Hopping on a Blog Chain

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Much like this beautiful eagle hopping onto a tree top, I’m the next link of a blog chain today and am happy to hop on the bandwagon.  Deb Young tagged me in this chain last week and I want to shout out a big thanks to her for the invite. Deb and I met through social media. I bought and read her self-help book for self-published authors – Sell Your Books and from there we connected on Twitter. I was looking for a writer’s professional association to become part of and she directed me to the Alliance of Independent Authors – I haven’t been disappointed with any of Deb’s advice so far!

Okay – this is how the blog chain works. I answer the following four questions and then tag three other writers to do the same.

What am I working on?

I am currently formatting The Light Never Lies (sequel to my first novel, Disappearing in Plain Sight) for upload to CreateSpace – huge learning curve but I’m finding that I enjoy the devilishly picky nature of formatting and I love the control. I’m also storyboarding the next book in the Crater Lake series and working on tuning up ten short stories I would like to publish under the title, Echoes of Sorrow, Threads of Hope.

How does my work differ from others in the genre?

Choosing a genre is difficult. I write about family dynamics, personal growth, issues facing young people, rural living to name just a few themes. But there is romance, too. I have slotted my writing into a genre I call – contemporary fiction with a splash of romance. My books find their voice in third person narration through the eyes of a number of the characters in the story. This makes my writing somewhat unique. I also weave a good amount of setting details into my work – I want the reader to recognize this area or, if they’ve never been to Northern Vancouver Island, be intrigued about visiting.

Why do I write what I do?

I believe that all my experiences to date shape what I write – teaching, working as a trauma counsellor, my years of being a mature university student and researcher, living on the shores of a beautiful lake in a pristine wilderness setting, being plugged into the life of a rural community. When it comes to fiction writing, these are the things that allow scope for the ideas that pop into my head.

How does my writing process work?

I get a tiny idea about a character – maybe a tidbit of dialogue or an interesting situation that character might find him or herself in. I jot down notes and when the time is right, a story starts to form. Next comes a ton of back writing – detailed character sketches, research, timelines, drawings of various settings. After all of that, I might be ready to storyboard. This happens with post-it-notes and a large bulletin board. That will lead to a bare bones outline. After all of that, I start writing. Not necessarily at the beginning – wherever my interest is caught on a given day. The writing weaves back through the whole process as I update everything that has gone before. This is an important part of my writing process because I need that openness to letting the story take the lead.

When the first draft is finished, I move straight on to rewriting. Input from my first beta-reader comes after the second rewrite. She builds up my confidence and gives me valuable input on things like believability, length and structure. By about draft eleven or twelve, it’s time for editing. My first beta-reader is also my editor. She is already familiar with the story and she knows my style. This stage is amazing and exciting as we become real collaborators on tuning up each and every sentence. After this edit, my husband Bruce gets a read through. He often has a lot of technical suggestions. With any luck, I also have a few other beta-readers who might be brought in for specific sections of the story. Then the work moves into the final edits and proofreading. And voila – a finished manuscript.

Now for the fun part – here are my three tags.

Laekan Zea Kemp

bio1Laekan is a writer and explorer extraordinaire who grew up in the flatlands of West Texas. She graduated from Texas Tech with a BA in Creative Writing and is the author of the multi-cultural New Adult novels, The Things They Didn’t Bury, Orphans of Paradise, and Breathing Ghosts. I got connected with Laekan when she issued an invite to her blog followers asking if anyone would like to host her on a tour to promote her new book. I thought she had the most brilliant idea for putting together a blog tour that I jumped on board. Some of my followers may remember when Laekan appeared on my blog.

Please check out Laekan’s blog where you will learn all kinds of other things about her and find links to her books.

P.C. Zick

Writing Whims by P.C. ZickP.C. began her writing career in 1998 as a journalist. She’s won various awards for her essays, columns, editorials, articles, and fiction. She was born in Michigan and moved to Florida in 1980. Even though she now resides in Pennsylvania with her husband Robert, she finds the stories of Florida and its people and environment a rich base for her storytelling platform. Florida’s quirky and abundant wildlife—both human and animal—supply her fiction with tales almost too weird to be believable. Her writing contains the elements most dear to her heart, ranging from love to the environment. Her novels advance the cause for wildlife conservation and energy conservation. She believes in living lightly upon this earth with love, laughter, and passion. I got connected with P.C. when she featured Disappearing in Plain Sight on her Writing Whims blog.

Please check out P.C’s blog to learn about all the great things she’s up to.

Vashti Quiroz-Vega

Vashti's Web Photo[1]From the time Vashti was a young kid, writing has been her passion. She’s always been a writer, she just didn’t know it until much later. It is easier for her to express her thoughts on paper than with the spoken word. She enjoys making people feel an array of emotions with her writing. She likes her audience to laugh one moment, cry the next and clench their jaws after that. A love of animals and nature are often incorporated in her stories. You’ll read intriguing things about various animals, nature and natural disasters commingled in her character driven novels. Vashti and I have been blog buddies for a while now.

Please visit Vashti’s upbeat and interesting blog to learn more about her.

Thanks again to Deb Young for inviting me to be part of this blog chain. I hope everyone will check out Deb’s blog and my tags to three great writers – Laekan Zea Kemp, P.C. Zick and Vashti Quiroz-Vega.

I’m leaving you today with a bit of the west coast beauty I appreciated last week on a trip out to Winter Harbour.

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Random Musings – Snippets from my Writer’s Journal.

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I carry a red notebook around with me – one of those hard cover things with an elastic fabric strap attached to the back so you can snap it around the front to keep the journal shut. In this book, I jot down things I think I want to remember. Mostly, the act of writing cures me of any future desire to know something. But every now and then, I read some of these notes and they make me shake my head. I decided to share a few of them with you today.

Sock puppet – a false persona created via social media to promote one’s own work. Tempting, but ultimately not worth the risk. If we aren’t ourselves, we aren’t anything.

Arkansas Toothpick – cool slang for a bowie knife – courtesy of Pawn Stars – one of the most ridiculous shows on TV. But valuable info is available everywhere – right?

Character sketch (sitting in the airport describing someone two rows up)

She’s in her late twenties or early thirties. Straight black eyebrows below a wide, clear forehead. A prominent ski-jump nose, a wide generous mouth, white teeth, long, dark hair pulled to the side in a loose braid, silver dangling earrings. Dark eyes – pools of darkness. Freda Kalo after a really good eye-brow waxing. She has a smile that lights up her entire face – there is confidence, freedom, an aura of strength in that smile. She’s totally hands-on. She touches the people around her often – her hand on the arm of the person next to her, a quick hug, an arm slung casually over a shoulder. She tilts her head to one side when she’s listening. When she looks over at me, I see intensity, interest, a desire to connect, as if I can hear her thinking – what is she writing? Who is she? What is she about? My pen skitters to a stop as our eyes meet and I smile back.

A great story is life with the dull parts taken out – Alfred Hitchcock.

Where is the Love – Black Eyed Peas

Present

Past

Past Participle

 

Lie down

Lay down

Had lain down

To recline

Lay down

Laid down

Had laid down

To place or put

Who am I trying to kid? – when to use lie or lay will never sink in. ***Start promoting love your editor day.

. . . and you die one chapter at a time. (where did I read this?)

Write what is, not what seems to be. It would be fascinating to do a study that examined a person’s first draft with their personality profile. I’m betting tentative speakers will write a lot of seems to be stuff.

Ten simple things that can make you happier

  1. Exercise – 7 minutes a day can make a difference – thank you researchers for that one!
  2. Get enough sleep – adding more afternoon napping should fit the bill.
  3. Have a shorter commute – distance from the bed to the desk – short enough.
  4. Spend time with family and friends – what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Just joking – sort of.
  5. Go outside – sounds good to me.
  6. Help others – 2 hours a week is enough to do the trick.
  7. Smile – research shows smiling can actually alleviate pain – for yourself and others.
  8. Plan a trip – even if you never take the trip. Planning a trip is fun, taking a trip is stressful.
  9. Meditate – no-brainer – no pun intended. I’ll combine this with exercise and going outside by having a daily, 7 minute, walking meditation. How is that for efficient?
  10. Practice gratitude – simple but powerful. List three things a day you are grateful for.

****I need to make a detailed self-publishing checklist and start checking things off!!!

Well, there you have it. Random thoughts. Here’s hoping something pops out at you. And let’s hear it for gratitude. Sure can’t hurt.

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Lawson

2003 – 2013

Rest in Peace.

Weekly Photo Challenge. Layer on the Praise

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The photo challenge this week is, the sign says. When we travel, I am the one who takes pictures of signs. Here is one of my all-time favourites, applicable to so many situations in life.

As I look at this sign, I find myself thinking that writing is a lonely endeavour. I have spent months on my first draft, which by its very nature is something personal, between me and the story I’m trying to tell. It is not ready for public consumption. Even though I’m well aware of that fact, it’s hard to keep quiet. I get to a point where I am dying to talk about the characters and the story. The compulsion is even stronger now as I work on the second draft. It’s still not even ready for beta readers, but I’m more eager than ever to talk. Herein lies the danger that the sign eludes to.

Where do you find someone who understands what this early stage of the process is like for a writer? It is unlikely that we will find ourselves married or partnered with other writers, and that’s probably for the best. But I need someone who knows that if I break down and yammer on about the storyline, or the characters, or go into a complete tailspin and actually read something aloud, the only response acceptable is unqualified praise.

I need to be built up. I’m running a marathon, and I’m getting tired. Where are the supporters on the side-lines handing out fruit and energy drinks?

The last thing I want is critique. Believe me, there will be more than enough time for that down the road, and I’m well aware of that fact.

Heed the sign above. If a writer shares something with you at this early stage, plaster a gigantic smile and your face and layer on the praise. Otherwise you might find yourself at the mercy of the danger this sign describes.

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Getting inside a Writer’s Head–Part 2

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Here is part 2 of my interview from Pamela Cook’s,  Flying Pony Blog

Can you describe for us your writing process, from getting the original idea to completed manuscript?

Disappearing in Plain Sight came out of me in a rush. It was like having some kind of virus. I couldn’t stop until it had run its course. The first draft was a bare bones thing. I shelved fiction writing for a time – too long, but life does intervene. When I came back to my tattered draft, I found parts that didn’t make as much sense as they could have and themes that screamed to be tweaked and expanded. The second draft added one hundred pages. With a trembling hand, I sent my baby to a few beta readers, and the response was positive. That’s when the idea, that this book could be more than a mere indulgence, began to take root. Serious rewriting followed.

Then came that magic moment when I thought the book was finished. Like many such moments, it was fleeting. Lucky me (and I mean that, hands down), I was told in no uncertain terms that I needed an editor. The story was good, the characters were gripping, but the mechanical aspects of my writing needed work and the ordering of events throughout the book was clunky.

I was able to work with a fantastic copy editor as well as a proof reader all rolled into one sensitive package. (Check out the difference between these two types of editing on Change it Up Editing – a great site.)

I put the manuscript through a major revamp. Like many novice writers, I had crammed the first few chapters with far too much backstory. Correcting this was painful. I felt as though I had torn the book to pieces and was on the floor, crawling around, desperate to glue it back together. Like so many difficult processes in life, the hard work paid off.

Then there were point of view issues to address. Parts of the book contained messy head-jumping from character to character. For every scene, I had to ask myself, who has the most at stake here?

Endless rounds of chapter by chapter, line by line editing followed to correct the messy mechanical errors. The process wrapped up with final proof reading.

My current novel, The Light Never Lies, (the sequel to Disappearing in Plain Sight) is clearly benefiting from what I learned the first time around. I’ve worked from a detailed outline with a clear sense of beginning, middle and end. I’ve addressed some of my more obvious grammatical errors, though that is a constant and painful learning process. I won’t be adding material in subsequent drafts; more likely I’ll find myself in a slashing process. What is it Stephen King says? First draft – 10% = Second Draft

Describe your path to publication.

I decided to pursue self-publishing without first going through, what many report to be, a painful and time-consuming process of finding an agent or submitting one’s manuscript to traditional publishers. The gatekeeping function of many publishing houses struck me as a significant stumbling block for a new author. I researched what other self-published authors were saying about their experiences and decided it was the right path for me.

I went the route of assisted self-publishing. (See my previous post on Reassessment Time )

Which aspects do you least love (or detest!) about the process to date?

I have now had a taste of the promotion and marketing aspects of self-publishing. It is exciting and chalk full of unique experiences. And it is terrifying and time-consuming and draining.

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I am an introvert and I’ve never been a fan of blowing my own horn.

When the dust settles, I imagine that my promotion and marketing will end up being what most of my life has been – a collaborative process. I’ve already enlisted the help of a flaming extroverted friend or two to help me navigate the social aspects of book promotion.

What advice would you give to writers who are working towards publication?

DSC_0837Don’t give up. From initial idea to publication, Disappearing in Plain Sight took four years of my life. I went through periods of despair along the way. The journey was long and difficult. When I held my book in my hands and saw it up on Amazon, all the effort was worthwhile.

Give yourself permission to accept that what you’re doing is serious. When I supervised graduate student researchers, I would advise those who struggled with doubts about their writing, that the only critic they needed to satisfy was the one in their own mind. I think this speaks to an important truth; we worry a lot about how others will judge our ideas and work. When it came to being a writer, the only person I had to convince was me.

P1000925When Disappearing in Plain Sight was published, my son told me, “Mom, many people say they have a book in them, but how many of them do the work to make it happen? You actually did it.”

Naturally we had to celebrate – tower of onion rings and a beer Open-mouthed smile

Yay me, and yay you for not giving up!

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Getting inside a Writer’s Head

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Now, if that title doesn’t scare you, it should – the venue can be a crowded one. A few weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to be interviewed on The Flying Pony Blog about my writer’s process. Pamela Cook knows how to ask some great questions. Welcome to Part 1 of that interview.

What activities (other than writing) get your creative juices flowing?

For me, creativity has a lot to do with carving out a space where silence reigns. I need alone time and quiet to allow my thoughts to percolate.

Walking has always been the time when I mull over ideas. For years, I thought of this as nothing more than daydreaming. When I started to write my first novel, the daydreaming became extremely focused on a group of characters (and, believe me, I’m still asking myself where they came from) and how they might handle being tossed into a variety of situations.

On a more abstract scale, I think my creativity comes from my curiosity. I’m always wondering – what if? This trait has made me a people watcher and every observation becomes more grist to the mill.

What kind of writing routine do you have – disciplined or undisciplined, regular or irregular, focused or easily distracted?

If I’m on my own, I can write twelve hours at a stretch. I might spend the whole day in my PJ’s, eating over the keyboard, and forgetting to allow the elderly dog out until she makes her needs rather vocal. I wouldn’t say this equals discipline; it feels more like obsession. But it is what it is.

When I’m alone, I feel extremely focused. I can dislike the dog, the ringing of the phone, and the need for bathroom and stretching breaks. When other people are around it’s easy to get distracted, but I am also thankful for a good reason to quiet the voices in my head for a time.

When I’m actively writing, I write every day. But I can’t maintain a pace like that for too long. I need extended breaks every couple of months. It’s necessary to leave the seclusion of a cabin by the lake and go out into the world, if for no other reason than the need for new material.

Do you ever suffer from writer’s block and if so what do you do about it?

I am happy to say that since I started writing fiction, I have rarely had a serious writer’s block. I did have the experience many times with academic writing, and it was excruciating.

When I get in a tangle with fiction writing, it’s because I’ve strayed off course. I’m zipping along the writing freeway and whiz down an exit ramp I wasn’t planning to take. The writing bogs down. I have to stop and figure out where I’ve ended up in terms of where I thought I wanted to go. This doesn’t always mean retracing my path – sometimes it means rethinking what has come before or what I have envisioned for later.

Which aspects of the writing life do you most love?

Hands down, I love the experience of being caught up completely in the lives’ of my characters. Having them become so real to me that I can’t let them go. I actually dream about them. They become part of my life. When this happens, the writing flows. It’s as if I can’t take down what the characters are doing and saying fast enough. I hear their voices. I know what they would say in a given situation and how they would say it.

What books and writers have most influenced your own writing?

I’ve been influenced by Canadian authors whose novels are firmly rooted in a specific place. Reading these novels gives me a felt sense of what it would be like to live in that area of my country. There is also the sense of understanding how people are formed by that particular environment. Some of my favourite Canadian authors who write in this way are: Alistair MacLeod (Cape Breton), Eden Robinson (Pacific Coast), Timothy Taylor (city of Vancouver) Jane Urquhart (rural Ontario), Elizabeth Hay (city of Ottawa, the Canadian North and the prairies), and Wayne Johnson (Newfoundland).

I think it has been this influence that made me strive to provide the readers of my novel with an understanding of what rural life, on the Northern part of Vancouver Island, on the Pacific coast of British Columbia, might be like and how that geographical area could affect the people.

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