It’s About Damn Time

It's About Damn Time

It’s About Damn Time

That’s right. It’s about damn time for me to finish up the sequel to my first science fiction novel, Betera’s Factor. It has been a long and arduous road to the finish., but here we are with just a few chapters remaining. I could blame the delay on the global pandemic, but I think it’s been used as a scapegoat for more important delays in our lives. My reasoning is quite simple–I wasn’t sure whether I actually had it in me to continue. And by continue, I mean finish. For anyone out there who is just starting down the road to become an author or for those who have been in the trenches but for a few years like me, I’m sure you can relate to my feelings of inadequacy.

Unless you’re like a friend of mine who cranks out books in her damn sleep, this @#$! is hard. Not the editing, not the world-building, and no, not the character sketches either. It’s sitting down in a seat and banging it all out on paper that Fs me up. I have a million ideas and pages of dialogue and exposition in my head, but I always struggle when it comes to tapping it out on a keyboard. Plus, this time around with the pandemic (crap, I said I wasn’t going to use that excuse) I had too much time on my hands to even consider planting my but in the seat. Yet, here I am, barreling toward the finish line. What changed?

Shut Up and Finish It

What changed was that I started seeing my life go by without completing the experiences I swore to myself. That’s right. It wasn’t a promise I made to others or obligations I had to a publisher or agent. I kicked my own arse because if I didn’t find a way to sit still and do it, I was going to be disappointed in myself. The idea of failing me and labeling myself a loser was enough. Sure, it took a couple of beers every writing session to get things flowing, but they have flowed. Self-deprecation can actually be a wonderful thing when applied conservatively. However, I’d be lying if I said this was my sole motivation. Let’s examine the other one.

I Sing the Body Electric

I don’t necessarily mean Whitman’s poem in its purest form. Rather, I mention this because back in 2019 when I should have been writing, I was focusing on retooling my body for better health. I hadn’t paid much attention to my health in the last couple of years, feeling that weight loss and increased strength were beyond my reach. A visit to the doctor’s office jolted me out of that falsity. When faced with the news of high cholesterol and prediabetes, I burst into action, exercising 4-5 days a week and adhering to a strict nutritional regime, counting every caloric morsel that entered my mouth. A year later, I had lost 65lbs and dropped 4 clothes sizes and I lowered my cholesterol by more than 30 points. Hmm. If I could do this with my body, and lavish it with love and care, what else could I do?

It’s All Very Clear to Me Now

Like Dave Bowman declared in the film 2010 when he said, “It’s all very clear to me now and it’s wonderful,” I decided that I could apply the same determination to my writing. It was and still is very clear to me now. When we want something, we just have to resolve to work for it. I don’t have a magic muse or the type of disposition that allows me to turn out whole drafts in record time. That’s not my style. I do procrastinate. I do struggle, but eventually, when I’ve had enough, I get it done. It’s about damn time that I recognize that the fear of failing myself is what kicks my butt in gear. It’s about damn time that I remember why I got into the writing racket in the first place.

I started writing because I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it. I wanted to create something I could put my stamp of approval on rather than wait for the NYT or some critic to tell me I knew what I was doing. And believe me, the critics have spoken. You can check out what they’ve said here. I happen to agree with them, but even if those reviews had been awful, I would still find a way to keep writing because it’s about damn time for me to be selfish. And my selfishness demands that I satisfy only one person–Me, myself, and I. It’s about damn time.

Read Betera’s Factor before Betera’s Legacy launches this fall.

Betera’s Legacy

Betera's Legacy

Betera’s Legacy Begins

As the page on the website says, Betera’s Legacy wasn’t supposed to happen. When I finished Betera’s Factor, I swore I was through with the universe I’d built. I was afraid of being a one-trick pony. What if this was all I could write? And how long would it take to get all the other ideas I have out of my head? Add those questions to the growing anxiety of whether this first book was even good and I was faced with a recipe for disaster with my writing career. Somehow, my friends who beta-read the novel felt it was not only good, but it was worthy of a sequel. Thus, Betera’s Legacy was born. I had given myself the green light to explore the adventures of the characters beyond the first book. So what would happen next?

Crawford Steps Back (Warning…Spoilers Ahead)

If you haven’t read the first novel, you may want to stop reading here as I will talk about one of the major characters, Crawford Lear. Crawford’s story arc is the most important in Betera’s Factor. He is your quintessential reluctant hero, albeit completely gung ho at first. For the most part, Crawford was easy to write and his dilemma seemed the most straightforward. Betera’s Factor is his story though not his alone. Without Crawford, the plot would make less sense and a sequel would not be warranted. In crafting his personality, I drew on several actual people know. I wanted Crawford to be steadfast, yet vulnerable. A prisoner of his circumstances but a rebel at the same time. He begins as a confident man before descending into an angry mess over the circumstances of his life. And in the final reveal, he discovers he is not as important as he thought.

There are several excellent supporting characters in his story. Some who deserved the spotlight as much as Crawford. I tried my best to ensure their stories received as much weight as the main protagonist. Little did I know, by balancing their stories against Crawford’s, I set the stage for a sequel where Crawford didn’t have to be the center. Others would be able to take up the “burdens of command” and emerge as heroes in their own right. Thus for Betera’s Legacy, we will see Crawford share the stage and power with two other characters whose existence is vital to the sequel.

Zelda Steps Up

Betera’s Legacy provides me with another golden opportunity. The first novel is heavily centered on male protagonists. With Betera’s Factor, I sort of thumbed my nose at the current trend of women taking the lead in science fiction (young adult mainly). I believe that both sexes are qualified to helm these stories, but there seemed to be a preponderance of female leads in dystopian fiction. This, of course, was my opinion as I haven’t read every single science fiction book out there. Nonetheless, I didn’t want to ride what I perceived to be a trend, rather I sought to go against it. Again, if you’ve read Betera’s Factor, you are familiar with the character of Zelda. Zelda is the de facto leader of the Fordham sentinels in the novel. She also happens to be the strongest. Zelda’s role is intrinsically tied to Crawford’s fate and the success of his mission. In the sequel, her story grows. Tremendously.

Zelda is probably the most important character in Betera’s Legacy. This is owing to her origins, which you discovered at the end of the first novel. Probing deeper into her role was necessary for the sequel to be successful. There couldn’t be a sequel without Zelda and the novel could not culminate the way it will without her. I never suspected how important Zelda and her back story would be. I hope readers continue to be amazed by this force of nature.

Betera Revealed

Last but most importantly, Betera’s Legacy is Betera’s story. Through this novel, we will learn more about the machinations of this character whom we rarely saw in the first book. Without Betera, this universe would never have existed. The model for Betera was my mother. My mom was the most amazing parent so I had to imagine what her personality might be like if it were shady. I took the best points of my mom, her desire to protect and care for people and I pushed those traits to the extreme. I really can’t say more about Betera as it would mean giving away the entire plot of both books. However, I will say this…never underestimate anyone’s abilities. People will always fight for what they believe is right. As the tagline of Betera’s Factor says, “Anyone can be weaponized. Family. Friend. Foe.”

Now we have a new tagline. “The truth will rise. Dark. Deadly. Devastating.”

Typos Suck

Typos Suck

I’m Serious. Typos Suck.

Yes. I said they suck, and I mean it. I recently received a 3-star review (out of 5 stars) from an independent review service. The reviewer praised my storytelling abilities but slammed me when it came to the quality of the editing. I felt mortified by the reviewer’s comments. Their opinion made me feel incompetent.

I spent seven years writing Betera’s Factor, my debut fiction novel. After dozens of drafts, I went through several rounds of editing with someone who has credentials teaching English as a Second Language for over six years, has read 8,000+ books, and certainly caught the numerous mistakes I didn’t see. Where I made the mistake was not putting my revisions back through the editing process. That was not a good idea. I’m not one for making excuses. I pride myself on being conscientious about my work. If I weren’t, I wouldn’t have earned a graduate degree in writing. I also wouldn’t have lasted 20 years in the communications profession, an industry that demands excellent writing skills.

Editing Doesn’t Come Cheap

It shouldn’t come cheap. We all know quality editing is the key to making any book appear polished and professional. It’s essential if you want to be taken seriously in the publishing world. Critics and readers have long complained about what they perceive as a lack of quality editing with self-published books, but some articles show typos aren’t restricted to self-published authors. Here’s one of my favorite articles, which points out that commercially published books have errors as well.

Editing services offered by powerhouse editing agencies are extremely expensive. Prepare to squirrel away funds if you’re living paycheck to paycheck and want to avail yourself of these services rather than those of a freelance editor. Most rates I found are in the four-digit range for manuscripts over 40,000 words. The minimum quote I received for an 82,000-word manuscript (from three different agencies) was $1,665 and up. Sixteen thousand dollars is nearly the cost of new brakes on my car!

My Solution

Considering what I’ve discovered, I can only think of one solution. Trust my editor and don’t make changes to a fully edited manuscript. Doing less impugns their trust and it could potentially hurt their reputation, and mine. I’d love to hear from other self-published authors on their experiences.