June 30, 2011

One True Love, Soulmates and Happily Ever After

Do you remember the first time you fell in love? I do. I was seventeen. And it was amazing.
I’d had various crushes on boys before and had even dated one guy for six months. He was a sweet kid and we honestly loved each other, but it wasn’t The Real Thing
Not even close. I was visiting relatives in a neighboring state when The Real Thing knocked me off my feet, stole my breath and made my heart pound so hard I thought it would break my ribs. It was decades ago, but I still remember the way my heart leapt into my throat the first time I saw him. It was love at first sight. (At least it was for me.) 
I was sitting in a folding metal chair against the wall talking to my cousin at a church dance when this boy burst through the double doors leading into the gym. He was looking over his shoulder and laughing, shirt untucked, tie loose and hanging off to one side and in dire need of a haircut. He looked like an unmade bed, but he was absolutely gorgeous. 
My jaw dropped. I grabbed my cousin’s elbow and yanked him down to my level. “Who is that?”
He rolled his eyes as he pried my fingers off his arm. “That’s Tom* and he’s nothing but trouble. Besides, he already has a girlfriend.” 
I wasn’t going to let a little thing like another girl stand in the way of True Love. Until I actually met her and abandoned all hope. She was gorgeous, with dark, curly hair, a dimpled smile and curves in all the right places. I was all knees and elbows. 
But when I returned the following summer, things were different. I’d filled out a bit and Tom had just broken up with his girlfriend. We fell in love during a three day youth conference in Jonesboro, Arkansas. 
We snuck out of our well-chaperoned dorms every night and stayed up until dawn, talking and holding hands. He didn’t even try to kiss me. But I swear, when that boy gazed into my eyes, even the stars shone brighter. He made me feel as if l were the most intelligent, beautiful and desirable girl on the planet. (I wasn’t, not even close). 
Summer is short when you’re seventeen and in love. We kissed good bye in front of everyone, including my parents (raised eye-brows all around). I got in the car, buried my face in a pillow to hide my tears and pretended to sleep all the way back to Oklahoma. 
My life for the next two years was a dichotomy of emotional highs when Tom and I were together and devastating heartache when we weren’t. Long distance relationships suck at any age.
When we were nineteen, Tom decided to serve a two-year mission for his church. He told me not to wait for him. I did anyway, for about nine months, until he told me to stop calling him. 
I thought I would die. But I didn’t. I survived and met someone else. It wasn’t love at first sight for either of us, but it was and is, The Real Thing.
Pete and I have been married a long time now. We’ve had our share of misunderstandings, hurt feelings and heart aches. The wear and tear of daily life can rub the shine off any romance. 
But I swear, when that man looks into my eyes, I believe it all. I believe in Soulmates and magic and One True Love and Happily-Ever-After. He makes me feel as if I’m the most intelligent, beautiful and desirable woman on the planet. (I’m not, not even close).  
Call me a delusional dreamer if you wish, I don’t mind. It won’t shake my faith in love or magic.  And it won’t keep me from writing stories about heroic young couples, willing to sacrifice everything and fight insurmountable odds to be together either. 
When I create characters that I genuinely care about (and why spend years with them if I don’t absolutely adore them?) It lets me relive that first rush of new love. It also reawakens old hurts when they behave badly, struggle with jealousy and make devastatingly bad decisions. But in the end, just like love in real life, it’s worth it.

*Not his real name

Enchantment is available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Print edition now available.

June 23, 2011

Print is Not Dead. It's Killing Me

After publishing "Enchantment" as an e-book on Amazon last week, I received multiple requests for a "real" (print) book. So, I thought, "okay, how hard can that be?" Answer: Very. Very hard indeed.

It was so easy to publish the .mobi file to Amazon. Barnes and Noble's pubit site was a breeze to use as well, although I'm still waiting for it to go live since I just uploaded it this morning. (If you want to know how to convert the Kindle file for your Nook reader, check out Steve Umstead's how-to article on his blog.)

Smashwords ... not so much. Their meatgrinder app they force you to use is aptly named. The e-pub files  I exported from Scrivener look great and work perfectly. The Smashwords converted file is okay, but the table of contents doesn't work. Not a big deal, since "Enchantment" is a novel, not a text book. Still, I like for things to function.

Okay, back to my ordeal with print. I spent several days googling and reading conflicting advice and instructions for the do-it-yourselfer. My brain still hurts. But I learned a lot. Not nearly enough to format a book from scratch, but fortunately for me, I found a downloadable template at CreateSpace. It still required hours of fiddling and tweaking and I have no idea how well it turned out since I have to wait for Amazon to approve it and then I need to order a proof and then I'll have to tweak it some more and do it all over again. I expect it will take several attempts to get it right (I'll let you know). And that was just the interior of the book.

I had to redo the cover art since I'd created it specifically for digital devices at 72 dpi. Print needs to be 300 dpi. Resizing is a one-way street, folks. Downsizing is fine, but don't try to increase the resolution using the image size function, it will look like crap. At least the image of the couple was a solid black silhouette. All I had to do was zoom in and trace the outline with a small-pixled brush. I have a Wacom tablet or I wouldn't have even tried to salvage the file. But the rest of the art ... well ... we shall see. I may still need to start over from scratch. Ugh.

Even then, I'm worried about how the glow effects will print. I know the CMYK colors will be dull compared to RGB which is like painting with light. Gradients can be tricky too. Again, I'll just have to wait and see ...

I am not a patient person.  All this waiting is killing me!


Update July 17, 2011: 
The first proof had pagination problems, an inaccurate table of contents and a couple of typos. The cover turned out much better than I expected. The colors are rich and vibrant and the glow effects translated into print beautifully. 

I fixed the problems, uploaded the new file, ordered another proof and waited impatiently for it to arrive. This one has chapter heading problems, a different font and about ten extra pages. My first response was "What the hell?" My second response was to throw the book across the room. (Not really, but I wanted to. I still do. Hopefully by the time I finish this rant, I will have calmed down enough to keep from pitching a fit like a toddler.)

I have no idea when Enchantment will be available in print, but you can get a digital copy right now with the click of a button at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. (It's temporarily on sale for $.99)

June 19, 2011

The Journey From Writer to Author

After eleven months of work, ENCHANTMENT is finally for sale at Amazon, and already has a five star review! (Thank you Kris!)

This is a major milestone for me and I'm excited to share the news. I've been a writer for several decades and a "real" writer for a little over three years, but now I'm officially an author. BIG difference.

Charlotte Abel Definitions:

writer: a person that intends to communicate with others via the written word.
real writer: a person that invests time and effort into getting those intentions out of their brain and into a shareable format.
author: a person that makes those words available to the public.

My journey to authorship began back in high school, under the guidance of Mary BeeBe, a gifted, creative writing teacher. She instructed, encouraged and challenged all of us. And at the end of the year, she published our angst-riddled short stories, poems and essays. I still have my copy. (And no, I won't share it with the world. I was seventeen, in love and broken-hearted ... and it shows.)

I still remember the thrill of holding that simply bound paper anthology and reading my own words. I also remember the gut-wrenching feeling of trepidation when I realized that everyone else could read those same words. This wasn't a surprise. I'd submitted the stories and poems myself, but until I saw the physical proof, it didn't feel real. Only my closest friends knew how much of myself I'd revealed, but I still felt exposed. And years later, I still do.

ENCHANTMENT is a work of fiction. It is not autobiographical. I am not Channie. I did not experience the same events she did, (except for swimming at the bauxite pit) but I've felt the same emotions. I'll never forget the joy and wonder of falling in love for the first time -- or the hollow-chested agony of a broken heart. I've been scared out of my mind, jealous to the point of insanity, and filled with such yearning I couldn't breathe. So, yeah, I feel naked once again now that my words are available for the whole world to read. But I want them to be read. I want to connect with others and share my stories. I want to read and experience their stories too.

Maybe that's what it really means to be an author ... sharing your dreams and hurts with the world, magnifying the joy and hope, while diminishing the pain and disappointment through shared experiences. But even if there is no magical connection between me and my readers, if all I manage to do is provide a few hours of entertainment, it's enough.

You can find ENCHANTMENT, a paranormal romantic coming of age thriller  at Amazon I hope you enjoy it and if you do, I'd love for you to rate and review it on Amazon's site. Feel free to leave comments here as well. I'd love to know what you think.

June 08, 2011

Plot Holes and Story-killing Trolls

For the last couple of weeks I’ve been working on what I’d hoped was the final edit of “Enchantment.” I was doing a quick skim this morning when I realized that I’d created a huge plot hole when I allowed “truth spells” to exist in Channie’s world.
This might have been okay if lying and deception weren’t so important to the plot. It wasn’t as hard to fix as I thought it’d be, but now I can’t help but wonder what else I’ve missed. This is the fourth draft of this story. It’s been beta-ed and edited several times by multiple people and OMG why didn’t anyone catch it? 
I have a theory … 
Before a novel is published, story-killing trolls cast invisibility spells over plot holes, hiding them from the most astute beta readers and professional editors -- but after publication not only do these same evil little creatures uncover the holes, they shine spot lights on them. I can guarantee that if I’d published “Enchantment” as is … the first person to purchase it would have found the truth spell plot hole immediately and left me a nasty (well deserved) review.
To be fair, my editor, Carol, actually did catch the truth spell plot hole, but since she doesn’t usually read (or enjoy) fantasy, she assumed it was just a problem with the genre and didn’t mention it. “If the characters can use magic, why don’t they use it to solve all their problems?” Good question. And one as a writer I need to address constantly. 
It’s not all that hard to create a world with magic and characters with paranormal abilities but it’s damn hard to limit those abilities and magical properties in a way that makes sense and allows conflicts to endure through the length of an entire novel.
Story-killing trolls haven’t singled me out. I’m not the only afflicted writer. The ones most often targeted seem to be writers of post-second-season television series. I loved the first few seasons of “Heros” but I was about ready to throw the remote through the TV by the time it was cancelled. “Vampire Diaries” is starting to piss me off too. And don’t even get me started with “Secret Life of the American Teenager.” I mean, come on … does everyone get pregnant the first time they have sex? 
Question … What books, TV shows and movies have you found with story-killing plot holes? What were they and how would you solve them, or are they unsolvable problems? (It’s easy to write yourself and your characters into a corner with no way out).