Posted by Debbie Mumford
Just in time for Halloween, WDM Publishing has released my latest Deb Logan short story collection! MORE GHOSTS AND GHOULIES continues the tradition of spooky fun for younger readers I started with GHOSTS AND GHOULIES. Grab your copy now and be ready for the spookiest night of the year!
MORE GHOSTS AND GHOULIES
By Deb Logan
Audience: Juvenile | Paranormal | Short Story Collection
Another volume of spooky, supernatural stories for younger readers. This collection of five short stories includes two Dani Erickson tales (“Family Daze” and “Challenging Daze”), two flash stories (“Rush!” and “On Guard”), and an urban fantasy tale (“Terrors”).
Will you look at all the dust in this dungeon! How long has it been since the last vict- er, guest author was here? Let me just clear out the worst of it over in this corner, by the sharp things. Gad, if she’s allergic to mites it will be enough just to bring her in here. And by the way, bring her in here.
We are delighted to welcome– yes, that chain around the ankles, fool, have you forgotten your job– Ms. Jamie Marchant, who fell into our clutches during her blog tour for The Soul Stone. I don’t believe we’ve had the pleasure previously, but we’ll soon get everything we need from her. Just let me find my favorite bullwhip- ah there, covered in grime. Let us begin.
Q: So where do you come from, author-person? Your location in the Alleged Real World is of no consequence here; we want to know your roots as an author. When you were young and still contemplating your life of crime, whose temptations swayed you the most in reading? Was it always fantasy for you, or did you come to the genre late in life?
Jamie: As is often the case, my family first led me astray, especially my older sister who told me fairy tales and encouraged me to write ones of my own. In my teen years, I fell under the influence of Piers Anthony and Stephen R. Donaldson. As an adult, Mercedes Lackey and Jim Butcher completed my corruption until I was irredeemably a fantasy fan, but as you see, the seeds of fantasy were planted in me before I was old enough to read for myself. I really didn’t have a chance.
Q: I completely understand, blaming others is typical in these cases. Bailiff, fetch us this sister and we shall have a talk next. Tell us a bit about Korthlundia where your tales are set. Your main characters seem neck-deep in royal intrigues, on their guard every minute. Is the world also at war all the time? Do regular folks suffer from whomever it is opposing the goddess who has picked your heroes to help? I mean, what kind of a world are we dealing with here?
Jamie: Korthlundia had enjoyed over fifty years of unbroken peace because of its geographical isolation and the wise rule of Samantha’s father, King Solar. Both the nobles and common people prospered. The troubles in Korthlundia began when Duke Argblutal murdered the king and attempted to usurp the throne. Samantha was only nineteen years old, but she and Robrek put him in his place, six feet under, at the end of my first book, The Goddess’s Choice. However, the nobles aren’t too keen about a young woman and a common young man taking the throne, and the unrest is starting to affect regular folk as well. This is especially true when, in my second book, the Soul Stone breaks loose from its ancient bonds and begins to kill indiscriminately.
Q: Excellent! Always good to hear that a villain with an unpronounceable name is dead. Removes so much worry. Coming back to your heroes, you make it clear that Crown Princess Samantha and Robrek, the common-class sorceror, are from very different walks of life. They have very separate talents too. And busy! Saving the world makes for a crowded calendar, I suppose, but if these two are destined to marry, do they happen to see anything in each other along the way? Or is this going to be a marriage of fate and not the heart? (That is, assuming they make it long enough!)
Jamie: As the crown princess, Samantha had always believed that she couldn’t marry for love. This becomes especially difficult for her when she meets and falls for a common peasant boy at a horse fair. Although she comes to learn that Robrek is a powerful sorcerer and nowhere near as common as she first believed, she thinks an unbridgeable gap divides them. Only in bard’s tales do peasants marry princesses. At the end of The Goddess’s Choice, she is overjoyed when the Goddess reveals Robrek to be her choice for her consort. Theirs is very much an affair of the heart as well as of fate. However, in The Soul Stone, it appears that Robrek won’t live long enough for them to enjoy their love.
Q: You mention getting all geared up on literature in school, but then putting the writing itself on hold for a long time before taking up the pen to write about places like Korthlundia. I accuse the Alleged Real World of criminal trespass into your free time! Bailiff, take the ARW into custody, we’ll deal with it later. But what does the victim have to say? Did you not know this was what you wanted, or were you always thinking about it.
Jamie: I knew since I was a young child that I wanted to be a writer, but this ARW you speak of seduced me with the idea of making money. It took a few years for me to realize I was the victim of a con. Yes, one has to eat, but professional success can’t compensate for the absence of the creative muse.
Q: How would you describe your success so far, and what have been the keys to further exposure in your opinion? Are you happy with sales, with new outlets, and professional connections you’ve made? Are you mainly a paper book author, or did you lean on e-book sales early on?
Jamie: I’m not sure that any author, especially one published by a small press, is ever happy with sales. Getting sufficient exposure for my work is difficult, but I’ve been making progress with connecting with other authors and bloggers via the internet. While my books are all available in paperback, it is the e-book sales that make up the greatest portion of my books sales, which seems to be typical.
Enough, we are satisfied for now and hereby order your release. You may keep the manacle as a souvenir. Just leave us your information, where we can find your confessions (I mean, writing) and the proper links to seek you out for further punishment in the future.
Author Bio: Jamie Marchant
From early childhood, Jamie has been immersed in books. Her mother, an avid reader, read to her, and her older sister filled her head with fairy tales. Taking into consideration her love for literature and the challenges of supporting herself as a writer, she pursued a Ph.D. in American literature, which she received in 1998. She started teaching writing and literature at Auburn University. But in doing so, she put her true passion on the backburner and neglected her muse. Then one day, in the midst of writing a piece of literary criticism, she realized that what she wanted to be doing was writing fantasy novels. Her muse thus revived, she began the book that was to become The Goddess’s Choice, which was published in April 2012. The second volume in the series, The Soul Stone, was released this June.
She lives in Auburn, Alabama, with her husband, son, and four cats, which (or so she’s been told) officially makes her a cat lady. She still teaches writing and literature at Auburn University. Her short fiction has been published on Short-Story.Me, and my story was chosen for inclusion in their annual anthology. It has also appeared in the anthologies—Urban Fantasy (KY Story, 2013) and Of Dragon and Magic: Tales of the Lost Worlds (Witty Bard Publishing, 2014)—The World of Myth, A Writer’s Haven, and Bards & Sages.
Links to Jamie’s Books
Contact Jamie Everywhere
Regular readers of this site will recall TC Southwell and Vanessa Finaughty, the South African author-duo who write across the fantasy and sci-fi divide. Today we’re proud to alert our readers that their joint offering Doorway to Destiny is now available. I hope you will take the time to explore the fine work of these two authors, including their latest.
This collection of eleven fantasy and science fiction novels and two anthologies will transport you to strange and exciting worlds to share in the tragedies and triumphs of complex yet endearing heroes and heroines. Discover the gripping works of authors TC Southwell and Vanessa Finaughty and be swept away by magical adventures, epic battles and futuristic voyages to unknown universes. Learn how a vengeful assassin reshapes the fate of three kingdoms and share in a quest to discover the origins of mankind, then follow the tale of a young queen’s fight to be free with the aid of a combat cyborg. Two short story anthologies spice up the fare with dragons, sorcerers and magic galore, and a child of another god strives to save his world from mankind’s ravages. When a mortal dark god treads a tragic path as he rises to destroy the Overworld, a brave young girl risks her life to try to change his savage ways. Each hero and heroine takes a definitive step through a doorway to destiny as he or she seeks to right wrongs and save worlds.
Doorway to Destiny links
Price: 99c for a limited time only
About TC Southwell
T. C. Southwell was born in Sri Lanka and moved to the Seychelles when she was a baby. She spent her formative years exploring the islands – mostly alone. Naturally, her imagination flourished and she developed a keen love of other worlds. The family travelled through Europe and Africa and, after the death of her father, settled in South Africa.
T. C. Southwell has written over thirty fantasy and science fiction novels, as well as five screenplays. Her hobbies include motorcycling, horse riding and art, and she is now a full-time writer.
About Vanessa Finaughty
Vanessa Finaughty is an author of many genres who now focuses on fantasy and science fiction. She’s published 15 books, of which 6 are fantasy. Vanessa grew up in Cape Town, South Africa, and still lives there with her husband of fifteen years, her baby daughter and plenty of furry, four-legged ‘children’.
Vanessa has always been passionate about books, and knew from a young age that she wanted to write them one day. She loves animals, coffee and the smell of wet grass, and hates liars, sweltering weather and long queues. Her interests include reading, photography, the supernatural, mythology, aliens and outer space, ancient history, life’s mysteries and martial arts, of which she has five years’ experience.
To my ongoing amazement, we continue to lure aspiring authors to the Independent Bookworm for interviews. Even with the incontrovertible evidence of our perfidious cruelty right before their eyes, they come- driven by passion, by desperation or perhaps just a terminally short attention span. And who are we to complain?
Next up in the chair of interrogation is Kristen S. Walker, whose new novel “A Flight of Marewings” is debuting this month. Perhaps she believes her previous acquaintance with the eminent Ms. Gerlach will save her. Perhaps she is grievously, tragically mistaken… now where did I put that YA-sized strappado…
Q: All other questions must wait! What is Wyld about your world’s Magic, besides the spelling. And most important please, how soon can I start to use it?
A: Wyld Magic is actually the forces of Nature on steroids to fight back against the advancement of human civilization. It twists normal plants and animals into deadly monsters, from marewings to stranglevine, virtually all of which are hostile to humans and are actively trying to destroy farms and settlements. Humans in Seirenia have to band together in the safety of cities, or get the aid of priests to bless their fields and keep back the encroachment of the Wyld. As for humans harnessing that power for their own purposes, well, I will tell you that some of the characters in this book try to do just that. You’ll have to read the novel to find out what happens, but I don’t think you’d want to mess around with it lightly. The effects of Wyld Magic on human society will be an ongoing theme for the series.
Q: You describe the world of Seirenia and Marewings as epic fantasy. Does that mean it’s not YA? Can kids read epics?
A: Epic, high, or heroic fantasy are all terms used to describe a flavor of fantasy that focuses on magical quests or adventures with dangerous monsters. Some of it is written for the YA crowd (see Tamora Pierce’s Tortall novels for a bestselling example), but A Flight of Marewings has almost entirely adult characters, so it’s not aimed at that age group. However, many kids and teens (including me when I was younger and my own teen girls now) read above their age group as well, so I wouldn’t say that my novel could not be enjoyed by teens. After all, the famous Lord of the Rings trilogy is considered non-YA epic fantasy, but many people read it for the first time in middle or high school, and it’s often their introduction to the fantasy genre.
Q: What would you say is the biggest difference with trying to interest a younger reader- in any kind of story?
A: Well, the contrary thing about younger readers is that they often don’t want to read something that you’re “trying” to tell them to read. In general, YA, MG (middle grade) and children’s books are just those stories with younger characters who are also probably trying to deal with issues that kids of that age can relate to, from school bullies to first love. Otherwise, these books shouldn’t be written any differently than novels for adults, especially when you’re writing for teens—they can handle complex concepts and advanced vocabulary at that age, and they really don’t like to be talked down to. That means you can still tackle difficult issues and dark themes in YA, to some extent in MG, and delicately in children’s books. (I remember being seven years old and reading about one of the characters in the Babysitters’ Club when her grandmother had a stroke, and how that affected her family. This was two years after my own grandmother had passed away, so I was no stranger to those kinds of issues.)
In the end, every reader is different, and they’re going to be interested in different things. I would say that my approach has been to talk to a few teens and ask what they think of my ideas or what they want in a story. I’m lucky to live with two of them who are very vocal in their opinions, and teen readers are also easy to find online.
Q: I see that you, madam, not satisfied with owning an entire fantasy world, need to invade the ARW (Alleged Real World) as well. “Small Town Witch” sounds pretty close to magical realism, yes? Everything’s the same except we have, um, a few thousand spellcasting monstrous beings running around in Northern California. I wonder if anyone would even notice! Did you have more world-building to do with a small town in this world, or in describing an entirely new one?
A: What can I say? I love world-building and I never know when to stop! I think that I did more world-building for Seirenia for two reasons: I’ve been working on that world since I was thirteen (although it doesn’t resemble its original incarnation much at all by now), and I cheated with my small town because it’s actually mostly based on a place where I grew up—in Northern California. It prides itself on being weird, so there’s already plenty of strange things running around, but I do think people would notice if magic suddenly started to show up. (There would be photos up on the community blog, like the escaped parrot that roosts in neighborhood trees and sightings of the alleged “ghost” in a certain hotel.) I don’t know if magical realism applies, though, because the magic is front and center without too much of the realism. I call “Small Town Witch” alternately Urban or Contemporary or Modern Fantasy to emphasize that it’s in our time and our world. (As a joke, I once said that it was the opposite of Urban Fantasy because it’s not in a city, and wanted to coin the sub genre of Rural Fantasy, but I don’t know how many other books would join mine in that category!)
Q: Tell us more about the series (“The Fae of Calaveras County”) that you started with “Small Town Witch”, and particularly your decision to serialize the later volumes (available now on her Facebook page). Would you recommend that publication plan?
A: Well, I self-published “Small Town Witch” first on all of the traditional digital platforms like Amazon and Smashwords, but it’s been tough to get visibility with so many other books out there. I knew that my friend, Jimena Novaro, was releasing her novel “The Withering Sword” as a serial on both her website and on Wattpad—a website that lets writers share their stories for free. I learned from her and a few other writers that Wattpad is a good community to connect directly with readers, especially teens. So when I started to write the sequel to “Small Town Witch”, I decided to experiment with sharing the novel as I wrote it. Other than writing too fast for many readers to keep up with (I managed a rate of a chapter a day for the whole month of November), I think it was successful, and I’ve made some new friends and fans that way.
I know many authors wouldn’t like this approach, because it means giving away your work for free. I don’t personally plan on leaving up my entire story there indefinitely—in the next few weeks, I’ll remove it from Wattpad and start revising the story to publish it as an ebook later. But for getting visibility, one of the major hurdles of a self-published author that doesn’t have the backing of a big publishing company or a huge marketing budget, I do recommend sharing at least some work with readers for free, on Wattpad, your own site, or any of the other similar communities. You get direct feedback. If you share the first part of a longer series, you can get people interested in later books. And not just self-published authors use this to find new readers—Margaret Atwood and Brandon Sanderson both have entire books on the site. Every author has to find their own plan that fits their work and their goals, so I don’t think it’s ideal for everyone, but it’s worth looking at as one option among so many available today.
Q: Are you a disciplined writer, with a regular schedule and habits? Notes, much? How about a Muse, did you pick up one of those along the way? And how are the two people inside your head getting along- Kristen the author and Kristen the marketer? Any fistfights, and if so who won?
A:I do try to keep up the habit of working on something every day. Sometimes I write a story, sometimes I work on outlines or world-building, other days it’s revision—but I keep my momentum going better when I do some kind of writing and my stories stay fresh in my mind. I’m trying to cut back on my massive amount of notes that I do for each project, because I can spend too much time planning and never get to the actual story. My Muse is a hyperactive child who gets easily distracted by shiny things, but when she’s focused she hovers over my shoulder to demand everything from explosions to unicorns.
Kristen the writer has been a strong force since I was eight and started my first notebook (which was blue and had a unicorn on the front). It’s been much harder to learn how to be Kristen the marketer. I hate trying to talk about myself in job interviews or self-evaluations, and I’m very shy about asking for anything like “buy my book”. I try to approach it as I’m excited about my stories and I want to share them with other people, so I think about what I can say to explain why I think they are interesting. Marketing is still a very new skill for me, though, and Kristen the researcher has been hard at work to dig up virtually every article and book on the subject so I can learn more. But when it comes to any kind of decisions that I have to make, like what’s the best kind of cover art (something that follows bestselling trends versus something that I think represents my story), then Kristen the writer has been winning every time. As a result, I might not be making the best plans from a marketing perspective (I am giving away stories for free on Wattpad after all, and I don’t think the cover of “A Flight of Marewings” looks like any traditionally published fantasy book released in the last five years). That kind of stubbornness is probably not going to make me as much money.
Q: You seem quite open to sharing space on the web at your site and on your blog with other authors. Names, we must have the names for future interrogation purposes. What’s your theory about sharing interests with other authors- is it United We Stand, or I Am a Rock/Island? And BTW, is this strictly a Hear Women Roar deal, or is the Y chromosome set also welcome?
A: So far, I’ve hosted fantasy author Jimena Novaro, science fantasy author Nadine Ducca, superhero author Thomas Healy, and recently, fantasy romance author Juli D. Revezzo. It’s been a lot of fun to hear about their different stories and approaches to writing, and I hope to host many more in the future. (If you’re an author looking for a guest blog spot, please contact me!) Now, I think it’s much better for authors to work together instead of standing alone—we can all use the help and support, and readers benefit by finding more stories they love. After all, it’s not really a competition between us, where I have to fight Jimena or Nadine to sell more of my books. I know from personal experience that no single writer (even the crazy prolific ones that you hear about releasing a book every month) can keep up with the rate of an enthusiastic reader (I know people who read two or more books a week, and I myself read a four-book series in about two days when I was sick over Christmas break). Also, while I’ve only hosted one man on my site so far, this is simply because I know more women who write. When I offer to host someone, it’s because I like the kinds of stories that they write, not which chromosomes they have or any other physical differences.
Q: OK, before I work another 60s rock ballad into my questions, you may go for now- but don’t leave the, um, multiverse, we may wish to question you further. Let us know how we can get in touch with you and your work, and thanks again for your cooperation, Kristen. Sergeant, take off the cuffs.
A: Hey, I have no problems with 60s rock ballads! I love classic rock (along with a lot of other music). I have an eclectic music collection, and classic rock even features in my karaoke song rotation (when it fits into my soprano range). The best way to find me is through my website, kristenwalker.net, which links to my current books, has a blog for updates on future works, and also points to my Facebook, Twitter, and Wattpad accounts. You can even contact me directly through blog comments on a form. Thanks for the friendly interrogation, Will!
Korinna’s life gets turned upside down when the ghost of her father suddenly appears. Her father was duke of Kyratia City and he wanted Korinna to marry his warlord, the foreign mercenary Galenos, and inherit his title–but the city’s Council has other plans. When the Council denies Korinna’s right to rule, she decides to join Galenos’s mercenary company and tame a wild marewing in order to take the city by force. But people whisper that the late duke’s untimely death was murder, an induced madness that forced him to dance himself to death–and now that madness is spreading. Can Korinna become a marewing rider and conquer Kyratia in time to save everyone?
Fantasy author Kristen S. Walker dreams of being a princess with a flying horse, but she settles for writing stories for teens and adults. Her new epic fantasy novel, A Flight of Marewings, tells the adventure of a duke’s illegitimate daughter who must stop her father’s murderers–by taming a dangerous monster. A Flight of Marewings is now available in print from Amazon and digitally from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords and other ebook retailers. To read a sample chapter or check out Kristen’s world-building references, please visit kristenwalker.net. You can talk Sherlock, horses, and crochet with Kristen any time on Twitter (@KristenSWalker) or Facebook.
Book beginnings and middles give way to endings. If the beginning of your book doesn’t grab the reader, then she or he (usually) won’t read further. If the middles, and ending of your book are not satisfying to a reader, then you’ve lost that reader. Simple wisdom? Yes, but how many books have you read this year that disappointed you? I read several books a week and I have read several this year by writers that lost me as a reader. (As an aside here, I know that all readers will never be pleased with any book.) So how do we keep our story so readers stay satisfied?
According to my mental mentor-writer, Phyllis A. Whitney, suspense is one important key. That doesn’t mean you must have dozens of dead bodies strewn around in your novel. There must be a problem, there must be conflict, there must be a goal. Your main character must be actively involved in solving the problem(s) and in the conflict. If your character just drifts along, letting things happen to her, soon your reader may be yawning and putting your book down. Action is needed.
The more unexpected, unforseen, and unpredictable the outcome, the stronger the story interest, the stronger the suspense. Urgency–if possible, a time limit–increases suspense. Make sure your main character’s purpose is opposed in nearly every scene. What will it cost him if he doesn’t succeed? If your opposition is only a misunderstanding that could be cleared up at any point, it isn’t strong enough.
(Oh, I wish I had a dollar for every romance I’ve ever read when a “misunderstanding” was the only thing that kept apart the main characters! I really dislike “misunderstanding” in books.)
Books full of suspense hold onto a reader. Surprise also helps, but writing about that is for next time.
I think my writing is having a mid-life crisis.
The dam first broke four summers ago- truly chronicling the Lands of Hope- and my productivity was very high I can tell you. Sure, Stephen King and George R.R. Martin do better. But not by much. And they make MONEY.
Plus I had other ideas, about how to support the work. Compendium material (right here on this blog), maps, a chronology– checklist items I ticked off to build the ever-desired platform. Starting with roughly the same knowledge of e-publication and social networks as the average survivor of the Black Plague, I’ve come to a point where I know some stuff. More important, I know some folks. Time is limited, I don’t need to tell you that, but I make a few rounds, read great entries, drop comments. I curate the odd bit of trivia to FB or G+, I review fellow authors with pleasure. And about once a month I come here and put in what I honestly think is some of my best material, alongside the splendid writers of the Independent Bookworm.
My writing has slowed recently, for reasons I’m well aware of (basically, the Lavender Lady intimidates me no end). I’ll start to roll the rock again soon. But meantime, I’ve dallied. And I’ve lost energy. I look around at the aggressive marketing and candid self-promotion others do. My honest reaction? Hey, I already have one rat race, why write just to pick up another?
My enthusiasm for marketing myself has fallen through the floor. My inner sap is whining- ‘Why aren’t I already famous?’
So I feel like I’ve accomplished a lot. But I haven’t accomplished even more. The posts, the time-line, the tales themselves- there they are, but what does it add up to? It’s not just how many have paid to read my stories- I get it, I’m a drop in the ocean- but sometimes I feel like nothing I’ve written, even the free stuff, makes any noise at all. It’s falling over alone in a forest somewhere . We’re all busy: and I don’t write SHORT things. Strike three and I’m still on deck.
Then it hit me. I need the aliens.
Remember that assignment in seventh grade, where the teacher said “think of ONE thing you can put in a room that will survive the nuclear war- aliens will find it and you want to put something in there that will tell them all about the human race”. I loved that assignment. Extra points if you can guess what I suggested- this was the 70s, so nothing that starts with a small “i”. Electricity yes, but not portable. Guess.
So just now, I had my own assignment moment- wouldn’t the aliens love me? No, stick with this- it’s a gasser.
Suppose some kind of bizarre magnetic pulse hits the earth, blankets the planet with radiation that kills all the people and affects part of that beloved Internet which is our modern record. All the content, things that anyone has ever WRITTEN, that stuff stays- web pages, the composition, art, video clips, etc. But
EVERYTHING THAT MEASURES IT is gone- the page hits, the Likes, the buzz, bestseller lists and on and on- that’s poof. Google’s entire search engine with ranked findings is
ground zero- boom, atomized, no trace.
The internet is now level. Everything that’s written is there together. That’s what the aliens find.
So there’s Stephen King’s book, and GRRM’s, and mine, on Amazon- but no sales records. And their blogs, their pages, and mine, side by side in a cybernetic sense. Aliens would be just as likely to find me as either of them. Once they figure out our alphabet, I come first! And they’d like my stuff- there’s adventure in there, cool things that happen to great characters in amazing situations. And they’d be completely ignorant that I was ever just one of the faceless mass of indies who struggled to gain the slightest traction.
To the aliens, I’d be a bestseller.
As big as… as big as Robert Galbraith.
This is the kind of pathetic, cold comfort my imagination flees to when my spirits about writing are low. I’m blogging about it for two reasons. First and foremost I’m still scared of my MC, and can’t use my time the way every writer would want, not yet. But I also think this, the depths that an unknown author can feel, are worth recording for posterity. We keep doing this, despite feeling so empty, long months and years of shoveling sand on a beach and getting bupkis back.
Five Signs You’re Not a Success As an Independent Author
1) You set your preferences on Smashwords to notify you every time one of your books sells. You haven’t needed to turn it off yet.
2) You spend time thinking about how you can pump your Klout score higher than your age. Because of course that will make it better.
3) You wait as long as you can- maybe six weeks- before checking Amazon sales. You know there’s nothing. You’re still crushed. You check again every day for a week, to make sure there was no mistake.
4) The day after you leave two business cards at the local library you see an extra page-view on one of your books and you think “aha, it’s working”.
5) The “Reach” factor on your Facebook page slips into negative territory.
Let the pity-fest begin! Add to the list, append your personal gripes, share the misery (we all know it wants company). Or if you’re minded to spoil the party, a few tips on what gets you cranked up again, the encouragement you find even in the darkest hour. I might listen to that too.
But hurry- Optimist that I am, I think the aliens really are coming. So I will have to delete this page soon, else they start to suspect…
P.S.: Answer to the homework assignment-
Way back in 1982, a popular author, Phyllis A. Whitney, wrote a book for writers. The title was Guide to Fiction Writing and it was published by The Writer, Inc. (It’s out of print now, but you can pick up a used copy online easy enough.) At the time she wrote this book, she had over 60 novels published, some for adults and some for young adults. Her adult novels were romantic suspense and she sold many copies of them. Her book goes into detail about both her writing methods and technique. I’d like to share with you some bits of writing wisdom from Ms. Whitney over the next several months. Here’s the first installment on writing beginnings:
Probably the best way to start any story…is to show a character with a problem doing something interesting. The more quickly you can make what is happening clear, the more likely you’ll be to draw your reader into your story. The old questions that have always been set down in books on writing are still necessary to consider: Who? What? Where? When? Why? It’s seldom easy to answer all of them quickly and gracefully in those first pages. Long expositions, descriptions, philosophizing, may entertain you, but are unlikely to grip a busy reader today. The reader doesn’t have to know everything right away. Yet he mustn’t be left in a state of confusion either.
In your opening, you will need to establish the immediate problem that faces your main character. You will also make it clear why your character can’t solve this problem easily. Expect to do your beginning over several times. I usually write a first opening in which I explain everything and get it off my chest. Only then can I read it through and decide which parts of the mass of explanation are really needed right now.
Next month some tips on writing middles.
Do you keep a journal? A writer’s notebook? A diary? No matter what you call it, keeping a place to jot down thoughts, ideas, speculations is an excellent idea for a writer. An excellent book about keeping a writer’s notebook is Breathing In, Breathing Out by Ralph Fletcher. Breathing In, Breathing Out was published back in 1996, but the information is just as good today as it was when it was first published.
I have never used a writer’s notebook on a daily basis, but I do have about five notebooks filled with “notes” that I’ve written down through the years. Sometimes I write snatches of songs or pieces of poems. Sometimes I jot down brief scenes that pop into my mind. Sometimes I write about hopes and dreams. Often I write tightly, using brief words and phrases. Days, even weeks or months may go by without my making any entries. Then I may write several pages in just a few days.
Some of these musings find their way into a story. Some aren’t worth the page they are written on!
I like to revisit my notebooks from time to time. Sometimes re-reading an entry will spark an idea that I never even knew I had.
Looking through an old notebook, I came across these entries that I made back in the 80’s:
Icy roads. Sand trucks. Lights shining on sand spilling out in fine streams, falling, sprinkling, covering the ice. Biting into the slick glass covering the road. Pitting it. Tires whine and grab the sand gladly, inching up and down the hills. (Local term:glare ice).
Dark. Dark is no light. No street lights, yard lights, porch lights, or house lights. No star light or moonlight. Thick clouds cover the night with blackness. Nothing. Nowhere. Stumble. Touch. Fall. Feel. Darkness.
“Silver Sounds to open Golden Gates.” A circle of skin stretched tightly over a wooden hoop. All around the circle hung tiny silver bells. Each time she tapped the skin, the bells sang softly. Janita heard voices coming from the bells. She snatched her hand away from the bellskin.
Hummm. Now that last entry fits right into a fantasy story. Janita has to be the main character, of course.
Do you keep a writer’s notebook? How do you use your entries?
6 Writing Rules to Break
You’ve seen them, haven’t you? I’m talking about those pronouncements that writers often make about what one must do to be a writer. More than guidelines, these are definitely rules. Let’s talk about some of the rules for writers that are laid down by the so-called experts. The following “rules” are actual statements that I have read in writing books and/or magazines.
1. A writer must write every day.
Why is that? Even Stephen King takes a break from writing on Sundays. Sometimes a writer just needs to think and plan instead of forcing the writing. Just writing every day without thinking and planning at least some part of the book at a time could lead to the dreaded 100 page syndrome. You know, where you write the first several chapters, then you stop and put the manuscript into a drawer, or leave it unfinished on your computer, or even–horrors!–delete it. So, take some time to draw a deep breath, think and plan.
2. Cut out description and get to the action.
Really? Maybe you should read Tolkien’s Lord of the Ring series–or read it again. Tolkien has lots of description, much of it almost poetic in nature. Coming closer to our times, examine Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. He also has plenty of descriptive writing and he is certainly successful.
3. Plunge right into the action.
Well, maybe. Maybe not. I’d like to learn at least a little about the character before she gets dumped into a load of trouble, but I agree that modern readers want to be pulled into the story quickly.
4. There should be only one plot to a book.
Oh? What about subplots? Subplots can add depth to the story and help the action along.
5. Know who you are writing for.
This makes sense commercially, but not creatively. I write the stories that pop into my mind and won’t leave me alone. Often I have no idea WHO I’m writing for–unless–it’s anyone who enjoys a good story!
6. You must want to write more than anything else.
It is true that writing and improving your writing needs to be important to you, otherwise you may find excuses never to sit down in front of your computer. My writing is important to me. I need to write. But–come on! More than anything else? My family comes first, especially my husband, children, and grandchildren. The summer my mother died I didn’t write (or think or plan writing) for six months. Taking care of her was far more important to me than feeling fulfilled.
So there you have it. Six writing rules that you have my permission to break. 🙂
What do you think about writing rules? Have you heard some that you think are arbitrary?
I have always been a dreamer. When I was a child, I had wild fantasies about all kinds of things. As a young teen, I had a sleeping dream that stuck with me and I fantasized about being an alien from another planet in another solar system. (Yeah, I know, kinda weird, but hey–why not? Writers do have vivid imaginations, after all.)
Dreamers have billions of ideas to choose from and think about. Down through the ages, daring inventions were preceded by dreams. Everyday normal people have all kinds of dreams. I taught middle school for many years and saw many student dreamers. Some dreamed of being famous sport stars, or music stars. Some dreamed of becoming doctors or lawyers.
What do you dream about? Is it being someone other than who you now are? Is it doing something you now don’t know how to do?
Some would say that there are two kinds of people: dreamers and doers. What? Why can’t we be both?
First we dream. Then we build the foundation with reality to make the dream come true. Do you dream of being an accomplished musician? Then you practice your instrument. Do you dream of being a sports figure? Then you practice your sport. Do you dream of being a writer? Then you practice your writing. Don’t plan on writing your first book and making a million dollars from it. Write another one. Then another one. You are building your foundation for successful dreaming.
Be a dreamer, then be a doer. Go for it!