For those new to my blog, the Hands that Mold series of posts is about the people in my life that have helped shape me into the writer I am today.
This post is about Manda.
I met Manda when I was in graduate school. I was working on an MA in English at the time. Her husband was in my program, and started the semester after me. We met on Halloween at the English Grad Student gathering to celebrate the holiday by dressing up and going bar hopping.
I don’t usually drink, especially out in public, because I can get really flirty and don’t much care who I’m flirting with, which isn’t necessarily the safest situation in the world. So before we left for the bars, I warned Manda and her husband that I might end up flirting with Manda that night, because I flirted when I drank, and I tended to flirt with girls because it was safer for me, especially if they were girls in the group I was with.
I made quite the first impression, huh?
Thankfully it wasn’t a bad first impression to Manda and her husband, so they still wanted to be friends with me. I ended up hanging out with them a lot both on and off campus. They were my best friends while I was at school.
I was the first of us to graduate, but I was still living close enough to come visit them for a few days when work schedules allowed. That was when Manda recommended a book series to me, a paranormal mystery series that I fell in love with. It wasn’t long before I’d made it through all seventeen available books, and several more in another paranormal series by the same author.
Then Manda got me into reading fan-fiction based around the series.
Let me take a moment to say a little something about my stance on fan-fic before I finish telling you about Manda. I believe that fan-fic can be a great way for writers to learn the craft and practice and play with new techniques without having to go through all the stress of world building and character creation. That said, it is never okay to take someone else’s work and use it to make money without their express permission. Fan-fic is about fun, and being a fan, and getting to continue enjoying the characters you love while you’re waiting for the next official book to be released. With all that said, I’m not going to say what the series is or where to find the fan-fic site, because that writing is just for fun, and doesn’t need to be here on my own personal author blog.
So Manda got me reading fan-fic, and she was writing it, and I was beta reading for her. And then she suggested I write my own. And the rest is history to a certain extent. I started writing. I was playing in the world of the series with an original character that came to town and all the hijinks that followed. That first story totaled more than 200,000 words.
And I went on to write more. A whole series of stories in fact. More than a dozen to date. I still return to those stories from time to time to try out something new, like first person present tense, or second person POV, or writing a complete story in 100 words or less. It’s a world I love to play in just for fun and it’s something I’ll always share with Manda.
So we had this world we shared, and a community of writers in it that have become friends, several of whom I still correspond with regularly, and a few of whom you might see posts about in the future.
Manda and I were having fun, and I wrote a new character with the same powers as the main character in my series to work into a story she was writing, and we worked together to get the scenes written out, and I wrote the backstory into a story all its own. It was some of the most fun I’d had in years.
That’s when October rolled around. Manda had heard about this crazy thing called National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for those in the know. She was going to try it, so I tried it with her. I was living two hours away at the time, working 20-30 hours a week at an ice cream shop and trying to find a real job. (English degrees just aren’t very marketable in some areas if you don’t want to teach English for a living…)
I didn’t get plugged into the NaNoWriMo community that first year, I just kept up with Manda and a few others from our fan-fic site who were also doing the challenge. I spent hours sitting at my crappy little desk typing away. I was having a blast, even though I started my story over twice and was never really happy with it. I wrote more than 112,000 words that first November, and I was hooked.
NaNoWriMo and all the people I’ve met because of it have had a huge impact on me, my writing, my writing goals, and my publishing decisions. I never would have learned about the challenge or met any of the other amazing WriMos out there if it hadn’t been for Manda. NaNo and WriMos are their own post, because I’ve learned a lot about myself and my writing each November.
Manda has continued to support me through the years. She read some very early drafts of chapters from Strong Fort Spathí. She continued to pester me about how the book was coming and when I was going to publish even when she moved half way across the country. She was still there for me when I did release Strong Fort Spathí and then single handedly sold five copies of the eBook in a matter of hours. Then she found tons of typos my editor and I had missed so I could get them fixed.
She’s since moved back to the state so I can visit her again when I have a few days’ worth of time, and I know she’ll still be there to support me through the next book and the one after that. She still has plenty of her own work to worry about since she finished her master’s program and is almost done with her Ph.D. but when I really need someone to read something or a quick copy edit, I know she’ll always be there to help, and of course she’s always asking when the next book will be out because she’s one of my biggest fans.
And now for something completely different…or at least from the beginning of the post.
I draw from life for a lot of my scene ideas and situations. My first impression story would make a great ‘meet cute’ with a little tweaking. Not quite positive first impressions can make for great character development, so I love to hear other peoples’ stories.
What kinds of interesting first impressions have you had? Did it turn into a bad impression in the end, or morph into a good one later?
*Title Photo Is a Stock Image, Not my Work