Archive for the ‘perseverance’ Category

Go Indie, they said, you’ll make a mint, they said.

Are you familiar with the fact Johnny Depp uses Laurel & Hardy type fall-down-on-your-butt humour to bring the funny to the Pirates of the Caribbean movies? Depp’s a confirmed lover of slapstick. I feel like I’m doing a slapstick comedy routine of my own at the moment, trying to bring my second book into print. Talk about learning by default. Today I began to laugh about it which I guess is a good sign. Either that, or I’m going mad.

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My slapstick movie goes like this: I went Indie in 2015, publishing my first book, ‘The Or’in of Tane Mahuta,’ ( http://amzn.com/B015K1KF0I ) through a local company, BookPrint. They did all the layout and formatting and cover design. This time round, for the second book in the Chronicles of Aden Weaver series, ‘The Sasori Empire,’ I thought I would use Createspace services, the self-publishing arm of Amazon.

Misstep number one

The first thing I didn’t know was how long it would take to go from submitting to being ready to print. I’d estimated about 6-8 weeks based on the initial conversation with the Createspace “publishing consultant.” In hindsight, I realize the six weeks I’d been quoted was based on an ideal world where the book is perfect and no changes need to be made and it sails straight from submission through the different levels of production.

In the real world, errors are found through looking at digital proofs. Changes need to be made and each round of editing changes takes a week to put into effect. In underestimating the time factor, I stumbled and fell over two attempts at book launches. *face plant

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Misstep number two

In The Or’in of Tane Mahuta, BookPrint made a fleur-de-lis for me to border the pages, using some of my imagery. Unable to copy their fleur-de-lis though for the second book, I drew it myself in pen & ink. I uploaded the image to Createspace. I requested the vertical image to feature opposite “some” chapters (as they’d been sprinkled throughout the first book). The first proof arrived with the fleur-de-lis opposite the start of every chapter and there are SIXTY-THREE chapters.

I asked to have the vertical images removed. The digital proof returned and in the place of every fleur-de-lis there were blank pages, in other words, SIXTY-THREE blank pages. *head desk

Images opposite start of chapters

Misstep number three

I paid more money.

The novel was checked by my proof reader and me. It was with great wonder and delight that I finally pushed the “approve” button I’d wanted to hit for so long.

The printed proof arrived in all its newfound glory. I gazed upon my creation and thought I’d gone to heaven.

Then, to my horror, within the pretty cover lay a ghastly sight – chopped up sentences everywhere – to fit the lines on the page the computer had hyphenated words like mo-ther, go-ing, to-gether. There were three to four to a page. I went to my friends who have self published using Createspace services. They said they’d had to typeset their own stories before they sent them in! Aha. *belly laugh

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And so, through this comedy of errors, I made a lot of rookie mistakes. I took cream pie to the face. I stepped on a few rakes. I subjected myself to what Laurel and Hardy would call “cartoon violence.”

On the plus side, I have learned a lot about self publishing my own book. I’m also closer to publishing this novel than I was before I started. And I’ve been able to share what I’ve learned with others.

Huzzah!

I remind myself to take heart from the stirring poem Kristen Lamb put me onto a couple of weeks ago, How Did You Die? By Edmund Vance Cooke:

‘The harder you’re thrown, why the higher you bounce; Be proud of your blackened eye! It isn’t the fact that you’re licked that counts, It’s how did you fight — and why?’

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I was sitting in a pub with old friends the other night, and we were talking about our careers. I tried to explain my strange predicament. I said, “once, I had the comfort of not being published. Now that I have spit on my hand and joined the ring, it’s terrifying. I feel like I’m out of my element, and I’m making mistakes in public.”

But if I don’t put my stories out now, then when?

With book two, there is still some work to be done. That’s okay. I’ve learned something new. I’ve tasted the finish line, so now I must pull my boots up and get crackerlackin’. After all, that’s what Laurel and Hardy, or Jack Sparrow would do!

As Kristen said in her response to my ‘Quit or Stay’ post, ‘Life knocks us down, but that’s just life. The getting up? All on us.’

You have to have skin in the game. And you have to be cool when you get popped in the nose.

It’s not easy to do. What about you, how do you handle the knock backs?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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There are so many reasons most writers don’t make it and very little of it has to do with the writing. This is a mental battle first and foremost. Mastering emotion and will and getting up over and over and over and over. ~ Kristen Lamb

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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.

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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June Question: Did you ever say “I quit”? If so, what happened to make you come back to writing?

I’d say the closest I’ve ever come to quitting happened in the last week.

I began working with Createspace to produce Book Two in the Chronicles of Aden Weaver series in April. As ‘The Sasori Empire’ had been through three rounds of critique, professional editing and had subsequently been vetted by a professional proof-reader, I knew the copy was clean and ready to format. Yet even so, a few minor errors were found in the process of designing the interior of the book. That’s par-for-the-course.

However, I wasn’t prepared for how long each editing change would take to effect. I had to organize, postpone and reorganize the book launch two times. I came close to the point of quitting because the long delays meant a huge amount of extra work for me. When I realized last weekend, that the books were not going to be here in time for the second attempt at a launch, I felt gutted. I didn’t know where I’d get the energy from to start the engine a third time.

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This called a great many things into question in my mind. It was just one of those moments in a writer’s life where you question, is it all worth it? All the sacrifice, all the money and time poured in so liberally when time for everything else is so squeezed and for a short while, I wondered if writing was worth the blood of my life.

I don’t usually ever question it. I’ve always had a facility for story ever since I was a small child, and I enjoy writing, however, I wondered for the first time, maybe my path is not writing books? Maybe I was purely put here to be a mother to three children.

I questioned, is fiction where I should be aiming my efforts? I felt, it’s taking me a long time to master this craft! Maybe I’ll never get there. And so the doubts went on.

Then I saw Kristen Lamb, who is such a warrior writer, was going through publishing woes of her own, and she was taking them in stride.

I read her blog post, Reality vs. Expectations—Remaining Calm When it ALL Goes Pear-Shaped (http://authorkristenlamb.com/2017/06/reality-vs-expectations-remaining-calm-when-it-all-goes-pear-shaped/) and was inspired. Kristen said, “If we never fail, we never learn. Show me a person who never fails and I’ll show you someone who’s never done anything interesting.”

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Why does trying to publish our books cause so much anguish?

“Publishing involves…humans,” said Kristen. “Humans who screw up, make mistakes, etc. Even better? Now that we’re in the digital age? Humans can screw up much FASTER and INSTANTLY.”

Yes. This is the thing, these days, every step you take and every stumble is public property.

“If we allow ourselves to be at the mercy of circumstances? We’re going to be miserable and we’ll never finish the blog or the book. We’ll give up, tap out and take every carb in the house down with us,” she wrote. “One thing we must learn to be successful in this profession (or any other) is to forbid outside circumstances to own, control or derail us.”

I took heart. I began to feel the love of writing fiction return. I felt that I was not alone (!) and it didn’t hurt that Kristen finished the post with this kick ass Teddy Roosevelt quote, “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming.”

Yeah!

It’s good to be back! Have you ever quit something and returned stronger?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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“Loss is hard and we must grieve but then we must write a new story, with better ending.”  © 2017 LEAH WHITEHORSE  

 

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Or, Editing Woes Noone Warned you About ~

The word “edit” in the dictionary means “to prepare for publication.”

For the author in the last stages of editing their book, the sheer hours spent bum-in-chair can become numbing at both ends of the spectrum.

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You see, no one tells you the truth about the writer’s life, either at school or in the way it’s rendered via popular media. As a kind of public service announcement, I’m happy to give you a “heads up” about the possible woes that lie ahead, if you’re thinking of turning that story in the bottom drawer into a viable commodity.

Here’s what to expect:

Editing Woes #1: Temporary Blindness

Stephen King once said, “Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open.” There’s a good reason for keeping that office door open. Besides getting other people’s eyes upon your fiction, you need ventilation. You can succumb to writer’s fatigue. After sitting in a room on your own, staring at those dark marching ants across the screen for hours, you stop seeing the words.

Cure: Get some oxygen, head outdoors, look at nature.

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Editing Woes #2: Temporary Book Hate

“The first draft of everything is shit,” so said Ernest Hemmingway. However, given enough exposure to your own work, every other draft of your own precious story will start to annoy you, too. This is a temporary phase.

Top tip: Try not to throw the entire file in the rubbish bin.

Cure: Keep going. Do not give up!

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Editing Woes #3: Temporary Loss of Will to Live

There comes a moment, when you’ve just finished your hundredth edit of your story, and you realize you’re going to have to go back to the beginning and start again, that the apple begins to slide off the cherry.

I had a deadline to reach this weekend, my book needed to be submitted to createspace by April 15th. The material had been worked over so many times, but it still wasn’t done. When I found myself at 6.30 in the evening yesterday, and it wasn’t finished and I still I had to keep editing, I felt weak with stress.

The last yards to publication when you’re an Indie are soul destroying. Every time you think you’ve carved off the last word and discovered the last ill-placed comma, you find yet another error.

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On the fifth “final edit” I just wanted to put down the laptop lid, walk away and pretend none of it ever happened. I felt I could not read those words again.

Top Tip: This is normal. You will want to give up. You will want to curl in the fetal position. Don’t worry; it happens to all of us. It’s like childbirth or passing a kidney stone, it doesn’t matter how bad it becomes, you will get through it.

Cure: Eat treats. I took “feijoa breaks.”

Editing Woes #4: Temporarily Losing Touch with Reality

Yes, this is a common problem they don’t warn you about in writing class. When those sixth and seventh “final edits” take place, usually late at night, and you’re keeping yourself going by drinking coffee and eating sweets, the hours start to blend. One friend said, “it’s like a black hole that sucks time into it.”

This is true. The further you dive into your nitty-gritty polishes, the more hours disappear. When I finally lifted my head last night, I looked around and it was dark outside. The whole day had vanished. I was blinking like a mole, saying, where is everyone?

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Cure: Go be with human people. Exercise. Eat. Drink. Sleep.

The reward is that this really is the last hurdle.

Top Tip: just as with childbirth, it’s all worth it in the end. When the proud author gets to see their story presented in book form for the first time, it makes all the pain of editing worthwhile. The secret is to keep going through the gnarly last part!

At midnight, I had the manuscript, the cover art, a professional headshot, the back cover blurb and three great peer reviews ready to go, and I submitted the whole package to Createspace. I felt immediate relief and joy. Now, I await the first “proof” which is exciting.

But here’s the thing, no work of art is ever truly finished.

As Oscar Wilde said, “Books are never finished, they are merely abandoned.”

I had to choose the point at which to let go. When do you let go? When do you say enough’s enough?

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Talk to you later.

Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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“This morning I took out a comma, and this afternoon I put it back again.” ~ Oscar Wilde

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I saw a picture on Facebook the other day of Neil Gaiman. After a Nick Cave concert, the author was sitting in his chair scribbling in a notebook. And, the image really captured my imagination.

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The accompanying article was about creating healthy limits in order to get the writing done, Embrace Your Boundaries

http://writerunboxed.com/2017/02/24/embrace-your-boundaries/

Author Dan Blank, says, ‘I want to share what I have experienced recently in allowing boundaries to be a part of my own creative work. How boundaries have helped the work, instead of hindering it.’

That’s exactly where my thoughts have been. As a writer, I simply wasn’t producing enough copy. In these times of distraction, we have to carve out our own cave.

Towards the end of January, after blogging non-stop for a few years, I took a writer’s hiatus. It really worked for me. I took a break from my blog, Newsletter, and every form of social media (except for a tiny bit of stalking Facebook). I was immediately productive, at least doubling, if not tripling my former output. On the very first weekend I stopped social media, I completely finished an exhaustive edit. I then finished transcribing the edits of my editor and critique partner, Maria Cisneros-Toth.

In fact, it was so successful, I’ve decided to experiment from now on with blogging and putting out the Newsletter less often. I’ll try blogging fortnightly and putting out the Newsletter monthly. We’ll see how that goes.

Maria said at this stage with her books, she always reads them in different media, on her phone, her ipad and so on. Then, she prints out a copy and reads it on paper.

She said, “You’ll pick up lots of errors you hadn’t seen that way.” The funny thing is, in my thirty five years of writing, I’ve never allowed myself luxuries like spending $20 on a copy of a book just to edit it one time. So, this was a complete novelty to me.

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Do you know what? Printing it out was a time saver. It brought many inconsistencies to the surface. That one edit on paper probably saved me three edits on the computer.

It seems everything becomes clear when you read a story on paper. It’s as if the brain processes the material in a different way. I easily noticed repeated words, favoured ways of saying things and errors in sequence of logic.

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Reading aloud is another effective tool in the editing kit.

With my first book, ‘The Or’in of Tane Mahuta,’ (http://amzn.com/B015K1KF0I) I recorded myself reading to camera. I knew that listening to the prose was a step not to be missed.

For this story, I used a hand-held Sony IC recorder. I read the entire book over three days.

What an incredible tool for editing! It really shows you what’s working and what’s not.

For instance, with dialogue tags, the general rule-of-thumb is you can use ‘said, asked, whispered,’ and, sometimes, ‘added.’ In a number of places in my second book, ‘The Sasori Empire,’ my young hero, Aden ‘added’ something to a conversation. It looked fine on paper, but what a tongue-twister to read! So, if you haven’t read your story aloud yet, you must do so.

When you think about it, this is the litmus test of a story, if you can’t read a story to someone, you’ve failed out of the starting gate.

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At this point, I’d edited the book eight times, Maria, once. Yet, after going through the wringer of printing out and reading aloud, the pages of my paper manuscript were covered in red pen. I was floored by how many changes needed to be made.

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Next job was to sit at the computer and transcribe the changes into Word.

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I had the stack of 227 pages of my corrections as well as a rather wonderful list, ‘things to watch for’ about general issues raised. It helped me ensure I had introduced certain characters properly and had events happening in the right order.

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It requires attention to detail and many hours of dedication to create a book!

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Meanwhile, I’d sounded out my sister, Jag, about being my first beta reader. She agreed, and bless her, two days later the manuscript was returned. This weekend, my job is to transcribe Jag’s edits into the book.

After that, I get to send it to the second beta reader. And so, the process goes on.

I’m more productive by creating social media limits. How about you? Any experiences or advice to share?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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‘Don’t worry about genius and don’t worry about not being clever. Trust rather to hard work, perseverance, and determination.’ ~ Sir Frederick Treves, 1903

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Stories have to be told or they die, and when they die, we can’t remember who we are or why we’re here. ~ Sue Monk Kidd

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In the last week, I’ve had a revelation, thanks to a little help from a dear friend. I realised I’m spending way too much time on social media, at the expense of my writing.

I started out with the internet and social media about five years ago. At first, I had it all in balance, but somewhere along the line, the balance started to shift.

My friend pointed out that while I’ve been able to keep my blog and newsletter and Facebook and YouTube updated regularly  -‘You’re everywhere’ – I failed to finish and produce my second book, ‘The Sasori Empire,’ as I’d promised readers, last year.

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Self-defence is the knee-jerk. I explained I’ve long adhered to Kristen Lamb’s excellent social media advice for writers. I was under the impression keeping up with the social media gambit was a necessity for all artists these days.

Yet, when I really looked hard at myself and my output, I knew my friend was right. I’ve maintained social media religiously, and let the writing of my sequel to *’The Or’in of Tane Mahuta’ slide. *http://amzn.com/B015K1KF0I

I really do appreciate my subscribers!

While I feel an obligation to continue to provide output, I also have had to admit that if I continue at this rate, I’m not going to produce ‘The Sasori Empire’ this year, either. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day. I spend a day at a time writing and producing my blog posts. I spend at least three days, even longer sometimes, writing and collating my fortnightly newsletter.

My friend said, ‘You do all of your social media well. Now imagine if you put more of that time into this book instead of rushing through it.’

Yes. Imagine!

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Between raising my two youngest boys, and being on the committee of two different groups, something’s gotta give. Therefore, I’ve decided to take at least a month’s hiatus from social media (although I may pop onto Facie in the mornings while I have my first cup of tea).

My ultimate dream would be to publish ‘The Sasori Empire’ this winter and make a start on the third book in The Chronicles of Aden Weaver series in time for spring in the southern hemisphere. But, to do that will require a lot of work.

Therefore, I’ll be taking a writer’s hiatus for a month, or so.

After I have put nose-to-the-grindstone, I shall return! Hopefully, with the second book well in hand. Sometimes you’ve got to make the hard calls, and this is one of those times.

Thanks, for your patience!

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Talk to you later.

Meantime, keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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A young writer is an explorer. She knows she wants to get somewhere, but she doesn’t even know if the somewhere even exists yet. It is there to be created. In the process of creating it we find out how varied and complex we are. ~ Colum McCann

 

 

 

 

When we start out as lowly newbie writers, knowing no one and nothing, we tap away at our stories in our towers of isolation and let the stories flow. We dream of being picked up by traditional publishing houses that will put on a full media blitz into trumpeting our shiny debut novel the length and breadth of the land. We go on to make scads of money, have our books in libraries and on bookshelves. We live forever. We conquer death.

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We get our book handed to Peter Jackson, the famous New Zealand movie producer. He reads it and decides to make a movie out of it with Weta Studios. We go to the theatre with our family. We see our world and our story played out on the big screen under the glittering lights.

We make enough money to buy our own island, to which we retreat purely to write and paint. We make enough money to pay for the kids’ education and then to buy houses for our grown-up children.

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Then we wake up one day and realize, that in reality, we’ve run out of money, we’re eating beans for dinner every night, the rent’s overdue, and there are bills to be paid. We move back home to live with our parents. We resign ourselves to using the public transport system and to being a bottom-feeder, again.

We console ourself, it’s okay. We’ll re-start the editing cycle. We’ll join a new critique group.

We drag the dream out of the dirt, dust it off and revive it again. We go back to work on the book in earnest.

We resolve we’ll work on this story, make it the best we can do, and it will be discovered by a traditional publishing house, and it’ll go on to become a bestseller.

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The dream’s still alive.

We finish the book and submit our precious baby. We get rejected. This gets repeated ad nauseum.

We wake up one day, thirty years later, and realize, the original dream isn’t going to happen the way we thought it would. One of our parents has passed over already, two lots of our friends have divorced, and our kids have turned into teenagers as if by magic, seemingly overnight. As the song lyrics go, ‘my children are getting older, I’m getting older, too.’

Only when we’ve exhausted all hope, and run down every street to find only dead-ends, do we consider the mountainous obstacle of self-publishing.

The bitter reality is that going Indie is a ton of work, and only a select few authors get to live the first tier of the dream: getting that golden deal, hitting the bestseller status, and signing a book-to-movie deal. Not everyone will be the next Hugh Howey.

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The rest of us get to evolve.

Isn’t that wonderful?

What’s the alternative? To give up? To abandon the dream that has warmed our nights and sustained our days through the long hours of typing? No, of course not. We are indomitable. We are writer.

We write. We learn. We observe. We write. We learn.

And now, whether we like it or not, we are going to be a publisher, as well. We’ll get to wear many hats: to don the apparel of book producer, promoter, like an old-fashioned hawker of your own goods. “Roll up! Roll up! Hot off the presses. Get your copy quick!” and to bash people over the head with a verbal press release about our book at every social (media) occasion.

It’s either go Indie, or go home.

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We can see by the veritable tsunami of self-published books flooding the market these days that we are doing these things ourselves. We adapt and survive and thrive. And, some Indie authors are climbing to the top of the literary mountain and attaining the first tier of the dream, under their own steam. So, it can be done!

The immutable truth however, as stated in The Drunkard’s walk, by Leonard Mlodinow, is that there is a certain random element in who gets to make the bestseller list. ‘There exists a vast gulf of randomness and uncertainty between the creation of a great novel and the presence of huge stacks of that novel at the front of thousands of retail outlets. That’s why successful people are almost universally members of a certain set – the set of people who don’t give up.’

In other words, while hitting the big time may be a game of numbers, there’s one way of getting there and that is to write and continue to write.

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Keep on creating…

Yvette K. Carol

@yvettecarol1

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Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout with some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand. — George Orwell

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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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I’ll never forget a school trip we did once. When I was seven-years-old we visited an old folks’ home. An octogenarian said, ‘I was young once, like you. I thought I was Peter Pan. You’ll be old like me, too, before you know it.’ I remember a chill going down my spine.

Time and the way it passes is a strange thing. It may be explained in a theoretical way, by a source like Wikipedia, ‘Time is the indefinite continued progress of existence and events that occur in apparently irreversible succession from the past through the present to the future.

However, for most of us, we observe time in a personal, subjective way via a passing parade of birthdays and rites of passage.

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Both my youngest boys make the transition from junior schools to the next level of their education, next year. In 2017, my middle child will move from Intermediate to High School, and my youngest boy moves from Primary School to Intermediate.

In four days, I shall turn 52.

I suddenly become aware of time, in a new, more acute way, it seems as if time has ‘sped up’ and ‘gone by fast.’

I was seventeen when my eldest child was born. I looked ahead at our lives like an endless path. Twenty years went by and I had my subsequent children. When I looked ahead with these babies, I saw a different picture, a shorter road.

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I’ve celebrated more birthdays with zeroes on the end. I’ve taken to dyeing the roots of my hair to cover the greys, and to wearing heels and lipstick more often to draw attention away from the gathering “crow’s feet” and “smile lines” on my face.

What does time mean?

According to Wikipedia, ‘Periodic events and periodic motion have long served as standards for units of time. Examples include the apparent motion of the sun across the sky, the phases of the moon, the swing of a pendulum, and the beat of a heart.’

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Yes, the beat of a heart. My boys have lost their baby teeth, they’ve passed the famed “double digits milestone,” learned to read and write, learned how to look after pets, play sports, and do basic chores. There has been a rhythm to the changes.

‘Currently, the international unit of time, the second, is defined by measuring the electronic transition frequency of caesium atoms.’ Why does time seem to go more slowly when we’re growing up and then seems to “speed up” as we age? I believe there is a scientific reason for it which has recently been established although I haven’t read the hypothesis, yet.

However, such things as this Wikipedia definition of time and the Gregorian calendar are relatively recent inventions.

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As a teacher of the Kahuna tradition, Erin Lees says, ‘The ancients followed the natural cycles. Life then followed that observation of nature.’ In other words, our ancestors heeded the seasons, plants, animals, migrations, the tides, the stars, the movement of the sun and moon for their sense of time.

The ancient peoples were consummate astronomers. ‘Temporal measurement has occupied scientists and technologists,’ says Wikipedia, ‘and was a prime motivation in navigation and astronomy.’

These days, we have become more and more “time poor.” Everybody rushes around saying they ‘don’t have time.’ You often hear the term, ‘time is money,’ and ‘there just aren’t enough hours in the day.’

‘Time is of significant social importance, having economic value as well as personal value, due to an awareness of the limited time in each day and in human life spans.’ ~ Wikipedia

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Therefore, to my mind, my task is to make the most of the time I have.

To do this, I need to find a balance between work and rest. The onus falls on me to find the methods of relaxation which suit me best.

There are many ways of stepping outside of the stress and slowing down. In order to return to some of that timeless experience of youth, we can utilize age-old relaxation techniques.

After trying many different things over the years, these methods work for me: daily meditation, which I learnt from the yogi, Gurudev Hamsah Nandatha, (e: adivajra@xplornet.com), daily discipline practise, I do Ka’alele Au, a form of martial art from Hawaii, which I learnt from the teacher, Erin Lees, (e: romikapalele@rocketmail.com), daily yoga, and I attend a local satsang group (also run by Erin). These are the things which keep my feet on the ground and my chin to the wind.

(p.s. on my birthday, I also gorge myself on cake!)

How do you create enough time? Do, tell!

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Time you enjoy wasting, was not wasted. ~ John Lennon

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https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Time

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Back in 2002, when I was expecting my second child, I was 36-years-old. My doctor at the time advised me to have an amniocentesis test, which is the form of pre-natal screening we have here in New Zealand. The doctors test for Down’s syndrome by inserting a long needled into the womb and extracting amniotic fluid.

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I panicked. I thought what if the results come back as positive? It was a decision I simply couldn’t make. I decided against taking the test.

In New Zealand, we were told at the time, one in 600 babies were born with Down’s syndrome.

In the UK, between 1989 and 2012, 20,000 babies were diagnosed through the new non‐invasive prenatal testing (NIPT). Of these, 92% were aborted. And, being classified as a ‘severe disability’, abortion can take place right up until birth.

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I’m so glad I somehow found the strength to resist the pressure of the medical professionals around me at the time, because my second son was born with Down’s syndrome. Sam-the-man, The Sam. As my mother said at the time, he has more God in him than anyone else. It’s true. It bothers me deeply to think of the pressure I was put under during the early stages of my pregnancy to get tested.

The NIPT is expected to drastically improve the rates of diagnosis of Down’s syndrome in England, which they project will result in 102 more babies with the syndrome being detected each year. When abnormality is detected, the only counselling offered to women after diagnosis is usually heavily pointed towards abortion. In Britain, the only counselling charity the National Health Service directs women to is, Antenatal Results and Choices, formerly known as Support Around Termination For Abnormality.

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These sad facts came to light recently, through actress Sally Phillips recent BBC documentary; ‘A World without Down’s syndrome?’ The acclaimed actress, mother to a daughter with Down’s syndrome, dared to ask the question, ‘What’s so dreadful about Down’s syndrome?’ Phillips travels the world and speaks to various people, including, ‘Emma’ who despite having been firm in her decision not to be tested for the condition ‘had to constantly justify her decision to medical practitioners.’

Why do we need to justify wanting to keep our unborn child?

On the award-winning Down syndrome blog, Downs Side Up, Hayley Goleniowska has a mission. That of ‘Gently changing perceptions of Down syndrome from within people’s hearts.’

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This mama is speaking my language.

Hayley: My mission is now to inspire new parents, show the world that many incredible things are possible for our children, and shout out that Down’s syndrome truly is wonderful and that life will carry on, there will be challenges, but you will not regret or wish to change any of it. 

You go, Hayley!

Her daughter, Natty, was the first child in Britain with a disability to appear in a Back to School Campaign.

Our youngest daughter Natty is a clothing model, pioneering for children with disabilities everywhere. She is a true ambassador in her own right, opening doors and forcing companies to be more inclusive in their approach to advertising.

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The writer, Ciarán Kelly commented sagely on the issue. ‘The new NIPT test has its roots in the Idea that some people’s lives have little or no value and therefore should be screened out from society. This is profoundly wrong. Unborn children are perhaps the most vulnerable people in our world and need to be protected. All human beings are made in the image of God and have a special, intrinsic value regardless of how young or how old, how able-bodied or disabled they might be. This does not apply only to those with Down’s syndrome. Neither does it apply only to those whom parent, family or society has deemed ‘makes a contribution’. It applies to us all.’ ~ Ciarán Kelly

http://www.affinity.org.uk/downloads/The%20Bulletin/issue-33/4)-a-world-without-downs-syndrome.pdf

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Exactly. When something happens to one of us it happens to all of us. I had an incident happen within my own family this week, where I had to stand up and defend Sam against a member of the general public. And it made me aware once again of how little people really understand about these amazing gentle people. It’s such a shame. We are none of us, not Trump in the White House nor Natty the child Down’s syndrome model, any better than the other. We are all equal. That’s what my son reminds me of every day. We are all human. We all deserve to be here.

What are your feelings on who gets to be human?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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#justaboutcoping, #worldwithoutdowns, #worldwithdowns

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‘The value of human life does not lie in its contribution to society at large, or even to the happiness of a particular family’ ~ Ciarán Kelly

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“There clearly is a myth about boys and reading as so many people seem to think that the gender gap in reading is bigger than it is, but research shows that the number one factor that determines your reading ability is how often your parents read out loud to you and the number of books in your house, which is connected with social class”. ~ Jennifer Dyer skully jensen @catagator

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I’ve been a long time believer in the positive power of a bedtime story.

We grew up with our father reading a story to us, last thing at night, every night. The bedtime story formed a warm, loving, stable pillar of our childhood for my siblings and I.

While my middle child is an avid reader, my youngest son didn’t gravitate to reading for pleasure, so the nightly ritual of reading the boys a few books neatly filled the gap.

The kids and I have started reading Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve. Sam-the-man is finding the transition difficult; he needs to babble quietly to himself the whole time I’m reading. I’m reassured he is enjoying it nevertheless, as when I asked him if he’d like me to keep reading, he said an emphatic, yes!

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Mortal Engines has my youngest son, however, riveted. He is driven to talk about what has happened in each chapter we’ve read. During the toothbrushing/toileting before bed phase of the evening, he’ll be asking deep questions and pondering on the chapter. I am seeing first-hand, how a really good book can open and broaden a child’s mind. He’s prompted to look at things a little differently and ask some of the bigger questions.

I wonder if this has inspired the budding writer in him. In the past, I’d been impressed by my youngest son’s obvious talent for imaginative story. Yet, somewhere along the way, unbeknownst to me, his writing skills had languished. I was shocked to be called into school for a talk with his teacher, earlier in the year, to discuss ‘below National standard writing and English skills.’ His punctuation, use of descriptive words, and grasp of basic story structure needed work.

You can imagine how fired up I was. In the following holiday break, I spent time with Nat, reading stories and talking about them. We sat and made stories up on the spot a few times. On more than one occasion, we used making up stories to stave off the boredom of waiting for appointments.

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This week, Nat brought home three typed pages for me to read. Titled, ‘A Wizard’s Journey,’ it was a story he’d written and read aloud in class. I read it and was knocked over by everything. He had it all: structure, descriptive words, active words. I felt a rush of admiration for his talent. Moreover, I felt proud to see he had applied himself and improved.

He said, “A very beautiful thing happened today. My teacher said my story was the best story she’d ever heard in class.”

He was melting. And so was my heart. What a joy!

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Here was a boy who used to have no interest in reading for pleasure. His writing skills were under par, and yet, through the tradition of the bedtime story, we happened to hit upon the right sort of book, at the right time, to light up his inner storyteller.

The regular rhythm of the bedtime story provided the opportunity for that key moment in a reader’s life.  This may be the first book he remembers – the first one that makes him look for the next book in the series or that the author has written.

With a bit of luck, Mortal Engines has sparked my youngest son’s genuine interest in reading. All I can say for sure is that his writing skill and ability has leaped forward. He’s asking bigger picture questions. These things go hand in hand with increasing literacy.

Author and former teacher, Michael Morpurgo: It’s not about testing and reading schemes, but about loving stories and passing on that passion to our children. When I was a boy I didn’t much like reading either, but it was my mother reading to me and my brother Pieter at bedtime that kept stories and books alive for me.

Do you read to your kids? Do you believe in the gentle benevolent power of the bedtime story?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Everything in a good book (perhaps even in a bad book) is a new truth, a new revelation to a child, whose experiences are, as yet, so limited. Therefore writers for children need to be extra careful about preaching, about filling in those empty spaces for a child. -Jane Yolen

 

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You just have to accept that it takes a phenomenal amount of perseverance. —J. K. Rowling

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*Feel Resistance

Back in 2015, I projected I’d have the second book in my Chronicles of Aden Weaver series, out by Christmas, 2016.

By mid-September of this year, I began to worry. ‘The Sasori Empire’ would not be ready for Christmas. I knew I hadn’t sweated over the story enough, yet. It hadn’t caused me to lose a few pounds in sheer, gruelling, nose-to-the-grindstone, all-hours-of-the-day-and-night hardship, yet.

The story still had a long way to go.

‘The Sasori Empire’ needed to continue to battle through the torture chamber of editing at my kitchen table, and to undergo at least one or two more journeys through “the grinder” of critique.

At first, I felt intense resistance to the thought of admitting defeat, if I delayed publication. Essentially, it meant I’d have to admit I was wrong. The ego resists being diminished like the dickens.

*Step Back, Breathe

Looking back, I realize, my head must have gotten a bit swelled over self-publishing my first book, ‘The Or’in of Tane Mahuta.’ After thirty years of writing fiction and ten years creating this series, it’s not so surprising. In my enthusiasm at becoming a published writer, I imagined my pace of production would somehow magically increase. I’d be pumping out the novels at the rate of one a year, like the greats. But, no.

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http://amzn.com/B015K1KF0I

 I had to eat a dose of humble pie and admit that the sequel would not be out in time for Christmas. Using the initial artwork supplied by my nephew, Si, I made up a poster to announce the delayed date for publication, on social media.

*The Theory of Randomness

Recently, a friend drew my attention to quotes from The Drunkard’s Walk, a book by Leonard Mlodinow. The wonderful quotes reminded me to look at the bigger picture.

‘There exists a vast gulf of randomness and uncertainty between the creation of a great novel and the presence of huge stacks of that novel at the front of thousands of retail outlets (paraphrased). A lot of what happens to us – success in our careers, in our investments, and in our life decisions both major and minor – is as much the result of random factors as the result of skill, preparedness, and hard work.’

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https://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/2278900

This theory reminded me that there is no need to rush anywhere with my writing and my stories. Hard work alone, will not influence the outcome. I should savour the scenery along the way. It helped me to take the foot off the accelerator.

*Release

Once I decided to let go of this year’s publication date, I felt better. It was like a weight lifted off my shoulders. I knew that in terms of well-being, it was the best thing I could have done. I was ‘back on track’ with my own timing again. Whew.

I settled back into more reasonable writing hours. I began to sleep better. I was “nice mama” again, and able to be pleasant to other shoppers at the supermarket.

It was as simple as giving myself permission to quit pursuing an unrealistic goal. Despite my initial resistance, I embraced a new goal. I can do the work that needs to be done, on my own terms, in my own timing, while enjoying life along the way. Imagine that!

cover artist, Simon Kingi

(Me, with cover artist, SK)

*The “Mission Statement”

One of my writing mentors, Jill Mitchell, is a big fan of “mission statements” for staying on track with our goals.

This is mine:

I always strive to create story in some form. I flow with life as much as possible – therefore, I can change, my goals can change. However, I’m essentially always moving forward with my evolution, learning my craft, becoming a better writer, delivering a better story experience, and as long as I stay true to the creative muse flowing through my fingertips, I’m on track. I am successful.

*Persist!

My goal of putting out the second book in the series will happen, when the time is right. The goal is still there, it’s just farther in the distance. That’s okay.

Leonard Mlodinow posits that random factors act in our lives. ‘That’s why successful people are almost universally members of a certain set – the set of people who don’t give up.’

This adds weight to the wisdom in the idea of persistence.

I persist. What a great mantra – I’m adding that to the list.

When your goal’s a moving target, the best thing you can do is stay the course! 

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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To write simply is as difficult as to be good. – W. Somerset Maugham

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