writing

Where do you get your ideas from?

Reposted from my blog tour

Yes, the most often asked question of writers, and the first one that comes to my mind as a reader : Where do you get your ideas?

I imagine like most authors, I would initially answer, “I don’t know. They just sort of come to me,” but that’s a really boring and unhelpful answer so I put my thinking cap on and sat down and tried to analyze my process.

What I realized was this – all my ideas all come from ‘somewhere’ or something tangible. Even if it’s not readily apparent. Thinking back on my most current working ideas [the ones I’ve recently written or am actively working on], the ‘biggest’ contributor is just the question, “What if?”

I tack that question on to a lot of stuff in my everyday life and mostly, it’s pretty boring. My inner monologue goes something like this:

  • What if I’m late?
  • What if I don’t pack a lunch? What will I eat?
  • What if I don’t do laundry today? Can I make it a few more days with what I have

SNORE. But! Sometimes, I find I’m asking bizarre “what if” questions based on stuff that’s going on around me. My inner monologue then goes something like this:

  • Jeez, that’s the fourth time I’ve seen that billboard, “WAKE UP!” What if it’s a message to me? What does it mean? Why am I getting it? What if I’m in a coma and this is all coma-world and all those messages are telling me to wake up?
  • I was almost run over by that lady’s shopping cart and she didn’t even see me! Whoa, what if I was invisible? What if I died at some point this morning and I didn’t even realize it and now, I’m a ghost and no one can see me?
  • The harvest moon is always so big and low. But it scares me sometimes. What if in a past life, I died while looking at it and now, whenever I see it hanging low and heavy on the horizon, I feel a little sick because somehow, my soul remembers that? I wonder what I did to ‘get dead’ while looking at the moon?

I kid you not, those are all LEGITIMATE thoughts I’ve had. Sometimes I get a thought like that and it turns into a short story, or a book, or even just a snippet for my slush pile. Other times I laugh at myself or just shake it off. Sometimes I say them out loud and get really strange looks.

I’ve gotten some ideas from other places too – snippets of a song I heard, or artwork, or maybe some overheard dialogue as I walk around. But the number one place I get them is just by stopping sometimes and wondering, “What if…?”

Side note – the “WAKE UP!” billboards turned out to be for a new morning radio show. Took me WEEKS to figure it out. I was really starting to be sure I was in a coma. True story.

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Beginning with the End in Mind

Originally posted at http://mymidnightfantasies.blogspot.com/  as part of my blog tour!

 
As part of my day job, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to take the workshop, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People [created by Stephen Covey]. It’s really about how to make the most out of what’s important to you. It’s not about being successful, or rich or famous, although if those things matter to you, I guess it could be. The habits are about how to structure your life and your time so that you use it to the best of your abilities and you get what you want – what you consider important. One of the habits talked about was “Beginning with the End in Mind.”  Basically, it’s about knowing what you want to get out of something before you start. Whenever I learn something new in any avenue of my life, I try to sit back and think about how I can apply it to my entire life – work, hobbies, family. In this case, Beginning with the End in Mind, has helped me with structuring and writing my book. Here’s how:

The early stages of developing a story are very exciting! Characters, plots, scenes, dialogue snippets – they’re all swirling and percolating in your mind and your fingers are just ITCHING to start typing. The beginning sometimes seems to just pour out of you – your writing is fast paced, voluminous and you’re happy-happy-happy.

But, do you know where you’re going? If not, you’ll probably be like me and all of a sudden it grinds to a halt and you’re not really sure why. It was going so well! You had a rhythm! There was a flow! And now? NADA.

It could be because you don’t know where you’re going. I don’t necessarily mean you need to have every plot point of your story mapped out in the early stages, but knowing generally what your book is about and how it ends can be a real game-changer for your writing.

So, how do I do that? I try to write the synopsis of my book BEFORE I start the book, or while I’m still working on the first pages – while I’m still in that super-exciting stage. The synopsis is your book jacket or your book’s teaser – it’s what your book is about. It generally doesn’t contain any real spoilers or a step by step plot outline, but it does tell you what to expect.

But, “it’s complicated”, you say, “I’ve a lot going on! This happens and this happens and there’s this woman from the past and we don’t know what her motives are and she’s got connections to the protagonist. It’s all tangled and complex”.

I’m sure it is! That makes for a great book!

But at it’s core, what’s your story about? Who is your story about? What is the essential struggle? Everything else is the ‘dressing’ or the ‘extras.’ If your book is an ice cream sundae, the synopsis is the ice cream. You can add whipped cream, cherries, nuts, sauces and anything else you want to make it as fantastic as possible. But you gotta have the ice cream first! At the risk of mixing my metaphors, I’m going to go so far as to say if your ice cream is NOT readily viewable or noticeable to the reader, they’re going to wonder what all these extra toppings are for.

Also, knowing what your book is about will really help you when you get stuck. I keep my synopsis on a doc that I can see while I write. When I get stuck, I read over it and think, “Is this scene telling that story? Does this moment propel the narrative toward this goal? If not, is that why I’m stuck? Am I telling the same story now that I started out with? What would need to happen next to get me to where I’m going?”

Sometimes, I get really excited about a new set of characters or a scene I want to write and I think, “I’ll just start and the ending will come!” That RARELY works for me. If you can do it, I envy you. I usually end up with some great writing that I’m excited about and then it just peters out and stops at some point and I’m never able to get it going again. Mostly because I don’t know where I’m going with it.

Additionally, if YOU don’t know where you’re story is going, how will the reader? Will they feel the same sense of wandering and disjointedness while reading it that you felt writing it? Probably.

So, while it’s hard and it can be it’s own trial, writing the synopsis of your story before you start can be a great anchor for your work. It lets you know that you know where you’re going. You don’t have to know how to get there, but you do need to have the destination in mind!

Genre/World Building in Supernatural Books

Originally posted as part of my blog tour on August 2nd at Mythical Books

One of the most exciting and creative part of writing a book in the Supernatural genre [witches, vampires, werewolves, ghosts etc] is that it’s generally an opportunity for a significant amount of world building. Most authors are excited to put their own spin on lore and tropes, and it’s always fun to play around and see what you can come up with.

It can also be nerve-wracking and difficult. Deciding on the ‘rules’ for the ‘universe’ of your book [or series as the case may be] can end up defining a lot of your plot and character limitations. In my own writing, I try to stick to a few easy rules:

1. Be Consistent. I find fans are willing to accept almost anything with respect to rules and world building, as long as you’re consistent. Ideally you want to make sense AND be consistent, but fans will even forgive logic flaws if you’re consistent. We’ve all read books that set up clearly defined rules and limitations for the supernatural elements only to find those rules and limitations broken or ignored later on. As a reader, it’s incredibly frustrating. You’ve spent all this time investing in this world and when the rules are broken, especially when it seems as though they are broken for convenience, it feels like a big cheat from the author. I feel betrayed when this happens. I feel like I can’t trust the author now, because anything they say may be tossed out the window later on when it’s convenient for them. I guarantee if you break your rules, your readers will want to lynch you. LYNCH YOU.

2. Build in kryptonite for both protagonists and antagonists. We all want our heroes/heroines to be powerful in some way. Similarly, we all want the ‘bad guys’ to be powerful and to be worthy opponents. But, heroes and villains without limits are boring and dangerous. Why would anyone oppose them? How can anyone oppose them? If your hero or heroine has no faults and/or no limits, there’s no suspense. He/she cannot fail. Without the suspense, why is the reader reading? Look at the classic TV show MacGyver. We all know MacGyver will make it out, he’s our hero! But there’s always that small chance he won’t. Because he’s human. Because he uses his brain and he only has what’s in front of him. That tiny suspicion of his weaknesses, his fallibility, keeps us on the edge of our seat. What if he doesn’t have what he needs? What if he doesn’t know everything he needs to know to get himself out? Similarly, we need our villains to have a weakness. If they’re all powerful, how can they be defeated? And as a tie in from above, if the hero breaks our world-building rules to defeat the villain because there’s no built in kryptonite, the reader will feel cheated.

3. Add elements of the real world. In my book, I consider using magic like doing gymnastics. Sure, my characters can do a backflip. Do they do one EVERYDAY EVERY TIME they go to the store? No. Because real life isn’t like that. People don’t do the things they are capable of every day. Why? Because it takes effort or it’s tiring or it gives them a headache or they need special tools or it’s ‘not allowed’ – whatever it is, if you can make it like the ‘regular world’, your reader is familiar with it and will probably accept it. We all have special skills and abilities we don’t use everyday. Tell me why your characters don’t and I’ll probably believe you. If you fail to tell me why though, every time someone’s in peril, I’m going to be asking, “Well, why don’t they just use BLAH BLAH BLAH to get themselves out?”

4. Write the rules down. Okay you don’t physically have to write the rules down, but having them laid out sure can make your life easier later on. If you have them written down, you’re more likely to follow them. Also, this leads to number 5….

5. KISS – Keep it Simple, Stupid – Ah, yes, the KISS rule that so many of us learned in school. It’s true. KEEP IT SIMPLE, STUPID – this is where writing your rules down helps. If you can write them down, chances are they’re pretty simple to follow. If you CAN’T articulate them, is it that they’re too hard? Remember, you want your reader to focus on your characters and your plot – you don’t want them so caught up in the rules that they lose interest in your book! Keeping it simple makes it easier for the reader (and you!) to remember.

Nothing in the above means you can’t be outlandish or take risks. You shouldn’t feel hemmed in. It’s your world, BUILD IT. In the immortal words of “Field of Dreams” (the movie) – “If you build it, they will come.” But you also want people to enjoy your world and, in my humble opinion, by following the above guidelines, they will!

Blog Tour Schedule!

I’m going on tour!

From July 29 to Aug 26, I will be ‘On Tour’ with Bewitching Book Tours promoting my book, Trial by Fire!

bewitching_author Trial by Fire Button 300 x 225

The tour runs on Weekdays, links below so you can stop by and check stuff out. I’ll be updating this post as I create guest blog posts so you’ll know what I’ll be discussing.

What will happen on the book tour? I’M SO GLAD YOU ASKED:

Guest Blog – A post written by me – I’m still looking for the perfect place to write my post on “The Importance of Being Miss Piggy”, but for this tour, I’ll probably stick to writing, elements of writing, supernatural stuff and/or items feature my book.

Spotlight – Will feature excerpts from Trial by Fire

Interviews – will feature my responses to interview questions. I was very excited to do my first “Character Interview” for July 29, featuring answers by Jade!

Review – Will feature a book review of Trial by Fire [Gotta admit, this one has me biting my nails a bit]

Le Schedule

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
July 29
Character Interview [Jade]
Laurie’s Paranormal Thoughts and Reviews
Author Interview
The Official Blog of A.C. James
July 30
Spotlight
3 Partners in Shopping, Nana, Mommy, & Sissy, Too!
July 31
Author Interview
A Writer’s Mind
August 1 – Day off! August 2
Guest blog – Genre World Building
Mythical Books
August 5
Guest blog – Character Interview [Paris]
Christina McKnight Blog
August 6
Spotlight – Excerpt 1
Kelly P’s Blog
Spotlight – Excerpt 2
Reviewing in Chaos
August 7
Guest blog – Where do your ideas come from
Buffy’s Ramblings
Review of Trial by Fire
Escape Into A Book
August 8
Spotlight – Excerpt 3
Share My Destiny
August 9
Spotlight – Excerpt 1
Krystal’s Enchanting Reads …
Spotlight and review of Trial by Fire [excerpt 2]
wicca witch 4 book blog
August 12
Review of Trial By Fire
Ella Gray
August 13
Guest blog – Begin with the End in Mind
Itara @My midnight fantasies
August 14
Spotlight
Zombiegirl Shambling
August 15
Guest blog – Deleted Scene from Trial by Fire
Bookworm Bridgette’s World
August 16
Author Interview
Fang-tastic Books
Spotlight
Mommasez…blog
August 19
Author Interview
Roxanne’s Realm
Review of Trial by Fire
Nicky Peacock author
August 20
Spotlight
Reading In Twilight
Aug 21
Spotlight
Books & Tales
August 22
Spotlight
Elfie Books
August 23
Spotlight and Review of Trial by Fire
Faerie Tale Books
August 26
Author Interview
Pembroke Sinclair
Spotlight
Jodie Pierce

I’m super excited and a little nervous! I think August will be a busy month for me!

Office Makeover!

I wish I could tell you that I do most of my writing from an old mahogany desk in a library with a huge bay window where I can look out upon the grounds of my English Manor Maze Garden.

The truth is, I write from my bed. It’s the WORST for my back and legs. It’s also bad for my sleep habits.

I have an office type room in my house and I used to use it for some working from home when I worked at my last job. I also used to be really into scrapbooking and cardmaking. I currently only use it for cello practice. I thought if I tossed a coat of paint and finally hung up some of the art I had, I could make it into a writer-type place.

It’s getting there! Although I’m still writing this from my bed, lol.

So! with me starting Camp NaNoWriMo tomorrow, I hope to put this space to good use! Click here for my novel profile at camp!

Author vs Storyteller

Copy of a guest post I wrote for Say What, Savannah Mae? on June 27

I’ve always struggled with calling myself an author or even, at times, a writer. I tend to think of myself as a storyteller  – I just like to write them down.

If this were five hundred or even one thousand years ago, I think I would be just as happy sitting around a hearth or an open fire with my family and friends saying, “So, this is what happened….”

But in this day and age, the art of oral story telling is mostly forgotten. We tend to gravitate toward written words that we can enjoy on our own time, picking and choosing what we like most. But does that make everyone who writes a story or tale down an author? I tend to disagree. And I don’t mean that in a mean or spiteful way.

To me, an author is someone that picks and chooses their words carefully. They tend to write prose instead of just words. When I’m reading a book by someone I consider an author, I can happily stop and re-read several sentences over and over again simply because they’re lovely, separate from the information they relay or how they move the narrative on. A good author can have a character open a can of soup and it’s lyrical.

A good storyteller is worth just as much. A good storyteller draws you in with what’s happening, with the characters, with the scenery. The words all propel the story forward and at times you can’t stop reading, it’s so good. You take your book on the train, to your work, on your way to the shower – all because you must know what happens next. You can be both. You can be neither. You can be one or the other.

There are many successful books out there today by great storytellers. But I hesitate to call them authors.  As I said, it’s not a slur or a slight – they told a great story! I couldn’t put those books down! But, as far as word choice, usage and prose, I consider it no better nor worse than average.

There are other books out there that are gorgeous in their construction. Each word feels as though it has been hand selected to sit exactly where it does, in that exact sentence, in that precise spot on the page. In those types of books, I almost feel as though nothing needs to happen. I would be content to simply read about things existing.

I’m very happy to call myself a storyteller! I think there’s a magic in crafting a compelling story with characters people care about and empathize with.

But I think I’ll hold off on calling myself an author. For now.

New Short Story – Persephone Rising – Link and Author notes

I’ve posted a new short story, Persephone Rising!

If you are interested, some author notes:

The idea came when I was reading a submissions post on a publishing blog asking for dark fairy tale type stories. They were looking for some more… intriguing takes on heroines. So I started thinking about what I could write. I’ve always loved Greek Mythology so I wanted to do something there. But, one of the things that has ALWAYS troubled me about many classical tales is the victim-type role that women tend to play. I wanted to write something where the heroine wasn’t a victim, and instead was more proactive about her choices.

Having previously written a fanfic story based on some elements of the underworld, I was drawn to write about Persephone. Instead of a maiden naively picking flowers and then kidnapped by Hades, I wanted to write a Persephone that had always been drawn to dead things and possibly pursued Hades when she met him.

I was also interested in portraying more of a grey-sexual Persephone. Please note, my writing is only intended to be one of many viewpoints and is a work of fiction, so I have interpreted the definition as I needed to make the narrative work. I welcome commentary and constructive criticism. Bashing, flaming, spamming and hatred is not welcome.

I’ve commissioned some art for this story and hope to have it posted soon!

Concrit is love! Play nice in the sandbox!

Update on Book 2! [Covencraft]

 

I’m at 11500 words on book two! I’m currently guestimating 85000 words for book 2. Book 1 [Trial By Fire] was 84000 so I figured 85000 was a fair guess.

I’m a visual person and NEED TO SEE THE GRAPH, so I love word count meters. I do have a title for book 2 but I’m keeping it close to the vest in case I change my mind. But seeing as I’m HORRIBLE at keeping secrets, I’ll probably let the cat out of the bag at some point.

 

Interpreting Fiction, songs and other creative works

I’ve a friend in a really awesome band. Her name’s Chantal and she’s in a group called the Lovebullies. She has this one song called Here Comes the Boy. This is a replica of a conversation we had once:

Me: Hey, you know that song? Here Comes the boy? What’s it about?
Chantal [pauses]: What do you think it’s about?
Me: well, I think it’s about this girl that’s in love with her best friend but her best friend is in love with this guy who treats her badly. But the first girl, the one that’s in love is like, he’ll never treat you as well as me.
Chantal: [silence]
Me: soooo, is that what it’s about?
Chantal: it’s whatever you feel it’s about.

I immediately was confused. I argued with her, “BUT WHAT’S IT ABOUT???” and she just kept saying that it was about whatever I thought it was about.

This FLOORED me. I was so befuddled. How could Chantal make this song, this art, and not want to tell me what it meant? It made me think a lot about my own writing and how when someone asks what my book is about, I want to go on and on and on and tell them EVERYTHING that EVER crossed my mind while writing.

That conversation really stuck with me. I think about it a lot when I read reviews/interpretations of songs, writing and other art. I makes me wonder what the original artist thinks of their own work.

I’ve read some essays on Jane Eyre [previously noted as my fave book ever] and how the character of Bertha Mason has MANY interpretations – she’s society’s view on sexuality in women, she’s Charlotte Bronte’s psyche trapped in the attack, she’s the representation of all women persecuted for their lifestyle.

But it makes me wonder if maybe she’s just a crazy lady in the attic. Or maybe she’s all of those things above and more including a crazy lady in the attic because Charlotte Bronte would say, like Chantal did, she’s whatever you think she is.

This also leads me to a post a saw on Tumblr and I wish I saved the link. If I recall correctly, an art class had been charged with art for the Great Gatsby. One of the pieces done showed Gatsby with no hands and the art teacher commented how this was so symbolic of him reaching for things that he lacks the tools to even grasp or touch. However, the artists in the class leaned over to one of his classmates and said something like, “Actually, I just can’t draw hands.”

So again, I wodner, when we interpret art, how much of ourselves are we projecting on the piece. Is that the function of art? To be what the interpreter wants or sees?

Joss Whedon reportedly said “All worthy work is open to interpretations the author did not intend. Art isn’t your pet — it’s your kid. It grows up and talks back to you.” I find I think about that statement a lot. With my book coming out [June 25! Another SHAMELESS PLUG!] it makes me wonder what people will think about it and how they may interpret scenes, dialogue and characterization. Or if they’ll just read it for fun and not look any deeper. How will I react?

Obviously, I don’t have any answers, but it all makes me think about music, writing, art and how we view those things and what we attribute to them.

The Importance of Editing

Editing – the bane of my existence. I would argue most writers hate to edit and if you’re a writer and you don’t hate editing, wanna do mine for me?

But, editing is a necessary evil and though I detest it, I try my hardest! I quite often skip words when I write, thinking I’ve typed them out when I really haven’t. I also don’t always stop for commas, apostrophes and spelling. A solid edit clears all that up.

I think my favorite example about editing is the difference between, “Let’s eat, Grandma!” and “Let’s eat Grandma!”

One is a call to a grandmother, inviting them to eat. The other…. well… Grandma might not make it through dinner.

I’m blessed with several ‘beta’ readers – these are the gems in my world who fix up my stuff and tell me when I’ve missed commas, forgotten plot lines or just… made a hot mess. A good beta offers constructive criticism and doesn’t just tell you, “IT’S WONDERFUL.” In fact, a good beta will likely NOT tell you that. At least not until after they finish pointing out your mistakes so you can fix them.

I once had a beta note that I was missing an explanation scene for something. I thought it was clear, but then again, I’ve got the whole world of the story in my head. I wrote a quick little explanation scene and in all the comments I got on that story [fanfiction] the number one thing I heard was how that little scene was people’s favorite. and I wouldn’t have added it without my beta!

I had a lot of help on my book, Trial by Fire [coming out June 25 – SHAMELESS PLUG – click on the COVENCRAFT link above]. And I owe them a big ‘Thank you’ and I hope they don’t mind me calling them by name here!

CHANTAL – I gave you an 80000+ manuscript and then asked for it back in less than a week, with edits and you did it graciously and without complaint and made it a better book! THANK YOU. I appreciate it so much. [Even though you’ve been jealous of me since we were kids ;)]

DONNA – the care and consideration you showed while reading my novel was heartwarming and humbling. I can’t believe the things you noticed and how much thought and effort you put into it. God bless you and your mother’s grammar lessons!

ASHLEIGH – bb, I expected the fastest turnaround from you [as I’m familiar with your reading speed ;)] and you did not disappoint! I think you got back to me, like, 24 hrs after I sent you the proof? THAT’S FRIENDSHIP, GURL!