Archive for the ‘Upper Middle Grade’ 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.

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 do you love about the genre you write in most often?

Writing fantasy for children is a not exactly a hot genre. It’s difficult to do well, and as Terry Pratchett once said, there’s always been this ‘cloud of disapproval around the fantasy genre,’ as if it’s somehow the second cousin of more serious or entertaining popular fiction.

‘But some of the reasons are easy to see. The sheer torrent of the stuff for one thing. The telling and retelling. All those new worlds and eternal heroes.’ Yeah, I get it, too. Even for me, fantasy can get annoying, and yet, I can’t deny the draw. It’s what I loved to read as a child, and it’s what I love to write now.

Who cares about being cool or trendy?

For most of my thirty-five years writing for children, I’ve been writing “fantasy animal tales’ and they’re even less of a hot topic than pure fantasy. Yet, the roots of fantastic tales about animals, especially talking animals, go back to our very first oral traditions of storytelling, as far back as 600 B.C. and the time of Aesop.

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Why does this particular niche appeal to me? Kate de Goldi said once ‘writers always have their story, their palette, driven by something they find interesting that they can’t explain.’

I feel the answers lie in childhood.

I look back at my past, and I think I was a total nerd. Oh, the joy I used to get from reading a new book. To visit the library and get new books for free seemed such a delicious and exciting power to have. What to read? The choices were endless.

As a young child, I recall the impact of unexpected bliss I felt on the day I opened Finn Family Moomintroll, by Tove Jansson, and read ‘Chapter 1. In which Moomintroll, Snufkin and Snif find the Hobgoblin’s hat; how five small clouds unexpectedly appear, and how the Hemulen finds himself a new hobby.’ It was a profound moment.

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I was immediately transported somewhere else. I flew away to a far more fascinating place than my powerless world, as a small child growing up in the urban landscape and a working class family.

Pure fantasy seems to deal in the fulfilment of desire, the yearning of the human heart for a kinder world, a better self, a wholer experience, a sense of truly belonging, wrote David Pringle.

Through these fantasies I read: the Moomintroll series, and the Chronicles of Narnia, the ghost stories, myths and legends, I escaped through their portal, to lands far away, where exciting magical things happened that matched the limitlessness of my imagination.

These books made my childhood more wonderful and alive.

When I first approached writing fiction for children, it was natural to reach for the subject matter which intrigued me as a young person, the genre of animal fantasy. That’s where the heart lay. It was as simple as that.

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I think it was Thoreau who coined the famous advice for writers ‘know your own bone.’

It was writer/teacher, Kate de Goldi, who said, ‘Your idiosyncratic fascination is why you were made and set here.’

In other words, in order to be true to who we are as writers, we have to find the courage to follow what truly moves us, to write what our hearts sing to read and what lights us up inside. That takes undeniable courage, to dig down to the core and come up with one’s raw innermost truths, and then own them.

I used to be ashamed of my genre. I did a lot of writing but not a lot of submitting. When I did submit, I got responses like, “no one’s buying fantasy,” or “no one’s interested in reading about talking animals.” So, I submitted less often until I stopped altogether.

That’s where self publishing is king for authors like me, who write in less than popular genres. We don’t need a nod from the gatekeepers anymore to see our books in print. We nerds can say, “I’ll publish fantasy animal tales if I want to.” And, “Nerds rule!”

What do you love about the genre you write in?

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Talk to you later…

Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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When she is most lucky, the poet sees things as if for the first time, in their original radiance or darkness: a child does this too, for he has no choice. Edwin Muir

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From what I understand, very few fiction authors do.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This reminded me about to get real about what matters.

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

Is your profession your passion in 2018?

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Talk to you later.

Keep Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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

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

Launching your first book is like delivering your first baby. There is great cause for much celebration and rightly so, as no one knows other than other authors and publishers, the extent of effort, money and concentration it takes to deliver a fully-formed book into the world. You cross that finish line as a debut author and you throw a party with catered food, fancy decorating and elephants, and you dance till dawn.

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The second book, like the second baby, tends to be a quieter affair. You’re more tired this time round. Your hands are fuller. You take fewer pictures. You have two novels to be responsible for and yet, there is also the third story to write.

At the same time there are the same rounds of media sites which need updating, interviews, and online conversations to be had and bells to ring in order to publicise your new creation to the world. The dreaded self-marketing engine that the Indie author needs to kick into overdrive must work overtime now on promoting that book to the world.

And, sometimes, this conflict of interests can call for new solutions. Enter, the mini-launch. I don’t know if this is a “thing” already, but if not, I’m making it one.

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For the celebration of The Sasori Empire (http://amzn.com/B075PMTN2H), the second novel in my upper middle grade series, the Chronicles of Aden Weaver, I wanted to commemorate the moment and have a party.

The trouble was, I had expended so much time and energy on producing the little dickens that I had nothing left to give. All I wanted to do was recline on a beach in Fiji and sip a cocktail, there was no way I was going to rev up the engines for a massive party as well. So, I hatched the idea of the “mini-launch,” essentially the smallest version of a book party you can have.

~ Here’s how ~

Venue: The first thing is where and when. I simply requested to add the launch of book two into the mix of a get-together I already go to each week, in this case, my local Toastmaster’s meeting. Cost: $0. (Apart from the annual fee, which I would pay anyway).

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Invite list: That way, I didn’t have to worry about people turning up. I knew the crowd of people would be there and they were my friends. You could do the same with your book club or critique group. I also invited one or two other people as guests.

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Catering: I paid a friend who is a baker to make two dozen mini cupcakes. Cost: $20. I bought a bottle of bubbles and a bottle of freshly-squeezed orange juice. Cost: $24.

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Decoration: VistaPrint helped me create two personalized signs. They have the same legend on both sides and plastic stands and only cost $50. A friend donated the dragonfly tablecloth.

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Agenda: When you make your book launch part of an established club meeting, you don’t have to worry about figuring out an agenda or writing the script. All I needed to focus on was writing and learning my speech. At the end of the meeting, the Toastmaster announced that I would be signing books and we broke open the bubbly at that point. I signed and sold my first box of books, and had interesting conversations with would-be authors.

 

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Photos/video: I took along my own camera and tripod. I shoulder-tapped a friend on the day and asked if she would press the record button when I started speaking. And I did the same with the camera after the meeting, getting various folks to take photos. I got a very serviceable video of my speech and some nice pictures of the occasion. The whole thing took an hour and a half. It cost under $100. Whereas my first book launch cost me three times that amount and took double the time.

I’m here to say the mini book launch works. It announces a worthwhile achievement. It sets the book off on its own course in the world with minimum fuss or cost, which is not to say that next time I won’t throw a huge party, it is to say, sometimes when means are limited, there are other ways of commemorating the moment that won’t break the bank.

If you do try your own mini launch, let me know how you go. I want photos!

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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“It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.” ~ Confucius

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

 

 

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!!!

insecurewriterssupportgroup

Question: Have you ever surprised yourself with your writing? (For example, by trying a new genre you didn’t think you’d be comfortable in?)

I have a frightening tale to tell…

For many years, I’ve thought about trying my hand at short fiction. Joe Bunting inspired me on his terrific blog, The Write Practice, when he was blogging about making the shift from novel writing to short stories. But, unlike the youthful abandon with which Joe leaped, I held back, feeling daunted by the concept. I felt afraid at the thought of having to minimise word count while at the same time freighting every word – much in the same way as poets do – as truth to tell, that just wasn’t me. I’ve always been the talker in the family. My books always make a good thick doorstop.

I felt challenged by the discipline needed for penning short stories and, I was too green at the time. I’m not a much better writer now, but I’m more willing to give things a go and fall flat on my face than I used to be when I was young. I’m more willing to get things wrong.

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Last year, I signed up for a writing workshop with Daniel Jose Older, on writing short fiction. Daniel Jose Older was as informative and inspiring as expected. I felt electrified.

When he set us loose to write a short story, I had no preconceived agenda, no thought in my mind as to subject. We were given as broad a set of parameters as you could imagine, in that we could write about any subject.

I write for children and persons who are young at heart. I have always done so, since the day I began writing my first children’s story at the age of seventeen. That was my automatic go-to. As I moved the pen across the page, I was writing for children. And yet, the story which came to me on the ether was different, bustling and rustling. It wrapped me up and rushed me headlong on its dark wind. I particularly love when it’s like that, when the muse is speaking loud and strong and the ride is the most beautiful exceptional rush of creativity.

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Imagine my surprise! I looked up later and found that instead of the usual adventure/quest type stories I like to write, I had written my first ever spooky tale! I’m still not sure how that happened, or where I veered off the path.

Birdy is  set in a modern Kiwi suburb. It’s a story about an old Maori woman, who the neighbourhood kids believe is a legendary water demon, and the creepy way that Birdy preys upon the weaknesses of her neighbour’s child. The story takes place over one hour in the victim’s life, with the clock ticking.

This story is dark, macabre, tense, unlike anything I’ve written before.

Horror is a genre I tend to shy away from in all its forms. I far prefer fantasy that is uplifting. Even so, I had surrendered to the process and this chilling tale was the result.

The horrible thing is, I’m not sure if the story is any good. I have no idea. In fact, I sincerely doubt it is. While I might be unsure if I will ever go that way again, you can be sure my hands are clammy. I’m looking at every granny sideways, and hearing twigs creak in the night, and shadows slide out of the corner of my eye!

How about you, have you ever surprised yourself with your writing?

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Talk to you later…

Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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

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

 

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.

insecurewriterssupportgroup

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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Wonder Woman has inspired many conversations recently about strength and stereotypes and gender roles, about societal conventions and morality and violence, about relationships and responsibility and identity. ~ Jami Gold

When I was starting out as a writer, the prevailing wisdom was to avoid writing a female lead. In fact I can remember being told, “Boys don’t want to read about girls.” So I’ve only ever written about male heroes with female sidekicks thrown in for good measure.

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When I published my first book in 2015, my niece read it and her beef with me was that I’d written the female sidekick as “less than the hero.” She pulled me up on the fact that the boys were made to seem as all powerful while the girl character came across as a bit feeble. She said, “What sort of message do you think you’re putting out there for young girls today?”

Until she said those words, I’d never thought about it like that. I was born in the 60’s and the mindset of those times, that women were subordinate to men, had somehow become a part of me and filtered into my work without my even being aware of it. I thought, wow, she’s right. I have a responsibility to the young female reader.

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And then, the new Wonder Woman movie came out. I went to see it and emerged from the cinema feeling revolutionized. For the first time, I’d seen a female lead portrayed on screen who was at once, heroine and human. She could hold her own as a warrior, which she must, and also, even more importantly, lead with her strength of character. As Jami Gold said, ‘… show elements of emotional strength, like compassion for someone in need, fighting for what’s right or being determined to survive, being resourceful and brave, and just being an all-around interesting and cool person.’

You need to see all of that humanity in a hero these days. The world was ready for this Wonder Woman. With all respect to the goddess, Lynda Carter, whom I worship and adore, Gal Gadot is sensational in the part, eclipsing even beautiful Lynda’s performance. Gal’s version has a depth of humanity and compassion the world needs at the moment.

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I loved it. I always say, a sign of a good movie is if you come out really thinking about the world in a new way afterwards. And I walked out thinking, I’ve been tooling away at my children’s stories for over thirty years and yet, I’ve never written a heroine protagonist? I’ve let myself be limited in literary scope by thinking about the market first. Never do that. The whole thing is a creativity killer. Besides, what’s wrong with writing for girls?

When I was growing up, I read Heidi, Pippy Longstockings, Little House on the Prairie, Anne of Green Gables, Nancy Drew, and Little Women. Pippy was a wild girl like I was inside so I could relate. Those books were important to me. I was inspired by those books, by those feisty, headstrong, smart girls. I thought about the young girls who might go to see Wonder Woman and how they would perhaps feel about themselves afterwards as young women in the world. I thought I want to be part of that.

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Writing female characters who kick ass doesn’t mean the male sidekicks need to be weaker, either. Another really nice, refreshing thing about the new WW movie was that the male love interest, Steve Trevor, played by Chris Pine, was also allowed to shine. As one of Gold’s responders commented, ‘I love that you mentioned how Steve Trevor is portrayed as a hero in his own right. I’ve long said that truly strong men are not threatened by truly strong women.’

I thought, yes, what a great way forward, to write potent female characters without belittling the men. How about writing stories in which the power is more evenly redistributed between the sexes? How about writing for boys and girls, showing the power balanced between the two…now there’s a thought… The future is bright!

Thanks, Wonder Woman, for inspiring me. You’re my heroine!

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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“It’s total wish-fulfillment. I, as a woman, want Wonder Woman to be hot as hell, fight badass, and look great at the same time – the same way men want Superman to have huge pecs and an impractically big body. That makes them feel like the hero they want to be. And my hero, in my head, has really long legs.” – Director, Patty Jenkins

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

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!!!

insecurewriterssupportgroup

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yeah!

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

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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

 

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

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.

insecurewriterssupportgroup

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

May Question: What is the weirdest/coolest thing you ever had to research for your story?

A colleague from Toastmasters referred to the series I’m writing as “magical realism” the other day, which I thought was a good description. I like to write of other worlds which are nevertheless based on Earth. For the upper middle grade series I’m writing currently, the Chronicles of Aden Weaver, the characters are shape shifting insects. For this, I did research on the insect world, read up on some Maori and Japanese myths, and I read about Albatrosses, and I loved every minute of it.

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When I first started out as a young writer, I used to be embarrassed of my “talking animals stories” because most people, especially publishers at the time, disregarded them. However, the popularity of fantasies about animals can be traced back to Aesop’s fables and beyond. Our fascination with them goes through Greek literature and can be seen echoed in fables from other cultures such as India, through the “beasts as spokespeople” of medieval writers, to Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, to The Jungle Book and The Wind in the Willows. It’s a “live” sub-genre of fantasy.

“As a critical term, ‘fantasy’ has been applied rather indiscriminately to any literature which does not give priority to realistic representation: myths, legends, folk and fairy tales, utopian allegories, dream visions, surrealist texts, science fiction horror stories…” ~ Rosemary Jackson, Fantasy, The Literature of Subversion

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As they say in The Ultimate Encyclopaedia of Fantasy, “One of the problems in any discussion of fantasy is to decide just where ‘realistic’ ends and fantasy begins.” In the “variously fashionable sub-type” of magical realism, which is the strange grayish area of literature I inhabit, the realistic aspect of the story is balanced by the fantastical.

English comedian and writer, David Walliams said, “The only limits in a children’s book are your imagination.” This is exactly what I love about writing for children and the magical realism genre; they’re both about that freedom of spirit. I feel the sky’s the limit and that’s the way I want to feel when I write.

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To achieve “realism,” I always do a bit of research for every book. So for this story about insect shape shifters, I read books, articles, watched documentaries about insects. My dragonfly characters have six legs and four wings. I feel that being able to include the facts gives credibility to the world we’re creating for our readers. Realism adds depth and complexity. It locks the reader in so that they can fly with us on our leaps of imagination. They feels safe with us to explore further.

Once your reader knows the facts, you can then build on that basis to amp up the tension when the norm breaks down.

For instance, there are albatross in this series. The albatross is a sea bird and I discovered it nests right on the coast when it comes ashore at all. Armed with this information, I was able to use this one simple fact to anchor and skew part of the story.

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Because I write for children, who may not be aware of certain things, I needed to drop in a line of dialogue or two prior to this scene, to clue the young reader in to the way things should be, e.g. “Albatross should never nest far from the sea.” Then, by placing the enemy chief’s colony of albatross deep inland, far from water, this one simple anomaly gave the enemy compound an eerie, other-worldly, slightly “off-kilter” ambience that permeates the reader’s perception of the place from then on.

Without a doubt, the coolest thing about research so far has been the research itself, learning new things and supplying good sturdy foundations to the fantasy stories I write. It’s part of the work of being a writer and it’s fun!

How about you, what is your favourite part of what you do?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Fantasy is the fiction of the heart’s desire. ~ Unknown

 

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Or, Editing Woes Noone Warned you About ~

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

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

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

Here’s what to expect:

Editing Woes #1: Temporary Blindness

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

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

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Editing Woes #2: Temporary Book Hate

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

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

Cure: Keep going. Do not give up!

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Editing Woes #3: Temporary Loss of Will to Live

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

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

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

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

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

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

Editing Woes #4: Temporarily Losing Touch with Reality

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

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

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

The reward is that this really is the last hurdle.

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

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

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

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

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

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Talk to you later.

Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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

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It means that you must set your standards high and create what I call a grinder. You must set up a system that holds your writing feet to the fire, and makes you get better at your craft. ~ James Scott Bell

The journey of a book, from genesis to garden of inspiration takes us through the valley of many sorrows, aka the editing. The time spent refining and rewriting our original work is a long, seemingly never-ending road. As an author friend said the other day, with her work-in-progress, it took her two months to write it and so far, it’s taken her nine months to edit, and she’s ‘still not finished.’

As the famous meme which went around Facebook showed, as new authors, we start out imagining ourselves spending our days in throes of inspirational wonder, running through fields of daisies with stories in our heads. However, the reality is we spend 15% of our time writing genesis draft and the rest of our time editing the beast, trying to tame this monster we’ve created into something presentable we can show the world.

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Stephen King said, ‘what separates the talented from the successful is a lot of hard work.’

Writers need to be prepared to a) get the copy written, and b) amend and polish their words until they can see their faces in them.

I recently finished working on my work-in-progress, ‘The Sasori Empire.’ My critique partners and I had done all that we could do. I sent the story to editor, Donna Blaber, of Lighthouse Media Group (info@LMG.co.nz). I had worked with Donna on my first book, ‘The Or’in of Tane Mahuta,’ in 2015 * http://amzn.com/B015K1KF0I, and knew she was quick and on top of her game. Nine days later, Donna had sent the fully edited paper version of the manuscript back. It really did feel joyous to work with professional tweaks and changes.

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Over the following few days, I transcribed the edits into the manuscript. I liked that sometimes instead of taking words out, Donna had linked sentences together and made them longer. Using James Scott Bell’s analogy of critique being “the grinder,” these edits were buffing those last few rough edges off.

The next step in the process, I sent the new version of ‘The Sasori Empire’ to the proof-reader.

This last round of professional editing will take a few weeks. When I have transcribed those edits, it will be time to submit to Createspace for book design, production and printing.

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But, in the meantime, at this stage in the journey of a book, the work of organizing the launch needs to be done. Peer reviews need to come in for inclusion on the back cover, the artwork finalised, the publishing/printing and cover design lined up. A media page is helpful and can be used across platforms to update all social media sites. For the launch party, there’s the venue, the helpers, the speech, catering, the invitation, and the guest list to organize. This stuff can be a lot of fun, and also a lot of work!

One bit of advice I’d give after having published one book, is to be humble enough to ask for feedback on a sample of your work, tapping into the wisdom of friends who are successful authors.

Prior to launching my first book, last year, I asked a friend who is an established author, if he would read the first page and give me honest feedback. He did. Just those few words from a seasoned author’s perspective helped so much. I made a couple of subtle changes that altered the tone and set the first chapter of my debut novel over the edge.

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I wanted to touch the lucky stone again, as it were. I asked, would you read the first page? He very kindly said, send the first chapter. His response came in this morning; again he made a couple of on point suggestions. He said I was giving too much information too soon, and suggested I let the reader get closer to the hero, Aden. I made a couple of tweaks along these lines and voila, it has transformed the all-important opening chapter to a shade above the level it was on before.

They say it takes many a village to raise a child, well, it takes a small town to produce a good book. My advice?

In the final stages of preparing your baby for the world, get as many eyes upon it and voices involved as you possibly can. It makes a world of difference. Good luck!

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Talk to you later.

Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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Writing is always this: an adaptation of the sacred into smut. Dragging the divine out of his Sky Chariot and into the human dirt. ~ Chuck Wendig

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