Archive for the ‘creativity’ Category

There is nothing quite like the smell of an extra spicy fruit cake baking in the oven, however, the Queen of them all is the old English style Christmas Cake. In essence, it’s a deeply rich fruit mixture heavy on the fruit and steeped in rum or brandy. Thick and dense, it bakes for up to four hours on a low heat, which is a nice long time for the smell to permeate the house. We love it.

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I come from a family of British immigrants to New Zealand, and despite the fact we have summer in the festive season, my parents continued the tradition of the “Christmas Cake.” I have raised my boys with our own version of the family tradition. At the end of November, my kids and I don our aprons and head into the kitchen for the labour of love.

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I think the secret to a good result is in soaking the fruit in orange juice and rum or brandy overnight. In the old English style, the ratio of dried fruit to flour is about four to one. Typically, there will be raisins, currants, sultanas and chopped dates. Most recipes call for glace cherries and crystallised ginger, but, as I’m not fond of these ingredients, I like to add chopped dried apricots and figs and extra blanched almonds.

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This year, my boys and I came up with a fun idea for a crafty gift. We only used half the batter for the traditional rectangular cake, which will be iced closer to Christmas with brandy butter icing.

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The other half of the batter, we fashioned into rough balls and baked in muffin tins. In this form, they take half the time, roughly two to two and a half hours at a low heat. They form a nice firm ball. Once cool, we dusted them lightly with sifted icing sugar.

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We wrapped the individual balls in baking paper, making neat little parcels with cotton gift ties.

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I had been collecting gift boxes and tins from the thrift stores the last few weeks. We wrapped the paper parcels in cellophane wrap to ensure they will stay fresh as long as possible and divided the balls between the tins and boxes.

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We wrote a personalised message on a gift tag inside each lid.

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We tied a ribbon on each box and there you have it, our Christmas Cake Balls as a gift you can make with your kids and give away at this year.

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Do you make your own gifts or have your own crafting traditions at this time of year? If so, let us know!

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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It is never too late to start enjoying a happy childhood. ~ Joy Cowley

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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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‘For me and most of the other writers I know, writing is not rapturous. In fact, the only way I can get anything written at all is to write really, really shitty first drafts.’

– Anne Lammott

Once the initial edits of your ‘shitty first drafts’ have been done, you get into a deeper level. For me, this is when hope starts to form that all is not lost, or as author, Tee G. Ayer put it, ‘Me while writing: This is drivel. What am I thinking? It’s worse that horse poo. Me while revising: This is surprisingly good. Better than I thought it would be.’

Once you wade into the revision, you start to see the potential.

At this stage in the editing, it can feel like weaving the words. One goes from the beginning to the end of the story, and then back to the beginning again over and over. The task for the writer is tightening the strands: to link thought processes, plot and sub-plots, deepen the characters, flesh out the scenes. As you go through to the end and then back to page one again, the picture slowly forms. The content draws together and takes shape.

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Last weekend, I finished the fourth pass of my book, ‘The Last Tree,’ which is the final book in the Chronicles of Aden Weaver series, and the analogy of the weaver above came to my mind. It reminded me of one of my early illustrations in which I depicted a character I called ‘The Woman at the End of the World,’ who knits the planet the characters lived on. As a writer, I feel I am doing this same function; I knit the words, one after the other, they take on a newer denser mass and richer substance, they start to form a living, breathing world.

I showed chapter one of my book, ‘The Sasori Empire,’ to good friend, author, James Preller. It’s a chapter in which Aden’s stone is tested and proved fake. In his reply, James gave me some terrific advice which is also helping me with writing the next book. He helped me understand why we elaborate for the reader. It’s something I alluded to in the previous post, Breathing Life into your Story, that thing of teasing out the scenes moment by moment, for the maximum impact. Here is an excerpt:

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You could slow down, spend a little more time. It’s not enough to just name names. So the stone moves. Was that the extent of the test? A little anti-climactic, because I’m not sure what’s at stake? I guess my point is that with all the mythology here, is that if you move too quickly my mind gets muddled. By bringing us closer to Aden, by having his thoughts help us understand what’s happening, we learn.

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My mind is the type of thought processor which likes to know the why of things. Knowing that as I develop the material, I’m seeking to elucidate context and the stakes, and help the reader get inside the characters’ heads serves to guide me.

I work at my loom spending more time, giving more detail, and all these things have the effect of bringing the reader closer to the hero, which is the ultimate goal.

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One has to be prepared to put in the hours. I heard myself telling my nephew this week, “When you sit writing from 6 a.m. till midnight, you need to take breaks.” And I thought, wow, this is really hard work. I do have to take regular breaks for my eyes from the computer as most people recommend, to prevent eye strain.

Yet, when you have a passion for something, you are driven to go far beyond what is normally possible. There is extra energy available. Or as Charles Bukowski put it, there is no other feeling like that. you will be alone with the gods and the nights will flame with fire.

My weekend always starts here, with my blog post first. Then, will come the long hours aforementioned, for two days I’m ‘alone with the gods,’ until my children return home again, when my creative powers become dormant for the week and go into raising my boys instead. My time off, my respite, is spent writing every minute I can squeeze into the days. It is such a joy, writing refills my cup until it runneth over.

How about you, what are you creating? Have you ever felt you were weaving your story?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies,” said Jojen. “The man who never reads lives only one.” ~ George R. R. Martin. A Dance with Dragons

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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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A story comes alive in the reader’s mind. You use the sole medium of the word to get the story from your mind to the reader’s. It is the wonder of writing to create something out of nothing. Every story started with just an idea in someone’s head. Isn’t that a fantastic concept? ~ Bob Mayer

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Yes, it’s a great concept. Yet, how do you bring a story to life?

I’d like to share a technique which has helped me.

Whenever I start working on a new story or writing project, I always feel as if the prose is “dead on the ground.” It is cold and lifeless. Nothing about the piece makes me want to pick it up. In fact, I make excuses not to work on it.

But, I don’t take no for an answer. I’m a beast of a taskmaster. I force my butt back in the chair and make myself work whether I like it or not. When you’re an Indie the buck stops here. Even if I’m only sitting at my kitchen table wearing trackies and slippers, I must knuckle down and put in the hours and hours and hours of effort at the computer. Period. Or a book will not result.

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Producing a novel is like giving birth. My friends and I laugh about the analogy at Toastmasters, and I even gave a speech about my fourth baby (being my first book). Yet, the analogy is more than apt. It perfectly illuminates the process of creating art.

I have to put in the grunt work. I spend hours at the computer hacking away paragraphs, shooting lurking “little darlings” (or favourite bits). I endure the Herculean labours of editing and refining words. I start to shape the miasma of words into something resembling a reasonable story. I add and subtract. I constantly have to add fresh words in order to have to have stuff to take away again. It’s a gentle and sometimes not so gentle method of agitation similar to the way an oyster grows a pearl.

Then, comes the magical part, where the action of writing fresh copy slowly brings the prose to life and animates it.

About five years ago, my good friend, writing buddy and editor, Maria Cisneros-Toth, and I started working together on my first book, The Or’in of Tane Mahuta. Maria has taught me a lot about the craft. I remember she would stop me at certain times and ask me to go back and rewrite a scene with a view to slowing the pace. This is one of the best bits of writing advice I’ve ever received.

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Maria’s advice: ‘Take the exciting, pivotal scenes. Slow the pace. Tease out what happens, moment-by-moment, really let us experience everything.’

When I re-read my book now, the slow scenes are the standouts. This has proved a real turning point for me as a writer, because I understand the visceral impact we can achieve, just by altering the tempo of the way the tale is told.

When I started working on the third book in my series, The Chronicles of Aden Weaver a few months ago, I felt as though the rough draft was “dead on the ground.” It was cold and inert. Nothing about the piece made me want to pick it up. I made a couple of obligatory rounds of editing, but, my heart wasn’t in it. I was merely “doing the rounds.”

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Two weeks ago, I began the process of teasing out the key scenes. I once again accepted Maria’s original challenge. I began to take the most dramatic parts of the novel and slowed the pace right down to include the minutiae.

To my delight, before my eyes, the copy began to perk up and come to life. The prose became warm and vibrant. There was energy there. The characters came alive in my imagination. I now find myself in the happy place of being drawn irresistibly back to work on the story. That’s when I know we’re on the right track.

I must continue the good work and edit the copy until the story is fully grown, matured and strong enough to hold its own in the world. What an honour! What a privilege to be a writer parent.

What about you? How do you bring your worlds to life?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

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

Are you a Pantser? An author who writes by the seat of her pants? If you are, then you’ll be familiar with the process I’m currently stuck in as a writer. I am on the third pass of editing the raw material for my third book. I am therefore stuck in a phase of self loathing and hate of the material. It seems nothing works, nothing is making sense. I just have a jumble of words—pretty good words—some of them pertaining to my characters, some of which resolve the storyline, however the plot is a mess.

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I remember with books one and two going through this same stage. It’s an utter headache. You waste a lot of time feeling badly about the story and thinking, I’ll never get the structure sorted out. You know the dynamics of structure in your head as well as the back of your hand and yet, somehow it still remains elusive. It’s like trying to overlay the blueprint after the building is erected: it seems too large, too big of a job; you feel you’ll never be able to do it.

The only cure? I reassure myself as I pace the hall at night, that I went through this nasty valley of shadows before and survived. I’ve weathered this doubting dark night of the soul before and ended up nutting out killer plots. “You can do this,” I tell myself.

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As it was with the last two books, it will be the same with the third. It is the pantser process of editing and the attrition of editing over months of time, which moulds the material into something that works so well it surprises you. You discover little gems of clues of events to come which had been foreshadowed in the genesis draft you didn’t even realize were there, that only make sense once you reach the final stages of development. That’s when the delightful prickle of hairs goes up on your arms and you realize you’re dealing with ordinary magic. It’s part of our job as authors. It’s almost like a trade secret among artists. There is this ephemeral joy of joining forces with the Divine that is like sweetest nectar. Nothing else can touch this secret garden. It is nirvana, the wordless ecstasy of inspired endeavour.

by Gary Cook

I’ve long said, “Everyone needs a creative outlet.”

I truly believe this with every atom of my being. Criminals in prison, sick people in hospitals, people with depression and other anxious disorders, everyone should be given the opportunity at least once to discover the creative outlet which fits with them. Given tools and time to develop their creativity, a lot of people flourish. A friend who works with a tetraplegic said she was a sad case and yet, once the girl in the wheelchair started going to a weekly art class, her life changed for the better.

When you create something from nothing, you feel yourself part of the miracle of life. It gives your life the inner compass of purpose.

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As a writer, the alchemy of the words you choose serves to clothe the divine impulse and give it form. These scratchy black and white marks convey the universe, a word at a time. And then all the perspiration, anguish, questioning, tears and sheer graft that also goes along with the creative process is worthwhile.

Yesterday at Toastmasters, the question asked in Table Topics (speakers are given a topic and asked to speak spontaneously for one minute) was “If you had not been born, what would be missing from the world?”

If I had been chosen to answer that question, I would have answered, ‘my three sons and my books.’ All of these beings are my legacy and will live on long after I’m gone, doing good in the world. What a wonderful, marvellous, blessed thing.

Do you have your creative outlet up and running yet? If not, why not?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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I believe that people who are attracted to a life of writing have an incredible opportunity to transform and transcend the events of our lives, finding a resonance of grace simply by writing something just right. ~ Sage Cohen

 

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For he does his work alone and if he is a good enough writer he must face eternity, or the lack of it, each day. ~ Ernest Hemmingway

When you are “post book,” you exist in this strange no-man’s land where you’re not sure what should happen next, but in your secret heart-of-hearts, you’re hoping for applause in some form, hopefully financial.

What nobody can really prepare you for, when you start out as an author is the great echoing silence of self publishing.

A novel requires burning the midnight oil writing the story, and questioning every word, every sentence. After having put “bum-in-chair” for days upon weeks, after suffering the agonies of self-publishing, and the indignities of self marketing, to cross the finish line and release your fiction upon the world, it’s natural to expect reward. It’s natural to want to hear some noise in response.

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There are more books being published every day now than at any other time in our history.

To gain traction, many motivated Indies will ask their “street teams” and friends to share about their release, to write reviews, to generate buzz in various ways. If you don’t dance up a storm, your books don’t sell, you might not be paid. Apart from that self-generated sound, however, there is nothing.

When I put out my first book in 2015, there were some lovely messages on social media from friends and well wishers. Apart from that there was…s i l e n c e. A great white-washed, sound proofed wall of nothingness.

Silence is something we’re not used to these days. In our hyper-connected present, we expect reactions to our every move. We wait with our self worth balanced on likes, loves and comments and shares. We’re conditioned to feedback.

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As yoga-teacher and author, Claudia Altucher said, I find that ultimately there is a little side of me that still clings to the idea of being “chosen” (by a publishing house).

Any writer can relate. With the first book, there’s this great hope of being “discovered.”

“How are things going with your book?” asked well-meaning friends. “Have you sold many?” The mythology goes, all you need do is release work in order to get paid, to get recognition. The truth is the majority of self-published authors will sell less than a hundred copies.

Few authors write a second novel and even fewer a third once the fiscal realities become apparent. After an author visit to an Elementary School in the States, author, Ellen Warach Leventhal, said her favorite response from a fourth grader was, ‘You work hard, you don’t know if you’ll ever get paid for it, and you aren’t rich? Man, not sure I want to do that.’

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The first book is like a trial by fire. If you walk through that flaming doorway without getting burnt, then you carry on writing but as a cleansed, reduced version of oneself with revised expectation.

Nick Ripatrazone’s sage advice to the author is, Share your work, but don’t wait for likes and retweets and mentions. Get off your phone. Get back to your desk.

I read somewhere, the traditional reaction to a book being published at any other time in history has typically been little to none. Authors wrote and released books and went on with their writing. They didn’t expect a parade.

In our digital present, it is easy to forget that silence has always been the most common response to literature and art. ~ Nick Ripatrazone

After I published my debut novel, ‘The Or’in of Tane Mahuta,’ (http://amzn.com/B015K1KF0I), I started developing the next story in the Chronicles of Aden Weaver. The narrative unfolded and it drew me into another world, where I got lost in the creativity. The firestorm was therapeutic. I remembered the most important thing was the art itself.

I understand now why authors advise to get on with writing the next book.

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I published ‘The Sasori Empire,’ (http://amzn.com/B075PMTN2H) last week. This time round, I experienced it differently, with more realism. I didn’t expect mega stardom or even a conversation.

I was ready for the normal silence that surrounds any newly-released work.

I discovered it takes a certain amount of surrender. And, faith, that I can survive the fall. I was prepared for the sudden drop-off of adrenalin and commitment that follows on the heels of each book birth. I’d already bought the chocolate bars. I pampered myself with treats.

My process seems to have settled into a pattern of write-edit-publish-rest-repeat. I relaxed for two days after the book launch. I listened to music, weeded the garden, and I did some baking. For a minute, I thought, I’m free!

Now, I’m writing book three, the final book in the series, ‘The Last Tree.’

How do you handle the silence post-book?

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Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Cherish yourself and wall off an interior room where you’re allowed to forget your published life as a writer. ~ Lan Samantha Chang

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The Or’in of Tane Mahuta

Book One, the Chronicles of Aden Weaver http://amzn.com/B015K1KF0I

The Sasori Empire

Book Two, the Chronicles of Aden Weaver http://amzn.com/B075PMTN2

Launching your first book is like delivering your first baby. There is great cause for much celebration and rightly so, as no one knows other than other authors and publishers, the extent of effort, money and concentration it takes to deliver a fully-formed book into the world. You cross that finish line as a debut author and you throw a party with catered food, fancy decorating and elephants, and you dance till dawn.

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The second book, like the second baby, tends to be a quieter affair. You’re more tired this time round. Your hands are fuller. You take fewer pictures. You have two novels to be responsible for and yet, there is also the third story to write.

At the same time there are the same rounds of media sites which need updating, interviews, and online conversations to be had and bells to ring in order to publicise your new creation to the world. The dreaded self-marketing engine that the Indie author needs to kick into overdrive must work overtime now on promoting that book to the world.

And, sometimes, this conflict of interests can call for new solutions. Enter, the mini-launch. I don’t know if this is a “thing” already, but if not, I’m making it one.

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For the celebration of The Sasori Empire (http://amzn.com/B075PMTN2H), the second novel in my upper middle grade series, the Chronicles of Aden Weaver, I wanted to commemorate the moment and have a party.

The trouble was, I had expended so much time and energy on producing the little dickens that I had nothing left to give. All I wanted to do was recline on a beach in Fiji and sip a cocktail, there was no way I was going to rev up the engines for a massive party as well. So, I hatched the idea of the “mini-launch,” essentially the smallest version of a book party you can have.

~ Here’s how ~

Venue: The first thing is where and when. I simply requested to add the launch of book two into the mix of a get-together I already go to each week, in this case, my local Toastmaster’s meeting. Cost: $0. (Apart from the annual fee, which I would pay anyway).

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Invite list: That way, I didn’t have to worry about people turning up. I knew the crowd of people would be there and they were my friends. You could do the same with your book club or critique group. I also invited one or two other people as guests.

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Catering: I paid a friend who is a baker to make two dozen mini cupcakes. Cost: $20. I bought a bottle of bubbles and a bottle of freshly-squeezed orange juice. Cost: $24.

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Decoration: VistaPrint helped me create two personalized signs. They have the same legend on both sides and plastic stands and only cost $50. A friend donated the dragonfly tablecloth.

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Agenda: When you make your book launch part of an established club meeting, you don’t have to worry about figuring out an agenda or writing the script. All I needed to focus on was writing and learning my speech. At the end of the meeting, the Toastmaster announced that I would be signing books and we broke open the bubbly at that point. I signed and sold my first box of books, and had interesting conversations with would-be authors.

 

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Photos/video: I took along my own camera and tripod. I shoulder-tapped a friend on the day and asked if she would press the record button when I started speaking. And I did the same with the camera after the meeting, getting various folks to take photos. I got a very serviceable video of my speech and some nice pictures of the occasion. The whole thing took an hour and a half. It cost under $100. Whereas my first book launch cost me three times that amount and took double the time.

I’m here to say the mini book launch works. It announces a worthwhile achievement. It sets the book off on its own course in the world with minimum fuss or cost, which is not to say that next time I won’t throw a huge party, it is to say, sometimes when means are limited, there are other ways of commemorating the moment that won’t break the bank.

If you do try your own mini launch, let me know how you go. I want photos!

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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“It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.” ~ Confucius

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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. I encourage everyone to visit at least a dozen new blogs and leave a comment. Your words might be the encouragement someone needs.

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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Question: Have you ever surprised yourself with your writing? (For example, by trying a new genre you didn’t think you’d be comfortable in?)

I have a frightening tale to tell…

For many years, I’ve thought about trying my hand at short fiction. Joe Bunting inspired me on his terrific blog, The Write Practice, when he was blogging about making the shift from novel writing to short stories. But, unlike the youthful abandon with which Joe leaped, I held back, feeling daunted by the concept. I felt afraid at the thought of having to minimise word count while at the same time freighting every word – much in the same way as poets do – as truth to tell, that just wasn’t me. I’ve always been the talker in the family. My books always make a good thick doorstop.

I felt challenged by the discipline needed for penning short stories and, I was too green at the time. I’m not a much better writer now, but I’m more willing to give things a go and fall flat on my face than I used to be when I was young. I’m more willing to get things wrong.

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Last year, I signed up for a writing workshop with Daniel Jose Older, on writing short fiction. Daniel Jose Older was as informative and inspiring as expected. I felt electrified.

When he set us loose to write a short story, I had no preconceived agenda, no thought in my mind as to subject. We were given as broad a set of parameters as you could imagine, in that we could write about any subject.

I write for children and persons who are young at heart. I have always done so, since the day I began writing my first children’s story at the age of seventeen. That was my automatic go-to. As I moved the pen across the page, I was writing for children. And yet, the story which came to me on the ether was different, bustling and rustling. It wrapped me up and rushed me headlong on its dark wind. I particularly love when it’s like that, when the muse is speaking loud and strong and the ride is the most beautiful exceptional rush of creativity.

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Imagine my surprise! I looked up later and found that instead of the usual adventure/quest type stories I like to write, I had written my first ever spooky tale! I’m still not sure how that happened, or where I veered off the path.

Birdy is  set in a modern Kiwi suburb. It’s a story about an old Maori woman, who the neighbourhood kids believe is a legendary water demon, and the creepy way that Birdy preys upon the weaknesses of her neighbour’s child. The story takes place over one hour in the victim’s life, with the clock ticking.

This story is dark, macabre, tense, unlike anything I’ve written before.

Horror is a genre I tend to shy away from in all its forms. I far prefer fantasy that is uplifting. Even so, I had surrendered to the process and this chilling tale was the result.

The horrible thing is, I’m not sure if the story is any good. I have no idea. In fact, I sincerely doubt it is. While I might be unsure if I will ever go that way again, you can be sure my hands are clammy. I’m looking at every granny sideways, and hearing twigs creak in the night, and shadows slide out of the corner of my eye!

How about you, have you ever surprised yourself with your writing?

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Talk to you later…

Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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‘I’d rather sing one wild song and burst my heart with it, than live a thousand years watching my digestion and being afraid of the wet.’ ~ Jack London

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

 

~ I’m afraid of losing my obscurity. Genuineness only thrives in the dark. Like celery. ~ Aldous Huxley

When I started writing fiction as an adult thirty-five years ago, I did so for the love of it. I wrote because creativity wanted to pour out of me that way. My “certain set of skills” happened to lie with prose and that’s where I ran wild with the giddy rush of youth. I was not preoccupied or clouded by the need for publication. I wrote to explore the parameters of my imagination, to see where I could go, to travel to far-flung places and report back. The possibilities and the horizon were equally endless.

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Five years ago, when I began my first steps into the world online and social media, I set up author pages, started making friends and finding out more about the online writing community. It wasn’t long before I felt the pressure to have something to show for my years of writing effort. I needed something to hang my shingle on. In 2015, I made the death-defying leap from unpublished to Indie author.

What I didn’t know then is that once you pass over that threshold, you leave innocence at the door. After that, the gloves are off; you have entered the arena of life. And life is brutal. It wants to eat you. Every move you make as an author or artist these days is public and hung out to dry in the open marketplace. Whether you make it or break it is global, everyone’s going to know. As the Indie author, you have become your own middle man; you manage everything from advertising copy, to every aspect of book production, to hawking copies at book fairs. The marketing machine never stops and you can never feed it enough.

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If you’re a savvy Indie, every step you make after that has an angle. Every friend you make is a prospective customer. Every post, every tweet, every conversation is another way to sell your product.

What this does to my creative soul is like toxic gas, it slowly poisons the ground.

Author and teacher, Lan Samantha Chang, addressed this phenomena in her speech, Writers, Protect Your Inner Life*. ‘We are taught to believe that the publication of a book is the happy ending to a long journey of working and striving, but according to many new authors with whom I have spoken, publishing is only the beginning of the journey of learning to navigate the world as a public writer, which is the opposite of making art, and it requires learning to protect that inner self from which the art emerged in the first place.’

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This is something I’ve really been thinking about a lot lately, is how to preserve and keep alight this flame of purity inside me.

How do I protect my dignity, my artistic integrity?

How do I maintain my ability to enter the shaded places of childhood, the secret inner recesses of my soul, in order to write the rough draft?

It pained me that in my reaching for public attention, I had forgotten the innocent joy of writing for the sake of writing, not for the buck. Not for the fan. Not for the “likes” on Facebook. Not for the bestseller list. Not for status updates. In my struggle to be heard, in my fight to get my book on the front shelf to be seen, I had lost sight of what was really important. Or why I started this journey in the first place, to ‘live with hysteria, and out of it make fine stories,’ as Ray Bradbury put it so eloquently in his day.

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Like the celery that only grows in the dark, the artist, the creative soul requires time in stillness and solitude and retreat in order to gestate.

I have learned the only way to preserve and protect my inner life as a writer is to carve out regular prolonged time away from marketing and (if possible) social media. I call them ‘net breaks,’ and they’ve become as necessary to my creative spirit, as walks outdoors or glasses of water are necessary to my health.

Sometimes I need to turn off all my devices and get out into nature. I need to forget about the end point of the sale and refocus on the love of writing – that eternal spark. Only then, can I truly re-enter my own private Eden from which I can create worlds.

How do you protect your inner world?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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‘Cherish yourself and wall off an interior room where you’re allowed to forget your published life as a writer. There’s a hushed, glowing sound, like the sound coming from the inside of a shell,’ said writer Lan Samantha Chang

*http://lithub.com/writers-protect-your-inner-life/

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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. I encourage everyone to visit at least a dozen new blogs and leave a comment. Your words might be the encouragement someone needs.

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

July’s Question: What is one valuable lesson you’ve learned since you started writing?

The most valuable so far came from the award-winning author, Alexandria laFaye, http://www.alafaye.com, during 2014, when we were both in the same critique group. I had submitted a chapter from ‘The Or’in of Tane Mahuta’ (my first book in the Chronicles of Aden Weaver series: http://amzn.com/B015K1KF0I ) to our online critique group, The Creative Collective.

I got various responses from the group noting grammar and word usage and so forth. However, there was one answer in particular, which revolutionized me.

Alexandria wrote back, ‘The writing is good; however there is far too much exposition.’

I was afraid to admit I didn’t know what exposition was.

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Luckily Alexandria also teaches writing and so, she went on to offer examples showing that exposition is another word for explanation. In other words, exposition is when the author is telling the reader everything.

Alexandria said, our task as the writer is to give the reader an experience, as if the readers themselves are experiencing and seeing what’s taking place.

This is how you get the reader immersed. Exposition holds the reader at arm’s length.

It was amazing. A whole new world I hadn’t thought about that until that moment opened up. That one piece of advice helped my writing evolve. I was grateful to Alexandria for her wisdom.

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I’ve worked on this ever since. These days, I find it helps me to think about it this way: instead of being behind a camera observing the action, I think of myself as behind my character’s eyes looking at and experiencing what happens. Then I can inhabit the scene. I have to use all the senses, act out scenes (holler, @TiffanyLawson-Inman!) and speak the dialogue out loud. I have to tease out some scenes and tighten others and think, what does this feel like, what would be going on in the background? I have to look around the whole room and put myself in my hero’s shoes.

This approach makes it a more 3-D experience in the writing process as well.

Then, earlier this year, adding to the concept of reader immersion, my writing pal, James Preller, offered another nugget of advice. He talked about the need for the reader to empathise with the protagonist.

James PrellerJames said, ‘Most importantly, I think you need to hone tight into Aden and his thoughts, feelings, perceptions. I think you could go deeper, bring us closer.’

I went back to my rewriting. I gave my hero, Aden, more time and attention in this second book and even I, as the author, felt I drew closer to him.

Good advice. Thanks, Jimmy, you’re a pal. If there’s one thing the generosity of the author’s community has taught me, it’s that it’s nice to share. So it has been a pleasure to pass these gems on for other writers.

Good ‘question of the month,’ IWSG!

One of my favourite quotes at the moment is “The wisdom acquired with the passage of time is a useless gift unless you share it!” by E. Williams. Try these techniques for yourself and why not share them with others.

How about you, what is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned in recent times?

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Talk to you later…

Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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If you have done well, it’s your duty to send the elevator back down. ~ Kevin Spacey

 

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Wonder Woman has inspired many conversations recently about strength and stereotypes and gender roles, about societal conventions and morality and violence, about relationships and responsibility and identity. ~ Jami Gold

When I was starting out as a writer, the prevailing wisdom was to avoid writing a female lead. In fact I can remember being told, “Boys don’t want to read about girls.” So I’ve only ever written about male heroes with female sidekicks thrown in for good measure.

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When I published my first book in 2015, my niece read it and her beef with me was that I’d written the female sidekick as “less than the hero.” She pulled me up on the fact that the boys were made to seem as all powerful while the girl character came across as a bit feeble. She said, “What sort of message do you think you’re putting out there for young girls today?”

Until she said those words, I’d never thought about it like that. I was born in the 60’s and the mindset of those times, that women were subordinate to men, had somehow become a part of me and filtered into my work without my even being aware of it. I thought, wow, she’s right. I have a responsibility to the young female reader.

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And then, the new Wonder Woman movie came out. I went to see it and emerged from the cinema feeling revolutionized. For the first time, I’d seen a female lead portrayed on screen who was at once, heroine and human. She could hold her own as a warrior, which she must, and also, even more importantly, lead with her strength of character. As Jami Gold said, ‘… show elements of emotional strength, like compassion for someone in need, fighting for what’s right or being determined to survive, being resourceful and brave, and just being an all-around interesting and cool person.’

You need to see all of that humanity in a hero these days. The world was ready for this Wonder Woman. With all respect to the goddess, Lynda Carter, whom I worship and adore, Gal Gadot is sensational in the part, eclipsing even beautiful Lynda’s performance. Gal’s version has a depth of humanity and compassion the world needs at the moment.

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I loved it. I always say, a sign of a good movie is if you come out really thinking about the world in a new way afterwards. And I walked out thinking, I’ve been tooling away at my children’s stories for over thirty years and yet, I’ve never written a heroine protagonist? I’ve let myself be limited in literary scope by thinking about the market first. Never do that. The whole thing is a creativity killer. Besides, what’s wrong with writing for girls?

When I was growing up, I read Heidi, Pippy Longstockings, Little House on the Prairie, Anne of Green Gables, Nancy Drew, and Little Women. Pippy was a wild girl like I was inside so I could relate. Those books were important to me. I was inspired by those books, by those feisty, headstrong, smart girls. I thought about the young girls who might go to see Wonder Woman and how they would perhaps feel about themselves afterwards as young women in the world. I thought I want to be part of that.

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Writing female characters who kick ass doesn’t mean the male sidekicks need to be weaker, either. Another really nice, refreshing thing about the new WW movie was that the male love interest, Steve Trevor, played by Chris Pine, was also allowed to shine. As one of Gold’s responders commented, ‘I love that you mentioned how Steve Trevor is portrayed as a hero in his own right. I’ve long said that truly strong men are not threatened by truly strong women.’

I thought, yes, what a great way forward, to write potent female characters without belittling the men. How about writing stories in which the power is more evenly redistributed between the sexes? How about writing for boys and girls, showing the power balanced between the two…now there’s a thought… The future is bright!

Thanks, Wonder Woman, for inspiring me. You’re my heroine!

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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“It’s total wish-fulfillment. I, as a woman, want Wonder Woman to be hot as hell, fight badass, and look great at the same time – the same way men want Superman to have huge pecs and an impractically big body. That makes them feel like the hero they want to be. And my hero, in my head, has really long legs.” – Director, Patty Jenkins

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