What's It Take to Write a Book?

What It Takes...

I wanted to share with you something different, so I've decided to tell the story of how my next book, Ahab's Daughter: The Werewhale Saga, came to be. The road to publication can be a long and twisted one with many struggles along the way.

Let me take you back to the summer of 2015. My son, daughter and I were in a swimming pool at a campground having a good time splashing around. We were using my mother-in-law's trailer for a few days at the campground and had gone for a swim. My wife had to work, and with the kids fresh out of school for the summer, I took a few days off from my full-time job and we went down to the campground near the New Jersey shore. Late in the day on one afternoon we were swimming in the pool and started goofing around. My son was swimming around us, while I pulled my daughter away from him so that he couldn't "catch" her and we started joking and making odd noises—-as though a creature were attacking us. As we laughed, I said, "Yeah, it's like a werewhale were chasing after us." I made this whale-song moan and then splashed in the water. My kids loved it and we all got a good kick out of the game.

But, as what often happens to me, a creative spark popped in my head and I remember telling my kids: "Hey, that's a cool idea. I should write that down." My son was 11 at the time and my daughter 7. We all laughed about it and pretended that the "werewhale" was out to get us in the pool. I took the werewolf idea and spliced it with a whale, and presto, there you go.

When we came home from our mini vacation, I did write the idea down and came up with some ideas:

  • Have a werewhale chase after a bunch of teenagers in a campground and it's a horror story.
  • The werewhale is like a Sharknado type of story and it attacks a small city.

But these ideas, although interesting, didn't really resonant with me. Something else was bubbling underneath the surface, but I couldn't quite put all the pieces together yet. To help you understand how I use the creative side of my brain, let me share with you a bit about me. You see, I love books and I love reading. I went to college many moons ago as an English/French major and have my Masters in English Literature, so I often think back on the great classics and that's how I connected the werewhale idea with Moby Dick. I took a class on Melville's famous novel back in graduate school and remember what a difficult read it was. The cetology chapters (that contained all the details about whales) were a slog to get through. But still, the obsession of hunting after something—no matter what—stayed with me.

Moby Dick cover

And that's how I took a goofy moment in a pool with my kids and transformed it to an idea for a book. But here's where things get more complicated. I have wanted to partner with my wife on writing a book for more than two decades. In the more than 22 years that we've known each other, we've only written one short story together and I don't believe I have that saved anywhere (if I recall correctly it was a retelling of a part of the Arthurian legend).

Fast forward twenty years and I asked Karen if she'd like to write a book with me.

I shared with her the idea and she agreed. You may not remember, but back in 2016 she wrote a guest blog post on my site entitled 3 Reasons Why Co-writing with My Husband Is Scary and 3 Ways I'm Conquering My Fears. It's a great article!

As to how my brain works, I had a whole plan. We would write the book together, document it via blog posts to share how the process was going (all the good and the bad) and then launch the book to the world. In my head, it was a win-win-win: We'd get to work together, she'd be able to knock out her first book, and we'd be able to share with you the process. I thought it would be fun and a great project to work on.

I love my wife. She has known me for two plus decades and realizes that when I say that I'm going to do something, well, it's going to happen (as long as I am physically/mentally capable). So when I asked her if she wanted to write a book and she said yes, then I took that as a promise. To uphold my part of our bargain, I would do the necessary work. We had planning meetings, but the truth is that my wife wasn't into the project as much as me.

We talked through deadlines, and to make life easier for her, I wrote the first draft and gave it to her. The plan was then for her to take the draft, rip it apart, and give me a second draft. That did not happen. Last summer we were driving up to Connecticut and had a big argument about the book. I've shared that story with you. My wife told me that she didn't want to write the book and that was that. She was hurt, I was hurt and my dream of working together with her just didn't come to be. I'm not writing this to rehash all that. I learned a lot during that time and how it's important for me to just accept that sometimes people are on different paths and timelines. C'est la vie. And that's that.

Since I had written the first draft, I didn't want to jump right into the second draft, so I decided to put the book on ice for a bit. I had wanted to release it last fall, but instead I put out Faith: The Jovian Gate Chronicles. Then I had a decision to make: Would I jump back into writing the werewhale book or move on to something else?

I felt like I still needed a break from the werewhale story, so I wrote the first draft to Redemption: Cinderella's Secret Witch Diaries (book 4) and finished that this past April. My hope is to release that book late this year or early next.

But when I finished the first draft to Redemption, I realized that I now had enough time and could get back to the werewhale idea. It is my continued hope that one day I will write a novel with my wife. Writing with Karen didn't go the way I had hoped, but to be objective for a moment: We have different goals. I want to write books—lots of them. Writing a book isn't a driving force in Karen's life right now.

I came to terms with our differences and moved on. I had a solid first draft of a book and now I needed to shape it into a solid story. Much had changed in my life and in the world since I had last written the first draft, and when I opened up the werewhale story, I fell in love with the idea all over again. What I realized in reading through the opening is that I really wanted to strengthen the main character in the book. I'm proud to say that Ahab's Daughter: The Werewhale Saga has a strong-willed woman protagonist. Morgan doesn't take crap from anyone and I had a lot of fun developing her and making her come to life. It might seem weird to some, but I most naturally like to have my main characters be women in my books. There are many reasons for that:

  • My mom and grandmother are the two most influential role models in having raised me.
  • I admire J.K. Rowling writing Harry Potter. I figured if she can write Harry so well, why couldn't I try my hand at writing women?
  • All my novels have strong women leads: Sophia (Cinderella), Phoebe, Dorothea, Sabrina, and now Morgan. 
  • I'm a big follower of Jungian psychology and believe that my subconscious consists of an ego, persona, self and my anima (feminine side). When I write, I get in touch with that part of me.

A lot of changes went into my rewriting the book and I can't wait for you to see it. Along the way, my daughter knew I was writing werewhale and she wanted to share with me some artwork to help inspire me.

My daughter's interpretation of a werewhale.

My daughter's interpretation of a werewhale.

Her artwork is amazing! I hung up her picture on my whiteboard and made a decision to get back and finish the book. I used to think that I only had one book in me, but so far I've created the following worlds:

  • Cinderella's Secret Witch Diaries
  • The Witch's Coven Series
  • The Jovian Gate Chronicles
  • The Werewhale Saga
  • The Realms Series

When I've let myself be creative, the ideas flow. I wanted to share with you the journey of what it takes to write a book because it's not easy. Creating a book takes a lot of work. I do research, reading, I write, edit, re-write and then need to work with a cover designer, a proofreader, and then I do my own conversions to make the book into .epub and .mobi formats for ebooks. Finally, I then make the print version on Createspace. Once all of that work is done, I then need to market and sell the book.

I think about that for a moment and it makes me smile. I was playing around in a pool with my kids and an idea came to me. I took that idea from two years ago, went on a journey with it and now I'm getting close to sharing the book with the world. That's pretty cool!

My plan is to share with you the cover later this summer (I start that work with a cover designer next month). After I get all the book together and publish it, I'll go back and will need to rewrite Redemption. Is this a lot of work? Yes, it is. Keep in mind that I'm working a full-time day job and my writing time takes place before work and in the morning on the weekends. When I was growing up and wanted to be a writer, I didn't understand what that would really mean. I thought I'd write a book, submit it to a New York publishing house and then I'd simply rake in millions of dollars. Well, that's so far from the truth that I have to laugh at my younger self. The publishing industry has changed as has how readers read. Everything is all so different, but some things also stay the same.

I wanted to take you on a little journey of how I wrote Ahab's Daughter: The Werewhale Saga to share with you how complex of a journey it was. The important thing is that I didn't give up. I stayed the course, took a break when I hit a bump in the road, and then got back to work. And now, here's a short description of the book to give you a better sense on what it's about. Again, it's scheduled to be published late this summer. I'll share the exact date once I know more and have the book back fromproofreader.

Ahab's Daughter: The Werewhale Saga:

Not wanting to be left home after her twin brother heads off to sea, Morgan, daughter to the infamous Captain Ahab, tracks down Ishmael and convinces him to take her on a quest to find and bring back her brother Nathan.

When Morgan and Ishmael are captured by mercenaries far out to sea, they convince their captors to head to the fabled Island of Nightmares where there is rumored to be riches beyond imagination. But Morgan knows that it's also where she will most likely find her brother and can then escape and bring him home.

Like all well-made plans, Morgan's hopes are dashed when she arrives on the island. As members of the crew disappear one by one, the true secret behind the island's raw natural power is revealed. Can Morgan and the others escape the island or is there some darker power trapping them there for its own fearsome purpose? Time will tell, but who will be left alive to tell the story...

Thank you and I'm looking forward to sharing more with you about my book.

Live well and I hope you're enjoying your summer!