Archive for the ‘“big picture” questions’ Category

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 on the first Wednesday of every month. Every month, the organizers announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG Day post. Remember, the question is optional!!! Let’s rock the neurotic writing world! Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG, and the hashtag is #IWSG.

January 5 question – What’s the one thing about your writing career you regret the most? Were you able to overcome it?
I guess I regret turning down two offers from publishers. When I was first starting out and was submitting my children’s manuscripts to editors in New Zealand regularly, there were two yes replies. However, I turned them both down. One said they would publish my picture book, Free Wally, but they wanted to change all the characters’ names. What can I say? I was young and green. My creative soul felt they were going to tamper with my “artistic integrity” by changing the details. Therefore, I said no thank you and imagined I would easily find another acceptance for the story. Yet, I never did. It was the one and only offer I received for that book.
In the 90s a different publisher said they would release my middle-grade fantasy, The Scrifs and Stirrits, but they would only pay me a 5% royalty fee. In those days the going rate for royalties was 10%, and I was miffed. Why were they offering me less? I turned down the offer, thinking I wanted to be paid the same as everyone else. But I never found another publisher for that story so never got the chance.

Looking back at those decisions now, it’s easy to laugh at the folly of youth. What did it matter if they changed the names or paid me less royalty rate? I would still have had two books released by traditional publishing houses behind my name to help me stake a claim to this writer’s life. Instead, I hang in the wind of self-publishing and take the financial/emotional/mental hit of being Indie for every book. As a wide-eyed beginner, I did not know that getting any acceptance at all was fantastic. It took many more years of submitting my work to realize that acceptances are few and far between. And these days there are even fewer publishers accepting unsolicited work.
When I released my trilogy in 2020, I did a bit of research to see how many traditional publishers there were left in New Zealand. If I had wanted to submit my stories for consideration, there was only a handful of children’s publishers still accepting unsolicited manuscripts and after reading the t’s and c’s, my stories would only have been suitable for two of them. Two options? Pitiful. The current situation is very different from what it was when I was young and sending my stories to editors all over the country. I had no idea then how good I had it. But hey, hindsight is 20/20.

Therefore, if I could go back and change one thing about the past, maybe it would be rejecting the publishers’ offers. Or maybe it wouldn’t. Because I did overcome that obstacle. Early on, I made that mistake. Yet, I learned a lot through the years of “failing” that followed. They say if you change one thing about the past it alters the course of history. Would I want to mess around with the perfect plan for my life? Probably not. Maybe I was supposed to go it alone. Becoming an Indie is diabolically hard but it does have its rewards. I made all my own choices about covers, style, and everything for The Chronicles of Aden Weaver, which was satisfying. I’m proud of my trilogy. For the cover art, I collaborated with my nephew, Si, who is a consummate artist. We had such fun in the creative process, brainstorming and tooling around with options. I didn’t have to compromise his vision or question my choices. We had no interference which is a blessing only bestowed upon the self-published.

Looking back now, I have the satisfaction of knowing I did it my way, and there’s something pure in that. I cherish the books I’ve put out into the world so far. Would I have been able to say that if I was under the wing of a publisher? Or would the end result be something mutant and divorced from the original vision? With my name on the cover. No. The more I think about it, the more glad I am that I turned down those offers back in the day. I set myself on course for putting out books that authentically belong to me, and my creative intelligence is my service to the world. It will live on long after I’m gone. No, I’m convinced now I did the right thing when I was young.
So in a roundabout way, I have come back to the first question. What’s the one thing about your writing career you regret the most? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.
What about you, what do you regret most about your writing?

Keep Writing!
Yvette Carol
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Every story I create creates me. I write to create myself. ~ Octavia E. Butler


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It is New Year’s Eve when it is customary to look back at the year behind us and attempt to look at the twelve months ahead. Some people like to make resolutions or set goals about what they want to achieve in the coming year. I have always kept a journal in which I make a list of “Intentions” every New Year’s Eve. It’s an opportunity to get the glitter and stickers out and let myself dream about my aspirations. I also do a “message in a bottle” to myself. It is a wish list for the year ahead. For instance, I wrote a wish list for 2021, and today I read through the list. Then I’ll replace it with the new message I have compiled for 2022.
What a strange year, though!

At the end of 2020, I remember everyone saying how much they were looking forward to New Year’s Eve because people wanted to put their first experience of a pandemic behind them. There were hopeful memes on Facebook about looking forward to starting a brand new experience. Of course, none of us knew what lay ahead. 2021 has been just as tough in some cases, even tougher. As the virus has changed shape and name, we have learned new ways of coping. We have found new ways of staying sane and healthy.
And a great many of us have and are still suffering the repercussions of the anxiety. I have been under a great deal of stress. Don’t get me wrong. I love Christmas probably more than I should. However, it brings a s..t-ton of work with it. Life gets intense throughout December, having to plan things, visit people, send cards and letters, and battle to do the Xmas shopping in the insane traffic.

It does get overwhelming.

On top of all that, in early December, 18 of my trees became infected with Myrtle Rust, a fungal infection currently sweeping New Zealand. I had to trim every infected leaf and bag carefully then spray the fronts and backs of the remaining leaves. I got the trees done and organized Xmas, it’s true, but this week, I developed shingles. When the doctor said the chickenpox virus reactivates if you are under undue stress or overdoing it, I thought, oops, guilty as charged, on both counts. I have burned the candle. Yet for a good reason, people. We had a s..t year, and I wanted to celebrate the heck out of Christmas. So I overdid it in every direction. Do you know I got so stressed, there were three or four times this month when I woke in the morning with my fists clenched? And that’s a big part of how I became so run down. I let things get on top of me.
We have been through a lot in the last two years and now that we have reached the end of 2021, people are weary and a lot more subdued about what to expect.
The problem is mental/emotional stress is a killer.

The shingles have forced me to slow down and it has been an unexpected blessing. This week, I employed my youngest son and his friends to wash the exterior of the house and the windows and repaint all three verandahs. And I didn’t have to lift a finger. Not that I could have. I am on a week’s total physical and mental rest, doctor’s orders. I thought this is nice. Thing is, I’ve always walked and talked too fast. At my age, perhaps I should stop rushing around all the time, being a superwoman. Now that I’m doing everything more slowly, I find I’m enjoying each moment more. What a revelation. Being ill has given me some much-needed perspective.
N.Y.E? Okay, we might not be quite so enthusiastic about the twelve months ahead. There seems to be a general feeling of trepidation around the New Year.

Yet, I like to only plan for the positive preferred outcome. Readers of this blog may remember a post I wrote, sharing my Gran’s wisdom, Thinking the Right Thoughts. This is the method I am employing today. I will write in my journal, The theme for 2021 was …. What I noticed was… What didn’t work was… I am letting go of …. What I want for 2022 is … and I am willing to embrace… I shall say, “Thank you, 2021.” And, I will write Intentions and put a new message in my bottle aspiring to peace, relaxation, joy, abundance, good health, and rapture in 2022.
Remember, whatever comes, we can deal with it day by day, one day at a time, together. We have managed the same way for the last two years. I have never felt more bonded to the people in my life, whether in person or online than I have done since the pandemic started in 2020. I think the challenge has brought us all closer together. I feel I am part of a global family. My darling Gran would say, that’s the silver lining.
Going forward, let’s be positive and think the right thoughts. DARE TO WISH FOR BLISS.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol
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“Don’t let people pull you into their storm. Pull them into your peace.” ~ K. Jones

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Subscribe to my newsletter by emailing me with the words 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!!! Let’s rock the neurotic writing world! Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG.

July 7th optional question – What would make you quit writing?

Whatever it is, I haven’t discovered it. I’ve kept working through sickness, deaths in the family, divorces, the pandemic, the kids’ dramas, you name it. I took a break when I finished my trilogy The Chronicles of Aden Weaver, but that was fine. It didn’t occur to me to be scared I’d never write again. This year, for the first time, I wondered if the writing was going to quit me. I’ve heard many authors say this over the years that after completing each book they feared that it was the last. Well, that had never been a problem for me in the past. I had never experienced “writer’s block,” there had been a constant flow of prose since the day I learned how to hold a pen. Even as preschoolers, my brother and I used to play storytelling games. Stories came easily. And I loved it so much. Growing up powerless – the third child from a big family cramped inside a small house – creating stories was a great escape. The hours would disappear.

Writing was my secret super power! My window to glory.

At fifteen I started keeping a journal, and I still write in one every day. Writing as therapy continued, proving a terrific release valve throughout my life. It is wonderfully cathartic. In fact, I have preached at Toastmasters and elsewhere about the “benefits of having a creative outlet.” Everyone needs a creative way to express themselves, and storytelling has always been mine. It didn’t occur to me to be scared until I walked away from publishing my trilogy and thought, what next?

I released The Chronicles of Aden Weaver in October 2021, collapsing with relief. The exhaustion was so complete that for the first time in my life I took six months off to recover.

When the time came to start the next book, I looked at that empty page and shook like a leaf in the wind. There were no words boldly appearing from nowhere, no inklings for stories. The muse had gone strangely silent.

I was wandering in the wilderness, let me tell you. It was a scary place to be. To not be able to write was hideous. Disenfranchised: a writer not writing, a storyteller not working on a story, like being cast adrift, existing in a weird state of limbo or stasis with no sense of direction. “Writer’s block” is a gnarly ride. An uneasy month went by. My life was still wonderful. I love my kids, friends, my family, and my home. I enjoy looking after this property, but here’s the thing, we all need a creative outlet.

I wasn’t fully enjoying life and without my author’s work I was never fully at ease in my skin. I wasn’t ME.

Each weekend I faced the enormity of the empty page, doing my relaxation techniques, and freewriting. Eventually, this started the cogs turning, and that was the best feeling to break through the blockade. What a relief to write again! I sat down and “blathered away,” as my grandmother would say, no longer floating idle, no longer rudderless.

The rush of joy reassured me. The muse was back, full of ideas. I was still in the author business.

Writing stories, I have realized, is not just about getting the words from head to page, or crafting them until they take on a high sheen. Being an author is a way of life. At this stage I don’t know whether I’ll ever self publish again. What I know is I must write stories to know my purpose. Now, I feel aligned in my skin, that my wheels are back on the tracks and life has meaning. It doesn’t get any better than that.

There’s a Carl Jung quote that goes,what did you do as a child that made the hours pass like minutes. Herein lies the key to your earthly pursuits.’

What did you love to do? I’m interested to know.

Keep Writing!

Yvette Carol

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“Publication of a book is a misery… writing to write and enjoy it, that’s the best—it’s the Eden that we writers lose.” ~ Anon

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I’ve finished reading my eleventh novel for 2021, Amelia Dee and the Peacock Lamp, by Odo Hirsch. Whenever I pass a thrift store or a charity shop, I’m compelled to go inside and check out the books. As a writer, I need to read within my genre, which is middle grade fiction. Therefore, I always peruse the children’s section and fantasy sections for new-to-me gems. Amelia Dee and the Peacock Lamp was a recent thrift-store acquisition with an intriguing cover.

I had never heard of the author before. But how can you resist a title like that? Amelia Dee and the Peacock Lamp knocks it out of the ballpark because the reader immediately asks, ‘what is the peacock lamp? Why is it important? What does it do?’ The goal for every author is to get the reader to ask questions and not fully answer them till the end of the story. The all-important title must get them asking questions at the front cover. Mission accomplished on both scores with this book.

An excellent title is everything.

What is the peacock lamp? It’s a rare bronze lamp which hangs outside the bedroom door of Amelia Dee, where she lives in the greenhouse on Marburg Street. Burdened with rather hopeless parents, an eccentric artist mother and father inventor, Amelia’s friend, Mr. Vishwanath provides the stability and the sanity in her young life. Mr. Vishwanath practises yoga downstairs and teaches the formidable Princess Parvin Kha-Douri and… spoiler alert, that’s pretty much it.

I was not sure what to make of this story because while it’s wonderfully written and a nice ride; it had a lot of promise that went under utilized. It’s like taking a ride at a theme park only to travel at walking pace and never leave the ground. The lamp has such allure and promise, the ancient yoga teacher, his equally ancient pupil are fascinating, and you keep reading, keep keeping the faith expecting things to go somewhere. I think this is one of those stories about which they say, it is “not plot-driven.”

Cough. Cough. Not a lot happened.

And being the big kid I am, although I had reached ‘the end’ I was still waiting for something to happen.

Amelia Dee and the Peacock Lamp is not bad though. It’s a quiet story, reminiscent of Antonio S. and Hazel Green, also by the author.

The wise mentor figure portrayed by Mr. Vishwanath provides our protagonist, Amelia Dee, (good name) with considered wisdom, calmness and inner questioning. I think it’s admirable to make such values as expressing yourself, letting go, the fair treatment of others and finding your voice the core of a book. Some people have made the comparison to Jonathan Livingston Seagull for children. Some people have said it’s what the parents who read literary fiction give their kids.

You could ask, are kids really up for reading a very adult kind of story? Do kids read this sort of philosophical fiction? Obviously, the answer is yes. Odo Hirsch was doing something right as he released Amelia Dee and the Peacock Lamp in 2007 and won HONOUR BOOK: CBCA Book of the Year, Younger Readers, in 2008. This is a dear book and I’m glad kids are reading this sort of wholesome fiction.

When I “Googled” the author, as you do these days, I discovered that Odo Hirsch is a popular kids’ author. He was born and grew up in Melbourne, Australia, where he studied medicine and worked as a doctor. Now based in London, Odo continues to write children’s books and they have translated his works into several languages, for the Netherlands, Korea, Germany, and Italy. For more information, please see http://www.answers.com/topic/odo-hirsch 

How refreshing there is a market for such low-key fiction. Reading Amelia Dee and the Peacock Lamp is like taking a holiday in the country to recharge the batteries after the rush and bustle of life in the big city. It’s fiction about those quieter moments that occur between the active times, when there is time to slow down and ponder the deeper things in life.

“When you know you are right, that is the time you can be sure you are wrong,” said Mr. Vishwanath.

Would my boys want to read it? No, but, spoiled by modern technology, what would they know? This book is an experience of softening, like a meditation.

My rating: Two and a half stars.

Talk to you later.

Keep creating!

Yvette Carol

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“It is what it is,” said Mr. Vishwanath. “Everything in life is like this.”

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I’ve finished reading my ninth novel for 2021, Infinite Threads, by Mariko B. Ryan. You know a book is powerful when you’re still thinking about it a week later. It’s the sort of book that stays with you. I may still think about the 100 indigenous insights for years to come, it might take me that long to understand it. Almost written like a poem, the insights form the meat of this fascinating sandwich that starts and ends with the author’s observations and personal story. Mariko B. Ryan generously shares some of the background to how she found herself ‘kaitiaki, guardian, of the once hidden writings of her great-grandfather, a tohunga, sage.’  

It is the author’s first book, and it’s a hardback. Mariko’s style of writing is erudite, almost poetic in her minimal delivery, getting maximal effect.

The author presents the 100 Indigenous Insights in eleven sections, covering every part of the indigenous life and viewpoint, from rituals of encounter to leadership. Each insight shows up as a heading and Mariko has translated the Maori words. Insight 1: Tae-a-tinana. Show Up. Then she relates the insights in well-crafted numbered mouthfuls. Most sentences start on a new line with a new number.

1. Today, you convinced yourself to show up.

2. Willing to be scrutinised. To go down. To get back up.

(and so on).

At first, I was so taken aback by this unusual book that I felt off put. But Infinite Threads has a universal appeal in its unexpected presentation and style. There is something, like a mystery, always drawing me onwards. What do the rest of the insights have in store? I wonder. What else did the old man, as Mariko fondly refers to him, say to enlighten and guide his great-granddaughter and all the future generations?

Although the author’s genealogy gives her the pedigree needed to interpret the writings of the sage, she admits she had to struggle against her own conditioning and confront her own fears to take on the role of authoring the book. Her blurb says, “Recent world events and challenges have inspired her to share the knowledge of her ancestors.” I appreciated the courage shown and the spirit of wanting to share this information with the world when it’s needed most. It drew me to find out what else the book had to say.

The more I read, the more I had to read. And it was not a flip through. Infinite Threads is no lightweight walk in the park, this is some thought-provoking, candid, clear-eyed, straight talk about us, the state of our lives and the world we live in today. And the indigenous viewpoint is such a balm to my soul right now that I really wanted to understand it as much as possible before I moved onto each new chapter, or section. I took my time over reading this book because I was learning new things.

The story starts out with the author Mariko B. Ryan sharing her thoughts and viewpoint. Speaking as an insider, she gives us the native New Zealander’s perspective on the history and culture of her people and the devastating effect of colonization. We are told the story of how Mariko came to be entrusted with the hidden writings of her great grandfather, Takou, who was an esteemed chief, sage, visionary and prophet, as well as a shape-shifter known to change into an emerald green gecko.

The insights in the novel are wonderful. They’re instructive. And the novel ends with Mariko relating her journey to take on the responsibility of sharing her great grandfather’s words. It’s the sort of personal struggle to step up anyone can relate to and envision.

Mariko B. Ryan lives in Aotearoa (New Zealand) and hails from the northern tribe of Te Rarawa. I thank her for Infinite Threads. This book is deep, real, and a timely reminder about how to live on this earth together the right way, lessons we could all benefit from right now. It’s the sort of book you keep on the shelf, and keep dipping into now and again. It’s a serious book, one for grown-ups. A must read. Well done, Mariko!

My rating: Four stars.

Talk to you later.

Keep creating!

Yvette Carol

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However, when we are all tending our gardens, when we are all fed and are all engaged productively, the need to take up arms is quelled and the realisation of Peace is affirmed. ~ 1182. Insight 61: Kaingaki Mara. Rangimarie. Gardeners. Peace, Infinite Threads

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I’ve finished reading my twelfth novel for 2020, Plan B, Further Thoughts on Faith, by Anne Lamott. I can’t pass a thrift store or book fair without looking at the books, and Anne Lamott is one of those authors that the title doesn’t matter: you snatch it up, anyway. It wasn’t until I brought Plan B home I realized it was an autobiographical account written in part about her struggle with the Bush administration and an internal tug-of-war around her faith.

I’ll admit I felt hesitation. I wasn’t sure if it would get past one page. But after reading the first line I was in hook, line and sinker.

Who could resist a book that begins, ‘On my forty-ninth birthday I decided that all of life was hopeless, and I would eat myself to death.’

The book is mesmerizing, a searing, endearingly honest account of one woman’s struggles in life with herself, her child, her mother and with her Christianity. It is tough stuff to tackle and yet done with such disarming honesty you forget your preconceived concepts and tag along for the ride. Plan B follows on in the same vein as Lamott’s first memoir, Travelling Mercies. Plan B is a series of articles on everything from the Bush administration to single parenthood, to judgement of others and self, to grappling with her mother’s Alzheimer’s, and her son’s adolescence, to getting older and losing friends.

Some reviewers have called Plan B ‘a spiritual antidote to anxiety and despair in increasingly fraught times.’ This is spirituality presented by someone who never takes themselves too seriously. Because of the deceptive ease with which Lamott deftly handles the big subjects, we find ourselves drawn to contemplate our own stand in life. At the same time, we appreciate the lightheartedness, the rawness that reminds us even the top writers are human and we’re all in this together.

Anne Lamott, April 10, 1954, is an American novelist and non-fiction writer. She is also a progressive political activist, public speaker, and writing teacher. Born in San Francisco, she now lives in Marin County, California. Most of Lamott’s nonfiction works are autobiographical and of her books, they have made The Midnight Gospel, Raise Hell: The Life & Times Of Molly Ivins into TV shows and movies. Her father, Kenneth Lamott, was also a writer. Anne wrote her first published novel Hard Laughter for him after his diagnosis of brain cancer.

Freida Lee Mock researched Lamott’s life in the fascinating documentary Bird by Bird with Anne. After the documentary aired, Lamott became known as “the people’s author.” We feel there is a familiarity there.  Marked by self-deprecating humour, Lamott is unafraid to share the difficult issues like alcoholism, depression, solo motherhood and faith, or as one reviewer on Newsweek said, ‘call it a lowercase approach to life’s Big Questions–she converts potential op-ed boilerplate into enchantment.’

Lamott is nothing short of genius and she is a really interesting character to read about.

In Plan B, we recognize ourselves and our frailties. Lamott reflects our imperfections and the continuous life lessons on self acceptance. By revealing she has learned to love the jiggly parts of her legs and butt (“The Aunties” as she calls them), she allows us to see ourselves yet in such a light-hearted way that we laugh too. As a narrator of her own experience and ours, the essays in Plan B are eclectic and often unexpected, but always eye opening, warm and relatable.

Of her writing, Lamott has said, ‘When I am reading a book like this, I feel rich and profoundly relieved to be in the presence of someone who will share the truth with me, and throw the lights on a little, and I try to write these kinds of books. Books, for me, are medicine.’

Here is someone speaking my language. Plan B surprised me. I read it avidly to the end; I laughed and sat thinking deeply too. The essays cover the broad, raw spectrum of life and are given with nothing withheld. Lamott’s candour is as refreshing as taking a dip in a pool of fresh water. A novel I would put aside for a few years, then pick up and gladly read again.

My rating: Four and a half stars.

Talk to you later.

Keep creating!

Yvette Carol

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I try to write the books I would love to come upon, that are honest, concerned with real lives, human hearts, spiritual transformation, families, secrets, wonder, craziness—and that can make me laugh. ~ Anne Lamott.

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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!!!

InsecureWritersSupportGroup

July 1 question – There have been many industry changes in the last decade, so what are some changes you would like to see happen in the next decade?

I guess the biggest thing that comes to mind is I wish the various services for self publishing were more reasonably priced. At the moment every single stage of putting out your own book, from proofreading to copy editing, to book design to PR to distribution, to printing costs a fortune. I’ve spent over $10,000 self publishing over the last five years. Now, I’m working toward launching my third book, The Last Tree, and publish new editions of the first two books, The Or’in of Tane, and The Sasori Empire. I’ve already spent over $3000 on The Last Tree and we’re only halfway there.

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I know from firsthand experience that the exorbitant prices involved with being an Indie put a lot of young authors out of the race. It kept me from publishing my books for years. I always remember my dearly beloved sister-in-law, Tanya, had a wise head on her shoulders. She’d witnessed my struggle to get published, and equally she had seen how hard I worked on my fiction. One day, Tanya said, “If I was you, and I really really believed in my stories, then I’d put my money behind them. I’d put every cent I had into getting my stories out there.”  That was 2004. I was living with my brother and my sister-in-law at the time as a “nanny” for their baby Daniel, while they worked full-time jobs. I had free board, free food and they paid me a stipend of about a hundred bucks a week. I had no car. I had no savings. At the time I couldn’t back my own books, unless I had taken out a loan but what would I have used as collateral?

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It has taken me a long time to be in a financial position where I could back myself.  I’d been writing for thirty-five years when I put out my first book in 2015.

Whenever I’m preparing to launch a new book I look first at my wallet and think about whether I can afford it. It shouldn’t have to be like that. I look forward to the day we can buy a simple machine, or a simple program which would do it all for us at home, the same way we buy a home printer to cut down on printing/copying costs for documents. It would be a ‘wish come true’ to see the cost of book publishing come down. I’d like to see a day where we can all comfortably take part in the wonderful world of book publishing without financially crippling ourselves.

How about you, what was your wish for the future of this industry?

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Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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Believe in your heart that you’re meant to live a life full of passion, purpose, magic and miracles. – Roy Bennett

 

 

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!!!

InsecureWritersSupportGroup

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.

Donatien Moisdon

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 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

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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I will call what happened “an intervention.” A close friend took me by the hand and gave me a kind little shake up, a gentle push in the right direction. When she heard my intention was to soft launch my next book, The Last Tree, on Amazon, she was aghast. ‘But if you do the same things, you’ll only sell to the same number of people.’ It’s a privilege when someone gets real with you, because it means they care about you enough to intervene.

She asked me, ‘What do you want?’

‘To inspire more readers.’

‘If you want to reach more readers, you must do more.’

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My friend introduced me via email to two people in the business. And over the last fortnight I have met with these two wonderful successful business women, one a traditionally published author of sixteen books and a publicist, and the other a well-connected and respected literary agent. Both women generously gave their time as mentors.

I thought I should share some insights I have gained through this enlightening process.

The first advice was to use my time more wisely.

‘You have too many toes in social media. These things are time wasters.’

I think I sucked in a horrified breath. I’ve spent the last ten years working extensively on my brand, by maintaining ten social media accounts: going around the sites, liking, sharing, commenting, and by making status updates, posting photos and quotes. I thought I was building a social network of contacts, which was important for Indies. It never occurred to me I was wasting my time. Admittedly, sometimes I ran myself ragged keeping up with it all.

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In life you learn and learn, then you course correct, then you learn and learn and change more. It’s a constant process, isn’t it? I remember hearing, ‘Margaret Mahy doesn’t have any social media accounts. She doesn’t even have a website.’ I remember being surprised by that. And I remember my writing buddy,James Preller, joking that he didn’t go near sites like Goodreads because they scared him. I had always felt I needed to be present in as many social media spheres as possible to build my brand as a writer. Yet, maybe that’s why Mahy published hundreds of titles and Preller is on his 85th and I’m on my third….

A week ago, I deleted half my social media accounts, reducing my activity to this blog and my Facebook Fan Page for writing. The monthly newsletter, Pinterest, and my personal Facebook page get to stick around for a while because I can’t bring myself to release them.

The next advice was to amalgamate my blog and website.  To do what I do online better, they suggested I study what the greats are doing with their Internet presence and do likewise.

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I circled the internet and noticed the bestsellers usually have one official site which has a blog and website combined along with a few pages to read: about the author, coming soon/what’s new and links/downloads, that sort of thing.

I did the same. I shut my old website down and amalgamated my blog and website, so it is now a journal blog plus a few pages about me and my work.

The next advice was to expand my author branding. I changed my title from ‘Children’s Writer’ to ‘Author’ as the former might become limiting in future if I want to branch into other genres.

The next advice was to get out of my comfort zone. I shall start submitting to publishers, however if I do self publish, then I’ll spend the money to bring a publicist and a distributor on board, to get the book into stores and libraries and get media attention.

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Admittedly, I shall have to summon all my courage to submit to publishers again. I had gotten to the stage where I was sick of the rejections, and that was one joy of going Indie was I didn’t have to worry.

However, I will send the query letters. I will go to the Publishers Association New Zealand website and look up the member directory for publishers and then follow the guidelines on how to submit.

The last advice they gave me was to be professional. They said ‘if you want to be taken seriously in this business, have your manuscript checked by a proofreader and a copy editor. Pay the money.’

The Last Tree is with a proof reader now.

I’m taking notes. You live and learn, boy. What about you, what have you discovered lately?

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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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