Archive for the ‘Story’ Category

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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The All is Lost moment is powerful because it is primal ~ Cory Milles

Loss in the course of life is inevitable, yet we eventually become enriched and deepened by pain. We learn and grow from experiences of difficulty.

As writers, we can employ obstacles, failures and friction in a similar way, to force our characters to evolve.

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In his book, The Prophet, poet, Kahlil Gibran, writes of love, ‘He sifts you to free you from your husks. He grinds you to whiteness. He kneads you until you are pliant.’ This gives an apt metaphor for human life. In our short spans on this planet, we suffer and win and are made anew. ‘That you may know the secrets of your heart, and in that knowledge become a fragment of Life’s heart.’

This is exactly which happens in life and what we seek to get right with writing fiction. It’s why people read, too.

As my teacher Kate de Goldi said, ‘We remember the readings that acted like transformations.’

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Author, PJ Reece wrote, ‘We’re not attracted to stories without conflict simply because we can’t learn anything from them. They are empty of the seeds that might nurture our own growth, in whatever direction that might be. Of course we love to read happy stuff in books too, but only after the hero has travelled his or her difficult path of personal growth and finally reached the reward for their journey.’

This is precisely why we like books with a solid definable problem.

Think Harry Potter vs Lord Voldemort, or Katniss vs the tyranny of the Capitol. We know who we’re cheering for and that there’s the promise of a good fight.

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All stories, since the first tales told around the campfire, capture the same essence, that of our collective struggle through life.

The stories we remember are those about characters who strive and fail. We love those who transcend their lower natures to become something more, because we relate to that battle. The triumph of our tiny hero, Bilbo Baggins, in The Lord of the Rings, when he throws the ring in the fiery pit is universal and the jubilation at the return of the king is the sort of life-affirming, inspiring fodder we will read for generations. They’re the stories about the human condition, our common travail, and they’ll never age.

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In the Warrior Writer’s course I took with tutor, Bob Mayer, he taught us that conflict is the fuel of a story. He also taught that the goals of the protagonist and antagonist must be opposed, although their goals don’t need to be the same thing.

Whether your antagonist is the ocean, a person, or an idea, in order for the core conflict to work, it must bring them against the protagonist in direct dispute. For one to achieve what they want, the other can’t achieve their goal. Therefore they become locked in a dilemma which needs to be resolved.

The questions which this tussle generates keep the readers glued.

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If your story is low key and quiet, then force the protagonist through inner fires. ‘The best stories — and the most lifelike — are ones that follow/force the protagonist through a series of disillusionments.’ Wrote author PJ Reece. ‘I see all protagonists as bumbling their way into the dark, otherwise they never leave their valley, the Valley of the Happy Nice People, and who wants to read about that? No one.’

In other words, if you want your story to be remembered, get the problem nailed down because a sturdy conflict can turn a mediocre story into a bestseller.

With a believable force opposing our hero, the characters are forced to make choices, and we ask which choices they will make and what will be the result. Result: reader engagement.

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Some stories have a background antagonist, who presents no immediate threat, in which case most of the conflict will come from friends, family, team members and “threshold guardians.” Yet, whether there’s a direct or indirect antagonist, each external mini-battle must expose more of the root of the character’s internal conflict.

Each test slowly grinds them to whiteness, teaching them a life lesson or giving them the option to change and grow.

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Within each story there are both internal and external sources of conflict. The internal relates to the character’s inner flaws which need to change. The external refers to the physical forces opposing him creating tension.

In every scene the ideal is to have both an external and internal conflict.

The transformation at the end of the book comes only after the protagonist confronts their limitations and defeats both them and the antagonist. Hopefully, there is a glorious resolution of storyline. There is a positive change in the central character arc, a blooming of the protagonist’s full potential, and a reward, a boon, “the gift of fire” to bring back home for the tribe.

Or as writer, David Farland said, ‘At the end of your novel, there are only three rules: Payoff! Payoff! Payoff!’

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Talk to you later.

Keep Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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‘Life is trouble. When everything goes wrong, what a joy it is to test your soul.’ ~ Nikos Kazantzakis

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Our fifteen-year-old Sam-the-man has the face of a flower and the temperament to match. People love him. ‘He has something special,’ said a friend, ‘he’s open.’ At the same time, the fact he has Down’s syndrome means he is five years younger mentally than his actual age. So, while his physical self might be fifteen, his mental self is 9-10-years-old. And just as when you have a small child, when he leaves to spend the weekend with his father, the first thing that needs to be done to restore the house to sanity is to clean up.

Having a child with special needs is like raising a perpetual child. There are joys and there is continuous work to be done.

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As the parent to a special needs child, there is only the unknown instead of a finish line in sight. I use the metaphor of ‘the child who can never grow up’ to try and share my understanding thus far.

Sam’s our Peter Pan. God love him, he does a chore when I ask but, as the eternal child, he simply also creates a mess wherever he goes.

There’s always a sea of crumbs extending out from where he’s been sitting and sometimes funny smells, I find old bits of food, sticky patches on tabletops, writing on the wall, or the furniture, and globs of unmentionable things. The bathroom always needs a good clean.

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Sam has no concept of keeping track of things or the consequences of his behaviours. Sometimes, I find a random object has been broken, or – as I did yesterday, I literally walk into a sea of orange juice and discover that Sam had spilt his drink. He’d put the cup away carefully in the kitchen and then moved to a room where there was no sticky juice spilt all over the floor and started playing happily there. He would have been completely oblivious to the possibilities that could follow leaving a sea of liquid on the floor. Luckily, I was barefoot and ran away for a mop and bucket.

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I looked into Sam’s guilt-free, innocent eyes afterwards, and I marvelled at him anew. His motivations are never vindictive, his motivations are always pure. He doesn’t have a mean bone in his body. He’d never hurt someone on purpose. His mind doesn’t work that way. It’s not preoccupied.

Sam doesn’t worry about things, he doesn’t anticipate harm. He’s always right here now in the present moment.

A year ago, it took me six weeks; from the moment the first bruise appeared on his legs, to realise someone was harming him. I discovered the boy called James next to him in the taxi, was a serial abuser, who had a reputation for hurting other kids. Sam had suffered this boy’s advances, an hour each way, to school and back every day, and never said a word, never showed any change in the way he felt about going to school or coming home.

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And he’s intelligent, Sam is smart. He can read, write, use a computer, he can use any device after watching someone use it once. He’s not dumb. Although he can’t speak clearly, he can get his message across. No. It wasn’t about being unable to communicate the fact he was being bullied every day. Rather, it was his ability to take anything in stride and to be in the moment. The bullying didn’t exist the instant he left the van or prior to getting back into it, simply because it wasn’t happening before of after.

Yes, Sam teaches me every day.

Anything that happens in his life, he’s able to take it in stride. It’s like living with a mini guru.

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I remember when Sam was born and we found out all the facts like one baby in 600 is born with Downs’ syndrome, they still don’t know why. We found out the official name is Trisomy 21 which stands for the extra chromosome.

Being classed as a “severe disability,” the embryos can be aborted right up till birth.

His father and I had no idea then, the amazingly transformative journey which lay ahead of us, raising Sam: through all the trials and the tribulations, through the years of watching him struggle, taking one step forward three steps back, to achieve every little milestone other children take for granted.

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It took Sam a year to be able to sit by himself, four years to learn to walk; it took him till the age of ten to be able to walk down a flight of stairs, and thirteen years to become fully toilet trained. Everything he’s learned has been hard-won. Yet, that has made every goal achieved much more satisfying. To watch Sam today wash himself in the bath, dress himself, shave his own stubble, and walk confidently to the taxi in the morning, I brim with pride, because I know how far we’ve come. And I also know how far we have yet to go.

It’s not easy but it’s a real privilege to raise a child with Downs’ syndrome.

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Talk to you later.

Keep Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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What’s so dreadful about Downs’ syndrome? ~ Sally Phillips

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Over the festive period and summer holidays this year, I’ve been getting out more socially. My oldest friends finally managed to prise me out of my writer’s cave. I get so intense about my work, that it’s actually quite a relief to take a minute off and be reminded to cut loose again. When a girlfriend I hadn’t seen in thirty-five years, turned to greet the rest of us old high school mates, as we arrived in the bar last night with, “Right ladies, it’s time for cocktails,” you know it’s time to party.

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Now that my friends and I are into our fifties, the conversation topics will always include stories of our children and aging parents. Romy Halliwell put it best when she said; Middle age is that time in life when children and parents cause you equal amounts of worry.

Yet, there is great comfort and surcease to be had by sharing these stories of anxiety. We hear tips, we gain new ideas for how to do things.

Each event has been a lot of fun! It’s nice to see everyone again and catch up.

At the same time, I approach social events a little differently to other people. As a writer, I absorb lots of details, and a party is like being bombarded with information. Israeli author, David Grossman, once said, ‘Telling your secrets to an author is very much like hugging a pickpocket.’ That’s a great analogy. I come home from social events loaded with ideas and voices and colours, enriched with the minutiae of people’s lives.

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The conversations have covered all the important bases, too: we’ve discovered one another’s current home locations, marital status, and career situations.

There is one subject however, which I try to avoid at all costs. Money. The stark reality for the majority of authors, is that they will never recoup the production costs, let alone make a living out of writing fiction.

From what I understand, very few fiction authors do.

When talking about the subject of money, I always think of a friend who collaborated with us on the Kissed by an Angel anthology. Ellen Warach Leventhal. Ellen said that, during an author visit to an Elementary School in the States, this was her favourite response from a fourth grader: “You work hard, you don’t know if you’ll ever get paid for it, and you aren’t rich? Man, not sure I want to do that.”

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Or, I remember picture book creator, Don Tate’s recent Facebook post, which said, ‘Book birthdays are exciting but, let’s face it, they’re quiet. After many years of hard work, a book is finally available for sale. There are no trumpets. There is no confetti. Heck, there ain’t even no money. So, I like to make my book birthday’s as special as possible.’

Good on him, for throwing a big shindig to celebrate every book, and for being honest about this business.

A top tier of authors do make a fantastic living, and there is good money to be made. The rest of us have to slog it out for the sales. Like most authors and artists I know, I have to maintain a whole variety of other income streams, in order to survive.

Therefore, when I go out socially, and I’m making conversation with old mates, it gets awkward when everyone is comparing “what are you doing now” stories.

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My tale of hard won self-published books comes across sounding pretty weak, even to my ears, alongside the dizzying career heights of my professional female friends.

After listening to their stellar achievements I heard myself saying, “Producing a book is a lot of hard work.” “I need to sell a hundred books to get my first royalty cheque.” Somehow, it didn’t sound quite as glamorous!

Then, I thought of the letter left by Holly Butcher, the twenty-seven-year-old with cancer, which I read on Facebook today. She said of our worries, I swear you will not be thinking of those things when it is your turn to go.

This reminded me about to get real about what matters.

Last night, instead of trying to compete with success stories, I concentrated on sharing with my friends how much fun and fulfilment I get from writing fiction for children. Do what makes your heart sing, right? In the end, that’s what really matters.

Is your profession your passion in 2018?

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Talk to you later.

Keep Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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

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The fourth day of the year and 2018 is already off to a promising start. The boys and I have just returned from a family Christmas and New Year holiday visit to Grandpa.

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We opened the boys’ presents at home on the 25th before driving down to the Coromandel Peninsula. We arrived before lunchtime, joining a large number of the family, who had travelled from far and wide to spend Christmas day at the seaside. The feast was divine: a first course of turkey, roast lamb, baked ham, roast potatoes and vegetables, green salad, fresh peas, and vegan nut dishes. Dessert was pavlova, fruit salad, chocolate éclairs, and I had iced the traditional fruit cake which the boys and I made with a rich brandy butter icing.

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Being summer, as soon as the dishes were done and the kitchen cleaned, the family headed for the beach. We were so hot and full and tired by that point; the only alternative would have been sleeping! Instead we were refreshed and swam about like fish for the afternoon before going back to the house for a glorious dinner of Christmas leftovers. It was lovely.

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Towards evening on Boxing Day, my father pointed out that various tips on the outlying island were tipped with bright orange light, an effect he’d not seen before in more than fifty years. I noted that near the island rising from the ocean was a “grandma rainbow,” or small rainbow. I said hi and a few words quietly to my mother and wished her a Merry Christmas.

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We spent the week in between Christmas and the 31st relaxing. Each day, we’d meet down at grandpa’s favourite café for lunch, before going to the beach for a swim and play in the waves. In the afternoons, we shared the job of creating big meals for more than a dozen people. In between meals were ice creams, hot chips, cold beers, and trips to see the Xmas lights, cards, sandcastles, playgrounds, kayaking, body surfing, and walking.

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There were many special moments throughout the week, like burying the youngest son in the sand. The boys had electric fly zappers and spent hours hunting down and killing wasps and mosquitoes, which was hilarious. One of my nephews and his wife brought their gorgeous six month old baby to visit. The boys and I walked to the top of the mountain behind my father’s house. From the peak, we could see pohutakawa in bloom, “New Zealand’s Christmas Tree,” which makes any landscape look more beautiful.

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On New Year’s Eve, there was a big fireworks display. The kids stayed up late and they were so excited. Most of the adults were tired and having difficulty staying awake, while the kids were bouncing off the walls.

The whole evening went smoothly despite losing my son Sam-the-man, a fifteen-year-old with Down’s syndrome at about 10.30 p.m. We discovered Sam was missing, and we spilled out of the house in all directions with torches to look for him. Luckily he hadn’t gone far. I found Sam about five minutes later, sitting with a group of neighbours watching some domestic fireworks being let off in the reserve below Grandpa’s house.

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A few minutes before the countdown at midnight, the kids and I walked together with our family to the lookout point. From there, we had a grand view of the harbour. At midnight a firework display was set off from a barge on the water, exploding in the air above the amphitheatre of the harbour and mountains and in the sky above us.

As we walked back to the house, my nephew said, ‘Isn’t it amazing to think that all of us are here tonight because of Grandpa.’ Yes, it is wonderful.

A friend’s daughter coined the term, “Thankmas,” as a way of making Christmas also a celebration of gratitude. Our Thankmas was the gratitude our family felt to be celebrating another festive season with Grandpa. We came so close to losing dad to double pneumonia in 2017, that to be together again for another precious holiday was a gift to be thankful for. Happy Thankmas!

What are you grateful for as you start the New Year?

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Talk to you later.

Happy New Year!

Yvette K. Carol

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Some of us think holding on makes us strong, but sometimes it is letting go. ~ Hesse

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Any book that helps a child to form the habit of reading, to make reading one of his deep and continuing needs, is good for him. ~ Maya Angelou

When I was small, our father used to read us a bedtime story every night. My brother and I would lie in our beds after all the bedtime rituals had been done. We’d yell, “Ready!” and dad would come down to sit in our room and read us the next precious pages in whatever book we were reading. He read us the classics, Wind in the Willows, The Water Babies, The Jungle Book, Treasure Island, and Robinson Crusoe. We grew up with a love for stories.

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It is as writer, Sage Cohen said, that we ‘come into this world hard-wired for the repetition of sound, rhythm and pattern in language. Before we can even speak, we delight in recognizing our own experience and learning about those unlike ours through the stories we are told.’ There is a primordial response of satisfaction to hear a good story, and for the writer it is the same joy to write one.

When you start out as a book lover who turns into a children’s writer you are deeply connected to the meaning and purpose of fiction. Michael Morpurgo said, ‘It’s not about testing and reading schemes, but about loving stories and passing on that passion to our children.’ We write because that love still lives and resonates inside us. Writers'_Week_Kate_de_Goldi_Adelaide_Festival_medium

We can still remember the special hushed feeling, like we had entered a cathedral, which we had as a young person every time we opened a book and stepped inside another world. We can still remember some of the tales and how we felt.

As author, Kate de Goldi once said, ‘We still remember readings that acted like transformations’.

I took a couple of writing for children courses with Kate de Goldi. I was struck when she said that she ‘never writes about or for children. I write for the once and always child in myself.’

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I related to that idea and I let rip, writing what the wild little girl inside wanted to say.

The danger for me, as an introvert, is that I can go far into my own world and lose contact with people. It’s easy to become distanced from the reading audience.

Yesterday, I was pried out of my bunker by well-meaning friends and forced to go to a Christmas party. I trooped along with an eye on the clock. Yet, the most extraordinary thing happened. I had the experience of meeting my first “fan.” Blake is the 8-year-old grandson of a friend. He happens to be a voracious reader, bless his soul, who ‘devours books’ as his grandmother put it.

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Blake had read my first book, The Or’in of Tane Mahuta, and had been waiting for the sequel. When I gave him The Sasori Empire, he carried it with both hands, staring all the while at the cover. He walked straight to a chair, sat down and started reading. When I left the party two hours later, Blake was still reading.

I could have wept. This experience was revelatory for me. I saw with my own eyes, a child who loves to read, diving headfirst into my world. A child who was engrossed in my story.

This simple situation took me out of my “shoes” as the author and put me into the shoes of the “reader.” I felt the responsibility to do justice to the world I’ve created, and to honour the needs of the reader, to deliver the best story I can.

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It had the singular effect of realigning me with my writer’s oath. I was reminded that once one has taken the reader on a journey, the responsible author ushers them safely home to a satisfactory conclusion. I recalled the pinkie swear to resolve all the questions and storylines raised.

Seeing that precious beautiful young reader deep into his book, (my book!), reminded me that my pen is a direct conduit to young readers’ hearts and minds. I have a duty to him and to all young readers to do the best I can. These years of reading literature will be some of the best and most exhilarating of their lives. I have to raise my game to be worthy of the challenge.

What a gift. And, just in time for Christmas.

That’s the New Year’s resolution sorted! Have you ever had a situation which made you remember your reader?

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Talk to you later.

Happy Holidays!

Yvette K. Carol

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‘The poet’s, the writer’s, duty is to write about these things. It is his privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart.’ ~ E.B.White

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I have talked about my homemade festive cards in previous posts, however, since there have been lots of new subscribers to this blog in 2017, in the spirit of the season, I’d like to welcome everyone aboard and share the idea again.

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I make a festive card featuring my kids each year. The tradition began with the birth of my middle child, Samuel in 2002, and continued when the youngest was born three years later, featuring both the youngest boys on the cover.

In one little festive-themed image, I could instantly update friends and family about the kids’ progress, and using cards recycled from the year before. It was a win-win situation. The homemade card is easy, super cheap being made out of mostly recycled materials, and most importantly, it’s fun to do.

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Every year, towards the end of November, I make my kids sit and pose for the Xmas photo. There’s always a lot of moaning and groaning. But, eventually they cooperate, and we always get a good picture. Sometimes they help with the crafting of the cards, yet even if they don’t, that really is the fun part, crafting the end result.

So, if you’d like to start a new family tradition and try making the card yourself, here’s the process:

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Start by taking your chosen photo and reducing the size to fit your choice of card size. I like to do miniatures so the pictures are small and dinky. I am able to get eight miniatures onto an A4 page. Once you’ve set them out on the page the way you want it print as many pages as needed. I usually limit it to sixteen cards in total, as they do take a bit of time and one has to divide one’s time between a lot of activities at Christmas.

Next, cut out the pictures.

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I make templates for the size of the card and the layer of decorative paper in between, and the photo, so a bit of the decorative paper and a border of the card itself will show around the image, in other words, each is progressively larger. Using a template keeps things uniform and pleasing to the eye, and saves time each year.

For the cardboard, I buy cheap bulk packs of old Christmas cards from charity shops. Sometimes, I save the cards we’ve received from the year before and recycle them by pasting white paper over the writing inside.

Either way, cut out sixteen pieces of cardboard to the size of the first template.

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Cut out sixteen pieces of festive themed paper, to the next size template.

Glue the paper onto the front of the card. Don’t worry about whether the patterns match or if you’ve got the layers running in different directions. This is art. Be funky and wild and have fun with it. Go crazy, man!

Then, trim your photo to the size of the picture template.

Choose your bling. I use a type of synthetic crafting fibre which my mother bought for me at a crafting fair many moons ago, which forms a sheet of shimmery stuff. With names like Cotton Candy and Lemon Sparkle you can’t go wrong. I take a clump of that, and iron it flat, then I cut the sheet into small strips or rectangles to add a touch of shimmer. You could also cut up cellophane or tinsel. Alternatively, you could use good old glitter.

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Paste your family photo on top of this background decorative paper, trapping the synthetic fiber, tinsel or cellophane in between.

Decorate! Let ‘er rip and have fun embellishing the fronts of the cards. Sometimes I use glitter, beads and doodads. But, this year, I just added stickers, using up all the kids’ festive themed stickers. Double bonus!

Write a personal message inside each card and send them snail mail to friends and family.

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Fifteen years later and the satisfaction hasn’t waned. I’ve just mailed fourteen handmade cards to friends and family and it feels lovely.

I always make sure there are two cards left over, one for me, as a keepsake, and one “spare.” The funny thing is, every year without fail, I get asked by a random person whether they could receive one of our cards, and I say, ‘yes, I happen to have one left over.’ The spare always finds a home! Last year, the spare went to Paeroa, New Zealand, and this year, it went to Istanbul, Turkey!

We get a terrific response to our cards. Let us know if you do, too!

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love. ~ Hamilton Wright Mabie

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

– Anne Lammott

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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

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

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

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

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

by Gary Cook

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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

 

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