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. We post the first Wednesday of every month. I encourage everyone to visit at least a dozen new blogs and leave a comment. Your words might be the encouragement someone needs.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good ‘question of the month,’ IWSG!

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

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

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Talk to you later…

Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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

 

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

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

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

Misstep number one

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

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

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Misstep number two

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

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

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Misstep number three

I paid more money.

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

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

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

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

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

Huzzah!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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

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There is something you find interesting, for a reason hard to explain. –Annie Dillard

Book shelf real estate is tiny. It pays to remember that our book will only occupy a small amount of territory on that prized book or library shelf (if it gets there at all!) so we need to stand out. A number of years ago, I read a magazine article about small business start-ups creating their own symbolism, just the same way big companies choose logos. I wondered, why shouldn’t Indie writers also utilise this tool and create their own logos?

*Reason One: Our brains remember images before facts.

It’s a well-known fact that symbols work on our subconscious, and we humans respond to visual clues. There’s a reason all the major brands always build their businesses around a symbol. Once they establish a logo, the emblem then becomes synonymous with their name.

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*Reason Two: A symbol is a reminder. Logos help readers remember you.

The same way our ancestors carved runes into rocks or hieroglyphs into stone, we can use symbols, as a bridge, an illustrative shorthand, in order to convey our message to the world. An image can say so much more than a word. ‘If you let go of your idea of what you are looking at in the symbol, it will reveal itself as information in the form of knowledge that cannot be read in books. It is a direct knowledge,’ said Gurudev Hamsah Nandatha, in his book, In the Presence of Truth. ‘It is because the symbol, it could be a painting or a spiritual symbol, has an impact on your mind. It’s a reminder.’

*Reason Three: Logos help readers to quickly “recognize you” on the book shelf. They give you visibility.

As an Indie writer, I’m seeking two things: to create good content and to build myself as a brand a reader can trust to deliver a good read. A symbol helps readers young and old remember the story and who delivered it.

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*How to Create Your Symbol

One: Find a relevant form.

When I went Indie to publish my first book, The Or’in of Tane Mahuta (http://amzn.com/B015K1KF0I), I wanted to start using my own logo. The Chronicles of Aden Weaver series is about shape shifters who morph from insect to human. I studied insects and looked at dragonfly wings. Then, I sketched and painted three possible options for a symbol to suit.

*Two: Enlist your readers in helping you choose.

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Others see things differently and can provide a valuable resource for feedback. I started a competition for the people on my mailing list. In the newsletter, I gave readers three options to choose from. I asked them to vote on the best. Each vote was counted as an entry, with the winner getting a free signed copy of the book.

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*Next Step: Stake your claim. Make the symbol your own, by stamping it on your books, your cards, your website, and your blog.

The winner by a majority was this one. I finally had a suitable symbol for my brand.

*Hot Tip: Make sure your logo goes on the spine of your book, where it will be seen.

You can see when I line my novel up with others, the way the publishing houses logos establish turf. At a glance, we know who they are. This is the same connectivity you want to happen in the reader’s brain with your brand when they see your masterpiece.

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I’m publishing my second book through CreateSpace. On the first proof for ‘The Sasori Empire,’ I discovered my logo was missing from the spine. Although I had originally submitted the symbol with the file, it’s possible I may have sent it to the wrong place. When you go through an online publishing service, you must read every instruction minutely, because if your work is not submitted to the company’s specific guidelines, it’s not “received” at all. Therefore, the error lies with you. And, every editing change you make will cost money.

I re-submitted the image via the correct channel and made sure my logo is featured in the correct spot on the cover. I’m saying to the world through my symbol, “I’m here.” This puts a smile on my face.

As an Indie, it’s vital to be happy with how your book is going to look sitting on the shelf, as well as how it reads inside. That way the whole package becomes authentic to you.

Are you smiling about the final look of your book? Ever thought of designing your own logo? 

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Talk to you later.

Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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There is something you find interesting, for a reason hard to explain. –Annie Dillard

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

 

Or, Editing Woes Noone Warned you About ~

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

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

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

Here’s what to expect:

Editing Woes #1: Temporary Blindness

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

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

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Editing Woes #2: Temporary Book Hate

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

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

Cure: Keep going. Do not give up!

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Editing Woes #3: Temporary Loss of Will to Live

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

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

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

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

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

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

Editing Woes #4: Temporarily Losing Touch with Reality

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

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

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

The reward is that this really is the last hurdle.

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

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

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

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

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

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Talk to you later.

Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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

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Kids are visual creatures. They like to be entertained in every respect. As a child, I loved books with illustrations. When I morphed into reading chapter books as a young person I wanted the more complex stories, but I still wanted the imagery. I can remember really appreciating the authors who put ink illustrations in their chapter books. I have fond memories of poring over the minute squiggles and flourishes on the pages of Tove Jansson’s books.

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Last year, I prepared to release my first book, my novel, ‘The Or’in of Tane Mahuta.’ The first book from The Chronicles of Aden Weaver. I realized there was no way the budget would stretch to illustrations, so I came up with an easy solution.

Here’s  a guide to creating your own pen and ink book illustrations:

Step One: Start with your characters.

First, you must have some form of cover art for your book which you have either paid for or otherwise have liberty to use. For my debut novel, I had the two main characters rendered artistically in digital form by my nephew.

I simply copied the character with a pencil.

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Second attempt on Aden, for b&w illustration0002I wanted to introduce a new face. I took a photo of a statue of a giant which I found in a 1970’s magazine and copied the basic outline.

*Hot Tip: I use an automatic pencil, as they have the super fine leads. You want to do all the early stages on tracing paper.

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I already had my protagonist, Aden Weaver, rendered in pencil from last year, but I needed to change his position for this book so I lifted him into the air. This gave me a new image to work with. As I pinned down the character’s positions, I switched from pencil to a fine permanent marker pen.

*Hot Tip: You’ll need to see every line. A fine nib is necessary. I use a Staedtler “Triplus fineliner.” Every line needs to be carefully but clearly distinct.

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Step Two: Create the background and foreground

For this image, I decided to use one of a few special backdrops. A dear friend, Lyall Gardiner, had gifted me four of his ink/colour pencil backdrops before he passed. In A3, they’re enormous, so I selected elements from one image, the moon and wispy clouds and some of the looming shapes and traced them onto a more compacted A4 page.

You could use whatever you have to hand, interesting segments of your kids’ artwork, pieces of your own from childhood, or you could go wild and cut segments of out-of-date magazine pictures to create a montage/mosaic effect, etc. Use your imagination.

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*Hot Tip: Take care not to tread on rights to intellectual property.

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Step Three: Combine and Trace

The next part is to employ your artistic eye with placement. Arrange your characters on the background in a way that fits the “story” you want to tell. The great thing about using tracing paper is you can flip the characters over. I decided to “tell the story” of the Oni looming. However, I needed to flip our hero to have him face the giant. To do this, I simply turned the paper over and re-defined all the lines with pen on the reverse of the paper!

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Step Four: Fill it in!

I took my taped-together tracing paper image and copied it onto thick art paper. I used permanent markers and filled in the picture. I thought in terms of light and shadow, silhouette, of how things look in the dark, not drawing to be realistic but to create pattern – effect through contrast. I left certain patches: one or two to be left white and at least a few to be painted black. They added impact.

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The resulting image will be one of the two illustration plates for inside ‘The Sasori Empire.’ On Facebook, I shared it with the caption, ‘The horned face of the Oni appeared in the trunk, even more hideous than before, and a head of bark grew.’

Step Five: Copyright!

Make sure to add your name the copyright symbol and the year somewhere on your picture.

With a bit of effort, anyone can create at least a couple of illustrations to go inside their own book. These simple pen and inks are relatively easy, quick, and they’re super fun to do. You have the satisfaction of having made it yourself.

Have you ever tried your hand at your own illustrations?

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Talk to you later

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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The Holy Grail is to spend less time making the picture than it takes people to look at it. ~ Banksy

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Reading aloud is another effective tool in the editing kit.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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

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When creating your own brand, my advice is to keep your brand consistent. For instance, my brand is Kristen Lamb. ~ We Are Not Alone.

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At some point, each new writer must make a decision about which name is going to appear on the front cover of their books and stories.

These days, once you commit to a name, this becomes synonymous with your brand. Every little digital step we take these days gets linked to and adds incrementally to our brand. This is why we need to choose wisely where our writer’s names are concerned.

We don’t want to have to do the spadework all over again to build a new brand if we have to change name somewhere along the way.

For many years, I couldn’t decide which moniker I was going to use as a writer. Luckily, I was on Facebook, and I stumbled across Kristen Lamb. She had written a book in 2010 on social media for writers, We Are Not Alone, ‘The Writer’s Guide to Social Media.’ This book is no longer available in the original format, as it needed updating. I believe the updated version Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World  is available now.

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It was 2011. I was new to the net. I was simply a full time mother who wrote part time. I was everyone’s poor cousin. Unpublished, at the time, I had neither a blog, nor a newsletter, website, or any of the must-haves for the modern writer. I was just starting out into the jungle of the strange and mysterious world of social media, and the whole thing seemed rather intimidating and scary.

After purchasing a copy of We Are Not Alone, Lamb’s short yet impactful book, I read it in one gulp. I must admit, I went rather “Shelton” and adhered to Lamb’s principles to the letter.

With regards the subject of author names, pen names, and author brand, Lamb advocated thinking in a broad fashion across one’s social media platforms, and seeing for oneself the value in having one name, one brand, across all platforms. ‘Just because Twitter allows you to have multiple identities doesn’t mean it is a good idea, especially if you are unpublished.’

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This felt like a wise decision and the simplest, to choose a writer’s name that I would use across every social media platform.

I considered the idea of letting go of my surname and using Yvette Carol, my first and middle names. I remembered a conversation I had had about this subject with my grandmother about a decade before. At the time, I had asked Nan for her opinion on which pseudonym I should choose.

Nan said, “While I would love to see the family name on the spine of a book, up on the shelf, I think ‘Yvette Carol’ sounds more like an author.”

I felt the same way. It fitted the criteria in Lamb’s book, and most importantly, it felt like me.

I changed my name by deed poll and committed to it across all genres and all areas of my life. It really felt like taking control. Being bold. And making a statement on the internet, as in, ‘This is my name. This is my claim.’

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When it comes to choosing your writer’s name, what criteria can you use?

Make sure the words are punchy and memorable. Usually, you want to test how it sounds by saying it aloud a few times to find out how it flows.

As Lamb said, ‘In order to maximise sales, your goal is to become a brand. Brand=Big Sales.’ You want to think catchy. However, shorter isn’t necessarily better. Just ask Arnold Schwarzenegger! He stayed true to his name.’

Kristen Lamb put it perfectly, when she said, ‘The internet has valuable real estate that you will want to command. How you claim that digital real estate is by using your name.’

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Lamb’s second key bit of advice re choosing the name to go by for an author was to consider what product or genre or style they wanted their name to be associated with. Then, you market yourself that way from then on. Hence, the reason my blog and website are titled, Yvette Carol, Children’s Writer.

Thank you, Kristen for the great advice!

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In a nutshell, your writer’s name is designed to be pithy and memorable

It’s designed to reflect you and your brand.

It’s designed to be flexible, so you can ‘be consistent across all platforms’

It’s designed to be classic, to last forever.

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How did you find your writer’s name or do you use your given birth name?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Now here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that. ~ Lewis Carroll

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

 

I threw a party recently for my nephew’s 21st and was given the job of baking the cake. My nephew’s top choice is choc/banana which just happens to be my specialty. The cry went out for my “world-famous” double banana-chocolate-cream masterpiece.

Why world famous, you ask? Because it’s a combination I’ve concocted perfected over the years, with wild experiments careful testing in my laboratory kitchen.

I have honed the dynamics to a point where they really work together in sweet harmony, or as my youngest son would say, this cake is “boss” (translation: perfect).

It’s a great “event cake.” In other words, it’s a bit flash. This is the sort of dessert that always gets mostly eaten up, the sort of which leftovers are few and far between, and are sometimes even fought over the next day. When I shared the news I was baking it again, on Facebook, one friend requested the recipe. Here it is.

Double Banana-Chocolate-Cream Cake

Method:

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Start with a basic banana cake recipe. I use the one from the Kiwi classic, the Edmonds cook book.

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I double the recipe because I like a nice amount of cake to work with.

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Pour the mixture into a wide baking tray. A flatter, larger tin is best. Once the filling and the icing is added later, the cake becomes substantially higher. I don’t want to end up with a cake that is top-heavy.

*My tip: I use a disposable roasting dish, lined with baking paper. That way, you end up with a nice sized cake for decorating (and you don’t have to do the dishes, if you’re that way inclined – I recycle mine and use them again).

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I need to let this sucker cool completely. Otherwise, I’ll never get it cut in half and turned over cleanly.

*My tip: I always bake the cake the night before the event, so it can cool overnight.

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I cut the cake in half and line one side with sliced bananas.

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*My tip: I spread a thin layer of cream on the bottom half before applying the banana layer. That way, I can move the slices about more easily if I drop one or make a mistake in the pattern. 

*My tip: While blackening bananas can be used for the batter, use only new perfect fruit for the middle layer. As the slices may be partly visible on each slice served.

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Spread a layer of whipped cream over the bananas. Fresh cream is best.

*My tip: I find I can never make this layer thick enough. Even when I buy the big bottle of cream and whip it, and I put a glacier of cream in the middle, it always somehow is never quite enough when it comes to eating it! I try to be ever more generous.

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Put the “lid” on top.

The next secret to this great cake is the icing must be mostly chocolate, no icing sugar as it adds too much sweetness. I use the “Melted Choc Icing” recipe, also in the Edmonds cook book.

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*My tip: The trick is to make the icing first thing in the morning. This icing needs to cool.

Once completely cool to the touch, I beat it until thick and glossy.

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When icing, sometimes I cover the sides altogether so the filling is a surprise. Other times, like this one, I left the middle layer partly visible. Either way, once I’ve cut this delicious dessert, it’s a matter of standing back and watching the stampede.

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*My tip: Get a piece early or I’ll miss out.

I waited too long on the day, as I was busy in the kitchen. I managed to eat one slice later that evening. The next morning, my family returned. Over cups of tea, they ate the leftovers. Before I could turn around, the cake was gone. Sigh. One slice after all that work! However, that’s a sign they loved it – every cook’s dream come true.

I hope you enjoy this recipe, too. If you do, write to me and let me know.

*My tip: I feel obliged to say, remember the “80/20 rule,” friends: eat good, healthy clean food 80% of the time, and you’re allowed 20% goodies. Yay!

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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I attribute my longevity to constant smoking and marrons glaces. – Noel Coward

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

The thing about writing humour is that everyone has a different sense of humour.

I remember having a conversation about this with a friend. She said, their family had invited the son’s new girlfriend over, to join them for dinner. After the meal, they thought they’d watch their favourite show, with the idea that laughing would bring them all together. So they put on a comedy which they knew was side-splitting, ‘Little Britain.’ My friend said that she, her husband and sons were rolling off the couch, nearly crying with laughter, while the son’s girlfriend never cracked a smile throughout the whole show.

Humour is personal and deadly serious.

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I promised readers I’d share my journey towards the holy grail of engaging the funny bone. Let’s say, it’s been an interesting process, so far.

In my last post, there was a great moaning, wailing and gnashing of teeth about having to write the material for my humorous speech.

I got some helpful pointers from a number of responders. With regards my first idea for material, which had been my mother and her dementia, a friend on social media – the wonderfully gregarious Lord David Prosser  – countered with a great comment.

David Prosser

‘If you get the chance to read the Deric Longden story Lost for Words or get the chance to see the TV film that was made starring Dame Thora Hird you’ll see that the subject of dementia can be dealt with i a funny, charming yet sympathetic way. Because we see the humour in a situation doesn’t make us uncaring towards people suffering that illness, it just means the particular situation was funny.’ ~ David Prosser

Thanks, David.

However, for the upcoming Speech Contest, I decided to go with the same topic I covered last year, something I know intimately – being a parent. Since then, after many anxious, feeble attempts at writing it, and wringing of hands, I began to despair I’d ever be able to write anything good ever again!

Bun Karyudo

I watched footage of award-winning humorous speaker, Jeanne Robertson http://www.jeannerobertson.com (thanks for the link, Jenny), and read a post or two by my friends who write funny blogs, like the self-confessed undie chronicler, Jenny Hansen, https://jennyhansenauthor.wordpress.com/ and sweet blogger, Bun Karyudo, whose excellent “Lovingly Hand-Crafted Humor Blog” is always good for a chuckle.

I thought Bun’s recent post, Teaching My Son to Swim? It’s Just Not Going to Happen https://bunkaryudo.wordpress.com/2016/08/13/teaching-my-son-to-swim-its-just-not-going-to-happen/ was hilarious.

Here’s an excerpt, where his wife is convincing a reluctant Bun why he ought to teach their son to swim:

“When someone makes a promise, isn’t it only right to keep it.”

When someone made a promise, I nodded, it was only right to keep it.

“Right then,” she said, “I promised our son you’d teach him to swim. How can you possibly refuse?”

Bun, however, has a natural gift for turn of comedic phrase. I don’t!

Still stumped, I gazed upon these people’s brilliance and felt unable to produce anything of credibly feather-tickling value myself.

I’ve been having the same conversation everywhere I’ve gone, what makes comedy?

This week, a friend asked me, ‘Look at this way, what makes you laugh?’

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Terrific question. I can tell you, one-liners leave me cold; I prefer it when there’s a storyline, and the humour comes through what happens.

A light went on! I realized that my earlier attempts had failed, because each was basically a series of one-liners strung together.

Yesterday, my two youngest sons left to spend the weekend with their father. Last night, I relaxed and listened to some music, as you do. I was thinking about how different childhood is for kids these days, compared to say, when I was young, or say my parents, or their parents before them.

A few words wafted by me on the wind. If you consider that my grandmother was born in 1901. She lived in the “pre-nuclear age…” I thought, Gran had perfect recall, while I have trouble remembering something from one room of the house to the other… that’s a funny idea! Lucky for me, I was fleet of foot and captured the words before they flew on by.

I had the start to my speech.

The concept of comparing childhoods in our family, from my gran through to my youngest son, gave me the all-important narrative I needed. The rest flowed from there.

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Here’s an example of the content as it stands so far: ‘They say there are more crazy people on the streets these days than ever before, we parents get warnings to keep an eye on our children’s whereabouts at all times. I know my children’s whereabouts – couch one and couch two in our living room, where they can get the wifi.’

Therefore, the raw material for my humorous speech has finally been produced. A labour of love, no less.

Now, I just need to figure out how to deliver the speech to achieve maximum impact. Wish me luck! Any tips for comedic timing/inflection that works,  please let me know! There’s a chocolate fish in it for you (nah, just kidding).

#WhySoManyRules

Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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It is impossible to look cool while picking up a Frisbee. ~ Peter Kay

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

Since I put my name forward to compete in a Toastmaster’s “Humorous Speech Contest,” a couple of weeks ago, I’ve been working on the dilemma of material. Or, lack of it. The race has been on to write something funny.

I have spent days wondering what I should write about.

My hairdresser came over to give me a trim. She has her aging parents living with her, one of whom is blind, while the other has Alzheimer’s. The stories she told, of the mishaps going on in their household, had both of us nearly crying with laughter. I thought, ‘this stuff is priceless.’

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I thought about my own family’s hilarious stories, about my mother, and her dementia. I put it to the arbiters of taste in my circle. The resounding answer was, ‘No, don’t go there. Mothers are sacrosanct.’ Then, I read an article the other day, in which a woman, whose mother had died with Alzheimer’s, decried another guy, who had written a piece about his mother “going mad.” She said, it was ‘cruel and inconsiderate’ to mock those whose parents had dementia.

I realized that my first two ideas were hot-button topics! I decided “not to go there.” In a contest situation, the idea is to appeal to the audience, not turn people away.

What is funny?

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I have wracked my brain, and done a bit of research.

I’ve learned from reading various comedian’s blogs that humour comes from the unexpected. We laugh because we’re led to expect one thing but are given the opposite instead.

I began to experiment. Going back to the subject of raising kids for my subject matter, I wrote a short speech.

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According to what I read, one’s success with a “humorous speech” depends less on content than on the delivery. In the latest Toastmasters magazine, it was reported that the speaker, Palmo Carpino advised, if you want to go from good to great, is “It’s not so much about building a library as it is about building your reflexes.” Paul, who is active with the Canadian Association of Professional Speakers, says, “This is what usually separates the “ok attempts” scribed into a written speech from the “memorable point illustrated in a memorable manner.”

The next time I saw my nephew, I tried out some of the so-called “funny bits” in my speech on him. He gave me one of those face-spreading smiles you give, when something isn’t really funny. My jokes had flat-lined.

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I reworked the speech completely, remembering the rule of the unexpected. I practiced it again and again, by standing up, marching about and testing the delivery, the pauses, the inflections.

That’s what you have to get just right, the sound and timing of your material.

I tried rearranging each piece so as to take the audience in one direction then, casting about for the punch line which turns the listeners in a different direction. Bouncing it off myself and others.

I’ve received some great tips and ideas from people. The top two would have to be, ‘Just be yourself and let your character shine through.’ A great resource, according to a writer/artist friend of mine, Steve Attkisson, is Gene Perret’s Ten Commandments of Comedy. This is ‘one book that has been instructive and entertaining.’ I intend to withdraw this book from the library, to read next. I know I need help.

Will the audience laugh? Only time will tell!

In the end, I’ll get it right. Meantime, I thought the lessons I’m learning along the way might be valuable. As I figure out how to write a humorous speech, hopefully, what I share via my blog might also benefit someone else. Ain’t the internet cool?

How do you write funny? Any tips to share? Send help. Please. Or chocolate.

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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My advice? You wanna look 20 years younger? Stand further away. ~ Jeff Green

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