I’m re-reading Zero Day by David Baldacci, which is the introduction of his John Puller character. As I get into the story, one overwhelming thought continues to loom:

Why can’t I write like this?

My next Bastille novel is not progressing as I’d like, though I am loathe to admit it. I can tell because I’m finding too many other distractions. When a book is flowing for me, I focus on it and little can detract me from getting the words on the pages. Nowadays? I’m obsessing over tracing my family tree and going through boxes of old books, and thinking about whipping up a homemade batch of eggnog (’tis the season!). This effortless distraction is a clear sign that all is not well in the Tiffverse.

Why can’t I write like Baldacci?

I’m in awe of the way his words flow across the page, how he brings John Puller (and even Puller’s cat, named AWOL) to life, how even the scenery of the book leaps off the page. And I wonder how I can get to that level, or even a fraction of it, within the next month or so. Granted, Baldacci has been writing for almost half of my lifetime, and has many more books published to his credit. I’m a rookie author, he’s a veteran, and thus I should not really expect myself to be on his level right now. But I’m an overachiever, so of course I expect that of myself. 😀 Seriously, I don’t know how to be a rookie because I’m used to being around veterans. That being said…

Why can’t I write like that?

I am beginning to wonder, especially in light of feedback on my first novel, The Bastille Family Chronicles: Camille, if I am forcing myself to write in the romance genre; by that, I mean forcing myself to write within the carefully proscribed parameters/formula of the romance genre. Which would explain why I am having such a problem making progress on this installment of the Bastille Family Chronicles. My writing tends to naturally cross genres, so it’s difficult for me to stick to one or the other–which really irritates me when it comes time to classify my book for sales purposes (although at least most sellers offer the options of choosing different categories at once, so as not to pigeonhole in one genre). Still, I may be trying too hard to be one thing, instead of letting my writing be what it is. And that’s where I’m getting hung up.

That may be why I’m writing different books in different genres so early in my writing career; I don’t want to be pigeonholed, since the stories I write aren’t always about love and romance. My writing style is as eclectic as my reading selections, and I want to represent that to the fullest. I enjoy writing thrillers and suspenseful novels, and commercial fiction; more, dare I say, than writing romances. Then why am I writing romances? Simple: I like those too, and I read those, and that was the first book that I completed that was ready for publication. Plus, I’d already planned a six-book series around the Bastilles and their love lives. However, I am not solely or primarily defined as a romance author, as authors such as Nora Roberts or Brenda Jackson are.

Perhaps if I focus less on the “romance” label  (e.g., The Bastille Family Chronicles) and just write the story (e.g., A Bastille Family novel), it will take care of itself.

I will ponder that as I embark on yet another session of procrastination.

Thanks for stopping by.

In Case You Missed It…

For those who missed my LIVE Q&A on Tuesday, here ya go:




Five Miles to Empty

One of the hazards of starting out in self-publishing (or any entrepreneurial endeavor) is the lack of funding. Most people don’t save up a nest egg from which they can procure any manner of needed services (e.g. editing, marketing, accounting) at whim. And, as I have mentioned countless times before, it takes time to build up a loyal fan base that will automatically buy hundreds and thousands of your books upon release.  So, it’s a lot of do-it-yourself (DIY).

The problem with DIY is exhaustion. If you treat your writing like a full-time job (minus the nice corporate benefits and a spot in the company cubicle farm–and especially due to a lack thereof), then you will be hustling from “sunup to midnight”, in the words of the late, great, Michael Jackson in his song “Workin’ Day and Night”:

Add to this the fact that the rest of your non-work life doesn’t stop, and you set yourself up for fatigue, exhaustion, and don’t-give-a-figness. I’m there right about now. I have a new book looming in a few weeks, and a short story surrounding this book, and I have not done a lick of marketing. None. Zero. It’s not difficult; all it takes is a quick Tweet, a few seconds to post on Facebook and Google Plus, perhaps some sort of Instagram photo. Preliminary PR is right at my fingertips, but I can’t bring myself to exert the energy to put it out there. Meanwhile, I have the energy to write this blog post and binge-watch past seasons of Grey’s Anatomy…go figure.

It could be mental exhaustion (because my non-writing life is commanding a lot of attention these days). It could be a crippling fear of failure (second book curse, and all that). It could be recovery from a punishing and long round of antibiotics (but I’m back to my 3-mile-a-day walks, so that’s good). It could be a lack of marketing inspiration (e.g., what can I say/do differently from the release of The Bastille Family Chronicles: Camille to get Blizzard: A Sebastian Scott Novel hyped to the masses) Whatever the reason, I need to get it together, and get it together soon. I can’t afford to slack off, because that would mean a lack of sales and as I’ve said before: if it don’t make money, it don’t make sense.

Thanks for stopping by.



Twitter Chat!

Join me for a Twitter chat tonight about The Bastille Family Chronicles: Camille, the Bastille Family Chronicles series, and other stuff that I will discuss at my discretion. 😀

Tonight, 7-8pm ET, on Twitter (@Tiffscribes). Use the hashtags #TheCamilleChronicles and #BFC.

Hope to see you there!

Ego Check

I was honored to have a book club in Maryland choose my first solo book, The Bastille Family Chronicles: Camille, as its September selection. Unfortunately,  I was unable to participate via Skype, but the coordinator (a fellow Hoya who was a year behind me in undergrad) gave me comments from the club.

Me: “So, how did your book club like the book?”

Hoya: “There were mixed reviews.”

Me: :/

As Erykah Badu once said, “Now keep in mind that I’m an artist, and I’m sensitive about my sh**.” 😀

It’s been a long time since I participated in a book club, so I had forgotten that if a book club is truly worth its salt, it will take a book apart.  It’s just about liking or disliking the book so members can move on to the potluck meal. They will get into a book’s character development , plot pacing, editing and grammar, and plot weaknesses. Anything that is the least bit tight about a book, will become exposed. Book clubs are better than reviews by singular people because you get a larger sample group, the book feedback is in real time (reviewers often get copies of books way ahead of a publication date, and review accordingly), and you get a reader’s perspective instead of a professional one. But don’t sleep: the opinion of a book club can be twice as brutal. If an author can survive his or her book being a book club’s monthly selection, then you’re doing something right.

The feedback from the book club was immeasurable, although my mental reactions ranged from  “Hmm…I thought that was pretty good” to “Yeah…I probably shouldn’t have done that” to “I see your point, but I wrote XYZ this way for a reason.”  Only one other person has done this so far, but he was an old writing partner, so I expected his critiques to be harsher and more detailed. Ain’t no critiques like fellow writer critiques. 😀

But yeah…the ego was a bit black and blue after hearing what the book club had to say. They also had some questions that would better be addressed during my upcoming Twitter chat about the book on October 7 (save the date! #TheCamilleChronicles #BFC)

No author wants to hear that their book wasn’t great, especially when receiving positive feedback overall, as I have so far (and since my sales are steadily increasing, readers are telling other readers about the book, for which I am appreciative and grateful).  Still, it’s a bit of a gut punch to hear that there was room for improvement–even though, as a writer, I know that there is ALWAYS room for improvement, and that the first book is usually the worst, comparatively speaking.  The constructive criticism validated that little voice that kept second-guessing some of my writing choices for the published version. (“See? I KNEW I should have kept X scene in!”). Still, I wouldn’t have known any of this had I kept the book in its unpublished form, constantly rewriting, putting off publication because I needed to change one more thing–and I was afraid of what people would say about my writing.

The lesson here? You usually aren’t as good as you think you are. 😀 The best way to get better at writing is to keep writing, keep putting your stuff out there, keep getting feedback, listening to it, and applying it for future reference.

An author’s book will never be good enough in his or her eyes. The best we can do is to keep trying, and put out the best product we can…but we must put it out there for public consumption. The only way we can grow as writers is to take the good, bad, and indifferent criticisms–all of which should be legitimate. Comments about editing, plot, grammar, etc are one thing to listen to; but for someone to say “it sucks” or “I didn’t like it” for no good reason, well…I wouldn’t suggest paying attention to those unless concrete reasons are given. Some people won’t like your work just because you did it.  And that’s okay.

The book club’s comments have helped me, and I thank them (and asked that my thanks be passed on). At least they expressed interest in when the next book in the series is being released, so I didn’t do too badly. 😀  I will apply their critiques as I work on the next books. The author who ignores constructive criticism on some “they don’t understand me/I’m an ar-TEEST” ish is a stagnant writer, and one who won’t succeed very much in this writing game. And if you can’t take criticism, then you’re in the wrong business.

Now, excuse me while I nurse my bruised ego and work on my next book. Thanks for stopping by.




Where I’ve Been…

I have been MIA for a few days. Part of it is re-starting a fitness regiment (I’ve been walking 5.5 miles every other day…and at the age of 41, it takes me longer to recover. :D). Part of it is taking my grandmother to her doctor’s appointments (when you’re of a certain age, medical appointments can take up a significant part of your day). Most of it, though, is finishing the draft of a book that I decided to publish in November.

This was an impromptu decision, borne of the opinion of an old writing partner. He was giving me his critique of The Bastille Family Chronicles: Camille (informally known as The Camille Chronicles), which is on a very different level when coming from another writer. I addressed one of his critiques and suggested he would like one of the books I wrote years ago, which was a thriller/suspense novel and was edgier (he likes edge LOL).  I sent him the file, he read it in a few days and provided commentary, and ended with the suggestion that I should publish this.

It surprised me; this was one of the books that had made the rounds of the major publishing houses almost ten years ago, and which was subsequently rejected. I’dd gone over it since then, making some tweaks here and there, but the main character, Sebastian (formally introduced in The Camille Chronicles), wasn’t resonating on a level that let me know I was on the right track. So I saved it along with other finished and half-finished works, and kept it moving. Validation from a writing cohort, however (and all creatives crave validation :D), is different–especially one with whom I’ve recently reconnected after fifteen years or so, and whose opinion I trust.

So I  got to work on the rewrite (which I talked about in a previous post), made some major changes (sidebar: I can see why it was rejected back then), and finished the draft. It is now in front of the Eyeballs, those trusted few who read the drafts of my manuscripts and give honest critiques. And, I can rest my mind for a few days before I get back to writing–although I have been writing part of an upcoming Bastille book in my head, so so much for resting my mind. 😀

I have to get ready for the Second Book Curse (more on that in a future post) in November, so I need to get cracking. Thanks for stopping by.

Organic Flow: Rewriting vs. Revising

An old writing buddy graciously read a thriller/suspense manuscript I’d first written in 2005, and had only minimally updated since then (the last time was maybe a few years ago–I have so many drafts of it, I can’t tell). He actually liked this one better than my most recent release, The Bastille Family Chronicles: Camille (informally referred to as The Camille Chronicles), so methinks I will clean it up and release it in November. The book focuses on a secondary character in The Camille Chronicles, so it won’t be that much of a stretch. In fact, this character is the focus of one of my very first manuscripts, which was shopped around major houses back in 2000 or so (and got rejected).

While going through the  manuscript and noting my friend’s comments, I found that I didn’t feel that connection with the work. I tried, but the more I read through it, the more it didn’t work for me. I had no idea what it was that I was missing, or what was missing, but I knew that I couldn’t put a book out if I didn’t feel that visceral connection to the work.

Then I started rewriting it from scratch.

Seriously: I had the older version, with comments, open in one window and a blank document in another. And I wrote the story, but in the style that I write now. And it worked. I felt that connection, that vibe, that resonation in my middle section that always tells me “YES. This is it. This is the way to go.”

Perhaps I couldn’t connect to the old version of the story because I am no longer that writer. My world view, writing style, character perception, etc has changed within the past five, seven, ten years or so. I liken it to trying to fit into a pair of jeans I once wore in high school; cute jeans, but they no longer fit and to force myself into them would lead to ruin (of the jeans LOL). So it is with trying to fit my current writing self into an old writing style.

Now I’m happy when I work on this book, and that’s a good thing.

Thanks for stopping by.

What It Look Like? Seeing Ourselves (?) in Literature

I’ve gotten comments from those who have read The Bastille Family Chronicles: Camille (informally known as The Camille Chronicles) about how they like the fact that I’ve written my characters in a way that their race wasn’t obvious; in fact, one can insert any race, ethnicity, or combination thereof, and it wouldn’t detract from the story.

That’s exactly what I wanted to accomplish, and it’s good that I’ve accomplished that goal.

I’ve always said that I consider myself an author who happens to be black, rather than a black author (oh, wait…you didn’t know I was black? LOL I personally don’t use the term African American, but that’s another post for another day, and on a different forum. But I digress.). When I was jonesing for a contract with a major publishing house, over a decade ago, one of the more discouraging comments I heard during my rejection process was that “the  numbers show that black people didn’t read” the thriller/suspense novel my then-literary agent was shopping around. I resented the fact that my book would only marketed to black people, when my story was beyond that. No disrespect to my people, but my goal as a writer was not to limit my writing based on race and/or ethnicity. This is further compacted by the assumption that every black author writes a “black” book (whatever that means, although it’s usually code for either an urban/street fiction novel, a church-based book, or a sistagirl novel a la Terry McMillan–which is what “the numbers” *rolling eyes* allegedly show that these are the books that black people only read). I was hesitant to put my picture on the cover because I didn’t want potential readers to see it and think, “Oh, this is a black book, and I’m not black, so I probably shouldn’t read it as I wouldn’t understand it, or I probably wouldn’t see  myself in the story–literally and figuratively.” But I also didn’t want someone else showing up and passing themselves off as me, so…the pic stayed. 😀

That sentiment had a large part in the cover design as well. I’d originally thought of something along the lines of what is normally seen on a romance book cover–namely, two people who may or may not be in the throes of passion, significant looks, etc.  The wonderful graphic artist who ended up doing my cover, John of AdLib Design, mentioned that as a reader, he liked to form his own opinion on how a character looked (or not) based on how s/he was described in the context of the story. To that end, we agreed on using symbolism instead of people on the cover. The feedback on the cover has been very positive, so I’m going to continue the symbolism going forward in the rest of the series. Which is cool, because I have to make sure that each book has a symbol-friendly hook to it, usually in the guise of a significant hobby or activity.

A good story is a good story. I like Maeve Binchy novels, but I am not white, and I have never set foot in Ireland. Her stories, though, are touching and I relate to them. I hope that other readers are willing to give me the same benefit of the doubt and at least try what I’m offering. I’m not saying my writing will transcend race (which is a phrase that irritates me, BTW), but will at least form a common ground for my readers.

Thanks for stopping by.

Take It to the Bridge: On Joining Two Book Series

While working on (what I plan to be) the next book in the Bastille Family Chronicles series, one of the other characters started chattering away in my brain, so I had to block out her story.

[Only writers can get away with phrases like, “I heard the character(s) speaking in my head”. For anyone else, that could mean a one-way ticket to a psych ward. Even with writers, such phrases are not to be whispered too loudly, or in mixed company, lest we meet the same fate. :)]

Oddly enough, this character’s story is shaping up to intersect with a character who was first introduced in Camille Bastille’s story (The Bastille Family Chronicles: Camille). In fact, said character has his own books, which may or may not see the light of day (they need to be reworked, and may be best as a collection of short stories because of how I’ve written this character. Stay tuned).  So now I’m faced with a slight dilemma: how to (or should I ) write this Bastille novel as a “bridge” novel, in which I’ll be connecting two different book series. To add to the irony, my draft of yet another Bastille novel could be a bridge novel as well.

With series, I’m presenting stories from the points of view of the characters within that series. If I do bridge novels, I’ll have to work it so that the points of view of both seminal characters are presented in a way that not only reflects the “bridge” aspect, but also align with the tone of their respective book series.

Like writing isn’t hard enough.

Then there’s the risk of exposing another series too soon into this current Bastille Family series; I don’t want my readers and potential readers to get too confused at this point. Even Laurell K. Hamilton didn’t introduce her Meredith Gentry series until she was about nine books into her Anita Blake series.

Anyway, I’ll figure it out soon enough, especially if my readers decide that this story (instead of the one I’d planned) is the one they want to see next.

Thanks for stopping by.








It’s HERE! And new directions

It’s here! It’s here! Or, to be more grammatically correct, they’re here: the hard copies ordered during the pre-release offer of The Bastille Family Chronicles: Camille (informally known as The Camille Chronicles).


The Camille Chronicles shipped box 080614

I have been basking in the wonder that occurs when your published book is held in your hand. This is a culmination of a lifelong dream, and of over fourteen years of active and not-so-active work on my craft. And it’s here, in my hand.

Of course, part of my joy is dulled by the anxiety of hoping that the book is well received, but that was already covered in a previous post.  So I’ll move on. 🙂

I have more books on the way (the pre-release did REALLY well), so my weekend will be spent autographing books and packing them for shipment. The autographs will be personalized, of course, and will be emotional because I will try to convey to each person who ordered a pre-released copy how grateful and appreciative I am for their support and love. Most of the people who ordered have known me for at least ten years, and most have known me for over twenty. That’s a lot of sentiment to squish into relatively few words. But gratitude is good for the soul. 🙂

In other news, one of my character’s story started gelling in my head, and I had to get it down. And then a plot twist came to mind, so I abandoned the draft of what I’d initially planned to be the next release, to work on this one. A writer’s work is never done, and we cannot control when The Muse decides to visit. It’s when S/he doesn’t visit, that there’s a problem. 😀


Thanks for stopping by.

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