kidnapping

The Post-Revision Antsy Blues

So I’m not really into post-revision on Pieces yet since I’m waiting for two more readers to get me feedback, but after getting feedback from my other readers, and doing major slit-my-wrist revisions on the book, I’m sitting here staring at my computer and wondering what the heck to do with myself. I’m antsy. I’m nervous. I’m hungry, but I don’t want to eat. My brain feels like it was a rubberband all stretched out and then somebody let go. Now I’m lying on the floor, helpless. I’d watch a movie, but I’m too antsy. I’d read a book, but I’m so tired of reading after reading through my book like five times, forward and backward and up and down. The worst thing of all is that I’m exhausted. I’ve been exhausted for a long time now because when I do revisions, I DO REVISIONS. I don’t do anything else. I don’t do laundry. I don’t cook (much). I don’t clean (much). I don’t sleep (much). I just revise until I make myself sick, which I’ve done.

Does anyone else get like this?

Also, let me clarify what revisions are. Jennifer Hubbard did a great post about what revisions are for her. She sums it up better than I can.

As Jane Lebak notes, this is about more than fixing commas. This is about deleting entire scenes, moving chapters around, writing new scenes. Bringing in new characters, or getting rid of old ones, or merging two characters who have too-similar reasons for being in the story. Changing the plot: changing what happens or when or in what order. Chopping unnecessary pages from the beginning, or the end, or even the middle. Introducing new subplots. Jane Lebak discusses the most thorough kind of revision: the rewrite that starts from a blank page. Sometimes it does come down to that.

And, yeah, I’ve done the rewrite that starts from a blank page before. More than once. Thankfully, this book does not need that extensive of revisions. I’ve restructured and rewritten and added and deleted and shuffled stuff around. Now I’m onto the line stuff, and then a final read-through for copyedits. Then it all goes to my editor and I get to do all of the edits she sends to me. Then more copyedits.

I guess all I’m saying is when people ask me how hard it is write a book, I honestly don’t even know where to start. It’s definitely a job that goes beyond the mind. It’s physical too. Revisions, for me, are the equivalent of running a marathon. I’m pretty sure I end up burning as many calories.

The post-revision antsy blues get me every time. Like my friend Becca said to me, last time this happened to her, she sat in her office chair in the middle of the room and just spun around forever. Sometimes that’s all your mind can handle! I really just don’t know what to do with myself while my brain gets back to normal. Yoga. Maybe some yoga.

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in Books, Pieces

Daily Dish Utah | My First Experience on TV

As I spoke about earlier, I was invited to interview on Utah’s Daily Dish show, hosted by Good Things Utah. Nicea and Brianne were wonderful hosts, and I felt at home and comfortable. Let me just say that I wasn’t so nervous to actually talk on television as I was about everything surrounding it. First of all, I was only given two days’ notice, and second, it’s in my nature to worry about little details when it’s something new. I worried about directions and driving and parking and getting into the right place. I worried about what to wear, how to do my hair, which jewelry to pick out, which shoes to put on, how I would answer the questions, etc. On and on. I honestly don’t know how news people do this every day! But then again, it’s not in my blood to just do this sort of thing as a career. But I suppose being an author, you have to have to have some level of comfort-zone with being in the public eye.

My dear friend, Alicia, offered to drive me to Salt Lake City to the news station building, and another friend offered to watch my daughter all morning. So a huge thanks to these two! My poor hubby had to work. I wish he could have been there.

All in all, this was an amazing experience and a wonderful opportunity not to pass up. I had the chance to talk about my work in a professional time and space, and I am honored to have done so. I don’t know if doing this will garner more sales, but that certainly isn’t why this was such a wonderful opportunity. I realized something important today during this interview—in the end, it does not matter what kind of “level” I see myself at in the publishing world, because I often see myself as inferior for so many reasons. But all that really matters was the two lovely hosts interviewing me were genuinely excited about my book and the story it tells.

My friend Alicia took me to a lovely bakery in downtown Salt Lake. I bought some cannolis, my favorite pastry. And we had some breakfast since I was not able to eat before the interview (I was too nervous!) It was an exciting morning and then a relaxing breakfast.

A huge thank you to ABC-4 and the hosts at The Daily Dish for interviewing me today!

To watch the interview, CLICK HERE.

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in Books, The Breakaway

How to Stand Out in a World Crammed With Books

Color me surprised. Overall, The Breakaway did so much better than my other books in the first few selling weeks. I think it’s a combination of factors – the first being that the book hits an apparently huge niche market for young adult and adult readers who love kidnapping/captive/Stockholm Syndrome books. I had no idea such a market was out there for this genre, but it’s big. And it’s also picky, I’m finding. This specific niche market loves a certain type of ending, I think, and The Breakaway messes with that type of ending. So I’m really not sure how well it will keep doing. I have no idea. The other reason I think The Breakaway did so well (and will hopefully keep doing well) might have to do with the marketing tactics my publisher took – several that they did not do with Monarch because they hadn’t explored those avenues yet. But Monarch is also adult and a thriller and not really a true thriller, at that. Other reasons for The Breakaway’s success might also have had to do with the fact that it is young adult, the cover people seem to love, marketing tactics I took, or, well, sheer dumb luck.

So all of this one-book-doing-better-than-another thing has me thinking about a lot of publishing points. I have asked myself if I would be as jazzed about publishing more books if The Breakaway’s sales had been the same as Monarch and Cinders in their first few weeks. I worry that I question too many things. I worry that the sheer dumb luck I mentioned above is a bigger factor in all of this than I’m willing to admit. Because, honestly, that’s what it seems like at this point. I did less marketing for The Breakaway than any of my other work. I cared less. Maybe that was important. Or maybe it’s because I have other books out and I’ve built more of a readership. Maybe it’s because I’ve focused more on marketing to readers than writers. Who. The. Heck. Knows.

And I walk into a bookstore and realize that all the books on the shelves are like .0000001% of the books out in the world, and I get short of breath and realize that my books are only a tiny speck in the huge cosmos of stories out there. How … I ask myself … how in the world will I ever make it? How will I ever stand out in a world crammed with books?

My answer to that is: I already do … in certain people’s worlds. And that’s what matters.

But … I don’t write to take over the world in general (hahaha, if only), and I don’t write to stand out everywhere, and I don’t write to be on every shelf in every bookstore, and I don’t write to please everyone, and I don’t write just to make money and sales. I write because I write and want to keep writing. And the small, beautiful success I’ve seen with The Breakaway is a happy perk and something special I treasure right now. But quite honestly, while all those sales will always be awesome, they do not feel as poignant as that first sale I made on my little self-published book, Cinders, when I felt even smaller than I do now. And that’s what makes me stop and think. I look at the authors I love and wonder how small they feel, even if they are big in the publishing world. I wonder if I will always feel insignificant standing in a bookstore or sifting through hundreds of books online.

And I sit here and fret and worry about my next full-length book, Bonded, and how it will fare compared to The Breakaway in its first few weeks. So far, each book I have put out has done better than the last, but I am not sure I can top The Breakaway, and that scares me because beyond hundreds-of-thousands of dollars I don’t have to spend on marketing, there’s not much me and my publisher can do beyond what we have done for my other books. At least so far. I am sure my publisher will keep surprising me with their brilliance in marketing! And I know it’s not always about “the first few weeks” … it’s often how your books do overall over a long period of time, but still, the beginning can say a lot.

Everyone says Bonded will do amazing, but I have my doubts. Bonded is completely different, and it’s a collection and fantasy/fairy-tale based. Is that market as big as the market for The Breakaway? The first novella in Bonded has a controversial ending. The second novella, Thirds, is happy, but will people keep reading after Cinders and all the punches I pull in there? Perhaps not. The third novella, Scales, is far from a happy ending, and it’s my very favorite, like a piece of dark chocolate I think should be savored. Some people hate dark chocolate.

I guess this is enough rambling about all my worries and fears. It all reminds me of a post I wrote last year right before Monarch came out. I had cold feet, but I came to a conclusion I need to remember now. I need to staple it to my forehead: So bring on the cold feet. I know I’ll still worry and fret as the release date grows closer, but for me, the best part of the book has already happened – the fact that I finished and got it to a place where I’m 100% happy with it. Nothing will erase that. Ever. Remember, published or unpublished, you are a writer, an author, and a creative person who strives for the ultimate goal of creating something you’re proud of. Don’t ever let the little publication tag get in your way (and I need to add here that sales numbers should not get in your way either), because it doesn’t change anything in the end. It only overshadows the best part.

In the end, the only thing to do is write your next book, and at the end of the day, I’m pretty happy with that. So I’m going to go work on my next book and stop worrying.

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in All Things Publishing, Books, The Breakaway

A Sequel for The Breakaway?

michelle-d-argyle-the-breakaway-coverEver since I first wrote The Breakaway years and years ago, I have had friends and family interested in knowing more about how it might end beyond the conclusion I gave it. If you haven’t read the book, the ending is bittersweet and not what you might expect, so I think a lot of readers get very attached to the characters and want some more wrap-up with them at the end. For me, the ending does wrap everything up, but there is definitely more that could happen.

Since The Breakaway’s release, I’ve received dozens of emails and tweets and FB messages asking about a sequel for the book. At first I was a little defensive because I kept thinking that maybe my ending wasn’t enough for people. They were disappointed or it wasn’t written well. That may be the case for some readers, I imagine, but the more I’ve thought about it and talked to my publisher, I’m seeing that it’s more because readers enjoyed the story enough to want more.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that there are very few sequels I enjoy, and so far in my writing career, I have had no desire to write a sequel to any of my stories. But with The Breakaway, I have always had in mind what happens to Naomi and Jesse  beyond the ending I give them in the novel … I’ve just never really shared that with many people, and honestly, over the years I’ve altered what has happened in my head. First it was a tragic ending, then very happy, then bittersweet again. The fun thing about writing is that while you have control over the story and your characters, it’s not always as much control as you want to admit. I’m the kind of writer who allows the story to control itself and guide me, the writer, to where it needs to go. The Breakaway has definitely taken its own course.

Because I’ve always had in mind how The Breakaway expands beyond its current borders, I am quite open to sharing that expansion with others. The question is how do I want to share it? The more I’ve thought about it, the more I’m comfortable with writing a long short story or novella and sharing it with fans. At the moment, my publisher is open to this idea as well, although the idea may not be cost-effective for them. In that case, other options for publication are available.

Now that I’ve rambled long enough, if you are a fan of The Breakaway and are interested in a somewhat unconventional alternative to a “sequel”, make sure you sign up for my newsletter so you’ll be updated when and if this short story will be released. I’ll be open right now and say that it will probably not be available until 2013 because I have to finish my current novel before I can begin anything else. Good things are worth waiting for, right?

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in Books, Pieces, The Breakaway

What It’s Really Like on Release Day

Today is a big day for me, but in reality, it’s not a big day at all. It’s a big day in my mind. My novel, The Breakaway officially releases. It’s a big day because for most authors, any day their book releases is a big day. Some authors have big launch parties. Some go on tour. Some hit the NY Times bestsellers list that same week. Most, like me, don’t really do anything except write a few tweets and FB posts and a newsletter announcement to announce the book. I might go out to eat or something. Most of the work I’ve put into my blog tour is already finished and it’s simply up to the people involved to post their reviews/interviews/posts.

The truth is that unless you are some really cool exception, your release day is pretty darned quiet. Most launch parties and tours happen after the fact, and most people won’t read your book until after it’s out. So while there may be a little bit of hype on that huge release day (special thanks to anyone who helps spread news about the book today!), I’ve found that any time a book of mine is officially out there, it always feels a bit anticlimactic. This is silly since I don’t expect much anyway, but I think it feels that way because it is a HUGE FREAKING DEAL in my head. So big that fireworks should be going off. A novel is a deeply personal, blood-sweat-and-tears project. It should feel like a huge deal. It is a huge deal!

But in publishing, it seems, it’s rare for things to happen all at once, especially on one day. Traditionally publishing is a painfully slow business. There is so much waiting, waiting, waiting, for everything. There are little spikes of excitement, I’ve found, but they rarely snowball into anything super-exciting. It’s like, WAIT. WAIT. WAIT. WRITE. WRITE. QUERY. SUB. SUB. SUB. SUB. WAIT FOREVER. WRITE. WRITE. WAIT. Agent! Book Deal! Publisher! WAIT. WAIT. WAIT. TRY TO WRITE. WAIT FOREVER. Cover! WAIT. WAIT. WRITE. WRITE. WAIT. WORK. Edits! WAIT. EDIT. WAIT. EDIT. WAIT. More edits! WAIT. EDIT FOREVER. WAIT. WAIT. WRITE. Blurbs from Awesome Authors! WAIT. WAIT. WRITE. WAIT. Oh my gosh, I get to hold my book! WAIT. WAIT. WAIT. WAIT. WAIT. Release day! WAIT. WAIT. WAIT. WRITE. Oh, look, good reviews! My book on a shelf! WAIT. WAIT. WRITE. WRITE. SUB. WRITE. SUB. WAIT FOREVER. Another book deal! And then we start over. Of course, individual mileage may vary for every author, but my point is there is a freaking ton of waiting.

And, honestly, so many of those exciting things get buried in all that waiting and writing that I often tend to forget them and what they were like. Keeping a journal with lots of exclamation points is helpful. I think the biggest highlight for me is getting my book delivered to me, and I finally get to hold it, touch it, read it. For me, then it is real. I don’t think I’d fare well with eBook only. It’s so intangible. So getting my physical book is probably one of the most exciting things – even more than release day. Getting my final cover is also very exciting and memorable.

But…I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again and again. Nothing beats the excitement of finishing the first draft of a book or a very long and intense revision. To me, that’s why I keep doing any of this and endure through all that waiting. And nothing beats receiving an email from a fan you have never seen or heard from before, or even fans you do know, telling you how much they loved your book. Magic, I’m telling you. People reading your book, especially years after it’s released, is magic.

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in All Things Publishing, Books, The Breakaway

I Will Never Be the Same Without You

michelle-d-argyle-the-breakaway-coverThe Breakaway is in layout at the moment. My publisher let me have a peek, and it looks so good! I can’t wait to hold it in my hands. That feeling never, ever gets old, it seems. But as I prepare for the book’s launch, I feel a sense of sadness. This book has literally changed my life. It has been with me during almost every huge event in my life. The only way I can describe it is like a colored filter tinging everything.

I won’t lie. The characters are an extension of me. The best thing anyone has ever said about the book has been that the book itself is a character and all the characters within it represent a personality type – parts of my personality. I had never thought of the book in this way, but when that was pointed out to me, it was like a puzzle piece sliding into place. No wonder it’s so freaking close to me, right? No wonder it will be so difficult to put it out there.

I will never be the same without this book in a working mode. Once it’s published, it’s settled completely, and it’s all over. I will be left with how the book has changed me as I worked on it. I wonder if it will keep changing me once it’s out there. I wonder if it will change in my mind, if it will become less important to me, if I will still obsess about the characters. It will be interesting to see!

 

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in Books, The Breakaway

The Socks

The Breakaway (The Breakaway #1)

There is a reason I love this image for my cover of The Breakaway. That is Naomi, my eighteen-year-old protagonist who is kidnapped by a family of jewel thieves. Why do I love the image so much?

The socks.

I love the socks. That may sound odd. Oh well. I love the socks because her kidnappers take her shoes, but give her everything else she needs (except freedom, of course). That’s one of my favorite details of the entire novel – that they take her shoes, and I love the socks because they encapsulate the strangeness of Naomi’s situation. They seem out of place with her summery outfit, which is perfect because she’s taken from California to a different, much colder state.

The reason I’m writing this post today is because I was talking to a good friend last night about my cover and what I love about it and I thought it would be fun to share little things like this here on my blog. Sometimes it’s all in the details and those things need to be showcased if they make you happy. The socks make me happy!

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in Books, The Breakaway

Experience That Novel!

I think one of my favorite things about writing a novel is the amount of research I get to do. My completed novel, The Breakaway, takes place in two states: California and Colorado. Not much research I have to do there. I live in the Western United States.

So what would I have to research about a story where the main character stays in one house for over a year – only leaving to go into the backyard?

One thing I researched was food. The Breakaway has lots of food in it. Writing it made me hungry all the time! I thought I would share a specific scene from my novel, and then give you the recipe I researched to write this scene.

So what do you research for your novels? For Monarch, I’ve researched things ranging from terrorism and drugs to the best way to clean a severe cut (hydrogen peroxide is not the best thing to use, by the way, and may cause more harm than good). I’ve also done a lot of research on Monarch butterflies. Hmmm, I wonder why that is.

Pasta with Sauteed Mushrooms and Thyme

serves 4 as a main course or 6 to 8 as a side dish

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3-4 large shallots, chopped fine (about 1 cup)
3 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through a garlic press
10 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded, caps wiped clean and sliced 1/4 inch thick
10 ounces cremini mushrooms, wiped clean and sliced 1/4 inch thick
Salt
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
1 1/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon juice from 1 lemon
Ground black pepper
1 pound camanelli or farfale
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, freshly grated (1 cup)
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves

1. Bring 4 quarts water to a rolling boil in a large pot.

2. Meanwhile, heat the butter and oil in a skillet over medium heat until foaming. Add the shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Increase the heat to medium-high; add the shiitakes and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes. Add the cremini and 1/2 teaspoon salt; cook, stirring occasionally, until the moisture released by the mushrooms has evaporated and the mushrooms are golden brown, about 8 minutes. Stir in the thyme and cook 30 seconds. Transfer the mushrooms to a bowl and set aside. Add the chicken broth to the skillet and bring to a boil, scraping up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan; off the theat, stir in the cream, lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste.

3. Add 1 tablespoon salt and the pasta to the boiling water and stir to separate the noodles. Cook until just shy of al dente. Drain and return the pasta to the pot.

4. Add the mushrooms, chicken broth-cream mixture, cheese, and parsley to the pasta. Toss over medium-low heat until the cheese melts and the pasta absorbs most of the liquid, about 2 minutes. Serve immediately.

 

 

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in Books, The Breakaway

Stockholm Syndrome

Stockholm syndrome is a psychological state in which the victims of a kidnapping, or persons detained against their free will – prisoners – develop a relationship with their captor(s). This solidarity can sometimes become a real complicity, with prisoners actually helping the captors to achieve their goals or to escape police.

The expression originates from a bank robbery that took place here on August 23rd 1973, when four bank clerks where held hostage in the vault for five and a half days. (information taken from a cache online)

Why am I posting this? Well, I have writer’s block, and cannot move forward on Monarch. Argh. So I’m distracting myself with something about The Breakaway. I also have thought a lot about my main character, Naomi, lately. She is truly a victim in my story, but most of it is her own doing. However, she is a kidnapping victim, and some of my readers have displayed frustration, even anger, at Naomi’s reaction to her captors.

Naomi accepts her imprisonment. She even learns to love her captors at one point. Why? And why on earth did I want to write such a story?

Perhaps it is because Stockholm syndrome has always held great fascination for me. During my research for Breakaway, I ran across this article. It clearly explains the mystery behind loving an abuser, and backs up the reality behind Naomi’s behavior in my story.

So, if you’re one of the readers who experienced great frustration over Naomi’s submissiveness, perhaps you might want to read the article.

A dear friend of mine, who has only begun the novel this evening, wrote in his comment: There is a spirit exhibited [in Naomi] that is not submissive but shows courage and the sense enough to reflect on her situation before reacting.

Although it takes Naomi a specific amount of time to react on her reflections, she is certainly not ignorant of the fact that she is submissive to a fault. Even subconsciously, she uses it to her advantage.

So my question is this:

How do you use your weaknesses as strengths? If you were in a Stockholm syndrome-type situation (either being held hostage or in an abusive relationship), how would you handle it?

Me? I think I’d react a lot like Naomi. Pulling in on myself is a natural instinct. Submissiveness is tempting. I want to believe I’d fight back, but knowing that it would end in pain or death, I would continue to ride out the situation until I found a better way than violence to escape.

P.S. This question does not just apply to women! Men are capable of Stockholm syndrome as well. There were several at the bank robbery mentioned above.

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in Books, The Breakaway