A WRITER’S JOURNEY, UNLIKE HER BOOKS, NEVER ENDS

Allow me to introduce Carmen Fox, a writer who has the absolute right stuff. Wondering what that is?  Read on–her story speaks for itself! And be sure to leave a comment–she’s offering a great prize to someone who stops by!  Not only does some lucky winner get a $15 Amazon gift certificate but also the chance to name a character in one of her books!

 

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Thank you, Sharon, for giving me the chance to appear on your blog.

So who am I?

I’m an urban fantasy/paranormal romance/mystery writer who didn’t start out at the top of her game. My skills are learned skills. It is my strong belief that, given the right encouragement and input, everyone can learn to write well.

But what about natural talent? Some people think a writer puts down thoughts in the form in which they popped into his or her head. The problem with that attitude for me was that I’m a terrible speaker. Even when it comes to telling jokes I stumble over my words and am sure to mess up the punch line. Lacking this natural talent, would I ever amount to anything?

As I said, I don’t believe in this mythical gene that allows a few chosen ones to enchant their readership without trying. More likely, they got a head start simply by grasping the fundamentals at an earlier age. Their talent comes down to knowledge.
The best starting point if you want to learn something new, even in the age of the geek, is a good how-to book. At least that’s the path I took. After giving my wallet a rigorous workout, my shelves soon buckled under the weight of bound wisdom. What I discovered was that novels have a beginning, a middle, and an ending. Score! Armed with this knowledge, I fancied myself a writer and set about penning my first book, GUARDED (back then under a different title).

Fast-forward a few months. As part of an on-line auction, I bid on and won a partial critique by Sharon Ashwood. Yes, this Sharon Ashwood. She waded through my finished manuscript and, rather than the worshipping superfandom I expected, returned a rather sober verdict. She liked my worldbuilding and the humor, although not so much the slapstick moments. Sharon also struggled to aptly categorize my book as light PNR or UF, a task I myself wrestled with until I gave up and let the book stand as a mishmash of PNR/UF/mystery. But her comments significantly enhanced the quality of my manuscript.

Amid this critique discussing the good, the bad, and the downright awful, Sharon dropped a line that would mold my writing even more. She advised to invest in a course run by Margie Lawson, a teacher responsible for transforming many so-so writers into successful authors.

Since I had little to lose, I enrolled. Over the next three years I participated again and again, and Margie’s insights filtered through to me and into my next book and the book after that. Thanks to her, I twist clichés like it’s the 1950s and employ a wide range of voice cues, while putting body parts through painful acrobatics to show a character’s emotional state. Her personal feedback cemented my new-found understanding of language.

After Margie Lawson’s courses I moved on to Mary Buckham and many other wonderful instructors. Word after word, my style improved. In fact, it improved so much I was offered a contract for DIVIDE AND CONQUER almost as soon as I typed ‘The End.’

Stuff just got real. Shoot. My once casual pastime had morphed into a hobby with deadlines. What next?

Publishing a book is a slow process, where long periods of rest alternate with moments of panicked frenzy. In my off-time, I returned to GUARDED, the book I’d first sent to Sharon. The story’s characters occupied a place in my heart, and I couldn’t wait to dive into what became the mother of all edits. Yup, almost every sentence needed a re-write. The contrast between before and after more than once made me well up. It wasn’t that I used to be atrocious. I just wasn’t…good enough, an affliction that befalls many hopeful writers.

During my many hours of editing, the how-to books, now languishing on my shelves, mingled with Margie’s and Mary’s explanations, and things started to make sense. As it turns out, you need to know how to write before you can learn to write fiction.

Let’s take ‘show don’t tell’ as an example. Up to that point I’d associated this adage with ‘adding description.’ In my original e-mail to Sharon I even wrote, “I have no eye for detail when it comes to places or people, so coming up with sufficient specifics for “show, don’t tell” isn’t always easy for me.” How wrong I was. Rather, this principle is about respecting your readers enough not to TELL THEM THAT your character feels a certain way, but to SHOW THE PHYSICAL CONSEQUENCES of that feeling. Not to TELL THEM THAT your character is looking at something, but to SHOW THE SCENE your character sees. More specifically, stay away from “She watched an old couple walk up the street,” and instead write “An old couple walked up the street.”

I also discovered that ‘hooking a reader’ has little to do with formulating a clever first sentence and everything to do with resolving one issue while opening up another one.

With these sparks of clarity, I edited away, simplified the plot, and soon a new story emerged, the story I should have written at the start.

Five months in, my editor returned DIVIDE AND CONQUER, and my stomach jigged. While her comments focused onUntitled strengthening the emotional impact of my scenes, my re-read uncovered that I’d also told much of the story, and hooks were largely a no-show. I changed as much as I dared and returned the manuscript, still aghast at the difference between my old version of DIVIDE AND CONQUER and my new version of GUARDED. How can a few months make such a difference?

In hindsight, I’ve become rather proud of this initial discrepancy. DIVIDE AND CONQUER was released in March. GUARDED will be out in July. I still haven’t reached the top of my game, but both novels represent the best of my ability as it stands now, and I’ve been lucky to have found readers who love them. What about the future, though? Well, I want to learn more. Much more. I want to understand what it takes to make a reader cry in as little as two hundred words, and how to deepen conflict. My fervent wish for 2020 is that I’ll be able to look back on 2015 and see room for improvement. Because the secret formula to getting published is the same as succeeding in sports. Never stop improving your game.

Be sure to leave a comment–one lucky winner gets a $15 Amazon gift certificate and also the chance to name a character in one of Carmen’s books!

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DIVIDE AND CONQUER, out now

Buy it on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00U0W2BIM

GUARDED, coming July 31, 2015

 

About me, Carmen Fox

Carmen lives in the south of England with her beloved tea maker and a stuffed sheep called Fergus. An avid reader since childhood, she caught the writing bug when her Nana asked her to write a story. She also has a law degree, studied physics for a few years, dabbled in marketing and human resources, and speaks native-level German and fluent Geek. Her preferred niches of geekdom are tabletop games, comics, sci-fi and fantasy.

She writes about smart women with sassitude, about pretty cool guys too, and will chase that plot twist, no matter how elusive.

Expect to be kept guessing.

Visit her blog at www.carmen-fox.com.


 

Comments

  1. GladysMP says:

    Boy, it seems like Sharon really proved to be what you needed and gave you great advice. Congratulations!

  2. GladysMP says:

    It seems that Sharon was just what you needed and gave you great advice. Congratulations!

  3. Joye says:

    I am always looking for new authors to read. You write the kinds of books I enjoy. I have added your name to my TBR list

    • Carmen Fox says:

      Thank you so much. Of course, if your TBR list is even half as long as mine, you should get round to it by Christmas. That said, I’m proud to be on it. 🙂

  4. Tatiana L. says:

    I love reading fantasy/paranormal romance/mystery, and you’re a new author for me – I’ll make sure I’ll look up your books! The cover of GUARDED look very intriguing and cool!

    • Carmen Fox says:

      Yes, I’m so proud of the cover. I wanted to get away from the traditional bare male chest, not because I don’t like bare male chests, but because this is the heroine’s journey. At the same time, I wanted to get across that it’s sexy and sassy. Yeah, I admit it. I’m in love with my cover. 🙂

  5. I read a lot of books and will definitely check out new author, Carmen Fox.

  6. Deb P says:

    That for the story info. Book sounds interesting. 🙂

  7. Michelle B says:

    Are there any other genres that capture your writing interest ?

    • Carmen Fox says:

      Thanks for your question, Michelle. Books have always played a huge role in my life. In addition to a personal ‘library’ bigger than my closet (how I wish I was kidding), I collect signed first editions of my favorite modern books, from Peter V. Brett to Salman Rushdie. All these genres, horror, literary, crime etc., flow into my stories. So while DIVIDE AND CONQUER is a straight urban fantasy with a healthy dose of romance, GUARDED is a paranormal romance/urban fantasy with elements of a traditional mystery. Who is the baddie? And which man is our heroine going to pick?

      But I have plenty more lined up. Anecdotal horror shorts for Halloween, a high concept fantasy novella, and a crime novel written in the sassy voice we usually only find in UF and PNR. I love to experiment, but the para-, preter- and supernatural will always be my first love.

  8. Ann-Marie Roberts says:

    Thanks for that Carmen. It’s always interesting to read other people’s writing journeys. I hope you have a very successful and long writing career.

  9. Shari Chisholm says:

    As an avid reader I marvel at what an author might go thru so that their writing might, hopefully, end up where a person such as myself can enjoy the results of their hard work. Thank you for being so persistent that I will have the chance to discover someone new such as yourself and spend my time eagerly reading your story. Congratulations and may you have many more books in your future.

    • Carmen Fox says:

      I think all of us have something or several somethings we give our all to, be it writing or cooking or our children or friendship. All it requires is a true love of the object of our dedication. 🙂

  10. Anne says:

    Congrats on getting published, especially with having 4 books released in 2015.

    I originally thought writers had an ideal, easy life. Working at home in their pajamas, etc. Then the internet happened, started reading lots of author blogs and realized just how hard it is.

    • Carmen Fox says:

      Thanks, Anne.

      I once wrote a blog post about things authors have to do. When I was done listing everything, I had to step back and think about how much I really must want this to put up with everything. I’ll probably never be able to retire on writing, but every time a reader tells me they love my books, I want to write two more just for them. 🙂 So weird, because I used to write just for myself. Now I want to share. It’s a blessing.

  11. Diane S says:

    Congratulations on your effort and new release. Good luck in your endeavor. I’m a big reader but have never wanted to be a writer. It takes guts to pursue your dream!!!

  12. Dawn Roberto says:

    Congrats on the new releases and I admire many writers as it is a hard profession. Anyone can write a story, it takes guts and a whole lot of faith to send it out intot he world for readers to find.

    • Carmen Fox says:

      Thank you, Dawn. That’s true. Asking others to read your books is terrifying, especially if you ask them to pay for it.

      Nowadays, you worry about Amazon algorithms, about piracy, about blog tours, and about all the things people tell you are important. But in the end it always comes back to two people: the author and the reader. That’s pretty intimate, and any sort of intimacy takes guts. The author hopes the reader loves their work, and the reader hopes they are treated with respect. 🙂

  13. Dawn Roberto says:

    Congrats on the new releases and I admire many writers as it is a hard profession. Anyone can write a story, it takes guts and a whole lot of faith to send it out into the world for readers to find.

  14. Carmen Fox says:

    Hi guys!

    Thank you so much, Sharon, for featuring my post today. As if you haven’t already done enough. The path you set me on a few years ago still feels like the right one today.

    As for the rest of you, I really appreciate your comments, and if you have any questions, shoot.

  15. Tami Bates says:

    Wow, amazing look at sort ” behind the scenes” of writing.. world always need authors

    • Carmen Fox says:

      …and authors need readers. Seriously. If I were my only reader, I’d still write, but I wouldn’t bother writing a backcover blurb or put a pretty picture on it. Nope. We do that for readers. 🙂

      Thanks, Tami.

      • Tami bates says:

        I’m a book cover,then title and blurb .grabs my interests but also once I like the author,it’s almost a auto ,I know I’m going to like

  16. Chris Bails says:

    Congrats on the new release. Great cover, the book looks good. Thanks for the chance to win. Love finding new to me authors.

  17. clynsg says:

    I know it is not realistic, and I certainly enjoy new authors and books, but I keep saying that if only people would stop writing, I might be able to get caught up on my reading!

    • Carmen Fox says:

      Oh, how naïve a sentiment, and one I whole-heartedly share. We should declare a time out. Just for a year or so. That should give me a chance to catch up a little. 🙂

  18. Sandra S says:

    Wow! What a lot of learning! I congratulate you for all the effort you put in to
    follow your dream. Also, Congratulations on the success you have earned. May you have a long and successful career.

    • Carmen Fox says:

      Thank you. I love that my learning helps me improve, but learning is a reward in itself. I used to take courses before I pursued writing as a serious hobby. I have taken courses and earned certificates in personal training, marketing, HR, NLP, physics, HTML… Did you know that whenever you see a rainbow, no one else sees the rainbow in exactly the same way as you? I admit. You’ll never be able to use this piece of trivia, but I love just knowing that.

      What I’m saying is that learning is fun for me. And that it helps me write better is a bonus. 🙂

  19. Denise Malone says:

    Hi Carmen,

    Like you, I’m continually learning and trying to improve my writing. I can’t wait to read your books. I typically read a little here and there while I’m writing because I can’t give up reading for that long a period of time, but I try not to read too much while I’m writing. However, between ‘the end’ and the first round of edits, I’m a voracious reader for a week or so. Divide and Conquer is on to my TBR once I’m finished with the manuscript I plan to finish in late June.

    • Carmen Fox says:

      Thank you! I’m the same. When I read, I read. And when I write I write. And when I’m taking a course, and it’s a good one, everything else has to take a backseat. But I miss reading and writing when I’m not. I wish the day had more than 24 hours…

  20. Christina Gonzalez says:

    I am intrigued to read Carmen Fox’s books. Thank you for sharing your journey with us.

  21. Michelle Bigioni Slagan says:

    Not entering your contest just wanted to tell you that I loved your story. You truly are an amazing writer and if this is how you start out I cannot wait to see what else you have in store for us readers. I loved DAC and you know how much I love & adore Guarded. You have a true talent and I am so happy we have met each other. Keep reaching for those stars and enjoy the great things that will be coming your way. I am your #1Cheerleader and #1Fangirl.

  22. Pamk says:

    I agree you can learn anything. I am looking forward to reading your book.

  23. Mary Preston says:

    I agree, A great post thank you.

  24. Emily says:

    I am looking forward to reading Carmen Fox book

  25. bn100 says:

    interesting info

  26. I love learning about your writing journey, Carmen.
    I’m happy to have been in writing classes with you. 🙂

    I’m a binge reader and writer, too. I read when I have writer’s block and it usually goes away.

    Keep writing! I can’t wait to read more of your books.

  27. Diane McMahon says:

    Every journey has a beginning. I hope your journey with being a writer continues to inspire you to gain more knowledge as your career unfolds.

  28. Angela Perry says:

    Wow! I applauded you for all the hard work you have put into your writing career! Thanks for sharing your story and I look forward to reading your book(s).

  29. Readwritered says:

    Thank you for sharing your writing insights.

  30. Mary Ann says:

    All writers need practice– the practice of reading and the practice of writing and the practice of revising– ideally, with help from critique partners. I salute your productive work!

    • Carmen Fox says:

      Luckily, I enjoy reading, writing and editing in equal measures, and I get plenty of opportunity to apply all I’ve learned to my own work and the work of others. Because you’re right. Learning is one thing, using it is another. 🙂

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