Archive for the ‘Upper Middle Grade’ Category

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It required patience. Staying the course.

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

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

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

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

How about you?

How do you figure out your names and titles?

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Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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

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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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I’m reminding myself the “IWSG Day Question” is optional. This week I wanted to write about something which has been on my mind lately re my writing. And that is, the transformational power of a good critique group.

It was writer John_Yeoman who said, ‘There are no great writers, only great editors.’ Everyone writes a rough first draft. Our work has to be edited until we’re blind. And then we need a second pair of eyes to look at it, and to look at other people’s stories as well, to refresh the mental palate. I remember when I first joined kiwiwrite4kidz, in 2004. One of the organisers and authors, Maria Gill, said, the best advice she could give me was that I should join a critique group.

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I ran scared from that advice, in truth, for years. I had been tinkering on children’s stories in my spare time. I’d been quietly attending workshops and conferences, stalking the literary scene. I preferred being on the outside looking in. An introvert and a loner, I also didn’t feel ready to share my work. I was scared it wasn’t good enough.

Who was I to say I was a writer, and could bump shoulders with other literati?

It was an intimidating process, at first. It took me a long time to get past the initial stage of paralysis. Years later, I tried an in-person critique group. I was so awkward and self conscious and uncomfortable in those social situations, that I felt it simply wasn’t for me.

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I started the online group ‘Writing for Children’ in 2014, on the awesome Kristen Lamb’s Wanatribe site. I met other writers there, and quite naturally, I began swapping chapters with one of the writers, the wonderful Maria Cisneros-Toth, for critique. It was the first time I had shown the upper middle grade story I’d been working on, The Or’in of Tane Mahuta, to anyone.

It was my first real experience of a ‘critique group’ situation, where you’re submitting your chapters each week and getting feedback to work on, and simultaneously reading another person’s chapters and giving feedback on them. It revolutionised my work.

My book began its transformational journey from seed to plant.

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After that, I joined the group, The Magnificent Five, and The Creative Collective, and last year formed another ‘group of two,’ The Two Amigos.

Through that time, I finished and published the Or’in of Tane Mahuta, and edited and published the second volume, The Sasori Empire.

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This year, I’m working on my third book, The Last Tree, with a group I call ‘The Gang of Four,’ (because I like the band!). Four is an effective working number to my mind, because you get a broad range of feedback and yet, there’s still a manageable work load. With two kids still at home, I have to be careful how I manage my time.

It does take energy and commitment, yet it’s worth every minute because critique stimulates and prospers the work and the authors. You get instant insight as to whether an idea has worked, whether your story is making sense and where more or less is needed.

Critique groups provide a fertile laboratory for testing our creativity.

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Sometimes you’re too close to the story to recognize the issues for yourself. One of the things that never fails to amaze me, is that I can see clearly the things which need changing in someone else’s work far more easily than I can in my own. Why is that?

I don’t know.

This give-and-take process of feedback creates a positive force that generates evolution in the work.

We may not love our stories when we first write them, but it’s how we feel about them at the end that counts. And a good critique circle can facilitate great work.

What about you? Have you found yourself a writing critique group, yet?

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Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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 “Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open.” ~ Stephen King

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The questions which this tussle generates keep the readers glued.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Talk to you later.

Keep Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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

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A tragedy befell our garden this week of Edwardian proportions.

On Tuesday night, around nine o’clock, a storm sprang out of nowhere. It only lasted a few hours and yet, it did untold damage across our region. Trees fell down on people’s houses, on cars and across roads. Winds gusted 100 -160 kilometres an hour and in some places got up to 210 kilometres. A four story building under construction caved in, and there were power outs in many areas, leaving people without heating on the coldest night of the year.

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I went to bed around 9.30 on Tuesday night, afraid of the big gusts of wind roaring around the house. About half an hour later, I was woken by a loud, insistent banging on the door. My neighbour, Pete, stood on the doorstep in an oil slicker, holding a powerful torch, with the wind and rain howling behind him.

“You okay?” he asked.

“Yes, why?”

“Your big tree’s fallen down.”

My heart sank. No. Not that tree.

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Not the tree my parents planted in 1962 when they first moved in. The tree my brother-in-law dubbed ‘The Jewel of the Garden’ for its radiant magnificence. The tree whose dramatic changing hues, shedding of leaves and regaining of resplendent green shoots has heralded the turning of the seasons throughout my life. The tree I went and hugged for a few days in a row after dad died, and sang to. No. Not that tree.

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I remember when dad came back to visit the old homestead, a few years ago. He walked out into the backyard to admire the liquid amber he’d planted fifty years before. His head tilted, and he marvelled, “It’s grown so big.”

No.

Not that tree.

I couldn’t bear to go and look at it that evening and, besides, it was too wild outside. I waited until the next morning. Then, I went out into the garden, and I couldn’t believe my eyes.

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Most of the main column was gone. My nephew, who lives in the sleep out, said he could hear branches cracking in the storm. He’d gone outside to get a look and could see the big gusts of wind whipping the branches around. He went back to bed and threw a mattress over himself when he heard another loud crack, then a resounding thud when the top half fell.

Miraculously, it had crashed into Pete’s backyard, missing everything except for his clothesline.

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I was relieved to see the remaining trunk was still firmly planted in the ground and that many of the branches still seemed strong.

The tree removal guy says he hopes to salvage what’s left. He can trim the branches and trunk. The tree will be half the size, but the prognosis is that it might survive to be hugged another day.

Boy, I hope so.

I don’t care to lose too many more family members at the moment.

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The theme of loss and the reality of it in our daily lives is difficult.

At the end of the middle grade novel I’m working on, The Last Tree, when the hero, Aden misses his elderly mentor, Geo, he asks himself, ‘Is this what it’s like to grow up, there’s more pain and losing people?’

I think that’s one of those storms we all have to go through, when we start to mature, in becoming aware of our mortality and that our parents aren’t going to live forever. There are moments of understanding that one day we’ll have to find our way through this world alone, and one day, we’ll take the place of our parents as the elders in our own families.

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The elderly or grandparent character in a story always represents our mortality, by the nature of their advanced age, they represent impermanence.

I love to write the grandparents and always include them in my fiction. The truth is, that half the Jewel of the Garden must be taken away, that grandparents will die some day, and that our beloved parents will one day do the same, and so will we. But, the student, the child, the garden will carry on. The new growth will replace the old tree. And the next generation will blossom and thrive and have their season in the sun. That is the flow of life, and there is comfort in that knowledge and wisdom in acceptance.

Have you ever weathered a major storm or lost a tree you loved? What did you do? What nugget of wisdom did you gain from the experience?

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(Dad’s grandson and great-granddaughter)

Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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If we know how to appreciate these beautiful things, we will not have to search for anything else. Peace is available in every moment, in every breath, in every step. ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

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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!!!

InsecureWritersSupportGroup

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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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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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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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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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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