Monthly Archives: November 2014

NaNoWriMo: The Final Push

edgar allen poe quoteI’ve been talking a lot about NaNoWriMo–National Novel Writing Month. My friends are curious and ask if it’s a contest.

The answer is yes, in a way, but no.

It is a contest in the sense that if you write 50,000 words and have them validated through the national website you ‘win.’ But it is not a contest in the sense that it is a month that is solely dedicated to the act of writing a novel.

Now lets face it–a novel that is only 50,000 words long is not a very long novel. That falls more into the line of a long novella and is only half a novel, in my opinion. But a dedicated author can get the basic structure and story-line of a novel down in those thirty days simply by sitting down for an hour or two each day and writing a minimum of 1667 words per day.

That is not a lot. Most authors, when they are in the zone, double or triple that.

And again, we must face an ugly fact: Just because you can sit in front of a computer and spew words does not mean you can write anything that others want to read. Over the next few months there will be many books emerging that will testify to this fundamental truth.

But also, over the next few months many people will realize they enjoy writing; that for them this month of madness was not about getting a certain number of words written by a certain date. This was about writing and completing a novel they had wanted to write for years, something that had been in the back of their minds for the longest time. These people will join writing groups and begin the long journey of learning the craft of writing.

neil gaiman quote 2They are the real winners.

These authors will take the time and make the effort to learn writing conventions, they will attend seminars, they will develop the skills needed to take a story and make it a novel with a proper beginning, a great middle and an incredible end.

They will properly polish and edit their work and run it past critique groups before they publish it.

These are books I will want to read.

It’s not easy. Sometimes what we hear back from our readers and editors is not what we wanted to hear. The smart authors haul themselves to a corner, lick their wounds, and rewrite the damned thing so it’s more readable. They will be successful, for a variety of reasons, all of them revolving around dedication and perseverance.

But when we write something that a reader loves–that is a feeling that can’t be described.

Success as an author these days can’t be measured in cash. It can only be measured in what satisfaction you as an author get out of your work. Traditionally published authors see less of their royalties than indies, but they sell more books. It is a conundrum, and one many new authors will be considering in the new year.

But if you don’t write that book, you aren’t an author, and you won’t have to worry about it. NaNoWriMo will jump-start many discussions about this very issue. At this writing there are 3 days counting today left for many writers to get their 50,000 words and earn that certificate. Some of us have completed our first draft, and some of us still have a ways to go.

Winner-2014-Twitter-ProfileMy book has a beginning, a middle and an end, but will not become a novel for two or more years..  It is, instead, a rough draft sitting in the pile of other rough drafts, waiting to be rewritten when that flash of inspiration takes me over and I am driven to make it real. Huw the Bard began life in NaNoWriMo 2011, under the working title, The Bard’s Tale. He was published in 2014, and his story makes a darned good novel, if I do say so myself. (Shameless, I know.)

But although he was written in 30 days, he was then rewritten over the course of the following year, and edited over the course of the year after that. The life of a book from concept to publishing is a process. Some are quicker at negotiating this process than others, but having once rushed to publish with unhappy results,  I now take a more leisurely path.

 

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Gratitude

Pumpkin-Pie-Whole-SliceTomorrow, here in the US, is a national holiday, a day of Thanksgiving. We gather at the homes of relatives, overeat, and then some of us embark on  the 30 days of Christmas shopping.

I don’t.

Oh, I will go to my daughter’s house and overeat, and I will give sincere and heartfelt thanks for all the many blessings I have been given in this life. And I have been blessed, far more than I deserve. I am comfortable, and I have the luxury of being able to write full-time, because my husband has a good, fairly stable job.

But grandma does not shop. Grandma does not go to the midnight sales, the door-busters, the Black Friday events that seem to be a national sport here.

Grandma does the internet for all her shopping these days. Amazon, Zulily, Overstock.com–these are the stores grandma shops in.

christmas-gift-bagsAnd it’s nearly all done already. All I have to do is get a few little thing-a-ma-jigs for you-know-who, and then we’re set!

Shopping for loved ones is so darned difficult. I can’t tell you how much I hate it. No matter how hard I sweat, no matter how pretty I wrap them, the gifts I think are awesome for so-and-so never seem to live up to their potential.

Thus I have become the queen of gift-cards.

Starbucks, Amazon, Barnes&Noble–gift cards are the way to go. The recipient can get what they want, and I am off the hook for another year.

But if you are looking for the awesomest gift ever, may I recommend a book?  Books are small vacations, little diversions into foreign lands and cultures, windows into other people’s lives.

Books can also change the world.

The company that publishes my books, Myrddin Publishing, just announced the successful campaign to raise funds for the international charity, Water is Life, via sales of their Christmas anthology, Christmas O’Clock.

christmas oclock coverChristmas O’Clock is a collection of holiday-themed stories including magic, space travel, and Rudolph. With two complete chapter books, lots of stories, and plenty of spirit, this anthology is great for kids of all ages. Two of the stories in this collection are mine!

In 2014 the publishing group donated all the revenue generated from sales of this book, totaling over $200.00 in royalties. This purchased three bucket systems and eight drinking straws, providing fresh water to three families, and eight individuals. Their goal is to double that in 2015.

It may not seem like a lot, but for those families who now have clean water, it was huge.  We can do better, and this year we intend to.

All proceeds from this wonderful book go to Water Is Life to help children and families in an international effort.

Christmas O’Clock  can be purchased at www.amazon.com

Paperback via this link: http://bit.ly/CoCpaperback  $9.51

And for the Kindle via this link http://bit.ly/CoCusE  $2.99

a medieval tablesetup 1I live in a soft, easy world of plenty with clean, clear water and plenty of food. I have a warm, dry place to live that is safe and pestilence-free. Not every family has such luxury. My husband and I believe it is our duty to help those who don’t and we do this through actively volunteering in our community. You know that I am involved  as a municipal liaison for National Novel Writing Month and I contribute time and energy to literacy programs here locally, but my husband is far more active on a grassroots level, and what he does has a direct effect within our community.

MH900438718My husband, Greg,  is on the board of the Community Action Council, and has been for more than twenty years. Community Action Council is a private, non-profit 501c(3) agency governed by a volunteer Board of Directors.  Their multipurpose organization focuses on meeting the needs of low-income individuals and families through a variety of programs designed to help them become independent and more self-sufficient. They work collaboratively to develop strategies that address poverty in our local communities,  providing essential human services in Lewis, Mason and Thurston Counties since 1966.

I am Grateful, with a capital ‘G’, for all my many blessings, for my husband who works tirelessly in the service of our community and for the opportunities I’ve been given to help make a difference in this sometimes terrible world.

 

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Hunted Heart, by Alison Deluca

Most avid readers of the fantasy genre are fans of the old fairytales as told by the Brothers Grimm and I am no exception. In fact it was my love of fairytales that inspired me to write in the first place. I am always interested in reading other authors’ takes on these fairy tales. It is amazing how differently two authors will tell what began as the same story.

Today my good friend, Alison DeLuca, author of  the steampunk Crown Phoenix Series, has consented to answer a few questions for us, and allow me to share the wonderful cover of her new book, Hunted Heart. It is a standalone book, and is a true fairytale, the premise of which had really intrigued me.

CJJ: Alison, tell us a little of early life and how you began writing:

AD: I always loved reading. My early favorites were Alice in Wonderland, the Odyssey, Arabian Nights, and fairytales of all kinds.

CJJ: Tell us about your most recent book.

AD: Hunted Heart is an adult version of Snow White. Prince Kas is the one threatened by the wicked queen, and the huntress, Tali, is given the job of taking him to the forest to cut out his heart. They end up falling for each other, but not without a great deal of adventure along the way. Yes, there is a wicked queen and my version of a poisoned apple. And we mustn’t forget True Love’s Kiss…

CJJ: How did you come to write this novel?

AD: Someone I met online prompted me and begged me to write the story – she is the J.R. in my dedication. I loved her idea of making the hunter a strong female and ran with it.

CJJ: Do you have a specific ‘Creative Process’ that you follow, such as outlining or do you ‘wing it’?

AD: This book was an exercise in winging! The Snow White structure supported my story, and I was able to take off from there. Writing a fairytale redux is completely addictive – I might have to do a few others.

CJJ: How does your work differ from others of its genre?

AD: It is genderbent, and I’ve set the story in a mythical Norse country. I couldn’t resist including Freja, Iduna, and a few others from Norse tales. It’s also quite adult, with violence and some sexy scenes, and a charity project: Tali, my main character, suffers from some terrible abuse as a child, and so 100% of the royalties go to HelptheChildren.org.

CJJ: Why do you write what you do?

AD: Honestly, because I can’t help it. When I get an idea it needles me until I pin it down on paper. It’s like giving birth, to be honest.

CJJ: I so know that feeling! I know why I chose the indie route for my work, but I’m curious as to why you’ve chosen this path.

AD: I love the freedom indie publishing gives me. I’m able to write what I like and donate the proceedings when I do a charity project like this.

CJJ: What advice would you offer an author trying to decide whether to go indie or take the traditional path?

AD: Both have their merits and challenges. Being an indie does give you freedom but also relies on individual marketing. Traditional publishing gives more support but gives the author little choice on things like covers and presentation. Both are good in their way – each author must decide for herself how she would like to proceed!

 CJJ: Alison–I love the answers you gave my stock questions!  Thank you for giving me this opportunity to get the word out about your charity, HelptheChildren.org.

AD: Thank you so much for having me on your blog, Connie. This was a lot of fun!

And without further discussion, here is that amazing, most intriguing book cover:

HuntedHeart cover final

 

I confess I am blown away by this one, and I have become quite a fan of Alison’s graphic designer.

Alison DeLuca HeadshotAlison DeLuca is the author of several steampunk and urban fantasy books.  She was born in Arizona and has also lived in Pennsylvania, Illinois, Mexico, Ireland, and Spain.

Currently she wrestles words and laundry in New Jersey.

You can find Alison here:

Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/alison.deluca.author

OR http://on.fb.me/TNWEfb

Twitter – http://twitter.com/ – !/AlisonDeLuca

Google + http://bit.ly/ADGoogle

Author Central: http://amzn.to/ADeLucaAuthorCentral

Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/alisondeluca/

I have long been a fan of all of Alison’s work and have been fortunate enough to have some of my own work  included included along side of hers in a charitable anthology, Christmas O’Clock,  a book of wonderful short stories for children that is available in both paperback and for the kindle. (All proceeds for Christmas O’Clock go to Water Is Life to help children and families in an international effort.)

 

 

 

 

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Loki, Zorg, and why I love the bad-boys

Thor-Everything-LokiI love swashbuckling sword-fights and movies fraught with testosterone and machismo. I don’t need it in real life, thank you–that’s what I have books and movies for. So what are my favorite movies?

Thor–anything Thor will be a winner  from my point of view.

Let’s just say that anything featuring a bad-boy god with a twisted sense of humor is high on my list of must-watch movies. Plot? Sure, if you say so–but this is a movie so bring on the eye-candy now.

I love the character of Loki as played by Tom Hiddleston. He is everything the God of Mischief should be, and then some. He’s like that beloved ex-boyfriend–you’re always glad to see him, and even happier to see him leave.

Fifth_element_poster_(1997)What other sorts of movies intrigue me? Well, I am a huge fan of the 5th Element. I adore the character of Korben Dallas as played by Bruce Willis, but for me the man who stole the film was Zorg, as played by Gary Oldman.  Who doesn’t love a megalomaniac industrialist enslaved to The Great Evil? What a guy! And lets face it, Korben Dallas is just as much fun as Han Solo, and both are quintessential bad-boys.

The thing that intrigued me most about the 5th Element was the way the film portrays consumerism in that society as a living, breathing thing that has veered out of control. Extreme lust for technology and power is set against that of a simple man wanting a simple life–our own flaws are laid bare in the characters of Zorg and Korben Dallas.

But where is the eye-candy in that movie? Well you have to admit it is one of the most visually stunning films of the twentieth century.

You might wonder where I am going with this-so do I. Oh wait!  Bad-boys! Why I love to write about the bad-boys and read about them and even see the movies featuring them!

han-solo-smugglerThe bad-boys are intriguing, dangerous, and definitely not the boy your mama set you up with.

They are fun.  So I have two new manuscripts in the works and one features a bad-boy, a man who falls from grace and years later returns. Some of his experiences have changed him, but some things will never change. While his basic arrogance has been tempered, he is still the man he always was, but with a better grasp of what is truly important.

A bad-boy is a multidimensional character, made of many layers both good and bad, and as the story progress those layers are peeled away, revealing a new facet, but also hinting that more still lies hidden. The trick is to make those layers lure the reader (or watcher) in.  Loki, Han Solo, and Korben Dallas are all characters who intrigued me. They are written perfectly, because at the end of the movie, the observer still doesn’t know them well, but wants to.

From watching these movies, I’ve learned that one should dole out the character in small bits, showing a layer at a time, but always holding out the lure that far more lies hidden beneath the surface.

That is the trick, and it’s one thing to know it and another to do it.  But we try!

 

 

 

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Death Valley

Extreme-Heat-Death-ValleyEvery artist who has successfully created works other people enjoyed is a slave to the creative muse. Each artist endures those horrible moments when they question their choice of career–they have a series of bad days and inspiration is far from their grasp. Every note they play, every word they write, every picture painted is dead and dull. Forcing it doesn’t help, and indeed drives it further away.  These are the moments when we are walking in the Death Valley of creativity.

I have no magic bullet, no super-human powers of creativity to bestow upon you.  For me, the joy of creativity in music, art, and writing is the rebellious feeling of stealing the time to do it. I make music, I do graphics, and I write, doing each whenever the muse strikes me.

In the old days I would come home from work with a small notebook full of ideas and after I had fed the masses, everything else would fall by the way while I put those ideas to paper. Even when you must earn a living, creativity must be allowed to flow when you feel it, because it is a finite commodity.

But I will tell you this: You Are Not Alone. Margaret Mitchell only published one book: Gone With The Wind.

gone with the wind 2Quoted from the fount of all knowledge,  WikipediaMargaret Munnerlyn Mitchell (November 8, 1900 – August 16, 1949) was an American author and journalist. One novel by Mitchell was published during her lifetime, the American Civil War-era novel, Gone with the Wind, for which she won the National Book Award for Most Distinguished Novel of 1936[1] and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1937. In more recent years, a collection of Mitchell’s girlhood writings and a novella she wrote as a teenager, Lost Laysen, have been published. A collection of articles written by Mitchell for The Atlanta Journal was republished in book form.

And did you know that Edgar Allen Poe and Oscar Wilde each only wrote one novel in their careers?  I am assuming this was because they suffered from long periods of having nothing they thought was worthy to show the world.

Poe understood the value of writing the short story. While he is generally considered the inventor of the detective fiction genre, his body of work consisted of–wait–how many short stories did he write? “Almost eighty” it says on page 373 of the official volume of the Big Read. The Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore says the number is sixty-nine – counting “both short fiction and novels.” This appears to be the most widely published number.
So how many short stories did Edgar Allan write? By all reports he was a troubled man, and it’s possible that not even he knew for sure.

Poe is further credited with contributing to the emerging genre of science fiction. He was the first well-known American writer to try to earn a living through writing alone, resulting in a financially difficult life and career. Are we surprised? I don’t think so.

narrative of arthur gordon pym edgar allen poeBut though he is considered by many to be the most famous of our American authors, he only published one novel: The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket (1838) is the only complete novel written by our famous man, Edgar Allan Poe. The work relates the tale of the young Arthur Gordon Pym, who stows away aboard a whaling ship called the Grampus. Various adventures and misadventures befall the protagonist, Pym, including shipwreck, mutiny, and cannibalism, before he is rescued by the crew of the Jane Guy.

Indie author Mary W. Walters has written a wonderful blogpost on the subject of turning writers block into building blocks, available here.

So even if you feel the stream of creativity has run dry, it’s frustrating, yes–but nothing to get to worried about. At some point, when it is least convenient, that muse will strike again. You will once again feel that divine energy, that spark of madness that is the breath of life for a poem, a song, a novel or a painting. When you feel it, go with it.

 

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Resurrection, Reconstruction, and the Great Reckoning

cocacola_08

Coca-Cola HD Wallpapers

I have been writing like a crazy person for the last two weeks.  Well, I am a crazy person, but–I have been spewing the basic rough draft of a novel in the most unlinear way possible.  I have my plot outline and I am following it, sort of.  With that as my guide, even when I am jumping around in the manuscript like a mini-van full of toddlers hopped up on jelly-beans and coca-cola, I am still within the actual framework of the story that was originally outlined.

But what if, as occasionally happens, you suddenly realize that four chapters previously you shot the villain and buried him when he should actually have been struck by lightning? He was always going to die, that was a given, because he must be the undead villain, hell-bent on revenge.

330px-Zombie_haiti_ill_artlibre_jnlThe good thing about being an author is that once you realize there was a mistake, you can always un-shoot them. Then you can strike them with lightning as they should have been in the first place, send them to Hell and and have some minor devil trying to work his way up the management chain in the underworld resurrect them as your creepy, decaying, undead villain.

And if you are in the middle of NaNoWriMo, every time you rewrite the the scene with a slightly different outcome, it counts toward your word count.

Just sayin’.

So, here there I was, happily writing along, when suddenly I realized I had to change a rather large plot-hole, and knew I had to do it while I was thinking about it. First I did a global search for the name of the character that has taken the wrong turn. I changed the font color to red in that section, and began rewriting the scene the way it SHOULD have been written in the first place, using the usual black font.

Now, during normal writing sessions, I would simply cut the offending scene out of the ms, and paste it into a separate document which I then save to my ‘Background File’ in the same folder as my main manuscript. By doing that, I don’t lose information I may need later.

virtually golden medallion of mayhem copyBut this is National Novel Writing Month, and every word in that manuscript  counts toward my region’s total wordcount! We are the Olympia Washington USA region and we have a Word War on with Salem Oregon USA: the Capital Smackdown! On November 30, the day of the Great Reckoning,  The Virtually Golden Medallion of Mayhem is up for grabs!

We have never won this awesome…thing-a-ma-bob….

But we want it.

And in the per-writer stats Salem is slightly ahead of us in this battle. OH! the misery!

So if that means I have a multicolored manuscript for a few weeks, so be it!

Besides, if I don’t begin to make those changes when first I realize they need to be done, I might forget until a beta reader points it out. Thus, I find myself up at all hours of the night ironing out plots points, trying to keep an unmanageable group of characters in line and trying desperately to keep that all-important word-count up!

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NaNoWriMo and the Road to Hell

The road to hell Phillip Roth QuoteOkay–I admit it. I have a bunch of works in progress, in three different worlds. If, as Phillip Roth has been quoted as saying,  “The road to hell is pave with works-in-progress,” then I am strapped into the handbasket and barreling down the highway toward an extremely hot destination.

But it’s not my fault.

I have to write when the mood strikes and sometime the mood strikes for a different manuscript than the one it struck for only the day before.

Doh.

Alarm clock quote ray bradburyAt times I am faced with the dilemma of NaNoWriMo–28,000 words toward the goal and I can’t think of where I want to take it just yet.

As Ray Bradbury said, “I don’t need an alarm clock. My ideas wake me.” I write what I can when I can, and write the second story in an alternate color, such as green. Fortunately–once I have the ideas down for the other world, a bolt of inspiration strikes me and I am again back on track with the new nano manuscript.

write-henry david thoreau quoteAnd then there is the annoying problem of writing the back story I will never use, but which serves to cement the story in my head as I am creating it. I write that in red. At the end of November, all these things will be easy to cut and sort out by color-code. They are important in the long run–the ideas for the shelved work-in-progress will not be wasted, and the background material for the current work-in-progress is there so that my world and my characters will have substance in my mind when I write them.

ok to write garbage quote c j cherryhThis is my month of writing madly–of dedicating all my time to the craft. My month of chicken-pot-pies and frozen pizza.  This is the month when my daughters do all the work of preparing the upcoming holiday meal and I steal a few brief hours to play with the babies.

And perhaps write a few notes in my notebook as ideas strike me. And the best part is, all this garbage I spew today will have a long journey through the editing process before it hits the pages of an actual book.

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How I came to fall off the Earth (and why I don’t care)

The Arc of the StoryWow–what a wild week this has been–28k words written on my NaNoWriMo manuscript, and a dip into a culture that is nothing short of amazing.  What a challenge–to write a great story well enough that people will want to read it, and to do justice to a whole culture.

We should have challenges in our work–if it comes too easy it’s fluff. A lot of people are happy with fluff, but not me, and I suspect, not you!

As you all know, I have written some very difficult scenes in the past, not for the gratuitous effect, but because those situations made my character who they were. They were life altering moments where the path suddenly changed, and everything that followed was driven by that incident.

A friend recently asked me how I handle writing such scenes.

When it’s a tough scene, I write as much as I can when I first know what has to be written. Then I set it aside and come back to it later to expand on it and shape to my intent. For me, a scene has to be done in stages so that it flows naturally. At the end of my my last journey though a manuscript, I will have a seamless narrative that flows from one scene to the next, always building toward the final denouement and the conclusion.

a medieval keggerBut right now I have five bodies to get rid of, so I need to get back to writing. Hero set down his mug of mead and picked up the shovel. He looked first at pile of corpses and then at the sky. They didn’t usually fall from the sky and he wondered what Author was up to now, that he should suddenly have to dispose of so many. However, Author was inscrutable and Her mind mysterious. One could only go with the flow, and dispose of the corpses as they fell.

OH the endless agony–but for a little hilarity amidst the eternal darkness of November take a look at Stephen Swartz’s blog post this week:

How NaNoWriMo is like being in Interstellar

 

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Kacey Vanderkarr, Poison Tree (Reflection Pond, Book 2)

As you know, I love to talk shop, and love to hear what other authors have to say about their work and the craft. Recently I read a deep, well-crafted novel written by indie author, Kacey Vanderkarr. The book is called Reflection Pond and I liked it enough to feature it on my book review blog, Best in Fantasy. (You can read my review of her wonderful book here.) Kacey has consented to answer my inelegant questions (further down this post) and what she has to say is quite interesting!

She has written a sequel, Poison Tree (Reflection Pond, Book 2),  and I am happy to have been offered the opportunity to be one of the first to reveal the cover–and a lovely cover it is. And she has also agreed to answer a few questions regarding her work and her life as an indie author–and wow, what great insight into the industry she has.  But first–THE BLURB:

Poison Tree

By Kacey Vanderkarr

Release date: December 2, 2014

The road to the City of War is dangerous.

With their home in ruins, Callie and Rowan are Eirensae’s last hope of stealing the cauldron back from Fraeburdh. They must travel into the human world where the Fallen hide. The banished fae wait for Callie, desperate to sacrifice her before she comes of age.

If Callie and Rowan survive the journey, something worse looms in Fraeburdh. Rowan is destined for a dark family legacy too horrifying to accept, and his father is anxious to welcome him home. Once the truth is revealed, will Callie ever look at Rowan the same way?

Trapped between feuding cities lost in a centuries’ old war, Callie and Rowan will face their biggest rivals yet, and neither of them will make it out unscathed.

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(Just so you all know, I am definitely going to buy that book!)

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And now the Cover:

poison-tree-ebook

 

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That’s an awesome cover to go with such an intriguing blurb.  And now, we meet the author, an amazing woman who is a driving force in the writing life of Flint, Michigan.

CJJ: Tell us a little of early life and how you began writing:

KV: I began writing back in high school, though I didn’t officially consider myself a writer until I was on summer break from my first semester of Ultrasound school. Inspiration struck in that four-week break and I spent it writing my first complete novel, a YA Fantasy that I’ve since rewritten. I fell in love with those characters, and to this day, I still have a soft spot for them. It took some time, but I realized that I could fall in love with other, different, characters, and I have again and again, through novels and short fiction. I think writing is part neurosis and part pure joy. There are times when I love and hate it equally!

CJJ: Tell us about your most recent book.

KV: Poison Tree is Book 2 in the Reflection Pond Series. It’s the continuation of Callie and Rowan’s story as they make their way from home into the dark faerie city, Fraeburdh, which is also known as the City of War.

I’ve always been fascinated with fantasy. In doing some research, I found information on a legend involving four treasures. My own story is loosely based on the original four treasures of Tuatha Dé Danann.

CJJ: Do you have a specific ‘Creative Process’ that you follow, such as outlining or do you ‘wing it’?

KV: I am a certified winger. Swooper. Pantser. Whatever you want to call it. I usually have a general skeleton of a story when I start, a beginning, middle, end, though I never outline. There may be an idea for a scene or two as well. My joy doesn’t come from structure, but spontaneity. I’ve tried outlining before, and then I feel determined to stray as far from that plan as possible. I love the blank page, the possibility. I save the note taking for after I’ve written the rough draft.

CJJ: How does your work differ from others of its genre?

KV: I think that Reflection Pond and Poison Tree take risks. I had a reviewer suggest that Reflection Pond be marketed to ages 17+ because it has a “handful of profanity” and “alludes to child abuse.” It doesn’t allude. It happened, and I’m not going to apologize for it. I’m not scared to examine the dark parts of life, and I don’t condone blindfolding my readers to make them feel more comfortable. These books cover a lot of dark topics, and I’m proud of that, especially when reviewers say that it’s handled in a sensitive manner. The truth is, bad things happen to people who read YA, and everyone needs a character that they can relate to. Not everyone will be able to connect to my characters when they read and that’s okay. But for those who have suffered and survived, there is still hope, and I want them to find it when they read my books.

CJJ: Why do you write what you do?

KV: I write based on inspiration. A lot of that manifests as YA, though I have written a few adult short pieces, some new adult, and some straight up fantasy. I think young adult looks at a very transitional place in a character’s life. It gives a lot of options to the writer. That being said, I have absolutely no idea where my career will take me. Right now, I consider myself a YA writer, in the future? Who knows!

CJJ: I know why I chose the indie route for my work, but I’m curious as to why you’ve chosen this path.

KV: I am all over the place when it comes to publishing. My first book, Antithesis, was published by Inkspell Publishing, which is a small press. That was a great experience for me. I learned how to market, how much work it is to publish a book, how to work with an editor and cover designer. Inkspell is very supportive and patient with their authors. However, for my second book, Reflection Pond, I opted to self-publish. I’d sent it to agents, had a few bites of interest, but nobody wanted to pick up the series. At that point, I had to make a choice. Who did I write this book for? In the end, it was myself, and if I wanted it to be out there in the world, then I had to publish it myself, too. It was a long process with a lot of ups and downs and uncertainty, but I’m SO HAPPY I did it. Self-publishing has opened even more doors for me and widened my net of contacts. I’m proud of these books because every page is mine.

However, I still want an agent, which is why I’m now querying a different project. So, I’ve done a bit of everything. I’d love to have an agent and publish traditionally. The important thing is patience, which is what I keep telling myself!

CJJ: What advice would you offer an author trying to decide whether to go indie or take the traditional path?

KV: I think both traditional and self-publishing have their pros and cons and neither one is better than the other. What matters is the work. Traditional publishing is a bit like having good luck. Your writing can be amazing, but you have to attract the right agent at the right time, and then again with an editor and publisher. Self-publishing gives you more freedom. You get to choose who you work with, have say in what your cover looks like, make editing decisions.

Both paths are hard.

If you indie publish, I suggest making friends with someone who knows the ropes and can help you get it done. That’s the great thing about writers, we’re friendly and helpful, colleagues not competition, because we’re also readers who love good books.

The last bit of advice is DON’T GIVE UP. If you want to indie publish, do it. If you indie publish and still want an agent. Go for it. There is no wrong way. Don’t let the industry, your family or friends, or yourself keep you from your dreams. Just remember, the publishing industry moves SLOW, SLOW, SLOW, so have patience and trust your gut.

>>><<<

I have to say, I really enjoyed reading her answers–Kacey Vanderkarr has some awesome advice for all authors, not just indies there!

 

Kacey VanderkarrKACEY VANDERKARR is a young adult author. She dabbles in fantasy, romance, and sci-fi, complete with faeries, alternate realities, and the occasional plasma gun. She’s known to be annoyingly optimistic and listen to music at the highest decibel. Kacey is president of the Flint Area Writers and the Social Media Director for Sucker Literary. When she’s not writing, she coaches winterguard and works as a sonographer. Kacey lives in Michigan, with her husband, son, and crazy cats. In addition to her novels, Antithesis and Reflection Pond, Kacey’s short fiction is featured in Sucker Literary Vol III, Out of the Green: Tales from Fairyland, and will appear in Spark Vol VII and the inaugural issue of Ember: A Journal of Luminous Things. Check out her website: www.kaceyvanderkarr.com.

You can purchase the wonderful book that begins this series at:

Reflection Pond on Amazon

If I were you I would Add Poison Tree on Goodreads--I just did!

And here is her Author Facebook Page–go out and ‘like’ her–she’s an awesome person!

Kacey Vanderkarr’s Blog-check it out!

And finally–you can follow her on Twitter!

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Plug in to The Matrix

 

the Matrix PosterNovels have layers. Theme is what the story is about on a deeper level than the plot details. It’s the big meaning, and often it’s a moral meaning. Love, honor, family, and revenge are all some common, underlying themes.

I think of the scenes in my books as if they were scenes in a movie. Each conversation is a scene.

Sometimes, we find ourselves in Outer Mongolia as we wrangle our words. Our mind is off chasing squirrels, and our fingers are madly keying dialogue. It happens, and then we find ourselves writing paragraphs of discussion regarding the vase on the kitchen table. Why are we discussing this vase?  If there is a reason that will emerge later, keep it. If it is just idle fluff, lose it.

I actually have a scene in one of my forthcoming books where the characters do just that. They are discussing a vase that was made by a child, but the conversation is not important for the sake of the vase, nor is it really about that object. It is there to expose how important an absent person is to one of the speakers, and the brief interaction between the two speakers endears to the reader one of the characters who will later meet a sad end. The underlying themes of this book are brotherhood, family, romantic love, honor, duty. The obvious theme is the successful resolution of a quest. The core plot device around which the story evolves is an ongoing War of the Gods, and the world in which the tale is set in is their battleground, offering all sorts of opportunities for mayhem.

Consider the first scene of one of my favorite movies of all time, The Matrix. This movie has a lot of action, but it has a lot of dialogue also, and that dialogue advances the plot and never loses the theme of the story.

Quotes from the matrix

The conversation concerns a drug deal, but the underlying theme is never lost. The key words are in the first line, written on the computer, The Matrix has you, the third line, follow the white rabbit, and in that very last line, telling Neo to unplug. The Matrix is all about waking up, about what reality is, and about Neo as the potential savior of the world, which has been enslaved by a virtual reality program. It is about escaping that program. The conversations that happen in the course of the film all advance that theme, even the minor interactions, from the first conversation to the last.

The Arc of the StoryWe must approach conversations in our novels as if they were scenes in a movie. In a good movie, we don’t notice it, but there is an arc. In a story arc, a character undergoes substantial growth or change. It ends with the denouement in the last third or quarter of a story. The end of a narrative arc is the denouement, the final resolution. It shows what happens as a result of all the conflict that the characters have gone through.

If we don’t keep the arc of the story moving with each scene, we will lose our reader, and to that end, each conversation must reflect the underlying themes of the story without beating the reader over the head with it. As in real life, some of the people know more than others, and to advance the plot and the theme, small clues must come out over the course of each scene, each scene building to the finale.

I876MilanoDuomo‘ve said this before, but we must build the overall arc of the story from scenes, each of which is a small arc, in the same way a gothic cathedral is constructed of many arches that all build toward the top.  The underlying arches strengthen the overall construction. Without arches, the cathedral wouldn’t remain standing for very long. The novel is a cathedral and your scenes are the arches that hold it up. The conversations that form those scenes are miniature arches, each with a beginning, a high point, and a resolution.

 

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