November Winds Are Calling – Should I Publish My #NaNoWriMo Novels?

November Winds Are Calling – Should I Publish My #NaNoWriMo Novels?

Where I live in the mountains of Panama, the only change of season we see is from rainy to dry. This begins to take place in November. There’s a shift in the wind and the town braces itself for the Fiestas Patrias (Panama’s Independence Days). Strings of small plastic flags crisscross the streets and flap with a smacking sound as if applauding you whenever you drive beneath them. Grey clouds hover above the town as barjareque, (not quite rain, but heavier than mist) falls on the tourists and marching bands, covering them with a sparkling layer of microscopic droplets.

November also signals National Novel Writing Month, which I first participated in 2012. I had been wanting to write a novel my whole life, and the only thing that forced me to get a book started and finished was NaNoWriMo.

I completed my first ever book, surprising myself and triggering an addiction to finishing books ever since. Now when the winds of November change and I hear the echoes of the marching bands practicing for the Independence Day parades, I feel like a horse at the starting gate ready to race to my word count with all the other bucking writers.

I think anyone who’s participated in National Novel Writing Month start to look forward to it as a yearly tradition. It’s something to get excited about, and you are not alone in your enthusiasm and anxiety. You can connect with other writers who are on the same crazy train. NaNoWriMo helps to stop the usual procrastinating and put writing first for a whole month.

Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to participate in the last few years. My job consists of mostly writing now and my creative juices and tolerance for sitting at the computer are wiped out by the time I finish my work for the day. I’m often traveling during this time for the holidays, which makes it difficult to scurry off to some quiet place to write.

I also don’t allow myself to participate because have to stop piling up manuscripts. It’s becoming a problem. I wrote three novels in a mad dash and they are still left rumpled up and tossed aside like piles of dirty laundry on the floor. I have no business writing more Nano novels until I clean these up, right?

But I wonder… just because I wrote them, does that mean they should be published? Is it worth salvaging them? These were my first practice novels, before The Sick Series, when I had no idea what I was doing. Hell, I don’t even know if I should’ve released Sick on the world. I can just leave these drafts in some dark corner of my Dropbox and begin something with my new writing experience. Jack Kerouac’s debut novel was lost until 2011, and thank god it was because it was deemed sophomoric and might have barred him from the literary world.

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Victims of Self-Published Book Covers

Victims of Self-Published Book Covers

Designing graphics is part of my job as a digital marketer. Still, design is not my specialty. I never had any formal training and I feel like I have much to learn. Despite my insecurities, I decided to design the covers for my self-published books.

I had four main reasons for designing my own book covers: first, because I love my stories and want to craft every part of them; second, because it was fun; third, because I felt uncomfortable trusting another person with my vision; and fourth, because designing my own book covers saved me a nice chunk of money. Hiring a professional book cover designer for three ebook covers and three paperback covers would’ve cost hundreds, if not thousands.

The first step for me when I design a new cover is deciding on an overall concept. I usually start by brainstorming some keywords from the theme of the story. Then I go to Dreamstime to find a picture that conveys the statement I want to make. I buy the image with the appropriate rights, download it, and use it as the foundation of the cover design. From there, I put on some music, experiment, and let whim take over.

Here’s a look at my before and afters!

Sick Part I

This book starts in a hospital as Susan Branch watches her husband throw a tantrum in the surgical recovery room. I wanted something that captured the smell of antiseptic and skin and blood. I looked up “stitches” or “sutures” and found this photo.

I confess, I think it’s a picture of a woman’s C-section, but it was so perfect with the staples pulling at the skin, the redness around the punctures, and the seam of the wound cascading into focus.

All I had to do was crop it and add some effects and filters to bring out the details and give it a sickening hue. And Viola! Thanks to this woman who was willing to photograph her scar and let it be sold on the internet.

Sick Part II

Just like the C-section wound – another mystery, why and how does a picture of a bruised man end up being sold on Dreamstime? Does the hospital or do the police sell pictures like these? I don’t know, but I’m glad I found him, and I hope whoever he is, that he is okay now and doesn’t mind that his torso is plastered all over the internet.

I don’t remember how I came across this image. I think I searched up “bruises.” Because my character John Branch shares his gruesome story in a very intimate way, I thought it would be good to be up close and personal with his body for this cover. The nipple hair, the moles, and the bare skin – it’s almost too close for comfort, just like John’s story. Perfect!

As you can see, I chose the color of this book cover based on the background of the original photo. I wouldn’t have normally thought of turquoise in a million years, but in this case, it worked since it invoked that institutional vibe of hospitals.

This man in the photo looked older than my character. He is in decent shape, but a little too flabby and he has lots of skin imperfections. John is supposed to be slightly repulsive, yet strangely alluring. I had to give my cover man the slightest bit of liposuction in the love-handle area and I removed some of his moles (ick, just that word) and blemishes. I also added more bruises and boosted the color to make it more garish. 

 

Sick Part III

For the crowning jewel, I chose this image of a couple entwined in a yin and yang formation. Our first impression in the book series is that John is bad and Susan is good, but later we realize there is a spot of bad and good in each of them.

John and Susan are like Adam and Eve, who by discovering the truth about themselves, must live a new world of darkness and uncertainty. They’ve lost their innocence, and in this cover, they appear to be curling up and hiding their faces in shame.

I added a peeling texture to the skin to signify the disease of pain and denial that had been eating away at them. John’s plague seems to be spreading onto Susan. I used a dark pink hue instead of what would’ve been a more womb-like red so that it didn’t look gory. This is not your typical horror or suspense story, and I didn’t want readers to have the wrong expectation. John and Susan are the doomed lovers inextricably intertwined, floating and lost, gestating until they are either transformed or destroyed.

This book was laborious and frustrating because real life had interrupted its development repeatedly. During the stretches of weeks and months I couldn’t work on it, I used this image as my screensaver to keep the story in my unconscious. My characters looked like they were in utero, and I told myself they were incubating in the womb of my mind. When I did have time to get back to my writing, they’d be ready to be born.

Thanks to these two beautiful people with the perfect skin that I ruined. It took a long time to get this cover right, but now it’s my favorite.

So, there you have my three self-published book cover victims – a woman who’d just given birth by C-section, a poor man who had been assaulted or in a car accident, and two nude, nubile models in a spotless studio. These strangers are now part of SICK. I hope they don’t mind.

 

Did you design your own covers?

If not, what was your experience like working with a professional cover designer?

If so, what’s the story behind your covers?

 

REVIEW THE SICK SERIES

REQUEST REVIEW COPIES
3 Degrees of Self-Mutilation

3 Degrees of Self-Mutilation

Self-mutilation. Think about that word. What first comes to mind?

In The Sick Series, most readers will find John Branch’s self-mutilation horrific and incomprehensible. He is deceitful, manipulative, and selfish, but his compulsions and desires are the spawn of self-hatred, neglect, and lack of love. What do you think we should do with a man like John Branch? Most people would probably say he should be locked up, put on meds, and forced into therapy.

But what is the difference between what John Branch does to his body and what happens under the plastic surgeon’s knife? Women and men who want attention from the opposite (or same) sex, are willing to get sliced and chopped and patched back together. They risk infection and death and deformity. They will stick foreign objects inside their bodies. Think about that. Slicing open your skin, sticking a foreign object inside, and sewing it up.

Swaths of flesh are removed to tuck the tummy. Nipples are cut out and placed elsewhere. Fat is violently vacuumed from asses. We aspire to self-love and self-acceptance and but our behavior show just how fragile our sanity is.

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Why I Dedicated My Book to the Freaks

Why I Dedicated My Book to the Freaks

This book is dedicated to the freaks and misfits, the broken and the scarred,

the ones who live in hiding and the ones who live out loud,

those who are frightened and those who are brave.

Love yourself. Grow freely.

You are beautiful and you are not alone.

Pain. Most of us go through great lengths to avoid it, numb it, or bury it. While writing The Sick Series, I spent hours researching one of the most gruesome and disturbing compulsions known to humankind – to mutilate oneself.

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SICK: The Book Viral Review

SICK: The Book Viral Review

This review originally posted on BookViral.com

A powerful and gritty novella that plumbs the highs of hope and the depths of despair, Sick proves a genuine page-turner with Wojciechowski delivering an extraordinary read. With relentless momentum we are drawn to her narrative as intrigue mounts, feeling sure there is a twist coming but deftly misdirected as events spin further out of control. Mining the darkness of the hidden psyche to show us a glimpse of a reality few will ever experience to leave us deep in thought, it’s an ambitious theme to tackle in a novella but here it works in Wojciechowski’s favour. Her prose are tightly spun and characters are superbly nuanced with dialogue which brings an unrelenting sense of immediacy, telling her story in short staccato bursts that are just enough to bait us and keep us off balance as Susan grapples with the uncertainty of Johns downward spiralling health. Like most issue novels, this is not an easy read, but it becomes increasingly poignant and transcendent as Susan begins to see through the veil of deceit the real John has hidden behind. 

 

Wojciechowski has clearly set out to write a highly compelling story that brings the trauma of Factitious disorder (formerly known as Munchausen Syndrome) into focus and her ability to tell a story that is so dark and full of pain speaks volumes to her talent as a writer. Highly original, it is recommended without reservation.

Thanks to Book Viral for their review of Sick Part I.

RECOMMEND SICK FOR THE CRIMSON QUILL AWARD

 

 

Buy the book.

Buy on Amazon US

Buy on Amazon UK

 

Submit your book for review to Book Viral.

Sick Part I Audiobook in Production

Sick Part I Audiobook in Production

I’ve been getting requests for The SICK Series in audiobook format and I’m thrilled to announce that I have partnered up with Tiffany Marz to bring Part I of the series to life.

Tiffany Marz is a talented and versatile actress, model, and singer. She was the first artist I listened to and I knew she was ‘the one’ right away. She has an amazing range of voices and accents, and her production is mint.

I will be interviewing Tiffany on the blog soon. I know you’ll all be interested in learning more about her.

Also, I will be writing about the process of creating an audiobook for your self-published books. Leave any questions you want me to address in the comments section below.

 

Ready for The SICK Series in audio?

There will be FREE promocodes available.

Click here to be notified when the audiobook is released.

No time to read words?

Absorb fiction, non-fiction, and more with Audible.

Listen in the car, at the gym, or on your dog walk.

Get started with a FREE 30-day trial and 2 free downloads here.

 

 

SICK – The Complete Series Now in Kindle and Paperback

SICK – The Complete Series Now in Kindle and Paperback

Hello dear readers.

I know some of you were waiting for SICK Part III to come out in paperback. Well, it’s here and it’s beautiful! In fact, I reformatted the entire series in a smaller 5 by 8 inch size with updated covers in a silky matte finish that eerily feels like human skin.

Signed copies will be available for purchase on this site at the end of November 2017.

REVIEW THE SICK SERIES

REQUEST REVIEW COPIES
The SICK Part III Pre-order Sale is Live

The SICK Part III Pre-order Sale is Live

I’m not going to tell you the plot of SICK III, but I will tell you that this book is much more than a story about a very sick man. It’s about facing your demons and getting to know them. It’s about accepting your most depraved thoughts and urges. It’s about being courageous enough to live with yourself despite them. It’s about loving someone even if the world would condemn you.

Above all, it’s about living in the truth, no matter how frightening it is.

Get SICK Part III for 1/2 price

when you pre-order

till release day on 4/17

SICK Part III Release News (plus Cover Reveal!)

SICK Part III Release News (plus Cover Reveal!)

It’s official! Yesterday, after a grueling eight straight hours of revisions, I delivered SICK Part III to my courageous editor, Candace Johnson. This book put me through a painful labor. I began writing it almost one year ago. It think it was more difficult than the first two parts of the series for several reasons.

  1. I wanted to create an epic ending for my readers.
  2. I wanted to create an epic ending for myself.
  3. I wanted to give my characters the finale they deserved.
  4. I wanted the story to have depth and meaning.
  5. Life got in the way of writing.

I plan to put SICK Part III on preorder for 1/2 price by the end of the week.

The official release date will be in the middle of April 2017.

Join my author mailing list
to be notified as soon as it’s available for the preorder discount.
CLICK HERE.

Thanks to everyone for being so supportive and patient. I don’t think SICK fans will be disappointed!

I’ve left you a little draft of the cover to get you in the mood. I’d love to know what you think of it.

SICK Part III Release

†3 DARK – Author Spotlight: Christa Wojciechowski & Mental Illness in Horror Fiction

†3 DARK – Author Spotlight: Christa Wojciechowski & Mental Illness in Horror Fiction

Hello all! I’m ecstatic to have been signed on by the †3 DARK Project. I know it’s still a mystery to most of you. I will post all the details very soon. In the meantime, follow †3 DARK on Facebook and Twitter.

There is nothing more validating for a writer than to be recognized by another writer whom they greatly admire. Enjoy this spotlight Joseph Sale has written about The Sick Series and grab the first two books – they’re free for a few more hours.


Originally posted by Joseph Sale †3 DARK – Author Spotlight: Christa Wojciechowski & Mental Illness in Horror Fiction

Today we’re going to be beaming the spotlight down on another one of our incredible †3Dark authors: Christa Wojciechowski.

It’s an honour to have Christa involved in the project. I’ve been a fan of her fiction for while, ever since I read the first book of her Sick series of novellas.

SICK PART I med Mental Illness in Horror Fiction

Here’s an extract of a review I wrote for Sick:

‘Sick is a brilliant novella that explores the nature of human dependency and self-deception. The voice of the protagonist, Susan, is crystal clear and never wavers throughout, drawing you completely into her world and her way of thinking. This voice also generates a fantastic sense of dramatic irony, leading to a genuine tension. We want our heroine to realise the truth but her antagonist is convincingly devious. Normally, novels in which there is a truth evident to the reader but not the characters can be frustrating, but Sick manages to remain compelling and true to its characters throughout. Most importantly of all, however, this novella triumphs because it is so psychologically insightful.’

What’s unique about her approach to horror is the genuinely in-depth explorations of mental illness, addiction and relationships. While so many horror authors pander to the stereotypes of mental illness or psychosis as something to be feared and abhorred, Christa is more empathetic, getting to the roots of it, and exploring it in a nuanced way. As such, her characters are frighteningly three-dimensional, to the extent that we feel we can inhabit them.

And that’s where the real horror comes in.

SICK PART II med Mental Illness in Horror Fiction

In two ways, really.

Firstly, we feel empathy for their fear, their uncertainty. We feel we can relate to it at a primal level.

Secondly, and even more powerfully, it challenges the binary perception of mental illness as something some people have and some don’t. We’re all susceptible to moments of aberrant behaviour, irrational thought or delusion, and Sick really made me feel how fragile the self-constructed perception of my well-being was, and how easily I could fall into the addicted trap of her protagonist Susan. Some writers create aesthetically sensational larger-than-life characters, but Christa’s work is much in the vein of Stephen King: the extraordinary – in both the good and bad sense – can be found in the most ordinary, real people.

As a generous offer to followers and supporters of †3Dark Christa has put Sick Part I and Part II for FREE on Amazon today! 

Christa is currently working on a new series The Sculptor of New Hope, partly inspired by the work of Gian Lorenzo Bernini (The Rape of Proserpina). She describes it as: ‘a dark, gothic romance that begins in New England and ends up right here in Panama.’ Bernini’s work happens to include many of my favourite sculptures, capturing the impossible sensuality of flesh in marble. The Rape of Proserpina, harrowing as that title is, is one of the most astonishing pieces of art you’ll ever see.

If you want to find out more about Christa and her work, you can read the incredible interview she did with Storgy magazine. Christa’s †3Dark story will feature in our July slot. I just can’t wait to see what dark wonders she unleashes on us.

Adieu for now

@josephwordsmith

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