Archive for the ‘Top Tips’ Category

It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Time to release our fears to the world–or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG. Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!

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

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OPTIONAL IWSG Day Question: February 5 question – Has a single photo or work of art ever inspired a story? What was it and did you finish it?

In a word, no. However, as luck would have it, my friend, author Donatien Moisdon asked a question the other day in an email which I think would make an excellent question of the month.

Donatien: In your latest newsletter, I was very interested to read about your thoughts and those of your friends regarding the question: What makes a good novel?

For me, a writer of popular fiction, a good book entails the perfect marriage of a riveting story line and great characters. I have to feel a connection with the main character; I want to feel drawn to them and want to know what happens to them next.

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So when I’m writing a new story, I strive to know the characters first. I am a fan of the “story bible” or “book journal” which means I write the details of the characters, and setting, background, longhand in a special notebook. By this method, I develop my characters well before I ever start writing the story. The hope is to convey real characters who have depth.

I prefer a small cast. Donatien’s advice is to deal with only a limited number of characters and make sure that readers will recognize them easily.

I agree. I finished reading The Warlock by Michael Scott a few months ago. It boggled me for half the book, trying to remember the vast catalogue of players. For the second half of the book I had a handle on the enormous cast but I still got confused. Even the professional writers get it wrong.

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Donatien recommends keeping things clear in the reader’s mind especially in dialogue. It is very important for readers to know exactly who is saying what. Thus the importance of perfect punctuation.

So for a good book, you need a manageable number of characters. You need to hone good dialogue and pay attention to punctuation.

You also need a rivetting story line. I prefer adventure stories, and I have done since I first discovered the joy of reading as a young girl. And in writing popular or genre fiction for children, the goal is to take readers on a fabulous ride they won’t want to get off. In a story worth its salt the protagonist/s have to win fire (or the elixir) and bring it back to the tribe, but to get there, keep upping the pace, worsening the conflict for the protagonist and deepening the stakes.

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There is an infectious pace that kicks in on a brilliant story. You can’t stop turning the page. Donatien says, Rhythm is very important. Can each sentence be read in a loud voice for the first time by a newcomer without hesitation? If the reader stumbles, chances are the sentence needs work. To bring your writing alive in the reader’s mind, he suggests remembering to use all the senses. Place the reader at the very center of the action, but also at the center of the environment through the use of the five senses. Add a sixth sense: the sense of a dream.

For me, there’s also an X factor that marks a good book, that singular thing of being able to drift away with the words. It’s the fairy circle where you enter and the more you read the more you lose time. I like stories that take me away somewhere. My goal with every story I write is to return the reader to the shaded places of youth where they remember magic can happen, to inspire a sense of wonder. That is the holy grail.

How do you instill wonder? I’m always trying to figure it out! Do you know?

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Keep Writing!

Yvette 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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*Please note this special request from Donatien: If you could find the time to read The Immortal Part, available on lirenligne.net, and let me know if I’ve managed to follow my own recipes, I’d be very grateful. On the lirenligne.net website, you have to click on Donatien Moisdon or The immortal Part, then “télécharger” (download) in the brown square. 

*Please remember to write a review. Thank you! 

It’s been an interesting and intense time of late with the higher than usual summer temperatures and the boys becoming fractious towards the end of the holidays. Adolescence has beset the youngest child, and he’s monstrously tired all the time, not only that he lies around complaining about being too hot and too tired. Apparently all he can do is online gaming or binge-watching anime on Netflix. He tries asking for things, like can I bring him a drink or a snack, from the couch. That’s when I growl, and he says, “Okay, I’ll do it” with a groaning voice as if he was dying. I get that the hormones racing through his body are raising his body temperature and that this is our hottest summer, yet there’s a limit to even the most patient parent’s Zen.

“Don’t you feel hot?” asked the youngest child, plaintively.

“Yes,” said I.

“Well, how do you handle it?” he asked.

“I try not to focus on it but put my attention onto other things.”

“Huh?”

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The constant baking temperatures test the patience levels. The boys have been grumpy, and they snap back a lot. We have been having difficulty sleeping, though we each sleep with a fan.

An hour after we’d gone to bed last night, a knock sounded at my door. A weary voice on the other side, that wavers these days between high and low as if uncertain where to settle, said, “I’m boiling, I can’t sleep. Can you help?”

I got up and hugged him. It was like hugging an oven. The youngest is having hormonal surges – just as I am each night when menopausal hot flashes wake me up – his body at fourteen-and-a-half is aflame with hormones. I felt sorry for him. We did a few things that helped his core body temperature come down and he could sleep.

As there is some concern about the “heat wave” predicted for New Zealand this weekend, when temperatures may reach 30 degrees, I thought I might share a few tips on cooling down.

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“Temperatures nationwide are above normal on Sunday, not just by a few degrees but in many regions by over 10C as air flows from Australia and the sub-tropics combine to move down over parts of New Zealand,” according to NewsHub.

Here are some ways to cope with the heat

Go downstairs to the basement if you have one as they will always be cooler than upstairs.

Have cold baths or showers

Try to avoid getting sunburned during the day.

Close the curtains on the sunny side of the house.

Don’t open windows facing the sun during the day, open them at night once the temperatures come down

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Make trays of ice and hold a cube in your mouth.

Drink plenty of water

Drink iced water. Put your water bottle in the freezer until it’s nearly frozen and then take out and once it melts take small sips, it’s effective for bringing body temperature down.

Apply cold packs which are cheaply available from stores like Pak ‘n’ Save

My friend said that they were saving the money to have air conditioning installed. We have air con though I never use it as it’s too expensive to run, but it’s a backup plan if things get desperate. However, if you don’t have air con at home, borrow other peoples. We hang out in the malls, the libraries, the museum, the public places that are air-conditioned during the day to cool down.

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As temperatures continue to climb, we must think further ahead. I plan to get a quote for sun awnings off both sides of the house to cover the verandas and also get quotes for wooden shutters for the windows. I hear getting the windows triple glazed is best. Triple glazing keeps the heat out and in winter keeps the heat in, however, that is top dollar.

My youngest tells me, “This results from global warming, the seasons will be more extreme, summers will be hotter and winters will be colder.” Summers are more scorching, I haven’t noticed winters changing overly, although weather has been unpredictable with freak storms, floods, and so on. I remember reading that Europe and America had heat waves last summer. It’s an undeniable fact that conditions are changing, therefore on a global level, we have to find ways of responding to climate change.

On a personal level, there are also many things we can do to embrace change and deal with what is happening positively. I want to think ahead, find solutions for my family, and get on with living life. How about you?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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The more you accept your life, the more your life improves. ~ Unknown

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I think I get addicted to editing on each project. I did a little thing with The Last Tree, that my family would call a “dad thing”–I kept count. I work as a “pantser,” I write a rough draft without a plan and then edit for a lifetime afterwards. I was curious about how many times I go through an entire 360 page manuscript editing this way. With the third book in The Chronicles of Aden Weaver trilogy I kept a notepad by my laptop and noted each time I edited the whole book from page one. The answer? Seventy. Yep. I know, I had the same reaction. I knew it would be a high number but that came as a surprise even to me.

Ever since I sent the manuscript for The Last Tree to a friend who does copy-editing I have had to ‘down tools.’ I didn’t feel it was fair to keep making changes while she was working.

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For a personality like me, it has been hard to let go. It sounds so easy, yet it’s hard to do. It was amazing how many errors I would find every time I looked at the story, so I kept editing and even after seventy edits of the same material, I could easily keep going. But I have to draw a line in the sand sometime. Even a perfectionist has to stop somewhere. Paul Gardner said, a painting is never finished–it simply stops in interesting places.

Giving the story to my friend had forced me to stop editing. It made the cut. I was without the work that had defined me the last two years. In the final stages of editing a book, you’re working on it night and day and the effort consumes everything. Then it’s finished and you’re set adrift.

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I keep looking back over my shoulder thinking there’s something important I should be doing. Then I remember the book is being looked at by a professional and there’s nothing for me to do anymore.

This is the breakup. It’s difficult while it’s wonderful to be free.

It’s a weird limbo. Who am I without my work? My youngest son said a profound thing the other day, something this wise young owl has been wont to do since he was a tot. He excels in science and has been talking about his interest in space for months. Then he said he’d been thinking about it, ‘we shouldn’t be looking at the planets we should study ourselves, we should find out all those answers first.’

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It was Blaise Pascal who said all of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.

I knew it was time to take a deep breath and just stop and do nothing for a while. This helped me get back on track. I let myself enjoy life again. I stopped rushing, slowed my pace, and put the gardening tools away. I took myself out for a bit of retail therapy and started my Christmas shopping. I met with friends and talked. I went walking and got fresh air into my poor oxygen-starved lungs. I ventured outdoors in the sun instead of looking outside longingly from my writing desk. I took up meditating twice a day, the same way Oprah does. I crafted and decorated homemade gifts and made Christmas cards.

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I started reading a new book. I wrote letters and sent cards and gifts to far-flung family and friends who I knew would be lonely at this time of year. I made donations to worthy causes. I planned to get together with people to celebrate the season. I moved on in as positive a fashion as I could muster. I’m endeavouring to balance out the activity and time spent appreciating nature with regular periods of stillness, mindfulness or ‘studying myself first’ as my son would put it. I feel much better. My feet are on the ground again.

It’s also nice after the hours labouring over a computer to spend time with loved ones. I’ve had lots of wonderful conversations with my kids. The old tension around my book has gone from my system. I think it’s important as writers that we take care of ourselves and allow that sometimes finishing a book is a process.

It takes time to decompress to let go to breathe to unwind to reform our sense of ourselves and that’s okay.  

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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“My greatest wealth is the deep stillness in which I strive and grow and win what the world cannot take from me with fire or sword.” ~ Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

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

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

She asked me, ‘What do you want?’

‘To inspire more readers.’

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

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

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

The first advice was to use my time more wisely.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Last Tree is with a proof reader now.

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

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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“Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss it, you will land among the stars.” ~ Les Brown

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

If you’re like me, you may have gotten busier over the last few weeks. The chores stack up, things get overgrown. It’s the end of the year, jobs need resolution, deadlines loom and time pressure mounts. The thought of the impending festive season and adding even more items to the “to do” list strikes a note of panic into the heart. For some, the financial issues at this time of the year become overwhelming, and the thought of getting together with the family can be fraught. I have a friend who calls this ‘the suicide season.’ Add the fact that once stress sets in it can reduce the duration and quality of sleep, and you’ve got a disaster walking.

Without sleep, we cannot function properly. With the right amount of quality shuteye, then we get to enjoy the benefits as it helps prevent heart disease and weight problems, and boosts the immune system.

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Without sleep, you end up the walking dead, or ‘tired and wired’ as my friend put it when she saw me the other day.

I had been overdoing it in the last month or so working long hours to finish my book. About three weeks ago, I began to get abdominal discomfort which felt almost like a mild hernia or similar. I was having sleep broken by three hours of wakefulness a night.

It’s hard to be gracious when you don’t get enough sleep. I lost all sense of political correctness, courtesy, and I lost my sense of humour. It made me impatient with the kids. This created some inner turmoil and struggle over my feelings around myself as a mother. It gets complicated. However, I have come to know that I absolutely have to have adequate sleep to function as a parent and especially as a creative person.

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By the end of this week, I felt a deadly fatigue and yet so hyped internally I was running on pure adrenalin. I couldn’t slow down and felt I was close to burnout.

I went to see a friend yesterday morning who is a healer. We’ve known each other a few years. My friend asked how I was and we talked at length. Then she spoke about the wisdom of slowing down and attending to self care. ‘To nurture our families, we need to take care of ourselves first.’ She advised two meditations of a twenty-minute duration daily, morning and afternoon.

I’d only recently seen an experiment on the BBC show, Trust Me I’m A Doctor, on the benefits of meditation. They tested people before and after several weeks meditating daily. All participants showed improved health and an improvement in a sense of their overall well-being, and they were sleeping better.

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It is vital to our health to get enough sleep each night. The nine recognized benefits associated with getting a good night’s sleep are, lower risk of heart disease, lower inflammation, a stronger immune system, better productivity, greater social/emotional intelligence, lower weight gain risk, improved calorie regulation, better athletic performance, preventing depression.

For the last few years, I’ve been starting each day with a ten-minute meditation, and I had thought that was enough. But I was also willing to do anything to sleep well and for the pains to go away. I said I would meditate twice daily for twenty minutes. I’m only on my second day and I already feel significantly better, and last night, as promised, I slept like a baby. This has given me hope for the future. With adequate sleep under my belt each day I can conquer mountains.

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The average person needs seven to nine hours sleep a night to recover and repair the body. Kids need more, newborns need seventeen hours and kids need at least ten to twelve hours of shuteye a night. Usually, we need less sleep as we get older. But if you’re having difficulty sleeping, experiments have shown there are several things people can do to improve sleep quality: make sure you sleep in a dark bedroom, turn off devices and televisions, swap the caffeine or alcohol before bed for a warm milky drink, spend time in moving about each day, and reduce stress levels by exercise, therapy, or some other means.

If all else fails, why not try meditation? I have to say, I feel the best today that I have in a long time. Have you ever tried meditation?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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 “We are more powerful than we have been lead to believe. Walk tall in your power and never give it to an outside source. True authority comes from within.”- R. Cefalu

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

When I first started writing my third book, The Last Tree, I was able to refer to a simple map I’d made. I had sketched a quick idea of what I thought the Land of Fire and Ice looked like when I began writing the series. And I’ve used this as a reference over the last fourteen years I’ve been working on The Chronicles of Aden Weaver series. But a simple sketch would not be enough to accompany the final book in the trilogy. The challenge was to upgrade my rough sketch to something I could put in my book. Last weekend, I turned that rough draft into a map to go inside the front cover.

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This is how I did it. The place I started with this job was probably the first most important stop the author should make, and that is to sit down and read the entire story making sure your map is as accurate as possible. Once I had checked the placement of every element and what each area looked like, I felt confident to go ahead.

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The next step was to take an A4 piece of art paper and draw a rectangular frame in the middle of the page with a ruler.

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Then I transferred the details of the landscape from my sketch onto the art paper as if I were closer and on a lower angle, rather than the flat bird’s-eye view. I added a few more details just to make it interesting, like showing the site where the group first landed and the site of the shrine they visited in Book Two. I added a compass in the top right hand corner, giving the cardinal directions.

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In each book of the chronicles trilogy, I’ve included two of my pen and ink illustrations. The ink pen is a favourite medium of mine. And it’s a traditional medium for illustrations in children’s chapter books, too, which is rather fortunate.

Once you are satisfied with the way the map looks in pencil and that the features are in the right place, you can use ink. This is the truly fun part of creating your own map. Think of all these adult colouring in books you can get these days. I can attest it is way more fun to make your own. And it’s easy.

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Go over your pencil landmarks and features with a selection of black ink pens in varying nib sizes, (available at any art store) to fill in the lines. It really is fun and I take my time to enjoy the process.

To finish the picture, every map needs a sturdy border. I gave my map a thick border as if it was a painting in a frame. I filled the framework in with a leafy motif made more dramatic by silhouetting the leaves with black ink.

The map took me the whole day. And it was a day well spent.

What do you think? It’s simple to create your own map to go with your story. You can do it too, so let me know if you do. I’d love to hear about it!

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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“Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss it you will land among the stars.” ~ Les Brown

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

I was “Toastmaster” this week at my Toastmasters club, a role which basically means you MC the entire meeting. Have you ever heard it said that if you don’t know the answer to something, ask your grandmother? In one of my turns speaking at the meeting, I came up with the idea of passing on handy tips to the audience. I thought I’d share helpful tips I’ve gathered along the way in the form of grandmotherly advice. You never know what might benefit someone else.

Here are a few of the tips I shared with fellow club members during the meeting as “Nan’s Advice.”

Handy tip: Put the special gifts you love in your car.

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About ten years ago, my father gave me a small white posy of fake flowers and wished me “Happy Mother’s Day.” It was the first time he’d ever said those words to me, and I was so touched I’ve kept the posy in my car ever since. People give you gifts and they’re wonderful but things get lost in the detritus of life after a while. Or, you don’t notice them anymore. However, putting a special gift you’ve received in your car means you see it every day. Each time I get into my car, I see the posy of white plastic flowers and I feel warmth, remembering my father giving it to me and saying, “Happy Mother’s Day.”

It’s a spirit lifter.

It’s a simple thing and it works every time.

Another handy tip: Turn off your Wi-Fi.

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My sister and I, have been doing this thing lately, of turning off the Wi-Fi connection at the wall as often as possible. I never used to think about it, the Wi-Fi was just on all the time. But my sister said why? When we know it’s been proven to have harmful effects on our health, we should limit our exposure as much as possible. I decided to try limiting our use of Wi-Fi and became hooked.

Now, I view my day differently. I think of what needs to be done online and when. For me, it’s best to go online first thing in the morning and download all the documents I need to read to Word documents. Then, I can go offline the rest of the day and turn off the Wi-Fi. It might be my imagination, however there is a more relaxed feeling in the house now that the Wi-Fi is turned off for long periods. If in doubt, why not give it a try yourself once in a while? See if it feels any different.

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Last handy tip for the week: Leave your old vegetable plants in the ground longer.

After they’ve finished producing, leave your vegetable plants in the ground for as long as possible, and you may find they grow again. In the past, when my old veggies began to die back, I would rip the plants out of the ground and throw them onto the compost heap straight away. But, once or twice in recent times plants have been left in the ground far longer than usual, and to my surprise, in some cases, plants started growing again. I had cut the heads off the broccoli and didn’t get around to taking out the stumps and two months or so later, they started growing new broccoli heads. Instead of the central stalks, each plant is sprouting lots of smaller heads but they’re still yummy to eat. Now, the same thing has happened with the celery, the stumps are sprouting deep green stalks. My great discovery I pass onto you.

You’re welcome.

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I called my handy tips ‘Nan’s Advice’ because I’ve officially decided to change my ‘grandmother name’ from grandma to nan. In our family, we tend to use grandma, gran, nana or granny. Everyone called me grandma when my first granddaughter was born. Yet, for some reason, I found the moniker wasn’t coming to the lips easily when referring to myself. Then, I overheard my nephew and later my sister talking to the baby and when they referred to me they said ‘nan.’ I found the term sat more favourably. It felt more like me. Is it a coincidence that it’s the same name my beloved grandmother took as her own? I think not. So, nan, it is. I have finally settled on my grandmother name.

It was Louisa May Alcott who famously said, ‘A house needs a grandma in it.’ A nana will do, too. What about you? If you’re lucky enough to be a grandparent, what name do you go by?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Grandparenthood brings yet another dimension of unconditional love that, once again, changes everything. ~ Cheryl Saban

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There is something therapeutic about doing nothing, isn’t there. And there’s a real art to it. Some are better at it than others. I have friends for instance, who declare when they’re on holiday, that they’re ‘very good at doing nothing at all.’ Whereas I’m a bit more on your tightly wound scale of things, I like to have things to do or I end up inventing things to do.

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I find myself longing for more stillness. In an article by Colleen Long, Psy.D. over on Pyschology Today, The Art of Doing Nothing Why Italians, Not Americans, Get This One Right, Colleen argues for the benefits of relaxation, citing the Italian term, “La Dolce Far Niente,” which means- the sweetness of doing nothing. Colleen asks the pertinent question of us, when we get home at the end of the day, ‘instead of checking your email one last time to see if anyone else is needing you to do something, instead of using your free time to check your bank accounts or pay that cell phone bill- What if you just did nothing?’ Provocative question isn’t it!

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What gets me confused is that on the one hand, I want to take the foot off the pedal. On the other hand, summer is ideal for achieving things and making progress with plans and careers. When I’m warm day and night, there is lightness in that. Instead of having to brace against the chill and either do things to provide heating or layer up the clothing to become the Michelin man, I feel more at ease, I’m comfortable and with less material between me and life. I feel things are more immediate. I feel more ready to respond to the demands of every day. I feel more energy, and the days are long enough in which to go on adventures, or travel long distances, or to get more done.

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I find it hard to do nothing. I  always remember my gran at the end of her life, the change she found the bitterest pill of all, in her words, was ‘not being useful.’ She couldn’t bear having all the jobs slowly taken away from her as she grew older and became frailer. She’d prided herself her entire life on being the busiest woman in her community, a lady who could be relied upon to get stuff done, and doing less as she aged made her feel “useless.” I’m cut of her stock. I like to be productive. I am also my father’s daughter, a man who was busy serving his church and community in whatever ways he could into his dying days. It’s a challenge for me, each year in the holidays, to put down my pen – that’s the hardest wrench of all – to put away my gardening tools – I worry about my garden while I’m away – and this year, with my boys in the South Island – I worried about them, too – I got to take off my parenting hat, as well.

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This summer, I was child free for a ten whole days, and in that time, despite myself, I slowed right down to “island time.” I enjoyed it so much! Every day was a study in bliss with my eldest son and his family and my nephew, either swimming or visiting friends, or eating somewhere special every day. After that, I came home to the city so rejuvenated, I thought this slowing down, this art of doing nothing is an art I need to learn more about.

I gather the best place to start is with meditation. In his article, Why Should You Meditate? Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shanka relates how Harvard clinical studies have proven meditation to have physical, mental and emotional benefits.

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Recent studies from Harvard University found that long-term meditators have increased amounts of gray matter in the insula and sensory regions, and the auditory and sensory cortex,’ said Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shanka. ‘When you meditate, you enter a space of internal expansiveness, calm, and joy. The result is feelings of expansiveness, calm, and joy in waking life, which has an effect on our interactions with others and the world around us.

There seem to be many benefits of meditation, and since it’s all about doing nothing, I feel challenged, and yet, I’m in!

Here are the links to some recommended resources:

How to Meditate for Beginners – 30 Tips, Tricks and Tools

Guided Meditations – Our 12 Best Meditations Now Free on Youtube

These are on my list of goals for the year ahead. In 2019, I intend to meditate! I want to do more nothing! And to have fun!

What about you, how good are you at doing nothing? Have you tried meditation? Tell me more!

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Talk to you later

Yvette K. Carol

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“All profound things and emotions of things are preceded and attended by silence. ~ Herman Melville

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At this time of year, it’s the homemade touches I relish.

Every year at the beginning of December, I always make our own greeting cards. They are a firm favourite with friends and family, and I always get requests for more. I’ve shared my creative process here before, but for those who are new to the blog, here’s how you can make your own greeting cards the old fashioned way for next to nothing. And, it’s fun!

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I love any excuse for crafting. In early December, I usually work on getting the kids to dress up in festive wear, and I take a ‘cover photo.’ This year, I asked my two youngest sons to pose with my granddaughter for the cover image. At the same time, I also got a photo of all the kids in the family for the inside flap.

Method:

Start by printing out your chosen photographs in miniature. Why so small you ask? Because they’re cute. If you prefer full size cards, you can still use the same technique.

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Next, cut up your cards. I buy a big pack of greeting cards from the Salvation Army shop for two dollars and cut them down to size, making sure to include the message inside.

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For the cover, I create a layered effect. I make up a few standard cardboard guides to keep the layers consistent and to make the scale of the decorative layers progressively get smaller to the photo image on the top. You can add as many layers as you like of contrasting patterns and colours. I like to do two.

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For the first layer, I cut up interesting festive paper to the largest size of the cardboard guides.

Each year, I recycle wrapping paper. I like to sit down on Boxing Day and cut all the relatively flat, usable pieces from the discarded wrapping paper of the day before. I save the ‘good bits’ in a cellophane folder and then reuse them for wrapping stocking gifts and for making greeting cards the following year. Waste not, want not, as my father always used to say.

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For the second layer of my card, I cut out the photos, using the smaller size guide. Last but not least, I snip up a few squares of glittery stuff. You can use tinsel or whatever you have. I make my own glittery sheets of “hot fuzz” by ironing synthetic fibres between paper. Then I divide the sheets into segments and use them to add a glint of light to the cover. These are the elements. All you need is craft glue and a few books or something weighty for ‘flattening.’

Now comes the fun part, when you get to put the whole thing together.

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I glue the first layer – the wrapping paper pieces – onto the outer cover. You need to be quick, because paper likes to bulge and ripple when adhesive is applied. So glue the paper on, and then put the card directly beneath a sheet of paper and something weighty to flatten it. Continue until they’re all done. Once they’ve dried somewhat, you can add the next part.

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The cover photo goes on top. Make sure to sandwich a wedge of glitter stuff in between the layers so it protrudes into the air like a glam flag. Again, as with the first sheets of paper, you need to act fast and weight each one down immediately that it’s glued, to attain a flat, polished looking finish. Also, be careful when dealing with glue and your cover image. I’ve made the mistake before of getting it near the underside of the faces – it completely ruins the photo. So your cover photo must have the people centrally placed to keep their faces clear of the adhesive around the edges.

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I attach the portrait of the children in our family onto the inside page. And because I’m a big kid myself at this time of year and love to collect all things to do with crafting, I have lots of holiday themed stickers and embellishments which I liberally apply in to the cover and the interior at this stage. I add my initials on the back cover, with the words, ‘homemade with love.’

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I bought a pack of old fashioned gift tags at the Hospice shop for one dollar and included a few tags in each envelope as a gift. And there you have it, a creative way to personalize your greeting cards!

Have you ever tried making your own? If so, please share! 

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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The more man meditates upon good thoughts, the better will be his world and the world at large. ~ Confucius

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

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

It’s difficult.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No pressure, right?

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

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

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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

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