Tag Archives: J.A. Jance

Epiphany, and the Writers’ Conference

PNWA 2015 My Books in the Bookstore

Epiphany.

A sudden revelation.

A moment in time where suddenly you understand the why of a certain thing. For a writer this can mean the plot suddenly unthickens and we know what we need to do!

This often happens when I am in traffic and completely unable to put said revelation into practice, but hey, we go with what we have, right?

I had several such moments of glory while in Seattle at the PNWA 2015 Writers Conference this last week. Fortunately I was able to immediately put my chicken-scratched notes into a more readable form via the little Android tablet, and these flashes of knowledge will soon be causing some positive changes in my current works-in-progress.

Over the next few months a lot of what the speakers and teachers had to say will filter through my mind and into this blog, but first I need meditate on it until I know what their insights mean to me on a practical level.

Better You Go Home Scott DriscollI attended two seminars offered by Scott Driscoll, who cuts right to the chase and explains his ideas clearly. One was on understanding your characters’ values and how the evolution of those core values fundamentally drives the story, and the other was on the inciting incident. Those two seminars dovetailed beautifully, and I had my first “I know what I need to do” moment after leaving the one on identifying and understanding the values (or ethics) your characters hold dear. If you ever get a chance to go to a seminar offered by him, I would recommend you do it.

Another speaker whose seminar really motivated me was offered by Bill Carty, on the intersection of ‘poetry and the everyday’ as a means for generating our own poems. (Yes, I have a dark side–I write poetry when no one is watching.)

I listened to my good friend, Janet Oakleyspeaking on a panel about bringing the past to life, when writing historical fiction. That too had an “ah hah!” moment.

Bharti Kirchner gave a seminar on the five essential elements of a short story, and she is an intriguing speaker. As you know, I am a strong proponent of writing short stories as exercise, to develop your writing chops, and I came away from that class knowing how to organize my thoughts so that a short story will remain short, and not accidentally turn into a novella or an epic trilogy.

Doublesight--Terry PersunI wanted to attend the seminar on using language with intention that was offered by Terry Persun and his daughter, Nicole Persun, but I had a conflict and had to choose which class served a more immediate need, so I was unable to attend it. But all is not lost–I will be purchasing the download of that seminar. I had several wonderful conversations with Terry and he will be writing a guest post for this blog, perhaps on that subject.

Instead of that, I attended a class offered by Lindsay Schopfer on identifying the sub-genres of science fiction and fantasy so that when a book is published you can best identify your intended target audience. This is absolutely critical because when you go to publish, your publishing platform will always ask you what your “BISAC code” is. BISAC is an acronym for Book Industry Subject and Category subject headings, which are a mainstay in the industry and required for participation in many databases.

The Beast Hunter, Lindsay SchopferKnowing if you are writing Epic Fantasy or High Fantasy is critical when it comes to marketing your book to the proper audience, as die-hard readers of each sub-genre have strong feelings about what constitutes their favorite genre. Thus, there are certain tropes readers of those genres will expect, so proper labeling is critical if want your target audience to read your book.

Being able to immerse myself in learning the craft is absolutely wonderful, and I look forward to this conference every year. This year William Kenower  offered the final seminar of the event. Bill is an intriguing, energetic speaker who gets his listeners involved in what he teaching. His seminar on reconnecting with your confidence was quite appropriate for me, as I sometimes  listen to my inner critic and forget the joy I have in writing.

my sisters grave robert dugoniOther people spoke, Andre Dubus III and Robert Dugoni-two men with vastly different experiences and different styles of writing, and yet both had something to say that moved me in one way or another.  J.A. Jance, Nancy Kress , Elizabeth Boyle and Kevin O’Brien were on a panel that was fun to listen to.

If you are serious about writing, I highly recommend that you seek out and attend writing conferences. A great deal of good information can be found on the internet, but there is something about the networking and actually talking shop with the other authors that fires creativity and keeps the creativity flowing through the veins.

I suggest that you actively google writers’ conferences in your area, and see if you can find one that is affordable and offers sessions by respected authors in a wide variety of genres, and who are welcoming to authors who intend to go indie as well as those who hope to be traditionally published. It will be money well-spent.

An intriguing thing happened at this conference during the book signing event. A highly respected agent (who shall remain unnamed) stopped by my table and looked over my books. He picked up Tower of Bones, and leafed through it, checking out the cover and the graphics, and also the maps. Pausing, he asked if I was indie published, and I explained I was, through a publishing group, Myrddin Publishing. He then paid me the highest compliment ever–my books were “highly professional.”

That interaction proves how important it is to put your best work out there. When you do that, you can be proud to play on that not-so-level playing field.

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SomeWhen Over the Rain Clouds, Lisa M. Peppan interview

KCover-SWOtRCThe Pacific Northwest has been the home of many famous authors, Frank Herbert, Ken Kesey, Ursula K. Le Guin, and J. A. Jance among them.  There is something about the dark and the damp that encourages creativity. We have a huge community of authors, with critique groups and strong support for each other.

Recently one of my friends from Bellingham, Washington, author of historical fiction J. L. Oakley, introduced me to another friend of her’s, fantasy author Lisa M. Peppan. Lisa’s book, SomeWhen Over The Rain Clouds is an intriguing book I am currently reading on my vacation–I can’t put it down!

Here is the BLURB:

SWotRB blurb

Lisa has consented to answer a few questions about her writing process and where her book fits into the genre of fantasy.

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

LMP: Once I got the hang of it, I became a voracious reader.  My favorite still is L. Frank Baum’s Oz books.  It’s his fault, me writing.  I tried my hand at a few short stories but it wasn’t until after reading a poorly written fantasy that I was inspired to write a better story.

CJJ: What are you currently working on?

LMP: While my cover-artist works on a cover for the sequel to “SomeWhen Over the Rain Clouds”, I’m working on a third book.  Might be a fourth, possibly a fifth.  Maybe more.  Same alternate universes and most of the same characters, all bundled together as The Geaehn Chronicles.  The Geaehn Chronicles has a Facebook page.

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

LMP: SomeWhen started life as 98 handwritten pages.  With a rough idea of the kind of people I wanted my characters to be, I ran astrological birth charts for them and compatibility charts for every possible combination of the four.  While mulling over potential plot complications, I wrote detailed biographies for my main characters, drafted maps, and re-read a selection of mythologies, and, well, once I knew my characters and the world I was sending them to, I wound them up and let them go.  So far, this has worked for two and half books.

CJJ: How does your work differ from others of its genre? Why do you write what you do?

LMP: In all the fantasy I’ve read, cab drivers were things that moved protagonists from Point A to Point B.  Three of my four main characters are Seattle cab drivers who recognize that they’ve become involved in a fantasy-novel-type situation; the fourth knows it’s so much more than that.   I drove a taxi cab for 11 years, did a little dispatching, and knew cab drivers were so much more than things (most of them), and wrote the kind of book I’d enjoy reading.

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

LMP: In the Spring of 1984, on a particularly slow day as a taxi cab driver, SomeWhen Over the Rain Clouds was born.  Over the years, I got many really nice rejection slips.  Then along came a first novel contest on Amazon.  Though I shot myself in the foot for the contest (ask me why and how bad), I was among the 100 best entrants that year.  It also made me aware of that most marvelous purveyor of POD novels, CreateSpace.  When a long-published author friend went Indie, because it appeared to be the direction publishing was going, I took the plunge.

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

LMP: Most traditional brick-and-mortar publishers want to see smartly written synopses.  I tried but my best effort (to date) is 23 pages, and Indie doesn’t require one*.  Indie or traditional…?  If you write fantasy that you’ve given a truly fresh spin and you keep getting really nice rejection slips with handwritten notes saying things like, “Great premise” and “Best wishes finding a home for it!!”, go Indie.

*You won’t need the synopsis but you will want a snappy blurb for the back of the book

CJJ: Your experiences with traditional publishing rather closely mirror mine, Lisa!  Thank you for agreeing to be virtually here today, and for the insight into how your creative process works.

Here is a short excerpt of this wonderful book:

excerpt SWotRB

Intrigued?  Lisa’s book is SomeWhen Over The Rain Clouds and can be found at these fine stores — just click on the links:

www.amazon.com

Barnes & Noble

‘Like’ Lisa on Facebook

LMPeppan

Born in Seattle as the eldest of three, Lisa was a curious and adventuresome child who delighted in taking things apart to see just exactly how they worked.  It is a Testament to the Bravery of her parents that they went on to have two more children.

In 1981, after having held a number of jobs in a variety of fields, it was no real surprise to her parents or brothers when Lisa went to work as a cab driver for North End Taxi, a small mom-and-pop cab company in north Seattle.  During the summer of 1984, as a cab driver, after reading what she felt was a poorly written fantasy novel, she said, to no one in particular, “I can do better than that.”

Unplanned early retirement in 1992 gave Lisa time to learn about computers and html coding.  Armed with these new tools, she resumed her family research.  This led to a new hobby–19th century Living History–and from there she caught a glimpse of the scope and diversity of her Aboriginal heritage that spanned North America, north and south of the border.  What her father and his parents worked so very hard to hide, she works diligently to recover so the next generation will know who they are and where they came from; the time for hiding has passed.

When she isn’t reading, writing, researching, or playing in the past, Lisa enjoys quiet moments in the mountains, ferryboat rides on Puget Sound in November, windy days on any beach, hairy chests on men, rare steaks, and purple roses.

Lisa can be contacted at lisapeppan at gmail dot com

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