On Writing

i totally didn’t kidnap deborah o’carroll for an interview. pfft.

I HAVE ANOTHER GUEST … I KNOW, I KNOW – am I being slightly over social? I’ve agonised about it, but I think it’s going to be okay.

I have the glorious Deborah O’Carroll with me – of her own free will (!!!!) – so sit yourself down (or don’t), grab a cup of tea (or coffee or NOTHING!) and settle in; we’re in for (another) treat.

***DON’T READ ON … if you don’t want book recommendations, VITAL TIPS on participating in NaNoWriMo, and a banquet of scintillating conversation***

Quick! A confirmed book-hater is heading your way – what’s the book you lob at their head to make them change their mind?

That all depends on if it needs to be a thick book (in order to knock some sense into them) or simply the best book! Or maybe both! In the first case, a dictionary should do the trick. In the second, Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones, because it’s my absolute favorite! Or if both, then a hardcover single-volume edition of The Lord of the Rings because it’s huge AND the best, a.k.a. my other absolute favorite! (Yes, I can have two — shush — because I’m making up the rules here!)

Stories – what draws you to them?

What DOESN’T draw me to them? I love the way stories can draw me into a new world to explore, with characters who feel like friends, and can show me new things about life in an interesting way. But mostly I love the FUN of stories because life is too short to not have fun. 😛

… and what’s the one thing that would make you hurl a book across the room in mild disgust/ferocious loathing? Or maybe you have two things. OR THREE!! DO TELL!

Killing off a favorite character = number one cause of hurling books in loathing. XD UNACCEPTABLE. Ahem. Also having a tragic ending. Worse if it’s both together! (Milder cases also include: being super dark, being super dystopian, or, sometimes, love triangles. XD)

What’s something that you’ve read that’s really, truly impacted your life?

OH BOY. Many things, but one that leaps to mind right now is Stephen R. Lawhead’s Bright Empires series. That impacted me in multiple ways (like pounding into my head that coincidences doesn’t exist), but the biggest was in the character of Mina. She was the first female character I’ve read who I WANT TO BE (other than Eowyn and Princess Eilonwy, but hello, who doesn’t want to be them?), and showed me things about the kind of person I want to be, and that you can survive — nay, thrive — in totally unexpected ways. (For some reason, the usual Accepted List for those entering their twenties seems to be one of three options: have a 9-5 job, get married, or go to college. Leaving out the fourth option, which is doing your own thing!) Mina is whisked out of her humdrum modern London existence and thrust into 1600s Prague in an alternate timeline. Instead of wallowing, she gets out there and DOES SOMETHING, and it’s sort of spoilers to go on too much about it, but she basically becomes an entrepreneur with the bestest kaffeehaus ever. She carves a place for herself in the world while being the nicest and bravest person and CAN I BE HER? She’s a major role-model, and definitely one of the reasons I’m an editor today. Mina’s the actual bomb and I love her! (And she also reminds us that, you know, if you happen to be stuck in 1600s Prague — in case that’s somewhere on your vacation list — even if you love it there, it’s okay to be missing 21st century showers.)

Is there a book that you haven’t yet read but would like to AND ARE YOU GOING TO WRITE IT?

YOU BET. SO MANY. I have a list. XD I want an excellent world-hopping book with all of the whimsy (in the Diana Wynne Jones tradition). I want a Twelve Dancing Princesses retelling. I want a super epic, awesome (but also fun!) urban fantasy heist book that’s not super gritty. I totally have plans to write all of these! Preferably soon! Those are just on the top of my wishlist. 😀

How do you fit writing into your day-to-day life – what’s your routine?

Um. I don’t. *hysterical laughter* I have been far too busy this year to keep up a regular writing schedule, so I don’t even remember what regular writing IS LIKE. I just write if I have time to fit it in. However, I’m going to make room for it during the insanity that’s NaNoWriMo, and I’ll probably fit it in my writing in the mornings (oh, say it’s not so) or late at night. I don’t really have a “routine” but I should probably make one, at least for November. *nervous laughter to join the hysterical laughter so they can be best buddies and my constant companions throughout the coming month*

What keeps you motivated? Not in a ‘ah, look I just might do this’ way but more ‘ARGHHH THERE’S A T-REX AFTER ME LET ME RUN IN HEELS TOWARDS MY GOAL!!!’?

Firstly, I’m not a heels person, so I promise I’d be in much more sensible footwear for running from T-Rexes toward goals or in any other direction. And secondly, deadlines! They are both the bane of my existence and the power to my engine. Sometimes I think they’re the only reason I get anything done. XD There’s nothing like having that review book due tomorrow or that NaNoWriMo clock ticking down toward the Final End of Doom to get you in gear with a healthy (or unhealthy? Who’s counting) dose of panic. And as far as writing goals, I’m kept motivated by having a lovely writer friend who keeps me accountable, and I know I’ll have to admit I didn’t finish the thing if I miss my goal, so that’s a total motivator!

Is there anything you wish you’d have known when you first started out as a freelancer?

Things about time and money and organization. XD It sounds obvious, but one should always know these things. Like that Taxes Are the Bane of Life, and also the golden rule: Things Always Take Longer Than You Think (so you should make more time for them than you thought you needed, and should probably charge more than you do. *nervous laughter*). Oh, and detailed record-keeping. Hugely important. You learn all these things fairly quickly, but it’s nice to know them in advance. 😛

As a copy editor/proofreader – what’s the number one mistake that you see writers make in their manuscripts?

Incorrectly punctuated dialogue and dialogue tags. MY WORD. Everyone has done it at some point, so I understand that it’s hard (I was there once, myself, as a smol writer, before I knew better — or rather as a young writer, since I am and always will be smol. #heightchallenged) but once you learn it, it’s not ALL that difficult to do properly. The easiest way to remember it is to think: “Would this make sense as a sentence if I removed the quotation marks?”

AND LASTLY: You’re doing NaNoWriMo … can you give a hot tip on HOW ON EARTH TO SURVIVE IT – NAY THRIVE?!

Two things! Timers, and STAY AHEAD.

Timers, because wordsprints/wordwars are your best friends — and you can do them with your other best friends (a.k.a. your writing pals) or even just set a timer and sprint/war against yourself (guaranteed to win!). If sprints aren’t your thing, at least set a timer to make yourself write during that set time (whether it’s ten minutes, twenty minutes, or an hour), and no matter how slow you write, you WILL have words to show for it when the timer “goes ding when there’s stuff!” (In this case, the stuff is words. And, if we’re very lucky, also story.) Then take a quick break before starting again. When the timer’s running, you may not do ANYTHING other that write, which includes checking the internet!

My other brief tip is to make sure you stay on par each day as much as possible — or get ahead if you have extra time, so that you can skip a few days later on, which will also happen, because Life is a Thing. But once you dip below that daily goal, it’s going to be mentally harder to catch up, so staying on track is HUGE. 1667 words per day. If you haven’t quite made it, set that timer again and soon you will! You can do the thing! I believe in you and so do all those unwritten words waiting for you! (And also all of our characters, who will quietly judge us if we don’t write them more, so that’s also a great motivator. *cough*)

Thanks for having me, Ness — your questions were highly superior and I had a blast being here! Huzzah! And thanks, blogly readers, for putting up with my rambunctious ramblings and exclamation point addiction!

Thank YOU for popping over!


You can politely stalk Deborah on her website here and read about her recent millionth word mark right here. If you want YOUR dialogue to be perfectly tagged and punctuated, head over right here.

(And if you just want to smile – go right here.)

Books, Life, On Writing

Ashley Townsend and the Author No-No #1

Today I have the pleasure of having author Ashley Townsend pop over for a visit. Grab a cup of your chosen beverage – be it tea, coffee or something nice and cool – and settle down to a chat with Ashley, who is the author of Rising Shadows, and its sequel, Chasing Shadows.

Quickly! Tell me wha13695981t genre you prefer to write in – or do you dabble in multiple genres?

            I really have a heart for YA, because I love reading well-designed and -plotted books that feel relatable, and I really enjoy connecting with younger readers through my own writing as I (try to) provide that same engaging and emotional rollercoaster that I myself am drawn to. Also, I really love writing fantasy, because the world is your oyster, and reality has no limitations on what you can create.

 Do you have a scheduled time to write?

            I try to do a little writing every day, which is the best advice I can give to budding writers. Whether it turns into a full-blown chapter or two, a couple of pages, or just some plot ideas scribbled on note cards, I try to make time every day to write. Just being in the habit of writing and pushing through scenes has been a wonderful tool and has helped me in situations where writer’s block might try to hinder my progress.

Of all of the characters you have written, which is your favorite and can you give me three key words to describe them?

            😦 Why must you make me choose?! I honestly adore all of my characters, and22545313 everyone knows I am in love with Will Taylor *swoons* and adore Sarah’s relatability and kind heart. But if I had to choose, I’d have to say that the character I always look forward to writing about is Damien Lisandro. He was supposed to have a brief appearance in “Chasing Shadows,” and then I made an oopsie and fell in love with my own character. Author No-No #1. The best way to describe Damien is broken, gentle, and lost. He is like this sad little puppy that I just want to adopt and make him feel better.

 Do you find listening to music helps you write, and if so, what sort?

            I have tons of playlists for different moods in a story. I love anything soft for more of the romantic interlude scenes, and then when I write instances where there is hand-to-hand combat or arrows flying or swordplay, then I really enjoying listening to trailer music or soundtrack scores. I love music, but I get too distracted by the lyrics if I’m in the middle of a scene that requires intense concentration.

 All right, I’ve just given you an airplane ticket, where would you go?

            Neverland because my next series is a take on “Pirates of the Caribbean” meets Neverland. But I suppose if fairytale lands are out of the question (humph), then I would have to visit Ireland. It has been a goal of mine for years to live in a cottage in Ireland and just write for the remainder of my days beside bubbling brooks and great rolling hills. So dreamy! (and those accents!)

 Pen upon paper or fingers tapping away at keyboard?

            My mind is usually moving too fast for me to use paper, and then I just get frustrated because it takes too long. Ah, the impatience of youth! I typically prefer to use my laptop because it’s faster, but I always have paper on-hand in case inspiration strikes.

 A new piece of technology has been invented. It is a Writer’s Aid and can eliminate the trickiest of areas. Where would you use it in your writing process?

            Ugh. Editing. I adore the creative process and everything about it, but having to meticulously comb over my manuscript to see what I did wrong is painful. I’d much rather be writing my next series than catching grammar errors!

Ashley TownsendThank you, Ashley, for stopping by and all the very best for your future endeavors. I’m off to hunt down someone to invent a Writer’s Aid for the both of us … : )

Ashley is a young twenty-something who has been spinning tales since she discovered that her wild imagination and love of storytelling could make a career. Reading and writing are her way of experiencing grand adventures from home, and she hopes that others will join in her fantastical escapades! She is a native to bookstores, coffee shops, the beach, and San Diego, CA. She also has an unexplainable aversion to clowns and describes outlines as a “proverbial noose.” You can find her at: her Website, Twitter, Goodreads and Amazon

Life, On Writing

In Which I have Another Guest

tea
pictured: a cuppa

If you have a moment, put your feet up, grab a cuppa and a biscuit and settle down as I have another guest on this blog. Today, on this slightly overcast English morn’, I am joined by E. Kaiser Writes, author of Jeweler’s Apprentice and the new Thaw series.

Tell me a little about your writing journey.

As a homeschooled child I was given the gift of being an early reader, so I was into the abridged version of Little Women at nine years old. When Jo March tried writing stories and books I had an epiphany; I had no idea books were written by people.  Suddenly I knew that was what I wanted to do when I grew up!

I asked Mom how I should go about that, and she advised reading a lot; (pretty good advice from someone who was guessing!) So I did, to the detriment of my chores, sometimes!

 In my teens I started trying to wrangle my thoughts on paper and that was very difficult. I went through a tumultuous period all through there where I’d get discouraged that I’d “never be published, so why spend so much time on a dead-end?” as my brother put it. But I couldn’t endure not writing, and so I’d be back at it.

I rarely finished anything, sometimes only brushing out a scene with no story; but it was all great practice.

I wrote my first complete novel draft as a gift for my youngest sister in ’07, and she liked it so much she encouraged me to make a sequel. The first ms of Jeweler’s Apprentice took four years of improvements and tweaking, then we put it out as an e-book in 2011. Met several great fans through that, and they also encouraged a sequel, so I wrote Traitor’s Knife and we released that in July 2013.

What inspired you to write the Thaw series?

I’d wanted to write a Winter Queen piece for some time, but was galvanized into action by all the things Frozen did wrong. It was just wrenching to see how many themes and deep meanings were just SKIPPED by Disney. There was soo much that could have, SHOULD have been done… and once I get mad at someone doing a story wrong, it can be like rocket fuel to my own version ; ). I include summaries of the source tales at the beginnings of the Thaw: books, educating readers on the original tales to prime them for my versions. : )

We do borrow from the Disney version, (it is a universal truth that as soon as Disney does something that becomes America’s version of the tale!) Some of the ideas were too cute to toss, one of them being the family with 13 princes. Having recently met a family with 8 kids under the age of ten, and hearing of the derogatory remarks their mother receives, that opportunity to contrast Noran’s two-daughter family with Demargen’s 13-son one was too good to pass up.

And the spin-offs are irresistible! : )

And Anderson seems a little stuck on roses… they populate his tales quite a lot! In fact a quick search of “Roses Hans Christian Anderson” produces interesting results! So, those definitely needed to feature prominently, and it was actually a little fun to stick rose cameos all over the place. : )

Do you have a favourite character in the series? If so, who is it and why?

Ilise would probably be my favorite because she is so like me… her faults are my own flaws, her triumph what I hope to be someday! Magnifying each for dramatic affect was actually fun, after I pushed past the tough decision to just write deeply honestly. (When writing her argument with her mother as a teen, I could just hear the echoes of my own daughter/mother outbursts!)

But they are all very real and near and dear to my heart.

Can you sum up each book with a single word?

Oh, no!!! That is just too cruel of a question to ask. There’s a REASON I wrote two 100k novels + a novella when I tried to get this story out of my head!! I couldn’t do it any shorter! But, just to humor you, I’ll give it a go:

 Thaw: Winter’s Child – Disappointment
Thaw: Winter Queen – Emergence
Thaw: Prince of Demargen – Victory
Thaw: Reindeer King – Culmination
Thaw: Princess of Noran – Wrap-up

Coffee or Tea?

Definitely not a tea drinker, I only love it if it is nice and sweet, and too much sweet makes my teeth hurt. (True story! My teeth get sensitive to hot of cold, I cut back on sugary stuff, and my teeth get fine again.)

I do like a bit of coffee in my milk and honey : )

Paper or Computer?

My stories come to me snippet by snippet, and Word programs are the greatest thing! I can type loads faster than hand write, as well as rearranging sentences and words a ton quicker! My writing time is often limited, so I have a keen sense of urgency when I sit down to my keyboard.

I am total non-chronological writer, so I sit down the get the scenes out from my head, and let the story grow like that. It can be incredibly frustrating because it’s so obviously out of my control. But if I don’t panic, relax and trust the process: it’s fantastic! I love the stories that come, and I love being a part of writing them.

And I’m super grateful to the Master Writer for letting me join in on the process

Thank you very much for joining me today, Elizabeth, and all the best for your series launch : )

E. Kaiser Writes credits her nearly nomadic childhood for the vast reach of her fictional worlds; she has lived (and gotten to known the locals) in the Rocky Mtns, the Smoky Mtns, the plains, the deep forest, the searing Texas summer and frozen Minnesota north.

 She wears many hats: writer and editor of ad copy, web copy, office correspondence & fiction; a cowgirl, animal trainer, seamstress, jeweler, artist and… authoress!

You can find her on her website, Twitter, Pinterest, and her books at Amazon and Goodreads.

Life, On Writing

In Which I have a Guest

I have a guest. A guest on this blog. This is a very auspicious occasion. Ahem. With me, on this rain-drenched English morning, is Rachel Heffington, author of Anon, Sir, Anon – a cozy murder mystery set in foggy Northamptonshire. Join us as we talk of geckos, plotting and the Dreaded Writer’s Block (in no particular order).

A very warm welcome to of words & books, Rachel. First of all – congratulations on the second of your books being published! Now you are a veteran author, what is the main difference in the experience of publishing Anon, Sir, Anon as opposed to that of your first book – Fly Away Home?

Thank you, Ness! The main difference is that this time, I am employed as a nanny of two little girls and my brother is getting married ten days after the release of this mystery. Thus, I chose to hire out the editing and all of the formatting. Last time ‘round, I chose to only hire out the cover design. I have to say that, though expensive, letting other people do the work you are unfamiliar with is a good tactic to the schedule-ly challenged.

What’s your most memorable moment in the writing of Anon, Sir Anon? (And this can be anything – an eureka moment, a ‘that’s it I’m done’ minute, or ‘this. is. amazing’ etc)

Definitely the moment I wrote the Finding-the-Body scene. I wrote it out of order, but I still consider it one of the best scenes in the book. It was one of those, “This is not going to need terribly much editing…is it?”

Was there ever a moment in which the dreaded writer’s block hit? If so, how did you conquer it? Or did you escape unscathed?

Once I realized that I was writing a mystery and it had to make sense and not have plot-holes, I did have a momentary splinter of panic. I kept my head and planned, though, and that helped things a great deal. I was also blessed with wonderful beta-readers who could steer me when I’d gone off course.

Did your characters waltz into your head without so much as a ‘by-your-leave’ or did inspiration strike, and if so – where, when and how did that inspiration strike?

Inspiration stalked me in the form of a book plucked at random off a library shelf. It was a small, well-written history of detective fiction..and it caused Farnham to plummet into existence with a supercilious smile.

Did you plot? Or simply write and watch the story unfold? Or were you somewhere in-between the two?

I have to plot a mystery–you obviously can’t exactly run a good show with the author being just as confused as the characters–believe me, I’ve tried. But in general, I like to let the story unfold as it may.

Writing or editing?

Reading. Then polishing. Then reading. But honestly, I panic till the story is down, because plot is my Achille’s Heel. So I would say that, in a weird way, I prefer editing. At least I know there is a proper skeleton tacked down.

Are there any crime-writers which are just your cup of tea? And if so, who?

I have not extensively read mysteries, but I am very fond of Dorothy L. Sayers, though she can get a bit technical in setting. (Staring gruffly at Nine Tailors)

Do you have an absolute top-of-the top favourite fictional hero?

Mr. George Knightley. Or a certain character in Jennifer Freitag’s Plenilune. But truly, secondary men seem to be my cuppa.

… and heroine?

I’m with Mark Twain on this one: Anne Shirley

Have you another mystery just waiting to be written, or will you wait for a little while before continuing with Vivi and Farnham’s adventures?

I have begun sketchy work on the second Vivi & Farnham mystery: Scotch’d The Snakes. I do not, however, anticipate that I will be able to devote much concentrated time to it until after the holidays.

Whence do you go from here? Another mystery? A different genre?

You never can tell with bees.

Cats, dogs or geckos?

Cats. I have heard geckos bite. Dogs simply smell bad and lick one’s knuckles.

Ah, it wounds my soul to hear your description of dogs. But, nevertheless, thank you very much for popping in, Rachel! And all the very best for your brother’s wedding : )

Who is this Author?

Rachel Heffington is a novelist, a nanny, and a people-lover living in rural Virginia with her family and black cat, Cricket. Her first novel, Fly Away Home, was independently published in February of 2014, while her novella, The Windy Side of Care, was published by Rooglewood Press in the Five Glass Slippers anthology in June of 2014. Visit Rachel online at www.inkpenauthoress.blogspot.comAnon Sir Anon EBOOK and enter a giveaway to celebrate Anon‘s release here.

… and what is this cozy novel about?

The 12:55 out of Darlington brought more than Orville Farnham’s niece; murder was passenger. In coming to Whistlecreig, Genevieve Langley expected to find an ailing uncle in need of gentle care. In reality, her charge is a cantankerous Shakespearean actor with a penchant for fencing and an affinity for placing impossible bets. When a body shows up in a field near Whistlecreig Manor and Vivi is the only one to recognize the victim, she is unceremoniously baptized into the art of crime-solving: a field in which first impressions are seldom lasting and personal interest knocks at the front door. Set against the russet backdrop of a Northamptonshire fog, Anon, Sir, Anon cuts a cozy path to a chilling crime.

… and from whence can I find this intriguing book?

Kindle

Paperback

Goodreads