It has been nine months since I started this blog. Nine whole months—long enough to grow a human being. Since the launch, it’s had 1,056 unique users view a total of 5,515 pages. I know it’s not huge numbers, but to get to that many in nine months is an accomplishment I am proud of. Wow. Also, on Twitter, I have gone from two followers in July to 1,230 as of this morning.
On July 15, I shared my writing journey on Facebook with a “coming soon” teaser picture for Caroline’s Lighthouse. That YA novel, dreamed up in early 1997 when I was only 15, is now available for purchase in paperback and ebook formats. I had book signings on March 3 and 18, during which I sold and signed a total of 19 copies. I hope to have more in the future. I couldn’t have been so successful without the help of my wonderful friends.
I’ve received a few more reviews about the novel. The latest are below:
This is a really good book! It’s been a while since I’ve read a really good fiction book! This is a novel full of rich detail and suspense! I recommend it!
I could not put this book down until it was finished. Great read!
This was a good read. It took me a bit to get into it but the story pulled me in and the ending was great.
Thank you, reviewers. I still need more reviews whether positive or negative to add to the legitimacy of the novel. I have entered two different writing contests to test the waters a bit. The Writer’s Digest contest and the Independent Author’s Network contest. It’s worth a shot. Winners get cash prizes and publicity, and all entries get feedback from the judges. I think it’s the feedback I want most so I can continually improve my writing. I have donated copies of Caroline’s Lighthouse to the Dardanelle and Russellville libraries, so it should be available for borrowing at both places.
Spillwords.com has picked up another of my poems for publication. “A Walk in the Rain” will publish at midnight on May 9. That will mark the fourth item they have accepted from my collection. Here is my author page for Spillwords.
There’s something else new on the horizon. I am close to finishing the first draft of Jordan’s Sister. The final novel will be approximately 80,000 words, almost 30,000 more than Caroline’s Lighthouse. It’s a New Adult or Contemporary Fiction novel about Taylor, a former child-star trying to find her own way as a singer/songwriter while living in the shadow of her older sister Jordan’s fame. She meets Layne, a former boy-band member, who has his own problems. As Taylor begins to fall in love, she worries that Jordan will try to destroy everything good in her life.
The novel is very loosely based on sisters, Jordan and Taylor Hoffman, characters I created when I was 14 in a two-novel series, Jordan’s Sister and Just Taylor. The original story was about a teen’s suicide and the aftermath of it. After I had rewritten Caroline’s Lighthouse last year, which pulled heavily from its original I wrote at 15, I decided to completely revamp the story of Taylor and Jordan. Late one night, lying awake in bed because I was suffering from insomnia at the time, I started asking “what if” questions. What if Taylor and Jordan were in their 20s instead of their teens? What if Jordan was a famous actress and Taylor was an aspiring singer? What if Taylor was also a former child star? What if Taylor’s relationship with her high school boyfriend had ended badly and there was a new love interest? What if the sisters’ relationship with their parents was strained?
As I answered those questions, I realized I had a very different story than what I had started out with. I think I only pulled a couple of things from the original drafts to use in this new story. I’ll save the old ones in my scrap files for potential teen angst dialogue for future stories, but not all first drafts can become something more. You can read the first draft of chapter one of the new Jordan’s Sister and let me know what you think.
When I write, I think of actresses and actors who play these characters in the movie that takes place in my mind. It’s just one of the processes I go through. Before I write a scene, I close my eyes and imagine what the setting looks like, the body language of the characters, how things smell and sound. I try to provide vivid descriptions because I want readers to be able to imagine what I see when I am sharing these stories.
For Taylor, I would cast Aubrey Peeples, who starred in the TV Drama, “Nashville” for four seasons. She’s beautiful and has eyes that can convey sadness and pain. Aubrey looks very much like a grown-up version of the original 14-year-old Taylor I had envisioned. Bonus fact: She can sing. Check her out here.
Layne is a character who did not exist in the original stories. I wrote my first 10,000 words using “XX” in place of a name because I wasn’t sure what to call him. I started thinking of the names of lead singers of different bands to see if any of them fit for my character and found a match when I thought of the late Layne Staley of Alice in Chains. Layne looks like the long-haired version of singer Harry Styles, who was part of One Direction and left to go solo. One Direction was one of the several manufactured boy-bands I studied when referencing the fictional band, Backdraft, that Layne left to go solo. I’m not a huge fangirl (it’s just not my personality), but Harry is talented. Check out a live performance here.
Jordan’s complex character looks like actress Britt Robertson, who I’ve seen play both sweet and mean characters. Actress Jordan is a classic blonde beauty who is sweet when the cameras are rolling but releases her cruel wrath when she’s alone with Taylor. She has some dark skeletons hiding in her closet that only Taylor knows about.
Writing this new novel has been a fun experience. I hope to have it “finished” and to my test readers during the summer. My head is already churning with new ideas and new thoughts on old ideas. I have some old main characters Lydia, Hope, Charlotte and Noelle who are chilling out in my head waiting for me to share their stories. There is also Kincaid, a character who was briefly jotted down on scrap paper years ago but never fleshed out who is now rattling around inside my mind. They are all so different, but they all share a common journey—overcoming pain or a trauma of some sort. For me, writing is about healing.
I am also working on a couple of new poems and have a file folder in my head of future blog post ideas. I had to up the resources on my server in response to all the hits on the posts about my stepdad and dad. My apologies for making some people cry. If there is a subject you want me to write about, let me know in the comments or the Contact Me section. Thank you for reading.
-Brandi Easterling Collins