Monday, December 22, 2014

Starry Nights for inspiration

As I read different books I see similarities in characters and story lines.  I have said before that music helps inspire me to write my stories or puts me in the right mood when I need to be in a certain frame of mind.  I think that a lot of artists use other people's creations to inspire them.  Is that a downfall?  Some may think so because it may appear there is a lack of independent creativity, but on the other hand, you are taking something that already exists and turning it into something new, something that has your unique twist to it.
When I was in college I took a creative writing-poetry class.  I loved it!  But I have to say, most of the assignments I just used poems that I had already written.  Until the professor said we needed to write a poem based off of a piece of art.  I of course chose to write a poem about one of my favorite paintings, Van Gogh 's Starry Night.  What came out of me was so much more than what I had anticipated.  I think by writing this poem it helped me understand why I connected with this particular piece.  I think that having these works of art to inspire you helps to push you to a level you didn't know existed.  They make you feel things deep down that help you discover who you are.  And being able to express yourself by using them as tools is a compliment to the artist.
Here is the poem (as you know it is very rare for me to share these)

Vincent's Starry Night

I view this painting and I see
a moon, a town, a tree and stars.
I feel the swirling wind on the
back of my neck with the
colors and shades you used;
blues, yellows, black and white.
At first glance I sense:
peace, warmth, tranquility.
You've shown me a
quiet, peaceful, sane
life that doesn't exist
for anyone, especially you.
With each revealing stroke:
blunt, rough, choppy,
I start to understand
what is really being slapped
onto the canvas:
deception, betrayal, hurt and lies.
The way you've conveyed
this night is as crazy as you.
And it is frightening that
I understand the hidden meaning,
because this too is
my town, my moon, my stars, my lies.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

getting inside my head

I am at a part in my book that has been extremely hard for me to write.  I have tried to wrap my head around the pain and suffering of this character but I have been finding it hard to express it in words.  How do you express emotions from events that you know nothing about?
My first attempt was no good.  My second was not much better. My "editor" told me it didn't feel right.  I struggled for days trying to get into the mindset of this person, trying to feel what she might be feeling.  It wasn't until I was having a blah kind of day and just channeled my own demons and was able to get something a bit more real on paper.
After resubmitting the piece I got a more favorable review and I edited it into the book.  Some days writing a story can take everything out of you, but in the end gives you so much.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

How many??

I know, I know, I haven't written a blog in a while!  I'm sorry!!!  But I finally have a moment (and a thought) to write.

So, as you know I was struggling there for a while with writing anything.  My last blog probably wasn't that exciting, because all my other ones were!  But I have been able to push past it and I have hit the 200 mark!!
When I tell people what page I'm on the most common question I get asked is, "How many pages is the book going to be?"  I hate that question, because I don't know if I can answer it.  When I start a story I don't set a goal as to how many pages it will be because I don't really know.  I write until the story is told and not to a certain page.  I mean I hope that the book will end up being at least 250-300 pages, but if the story is done before that than so be it!
I usually know the beginning and the end of my books before I start writing and bits and pieces in between, but to be able to tell you how many pages it will take to get to those points. I have no idea!  The spaces in between are usually where I get stuck, but sometimes they end up being some of the best parts of the story.
Well, since I've been on a roll writing my latest I am off to get some pages done!  I will try to write another blog soon and not wait so long!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Under Pressure

So, I said I was going to try something new to help me out of my slump.  One problem...  I CAN'T write!!!  I haven't written a single thing in over two weeks!!!  I'm forcing myself to write this right now.  Why you ask?  Well that is an excellent question.  I have been asking myself that for the last two weeks.  But I think I might have finally figured it out.

STRESS!

I have been extremely stressed out in all areas of my life.  I was hoping a vacation from work would have helped but it didn't.  It actually made things worse, go figure. Although it was great getting away from the daily bullshit of my full-time job, instead I got to stay home and deal with the daily bullshit of my kids on summer vacation.  Now don't get me wrong, I love my boys, but my God they can drive a person nuts!  I was starting to think they had turned into vampires due to their reluctency of spending any time in the sunlight!
I had planned to get so much writing done on this vacation.  It started out great but then fizzled fast.  Had an emotional meltdown causing me to lack the motivation to do anything and then after a week of not a single word, I began to panic.  I want this new book done before the end of the year.  Setting a mental deadline was putting pressure on me.  Everyday that I wasn't writing something was another day closer to missing that deadline.  But every time I looked at the netbook I just kept walking past it.  I didn't want to sit in front of it and feel like a failure.
Now I'm back at work and the stress has doubled.  I hate this time of year!  The week before the kids go back to school is always extremely stressful for me.  My babysitters become less available, work becomes crazy and my husband (due to our schedules/jobs) becomes a figment of my imagination.
I'm hoping that now that I have figured out what is causing my problem I can start to fix it.  I was thinking I could take up drinking, but that usually never ends well.  So, any ideas to help me destress are welcome.  Any help I can get to get "back to me."
See what I did there?  I crack myself up!

Monday, July 14, 2014

So what did you think?

So, as some of you know, I received my first bad review last month. I read and reread it trying to figure out what some of the comments actually meant.  Now, I understand that not everyone is going to like my stories or my style of writing and I am perfectly fine with that, but when I saw that she placed my title in the category of "books I just couldn't finish," I was dumbfounded.  I thought, "wow, was my story THAT bad to her that she couldn't even get to the end?  What part did she stop at?  What was the breaking point for her?"  I was driving myself kind of crazy.  My husband and friends were telling me not to let it get to me, that I wasn't going to please everyone.  I know that, I was expecting to get bad reviews, but for some reason seeing it placed in that category REALLY bothered me.  Then I thought about some of the books I have read, or tried to read.  For example, Wicked. Now, a lot of people loved that book and ranted about how great it was.  Well, that was one of the books I put into that dreaded category.  I tried and tried to get through that book but I just couldn't do it.  This story that was made into an amazing musical, which I LOVE, was once just a book I couldn't get through.  So, with all of that said, I am no longer thinking about the review in the same way.  I am very glad that she shared her opinion, whether I liked it or not.  I want to hear what people really think of my book.  I want to know what they liked and didn't like.  Without these comments I may not get better at telling my stories.  So, thank you to everyone who has shared their thoughts and comments.  I look forward to hearing more from my readers, both good AND bad!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

No Doubt

While I write my new book I've been doubting whether or not the story is any good.  I've been forgetful and feeling scatter-brained lately and haven't been feeling confident in myself.  I had been reading different things that other authors do as they write so I thought that I would try it.  So the one I thought would be the most beneficial was the suggestion to not proof read the book until you are completely finished.  I thought, gee that might work since I did miss a bunch of grammatical errors in my first book.  I wrote through to Chapter 10 without really rereading much of it.
The result: DISASTER!!!
This process is totally not for me!  For a while I just kept thinking, "I'm not sure if I'm writing what I want or even what I'm supposed to be for my characters."  It was a terrible feeling to have.  I was desperate for an honest critique and handed my pages off to my friend to read.  Then I decided to go and reread everything starting from the beginning.  After reading it and making a few changes my attitude completely changed.  I felt so much better about the story and where it was going.  So much so, that I no longer needed to hear my friends review.  (Although I do love talking it over with her.)
My advice to other writers is: Choose the process that works for you.  No one can tell you how to write your stories but you and your characters.  If the process doesn't feel right then something's wrong. Find out what it is and change it. Never doubt the story that you are writing, for it is the story that you were meant to tell, whether people like it or not!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

You're the Inspiration

I was just recently at a family gathering and was shocked to have someone say that I was an inspiration.  As always, because I am not one to take compliments well, I bashfully smiled and said "thank you."  I was completely floored that someone would think that I was inspirational.  It had to have been one of the most AMAZING compliments of my life!!!
I have never been one to think much of myself and usually don't like to be center of attention (i know some of you may find that hard to believe) so since I've written and published my book, I have had to get over that intimidation fairly quickly.  I really just wanted to tell a story and share it with people, I never thought that what I did would inspire anyone.  I never thought that writing a book would be so... I can't even think of the right word!  I have had people tell me that they were impressed and asked me how I found the time or  how was I able to it.  I guess I just thought that anyone could do it, even a full time mom with a full time retail job, like me.  Even with my awesome compliment I still don't think I'm anything special.  I'm just a girl that had a story to tell and told it.
I do want to thank Tammy again for the incredible compliment.  I love being a part of your family and having you all in my life!  Your words and love mean so much to me.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Buy My Book

Being an independent author seemed to be the best option for me. I am impatient and I don't do well with rejection, so publishing my book through Createspace killed two birds with one stone.  I wouldn't have to wait years for a publisher to agree to publish my book and no one would be able to say no to it if I did it myself.  All I had to do was write the book.  People think writing a book is hard (which it is), but trying to promote and sell one all by yourself is a hell of a lot harder!
I have done the whole social media thing, even tweeting, which I'm still not very good at.  I have started this blog, which has been the most fun out of all of this.  And I have begged friends and family to tell others about my book.   That should sell my books, right?  WRONG!  Now, granted, I have sold about 40 books now, which I am super excited about, but I really was hoping it would have been more.   This is where my impatience comes in.
I know I have to understand that I am a no name writer and this is my first book, and these things take time.  I guess I just want people to read it!
I've been asked about how much money I've made off the book.  Almost nothing, which is ok.  I'm not writing these stories for the money, I'm writing them for people to read.  I want them to be shared with others.  Is it exciting to see money go in to my account when I sell one?  Absolutely!  But to me the most exciting part is knowing that someone is reading one of my stories.
I've read different ways to get people to buy my book, most of them are by bribing the reader with fancy gifts, but that's not how I roll.  I want people to read my book because it looks interesting or because someone they know said it was a great read.  And I want people to write reviews that they mean, and not because I bought their opinions.  
I guess I just need to be patient and wait.  And hope like hell that my book will get into the hands of more people.  And while I wait, I will keep writing my stories and be grateful for every single time someone buys a copy of my book.
P.S. Thank you to everyone who has bought a copy, reviewed it and told a friend about it.  You guys ROCK!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Back To Me

I think I wanted to get a tattoo before I was even at the legal age, but never got one because I have issues with permanent decisions. LOL!  But last year for my birthday I finally did it!  I thought long and hard about what I wanted to have and where.  People have since questioned me about it and some have even teased me, but in the end I couldn't be happier with it.  
The whole process only took me about 20 years!  I was scared to get one because I didn't want to regret my choice in a year or two. If I did a picture or a name or even a symbol, would it be relevant to me in the future?  So I waited.  But last year was the year, the year of me.  I accomplished so many things for myself and I wanted to celebrate it.  So I sat down and drew a few designs, but still wasn't sure, and then it hit me.
Years ago I had written a poem and the last line of it (although the poem is about a different circumstance) just fit my life at that moment, so that was what I decided on.   I knew that having something that I had personally written would be relevant and have meaning forever.  The poem is actually about being strong enough to fight your way back to yourself.  In a way that was what I was doing last year.  Writing this book was a dream of mine that I had put on the back burner so that I could be a wife and mother.  I kind of lost who I was along the way.  You get lost in your roles of life and sometimes forget who you were.
This book is who I am and what I want to be doing.  I love that my kids were able to be part of the experience and see that you can make your dreams come true if you fight hard enough.  
So I will show off my tattoo and be proud of it and of myself.  I proved that I am strong enough to do the things I've dreamed of doing even though they may scare the shit out of me!  And that is why I named my second book Back To Me.  It was the perfect fit for the story.

Here is the poem in it's entirely:

Running
By Amy Heileman Ben-Kiki

I remember running into you
Our eyes met and my heart
Raced furiously from head to toe.
Your bright smile blinded me
from seeing anything
Other than you.

I remember running to you
When you said that you loved me.
These words deafened
Me from reason
And made me sense
What wasn't there.

I remember running with you
On the sun stroked beach.
The world disappeared
With the sensations of your lips.
The warmth that filled me
Took the chill from the air.

I remember running from you
When you raised an open fist.
Your jealous rage had
Thrown me to the ground and
Awoken me from a deep unconscious.

And I remember running back.....
                                            To Me.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Sex sells

When I originally started writing my first book, my intention was not to have detailed sex scenes.  But as I continued to read book after book, I noticed that all of them had sex scenes in them.  I mean romantic relationships and sex go hand in hand so why wouldn't the stories include them?  Yes, I could have written the story of Janie and Jake without the sex scenes, but to be able to share the passion, tenderness, and all the sensations you feel in those moments just adds to the story.  I guess you could say that they are added bonuses.  But isn't that what we all hope to find in a good romance novel?   And I am talking ROMANCE novels, NOT erotica. What's the difference?  Romance novels have a story, a plot, one that can be told without the sex.  Erotica is simply just about the sex.  I was talking to a friend about Cutting Through, and I had mentioned the shower scene.  She didn't remember details about it, but she could tell me details about the love story and characters.  I thought that was awesome, because it made me feel like the story overpowered the sex scenes to the point that you don't really remember them.
Romantic fiction is the largest selling fiction sub-genre, so I guess we know what that means.  Yup, women read more than men, and sex sells!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

What's your name?

I have been asked why I didn't use a pen name. I guess I never really thought to use one.  I wanted people to know that I, Amy Heileman Ben-Kiki wrote a book.  Whether people like it or not, think it's crap or love it, it's my work and I'm proud of it.  I have been called so many other things my entire life, I finally have something that is mine and I wanted MY name on it!
I grew up being the youngest of four.  This meant that 99% of the time I was NOT Amy. I was called all of my sister's names or I was simply so and so's sister.  After that, when I started dating my husband, I then became Jay's girlfriend/wife.  I get it, he holds a higher rank in our jobs and he's a bigger presence than I am, and that's ok, because my husband is amazing and I'm proud to be his wife.
When I had my kids, I then became Chase and Cooper's mom (my favorite name so far.)  At their school where my mother-in-law teaches I am Joyce's daughter-in-law.  I wouldn't give up any of those names, but for once I just wanted to be known as me.
I guess I feel like I have had so many names my whole life, that I really didn't want to add another.  I just simply wanted people to know me by my name.  My REAL name.  Just for a moment, I wanted to be known as Amy Heileman Ben-Kiki!
And now I'll happily go back to being so and so's sister, Jay's wife, Chase and Cooper 's mom, Joyce's daughter-in-law, and so on...

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Cause you gotta have faith!!

The story of Maggie and Drew has become so much more than I originally thought.  The subject of God and faith have taken over the storyline completely.  But as I have stated before, I am not a religious person, so this book is not preaching to the reader.  The characters are all different in their levels of belief.  It all comes down to what you believe in deep down inside.  I think that a lot of people need to believe that there is a higher power to help them accept certain things in there life.  Other choose to believe because it gives them comfort, and some don't believe at all.
I was raised going to church on Sundays with my family, attending Sunday school and confirmation classes, but I have chosen not to believe.  I do however feel that being taught the lessons in the bible has made me a better person.  That is why I send my kids to a religious school.   The lessons they are learning are those of morals and decency, to name a couple.  Because I am not religious, I know this would be the only way my children would learn the same valuable lessons I did when I was growing up.  I mean I do teach my children right from wrong, but to have the fear of judgement instilled in you doesn't hurt.
In a way I am a lot like Drew, but also very similar to Maggie in some ways.  I can't wait to finish it so that my readers can experience the power of faith and believing!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

What's with all the music?

To continue from my last post, regarding the music aspect of my writing.  Most of you know from my profiles that I LOVE music.  And as I said in my last post, songs inspire some of the scenes that are created in my head.  Sometimes I feel like my own words can't truly express the full emotion of what I want to have come across to the reader, so I share the song that brought me to that place.  It's not just the words of the song, but the tone, tempo, melodies of the music.  Imagine watching a movie and there was no soundtrack.  A lot of times it's the music that brings you to the emotions the screenwriters want you to feel.  When I write my books, I am sharing the story of the "movie" that is playing in my mind.  I can describe to you in words the emotions, but I feel like adding the music pushes the reader to the next level of emotion.  Music, in many ways has saved me from the brink of insanity.  It has helped me through some really tough times and helps me remember the good times.  It is a huge part of who I am, so naturally I would have to include it in my writing.  Sometimes I wish that I had an ounce of musical talent so that I could write songs, but I don't. Not at all!!!  So I do what I can to tell you their stories.  I may not be the best writer, but I hope I'm a great storyteller!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Gotta let it flow

People have asked me if I use notebooks to write my thoughts down.  A lot of writers do, but I have to say that I am not one of them.  The reason for this is simple.  Fear.  The times I get stuck the most are the places in between my thoughts.  I know that doesn't make sense.  I will try my best to explain.  My stories come to me in pieces, almost like little movies.  A lot of times it's from listening to a certain song that will inspire a vision, almost like my own personal music video.  So I have all these little movies in my head and need to somehow put them all together to make a story.  If I were to write down each vision as it's own piece then I fear that I won't be able to connect them.  So, I hold them inside my head and tell the story from the start and hope that it will help allow the story to flow out of me better.
I do have to say that there was one time I did write a scene down, and that was again, because of fear.  It had come to me very early in the writing process of Cutting Through.  It was taking me a long time to get to the scene, since it was closer to the end.  I couldn't take having it rattle in my head any longer, so I wrote it down.  I feared that if I didn't get it out and on paper that it would eat me alive.  It was the scene where Janie and Kyle meet up at the bar and the incident in the parking lot.  That was an intense scene for me to write, so I felt if I didn't get it out of me soon, I would go crazy.
Not every one is going to understand how my brain works.  Most of the time I don't.  Some may think that what I just said sounds absolutely nuts, and maybe it is.  But I don't care.  I never asked for my brain to work this way, but I'm glad it does.  I love telling stories, and my hope is that people will enjoy reading them just as much.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

So emotional!

I'm finding that as I write my second book, I am a lot more emotional than I was with the first.  I know it's probably because the storyline is more somber than "Cutting Through" was at the beginning.  I mean I get misty eyed thinking about the prologue, and was wiping tears from my cheeks as I wrote chapter three.  I have thankfully never experienced the type of lose that my characters have faced, so to try to share with you their stories is a challenge.  I'm hoping that having these personal reaction as I write are a sign that I am doing them justice.  I want the reader to feel the pain and heartache that Maggie is going through.  I think it's important that they can connect with her emotionally.  I want my characters to feel like real people, and not just a fictitious cast.  People have said that Janie and Jake were relatable characters, so I'm hoping you'll feel the same way about Maggie and Drew.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Putting it in perspective

If you read my first book, you'll see that I write in the perspective of both the male and female main characters.  I had never read a book like that until just recently when I started reading books like a mad woman last year.  I fell in love with the fact that I knew exactly how both people were feeling and reacting.   As I was writing "Cutting Through" I felt that giving the reader both views from the first person perspective helped them understand the entire relationship between Janie and Jake.  The reader was able to understand them as individuals better and form a connection with both of them.  I think that having both views tells the complete story of their relationship.  I have seen some authors write sequels of a book in a different view, which I guess is a great way to sell more books, but I don't care about that as much as I care about giving the reader a full view into the relationship of the couple.  I am also writing "Back To Me" in the same style.  I hope that my readers enjoy it as much as I do.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

So, as I write my newest book, "Back To Me," I find that the story is taking me to a whole new subject that I was not expecting to dive into. My characters are both challenged with the thought of God and the after life and believing that when you die, you are able to remain in the lives of your loved ones.  This is something that I have battled with myself.  I am not a believer in God, but I have been on the fence about where we go after we die.  I love watching shows like Ghost Hunters and believe that a persons energy can stay behind, but I do not believe that there is a heaven or hell.  My sister once told me that she had received a sign from our grandmother that she was safe and happy in heaven with my grandfather and uncle.  I believe my sister had that experience and I believe that my grandmother was able to give her that sign, but I can't explain how she was able to do that, and that is what really disturbs me.  I am one of those people that likes to have solid evidence.  This book should be a very interesting journey for me.  I can't wait!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Fact or Fiction?

A lot of people have asked me in different ways if "Cutting Through" is actually an autobiography.  The answer is NO.  I will admit that there are a few similarities but the story is completely fiction. These are just a few of the questions I know people are dying to have answered!
Did I write the sex scenes from experience? Well, I have had sex, I have  seen a few movies and read a few books, so I guess I have to say yes to that one.
Is my best friend really that much of a bitch? ABSOLUTELY NOT! I love my best friend to pieces.  She has always been my biggest supporter and has put up with so much of my BS, if anything I am the jerk.
Is my mother that mean? No.  My mother, like every mother, can drive me bonkers, and she doesn't always agree with me but she will always be here for me.
Do I have psychological problems?  Doesn't everyone?
Is my husband Jake? Sometimes I do think my husband is bi-polar, but it hasn't been medically proven. Hahaha. But seriously, no he is not!
I definitely can relate to both Janie and Jake and I'm sure there will be parts of me in Maggie and Drew as well, but my stories are not my own, they are my character's and no one else's.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Let's talk about sex, baby

When I first started letting people read my book, I was really embarrassed about the sex scenes.  But my friend Amelia told me that I needed to treat it as part of my craft.  And she is absolutely right.  I write stories about love and relationships.  Sex is very much a part of that.  I believe that showing how people interact on all levels is very important to showing the dynamics of their relationship.  How someone touches you, kisses you shows a lot about how they feel about you.  What you are willing to allow another person to do to you and how much you trust them is very important.  Being intimate with someone brings you to a vulnerable place, and allows you to move to a new level of your relationship. 
Not everyone is as open to sex and different sexual acts.  I guess that was why I was so shy about it before.  Sex has been taboo for so long.  But we are all human, all needing and wanting to have someone take us to that place of ecstasy.  This is not something we should be ashamed of.  This is something we all do in some way or another.   

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

It's almost midnight, so I decide that this will be a great time to try and write.  I should just go to sleep, but I know I won't be able to, so why not be productive.  I'm about half way through chapter one.  I'm not really sure where I want to stop it.  I need to introduce the male character, but I'm not sure if I want to do that yet.  Decisions, decisions!  I guess I'll just have to start writing and see where it leads.  I love when I think I know where the story is going and then my characters take me in a whole new direction!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

I'm still trying to get through the first chapter.  Why am I finding it so hard to get through this one?  I can picture the scene but for some reason I just can't get it down into words.  This is the part that makes this whole process frustrating and discouraging.  I just need a day where it all just flows.  If I could just have that one day!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

So, the love/hate process begins again.  I have  started chapter one and I'm already back into the old routine.  Pull out the netbook, start typing for a good fifteen minutes and then seem to become so exhausted that I need to lie down.  So now I will stop typing, lie in bed and have the story continue to float around in my head.  Hopefully, I will get more accomplished tomorrow.  I am excited that I finally decided on the main male characters name.  I hope.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The other night, my friend reached out to me to let me know she had bought my new book.  She went on to say that she was only on chapter 4 but didn't want to put it down.  That to me, was one of the greatest compliments ever!  Thank you so much Sarah!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Started to write my second book.  Sometimes the swirling thoughts can get a little overwhelming, when the story of these people you are still discovering are taking over all your thoughts when you are trying to go to sleep.  Seeing flashes of their lives and knowing  that it is up to me to piece them together and to tell everyone their amazing story can make for a lot of sleepless nights.  But let me tell you, I wouldn't give it up for ANYTHING!