Archive for the ‘words’ Category

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Donatien Moisdon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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Storytelling is really one of the most wonderful things about human beings. And some of us get to be lucky enough to also be the storytellers. ~ Bryan Cranston

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

*Please remember to write a review. Thank you! 

Ten days ago I delivered the finished manuscript of my book, The Last Tree, to the printers and I told myself I would relax. I would finally take the foot off the pedal. That was the plan. It was Monday. Turns out taking the foot off the pedal isn’t as easy as it sounds. On Tuesday, I organized to meet with an old school friend who is a business whiz. She had suggested she might help get more visibility for my books.

It was the first time I’d ever seen her business side, which was very interesting. After chatting for a minute, we sat down and started to talk about my stories.

I thought her first question was brilliant. She said, “What do you want?”

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I said, “When I started out (at seventeen) it was world domination. But it’s not about that or the money anymore. People say when they read my books they’re inspired. I want to share my stories and inspire as many people as possible.”

She asked me, “Do you have an agent?”

“No.”

“Do you have a marketing plan?”

“No.”

“Do you a way of getting your book into bookstores and libraries?”

“No.”

I was feeling like a right duff by this stage! I think my friend was none too impressed. She said two things after that.

“Your problem is no one knows who the heck you are.”

“That’s true.”

And,

“You will have to up your game.”

“Oh.”

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Both these statements struck terror into my heart. Do I commit to this? I prefer low sales and no one knowing my name. I prefer gliding under the radar. I don’t want to get asked to attend ceremonies and speak at venues. I don’t want a full social agenda. I have more than enough to do every day. There is no downtime as it is and as a card-carrying introvert, spending more time with people scares me terribly.

Yet I get the shake up my friend is giving me. She’s saying ‘look what is it you really want?’ And then, naturally, ‘you will have to do more to make that happen.’ And she’s right. I know she is. But can I do it? Can I commit when I’m raising two boys on my own and have a home and a property to manage single-handed?

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Since then, my friend has introduced me to a successful author she knows. We’re meeting at a cafe up north on Monday morning. I’ll take my first two books, The Or’in of Tane Mahuta and The Sasori Empire. What I hope to find out is how to reach more readers, and whether I should submit my books to a publisher. My friend has also introduced me to an author and agent whom I’m meeting soon. I need to ask if she has access to the lucrative movie and gaming market, especially in the U.S. They should be fascinating meetings. The nerves are fraying already just thinking about them.

I have freely admitted in the past to being utterly slack at book marketing. In fact, the article I had included in the Insecure Writer’s Support Group book, The Insecure Writers Support Group Guide to Publishing and Beyond, The Melee of Modern Marketing, was about accepting our limits as Indies and not beating ourselves up when we do not achieve mega book marketing campaigns.

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Between the many responsibilities in my life, I am tired. I don’t know if I have the time or the drive needed to “up my game” with book marketing. It’s a serious concern. Although I respect my friend’s advice enough to take it, I do so with great trepidation.

All I can do is what my hero, Aden Weaver, did throughout The Chronicles of Aden Weaver series, to get through adventure after adventure. Whenever he felt scared, he would keep putting one foot before the other. This would be an apt time for the adage, ‘don’t think, do.’ Then trust the rest will follow. Whew!

Since sending my manuscript to the printers, I’ve done nothing but work. The overgrown garden needed a machete taken to it. I had a big speaking project at Toastmasters, which required a lot of prep. The meetings with these other authors will probably lead to even more work. Rather than taking the foot off the pedal, I’ve been burning rubber.

Relax? Fail. Please tell me how you relax. I need tips!

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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“We must always change, renew, rejuvenate ourselves; otherwise, we harden,” – Goethe

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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 of every month. 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: October reflective question: It’s been said that the benefits of becoming a writer who does not read is that all your ideas are new and original. Everything you do is an extension of yourself, instead of a mixture of you and another author. On the other hand how can you expect other people to want to read your writing if you don’t enjoy reading yourself? What are your thoughts?

While parenthood and other strains have sometimes prevented me from reading nevertheless books have always played a major part in my life. From listening to mum and dad reading us stories from babyhood, to being given my first book of legends, my first book of poems, fairy stories, and so on, as a special Christmas gift each year, I grew up surrounded and encouraged by literature. There were lots of books in our house. My parents sometimes even allowed me to borrow from my sisters’ library, which was considered a special treat.

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We grew up with a nightly ritual of our father reading us bedtime stories. From the time we were babies right through to young adolescents, in reward for getting ready for bed dad would come and read a few pages to us. He read slowly in his deep voice and it was wondrous to hear all the classics, Treasure Island, Robinson Crusoe, The Swiss Family Robinson, and so on.

You’ve heard the saying, you are what you eat. I believe it’s also true to say; you are what you read.

The wonderful Kate De Goldi put it best when she said, ‘I’m someone who’s been constructed by books, my sense of self, how to think about other people, how to understand other people’s realities is largely down to reading.’

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Having been an avid bookworm since the age of seven, I feel I’ve been steeped in the cultures and stories of every novel I’d ever dragged home from the library and pored through every night.

I am not sure how you would separate me from the stories I’ve heard and told and read.

So I must accept that there’s no getting away from the literature I’ve imbibed. Those books are part of my DNA. I’m re-reading the Redwall series from the beginning. I got a shock the other day, when I read a character refer to death/the afterlife as being ‘the dark gates’ because in my Chronicles of Aden Weaver series, I called death ‘the black gates.’ I must have subconsciously recalled the phrase from those wonderful books by Brian Jacques and made it my own. I’d completely forgotten the term until I read it recently.

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Do the best you can to be as scrupulous as possible, but sometimes these things happen. Does it mean I should stop reading to avoid such clashes? No.

Every writer has heard that they should read to write. The theory being if you don’t read the best in your genre, how do you know what those readers are interested in reading? It’s vital research to every author worth their salt, to know their genre.

When I was a younger writer I used to exist in a bubble of solitude. It was the 80’s before the internet and personal computers. I was a young mother at home and I did not understand what the marketing of books was about in those days.

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I hadn’t read in my genre (of children’s fiction) since I had been a child. I wrote about whatever I liked. The resulting epic, The Scrifs and the Stirrits, was fantasy adventure for 6- 9–year-old readers with a tale of furry little critters on a quest.

In the 80’s absolutely no one was publishing anthropomorphic, off-world fantasy adventures for 6- 9–year-old readers. They weren’t popular, but I had no way of knowing as I was not reading in my genre. There wasn’t a single publisher in New Zealand who would look at my manuscript. Those were the days before self publishing when the traditional gatekeepers really did stand between the writer and the goal of publication. It was a tough lesson.

Point taken: you have to read to write. What do you think?

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Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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 “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies,” said Jojen. “The man who never reads lives only one.” ~ George R. R. Martin. A Dance with Dragons

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Subscribe to my Newsletter at www.yvettecarol.com

Yesterday, after a slog of four doctor/hospital appointments in one day between my two younger boys, I received some horrible news. I had finally made it to sit down at my laptop and zone out with a stroll through my feed on Facebook. It was there I read the sad update of a friend’s son, to say that Robyn Campbell, beloved mother of seven, and highly regarded member of the writing community, had passed away in her sleep.

I left two stumbling messages on the post and immediately shut down my computer. I went about the rest of my evening, thinking about Robyn. She was such a great editor and writer, and a real firecracker. She and I formed a critique group of two a few years ago, called ‘The Two Amigos,’ and we spent a year or more working on our middle grade novels together.

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Robyn was sweet, and she ended every email with “SMOOCHES! Xxx”

I admired her endlessly positive attitude and spirit. She let nothing get her down.

Robyn was one of the original members of my online group, ‘Writing for Children’ over on Wanatribe International. That’s where we first met. She was so vivacious and fun. Her son was going through serious health issues, then their barn burnt down full of gear, and in the last couple of years, she fell down a hill when running away from a bear and hurt herself badly. Yet, her buoyant spirit never wavered. She was always positive. I used to marvel at her strength and willingness to get back up again and keep striving.

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One of her children, Christopher, was born with Sturge-Weber syndrome, characterized by the port-wine staining of the skin and various health issues. People with Sturge-Weber have a higher risk for seizures, glaucoma, stroke, blood clots, blindness, and paralysis. It was on Writing for Children we hatched a book, compiling an anthology of stories together. We wanted to help Christopher and other children like him. We formed the idea to donate all the proceeds of the book to the Sturge-Weber Foundation which is doing research on the rare condition.

Robyn’s story took us, that when Christopher was little and had asked about the staining on his skin, she would always say, “That’s where an angel kissed you.” We thought it was beautiful. With that in mind, the title, Kissed By An Angel was born. We went over to Facebook with it, creating a page for the book where we invited middle grade authors we knew to join and take part.

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We ended up with eleven authors in all. Our theme was angelic, supernatural, or somehow not of this world. 

I wrote a story, illustrated my story and the cover. We edited the book by sending our stories to the whole group and critiquing back and forth. Then another member did the formatting and so on.

We were proud of the resulting anthology, Kissed By An Angel . After publication, we sent one copy around the world to every contributing author to sign, and Robyn gave it to her son. In the foreword, Robyn wrote that the authors of the anthology ‘volunteered time to work on their stories and the publication of this book. They’re more valuable than the finest jewels–more cherished and appreciated than mere words could ever say.’

Robyn was the best.

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In her moving story, which starts the anthology, Kissed By An Angel Robyn wrote the story from Christopher’s point of view. She retells when he says he’s sorry for having seizures and making her cry. “This is nothing you’ve done. It isn’t your fault.” Momma smooths the sheet. “…I want you to know I would never, ever need a break from caring for you.”

Robyn was a truly wonderful mother.

I remember when one writer’s mom became ill. Robyn organised a big group of writers to write a funny story by each adding a snippet and send it to her to cheer her up.

Robyn was a truly good friend.

What a giant hole she has left in her family and in everyone’s lives. I’m so sad, I could hardly sleep last night…

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And then I started to think about how much Robyn has inspired me.

She was a warrior mother, a home-schooler and a hard worker on the farm. Her nature was one of giving, and there’s a lot to learn from that. She never let things get her down and always looked to the positive.

Robyn was truly a role model.

She showed by example how to have the right attitude in life. That’s what I aspire to do, too, hopefully half as well as my amigo. 

Love you buddy, smooches! Xxx

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Choose happiness. It’s the ultimate act of rebellion. ~ Piper Bayard

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Subscribe to my newsletter, email me on yvettecarol@hotmail.com

For the last two years, I’ve been working on my third book, The Last Tree, and I’ve finally gotten it to the point where I would normally go to a professional editor and then a proof-reader. But this time, I thought I would try an online editing service as the price difference was more than three thousand dollars. A friend, who is also an Indie author, recommended a particular service, and I signed up, paying $70 for a year’s worth of “premium service.” After two weeks of fruitless attempts trying to upload my manuscript to their documents file, and many emails back and forth, I am still unable to upload my story and unable to use their editing services.

I think of myself as reasonably intelligent, however I admit to being hopeless with technology. I find dealing with all the in’s and out’s and nooks and crannies of online services mind-boggling. Nothing is ever as straight forward as you’d like it to be. Everything requires a learning manual to figure out how to use the site: ‘Just watch these ten videos to show you how to use all the different aspects of our service.’

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I may have to go back to the original plan of paying a small fortune for professional editors to do the job. I think one of the things about being an Indie writer is that these sorts of delays, the technological misadventures that happen along the way to publishing a book, are things you would normally talk about with other people, but as an Indie, the buck stops with you. The job can feel a little lonely, sometimes, because it doesn’t matter how big the problem is no one else is going to fix it.

When my grandmother was alive, she lived five minutes’ walk up the road from me. I used to visit her every Thursday, and she would have cooked for us the most amazing full three course cooked lunch. We would sit and talk for hours. And she would tell me the family stories. Every time I hugged her and turned to leave, gran would say some special saying to take away, to think about on my walk home. She’d say, “Remember to always look for the silver lining, and you’ll find it” or “Reach for a star and you’ll go far.” So, these days, many years after her death, I hear her wise words and remember them. She would know that any hitch in the proceedings was fine, and all was in order with nothing out of place.

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I emailed the online editing service, and said, if we don’t get the issue sorted out this time I’ll get a refund and move on. In the meantime, I’m very happy to have another go at editing the material. You can never edit enough, that’s for sure. So I’ll happily run through The Last Tree two or three times more while I wait.

As I near these final stages of working on this novel, I have to figure out the cover, the illustrations, and the whole presentation. I have included a couple of my own pen and ink illustrations in each volume, so I knew I wanted to do a couple for The Last Tree as well. I hadn’t had a chance to look at them while I was still deeply immersed in the editing. You get onto a track of momentum when you’re editing and you want to see it to the end. I had to complete the polishing edits before I could contemplate art.

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The last two weekends, I’ve spent hours at a time waiting as I tried to get documents to upload to the online editing service, and I spent that time wisely. I picked up my pencil and dusted off my art pad. It felt so liberating to leave the laptop. I sat down and started to draw the illustrations for the third book of the trilogy, The Chronicles of Aden Weaver.

By the end of the weekend, I had a template for two illustrations: one of the hero making a deal with the bird demons, and the other of two giants fighting. I see my given deadline of spring release for The Last Tree slip, slip sliding away. Yet, now, I have some illustrations I can work on during any further delays in production. I think they call that the silver lining. It helps to stay positive, no matter what.

“Remember to always look for the silver lining, and you’ll find it.”

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Staying positive doesn’t mean everything will turn out ok. Rather, it is knowing you will be ok no matter how things turn out. – Unknown

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

I remember when I first joined LinkedIn, one of the interesting writers I met over there (on the group forums) was a deaf ex-lawyer. Having gone deaf in his adulthood, he had learned to appreciate both writing and reading intensely, as a way of communicating with the world that had become vital to him. He was in his sixties and wanted to become an author, so he could work from home, therefore he was deeply motivated and interested in learning everything there was to know about writing fiction. He was part of one of the short story groups. After a few months, this writer asked me if I had ever thought of putting out a newsletter, ‘about your writer’s journey, what you learn along the way.’ He said, ‘I’d subscribe to it.’  That was incentive enough and I jumped in the deep end.

You hear that a lot these days if you’re an author, about how you need to compile an email list and put out a newsletter.

I thought I would never get around to it. I’m lazy with the marketing side of the business and don’t do half the things I’m supposed to. At any rate, because my friend on LinkedIn asked me to start one, in 2014, I started writing a fortnightly newsletter.

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I sent the letter to him and to a handful of family members and a few friends from places like LinkedIn and my Wanatribe group, ‘Writing for Children.’ It was basically an artfully decorated letter put together in Word, sent out by group email.

A friend who is a photographer and all round hip gal, and who is one of my subscribers asked me once, “Why don’t you use a newsletter service to make it look more professional?” I had to admit trying and failing to figure out how to use Mailchimp about four times. I can barely figure out how to use a phone let alone an online operating system. My friend said, “That’s okay, your newsletter is quirky and it’s who you are.”

However, I felt the gauntlet had been thrown down, and I had to rise to the occasion.

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That’s why I showed up at Mailchimp’s door again, cap in hand, and tried to figure out how to use the system for the fifth time. This time, thankfully, things fell into place and the newsletter went digital. The whole process of working with the Mailchimp templates: writing the copy, editing, choosing colours, fonts, adding images, and then enhancing them and adding effects is cool fun, too. It’s like being a kid again.

My friend asked, how long does it take you to craft one of these babies? In the beginning, the newsletter took two days to produce, but I have managed to whittle it down to half a day. Last year, the big change was to go from producing the newsletter fortnightly to monthly. I far prefer the monthly format.

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On the weeks in between issues, there are links for fascinating writing articles to collect, as well as photos and jokes. At the end of the month, I compile and post the newsletter and have grown to love the whole process.

It’s creative in a different way to anything else. It gives the mind a break, creating a nice rest from the intense focus of editing fiction.

Whenever I begin writing I think, is this for the blog or for the newsletter? Some thoughts turn into short stories. However, all posts, no matter how random will find their niche. The newsletter provides another avenue of expression. Yet – as I told my friend on LinkedIn – I always worry with social media, that I’ll “put my foot in it” and say the wrong thing.

He replied, ‘Why not make a jolly habit of putting your foot in it? The writing world needs more unedited truth. “Putting my foot in it,” there’s your motto. I can see it all now … fans showing up to hear ever more about the king with no clothes on. Is there not far too much conventional thinking in the wannabe writer world?’

He gave me the confidence to carry on, and five years later, the letter’s still going strong.

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Former writing partner, author and YouTube sensation, Maria Cisneros-Toth said the other day that when she gets my newsletter, she ‘always wants to go and get an iced tea and sit and read, because it feels like a letter you’ve written to a good friend.’

It was reassuring to hear. That’s exactly the way I want people to feel, because that means the newsletter has stayed true to its essence and genesis.

It always was about communicating with a friend who wanted to hear more about a writer’s journey. So, here’s to truth and more of it … and to valuing good friends!

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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“We must always change, renew, rejuvenate ourselves; otherwise, we harden” – Goethe

At a get-together with friends recently, I ran into an old buddy from school.

She asked that age old defining question, “What do you do for a living?”

Being a stay-at-home mum and a weekend writer, I feel I do a lot and that my life is interesting, yet, it’s usually not a great conversation starter. I write part time because the kids come first, and raising a child with special needs takes a somewhat longer process than raising my other two boys.

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When you say you write fiction, people often ask awkward questions about marketing, and I have to confess I suck at all that stuff. I do my best. I maintain a social media presence: I have my website, Twitter, Facebook, blog, and newsletter bases covered. However I can’t do that thing artists do now, where they ask for people to like a page, or vote for them at a story competition, or they request for people to review something, or visit a site as often as possible and share it with people to help them tip the numbers in their favour. It makes me uncomfortable to be asked.

You feel as if every person you know has an angle. Everyone is selling you something.

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I do my bit. I have my books on Amazon, do my reviews on Goodreads. I have a digital footprint. But apart from that, I don’t promote my books, (apart from mentioning them in articles). Each publication is put on the figurative and literal shelf, and I work on the next story.

At present, I’m editing ‘The Last Tree,’ number three in the trilogy, The Chronicles of Aden Weaver. I’m mere hours of hard yakka away from seeking the first round of professional help, which will see this manuscript transformed from words on my screen to a living, breathing book.

Being an “Indie,” or Independent Publisher, I get to wear all the hats. It takes a lot of effort to put out a decent novel that you deem worthy of sitting on a library shelf. I find it incredibly rewarding.

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The moment you hold that book in your hands the labour is forgiven, the same way the pain is forgotten the moment you hold your baby in your arms.

Used to be, I thought self publishing was only for those who couldn’t get a traditional publishing contract. I used to look down on it, actually. I was holding out for acceptance by the traditional gatekeepers, the big publishing houses. I waited in vain for thirty-five years. Eventually, I had to admit to myself, that what I was waiting for was not going to happen.

Of course, in thirty-five years, a lot had changed about the world of publishing. What was frowned upon in the 1980’s is accepted as commonplace in 2019. Now self publishing is more or less accepted. There are even lots of success stories about Indies, whose books were picked up by big publishers and turned into global hits. These days, I realize this is a perfectly viable way to put stories out there. Even better, self publishing allows me total control.

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I remember one time, when I did get a book accepted. One of my “early reader” books was accepted by a small Wellington press. They would publish the book they said, but they didn’t like any of the characters’ names and wanted my permission to change them all. I said no and didn’t sign the contract. I realized then and there that I’m the type of person who likes to control the end product, and that I like to produce it my way. Going Indie turned out to be a perfect fit.

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For the Chronicles, I worked with the cover designer at BookPrint for weeks, before I had the book looking the way that felt right for me. I was so pleased with the finished product. I haven’t seen the cover art for ‘The Last Tree,’ yet. My nephew—the artist for the first two volumes—has been charged with the task. I can hardly wait to see what he comes up with. Then I can work with the designer on the third cover. And I can also draw two pen and ink illustrations to go inside. This is the fun part after all the elbow grease and midnight oil.

What do I do for a living? I sometimes produce a precious book.

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams. ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

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

As I enter the final stages of editing my third book, The Last Tree, I find I’m often asked the question, “What are you going to write next?” The answer is, I don’t know. This is the third and last volume in my middle grade trilogy, The Chronicles of Aden Weaver, and it has so engrossed every moment, I haven’t had the chance to look beyond it.

When I do look beyond it, I feel this irrational fear, which I believe is commonly felt among other writers. Will I ever write another story?

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For the last fourteen years, I’ve been fitting in writing the Chronicles around raising my two youngest sons. As a solo mum, with a house and garden to care for, and elderly parents, I enjoyed every chance I had to escape into my imaginary world on the planet of Chiron, whenever I was writing. It’s hard to imagine moving on. The thought of starting a new plot, a new world, a new dilemma, and new characters terrifies me.

It’s not me who writes the genesis draft anyway. Elizabeth Gilbert calls the process of inspiration, the ‘other’ energy that comes from nowhere and brings the stories with it, the muse; some call it a “genius.” The stories arrive from elsewhere as if they come on the wind. You have to be fleet of mind to grab them when they whistle by or you might miss out.

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I guess that’s part of the fun also of being a writer, living on the knife edge while you wait to be the instrument of the creative ferment. Once you start the process of formulating a story, you open your mind to ideas and wait for lightning to strike.

I haven’t had to do that in a long time. I’m nervous. Last night, I had a few nightmares. Thinking about them upon waking up, I could see the common denominator was fear. I decided, as we approach the winter solstice, that I would let go of all fear around writing the next book.

Every writer goes through this same anxiety at some point. Will I ever write again? Every writer has a different way of handling the period of not knowing that follows finishing a project and before starting the next.

My method is to craft notebooks for each potential project.

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This began back in the 1980’s, when I was writing my series, The Great Adventures of Splat the Wonder Dog. I put effort into creating a notebook of every background detail. The act of crafting images, making lists of story details and background and focusing in on the tale seemed to bring it to life in a whole new way.

The notebook also helped corral my thoughts and world-building.

In 2005, when I started writing The Chronicles of Aden Weaver, my notebook was a pad of old paper on the nightstand, on which I jotted down details of background, history, geography, characters, setting, mythology, religion, and plot each time I passed. There were no sketches or pictures pulled from magazines. I had two sons under the age of ten. I didn’t have time to shower or clip my own fingernails, let alone make works of art. Simple or not, the creative process was still seeded and propagated through the power of that notebook.

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This afternoon, I was doing the housework when an idea for a story setting popped into my head. It was a simple notion about an island I had read about years ago, in one of the old hardbacks in my parents’ home library. A few more ideas flashed by. I grabbed for my trusty moleskin and jotted them down. The muse was in flight.

The next logical step for me is to start collating these ideas into one place – a notebook. It’s so exciting! Whether it turns out to be a series or stand alone novel, that humble repository is where it will come together. While I’m still hard at work on publishing my third novel, the fourth will have time to develop.

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New Zealand author, Joy Cowley, said that she ‘baits the hook, drops it in the water and then waits for three to four years for each story idea to gather more ideas.’

I see my notebook method as being very similar to this analogy. Maybe someday soon, I’ll have an answer to the question, “What are you going to write next?” and it all begins right here with a pen and paper.

I’m ready for a new adventure to begin. Bring it on!

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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I have yet to meet a writer who wouldn’t rather peel a banana than apply himself to a pen. – Alice Thomas Ellis

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A good friend said to me a few years ago, that entering one’s “middle years” was like fall, in that ‘things started to drop away from you like leaves from the tree.’ I think that is a handy analogy for this season of life I find myself in. After losing both my parents in the last two years, as well as a good friend, thinking of this time in my life as ‘being like fall’ helps me achieve the right mindset. That way, I accept loss as the natural order of life and the way things go.

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I put this realisation into my work-in-progress, a middle grade fantasy novel called, The Last Tree. Because of the youth of the characters, the realization becomes an initiatory one. I was able to use my recent experience with grief to write more realistically about the grief we feel as kids when we first take those first tentative steps towards adulthood, and we start to leave childhood behind. I can clearly remember being that age of twelve to thirteen and not wanting to grow up.

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Our young hero, Aden Weaver, was eleven in book one of The Chronicles of Aden Weaver series and each book covers the course of a year in his life. The Last Tree, being the third volume in the trilogy, includes the final battles, and the flowering into fullness of the child character/s must transpire.

As Aden Weaver is thirteen in The Last Tree, he is therefore on the cusp of change, walking that fine line of the transition between boyhood and manhood. He would naturally entertain his first thoughts about mortality. I did this through having his beloved mentor start to age rapidly. The thin line I had to walk was to have Aden experience loss while not dwelling on it to the point of being morbid.

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I knew I had to handle everything about the final book with care. In The Last Tree, Aden Weaver says goodbye to people he loves. It is a graduation story after all, and with graduation comes leaving people and places behind, so while there is bliss there is sadness. That’s life. It’s how we handle what happens that defines us.

It’s vital for the reader’s sense of resolution that Aden displays the depth of character at the end of the series absent at the beginning.

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The protagonist must demonstrate a growth arc and become that thing that was promised in book one, the wannabe must become the warrior, the hero, the more evolved, more complete version of themselves.

Aden, must taste the bitter fruit of reality and grow up a little and move on with new maturity. It’s a delicate piece in the mechanism of the coming of age story. However, I don’t prefer writing morbid fiction for children. You can see in the success of series like The Hunger Games that this generation of kids has high tolerance levels for death and violence. I read the Hunger Games trilogy to my boys earlier this year, and I was shocked at the content. It’s that sort of thing I couldn’t do.

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I want to do my story and characters justice in a potent way without the gore.

To me, there should be some reflection of life’s difficulties in our children’s books, and it also needs careful treatment. When you are writing for the 9-13 year-old age group, this acknowledgement of the child grasping the intransience of life needs to be touched on in some way, to be authentic to that stage of life. It’s about our passage over the threshold, from the first phase of life to the next. It can be symbolic, through leaving town, or changing schools. It needs to be present but not at the forefront, and not put in a way that is irresolvable for the immature mind.

Life’s tragedy can be delivered in junior fiction in a way that enriches the story without overwhelming it, if it’s done well. Just think of Charlotte’s Web.

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In writing about loss for young people, you must, also offer hope. Just as we do in real life, seek a counterbalance. The aim is not to leave your young audience devastated. We have a responsibility to reveal the glimmer of light along with the darkness.

At the end of The Last Tree, I sought to redress the balance back into the light. I only wrote the triumphant scenes a couple of months ago, and now they’re among my favourites in the whole book.

Hope is restored, as it should be. Life does go on.

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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‘Good stories are about the getting of wisdom; let your children grow up.’ ~ Jane Yolen

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This week, at Toastmasters, I attempted to pull off my first ever roast. ‘A roast’ is a speech that relies on wit, humour and satire to ‘poke fun at a person in a good natured way.’ Can you imagine? I can’t think of too many speeches that would be harder to pull off. However, in the Toastmasters system, you choose your projects and most come in bundled sets, so when you take on a certain manual or a pathway you take on every challenge in that bundle. I chose Special Occasions Speeches (from the old paper manual system), not realizing that one of the projects therein was “The Roast.”

I have a terrible track record with humorous speeches, having bombed abominably once or twice.

In conversation, I can raise a laugh, but I still don’t know how to use humour in speeches. In my nervousness, I over do it. I’m just not that funny. So, I avoid the humorous speech contests each year like the plague, and I never attempt comedic speeches. I know my strengths and humour is definitely not one of them.

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When I discovered there was a roast among the projects in Special Occasions, I was quaking in my boots. I wanted to put the manual back, but it was too late, I was already three speeches in. So I’m going to tell you a little secret. I repeated project 2, five times over a period of five months. I couldn’t bear to do the roast. So I put it off by repeating the project I preferred, “Speaking in Praise.”  At first, I wondered if I could get away with it, because surely people would notice I was doing the same project.

Strangest thing. No one noticed.

I spoke in praise of Charlotte’s Stitches, I spoke in praise of my father, I spoke in praise of Korucare New Zealand, I spoke in praise of Sam (my son with Downs’ syndrome), and I spoke in praise of my grandmother. No one said a thing!

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I could have gotten away with it longer probably, but I made the mistake of mentioning to one of the other members, last week, that I was scared of doing the roast.

He said, “You can’t not do a project just because it’s hard. You’ve got to do it anyway!”

The gauntlet was down. I was determined I was going to write a funny speech. I would ‘do it anyway!’ I determined that this week, I would roast our most senior member and club treasurer, at our Toastmasters’ meeting.

Did I roast him? Yes. Was I successful? I don’t know. I can’t seem to do funny conversational. I go immediately to clown and cartoon, and it often falls flat. My first two jokes didn’t get much of a response and I already had that sinking feeling. Various audience members told me afterwards they enjoyed my roast. I did raise a few laughs, but not anywhere near what I’d expected. Now, I know for sure that I’m not that funny.

However, what I do know is that I am brave.

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I am so proud of myself for doing that roast.

That’s a good feeling to have about yourself.

I don’t like to stretch my neck out any more than the next person, but I notice that when I do take a risk sometimes it reaps dividends. So, accepting a challenge is worth the effort, once in a while.

I was petrified of trying to roast someone. I did not want to do it. I would have procrastinated forever, if I hadn’t been hustled out of my cave. Roasting someone was something so far out of my comfort zone it was a new frontier. Yet, I accepted the challenge and went and did it anyway. Sure it wasn’t perfect. Sure, I didn’t captivate everyone, one guy looked down the whole time I was speaking and didn’t look up till the end. Sure, I didn’t bring the house down. But I did go out on the “stage,” into the bright lights, and deliver a bloody roast.

I think that’s pretty cool.

What about you? Have you ever thought of joining Toastmasters, or some other club? Have you stepped outside of your comfort zones lately?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Failures I consider valuable negative information – Dr. Goddard

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