Dawn Colclasure's Blog

Author and poet Dawn Colclasure

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Touched by Fire -- the surprise poetry book

I’m one of those writers who just can’t work on one thing at a time. I need to have several projects going at once – several articles to write, several books going through the publication process and several books going at one time. And I actually have several books lined up to write after I finish the current batch, among them several different kinds of poetry books. Now, these poetry books are books I KNOW I want to write and will eventually write. Some of them have bits and pieces already written, and it’s just a matter of finishing them. So it was interesting how my new poetry book, Touched by Fire, was completely unexpected and ended up being something of a "surprise."

One particular poetry book I had put together was a book I titled Wandering Soul, which is taken from the title of one the poems in this book. This manuscript was the combination of a poetry book that was out of print, as well as newer poems to make the whole thing “new” again. That collection ended up being pretty long, so I decided it would be my “big book of poetry.” When the original manuscript got a rejection, I took another look at it, and I realized it was not “right.” So I sent it back to the virtual workshop and operated on it.

The second result was the breaking down of the whole book. I took the original poems from the out-of-print poetry book and that short collection was republished as Follow That Dream (original title: Take My Hand, which was published twenty years ago by a subsidy publisher). Next, I tried to take what was left of the poetry book and use them for a poetry book with the title “Wandering Soul.” But after all was said and done, and I started thinking about that book’s cover, I realized something else: This book wasn’t right, either! Back it went to the workshop.

The third and final result was another breakdown of this book. I took so many poems that seemed to have a theme and put them into what will DEFINITELY be Wandering Soul. Then I realized I had quite a few soldier-themed poems in this book. Why not turn that into another poetry book for the soldiers? So, that’s exactly what I did. (This particular poetry book was recently completed; it just needs to go through the revision process before I send it off for edits.)

Then I took a look at what was left. I saw some poems in this collection that were about being a burn survivor. It made me realize, you know, there’s a theme here. So I decided to make this particular poetry book about being a burn survivor. That was how the new poetry book, Touched by Fire, was born.

As I worked on this poetry manuscript, I had to pay close attention to the poems I included. I have always wanted to include some of my favorite poems in a poetry book, but, put together, they didn’t have a theme. So I decided to include these favorite poems in this book. I also included poems that readers have contacted me about telling me how much they loved the poem or how it inspired them. I also included poems I wrote for friends and poems in memory of those lost.

Now, as the theme of the book was about being a burn survivor, I felt it was appropriate to give readers some idea of what kind of person I am and where I’m coming from. There is one downside to this. I have not exactly had a charmed life. You know, there’s been some bad stuff, and I was worried that portraying this side of my past in the book might cast a negative mood over it. I texted one of my sisters about this and told her I was worried about “creating drama” in the book. I want the book to be positive and inspire others. My sister pointed out that it was good to show the bad and negative things, because this would make it more “real” and some people, even burn survivors, might be able to relate to it. So I kept those poems.

These are the poems in the book that relate to personal stuff from my life:

“Touched by Fire”
“The Other Room”
“A Family Thing”
“Stop Living in Denial”
“What Do You See?”
“They Said ‘Don’t’”
“’No’ Means ‘No’”
“He’s Out There Somewhere”
“Burned And Deaf”
“Lost in a Book”
“The Truth”
“There Once Was A Man”
“After I Am Dead”
“Just Another Restless Night”
“When I Dream of You”
“A Distant Memory”
“Walk Away”
“Run Away”
“Listening to the Silence”
“Still Waters”
“Golden Boy”
“Together in Death”
“You Do Not Belong to Me”
“To My Friend”
“All We Have”
“I’ll Always Be Close By”
“A Light Gone Out Too Soon”
“Baby’s First Christmas”
“Remembering Lukas”
“People Watching”
“Mommy Can’t Hear”
“Don’t Judge Yet”
“Rescue Me”
“Rules of My Heart”
“Can This Be Real?”
“This Choice I Made”
“While You Are Small”
“My Face to the World”
“Don’t Call Me Victim”
“A Friend Across the Miles”
“My Past is Not My Present”
“Embrace Today”
“Songs in My Heart”
“Won’t Give Up”
“A Different Kind of Christian”
“Don’t Wanna Play”
“My Friends”
“Lone Wolf”
“Never One Thing”
“Always Close By”
“Rise Up!”
“Please Stop and Think”
“Being Sick”
“Thank You”
“It’s My Turn”
“The Survivors”
“The Right Notebook”
“A Love So Strong”
“Fake Friends”
“Can’t Help the Way I Feel”
“Those Days Must Pass”
“I Would Have Liked”
“Walking Fool”
“The Desert”
“A New Day”
“Dear Mother, My Mother”

Some of these poems reflect my philosophy about life and certain attitudes. Some of them were written in memory of family members who have left this world, or written for my children. And some of them were about my dream experience.

Some of the other poems in the book were inspired by events, online chats and just feelings that came over me. For example, once, at sundown, when I lived in the desert, I took the time to observe my surroundings and the changing colors of the sky. This inspired the poem “Twilight in the Desert.” The poem “The Lost Firefighters” was written in memory of the 19 firefighters who died in Arizona, but I kept the poem to where it could be something honoring the memory of any firefighters who died while on the job. Firefighters are our true heroes. They saved my life long ago and I will always be grateful to firefighters and respect them for what they do.

I am very excited about this new poetry book. It really is the largest collection of poems I have put out there (there are 152 of them!). So it looks like I got my “big book of poetry” after all. I will still get the soldier poems book and Wandering Soul out there in due time.

Here is the blurb for the book:

"Burn victim." The term is applied as though someone who has come through the flames will now and always be a "victim." For anyone who has been touched by fire, a transformation takes place and life takes on new meaning and new challenges that will inspire courage, self-acceptance and hope. The poems in this book are about how one "burn victim" transformed herself into a "burn survivor." To survive the flames and bear the scars of a fiery ordeal means a life of struggle, seclusion, fear and a desire to be accepted by others. But in the end, one must be able to get past all of this, find the strength to hold their head high and face the world as a burn survivor who can stand strong.

And here is the buy link.

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Sunday, September 15, 2013

If you're going to self-publish your book, PLEASE get an editor

When I first joined LinkedIn, I did not realize there were groups on there in which people with a variety of interests can indulge in discussing their passions and sharing ideas. I joined some writing groups, as well as groups for creative people, and have been reading discussions ever since. Sometimes I’ll participate in a discussion, but only when I have something of value to add. Most of the time, though, I will just read the main discussion and peruse what other people are saying.

One particular comment from a member of a writing group caught my eye – and caused me to worry.

This person talked about how he self-published his book (was not clear on if it was a novel or nonfiction book). He commented that he paid for the cover design but could not afford to hire an editor, so he edited the book himself.

This worried me because I really, really don’t think an author should trust him/herself to edit his or her own book. I know people who work as editors and edit their own books, and while I am not going to take issue with them or get into any arguments with them, and I still think they’re awesome, I really still feel it is important to have another person, specifically an editor, edit a manuscript before it is published.

I feel this is important because, for one thing, an editor will not read a manuscript as a reader. An editor will read a manuscript as an editor. The editor knows what mistakes to look out for and be able to hone in on areas of the manuscript that could use a little extra work. The author is too close to his/her own book to be able to see these things. It really takes an objective (and somewhat merciless) pair of eyes to be able to catch things that are wrong with a manuscript.

Also, someone who has been editing manuscripts for a while has likely “seen it all” and has also seen how books with poor editing have either failed miserably in sales or received negative reviews that point out editorial mistakes. An editor is aware of what can make or break a book, what it takes to make a good book great, and how the author can fix up their manuscript in a way that will make their writing shine.

As a book reviewer, I have seen many self-published books that have spelling and grammar mistakes. I have also seen many books that were poorly written, poorly organized or which contained insufficient information. (One nonfiction book wasn’t really much of a book at all; it was more like a very long advertisement for a product.) With books I cannot refuse to review because of such mistakes, I try to ignore these things, though they do ruin the reading experience. With books I can pass on reviewing, however, if I sample the book and see such mistakes, I pretty much will pass on reviewing it. It’s not so much snobbery that compels my decision, but the realization that the author really must not have cared about his/her book enough to want it to be edited. The author decided to just write a rough draft of a book and throw it out there. I want to read a good book, and an editor will make sure a manuscript is transformed into a good book. If the author could not bother to take the time to edit his/her book, why should I take the time to read it?

Likewise, I have hired freelance editors for my self-published books (well, my poetry books). The editor is amazing and has really honed in the problem spots in my manuscripts. She really helped to make my writing the best it could be. The same can be said of editors I have worked with at publishing companies. I have gotten manuscripts back with editing requests and changes, and I was surprised at so many things I missed in my read-through.

Unfortunately, many new authors are under the mistaken assumption that “editors are evil.” The thinking goes that an editor will only “kill” a book, ruin the author’s voice and try to make the author’s book into something it was completely NOT meant to be. This is not true because an editor, a GOOD editor, only wants your book to have some kick-ass writing. If you want your writing to shine and if you want your book to be the best it can be, then please do not skimp on editing. Please consider finding an editor who will work with you in polishing your book.

I understand that times are hard and that a lot of people cannot afford an editor. But, really, you CAN afford an editor. There may be stories out there of editors charging an arm and a leg for edits, as well as editors charging thousands to edit a book, but the affordable editor DOES exist. There ARE affordable editors out there. I may no longer work as a freelance editor (with one exception of a writer), but I was always, ALWAYS willing to work with an author in paying for edits. Heck, I even edited one book for free (the author ended up later thanking me with a gift certificate – a nice surprise that was actually appreciated). I have even recently agreed to edit one writer’s three manuscripts for a very low fee.

But I am not the only editor willing to negotiate on price. I know others are out there. I know freelance editors who DO work with authors on the fee for edits. So, you CAN try to negotiate a fee for edits on your manuscript, and I really think you should, especially if you are self-publishing a book. If anything, save up for the editing fee. Writing, revising and self-editing a book takes time. Use this time to save for your cover, editor, etc.

If you really want to publish a good book, and if you want people to buy your next book, then investing in an editor is well worth it. Please find a way to hire an editor for your manuscript. Negotiate the fee, hire a college student or ask on a message board for writers about any affordable editors. Believe me, you will be grateful later on that you took the time to get your book edited before self-publishing it. You really should try to put your best book out there, with your best writing, and an editor can help you make that happen.

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Tuesday, September 03, 2013

My Twitter account was suspended – then it wasn't

Last week, I finished work on the second book in the “How to Revise Your Writing Like a Pro” series. Because I’ve shared updates about my progress with it on Twitter, I logged into Twitter on Friday evening to announce that Book Two, and thus all three books, was done. Imagine my shock when I logged in at Twitter and found out that, gasp! My account was suspended! Gone were all of my followers, all of the people I was following – yet my tweet count of over 4,000 was still showing. Since I had the option of filing an appeal, I went ahead and did that. I also responded to the email from Twitter about it, asking if they would provide an explanation as to why they suspended my account.

But since it was a Friday night and a holiday weekend, I did not expect to hear from them until Tuesday.

The next thing I did was log in at Facebook to post on my status that I have NOT unfollowed anyone on Twitter – because a lot of people I follow on Twitter are on my Friends list on Facebook, and I didn’t want anyone to think that I unfollowed them on purpose – it’s just that my account had been suspended.

By Sunday, which was Labor Day, I was getting direct messages from peeps I’ve followed on Twitter. I saw the first four come in on my phone and I was like, What the heck? How can someone direct message me if my account was suspended? But after I got over 30 DM’s, with more coming in, I got on the PC to find out what was going on.

Apparently, my Twitter account had been reinstated on a holiday, and I was getting messages from people I followed that were automated “thank you” messages. Hmm.

Well, on one hand, I was glad my account was reinstated. I was especially glad all of the people I followed were returned, as well as my followers. On the other hand, however, I never got an explanation why my Twitter account was suspended, and I’d really like to know why. It’s not like I was TRYING to get into trouble – though I have a tendency of getting into trouble without even trying. *rolls eyes* Maybe it was that person I recently unfriended on Facebook trying to get back at me? I unfriended her because I was tired of her negative and snarky comments. Maybe she decided to get back at me by complaining to Twitter for some violation or another? Or maybe it was somebody at Twitter headquarters who was just having a bad day and decided to suspend a random number of Twitter accounts? 

I’d really like to know what it was that set them off so that I don’t do it again. As it is, I’m feeling a bit too nervous to even USE Twitter again, because I might end up doing something they don’t like and end up getting suspended again.

When I appealed the suspension, they sent me a link of the “Twitter rules.” I went over the rules, as well as the other pages covering guidelines and best practices. These are the only things from those links that I could think may have been the reason.

Recently, I followed a bunch of peeps in one day. I do this sometimes. I get followers that are interesting, or I learn about groups I'd really like to read tweets from, so I go a bit crazy following all of these accounts at once. It has definitely happened, but I've heard that Twitter doesn't like that. Maybe that was it?

Sometimes, I will go through my list of followers. If people who I am so-so interested in have unfollowed me, and they are just a person but not a company or charity (big difference), then I unfollow that person. I am aware that some people on Twitter will follow someone just to get a follow-back, then unfollow that person. I don't want to play that game. So I tend to unfollow quite a bunch of peeps in one day if they no longer follow me. Maybe that was what got me in trouble?

Following churn
A bit of research on the Twitter rules introduced me to the phrase "following churn." That's when someone follows, unfollows, then refollows someone. I saw that and was like, that's a thing? Wow. Well, I have actually done this, but not to "draw attention to my page," like Twitter says. I am just a very indecisive person. But maybe my indecisiveness is what got my account suspended?

This one rankled my nerves. In the past, I have tried sharing links from my website on Twitter. Now, this is MY website, and not someone else's. And it's certainly not spam! Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't that allowed? Isn't that the whole point of Twtter, to share your links with others in your network? But I have had Twitter block such tweets in the past, labeling them as spam. (Sigh. I don't think Twitter likes me.) So maybe THAT was it?

Or maybe they thought I was impersonating the REAL Dawn Colclasure? Or maybe they thought that I am a robot?

But I am a real person. I am the REAL Dawn Colclasure. And I was just trying to use Twitter like everybody else – even though it’s not exactly my “thing” and I don’t use it as often as most people. (I use it at least once a week. I am on Facebook more than Twitter. And, in fact, I have a Facebook fan page for my “author stuff.”) I am just one person, one author, who was using Twitter for self-promo and to connect with other people. I am not trying to hurt anyone. I am not trying to draw attention to myself or my page. I am not trying to scare anybody, threaten anybody or cause anyone to lose any sleep. I am just one person using Twitter like the thousands of other people.

And now I see how easily all that can be taken away. Now I see that maybe I should not rely on having that so much anymore, because it really doesn’t seem to be something I can actually hold on to. Without warning, without notice, it was taken away. Just like that.

Well, all good things must come to an end. I just think it would be nice if I was the one who gets to decide whether it will end or not.

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Sunday, September 01, 2013

Another writing notebook is full

This morning, I woke up with a poem in my head. After I wrote the poem down in my writing notebook, guess what? The notebook was full. All the pages had been used up. Woo-hoo! That is another notebook filled up with my writing!

So, what was in this particular notebook? In this one, I have written:

1. The first draft of the soldier poems book
2. Poems for the poetry book Touched by Fire (coming soon!)
3. Other poems
4. Miscellaneous book notes
5. First drafts of 3 children’s books
6. Miscellaneous ideas
7. 1 song
8. Notes for guest blog posts for my poetry book, Follow That Dream
9. 5 book reviews
10. Guests posts for blog tour
11. New book ideas
12. Blog post notes
13. My writing plan for 2013
14. Drafts of query letters
15. Book blurbs
16. Essay for the deaf parenting book
17. Drafts of new chapters for the first book in the “How to Revise Your Writing Like a Pro” series
18. Notes for a children’s book I was going to ghostwrite
19. The children’s book I ghostwrote

Tomorrow, I will start using a new notebook for my writing. Can’t wait to see what kind of writing I will fill it up with!

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