Yellow Highlighters & Black Powder

For me, research spans from poring over books to saddling up horses and loading guns.

IMG_4132I hadn’t ridden a horse since I was eleven years old when I mounted one three years ago. I joined a riding class for beginners. I trotted, no: walked around in circles during my first lessons. The riding instructor was the only one there who was anywhere near my own age, except a few of the parents accompanying their 6-12 year olds. And yes, I’m talking about three years ago.

The riding instructor just so happened to be a returning customer at the video rental store I was working at back then. We got to talking, and when I told her that I could hardly wait to go trail riding; she immediately picked up on it. From then on I had most my riding lessons on trails in the woods. It was challenging, fun and inspiring. We’d cross rivers, climb steep paths, gallop across fields and cuss at cyclists who’d come zooming past us – startling both us and the horses.

I believe that being new to horses made me notice things about them that I would have otherwise ignored if I’d been a seasoned rider, details that I’ve integrated in my writing. I can say pretty much the same thing about being a tyro gunslinger.

IMG_2595I handled a firearm for the first time about a year and a half ago at a gun safety course. I had done some research about guns of the Old West, but felt like I was grasping at straws without hands-on experience. I needed answers to questions that no book could truly answer.

My questions have pretty much been answered, and more so: I have found a sport I’m serious about. As far as horses go, I greatly enjoy getting to know their nature and pursue to become a better rider, but horses remain a hobby for me. I have no intention of winning a derby. Shooting, on the other hand, has made my competitive instinct surface. I compete in local ISFF competitions and train several days a week. My love for shooting and the Old West has also brought me to CAS (Cowboy Action Shooting). What better way to live the dream, than to dress up in cowboy attire and shoot guns (replicas) from the Old West era?

But research isn’t all about guns and horses, I’ve spent my share of hours with my nose stuck in a book, or scrolling through websites in search of what truly was. It’s a never-ending search…

IMG_5778In response to the phrase :”Write what you know,” I’m stuck between saying: “Hells yeah!” and: “That’s BS!” I have read countless interpretations of the phrase in writer’s guides that explain it as simply a way to make it easy on yourself: Set the story in your home town, in the present, construct the characters around yourself and people you know, and voila: you don’t have to do any tedious and time consuming research. Obviously, this doesn’t work when writing historical fiction.

Another tip I’ve come across more than once is: If you have to do research, don’t do any until you’ve completed your first draft. That way you’ll only have to do a minimum of research because you’ll have pinpointed exactly what you need to learn. I can see the logic in this, but I find this piece of advice flawed.

I’d like to expand the phrase “write what you know” into: “know what you write – write what you know.” By “know what you write,” I mean: Do your research and know your characters. Having a firm grasp on the what-fors of the period your story is set in will help you from stumbling into the pitfall of assumption. What use is it to do research post writing if you find out that half of what you thought you knew turns out to be plain wrong?

The ultimate kind of research would be to travel to the places I describe in my writing, but until the opportunity to do that arises: I pretty much live the dream anyway.

Happy Holidays

I wish you all a very merry Christmas and a happy new year! I’d like to extend heartfelt thank yous to each and every one who has bought my book or downloaded it for free.

Here’s my Christmas gift to all of y’all, my Redneck Rebel Party playlist. Enjoy 😉

 

Once Upon a Time in the North

There’s one question in particular that keeps popping up more often than others in regard to my writing: What made you write a western? And then there’s a string of follow-up inquiries: What inspired you? How did you come up with the idea for the book(s)? Have you always liked westerns?

A lot of folks seem puzzled about my passion for the Old West. I can’t blame them. I realize it must seem odd that a 30-something year old Norwegian girl, who has never set foot upon a prairie, delves into an era long gone and far away from the fjords and glaciers of her home country. Frankly, I find it hard to explain, but I’ll give it a whirl.

Up until a few years ago my interest for the Old West was a fleeting fascination that manifested itself at irregular intervals. It was kind of like a big ole fish with a double revolver rig and broad brimmed hat that kept to the murky shallows, out of sight, but ever present, occasionally breaking the surface with a whoop and a holler.

As a child, I was far more interested in constructing swords out of sticks than anything that went “pang” or “boom” or “pew, pew, pew.” I didn’t give a hoot about horses, actually: I found them downright intimidating. The closest I got to a stable was a pink and white plastic house for my My Little Pony ponies.

I read the Lucky Luke comics and watched the cartoons, he was the cowboy of my childhood. I saw the Terrence Hill movie Lucky Luke at the cinema in 1991. I thought it was the coolest thing ever, although I was somewhat distraught about Luke being blonde in the movie.

A few years later Bad Girls came out, and the next year: The Quick and the Dead. Women badasses! Huzzah! I watched Dances with Wolves on VHS with my mother. My grandfather gave me Tom Sawyer to read. I was fascinated, but I was a kid and my fascination turned to the next cool thing quicker than you can reload a Schofield.

I played the video game Gun when it came out, and my fascination for the western genre was again revived. I discovered the work of Sergio Leone and watched a handful of his movies. I absolutely loved them. This was at the time when I studied literature. My main interest was works from the 19th century, but “all things western” had yet to enthrall me.

It wasn’t until the video game Red Dead Redemption came out that my fascination for the western genre would yet again bloom and finally: not shrivel. This reclaimed fascination spurred my interest to delve further into the genre.

Right in the middle of this cowboy daze I was given a book about writing from a writer friend. At the time, I had started outlining a fantasy novel. I put it aside, figuring a short, action-packed western would be a better place to begin the project of writing a book. What was meant to be a test, to see if I could write a book-length text, turned into my main writing project.

Lee came to life from an outlaw costume I was constructing for myself (preparations for Halloween). I drew a sketch of the attire and started thinking up a name and background story for the character. The skeleton of a story emerged. The first half of that story became Embers at Dawn.

I think that’s about a good a description as I can give y’all about the whys and hows of the uprising of my western fascination. I’ll save details on research, musings on the western genre and further ramblings from an author’s life for later.

Pssst…

Embers at Dawn is out on trade paperback. You can buy it at my CreateSpace store (use discount code HKYX49PQ to chop 20% off the price – the offer lasts ’till the end of the month) or find it on amazon. Kindle version is just around the corner.
As y’all can see: it’s been approved by genuine crazy cats.

The Process

My debut novel is at the brink of release. I ordered my second proof copy yesterday and expect that Embers at Dawn is ready to meet its audience once I’ve looked it over one last time.

I’m not going to tell you it was easy. It’s been a long, meandering road…

The project of writing a book didn’t truly kick off until a friend of mine, Isabell Lorentzen, gave me the book How to write any book in 28 days by Nick Daws. It took me more than 28 days to write a book. To be more precise: the first draft took me roughly six months to write. The entire process has taken me almost three years.

Daws’s book gave me a kick in the butt and provided valuable information on how to write a book. It was never my intention to produce a completed body of work in less than a month, but a book-length text became more manageable after learning about how to plan it and how to find time to write.

The first draft was the easy part… And the hard part. I had my story jotted down, it was right there, but that’s just it: it was jotted down. I had a lot of polishing ahead of me.

I went over the first draft for the first time a month or two after completion. I was surprised to find that I had written a first draft that needed very little editing. Then I left it alone for about six months, while writing the first draft of the second book in the 9 Lives series. When I picked it up again, I realized that writing another book had improved my writing skills and that the manuscript needed a lot more work.

At that point I had no idea how many times I would go over the manuscript. The mere thought of poring over the same words over and over again bored me to bits. I have come a long way since then … I don’t hold that thought no more.

Isabell, my writer friend who gave me the Daws book, started writing her own book at about the same time as I started writing mine. We read each others work right from the outset. I’d send her a new chapter as soon as it was done, and she’d do the same. It was good to have someone close who was in the same situation as myself during the early stages of the manuscript. We’d give each other constructive criticism, but even more importantly: we’d show enthusiasm for each others work.

Many drafts later it was time to find beta readers. I’m fortunate enough to know a fair few, all right, I’ll be honest: nerds, who are well acquainted with everything from language to shooting irons. It was scary to allow new people to read my manuscript, but it was something I had to face sooner or later. I consulted their feedback, integrated what I agreed with into the text and kept on editing.

Because I know all these nerds who excel in their fields of knowledge I decided to not hire a professional editor. I know, against the advice of every self publishing guide out there, but I’m confident it was money well saved. I did, however, spend money on proofreading.

As I have mentioned in a previous post: I went for Scribendi. I did not regret it. The feedback I got was beyond anything I expected, or even dared to hope for. This is not meant as an advertisement for Scribendi, but I couldn’t be happier with the work that was done. They had clearly hand-picked a proofreader who is familiar with the genre. The manuscript that was returned to me had been formatted to perfection and was chock-full of valuable feedback and comments. Of course, grammatical errors and punctuation issues had been dealt with too.

The book was almost done, but I still had more work ahead of me in the formatting department. Formatting the book to get published as a paperback through CreateSpace has been somewhat tedious, but not very difficult. I’d advise anyone formatting a book to consult guides on how to format. It’s incredibly easy to not take notice of details that makes a world of difference, if you want a product that looks professional. As I mentioned earlier: I have ordered my second proof copy. I didn’t order that second copy because the first was perfect.

Having pretty much declared the paper version of the book done, I started looking at formatting the book for Kindle. I don’t know how many times I’ve read about how easy it is, but I give up. I’m going to pay the professionals at CreateSpace to do it for me. It’s not very expensive and I want to be certain that the book looks good on all reading devices.

I can think of only one element in the publishing process more vexing than formatting: dealing with the tax issue. I decided to get an EIN. Reading about how much time and effort some people have spent obtaining an ITIN; it was an easy decision to get an EIN. As far as I’ve been able to research, there are no drawbacks about choosing an EIN, rather than an ITIN.

Obtaining an EIN is fairly easy. I simply called IRS, talked to a woman for about 15 minutes and at the end of the conversation I had my EIN, ready to be used immediately. The conversation consisted for the most part of me spelling my name and address, and her reading it back to me. I waited 50 minutes to get through, but I called on one of the first days IRS was open again after the government shutdown.

Once I had my EIN, I filled out the W-8BEN form and mailed it to CreateSpace. I later filled out the same form online. If I’m not mistaken, I came across it on my KDP page and figured it could do no harm to fill it out there too. Shortly after, I received an email from Amazon that stated that my withholding rate had been set to 0%.

I considered pursuing the traditional route of agents and publishing houses, but after a lot of research and serious consideration, I found it exceedingly easy to choose the self publishing trail.

I like the control I have with self publishing. The fact that I’ll get paid more per book than in traditional publishing is not a dazzling lure, but a good sales point. However, I must admit: if a publishing house at some point shows interest in my work and offers me a reasonable deal, I might not decline.

Yup, that’s about it. Only one thing left to do: get the son of a bitch goddamned published.