Posts Tagged ‘art’

~ I’m afraid of losing my obscurity. Genuineness only thrives in the dark. Like celery. ~ Aldous Huxley

When I started writing fiction as an adult thirty-five years ago, I did so for the love of it. I wrote because creativity wanted to pour out of me that way. My “certain set of skills” happened to lie with prose and that’s where I ran wild with the giddy rush of youth. I was not preoccupied or clouded by the need for publication. I wrote to explore the parameters of my imagination, to see where I could go, to travel to far-flung places and report back. The possibilities and the horizon were equally endless.

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Five years ago, when I began my first steps into the world online and social media, I set up author pages, started making friends and finding out more about the online writing community. It wasn’t long before I felt the pressure to have something to show for my years of writing effort. I needed something to hang my shingle on. In 2015, I made the death-defying leap from unpublished to Indie author.

What I didn’t know then is that once you pass over that threshold, you leave innocence at the door. After that, the gloves are off; you have entered the arena of life. And life is brutal. It wants to eat you. Every move you make as an author or artist these days is public and hung out to dry in the open marketplace. Whether you make it or break it is global, everyone’s going to know. As the Indie author, you have become your own middle man; you manage everything from advertising copy, to every aspect of book production, to hawking copies at book fairs. The marketing machine never stops and you can never feed it enough.

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If you’re a savvy Indie, every step you make after that has an angle. Every friend you make is a prospective customer. Every post, every tweet, every conversation is another way to sell your product.

What this does to my creative soul is like toxic gas, it slowly poisons the ground.

Author and teacher, Lan Samantha Chang, addressed this phenomena in her speech, Writers, Protect Your Inner Life*. ‘We are taught to believe that the publication of a book is the happy ending to a long journey of working and striving, but according to many new authors with whom I have spoken, publishing is only the beginning of the journey of learning to navigate the world as a public writer, which is the opposite of making art, and it requires learning to protect that inner self from which the art emerged in the first place.’

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This is something I’ve really been thinking about a lot lately, is how to preserve and keep alight this flame of purity inside me.

How do I protect my dignity, my artistic integrity?

How do I maintain my ability to enter the shaded places of childhood, the secret inner recesses of my soul, in order to write the rough draft?

It pained me that in my reaching for public attention, I had forgotten the innocent joy of writing for the sake of writing, not for the buck. Not for the fan. Not for the “likes” on Facebook. Not for the bestseller list. Not for status updates. In my struggle to be heard, in my fight to get my book on the front shelf to be seen, I had lost sight of what was really important. Or why I started this journey in the first place, to ‘live with hysteria, and out of it make fine stories,’ as Ray Bradbury put it so eloquently in his day.

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Like the celery that only grows in the dark, the artist, the creative soul requires time in stillness and solitude and retreat in order to gestate.

I have learned the only way to preserve and protect my inner life as a writer is to carve out regular prolonged time away from marketing and (if possible) social media. I call them ‘net breaks,’ and they’ve become as necessary to my creative spirit, as walks outdoors or glasses of water are necessary to my health.

Sometimes I need to turn off all my devices and get out into nature. I need to forget about the end point of the sale and refocus on the love of writing – that eternal spark. Only then, can I truly re-enter my own private Eden from which I can create worlds.

How do you protect your inner world?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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‘Cherish yourself and wall off an interior room where you’re allowed to forget your published life as a writer. There’s a hushed, glowing sound, like the sound coming from the inside of a shell,’ said writer Lan Samantha Chang

*http://lithub.com/writers-protect-your-inner-life/

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

 

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

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

*Reason One: Our brains remember images before facts.

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

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

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

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

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

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*How to Create Your Symbol

One: Find a relevant form.

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

*Two: Enlist your readers in helping you choose.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Talk to you later.

Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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

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

 

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

insecurewriterssupportgroup

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

Step One: Start with your characters.

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

I simply copied the character with a pencil.

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

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

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

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

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Step Two: Create the background and foreground

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

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

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

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Step Three: Combine and Trace

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

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Step Four: Fill it in!

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

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

Step Five: Copyright!

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

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

Have you ever tried your hand at your own illustrations?

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Talk to you later

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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

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

 

Stories have to be told or they die, and when they die, we can’t remember who we are or why we’re here. ~ Sue Monk Kidd

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In the last week, I’ve had a revelation, thanks to a little help from a dear friend. I realised I’m spending way too much time on social media, at the expense of my writing.

I started out with the internet and social media about five years ago. At first, I had it all in balance, but somewhere along the line, the balance started to shift.

My friend pointed out that while I’ve been able to keep my blog and newsletter and Facebook and YouTube updated regularly  -‘You’re everywhere’ – I failed to finish and produce my second book, ‘The Sasori Empire,’ as I’d promised readers, last year.

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Self-defence is the knee-jerk. I explained I’ve long adhered to Kristen Lamb’s excellent social media advice for writers. I was under the impression keeping up with the social media gambit was a necessity for all artists these days.

Yet, when I really looked hard at myself and my output, I knew my friend was right. I’ve maintained social media religiously, and let the writing of my sequel to *’The Or’in of Tane Mahuta’ slide. *http://amzn.com/B015K1KF0I

I really do appreciate my subscribers!

While I feel an obligation to continue to provide output, I also have had to admit that if I continue at this rate, I’m not going to produce ‘The Sasori Empire’ this year, either. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day. I spend a day at a time writing and producing my blog posts. I spend at least three days, even longer sometimes, writing and collating my fortnightly newsletter.

My friend said, ‘You do all of your social media well. Now imagine if you put more of that time into this book instead of rushing through it.’

Yes. Imagine!

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Between raising my two youngest boys, and being on the committee of two different groups, something’s gotta give. Therefore, I’ve decided to take at least a month’s hiatus from social media (although I may pop onto Facie in the mornings while I have my first cup of tea).

My ultimate dream would be to publish ‘The Sasori Empire’ this winter and make a start on the third book in The Chronicles of Aden Weaver series in time for spring in the southern hemisphere. But, to do that will require a lot of work.

Therefore, I’ll be taking a writer’s hiatus for a month, or so.

After I have put nose-to-the-grindstone, I shall return! Hopefully, with the second book well in hand. Sometimes you’ve got to make the hard calls, and this is one of those times.

Thanks, for your patience!

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Talk to you later.

Meantime, keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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A young writer is an explorer. She knows she wants to get somewhere, but she doesn’t even know if the somewhere even exists yet. It is there to be created. In the process of creating it we find out how varied and complex we are. ~ Colum McCann

 

 

 

 

When we start out as lowly newbie writers, knowing no one and nothing, we tap away at our stories in our towers of isolation and let the stories flow. We dream of being picked up by traditional publishing houses that will put on a full media blitz into trumpeting our shiny debut novel the length and breadth of the land. We go on to make scads of money, have our books in libraries and on bookshelves. We live forever. We conquer death.

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We get our book handed to Peter Jackson, the famous New Zealand movie producer. He reads it and decides to make a movie out of it with Weta Studios. We go to the theatre with our family. We see our world and our story played out on the big screen under the glittering lights.

We make enough money to buy our own island, to which we retreat purely to write and paint. We make enough money to pay for the kids’ education and then to buy houses for our grown-up children.

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Then we wake up one day and realize, that in reality, we’ve run out of money, we’re eating beans for dinner every night, the rent’s overdue, and there are bills to be paid. We move back home to live with our parents. We resign ourselves to using the public transport system and to being a bottom-feeder, again.

We console ourself, it’s okay. We’ll re-start the editing cycle. We’ll join a new critique group.

We drag the dream out of the dirt, dust it off and revive it again. We go back to work on the book in earnest.

We resolve we’ll work on this story, make it the best we can do, and it will be discovered by a traditional publishing house, and it’ll go on to become a bestseller.

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The dream’s still alive.

We finish the book and submit our precious baby. We get rejected. This gets repeated ad nauseum.

We wake up one day, thirty years later, and realize, the original dream isn’t going to happen the way we thought it would. One of our parents has passed over already, two lots of our friends have divorced, and our kids have turned into teenagers as if by magic, seemingly overnight. As the song lyrics go, ‘my children are getting older, I’m getting older, too.’

Only when we’ve exhausted all hope, and run down every street to find only dead-ends, do we consider the mountainous obstacle of self-publishing.

The bitter reality is that going Indie is a ton of work, and only a select few authors get to live the first tier of the dream: getting that golden deal, hitting the bestseller status, and signing a book-to-movie deal. Not everyone will be the next Hugh Howey.

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The rest of us get to evolve.

Isn’t that wonderful?

What’s the alternative? To give up? To abandon the dream that has warmed our nights and sustained our days through the long hours of typing? No, of course not. We are indomitable. We are writer.

We write. We learn. We observe. We write. We learn.

And now, whether we like it or not, we are going to be a publisher, as well. We’ll get to wear many hats: to don the apparel of book producer, promoter, like an old-fashioned hawker of your own goods. “Roll up! Roll up! Hot off the presses. Get your copy quick!” and to bash people over the head with a verbal press release about our book at every social (media) occasion.

It’s either go Indie, or go home.

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We can see by the veritable tsunami of self-published books flooding the market these days that we are doing these things ourselves. We adapt and survive and thrive. And, some Indie authors are climbing to the top of the literary mountain and attaining the first tier of the dream, under their own steam. So, it can be done!

The immutable truth however, as stated in The Drunkard’s walk, by Leonard Mlodinow, is that there is a certain random element in who gets to make the bestseller list. ‘There exists a vast gulf of randomness and uncertainty between the creation of a great novel and the presence of huge stacks of that novel at the front of thousands of retail outlets. That’s why successful people are almost universally members of a certain set – the set of people who don’t give up.’

In other words, while hitting the big time may be a game of numbers, there’s one way of getting there and that is to write and continue to write.

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Keep on creating…

Yvette K. Carol

@yvettecarol1

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Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout with some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand. — George Orwell

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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!

The January 4 Question: What writing rule do you wish you’d never heard?

I have a love/hate relationship with the writing rules.

I was jagged up by the rule “show don’t tell” for years. I see this as a great cautionary tale for up-and-coming writers. Don’t let the rules limit you. As they say, learn the rules then forget them or else the writing can become stilted.

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The great writer, Ursula Le Guin said, ‘Thanks to “show don’t tell,” I find writers in my workshops who think exposition is wicked. They’re afraid to describe the world they’ve invented.’

When I was coming up as a writer, I took on board every rule I heard until my writing had turned into literary cardboard.

Other control freaks will understand. We take the rules to heart. I followed the rules to the extent that all creative spark in me became squashed. I didn’t have any fresh material for stories. I felt blocked. I wasn’t enjoying the creative process anymore.

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One critique partner at the time said my sentences had no flow and were the rhythmic equivalent of ‘riding over cobblestones on a horse.’

I had a very kind old Indian writer patiently explain that ‘a story is like a room in need of decoration.’ He said, “While your stories are good there isn’t enough furniture.’

Part of my coming up and finding my feet as a writer came from letting go of the rules or at least holding them at a decent arm’s length. I had to give myself permission to experiment again, in order to free up again and feel the inspired feelings take over.

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My writing hero, Kate de Goldi, has said the reason she writes is to chase her lost childhood Eden.

Exactly.

Childhood is eternally enshrined in my mind as the time in my life when I was the most wild and free. It is to that state I seek to return through my writing, and to help the reader see, feel and experience. It is that place I sought to go in the books I read as a child. It is to those ‘special shaded places’ I return to in the books I read as an adult.

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Can I find the secret shaded places through the window of the rules? No. Though it’s helpful to know what’s what when it comes to editing! I think this is what Stephen King meant when he said, “Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open.” For me, my initial writing process, or what Joy Cowley calls ‘the genesis project,’ happens best when I shut out what the world has to say, via rules or otherwise, and surrender to wherever the muse wants to go.

If I have writing resolutions for 2017, it is to get my second book finished! And, to let myself be even more free with my writing this year, to be more wild. I want to feel I can explore, unfettered, the unique way of writing fiction which works best for me. And, I love that this particular process is an ever-unfolding road. It will never be finished. I’ll never reach the end of learning how to write.

The goal is ever to find my stories in my way, on my own terms.

What is your New Year’s Writing Resolution?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast. ~ Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass

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Ever since the first year my son Sam-the-man was able to sit unaided, I have photographed him and made a Christmas card for our family.

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Sam was born with Down’s syndrome. The card began as a way of celebrating him and his achievements. It created a small yet meaningful tradition for our family. Once his little brother came along, the card featured the two boys and it became another way to chronicle their lives.

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I think people gravitate towards things which are home-made. Those are always the favourite gifts from the kids. I send a parcel to the boys’ grandfather every year at this time. I send him gifts and the boys’ artwork, their calendars, stories they’ve written, as well as our Xmas card.  This is what the older generation, grandparents especially, live for.

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The card is simple, easy to make, creative, fun.

The Photo:

Any parent can tell you, the first and hardest step in any Xmas photo is the child-wrangling.

*Tip: Don’t leave it till December. Try to get the photo taken before the festive season.

I aim to get the photo taken in the last couple of weeks of November, as this gives me a leeway of time up my sleeve if the boys prove resistant to having their photo taken. Ha ha. *evil laugh, rubs hands together!*

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Once I’ve managed to coral them into one room with the box of Christmas get-up, then they must be persuaded with promises of treats, to dress up. After that, I snap as many shots as I can take before they start begging to be let out.

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The boys are fourteen and eleven respectively, this year, and it’s getting harder and harder to coerce them into the festive shoot. You’d think it’d be getting easier, but, no!

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The Construction:

Picture chosen, print up a dozen pictures at 10 cm x 7 cm, and trim them. I like to keep them to a small size because some people like to hang the cards on their tree.

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Then, I choose which cardboard to use. Originally, I used to recycle old cardboard. We have a saying in New Zealand, ‘reduce, re-use, recycle,’ which we try to adhere to as much as possible. Some years, I cut old Christmas cards down to size. This year, however, I sourced a small box from the Hospice shop which were the right size which was a great option as they came supplied with their own envelopes.

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Glue a sheet of paper cut to a couple of centimetres shorter than the card to the front of the card stock. This will form an edging like a frame for the picture. Don’t worry about getting it perfect. I like to see a little of the construction in crafts.

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*Tip: Every year, on Boxing Day, I do a ritual of taking the discarded gift-wrap and cutting up the beautiful or unusual wrap into small, clean pieces for later craft projects. In this case, I have some rather special rescued reindeer, snowflake, and red-chequered print paper.

My mother used to buy me a crafting material called “Hot Fuzz,” coloured synthetic fibres which bond together under the heat of a warm iron (through paper). I cut a dozen rectangular wedges of a sheet of Hot Fuzz, for the dazzle. You could use holographic cellophane just as well for this.

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Stick the photograph on top of the recycled paper, trapping a wedge of Hot Fuzz/cellophane between the layers.

*Tip: use a glue stick as “wet” glue can stain the paper. Press the cards under something flat and heavy between each glued layer as it creates a flatter, more pleasing finish. Make sure each layer is fully dry before you add another.

This year, I bought a “Card Kit” of decorations at the Hospice Shop. It included diamante leaves, silver stars, silver bows and transparent beads. I also sourced some finer glitter.

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*Tip: When you add the glitter, make sure to place the card on a small tray as it’s really hard to collect and re-use the left-over sparkles otherwise.

On top of the photo, in the same corner as the Hot Fuzz, apply embellishment, be it a delicate bow or a star. In the lower right corner, on a sweep of glue, drizzle more glitter and add beads or stickers.

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The last step is to write a personal message inside. Then, post it, yes, via snail mail. It still exists.

I posted ours to the lucky recipients. One Facebook friend – who had requested a card – responded, she ‘couldn’t take her eyes off it.’ Yay!

A Christmas craft project completed feels wonderful. This year, I even had enough left to put one on our own shelf. Joy.

Do you have a festive family tradition? Do you enjoy crafting? Do share in the comments below!

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious. ~ Albert Einstein

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After rashly deciding to join in with writing pals, Teresa Robeson http://teresarobeson.wordpress.com/ and Catherine Johnson http://www.catherinejohnson.com/ on the SelfieArt Day challenge seven months ago, I now find myself part of a regular artistic quest to capture one’s own features. An elusive, multi-fold quest.

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For September’s SelfieArt, I used the photograph taken yesterday of my sister and myself, at my nephew’s 21st party.

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I started with a faint pencil outline of my face.

I know – yawn! I admit it. I got started on the SelfieArt challenge, imagining I’d be stomping about in a different medium each month, going buck wild in there. But, something tells me I’m a bit more staid these days than my imagination likes to think I am. I see myself, in my mind’s eye, as a Poppy-Longstockings-Pocahontas, whereas in reality, I’m a mature stay-at-home mama with a slight touch of OCD.

I find myself drawing my SelfieArt each month in plain old HB pencil. Nothing less, nothing more, and going, “That’ll do.” Oh, the complacency of age!

You can see how the challenge of the SelfieArt challenge is multi-fold, because the process continues to be self-revelatory.

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#SelfieArt for September

Done, baby!

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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‘Art is essential to life, it feeds the eyes with the aspirations of life.’ ~ David Prosser

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