Yes! Today Jan Raymond has kindly agreed to share some secrets along her writing journey. And no, I did not use any force, did not bribe her, nor did I use any threats. She spilled the beans voluntarily 🙂 Jan, the stage is yours…
Thank you. Okay, here are some anecdotes on my journey as a writer…
The funny thing is…
The funny thing is … that I don’t think I would have actually started my book if it hadn’t been for my kids. One boring day, we decided to make our lives a bit more interesting. The deal was that we start writing a chapter each, of a story, and mail it to each other every week. That’s how Circle of Five got started. As a chapter, that I sent to my kids. I must dig out that mail and reread the chapters they sent me. Maybe if I mail it back to them it would be an incentive for them to start writing. One can always dream!
Alice in Wonderland …
It was six months after I released my first book that I stumbled into this amazing world of indie authors. It was while watching ‘The Oscars’. My kids and I were retweeting like crazy and an author tweeted me, asking me to follow him on Facebook and so I did. I ventured in, warily, not knowing what to expect, but what I got was amazing support, love and help from indie authors around the world. Indie Authors rock!!!
Tweet, tweet,tweet …
My books sales were nothing spectacular. A few books a month. But I wanted nothing more. I didn’t start writing to make money. It was more for the pleasure of writing and I was just happy to know that somewhere in the world someone was reading my book. I did have Twitter account that I hardly used. One thing that has to be said about authors is that the creative energy is always flowing and spills over into everything from reviews to marketing strategy. Someone told me Twitter gets a lot of exposure and that’s when I started tweeting regularly and my sales have more than doubled and if I am to be honest, I feel thrilled to see that measly amount in my bank every month. Pin money!
Damn the IRS …
I love being on Amazon, because it gave me a platform where I could put my book on; where it would be read. But Amazon and the IRS together take half my earnings. Ahem, did I say that it wasn’t about the money? 🙂 But, it just feels wrong when you see the amount you’ve made and the amount that gets credited to your account. And since I live in another country, I get taxed for that tiny amount here too. Well, that’s life, I guess.
My very own lawyer …
My kids are my biggest supports and I they are gorgeous and I absolutely adore them. The older one is a lawyer and she went through the legalese that Amazon throws at us and then told me, I wouldn’t make much, but go on anyway. She is also my sounding board, a mirror, and is the knife that slashes my story during editing with, ‘Does this have to be there?’ and ‘This doesn’t make any sense!’ and the all too often, ‘whaddisthis?’
My cover designer …
My younger daughter is a talented graphic designer. She designs the covers for my books. The first time, after she read my book, we sat together and I told her what I had envisioned for the cover and she listened carefully and went ahead and did exactly what she wanted. It was nothing like what we had talked about but it was brilliant. The second book, I just told her, ‘Go ahead. It’s all yours.’
English is a funny language
I want the feel of my books to be like they could be set anywhere, so I try not to keep the settings vague. I studied under nuns and I learnt British English. So a lot of people who read my books, who are Americans or were brought up learning American English often get confused with certain words in my books and the spellings and style of writing. Maybe I should have a warning ‘Contains British English.’ 🙂
Oh, wow! Thank you for sharing all this with us, Jan! I know who I will be hiring as my new cover designer if my current one ever decides to quit. I’m amazed!
Because Jan is so amazing, she has given use a spin off from the Pha Yul Trilogy! Annnnndddd…. there is a surprise coming, so stay tuned and enjoy the chapters!!!
‘Guess what happened yesterday…’ started Cassandra.
Sebastian groaned inwardly. Another one of Cassie’s endless, boring anecdotes.
‘The girl can’t keep her mouth shut for a minute!’ he thought in annoyance, as she jabbered on, not registering a word.
Seb remembered the first time he had bumped into Cassie. It had been his first day at Holy Trinity. He had hated the school even before he had started there. His dad had decided he was running wild at his fancy, prep school and needed some grounding. He had pulled Seb out from his private school and forced him to join Holy Trinity. Well, not exactly forced, but he’d threatened to cut off Seb’s allowance if he didn’t comply, and to Seb that was as good as forcing him to obey.
He had been sauntering down the corridor, looking around him disdainfully as he tried to find his classroom. He was late but he couldn’t care less. He had decided to make himself as obnoxious as possible so that the school would have no other option, but to expel him. He’d felt going late to class was as good a strategy as any.
As he’d turned the corner, he was almost knocked over by a girl who was charging down the stairs. The books that she had been carrying scattered all over the floor. He’d stared insolently at the green eyes that were glaring at him. An unruly mop of red hair danced around her head as she’d yelled, ‘Can’t you look where you’re going?’ Moving aside her, he’d stepped over the books and carried on like he hadn’t heard her.
To his annoyance she’d happened to be in his class, and he’d found that his first impression of her had been right. She was a bossy, earnest, know-it-all, who was always sucking up to the teachers.
Cassie sat in the front row, right under the teacher’s nose, and her hand was up in the air so often that he felt she might as well leave it there. He himself usually sat in the last row and divided his time between dreaming and sleeping. By the end of the first week, he’d been reprimanded so often that he’d been satisfied that it was only a matter of time before he was expelled.
Now, a year later, he was still in Holy Trinity, and friends with kids whom he wouldn’t have deigned to even notice, earlier. He looked around at his circle of friends. Ryan, the school jock; football captain and all round stand-up guy. Sam, a scrawny, pesky kid when he had first met him, who’d turned into a strapping muscular boy with a heart of gold. Maya, whose mom was dating his dad and who he’d detested a year earlier, but had somehow grown fond of lately, though he’d rather die than let her know it. And Cassie, earnest, hard-working Cassie, who was still as bossy as ever. He smiled. Some things never changed.
It was late evening and they were working out in the football stadium. The last year had been a roller coaster ride for all of them. They’d learnt that they were descendants of Padimites, who were refugees from another planet. Padim, their home planet had been destroyed and the few survivors who had managed to get away had settled on Earth. Children with the Padimite gene sometimes manifested powers. The abilities of the five had been triggered during a freak electric storm a year earlier, and they’d spent most of the last year, learning to control it. Seb’s power was speed, Maya was a telepath, Ryan’s ability was strength, Cassie was telekinetic and Sam could control the elements.
‘So what do you think?’ Cassie’s voice broke into his thoughts.
‘Did you even listen to a word I was saying?’ asked Cassie angrily.
‘Well, not really. You talk all the time. Is it an affliction?’ he teased, smiling. ‘Ouch!’ He fell back laughing when she shoved him angrily.
‘Dear God! We won’t be able to survive here,’ thought Seb. Though he would have been the last to admit it, he was actually frightened. Mr. Harris, their coach, who had been training them the past year, had brought them to Pha-yul, to train under mentors who possessed the particular skills that each of them had. Pha-yul was a secret community that was situated in a remote part of Tibet. The people who lived there were all of Padimite descent and they helped children who manifested abilities to learn to control them.
Till now, Seb had thought they were special, with the incredible powers they had and the amazing things they could do. But after a couple of days in Pha-yul, he realised what a long way they still had to go.
They were returning from a meadow, where they had been observing members of the community, training. There had been groups practicing archery, karate, wrestling and a variety of sports, without the aid of their powers, and Seb knew that in spite of the intense training that Mr. Harris had put them through, the five of them would get massacred if they had to compete against other teams. He could see the look of despair on the faces of his team too.
‘I want to go home,’ said Cassie, in a small, miserable voice.
He gave her arm a comforting squeeze. ‘Hey, by the time we’re done here, we’ll be running circles around these guys.’
Their days were filled with training, and Seb and the others hardly got time to speak to each other. One afternoon, after Seb finished his group session, he looked around for Sam and Cassie, who trained in the same field as him. Ryan and Maya were on another field that week. He couldn’t see them and guessed that they must have already hurried off to their individual mentoring.
He made his way up the slope that led up the side of the training field, his hands in his pockets, whistling tunelessly as he idly kicked at a stone.
‘Don’t you dare touch my brother!’ He looked up, startled, at Cassie’s shout of anger. Cassie stood at the top of the incline. He had no idea who was on the other side, but he could sense trouble and quickened his step, keeping his eye on her. There was another boy walking up the slope on his right, ahead of him, and as he watched, the boy swung his hand up and hurled a ball of fire at some branches right above Cassie.
The branches burst into flames and came crashing down towards Cassie. Seb dashed up, grabbed Cassie and was beside Sam, who stood on the other side of the incline, in seconds. Sam was with Carl, a boy from another group. They’d obviously been in a fight, as both had skinned knees and bruises on their arms. He looked up warily at the boy who had started the fire, who was now walking jauntily down the incline towards them. He got ready to grab Sam too, and run, in case the boy tried something similar again.
‘What is going on here?’ said a shocked voice. Sybil, one of the Elders of the community was standing behind them, looking horrified. ‘I want to see all of you at the Temple after your individual training,’ she ordered.
Seb realised he was still holding Cassie in his arms. He could feel her trembling. He set her down gently, whispering, ‘Don’t worry. It’ll be fine.’
But it wasn’t. They had their hearing in the Temple after training, and their punishment was to spend the next week sharing a room with the boys they’d fought with.
They knew that they had all been at fault and accepted the punishment. They collected their things and followed the young man who was taking them to their new rooms. Noticing tears streaming down Cassie’s face, Seb slipped his hand into hers.
‘Hey,’ he whispered. ‘Chin up! You don’t want them to see you cry. It’ll be okay. Sam and I will be there. Come on, let’s see a smile.’ She sniffled and gave him a small smile.
‘You’re the sweetest, Seb. Why do you try to act like a jerk all the time?’ she said with a sigh, slipping her arm through his.
‘And let everyone think I’m nice? Where’s the fun in that?’
She turned and rubbed her eyes against his sleeve, drying her tears.
‘Ew! Stop that, woman! You know how much I paid for this T-shirt?
‘Oh! Shut up! Stop pretending to be a jerk around me. I know you’re not one.’
Their new dormitory turned out to be a shack of sorts with three beds lining each wall, a cracked mirror on the wall opposite the door, and a round table in the center with a couple of chairs. After the initial horror of seeing the ramshackle shed which was lit by candles, Seb consoled himself with the fact that they had to stay there only for five days.
The next afternoon, Seb was late getting back to the shack as he had to meet his mentor. Cassie, Sam and Seb usually walked back together, but Sam was meeting Mr. Harris, and so the three of them had gone their separate ways after theory class. He heard voices as he opened the door to the shack. Trey and Cassie were sitting at the center table, their heads close together, talking. Or rather Trey seemed to be talking, and Cassie looked like she was hanging on to his every word.
‘How do you put up with that ass Seb? He’s such a jerk!!’ Cassie burst out laughing. Seb felt his cheeks burn with anger. Cassie looked up, her eyes shining with pleasure. ‘Oh, Seb! Trey said the funniest thing!’
‘I heard,’ said Seb, curtly, fuming as he walked over to his bed. He was so mad, he didn’t feel like eating.
‘Sorry, dude! I didn’t see you,’ he heard Trey’s voice through the red haze that was slowly filling his mind. He sat on his bed, leaning back against the wall, thumbing through the book that Marcus had given him, blindly. He couldn’t focus on it. He glanced up at the pair at the table. Cassie was once again looking at Trey with rapt attention, her face flushed with happiness.
‘What is wrong with her? What does she see in him?’ he wondered angrily.
Trey was good looking, with his dark skin and his carelessly tousled, curly mop, a leaner, a more well put together version of Ryan, though the resemblance to Ryan ended there. Ryan was a good guy while Trey was a jerk. Seb felt that there was something familiar about Trey, something he couldn’t place.
The evening was another annoying repeat of the afternoon. Trey seemed to have cast a spell on Cassie. The practical, earnest redhead he knew had been replaced by this soppy, weird version, whom he just couldn’t understand. He took his tray of food and marched angrily to bed. He heard Trey ask Cassie to go for a walk with him and Cassie agree enthusiastically.
‘Hmph! Walk, my foot! That’s the last thing that’s on his mind,’ thought Seb derisively, thinking of how often he’d used that line to get a girl alone. He wanted to go after them and bash that superior, disdainful look off Trey’s face.
He suddenly had a moment of clarity. Himself! That was what was familiar about Trey. He reminded Seb of himself. All those lines that Trey was using on Cassie, all those lines that grated on Seb when he heard them, how often had he used it to get a girl to go out with him. A sudden feeling of remorse washed over him, unexpected and unusual. He wondered how many girls he’d hurt the way Trey was certain to hurt Cassie.
A few days later, as Seb was leaving the training meadow, he heard Cassie call out to him. When he didn’t answer, she exclaimed ‘Seb! Why are you being like this? What is your problem?’
Seb didn’t break stride. ‘Where’s your boyfriend?’ he asked.
‘Seb, grow up. Stop being such a jerk! What are you so mad about?’ Cassie asked angrily. ‘I’ve already said I’m sorry for having laughed when Trey called you an ass.’
Seb stopped and looked at her grimly. ‘Listen! It’s not about that. You don’t have to take my advice, but I’m giving you some anyway. I’ve met guys like Trey. I was, and maybe still am, a guy like Trey. I know how they work. You’re merely a bit of amusement for now. I just don’t want to see you get hurt.’
‘Seb, what Trey and I have is special. I can feel it,’ said Cassie looking up at him earnestly. ‘Can’t you be happy for me?’
‘Cas, this is the first boy that you’ve dated,’ Seb paused looking thoughtful. ‘In fact, it isn’t even dating. I don’t know what it is. So you have no idea…’
‘Seb, stop it!’ shouted Cassie. ‘I care about Trey, and he feels the same way about me. Get over it.’
Seb took a deep breath and controlled his temper. This was something Cassie had to figure out for herself. He nodded, shrugging. ‘As I said, it’s only advice. You can take it or leave it,’ he said with a sigh.
‘Seb, I don’t want you to be mad at me. Could we not talk about this?’ asked Cassie, looking up at Seb, her eyes filling with tears.
‘God, woman, you cry for everything. Come here.’ He pulled her close and hugged her. ‘Ok, we won’t talk about Trey anymore.’
As he held her, her tears soaking into his shirt, he wanted to warn her again. ‘Stop going out with Trey. You’ll get hurt.’ He didn’t want Cassie to get hurt. He cared too much about her.
They both had to leave for their individual training sessions, and Seb walked slowly towards his, mulling over the conversation.
‘I really can’t do anything. She will have to go through this and figure it out for herself. Nothing I say or do now will change her mind,’ he decided. ‘I just have to be there to comfort her, when he breaks her heart. I won’t bring up the topic with her again. It would be a wasted effort.’
More coming tomorrow! While waiting, why not check Jan’s Amazon page and give it some love here.