Tag Archives: Writing

Settings

There was a discussion recently on kboards.com about whether writers “live” near where their books are set. Since I write mostly fantasy and science fiction, that would definitely be “no.” Yet a lot of writers do seem to write about places near where they call home. Stephen King is a perfect example of this, with so many of his books set in Maine. Others seem to go the opposite way, and I fall into this bunch. I like to write about places I’ve only visited, or even places that I’ve never been (but would love to see.)

An example of this is Heart of the Witch. I based the continent of Argessa on Australia; there is coastal rainforest, a mountain range, and then a large desert in the heart of the continent.  The closest I have come to rainforests comes from travel to tropical parts of Mexico, Hawaii, and walking through swampland and forests in Florida. The only mountains I’ve been on include northern Arizona, California, Nevada, and also the Alps in Switzerland.

I can count the number of times I’ve been in the snow on my fingers, and yet I set much of Journey to Landaran in an alpine setting in the dead of winter, with snow everywhere. Yes, I had to confer with beta readers who were more used to wintry weather to check my facts. But I can tell that that coming from a hot desert, I know what it’s like to get cold, because I get cold easily!

For me, I’m fascinated by that which is new and different to me. I’ve always had a love of forests–my grandmother had a cabin at Silver Lake in northern California, and I absolutely loved the place even though there was no electricity. Or toilets. (We did have a sink, which drew water directly from the lake.) I was also an exchange student in Germany, and lived for a summer in a tiny village in the middle of the Black Forest. I think that’s why these kinds of settings are so much richer and more interesting to me. I can write about deserts, sure. I’ve lived in one my entire life. But I do love variety. And what better excuse to travel than for research? I’ve visited San Francisco enough times that I feel pretty confident writing about it. When I dreamt up a story about Mayan ruins, I researched them, and I was finally able to visit a Mayan ruin a few years back.

We are formed by that which is familiar to us, but also that which is foreign and strange. “Write what you know” might be a popular axiom, but I’d add “Don’t be afraid to wander abroad into the unknown.”

Oh, and today’s featured image? That’s a picture I took from a helicopter tour of Maui.

Maui

Back! Sort of.

Ugh, what a month it’s been!  I didn’t really make much of an announcement, but I’ve been away since late March due to surgery. I had a painful arch condition which I had to get fixed, and then I was basically homebound (and even chair-bound in the beginning) and on paid meds. So no, didn’t get any writing done last month.

But I’m recovering now. And slowly trying to get back into the groove of things.  I wrote the first words on the second Spirit Mage book that I have in a month. The book is currently 57,000 words long, so I’m about halfway through it. Last month I published Ogres At Alcatraz Isle, and this month there will be a sale on this title as well. I also plan on releasing a science fiction short story two-pack in a couple of months.

So yes, I’m still here!  Just writing, or trying to.

Feeling Basically Blasé

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I’ve been in kind of a funk lately, when it comes to my fantasy and science fiction writing. That’s not to say that I’m not writing at all; in fact, I’m writing more now than ever before. I just happen to be writing under a different pen name in a completely different genre (romance). I eke out about 200 words a day on the sequel to Journey To Landaran, but I know that’s pretty pathetic. And yet I can’t seem to make myself go faster.

I write my fantasy novels very, very slowly. I always have. It took me five years to write Heart of the Witch. It took me a similar time to write Journey To Landaran. (Actually it was longer, but I also took a few years off while raising a small child on my own.)

And up until about June I continued to write shorter pieces as well, like the next installment of Cathy Pembroke, Ogres At Alcatraz Isle. That one is currently submitted to Tor.com, but I don’t really have high hopes for it. I feel kind of like a failure in what was originally my first love, fantasy.

This may change, of course. There’s some icky stuff going on in my personal life that isn’t helping, and my daughter is still struggling daily with depression and having the courage to be herself. I may get a little quiet on this blog in the meantime. I’ve scheduled some free days for Journey To Landaran next week, Dec. 3-5, mostly because it’s the end of the time that I plan to have the book in Kindle Select. Then I’m opening it up for distribution everywhere in ebook form.

I have two projects to publish for next year, both short. I’ll slowly keep writing Fall of the Guardians so that people can continue to follow Aidah and Tavish’s journey.

And I’ll just hope and pray for a brighter tomorrow.

Yes, Joe! YES!!

I just want to post this link to Joe Konrath’s latest blog post from yesterday, where he discusses trolls and writer reactions to reviews.

http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2014/04/suffering-fools.html

All I can say is AMEN!!!!!  A professional writer does not react. A professional writer writes, and lets everyone else say what they will about their books, engage in discussions or rants, etc. They do not engage, unless a fan emails them directly with a question.

And to any writer who can’t bear to watch others tear their “baby” apart, just don’t read it. Don’t. Walk away, and go back to writing. Read a few books on writing, join a writing workshop or critique group, listen to your beta readers. But don’t engage with reviews once you’ve hit that “publish” button. If your book has a low average and it’s not some unreasonable attack, then it means you have work to do to improve your craft. Suck it up and just do that, then.

That is all!

Urgent!

death_star11

So I’m currently reading The Shining by Stephen King, among some other books (I always read more than one book at a time.) The book is reaching the critical climatic scene, and it’s hard to put down.

And I’ve been paying attention to common elements of other books that have pulled me, made me want to hide out and read it straight through. Certain books have that urgency that makes you want to turn the page, find out what happens next.

And I saw one common similarity, whether the genre is horror, mystery, or even YA science fiction.

It’s time.

A time limit, to be exact–a physical deadline or countdown that the characters must face in dealing with whatever major problems they may have. In the Shining, time becomes important as Hallorman the cook races to get to the hotel to save the little boy as his father turns more and more violent. The chapters make a point of letting the reader know what time it is, and what is happening in the different locations. Other Stephen King novels also utilize this countdown. I recently finished 11/22/63, a time travel novel where you’d think you had all the time in the world. But the character is trying to stop the Kenney assassination, and the closer he comes to the date (and then to the exact moment), the crazier and more dangerous things become.

You wonder why there are so many bombs in crime action shows like NCIS? Instant countdown!

You can look at other successful books and the strategy is there as well. Harry Potter Goblet of Fire uses the wizard tournament as the countdown date, with the climax taking place in the middle of the last trial. In the first Star Wars movie (that would be Episode IV) the countdown is the Death Star’s arrival at the rebel base ticking right down to the last seconds before firing their master weapon. Even in as long and sprawling a novel as Lord of the Rings, you have a countdown in two ways: the dwindling food and overall health of Frodo, wondering if he’ll last long enough to get to Mount Doom, framed against the unleashing of Mordor’s troops to take over the city of Gondor and the Fellowship trying to bring aid in time.

It’s all about time.

So basically if you want to really create that sense of urgency in your book, then take a look at your climax. Can you set a date that is known to the characters for what is going to happen? Or perhaps a converging of forces that will inevitably force them to hurry up before it’s too late? I did this in my own latest book, Journey To Landaran by having the villain up the stakes, sending a force to block Aidah from reaching her destination, the city of Landaran. But to best use that sense of urgency, the characters have to know that time is running out.

Readers will want to hurry up and read what happens.

Author Interview: Jenelle Schmidt

Today’s interview is with Jenelle Schmidt, a YA fantasy writer who has been in the business for several years but recently got into indie publishing. You can find out more about Jenelle on Goodreads here:

http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3636.Jenelle_Leanne_Schmidt

jenelle

1. I see that you developed a love of writing from having stories read to you. How
do you think your love of books has influenced you as a person?

This is an excellent question. I believe my love of books has made me far more
introspective and thoughtful. I know it has inspired my imagination and sparked
a lot of creativity in me that otherwise might have remained dormant. And, of
course, it inspired me to write, to create my own worlds and characters. Books
are so much a part of who I am, it’s hard to figure out where their influence
ends and I begin sometimes.

2. You’ve been epublishing longer than many others! How did you first decide to
indie publish, and what was it like?

Actually, I only just recently got into e-publishing. But I did publish my
first book under a different title a good 9 years ago. When I first really got
serious about publishing about 6 years ago, I spent a long time re-writing and
editing (and having other editors besides myself look at my ms) my first book.
I armed myself with the 2007 Guide to Literary Agents and started sending out
queries. Over the course of time I sent out maybe twenty or thirty query
letters to agents.

I received all of 3 or 4 responses. One was actually a request for the first
five pages of my book, which the agent then declared (kindly and gently) was,
“Sadly not what she was hoping for.”

After much time waiting and never receiving any sort of response, I finally
decided that I could spend the rest of my life writing query letters (which I
hated) or I could spend the rest of my life writing books (which I loved). In
the end, it wasn’t a difficult decision. I am blessed with the ability to not
have to depend on my writing for a living, as my husband has a wonderful job
and my other “title” is “stay-at-home-mom.”

So far, self-publishing has been a lot of fun. It’s scary, and a lot of really
hard work, but it’s all work I enjoy, and I have much more control over my
finished product than I would if I had an agent or a traditional publisher. It
has also given me the opportunity to create a publishing/marketing company with
my siblings – and I wouldn’t trade that experience for any amount of advance a
traditional company might offer.

3. What about YA fantasy appeals to you?

I have always loved fantasy, but it’s hard to find adult fantasy that is really
“clean” (no sleeping around, swearing, etc). So, I like to hang out
in the YA fantasy section, where I can get all the extraordinary worlds, heroic
characters, mythical creatures, quests, magic, and spell-binding plotlines
without having to slog through anything objectionable.

I also grew up with my dad reading out loud to myself and my brothers, and the
idea of fantasy that can be read together by the entire family has always
appealed to me. There’s just something so cozy and fun and wholesome about a
family reading together, and I when my dad challenged me to write something he
could read aloud to my younger siblings, the idea caught my imagination and
away we went! I would love to be able to share that experience with other
families.

4. Tell me about your latest book.

My latest book is also the only book I have released so far, though the prequel
will be released in the next couple of months – we’re just waiting on the cover
art to be finalized.

King’s Warrior: book one of the Minstrel’s Song – is about a princess whose
country is about to be invaded by an unknown enemy. Her father sends her off on
a quest to find a man who can help them, one who defended their land in the
past. Finding him, however, proves to be the easiest part of her quest.

If I had to sum it up in just a few words, I would say this book has it all: a
quest, a mysterious warrior, dragons, kings, wizards, magic, adventure,
sword-fights, and a teeny tiny bit of romance.

5. Who is your favorite writer and why?

My favorite writer was my Grandma Gwen Walker. She wrote a book called “He
Whistles for the Cricket” and I grew up reading it over and over again. It
is a charming, beautiful little book about a girl and her dog living in the
Midwestern United States in the 1940s. It makes me laugh and cry every time I
read it.

Two Christmases ago, I got it typed up and published for her – as a present to
my family, though she is not alive to see it. It is my favorite book of all
time, and probably much of the reason I became an author myself. I think just
knowing that someone I knew had written an entire book was an inspiration to
me. I started writing my own stories as soon as I could hold a pencil and write
real words. I don’t know if I would have even dreamed of writing books if she
hadn’t written one first.

6. What are you working on next?

There are so many things that I am working on right now it’s amazing I’m still
sane! Second Son is ready to go, and then I need to start work editing book
three of The Minstrel’s Song (a series of 4 books). All the books in this
series are complete and in various stages of the editing process.

This summer I finished writing my fifth book, a completely new
story/world/character-set, and just started work on the sequel to that book.

I also have a sci-fi series that is in the beginning stages of development, and
a few other ideas percolating. Really, the biggest difficulty right now is
time, as I am also stay-at-home mom of two beautiful little girls ages 5 years
and 18 months. I’m not lacking for projects or ideas! It’s a wonderful problem
to have.

7. Do you promote? If so, what has been the most successful for you?

I do, though I need to get better about this. So far, what we’ve done has
included: goodreads giveaways, kindle select free-promotions, author
interviews, read-to-review giveaways, trying to get my book into libraries, and
a book signing at Barnes and Noble.

I’m not sure which has been the most successful. They’ve all been very good
experiences and have taught me a lot about the process of marketing and
promoting. I think having a variety of avenues to promote in is valuable. We
are looking into new avenues to pursue and trying to figure out which ones will
be the most useful – but we aren’t really “experts” yet… though we
do hope to become experts in this field eventually.

8. Any other advice for writers?

The advice I tend to give is pretty basic. The best advice I ever got about
writing was from my dad, who told me, “If you want to be a writer, you
need to be writing.”

It seems so simple, but it’s true. Write! Something, anything, even just a
little bit, every day.

The other bit of advice is to read. Never stop reading. Become an expert in
your genre. Read outside your genre. Learn what works by reading other authors.

Thanks so much for having me over for an interview!

Writers and Friends

It’s such a cliché. The lonely writer, locked up in his or her study, typing away at the great novel.

Friends

Writers tend to be more solitary than the rest, and with good reason. It takes a lot of time and concentration to shut yourself away and string together words, paragraphs, scenes, chapters, novels. A writer can often spend more time living inside their own head than in the real world.

So where does this leave a writer’s friends?

Too many times, it leaves them wondering where their writer friend has disappeared to.

Writers tend to have more failed marriages, more problems in relationships, etc. because they simply aren’t there. I have struggled with this as well, but I think claiming that you need your writing time is a lazy excuse. Even writers need friends. In fact, I think they may need them more than the average Joe. If you don’t have contact with friends, family, people in general, how can you possibly write about human relationships?

Then too there is the depression that can afflict writers as well. All that sitting and staring at a computer screen. Staying up late, or hiding away in a dark room.

Friends can help writers with issues like this as well.

Like many writers I find myself falling into a habit of not calling, not keeping in touch, and losing track of time. Add having a kid and a full time job on top of that, and months can go by without me seeing or talking with my friends.

Then suddenly one day I’ll find myself feeling alone and sad.

So this past weekend, I reached out to someone I hadn’t seen in over a year. Yes, we occasionally text or email each other. But that’s no replacement for actual physical meeting and hanging out. I had a great time, I feel connected once more, and I’m happier.

So remember, fellow writers, not to neglect your friends. Reach out to them occasionally. Do stuff with them. Talk.

You may find it actually helps you be a better writer. Not to mention a happier one.