Archive for the ‘Top Tips’ Category

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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Beware the dreaded terror that is the read-aloud edit! Everything they say about it being a back-breaking labour is true. These days, you often hear the advice to read your own work aloud. This is primarily because, no matter how obvious it seems, the fact remains that stories were made to be told, to be heard by the reader’s inner ear, and to be shared with others. If a piece of prose can’t pass the read-aloud test, it’s dead in the water. And yet, reading aloud your own story, especially if it’s a full length novel, will crush your soul beneath its heel.

I’m currently three quarters of the way through a read-aloud edit of my next middle grade novel, and I cannot tell you how many times I’ve wanted to give up. Labours of Hercules, on steroids.

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You see, three weeks ago, after having edited my work-in-progress, The Last Tree, a gazillion times, I decided it was time to do the dreaded read aloud edit. By the end of the first hour of recording myself, I was drained of all energy and, by the end of the first day, the will to live.

Each weekend, that I’ve gotten to work on it again, I’ve been surprised afresh by how it makes me want to claw my own hair out by the roots. It’s tedious, arduous and gruelling. No part of reading aloud 67,634 words comes easy. In fact, I have discovered a whole new appreciation for voice artists and especially those who do the audio novels. It takes power and endurance and patience. You read page after page until you think you’re going to go mad. And, then you find you’ve only read one chapter and there are still fifty more ahead.

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The reason you keep going through this undeniable hard slog, is that there’s such a big payoff. You get this incredible transformation that starts to come over the work that no other editing technique can touch.

The reason you keep going despite the mental and physical anguish is that when you read aloud, you hear your story anew. When you listen to the recording to edit the story, you hear the prose in a new way again. This effectively brings to light every flaw. It is quite special and unique in its singular transparency.

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The reason you keep going is because you discover where the story doesn’t flow as well as it should, and you swiftly knock a lot of the bumps out.

The eleven rewards I’ve identified so far in reading aloud your own work:

  1. You notice extraneous words, when sentences are too long
  2. You hear the repetitions, the favoured ways of saying things, favoured words or ‘tics’
  3. You hear where the dialogue is popping and where it falls flat
  4. You hear where you need to name who is doing what to prevent the reader getting lost37536386_10155480627157212_1260027620918034432_n
  5. It shows up flaws in rhythm, words that when spoken in sequence trip up the tongue
  6. You become aware of leaps in states of consciousness, where you as the writer have made assumptions things are clear, yet you have failed to fill in the gaps. You see the spots where there are not enough words to paint the scene
  7. It brings out patterns in actions (like ‘nodded’ and ‘shook their head’ or ‘rolled their eyes’)
  8. You see where some parts of the story have heft, they’re meatier, while other parts are weaker and the material too thin
  9. You discover where you’ve put the cart before the horse and you have things out of sequence, so you have stated the decision first and the options and problem solving second40661154_1781118765330897_3490029191380860928_n
  10. You’ll hear where too many words have been used in a sentence. You’ll discover sentences so long and convoluted you can’t breathe, and they’ll make you hate your own writing with a passion
  11. You can feel the drag where some parts of the story are boring, or could be worded better, and sometimes, you can even hear where punctuation is missing

As you can see, it is well worth the sweat, blood and toil, as well as the inevitable midnight oil. Despite the fact it has been a painful, torturous process, so far, reading my book aloud has also been the most effective editing I’ve done. I might even be tempted to do it again, even though I quail at the thought!

Am I crazy? Yes, possibly.

What about you, have you ever tried the dreaded read aloud edit? Did you live to tell the tale?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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“May your dreams be larger than mountains and may you have the courage to scale their summits.” -Harley King

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

One of the things I’ll miss most when the youngest child morphs from child to young adult is the singing. It doesn’t start first thing in the morning, when he’s a zombie and must sit plastered to the couch watching television. The singing starts from the moment of that first voluntary movement towards feeding himself, or finding and turning on his device of choice, he’ll begin to sing random snatches of verse from various songs. Not whole songs, sometimes not even choruses, just a few lines here and there, often repeated before I say, ‘OY,’ and he moves onto the next song that pops into his head. He and his friends have been that way since they were small.

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The songs continue throughout the day until he tires in the evening and starts to wind down with snack foods and the cartoon network.

When the youngest son is playing a game on his computer and talking to a friend through his tablet (who is also playing the same game), in between snatches of chatter about what they’re doing, and actually playing the games, one or other of them is bellowing a rendition of a song. They don’t bat an eyelid. It’s part of their banter, part of their way of bouncing ideas off the world. And it’s not just him, it’s all of them.

Kids sing. It comes as naturally as breathing and there’s something wonderful about that. 

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They don’t run out of song ideas or steam for it either. It’s simply amazing. I admire their fearless lack of self consciousness greatly. Imagine how great it must be to live that way. To be so young and carefree.

The youngest son’s voice is okay. He’s no Josh Grobin, but he can hold a tune. His natural tone when he’s burbling to himself is sweet. It’s just that he can’t seem to sing at a low volume for long, he and his friends have a habit of turning up the volume until, once again, I have to yell, ‘OY’ to get him to lower the decibel level.

I had expected the childlike tendency for song to have expired by now. However, even at the grand old age of thirteen, he still sings the whole day long. Not constantly. It comes and goes, in between activities and school and time spent playing Fortnite and planning to take the world by storm as the next YouTube gamer video star, the next Dan DTM. He still sings.

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I love it. He tapes himself playing online games for his YouTube channel, and in between the banter, he’s singing. I don’t know if he even knows he’s doing it. But, it’s got to be a surefire way to tell the older YouTubers from the younger generation. That’s for sure. Adults are far too self conscious to burst into spontaneous choruses of their favourite tune every other minute.

As a child, I used to sing in all the school productions and sometimes for certain events at church. But, then I grew up, and I stopped. I notice adults, in general, tend to sing, dance and laugh less than children, which strikes me as sad.

At least, for now, I know my youngest son is still a child because he’s still singing. Sure, I get annoyed when he repeats the same line twenty-five times. Sure, I get frustrated when I can’t hear myself think for his warbling. Sure, I get ticked off when he’s still singing and dancing in the living room instead of doing what he’s been told.

Of course, I do, even a tuneful melody can wear your nerves to a frazzle on the hundredth rendition.003 (16)Here are my Top Tips to survive as the parent:

When going on long trips, take ear plugs.

When it gets too loud, ask for an indoor voice.

When the same line is repeated ad nauseum, ask them to stop.

When jobs don’t get done, set a deadline or there will be loss of a treat or privilege.

When the singing and dancing jars the nerves, escape the room!

Even though I shake my head at times, there is still something endearing about hearing your child sing that wrings the heart strings. And, you can’t stay mad for long. As I said in the introduction, I’m sure this trait is the one I’ll miss the most after he’s grown up and gone. So I’ll withstand and cherish him while I can and he’s young.

How do you handle the never-ending melody of your children?  

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Children will not remember you for the material things you provided but for the feeling that you cherished them. ~ Richard L. Evans

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It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Time to release our fears to the world – or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post the first Wednesday of every month. I encourage everyone to visit at least a dozen new blogs and leave a comment. Your words might be the encouragement someone needs.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

What about you, what publishing path will you take?

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Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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

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The stage that I’m at now with my kids, the eldest has his own family while I still have two teenagers at home. The youngest is halfway into his first year as a teen. He’s navigating new waters of social interaction with his peers. He’s figuring out how to stand on his own two feet. The middle son is special needs, with Downs’ syndrome and Autism. But, if you take some broad sweeps of the brush, there are many ways in which adolescence is universal.

Being a teen is confusing

Life suddenly becomes more complex. For instance, the youngest has become embroiled in intrigues and dramas at school between the groups of friends. He’s stuck as mediator and counsellor and he’s trying to unravel seemingly endless knots of disputes. There’s tension in every section. He comes home from school, more often than not, frowning, talking to himself; chock full of “teen angst.”

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It’s pressure-filled

You would not believe the amount of pressure these new teens put each other under to ‘find a girlfriend or a boyfriend.’ By the second term, the youngest had gained a “girlfriend.”

It’s a rollercoaster ride

Luckily, he doesn’t expect me to help. He only tells me the occasional insight, the shortened update that comes after he’s figured something out. I’m glad for that. Even the précis of his adolescent spats, are so convoluted they could suck all time for productive worthwhile endeavours into them like teenage black holes.

I do not envy my boys this stage in life. I wouldn’t go back there for a million dollars.

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What can I do, as the parent of these teenage boys?

I’m constantly juggling balls in the air, balancing the day-to-day stuff of running a family, while walking the knife edge of constantly gauging their wellbeing. When you’re the mum in such a situation as this, you learn to spot fires and put them out before they get out of control. If you don’t want World War Three in your house, you get to vet the teenagers’ emotional, mental and spiritual wellbeing throughout each day.

I think parenting teenagers is just as exhausting as the pre-school years. It takes every ounce of savvy and screws every drop of resolve out of you, and as with all parenting, it requires your time and doesn’t let up for a minute.

With the middle child’s recent diagnosis of autism, I’ve learned to apply the rapid salve of one-on-one time. Instead of waiting for the teenage angst to send him to Mars, each time I notice him becoming restless, I suggest we do an activity together.

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We’ve played cards, board games and balloon tennis. He’s responded wonderfully to this diversion tactic, and there have been less aggressive outbursts.

While having one-on-one time works with my special son, it doesn’t work as well with my youngest son, who is starting to value hanging out with his friends, on line and at school, above spending time with mum.

I googled ‘tips or how to raise teens.’ These are my own versions of the tips which have worked for me, so far:

Let them grow up

A bit of trust goes a long way. Teenagers want to be respected. I’ve given the youngest more rope this year than he’s had before. This year, he’s started to stay late after school, and visit friends on the way home. He’s got a later bedtime and has more freedom.

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Set out the guidelines

I’m a firm believer in letting the kids know what the rules are in the house.

Give them more responsibilities

Let them do more around the house and do their share.

Have consequences

When the rules are broken, it’s time out on their own for ten minutes and they can’t return to the family until they’re ready to apologize.

 

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Have an open ear

I try to be as open minded as possible. If he feels safe to talk to me, and knows he can trust me, we’re on a good footing.

Talk about risks, discuss game plans for dangerous situations

I try to teach the youngest on how he can protect himself on the internet and in public. On a practical level, it’s important for teens to have a plan for what to do if they need help.  I always make sure the teenager has a cell phone with credit, and that we run through game plans ahead of social situations. I let my teen know that he can call at any hour, and I’ll come get him. The best I can do is provide the information and the safety net. And, pray like crazy, of course.

Hope that helps!

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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‘…if you have raised a few teenagers you will understand that there is some point when sanity is questioned (yours not theirs).’~ Ann Kaplan

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From the time he was small, my son Samuel has had episodes of erratic behaviour. Talking with my friends who also parent Downs’ syndrome kids, I discovered this can be part of the syndrome. Small stints of bad behaviour seemed to come about in cyclical fashion, and among our circle, we called it ‘running with Diablo.’ Our kids would run wild every now and again, and then it was over as fast as it started. No problem.

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Sam’s episodes have always been doozies though. I put that down to his being a strong, forceful character, a little volcano that needed to let off steam like Mt. Vesuivus. From the age of five-years-old to ten, Sam’s mischievous escapades were epic. He once carried the entire contents of the fridge and freezer into our living room and spread it out on the floor while I was putting out the washing. He once escaped the house by climbing out of the living room window at two o’clock in the morning. One time, he was walking along nicely beside us as we went to school and on the turn of a dime, he burst into running full tilt across the road in front of a Kenwood truck. In the latter two cases, Sam was lucky not to have been killed.

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Sam is no longer a ten-year-old. Now, he’s fifteen, and he’s bigger and stronger than me. His behaviour this year has steadily deteriorated. Tonight, he decided he was leaving with our carer supporter, who had spent a couple of hours helping Sam with homework. Neither the carer supporter, nor I, could stop Sam’s focused march down the drive as he repeated, “Good morning, Sam” over and over. He refused to listen to reason.

For the first time, I felt really afraid, that we’d lost control over him. I couldn’t see the boy I knew in his eyes anymore, his eyes looked blank, and the pupils widely dilated like that of a cat with the wind in its tail.

Then, I remembered something said by a friend whose child is autistic. Her child’s behaviour had gone off the rails at the onset of adolescence. Medication had helped, though it had been trial and error to get the medication right. I grabbed onto this idea like a lifeline. I sent her an email.

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I also remembered a neighbour telling me, her autistic child had started eating chalk and wire. However, medication had stopped the behaviour and he was attending a normal school. Maybe there was hope we could come out of this ditch, too.

The thing is, when Sam was small, he was diagnosed by a specialist as having a dual diagnosis: Down’s syndrome and Autism. But, somewhere along the way the ‘Autism’ tag got dropped. Tonight, I realised, Sam is autistic. He is a dual diagnosis. It might have gone into a latent period, for some reason. And, potentially, in Sam’s case, the trigger for setting it off again was my father’s death. Sam’s behaviour has been totally unpredictable ever since dad died.

I looked up Autism to read about it a bit, to see if my hunch was correct.

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This from Wikipedia: Autism is a developmental disorder characterized by troubles with social interaction and communication and by restricted and repetitive behavior.[3] Parents usually notice signs in the first two or three years of their child’s life.[1][3] These signs often develop gradually, though some children with autism reach their developmental milestones at a normal pace and then worsen.[9]

Tick, tick, tick. All these things applied to my son.

Then, from HELPGUIDE.org I found some tips on How to help your child with Autism thrive

*Provide structure and safety

*Find nonverbal ways to connect

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*Figure out the motivation behind the tantrumIt’s only natural to feel upset when you are misunderstood or ignored, and it’s no different for children with ASD. When children with ASD act out, it’s often because you’re not picking up on their nonverbal cues. Throwing a tantrum is their way of communicating their frustration and getting your attention.

*Create a personalized autism treatment plan

*Find help and support

I decided to reach out for support.

I had joined the Crippled Children’s Society years ago, so there would be someone to advise me on things to do with disability, when needed. However, I never used the service. Tonight, I sent an email to my advocate at CCS, titled, ‘Help.’

We need to see a specialist and sort out a treatment plan. Wish me luck!

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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“Don’t waste a minute not being happy! If one window closes, run to the next window – or break down a door!” – B. Shields

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It required patience. Staying the course.

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

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

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

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

How about you?

How do you figure out your names and titles?

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Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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

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