Don’t Let Research Opportunities Pass You By

One of the best parts of being a writer is research. Research can take you to different cities (or websites when funds are low), unusual restaurants, meeting exotic people with rich history, or in my case, a longsword class. I wanted to share what I learned, not only to help others with their writing, but to encourage people to step out of their comfort zone a bit more.

I attended an ancient European longsword class taught by New York Times Best Seller, Melissa Marr. The sword, surprisingly, only weighed two and a half pounds. Light at first, but soon the weight of the sword burned my arms as my speed increased. Yes, my forearms were sore the next day. The names of positions were German, and we walk through several at the beginning of class.

Soon, we were practicing a particular set of strikes against another person. Then we walked with these attacks. The purpose was muscle memory and to strike at one’s opponent without thought.

One thing I learned was often the movies get it wrong. Opponents don’t clash in a bind (when two swords meet) and then proceed to struggle in that same position to give insults. There are many responses to a bind and they all happen very quickly. A few are: the void, where one steps back; disarming one’s opponent by a variety of methods; and maneuvering the blade to strike at one’s opponent (a few being the wind, undercut, or take off −where you try to behead your opponent).

Not only was this class a blast (yes, I’m going back), but I learned so much about fighting. When writers don’t do their research, whether it be about location, tools, weapons or even food, it shows. Next time I write a fight scene, I have so many more options in my toolbox.  So work outside of your comfort zone, now and again. Like the saying goes: “We often regret what we don’t do.”

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National Poetry Month, Let’s Write

I am thrilled to have my friend, Stephanie Abney, visit my blog today to talk about poetry and encourage everyone to give it a try. She is an amazing teacher and poet, and is having a poetry book coming out soon. I could go on, but I’ll hand the reins over to her.

Greetings – DeAnna and I are in the same writers group and I’m excited she invited me to share something I love about writing with you here on her blog today. Here’s why I’m happy April has arrived: every APRIL IS NATIONAL POETRY MONTH!! And I love poetry.

Now, stay with me please, even if you think you don’t enjoy poetry and especially if you think you can’t write poetry. As a retired teacher, I’m of the opinion that ANYONE can learn to write poetry, especially with the easy to follow instructions that I post on my blog, “Stephanie Says So.” I started this challenge of writing 30 poems in 30 days a few years ago and one friend, who basically had not ever written any poetry, has since gone on to write more than two thousand poems. Yep, she even writes a poem or two about her day and includes it in her personal journal. She writes poems to give as cards to friends on special occasions. Heck, she would even write a poem about a trip to the dump. ANYTHING that you do, see, feel, experience, and/or think about . . . is fair game to write a poem about and it’s so much easier than you may think!!

Not only did I use these methods when I taught 8th grade English and Creative Writing to a bunch of middle schoolers, I even used them when I went to China and taught English, particularly how to write poetry, to some teenage students. It was awesome and the poems my Chinese students wrote were delightful, funny, heartfelt, profound and just plain amazing. And you can do the same!!

There SO MANY KINDS OF POETRY out there, that not only could you give it a try, you could actually write a DIFFERENT style of poem each day. (I also have a FB group for this purpose: “A Month of Poetry – 30 Poems in 30 Days” ~ totally OPTIONAL ~ just ask to join: https://www.facebook.com/groups/178557275869627/?ref=bookmarks).

We’re going to start out this year with a basic and simple poetry form call a “Lantern Poem.” The instructions are waiting for you over at my blog: “Stephanie Says So.” Hope you will join in the fun!! Cheers!!

Like I said, even if you think you can’t write poetry, I’d love to prove to you that you can!!! So many poems have actual patterns or forms to follow; some are almost “fill in the blank.”

Below are a few sample poems. What will you come up with?

This poetry from is called a “Cinquain” poem. It has a specific number of syllables per line:

Comfort
Feeling secure
Where judgment has no place
Wrapped in the safety of your arms
Husband

©  Stephanie Abney

A ball of fireSlips behind the horizonA summer goodnight© Stephanie Abney

I hope you’ll join me this month! Cheers!Stephanie Abney headshot 2015

Stephanie Abney

“Stephanie Says So”

http://stephaniesaysso.blogspot.com/

 

The Balance between Creativity and Constraint

In all art forms, there is a thin line between creativity and constraint. As artists, we all want to push that envelope, to create a unique story or piece of art, to let our mind be free and uninhibited. That is why I create. Those few moments of bliss in creating something you love.

But as an artist that wants to make a paycheck and to be marketable in this economy, there has to be some constraints. For writing, you need to learn the technique and grammar needed to sell a book.

“Paradoxically, creativity thrives on the tension between freedom and constraint,” says Brent Rosso, an organizational psychology professor at Montana State University. “They’re the yin and yang of creativity.”

Remember though, the individual artist is the negotiator of this balance and always has the final decision. I think of my muse as a beautiful little monster whose creativity needs to be feed with freedom and exercised with restraint. Here are a couple things I use to keep my muse well feed and in check.

  1. Have a trusted writing group whose feedback I trust. They will let you know when you get too far off the beaten path.
  2. Give myself permission to fail. This may be the hardest one yet. Shut the door to the peanut gallery. Do your thing, and if you believe in it that’s all that matters. Experience is sometimes the best teacher.
  3. Try new things, whether writing in a new point of view or possibly a new genre or prose. Try your hand at poetry or short story maybe. Even drawing or coloring can open creative pathways. Don’t be afraid to try.

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite sayings. I look at it often as I’m now finishing up edits on book two of my The Dark Rising series.

Write without Fear

Finding Perspective in Your Writing Career

As I anxiously await the release of my new book, my To Do List is growing by the minute. I can be easily overwhelmed by the promoting, editing, blogging, blog tours, and the list continues.  But before I spiraled into crazy land filled with sticky notes, red pens and caffeine IVs, I sat down and wrote this list of how to keep things in perspective.

  1. Don’t Compare Myself to Others: Online I find amazing authors who have the blogging, promoting and reviews down to an art. As a debut author, I can use ideas of things that work for others, but once I start saying I should be more like X, or I’m not as good as Y, then things will travel from bad to worse. Every artist is different, and we have to acknowledge and honor that difference in ourselves.
  2. Set Realistic Goals: I have pushed back my deadline to finish edits on book two for the third month and continual rake myself across the coals for it. I wasn’t being realistic though setting a goal in December when I have five kids. It wasn’t going to happen. At this time in my life, I may not be able to complete a novel in six months. It goes back to #1 on my list. Set goals that work for me, not others.
  3. Time Management: This is a hard one for me. Many writers have other full-time jobs, and it’s a challenge to make time for writing. I just make it a priority to at least do something little each day. I want to make a habit and feel good about keeping that habit. Others may have to do big chunks of time on the weekends. Find whatever works for you and do it.
  4. Enjoy the Journey: Sometimes I have to take a step back from the edits and blogs and reviews, and just write for fun, or maybe even read a great book. If I don’t, I’ll forget why I picked this career and lose myself in the stress of it. It’s not worth it.

I’d love to hear what helps you stay grounded for I’m sure I’ll need this more than once.

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Robin Glassey comes for a visit with the last novel in her Azethra Series for YA

I welcome Robin Glassey to my humble abode and am excited to learn about her latest novel, Azetha Rising, the last novel in the Azetha Series. Before digging into her recent release, I wanted to know more about her and her writing process.

  • As children we tend to have an idea of what we want to be by the time we’re ten.  Before you decided to pursue the artistic dream of being a writer, what did you want to be and why?

What did I want to be before I was ten? Wow! That was a long time ago. I know my mom tried to convince me to be a nurse, but I couldn’t stand the sight of blood, I freaked out with minor toe bleeds. I’m pretty sure when I was a child I was dreaming of being a princess, but thinking if that didn’t pan out, I would become a teacher. I played school often with my friends (and, of course, Barbies). In high school, I had this crazy idea I was going to be an accountant. It was crazy because I was terrible in my regular math classes and fabulous in my accounting class.

  • We all have favorite characters, either main or secondary, and there are always bits and pieces of them we don’t share with our readers, but keep close to our hearts.  Choose your favorite from your cast of characters and tell us a couple of things that you haven’t shared in your books/writing.

This is so hard for me because I have so many favorites. I love so many characters and hold them close to my heart. But if we’re going for revelations that haven’t been shared, I choose Death, otherwise known as Tynan. Tynan pops in an out of my stories and has a unique sense of humor. Readers know that items have been stolen from Tynan such as the Cup of Death and the Veil of Death because of his weakness for drinking. What they don’t know is that Tynan fell in love with the sorceress, Shareena, and she tricked him into revealing to her all of his secrets. She then passed those secrets along to Mortan, who used the information to steal the Cup and the Veil from Death.

  • Growing up, what was your favorite book, comic, game or movie and did you create a character/player that might resemble you?

I had a couple of favorite movies when I was growing up that I saw at the local drive-in theater. The first was the original Star Wars and the second was Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. I fell in love with life on other planets, space travel, talking robots, Wookies, and I had a crush on Luke, Han Solo, and Buck. In one of my current works in progress I have created a character with some of my characteristics. The story takes place in 7th grade and so I looked back at my 7th grade self and inserted some of those characteristics into Alexa, as well as a brother that drives her crazy, and some unusual clothing gifted to her by her grandmother.

  • Whether we’re plotters or pantsers (outlines not needed), creating our stories takes us on very memorable journeys.  Sometimes we may be part way through before we realize some major aspect of our story is just not working (plot, character, setting).  Have you ever hit this sharp, pointy snag and if so, how did you escape? We’re you battered and bruised or a bloody mess?

I was at the end of book three in my series, Journey to the Mercy Mines, and I was really struggling with Rhallina, a minor character in the story, who plays an important role as a traitor. I had battled earlier in the story with a possible plot line that I’d thrown away and now I was at the end of the story, trying to kill her off. And I just couldn’t do it. I even had the scene written in my head with grass and flowers growing up through the snow over her grave, but I couldn’t go through with it. Because I was having such a hard time with the ending of the book, I set it aside and wrote the rough draft of another book called Snotty’s Revenge for a middle grade audience. Then I returned to the story with a fresh perspective and let Rhallina live. In the end, I loved how her fate worked out in the final book, Azetha Rising.

  • What is the best advice you can share with others? 

I have two pieces of advice: One—Never give up. There are going to be times when you want to give up whatever dream or goal you have set for yourself. We all experience years, months, days, even moments, when we think we don’t have it in us, when we are done, or when we are afraid that we just aren’t cut out for this. And I say . . . you can do this.

Two—Support your fellow authors. Share posts, tweet each other’s work, review books that you have read. Uplift each other and do what you can to cross-promote. As you support others you may be surprised to find your own sales and influence rising.

Rapid Fire Questions:

  • Blades, guns, fists or feet?       I would definitely pick feet. One of my older sisters and my younger brother would try to hold me down and tickle me when we were kids and I always fought them off with my feet. Although, come to think of it, the one time I went shooting I was really, really, good. So maybe guns wouldn’t be a bad choice.
  • Favorite Fairy Tale of all time?     I always loved the traditional fairytales so The Little Mermaid was one of my favorites, but even more fascinating and less well-known is a fairytale called The White Cat. It’s about a jealous king who fears his sons will ascend to the throne so he keeps them busy with difficult tasks, such as finding the smallest dog and linen so fine it can pass through the eye of a needle. One son comes upon an enchanted castle with a talking white cat who helps him to fulfill each of the tasks the king gives him.
  • Three titles and their authors sitting on your nightstand/bookcase/table/floor waiting to be read?       1. A Practical Guide to Dragon Magic Dungeons & Dragons 2.Utopia Thomas More 3.New Sight Jo Schnieder
  • Greatest one liner of all time?      “It is not a tumor,” from Kindergarten Cop. I don’t know why my husband and I quote this all the time when someone gets sick, or has a headache in our house, but we do, accent and all.
  • Sarcastic witticism, Southern sweetness or Geeky disdain?     How about Northern sweet and occasional Sarcastic Geek. That about sums me up.
  • Strangest item currently taking up space in your writing cave?      The Element Encyclopedia of 5000 Spells. I bought this giant book a long time ago as research for my series, along with an encyclopedia of monsters. I had it sitting on my stairs this one day when the piano tuner came over to work on the piano. He looked at the book and then looked at me, giving me a funny sideways look. But he didn’t say a word, and I almost burst out laughing.
  • Favorite supernatural creature?     Dragons are beautiful, fierce creatures that also come in a variety of colors, types, sizes and temperaments. I love to read dragon stories, watch dragon movies, and I just recently bought a gorgeous dragon pen on Kauai. I’m currently working on a dragon story, hence the Practical Guide to Dragon Magic on my nightstand as part of my research.

 

Azetha Risingrobin-glassey-cover-azetha-rising

THINGS HAVEN’T GONE THE WAY TIKA HOPED OR PLANNED.

Yes, she has passed the Prime Council’s test and has been accepted into the il Alluminon House, but Death has been breathing down her neck. She’s been betrayed by her fellow countrymen, captured and collared, and forced to fight her best friend in Sicor’s Arena.

Then there is the matter of Mortan. While other 16 year olds are busy courting and attending festivals, Tika is trying to evade the Elven sorcerer’s deadly plans for her demise. Maybe Tika is the promised Azetha, and maybe she isn’t. But even if she is and manages to learn to control her powers in time, will she be strong enough to defeat Mortan, or will he become ruler of Fathara forever?

Azetha Rising is the last book in The Azetha Series—a cross between Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings and Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time for a YA audience.

Purchase Robin’s books on AMAZON   or enter the Goodreads Giveaway HERE

ALL ABOUT ROBIN GLASSEY

Robin grew up in Canada across the bay from a leaky nuclear power plant, giving her the not so secret power of deactivating electronic devices.  She moved to Utah in 1994 to attend BYU and fell hopelessly in love with Brett Glassey (although he has not fallen in love with BYU).

Robin admits to having several imaginary friends as a child, including a giant who protected her from the Sleestaks that lived in their basement. The Sleestaks have all moved out and now Robin writes clean YA fantasy novels, including the now completed Azetha Series.

WANT MORE ROBIN? 

Find her at her author page: robinglassey.squarespace.com  ,  or on Twitter @RobinGlassey

 

 

 

10 Great Gifts for Book Lovers

Sometimes buying books for a book lover on your list can be difficult, especially when you’re not sure what they have already read. So my list is branching beyond books. Happy shopping everyone!book-scarf

  1. A Scarf from their favorite book. This one is from Etsy featuring Anne of Green Gables, but they have Game of Thrones, To Kill a Mockingbird, and more starting from $29.00                                                                                                                                vinyl-quote
  2. Vinyl quotes: You can have them put on wood to hang, or even straight on the wall. Etsy has custom quotes starting at $6.00.                                                                 mercys-garage-shirt
  3. Wearable Words: There are many shirts from popular books. You can search Amazon or Etsy or go directly to the author’s web page. One of my favorites is from Urban fantasy author Patricia Briggs’s Moon Called Series.                                  cute-notebooks-11
  4. A cute notebook to take notes in or write down ideas.                                                                magnetic-scrabble
  5. Scrabble magnet that you can play on your fridge. Found on Amazon for about $11.00.                                                                                                                                     laptop-sleeve-typewriter
  6. Laptop Sleeve for around $25 on Amazon.                                                                                       literary-pendant
  7. A variety of literary pendants on Amazon, my favorite is a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson. There are several with pictures of books, and a variety of quotes.                                                                                                                                                      vinyl-laptop
  8. Decorate for your laptop. Great vinyl quotes and pics that can go on directly on laptops. Starting from $5.                                                                                                           embosser
  9. Personalized custom embosser for books. You can get a custom seal, embosser and foil labels for
    under $100 at customembosserpro.com.                                                                                     water-tumbler
  10. Last on Etsy (which as a slew of great customized gifts) is an ‘I love books’ water tumbler or $12.00.

 

Good luck with the gift giving and I wish everyone the Merriest of Holidays!!

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The Demons in the Writer’s Mind

I recently signed my first writing contract. When people learn of my accomplishment they often congratulate me and ask how happy or excited I am. I always reply positively, which in the first moments of learning about the contract offer I was truly happy and excited to begin my journey as a professional author.  Sadly, I don’t think the feeling lasted twenty-four hours before those dark thoughts crept in: the publisher must have made a mistake, or everyone I know will hate the book. Initially, I felt alone. Other authors published easily with a smile on their face−see their Facebook photo for proof.

But slowly I found this topic coming up more and more with authors, and I think it is worth repeating. Writing maybe a solitary activity, but we’re not alone−and many people fake their Facebook photo (see my super smiling one for proof). A lot of my author friends experience the doubt and demons, even after publishing several books. At the ANWA 2016 Conference, J. Scott Savage spoke about how after seventeen releases, he still experiences the gut wrenching fear before each book release.

So how do we fight these demons that can threaten to take us down?

The first step is to RECOGNIZE THE NEGATIVE THOUGHT. Acknowledge it is a fear, an opinion, but not a fact.

Then QUESTION IT/MOCK IT even. Discredit it to give it less power.

Finally, REPLACE IT with an empowering thought, a mantra maybe. Personally, I don’t go around saying how wonderful I am. I’m not there yet, but I start with what I know to be true: I love to write. I write every day, and I write for a reason. The rest isn’t as important.

I hope this helps along your journey in writing or in life. I’ve love to hear any of your tips or experiences.

DeAnna

Three Truths and A Lie: Creating Characters that are Believable

Do you remember the game three truths and a lie? It is a group game often played to get to know one another. A person tells three truths and one lie, and the other people have to figure out what is the lie.

This game is a great example of creating believable characters. In the game people try to create truths that may appear out of character and a lie that is ordinary.

As authors we can often create truths for our characters that don’t align with the world we have created for them. I currently am struggling with one of my characters that is flat in my story. Here are a few tips that have helped me along the way.

*Character’s Journal: I have to go beyond the standard character questioner we often see, and write in their voice. Even if the story is not from their point of view, I write a scene or more in the character’s point of view.

*Motivation: Know your character’s motivation. Not only the motivation that drives them to accomplish their goals, but possible unconscious motivation that drives their personality, speech, and actions.

*Avoid Stereotypes: Most characters can be easily categorized-which is fine. Go beyond the stereotype though. Make yours unique and realistic by giving them a history, a motivation, and a voice all their own.

Delve into your inner Freud and create characters that are complex and interesting. And just for fun I added below my three truths and one lie. Feel free to join in.

  1. 3-truths-a-lieI am prepared for a zombie apocalypse.
  2. I find being underwater peaceful.
  3. I have eaten a cricket.
  4. My first pet was a five foot snake.

Brainstorming: Finding Ideas That Work

At a recent write-in, a couple of us needed to work on world building. In my case, I was working on names for magic ceremonies, events in the past, that sort of thing. One technique that worked well for us was what I call idea dumping (aka brainstorming).

I’m not talking about the old style of brainstorming: grabbing a pen and staring at a blank page for an hour until the perfect idea comes. I’m talking about dumping all the ideas out of your mind−good, bad and ugly—until you find what fits. We pulled up a thesaurus, and I wrote down everything that was said. My paper was a mess, cramped and full of notes.

I can’t lie and say magic poured out of our mouths, but as we batted around ideas they morphed into something great. So when you’re searching for that perfect name for your next goblin or handsome hunk remember a couple of things:

*Write every idea that comes to mind, even the crappy ones.

*Write at least ten if not twenty. I find my first three ideas are generic, and middle five to ten suck. The other day, it was not until at least twenty or more names had floated around until I found one I loved.

*Keep the list for a little bit, percolation helps sometimes. One writer thought she had a name, but it wasn’t until we moved on and were talking about something else did she realize the perfect one hit.

Idea Dumping can be used for book names, magic systems, upcoming plot twists, and more. Sometimes our creativity is laying on the service and other times we have to dig a little for that golden nugget.

Filling your writing toolbox with books

Many a handyman will say that without their toolbox, the work can’t be done. Writers are the same. We fill our toolbox with a variety of tools. We may pick these up at conferences, writing groups, or even blogs (wink, wink). Some of my favorite places to find those gems are books. Great writing books help me look at my writing in a whole different light.

emotion-thesaurus

 

The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi. I use this book most frequently and keep it at my desk when writing. Definitely a must have. They also have several others that are worth purchasing.

 

James Scott Bell has so many great books on writing it was hard for me to pick only one, so I didn’t.dialogue-book

How to Write Dazzling Dialogue: The Fasted Way to Improve Any Manuscript

 

conflict-book

 

Conflict and Suspense

 

 

save-the-cat

 

Save The Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need by Black Synder. While about screenwriting, this book covers essential elements on storytelling that every author can use.

 

story-engineering

Story Engineering by Larry Brooks has a great comprehension books on the essential building blocks of a story.

 

 

I’m in the middle of another craft book, so this list may grow. Do you have any that I have missed? Please let me know.