A Letter From Julien

Hello Out there,

My name is Julien Hill.  If you’ve read KJ’s book, False Hope, you would know who I am.  KJ wanted me to write a little bit about myself to give you ‘insights’ into my behavior in the book.  Frankly, I think it’s a big waste of time, but she can get a bit whiney and this was the only way I could shut her up. 

Like I said, my name is Julien and before I went working undercover at that sorry excuse for a law office of Upshall’s, I worked on the Vice squad for about five years.  Most of my policing experience comes from dealing with drug dealers and low-lifes, so this new gig was one I wasn’t looking forward to.  I regret the whole thing.  The only light in the entire operation was Ashley.  She’s an angel.  It’s no secret I had a thing for that girl, but she only had eyes for Jamie, or Jax, as you all would know him.  Trust me, that guy has some secrets he wouldn’t like to get out.  But this is about me.

I grew up just outside of Toronto.  I was an only child.  My parents were teachers and are retired, now living in Hamilton.  Linda and Brian were always worried about my tendencies to be alone instead of hanging with a bunch of kids from school, but I just never found my group.  I stayed locked up in my room reading comic books.  They suited me better.  I was never good at sports and the geeks were too brainy for me, so I fell somewhere in the middle.  I got my first good camera in grade 10 and taught myself how to take cool shots and develop them myself.  I started spending a lot of time in my darkroom I had set up in the basement.  Again, Linda and Brian weren’t too pleased with my ‘obsessive’ tendency to take ‘pictures’ and suggested I spend more time with my studies.  This led to a lot of arguments with my parents and I ended up storming out a few times.  I needed to get my own place, I knew that. 

After high school, I really didn’t know what to do with myself.  I knew a guy who had applied to the police department for kicks, so I thought I’d apply.  I wrote on the application I was handy with a camera and they seemed interested by that.  I showed them the portfolio I threw together along with the dark room I had and they sent me to the academy.  I hated that too, but I made it through.  They sent me directly to Vice and I was set up to do surveillance.  Apparently, my eye for detail and awesome photography skills came in handy.  I got great shots that handed guys some hefty sentences in Kingston.  I was feeling useful in that gig.  I got my own place and set up my darkroom off of my bedroom.  And then, they sent me to Organized Crime with the pretty boys like Jamie.  Adrian had strict rules about who I was to ‘associate’ with, so no buddies at Vice for me, anymore.  I hated undercover.  The only thing that suited me was the fact I got to be alone and take some shots.  I guess you know by now, that I had some photos of Ashley and some women.  It wasn’t a pervy thing.  I just appreciate a beautiful form.  Call it art. That’s all I’m going to say about it.  The secret compartment under my desk was supposed to be private.  The fact that Ashley found it and it wasn’t discovered by the guys in OC was more awesome than I could have ever imagined. 

I know I’m dead, now.  You don’t have to pretend that I’m alive and kicking and will be magically reappearing in another of KJ’s books.  I know it ain’t happenin’ but I couldn’t have imagined any better way of dying.  All for Ashley.  Those idiots couldn’t save a raccoon from a tree, let alone a beauty like Ashley.  That’s why I had to dive in.  I had to make sure she got away from the goons charging into the apartment and I thought I had a good shot at getting her away from Jamie and his gang of merry men, but that didn’t work out as well as I had planned.  But, she did good in my opinion. 

She was innocent in all of this.  She wasn’t supposed to be in any of the operation until Jamie got his hooks into her and made her a part of this mess.  It’s his fault she had to run from murderous bastards and his fault she had to move away.  I could see how hurt she was when her friend was killed and I could see he left her in the middle of the whole ordeal.  I didn’t bail on her like Jamie did.  I was behind the scenes watching like always.  And I was there when it counted, in the end.  That’s what’s important.

I don’t know what they did with all of my stuff.  My apartment is empty so I assume Linda and Brian cleaned it up.  I know Ashley asked that my pictures be taken away.  I only hope she has a few to remember me by.   Her savior.  Her hero.  I loved her the most.  You can tell her I said that.

Always,

Julien

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Writing a Sequel

The undertaking of writing the second instalment of False Hope is beginning to make me nervous.  I remember how time consuming and all-encompassing it was writing the first book and I’m beginning to feel bogged down.   I have one chapter completed with work starting on the second.  The struggle of carving out time to write characters and scenes and implement accents and plot points is difficult when summer weather decides to make an appearance.  The sun shines and I want to be outside, not locked in a room in the basement writing the next big adventure.  The rarity of sunshine makes it all the more important for me to head outside while it lasts.  Autumn is packing its bags getting ready to move in and wave summer off into the grand abyss where the seasons-that-barely-happened go to die.   Before I know it, I’ll be welcoming students back for another year, scheduling tests and skipping lunches in favour of one more hour for testing.   I’m fearful my penchant to procrastinate will overtake me and I’ll finish Book Two around the same time any grandchildren I’ve been promised have graduated high school.  

I’m ever-aware of my tendency to simply give-up or to throw my hands up in the air and proclaim it all a bit too much before I’ve even given it my best shot. I managed to stay focused and finish the first round and I’m hoping my determination will see me through to the next.  I have big plans for Claire and Jimmy in Book Two and I’m hoping it will all come to fruition.  They may even run into some old friends from False Hope.  (That was a hint, by the way in case you missed it.)  

My notes are gathering in the purple notebook I used for the False Hope.  I’ll simply keep it moving with more notes chapter-by-chapter and flesh out some new characters I have in mind.  I always change around chapters and events according to how things logistically work out.  For example, in False Hope Julien was supposed to be accused of nefarious activities with the women he was photographing.  If you notice in the book, there are references to a rapist running around loose in town and even a dark hooded stranger bumping into Julien when he was standing outside the office building where Ashley worked.  That incident was initially a set-up to a much larger sub-plot.  I backed down at the last minute not wanting Julien to undergo any further scrutiny and bias from his colleagues.  He had enough on his plate.  

My work continues on Book Two and I hope my characters move forward with their lives, but not everything can go easily for them in their new circumstances.  I’ll try to keep the momentum going through bouts of soaking up the intermittent sunshine and my tendency to walk away.

 I’ll keep you posted on the progress and maybe drop a few more hints along the way, like Jimmy Feherty.  He’s an Irishman straight from Belfast with eyes only for Claire.  Or so he says….

 

I’m Going To Need a Shirt And My Lotion

The wind is blowing a gale today and I’m feeling a little disheveled.  My book is up and out and I’m now grappling with the idea that there are actual people out there in the great wide world who are reading my words.  In a book.  I wrote.  I shake my head and try not to gauge reactions and try not to have thoughts of, “I wonder what they thought when this happened.”  

Instead of obsessing on things I can’t control, I’m choosing to play with my dog and post random shit that I think will entertain the masses as much as it does me.  You. Are. Welcome.

I’ve also been given the opportunity to observe the strange and irksome occurrences around me on a daily basis that keeps my mind busy and cause me to walk into arbitrary walls.  On purpose.   Here are a few:

Old People Driving – I am NOT the old person I am referring to.  I was cut off on the highway merge ramp today, by an ‘old’ lady driving her Honda CRV at 60kms an hour who refused to go the obligatory 100kms an hour, almost causing an accident and causing me to swear profusely.  Fun, wha?

No Shirt Sheila – Unfortunately, I was not privy to the shirtless woman wandering aimlessly around the mall, yesterday in her bra with a sweater tied around her waist whilst yelling into her phone, “I NEED MY LOTION BACK!” however, my niece and her daughters, and my daughter were witnesses to this craziness.  Sad I missed it.  And Gaawwddd Debby, give her the lotion BACK!

Irate complainers who complain about complaining – It’s a thing!  I love it!  No, really tell me more about how I piss you off when I fucking swear all of the fucking time, Goddammit.  I love you, tho.

On a positive note, puppies are in the world so, there’s that. 

 

A Sneak Peek

I’ve been inundating the internet with graphics of quotes from my book, False Hope. Below, is another I created to give a sense of Ashley’s thoughts on death, grief and hope. I’ve also given a brief summary of the book. Enjoy!

Ashley Wells is a young woman making her way in Toronto. A new job at a small law firm propels her into a romantic relationship with Jax Fuller, a handsome young intern destined to be her biggest mistake. As their bond deepens, Ashley can’t help but think Jax is hiding his true self. As she navigates through the deception, betrayal and grief she discovers the truth about her lover and the dangerous game he is playing. She becomes embroiled in a fight against a crime boss determined to stop at nothing even if it costs the lives of those she loves,. Ashley summons her courage to fight for justice, and in doing so, confronts the limits of the human spirit. In her final testament of love, Ashley forfeits the life she had for one filled with an uncertain path and an undiscovered landscape.

Romancing The Work

I just finished work on my first romantic fiction piece.  It took me over a year to write and my days were fraught with doubt, indecision, and wine.  I wrote the original manuscript over twenty-years ago.  At that time, I had pitched it to publishers, agents and to whoever I could find.  After the onslaught of rejection letters arrived, I decided to put it away.  I felt it was destined for the great slush pile in the sky.

Fast forward twenty years and that manuscript sat there daring me to open it and take a peek.  So I did.  The bones were still good, but the story and the characters needed work.  I needed better dialogue and a better plot.  I opened my ten-year-old laptop and started typing.  I bought a book on how to write a novel.  I researched websites on how to write a good romance.  I bought a fresh notebook and wrote character outlines, plot structures, subplots, point of views, dialogue and pretty much anything that popped into my head.

I kept a running recipe card summarizing each chapter so I could remember details of characters like birthdates, hair color, eye color, traits, jobs, families, and backstories.  I kept pictures of my old apartment in the back of the notebook so I could take it out and look at it remembering it in detail.  It is the inspiration for Ashley’s apartment in the book, right down to the weather-beaten picnic table and it was fun to relive that time through a character’s eyes.

I took the pile of rejection letters and went through them.  Again.  I researched how to write dialogue.  I researched plots and pacing.  I wrote and rewrote chapters.  I sat in my basement and isolated myself from everyone, who still insisted they needed to see what I was doing.  I took my ten-pound laptop to work and wrote outlines on my lunch break.  I rewrote the chapters at home in the evening.  I read and wrote for months.  Then I stopped.

I left the project for three months.  I’m not sure why.  By the fall, I was ready to tackle it again and began.  Again.  It took me until June to finish what I started. 

But I finished.

And I’m happy I didn’t give up.  I’m happy I didn’t listen to that voice telling me to put it away.  The voice that said it was too hard and complicated and no one would read it.  I’m happy the rejection letters sat in my file daring me to try again because, without all of that negative “I-knew-you-couldn’t-do-it” attitude, I proved them wrong.

My decision to self-publish was born from the above-noted rejection letters.  I didn’t think I was as bad as all of these lovely publishers and agents thought I was.   I am determined to get this book out into the world by the end of this month and I can’t wait.

Wading through all of the self-publishing advice and webinars and blogs can be tedious.  I picked one person who sounded knowledgeable and listened to his advice.  Some of it I used, and some I threw aside.  Not everything is written in stone.

I just want to publish a book.  Simple. 

Apparently, not.

There’s designing a cover and editing your work.  Selecting a platform and uploading files.  Formatting, ISBN numbers, social media, marketing, and the list goes on.

Tackle one thing at a time.  I started months ago researching book cover design.

I created a cover for the book using a free online service.  I just couldn’t find a resource or a designer that fit what I had in mind.  I used the suggestions I found online.  I researched the most appealing colors and the most attractive fonts.  I went through stock photos and templates.  I wasn’t liking anything I saw.  I stuck to my original plan and with a new YouTube vid in my mind, I designed what I wanted. 

 Through happenstance, my cover came to life.  I love it.

It was a lot of work, but I enjoyed every step of the process.  I’m now working on the outline for Book 2 and have ideas for the third.   I’m taking my time and I will publish when I feel I have everything set and ready to go. 

If you are working on your first novel, keep going.  You’ll want to give up and throw the laptop out of the window but resist.  Drink the wine and take a walk.  Then go back to it.  The journey in writing the book is the most fun. 

You’ll find there are no better words than “The End” staring back at you.