Posted by: faaiken on May 18 2013, 6:07 pm in Writing, Writing Life
The Craft of Writing
(Second post of The Business of Writing Series)
By F. A. Aiken
When asked during a televised interview “What is writing?” Shea Barkley answered “Writing is perfecting the craft.” I liked that answer. Writing is a craft. In the middle ages and the Renaissance, people learned their trade and craft through craft guilds. Someone wanting to enter the professional first must find a master craftsman willing to train him in the techniques of the profession by becoming the Master’s Apprentice. Here, the young person will be trained in the techniques of the craft, given instruction and opportunities to hone his skills and learn the rules of the trade or craft. After years of gaining and honing this knowledge, the apprentice becomes a journeyman, also called a fellow craft (fellow of the craft), being able to perform the trade without supervision. After years of work, he would submit his masterpiece to the guild and hopefully be accepted as a master of the craft, thereby being able to take on apprentices to train in the art of the craft. As the work of the master craftsman continue to gain fame, his peers would bestow upon the master the title of grandmaster.
At each stage of his tenure in the craft, the individual continues to increase his or her knowledge through learning how to apply the rules and knowledge gained to produce products of value through hard work and constant practice. At each stage, the rules are different and are necessary to increase the quality of the work. As an entered apprentice, the writer needs to learn about proper manuscript style, fundamentals of copy rights, proper use of grammar, the structure of the story, how to plot, etc. Once the writer masters these basics and advances to be a journeyman or fellow of the craft (fellow craft), the writer is taught more advanced material, such as the rules of revision, marketing techniques and other business fundamentals required of a person making money from the trade. Once the writer has increased his or her knowledge and skill levels through practice, some of the earlier rules no longer apply as they have become internalized into the writers being and are done automatically in the writing process. So the secret to advancement within the craft is practice, practice, practice. A couple of decades ago, Volkswagen featured an advertising campaign using a German work that translated into English as “continuous, never ending improvement”. And this is what the writer must strive to do with his writing. How can a writer improve? Through practice! So what is the definition of practice for a writer? Sitting at the keyboard, butt glued to the chair, fingers pounding on the keys forming words letter by letter into recognizable sentences that tell a story, minute by minute until the session is over. Each story, each scene, each sentence is practice. Learning for a writer is a lifelong endeavor with the single goal of never ending improvement in his story telling techniques. The writer is a lifelong learner. Remember, Writing is a Business and the writer’s desire is to succeed in this business by mastering the craft of writing. In the words of Dean Wesley Smith, the writer only needs to focus on the next sentence.
Posted by: Doranna Durgin on May 8 2013, 4:00 am in Demon Blade, Doranna Durgin, Taming the Demon, Writing Life
TAMING THE DEMON wasn’t actually supposed to be set in various fictional parts of Albuquerque, New Mexico, at all. At the time I wrote the proposal, I lived in Flagstaff (which I loved), and I set the book down in the valley–hot, hot Phoenix, Arizona. Okay, I set it during winter in Phoenix, because summer in Phoenix is so hot I don’t even want to live it vicariously while writing it.
That’s the thing about the writing. If my characters are dealing with something in the book, in some distant way, I’m dealing with it, too. Not in the details, but in the essence. So if they’re in Phoenix in the summer, then I’m annoyed by the heat. If Devin James is in a battle of wills with a demon blade, then I’m stirring up my own feelings to siphon them into the book. I won’t say it doesn’t get intense!
But that means it goes both ways–that when things happen in real life, they can (if appropriate) have an impact on the book. And between the time I conceived and sold this book and the time I wrote it, I moved. Not so far as distance is measured in the Southwest, and a just couple thousand feet lower (and hotter) than I’d been in Flagstaff, which…as I said…I loved. (Then we moved again, out through the canyon and climbing up into the Sandia foothills, but that’s another story…).
Even from one high desert home to another, only five hours away…central New Mexico had an entirely different culture, entirely different geology and anthropological and historical origins. Still, the rich potential of exploring the area in fiction merely percolated in my hindbrain for the first months of settling in. For one thing, never mind the chaos of the unpacking–I was in the middle of writing a different book! But then came the day when preparing to write TAMING THE DEMON and exploring my new home overlapped. I rode my horse out along the local acequia (the generations-old canal system running through the Rio Grande valley) and discovered, tucked away in the middle of nowhere, a rather grand old southwestern home.
This, I realized, is where Devin and Natalie will come to know each other.
And so I suddenly had new purpose to my wanderings, and to studying the area. I found a way to honor my new home while exploring Devin and Natalie’s story, and an excuse to look at each new facet of it with an inquisitive eye. I learned about history, the uniquely flavored city quadrants, and the wide variety of microclimates and habitats–things I might not have discovered, while in my mourning for the move away from the San Francisco Peaks that seemed so magical to me. But talk about magical–there in the Albuquerque valley, there were sandhill cranes! Oh my golly, they migrated right over the house! And flock of nighthawks–the first I’ve ever seen! The bosque area along the Rio Grande is such a unique blend of fragile desert and water habitat, I quickly grew to love it–even if it was all a little too surrounded by urbanity for my hermit’s taste.
But this area is a place that Natalie and Devin each love, in their own unique experiences of it–in their survival in it–and it turned out to be a perfect place for them to fall in love, too. Seeing it through their eyes gave me a chance not only to understand them better, but it allowed me to appreciate the new things in my life. What could be better than that?
Posted by: Kari Bovee on Dec 23 2012, 2:00 am in inspiration, literature and movies, Movies, Writing, Writing Life
It’s Christmas and Holiday time yet once again! It’s time for parties, goodies, friends and much merrymaking. It’s also the time of year when the newest movies hit the silver screen.
I haven’t had too much time to visit the theater, but I did get to see Anna Karenina and Lincoln. While Anna Karenina had me tilting my head in wonderment at the theatrical interpretation of Tolstoy’s novel, Lincoln had me laughing, crying, mad and happy, all at the same time. Exactly what a good movie is supposed to do. In my opinion, what makes a movie spectacular is not only the cinematography, editing and acting, but mostly THE WRITING. A good movie inspires me to learn more about my craft and become a better writer. I am going to share with you five of the movies that have made me want to write the next best-selling novel (with movie rights!)
#5 The Man in the Iron Mask (1998) starring Leonardo di Caprio, Jeremy Irons, John Malkovich, Gabriel Byrne and Gerard Depardieu.
Aside from the awesomeness of the cast, this version is huge due to its being a conglomeration of Alexandre Dumas’ D’Artangnan Romances and The Vicomte de Bragelonne, the 1929 film version starring Douglas Fairbanks, and the 1939 film version directed by James Whale.
Although the movie diverges a bit from historical accuracy, it is still a riveting story about the militaristic and cruel King Louis XIV and his sweet-tempered twin brother Phillip. When they are born, the twins’ father sends Phillip away to save France from dynastic warfare. For 21 years, he has been hidden from the world and must wear an iron mask to protect his identity. When Louis comes to power, retired and aging muskateers, Athos, Porthos, Aramis and D’Artagnan devise a plan to replace the despotic Louis with the more benevolent Phillip. Porthos is entirely fed up with aging and is constantly thinking of ways to end his sorry life, but never acts upon it. Aramis has become a devout Jesuit who masterminds the switch of the Princes. Athos a devoted father, whose son Raoul, a besotted soldier, has become caught up in a love triangle with the beautiful Christine and none other than Louis himself, must avenge the murder of said son by Louis. And D’Artangnan, ever steady and loyal to his beloved friends, lover, and King, is in great conflict with the overthrow plot and the ensuing threat to his friends.
This mish-mash of literary and film versions does not offer any great or awe-inspiring social commentary or profound message, but it doesn’t lack in action, love, valor and great story telling.
#4 The Man Who Would Be King (1975) directed by John Huston, starring Sean Connery, Michael Caine and Christopher Plummer.
Again, another fabulous cast. This movie was based upon a novella written by Rudyard Kipling in 1888. The story is about Danny Dravot and Peachy Carnehan, rouge non-commission British officers of the Indian Army who decide to resign from the army and set off for Kafiristan (somewhere in Afghanistan) – a land where no white man has set foot since Alexander the Great. They are certain that if they can only get there, their dreams of Kingship, wealth, women and an easy life will be obtained.
They fight blizzards, avalanches and numerous bandits along the way. In one of their battles, Danny is struck by an arrow and is miraculously unharmed. The arrow sticks into a bandolier hidden beneath his jacket. The people of Kafiristan decide that Danny must be a god. He and Peachy go along with the ruse in hopes of fulfilling their dreams. But, as the old adage goes, “beware what you wish for.” The rest of the story depicts the pitfalls of power, greed and Illusions of Grandeur.
When I was in college I attempted to write an adaption of this story for the stage, but as you can imagine, it was a bit more than I could handle!
#3 It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) directed by Frank Capra, starring James Stewart and Donna Reed.
What Christmas season would not be complete without an annual viewing of this American masterpiece? It was nominated for five Oscars and has been recognized by the American Film Institute as one of the 100 best American films ever made. It was based on a story called “The Greatest Gift” written by Phillip Van Doren Stern in 1939 and privately published by the author in 1945. I wonder why? Could he not sell it? If so, those publishing houses made a big mistake! Self-pubbed authors, there’s hope yet for the big block-buster!
If you haven’t seen it, which I cannot imagine that anyone has NOT seen this film, but there might be some,- it’s about George Bailey, a man in a small town who has constantly given up his dreams for the sake of others. When he learns that all of his efforts have culminated in bankruptcy, George is ready to end it all. His dramatic suicide attempt of jumping from an ice covered bridge into frigid waters is thwarted by an angel named Clarence who has come from Heaven in the hopes of obtaining his wings. Clarence shows George what life in the community would be like without him and his sacrifices. Of course that life is bleak and heart -breaking, and George is finally convinced that the world is a better place with him in it.
Clarence is successful in saving George, thus obtaining his wings, and George returns to his life with renewed happiness and appreciation. This is a story about focusing on what you have, not what you want. A good lesson for everyone.
Clarence: Strange isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives, when he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?” “Remember George, no man is a failure who has friends. P.S. Thanks for the wings!”
#2 To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) starring (dreamy) Gregory Peck, Robert Duvall and Mary Badham (as Scout)
This American favorite was made from Harper Lee’s novel, published in 1960. The novel was an instant success and won the Pulitzer Prize. In 2003 the American Film Institute named Atticus Finch the greatest movie hero of the 20th century. Who could argue? Wouldn’t you want Atticus Finch as your lawyer, neighbor, husband or dad? Peck’s stoic portrayal of the controversial home-town hero is moving beyond words.
The story was based upon Lee’s observations of her family and neighbors during an event that happened in her small town when she was ten years old. It is a gothic story with the primary themes involving racial injustice and the destruction of innocence. It also addresses issues of class warfare, courage and gender roles of the deep South. From the view point of Scout, Atticus’s six year old daughter, the story unfolds about a black man who is accused of raping a white woman. Atticus, a lawyer and man of honor, integrity, and strong convictions, agrees to defend him which causes mayhem in the small, fictional Alabama town.
Scout and her brother Jem also learn a life’s lesson in their dealings with the reclusive Boo Radley, a neighbor, who terrifies them and fascinates them at the same time. He is never seen outside but often leaves small tokens and gifts for the children in a nearby tree. Fueled by their imaginations, Boo, in their minds, is someone horrible and evil, but they soon learn that he is immensely brave and kind. This subplot of misconception, misunderstanding and prejudice dovetails beautifully with the main plot.
“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view. . . you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” Atticus Finch
#1 Dead Poet’s Society (1989) directed by Peter Weir, starring Robin Williams.
The screen play was written by Tom Schulman based on his life at the Montgomery Bell Academy in Nashville, Tennessee. Dead Poet’s won the Best Screenplay Academy Award in 1989. I had the great pleasure of once meeting Mr. Schulman at a Santa Barbara Screen Writers meeting. I don’t think he remembers the occasion quite as well as I do!
The movie is about English teacher John Keating who returns to his alma mater, the conservative and aristocratic Welton Academy in Vermont, 1959. It is Keating’s ambition to inspire his students through is teaching of poetry in unconventional ways. His methods include, having his students call him “O Captain my Captain,” referencing the poetry of Walt Whitman. He also regularly takes them out of the classroom and meanders throughout the school instilling in them the idea of Carpe Diem, or living life to the fullest. “Carpe Diem. Seize the day boys. Make your lives extraordinary.” He shocks and astonishes his students when he has them rip out the introduction of one of their books he thinks ridiculous, and has them stand on their desks to “see the world in a different way.”
This movie is an English Major’s dream. It’s full of references to the beloved classics we all studied and lost sleep over in preparation for numerous essays and discussions. It’s also aesthetically pleasing with a particularly surreal scene shot in slow motion of the boys escaping at night through the dense forest to start their own version of Keating’s former literary club, The Dead Poet’s Society.
“No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.” John Keating
And with that wonderful sentiment, I wish you all Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and many visits to the magical world of movie-land!
Posted by: Mona Karel on Dec 20 2012, 9:37 pm
Monica Stoner w/a Mona Karel
(Warning: I think I might be channeling my inner hippie…and I don’t mean my spreading hips!)
You are a child of the universe. No less than the trees and the stars you have a right to be here
Most of us are of an age to remember this prose poem, originally thought to be centuries old but actually the 1927 writing of Max Ehrmann. The words are significant a near century later, and especially to life as a writer. My piece of advice for the LERA Christmas party was never to compare ourselves with anyone else. This has been a difficult lesson for me, and I believe for many of us. We see writers around us winning contests, getting fabulous contracts, attaining best selling status, and we wonder “Why not me?” We see other writers with less than exemplary numbers, dropped by their publisher, and wonder “Why them?”
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
All of these writers enchant us with wonderful stories. Some soar to amazing heights, some are still waiting to be overnight successes after many years of effort. Not all our endeavors succeed equally.
Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism.
And all of us, at one time or another, wonder if we’re really cut out for this life of writing. We wonder if we are lacking something in our make up. Do our words truly sing? Are we fooling ourselves? Should we check into part time work at Denny’s?
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Should we attend more conferences? Take more workshops? Push for a higher daily word count? Blog and Tweet more?
Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.
When will our chance come to be an overnight success?
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
The entire text of Desiderata is available on Wikipedia, and for that matter all over the Internet. It seems as appropriate now as it was in 1927, and 1967 (when I heard it in Leonard Nimoy’s voice) I think I better print it on a sign to hang below my computer screen.
With all its shams, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.
Posted by: Karen Fonville on Nov 12 2012, 1:53 pm
BY Karen Fonville
My friends, I am fine. Sitting amid the boxes, it is true, but I am fine. And the cats have forgiven me. Almost. Mostly. At last.
For those of you who don’t know, I am in the middle of a move. From Texas back to Kentucky. Leaving my friends, my home and my job I love. Hopefully to find, as well as family and friends – more friends, a new home, and a new job I love.
Little Black weighs in: Don’t listen to the human. She’s nuts! Why, there were several unsavory characters who invaded our home. They stole our furniture…. Almost took my brother!
Big Mouth: Ahem… Big Brother, you exaggerate. I hid in the couch to prove to our human the folly of her plans.
Little Black: Sure, and they almost took you away for your grand idea!
Big Mouth: That was a slight mis-calculation on my part, I’ll admit. But they didn’t get me, did they?
Little Black: You were all the way out the door! Any further and I don’t think you’d have been able to find your way back. And let’s face it, she didn’t listen to you.
Me: Now, boys, let’s not be melodramatic. All’s well that ends well.
Little Black: Easy for you to say. We didn’t put YOU in a cage for days…
Big Mouth: Might be fun, don’t you think? Shall we try?
Me: Boys, you know I did that for your own good, to protect you. After Mouth nearly got taken to the dump with that old couch…
Mouth: Hey, I LOVED that couch! I could get up inside there and no one could see me!
Black: And I could hide under the bed from Mouth or any of the unsavory strangers that started coming to our house… until you took the mattress away, too.
Me: Black, I’ll get another mattress here soon. It’s really not so bad, is it? Me sleeping on the air mattress with you guys? OR the way the trip went?
Mouth: People, People, People… ever since Stinker died there’ve been nothing but people. And strange experiences.
Me: What strange people? The movers?
Black: Yep. First they come and take our stuff away. Then we get in that cage and you move us into that car with that other human.
Me: You mean my sister? Your Aunt Lisa?
Black: That’s her name? Aunt Lisa? You never introduced us.
Me: I tried. You wouldn’t come out from under the bed, Black. Or you out of the couch, Mouth.
Black: She made noise.
Me: Yes, she was helping me pack.
Mouth: She made loud noise.
Me: Oh, you mean the vacuum. You’d better get used to it, I’ll be using that more than I was before.
Me: But you did get used to her. A little. Before we left, you started coming around to check her out. When she was asleep.
Mouth: She smelled of dog. And cat.
Me: Yes, she has pets too. And she’s pretty nice, which you would have found out if you’d given her a chance.
Black: Maybe next time.
Me: Now, what else?
Black: What were you doing when we stopped?
Me: Which time?
Mouth: After the windy road, we stopped and you disappeared. Then you came back and wind and noise met our faces.
Me: You remember that? Most of the time, you guys were hiding your faces.
Black: Until we smelled.
Me: Smelled what?
Me: Yep, we were eating. We thought we’d be sociable and spend time with you two, so we got our food, opened her rear door and stood there with you.
Black: You ate in front of us.
Me: You didn’t act hungry.
Mouth: You didn’t offer us anything. Besides, after all that swaying, who could eat?
Me: I’m sorry.
Black: Then there were the big metal things staring in the window.
Me: Big metal things? Do you mean the chicken statues?
Mouth: Birds shouldn’t be that big. We should be able to catch them.
Me: You could have caught these ones, they were statues and didn’t move. Well, except for their heads.
Both: We were in the cage.
Me: That’s right. Sorry. But how do you like our new home?
Black: Noisy. More people. Just when we think things are calm, PEOPLE. Sometimes you aren’t even here.
Me: I did have the maintenance men come fix a few things. Why don’t you tell people what you do like about the place?
Black: The fireplace is a good spot to hide in.
Me: Yes, I know you like it.
Black: How do you know? We are hidden. No one knows.
Me: Maybe no one can see you, maybe it’s the black footprints on the tub that give you away.
Big Mouth: Oh, yes, the tub. That’s a good place too. But we really don’t hide either place much anymore.
Me: Why is that?
Big Mouth: That last group of people brought things in. There is much crowding now. Many good hiding places.
Me: Yes, those men brought our things from Texas. I don’t like the apartment as much at night now.
Big Mouth: We like it. You do not?
Me: Oh, I like it okay, just not at night. The boxes can hide things.
Black: Yes, we like to hide.
Me: But so do bad people. It’s kinda spooky. I’m glad I found my night lights. As long as I can see the enemy coming at me, it’s not so bad.
Both: We are here for you. Do not be afraid.
Me: Yes, you’re here for me. At least until there’s a strange noise or I move the wrong way. Then you’re back behind the boxes again.
Both: We’ve got your back. You can trust us.
Me: Thank you, I feel so safe and secure now.
People have asked me why I moved. The truth is there are many reasons. It was time. I missed these relatives and friends. It’s part of my ‘grand design’. My business plan. My grave is here. ETC.
I am getting older. That’s a fact. And I’ve had a few health scares while I was in Texas. They didn’t scare me then, though, and they really haven’t scared me now. At least not in a morbid way.
But last year, a friend of a friend died. This man was a collector of many things, and he had a truly interesting estate. He also had a will, and named my friend as the executor. But it wasn’t specific enough. My friend had to do a lot to settle that will, and the stress of it jeopardized my friend’s health while he took care of it.
That whole situation got me to thinking. I’m a collector, although not nearly as good a one as my friend’s friend. And truth be told, I had a lot of other stuff in the house that needed to be gotten gone before something does happen that would make other people have to take care of it. A move if done right is good for that.
I’m also a writer, and as a writer, I am now collecting copyrights. Kristine Kathryn Rusch talks about this in this week’s column on her blog The Business Rusch at kriswrites.com (http://kriswrites.com/2012/11/08/the-business-rusch-want-to-be-read-100-years-from-now-heres-how/ ). In this world of electronic publishing, it is now possible for a work to remain available to the reading public a lot longer. A work that is not a hit today, MAY become a best seller in the future. The will that I leave should be the best that I can come up with to give my heirs guidance, both in what my wishes are concerning my copyrights and in how to handle those copyrights in today’s market. And as I learn about my business, I should also educate my heirs.
Read Kris’s column and think about your own situation. Take care of yourselves, and of your heir’s futures. Now.
One interesting thing that I have noted about this move. I have been contemplating NOT getting cable and internet. It would save on money, and probably be a time saver. But, as many will note, I am at least a day late posting this, and I have been going through internet withdrawal. I sit, right now, at Starbucks, so that I can keep my computers updated, and so that I can catch up with news and post this. I probably SHOULD get the cable and internet. As a business expense. Really. Only that. Grin…
Big Mouth in Transit
. Julia Cameron has a week in her The Artist’s Way where you should go without media stimulation in order to bump up your creativity. I have failed…. Again. Fallen victim to my addiction to television and connectivity. I cannot wait to get connected again!
Live long and write good works, my friends. Until next time.
PS I have pictures from the road that I will try to upload. But I MAY have gone over my limit on my cell phone. Still here’s a picture of Big Mouth…
Posted by: Sierra Woods on Oct 28 2012, 9:41 am in book, book of your heart, get published, getting published, gut, how to write, LERA, New Mexico writers, romance writing, RWA, what to write, write, writing romance
So, we’ve all heard the phrase and have been encouraged to Write The Book Of Your Heart. We’ll I’m suggesting you kick that in the pants and write the boot of your gut. Every time I’ve tried to write the book of my heart it always turned out nice and sweet, but no one wanted to buy it.
I wanted to be published! Why wasn’t my book of the heart being accepted and joyously received by the throngs of my as-yet-unfound agent and editor? Cause it was a piece of crap, that’s why! I had many books I really wanted to write, ideas brewed in my brain and my brain decided that that was the one book which was going to get me published.
For me, the idea of writing the book of my heart was great. It was what every pacifist loves. No one will be offended by what I have to say in the book, everyone will love it, we’ll all get along and everyone will be happy reading my little middle-of-the-road-sitting-on-the-fence books and the world will keep spinning the right direction.
Well, that didn’t happen. (extreme sarcasm here)
Every manuscript I adored was rejected. This is a business and sometimes a brutal one. My ego was bruised, and I took a break a couple of times, but I wasn’t ready to quit. So I changed tactics and researched an area I have expertise in and found an editor (luckily) who could work with my manuscript and turn it into something she could sell. That wasn’t my book of the heart, but I had 9 books published. Essentially, it was work for hire because the control and direction of the stories was no my own, which didn’t inspire me to write great stories.
When I found myself standing in front of the TV yelling at the reporter who was blandly telling us about a woman who had been missing and then found dead a few days later. The trail led right back to a family member who had been stealing her money for drugs.
That’s just not fair! It’s not right! That woman deserves to come back from the dead and kick the ass of the person who killed her.
I paused, mid-yell.
Well, now. Wasn’t that interesting? I’d inadvertently found something I cared deeply about and wanted to put into my stories: justice.
Justice strikes a very deep, emotional and visceral tone within me. Truth. Fairness. Equality. Doing the right thing. These are all things that are very important to me. So I decided to write the book of my gut, the idea that made me stand up and yell at the TV because it wasn’t fair and this woman deserved some sort of universal justice.
That’s when the first book in The Resurrectionist series was created. I wrote that 80,000 story in 30 days working 3-4 hours per day. Of course it needed work, but the framework of it just flew out my fingertips like no other story I’d ever written. I don’t say that to be boastful or arrogant, but to inspire you to find the right story for yourself. Nothing I’d yet written had flowed so well, so I just let ‘er rip. Cuss words. Irreverent humor. Outrageous sex. A kick-ass heroine who had had her own trials, but was in the process of creating a new life for herself when she’d been given no choice.
When I finished it, I knew that this book was special for me. This book was going to help me get me an agent and it did. It also finaled in a contest and as a result, the Sr. Editor bought the book. I’m moving from the writing books that didn’t inspire me all that much to working on stories that come from my gut.
So I’m suggesting that if you’re having trouble discovering the great books within you, dig deep and find out what moves you. Write down the things that are important to you. What makes you stand up and yell at the TV? That’s what you should write about. That is the book of your gut.
So, come on people, let’s hear from you. What gets your visceral value system in an uproar and makes you yell at your TV?
Posted by: Kari Bovee on Sep 30 2012, 5:00 am in Creativity, Work Space, Writing, Writing Life
What do you need in a work space to feel comfortable and get those creative juices flowing? Natural light? A comfy chair? Things neatly organized and in their place? These are some of the things that are essential to me. It took me awhile to figure out just what it was I needed. My first office was set up in my daughter’s room after she left home. It wasn’t as bright as I liked and it was still . . . Jessica’s room. I suppose it will always be her room – not my office. I tried a sunnier spot in the house – the living room where a beautiful antique desk resides. While I loved the spaciousness of the desk, and the flood of sunshine streaming through the french doors, there were always distractions:
The dogs outside the glass door, their happy faces begging, “come play with us!”
The refrigerator right around the corner.
The food pantry next to it. (It’s amazing how those two beckon when I’m trying to write!)
I finally settled on “The Zen Room.” This was once a patio off the master bedroom that was converted (poorly) into a hot tub room before we moved in. We tossed the ancient hot tub, put up dry wall, and added beautiful windows. When we first renovated the house, this room would be the “exercise room” complete with Yoga mats, a treadmill and plenty of UV light. However . . . the room never got used. I started taking Yoga classes at a nearby gym. I ride horses and play tennis and relish the fact that these activities keep me outside. And really, who wants to use a treadmill? Don’t get me wrong, I have the utmost respect for folks that do – I just don’t have that kind of attention span!
So – the Zen Room became my office. I purchased a swanky glass and metal desk and a nice cushy chair. Don’t underestimate the importance of a comfortable chair! I used to write while sitting on a straight backed wooden kitchen chair. Why do we do things like that to ourselves? No wonder I could only sit there for 30 minutes at a time while my poor back screamed in protest. I also have a sweet little armchair for reading and relaxation. Unfortunately, the cats have taken possession. As you can see, Louise (of Thelma and Louise) is comfortably napping on a manuscript cushioned by a pillow.
The ribbons and trophies you see are not writing awards. (Alas!) They are horse showing awards. While they once resided in a plastic storage container, I decided to hang the most important ones along the long wall of my office. I wanted to be surrounded by my accomplishments. As most of you know, the writing business is rife with criticism and rejection. While we are supposed to take it like a champ, rise above it and work even harder, sometimes it sucks. A lot of times it sucks. Every once in a while we need to be reminded of our successes – even if they have nothing to do with our masochistic yet preferred craft.
I can happily say I love spending time in my work space. It’s too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter, but with an oscillating fan and a space heater, those problems are remedied. The cats think it’s their room, but luckily they are willing to share. Whether I am staring into space in an attempt to come up with ideas for new stories or diligently at work on a story in progress, my work space is conducive to creativity and long hours in the comfy chair.
What do you need in a work space? Please share your thoughts!
Posted by: Samantha Ann King on Sep 15 2012, 7:42 pm in blog, Samantha Ann King, Sharing Hailey, Time Management, Writing
6:00 Stagger out of bed. Getting an early start. Only 243 words yesterday. Need to WRITE 1000 today.
6:30 Turn on computer. While computer boots up, eat breakfast, insert caffeine drip, read paper and listen to news. Newspaper headline: “Ponzi Schemer Indicted.” Morning show anchor interviews philanthropist. Story idea: What if Ponzi hero funneled ill-gotten gains to food banks? Hmm. What if the daughter of one of his clients is out to get him but then learns of his philanthropy? Note to self, RESEARCH further.
7:30 Do breakfast dishes. Start load of laundry. Consider vacuuming but must to WRITE.
8:00 NETWORK Check email, Facebook, Twitter. Deliver some pithy remarks. Retweet interesting articles with #amwriting. Tweak website. Check Klout score. NETWORK more to raise score.
10:00 WRITE . . . one sentence. Oh God, this is sooo hard. Maybe if I took it outside. Sunshine = vitamin D = energy = creativity. Plus fewer distractions, e.g. vacuum cleaner. Yeah. Definitely need to move it outside. Borrow kiddo’s laptop. Battery is dead. Search for plug. While laptop boots up, pull weeds and scoop poop.
11:00 Fingers poised over keyboard ready to WRITE. Oh, wow, look at that woodpecker. I wonder what kind of woodpecker that is. Hurry inside to get bird book from shelf stuffed with RESEARCH books. Flip through it. Hmm, did it have stripes? I really need binoculars to do this right. Ignore vacuum sitting in corner because I am going to WRITE as soon as I identify this bird. Take book and binoculars outside. Woodpecker gone.
11:30 WRITE half sentence. Lunch time. I’m starving. This will go much better on a full stomach. Prepare healthy salad for lunch. While eating delicious, healthy salad, watch last night’s TV. This is an efficient use of time because I can skip the commercials. It’s also considered RESEARCH because I can analyze dialogue.
12:30 Hmm, it’s too hot to WRITE outside. Move it all inside. Ignore vacuum.
1:00 Back in office, ready to WRITE.
1:01 Email alert. Time to donate blood. Make appointment online. Hmm. Ponzi book black moment. Hero and heroine are donating blood. Bloodmobile blows up. They are the only survivors. RESEARCH phlebotomy.
2:00 WRI—Oh, wait. RESEARCH Ponzi schemes. Food banks. Lawyers.
4:00 Already?! Panic. READ and REVISE last chapter of manuscript. This will make that blank page easier to WRITE.
5:10 Wow, that last chapter sucked. I’m the world’s worst writer. I need to go exercise. That will clear my mind, release endorphins, make it easier to WRITE.
5:15 Go to gym. While working out on elliptical, read new book to RESEARCH market. Hero is Ponzi schemer who steals from the rich and gives to the poor. Heroine is lawyer out to nail him. My idea!!! She stole my idea!!! Skip to end of book. No bloodmobile bomb, but the hero dies. Throw eReader across gym. Ooops.
6:15 Back home. Order new eReader.
6:20 Too tired and sweaty to WRITE. Fix dinner. Eat with family. NETWORK on Facebook. Figure today’s word count—62. (At lease I didn’t allow vacuum to seduce me away from writing.) Tweet about how hard it is to WRITE.
9:00 Go to bed early so I will get up earlier tomorrow and WRITE more.
Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Characters, birds, salads, books, and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual salads, birds, or events is purely coincidental.
Samantha Ann King was born and raised in Houston,Texas. After receiving her BBA in Finance from Texas A&M University and marrying her high school crush (notice she didn’t say sweetheart), Samantha relinquished her “native Texan” status and moved to Baton Rouge where she taught aerobics and weightlifting. She has called Albuquerque, New Mexico home since 1985. The mother of three has volunteered in the community as an advocate for children’s issues ranging from education to healthcare. In 2010, as her nest started to empty, she began writing erotic romance. Thanks to her win in Passionate Ink’s Stroke of Midnight Contest, Samantha signed her first publishing contract in 2011. Sharing Hailey was released by Carina Press in July 2012.
Learn more about Samantha at www.SamanthaAnnKing.com.
Posted by: Karen Fonville on Aug 13 2012, 12:28 am
By Karen Fonville
Hi, I’m coming to you today from Sunny (okay, cloudy) El Paso where I’m nervously contemplating my navel.
No, that’s not right!
About you, my writer and reader friends.
And about what I should tell you in this blog for LERA.
Yesterday, at the monthly LERA meeting, we had a celebration for our Golden Heart nominees, our Rita nominees, and our GH/Rita winners. Congrats to Tammy Baumann and Darynda Jones for bringing back the gold! Also, some of our members shared what they learned in the different sessions and workshops that they attended while at the RWA National Conference in Anaheim, CA.
CHANGES ARE COMING. CHANGES ARE HERE. CHANGES WILL AFFECT PUBLISHING.
This is not a surprise to most of us. Publishers, agents, and writers are trying to adapt to the changes in technology that puts books before readers.
For many of us, this change is a big scary thing that shakes our world to its core.
How do we adjust to this change? It isn’t what we signed up for, is it?
I have to admit that all these changes occupied my thoughts today on the way back to El Paso. After all, I’ve been laid off twice. Change isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be. And so, I think about stuff. A lot.
I came to the following conclusions:
When change comes, we can do one of three things.
a. Stand pat and hope it doesn’t affect us.
b. Sit around and moan because it will affect us and we’re not ready and it’s not fair.
c. CHANGE OURSELVES to either beat the change forced on us or to meet the challenge it presents.
Personally, I think c is the healthiest and most positive. If you cannot control change, change what you CAN control.
Henriette Anne Klauser writes in her book Write It Down, Make It Happen, that the Universe responds to writing down goals. She encourages us to make a list of everything we’ve ever wanted to do, no matter how crazy it sounds. Then we are to put the list away. When we come back to it years later, we will be surprised at all the things we wanted and put on that list which have come true. I think this works because having written these goals/wants down, we’ve focused our attention on them and we are more observant when opportunity knocks.
Zig Ziglar takes it a step further, encouraging us to then break down what needs to happen for that goal to come true. Breaking it into bite-sized portions that are not so daunting and then scheduling each bit out. By taking a little bite at a time, we can eat the elephant without panicking. I’ll admit I like to eat, but if I was faced with the need to ‘eat an elephant’, yeah, I’d panic! (I encourage you to look Zig up on YouTube. He’s worth watching and listening to!)
When applying this training, planning, goal setting to writing in today’s world, we start with our goals. What do we want out of our careers? What is our focus? Do we want to simply be published? Or do we want to make a living from our writing? The answer to those last two questions will guide everything we do, from classes we take, to how we practice what we learn, to choosing representation and on to how we edit our manuscripts.
No matter which path we choose, we will need to focus on craft. But outside of craft, what else will we need to study? And where do we get the information?
Read the trade papers. Publishers Weekly. Read the Wall Street Journal. Learn about contracts and copyright. Learn to recognize when companies are in trouble by changes they announce in the paper. Follow what the various writers organizations are saying. Don’t just rely on one, study all of them. RWA seems to be making moves toward legitimizing independent publishing, but it’s a tenuous thing.
Read the blogs of writers who are both traditionally and independently published, JA Konrath (http://jakonrath.blogspot.com), Dean Wesley Smith at www.deanwesleysmith.com, Bob Mayer’s blog (http://writeitforward.wordpress.com), and most recently Kate Wilhelm at http://katewilhelm.com.
Also beneficial in learning the business side of writing is Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s blog at her website www.kriswrites.com. Kris has written The Freelancer’s Survival Guide and her column ‘The Business Rusch’ covers current happenings in the world of publishing, as do the columns written by Dean Wesley Smith called ‘The New World of Publishing’ and ‘Think Like a Publisher’.
And learn to manage money. Getting your finances under control can allow you to know your limits on the experiments you want to take with your career. Know what your contract states about payment, when it’s due. If you decide to Indie Publish, study what the various ebook publishers offer and require.
Making a decision either way without knowing all the facts, good and bad, is like being blindfolded, playing Pin-the-Tail-On –The-Donkey with your career. Arm yourselves, my friends.
Ultimately, it’s your career.
Take control of it as much as you can. Improve your chances of success by perfecting your craft. Gain all the knowledge you can to make the best business decisions.
Trust me that it is better to say “I made a mistake and lost some business’ than it is to say ’THEY did it to me’.
Posted by: Barrett on Aug 5 2012, 12:35 pm in August Allegory. LERA, Barrett, blog
Sunny, breezy, and bouffant clouds dot the New Mexico sky. The first Sunday morning in August. The first week of August doesn’t hold any particular significance for me and yet the fact that it’s August already stuns me. What happened to June and July? I honestly try not to miss things, especially changes that go on around me. (That’s important, as one gets older, I’m told.)
Since I live in the middle of the desert with virtually no obstructed views, small movements and subtle changes in the landscape usually catch my attention. Sometimes they’re a cause for celebration—like a new wildflower growing in the rutted dirt of the access road; sometimes a cause for concern—a junior rattlesnake stretching out in the sun. Mostly I enjoy the way the light and shadow change the mountains.
In honor of time slipping away from me, I decided to offer a little allegory I wrote a while back.
I was surprised to see the wounded bird on the edge of my deck. She hadn’t struck the window; at least I didn’t think so. I watched for few minutes and although she didn’t move, her eyes never left me.
Her raggedy feathers mauled as though a larger predator had carelessly dropped her. One wing hung at an awkward angle.
I approached tentatively speaking softly. Better judgment told me to leave her alone. Another voice urge to me to try to provide comfort. Very gently, I lifted her up in my hand—she accepted my help.
A prepared small box filled with a towel and shredded paper became her safe house. Over time, she trusted me to bring food and water. She even allowed me to feed her tiny amounts. But her open mouth was silent.
Several times a day and even through the night I got up to care for the wounded bird.
My routine changed to include my new charge.
Then one day she was standing on both legs. She hopped about her enclosure and began to eat in her own. The feathers gradually smoothed and shimmered. The wing straightened.
Eventually she found her voice and sang sweetly in the morning. She allowed me to carry her around perched on my finger. Her song was magical and her recovery heartening.
She would fly around the house but always return to her safe place.
One day, I opened the patio door and showed her the world. She chirped and cocked her head and then was gone.
She struggled at first and then I nodded solemnly as she took off and soared.