Archive for the ‘Middle Grade’ Category

Yesterday, after a slog of four doctor/hospital appointments in one day between my two younger boys, I received some horrible news. I had finally made it to sit down at my laptop and zone out with a stroll through my feed on Facebook. It was there I read the sad update of a friend’s son, to say that Robyn Campbell, beloved mother of seven, and highly regarded member of the writing community, had passed away in her sleep.

I left two stumbling messages on the post and immediately shut down my computer. I went about the rest of my evening, thinking about Robyn. She was such a great editor and writer, and a real firecracker. She and I formed a critique group of two a few years ago, called ‘The Two Amigos,’ and we spent a year or more working on our middle grade novels together.

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Robyn was sweet, and she ended every email with “SMOOCHES! Xxx”

I admired her endlessly positive attitude and spirit. She let nothing get her down.

Robyn was one of the original members of my online group, ‘Writing for Children’ over on Wanatribe International. That’s where we first met. She was so vivacious and fun. Her son was going through serious health issues, then their barn burnt down full of gear, and in the last couple of years, she fell down a hill when running away from a bear and hurt herself badly. Yet, her buoyant spirit never wavered. She was always positive. I used to marvel at her strength and willingness to get back up again and keep striving.

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One of her children, Christopher, was born with Sturge-Weber syndrome, characterized by the port-wine staining of the skin and various health issues. People with Sturge-Weber have a higher risk for seizures, glaucoma, stroke, blood clots, blindness, and paralysis. It was on Writing for Children we hatched a book, compiling an anthology of stories together. We wanted to help Christopher and other children like him. We formed the idea to donate all the proceeds of the book to the Sturge-Weber Foundation which is doing research on the rare condition.

Robyn’s story took us, that when Christopher was little and had asked about the staining on his skin, she would always say, “That’s where an angel kissed you.” We thought it was beautiful. With that in mind, the title, Kissed By An Angel was born. We went over to Facebook with it, creating a page for the book where we invited middle grade authors we knew to join and take part.

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We ended up with eleven authors in all. Our theme was angelic, supernatural, or somehow not of this world. 

I wrote a story, illustrated my story and the cover. We edited the book by sending our stories to the whole group and critiquing back and forth. Then another member did the formatting and so on.

We were proud of the resulting anthology, Kissed By An Angel . After publication, we sent one copy around the world to every contributing author to sign, and Robyn gave it to her son. In the foreword, Robyn wrote that the authors of the anthology ‘volunteered time to work on their stories and the publication of this book. They’re more valuable than the finest jewels–more cherished and appreciated than mere words could ever say.’

Robyn was the best.

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In her moving story, which starts the anthology, Kissed By An Angel Robyn wrote the story from Christopher’s point of view. She retells when he says he’s sorry for having seizures and making her cry. “This is nothing you’ve done. It isn’t your fault.” Momma smooths the sheet. “…I want you to know I would never, ever need a break from caring for you.”

Robyn was a truly wonderful mother.

I remember when one writer’s mom became ill. Robyn organised a big group of writers to write a funny story by each adding a snippet and send it to her to cheer her up.

Robyn was a truly good friend.

What a giant hole she has left in her family and in everyone’s lives. I’m so sad, I could hardly sleep last night…

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And then I started to think about how much Robyn has inspired me.

She was a warrior mother, a home-schooler and a hard worker on the farm. Her nature was one of giving, and there’s a lot to learn from that. She never let things get her down and always looked to the positive.

Robyn was truly a role model.

She showed by example how to have the right attitude in life. That’s what I aspire to do, too, hopefully half as well as my amigo. 

Love you buddy, smooches! Xxx

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Choose happiness. It’s the ultimate act of rebellion. ~ Piper Bayard

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As I enter the final stages of editing my third book, The Last Tree, I find I’m often asked the question, “What are you going to write next?” The answer is, I don’t know. This is the third and last volume in my middle grade trilogy, The Chronicles of Aden Weaver, and it has so engrossed every moment, I haven’t had the chance to look beyond it.

When I do look beyond it, I feel this irrational fear, which I believe is commonly felt among other writers. Will I ever write another story?

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For the last fourteen years, I’ve been fitting in writing the Chronicles around raising my two youngest sons. As a solo mum, with a house and garden to care for, and elderly parents, I enjoyed every chance I had to escape into my imaginary world on the planet of Chiron, whenever I was writing. It’s hard to imagine moving on. The thought of starting a new plot, a new world, a new dilemma, and new characters terrifies me.

It’s not me who writes the genesis draft anyway. Elizabeth Gilbert calls the process of inspiration, the ‘other’ energy that comes from nowhere and brings the stories with it, the muse; some call it a “genius.” The stories arrive from elsewhere as if they come on the wind. You have to be fleet of mind to grab them when they whistle by or you might miss out.

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I guess that’s part of the fun also of being a writer, living on the knife edge while you wait to be the instrument of the creative ferment. Once you start the process of formulating a story, you open your mind to ideas and wait for lightning to strike.

I haven’t had to do that in a long time. I’m nervous. Last night, I had a few nightmares. Thinking about them upon waking up, I could see the common denominator was fear. I decided, as we approach the winter solstice, that I would let go of all fear around writing the next book.

Every writer goes through this same anxiety at some point. Will I ever write again? Every writer has a different way of handling the period of not knowing that follows finishing a project and before starting the next.

My method is to craft notebooks for each potential project.

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This began back in the 1980’s, when I was writing my series, The Great Adventures of Splat the Wonder Dog. I put effort into creating a notebook of every background detail. The act of crafting images, making lists of story details and background and focusing in on the tale seemed to bring it to life in a whole new way.

The notebook also helped corral my thoughts and world-building.

In 2005, when I started writing The Chronicles of Aden Weaver, my notebook was a pad of old paper on the nightstand, on which I jotted down details of background, history, geography, characters, setting, mythology, religion, and plot each time I passed. There were no sketches or pictures pulled from magazines. I had two sons under the age of ten. I didn’t have time to shower or clip my own fingernails, let alone make works of art. Simple or not, the creative process was still seeded and propagated through the power of that notebook.

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This afternoon, I was doing the housework when an idea for a story setting popped into my head. It was a simple notion about an island I had read about years ago, in one of the old hardbacks in my parents’ home library. A few more ideas flashed by. I grabbed for my trusty moleskin and jotted them down. The muse was in flight.

The next logical step for me is to start collating these ideas into one place – a notebook. It’s so exciting! Whether it turns out to be a series or stand alone novel, that humble repository is where it will come together. While I’m still hard at work on publishing my third novel, the fourth will have time to develop.

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New Zealand author, Joy Cowley, said that she ‘baits the hook, drops it in the water and then waits for three to four years for each story idea to gather more ideas.’

I see my notebook method as being very similar to this analogy. Maybe someday soon, I’ll have an answer to the question, “What are you going to write next?” and it all begins right here with a pen and paper.

I’m ready for a new adventure to begin. Bring it on!

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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I have yet to meet a writer who wouldn’t rather peel a banana than apply himself to a pen. – Alice Thomas Ellis

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

A good friend said to me a few years ago, that entering one’s “middle years” was like fall, in that ‘things started to drop away from you like leaves from the tree.’ I think that is a handy analogy for this season of life I find myself in. After losing both my parents in the last two years, as well as a good friend, thinking of this time in my life as ‘being like fall’ helps me achieve the right mindset. That way, I accept loss as the natural order of life and the way things go.

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I put this realisation into my work-in-progress, a middle grade fantasy novel called, The Last Tree. Because of the youth of the characters, the realization becomes an initiatory one. I was able to use my recent experience with grief to write more realistically about the grief we feel as kids when we first take those first tentative steps towards adulthood, and we start to leave childhood behind. I can clearly remember being that age of twelve to thirteen and not wanting to grow up.

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Our young hero, Aden Weaver, was eleven in book one of The Chronicles of Aden Weaver series and each book covers the course of a year in his life. The Last Tree, being the third volume in the trilogy, includes the final battles, and the flowering into fullness of the child character/s must transpire.

As Aden Weaver is thirteen in The Last Tree, he is therefore on the cusp of change, walking that fine line of the transition between boyhood and manhood. He would naturally entertain his first thoughts about mortality. I did this through having his beloved mentor start to age rapidly. The thin line I had to walk was to have Aden experience loss while not dwelling on it to the point of being morbid.

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I knew I had to handle everything about the final book with care. In The Last Tree, Aden Weaver says goodbye to people he loves. It is a graduation story after all, and with graduation comes leaving people and places behind, so while there is bliss there is sadness. That’s life. It’s how we handle what happens that defines us.

It’s vital for the reader’s sense of resolution that Aden displays the depth of character at the end of the series absent at the beginning.

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The protagonist must demonstrate a growth arc and become that thing that was promised in book one, the wannabe must become the warrior, the hero, the more evolved, more complete version of themselves.

Aden, must taste the bitter fruit of reality and grow up a little and move on with new maturity. It’s a delicate piece in the mechanism of the coming of age story. However, I don’t prefer writing morbid fiction for children. You can see in the success of series like The Hunger Games that this generation of kids has high tolerance levels for death and violence. I read the Hunger Games trilogy to my boys earlier this year, and I was shocked at the content. It’s that sort of thing I couldn’t do.

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I want to do my story and characters justice in a potent way without the gore.

To me, there should be some reflection of life’s difficulties in our children’s books, and it also needs careful treatment. When you are writing for the 9-13 year-old age group, this acknowledgement of the child grasping the intransience of life needs to be touched on in some way, to be authentic to that stage of life. It’s about our passage over the threshold, from the first phase of life to the next. It can be symbolic, through leaving town, or changing schools. It needs to be present but not at the forefront, and not put in a way that is irresolvable for the immature mind.

Life’s tragedy can be delivered in junior fiction in a way that enriches the story without overwhelming it, if it’s done well. Just think of Charlotte’s Web.

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In writing about loss for young people, you must, also offer hope. Just as we do in real life, seek a counterbalance. The aim is not to leave your young audience devastated. We have a responsibility to reveal the glimmer of light along with the darkness.

At the end of The Last Tree, I sought to redress the balance back into the light. I only wrote the triumphant scenes a couple of months ago, and now they’re among my favourites in the whole book.

Hope is restored, as it should be. Life does go on.

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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‘Good stories are about the getting of wisdom; let your children grow up.’ ~ Jane Yolen

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

 

 

 

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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‘If the ending sucks, the book sucks.’ ~ Larry Brooks

As I neared writing the end of my third book in the trilogy, The Chronicles of Aden Weaver, I began to feel distinctly nervous. Yes, it’s great to write a series, and they’re especially popular in my genre, fantasy for young people, however after going on this gargantuan journey, how do you resolve it successfully? How do you bring the ending to a satisfying conclusion?

It’s difficult.

‘While there are plenty of structural criteria available to take us to the sequence of scenes that comprise the ending of a story, there is no paradigm or format for the ending itself’ wrote Larry Brooks.

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With every story I’ve written in the last thirty-five plus years, it’s the endings I’ve sweated over the most. There’s a laundry list of things to be ticked off and rounded up and you also have to make the ending count.

In writing a book, you have to answer the questions raised as well as the overall story question, you have to tie up the loose ends and bring everything to a resolution that has soul.

It’s what Larry calls, ‘the golden ring of moments.’

In writing a series, there are more story threads to be pulled together and an overarching plot to be completed. The ending needs to have even more impact when you’re resolving multiple books and rewarding real reader commitment.

There is so much pressure to get the ending perfect. But never fear, help is here.

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Here are some of the beats to help you get that all important closure in your ending:

*The hero enters the last act with the aim of vanquishing the bad guy, of overcoming their demons, to win the reward, to return home or in some other way reap the results and conclude their journey.

*The ending is more than just words, it has to deliver a sense of ‘satisfaction,’ that soothes the emotional needs of the reader as well as mental. Having built the readers empathetic bond with your characters, your duty as author is to take care of them to the last word.

*At the climax, in the worst moments, when the hardest choices are made, the hero must use the knowledge they have gained along the way, which has been tested and proved true.

*You also have to deliver that “punch to the gut” – whether good or bad – to the reader’s sense of experience, world view and hope. Some secret comes out, some revelation made, some information released, change, ultimate metamorphosis results.

*The hero is able to win against the force of opposition, and overcome their personal flaws.

*By doing this, they integrate into a new, improved person. They have mastered their own fate. They become complete.

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It’s no small feat, in other words. And, I usually approach my books’ conclusions with great trepidation.

Poet and children’s author, Helen Dunmore said, ‘Reread, rewrite, reread, rewrite. If it still doesn’t work, throw it away. It’s a nice feeling, and you don’t want to be cluttered with the corpses of poems and stories which have everything in them except the life they need.’

To inject life and to get the ending right for the third book in my series, I literally walked the halls of my house last weekend. I paced around, reading the last two chapters aloud and editing then reading over and over. I must have rewritten the last paragraph eight times. In the end, I got it written.

To write endings that count, there can be no extra words, no loose ends left flapping, every moment must be part of the story’s resolution.

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Of those final paragraphs, Larry Brooks, urges writers to, ‘Deliver a moment when the reader feels as if you are writing about them. A moment when you’ve reached out through the pages and touched their heart and mind, and their soul. A moment that reminds the reader why they love to read.’

No pressure, right?

With my book, The Last Tree, every question had been answered; I wanted to do the series justice, to make the ride through three books worthwhile. I wanted to strike the right note, to really make it feel like our hero, Aden, had transcended who he was before and become a radiant new being. I wanted to give closure and yet, the feeling of hope. Has it worked? Only time and the readers will tell.

How about you? How do you finish your stories and hone your endings? Do you find them hard to write?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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‘Finish what you’re writing. Whatever you have to do to finish it, finish it. ~ Neil Gaiman
Repeat.Authors are crazy.

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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!!!

InsecureWritersSupportGroup

OPTIONAL IWSG Day Question: How has your creativity in life evolved since you began writing?

I was seventeen when I began writing. Fresh out of school, I was a teenage mum with a newborn baby to care for. My boyfriend and I had moved out of home, away from our families into the city. In the early eighties, the days before personal cell phones and computers, this meant being totally isolated. It’s hard to imagine, now, isn’t it. But, we were on our own in the big, bad world. I studied for my bursary year by correspondence, while washing forty nappies every day by hand in the bathtub. As my boyfriend was in his first year as an apprentice photolithographer, he only made $96 a week and that was all we had. I bought bulk packs of macaroni and different powdered flavouring and made macaroni cheese with a different flavour added each night. We had one car, and we lived in a dingy apartment building. Our flat was infested with cockroaches, and at the front and back of the building it was nothing but tarmac, there was no view, no garden or green area of our own.

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That scenario was the perfect breeding ground for the artist to come forth. I had to escape somehow. The cheapest, simplest way to escape my life circumstances was to pick up a pen and write.

When my son was sleeping, I wrote children’s stories and let my imagination go wild. I didn’t ‘know how to write’ and the stories were pretty bad, looking back. I remember a well-known writer saying once, ‘Every writer has those first manuscripts lying in a bottom drawer that should never see the light of day.’ The writing was crap, and yet, I was trapped in a poor, isolated and uninspiring life, and writing stories gave me the hope I needed. It was like self therapy. Every day, I expressed myself creatively through the written word and by doing so experienced that new, more inspiring reality. This became my outlet, my sunlit garden, and the saving of me.

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Every day, whenever I got the chance, I’d pick up the story and write a little more. I’d climb through the green window into the meadow beyond, and there I’d be free.

As my son grew up, our life circumstances began to improve and have their own flowering.

My writing changed too. With each writing workshop, course, conference and lecture I attended, my understanding of the craft developed. My work gained more structure, more form and substance.

My first born son became an adult, and suddenly, I became more independent, I had more freedom. By the nineties, I had a job. I had money, and I was still writing in my spare time. There was the beautiful fruit of my stories developing into purer forms.

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Every day, whenever I got the chance, I’d pick up the story and write a little more. I was still drawing and painting my characters in tandem with writing the prose.

I remarried and had two more sons. We had a home with a lovely garden. As my life circumstances and finances settled, I didn’t have a desperate desire to escape my world anymore. In order to continue to work at a steady pace on my stories, I had to learn discipline. Just as I had to attend to the grown-up business of marriage, house maintenance and child-rearing, I also had to learn B.I.C. Butt In Chair is hard to do as it takes immense concentration. I accepted the challenge.

Every day, I’d sit and write a little more. I decided to stop drawing my own illustrations, and I focussed on the words.

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I gravitated to writing middle grade fiction twelve years ago, and it felt like I’d found my niche.

Writing has become an integral part of my life. I have come to love every step of the novel writing process. I don’t have an agent or a publisher. I’m my own boss and in the last three years, I’ve self published two books and had two short works included in two others.

My creativity in life has definitely evolved since I started writing? How about you, has yours?

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Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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“Tell me, what is it you plan to do / with your one wild and precious life?” Mary Oliver

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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!!!

InsecureWritersSupportGroup

OPTIONAL IWSG Day Question: What publishing path are you considering/did you take, and why?

I’m going to answer both parts of that question. When I put out The Last Tree, the third book of the Chronicles of Aden Weaver, in 2019, I aim to self publish. But, that’s not to say going Indie is an easy option. I self published The Or’in of Tane Mahuta in 2015 and The Sasori Empire in 2017, and both journeys were equally back breaking.

Going Indie is a bit like having babies: the agony and hardship and gruelling aspect of self publishing your stories is epic. As you sweat your way through the nightmare of endless editing hell and the 101 jobs that need doing, you swear with a fist raised to the sky that once you’ve got this book out, that’s it, you’re done with going Indie.

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In more sober moments, you tell friends that the next time you publish a book you’ll get someone else to do the donkey work. You’re totally willing to go out on the streets to knock on the doors and basically stalk the gatekeepers again, submitting your manuscripts to editor after editor. You’re convinced you’d rather trudge the rounds of submission forever, than tackle self publishing again.

Then, your beautiful baby is born. You have the party, you hold your novel in your hands, sniff it, and you look at it adoringly. Sometime later, after the glow has worn off and a bit more time has gone past, you realize you want to do it all over again.

You dive back into being an Indie with your next work because:

 

  1. Despite the backbreaking hours of hard work, it’s really rewarding.
  2. Every single decision is in your hands which is overwhelming, yet you have control over the look of the whole package, which is exhilarating (hee hee, ha ha!)
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  4. Every single cent ever made goes to you.
  5. I once turned down a publishing offer because they wanted to change the name of the characters! As an Indie, you get to be the boss, and say how the story goes and no one else.
  6. Because you have to do the book launches and marketing yourself, it drives you to learn new skills and expand your repertoire.
  7. You have more to offer in terms of advice and knowhow when young authors come asking. I’ve been surprised in the last ten years how many up and coming writers have asked me questions. It’s helpful in those situations to have a clue.
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  9. For me, one of the big reasons for self publishing is no one wanted to publish my stories the way I wanted to read them. So, in order for me to put out my anthropomorphic fantasy adventure fiction for the upper middle grade market (9-13-year-olds), I had to do it myself. Sometimes, when the slice of the market you’re aiming at is so small, it just isn’t economically viable for a traditional publishing house to invest in a niche with such low returns. So, in order to stay true to the material, I had to produce it myself.

For me, this is vitally important, because my entire life is a quest for truth, for honesty, the essence of things. I aim to cleave to the material the muse gives me.

For me, the gut feeling is this: that my only job as the author is to produce the copy, buff and polish it with editing, and do my utmost not to wreck the original inspiration.

If the gatekeepers can’t get behind my vision or this particular creation, then so be it. I get to say, no matter, I’m publishing it anyway. And, I love that!

8. Ultimately, it feels good because it feels like investing in myself.

What about you, what publishing path will you take?

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Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

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It’s time for this month’s group posting with 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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OPTIONAL IWSG Day Question: What are your ultimate writing goals, and how have they changed over time (if at all)?

That’s a brilliant question because it really made me sit back and think. My goals have changed a lot. When I started penning kids’ fiction as a seventeen-year-old, I was far removed from the reality of being an author.

Believe it or not, when I started out, personal computers were not yet a thing. Although some people had them, no one I knew owned one. And the internet was just a twinkle in the eye of a brainiac, somewhere. I spent the first decade writing the good old fashioned way, with a pen and paper. I was a teenager, starting out in the 1980’s, just following the thread of what interested me in terms of subject matter and genre.

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I worked a string of other jobs and often second jobs as well. Writing stories was what I did in my spare time, and it still is.

When I started out at seventeen, I wasn’t thinking of publication. I was impelled to share my creativity through children’s stories, so I followed it. It took me another ten years to start submitting to publishers. My ultimate writing goal at the age of twenty-seven was simple, to get published and make money.

I have an old book of ‘Intentions,’ which I write up each year like resolutions. I discovered that by the age of thirty my ultimate writing goal had morphed into: “I want my books to be a huge success like Harry Potter.”

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Wow, I sure didn’t aim low in those days. I was quite surprised by the audacity of my intention.

I admit I’ve reduced my ultimate writing goals as I’ve gone along. Which I think boils down to figuring out what you really want to do with your time. As you grow older, time becomes more precious. The entry for 2017 reads: I raise people’s awareness and bring joy, inspire and make people feel better through the power of story.

And with age, you get more realistic. I might not be the next J. K. Rowling.

These days, I’m a stay-at-home mum and caregiver to my thirteen-year-old and my middle son who has Downs’ syndrome. I write part-time. I have two stories published and two books which I self published. My wish list these days tends to focus on more meaningful things like wanting joy, and a sense of fulfilment.

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These days my ultimate writing goal is to write more of what I love.  However, the series I’m writing is anthropomorphic fantasy fiction about insects. It gets some strange reactions at times.

I’ll never forget the response of one assessor to my book,  The Or’in of Tane Mahuta. She said, “Great story, but lose the insects!” I couldn’t lose the insects, they were an integral part of the machine of the story.

One day, I will move on to new fields in fiction. For now, I want to see this series out and do the best I possibly can.

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One of the authors I like is Lee Child, author of the Jack Reacher novels. He’s a real storyteller. Asked to give a tip recently for writers, he said, “Ignore all the tips. It’s got to be 100% your own product. As soon as you start thinking about what you should do, there’s a compromise and the spark goes. You’ve got to do what you want to do.”

Child really gets it. He’s talking about listening to the gut and the heart of the story. I love it. I’m ignoring all the tips. It’s 100% my anthropomorphic fantasy fiction about insects. If I want little critters creeping and flying and turning into human hybrids, I must write them. You’ve got to do what you want to do, right?

I wonder what my intention for 2019 will be? I think it’s going to be something along the lines of ‘I just want to be myself and enjoy the process!’

What about you? What are your Ultimate Writing Goals for 2018? Have you met them yet?

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Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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In a totally sane society, madness is the only freedom. ~ J. G. Ballard

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I totally missed this month’s group posting with the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! I temporarily was without a phone service for one very frustrating week. No phone, no WordPress password, no blog post. However, I thought the “Question of the Month” for June was particularly interesting so I’m going to post my answer anyway.

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OPTIONAL IWSG Day Question: What’s harder for you to come up with, book titles or character names? 

I find both equally as hard. I would say the only time in the last thirty-five years that a book title came easily was The Sasori Empire. It’s Book Two in The Chronicles of Aden Weaver series I’m currently working on. How did I come up with it? Sasori is Japanese for scorpion. The baddie of the series is a scorpion shapeshifter, and the title for his association needed an epic name. This led me in a very organic way to the Sasori Empire for the bad guys. Straight away, I knew it would make a great book title, too. Still, to this day, it is the favourite of all my story titles.

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The character name which came the most easily was Sun, the child slave who enters the story in Book Two. Her name was just ‘there,’ fully formed straight away. I didn’t have to effort or chase, or change it five times in writing the prose. “Sun” is like a haiku. It’s short and quintessentially her. It’s one of my favourite character names for its simplicity.

To me, naming your pieces is important. It’s part of the ritual, of drawing inspiration out of the ether and giving it form.

And it’s a significant step in writing the true story which wants to be written. If the name of a character or a story does not ring true for me as the reader, I’m turned away. And the same happens for me as the writer. I can’t get to know and understand my characters, and therefore do them justice, without their real names.

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My current series evolved out of picture books I wrote and illustrated twenty years ago. Names which were appropriate for pre-schoolers were not appropriate for upper middle grade readers, so they needed to be changed.

It took me a year to get them right. I changed the side-kick’s name three times and yet, I still wasn’t happy. Then, I heard my sister-in-law say, that she’d always thought if she had a baby girl she’d call her Te Maia. I loved the name immediately. When I paired it with the surname I already had, Te Maia Wilde, a feisty sidekick was born.

I find the protagonist’s name much harder to choose, because there’s so much riding on it. A main character’s name has to hit it out of the ball park. It has to be easy to say and easy to remember. It has to paint a picture in as few words as possible. Can you imagine Star Wars without Luke Skywalker? Or The Hobbit without Bilbo Baggins? Or The Hunger Games without Katniss Everdeen? These are solid names to hang a heart on.

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With my current protagonist, I couldn’t get anything to fit. He needed a strong, stable name with potential hero in it. I tried Franklin, Benjamin, Sage, and many more monikers. Nothing ‘felt’ like the kid I knew so well in my head. He needed depiction through his name, but no matter how I chased, it remained elusive. Like the white stag in the distance, I could glimpse the form but never catch up.

It required patience. Staying the course.

Four years after starting the rewrite, I happened to read a blog about the success of the Harry Potter series. One of the important factors in the success, so the journalist proposed, was the fact that the hero’s name was ‘relatable.’ The name Potter is taken from those who used to make their humble living in days gone by sculpting clay, and people responded to that sense of familiarity, so he surmised.

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I thought about this, and considered the different professions which were common to most societies and times, and the name “Weaver” popped into my head. I had the surname.

The first name came much later, from a project my youngest was involved in at school, and one of the boys listed in his class was called Aden. I paired this with Weaver in my head. And, I finally had my protagonist. We could sail!

These days, I keep notebooks and jot down great words and names so I have plenty on file. It’s still torture though.

How about you?

How do you figure out your names and titles?

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Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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“If you don’t ask, you don’t get.”~ Stevie Wonder

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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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