When you write a novel, particularly fiction, you become so invested in your characters. They are your creation. They become like your children. You just want the best for them, and you want people to fall in love with them. I chose to continue the story of Ryan and Larkin because I felt like I owed it to Ryan. I don’t feel that after reading Larkin’s letters, he was done grieving. I feel that finishing her screenplay was just the beginning of his healing process. Ryan needs to continue to grieve in order to reach the final stage of healing. How is he going to grieve? Well, he will grieve through writing letters back to Larkin. And as he writes these letters, they will take him on a journey he never expected. And as I continue to write the story, it is definitely taking me on a journey that I never expected!
Most of you know that I am trying to complete my second novel, Ryan’s Letters (the sequel to Larkin’s Letters), but it has been difficult to get myself into a steady groove. I feel like I am in a “sophomore slump”. I can most certainly blame it’s slow process to lack of time. Working full-time and being a mother to a toddler do not give me many opportunities to be able to sit down for a couple of hours at a time to write. I have myself a new laptop so now I can sit in bed at night after my son goes to bed which should definitely help expedite this process.
The other reason I feel that I am in this slump is that of fear. Fear that it won’t be as good as the first. I have received so many positive reviews of Larkin’s Letters, so I feel that the second one needs to be better. I am afraid that I will let the people who are looking forward to it’s sequel down. I second guess every little thing that I write and think to myself that I can do better. But then I think about how I felt when I was writing the first one: thinking that I would NEVER get published. Thinking it’s not good enough. And asking myself who would like this? I could go on and on. And then I remember that it was good enough to be published, so why can’t this one be?
I have a finally found a new burst of motivation to finish (a shiny new laptop certainly helps!), and I wanted to give those of you who have read, supported, and enjoyed Larkin’s Letters an excerpt from Ryan’s Letters. It’s not a big excerpt, but hopefully it is one that you will enjoy. I have had a couple of people tell me that they are very interested to see how I am going to write a sequel, and I am very excited to see the response I get when it is finished. I intend to write another blog entry in the next couple of days explaining why I felt it necessary to continue this story. Until then, here is that brief excerpt I promised.
Dear Blue Eyes,
In your letters, you wrote to me that time heals what reason cannot. There was and there never will be a reason as to why you were taken from me. A reason as to why your life was ended so short. I wish you could have told me how much time. Because I feel like there will never be enough time for me to completely heal.
I still look for you. I long to see your blue eyes among the stars as they decorate the night sky. I long to see your smile among the waves as they crash against the grains of sand at my feet. I long to hear your voice, my lullaby, among the crackling of the flames that burn from the bonfire as I sit here writing to you.
It has been eight months since you have been taken from me, and I haven’t written to you since I wrote to you after I finished reading your letters. But something happened to me today, and I don’t know how else to deal with it except to write to you. I took the boat out on the back bays to fish early this morning where nobody else was around, and all I could think about was dying. About all the different ways someone can die. For me, I think drowning would be one of the worst ways to die — gasping for air as your lungs slowly fill with water, your body being pulled under by the unforgiving rip currents. Even so, it’s how I would want to go. I grew up surrounded by the ocean. Most of my childhood was spent in the water. I am at peace on the water. I spread your ashes over the water. It’s where you are, so it’s where I want to be.
As I was waiting for the fish to bite, I saw your reflection on the water. I couldn’t help but feel that you were calling for me. That something was wrong and you needed me. I couldn’t help but jump into the water; into your reflection. I felt the rip current pull me down, and you know that I know how to swim against the rip currents. But I didn’t try. I just let the current take me. Take me into your reflection. But then I saw you. I felt you. I don’t know why I keep thinking that you still need me. I saw you that night on the beach, the night I spread your ashes. You were happy. You were safe. You were healthy. I know that you do not need me anymore. I thought I was trying to save you. But I now realize, that all along, you were trying to save ME.
My dearest Larkin.
So, it’s been quite awhile since I have posted on here. There have been a lot of exciting things going on with Larkin’s Letters as well as my personal life. As many of you know, Larkin’s Letters was published and released this past June via Tate Publishing and I am also a new Mom (Ryan is now 8 months old!). I have been meaning to post more often on here but the only time I have to write is when Ryan naps. And that time is precious to me and I have been using it to write my second novel. It is definitely taking me a lot longer to write this one, but I promise I will get there.
The second novel is actually a sequel to Larkin’s Letters, and it is entitled Ryan’s Letters. To those of you who have read Larkin’s Letters, you are probably wondering how is this possible? Well, just you wait!! I am definitely a lot more excited about this one! It is a little different in that Larkin’s Letters tells a story through flashbacks, whereas Ryan’s Letters will tell a story in the present. As the author and creator of this story, I have become so invested in my characters and I absolutely have fallen in love with them. I really felt like Ryan’s story wasn’t quite over yet and he needs a little help from someone special to get to his ending. Be on the lookout for excerpts!
The main reason for this post is that I have been so humbled by all of the positive feedback I have been getting on Larkin’s Letters. I never knew if I had the potential to be a good writer or storyteller but every time I get a five-star review, it is just so humbling. I had one book blogger review the book and she sent me an email about how much she loved it and how it will stay in her heart forever. This was the best email I have received and it is really amazing to be able to touch someone’s heart like that! I just hope I can touch many, many more.
Ryan reached for his left ring finger, but nothing was there. He always played with his wedding band, but he wasn’t used to the fact that it was no longer there. It was a cold, rainy night in New Orleans in early March 2011, and he was sitting on the balcony of his rented condo watching the rain and listening to the thunder as the lightning lit up the night sky. It was 2:00 a.m., and he was tired. He just finished filming for the day, and he had to get up early for another long day of filming. But he couldn’t sleep. Ever since the divorce, he had many sleepless nights. It had been six months, but he still wasn’t quite over it yet. He never thought that he would be here at this point of his life: divorced at thirty-four. He never thought that his marriage would have only lasted for two years. He was not the ladies’ man that the media made him out to be. He was a good man. He loved her and he tried to make it work. She was the one who didn’t try. But he didn’t care what everyone else thought. He knew the truth about himself and so did his family and closest friends.
The wind was picking up speed, and the rain was starting to blow sideways. As the puddles started to form on the balcony floor, Ryan made his way inside, slipped off his saturated flip flops, and turned on the television. Even though he was a professional actor, he never seemed to be too interested in watching TV. But he needed to find a way to get some sleep, and he thought maybe the TV, coupled with the sound of the rain thumping against the window, was enough to serenade him to sleep. But not this time. After tossing and turning for almost half an hour, he surrendered to his insomnia, reached for his phone, and made a call to the one person who knew him best, the one person who was always there for him. It was late, but he knew she would answer. She always did.
“Ryan? What’s wrong?” she answered. The sound of her voice was so comforting, so pleasing, he couldn’t help but smile.
“Hey, sweetie, I am so sorry it’s late.” He really was sorry that he woke her, but not sorry to hear her voice.
“No problem. Let me guess. You can’t sleep?” It was amazing how well she knew him, he thought.
“No,” he said with desperation in his voice.
“All right, hold on, okay?”
“Sure.” He knew what he was holding on for.
Larkin James was Ryan’s best friend since childhood. They grew up next door to each other, and they had been there for each other for everything, big or little. She was the one person he went to for anything because he knew she would always be there. She was the only one who encouraged him to follow his dream of being an actor when everyone else didn’t, including his family. She made it to every single one of his movie premieres, and she was there at his wedding. She never missed anything that meant something to him. And she never missed one late-night phone call when he couldn’t sleep.
“All right, you still there, Ryan?” she finally said after about three minutes of putting him on hold, but he didn’t mind.
“Of course, I am still here.” He would’ve held for her all night.
“Okay, I’ll pick up where I left off last time, or where at least I think I left off before you fell asleep.”
Larkin began to read to Ryan. She was reading to him a novel that she was writing called Jillian’s Touch. He was the only one that she would let listen to or read the manuscript, or at least that was what she had told him. In fact, she told him that he was the only one who knew she was writing a book, well, except for her husband. And he was happy to listen. Like she always encouraged him to follow his dream, he reciprocated. But he didn’t only listen because he was her friend, he actually enjoyed the story she was reading to him. He thought it was amazing, and he couldn’t wait for her to finish it so she could hopefully get it published. Larkin wasn’t always the most optimistic person in the world, and she, of course, didn’t think it was that good. But he insisted to her that it was.
“Is that why you fall asleep? Because it’s so good?” she would ask him sarcastically.
“Of course not, Larkin. You know that. I wouldn’t keep calling to hear it if it was bad, would I?” He would try to reassure her. And it was the truth. But most importantly, he would call because Larkin reading the book to him was like her singing him a lullaby.
Jillian led Nathan to the room that would change everything. She was shaking because she wasn’t quite sure how he would react. But she knew she was doing the right thing. At least she hoped she was. As they turned the corner and entered the room, she felt him let go of her hand. She looked at his face and where there used to be a look of love and happiness was now a look of horror and desperation.
The familiarity of her voice always brought him back to his childhood where the two of them were inseparable. They shared some great times growing up, but their career choices—well, mainly his career choice—would eventually break that inseparability, but no matter what, they were still the best of friends.
The screaming of the alarm clock violently awoke Ryan, and as he battled through the cloudiness that the sleep had left in his mind, that was the last thing he remembered hearing last night before dozing off. He knew Larkin would help him fall asleep. It’s almost as if he was looking forward to another sleepless night so he could call her and listen to more of her story.
He thought that she was a great writer. He always felt bad falling asleep while she read to him, but he knew she understood and she was always willing to help him. So like every other morning after she read to him the night before, he sent her a text message thanking her.
Hey, blue eyes. Thanks for last night. As always, you’re my favorite lullaby. Can’t wait to hear what happens in the room where Jillian took Nathan. Talk to you soon. Love, Fish
Ryan Boone sat on top of the lightning-white sand dune underneath the darkening sky as the sun was starting to set over the New Jersey shoreline. This was the first time he came to this spot since…since…well, he still couldn’t believe what had happened. It was late March 2013, and there was a crisp, chilly breeze in the air. He should have brought a sweatshirt with him, he thought to himself. Wearing only khaki shorts, flip-flops, and a gray Harley Davidson T-shirt adorning his 6’2″ muscular frame, he was still used to those warm and sunny California springs. The storm clouds were getting closer and closer. It’s going to be a big one, he thought.
There were about a half-dozen shrieking seagulls circling overhead, but there was something refreshing about the sounds of their screams. It was a familiar sound, one that he had grown accustomed to over the past year living here. Ryan threw out some pieces of bread for his old friends. “Sorry, I haven’t been here in a while,” he said.
He looked out into the surrounding unsettled Great Egg Harbor Bay and noticed it was empty. All the boats had docked due to the impending storm. But it was fitting. He didn’t really want anyone around right now. All he wanted was just him and these letters he held in his pocket. As he grasped the envelope and pulled it out, he felt his hands shaking. Why was it so hard? Why couldn’t he just open it? For the past year, he had been as strong of a man as any man could possibly be. But now, this envelope, this piece of paper, was breaking him down.
He stared at the sealed envelope for a moment before placing it back in his pocket. He noticed the corners had slightly folded over and the blue ink that read “Ryan” on the front had faded a little bit. It had been two months since he got the letters, and it looked like they had been through a war, just like he had been for the past year and a half. They had been constantly in and out of his pocket every day with his every intention of opening them, but he had yet to. Every time he looked at them, he felt sick to his stomach. He began to think about how he got to this place in his life. The last two years had been the best years of his thirty-six-year-old life, but now he was in the darkest place he could ever imagine. He was in hell, he thought, and he couldn’t imagine that a heaven even existed.
He slowly pulled the envelope out again and brought it to his nose, desperately trying to capture any familiar scent from it that would take him back to the happy times. The times when he had never felt so alive. As he brought it down from his face, he started to weep. This was the only thing he had left to hold on to, and he needed to somehow find the courage to open it. He thought about how strong she had been to write these letters, and he felt that he owed it to her to be strong enough to read them.
Ryan gathered himself together as the storm clouds drew closer. The sky was darkening, and the hungry seagulls continued to circle overhead. He threw the last of the bread to them. “Sorry, guys, it’s all I have left.” The wind was starting to pick up, and it was biting at his face. The sand was circling around him with each gust. He needed a way to read these letters before the storm came in.
Ryan wiped his tears away from his misty eyes and slowly slid his finger underneath the sealed flap. He pulled the first letter out and took a deep breath as he began to unfold it. He glanced at the top of the page.
To my beautiful-faced boy.
As he read that first line, he began to weep again. After folding the letter back up, he shoved it back into his pocket. He didn’t understand how she expected him to do this. He wasn’t strong enough. Not yet. But he knew he needed to be. Just like she was.
As the storm clouds drew closer, lightning was flashing in the distance. Ryan closed his eyes and remembered the times they would dance in the rain. She would twirl her body around, looking up toward the angry sky with her hands in the air. She would drag him to their private beach, and they would dance chest to chest as the wet sand would bond to their bare feet. It was as if they were in their own little world and nothing else mattered.
The distant thunder startled Ryan out of his memory, and he suddenly remembered why he was there. Larkin’s letters. His hands trembling, he pulled out the letter again and began his journey. He didn’t know where this journey was going to take him, and he could only hope that these letters would take him to somewhere better than where he was now.
Some of you may be wondering who or what “Jax Jillian” is. Well, I have thought long and hard about whether or not I want to write under a pen name. In fact I still contemplate it. It has nothing to do with not liking my given name, or married name for that matter, but more to do with privacy and marketing. I have done hours of research on pen names and although it was much more popular in the past, especially with female authors using male “pen names” because unfortunately, back in the day not many people purchased books written by women, you will still find some present-day authors using a pen name. J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter series), V.C. Andrews (Flowers In The Attic), Nora Roberts, a bestselling author of romance novels has written under the pen name of J.D. Robb for her In Death series and has also written under the name of Jill March, and even Stephen King has written under a different name when writing outside of his typical genre. But for me, it is more to do with ease and recognition of a name as well as privacy.
Although my first name is quite easy to spell and pronounce, the same can’t be said for my last name. I don’t know how many times I see it misspelled, even on important documents, or how many times I have had to correct people on how to pronounce it. If I am lucky enough to be successful in this industry, I need a name that people will remember. More importantly, I have decided to go with a pen name for privacy reasons, not just for me, but for my family as well.
Even though who I am does not change when I sit down and start typing feverishly on my keyboard, I consider my “writing-life” to be separate from my “real-life”. After all, how many of you who know me really well ever knew I wanted to write? Probably none of you. It has not been something that I have shared. I have kept it separate, more so because I never even knew if I could be a successful writer. I was…or…I am…afraid of failure. And as I, Jill Landgrebe, struggle with these fears, my inner “Jax Jillian” extinguishes those fears and allows me to be brave.
Who knows, I may end up changing the name if forced to by my publisher. Publishers know best and if they think another name may be more successful, then so be it. Stay tuned!
Well it is finally happening. After 11 months of working on Larkin’s Letters (including writing, rewriting, and searching for someone who was insterested in working with me and the book), it is about to enter phase one of the production process! Copyediting will begin in September and it takes approximately one month for this phase. Fortunately for me, I don’t really have to do anything in this phase. My publishing company, Tate Publishing, assigns me a copyeditor who will be catching and fixing any typos, misspellings, grammatical issues, formatting issues, and other errors. Once this phase ends, I will then move into developmental editing which takes approximately 2-3 months. It is then when I will have to potentially make some significant changes to the story.
I am very excited to start this journey. I never imagined that when I sat down in front of my computer last May and typed my very first word that I would actually have the potential to become a published author! I know that this production experience is not only going to humble me, but it is also going to make me a better writer!
Marketing a book doesn’t begin after it is printed. It begins as soon as you finish it! I have just created an author page on facebook, and although it is still under construction, please feel free to head on over and “like” the page (“Jax Jillian”). Even though Larkin’s Letters may not fall into the genre that you specifically like to read, it may interest someone else that you know and I am a firm believer that word of mouth is the best form of marketing.
I have been away from blogging for quite some time but it is only because I have been busy writing. To update you on my progress, I have finished Larkin’s Letters and have started a new project. One that is a little more challenging for me to write. It is a paranormal romance trilogy and I really have to dig deep to find my creativity for this one. But right now, I don’t want to talk about the new project. Not yet. I want to talk about my old one. All I will say it is that it does not involve vampires and werewolves. Way too many of those on the shelves.
After three months of querying literary agents and publishing companies, I finally just signed a contract with Tate Publishing Enterprises based out of Oklahoma City to begin publication of Larkin’s Letters. It is a very long process that involves editing, revisions, more editing, more revisions, cover design, cover design revisions, layout design, layout design revisions, and so on and so forth. It can take up to a year for the entire process. Unfortunately, I work full-time, as do most debut novelists, so I am not able to give all of my attention to it. But needless to say, I am VERY excited to begin a new journey in my life. Chances are, I won’t be the next author on the NY Times best sellers list, but if my work can touch even just a thousand people across the world then I will be happy.
I am extremely excited to be working with a professional editor who I am confident will help me to make Larkin’s Letters the best it can possibly be. Being a debut novelist, I am certainly by no means the perfect writer. In fact, I don’t even consider myself a writer. Not yet. Maybe when I get to hold the finished product in my hands I will consider calling myself that. But then again, I may not even call myself a writer until I write more than one novel. Who knows? I do know that getting to work with an editor will most certainly make me a better writer and if that is the only thing that I get out of this — being a better writer — then I will have succeeded.
Marketing and publicity plays a huge part in a novel being successful. You can be a great writer but if you can’t properly market your book, than no one will ever get to see how great of a writer you are. One reason I chose Tate Publishing is because they provide me with a full-time publicist that will help me market the novel once it is ready for release. That is unheard of with almost all publishing companies, especially the big ones. I am fully confident that Tate is providing me with the best opportunity to be a successful debut novelist. I am a firm believer that word of mouth is the number one seller of books, and I have just recently created a twitter account (@jaxjillian) so if you would like to follow me, feel free. Again, it is a long process and my novel won’t be out there for some time now, but a pre-established strong twitter following certainly won’t hurt when it is ready to be released.
I will definitely be blogging more as I journey through the publication process and hopefully you will find it interesting enough to come along with me on my journey.