Monthly Archives: January 2013

Guest post: Dance to your own rhythm, by Linda Lee Greene

Today I welcome Linda Lee Greene, author of two novels, Guardians and Other Angels, and Jesus Gandhi Oma Mae Adams (co-authored with Debra Shiveley Welch), both rated 5 stars on Amazon. Linda has written a wonderful blog about burnout and how she deals with it – something I’m sure we can all relate to. So without further ado, here she is!

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Guardians and Other Angels, by Linda Lee Greene

Guardians and Other Angels, by Linda Lee Greene

Recently I experienced a serious case of burnout, the worst one I’ve encountered in many years.  It was linked to my obsessive online attendance since the release of my latest novel, Guardians and Other Angels in May 2012, a presence calculated almost wholly toward the marketing of my book.  I took to heart the advice of my publicist.  “A lack of a social media presence on your part each and every day translates to low book sales,” she said, and I believed her.

As a professional woman, I understand the importance of taking periodic breaks from work-life, and I approached this new venture with the idea that I would apply the same standards to it.  But the thing about marketing on social media is that one thing leads to another, and then another, and still another and another and another, until you’ve created a mountain of responsibilities, culminating in an avalanche that smothers you.  A further complication is that you get hooked on the people you get to know this way, fascinating people all over the world with whom you would never have a chance to interact otherwise, so pretty soon, not only are you marketing ceaselessly, but you’re also chatting like there’s no tomorrow!  A still further complication is that the devices for all of this (laptops, cellphones, tablets, etc.) are all portable and go on vacation with you.  The upshot is that never is a real hiatus possible!

After seven, intense months of this, I crashed.  And I mean big time.  Although my mind incessantly urged me to log on, I couldn’t do it because my soul had taken a powder, and it would not come back.  You see, one of the things I’ve learned about my soul during my long tenure in this life, is that when I feel such fragmentation, what I’m really going through is a spiritual crisis.  Inevitably, my soul is trying to tell me that it isn’t just fatigue that I’m experiencing.  My cure isn’t only to put my feet up and read a good novel or watch some favorite DVDs, or to take my grandchildren to see the Christmas lights at the zoo, or to spend a weekend at a spa, or to go on a diet, or even to get a facelift.  The bigger problem is that I’m on the wrong path, and no matter how many leisurely activities or cosmetic treatments in which I partake, my soul digs in and refuses to participate until, and unless, I also correct my course.

I call my soul “Koko,” which is short for “Kokopelli,” an ancient kachina, or spirit-being of Native Americans that predates the Meso-American ancestral pueblo people of the southwestern USA.  He is a storyteller par excellence, as well as a hunchbacked dancer and a flutist, this aspect of him implying that in order to function at our peak, we must find our authentic rhythm, and once found, to follow it faithfully.  In addition to these, and other, aspects, he is known for the tricks he plays.   My soul emulates Kokopelli in so many ways, not the least of which are the ploys with which it manipulates me—ergo, its most recent one of turning, and keeping, me discontent until I found my natural rhythm again.

Henry David Thoreau has nothing on me when it comes to a love of solitude.  I am, after all, an artist and a writer, two vocations that require long stretches of aloneness.  Therefore, my natural rhythm is slower and quieter than the average bird.  It is also essentially private.  These are three qualities that seem antithetical to traditional practices in social media.  The obvious unknown regarding my relationship with social media is how to continue to participate effectively in it in a way that will allow me to express myself genuinely and thoroughly while also pleasing my unhurried, calm, and reserved soul.

One of the things I’ve decided to believe about social media is that there is a way of using it that is well-suited to every type of personality.  The trick for each of us is to develop one that is a good fit.  I am also an interior designer, and if I can design a beautiful, comfortable, and functional home-setting for my clients, surely I can craft an online presence for myself that is better for me.  At this juncture, the only thing I know for certain is that my strongest ally on my new path is the authentic Linda Lee Greene, and that our task is to dance together to our own rhythm despite possible risks and rewards.  Koko will like that!

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Linda Lee Greene

Linda Lee Greene

Linda Lee Greene was born in the farmhouse bedroom of her maternal grandparents located on the rim of the famous star-wound in Peebles, Adams County, Ohio, USA known the world over as the Great Serpent Mount Crater.  Mother of a son and a daughter, and grandmother of two grandsons, she resides in Columbus, Ohio.  An award-winning artist, an exhibition of some of her artwork can be viewed at www.gallery-llgreene.com.

In the year of 2000, Linda wrote the original draft of the murder mystery/historical novel, Jesus Gandhi Oma Mae Adams, a manuscript that evolved into a co-authorship with Debra Shiveley Welch, and upon its release an Amazon best-seller.  Greene has written two additional books in the Oma Mae Adams series, a murder mystery titled, “My ‘Aumakua” [In Hawaiian, “A Spirit Guide”], and a story of an expat-American who finds new meaning in life, as well as love, while on a spiritual odyssey in Australia, titled Garden of the Spirits of the Pots.  Both books are in queue with her publisher and are slated for future release.

Linda’s current novel, Guardians and Other Angels has inspired two other books on which she is currently working, one of them a non-fiction sequel to the novel titled, “I Received Your Letter …,” as well as a book for young readers titled, Bussy Gaffin and His Champion Roosters.

Linda’s five-star rated novel, Guardians and Other Angels is at amzn.to/PUOXl9.  You can find her Amazon Author Page at http://amazon.com/author/lindaleegreene.  She would also welcome you as a friend on twitter at @LLGreeneAuthor.  You can find her on Facebook, Goodreads, LinkedIn and other online sites.

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Being fair

Too much communications ?!?!

Too much communications ?!?! (Photo credit: occhiovivo)

 

Today I’m posing a question that I’d like people’s thoughts on: Can you work on two projects at once and be fair to both of them?

I’ve always been a one-story-at-a-time kind of girl. I have never been able to devote enough attention to two different projects at once and do them both justice. One will be going fine, but the other will be neglected (and in all likelihood complain about it loudly). I’m also the sort who insists on finishing one story before starting on the next one, because otherwise I’d have a whole stable of unfinished tales out there. Now, JRR Tolkein I am not, so having a collection like that doesn’t really inspire me.

What I’ve been doing this year is working on novel #2, which has a working title of Caffeinated. (This will probably change a number of times during the writing process, but I quite like having working titles even if they do swap around every other week. It beats the situation I found myself in a few years back when I was ready to post a novel online and discovered I didn’t have a title, so I just called it the first thing that came into my head. I didn’t like what I came up with then and I like it even less now, but it seems to have caught on so I am loathe to change it.) I gave myself permission to start work on Caffeinated because novel #1 had a completed first draft. That, and I only came up with the premise just before Christmas and it was all new and exciting in my mind.

Trouble is, I’m falling into old habits. I had set aside this year to edit my first novel, the one whose first draft I completed in November. But I’ve been working on novel #2, and as such novel #1 has fallen by the wayside. I haven’t even opened it this year, let alone started editing. And while I told myself it was becuase I was waiting for a book I’d ordered about structure to arrive from the UK, it arrived last week and I still haven’t done anything about it. Yep, I’m finding myself unable to work on two different projects at once again.

I’m a little torn as to what to do about this. Should I quash my instincts and make a concerted effort to work on both at once? Or should I make a deal with myself, alternating with one story one week (or month) and the other story the next? Or should I work really hard to get a draft for novel #2 done by, say, August, and then edit novel #1 after a good nine months’ break?

What works for you?

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Author interview: Jeffery E Doherty

Today I’m thrilled to introduce Jeffery E Doherty, author and illustrator of books for children and young adults. He has had a number of short stories and poems published and is about to release his first chapter book / novella, Paper Magic. I talked to Jeffery about the book, his experiences and what the publishing process has been like.

 

Paper Magic, by Jeffery E Doherty

Paper Magic, by Jeffery E Doherty

 

1.    Tell me about the book. What inspired you to write it? What has the response been like?

There is a line in Paper Magic where Marina’s Nana tells her, “Courage is fragile, like butterfly wings, open them and you can soar.”

I think this is the core of the story, courage and the power of friendship.

Paper Magic is a book about finding that courage. Marina has quite a few challenges to face in her life. Needing a wheelchair to get around is a minor inconvenience when compared to her crippling self-doubt. She has spent her holidays staring out her window desperately wanting to join the children playing in the park. Her stomach does fish-flips at the thought. It is not until Nana arrives and gives her a magical gift that she finds her courage. Marina discovers she can bring the origami figures she creates to life but she learns through her adventures in the park that she doesn’t need magic to be worthwhile.

The inspiration to write Paper Magic initially came from meeting an indomitable young girl called Sarah and later a whole bunch of other amazing children who overcome their individual adversities every day of their lives. They all inspire me to be a better person and they inspired me to try and capture their remarkable spirits in words.

The response to the upcoming launch of the book has been remarkable. I have had so much support from the local primary school where I work. One of the year four classes had a preview when Mrs. Kerr, their teacher read the book to them late last year. I had the opportunity to sit quietly in the class and watch their reactions as the story unfolded. The kids really got the story.  It was a priceless experience.

2. You write primarily for children. Why did you decide to target this audience? Do you think that it takes a different skill set than writing for adults?

I don’t know if I consciously started out targeted children as the audience for my stories. When I write a story, I write what appeals to me. Thankfully, I can be very immature at times and the resulting stories reflect that. I read the “Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus” letter every year because it captures the innocence of youth and longing to still believe. Life crushes the child inside of us if we harden our hearts. Losing yourself in the world of a children’s book nurtures that inner child and writing children’s books gives that inner child super powers.

I think the skill set when writing for adults and children is similar. It is more how the content of the story is dealt with that sets the audience. There is also a balance to children’s books that makes them more challenging to write. The biggest mistake some writers make is to write down to children. They know when you do and it is the last of your books they will read.

3. When did you know that you wanted to be a writer? How long had you been writing before you began to take it seriously?

I have been writing stories and very bad poetry since my early teens. Mostly, the stories were just for me and like my poetry, not particularly great. I made starts on novels but never managed to find my way to the end. I think it was more about creating the characters and worlds that I liked.

I have had two attempts at taking my writing more seriously. In my mid twenties I had a number of poems and short stories published in magazines and anthologies and finished my first young adult novel. It made the rounds and received quite a few rejections. Re-reading it now, I understand why. I still think the story and the character are amazing but the writing is average at best. One day I will rewrite the thing and finally set the characters free. After the rejections and life getting in the way, my writing went back to being a hobby.

In 2007, I went to my first Festival of Children’s and Young Adult Literature. At the end of a wonderful day of meeting other aspiring writers, editors and some of my favourite authors I decided if I was going to call myself a writer then I was going to have to back up my words and take my writing seriously. That is what I did.

4. Why did you decide to use a traditional publisher? How has your experience been?

If there were Print On Demand (POD) publishers back when I completed my first novel, I probably would have seriously considered self publishing, despite the stigma of being a self-published author. Cost was a big factor too. Getting the price point of a book down to a saleable level meant a large print run and I was never in a position to part with that much money. If I had self-published my first novel, I would be embarrassed by it now because it isn’t good enough to be published in its current state.

However, the main reason I chose to use a traditional publisher is that I really wanted to know someone else believed in me and my stories as much as I did. The process at times has been extremely frustrating. Publishers receive so many manuscripts that the turnaround time for receiving a reply can be glacial. I had one book with a publisher for over ten months. Then a further six months after making the changes they requested, only to receive an abrupt rejection after my second status query. About six weeks later I received a letter from a “different” label – from the same postal address – offering a partnership publishing deal for the book. I sent them an abrupt rejection.

My book, Paper Magic was rejected by a couple of publishers; the second one came with a hand written note from the editor. Although harsh, it was full of wonderful advice and pointed out where the weaknesses were in the text. After reworking the book I submitted the manuscript to a relatively new publisher, IFWG Publishing. The reply, nine days later was, “We love the book and are looking to publish it early in 2013.” I read the email and did a little happy dance. I showed it to my wife and she did a happy dance too.

It all comes down to patience and persistence.

Working with IFWG has been brilliant. Most writers get very little say in the cover design and illustration process of their books. Happily, I had done a couple of illustrations for the company’s speculative fiction Magazine, SQ Mag and they graciously allowed me to both design the cover of the book and do all the illustrations. I have been truly blessed to work with them, especially Gerry Huntman, my editor.

5. What advice would you give to any aspiring authors out there?

Until you decide to really take your writing seriously, success is not going to happen.

Learn the craft of writing, go to workshop and festivals, do a course, search for articles on writing. Meet other writers and editors; make friends with them on social media sites. If they have a blog, subscribe to it. If they write something you can make a sensible comment on, do it. Get your name known. There is an editor from a major Australian children’s publishing house who has a blog with a surprisingly small number of followers. After making a few comments on her blog, she started following mine and searched me out at one of the Kid’s Lit Festivals. Networking works.

 

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Jeffery E Doherty

Jeffery E Doherty

Jeffery E Doherty is a passionate children’s writer and illustrator. He has worked for many years with at-risk and troubled kids. More recently he has been working with students who have special needs or learning disorders. Jeff saw a lot of dark things while working as a police officer and writing children’s stories has helped to ground him and rediscover his inner child.

Jeff can be found at his author website and blog, Facebook and Twitter. Paper Magic will be released later this month.

 

 

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The next big thing?

next big thing

I’ve been tagged! The lovely Jeanette Hornby (www.jeanettehornby.com.au) has nominated me to be part of the Next Big Thing blog hop. Thanks Jeanette! And I thoroughly recommend that you all go and check out her blog at http://jeanettehornbybooks.blogspot.com.au – but be warned, it contains adult content so if you’re not comfortable with that then maybe just look at the main website.

The rules are these: Answer ten questions about your WIP and then tag five other bloggers to do the same. *wipes brow* Right. Here goes!

  1. What is the working title of your book?
    You know, this is a harder question than it should be. I was working with Echoes of Venice for a long time, but it sounds a lot more syrupy than the book actually is. Something to do with Venice, I’ll say that much. That city has an important role in the story.
  2. Where did the idea come from for your book?
    A competition I saw advertised in a newspaper, which for some reason just put a scene in my head. I tweaked the circumstances a little and voila! A story came out.
  3. What genre does it fall under?
    Contemporary romance / chick lit. To be honest, I will probably give it a final placement within one of those when I’ve done the final editing and not before.
  4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
    In my mind I’ve been using Brad Pitt and Kate Winslet. My thing, though, is not to describe my characters too much so that the reader can draw their own pictures in their heads of them. After all, everyone has a different idea of what makes someone attractive.
  5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
    Now you’ve got me. Again, this was something I was going to work on more during the editing process. How about, two people who have vowed never to see each other again are thrown together by circumstance and must deal with what that means to their lives.
  6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
    I won’t lie, I’d like an agent. However, I’m open to whatever life throws at me. In other words, I’ll play that one by ear.
  7. How long did it take to write the first draft of your book?
    Too long! Over two years. In my defence, I did scrap most of what I’d written half way through and restructure the whole thing. But yeah, just over two years. Sigh.
  8. What other books would you compare your story to within this genre?
    Another good question. Maybe something like Jill Mansell‘s Sheer Mischief, if I have to name one. (Serves me right for doing this on a Monday morning when my brain is still in weekend mode.)
  9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?
    Like I said, I saw an ad in the newspaper and it just got my mind whirring. I was, I think, just ready for a new challenge and this fit the bill perfectly.
  10. What else about the book might piqué the reader’s interest?
    Snappy one-liners and endless suspense! Okay, maybe not the endless suspense, but at least a bit of it, and enough confusion and frustration to last anyone a lifetime. This is a book that I wanted to read, but I couldn’t find it out there, so I wrote it instead. I just hope that other people want to read it as well. :)

 

Bloggers I’m tagging to be the Next Big Thing themselves:

Margaret Lynette Sharp
Adam Collings
Rebecca Berto (Novel Girl)
Wordsurfer
Tracey Baptiste

Please go and check out all their blogs because they are definitely worth reading. And who knows – they really could be the Next Big Thing. They certainly deserve to be. :)

 

 

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Guest post: Thinking About Dialogue, by Holly Kench

English: Parallel dialogue (2008)

English: Parallel dialogue (2008) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Today I’m thrilled to welcome back Holly Kench, who has agreed to do another guest post for me. You may remember Holly’s last guest post for this blog, and the several plugs I’ve given to her website (because it’s, well, awesome). Today she’s giving us her thoughts about dialogue, which in my experience always comes in handy when writing fiction. Take it away, Holly!

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Writing effective and convincing dialogue is difficult. Great dialogue seems to come effortlessly to some authors, but for most of us, it takes a lot of hard work and attention.

It’s important to realise, though, that even the worst dialogue writers can eventually learn to write good dialogue. Like most professions or hobbies, writing is the performance of innumerable skills, and while some of these skills might come naturally to certain writers, they are ultimately accessible to anyone who has the endurance to keep working at it. And writing is nothing if not a study in endurance. As is so often the case when working on writing, reading is the best way to improve one’s dialogue. Take note of the dialogue you read. If it’s good, what makes it good? If it’s bad, why? Read, think, learn and rewrite.

Make your dialogue great, because it is essential for making your story enjoyable and convincing. In the meantime, don’t forget to carefully consider the stylistic choices you make regarding how to contain that dialogue. The mechanics of your dialogue, the dialogue tags and beats (or action tags), that hold your dialogue together are an important part of the flow of your narrative. They pull the dialogue into a scene. Furthermore, fixing and improving your tags and beats is so much easier than working on the dialogue itself, once you know what you are doing.

As almost every writing style guide will tell you, avoid overly complicated dialogue tags. The simple “said” option is usually best because, as readers, we ignore the tag while comprehending the speaker attribution. I’m not as fussy as some readers and editors when it comes to this. Some people suggest that “said” (and possibly “asked”) should make up your only dialogue tags, that you should let your dialogue do the rest of the work. However, sometimes other tags are useful. For example, consider:

“Cute,” Lucy said.

“Cute,” Lucy squealed.

“Cute,” Lucy said, with a squeal that pierced my ear drums.

All of these can work for the same statement with a different purpose. The first would work best as part of a dialogue heavy scene, in which the statement “Cute” is the purpose, but the second contributes to Lucy’s characterisation. The third affects the characterisation of two characters, but focuses on the response of the narrator. There is nothing wrong with the second option though because it affects our understanding of the character and the development of the story. Just make sure that, if you choose to go with a more complicated tag, it has a purpose. And no, mixing it up is not a satisfactory purpose.

Of course, speaker attributions are not always necessary and sometimes they act more to disrupt the dialogue than contribute anything. A simple “Cute.” might be all you need. Equally, dialogue beats are always useful. They can act to provide speaker attribution, place dialogue within a scene, provide a rest between lengths of dialogue, contribute to characterisation, move the story forward with the assistance of and yet outside of the dialogue, etc, etc. Consider the option:

“Cute.” Lucy sprinted towards a pair of red Manolo Blahniks, before picking one up and clutching it to her chest as though it were a new born baby.

Providing movement with your dialogue mechanics is also a good way to keep your scene from feeling stale as dialogue progresses. I have to admit that, because of their clear potential, using dialogue beats can become somewhat addictive, particularly for those more comfortable writing narrative than dialogue.

However, the flow of your dialogue is the most important thing to consider. Avoid using any of the above options too frequently, and instead attempt to create a balance between tags, beats and dialogue without attribution. Mix it up so your reader doesn’t become bored with your scene.

The most beneficial process you can utilise for your dialogue is to read it aloud. This is worthwhile advice for all forms of writing. Often the words we write sound fabulous in our minds but when we read them aloud we are more able to hear the flaws. Reading dialogue aloud is all the more important as the rhythm of our dialogue attributions becomes apparent.

Rhythm, flow and variety are the keys to dialogue mechanics that will ensure your dialogue is read in the best possible light.

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Thanks Holly! For those who found this useful, Holly is planning a follow-up post on internal dialogue, to be published later in the year. :)

Holly Kench is a writer and feminist, with a classics degree and a fear of spiders. She enjoys writing fantasy and humor, and is convinced we can change the world with popular culture. Holly writes about her life as a stuffed olive at www.stuffedolive.com.au and manages “Visibility Fiction” for the promotion and publication of inclusive young adult fiction at www.visibilityfiction.com. She can also be found on Twitter and Facebook.

 

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New year’s resolutions

English: Two New Year's Resolutions postcards

English: Two New Year’s Resolutions postcards (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Happy new year! *clicks champagne glasses*

I hope you all had a great holiday season, whatever it meant to you, and that you and your family all made it through to the other side intact and in the same number of pieces in which you started it. :)

In honour of the new year, today I’m going to talk about new year’s resolutions.

You know, I’m not normally a resolution type of girl. I don’t see much point in making decisions to change my life just because the calendar has ticked over to a new day, nor waiting for such a time to implement any changes. If I want to do something, I just do it, rather than waiting till the next January. In addition, the normal kinds of new year’s resolutions – giving up smoking, cutting down on drinking, losing weight – don’t really work for someone who doesn’t smoke, barely drinks and is probably technically underweight as it is.

This year, though, I’m making some, and they’re all writing related. Why? Well, it’s not because it’s suddenly 2013 and my life has started flashing before my eyes, or because I have a sudden recognition of my own mortality. No, it’s more because I’ve been at home these last two weeks and had time to think about where I want to be this time next year. So, without further ado, here they are (in no particular order):

  1. Get novel #1 edited to a point where I’m happy with it, and send it out to my trusty beta readers.
  2. Write the bulk of novel #2. I had the plot bunny for it suddenly attack me late last year, so I’ve written out a bunch of notes that just need to be put in some kind of order and fleshed out. If I can get the first draft done that will be incredible, but I’m not holding my breath.
  3. Get better at answering comments on my blog. If you’re taking the trouble to comment on it, then the least I can do is acknowledge that, right?
  4. In that vein, get better at commenting on other people’s blogs. I read them, but it’s normally on my phone and I have a really bad habit of not getting around to getting on my computer and actually writing out a comment. I’ll try to improve on that this year.
  5. Keep up to date with my reviewing and remember to cross-post reviews on Goodreads and Amazon. Again, it’s a bad habit I have of forgetting to do it and then I get to the point I’m at now of having about a dozen that need to be done. *adds it to her to-do list*
  6. Try to be more active on social media. It’s my own fault – for example, I have three Twitter accounts, all for different purposes, and in trying to keep up with them all I tend to keep up with none. But if I’m going to be professional about this writing thing then I probably need to have a bit more of a profile and really work on that. I’m not sure how hard I’m going to work at it this year (the full-on thing isn’t going to happen, for instance), but just making a point of paying more attention and posting more often isn’t a bad idea, right?
  7. Do more guest posts for other blogs, and participate in things like the Third Sunday Blog Carnival. I’ve been meaning to do it for months but just never got around to it. Better now than never, I figure. :)

So, those are my resolutions for 2013. The idea is that if I put them out in the open like this, rather than just on a piece of paper stuck to my fridge door, then I’m more likely to keep to them. (Though the fridge door isn’t a bad idea either, in that it will be something I see every day.) And if I look like lagging behind in anything, then feel free to beat me about the head a little bit. I’m not averse to a little encouragement if I’m going astray.

What about you? Are you doing resolutions for the new year, or just plodding on as usual without worrying about it? What works best for you? I’d love to hear about it. :)

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