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We Need Your Support

Have You Supported A Fellow Writer Today? 

 


"A person with ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, for he or she has a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed."
― Desmond Tutu

 

 

 

     Writing is hard.

 

     For real. Just sitting down and putting words on the page can be difficult. Top that with story lines that race through your head without mercy. They tease you, dancing around till you can't capture their perfection, only their essence.

 

     It's brutal.

 

Then, you finally get the words down. You edit till you bleed. You wrap it up and send it to your editor who cuts you, er, your work some more. It's always just one more edit. Until it's done.

 

Then it's over. And you're alone again until the voices in your head start talking again.

   

     Writing is hard.

 

     It's a lonely process that involves one human and a massive imagination. Medication won't help this particular insanity, but a tiny bit of support can.

 

     This is where many of us come up short. Sometimes we label our fellow writers as competition rather than companions. This ultimately hurts us more than it does the others because after you spend months, nay, years, working with yourself-and your invisible characters-you put your book baby out into the world and watch in helplessness as it tries to swim. It needs support.

 

Fortunately, there are a few easy ways we writers can help each other.

 

     1. Promote. Post someone else's work on your social media.

 

     2. Review. I can't say enough about reviews. They are essential in this world. Everyone wants to know what they're getting into before they spend that $3.99 on your book. Take a moment and review a fellow author's work, honestly, but thoroughly. It counts for more than you know.

 

     3. Advocate. Our writing is as diverse as we are. We don't all know everything that's out there. We need someone watching our backs.

 

     4. Let it go. Stress is a silent killer and one sure way to foster its growth is to spend way too much time watching what someone else is doing. Someone has better sales than you? Has more reviews than you? Has better reviews than you? It stings but it's no reflection on you. It's better for your health if you cheer them on.

 

     5. Encourage. See a struggling writer? Drop them a word of encouragement and see how much better you feel. It only takes a minute, but it's so worth the time. Teamwork makes the dream work.

 

     6. Write it out. Write out the discouragement, the fear, the worries and the disappointments. Write hard, write fast. Chances are someone else is dealing with the same thing and your words can soothe, maybe even heal.These are those who pen the books that you love the most.

 

     Being a writer can be a choppy ride, but it's worth it. Our thoughts and words will be deciphered by new generations when they are studying our civilization. It's a record not only of one. It's you. It's me. It's all of us.

 

     When you think of it like that, maybe writing is really not that hard. 

 

 

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A Writer's Rule

 

 

So far this morning I have spilled coffee on my office floor. Spilled coffee on my desk (two separate incidents) and poked myself in my own eye with my glasses.

 

Yes, it did hurt.

 

It's barely 9 am. I have plans that involve me leaving the house later and I'm a tiny bit concerned about being unsupervised out there if I can't even get my glasses on without causing self harm. So instead, I do what comforts me best. I write. Rather, I plot. Here's where it gets interesting. You know the old question for us writers.

 

Plotter or pantser?

 

This debate has been raging in the writing community for years. There are entire courses devoted to it.

There are advantages to both I suppose. Plotters spend a massive amount of time on world building and creating character tics. Some of the more ambitious ones even create their own languages for their characters. There's much to be said for this method. If you plot this meticulously, you know exactly where your story is going and it can make it a lot easier. Sub-plots are developed, story arcs are defined from beginning to end and plot holes are neatly plugged.

 

No surprises. Character A starts out in a car headed to Kansas City and they take a pre-planned route with no unforeseen incidents to get there.

 

Things are different for a pantser. You just write and let the story go where it may. You put pen to paper, fingers to keyboard and just let the words free flow. Characters emerge at will. Plot lines boil to the surface on their own. Ideas emerge and break free-kind of like free range chickens. But like the eggs from said chickens, is the result actually better? There are arguments for both. But don't take sides just yet.

You see, there's a third option and that's where I fall.

 

I start with a written plot. An outline, if you will. A general idea. Maybe some plot lines emerge. Maybe some character traits. Maybe some world building. It's a great place to start. Though try as I might, I can never stick to it. Character A will be walking along following the plan when something will come out of the blue and force them to run, jump or-you know, do whatever. Some characters are lost along the way. Some are born. Some pop up out of the mist and demand to be fleshed out. This does sometimes take me around a bush or two but eventually a character's voice will emerge. It may or may not align with the outline but I've learned not to fight it.

 


Unconventional. Unscripted. Unexpected. Maybe it's all or none of these. But that's the beauty of writing. As long as the end result is a well crafted story, there are no rules. This works for me.

What works for you?

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Failure Is Not The End

 

 

Who likes making decisions? Please raise your hand. Go on. I dare you. The back and forth in your mind. The what ifs and the how comes and the possible outcomes- they can drive you mad. Are decisive people born with a special DNA sequencing that allows them to ignore what could be coming around the bend? Or is the curse of the ones with imagination that forces them to live out what could happen before it actually happens?

 


Or is it just good old fashioned fear? Fear of failure. Fear of change. Fear of success. After all, if you succeed, change is guaranteed. And what if success isn't what you thought it would be? What if it doesn't bring you the squealing happiness of a three year old on a Christmas morning? What if it's just a bit, well...more mundane?

 


What is that saying? "What if I take that leap and I fall? But, my darling, what if you fly?" You never know what's waiting for you on the other side of the crevasse. If you take those short steps and cross that bridge, or ocean. If you take that new position or walk away from the old. Who knows what could happen? You might sink like a stone.

 


Or you just might soar like an eagle. This is why fear is so dangerous. I mean what are all the 'what ifs' about? Just because you sink doesn't mean you die. You make the leap count. You learn from your mistakes. Next time, you'll jump higher, practice longer, work with a mentor, prepare harder. As long as you're alive, you're allowed a next time.

 


And that's what life's about. It's not about guarantees. It's not about cheating your way in, skipping the bruised knees and black eyes. No, the bruised knees and black eyes are your battle wounds, proof that you did it the hard way, the right way. Proof that you tried and you're going to try again and again and again. Cuz that's who you are. When your bones ache and you're slumped in a corner wiping away tears of disappointment and anger, you're not fading away. You're earning your title. Your moniker. After every bout you emerge stronger and you're earning your rank of battle hardened warrior.

 


In the words of Edmund Vance Cook's poem How Did You Die?

The harder you're thrown, why the higher you bounce;

 


Be proud of your blackened eye!

It isn't the fact that you're licked that counts;

It's how did you fight and why?

 


Ignore the fear. Make the decision. Try one more time. Then once more. We only get one shot on this planet. Make it count. You deserve it.

 

 

 

P.S. I would strongly recommend reading the entire poem by Edmund Vance Cook "How Did You Die."  It's worth the two minutes.

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Can You Imagine?

Have you ever wanted to hang out with a fictional character? Or maybe not fictional, just historical. Can you imagine being there when Jane Eyre decided she was done being a door mat and finally stood up and said 'No'! Or chatting with Janie Crawford from Zora Neal Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God. What must it have been like to watch Samson carry off the gates of the city. Can you imagine the terror and astonishmet that filled the onlookers?

 

We crawl into other worlds to visit our fictional characters for as long we can. How many of us have gone through that closet in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe? Did you ever see yourself riding with them? What about traveling with Frodo as he took the ring back to Mordor in Lord of the Rings? Yes, we've all seen the movies, but to be a part of that group!

 

We enjoy all of these stories but if a genie granted you a wish to spend an afternoon with one fictional or historical character-who would it be?

 

I know it's against the rules, but I would have to wish for more wishes. There's just too many interesting people to meet. Too many back stories we can never know. Let's jump across that little pond and land in England during the reign of Henry the VIII. Let's chat with his wife. Anne Boleyn? No Catherine, his first wife. What strength of character she had to have. Her husband demanded an heir and she only produced a living daughter. She was under immense pressure as his wandering gaze struck close to home. One of her biographer's noted that Catherine prayed often during her trials and she was once heard praying, "Lord you must love me to try me so much."

 

Then there's Mekeda, the Queen of Sheba. Her visit to King Solomon is well known. Let's not forget Princess Rani Lakshmibai of Jhansi. This queen of the Maratha ruled the princely state of Jhansi in North India. According to legend, she died in the heat of battle with the reins of her horse in her teeth and a sword in each hand. Feel those goose bumps?

 

The list goes on and on. These are men and women who lived one day at a time just like us. But they lived their lives to the fullest and they became legends. They saw greatness even in the worst of times. If you can see it, you can achieve it.

 


So tell me...can you imagine? Who would you most like to meet and why?

 

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"They shall not be ashamed that wait for Me."

 

 

When the Watchmen first rode up, they were a nebulous thought. The fog surrounding them soon dissipated and one by one they came into view. I had to know more of these people. What was it like to be so close to the Garden of Eden and yet so far away? What was it like to be so blessed and yet so persecuted?

 

Determined to get answers, I tracked them down just before the noon meal in the great hall and requested a short interview.

 

Me: Bree, you are central to this story of Azriel. How does all this attention make you feel?

 

Bree lifts her chin and glares.

 

Rafe: (Smiling slightly and shaking his head.) She's not going to answer that.

 

Me: (Taken aback) Oh…ok. Would you like to tell me where you're from? Where were you born?

 

Bree: Here.

 

Me: (After a moment's pause.) Here as in Azriel?

 

Bree: It's in the book, right? (Her eyes narrow.)

 

Me: Y-yes. I thought you might want to…(taking a deep breath and watching her sword arm) Is there anything in particular you'd like the readers to know? I mean, your story is pretty incredible. You brought down SHE. Your presence in Azriel has benefited the people here greatly. (Bree shuffles her feet and glances at the ground) The Watchmen are all indebted to you.

 

Bree: (Quietly) I am indebted to them.

 

Me: (I wait for more but there's only silence.)

 

Wesley: (Stepping forward) We are grateful to have her back with us.

 

Rafe smiles at Bree and she returns it, briefly.

 

Me: Bree, do you have any plans for the future?

 

Bree: Drucilla is still out there. She must be brought to justice.

 

Me: Do you know where she is right now?

 

Bree: It's rumored she's taken shelter in Marsena. We will track her down.

 

The bell sounds. The midday meal is ready. Finn dips his head in a goodbye and leads the group into the hall. Bree turns on her heel and follows Rafe in. Just before she enters the door she turns to me and I'm struck by the resolve that radiates off her diminutive figure.

 

We live our lives in awe of those who do great things, as if they have some special magic that makes them larger than life. We fail to realize that these are men and women who live one day at a time just as we do. They have the same number of hours in each day as we do. The same gifts, talents and abilities. But they are legends because they choose to embrace the struggle, to take the narrow path and live their lives to the fullest. 

 

Bree: (Lifts her head. She has a final word for me.) Thank you.

She turns and disappears behind the doors.

 

My smile wobbles as I try to ignore the lump in my throat, the tears stinging behind my eyes.

 

The Watchmen Are Here.

 

Claim Yours Now!

 

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Finding characters

Writer's don't have magical powers. Using skills we hone and sharpen we weave tales of enchantment that pull you onto the page and leave you spell bound, but we don't actually carry wands or sprinkle fairy dust. We are highly imaginative but we can't actually pull characters out of thin air.

 

So where do our characters come from? You'd be surprised.

 

Yes, I did say we can't pull them out of thin air but it sometimes does work that way. I'm not talking in circles.

 

None of us exist in a vacuum. It can be something as simple a laugh in the next aisle of a grocery store. You don't see the person but in your mind's eye, a character takes shape. They dress a little bohemian, maybe. They are vegan, rather, they want to be vegan but can't resist real cheese. They prefer cats over dogs because they relate to the cat's air of smug superiority. But cats don't like them. Their apartment manager doesn't allow dogs, even as a consolation prize, so they opt for a gerbil instead. A gerbil that hates them. It sits in the corner glaring at them through malevolent beady eyes.

 

You see what's happening here? You've never seen this person, but an entire world is building around that one sound you heard for less than five seconds. A simple laugh. But what kind of a laugh is it? Is person who is hated by a gerbil the kind of person to have a carefree laugh?

 

This is the life of a writer. We take elements of the world around us and build on it. Characters take shape out of it. The vapid hairdresser who can't remember any of her customer's names but can fix any hair problem known to man. Have I met her? Possibly. Maybe a tiny piece of her is buried somewhere deep in my psyche and is waiting to come out and meet the chatty barista- who just happens to be pursuing her law degree. Oh wait, that was a move, right? Or close to it.

 

A writer absorbs their surroundings like a sponge. The smells of an outdoor grill, the soft coos emitted by a happy baby, the riotous color of a farmer's market. Your character sitting in the depressing diner? Where did that come from? Remember that trip to Phoenix you took years ago and had to make that stop?

 

Every experience gets stamped in indelible ink on our memories. It's then filed by an chaotically organized brain that stands ready to pull them out at the slightest whiff. 

 

Nothing is wasted. The six senses are always reporting, the brain always recording. Life is always happening.

 

This is where our characters come from. 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Writer In Spring

Is there a more definite end to winter than a robin in the spring?
Is there a more definite end to winter than a robin in the spring? 

We're all too familiar with the rules of quarantine at this point. While the bands are loosening a bit, many of us are still spending the majority of our time close to home. In the interest of not going completely crazy, I started a few projects to keep me busy. Work, writing and family aside, I wanted to do something a bit different. So I started a bird feeding station.

 

It sounds fancy. It's really just putting out bird seed on the stump outside my office window. It's been great to see how many of the little feathered creatures have taken me up on my offer of free food. Really, they are incredibly generous little creatures. I have chickadees, cardinals, turtle doves and, of course, blue jays. 

 

You learn so much about the natural world. For instance, did you know that blue jays are known to be bullies? I've watched them gang up on the other birds and actually force the little chickadees to eat the seed off the ground. It's a negative stereotype that they don't have to live up to, but they whole heartedly do.

 

Now that spring as truly unpacked, the robins are here. Did you know that robins are also bullies? Yep. These little guys aren't all sunshine and rainbows. I have a theory that they know they are the heralds of spring and feel that gives them a right to push us around.

 

In addition to the birds, I have the squirrels and one scary skinny bunny rabbit. I won't mention the squirrels again. Our relationship has been fraught with friction and I'm still healing. But the little bunny has caught my attention. He eats off the ground but I'm fairly certain he's not eating seeds. I feel so bad for the little guy, I almost made him a cheeseburger. No really, this can't be healthy.

 

But this is life. In a few weeks I'll be starting my garden and I'm sure my relationship with the bunny will then be fraught with friction. He's not showing any interest in promising to leave my vegetables alone.

 

But this is nature in spring. All new beginnings and fresh promises. All bright eyed wonder and mysterious, tenuous hope. It's just a few birds, a couple of squirrels and one scary skinny bunny, but while I sit with my open laptop, it all serves as a reminder and inspiration. There's a whole 'nother world just under our twitching noses.

 

 

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Do you really need a sizzling romance to make your story great?

Some like it hot!!
Some like it hot!

What makes a good story? I've recently heard it said that a story isn't interesting if it doesn't have a good romance in it. I disagree. I mean, romance in and of itself is great but what of the chase? What of the mysterious subplot that slinks and swirls just beneath surface? What of the misdirection and miscommunication muddying the water and leaving your head swimming with questions?

 

Sure, in Pride and Prejudice the confusion surrounding Mr. Bingley and Jane made for a great plot but halfway through, when the romance was thought to be dead, the mystery remained. Everyone was left to wonder what went wrong.

 

Remember the race in Ben Hur? It was the epitome of good versus evil. Every turn of the polished carriage wheels, every clank of the horses' hooves pulled you to  to the edge of your seat. Would Ben Hur finally have his revenge against his one-time friend, Messala? Would his family ever be reunited?

 

What about Moby Dick? Could a man really avenge himself on a whale? Or Orwell's 1984? These plots centered around man's struggle against their environment. That struggle, that pitch and yaw, forced you to sit up, pay attention and bellow with the hero when things go dim for them.

 

So what makes a story great?

 

The characters.

 

It always comes back to the characters, even if that character isn't necessarily human. As a people, we crave hope. If the struggle glues us to our seats, the simple prospect of hope pulls us to the edge of it. It's that collective breath that we release when the hero just makes it. We sit there, our fingernails digging into the arms of our seats as the carriage races around the turn and a wheel collapses. To our relief, the hero finally makes it. This is their time. They can exact true revenge.

 

But they don't.

 

They show mercy.

 

We collapse, eyes wide, lungs full as we drink in this new turn, this new concept. Eventually we close the cover and sit with that tome between our clenched fingers ruminating on what we've just experienced. Is it plausible? We think maybe so, maybe not. In real life would we forgive so easily?

 

The thoughts stay with us. The characters, the moments, the laughter, the tears, these we remember even as we walk the dog, wash the dishes and check the mail.

 

And that, my friend, is what makes it a truly great story.

 

But that's just my opinion.

 

 

 

 

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It's finally happening! Azriel has a release date!

Azriel, tale of the Watchmen, will be dropping June 15,2021. Stay tuned for further updates.
Azriel, tale of the Watchmen, will be dropping June 15,2021. Stay tuned for further updates.
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