Happy Birthday, Searching for Forever!!!

Just a quick reminder that Searching for Forever is officially RELEASED!!! HORRAY!!!!

You can find it at Bold Strokes Books here:

http://www.boldstrokesbooks.com/9781626391871e.html

And…. get this… it’s available in paperback AND e-book formats!!!

Get your copy today!

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Playing Make Believe– A Lesson on Character Building

Something happened to me when I grew up (although, judging by the fact I’m eating mozerrella sticks and Fritos for lunch, that term is used loosely). It’s something I think happens to most of us once we hit puberty, and start going to Sadie Hawkins dances (by the way, 1980 called and wants their pop culture reference back) and fantasizing about kissing boys (or girls). We lose our imaginations.

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This is me, Halloween 2010, playing doctor (not like that! get your heads out of the gutter!). I had to come up with a costume to take my ex-wife’s niece and nephew trick-or-treating. When you’re little, you go dressed as Superman, or Miley Cyrus or whatever (God forbid my children ever decide to go as a tween…). So, as an adult, I opted to go as what I wanted to be when I “grew up” (which, as I mentioned, is probably still in progress).

Writing a book is probably one of your few chances in your adult life to be whoever you want to be. As a younger writer, I used to literally write myself into every single thing I wrote. And without any trying to hide it, either. Because I’ve always been into first person narrative, it was just the most logical thing to make the “me” character the one who did the narrating. As I mentioned in an earlier blog, Searching for Forever is the first thing I’ve ever written that ISN’T TRUE. Not even a little bit true (sorry to disappoint, any of you older-women-fetishizers out there who wanted to live vicariously through me). The truth was, I had a massive straight-girl crush on a coworker who was about 18 years my senior (and she always reminded me she could have been my Mom… gross…).  Nights in healthcare can get boring. They leave a lot of time for those Sadie-Hawkins dance fantasies. I just happened to turn mine into a novel.

So how do you go from real life inspiration and daydreams to a fictional character? The first thing I pushed myself to do was NOT write from Charlie’s perspective. Since none of you have read Searching for Forever yet (obviously… since it isn’t out), I’ll brief you on Charlie Thompson. Charlie is the 25 year old (my age when I started writing said book) paramedic (almost my job when I started writing said book– I was an EMT) who manages to seduce the somewhat stoic, very straight older Natalie with her charms and good looks (something I definitely did not even attempt while writing said book). It would have been easy to write from Charlie’s vantage point. Not because I consider myself wildly sexy, capible of wooing straight, married doctors, and scoring a perfect 42 on my MCAT, but because she was everything I WANTED to be. A glorified, best version of myself. Of course, now that I’m about to start PA school (pretty darn close to my doctor pipe dream from three years ago), and am living with the girl of my dreams (who is, by the way, a whopping 10 months and a day older than I am), I am much happier being me than I would be being Charlie. But back then would have been a different story.

I challenged myself to write from Natalie’s perspective– someone I have very little in common with. The first page or two (which, by the way, are the first original pages that have since been completely cut from the final copy), I admit I sort of went along with basing her off of the person who inspired her. But that didn’t last long. That’s the thing about writing; if it’s any good, it becomes something completely different than what you started it out to be. Pretty soon, I found myself having to get in the head of a 39 year old physician with a young child in an unhappy straight marriage who was struggling with her sexuality. So how do you do this? How do you write from the point of view of someone you can’t relate to at all?

Simple– sort of. Find that relationship! As I began to write Natalie, and she morphed into someone I felt like I knew, I realized we had more in common than I thought. Natalie was in an unhappy marriage. So was I (albeit her’s was a straight marriage). Natalie had feelings for someone else. So did I (albeit more of a disasterous crush than a lasting romance). Natalie was a physician. I wasn’t (but I worked next to a ton of them, and had been emersed in medicine for enough years to get the jist). I knew nothing about having a young child with a disability. And I knew nothing about being almost 40. Those were by far the most challenging parts to write. And that, my friends, is where the imagination part comes in.

I just finished writing a scene for my second book, Same Time Next Week, where the two characters go sailing. I know very little about sailing– basically, only how to get on the boat and not fall off. While trying to get the “lingo” correct (port and starboard and May Day and all that) I realized something. I didnt have to be a sailing expert to write this. I only had to know just enough to convince my readers. The same goes for your characters. Sure, it helps to write from the point of view of someone who could be your fictional doppleganger. But where’s the challenge in that? Challenge is how we grow, kids!

So that’s my two and a half cents. Think outside the box. Don’t be that writer who just writes themselves as all their characters (we’ve all been there. Trust me!). But use your real life experiences to search for ways to relate to that character! Also, it doesn’t hurt to gain inspiration from people you know. *

*word to the wise– it may be best to avoid telling said people they have inspired said character… depending on context. In my case, the heroine skeleton of Natalie Jenner will remain a mystery. Unless, of course, she, or any former coworkers get ahold of Searching for Forever. In which case, mystery over, folks.

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The Greatest (Hardest) Job On Earth– Thoughts from 1am

Right, so I can’t exactly call it a job yet, since I haven’t exactly been paid. And my bank account is still maddenly empty thanks to Amazon’s convenient no-pay-out-for-60-days policy (made more maddening by the fact I took the Kindle version down over a month ago). But, technicalities aside, I am just now beginning to comprehend how absolutely, well, awesome it is that I get to write for a “living.”

Let’s be honest– like any of us, even if BSB had never graciously agreed to put Searching for Forever in print, I’d still be writing. I’ve been writing since I was able to pick up a pen, when I made up stories about a young girl who got drafted by the NBA (this was before there was such a thing as the WNBA, kids… don’t be fooled by this baby face), and I’d continue to write even if I was the only one who ever read it. Of course, I’d never be the only one who ever read it, because like any writer, I’m a raging narcacist when it comes to my work. I’m reminded of the Family Guy episode where they make a reference about the people who take their laptops to Starbucks because “you’re only a real writer if people see you write.” Okay, so I do that sometimes– mostly because it gets boring at home when my girl is at work and I’m working the graveyard shift at the hospital– but mostly, my narcasism only goes as far as sending every piece of dribble I get down in Word to my Mom. My good old Mom… who recently told me I “write better than John Grisham.” Have I mentioned she’s ridiculously bias? Always has been. Like most moms, itching with that proud-mom-ness, I have to take what she says she with a grain of salt. Maybe even an entire shaker of salt. But she is an English teacher. And a damn good editor, too. Not to mention really well read. It has to count for something. Even if she does toot my horn. But I digress…

The greatest job on earth… Yeah, this would be it. I’ve decided my dream is to be able to someday make enough money at this to work part time as a PA, and stay home with my future children and write with the rest of my time. It’s funny how realistic dreams get when you approach 30… “I want to be a rich and famous author” turns into “I just want to pay my bills without an anxiety attack.” I knew this would be fun. What I didn’t realize was how much work it would be. It was Christmas Day when my editor, the great and talented Shelley Thrasher, sent me my first revised manuscript back at 10pm. What kind of person works on Christmas?! And this is coming from someone who’s spent the last five years in hospitals, working every holiday imaginable! That was when I realized this process was going to be a bitch… So to speak.

I think Shelley and I are up to the third or forth pass-back of Searching for Forever, and that’s not including the forty two thousand times I kept messing up the formatting because I was using a Mac (pro tip– if you want to write a book, GET MICROSOFT WORD. You WILL need track changes. And you will need it NOW. GO. No, really. Don’t be a cheap bastard. Go get it). My feeling (and my hope) is that we’re in the final stages here. But editing is just the beginning. Once the editing is done, the book goes to the typesetter (I actually had to Google what the hell a typesetter did… Green Author Alert). Then, after the typesetter, it goes to print. And that, in and of itself, is going to bring about a whole lot of hoopla with pictures and briefs and cover art and all that stuff that gets people to actually BUY my book… which, really, is kind of why I’m here. Right? It’s easy to forget, especially by the fifth round of staring at your book you’ve been writing for the last four freakin years, that this is going someplace– that someday, in the not too distant future, I’ll be sitting in Woman Craft during Woman’s Week and signing copies of my paperback book that I poured myself into since I was a tiny little twenty five year old with no direction in life.

This is hard. It’s really hard. It’s not just “oh I should write a book” (see previous blog entry), and then sit back and wait for a big, fat check to come to me. It’s meticulous reading and rereading, until you’re so sick of your own story you want to barf (but you love it anyway, sort of like your child when he won’t stop screaming and running around the house). I’ve had some hard jobs. I was an EMT in the back of an ambulance, scraping up people off sidewalks. I worked in an ER where I cleaned up various bodily fluids and stayed on my feet for twelve hours at a time. But this isn’t any easier than that. What it is, though, it fun. I’m having nothing short of the time of my life seeing Searching for Forever morph into this real, actual, living novel. Something that’s polished and rich and might actually give people some enjoyment, or maybe even more than that. So, I’m happy to put the work in, because it doesn’t really feel like work. I write this as a cautionary tale to anyone looking to delve into this world– there is no such thing as “I should write a book.”

That being said, I want to present you all (my fiercely loyal readers I hope to acquire if I post this link on my Twitter/facebook enough) with the official blurb for my soon-to-be-released debut novel, Searching for Forever. Please, leave me some comments. Let me know what you think. Is this something you’d read? (Too late now, so ya’ll better get out and buy it this summer!).

Searching for Forever:

Dr. Natalie Jenner’s life is going exactly according to plan. She has the house, the family, and the perfect job. On paper, she has it all. But when she meets Charlie Thompson, the charming, young Paramedic, that perfect life is shaken inside out. Natalie quickly realizes what she’s feeling for Charlie can’t be explained by anything other than love. Natalie wages a war not only with death in the Emergency Room, but also with herself, as she navigates the consequences of a life with Charlie. The more the two battle to save lives together, the more in love they fall. But will Natalie be brave enough to face losing the security of the life she’s always known? Or will she face losing Charlie instead?

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“I Should Write a Book!”– and Other Great Ideas….

Okay, so writing one book hardly makes me some kind of expert. But, at the advice of my girlfriend’s brother/blogging genius/tech guru, David, I decided it’s probably time to start this process. Hopefully, I’ll come up with something worth reading.

In the months so I’ve been blessed enough to be able to call myself a “(soon-to-be) published writer” (it still sounds kind of ridiculous), there’s one comment I’ve heard over and over again from everyone who’s heard– well, aside from “you’ll never go to PA school now. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, in all seriousness. “I should write a book, too.”

I’ll put my feelings on the issue aside (along with my desparate need to respond with “good idea. Tomorrow I was thinking about becoming a painter”) for the sake of putting up, what I hope, is some helpful advice on the matter. Until my book is actually released, into my hot little hands, in beautifully satisfying paperback, I will go through with you all the process of how I got here. Maybe it will prove interesting. Maybe it will even be helpful for those of you who want to delve into the publishing world yourselves. Or maybe, it’ll just kill some time during commercial breaks while you’re watching Real Housewives (because, let’s be real, we are a generation that can’t stay focused on one thing for more than thirty seconds).

Aside from the ever popular “I should write a book” phenomena, I am often greeted by a lot of confusion, as people, even those closest to me, had no idea I was a “writer.” So, how did I get here, anyway? Considering nearly everyone who knows me in my current life knows I work in cardiology, and am going to gradiate school in August to become a Physician Assistant (not for this blog, but if you don’t know what it is, you should really Google it… It’s kind of a neat career and odds are, your primary care doc is, or will be one). I remember being in, like, second grade, or something lame like that, and sitting up against the wall of the school during recess writing a story with one of my friends while the other kids played. That was what I loved to do. I loved creating characters. I loved playing with words until I could come up with the perfect sentence that would give me chills everytime I read it. And, best of all, I loved bringing it to my Mom, and watching how proud she was when she’d see my work.

In college, I majored in English Teaching. It was safe, relatively managable, and I had a talent for writing. Seems logical, right? My school offered a fantastic “Writing Fiction” course, taught by one of the best professors I’ve ever had– and definitely the one who had the biggest impact on my writing. Back then, my idea of writing “fiction” was to take something that happened to me, and change the names of the characters (come on, we’ve all been there). On a side note, the other downside to that kind of writing is that everyone who is familiar with your work will forever ask you “so this character is you, right?” No, Mom. Just because Charlie has short hair and is charming and works in healthcare, and doesn’t look half bad in scrubs, doesn’t mean she’s ME. GEESH!!!

Anyway, over time, this professor got me outside of my comfort zone. I began writing short stories using my dreams, my fears, my imagination… not just my direct experiences. I took that class three times (not because I failed, you jerks… because, for whatever reason, the school allowed it).

Writing was always a hobby. It was something I was sort of okay at, and really enjoyed doing. Admitedly, once I started working full time in health care, that hobby took a backseat to blood and guts and hospital time. That was, until I was working in the Emergency Room one night, several years ago. I’m no going to name names (mostly for the sake of saving my own face) but one night, while I was working, the idea for Searchng for Forever popped into my head… And it went a little something like this– “young paramedic has affair with sexy, older doctor…That’d be hot. I should write that story.”

I don’t want to get TOO personal here, but I did write that story. I wrote it for fun, and I wrote it as am appropriate, safe way to escape my unhappy relationship. Whenever I wrote, I became Charlie Thompson. And I became Natalie Jenner. I was no longer a married 25 year old EMT trudging through class after class in hopes of someday making it to medical school. I was older, and wiser. I had a dream job, and a dream partner. Who doesn’t want all of that? When I started Searching for Forever (which was aptly named my my publishers), I never set out to write a full length novel. And I certainly never set out to get published. Ha. Published. I knew the odds of ever getting paid to write. I wasn’t crazy to think I ever could!

It took three years to finally finish the book. In between Organic Chem Hell, and applying for PA school, I’d tweak it a little. And then, about a month after I found out I was accepted to Notheastern University’s top ranked grad program, I figured, “my lucks been pretty outstanding lately, why not?” and I stuck this bad boy in Amazon for Kindle as an ebook. For those of you who really do want to “write a book” you can actually self-publish for free on Amazon, and they’ll pay you a good chunk of the sales. This is a good way to do it. But nothing beats a real publisher, getting out there, handing people hard copies of your manuscript that YOU wrote… With YOUR name on it. On a whim, I sent it in to Bold Strokes Books– one of the biggest, and best publishers out there for LGBT literature. I was a HUGE fan, ever since I started reading basically everything ever written by their fearless leader Radclyff. If you haven’t yet, go buy her books. All of them. She’s an amazing story telle. And nobody does lesbian romance quite like Radclyff. Needless to say, she inspired me. She writes a lot of medical based lesbian stories (she’s also a retired surgeon), an obviously, I connected with those the most.

To my surprise, a week after I submitted my manuscript to Bold Strokes, they wanted it. I was shocked. No, shocked doesn’t even cover it. To set the scene a little, I was wandering around the Dollar Store, picking up stuff for my girlfriend’s stocking, when I got the email. “We’ve reviewed your manuscript Getting There (that’s the terrible, working title I’d thrown in there after not being able to come up with one for three years) and want to offer you… blah blah blah.” My heart was racing, my palms were sweating… well, you know all those sayings. I called my girlfriend, who just about fell out of her chair as well. And, of course, I called my mom– my biggest fan, since birth. She was beside herself– that kind of mom-pride where you know they’re about to run out on the street and tell complete strangers how awesome their kid is, and you just thank God she’s like, ten states away.

Accepted to PA school. Getting my book published by Bold Strokes Books. Is this real life?

I’m still not totally sure, guys. But I’ll keep writing on here in hopes of figuring that out.

*Next up… the editing process…and other annoying computer issues.

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Welcome to Emily Smith Books

Bold Strokes Books Author 

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Emily Smith works in healthcare by day, and writes romance by night. After years of working as an EMT, Emily is currently in school to become a Physician Assistant. She lives in the great city of Boston with her partner and their cat, Cecilia.

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