Count down to Halloween

demonica

The costumes began appearing in stores a few weeks ago. The Spirit store and Halloween Store have opened their doors. The haunted houses have begun operation for the greatest of holidays, Halloween. I love Halloween. I get so excited the closer it gets. I’m not sure what I should be this year, last year I was the wicked witch of the west. I’ve also been a dark fairy and vampires many times. I have to be something evil, never something nice. I was always so bummed when my boys would choose to be something like a ninja rather than a devil, death, or a zombie.

Neither one of my boys are going trick or treating this year, but that won’t stop me from dressing up and having an excellent time. It just opens doors to new possibilities of celebrating, since I don’t have to wander the neighborhood street until 10:30 collecting candy from all of my neighbors.

My boxes of Halloween decorations outnumber the boxes for every other holiday. My boys have banned some decorations from the house requiring me to take them to my office. Like the one in the picture, that is Demonica. As Christmas approaches, I put an elf hat on her and a card asking for sub-for santa donations on her behalf.

Wandering the isles of the Halloween and Spirit stores is almost as fun as bookstores. Each year I add one new decoration to my collection, I put a lot of thought into which one I add because it has to fit within the theme of the rest of the decorations. Vampires, witches, and demons are my favorite creatures of the night.

Halloween is the day you can become anything you want, whether it is real or not as a writer I am able to do this every day. I’m free to chase any dream or idea until its end.

My personality definitely leans toward the darker side of things. You can find it in all of my writing, there are few happy endings and when there is, it has come at a high cost. I’ve honestly tried to write happy stories, but it’s just not in me. They all take a horribly dark turn as I giggle and type away at the key board. Thankfully, there are readers in the world who are just as dark as I am.

There is an audience out there no matter what type of writing you do, never be afraid of who you are and where your writing takes you, as long as you are authentic someone will enjoy your books. Even if you had to sell your soul and sacrifice a goat to make sure they find your book.

 

The Catcher in the Rye and Coffee

pile of books

As I drove to Barnes and Noble, I knew I had to have a plan and I went in with determination and a plan. I was getting a copy of Catcher in the Rye, a coffee, and leaving. No browsing, no other books.

I needed a classic book written in first person for ideas on sentence structure for the memoir I am working on along with the two others I have in progress.

The scent of books and coffee assailed me as I passed through the doors. I could easily spend hours here, drinking in coffee and words. But I have my plan Catcher in the Rye and coffee. Focus.

I stopped at the biographies, looking at covers, font choices, and title length. Before I knew it, I was flipping books over to read the back and perusing snippets from chapters. I totted a couple books around to the next shelf and noticed a book, I knew was at home yet to be read. Hmmmm.

Focus, damn it, Catcher in the Rye and coffee!

I hung my head in shame and placed the two books back on the shelf, caressing the cover and whispering next time and a long sigh escaped my lips.

I took the long way around the store to the fiction and literature section. Dangerous I know. I ran my fingers over some covers, stopped at the new release table, and flipped to the back cover to read a bit. Nothing really sang to my soul, so I gently placed them back with their brothers and sisters. I breathed in the aroma of the coffee and glanced at all the free souls sitting at tables sipping and turning pages.

I found Catcher in the Rye and was heading toward the coffee counter, but to get there I had to go through the fantasy and sci-fi section. Like a drug addict, I had to walk the isles. I smiled at the new book covers on Terry Brooks, Sword of Shannara. I loved those books. I looked over the new books in the Dragonlance Sagas.

Books appeared in my hand and I was obligated to read their covers and flip through sampling their words. Reluctantly, I returned them to the shelf and committed their titles to memory for further exploration later. The cover art on fantasy novels usual depicts the protagonist in an epic battle against some beast or the antagonist. Some of them are taking a more cartoonish or animated look, which I don’t especially like. George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones series does not do this. The cover is very simple the hilt of a sword, a crown, or a goblet. It is not flashy but catches your eye because it is different among the color of the other covers.

I look down, more books are in my hand. How did that happen? Hmmm. The pile of books to be read in my bedroom is rather higher than I would like, if you add in the ones on my kindle, it really is a sad state of affairs, which I must address before purchasing more.

I get in line for coffee and continue my mantra Catcher in the Rye and Coffee. As I left the bookstore, there was an emptiness inside. Maybe I should find a book anonymous support group…

Hook your Readers

hook

Five to ten pages, that’s it. If you don’t hook them into your story within that time, most readers will put the book down. In order to hook a reader, you have to grip them emotionally with action and a specific character.

Throw them into the middle of some action. It doesn’t have to be something intense, but intriguing. It needs to get them to ask a question, such as what is going to happen next? It is better if it is more specific, which is why you use a character in action. Opening with a character gives them someone to connect to, someone’s eyes to see through.

Keep your prose tight and description light. You don’t want them to get lost in your big fancy words or trying to create a very detailed picture in their head. Readers are going to connect with a character more easily than multi layered description of the weather and setting. Don’t completely eliminate description, but don’t overdo it.

Many writers want to open with explanation of who a character is and what is going on in the story, but readers will wait for explanation. It is better to start by throwing them into the mix of the story and attaching them to a person/character.

Here are some articles to help with hooking readers with strong opening lines:

Avoid boring opening lines

The all important human element

Hook your readers

 

Here’s the opening to my memoir, Fighting for a Chance to Dream. What do you think?

This house is a cage. “I’ve got to get out of here,” I whisper to my reflection in the mirror. A thin eyeliner pencil glides around my hazel eyes in an Egyptian fashion. The walls push in around me. The pencil follows the smooth curve of my lips like smoldering coals surrounding a fire.

I push aside my lace dress, skull leggings, and long skirts. The hangers screech across the metal bar. Black velvet leggings slide off the hanger. Pulling them on, I decide on my burgundy velvet blazer. I untuck the ruffles of my antique white shirt and slide my feet into my combat boots, lace them up, tie them, and tuck the laces.

My fingers close around the strap of my velvet gothbox, which is like a purse. Flicking my bedroom light off, I step into the dark hallway and wait for a few seconds listening to my mother’s light snoring across the hall. The dog’s tags clink, as she raises her head. The moonlight catches in her golden eyes. We stare at each other across the empty expanse.

Thanks for your thoughts in advance!

 

When is your WIP ready for publishing?

I am Writing

Let’s admit it, you could change your work in progress (WIP) endlessly. Sentences can be rewritten in a bunch of different ways. You can spend days choosing the perfect word to describe one moment. Paragraphs and scenes can be reordered, added, deleted, and amped up on crack.

So how do you know when your book is ready to publish either traditionally or independently? You look at your WIP and you know it is the best you can make it. There is no little voice in your head saying, “You know you should look at your dialog and spruce it up a bit,” or saying “You should rethink X, Y, and Z.”

There are always changes that can be made, there are in the best works, but the little voice in your head, your inner editor, does go quiet with satisfaction eventually. If an editor has reviewed your book and your inner editor is quiet, it’s time to publish and stop fiddling and tweaking.

I have going over my memoir, Fighting for a Chance to Dream, again. I am focusing on POV and targeting sense words (smell, taste, hear, saw, touched). I am also watching sentences that begin with “I.” Fighting for a Chance to Dream is written in first person present tense, so I am careful to vary the sentences, so they don’t all start with I did this or I did that, which gets very annoying and boring.

When editing, it’s important to pick one or two things to focus on as you go through the manuscript. If you don’t, the task becomes overwhelming. After completing a first draft, the first round of editing focuses on major structure and story development. I read the manuscript start to finish (I print it out because it’s easier to keep notes) and make notes in the margins about those two things.

The second round of edits focuses on each scene making sure there is a goal, conflict, and disaster and in the sequels making sure there is a reaction, dilemma, and a decision.

The third round of edits focuses on Motivation Reaction Units making sure at all levels (scene, paragraph, and sentence) I have set the MRU up like a row of dominos.

The fourth round looks at character arc and development of the main and minor characters. Characters need to change and grow throughout the story not just at the climax. Changes and realizations need to be initiated by something with enough weight to actually make the change in a person. A change to a person’s beliefs and values is a process not an instant reaction.

The fifth round focuses on POV and senses making sure that I’m showing where I should be and summarizing/telling when I should be.

Once I’ve finished all of these, I send it out to beta readers asking if there are any holes in the story or major questions that go unanswered. I ask them to mark parts that are boring or confusing. I usually take the manuscript to an office supply story and have it spiral bound, so my reader can go through it like a book.

I make more changes based off what my beta readers suggest. I try to take an objective stance when I get feedback from others about my writing although it can be r hard to hear. Sometimes it is best to just listen, keep notes, and allow yourself a day or two to mull it over. I have found that their suggestions are worth listening to and much of the time taking even if it means killing parts of the manuscript that I love. I just save them in a separate file that way my darlings are never dead.

Relentless Call to Love

Hope nestles warm against frigid stone.

Joy and happiness found in the solitariness of a dark life.

Like a silver blade slipped between ribs, the soul seeks a twin harmony.

Its incessant song grates against reason and objectivity.

No amount of desolation or isolation can silence its call.

 

Dangerous Deadly love

Honor and virtue blind you to the wickedness that fuels my soul.

My demon is nourished by the anguish and misery I visit upon myself.

But your smile unravels the walls built to protect the world around us.

An aching desolation inspires my self-destruction.

My skin crawls with the devastation it longs to reap.

Searing thoughts burn, as they pass over my lips.

This is a battle you cannot win, for it rages within.

I always rebuild and blood and bone serve as my brick and mortar.

 

Tri-Writing

A triathlon is composed of three parts: the swim, the bike, and the run. As a triathlete, you have to train in all three of these areas to prepare for the goal, a specific race. Most people have their strong areas and their weaker ones.

Writing can be broken down into three parts as well: the first draft, the editing, and the publishing. As a writer, you have to learn about each of these areas to prepare your novel. A novel is similar to a specific race. It is the goal of all your prior work and training.

The swim is like the first draft. Most of what you do stays below the surface, your body rotation, kicking, and most of your arm stroke. In writing, most of the work a writer puts into the first draft remains unseen by others. In fact, you probably want your first draft to remain unseen by others. Research, backstory, character profiles, it all remains below the surface of the novel. In swimming, technique is essential. Understanding structure is critical in completing a first draft. It’s your road map to the finish.

The bike is like editing and revising process. The bike is the longest portion of the triathlon. Revising and editing take a long time. You have to let your manuscript rest for at least a few weeks before editing and sometimes for months.  Riding a bike for hours can cause various body parts to become numb and editing can cause mind numbing. Riding the bike and editing are both a pain in the butt. The only way to get through either, the bike section or editing, well is to spend a lot of time in the saddle.

The run is like the publishing process. In a triathlon, you make or break it on the run. It’s the final stretch before the finish line. You can’t give up and just relax, you have to continue to push forward even though you are tired and your mind is screaming to stop. Once you get to the publishing stage of writing, you want to just hand your manuscript over to others to finish it: formatting, cover design, and distribution. But you can’t you have to remain invested and oversee these aspects too and push through by promoting your novel.

For both of these life-changing events, you must be constantly training, learning, and improving. It takes months and sometimes years to reach your goal whether it is a specific race like the Ironman or seeing your novel in print. Dream big. Fight for your dreams. Never give up.

Three keys to keep the creative flowing

keys

There are three keys to keep the creativity flowing, the boys in the basement active, and the muse at the quill. First is to read, read, and read. Second is to learn as much as you can. Third is to write even when it sucks.

Reading in the genre that you write in is important. You learn new tricks of the genre. You keep up on what is trending. You understand the themes and structure of the genre. It is also important to read outside of your writing genre. By reading outside your genre it flexes your creative muscle. New ideas pop into your mind because it combines with the ideas you already have going. It adds a special twist in your novel. I’m not suggesting you combine genres, but you could. What I’m saying is that different genres do certain things better than others and you can learn to be better by reading outside the lines.

Continue to learn about structure, characters, dialogue, and every other area of writing. Strive to improve over your career as a writer. I have found that I need to keep a notebook near at hand when reading about the ins and outs of writing. Ideas for new stories and current ones spring into my mind as I discover new ways to look at things whether it is scenes or sentences.

Write as often as you can. For some this is every day. For others it is every other day. Whatever it is for you, keep doing it and do it regularly. It might be total crap that you are writing, if it’s a first draft it is total crap, but keep doing it. You will get better. However, if you stop you will not get better. Quitting is the end of the line. The chance of success drops to zero. Write all kinds of things. Don’t box yourself into one type of story. Write poetry, short story, novels, non-fiction, fiction, and in any genre that calls to you. I find it easier to have two projects going at the same time, that way, if I get sick of one I can still be productive on the other.

The balance between the three keys ebbs and flows, depending on where you are in your journey. Stagnation and loss of creativity is a sign that you have misplaced one of your keys.

Two weeks as a writer

I am Writing

“How did you find being a full time writer?” Jeff asked.

“I enjoyed it, but the one thing I would do differently is get out a little more with friends here and there.”

“Does that help with creativity?” he asked.

“Sanity.” I smiled. “I only had two weeks so I felt a bit of pressure to write as much as I could because I knew it was going to come to an end and then I would be back to struggling to fit it all in. If it was full time, I could relax a bit more.” As I said this I realized, yes it does help my creativity.

My main focus over the last two weeks was my fantasy novel, Syrain’s Marrow. I am 45,000 words into it now. I also spent some time working on the outline to my serial fiction, A Vigil for Justice, and listening to my memoir, Fighting for a Chance to Dream.

I have to admit, I didn’t spend as much time on the serial fiction or the memoir as I had planned. Once I got into the flow of writing the fantasy novel, time slipped away and then I had to tend to mom responsibilities.

Life as a writer takes a lot of self-discipline. It is hard work. I didn’t run into blocks where I didn’t want to write, in fact, I became frustrated when I knew I had to do other things such as come up with blog posts or research twitter articles.

I’m sure that would change if I were writing full time. I would reach the point where I wanted to throw the whole manuscript in the dumpster down the street and set fire to it with a blowtorch.

Being a full time writer is definitely on my to do list, but in the future. Until then I continue to have work to do for the children of Utah by telling their story in the courtroom and helping put their families back together.

As long as I feel my work in child welfare makes a difference to the families involved in the juvenile court system, I will continue to fight for their chance to dream. If I ever reach the point where I see my cases as just another case rather than people with a story worth saving, I will leave child welfare because if your heart’s not in it, you’re not helping anyone.

I didn’t start writing to make money, although that would be nice. I started writing to inspire others. I began with my memoir, which is about overcoming the odds even when they are self-imposed through destructive decisions and an unhealthy worldview. I try not to lose sight of the reason I write, just as I try not to lose site of the reasons I am an attorney. The day that I write solely for money, is the day I will set the quill and ink jar to the side.

I need a freaking doggie door!

My writing tip of the day: If you are a writer with dogs, get a doggie door.

Meet the slave drivers, Annabelle (black)  and Ignacious (brown). dogs 3

Adorable aren’t they? Yes well they are the first three times I get up to let them out the door, but after the fiftieth time, they are no longer adorable. In fact, they are hell-spawned demons.

You see, Satan, let them outside three times too, and then he was fed up with their cuteness and sent them packing.  You can only open a portal from hell so many times a day after all.

I sit at my computer happily typing away. I glance away from the screen to consider my options in the story and rest my eyes a little and there she is. Those floppy ears and big brown eyes, she knows their power. boot

She gives her tail a little wag and you think, “Oh how sweet.” No! Stop right there. She is the queen of the damned. Everything she whispers to you makes perfect sense, and then you realize you have fallen into her trap and you are completely under her spell.

She gives a little chirp and you stand up. She waddle to the door and you open it. Five minutes later, she barks and you stand, walk back to the door, and open it. She waddles in and grins up at you with her perky ears. 213

She waddles toward the couch and checks to see if you are following her. You are. She stops in front of the couch and gives a little bark, you bend over, and put her on the back of the couch so she can spy on the neighbors through the window.

She lies there content for a while until her brother hears something outside and then there is raucous barking and dancing little feet. You stand, walk to the door, and open it. Blurs of black and brown fur fly down the stairs and around the corner of the house. Their friends are outside next door.

My much wiser neighbors make their little beasties come in the house after ten or fifteen minutes of them flying along the fence barking like maniacs. I’m sure they hate me because I’m a well-trained human, who lets the beasts run, tongues lulling, and smiling ear to ear to their hearts content.

Lilly stares at me from across the room.

lilly “I told you not to bring them home, but do you ever listen to me?”

Annabelle  is the smarter of the two. She has a variety of chirps, barks, and whines she uses to tell you what she would like you to do. Once she has you on your feet, she will lead you to what she wants. If she goes to the kitchen, she wants a treat. If she goes to the door, she wants outside. If she goes to the couch, she would like you to lift her little butt up so she can spy on the neighbors out the window.

Ignacious is content snuggling you all day long. Of course, he wants his ears rubbed while you think about the next sentence you are going to write, or a treat when you get up to refill your coffee, but if you just let him curl up right next to you, he is a happy green eyed fur face. He really likes it when you throw his dinosaur so he can get it and bring it back for you to throw again, and again.

I got home from my run at 7:30 am. Now, it’s 10:30 a.m. and I have honestly let them outside fifteen times.

Shhhh, They are sleeping now. So maybe I can get some writing done.

dogs 1