Archive for the ‘art’ Category

I’ve finished reading my sixth novel for 2020, Once Upon a River, by the award-winning British author, Diane Setterfield. My sister gave it to me as a Christmas present. My sister has a reputation as the book giver in the family and she has excellent taste. I started reading it immediately but you can’t rush a book like this. I had to savour it in stages and read other lighter books in between. So rich, so complex, so steeped in magic and myth is Once Upon a River, that I didn’t want it to end.

By reading slowly and in stages, I made it last six months! And it has been a beautiful ride.

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They say that opening lines, or opening pages, are vital to get right to draw most of us into buying or reading a book. From the first moment, ‘The Story Begins… There was once an inn that sat peacefully on the bank of the Thames at Radcot, a long day’s walk from the source’ we know that this tale is something special. It’s a subtle choice of opener with the promise of glorious things to come. Once Upon a River opens by introducing us to the Thames river along with the ancient, brooding inn called The Swan where the regulars gather every night to hear and tell stories. Then we get hit between the eyes by the central question that kicks off the novel, a man arrives late at night, his face split apart, carrying a girl who has drowned in the river…until she comes back to life again.

So the mystery of the dead girl who came to life unwinds and draw us in.

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This richly told haunting historic novel takes us back to the dawn of Darwinism and has the delicious darkness of British Gothic Literature. It is as if Setterfield transports us to that era. I enjoyed the interplay of mythology and symbolism alongside the visceral rendering of a bygone time in history.

We follow the fall-out of this strange event at The Swan, as the ripples continue outward from the central mystery of the mute girl’s identity and what has happened to her. Setterfield answers nothing quickly. We hear the lyricism and enjoy the tale as we become involved in the characters, described so vividly we can see them every time we close our eyes.

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Setterfield’s genius way of blending astute observation of human characters and the brilliant rendering of setting and scene has its own music just as does the river that flows through the story. I cannot downplay how moved I was by the sheer mastery of the storytelling. There is horror, romance, mystery, drama, suspense, and I love that there is an emotional underpinning, too, in this story. That this lost girl brings up the issues of parenthood, losing children, and wanting children in the surrounding people, sentiments which are feelings familiar to most of us. We’re engaged on the emotional level, which is important.

It’s both hard to review a book as brilliant as this and even harder to come up with criticism. The only niggle for me was the number of different plot-lines and the multitude of characters were hard to keep up with, but even that couldn’t stop me reading with sheer joy. Setterfield brings each person’s story to life in such a genuine way I was happy to juggle them in my head while I waited for the overall story to make sense. A superb writer will make you read, anyway, right?

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Diane Setterfield (born 22 August 1964)  is the writer I want to be when I grow up. Her first novel, The Thirteenth Tale, released in 2006 became a New York Times No.1 bestseller and won her the 2007 Quill Award, Debut author of the year. The BBC adapted it for television in 2013, starring Vanessa RedgraveOlivia Colman, and Sophie Turner.

Critics have hailed Setterfield’s latest offering, Once Upon a River, as ‘Magical’ and ‘Dazzling.’ Released in 2019, there is now a television series being made by Kudos, the same people who created Broadchurch, Spooks and Grantchester. Some reviewers have compared Diane Setterfield with other great writers from the past. Some have placed Once Upon a River somewhere ‘between fairytale and a science story.’ I think Setterfield is creating a new breed of fiction, borrowing from the old, drawing from the new, and creating an evocative, spellbinding, fresh form of historic literature in a class all her own. More power to her!

My rating: Four and three-quarter stars.

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Talk to you later.

Keep creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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‘Afterwards there was a pause. It wasn’t done to jump in too quickly with a new story before the last one was properly digested.’ ~ Once Upon a River

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One thing I have noticed recently has been the explosion of creativity both from me and from other people similarly cooped-up around the globe. I know friends and family who are having the longest holiday they’ve had in years, and other people living in fear and suffering. I’ve heard friends say they’ve gotten out of their comfort zones and taken online classes in playing guitar and learning new skills, a friend who had always wanted to start a blog wrote her first blog post. As a writer, I’m driven to put it all into words, daily, whether that be through writing my blog, snippets for my monthly newsletter or using my daily journal. Everyone’s finding ways of expressing themselves. There have been copious blog posts, home movies, Zoom recordings turned into podcasts, vocalists singing on balconies, musicians recording songs of hope and live streaming on various social media, memes, tweets, tik-toks and so it goes on. It seems isolation brings out the creative soul in people.

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In times of crisis, the artists of the world come to the fore.

I watched a fascinating webinar last week. The webinar was a conversation between three people in the media entertainment industry. Michelle Walshe, co-founder and CEO of creative content agency Augusto Group asked questions of a local girl made good, Chrissy Metge, in the UK, author, founder and creative director of Fuzzy Duckling Media, and Sam Witters, CEO of Fuzzy Duckling about how Covid-19 has affected the world of entertainment media, films, TV and animation, and what things will look like for the creative community going forward, in New Zealand and abroad.

Sam Witters spoke about the phenomena we’ve all of us noticed and been talking about, and that is “the incredible velocity of connectivity.” Since lockdown started in New Zealand, I’ve had phone calls, Zoom calls, Skype calls, online meetings and virtual drinks, I’ve had daily phonecalls with the family and I already have face times planned for the week ahead. As we are all at home and connected to the web, it’s as if we’re available to everyone around the clock.

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As Chrissy Metge put it, “It’s like there’s no off button” which can have a draining effect.

Yet even so the mood among the experts was one of optimism and they showed progressive thinking, which is the feed we need in these lean times. “All the rules have gone out the window,” said Sam, “it’s open season. There is a huge opportunity to reinvent. He who tells his story best will get their product across.”

And Chrissy went one step further in her unashamedly glass half-full view. “It’s awful to say it, but I’m actually very excited. New Zealanders are renowned for creating something out of nothing, the no.8 wire. New Zealanders just need an opportunity to shine. There are going to be so many opportunities to come.”

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The feeling was that the pandemic has brought people closer together, despite the physical isolation, in that people were being more open with their feelings. “There’s a common bond,” said Chrissy. “This is affecting everyone. Whether you are directly affected or not there’s still a high stress level. There is strength in unity. Leverage each other and other people’s experience.” She suggested artists should create content that will really entertain people because they “have been through hell.” I related when Sam said “it’s traditional in tough times that the creatives lead us out.”

Sam predicted that when this is all over, “there’ll be a need to fill the air.”

We creatives and artists of every kind should prepare our stories, our pictures, our songs, our “bibles,” our pitches now.

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I’ve been working hard on the editing and reproduction of the first two books in my trilogy, The Chronicles of Aden Weaver, and the third book, The Last Tree, as we intend to release in June. I have been a whirlwind of productivity. Yes, the kids have been home underfoot, and yes it’s been stressful, but isolation has helped me to sit–put my butt in the literal chair–and plough through the stacks of editing.

I’ve found it inspires me to watch podcasts and webinars like the Creative Class, hearing from other artists in the creative community. Their proclivity to hope and growth is who I am. These are my people. It also helps the fire keep burning to hear from the movers and shakers. I think Sam Witter’s ‘parting words’ were brilliant. “Don’t be afraid. Move forward. Evolve. Pivot.” Exactly.

I believe we will get through this if we are creative thinkers and look out for each other.

Thomas M Madsen, visual artist

Thomas M. Madsen, visual artist

Talk to you later.

Keep creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Tóg go bog é. ~ Feel the stillness.

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It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Time to release our fears to the world or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post the first Wednesday of every month. Every month, the organisers announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG Day post. Remember, the question is optional!!!

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March 4 question – Other than the obvious holiday traditions, have you ever included any personal or family traditions/customs in your stories?

Not so much family traditions, however, there are other ways I’ve used family as a resource for my stories. The main character, Aden Weaver, who is the hero of my latest series, The Chronicles of Aden Weaver, resembles my youngest son. Aden is a year younger, but it’s still been useful whenever I’ve wondered how he would act or how he would view something to imagine my youngest and look at things through his eyes. It enabled me to gain access into the young male mindset. Conversely, for Aden’s leadership of the team, his plans, decisions and the way he spoke in every crisis, I brought to mind one of my nephews and he helped me capture that strong male warrior mentality and masculinity.

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I based the kindly yet stern grandfather figure in the series on my father, with his white shock of hair ‘standing off his head in a salute.’ I had to get my father’s hair into a story! It was wonderful and the bane of his life. Dad would carefully slick the hair on top of his head down every morning with some product and halfway through the day his hair would spring up again. If I pointed out how cute he looked, Dad would look horrified, although in a gently comedic way and scamper off to comb his hair again. He was a great model for Aden’s beloved grandfather. I took the character’s name, Papa Joe, directly from my younger boys’ paternal grandfather, Joseph, who signed his first card and a letter to the kids with “Papa Joe.” I loved the name the moment I saw it and knew I had to use it in a story one day. It was too good, too short, sweet and lyrical.

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I drew Aden’s grandmother, Nana Jeen, from my grandmother, except I gave Nana Jeen the hair I’ve always loved in children’s literature, long silver locks which she wears in a braid or coiled up. I mention Nana Jeen’s cooking often, and that was my grandmother, whose husband famously never once took her out to dinner. When asked why not, he would say, “Why would I go out to eat when I can eat so well at home?” Nana Jeen is soft, attentive and loving like Gran was and she cares enough to go the extra mile like remembering to make someone’s favourite sweets. She also likes a drink of strong liquor in the evening. Gran was partial to sherry.

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In my story, Nana Jeen disapproves of Papa Joe smoking cigars, whereas in real life my grandmother was fond of a private daily cigarette. Nana Jeen is also a kick-arse gal, who knows how to fight, being a trained warrior in the Order of Twenty-four, and I think Gran would have liked that.

Te Maia was a name I overheard in conversation, when my Maori sister-in-law said if she ever had a baby girl she’d name her Te Maia. It was such a beautiful name it stayed with me through the years. I gave Te Maia in The Chronicles of Aden Weaver disabilities because having my son Samuel who has Down syndrome, I’m drawn to include characters with special needs. Te Maia learns to fight, and she has a prodigious memory, and she also brings her healing skills with herbs and traditional medicine as assets to the team.

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Sun was an easy character to draw for me because I’d bring to mind another of my nephews. I worked as his live-in nanny, looking after him from the age of three weeks to seven years old. He quickly earned the nickname “Sumo-momo” for being a fearless, feisty, energetic, irrepressible dynamo. Sun is one of my favourite characters in the whole series. She has that special something my father used to call “spirit” that get-up-and-go quality.

When I think about it, I guess I have drawn on family liberally for characters for my stories.

What about you? Do you use family for inspiration?

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Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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Whether or not you write well, write bravely. ~ Bill Stout

It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Time to release our fears to the world–or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG. Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!

We post the first Wednesday of every month. Every month, the organisers announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG Day post. Remember, the question is optional!!!

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OPTIONAL IWSG Day Question: February 5 question – Has a single photo or work of art ever inspired a story? What was it and did you finish it?

In a word, no. However, as luck would have it, my friend, author Donatien Moisdon asked a question the other day in an email which I think would make an excellent question of the month.

Donatien: In your latest newsletter, I was very interested to read about your thoughts and those of your friends regarding the question: What makes a good novel?

For me, a writer of popular fiction, a good book entails the perfect marriage of a riveting story line and great characters. I have to feel a connection with the main character; I want to feel drawn to them and want to know what happens to them next.

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So when I’m writing a new story, I strive to know the characters first. I am a fan of the “story bible” or “book journal” which means I write the details of the characters, and setting, background, longhand in a special notebook. By this method, I develop my characters well before I ever start writing the story. The hope is to convey real characters who have depth.

I prefer a small cast. Donatien’s advice is to deal with only a limited number of characters and make sure that readers will recognize them easily.

I agree. I finished reading The Warlock by Michael Scott a few months ago. It boggled me for half the book, trying to remember the vast catalogue of players. For the second half of the book I had a handle on the enormous cast but I still got confused. Even the professional writers get it wrong.

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Donatien recommends keeping things clear in the reader’s mind especially in dialogue. It is very important for readers to know exactly who is saying what. Thus the importance of perfect punctuation.

So for a good book, you need a manageable number of characters. You need to hone good dialogue and pay attention to punctuation.

You also need a rivetting story line. I prefer adventure stories, and I have done since I first discovered the joy of reading as a young girl. And in writing popular or genre fiction for children, the goal is to take readers on a fabulous ride they won’t want to get off. In a story worth its salt the protagonist/s have to win fire (or the elixir) and bring it back to the tribe, but to get there, keep upping the pace, worsening the conflict for the protagonist and deepening the stakes.

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There is an infectious pace that kicks in on a brilliant story. You can’t stop turning the page. Donatien says, Rhythm is very important. Can each sentence be read in a loud voice for the first time by a newcomer without hesitation? If the reader stumbles, chances are the sentence needs work. To bring your writing alive in the reader’s mind, he suggests remembering to use all the senses. Place the reader at the very center of the action, but also at the center of the environment through the use of the five senses. Add a sixth sense: the sense of a dream.

For me, there’s also an X factor that marks a good book, that singular thing of being able to drift away with the words. It’s the fairy circle where you enter and the more you read the more you lose time. I like stories that take me away somewhere. My goal with every story I write is to return the reader to the shaded places of youth where they remember magic can happen, to inspire a sense of wonder. That is the holy grail.

How do you instill wonder? I’m always trying to figure it out! Do you know?

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Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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Storytelling is really one of the most wonderful things about human beings. And some of us get to be lucky enough to also be the storytellers. ~ Bryan Cranston

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*Please note this special request from Donatien: If you could find the time to read The Immortal Part, available on lirenligne.net, and let me know if I’ve managed to follow my own recipes, I’d be very grateful. On the lirenligne.net website, you have to click on Donatien Moisdon or The immortal Part, then “télécharger” (download) in the brown square. 

*Please remember to write a review. Thank you! 

It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Time to release our fears to the world–or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post the first Wednesday of every month. Every month, the organisers announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG Day post. Remember, the question is optional!!!

OPTIONAL January 8 question – What started you on your writing journey? Was it a particular book, movie, story, or series? Did you just “know” suddenly you wanted to write?

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Thinking about this question was like going back in time in my mind.

I thought it started when I wrote my first children’s story at seventeen. Why? It was the perfect escape from my life as a teen mum, living in a squalid upstairs flat, washing twenty dirty nappies in the bathtub every day, and making macaroni cheese with a different flavouring every night for dinner.

Then I thought no, it started further back than that. It started when I was seven and had first learned how to read and write. At school, I was a natural-born leader and could organize all the other crying kids into happy games of ring-a-roses and so on. However, I couldn’t do math, I struggled to learn to tell the time for years; I found every subject difficult apart from English because that was when invariably they would ask us to write a story. I can even remember one of the story prompts from when I was seven, ‘I was so scared when…’

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Every time the teacher asked the class to write a story, I would pick up my pencil and let fly with my imagination. There was ever a story to hand, I was never without one, and they tripped easily off the end of my pencil with ‘gay abandon’ as they used to say in the 60s. Suddenly I felt empowered suddenly I felt alive and suddenly I felt I could do anything!  I knew I could write a story. It felt wonderful to be sure of myself and to get good marks and encouragement for my work.

I loved expressing myself in the written word even then.

But the more I thought about it the more I thought no, it started further back than that. It began back when I used to tell my little brother spontaneous stories in our “curtain game” which we used to do when I was four and he was two.

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We had picture curtains displaying bright images of toys, dolls, trucks, and pets, and the game we used to play was to pick a picture and tell a story. My brother’s stories were a few words long while my stories could stretch on for fifteen minutes. I found story telling came to me easily, the ideas, the characters, the scenes tumbled out effortlessly, and the process gave me great joy.

Writing the stories down on paper began at seven, so I guess you could say my “writing journey” started properly then.

Into my twenties and thirties, I still wrote with pen and paper. I would spout off about how I liked the tactile aspect and that the thoughts seemed to flow more easily from brain via pen to real paper, and so on and so forth. But when I faced typing up the first draft of The Chronicles of Aden Weaver, in 2010, I had the unenviable task of typing up a 300,000 word handwritten manuscript. I chopped the story into three sections and I still had a huge job before me. I roped in a few people to take a few thousand words each, to make it less daunting. And it helped.

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However, when I finished that task, I felt burned. I never wrote another story with pen and paper. And you know what? I can write stories perfectly well on a computer, I’ve discovered the story writing is the same and you have the benefit of not having to transcribe your own tiny handwriting afterwards! Win-win. I published the first book in The Chronicles of Aden Weaver series, The Or’in of Tane Mahuta in 2015, the follow-up, The Sasori Empire in 2017, and the third book in the trilogy, The Last Tree is due out this year. It’s been a thrilling journey so far. I love writing stories no matter the medium, and I can’t wait to see where I go in the decade ahead.

I love writing fiction! Do you?

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Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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“Whatever you think you can do or believe you can do, begin it. Action has magic, grace and power in it.” ~ Goethe

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There’s something about being a writer where, mostly your stories, your characters live only in your head. They’re yours and yours alone to shape and mould and develop as the story genesis dictates. You get to know the characters so well and yet they remain in your mind’s eye only. Then comes the day where you get to see an artist’s rendition of your creation, and all these beautiful ideas that came from your head suddenly take on a new dimension. They come to life and become available to other people. I remember the first time this happened for me, when my nephew, Si, delivered the image for the first cover in The Chronicles of Aden Weaver series, The Or’in of Tane Mahuta. Here was a character from my imaginary world and it was special and magical and everything I could have asked for. Here was the young hero I’d grown to know so well, Aden Weaver. I couldn’t take my eyes off him.

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I made the picture my screensaver, put it on my website, shared it here on my blog, Facebook, I shared it high and low I was so over the moon. My buddy, Aden, the kid who had grown up through the development and writing of this series over the last fourteen years, had a face! It was extraordinary. I didn’t have to imagine him anymore. I think I smiled the rest of that day. And technically, with the manuscript ready and the cover art in hand, the whole process of publication could begin. That was 2015.

When I saw the interpretation of the villain, Chief Wako, for the cover of the second book, The Sasori Empire, two years later, I was blown away. Somehow Wako had all the presence and the confounding combination of good looks and menace I’d imagined. There’s something very gratifying about having an artist take up your words and turn them into an illustration. You and the artist collaborate to create a third thing that neither of you could have created alone. It’s a rewarding experience.

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I found the artwork fed back into the story because the illustrations had formed the characters’ contours and this altered further dialogue and actions. That was 2017.

Since then, I’ve been working on the third and final book in the series, The Last Tree. During that time, I’ve communicated back and forth with Si about thoughts for the cover art. Now and then he would ask me a specific question. After that I had to leave it up to him. As I’ve slogged through the last few weeks of intense editing, I began to anticipate that the artwork would soon arrive. I couldn’t wait to see what he would come up with. I trust his instincts and have great respect for his talents. His art is visually arresting and expresses his considerable mana, and he has the artist’s eye for composition and scale.

The deadline of sending the material for The Last Tree to the printer by November 4th was looming large, and I still had seen nothing from Si. Then, two days ago, an email arrived from him with an attachment. The cover art had arrived! I took a deep breath and opened it.

The Last Tree, cover art

When I first laid eyes on the image, my heart stood still. I couldn’t take it all in. I found there were no words. I stared at it for a full five minutes, absorbing it. I had given Si a brief on the most dynamic female in the series, the enigmatic Number Three. To my surprise, he’d rendered her from the side, and yet he’d captured her in the most impactful way. And he’d given us a new view of Aden, with emotion in his face. Mid-fight, there is action, there is feeling. There are so many levels to the image I could look at it all day.

He had done it again. Through the cover art, my story, my characters, my world had taken on two dimensions. They had become something almost tangible. They had taken that step outside of my imagination and into the public domain. The whole package goes to the printers in the morning. Exciting times!

What do you think of the cover art? I’d love to hear from you!

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Keep your face always toward the sunshine, and shadows will fall behind you. ~ Walt Whitman

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When I first started writing my third book, The Last Tree, I was able to refer to a simple map I’d made. I had sketched a quick idea of what I thought the Land of Fire and Ice looked like when I began writing the series. And I’ve used this as a reference over the last fourteen years I’ve been working on The Chronicles of Aden Weaver series. But a simple sketch would not be enough to accompany the final book in the trilogy. The challenge was to upgrade my rough sketch to something I could put in my book. Last weekend, I turned that rough draft into a map to go inside the front cover.

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This is how I did it. The place I started with this job was probably the first most important stop the author should make, and that is to sit down and read the entire story making sure your map is as accurate as possible. Once I had checked the placement of every element and what each area looked like, I felt confident to go ahead.

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The next step was to take an A4 piece of art paper and draw a rectangular frame in the middle of the page with a ruler.

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Then I transferred the details of the landscape from my sketch onto the art paper as if I were closer and on a lower angle, rather than the flat bird’s-eye view. I added a few more details just to make it interesting, like showing the site where the group first landed and the site of the shrine they visited in Book Two. I added a compass in the top right hand corner, giving the cardinal directions.

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In each book of the chronicles trilogy, I’ve included two of my pen and ink illustrations. The ink pen is a favourite medium of mine. And it’s a traditional medium for illustrations in children’s chapter books, too, which is rather fortunate.

Once you are satisfied with the way the map looks in pencil and that the features are in the right place, you can use ink. This is the truly fun part of creating your own map. Think of all these adult colouring in books you can get these days. I can attest it is way more fun to make your own. And it’s easy.

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Go over your pencil landmarks and features with a selection of black ink pens in varying nib sizes, (available at any art store) to fill in the lines. It really is fun and I take my time to enjoy the process.

To finish the picture, every map needs a sturdy border. I gave my map a thick border as if it was a painting in a frame. I filled the framework in with a leafy motif made more dramatic by silhouetting the leaves with black ink.

The map took me the whole day. And it was a day well spent.

What do you think? It’s simple to create your own map to go with your story. You can do it too, so let me know if you do. I’d love to hear about it!

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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“Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss it you will land among the stars.” ~ Les Brown

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Subscribe to my Newsletter by emailing me with “Newsletter Subscription” in the subject line to: yvettecarol@hotmail.com

I remember when I first joined LinkedIn, one of the interesting writers I met over there (on the group forums) was a deaf ex-lawyer. Having gone deaf in his adulthood, he had learned to appreciate both writing and reading intensely, as a way of communicating with the world that had become vital to him. He was in his sixties and wanted to become an author, so he could work from home, therefore he was deeply motivated and interested in learning everything there was to know about writing fiction. He was part of one of the short story groups. After a few months, this writer asked me if I had ever thought of putting out a newsletter, ‘about your writer’s journey, what you learn along the way.’ He said, ‘I’d subscribe to it.’  That was incentive enough and I jumped in the deep end.

You hear that a lot these days if you’re an author, about how you need to compile an email list and put out a newsletter.

I thought I would never get around to it. I’m lazy with the marketing side of the business and don’t do half the things I’m supposed to. At any rate, because my friend on LinkedIn asked me to start one, in 2014, I started writing a fortnightly newsletter.

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I sent the letter to him and to a handful of family members and a few friends from places like LinkedIn and my Wanatribe group, ‘Writing for Children.’ It was basically an artfully decorated letter put together in Word, sent out by group email.

A friend who is a photographer and all round hip gal, and who is one of my subscribers asked me once, “Why don’t you use a newsletter service to make it look more professional?” I had to admit trying and failing to figure out how to use Mailchimp about four times. I can barely figure out how to use a phone let alone an online operating system. My friend said, “That’s okay, your newsletter is quirky and it’s who you are.”

However, I felt the gauntlet had been thrown down, and I had to rise to the occasion.

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That’s why I showed up at Mailchimp’s door again, cap in hand, and tried to figure out how to use the system for the fifth time. This time, thankfully, things fell into place and the newsletter went digital. The whole process of working with the Mailchimp templates: writing the copy, editing, choosing colours, fonts, adding images, and then enhancing them and adding effects is cool fun, too. It’s like being a kid again.

My friend asked, how long does it take you to craft one of these babies? In the beginning, the newsletter took two days to produce, but I have managed to whittle it down to half a day. Last year, the big change was to go from producing the newsletter fortnightly to monthly. I far prefer the monthly format.

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On the weeks in between issues, there are links for fascinating writing articles to collect, as well as photos and jokes. At the end of the month, I compile and post the newsletter and have grown to love the whole process.

It’s creative in a different way to anything else. It gives the mind a break, creating a nice rest from the intense focus of editing fiction.

Whenever I begin writing I think, is this for the blog or for the newsletter? Some thoughts turn into short stories. However, all posts, no matter how random will find their niche. The newsletter provides another avenue of expression. Yet – as I told my friend on LinkedIn – I always worry with social media, that I’ll “put my foot in it” and say the wrong thing.

He replied, ‘Why not make a jolly habit of putting your foot in it? The writing world needs more unedited truth. “Putting my foot in it,” there’s your motto. I can see it all now … fans showing up to hear ever more about the king with no clothes on. Is there not far too much conventional thinking in the wannabe writer world?’

He gave me the confidence to carry on, and five years later, the letter’s still going strong.

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Former writing partner, author and YouTube sensation, Maria Cisneros-Toth said the other day that when she gets my newsletter, she ‘always wants to go and get an iced tea and sit and read, because it feels like a letter you’ve written to a good friend.’

It was reassuring to hear. That’s exactly the way I want people to feel, because that means the newsletter has stayed true to its essence and genesis.

It always was about communicating with a friend who wanted to hear more about a writer’s journey. So, here’s to truth and more of it … and to valuing good friends!

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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*Subscribe to my newsletter by visiting the landing page of my website

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“We must always change, renew, rejuvenate ourselves; otherwise, we harden” – Goethe

The benefits of reading for the writer are multi-fold. I knew that. Yet, there were a lot of years in the middle of my life where I wasn’t reading modern fiction.

I discovered the joy of reading, as a little kid. A trip to the library each week was a part of our pre-school and early school life. I can remember eagerly choosing books and taking them home to savour. Then somewhere along the way I lost the habit. I felt guilty. I was embarrassed that I wasn’t reading.

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Anyone who follows this blog will have heard me talk about the wonderful writer, Kate de Goldi, our award winning kiwi writer. I admire her work and she is a great teacher, too. When I did Kate’s Writing for Children workshop, in 2005, she was emphatic about how important it was for us to read. In the very first lecture she gave, Kate said, ‘Read the genre constantly, get immersed in the form.’ She finished the lecture with the exhortation to, ‘Read, read, read. Write, write, write. Read, read, read. Write, write, write.’

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At the time, my two youngest boys were one and three, and I was trying to work on my stories, and be a good wife and run the household, and I was busy. I was too busy and exhausted to read. Then, I became complacent.

Last Christmas, however, I decided enough was enough.

At the start of this year, I made a private resolution that I was going to start reading again.

So far, it has been incredible. Every time I find myself at a second hand bookstore, or a book fair, I buy every middle grade book I see that looks interesting. I have built quite a library. And, I’ve started happily working my way through my collection.

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I’ve read all sorts of novels: Margaret Mahy’s Raging Robots & Unruly Uncles, Jane Bloomfield’s excellent Lily Max, Satin, Scissors, Frock, Joy Cowley’s The Wild West Gang, and Emily Rodda’s The City of Rats, averaging one book a week.

It has been more than entertaining; it has more than reminded me why I love to read. It’s been an education.

I understand now why Kate specified reading in one’s genre. You begin to realize what’s out there, and how people are writing to “tweens” these days, you start to see more modern structure to the stories. I’ve been inspired and encouraged to refresh my own approach to fiction. Becoming ‘immersed in the form’ helps me better understand how to emulate it. Reading is teaching me how to write.

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I cannot tell you how greatly I’ve felt revolutionized by reading again. Reading, as a writer, is entertaining and informative. Blogger, Laura Thomas, said, “When you read, you experience the power of writing. You learn what words work together and how they can be used to convey emotions.” You see which techniques and approaches to writing modern fiction are the most effective, what sort of storylines are drawing people back for more. Most of the articles I’ve read on the subject of ‘reading to improve writing skills’ recommend reading traditionally published, successful authors in your genre.

You can study good writing by reading the most popular books.

 

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According to a report on the benefits of reading in the Health Fitness Revolution blog, reading ‘sharpens writing skills.’ They attribute this improvement to the ‘expansion of your vocabulary.’ “Exposure to published, well-written work has a positive effect on one’s own writing. Observing the various styles of other authors, journalists, poets and writers will eventually be reflected in your own writing style.”

I believe that to be true. I see my style changing. I notice that when I’m thinking on my feet as well, for instance in Toastmasters, I have more words available than I used to. It’s wonderful.

I like to hear also, how reading influences other artists, because the impact crosses all forms. I had the great pleasure of hearing artist/author Shaun Tan speak at one of New Zealand’s Storylines Children’s Literature festivals, a few years ago. He’s such a genius.

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Of reading, Shaun said, “As well as visual sources, many ideas for the illustrations emerged from my reading history. I’m often thinking of different things I’ve read, or particular words, while I draw and paint which best express the poetry of colour, line and form I’m after.”

I found that thought uplifting.

Reading a great story is universally beneficial. How cool is that.

I aim to continue to read my way through my library of novels and when the time comes, I shall take great pleasure in starting to frequent my own local library again. I can’t wait.

What about you, do you read books? Have you been to your local library lately?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Reading!

Yvette K. Carol

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“The greatest part of a writer’s time is spent in reading in order to write.” ~ Samuel Johnson

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Subscribe to my Newsletter by emailing me with “Newsletter Subscription” in the subject line to: yvettecarol@hotmail.com

It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Time to release our fears to the world – or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post the first Wednesday of every month. Every month, the organisers announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG Day post. Remember, the question is optional!!!

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OPTIONAL IWSG Day Question: Besides writing, what other creative outlets do you have?

I’ve had many creative outlets over the years: photography, dress design, and dance, however, I would say art has been the most constant. In fact, I started out writing for children as an author/illustrator. In the margins of the first fictional story I wrote, as a seventeen-year-old, I doodled what the characters would look like. That set the stage for illustrating my own picture books, a time when I juggled the jobs of developing the pictures and writing the story.

Then, in 2005, a pivotal moment happened in my life.

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I went to a children’s writing workshop, with the award-winning author, and teacher, Kate de Goldi. After showing her one of my picture book manuscripts, Kate said, it was good, however, she felt I needed to focus on either writing or the illustrating.

I took the advice to heart. About half a year after taking the course, I finished illustrating my story, and I packed the paints and brushes away into the cupboard. Within another year, I was writing up a storm.

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Kate’s sage advice helped me to funnel all my energy into my writing and from there, wonderful things began to happen. Coincidentally, this lesson about focus became one of the story themes in the resulting trilogy, The Chronicles of Aden Weaver. The hero, Aden, is taught by his wise mentor, Geo, to focus in order to prevail. It’s a lovely full circle moment.

By focusing on the writing, I became more productive:

I found my genre, middle grade (or junior fiction).

I wrote a middle grade trilogy, The Chronicles of Aden Weaver. I went “Indie” and self-published my first two books, The Or’in of Tane Mahuta and The Sasori Empire.

I had an essay included in a book for writers. I also self published a short story, along with a group of authors, in a children’s anthology titled Kissed By An Angel.

I built a mailing list and started a monthly newsletter.

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In both The Or’in of Tane Mahuta, and The Sasori Empire, I included two of my own pen and ink illustrations.

Art and writing have gone naturally hand in hand for me, however, I feel like I’ve found a way to make them complement one another.

I still enjoy drawing to bring my own characters to life. I also do illustrations upon request for certain projects. I painted the cover art as well as the colour illustration to go with my story, Grandpa and Loor, for Kissed By An Angel. The difference is, instead of the art absorbing all of my days, now with small art projects, I’m more in control of my time.

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The thing about painting – and probably any kind of art – is that it’s a time suck.

I remember an old landlord, Arthur, when he saw me at work on one of my illustrations, said, ‘Ah, painting, the thing that sucks time into it like a black hole.’ It’s true. It’s the kind of hobby you do, that you look up and realize its dark, and you wonder where the day went. I loved it, but once I was raising my two younger two boys and writing, there wasn’t time left in the day for art.

Being able to surrender my illustrator’s hat has been a significant improvement in my life. These days, I do what I love to do most, which is to write. Then I dabble at my art when I have the time and the inclination. It works.

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(artwork by Si Kingi)

I’m also more productive. This year, I intend to self publish the third book in The Chronicles of Aden Weaver, The Last Tree. I’ll need to figure out which drawings I’m going to do for it within the next few months and get them done before then. But, that’s okay. When art isn’t asking for every spare minute, you feel you can relish getting little jobs done like that.

A life in balance, between my writing, art, and the rest of my life, that’s my ultimate goal for 2019!

What about you? What are your creative outlets?

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Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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A painting is never finished – it simply stops in interesting places. ~ Paul Gardner

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Subscribe to my Newsletter by emailing me with “Newsletter Subscription” in the subject line to: yvettecarol@hotmail.com

 


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