Thursday, November 16, 2017

With guest Rebekah A. Morris

1. Tell us a little about the stories collected in Christmas Delays.
These are all set during the years of World War Two.
The first one, “Christmas Delays,” was one of the earliest Christmas stories that I wrote, and for that reason it’s extra special.
“Peter’s Christmas” was inspired by a classical song on the radio. I have no idea what the song was, who wrote it or anything. I just know that when I heard it, I heard someone calling Peter. Over and over they called, and so I had to write a story and find out why they were calling him.
“I’ll be Home for Christmas” makes me cry every time I read it. I don’t think there was anything special about it, but it’s one that I really like.

2. What do you enjoy most about the short story form?
They don’t take as long to finish. :) I can usually have one written in a few days and then can move on to another one.

3. What is most challenging about writing short stories?
Keeping it short but still having a full story. Some of my Christmas stories may not seem to have a big plot, but that’s real life. At least it is for me. My life isn’t a constant up and down of excitement. Sometimes the stories are really short and even when I try to expand them, they won’t get any longer. Others are hard to keep short.

4. Christmas Delays is one of eight books you are releasing this holiday season. What led to the decision to release so many products at once?
I love Christmas stories! After I wrote my very first Christmas story, I kept writing. Now I write at least one new story every Christmas time. With so many Christmas stories waiting to be read, I thought doing a Christmas Collection with many small books would be fun instead of just one book with multiple stories in it. That way I could keep adding to the collection each year.

5. What special planning and challenges have you faced with multiple releases?
Keeping them all straight was the biggest challenge! I’ll admit that I did upload the cover and interior of one book to the wrong title. And I didn’t notice the typo on one cover until after I had my proof copy. It was rather crazy trying to get them all ready at the same time and make sure which story I was working on.

6. How do you manage production for multiple books? What organization techniques have proven most helpful?
I did do a lot of assembly line. And since the interiors all match, except for the story, once I had it formatted for one story, it wasn’t too hard to do the next. But writing down each book and what needed to happen with it was probably the most helpful. That way I wasn’t constantly checking to see if I had included the Christmas Collection logo in the back of the book, or done the title in the same fonts. But I had to make sure I knew which book I was working on!

7. What tips do you have for authors seeking to create holiday books?
Have fun! :) Pour your love of the holidays into your story, and then be willing to share it with the world. Your story doesn’t have to be exciting or a page turner. You want a story with warmth. Think about what you love, what you enjoy most about Christmas and include some of that into your story. Christmas stories don’t have to be long, but they can be. Most of all, remember the real reason we celebrate Christmas.

Thank you for having me.

Q4U: What theme might you enjoy writing a cluster of stories around?

About the Author


Rebekah A. Morris is a homeschool graduate, an enthusiastic freelance author and a passionate writing teacher. Her books include, among others, Home Fires of the Great War, The Unexpected Request, Gift from the Storm, and her bestselling Triple Creek Ranch series. Some of her favorite pastimes, when she isn’t writing, include reading and coming up with dramatic and original things to do. The Show-Me State is where she calls home.

Learn more about Rebekah and her books at www.readanotherpage.com.

About the book

Christmas Delays and Other Short Stories
Three Christmas Stories from World War II

Christmas Delays
A doctor, called up for duty in the army, spends one more Christmas with his wife in an unexpected way after God's Christmas delays strand them in a small house with another family.

Peter's Christmas
Very mild weather might not feel like Christmas, but young, orphaned Peter and his older sister find the peace and love of the season with the Hampton family in spite of the sadness of war.

I'll Be Home for Christmas
Grandpa recounts the memories of his first Christmas away from home during WWII.

Available at Amazon.com

The full collection:


Tour Schedule


November 13
Bookish Orchestrations – Introductory Post
Read Another Page – Book Spotlight from the author
Kaylee's Kind of Writes – Book Spotlight
Resting Life – Review and Excerpt
Perry Elisabeth – Excerpt
Rachel Rossano's Words – Book Spotlight and Excerpt

November 14
Read Another Page – Book Spotlight from the author
Odelia's Blog – Author Interview and Book spotlight
Bryce’s Creative Writing Corner – Author Interview, Review, and Excerpt
Counting Your Blessings One by One – Review and Excerpt
Perpetual Indie Perspective – Book Spotlight

November 15
Read Another Page – Book Spotlight from the author
Whimsical Writings for His Glory – Author, Review, and Excerpt
Maidens for Modesty – Author Interview and Review
The Destiny of One – Book Spotlight
Rebekah Ashleigh – Book Spotlight
Stephany's BLOG Snippets – Book Spotlight and Excerpt

November 16
Read Another Page – Book Spotlight from the author
Laurel's Leaves – Author Interview
Stories by Firefly – Review
Claire Banschbach – Author Interview
Kelsey's Notebook – Review and Excerpt
Jaye L. Knight – Book Spotlight and Excerpt

November 17
Read Another Page – Book Spotlight from the author
Ruffles and Grace – Book Spotlight
With a Joyful Noise – Book Spotlight

Bookish Orchestrations – Closing Post
Thursday, November 16, 2017 Laurel Garver
With guest Rebekah A. Morris

1. Tell us a little about the stories collected in Christmas Delays.
These are all set during the years of World War Two.
The first one, “Christmas Delays,” was one of the earliest Christmas stories that I wrote, and for that reason it’s extra special.
“Peter’s Christmas” was inspired by a classical song on the radio. I have no idea what the song was, who wrote it or anything. I just know that when I heard it, I heard someone calling Peter. Over and over they called, and so I had to write a story and find out why they were calling him.
“I’ll be Home for Christmas” makes me cry every time I read it. I don’t think there was anything special about it, but it’s one that I really like.

2. What do you enjoy most about the short story form?
They don’t take as long to finish. :) I can usually have one written in a few days and then can move on to another one.

3. What is most challenging about writing short stories?
Keeping it short but still having a full story. Some of my Christmas stories may not seem to have a big plot, but that’s real life. At least it is for me. My life isn’t a constant up and down of excitement. Sometimes the stories are really short and even when I try to expand them, they won’t get any longer. Others are hard to keep short.

4. Christmas Delays is one of eight books you are releasing this holiday season. What led to the decision to release so many products at once?
I love Christmas stories! After I wrote my very first Christmas story, I kept writing. Now I write at least one new story every Christmas time. With so many Christmas stories waiting to be read, I thought doing a Christmas Collection with many small books would be fun instead of just one book with multiple stories in it. That way I could keep adding to the collection each year.

5. What special planning and challenges have you faced with multiple releases?
Keeping them all straight was the biggest challenge! I’ll admit that I did upload the cover and interior of one book to the wrong title. And I didn’t notice the typo on one cover until after I had my proof copy. It was rather crazy trying to get them all ready at the same time and make sure which story I was working on.

6. How do you manage production for multiple books? What organization techniques have proven most helpful?
I did do a lot of assembly line. And since the interiors all match, except for the story, once I had it formatted for one story, it wasn’t too hard to do the next. But writing down each book and what needed to happen with it was probably the most helpful. That way I wasn’t constantly checking to see if I had included the Christmas Collection logo in the back of the book, or done the title in the same fonts. But I had to make sure I knew which book I was working on!

7. What tips do you have for authors seeking to create holiday books?
Have fun! :) Pour your love of the holidays into your story, and then be willing to share it with the world. Your story doesn’t have to be exciting or a page turner. You want a story with warmth. Think about what you love, what you enjoy most about Christmas and include some of that into your story. Christmas stories don’t have to be long, but they can be. Most of all, remember the real reason we celebrate Christmas.

Thank you for having me.

Q4U: What theme might you enjoy writing a cluster of stories around?

About the Author


Rebekah A. Morris is a homeschool graduate, an enthusiastic freelance author and a passionate writing teacher. Her books include, among others, Home Fires of the Great War, The Unexpected Request, Gift from the Storm, and her bestselling Triple Creek Ranch series. Some of her favorite pastimes, when she isn’t writing, include reading and coming up with dramatic and original things to do. The Show-Me State is where she calls home.

Learn more about Rebekah and her books at www.readanotherpage.com.

About the book

Christmas Delays and Other Short Stories
Three Christmas Stories from World War II

Christmas Delays
A doctor, called up for duty in the army, spends one more Christmas with his wife in an unexpected way after God's Christmas delays strand them in a small house with another family.

Peter's Christmas
Very mild weather might not feel like Christmas, but young, orphaned Peter and his older sister find the peace and love of the season with the Hampton family in spite of the sadness of war.

I'll Be Home for Christmas
Grandpa recounts the memories of his first Christmas away from home during WWII.

Available at Amazon.com

The full collection:


Tour Schedule


November 13
Bookish Orchestrations – Introductory Post
Read Another Page – Book Spotlight from the author
Kaylee's Kind of Writes – Book Spotlight
Resting Life – Review and Excerpt
Perry Elisabeth – Excerpt
Rachel Rossano's Words – Book Spotlight and Excerpt

November 14
Read Another Page – Book Spotlight from the author
Odelia's Blog – Author Interview and Book spotlight
Bryce’s Creative Writing Corner – Author Interview, Review, and Excerpt
Counting Your Blessings One by One – Review and Excerpt
Perpetual Indie Perspective – Book Spotlight

November 15
Read Another Page – Book Spotlight from the author
Whimsical Writings for His Glory – Author, Review, and Excerpt
Maidens for Modesty – Author Interview and Review
The Destiny of One – Book Spotlight
Rebekah Ashleigh – Book Spotlight
Stephany's BLOG Snippets – Book Spotlight and Excerpt

November 16
Read Another Page – Book Spotlight from the author
Laurel's Leaves – Author Interview
Stories by Firefly – Review
Claire Banschbach – Author Interview
Kelsey's Notebook – Review and Excerpt
Jaye L. Knight – Book Spotlight and Excerpt

November 17
Read Another Page – Book Spotlight from the author
Ruffles and Grace – Book Spotlight
With a Joyful Noise – Book Spotlight

Bookish Orchestrations – Closing Post

Thursday, November 09, 2017

by guest author Annie Douglass Lima

I’ve always thought that it’s especially helpful for writers of speculative fiction (fantasy, science fiction, alternative reality, etc.) to travel outside their home country. If you’re going to be creating new worlds and cultures, it’s valuable to be able to experience different cultures in our own world and draw inspiration from them, after all.

I was raised in Kenya, where I lived for almost my whole childhood. As an adult, I spent a year in Indonesia, as well as living in the United States for a while. At the moment, my husband and I live in Taiwan, where we’ve been for over ten years now. In between, I have visited a total of twenty-one countries so far (with plenty more still on my bucket list!). These international experiences have definitely impacted my writing.

Although Kenyan culture has not made it directly into any of my books so far, spending time as a foreigner in an unfamiliar world inspired some of the interpersonal and intercultural struggles the characters in my Annals of Alasia fantasy series have had to face.  (And by “foreigner” I mean the way I thought of myself when my family visited America.  As a child, I considered myself Kenyan and was much more at home there than in the U.S.) In Book 3 of the series, Prince of Malorn, my character Prince Korram has to travel into the Impassable Mountains to seek the help of a nomadic tribe called the Mountain Folk.  In the kingdom of Malorn, Mountain Folk and Lowlanders tend to distrust each other and avoid contact whenever possible, and both sides claim that the other mistreats them.  I wanted to show that, often, it just takes better understanding to lead to acceptance and appreciation of another culture. That, and the willingness to learn new ways of doing things and respect others’ customs even when they’re different. That concept reflects my love of getting to know other cultures and appreciating the differences between them.

I’ve enjoyed bringing several elements of Taiwan’s culture – both good and bad – into my Krillonian Chronicles alternate reality series. Here are a few examples:

  • In Taiwan, gifts or awards involving money are always given in red envelopes. When my martial artist character, Bensin, wins prize money in a cavvara shil tournament, the officials hand it to him in a red envelope. 
  • Betel nut, a mild narcotic, is very popular in Taiwan. In the city of Jarreon, it’s also common and is sold legally in shops decorated with flashing colored lights, just like here. (In another province of the Krillonian Empire, betel nut is illegal, and a certain character with an addiction goes to great lengths to find a black market supplier.) 
  • In Taiwan, cheap boxed meals available at “hole-in-the-wall” eateries are a common and convenient lunch or dinner for laborers or anyone in a hurry or short on cash. In the city of Jarreon in my series, they’re common too – for big business owners to order in bulk for their slaves’ lunches, or for City Watch officers to pick up to feed prisoners in the Watch Station cells. 
  • New Year is the most important holiday of the year in Taiwan. People celebrate it by putting up decorations, giving gifts of money to children (yes, in red envelopes, often decorated with special designs), and by sharing special meals involving traditional foods with family. I actually combined ideas from that with Christmas in creating the Krillonian Empire’s New Year holiday. Characters there celebrate with seasonal music and decorations, sharing a feast involving traditional foods with family and friends, and exchanging gifts with family members. Slave owners sometimes give their slaves gifts as well, though those usually consist of practical items (one enslaved character receives a toothbrush, toothpaste, and extra socks).

I’ve had a number of readers comment that the cultures in my novels are both interesting and believable, and I know that’s because I’ve drawn on real ones to create them. If you write speculative fiction and have had the privilege of experiencing multiple cultures (even second hand), I would encourage you to use bits and pieces of them to shape the worlds you create. It’s fun to write that way, and it will be all the more fun for readers to explore those worlds!

Q4U: Have you drawn from actual cultures to enrich your writing? Please share in the comments!

About the Author


Annie Douglass Lima spent most of her childhood in Kenya and later graduated from Biola University in Southern California. She and her husband Floyd currently live in Taiwan, where she teaches fifth grade at Morrison Academy. She has been writing poetry, short stories, and novels since her childhood, and to date has published fifteen books (three YA action and adventure novels, four fantasies, a puppet script, six anthologies of her students’ poetry, and a Bible verse coloring and activity book). Besides writing, her hobbies include reading (especially fantasy and science fiction), scrapbooking, and international travel.


BlogFacebook / Twitter / Goodreads / Google Plus / Amazon Author Page

About the series


Take a look at this exciting new young adult action and adventure novel, The Student and the Slave, now available for purchase! This is the third book in the Krillonian Chronicles, after The Collar and the Cavvarach and The Gladiator and the Guard.

The series is set in an alternate world that is very much like our own, with just a few major differences.  One is that slavery is legal there.  Slaves must wear metal collars that lock around their neck, making their enslaved status obvious to everyone. Another difference is the popularity of a martial art called cavvara shil.  It is fought with a cavvarach (rhymes with "have a rack"), a weapon similar to a sword but with a steel hook protruding from partway down its top edge.  Competitors can strike at each other with their feet as well as with the blades.  You win in one of two ways: disarming your opponent (hooking or knocking their cavvarach out of their hands) or pinning their shoulders to the mat for five seconds.

First, a Little Information about Books 1 and 2:

Book 1: The Collar and the Cavvarach

Bensin, a teenage slave and martial artist, is desperate to see his little sister freed. But only victory in the Krillonian Empire's most prestigious tournament will allow him to secretly arrange for Ellie's escape. Dangerous people are closing in on her, however, and Bensin is running out of time. With his one hope fading quickly away, how can Bensin save Ellie from a life of slavery and abuse?

Click here to read chapter 1 of The Collar and the Cavvarach.

Click here to read about life in the Krillonian Empire, where the series is set.




Book 2: The Gladiator and the Guard

Bensin, a teenage slave and martial artist, is just one victory away from freedom. But after he is accused of a crime he didn’t commit, he is condemned to the violent life and early death of a gladiator. While his loved ones seek desperately for a way to rescue him, Bensin struggles to stay alive and forge an identity in an environment designed to strip it from him. When he infuriates the authorities with his choices, he knows he is running out of time. Can he stand against the cruelty of the arena system and seize his freedom before that system crushes him?

Click here to read about life in the arena where Bensin and other gladiators are forced to live and train.


And now, The Student and the Slave, with another awesome cover by the talented Jack Lin!



Book 3: The Student and the Slave

Is this what freedom is supposed to be like? Desperate to provide for himself and his sister Ellie, Bensin searches fruitlessly for work like all the other former slaves in Tarnestra. He needs the money for an even more important purpose, though: to rescue Coach Steene, who sacrificed himself for Bensin’s freedom. When members of two rival street gangs express interest in Bensin’s martial arts skills, he realizes he may have a chance to save his father figure after all … at a cost.

Meanwhile, Steene struggles with his new life of slavery in far-away Neliria. Raymond, his young owner, seizes any opportunity to make his life miserable. But while Steene longs to escape and rejoin Bensin and Ellie, he starts to realize that Raymond needs him too. His choices will affect not only his own future, but that of everyone he cares about. Can he make the right ones … and live with the consequences?

Click here to order The Student and the Slave from Amazon for $2.99 a discounted price of just 99 cents through November 31st!

Giveaway


Enter to win an Amazon gift card or a free digital copy of the first two books in the series!

A Rafflecopter Giveaway

Thursday, November 09, 2017 Laurel Garver
by guest author Annie Douglass Lima

I’ve always thought that it’s especially helpful for writers of speculative fiction (fantasy, science fiction, alternative reality, etc.) to travel outside their home country. If you’re going to be creating new worlds and cultures, it’s valuable to be able to experience different cultures in our own world and draw inspiration from them, after all.

I was raised in Kenya, where I lived for almost my whole childhood. As an adult, I spent a year in Indonesia, as well as living in the United States for a while. At the moment, my husband and I live in Taiwan, where we’ve been for over ten years now. In between, I have visited a total of twenty-one countries so far (with plenty more still on my bucket list!). These international experiences have definitely impacted my writing.

Although Kenyan culture has not made it directly into any of my books so far, spending time as a foreigner in an unfamiliar world inspired some of the interpersonal and intercultural struggles the characters in my Annals of Alasia fantasy series have had to face.  (And by “foreigner” I mean the way I thought of myself when my family visited America.  As a child, I considered myself Kenyan and was much more at home there than in the U.S.) In Book 3 of the series, Prince of Malorn, my character Prince Korram has to travel into the Impassable Mountains to seek the help of a nomadic tribe called the Mountain Folk.  In the kingdom of Malorn, Mountain Folk and Lowlanders tend to distrust each other and avoid contact whenever possible, and both sides claim that the other mistreats them.  I wanted to show that, often, it just takes better understanding to lead to acceptance and appreciation of another culture. That, and the willingness to learn new ways of doing things and respect others’ customs even when they’re different. That concept reflects my love of getting to know other cultures and appreciating the differences between them.

I’ve enjoyed bringing several elements of Taiwan’s culture – both good and bad – into my Krillonian Chronicles alternate reality series. Here are a few examples:

  • In Taiwan, gifts or awards involving money are always given in red envelopes. When my martial artist character, Bensin, wins prize money in a cavvara shil tournament, the officials hand it to him in a red envelope. 
  • Betel nut, a mild narcotic, is very popular in Taiwan. In the city of Jarreon, it’s also common and is sold legally in shops decorated with flashing colored lights, just like here. (In another province of the Krillonian Empire, betel nut is illegal, and a certain character with an addiction goes to great lengths to find a black market supplier.) 
  • In Taiwan, cheap boxed meals available at “hole-in-the-wall” eateries are a common and convenient lunch or dinner for laborers or anyone in a hurry or short on cash. In the city of Jarreon in my series, they’re common too – for big business owners to order in bulk for their slaves’ lunches, or for City Watch officers to pick up to feed prisoners in the Watch Station cells. 
  • New Year is the most important holiday of the year in Taiwan. People celebrate it by putting up decorations, giving gifts of money to children (yes, in red envelopes, often decorated with special designs), and by sharing special meals involving traditional foods with family. I actually combined ideas from that with Christmas in creating the Krillonian Empire’s New Year holiday. Characters there celebrate with seasonal music and decorations, sharing a feast involving traditional foods with family and friends, and exchanging gifts with family members. Slave owners sometimes give their slaves gifts as well, though those usually consist of practical items (one enslaved character receives a toothbrush, toothpaste, and extra socks).

I’ve had a number of readers comment that the cultures in my novels are both interesting and believable, and I know that’s because I’ve drawn on real ones to create them. If you write speculative fiction and have had the privilege of experiencing multiple cultures (even second hand), I would encourage you to use bits and pieces of them to shape the worlds you create. It’s fun to write that way, and it will be all the more fun for readers to explore those worlds!

Q4U: Have you drawn from actual cultures to enrich your writing? Please share in the comments!

About the Author


Annie Douglass Lima spent most of her childhood in Kenya and later graduated from Biola University in Southern California. She and her husband Floyd currently live in Taiwan, where she teaches fifth grade at Morrison Academy. She has been writing poetry, short stories, and novels since her childhood, and to date has published fifteen books (three YA action and adventure novels, four fantasies, a puppet script, six anthologies of her students’ poetry, and a Bible verse coloring and activity book). Besides writing, her hobbies include reading (especially fantasy and science fiction), scrapbooking, and international travel.


BlogFacebook / Twitter / Goodreads / Google Plus / Amazon Author Page

About the series


Take a look at this exciting new young adult action and adventure novel, The Student and the Slave, now available for purchase! This is the third book in the Krillonian Chronicles, after The Collar and the Cavvarach and The Gladiator and the Guard.

The series is set in an alternate world that is very much like our own, with just a few major differences.  One is that slavery is legal there.  Slaves must wear metal collars that lock around their neck, making their enslaved status obvious to everyone. Another difference is the popularity of a martial art called cavvara shil.  It is fought with a cavvarach (rhymes with "have a rack"), a weapon similar to a sword but with a steel hook protruding from partway down its top edge.  Competitors can strike at each other with their feet as well as with the blades.  You win in one of two ways: disarming your opponent (hooking or knocking their cavvarach out of their hands) or pinning their shoulders to the mat for five seconds.

First, a Little Information about Books 1 and 2:

Book 1: The Collar and the Cavvarach

Bensin, a teenage slave and martial artist, is desperate to see his little sister freed. But only victory in the Krillonian Empire's most prestigious tournament will allow him to secretly arrange for Ellie's escape. Dangerous people are closing in on her, however, and Bensin is running out of time. With his one hope fading quickly away, how can Bensin save Ellie from a life of slavery and abuse?

Click here to read chapter 1 of The Collar and the Cavvarach.

Click here to read about life in the Krillonian Empire, where the series is set.




Book 2: The Gladiator and the Guard

Bensin, a teenage slave and martial artist, is just one victory away from freedom. But after he is accused of a crime he didn’t commit, he is condemned to the violent life and early death of a gladiator. While his loved ones seek desperately for a way to rescue him, Bensin struggles to stay alive and forge an identity in an environment designed to strip it from him. When he infuriates the authorities with his choices, he knows he is running out of time. Can he stand against the cruelty of the arena system and seize his freedom before that system crushes him?

Click here to read about life in the arena where Bensin and other gladiators are forced to live and train.


And now, The Student and the Slave, with another awesome cover by the talented Jack Lin!



Book 3: The Student and the Slave

Is this what freedom is supposed to be like? Desperate to provide for himself and his sister Ellie, Bensin searches fruitlessly for work like all the other former slaves in Tarnestra. He needs the money for an even more important purpose, though: to rescue Coach Steene, who sacrificed himself for Bensin’s freedom. When members of two rival street gangs express interest in Bensin’s martial arts skills, he realizes he may have a chance to save his father figure after all … at a cost.

Meanwhile, Steene struggles with his new life of slavery in far-away Neliria. Raymond, his young owner, seizes any opportunity to make his life miserable. But while Steene longs to escape and rejoin Bensin and Ellie, he starts to realize that Raymond needs him too. His choices will affect not only his own future, but that of everyone he cares about. Can he make the right ones … and live with the consequences?

Click here to order The Student and the Slave from Amazon for $2.99 a discounted price of just 99 cents through November 31st!

Giveaway


Enter to win an Amazon gift card or a free digital copy of the first two books in the series!

A Rafflecopter Giveaway

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Creating characters can at times become a self-indulgent exercise in which a writer spends inordinate amounts of time determining lots of little details that never show up in the story, and actually have very little bearing on it, like their build, favorite color, or the teacher they hated most in seventh grade. It's not that details don't matter, but beware of falling down the rabbit hole of needing to know all your fictional characters better than your friends or family. Because this can be an excuse, like "research" can, of delaying the real writing process.

So I humbly submit to you some key areas you DO really need to know, so that you can focus your character creation efforts on what will yield the most dividends.

 1. Role


Will this person be the protagonist? One of the key narrators? The villain? A love interest? A sidekick? A lesser force of antagonism? A foil? A parallel figure? A supporting character? A tertiary figure to enhance the milieu? A functionary?

How detailed you need to be depends entirely on how important the figure is to the story. Sometimes when you're drafting you don't necessarily know whether a character you need for this scene will become more important later. That's okay. Just don't pressure yourself to make every figure fully fledged from the get-go. You might find that narrative tasks can be reassigned to a more essential character and this shopkeeper or random coworker can be eliminated. Those decisions will be loads easier to make if you didn't spend a week on Pinterest deciding how to furnish his apartment or fill her closet.

In THIS post, I discuss three levels of characters most novels need: primary, secondary, and tertiary.

2. Relationship to the protagonist


How much will your hero rub elbows with particular characters? Is their relationship positive, negative, mixed, neutral, or nonexistent?

Is the relationship hierarchical, equitable/intimate, or a mix? That will very much set the tone for how the character interacts, and what methods he or she uses to negotiate conflict with your hero. I discuss this idea more HERE.

3. Goals over the course of the story


Clearly your protagonist will have goals, but what about the other characters? If all they ever do is react to the hero, they will feel as mechanical as a motion-activated self-flushing toilet. Every character has to be pursuing some goal of their own, even the tertiary characters.

You'll have a very different scene when a store clerk's goal is to win Employee of the Month, versus take a smoke break ASAP, versus share their faith with every customer.  Interacting with any of these three clerks could be useful for pacing, dropping in clues, or revealing something about your protagonist. (If they're not, maybe you don't need the scene at all.)

Primary and secondary characters especially need things to do and places to be when they aren't interacting with your hero. They need relationships, worries, plans of their own. This not only makes them more real, but also opens up great possibilities for plot complications. Obviously, you won't dramatize all these side-stories, but they should leave traces that appear in details your sprinkle in.

I talk more HERE about this "life outside the story"--and how to leave traces of it in your novel.

4. Relationship to conflict


Will this character act or withdraw when trouble comes? In other words, is their usual mode fight or flight in the face of danger?

And how about in relational conflict? If they are fighters, how does it come out? As aggression, as guilt-inducing martyr talk, as verbal abuse, as self-hatred, as gaslighting and manipulation? There are so very many ways to fight.

If they tend to flee, how do they do it? Literally run away? Downplay the problem and create false peace? Bury themselves in other activities? Throw up their hands in defeat? Become passive-aggressive, refusing to respond or do much of anything?

How characters behave in places of conflict will be key to how they function if your plot, helping or hindering the protagonist with goals on the micro and macro level. Yes, even the store clerk.

5. One key distinctive


Even tertiary characters need at least one thing about them that makes them distinct from others in the story. It could be a physical trait, like their stature, physique, or way of carrying themselves. It could be their manner of speaking in terms of volume, word choices, dialect. It could be some action that sets them apart: the super-strong granny, the puzzle whiz, the empath who mirrors others' emotions.

The key is to choose a variety of traits across your entire cast. It shouldn't be all physical, all dialect, or all superhero skills that differentiate your characters. A really solid cast will have a numerous types of roles and kinds of people that add to the setting and to the plot.


Notice some things you DON'T need to know about every character: their name, physical appearance,  socio-economic status, wound, backstory, web of relationships, profession and professional knowledge, greatest fear,  proudest moment, or taste in music, clothes, or cuisine. You might need these things for some of the characters, but not all. 

Do you struggle more with overdoing characterization, or not having quite enough? 
Thursday, October 19, 2017 Laurel Garver
Creating characters can at times become a self-indulgent exercise in which a writer spends inordinate amounts of time determining lots of little details that never show up in the story, and actually have very little bearing on it, like their build, favorite color, or the teacher they hated most in seventh grade. It's not that details don't matter, but beware of falling down the rabbit hole of needing to know all your fictional characters better than your friends or family. Because this can be an excuse, like "research" can, of delaying the real writing process.

So I humbly submit to you some key areas you DO really need to know, so that you can focus your character creation efforts on what will yield the most dividends.

 1. Role


Will this person be the protagonist? One of the key narrators? The villain? A love interest? A sidekick? A lesser force of antagonism? A foil? A parallel figure? A supporting character? A tertiary figure to enhance the milieu? A functionary?

How detailed you need to be depends entirely on how important the figure is to the story. Sometimes when you're drafting you don't necessarily know whether a character you need for this scene will become more important later. That's okay. Just don't pressure yourself to make every figure fully fledged from the get-go. You might find that narrative tasks can be reassigned to a more essential character and this shopkeeper or random coworker can be eliminated. Those decisions will be loads easier to make if you didn't spend a week on Pinterest deciding how to furnish his apartment or fill her closet.

In THIS post, I discuss three levels of characters most novels need: primary, secondary, and tertiary.

2. Relationship to the protagonist


How much will your hero rub elbows with particular characters? Is their relationship positive, negative, mixed, neutral, or nonexistent?

Is the relationship hierarchical, equitable/intimate, or a mix? That will very much set the tone for how the character interacts, and what methods he or she uses to negotiate conflict with your hero. I discuss this idea more HERE.

3. Goals over the course of the story


Clearly your protagonist will have goals, but what about the other characters? If all they ever do is react to the hero, they will feel as mechanical as a motion-activated self-flushing toilet. Every character has to be pursuing some goal of their own, even the tertiary characters.

You'll have a very different scene when a store clerk's goal is to win Employee of the Month, versus take a smoke break ASAP, versus share their faith with every customer.  Interacting with any of these three clerks could be useful for pacing, dropping in clues, or revealing something about your protagonist. (If they're not, maybe you don't need the scene at all.)

Primary and secondary characters especially need things to do and places to be when they aren't interacting with your hero. They need relationships, worries, plans of their own. This not only makes them more real, but also opens up great possibilities for plot complications. Obviously, you won't dramatize all these side-stories, but they should leave traces that appear in details your sprinkle in.

I talk more HERE about this "life outside the story"--and how to leave traces of it in your novel.

4. Relationship to conflict


Will this character act or withdraw when trouble comes? In other words, is their usual mode fight or flight in the face of danger?

And how about in relational conflict? If they are fighters, how does it come out? As aggression, as guilt-inducing martyr talk, as verbal abuse, as self-hatred, as gaslighting and manipulation? There are so very many ways to fight.

If they tend to flee, how do they do it? Literally run away? Downplay the problem and create false peace? Bury themselves in other activities? Throw up their hands in defeat? Become passive-aggressive, refusing to respond or do much of anything?

How characters behave in places of conflict will be key to how they function if your plot, helping or hindering the protagonist with goals on the micro and macro level. Yes, even the store clerk.

5. One key distinctive


Even tertiary characters need at least one thing about them that makes them distinct from others in the story. It could be a physical trait, like their stature, physique, or way of carrying themselves. It could be their manner of speaking in terms of volume, word choices, dialect. It could be some action that sets them apart: the super-strong granny, the puzzle whiz, the empath who mirrors others' emotions.

The key is to choose a variety of traits across your entire cast. It shouldn't be all physical, all dialect, or all superhero skills that differentiate your characters. A really solid cast will have a numerous types of roles and kinds of people that add to the setting and to the plot.


Notice some things you DON'T need to know about every character: their name, physical appearance,  socio-economic status, wound, backstory, web of relationships, profession and professional knowledge, greatest fear,  proudest moment, or taste in music, clothes, or cuisine. You might need these things for some of the characters, but not all. 

Do you struggle more with overdoing characterization, or not having quite enough? 

Thursday, October 12, 2017

I have to admit, I've been deeply skeptical of the advice to "write for yourself." Perhaps it's a byproduct of my upbringing, of being told again and again that the root of all kinds of evil is selfishness--greed, lust, hatred, coveting, the whole litany of deadly sins. Perhaps it's from interacting with beginning writers who are excessively prickly and hostile to any suggestion that their rough draft "baby" isn't a perfect masterpiece. I hear the phrase and think self-indulgent and even narcissistic.

What about readers? I'd wonder. Do you care about whether they can make any sense of your story? Do you want to pour months of time into something that will no one will want to read? 

The ironic thing is, spending too much time worrying about the questions above is more likely to hobble you than help.

And so will convincing yourself that you have unselfish motives. Because once you start worrying about motives, you're likely to get lost in a hall of mirrors, frantic to find a pure reflection. Could there be a more self-centered pursuit?

But reading Elizabeth Gilbert's Big Magic (or more accurately, about half of it so far) has got me rethinking my assumptions about what "write for yourself" really means.

Gilbert says that creativity is "your birthright as a human being, so do it with a cheerful heart.... Let inspiration lead you where it wants to lead you. Keep in mind that for most of history people just made things, and they didn't make such a big freaking deal out of it. We make things because we like making things."

How's that for a pep talk with a good dose of kick-in-the-pants? :-)

Essentially, then, "writing for yourself" means engaging deeply with your ideas: follow them, invest labor and energy into them, shape them, feed them. Delight in the ideas and let their song move you to sing along and dance with abandon.

It means you can (and should) stop trying to be helpful--it's a masquerade for the deeply selfish need to be important, and the crippling need for permission and validation from others.

"Writing for yourself" is light and free and doesn't take itself so utterly seriously. If the idea leads down a blind alley, oh well. Part of the adventure! Look around, discover something unexpected. Backtrack if you must, or step through a side door. But when you "write for yourself," these glitches are not devastating disruptions of some Very Important Thing that will make you matter.

"Writing for yourself" comes from a healthy place of a right-sized self that can accept its own simultaneous greatness and smallness. It says "you are enough." Not the be-all-and-end-all, but not trash. Just enough.

Gilbert's book has been an interesting complement to Around the Writer's Block by Roseanne Bane, which I've blogged about HERE and HERE. Bane approaches creativity through brain science, and her main finding is that anxiety derails creativity; to be creatively productive, you need to relax and have fun.

In other words, stop looking over your shoulder, wondering how others will react, or seeking their go-ahead for your creative endeavors, or signs of their gratitude for your "help."

When your authentic self shows up and explores the ideas entrusted to you (Gilbert has some fascinating theories about how ideas find us), you become radically liberated from the impulses of selfishness--specifically self-preservation. The work done "for yourself" then flows and grows.

What do you think about "writing for yourself"?

Thursday, October 12, 2017 Laurel Garver
I have to admit, I've been deeply skeptical of the advice to "write for yourself." Perhaps it's a byproduct of my upbringing, of being told again and again that the root of all kinds of evil is selfishness--greed, lust, hatred, coveting, the whole litany of deadly sins. Perhaps it's from interacting with beginning writers who are excessively prickly and hostile to any suggestion that their rough draft "baby" isn't a perfect masterpiece. I hear the phrase and think self-indulgent and even narcissistic.

What about readers? I'd wonder. Do you care about whether they can make any sense of your story? Do you want to pour months of time into something that will no one will want to read? 

The ironic thing is, spending too much time worrying about the questions above is more likely to hobble you than help.

And so will convincing yourself that you have unselfish motives. Because once you start worrying about motives, you're likely to get lost in a hall of mirrors, frantic to find a pure reflection. Could there be a more self-centered pursuit?

But reading Elizabeth Gilbert's Big Magic (or more accurately, about half of it so far) has got me rethinking my assumptions about what "write for yourself" really means.

Gilbert says that creativity is "your birthright as a human being, so do it with a cheerful heart.... Let inspiration lead you where it wants to lead you. Keep in mind that for most of history people just made things, and they didn't make such a big freaking deal out of it. We make things because we like making things."

How's that for a pep talk with a good dose of kick-in-the-pants? :-)

Essentially, then, "writing for yourself" means engaging deeply with your ideas: follow them, invest labor and energy into them, shape them, feed them. Delight in the ideas and let their song move you to sing along and dance with abandon.

It means you can (and should) stop trying to be helpful--it's a masquerade for the deeply selfish need to be important, and the crippling need for permission and validation from others.

"Writing for yourself" is light and free and doesn't take itself so utterly seriously. If the idea leads down a blind alley, oh well. Part of the adventure! Look around, discover something unexpected. Backtrack if you must, or step through a side door. But when you "write for yourself," these glitches are not devastating disruptions of some Very Important Thing that will make you matter.

"Writing for yourself" comes from a healthy place of a right-sized self that can accept its own simultaneous greatness and smallness. It says "you are enough." Not the be-all-and-end-all, but not trash. Just enough.

Gilbert's book has been an interesting complement to Around the Writer's Block by Roseanne Bane, which I've blogged about HERE and HERE. Bane approaches creativity through brain science, and her main finding is that anxiety derails creativity; to be creatively productive, you need to relax and have fun.

In other words, stop looking over your shoulder, wondering how others will react, or seeking their go-ahead for your creative endeavors, or signs of their gratitude for your "help."

When your authentic self shows up and explores the ideas entrusted to you (Gilbert has some fascinating theories about how ideas find us), you become radically liberated from the impulses of selfishness--specifically self-preservation. The work done "for yourself" then flows and grows.

What do you think about "writing for yourself"?

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Like so many women, I've spent my life trying to be perceived a certain way. A way that earned me praise because it aligned with my parents' values: that I be thrifty and efficient and smart and competent and tidy and spiritual and nice and always on time. That I do the right things at the right phases of life. That I not be wasteful or a burden or a mess.

As I celebrate my birthday (I could now wear a jersey from a certain California football team), I can't help but reflect upon where life has taken me and my own choices in the journey. And at this phase of middle-age, I'm realizing just how much of my choices haven't been about embracing my gifts or pursuing joy, but merely avoiding censure.
Photo by Penywise at morguefile.com

Ouch.

I know I'm not alone in this. Women in our culture are held to very high standards. We're made to feel ashamed if, as Brene Brown put it, we can't "do it all, do it perfectly and never let them see you sweat." But, she notes "this web of unattainable, conflicting, competing expectations about who we’re supposed to be...is a straight-jacket."

Getting out of the rut of feeling "not enough," and all the ways that feeling impedes living life fully, requires being courageously vulnerable and authentic. Shame thrives in darkness, but withers when exposed to the light and to loving acceptance instead of censure.

That work for each of us begins with being authentic to and with ourselves. The one area I've struggled most with in my writing life is being reticent to allow my inner rebel to exist. The longer I suppress her, the more she returns the favor and keeps me stuck.

My inner rebel currently has me working on a new novel in my series, but *gasp* it's out of order. It would chronologically fit between my first and second published book.

The voice of shame says, "what kind of idiot writes book two after book three? It's creative suicide. You can't do that. It's wrong. Just stop now. You're going to ruin what you've already accomplished."

And my rebel voice replies, "who says you have to write a series in order? What a dumb rule. This project is awesome, and deep, and will take you to amazing places creatively, emotionally, and spiritually."

And so the project stutters along, flowing when I let the rebel have her way, and stalling when that paralyzing fear of breaking a publishing taboo wins the day.

In 2015 I began gathering a bunch of blog posts, and writing some new material, all focused on productivity, especially on tips to leverage small pockets of time to keep in touch with writing projects when life is hectic. That book is about 85% written.

Why haven't I finished it? The voice of shame accusing me: "You writing about productivity? What a laugh. You're the most unproductive writer in the history of the world. You've only put out two novels, four years apart. Why would anyone want your tips?"

And my inner rebel counters, "Well, who wants productivity tips from some four-novels-a-year person who has no friends, no hobbies, no side hussle, and neglects her family? That's not where much of anyone really lives. But there most certainly are people who want to know how you squeeze a little creative joy into an already full life."

See, when I let my inner rebel talk, she's actually pretty awesome. She isn't interested in life's shoulds but rather coulds: "This idea could be a little scary and weird and possibly not pan out, but it could lead somewhere cool. Let's explore!"

What risks does your inner rebel goad you toward? 
Thursday, September 28, 2017 Laurel Garver
Like so many women, I've spent my life trying to be perceived a certain way. A way that earned me praise because it aligned with my parents' values: that I be thrifty and efficient and smart and competent and tidy and spiritual and nice and always on time. That I do the right things at the right phases of life. That I not be wasteful or a burden or a mess.

As I celebrate my birthday (I could now wear a jersey from a certain California football team), I can't help but reflect upon where life has taken me and my own choices in the journey. And at this phase of middle-age, I'm realizing just how much of my choices haven't been about embracing my gifts or pursuing joy, but merely avoiding censure.
Photo by Penywise at morguefile.com

Ouch.

I know I'm not alone in this. Women in our culture are held to very high standards. We're made to feel ashamed if, as Brene Brown put it, we can't "do it all, do it perfectly and never let them see you sweat." But, she notes "this web of unattainable, conflicting, competing expectations about who we’re supposed to be...is a straight-jacket."

Getting out of the rut of feeling "not enough," and all the ways that feeling impedes living life fully, requires being courageously vulnerable and authentic. Shame thrives in darkness, but withers when exposed to the light and to loving acceptance instead of censure.

That work for each of us begins with being authentic to and with ourselves. The one area I've struggled most with in my writing life is being reticent to allow my inner rebel to exist. The longer I suppress her, the more she returns the favor and keeps me stuck.

My inner rebel currently has me working on a new novel in my series, but *gasp* it's out of order. It would chronologically fit between my first and second published book.

The voice of shame says, "what kind of idiot writes book two after book three? It's creative suicide. You can't do that. It's wrong. Just stop now. You're going to ruin what you've already accomplished."

And my rebel voice replies, "who says you have to write a series in order? What a dumb rule. This project is awesome, and deep, and will take you to amazing places creatively, emotionally, and spiritually."

And so the project stutters along, flowing when I let the rebel have her way, and stalling when that paralyzing fear of breaking a publishing taboo wins the day.

In 2015 I began gathering a bunch of blog posts, and writing some new material, all focused on productivity, especially on tips to leverage small pockets of time to keep in touch with writing projects when life is hectic. That book is about 85% written.

Why haven't I finished it? The voice of shame accusing me: "You writing about productivity? What a laugh. You're the most unproductive writer in the history of the world. You've only put out two novels, four years apart. Why would anyone want your tips?"

And my inner rebel counters, "Well, who wants productivity tips from some four-novels-a-year person who has no friends, no hobbies, no side hussle, and neglects her family? That's not where much of anyone really lives. But there most certainly are people who want to know how you squeeze a little creative joy into an already full life."

See, when I let my inner rebel talk, she's actually pretty awesome. She isn't interested in life's shoulds but rather coulds: "This idea could be a little scary and weird and possibly not pan out, but it could lead somewhere cool. Let's explore!"

What risks does your inner rebel goad you toward? 

Thursday, September 21, 2017

The biggest challenge to having a fulfilling creative life is mental clutter that keeps you from being fully present in your creative process. The last two months have for me been pretty much all clutter nearly all the time. Some of this is simply seasonal--summer home improvement projects, back to school shopping, meetings, schedule changes--but a large part of it has been the cumulative effect of poor planning and habits.

In the spirit of the twelve step groups, I admit I have a problem and need change. Specifically, I need to make mental and emotional space in my life to create again.

Of course, identifying the problem is just an early step. Next comes seeking solutions. So today I share some resources I've encountered that look to be pretty useful for overcoming my particular issues, because I suspect others will find them equally helpful

Attention splatter


I first encountered the concept of "attention splatter" through a blogging buddy who had linked an article by Christine Kane, a business coach.

She likens divided attention to a snacking/grazing approach to eating. You repeatedly open the fridge and grab a snack or two, over and over, but never have an actual meal. Along the way, you never, ever feel full, because you haven't truly fed yourself.

Bopping from one thing to another, especially giving little bits of attention to many things spread across hours will have a similar result. You end up feeling unsatisfied, like the day was wasted.

Working to your fullest potential, she argues, requires focused attention on the task at hand. Why?

Your attention ultimately feeds you. It feeds your heart and it feeds your mind. This is why it’s so important to notice what you give your attention to. This is also why splattered attention leaves you feeling strung out and unfulfilled. You never actually feed yourself.   ~Christine Kane

It's very easy to get distracted in our noisy world, but especially so if you are a woman with a family who expects you to carry a lion's share of the "mental load" of running a household. The creative tasks that feed you--writing and honing your fiction--can be pushed to the margins.

Kane recommends first identifying key sources of "splatter"--places where you get diverted by choice or circumstance.

Some common culprits:
~e-mail
~social media
~cell phones
~clutter/household messes
~YouTube
~TV
~magazines and newspapers
~video and phone games
~random Google searches
~obsession with metrics and stats
~calendar maintenance

Once you've figured out what things are stealing your hours a few minutes at a time, you need to eliminate them or  schedule them in discrete blocks. For example, if you check e-mail constantly all day, it will gobble up all your time. Instead, plan to deal with e-mail at certain times of day only for short periods, for example from 8:30 - 9:00. 1:00 - 1:30 and 4:20 - 4:50.

Another way to deal with splattering activities is to leverage small windows of time. Say you have 40 minutes before you need to pick up the kids from school. You might be tempted to poke around aimlessly on social media. Instead, tackle a few specific tasks, such as paying some bills and tidying high-traffic areas of your house.

Side note: if household clutter is your biggest foe to creativity, I recommend you check out the advice and tools available from FlyLady. She has lots of great ideas to get your home in shape using leveraged time in small, discrete blocks you schedule.

Plan your larger blocks. Try to be as specific as you can about what you want to work on. Rather than simply "write something today," you might instead plan to "write scenes two and three in chapter eight." Or if revising, "review chapters 10-14 for craft concerns" (see my helpful three-tier revision review process HERE for more on this.)

During your work blocks, isolate yourself from distractions: turn off the WiFi, mute the phone, notify disruptive people that you will be unavailable during certain hours (call it a "work meeting"). Let phone calls got to voice mail and return the calls at a scheduled time. If distracting sub-tasks come to your attention during your work session, jot them down on a list, then let them go until later, to be scheduled for one of your windows for this type of task.

You might find it helpful to have an accountability partner to whom you report when you're working, then how you spent your work block. For example, tweet or text "I'm working on chapter 8 from noon to 3:30." Then at 3:35, "drafted 800 words, planned out scenes 4 and 5."

To reward your efforts further, create an "I did it" list. Each day, simply list what you accomplished. This will become an ongoing source of encouragement as you give attention to what you did, noticing finished projects, not merely unfinished ones.

When you have down time, be fully present to it. This is one of my big struggles--never really resting. If you need a nap, actually sleep, don't beta read, clean out your e-mail box, or have a phone conversation. Do those tasks in their planned slots.

What things steal too much of your mental space? What techniques have most helped you to be fully present to your writing time?

Thursday, September 21, 2017 Laurel Garver
The biggest challenge to having a fulfilling creative life is mental clutter that keeps you from being fully present in your creative process. The last two months have for me been pretty much all clutter nearly all the time. Some of this is simply seasonal--summer home improvement projects, back to school shopping, meetings, schedule changes--but a large part of it has been the cumulative effect of poor planning and habits.

In the spirit of the twelve step groups, I admit I have a problem and need change. Specifically, I need to make mental and emotional space in my life to create again.

Of course, identifying the problem is just an early step. Next comes seeking solutions. So today I share some resources I've encountered that look to be pretty useful for overcoming my particular issues, because I suspect others will find them equally helpful

Attention splatter


I first encountered the concept of "attention splatter" through a blogging buddy who had linked an article by Christine Kane, a business coach.

She likens divided attention to a snacking/grazing approach to eating. You repeatedly open the fridge and grab a snack or two, over and over, but never have an actual meal. Along the way, you never, ever feel full, because you haven't truly fed yourself.

Bopping from one thing to another, especially giving little bits of attention to many things spread across hours will have a similar result. You end up feeling unsatisfied, like the day was wasted.

Working to your fullest potential, she argues, requires focused attention on the task at hand. Why?

Your attention ultimately feeds you. It feeds your heart and it feeds your mind. This is why it’s so important to notice what you give your attention to. This is also why splattered attention leaves you feeling strung out and unfulfilled. You never actually feed yourself.   ~Christine Kane

It's very easy to get distracted in our noisy world, but especially so if you are a woman with a family who expects you to carry a lion's share of the "mental load" of running a household. The creative tasks that feed you--writing and honing your fiction--can be pushed to the margins.

Kane recommends first identifying key sources of "splatter"--places where you get diverted by choice or circumstance.

Some common culprits:
~e-mail
~social media
~cell phones
~clutter/household messes
~YouTube
~TV
~magazines and newspapers
~video and phone games
~random Google searches
~obsession with metrics and stats
~calendar maintenance

Once you've figured out what things are stealing your hours a few minutes at a time, you need to eliminate them or  schedule them in discrete blocks. For example, if you check e-mail constantly all day, it will gobble up all your time. Instead, plan to deal with e-mail at certain times of day only for short periods, for example from 8:30 - 9:00. 1:00 - 1:30 and 4:20 - 4:50.

Another way to deal with splattering activities is to leverage small windows of time. Say you have 40 minutes before you need to pick up the kids from school. You might be tempted to poke around aimlessly on social media. Instead, tackle a few specific tasks, such as paying some bills and tidying high-traffic areas of your house.

Side note: if household clutter is your biggest foe to creativity, I recommend you check out the advice and tools available from FlyLady. She has lots of great ideas to get your home in shape using leveraged time in small, discrete blocks you schedule.

Plan your larger blocks. Try to be as specific as you can about what you want to work on. Rather than simply "write something today," you might instead plan to "write scenes two and three in chapter eight." Or if revising, "review chapters 10-14 for craft concerns" (see my helpful three-tier revision review process HERE for more on this.)

During your work blocks, isolate yourself from distractions: turn off the WiFi, mute the phone, notify disruptive people that you will be unavailable during certain hours (call it a "work meeting"). Let phone calls got to voice mail and return the calls at a scheduled time. If distracting sub-tasks come to your attention during your work session, jot them down on a list, then let them go until later, to be scheduled for one of your windows for this type of task.

You might find it helpful to have an accountability partner to whom you report when you're working, then how you spent your work block. For example, tweet or text "I'm working on chapter 8 from noon to 3:30." Then at 3:35, "drafted 800 words, planned out scenes 4 and 5."

To reward your efforts further, create an "I did it" list. Each day, simply list what you accomplished. This will become an ongoing source of encouragement as you give attention to what you did, noticing finished projects, not merely unfinished ones.

When you have down time, be fully present to it. This is one of my big struggles--never really resting. If you need a nap, actually sleep, don't beta read, clean out your e-mail box, or have a phone conversation. Do those tasks in their planned slots.

What things steal too much of your mental space? What techniques have most helped you to be fully present to your writing time?

Friday, August 25, 2017

by guest author J. Grace Pennington

I chose science-fiction as my primary genre for many reasons, but one among many was the delightful fact that it limits the need for research.

Of course, ideally, if I wanted to do the most minimal amount of research, I would have gone with fantasy.  Fantasy is, by nature, supernatural.  As long as you stick to your own rules, you can do pretty much anything you want.  Since sci-fi is scientific, it does require a certain degree of knowledge—how things work in general—so that you can have at least some plausible basis for your technological advances.  But still, who's to say what the world will or won't be like in three hundred years?  Who can tell what the landscape of other planets may be?  You can't prove that we won't have starships in the twenty-fourth century, nor can anyone predict how exactly they will be run!

So for the first four books in my Firmament series, I blithely wrote along, amusing myself with the occasional scientific and medical research I needed to write with at least some believability.  After all, I love physiology, and all science is pretty cool, so it was something I could live with.

Then came book five, Gestern.

I want to keep the series moving—keep things fresh, keep the characters growing, force them outside their comfort zones.  Books one, three, and four all take place on the ship.  In book two, I did let them explore an alien planet, but for this installment, I decided to take them to the strangest new world of all:  Earth.

And in the first draft I went about things as usual, writing along my merry way.  Very minimal research.  They're out in the woods and in cities, not on a starship!

Then I started to look at the book for its second draft and realized I'd made a huge mistake.  I had set this story on Earth.  Which meant there were actual things I had to study.  Because Earth is real.  The geography and topography of Austria aren't theoretical—anyone can go there, or even just pull up a map and prove me wrong.

Enter Google Earth and Wikipedia.

I had to dive headfirst into calculating just how long it would take Andi and August to get from A to B.  I had to figure out just what locations A and B were.  And then I had to fit all of that into the plot somehow.  Google Earth became my best friend during this time.  I spent hours perusing the Austrian forests, cities, and fields via satellite images, finding new places for my characters to go.  I found an actual castle to base my castle ruins on, and I learned as much about it as the internet would show me.  I learned what kinds of animals would be native to the places they go and incorporated some into the story.  And then to top it all off, I realized I would have to calculate time zones between where they were, and where their friends were back in the United States!

And all of it had to be fit into the story.  I had to mold the plot and timelines to match what I learned.  I had to move people from one location to another several times.

And in the midst of it, I subconsciously went on the same journey I sent Andi on—a voyage outside of my comfort zone.  Away from easy daydreams and pure imagination and down to the ground to meet hard, unmoving facts.

And in the process, I learned.  I grew.  I'm a little less afraid of research and of the limitations on my creativity—and Andi is a little less afraid of growing up.

About the author


J. Grace Pennington has been telling stories since she could talk and writing them down since age five.  Now she lives in the great state of Texas, where she writes as much as adult life permits.  When she's not writing she enjoys reading good books, having adventures with her husband, and looking up at the stars.

About the book


Gestern
science fiction

You never escape your past

Andi Lloyd is more comfortable than most with interstellar travel, but she's not prepared for the perils and peculiarities of a world she has all but forgotten—the planet Earth. As the Surveyor undergoes repairs, her brother August receives a message with news that will send both of them across the world to a place he never wanted to visit again.

Neither of them are prepared to be thrust into a world of political intrigue amid the tangled forests and crumbling ruins of Austria. They aren't prepared to encounter wild animals and endure cross-country hikes.  And they definitely aren't prepared to face it all alone.

But despite the dangers they must press on into the unknown to find a way to save Andi's life, to decide the fate of Earth itself—and to rescue a lonely girl who just happens to be their little sister.

Find it on Amazon


Giveaway




J. Grace Pennington is offering three great giveaway prizes! One is the CD she listened to while she wrote Gestern. The other two are a signed paperback of the winner’s choice. You can enter here: 

Tour schedule


August 25
Frances Hoelsma – Excerpt
shout outs – Book Spotlight
Laurel's Leaves – Guest Post
The Destiny of One – Review

August 26
Jaye L. Knight– Excerpt

August 27
Kelsey's Notebook – Book Spotlight
Claire Banschbach– Excerpt

August 28
Rachel Rossano's Words – Guest Post
Rebekah Lyn Books – Character Interview

August 29
Bookish Orchestrations-Giveaway Winner

Q4U: Are there genres or aspects of fiction writing that, like Grace, you've avoided as outside your comfort zone? What encouragement do you take from her example?
Friday, August 25, 2017 Laurel Garver
by guest author J. Grace Pennington

I chose science-fiction as my primary genre for many reasons, but one among many was the delightful fact that it limits the need for research.

Of course, ideally, if I wanted to do the most minimal amount of research, I would have gone with fantasy.  Fantasy is, by nature, supernatural.  As long as you stick to your own rules, you can do pretty much anything you want.  Since sci-fi is scientific, it does require a certain degree of knowledge—how things work in general—so that you can have at least some plausible basis for your technological advances.  But still, who's to say what the world will or won't be like in three hundred years?  Who can tell what the landscape of other planets may be?  You can't prove that we won't have starships in the twenty-fourth century, nor can anyone predict how exactly they will be run!

So for the first four books in my Firmament series, I blithely wrote along, amusing myself with the occasional scientific and medical research I needed to write with at least some believability.  After all, I love physiology, and all science is pretty cool, so it was something I could live with.

Then came book five, Gestern.

I want to keep the series moving—keep things fresh, keep the characters growing, force them outside their comfort zones.  Books one, three, and four all take place on the ship.  In book two, I did let them explore an alien planet, but for this installment, I decided to take them to the strangest new world of all:  Earth.

And in the first draft I went about things as usual, writing along my merry way.  Very minimal research.  They're out in the woods and in cities, not on a starship!

Then I started to look at the book for its second draft and realized I'd made a huge mistake.  I had set this story on Earth.  Which meant there were actual things I had to study.  Because Earth is real.  The geography and topography of Austria aren't theoretical—anyone can go there, or even just pull up a map and prove me wrong.

Enter Google Earth and Wikipedia.

I had to dive headfirst into calculating just how long it would take Andi and August to get from A to B.  I had to figure out just what locations A and B were.  And then I had to fit all of that into the plot somehow.  Google Earth became my best friend during this time.  I spent hours perusing the Austrian forests, cities, and fields via satellite images, finding new places for my characters to go.  I found an actual castle to base my castle ruins on, and I learned as much about it as the internet would show me.  I learned what kinds of animals would be native to the places they go and incorporated some into the story.  And then to top it all off, I realized I would have to calculate time zones between where they were, and where their friends were back in the United States!

And all of it had to be fit into the story.  I had to mold the plot and timelines to match what I learned.  I had to move people from one location to another several times.

And in the midst of it, I subconsciously went on the same journey I sent Andi on—a voyage outside of my comfort zone.  Away from easy daydreams and pure imagination and down to the ground to meet hard, unmoving facts.

And in the process, I learned.  I grew.  I'm a little less afraid of research and of the limitations on my creativity—and Andi is a little less afraid of growing up.

About the author


J. Grace Pennington has been telling stories since she could talk and writing them down since age five.  Now she lives in the great state of Texas, where she writes as much as adult life permits.  When she's not writing she enjoys reading good books, having adventures with her husband, and looking up at the stars.

About the book


Gestern
science fiction

You never escape your past

Andi Lloyd is more comfortable than most with interstellar travel, but she's not prepared for the perils and peculiarities of a world she has all but forgotten—the planet Earth. As the Surveyor undergoes repairs, her brother August receives a message with news that will send both of them across the world to a place he never wanted to visit again.

Neither of them are prepared to be thrust into a world of political intrigue amid the tangled forests and crumbling ruins of Austria. They aren't prepared to encounter wild animals and endure cross-country hikes.  And they definitely aren't prepared to face it all alone.

But despite the dangers they must press on into the unknown to find a way to save Andi's life, to decide the fate of Earth itself—and to rescue a lonely girl who just happens to be their little sister.

Find it on Amazon


Giveaway




J. Grace Pennington is offering three great giveaway prizes! One is the CD she listened to while she wrote Gestern. The other two are a signed paperback of the winner’s choice. You can enter here: 

Tour schedule


August 25
Frances Hoelsma – Excerpt
shout outs – Book Spotlight
Laurel's Leaves – Guest Post
The Destiny of One – Review

August 26
Jaye L. Knight– Excerpt

August 27
Kelsey's Notebook – Book Spotlight
Claire Banschbach– Excerpt

August 28
Rachel Rossano's Words – Guest Post
Rebekah Lyn Books – Character Interview

August 29
Bookish Orchestrations-Giveaway Winner

Q4U: Are there genres or aspects of fiction writing that, like Grace, you've avoided as outside your comfort zone? What encouragement do you take from her example?