Situations feel real, characters become corporal, while my stirred emotions brim and often overflow. Needless to say, Hallmark commercials make me cry. While powerful creativity is a great and necessary trait for a writer who is intent on concocting a compelling tale, it can become crippling if that writer is too focused on the opinions of others.
However, I also have to confess that keeping that first novel-writing dream all to myself charged me with a vibrant energy. I was excited to get my story down on paper. Seeing my plot unfold was absolutely thrilling! Creating my characters was fun. And the fact that no one knew about my clandestine efforts gave me a huge amount of freedom. No one told me I was doing it all wrong; no one suggested I could never reach my goal.
In defense of all the people I kept in the dark all those years ago, I have to admit that most of them were delighted and supportive when I finally divulged that my first manuscript had been purchased by a bona fide publisher. Oh, there was a scoffer or two, and I continue to meet them; you know the type, people who can’t be happy for others or who feel another’s success somehow diminishes his or her own self-worth, but I’ve learned to deal with those people (working with New York City editors forces a writer to grow a thick skin pretty quickly). I merely smile and think about the slew of books I’ve sold and the fan mail I’ve received from all over the world.
Those scoffers seem to have come out of the woodwork now that I’ve reinvented myself as an Indie Author. But venturing into this new arena couldn’t have happened at a better point in my life. I’m confident in my ability to tell a good story. I’m more than satisfied with the career I’ve had, and have no trouble imagining even more success in the future. I saw tangible proof when two of my books made it onto Kindle’s Top 100 List. I’m happy with who I’ve become as a writer and as a person. If my work receives less-than-flattering feedback from a reader, I might not like it, but I also realize it’s not the end of the world; I’ve learned that I can’t please all readers all the time. I love the creative freedom I have as an independent author. I can allow my muse to take me wherever it will. I’m terrifically grateful that there are readers out there who are willing to buy my novels. Every time I read a good review of one of my books I want to (and do!) kiss my husband for suggesting I take a stab at this profession (it’s a habit that’s been very good for my marriage).
So… what’s my point? Well, don’t let the negative opinions of others keep you from dreaming, for one thing. Most of the scary thoughts that run through your head will never happen, and the few that do materialize can be dealt with. You’re stronger than you think. Don’t allow fear to paralyze you. Aspire to be and do whatever it is you want to be and do. Be kind to yourself; you deserve the same compassion and concern that you offer others. And most importantly, know that your dreams matter. Indulge them. Reach for the stars! I did, and I’m still astounded that I snagged a few.
Donna loves to hear from readers! Ways to connect with Donna:
Her blog, Author Donna Fasano, In All Directions
On Facebook, Donna Fasano
On Twitter, DonnaFaz
A few of Donna’s available titles:
His Wife for a While for your Kindle.
Look for other available titles on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords.
Growing up the third child of five–yes, smack dab in the middle and the only girl to boot–Donna Fasano had no idea she would one day become a published author. Her bent for story-telling came to light when she conjured lively tales of pure blarney (yes, she has a bit of Irish in her blood) for, first, her youngest brother, and years later, her children.
Donna sold her first manuscript in 1989, and since then has become a bestselling, award-winning author of over thirty novels and four audio books. She writes under her own name, Donna Fasano, as well as under the pen name Donna Clayton and is known for her “smooth, polished” writing style and for creating “strong, complex” characters. Reviewers have described her stories as “poignant,” “richly textured,” “enticing,” and “absorbing.” The writing process can be extremely engrossing for Donna, so much so that she’s missed appointments and lunches, and once she even missed her carpool run. Luckily, the people in her life love her enough to make allowances.
Still happily married to her high school sweetheart, she is the mother of two grown sons who have left the nest. She and her husband share their home with Jake, a couch-potato, black and white border collie, and Roo, a spotted tan and cream Australian cattle dog that looks (and acts) like a wild dingo. Donna’s spare time is spent reading, hiking, or trying out new recipes from one of the dozens of cookbooks she has collected over the years. Oh, and one night a week she and her hubby nab some alone time from their busy schedules to enjoy a nice glass of wine and a video–preferably a romantic comedy. Donna also volunteers loads of hours to her small church, writing newsletters, scheduling acolytes, working fund-raisers and serving on committees. She divides her time between northern Delaware and Maryland’s southern seashore.
Donna loves to hear from her readers. Please contact her through her website at www.DonnaFasano.com.
Buy the Merry-Go-Round here!
Find her books on Amazon.
What do you wear when you’re a paranormal detective in the snowy, bitter cold of the northern Utah mountains? Warm clothing, shades to protect against the harsh winter sun, never be without your cell, a crucifix to keep the bad demons at bay and sexy perfume to attract the hunky ones.
Lin’s bestselling series, Whisperings, can be found on Amazon.
She blogs at lindawelch.com.
The Phoenix and the Darkness
I’ve been running from The Darkness since I left home at the age of 17. I escaped a broken family to the military, found it unwelcoming to creative non-conformists but fulfilled my commitment. The first man I dated was a drunkard who suffered from post traumatic stress disorder; the second raped me. The rest of my time in the military was a blur of men, the different places I lived and The Darkness stalking me. At the end of my tour, I set my world on fire to keep the Darkness away, abandoned everything and everyone, and emerged from the flames like the mythical Phoenix. I ran home to Ohio. I didn’t stay long and continued onward to New York, where I reinvented myself for a very brief period of contentedness.
It didn’t last. Darkness, fire, rebirth, and a few years, men and states later, I ended up in the arms of yet another unworthy man. I followed him to DC, bore the mental abuse, and tried to tell myself this was the best life would ever get.
I took a job in a field I didn’t care for and ended up running from job-to-job-to-job, unable to find a place where I was happy. I was hit by a drunk driver at 26, leaving me with a long lifetime of constant pain. I had a miscarriage, gave all my money to the unworthy man and couldn’t pay my bills despite the good job. I moved from Virginia to Maryland and back to Virginia, unable to shake the pursuing Darkness. Finally, I put all my belongings in storage, ready to set my word afire and flee once again.
I worked up the nerve to ditch the dysfunctional man, but before I could run far, I met the man who would become my first husband. He wanted normal things: stability, house, family. I convinced myself if I had these things, the Darkness would be gone. He needed a mother, not a wife, but I married him anyway and prayed it was enough.
It wasn’t. I set my world afire once more, and I fled him, too. I put everything I valued in my truck, grabbed the dog, and left. Away from DC, the east coast, everything I owned, my first husband. I ran to Texas to a new job and divorced the first husband. Yet again, I was reborn. Soon after, I met my soul mate. Some part of me knew I couldn’t keep running if I wanted to keep him. I turned around to see if The Darkness still chased me. After fifteen years of running, The Darkness was closer than ever.
I told the man who would become my second husband to stay away from me – I was dangerous. He saw The Darkness, and he saw me.
You’re brilliant and beautiful. I love you, Darkness and all, he said. But if you don’t deal with it and accept the fate for which you were put on this earth, you’ll be consumed by it.
I couldn’t yet face the Darkness even with his support, but I could see how wrong my path was. My path wasn’t a career I loathed, and it wasn’t ignoring my true gift: writing. So I worked full time and wrote full time. I found true joy for the first time in my life, but The Darkness got too close. I ran away from that job – the only job I’d ever remotely enjoyed. This time, I kept my only ally in life – my guardian angel and partner.
I took a new job in a new state. With my husband and my writing, I saw The Darkness recede, and I grew happy. Instead of looking over my shoulder, I started looking into the future. I vowed to run towards something instead of away from something. I wasn’t just reborn – I was alive for the first time in my life.
And then, this past summer, I tripped. The Darkness swallowed me. As in one of my upcoming novels, The Darkness turned me inside out. I couldn’t go to work and could barely leave the house. It pinned me beneath it, and the more I tried to run, the heavier it got. Everything I’d run from in life was there: my near-poverty upbringing; the breaking apart of my family when I was a kid; my struggle with my weight and social anxiety issues; with finding acceptance at any job; with men and dysfunctional relationships; the pending financial disaster I’d been building; fear of failure and ending up as miserable as my parents. I thought I’d suffocate, until the Darkness spoke to me.
You can run again and risk losing the man you love, or you can face me and be happy, it said.
I want to be happy, I replied.
Then do what you must.
It’s not that easy. I’m scared.
Sometimes life only gives us difficult choices, but you still must choose. I am a part of you. You must accept me and deal with me before you can move on, it said.
I thought hard as I looked at all the things I’d accumulated that were bankrupting me financially and emotionally. I looked at what made me happy in life: my husband and my writing. I saw how I’d hurt my most precious treasures – and myself – by setting my world on fire whenever The Darkness got too close.
This is gonna hurt, I told The Darkness.
Not for long, it said. You only have to do this once.
In that moment, I made my choice. I would face The Darkness within me, no matter how hard it was. I loved my husband too much to hurt him more, and I was sick of being a coward. I took a leave of absence in early September to deal with my past as well as the depression and anxiety that have haunted me my whole life. Writing has always been my solace and my passion. Through it, I’ll heal the world I broke and my own soul, and become the partner my husband deserves.
The Phoenix will be reborn once more, not of fire, but of Darkness, and will emerge stronger than ever.
It isn’t easy being the daughter of a police officer, but it’s even more difficult to be the daughter of a female police officer. I would come to understand this early, and often, in my life.
My mom’s career has always been the whirling force of my existence.
She was sworn into the Louisville Police Department on September 10, 1990. I was five years old. For the majority of my developmental years, I bounced through a succession of caretakers—my grandmother, my father and stepmother, and a kind woman I called ‘Mama Lo’—while my mom was forging her way through her early years as a rookie officer.
I remember late nights—my mom in her uniform, her gun belt digging into my side as she bundled me into a blanket to carry me to the car. I remember mornings getting on the school bus, knowing Mom would be coming home from work just in time for me to leave. But when I remember these things, they are snippets: Only bits and pieces of the woman who is my mother. Her job was demanding and sometimes, you just have to sacrifice to make your dreams come true.
When I was ten, Mom aced the Detective test and was granted her first promotion. Suddenly, we were buying a new house in a nice neighborhood. I was in middle school, which was awkward enough, and Mom began working 4 pm to midnight.
Thus began my time as a Latchkey Kid.
I rode the bus home from school and let myself into the house around 4:30 every afternoon. Under Mom’s strict instructions, I would check to make sure all three doors of the house were locked and then I would set the alarm.
Until bedtime, I was on lockdown. No going outside—not even to the backyard. No answering the door, no looking out the windows. Just me and the dog: A tiny Shih-Tzu named Cinnamon.
I was kind of an odd child. I didn’t care much for television, though I did love to play Nintendo. I could rock on some Mario Bros. I also absolutely loved to read, particularly R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps and Ann M. Martin’s The Babysitter’s Club.
There is really only so much video gaming and reading a girl can do before she wishes she had another hobby. At least, that’s how it was for me. I was lonely. Monday through Friday, every evening alone…it sucked.
It was around this time that my daddy shared with me a novel he was writing. Daddy is a computer guru who does freelance work, but he writes for fun on the side. “Demigod” was one of the most amazing things I had ever read. Not only was I astounded that my dad had such talent, but for the first time I realized there were people behind the books I liked to read.
Armed with nothing more than spiral-bound notebooks and pencils, I began writing.
Between 10 and 16, I wrote seven full-length novels. Today, I suppose they would be considered Young Adult. Some of them were murder mysteries with strong heroines. Many of them had elements of what today is considered Paranormal Romance. Most of my early influences were from authors I enjoyed: Stine, as well as Richie Tankersley Cusick and Christopher Pike. Somewhere in the midst of all this, my mom bought me a laptop and I transferred everything to digital.
I continued to write during high school, though significantly less once I got my driver’s license. I focused mainly on short stories and built up a vast collection that I ended up losing to the nightmare of an erased floppy disk. I majored in English in high school. Earned a couple college credits. And was told multiple times by various English teachers that I had talent.
After graduation, I went away to college at Western Kentucky University. My mother had married a great man who was also a police officer. Between the two of them, I was able to go away to school and thus started several years of BAD DECISIONS. I kicked it off right, as most first-time college teens do. I drank too much and partied too hard, not making it to class, much less spending my time writing. Two years later, I came home to Louisville with my tail between my legs, no smarter than I was before.
Back at my mother and stepfather’s home, I found the situation to be stifling for the girl who had done what she wanted, when she wanted for so long. I was already rebelling—not phoning, disappearing all night—when a chance encounter on the banks of the Ohio River brought a man into my life who was not right for me in more ways than one.
Jason was an ex-con and felon. I was the daughter of two police officers. Cue ominous music.
Let’s skip the dirty parts and go to the section where I pack my things and flee into the night like a bat out of Hades. My parents change the locks, I cut off all contact, and hole up in a hovel on 3rd Street with my friend, Brent. Oh, and in the meantime, my convict boyfriend ends up back in the Slammer.
I bounced around for some time. To an apartment with my cousin, Ryan. Then to a big, fancy house outside of Nashville, Tennessee with Jason’s family. After severing ties with them, I rented a tiny studio apartment downtown. I moved a couple more times, losing money (and myself) in the process.
Not once in the years I spent chasing something, anything in Tennessee did I sit down to write.
In January 2008, I was in debt and barely hanging on to the apartment I was renting. My good-for-nothing, pot-smoking boyfriend-of-the-moment wasn’t helping with the bills because he couldn’t hold a job. My car was on the verge of repossession. I was going nowhere; the only positive thing I did have was that I was talking with my parents again.
Then the life-shattering, earth-moving event. In North Carolina, January 31st, my cousin Cory—a Marine, a firefighter, one of my best friends—was killed in a car accident. He was 25 years old.
My mom drove from Louisville to Nashville the minute she heard. She told me it was because she didn’t want me to be alone, nor did she want to tell me something so sensitive over the phone. That’s just how she is; no matter how terrible a daughter I could be, she always put me first.
Later that same night after she left, I was alone. My deadhead boyfriend wasn’t home, neither was our equally stoned roommate. I was sitting on our single mattress on the floor, looking around our bare room with its one dresser and a floor strewn with clothes. It hit me.
What are you doing? Really?
Was I just trying to prove I could do it on my own? Because I couldn’t. Obviously.
In a flash of grief and pain, I realized my life had spiraled out of control simply because I was too stubborn to admit my parents were right.
I packed my things. My dog and I climbed in the old Jeep. And we came home to Louisville.
During the upheaval of moving back, I also found something I hadn’t yet realized I had lost—my writing. Whether it was my grief over Cory or simply returning home, I don’t know—but I started writing again.
Even better…I finished the novels I had started years before and I have started (and finished) even more in the time since.
I’ve been through a lot in my life. Maybe it wasn’t as bad as some, maybe it wasn’t as rough…but it shows that a girl can make bad decisions, life-changing mistakes, and still bounce back.
My mom is a Major with the Louisville Metro Police force—the third highest ranking female on the department. She just celebrated her 21st anniversary this month. I am in a stable, committed relationship with a man who will one day be my husband. We live in a small but nice home—I’m a police dispatcher. He’s a police officer.
I was a latchkey kid and because of it, I am now a writer. I am the daughter of a female police officer, and because of that, I’m a stronger, better woman.
Also included are sneak peeks into 25 novels!
You can see Heather’s outfit of choice at Literary Outfits!