The power of relationships in supernatural reads

People ask me why I am such a fan of supernatural genre stories, YA specifically. There’s lot of reasons but at the core, it’s because they’re not just about monsters and demons, but so much more. They’re about the power of our relationships, familial and first loves. About coming of age and the journey one goes through as they evolve from teen to adult. They’re of love and loss, of hope and despair – of all the incredibly confusing, incredible, breath taking emotions we are given the opportunity to experience, no matter whether we are mortal or immortal.

Take The Vampire Diaries for example. I’ll admit I like the show better than the series for a few reasons (read main reason: Ian Somerhalder), but the part of the books that’s always stuck with me is the bond between the Salvatore brothers. The show has nailed to perfection. There has been many times Damon and Stefan have been there to save the other, and while the love triangle is usually what gets hearts aflutter, it’s the strength of their brotherhood bond, of family, of willing to do anything to protect the other, no matter the status of their relationship at the time, which is the excellence for me.

When my novel Aberration was reviewed by a book blogger a few months back she called it “an emotional book that deals with past and family and the way our perceptions of events change over time, as they become memories and how our friendships shape us but can also hold us back.”  For me, this was the ultimate compliment because I’d successfully done for one reader, what so many YA writers have done for me: taken a simple element of young adulthood and connected it to a much larger point of exploration.

When beginning a story in addition to starting with the ending, which I’ve written about before, I also pick an emotion and use it as the fuel for my character. In my next book (Bound, out this summer) the emotion I chose was anger. Some may think its confining to choose one emotion, as it may limit the character’s range in what they will think or feel. But it doesn’t. In fact, it’s the opposite. It gives them a place in which to start from and evolve. It can lead to the discovery of such incredible new emotions – the character’s journey a rich and exciting experience to create.

Writing is so many things for me, creating new people and places a complete and total joy. But it’s also about evolving me a little bit through my characters. Learning from their experiences and growing as they grow. Its a journey of self discovery of myself that I don’t realize I’ve been on until the last sentence is written.

I can’t wait for everyone to read my next book. I’ve grown, my characters have grown, the themes I am exploring have grown. It’s exciting and exhausting and…well, you’ll just have to see.   Until then, keep reading and don’t be afraid to feel. After all, it is what makes us human.

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New review for ABERRATION on Masquerade Crew

Thanks to sites like Masquerade Crew, indie writers (such as myself) have an incredible opportunity to reach readers with our work. Writing can be lonely, seeking representation dream crushing, but knowledge around publishing and community support can be incredibly empowering… and uplifting.

There are a great many reasons why I went the Indie route, even though I did have positive feedback from a few agents that were interested in exploring ABERRATION.  In the end, Indie route is what worked for me. Would I have loved to have had a marketing team behind promoting my first novel? Sure. Would I have loved to have conducted a multi-city book tour? Sure. Would I love to have trailers and artwork and fans by the thousands clamoring for an ARC of its sequel? Sure. But…through this experience I’ve met an incredibly warm and accepting community whom I am proud to call friends. They offer advice and support and most of all, when the writing blocks come (and they ALWAYS do) they are there, at ungodly hours, offering encouragement and support. And that my writing friends, is one of the biggest reasons I went Indie for my first book. Its a success that can not be measured in books sold or checks cashed.

So, thank you Masquerade Crew for taking the time to read ABERRATION, my first novel, and sharing your thoughts, honest and candid, in your review. I loved reading your view on my book, “a coming of age drama, an emotional journey and a story of discovery.” I loved to hear you thought the characters were “well-imagined, the plot engaging.” I was even OK with the honest feedback around the ending — endings, after all, are highly subjective — because you took a chance on an Indie writer. You took a chance on someone unknown. You took a chance on someone just wanting one person besides themselves to read the characters that were as real to them as they were in their book. You took a chance on me, and for that I will always be thankful.

That’s all us aspiring writers really want for our words after all. To be read.

The Adjustment Bureau and my infinite curiosity about destiny

I hate the idea that our lives are predetermined. That we travel a path created for us, with every decision we face part of a larger master plan. What happens when we deviate from that path? Make a choice that wasn’t ours to make to begin with? Do choices we make that take us away from that path lead to chaos and confusion or peace and happiness?

The subject of destiny was the inspiration for  my first novel Aberration and one that I continue to explore as I work on edits to its sequel (coming 2013!)  No matter the extensive research I do on the subject and no matter the conclusion the characters in my stories come to, I always come to the same one: no one chooses our destiny but us.

As William Shakespeare so wisely said, “It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves.”  It is we who hold the key to our happiness. To our success and failures. And to the doors that open for us on the life we set out on.

Sometimes  when movies get it right, they really get it right and The Adjustment Bureau for me, when it comes to the subject of destiny, was just such a flick. I saw it awhile ago and loved it then, and catching the last few minutes of it recently, liked it just the same.  I’ve liked Emily Blunt since first seeing her in The Devil Wears Prada and will always have a soft spot for Matt Damon, despite some questionable flicks in recent year, and their pairing along with the film’s quick pace, and the Mad Men-esque vibe of the folks that work for The Bureau, make it a fun watch.

 

Special offer for Goodreads members – Win review copy of my novel, Aberration

I’m overwhelmed. No, scratch that. I am humbled, deeply humbled, by the encouragement and support I have received for my debut novel, Aberration.  From the folks at Indie Spotlight and to Daily Book Buzz, to those who have taken the time to post reviews on Amazon, Facebook and beyond, I am honored to be a part of such incredible communities that embrace indie writers.

Last month I listed a giveaway on Goodreads that received a staggering 405 entries. It blew me away 405 people wanted to win a copy of my book. While that contest has since closed and a winner was selected (congrats!), I’d like to extend a new giveaway offer to the Goodreads  community. I’d like to offer those of you who might have entered the first giveaway another chance to win a copy of Aberration for review. Over the next week, I will be gifting 1 copy to the first 10 members that send me a message on Goodreads expressing their interest. The rules of this contest are simple:

1) you must post your review by August 10, 2012,

2) reviews must be posted in Goodreads, and if you have a blog outside of Goodreads where you review books, your blog,

3) posting review to your preferred online store (Amazon, BN.com or iTunes) or other communities is encouraged, but not mandatory

I will link to your review from my author website, as well as Tweet out through Twitter . And if you’re not a member of Goodreads, but interested in entering the giveaway? Become a member. It’s an incredible community that connected members to fellow book lovers and writers.

So, let the giveaway begin!

Happy Birthday to a Dream

In December I wrote about my plans to self-publish my first book after a long and interesting journey down the traditional publishing road. It was a tough decision and one I didn’t take lightly. I researched options and discussed with friends —  both those whom have had luck in the traditional publishing world, and those who have never published at all in fear of failure — and in the end, my decision was solid. I found a community that was warm and accepting and supportive (lots of emails and comments of support on this very blog in fact!), and a handful of vendors willing to take a chance on an indie author looking for neither fame nor fortune, but simply, one who wanted her words to be shared with others. And so, after much work, patience and waiting, a few weeks ago my dream saw the light of day and Aberration, my first novel, was revealed to the world.

I’ve always taken risks. I’ve always had the confidence to stand at bat, on a stage, or in front of a room, but I’ve never been more scared or unsure of myself then I was at that very moment, and absolutely terrified me. What if people hated it? What if they thought I couldn’t write? What if they thought the story was stupid? So many questions ran through my mind it was hard to think straight. But then I received some great advice: some people probably will hate it. Some people will probably think you can’t write. And yes, some might think it’s stupid. But some people might also love it. Some people will be touched by your words. And some might think it’s the best story they have ever read. Every reader will interpret your work differently. Some people will  identify, while others will crucify; some will love your characters, while others will loathe them.  But in the end you must have thick enough skin to accept it – all of it – the good, the bad and the ugly. You must let it roll off and know that it’s OK to feel excited and inadequate — it’s what makes us human.

Great advice.

Publishing a novel is a crap shoot and one that not every writer wants to take. But in taking it, I’ve learned so much that I would do it all over again.

I learned that I am stronger than I give myself credit for.  I learned that its not about the fame or the fortune…at least not for me. So what if I don’t write the next 50 Shades of Grey. So what if my characters aren’t idolized as Edward and Bella.  So what if I don’t win a Pulitzer. So…what. Because you know what? I put it out there. I put my words out there. I put my characters, whom I have loved and nurtured and laughed and cried with, out there. I put myself out there.

I love to tell stories and that love, despite the range of emotions, has only grown even more during this entire process. I love to create fictional towns that are so real in my head I want others to see their streets as I see their streets.  About characters who make me laugh and smile and sometimes even angry, but regardless of their perfection and flaws, interesting enough that readers will go anywhere with them, no matter the journey. And I love to explore the possibility of what it. What if there were magic? What if you could go back in time? The what if’s go on and on and on.

I was positively buoyant when feedback began pouring in from readers and even now, as I begin to work with reviewers, it is this buoyancy I am holding onto. Not everyone will be excited about the story, not everyone will give me a thumbs up. But those that don’t love it won’t hold quite the same power as I thought they would because when I released my first novel I not only took that crap shoot but I placed a bet. On me and on my dream. And they were both worth it.

Aberration is the debut novel from author Danielle Simmons. It was a semi-finalist in the 2012 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest. It is available at a variety of online bookstores and coming soon to a handful of select SF bookstores.  Fallout, the sequel to Aberration, is due for release early 2013. It will be the second book of a planned three book series. 

Endings & beginnings

I have a love/hate relationship with endings. I love them because often, they arrive with such a rush of emotion, its a fitting conclusion to whatever journey we have been. And I hate them because well, while to writers the words THE END are a sign of achievement, to the reader (or viewer in the case of movies) it’s a sign that we must let go.

When I begin writing a new story, I always begin with the end – one moment from which an entire story will be born. Why? Because as Semisonic sang in 1998 “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” I have always believed this. I have always believed that whatever happens to a character or in a story, can very well mean the beginning to something else, someone else, or even the introduction to somewhere else. A new character we will fall in love with, a new journey that will carry us on a ride of highs and lows, or even a new town whose people and places we will come to know as well as we know our own. I spend days, sometimes weeks perfecting the end and then once it’s done, start from the beginning at chapter one.

There are too many book endings I have loved over the years to even pick a few. I know it seems like a cop out, me being an aspiring writer and all. But picking one is just too hard.But I am always amazed at how other writers have come to write their endings. Do they do it as I do – start with it first? Or do they take time with it and relish in the moment? The ritual alongside the fact that its the anchor to a piece of work makes the ending of a novel a special moment.

But movie endings, now there is something to look at .

There are a few that are poetic and perfect in my eyes. Movies have visuals and music to underscore their endings, whereas in books we have imagination. Some would argue that perhaps the later is better. I don’t know, the combination of music with poignant acting gets me every time.  Take for example the end of Joy Luck Club or the epic conclusion to Star Wars Episode 3 where we learn the entire reason Darth Vadar turned to the dark side was because of love.

I also love movie endings because I learn from them. I think about everything from the dialogue to the music – I think about if I were to write such an ending, what would I do differently?

Perhaps one of my favorite movie endings is Field of Dreams. This movie makes me cry every time. It has always held a special place in my heart for reasons that are mine and mine alone. But the ending, when Ray plays catch with his father – his deceased father who passed much earlier in his life – is a moment I can never shake. It’s not just incredible that Ray is having a once in a lifetime moment to spend with someone he lost, a moment every one of us has wished for at least once in our life, but a simple display of hope’s incredible healing power, and how the simple act of playing catch can reconnect us to all we thought we lost.

Another ending I was just introduced to was the series finale of Lost. I was never a fan of the series. I didn’t watch it because there was just too much hype and I didn’t want to be caught up in it all. But with the arrival of the second year anniversary of the series’ finale, I found myself curious about the program and after reading a few articles, I  went out on a limb and even though it had been two yeas, watched the ending. I have to say, those four and a half minutes were more powerful than any TV series finale I have seen, and perhaps even movie ending. And while I never watched the show, wasn’t connected to the characters in any way, I was touched so profoundly  that it was a beautiful example of what I think an ending should be – closure, with hope.

With my first novel Aberration  now available I am nervous readers will have a love/hate relationship with its ending. But I also hope this is the case. I hope I can connect with even just one reader on such an emotional level.  If I have done this, then I know I am doing something right and perhaps focusing on the end is a great way to create new beginnings.