((Hey gang, Abyrne here. I have been given the great opportunity to move over some posts from the website of my own that I have been so poor at posting too. I’m posting some of my favorites as well as the alphabet posts we did so far. EBB has graciously allowed me to bring them over and going forward perhaps I’ll be doing some of the main blog posts here too.
Lucky you…there are far more folks here to post things so this should be FAR FARRRR more exciting than my site with just me. Mind you, I can post to this page when’ere I want…so who knows, some days you may even get multiples here on this site. Me? I’d call that Win-Win!!
Thanks for making the transition with me. Check out the whole site…there are some amazing folks here. ~A))
By Abyrne | September 22, 2012
As night falls on a chilly Autumn eve, I am reminded of the meaning behind perseverance. It is not carrying thru when the world is turning your way. It is pushing thru against all odds when the deck is stacked against you. It’s holding a King when the dealer has an ace showing, passing back the seven and saying ‘HIT ME’.
Yesterday was a rainy, cold, crummy day. In the midst of that cold rain my 15-year-old practiced outside for the halftime show during class time without a jacket. After lessons and pushing thru a circuit swim practice she returned to practice for halftime another hour in the cold rain before suiting up and heading to the stadium. The temperature was fifty degrees at kick off. They sat in the stands in uniform on wet bleachers, cheering for a team in the throes of a difficult contest before getting up and going to march in forty-something temps on the open field to play for a less than packed house. Many stayed home to keep warm and dry. Not them. The show must go on and the band was there to provide. The unsung heroes to me will always be the ones who do what the masses won’t.
Why do I tell you this? Because this morning before the sun peered over the horizon that same 15-year-old got up with no voice, clogged ears, and a hack that would put smokers to shame. She got up, put on her suit and sweats, grabbed her bags and went to school to board the bus for a 4 hour swim meet in another town. She didn’t want to be there, by rights shouldn’t have been there, but there she was. A frog screaming for her team from the end of the pool and pulling a little harder as they in turn cheered for her when it was her time to swim. Not an olympian, but an olympian effort as she swam three events in the last twenty minutes of the meet, two of them back to back.
I am reminded by her perseverance of the power of will. The thing inside all of us that will push us to do what is right and necessary when in our heart of hearts the easy path is in the opposite direction. It is true for writing, for work, for play, for life.
The swim team shirt this year says, “Adversity causes some men to break. It causes great men to break records.” I would add great young women.
By Abyrne | September 25, 2012
I liken myself to the Nadia character from Alias on the Rambaldi serum, scribbling away from muscle memory the words in order with no aid or assistance from me. It’s as if they’ve been squealing all along to be let out and instead of opening the door, I’ve been asking for the password.
By Abyrne | October 11, 2012
Have you ever stopped to ponder the sunset when your view is to the east? What about the sunrise if your only vantage point is westward? There are odes, sonnets, and many a verse committed to the beauty of sunrises and sunsets, and yet as I look out my eastern facing window as the sun is descending I cannot help but wonder at the view, were I able to look the other way. Would it be glorious, would it be eventful, or would it be an unnoticed moment of time because the remarkability of it fell short of so many others?
Perspective is everything, and it is nothing. For the writer, perspective will dictate plot, character, and points of view. Vantage point will determine the protagonist and the antagonist, as well as drive the fans to love or loathe the story…so again I wonder at the view were I able to rotate my head one hundred eighty degrees.
Recently as many of you may know, I torched the manuscript of a story that was very dear to my soul as a writer. I knew the story well, and could see it play out in random momentary lapses of focus or awareness knowing exactly what I was seeing without having to wonder an iota. I burnt it to cinder because as I had forcibly been converting it to a different point of view I was in fact no longer telling the story I knew. It was not working because it was wrong.
Perhaps that is the case for many of us and instead of challenging ourselves to turn around and see the puzzle from a new point of view, we set it aside and it becomes a paver on the path of forgotten dreams. The story did not die, we killed it off in a fiery blaze or a quiet smothering as we did not adapt to find the voice from which it should be told. As I ponder the sunset I cannot see, I am reminded of the stories paving my path that have yet to have proper voice and am Thankful (yes it’s Thursday), for the inspiration and knowledge of what is possible to resurrect the muse for that tale so that the Bard in my soul can have a voice.
By Abyrne | October 16, 2012
For the second day in a row I’ve asked myself this question out loud. Quite a telling situation to be sure. The answers are not quick to come either. I roll into the office and set up for the day, dive into whatever it is I’m supposed to be doing and somewhere in the accomplishment phase of said task, I find myself wondering why I’m here? Not the visceral, what is my purpose question, more the specific; I hate my job, I end up frustrated and feeling something just shy of broken every day, so why do I keep plugging away at the 9 – 5? Short answer? I can’t afford not to work. Long answer, I can’t afford not to work.
Writing has been a release and a form of guided meditation, but until that transitions into something more, I think I’m stuck. So, how to make the transition? How do I engage the curve and make that turn? Is it up to me? I think the answer is yes, and no. I think that the ‘leg work’ is mine to do, but there is an element of uncontrolability too, and that makes it both exciting, and frightening. In the end I can put the words on the page, but I also have to listen to the readers some to gauge how to write what they want to read. As a virtual unknown that is a really small group of dedicated amazing people. Are they a true cross-section of my potential audience?
How does this impact stories? I think a little or a lot depending. A well-known writer that I’ve followed for a while took quite a bit of heat not too long ago because after listening to fan outcry at the possibility of a character being killed off, they changed the story from where it was originally going and that threw the opposite end of the fan spectrum into arms. The balance between where you the author are going and where the fans hope you go is sometimes daunting. I consider myself beyond fortunate to have such a strong and true fan base already. I am also fortunate that many/most of them are completely comfortable telling me that I’m doing it wrong. ~laughing~ Yes, I do that too.
In the end, I guess this is not so much about ‘Why am I here?’ but more about how much longer do I have to stay? I hope the time grows shorter. I think I’m ready to get out.
By Abyrne | November 26, 2012
After a long journey through NaNo land, I am watching as others cram to finish, to push the final leg, and am reminded of a tale that was shared with me long, long ago. I do not know the original author, nor am I certain I will tell it as well as it is from memory now, though I’m certain to have the original somewhere. I hope that it instills the same motivation and powerful awareness of the power you hold within you.
A mother, frustrated with her young son for his apparent lax attitude toward his lessons and practice took him to the concert hall. The Maestro was giving a concert and she hoped that he would take inspiration from seeing someone so accomplished. As they walked down the aisle to their seats, she cautioned him to remember his manners, not fidget in his seat, and to be on his best behavior. The crowd was all decked out in the evening finery, men in coat tails and women in gowns bedecked in jewels. This was a momentous night. Sitting uncomfortably, trying not to fidget, looking around at all of the adults and taking in the noise of the crowd his young eyes fixed on the stage and the immense black grand piano sitting at the center. As his mother turned to converse with those around their seats, he was fascinated. Fixated. Drawn and compelled. He just had to know. Before anyone was the wiser as no one was watching him, he quietly slipped from his seat and followed the gravitational pull of the beautiful instrument that called him. Making his way onto the stage he walked carefully, doing nothing to break the spell. Sitting up on the bench, his feet could not touch the floor or the pedals, but the circle was complete when he laid his hands on the keys. Being rather averse to practicing he knew nothing by heart, save Chopsticks, and so he began plucking out the simple tune. The hall slowly stilled as the guests in the audience turned toward the stage, a pulsing shock as they discovered the boy, and then a barrage of noise as they exclaimed their outrage.
“Get that child off the stage. How dare he touch The Maestro’s instrument. WHO brought a disrespectful child here?” And so on.
The Maestro backstage, heard the commotion, quickly ascertained what was happening, clicked his cuff links and walked briskly onto the stage amid the commotion, quieting the patrons gently with his hands. As he reached the piano and the small boy sitting there he leaned over him and said,
“Don’t stop. Keep going. Whatever you do, don’t stop.”
The boy continued playing while The Maestro leaned over him and then sat beside him, improvising a counter melody to the simple Chopsticks. Over an over that night they played, not the program as stated, but an improvisation on Chopsticks. At the end of the evening The Maestro thanked the boy for his assistance and handed him off with a few quiet words to a stunned mother.
Now, I am not The Maestro, but I say to all of you who are remiss in your lessons and out of practice in your craft, or just a little behind, a bit frustrated with the journey ahead, still dreaming, or well on your way to a new success…
Don’t stop. Keep going. Whatever you do, don’t stop. Keep dreaming. Keep reaching. Find the magic and share.
By Abyrne | December 26, 2012
How was the holiday? Did you get what you wanted? Did you get anything you liked at all? I and my family do not exchange, haven’t for many years, it’s about being together for us…so imagine my surprise at a card from my oldest. I share this with you because I have immense pride in my children, and something like this is vindication of sorts that on days when I’m not sure they get it….they do. A hand-made card that said everything that we as parents hope to hear. I hope your holiday was as special…
“Blessed Yule Mom & Papa
I know I say,
‘Don’t be mad’,
‘Let me tell you the WHOLE story first’, and
‘I can’t tell you’ alot.
I know you say,
‘Knock it off’,
‘Straighten up’, and
‘You’re better than this’ alot too.
For all of these, and the skinned knees, and the early morning drives to the poolhouse, the trouble with boys, the broken hearts, and the breaking up fights with my sister, Thank you. Thank you for unconditional love and for believing in me when I mess up. I know you have my back and love me no matter what. Because of you I know I can do anything.”
Yupp. I’m teary all over again transcribing it. I hope you all know and realize that everything we do or don’t do has an impact. Mostly, I hope you know that the most important THINGS, aren’t things….they are gifts beyond measure.
I hope your holiday was amazing and your New Year is doubly that.
And now for our alphabet…
By Abyrne | January 2, 2013
I learned in kindergarden and it started with “A”
For some of us the notion of sitting at a keyboard or with pad and paper, pecking out or scribbling out a tale is the most daunting, ominous, overwhelming task imaginable. I am here to tell you that is poppycock. Everything you ever needed to know to do it and do it well you knew before you were ten, and much of it was learned in kindergarten. Don’t believe me? We’re going to begin at the beginning and I’m going to show you.
In kindergarten we learned many many things and over the next few months we’re going to pull that treasure trove of knowledge out and plumb the depths of memory for the things that we have known all along and forgot how to apply. Starting here and now today, with “A”.
Many of us knew the alphabet before kindergarten, and those who didn’t, had a wall of magic symbols displayed when we walked into the room each day to help us on the journey to this knowledge. “A” is significant in many ways, but for today it is the most important letter because it signifies the beginning…the only place to start. Julie Andrews spoke to the musical beginnings of do, re, mi….and compared them to A, B, C. Whether by rote memory or impassioned effort we learned that you always begin the alphabet at A and end at Z. Writing is no different. You begin at the beginning, be it an idea, an image, or a dream. Without the beginning the tale is lost and wandering as we all would be if we had to recite the alphabet from M out…it is a far more difficult task. Not impossible, but much more complicated and who needs that?
In kindergarten we learned another important “A”, accountability. Sharing, shame, homework, or shoe tying we became responsible for our spot on the rug and the things we were tasked with. We became the center of a microcosm where the world revolved around us, but we in turn revolved around others and had influence. We could bring joy or tears and at the end of it all when it was time to take out our towel and nap, we were responsible for doing it right then too. Little things became big things, but not all at once, instead step by step as we learned cause and effect of our actions or inactions. The unquestioned affection of our parents took a backseat for a time as we learned to play with others and exist in a world where our parents weren’t. These are all important beginnings and all translate into writing.
Accountability, Action, Affection, and the Alphabet. These four “A” words have tremendous impact on how we are as storytellers. Our action or lack of action will be the driving force behind the tale we tell or keep to ourselves and the accountability to finish the task will in fact determine if the tale, though perhaps written, ever sees the light of day. Affection for our work and the work of others as we learn that writing is a solo act in a community of others committing solo acts will influence the scope of our voice in the larger dynamic. Will we have a best seller? Will our story teach, or deter? What it will be is determined by the affection we have to grow it to its potential beyond the begining, but just like “A” is where the alphabet starts, so must we.
So, with our beginning and the big “A” words, pick up your pencil and begin. Any beginning is a good beginning. Any beginning is a place to jump into the magical symbols and create something bigger than ourselves. Will the world revolve around you when you are through? If you never begin the answer is a resounding “no”. But, if you begin, and remember that we crawl before we walk before we run, the cheer of the crowd and the tape across the finish line is one step closer than if you never do. It’s up to you. Find “A”.
By Abyrne | January 9, 2013
As we embark on week two of our journey through the things we’ve known since our youth that enable us to be great writers, I began to think about exactly what qualifies one to claim that they are a writer? Is it that you are published? or is it something simpler…is it that you have shared? I actually don’t know that this distinction matters as many who are definitely writers don’t claim the title. It is like many things, just a name.
Instead, I think that being a writer or an author is about something much bigger. It’s an attitude, and not the circle with three snaps variety. The great writers I have encountered, may or may not have the best stories on the market, or maybe even a fresh idea for one, but what they all have in common is something intangible and amazing to behold. It is a zen like state of “B” and being.
So what is this state of “B” you ask? Simply, it is a willingness to be adaptable. This flexibility of belief and willingness to stretch is something that can be found in every child. Why is it that young have invisible friends and it’s cute, older people have them and its mental illness? I think that the running joke about hearing voices being a trademark of a writer, is misplaced. It is the trademark of an open mind. To be a writer, you have to be willing to step outside your comfort zone. You have to sometimes reach far within to find the piece that makes the story compelling and complete. You have to be willing to see the story in the single shoe in the middle of the pavement and not just see the shoe. You have to be willing to be coached, encouraged, corrected and criticized. You simply have to be open and willing to take it all in and then share it with the world, THAT is the state of “B”.
When we were young we played house in a room, and monsters on the playground. We learned about the moon from a story at nap time, and flowers with construction paper and glue. We learned sharing was nice and everybody got a turn. We learned that there was a world that existed beyond our home and parents, and we learned that if we wanted to, we could be anything right where we stood all we had to do was imagine it and it was.
These are the trademarks of being a writer. To dream, to reach, to be. Are you?
By Abyrne | January 16, 2013
((reprint from abyrnemostyn.wordpress.com posting today))
No, not time for the National Anthem or to play ball….but there are some valuable lessons here as we look to what we’ve known since we were small that enables us to be great writers. Let’s start with the anthem shall we?
The anthem was, and still is a rallying call to remember that we persevere through adversity (definitely a writing trait), but also the anthem was one of the first pieces that talked about the nation with a sense of oneness, of community. We became a “Land” of people and the “Home” of us all. Writing is that and more, a community. While writing is very much a solo endeavor at the writing stage, every last one of us is an individual practitioner in a community of writers…and what a community it is. Community and a sense of belonging is something that we learned in kindergarten too. The notion of where we fit and where our circle isn’t a life long learning curve, but the foundation was laid long ago as we learned our likes and dislikes. What a tremendous thing that as a writer we get the whole community, like them or not. *grins* Writing takes learning, and sometimes the best teacher is the one who stands in another circle normally, but is available to us through the writing community that is its own great big circle. The great thing I’ve found is that I haven’t met a writer yet who didn’t have something to offer if I was willing to hear…This willingness to be open or not brings us to another C – our Character.
Character is a compilation of several other traits together, also C words…confidence, care, and conceit. We want the first two but not the last. Confidence in our work is something that we need to have or find as we go from the writing to the networking and publishing part of our world. An editor, agent or publisher can give you a morale boost, but if you don’t have confidence in your writing or your ability to tell the story and sell it, you will be walking a long lonely road as that empty spot inside cannot be filled by others. Our friends and allies can help bolster us, but in the end we have to find the inner strength and fathom how to employ it to our purpose. Fake it til you make it, but make it.
Care is not only about our writing, but also about the writing community too. The people you meet and aid or enable in their work are the ones who are going to be there for you. The writing community is a giving community and the benefits are there for all to reap, but leave care at home when you come to the community and you will have to rebuild any ground you had gained as the community of nurturers will and do close ranks to aid those who are in need, but not those who prey upon others. Care is tantamount to success. You need to care about your work, your world, and the community at large. The urge to fan your feathers at the first great review is in us all and while being the proud parent of the work of wonder, we have to remember to reign back the conceit that can come. Pride is one thing, conceit is another, keep the difference clear in your mind and your heart as you go forward.
Last up today, we’re going back to baseball as the final “C” is a biggie and one we learn in sports, in kindergarten, in life. It is that as a writer we must be coachable. Participating in the community, giving care and encouragement to others, having confidence in our work and remembering to couch our pride before we get too big for our britches is all important, but we can lose it all if we fall short on this last big C.
We must learn to be coachable. Writing in some ways is a school of hard knocks. Ask any writer how many rejection slips they got before they were published and there’s sure to be a story there. Ask any writer how many revisions or edits had to be done before the work was final and publishable and again, you’ll get a tale. The point of having an editor, an agent, beta readers and ARC copies is to give you feedback on what’s working…and what’s not. It is what you do with the information about what isn’t working that will define your reputation in the writing world. People talk.
Sure, we all fell head over feet in love, lust, or hate with our latest and greatest and now someone wants us to change it. Before you have a tantrum and kick your feet on the floor remember a few things. One, we asked these people to give us feedback because??? We value their opinion and their place in the community. Why would we knee jerk to “no” if these are the people we are entrusting to get us, AND THEM, to the top with our story? They are not saboteurs, they are doing what we tasked them to do. Two, sometimes because of the labor intensity of the writing, we are too close to the story to be objective.
Passion is important, being able to moderate it to drive the passion so others can experience it too is the role of the coach. Choose your coach wisely and remember – they don’t send the star quarterback in against a defense carrying machete’s, they evaluate the situation, and call the play that is best for the situation to promote their team to a win. Likewise, you are not a lamb to slaughter and need to trust your coach to do their job as you do yours.
There is so much about writing that is simple if we are willing to look at it with fresh eyes and the wonder of our first day of school. So far we covered A, B & C and found some pretty simple but significant things that we have in our arsenal that have been there since we were learning the alphabet. I wonder what we’ll find next. Til then…
By Abyrne | January 23, 2013
As we go through our list of things we have always known that enable us to be great writers, there is one core truth about anything we endeavor to achieve. YOU HAVE TO DO IT! You can’t sit back and hope success comes to you. You have to reach out with both hands and grab on as if your life were dependant on how long you hold on. This isn’t an eight-second ride, this is a lifetime roller-coaster and the air-brakes have failed.
We have to become our own little engine that could and remember that with each step we struggle to gain and each one that comes without effort that “I think I can” will get us farther than “I think I can’t.” What do you believe?
Yeah? THEN GO DO IT!
By Abyrne | February 13, 2013
As we talk about the things we have known since we were young that enable us to be great writers and get to the letter “E” in the alphabet we reach something that is skill supported but yet a non-skill item on our list. It is our Enthusiasm. We didn’t need someone to teach us how to be excited or enthusiastic; we have been since before we knew that there were words like exciting and enthusiastic. We knew from the moment we got something unexpected and wonderful what it meant, even if we didn’t understand the concept. The same is true with writing.
Enthusiasm for your project is what makes a story a joy or a drag; and truly if it’s a drag for you, it is for your readers too. When you are telling the tale because it is exciting to you it boosts your enthusiasm for the story and makes it flow. When you find that you’re distracted and willingly avoiding the writing, you will find that the story has lulled, or perhaps it’s just your enthusiasm for the project. You need to take a moment and kick start your adrenaline, reread the passage your started with, dig out the outline or the image of the protagonist that drives you to show them to the world, find a piece of music that ‘screams’ the story to you…but find your voice. Motivation is the skill to drive emotion and enthusiasm, but the enthusiasm you have or don’t is the result of being able to motivate yourself to the purpose at hand…writing the story.
As long as we’ve mentioned it, another great ‘E’ word that is a biggie in writing is emotion. I’ve heard it time and time again and it’s always true….People may not remember what you said, they may not remember what you did, but they will remember how you made them feel. This is true for good or for bad. What are you making your readers feel? Are you letting them feel at all? Are you showing them or telling them? If you are showing them you are likely drawing them into the tale in such a way to allow them to feel the story as it unfolds. It is what drives the joy and the heartbreak at the highs and lows in the tale.
Emotion is why readers cannot put the book down, where another tale with the same plotline that is telling is cast aside before the third chapter. Do we all know and understand that while you will hook a reader in the first 50 pages, if you neglect them later on the only emotion they remember is disappointment? It’s not enough to have a great hook or bait if you don’t have the strength to keep the tension on the line until the tale is done you’re going come up with an empty net. Talk about blowing your enthusiasm.
At the end of the day, the simple truth is that we all have a story to tell. Maybe it’s a story that others want to hear and maybe not. Maybe we have a story that is so compelling that it has to be shared for the greater good and when that happens we need to take up the charge to write with courage and conviction, excitement and enthusiasm to tell the story as it should be conveyed. We have it within us to remember what it means to be moved by something, enthusiasm for that emotion is everything, even when the emotion we have to convey is not joy. We have to be willing and able to recognize the difference between the low points in a story and the lack of motivation and self-correct our course to see it through and give voice the tale that we have in us wanting out. And above all, we need to remember that time and effort are better teachers than wishes and wants and get our motivation moving to make it happen. You have a voice, use it.
By Abyrne | April 10, 2013
Sitting here, I know I need to get back on track with our alphabet adventure thru the things that make us great, and I fully admit today, my brain has shouted “EFF” you. It’s not that there aren’t 1001 things that could be said, should be said or need to be said…it’s that in my mind, the world has diluted down to pieces and parts. Perhaps that is the “F” word for today. Fragment.
Every story starts with one, a piece of something that becomes something else and something bigger. So what are your pieces? My fragments today are learning that it is not enough to love a person with your being if they doubt that it’s there, understanding and communication cannot be accomplished by one person alone, my office space is sorely missing enough desk space for all the pieces that are lying on the floor, and there is a root bound peace lily from my brother in laws funeral four years ago that either needs to be re-potted or given a shot of coffee, cuz it’s looking like the grey dismal that exists beyond the window.
SO….of these fragments, which one is the story? Answer? Every. Last. One. The difference between what makes us good and what makes us great as writers is that we all know the tale of fact. We know the why for the plant, the day, the scattered bits, the unspoken words and the miscommunicated affection. The part that makes it great is when we stop seeing what is, and see what could be. Every thing, every fragment, every moment is the opening line of a story that you can take and run with or leave unchallenged. What do you choose?
For me, in no particular order, the stories are the rift of ocean that prevented the message from reaching target and the journey to deliver it in person, the fickle Fae that dies with the plant without the sun and a shot of coffee, the ransacked pages that revealed everything but the piece of information that was needed and the ensuing game of predator-prey, and the shouted communication between two geriatric patients in their beds, neither wearing their hearing aid.
What are your fragments? What opening lines are sitting in front of your face waiting for you to see them? What “EFF” you message is the word giving you to look harder, but simpler at the world around you and turn yourself loose to make something more? Do yourself a favor, go look in the mirror and really look at the reflection, but also at the background and shout “EFF YOU”. Then blink and look again. What is it that you see that wasn’t there the first time? Now go tell the story.
By Abyrne | May 9, 2013
Some days, life is a drag. I know it. You know it. It’s the worst kept secret for most all of us….when we’re having an off day. As a writer this is lethal. The reader is seldom looking to learn that their hero author is under in some way, and certainly not long term. I have found this to be true recently, but also I have learned that sometimes the best thing out there is the truth when things are going contrary to the grain. I have been battling a serve bout of pancreatitis for 8 weeks now, and I have come to find that while I have not gotten as much done in my writing work as I would like to claim, I have learned first hand the value of people and their compassion for things outside of my control.
How does this fit with our skills for writing? Well, in thinking about it, sometimes the day is just going to be a bad day, and some days are just going to go right out the window if you let them. Turning the tide is usually easier said than done, but there is something about the wonder of glitter that we’ve had since we were kids…putting it on paper, gluing it to things, shaking it in a bottle of water…that brings a smile to almost everyone (except the one who has to clean it up – and maybe them too). So in the interest of being present for the magic of a day, bring some of your own (outside might be best) and try just tossing a handful of glitter in the air and watching it twinkle. If for no other reason that to forget for a moment, that today hasn’t been so great, and maybe just maybe it will take a turn for you.
“When we long for life without difficulties, remember that oaks grow stronger in contrary wind and diamonds are made under pressure.” ~Peter Marshall
By Abyrne | May 23, 2013
Here’s the thing about writing…it’s seldom ever a sit down, do my thing, get up and I’m done deal. BUT, few things in life actually are. We’ve plodded along now for some time with the ABC’s of what we know/have known all along to make us great writers, and as I got to “H” I thought…huh. What the heck am I going to write? Welllll, I came up with two bits, one is the title, and the second is the word “how”.
As for cake…when we were small we never worried about having our cake unless we got to eat it. “Having” the cake was unimportant, unless we were HAVING cake. So why is it important now? To me this speaks to the notion of the skillset we have, the props, the accessories without having the words. It isn’t enough to have the stuff and look like a writer, if we aren’t writing. What does a writer look like anyway? The image of scraggly, chain-smoking, coffee-guzzling vagabond applies to so few writers of the world today. (we all learned the meaning of cliche and decided against it).
It is not enough to look the part, you have to sit down and apply the knowledge. You go to conferences and see business cards being passed out like champagne at a wedding, but how many of the cards are for a writer who you could pick up their stuff on amazon or at a bookhop? Due dilligence in required, and that’s how we HAVE the cake. It’s sometimes sweet and sticky, sometimes dry and you might wish for sandpaper instead, but that’s the cake. Once we have done the requisite baking and frosted appropriately we can HAVE cake…as can the readers. Who brought the coffee?
Secondly, is HOW…How is one of the big six of life but absolutely the bix six of writing…Who, what, why, when, where, how?? When we were little and something happened…we would be asked “WHAT happened?” Nine times out of ten we didnt’ respond with what, but rather how….listen to any child relate a story and you’ll hear; “and then…and then…and then….” with a complete desription of the events, which person did what to whom in what order and why it was wrong or right….but it is all HOW. You don’t get the end result what, until the end.
So, as writers, we’ve been relating the BIG “H” since before we knew we were storytellers. We just need to reclaim that inner child need to relay the story bit by bit and not lump sum conclusion. I encourage every one of us to stop and listen to a child recite the details in response to a what question…you’ll find not only that it makes you smile (unless it’s your child being tattled on), but also that somewhere in there you will start sorting out the whys from the whats, and the whos from the hows…and when that happens, something magical occurs because then the tale unfolds. HOW will you tell yours?
By Abyrne | May 30, 2013
As I sit and think about this post and all of the “I” words that influence our skill set ((there’s another I word)) that we have that encompass what we know about being a good writer, and have always known; I find that for “I” week, I actually need an “A” word to get it done. Affirmation.
According to my Webster’s Unabridged (big ass, don’t drop it on your foot size) Universal Dictionary;
Affirmation is defined as: “the act of affirming or asserting as true; that which is asserted, positive declaration; confirmation, ratification or a solemn declaration made, under the penalties of perjury, by persons who conscientiously decline taking an oath and is in law equivalent to an oath.”
For this, I will use the “positive declaration” definition.
Do we remember playing on the snow-mounds in the play yard at day-school? Even though we were told not to, we did it. I did. Do we remember getting to the top declaring “I am KING of the mountain”? Usually from the top of our lungs, which invariably called attention to us on the snow-mound we were told not to play on? I digress. Was there any doubt in our mind of our status as King? Nope. We declared it, it was fact. Or, how about our responses to “What are you going to be when you grow up?” I’m going to be an astronaut. No doubt, statement of fact. Am I an astronaut now? No. Let’s contrast this with that little train that kept saying “I think I can, I think I can…” instead of “I know I can”. There is a vast difference in thinking. In the first examples, we are. In the second, we hope.
The question then becomes are you a writer? Do you know it? Do you affirm it to yourself and everyone around you? OR, are you hoping you are a writer telling yourself, “I think I can”. The difference is absolute and will show in what you say, do, and accomplish.
It’s true. While MANY MANY writers have horrible pangs of self doubt and are their own worst critics, they still call themselves “writer.” They sit down, bang away at the keyboards and while loathing their production, have written and claim the title. Do you? If the answer is yes, please jump to item “TWO” below. If the answer is anything but yes, please pause for two things. ONE, to have a serious heart to heart with yourself and decide if you are or if you hope.. If you don’t get to yes, then you need to revisit this more at length I think. If the answer is yes however…go to ’TWO’, which is stand up and shout out loud (because we all can use the kick in the trews), repeating after me…
I. AM. A. WRITER.
Congratulations. Purpose affirmed.
By Abyrne | June 18, 2013
It’s “J” week. I will admit being fully flummoxed at what to write once again. I also realized that my consistency has been off as I’ve devoted time to other projects. As I was writing though, it occurred to me that two things were at play and both were “J” words. Both are also things that we all do everyday and have in our arsenal to become great writers when properly employed. Jot it down, and Juggle.
I have to write it down (jot it down) if I’m doing something else, or else I’ll never recall it later. That might be years catching up to me or years down the line, but I digress. 🙂 I have my trusty planner with me everywhere I go. There are post it notes in the car and a blank journal in my briefcase just in case the muse wakes up and decides to kick me in the ass at an inopportune moment. I’m ready. Whatever memory device you have, use it. Being able to put your hands back on that golden idea when life decides to give you time to do it, is vital to your ability to move forward from the starting line.
Second is juggle, and we’ve been doing it since we were little. How many of us have carried a frog or a worm or a dead something or other while chasing the girls on the playground avoiding the lunch maids? Or snatched a friends something and played keep away with a group of friends. Writing is the same. We juggle different activities, actions, and ideas when we write…we just do it in our mind instead of literally. We take a plot line, a character trait, an action and a reaction and put it together to create a scene….it is the ultimate juggle as we have all the minutia of the details to keep in the air and working in sync to bring it together.
Now, I will say that some of us are better at this than others, but that is about practice. We likely fell the first time or two we tried to catch a frog never mind chased someone with it. We likely fumbled a bit the details the first go ’round with the details of a scene we were scripting too. Give yourself permission to jumble the details a little while you hone your craft.
At the end of the day, we all jumble before we juggle well. And, if you have too many balls in the air and can’t juggle it just now…Jot it down.
By Abyrne | July 26, 2013
I know, I know….it’s been forever. BUT, in my defense, I’ve been working. Hard. Really really hard as a matter of fact and there is fruit on the vine. *grins*
We are up to “K” in our alphabet soup of great writing and there are two things, both extremes, but two things that really we know how to do, always have…we just need to modify them to get them into our writing. KISS or Kick.
KISS, in this instance has dual meaning. The first is the acronym KISS-Keep It Simple, Stupid….which is great advice. When trying to write or begin writing- stick to the simple things and the ones you know. Reinventing the wheel, rocket fuel, accurate trajectory to the moon….leave those for later or for those who already have those concepts under their belt. YOU, stick to the simple (not mundane) but simple subjects of which YOU are expert or well versed. It makes things so much easier. When we were little we knew this concept well. We didn’t play chase if we didn’t like to run. We didn’t play king of the mountain if we didn’t like heights, and we didn’t to the math-a-thon if we were not good at math. STICK to that thought…SIMPLE.
The second kiss is just that. Kiss yourself. When you do well, have rewards. Look in the mirror and tell yourself the things you need to hear. Self-affirmation is a great way to ‘fake it til you make it’ and get you moving. Just remember to be realistic in your praise and appropriate in your rewards. If you buy a new lexus when you post your first blog, is nice, but where’s the next reward…not to mention if you never write another thing those payments are going to be pretty depressing.
Lastly is Kick….as in kick yourself in the ass. Sometimes, we just need to get off our duff and write crap. WHY? Because writing is a muscle and you have to work it to get it to perform. If you haven’t written, or have slumped off…letting yourself write dreck for a few that will go no where or that you will edit the “EFF” out of later is acceptable as a means to get you into the chair. Kick your own ass and make it happen.
Growth of any kind is a change from where you are right now. How bad to you want it? Change of any kind doesn’t happen with wishing. It happens when you put one foot in front of the other, or, in times of great need, plant one up your seat and do something. Whatever it is, Nothing will change until you do. Get writing.
By Abyrne | August 25, 2013
It’s been awhile. Once again, I’ve gotten off and running in another direction completely and it has meant that my posts have slogged off. While I do want to keep going on this, I find that my persistance needs a kick in the seat on occasion. Thanks for sticking it out!
We’ve gotten to “L” in our trip through the alphabet and this one is eassssy.. It is vision. VISION? That’s not an “L” word…but it is. Our vision is constant, it is all around us and always within us. Where we lose sight, is we fail to do one thing, we fail to LOOK. And I mean really look. Take off your old people, writer goggles and remember what it is to see things like a child. Look with your eyes open to the ordinary and the extrordinary that is all around us. Do we think that all the alternate worlds we have found in literature were delivered part and parcel to the author’s that wrote them? You know…they might have been.
Being open to see the information and ideas that develop into the greatest tales is a trademark of a writer. They are dreamers. They are, at their core, willing to step back and see everything new all over again as they endeavor to describe the mundane and make the fastasical real for the readers. Have you woken from a wild ride through your nocturnal movie projector and thrown your hands out to make sure where you were? You are a writer in training. Once you can see it, then you have to step back and break it down so your words can show it to others. THAT is what I mean about looking.
Writing is not about checking both ways before you cross the street to make sure you aren’t hit by the passing car…it’s jumping into the lane, looking both ways and seeing the promise of exhiliration at the myriad ways your mind finds to see the scene, without losing the adventure before the scene is decimated by the trivial bits of reality that tear apart the incredible.
They say you can know the dreamer by the faraway look in his eye. I do believe that is also where you will find the writers. So…what are you looking at?
By Abyrne | September 9, 2013
We’ve been talking about all the things that we have within our arsenal that make us great writers, or that would make us great writers if we tapped into them…this is one such post because we need to learn that it is ok to be selfish. The big “m”s if you will…ME, MYSELF & MY. Growing up- many of us were taught to share, to think of others, to ‘put ourselves in the other persons shoes’….with writing it is this for the characters we are creating, but for the real world it is their turn to give way to us. To see inside one’s own head requires vision beyond what’s in front of our face. Sometimes, it takes uninvaded space too.
Probably the most difficult adjustment for my daughters was the idea that when I retreat to my office (which is in the basement), that they cannot come in over and over again with math questions, or boy questions, or just to sit and gab. Writing time is MY time and needs to be respected if everyone in the house ever expects me to come out from the basement at all. It is a difficult line to draw and does go against the grain for what many of us were brought up to know as common courtesy, but think of it this way…our characters and the stories they tell us so we can share are as elusive as garden sprites and will not come to whisper if you are not there to give them your undivided attention. The choice is ours to make…are we writers? or are we not?
If we are, then we have to adapt to a behavior pattern at times that allows us to create and be inspired, or risk the dream of the words… Dream big!
By Abyrne | October 15, 2013
For how long it has been since I was here, you would think I had something incredibly profound to say and yet what I have to say on this is so simple…..
never, never, never, Never, NEver, NEVer, NEVEr, NEVER EVER NEVER give up!
accomplishements do not come to quitters.
By Abyrne | November 4, 2013
I know we did “N” last, but it’s NOVEMBER….that means NANOWRIMO, so we’re doing it again.
The last “N” was about Never giving up…NANO is about something bigger, very Nike-esq if you are from that era…and that is, JUST DO IT!
NaNoWriMo is about thousands of writers sitting down to do the thing that makes us a collective…We WRITE. Whether you are a beginner, or a novice, or a full fledged, published, successful author…there is one thing that holds true for every single one of us…if you don’t do the words (WRITE) you aren’t a writer.
This too we’ve known all along, though maybe not in this venue. Whatever it is that you want to do or need to do, you have to buckle down and do it. Fail forward is progress, as are crappy first drafts. Whatever it is, don’t give up. Keep going. Feel the fear and do it anyway…that’s how you win the game.
Here’s to your work!
By Abyrne | November 10, 2013
As I sit here thinking about “O” words and commentary as to things we have known all along to make our writing ventures great, I for some reason have Smokey the Bear in my head and the tag line about “Only you can prevent forest fires….” which in it’s own way is an appropriate launching point for this installment, because like fire prevention, ONLY YOU can write your story. Until the time when we can think a story into tangible creation, we have an issue. We have to take ownership (another “O” word) for the process and make it happen. Wishing does not make one an author any more than dreaming does, though those two things are stepping stones along the path to the process, so keep them around.
No two writers will tell the same story the same way and THAT is why we each have an avenue toward authorship. The best example of this is in interviewing witnesses at a crime scene…each one saw the same thing, but they noted and gave heavier creedence to different pieces of the same event, thereby the stories differ…sometimes slightly, sometimes greatly…but differ none the less. Your story, while perhaps centered on a familiar or popular theme, will never be exactly the same as someone else’s telling tales in the same genre. Unless of course, you resort to overt plagiarism, in which case you are not a writer, you are a thief.
The other thing that comes to mind is owning the process. You cannot call yourself a writer if you don’t write. It is a fact. Writing does not have to be stellar to count as writing, and in fact, most writers start out with some pretty disheartening attempts before they get to the bigger ball field with the fan base and t-shirts. I would guess that most writers, if asked, would tell you that they have many pieces in a drawer somewhere or ashed in the compost that will never see the light of day. Why? Because failing forward is how we get better….but we have to keep going and own the fact that we did not sit down at the computer or the pen and paper a NY Times best selling writer…we had to exert effort and take chances, seek opportunities to grow and accept the skinned knees as we crawled before we walked, before we ran and hit success.
Owning the process is what enables us to become something bigger, better, and known. Owning the process means the whole process too, not just the final event. We can only appreciate what has been gained when we accept responsibility for the times that we did not reach the full potential because THAT is where we learn what works, what doesn’t, and if we pay attention, what we need to do next time to get farther than we have been. Writing is a marathon of sprints. The long road to success is paved with the cast off pieces as we hone our skill set and rework our dreams to fit out growing abilities. The only thing that remains is drive and the question of how bad you really want it. Good things come to those who wait. Great things come to those who bust their asses and really go for it.
Are you wishing, dreaming, or preventing forest fires…Only you know the answer.
(In other news….where is my spell check button gone?)
By Abyrne | December 1, 2013
We’ve been doing this alphabet through writing for awhile now. Partly because I have been inconsistent in my posting, but partly too because it was a formulistic way to approach the notion of blogging. For a plebeian effort, I think it has worked well for us.
Today is December 1st, and while we should have finished the alphabet a couple months back, we are only just entering the last 1/3rd of it. I actually don’t feel badly about that at all. Mostly because when I look back at the posts (after going through and deleting all the spam crap cheap NFL jersey bullshit responses), I think we have gained ground. We have persevered toward the goal of remembering what it is that we know to do what we aspire to do…to write.
I realize that this novice approach to writing is perhaps not what the greats would advise us to do, but then again, wouldn’t they? If we dilute down the sage advices from writers through the ages aren’t they really telling us much of the same things in different ways? Sure, we can say ‘peel the onion’ to get to the heart of things, go layer by layer to reach that elusive truth…or, we can say practice makes perfect, fake it til you make it, or smile through the rain until the sun shines. All essentially mean, we have to be persistent in our efforts, whether it is analytical, or of the philosophy of failing forward to grow.
The great virtues count patience among their core values and writing is no different. The agents and publishers out there would reinforce that well, which you would know if you’ve ever sent off your labor of love and waited the weeks and sometimes months for a response, or lack thereof. Patience is not only a virtue, it is an imperative need as we dream and hope for someone else to aid our promotion unless we elect to do it all ourselves…which also requires patience to learn the ropes of the processes along the way.
There are lots of ways to reach the top of the publishing mountain, which path is yours? Only you know. What I know is that there are a few key truths that line every path. One, find your passion…be it subject, process, or audience and write to that strength. Two, know the distance and be ready to run the whole way there. The path is paved with obstacles, they too are the path. Three, be aware of those along the way who are making the journey and be willing to exchange ideas and pay forward the knowledge you have gained. We all need allies and peers, they make us who we are and define how we arrive. Arrive with your head held high knowing that you made it, and made a difference as you went.
The richest, wisest man had not money nor gold,
but an immeasurable commodity, not bought or sold.
He walked with his eyes up, a smile criss-crossed is face,
As he worked toward success and a coveted space.
His arrival was heralded with shouts, whistles and cheers,
At the journey’s last station after many a year.
And he counted among the myriad blessings,
Not the money nor gold, but the friendships & lessons.
In this season of Thanks, please accept my gratitude for each of your contributions to this year of remembering why we do what we do and how to bring it out to pursue our passion…and write.
As always…may you ne’er run out of ink and a fresh page call you to create.
Couple more quickies to bounce over and then we’ll get on to the new and improved. A couple author spotlights, a couple more favorite posts and we’re set!
Please help me welcome Heidi Nicole Bird, Independant author of Through the Paper Wall and the soon to release Ontario…
Hiya Heidi….let’s dive in shall we?
Did you go to school to be a writer? If yes, what is the most important lesson you learned there? If no, what is the most important lesson that you were never taught?
No, I did not study writing in school. Well, not fiction writing anyway. I certainly studied academic writing though as a history major. I have learned a lot from my fellow writers, and I think the most important thing I have ever learned is this: it is good to edit thoroughly, but you can’t be so much of a perfectionist with your work that it never gets out where people can see it.
Tell me the big 6 of your writing routine. Who, what, where, when, why, how.
Who – Usually when I write I am the only one around, except for my dogs, though occasionally I write in a group setting.
What – Most often I am working on a young adult fantasy novel.
Where – My bedroom. I set up half my room as an office and I tend to write at my desk, or while sitting on my bed.
When – Any time of the day really, though I prefer to work in the morning and play at night.
Why – Writing is how I express myself. I communicate much better through writing, and it is my way of letting my creativity flow. Also, I think I would explode if I didn’t get these stories down!
How – I always write my stories on my laptop, except for the occasional scene I write in my notebook when something comes to me in the middle of the night. Sometimes I listen to music, sometimes I don’t. If I listen to music it is most often something by Adam Young.
Where do your stories come from? What motivates you to write what you do?
Pretty much all of my stories have just come to me out of nowhere. I will just be doing something and have an idea hit me, and then I run with it. I am very motivated by deadlines, or “the end” of a story. I want things to be finished. Also, now that I have a book published and have seen how much people like my writing, I am motivated by that as well to get more of my books into peoples’ hands.
Where did you come up with Ambyth? What is it to you personally? Or was it just a stroke of fiction?
The idea for the place itself if one of those ideas that just came out of nowhere, and I still marvel over it today actually. For the name I was really creative. I wanted the name to somehow refer to eternity, or forever, since that’s how long the leaders of Ambyth wanted their power to last. So, I decided to play around with Google Translate and see what I could come up with. I just typed in things like “forever” and “eternity” and switched to different languages, and somehow I came up with the name.
If there is one novel or work you wish you would have written what is it? Why is it so significant to you?
Harry Potter. Maybe that is cliché but I have always been blown away by J.K. Rowling created a world that is so real . . . so many people think it IS real! I mean, my local university has a Quidditch team. To be able to create a world that real would be beyond my wildest dreams.
What are your long term publishing goals?
I don’t like to put a cap on my work, but I have another book right now that is about ready to be published, and five more that I know people would enjoy. So I at least plan on getting those out to the world, and of course I want to get even more books written! I think I am going to stay with self publishing, unless something huge happens. So far I prefer self publishing though.
Where do you see yourself as a writer in 5 years? 10?
First I see myself having several more books published. I would also like to be a fulltime writer by that point, just being a stay at home mom and not having any other job than that, except for writing.
Ontario is a unique name? How did you come up with it and develop it?
For some reason I was thinking about Canada one day and thought that Ontario could also be used for the name of a person. It was only a matter of minutes before I had the idea for the story.
What are your projects in the works?
I am currently working on getting Ontario ready for publication, and it will be available April 29th! I am also close to finishing my book Lorn, which I really think people will like, and I am starting a new story in April for Camp NaNoWriMo called A Blot of Ink. I also have a trilogy I wrote during 2009 to 2011 that I would love to revive, majorly edit, and have published in the near future. That will take a lot of work though, so who knows how far down the road that will be.
What is the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Be yourself, and don’t give up. Don’t mimic other writers – you should always use your own style and your own voice, and even though you may not feel like your work is the greatest, you should never stop. The more we write, the more we improve our writing abilities.
What would you say to someone who thinks they want to be a writer about getting started?
Just start. Grab your computer, or a notebook and a pen or pencil, and just start writing. We think as we write, and you are never going to get a story down unless you start. Whether you know what to write or not, just start writing something, anything, whatever comes to mind, and soon you will learn about yourself and how you write, and ideas will come to you.
Excellent advice! Thanks for stopping by….
pm terrell:my conversation with PM Terrell….here it is again for posterity. Be sure to check the spotlight later today to see who’s in the hotseat for March
I am so impossibly excited to bring this guest to you today, I can hardly believe she’s here. She is the award winning author of SIXTEEN novels, and she is still writing more…Can you imagine it? Dare to Dream it? It is my esteemed pride and pleasure to introduce you to my inspiring friend, Patricia M. Terrell.
Hi Trish! Before we begin, I need to confess I took a peek at your website, (www.pmterrell.com) and I’m a little concerned about the “Twins” showing up and making me mind my manners here with you so I have to ask, are you wearing a wire?
Hi, Abyrne! Thanks so much for the questions and for this wonderful opportunity. I’m afraid I am no longer wearing a wire! ~whew
I was an informant on a trucking industry kickback case some years ago, which led to the writing of my first suspense/thriller, Kickback, a dramatized version of what I went through. Thankfully, those days are over.
I’m going to dare that the no wire is a good thing, but the writing it prompted has become something even better by your track record. I know that you have a large number of titles under your belt as an author now, which one has the most significance for you, and what makes it that? Did any one specifically make you say to yourself, ‘Now, I am an author’?
The one book that really made me realize I had arrived is Songbirds are Free. It was a departure from my normal contemporary suspense. I went back in time to one of my ancestors, who had been captured by Shawnee warriors in 1780 and held as a slave for three years before she managed to escape. The overwhelming reception I got for this book was amazing. It is still my bestselling title.
I can’t even imagine. I have seen that River Passage is reputed for having such historical accuracy that it is housed in the Metropolitan Archives…how do you do such meticulous research for writing and keep it all straight but also interesting when you are telling your story?
I hadn’t intended to write another historical book after Songbirds are Free, but I had amassed so much information during my research that I knew I had the makings of another book. I began by obtaining the official records of the river journey from Virginia to Fort Nashborough (now Nashville, TN) that took place in 1779-1780. I then began planning a series of road trips, much like going on a vacation. I contacted historians, libraries and museums in each area and set up appointments to meet with historians and researchers on each leg.
When I began to write the book, however, I put myself into the mind and soul of my ancestor, Mary Neely, who was along for the journey. I knew from my suspense writing that to keep the audience reading, I’d need to have suspense, page-turning action, plenty of dialogue, and they would have to feel as though they were Mary on this journey. Fortunately, the trip was incredibly eventful so it is just as suspenseful as my thrillers.
How exciting for you. With published works in multiple genres, which genre is your favorite to write and which is the most challenging for you? Why?
The historical books (Songbirds are Free and River Passage) were the most challenging. For every hour of writing, I spent more than 30 hours in research. The books I enjoy writing the most are my contemporary suspense. I’ve begun writing more about Ireland and introducing Irish characters, and that has given a new dimension to my writing. I’m loving the Celtic connections!
How do you keep your characters and plotlines fresh after 16 books?
I have an active imagination and I am also an avid people-watcher so I am constantly picking up quirks, physical characteristics or personality traits and weaving them into various characters. I hope this keeps the characters fresh. I also constantly peruse declassified records for real missions undertaken and I change certain facts here and there – such as weaving a World War II recon mission into something happening today – so the plots remain fresh and varied.
Good trick! If I were writing action and suspense I might have to borrow that. You wrote three books last year, not a small feat. Tell me about your writing routine that you could accomplish so much. Give me the big six….who, what, where, when, why, HOW?
Last year, I wrote two books for the Black Swamp Mysteries series and a third book for a new Ryan O’Clery series. I always dream every scene before it is written so each day when I sit down at my computer I never wonder what I am going to write. The words just come because I am writing down what I saw and experienced in my dream. One dream leads to another and before I know it, I have 100,000 words and need to edit it down. I am always at my desk by 7:00 or 7:30 and often don’t leave it for 10 or 12 hours… Once the initial draft is done, I go back and flesh it out with descriptions of the environment – smells, sights, sounds that make each scene richer. Then I edit once more and check all my technical facts before it goes off to the editor. I am scheduled to write another book this year in the Black Swamp Mysteries series and another in the Ryan O’Clery series.
When you say you dream every scene before it is written…do you mean day dream? Or literal dream-dream? …and do you do this as a guided exercise, or does it just seem to happen? Can you elaborate?
I trained myself to think through the last scenes I’d written right before falling asleep with the conscious thought of dreaming of the next sequences. Over the years, I’ve perfected it (as much as one can) and now it happens automatically. The dream is a literal one – at night with my eyes closed – not a daydream or series of day-thoughts.
I’m fascinated. Tell me more about the guiding yourself into dreaming. There are so many of us out there who fight for good sleep because we are running through the last scene or thinking on the next that sleep eludes us, can you explain how you move past the conscious to the subconscious effectively? Or are you equally plagued by the difficulty to get to the dream for the active imagination running wild?
I could write a book on how to do it. I’m not sure I can explain it quickly. It’s a form of self-hypnosis. The focus needed to self-hypnotize effectively gets rid of all the nagging thoughts that threaten to interfere.
I think I want to know more about this dreaming process. Write a book you say? Why Yes, Thank you. I’ll preorder now.
I myself think of my characters as real people as I flesh them out before I write so I can be effective in the different voices. How do you learn a new character? How to you develop them and make them multi-dimensional? Is it the same for all of them or are there differences? And how to you learn a character that is being elusive?
I study characters and have always been interested in psychology and the relationship between people. I have a library filled with books that are wonderful at helping me create multi-dimensional characters. One of my favorites is Linda Goodman’s Love Signs. It doesn’t matter if you believe in astrology. This book provides so much information on so many varied personalities, it’s amazing. What’s more is it tells what happens when you get two personalities together. It can create great conflict due to the diverse ways the characters interact; or it can develop into love very quickly. This is one way I create the varied characters and their varied reactions to similar circumstances.
If a character is being elusive, then I would look up those personalities that are elusive, and I would weave that into the character. I had an assassin in Exit 22 that readers only see snippets of here and there; by the time they’ve reached the end of the book, they knew just enough about him to be terrified. Oddly enough, it was the fact that he knit baby booties in between killings that really freaked people out!
Baby booties? Trish, that’s freaky without knowing the rest of that story.
How does a story typically unfold or reveal to you? How is this good or bad thing when you are working and how to you build from it?
I let the story unfold naturally. I have already planned the crime or the mission and sometimes how the characters respond to it is surprising, even to me. When it becomes laborious, I know I am on the wrong track. When I am bored, I know my readers will be, too. Word count helps me write tightly – I know past a certain point will make the book less marketable so I know I must keep the action moving on every page
That’s quite opposite the ‘puke it out then edit it down’ philosophy so many use. You said that you use word count to help you write tightly…can you explain how you mean and how this encourages you to edit. What range would you say you cannot move beyond without losing impact?
The range most of the larger publishers don’t want to exceed is 85,000 words. I have more latitude with some publishers than I have with others so some of my books have been as long as 120,000 words. But I try to stay closer to the 85,000-90,000 range if at all possible. This can mean having to get rid of scenes but the end result is a tighter read
I know that you are a huge advocate in the literacy campaigns and not just in your neighborhood, but on a much broader scale….how did you get involved with the project and please tell us all about Book ‘Em?
Thanks for asking about Book ‘Em. I founded The Book ‘Em Foundation with Mark Kearney, a Police Officer with the Waynesboro (VA) Police Department more than ten years ago. The mission is to raise awareness of the link between high crime rates and high illiteracy rates. The slogan is “Buy a Book and Stop a Crook.” We’ve recently begun a program called Book ‘Em North Carolina, which takes place the last Saturday of each February in Lumberton, North Carolina. It is a Writers Conference and Book Fair and is open to the public and to all ages, completely free of charge. If attendees buy books, the author and publisher have agreed to donate a portion of those proceeds to literacy campaigns. Last year and this year, we are helping to fund the Dolly Parton Imagination Library of Robeson County (supplying books to children ages 1 through 5), Communities In Schools for all grade levels, and Friends of the Robeson County Public Library for literacy campaigns for all ages.
I am so impressed with this and looking forward to the event this year after missing last year. Book ‘Em is coming up again soon, I know that it used to be in Virginia, but it’s now in North Carolina. Why did it move and what are the pros and cons of the new venue?
We actually didn’t move Book ‘Em Virginia but Mark is in the process of changing the venue from Waynesboro to perhaps Staunton, VA. We hope to have one in VA and one in NC each year, plus others around the country.
TWO events and more to come? That’s amazing.
I am loving the NC event because of the community in Lumberton. I have never seen so many diverse groups come together and work so flawlessly: Friends of the Library, Robeson County Arts Council, Robeson Community College, City of Lumberton, Lumberton Visitors Bureau, Carolina Civic Center, Rotary Club, Kiwanis Club, Chamber of Commerce of Fairmont… The list goes on and on! There have been no cons to having it here, which is a message in itself that this is the best place for this event.
Sill impressed. About the Virginia Book ‘Em event….is it annual and the same weekend at NC? Is it the same set up? Or something completely unique? What are the benefits or differences between the two?
The Virginia event was held every October in Waynesboro, so having the two events months apart is great as it will help each venue attract authors without competing for them. The setup is very similar and the concept is exactly the same. It was discontinued about a year ago when the city government changed and the support wasn’t there like it had been in the past. There are plans to move it to another locale close to Waynesboro and hopefully there will be one later this year. The benefits are the same with each; the one in NC benefits the southeastern section of the state (Robeson County) which has had 13% unemployment. The one in VA benefits the Central Shenandoah Valley, which has also seen a transition with manufacturers moving overseas.
Hmmmm, gotta check the October calendar.
What is the best and worst advice you’ve ever received and what advice would you give to an aspiring writer?
The worst advice I ever received was when a New York Times bestselling author told me after I had received three rejections for Kickback that I needed to shelve it. If I’d followed that advice, I would never have been published.
Never? I can’t imagine that with how far and wide your circle of influence has grown between your writing and your philanthropy.
The best advice – and the advice I would pass on to new authors is to separate your ego from your work. If an author is writing only to hear praise and becomes defensive when hearing constructive criticism, they won’t last long in this industry. Always try to improve, to hone your craft and to listen to others. We all know others whose work would have been much better had they listened to their editors and I can only think of a couple who have been able to write with very little editing.
Good advice. So, what’s next for you?
What’s next for me once Book ‘Em North Carolina is finished (February 23) is to write the next book in the Black Swamp Mysteries series; The Pendulum Files is set to be released in 2014 so I have a deadline to meet. Then I will write After the Tempest, the second book in the Ryan O’Clery series. In my crystal ball I see myself writing several books each year.
I’m so glad to hear that! Don’t forget you’re saving me a signed copy of Dylan’s Song at BENC!
I cannot thank you enough for your time Trish, I know with BENC you are insanely busy so I’ll let you get back to the madness before the amazing. I look forward to the event and many more great works from you down the road!
Well worders…worth your time? YOU BET! Check back here next month when my guest is another amazing author you won’t want to miss….From Traditional to Indie and loving the change. Find out all about it March 6th.
This month it is my great honor to present a chit-chat with Indie authoress extraordinaire, Amber Scott!! Pay close attention folks, Amber has graciously consented to doing PRIZES….YES PRIZES for today’s blog spotlight.
Here we go…
I know that you have a number of titles under your ‘author belt’, which one has the most significance for you and why? Did any one specifically make you think to yourself ‘Now, I’m an author’?
That is a tough one. Each story has significance to me for its own reasons but I would say that Irish Moon has been my ‘I have arrived’ title. It was the first of my manuscripts that my critique partner couldn’t get enough of. It was a title I struggled with in its traditional publishing days. And I had no idea when I took it indie that it would end up in the top 100 Kindle paid list a year ago or that it would carry me through a very difficult year.
I’ve read that your first manuscript was a NaNo novel. As many I know are Wrimos and many first time Wrimos in the recent round, how did that experience help you as a novelist? What lessons from NaNo still stick? What was the big take away and how have you applied it?
I love NaNoWriMo! It was what made me take my childhood dream into reality because while I always wanted to be an author, I never actually consistently wrote. I kept waiting for some grand inspiration to arrive. Until Nano. That’s when I found out how to write every day and that I actually enjoyed it. That first story will never, ever see publication (yikes!) but it was so worth the time and struggle.
I’ve also read that you’ve said it took eleven manuscripts to really get ‘in-touch’ with your writing. Can you elaborate what you mean by that? How did that development over the course of many manuscripts make you a stronger writer?
I think each manuscript took me on a new journey through experimenting with what works best for me and my muse. Manuscripts 1-3 are duds, never to see publication, but I learned. Books 4 onward each showed me things like finding my voice, the importance of plotting for my muse and such. My strength comes from the failures. Surviving them. While you’re in them it feels crushing that a scene isn’t working or an entire book gets tossed, or yet another rejection. At least once every few months I question if I should keep doing this gig. Then my muscles build up and I come back out swinging. Having amazing fans cheering me on makes it easy to get tough and get back out there.
Can you give me the down and dirty of your writing routine? How do you keep things fresh and moving? You know, the big six…who, what, where, when, why, how.
Write at every chance I get. A paragraph here, a page there. Being a stay home mom taught me that if I wait for others to press pause on their demands on my time, I’ll get stuck in saving my ideas for another day and then get resentful. Keeping things fresh is easy with my muse. She’s all over the sub-genres. I also love lists, music and idea journaling. With so many ideas that pop into my imagination, a journal helps me glean the ones that will stick long term.
You have called yourself a ‘brain geek’, how does that influence your writing? Does it drive your characters? Plots? How DO you flesh out your characters?
Yep. I love me some neuroscience! I think the human brain is absolutely fascinating. The big glob of grey unlocks this huge unseen world. Wow. Like magic. I use a lot of my neuroscience knowledge (if you can call it that) in my ParaRealm series. It was really important for me to ‘get’ how immortals could exist in a parallel realm to humans, why humans can evolve into more and how the realm lines would collapse. Quantum physics, another fascinating topic for me, came into play in this world, too. It isn’t so much there on the page, though, as worked out for me to make sense of this world.
I saw at one time you were employed at “Writer Bootcamp”. Can you tell us more?
Connie Flynn is so generous. I actually just gave her some marketing ideas for Writer Bootcamp. I love talking branding and brand-storming with other authors about their careers. Writer Bootcamp is a great place for aspiring and established authors to pick up new tools and network, too.
Speaking of places you work, I would love to know more about 1st Turning Point, and the Indie Book Collective. What they do, who they are, what influences they can have for a writer like me, what a writer like me can do for them?
1st Turning Point was SO much fun. Ann Charles, Jacquie Rogers and a whole slew of authors threw in our ideas and experiences in establishing a platform in the industry. That site is still a treasure trove of information that I go back to. The Indie Book Collective, though disbanded, was another amazing adventure in marketing books. We peaked at over seventy volunteers and had numerous successful events that helped launch my books and so many others into bestsellers. While the industry shifted and individual paths changed thereby rendering its time ending, I deeply value the author relationships I have thanks to the IBC.
Is everyone still with me?
I know you were a traditionally published author and that now you are an Indie author, can you tell us about the transition. What are the pros and cons and why are you better for making the switch?
Interestingly, the pros are the cons. You awesome part is you get to pick your own editor, choose your own cover, market how you see fit. And that’s the scary part. If your cover is awful, you are the only person to blame. If your editor points out things that you dislike, you picked them. It requires you take responsibility for your own career. But that is what I love.
I know you are a superstar in the KDP world. Can you tell us what you did to promote that relationship to make it work for you so well?
Author Jennifer Ashley once said at an RWA meeting that making it in this industry takes 90% hard work and the rest is luck. The key is to be working hard all the time because you don’t know when that luck will hit. You just have to know at some point, it will. My success with KDP was that luck. I was lucky enough to be partnered with IBC and thereby Carolyn McCray. Her genius combined with all the hard work I’d put into my books, timed with an industry change equaled success.
There are a lot of opinions about KDP now and where the industry is heading. I’ll be doing what I did before. The 90%.
I saw where you claimed Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight as one of your top five favorite novels. As you may or may not be aware, that story and its sequels have drawn fire from other writers for the technical writing shortfalls. What would you say in response? Why is it a top five?
Regardless of its editing, style or writing quality, and I have opinions on it, I couldn’t put any one of those books down. From page one, each struck me with how much the author loved her story. These characters were real to her and that came through. Reading those books sent me into a turning point for my career. I’d just finished writing Play Fling and I wasn’t seeing stellar sales success from my other published novels. I took a month off to decide if I really wanted to do this and if so, to discover how I could love my books like she loves hers.
llllllmost time for prizes….have you been paying attention?
What is the best and worst advice you’ve ever received and what advice would you give to an aspiring writer?
The best advice was to ask myself if doing anything else in the whole wide world would make me happier and if so, to do that instead. Because it is a hard, rejection filled, no guarantees business. The worst advice was to pick one genre and stick to it. If I’d followed that advice I’d not have written either of my two fan favorites, Irish Moon and Fierce Dawn, which might both have paranormal elements yet are anything but the same.
What’s next for you?
After a really challenging year in my personal life, I’ll finally (FINALLY) soon release Enchanted Moon. Stealing Dusk will follow and I have two other series’ books brewing in my brain, too. Another Mystique Antiques novella plus some new marketing ideas to experiment with. That’s another cool thing about being indie. I get to play! My inner geek gets to take these little ideas and see how they work out. So, stay tuned.
I’m sad to say that’s the end of our chat, though I hope to be able to amend a bit as we go through March and I can catch Amber with some follow up questions….
IN THE MEANTIME….did you pay attention? How about some prizes?
Two winners will get an e-book download of one of Amber’s titles…winners choice. Two runners up will get Amber’s Awesome Swag packs….(and she gives GOOOD SWAG!)
LASTLY…my most requested bit.
By Abyrne | July 26, 2013
I’ve been asked multiple times in inbox/email for the bit on the advice for aspiring writers….here is is again, though you can always find it on my About section on my website here.
Whatever path you take, remember that you have to start. Dreaming is that voice inside telling you that there is something there but it can’t do it without you. There’s magic in dreaming and stories too. No matter how good the dream though you still have to get up and take up the pen to tell the tale or it is only ever a dream. There’s a song out that is more an analogy for life, but the key line is an absolutely perfect observation statement for this….Natasha Beddingfield says, “Today is where your book begins, the rest is still unwritten.” I say, “You are the only one who can change that.”