Take it away Char!
Writing on the Side –
Hi folks, I’m Char Chaffin and I’m thrilled to be blogging with fellow Soul Mate Author Donna Shields today!
I’ve been writing for about twelve years, seriously writing for publication about four of those, and finally published my debut novel, Promises to Keep in November 2011. Years ago when I began writing, never did I imagine I’d actually publish one day. I guess back then I still thought of writing as an unattainable goal. I wrote for my own enjoyment, because I loved the words and the worlds I could create and thus escape to. Once I decided to write for publication, I found myself steeped in romance, even though I adored science fiction and horror. As much of that genre as I’d taken in over the years, you’d think the very first characters to spring from my fingers onto the keyboard would have been a herd of psychopathic vampires with werewolf DNA who’d all howl at the moon as they ripped through some hapless village on a planet far, far from Saturn.
Instead, a young girl named Annie, her best friend and first love, Travis, and family secrets came forth. Before I knew it I’d written a mainstream romance that took place in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. The manuscript went through all the usual: agents who didn’t like it, rejection form letters, skeptical frowns during face-to-face pitch sessions, more rejections. But, like anything else, it only takes one to breathe life, and my “one” came when I pitched to Soul Mate Publishing, and they said, “Yes.”
Now, a year later, Promises to Keep is in print as well as ebook format and both formats are doing well. My second novel, Unsafe Haven, is out in ebook format (and doing great!), plus I’m an Acquisitions Editor for Soul Mate Publishing. And, at least for a little while, my writing is firmly on the side as I acquire and edit manuscripts. I cheer each time one of my “babies” is released and the author I worked with so closely is happily bouncing with joy as she realizes the dream I myself experienced a year ago. No feeling is stronger, better, for a writer, than when they can say aloud, “I published a book!”
I’ve discovered something about editing others’ works: it makes me a better writer. Each time I finish a manuscript, I find I’ve learned something new, something more that I can apply to my own writing. Right now in my life, this couldn’t be a better pairing for me. Editing an author’s work is time-consuming and frenetic, sometimes frustrating, often harrowing, and requires a great deal of patience. Gee, no wonder the job goes along so well with writing: the two might be twins separated at birth. When the book succeeds, the editor is a happy camper. When the book flounders, the editor feels the author’s pain, believe me. It’s rather like Little League for Manuscripts. ::wink::
This past year I’ve often been asked if I have advice for newbie writers and fledgling authors who are beginning to get their feet wet in the biz. The best advice I can offer starts with the word, “Never.”
Never stop writing; write every single day. Never stop reading as a way to stretch your brain. Never write in only one genre; try others, too; another way to stretch yourself. Never think you can go it alone, because you CAN’T. Never think you don’t need writing organizations to join and learn from. Doesn’t have to be RWA, as long as it’s a group that will help you grow as a writer. Never say “no” if you are asked to join a critique group especially if members of that group are already published, because boy, can you learn from them. And never, never lose your humility—or your sense of humor.
I can also offer advice that begins with, “Always.”
Always remember to offer tit for tat. If you want a fellow writer to help promote you—whether or not you’re already published—then offer them some promo in return. Review an ARC for them, host them on your blog if you have one, mention them on Facebook or better yet, friend them and help get their numbers up. “Like” their releases on Amazon, mention them on Twitter. Always thank anyone who helped you get to your goal of publication: your family and friends, fellow chapter members, critique partners, your agent, your editor. Because you didn’t get there by yourself. Yes, your talent is stunning and finally someone has recognized that, but you still received plenty of pushes along the way, so acknowledge them. And my biggest “Always:” Always be willing to promote! Carry one of your books with you wherever you go. Have swag handy: bookmarks, post cards, business cards, pens, whatever, with your book info on them. Not published yet? You can still hand out business cards and such with your manuscript info included. You never know when you might meet an agent or an editor.
Too shy to do any of that? Tough. You chose to be a writer, and as a writer you can’t afford to be shy. Buck up and do it, anyway. You’ll figure out very quickly that writers just starting out need to eighty-six their shyness. When you get to be famous, you can go all solo and hermit-like, and your fans will simply call you “eccentric.” But until then, you have to get yourself out in the public eye, at least online.
As editing takes up more and more of my day, I try to set aside time to do all that promotion I just mentioned. Every writer has to decide what they can handle financially and whether or not they want to pay or search out the freebies. You’ll find plenty of both. For me, a combination of both seems to be working. I will say this: blog tours are a lot of fun and you meet some fab folks!
Now for some promo: My second novel, Unsafe Haven, is a true novel of my heart. It’s set in Alaska, and I lived there for sixteen years. It’s an amazing state, one that I think should be on everyone’s “bucket list” to visit. As I wrote Unsafe Haven, I got to relive some of my fondest memories from my time there, and what could be better than that?
Here’s the blurb:
For Kendall Martin, a small, remote village in Southwest Alaska seems like a good place to start over. On the run from an abusive relationship, she leaves everything familiar behind and begins a new life as owner of a small souvenir and sportsman trading post in picturesque Staamat.
Denn Nulo knows everyone in town: he’s the Chief of Police in Staamat. He’s lived there all his life, except for his college years, spent in Anchorage. Originally planning on practicing criminal law and living in Anchorage permanently, Denn is forced to change his plans when he receives word that his widowed mother has passed away, leaving his young sister, Luna, alone. Denn comes back to Staamat to care for Luna.
When Kendall meets Denn, she begins to believe there are truly good men in the world. Denn is everything she wants: strong, loving, dedicated to family, protective. . .and patient. There is instant attraction between them, but Kendall is leery of men, and Denn craves a serious relationship that includes marriage and children. Their courtship is a conflicting mix of hesitancy and passion, with Luna, desperately needing a mother figure in her life, cheering them on.
As Kendall learns how to trust again and her romance with Denn grows more intense, a local woman who’s had her eye on Denn for years releases a torrent of damaging jealousy. . .and the nightmare from Kendall’s past discovers where she’s hidden herself.
Do I have an excerpt? Why, yes, I do! Here’s the prologue and first chapter:
Northeast Oregon, April
Hidden was good. She could live with hidden.
Kendall Martin stared at the speck on the map. She’d have missed it if she blinked twice. Lakes, streams, and rivers surrounded it. A single road, at least something resembling a road, ran from the speck to another, slightly larger dot, both surrounded by rough terrain and flanked by a ribbon of river.
On a map of Alaska, within the vastness of its landmass, the minute spots of civilization were insignificant.
She laid the oversized atlas on the edge of the bed, and continued folding sweaters. She stashed underwear and nightgowns, neatly-rolled socks, and three pairs of slippers in the open packing box. Two more boxes, already sealed and labeled, sat stacked in a corner of the bedroom. She’d packed her linens, cleaned out her medicine cabinet, and threw away anything resembling a sedative.
Where she was headed, she should never again need a sedative.
Her kitchen looked stark with its scrubbed counters and empty cupboards. What few plants she’d nurtured had been given to a neighbor. Dry foodstuffs went to the local Bread Line. She’d dumped the rest.
A single, four-hour garage sale had ridded her of the sofa and matching recliner, a few end tables, as well as the stripped bed. Its new owners were slated to come for it later in the day. She hadn’t been in town long enough to collect more than some basic furniture and a few necessary kitchen odds and ends. Nevertheless, Kendall had ruthlessly pared her belongings down to what she could fit in a handful of boxes and three hard-sided suitcases. Without an ounce of regret, she’d rifled through a collection of photographs, using scissors to cut out images she didn’t want, keeping others intact, and tossing the discards into the trash.
She didn’t want any visual reminders. She had enough mental ones to last a damned lifetime.
Nerves, anticipation, worry, all fluttered inside her stomach, a queasy, anxious mix. A hundred times already, she’d asked herself if such a massive move was right for her. She couldn’t help the tremors overtaking her as she sealed the last box of clothing. Several times during the day, she stopped in the middle of whatever she’d been packing, and sucked in one long, deep breath in an attempt to keep from hyperventilating.
She’d never lived anywhere other than Oregon. And yet, her journey would take her to a tiny speck within the immense, formidable force of nature called Alaska.
Scared spitless. Unbearably excited.
Yeah, that about covers it.
“There it is.” The pilot pointed toward a grayish mass off in the distance, dipping a wing as if in salute. Kendall’s stomach promptly tried to revolt, and she swallowed three times in a row, forcing back the nausea. The tiny plane was difficult enough to deal with, without its pilot doing wing flips.
“Do you see it?” Thom Banks nudged her shoulder, before he gave his full attention to his piloting. Kendall figured she had to be as white as the snow coating the highest mountain peaks visible outside the window. She also knew Thom wasn’t trying to purposely scare her.
Cautiously, she nodded, relieved when the queasiness abated. “Yes, I saw. How much longer until we land?”
“Maybe another half-hour. We’ll probably have to circle a few times, in case the wind’s too strong for a safe landing. But we’ll make it. Eventually.” He eyed her again. “You always get airsick?”
“I guess so. I’ve never flown like this before.”
“Yeah? You mean in a two-seater?”
“I mean in anything.” She wiped her clammy brow and longed for a tissue.
“Ah, I see. First-timer.” Thom indicated a compartment near the floor between their seats. “I got a roll of toilet paper in there. Help yourself.” He shrugged at the look she gave him. “Hey, you never know when you have to improvise. I don’t always fly this thing between real airports with bathrooms.”
“No, I guess not.” Kendall opened the compartment and ripped off several sheets, blotting the remaining moisture from her skin. A careful peek out the window assured her they’d gotten closer to the area Thom had pointed out. “There’s a lot of snow. More than I expected.”
“Yeah. The mountains never lose it. But in town, it’s mostly melted. Still damned cold, though. Won’t warm up until mid-May.” He reached above the console and flicked a switch. “So, what’s your story? Staamat isn’t exactly the kind of place someone like you would be moving to,” he commented, as he made a few adjustments on his console.
“Someone like me? What do you mean?”
He gestured toward her bare left hand. “In most remote Alaskan villages, you’re in the minority, if you didn’t know already. Single, right? Usually whites who move to a place like Staamat are married. They work for the state, take professional jobs. Teachers, nurses. Sometimes even a doctor. You any of those?”
She shifted uneasily in her seat. She knew the bush pilot was just being friendly, but she wasn’t used to answering questions. When you answered questions, people often were compelled to ask even more. Until you had no secrets left. And then, somewhere down the road, they’d remember you, and the answers to those questions.
Okay, too paranoid. To be fair, the man hadn’t been overly nosy, aside from the usual, polite questions strangers often asked in any given social situation. Not that flying in a dinky plane over the Alaskan Range could constitute a social situation.
Still, old habits were hard to break, and so she kept her response vague. “I’m not sure what I’ll be doing, until I get settled in.” Her tone was even, but her body language said what her words wouldn’t. He didn’t probe any further.
For the next twenty minutes, Thom whistled tunelessly through his teeth as he maneuvered a few areas of mild turbulence. Kendall made herself stare out the side window at what patches of terrain she could spot between the clusters of low clouds. She leaned her head against the icy plexiglass and wondered, yet again, if she’d made a huge mistake. Everything would drastically change for her. Her old, once-familiar life was gone. Her friends, gone. Not that she’d had so many, because she hadn’t. But what few she’d claimed were important to her, and none of them knew her destination. She’d purposely kept quiet about her plans.
Nobody would know how to get hold of her. Nobody would know if anything happened to her.
Her teeth chattered as trembles swamped her body, and Thom spared her a fast glance of alarm. “What, are you getting sick? Airsickness bags are under the seat.” He’d been banking to the right but straightened out, no doubt thinking his maneuvers were going to make her toss her cookies.
Kendall shook her head as her trembles became larger shudders. She’d have liked nothing more than to confide in someone, anyone. She’d taken note of the photos the pilot taped to whatever free space was available in the cockpit. A pretty, middle-aged woman held a toddler in her arms. Other photos, some of young adults also holding babies, told her Thom Banks was a family man, old enough to have grandchildren. He seemed like a nice person, probably compassionate and wise. Someone you could talk to.
For a moment, the words hovered on her tongue. This is why I’m scared. This is the reason I left everything to come here, to bury myself, hide myself. This is why I tremble.
But she couldn’t say it. Not a word. Because if she told him anything, sooner or later he’d tell someone else. And they’d tell another, and then another. Until those impulsive words trickled back to Oregon. Until they fell on the wrong ears.
“Ms. Martin? Are you all right?” Thom’s concerned voice broke through the fog of panic, and she unclenched her fingers, opened each fist. She didn’t know she’d gripped the armrests so hard.
Deep breaths, calming breaths. Throttle back the damned fear. She’d done the right thing. Kendall met Thom’s worried frown with as much reassurance as she could dredge up.
“I’m all right. Truly. Just a bit of claustrophobia.”
“We’ll be on the ground in no time. I promise.” He sounded relieved. Probably wanted to escape before she either sobbed or puked all over him. She had to smile at the thought.
Twenty minutes later, they skated quickly across what appeared to be the shortest runway in the world, bumping over the packed dirt. The brakes caught on a hard jerk, and again Kendall clutched the armrests, this time to keep from being thrown forward.
One more shudder and a grind of brakes, and they were still. Thom gave her a smile.
“Welcome to Staamat.”
Links? I’ve got them, too!
Book Trailer for Unsafe Haven:
My website: http://char.chaffin.com
Thanks to Donna for hosting me today, and thanks, everyone, for taking the time and stopping by!
You are most welcome Char. Thanks for being here with us.
Char Chaffin writes mainstream and contemporary romance filled with family, rich characters and engaging plots. For her, it all comes back to the love.
From crafting Victorian-style poetry to writing short stories and novellas, Char finally settled on romance novels as her true passion. Over the years she worked a variety of jobs, from farm hand to costume designer to fiscal accountant, before deciding a writing career was her desired focus.
In addition to writing, Char is also an Acquisitions Editor for Soul Mate Publishing.
A displaced Alaskan, Char currently lives in Upstate NY on a sixty-acre farm with husband Don and rat terrier Daisy Mae. Their extended family is scattered all over the Lower Forty-Eight and Alaska.
When she’s not pounding away at her keyboard or burying her nose in books and her beloved Kindle, she tends a huge vegetable garden and helps Don maintain their farm.