Sunday, December 29, 2013

1000 Creative Writing Prompts by Bryan Cohen

Writer’s block has never really been much of a problem for me, but I do know people who wrestle with it every day. This book may well be one of the best answers I’ve ever seen. There are seven chapters with a hundred categories scattered among them, and each category has ten questions. Answering these questions is an excellent way to get the juices flowing. One of them might even help you though a difficult point in your story. Heck, it might even be the spark of the next big blockbuster. You never know until you try.

In an effort to showcase the book, I thought I’d do something of a self-interview by answering a few of the questions.

Chapter 1: Time and Place

The Past

#9. What is the most important lesson you’ve learned from studying your own past experiences? Would you consider teaching that lesson to others? Why or why not?

Probably the most important lesson I learned was how to be strong, how to be my own person. After suddenly being shunned in first grade for a reason I never learned, I had to do my own thing, walk my own path. At some point I determined that it wasn’t my fault, whatever it was, so I took on the attitude that I’d be anyone’s friend, I’d help anyone, but they had to ask me first. If they didn’t want to be my friend, fine – their loss. It might sound cold, but it’s not, not really. You see I wasn’t cold to anyone. I wasn’t mean to anyone. I treated everyone I met like I would want to be treated if our positions and circumstances were switched. I guess you could say I live by the Golden Rule.

Would I teach this if I could? Sure, but the Golden Rule has been around for a long time, and it’s very simple. Treat others as you would have them treat you. There you go, lesson taught.

Why would I teach this? Because if everyone did this, just imagine what our world would be like.

The Present

#23. It’s been said that to be happy, you have to live in the moment. Do you agree with that statement? Why or why not? How well do you think you live in the moment and why do you believe that?

Living in the moment is something I think I do all the time. The past is past and to be learned from but not to be agonized over. It’s pretty much the same for the future. You can’t agonize over tomorrow; all you can do is do the best you can today with tomorrow in mind. Tomorrow will get here soon enough.

The Future

#31. What are you most looking forward to in the immediate future and why? What are you looking forward to in the next couple of years and why?

Ever since I published my first book, I have looked forward to the next book coming out. It has always been a thrill to know someone I never met is reading my books. In the very near future, I of course have another book coming out, and this coming summer will see my trilogy out in full. That one has been a long journey, but then begins the next one. I thought once I might get used to this feeling, but it doesn’t look like it, and frankly, I don’t want to. Yay for more books waiting in line so I can feel this yet again.

Chapter 2: People and Creatures


#233. Did you ever have a teacher who had no idea what they were doing? What was it that made the teacher so clueless? How did having a teacher like that make you feel and why?

In college, I wanted to go into the computer field. I was very logical about my decision, computers were up-and-coming, and they would be going places. However, I needed more math. The math class I signed up for had a teacher who was incredibly well versed in her field, but she had no clue how to teach what she knew. She’d scrawl these equations across the board and that’s the way it was. She never explained why it was that way. It left me in the dust. Asking for help was no better. her inability to teach, quite literally cast my future adrift. With a teacher like that, the computer field was out of reach. Now I had to figure out what to do next, and I didn’t have a clue.

Chapter 3: The Body and the Brain


#383. Think back to all of your most memorable dreams and single out the scariest recurring dream you ever had. What do you think it symbolized? If you had complete control over the dream, how do you think you would have conquered such a fearful night of slumber?

I have recurring dreams all the time. They are usually steps in solving some kind of puzzle. They also might not necessarily take place in the same location. These kinds of recurring dreams are seldom scary, but I have had a few very vivid dreams that would startle me awake; those, most of them, ended up in one or another of my books in one form or another. Probably the scariest one was of an asteroid destroying the moon. That too is in a book, in fact, that occurrence sculpted the entire world of that book. Imagine, Earth with no moon. The only control one can have in such a dream is the decisions of what to do next. Survive.

Chapter 4: Concepts

Good and Evil

#510. Would your morals change if you were in a life or death situation? What would be different if you or your loved ones were at risk and why?

Your morals are what define you, and maybe best in a life and death situation. However, there needs to be priorities. In a life and death situation, you must protect yourself first. With yourself safe, then you can save those most important to you. It’s very logical. Get yourself killed and there’s no protecting your loved ones.

Chapter 5: Money


#745. Contrary to popular belief, the wealthiest people don’t tend to live extravagantly. In reality, they live well below their means and save up, while those who appear to be the wealthiest are often riddled with debt. How do you think you and your family might be able to live this truer definition of wealthy? If you came upon a lot of money, would you be prone to spend it quickly like these other seemingly affluent folks?

Money is what it is, but I live in the wilderness of Alaska in a little house in the middle of nowhere. Frankly, I can’t see myself changing much. With money, however, might come a new house – this one is starting to have unfixable issues. Money might also see me being able to have a few more book signings as well. It’s not easy coming and going from here. It’s about as expensive just to go to town as it is to hop a flight to some city half way across the country.

Chapter 6: Love and Entertainment

On the Road

#891. Where have you always wanted to travel and why? What’s the first thing you would do when you got there?

I’ve always wanted to go to Scotland and England. I’ve always wanted to explore all those old castles I see pictures of.

Chapter 7: Mixed Bag

Air Travel

#937. Have you ever taken a helicopter tour of a city or island? If so, write about your experience about seeing the world from a much different view.

I work at a fishing lodge and one of our guests would come in his own helicopter. He brought his brothers to go fishing but he loved flying better. He’s taken me on more than one ride, but my first is probably my most exciting. I’m not sure what it is about helicopters, but I think it’s the rotor overhead. I’m not one to get airsick but in a helicopter I tend to feel dizzy. Like I said there’s no reason for it, I just need to steel myself for the feeling. This guy flies with a smooth and sure hand, no funny business – all safety. It’s an awesome experience. I’d fly with him every chance I got. I wish I could afford lessons – he teaches too.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Writing About Yourself

Take a wallflower and tell it to toot it's own horn. There's nothing more painful for a wallflower to do than to attract attention to itself. I know, it's no fun talking about yourself, but if there is going to be any kind of meaning behind that name on the cover of that book, there has to be a person attached to it. Well, that's my opinion anyway. And isn't that the point of creating a fan page on either Facebook or Google+, or maybe some other forum? Isn't the whole point of attracting attention to sell books? Why else would it be called an author platform? To grow a following, to attract notice, to make friends?

Through my various interviews, I've told my story multiple times in various formats, and it always seems to sound the same to me. Of course, it's my story, so I suppose it would sound the same to me. Maybe I'm just getting tired of telling it and not getting much response. Maybe I should take my own medicine. Maybe I should write up a blog post about me and what moves me to write. Come to think of it, I'm not sure I have ever done that, though I've done a few things about me. Hmmmm

But then again, as I think back, it occurs to me that there are incredibly few writers that I know anything about (not counting those I've met on Facebook, following the same advice I am). Names don't come to mind, mostly because I'm incredibly bad with names. However, the author stereotype is the alcoholic mess, and that has to come from somewhere.

So now I'm beginning to doubt my strategy of helping writers in these blog posts. They don't want to talk about themselves anyway, and books are out there doing far better than any of mine, of course they've probably been doing this since they were kids, so they have experience and exposure on me. Anyway, how much does anyone really know about the authors of the books they read? Yeah, we all try to help each other, so some of us know each other, but I'm talking about all the others? Are you at all curious? Should I just drum up a list of questions like everyone else and leave it like that? Or should I forgo Author Spotlights altogether?

I asked this on Facebook and one reply I got differentiated between the list of question type interview and the blog post type interview. She preferred the questions, saying the blog post would put her in a bad light. I fail to see how, but that's her opinion. For her the the list of questions was easy, taking only a few minutes, while the blog post was too hard. Is my strategy just me being lazy? I do know that can crop up in me in the oddest ways.

Something for me to think about. Your opinions most welcome.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Wanderess, by Roman Payne

The Wanderess, by Roman Payne. Told as if the main character was narrating the story to an author, not the writer, a unique point of view in my experience. It was beautifully told.

I have been to quite a few different states across the Midwest with Colorado as the center of my world of experience, but I've never been overseas anywhere.

Saul and Saskia wander, either chasing each other, or together, through France, Spain, Northern Italy, and beyond, and unlike some books I've read, I was able to enjoy the journey as well as the drama.

Saskia's drive to see the fulfillment of her prophecy, and Saul's stubbornness as he determined to keep just as many secrets as Saskia did, even the one that would see the fruition of her prophecy that much sooner, kept me enthralled and entertained from cover to cover. I was drawn into their love, the passion and the turmoil of it, as it progressed through the growing pains of jealousy and trust, as it was tested by manipulation, betrayal and entrapment.

One thing easily overlooked is the background world. The world Roman Payne allowed me to see was full of life of all types, all types; do you know how hard that is to do? The world isn't overwhelming, but it's there; the stage was well set, ready for the actors to play their part. From peasants and common workers to aging actresses, from charlatans to royalty. They were all there. From Spring in Paris to the dry heat of Tripoli.

One of the most amazing things about the story was that it was a true romance. None of this 'jump into bed at every opportunity'. No hot and heavy, sweaty sex. ROMANCE, love, petting, hugging, comforting, tender feelings, tears. It was all there, simple, pure and honorable. The best kind if you ask me. Most of the time I'll turn away from what passes for romance these days; they are all so blunt; no teasing, very little tenderness, just sex, and if there's not at least one episode in every chapter, then the story lacks. Well, not really, but you get my point. Many is the 'romance' books I've read, those few I've read, don't have much of a story behind all the hopping from bed to bed like rabbits in heat. Do rabbits have a 'heat'? The Wanderess is such a beacon in a dark closet, such a lighthouse shining across the hot and steamy seas.

Probably one of the hardest things I had to overlook was that nearly all the book was 'telling'. I had to remind myself that of course it was 'telling'. Saul was telling his story to a writer who was taking notes. After working so hard to learn how to show the action and emotions in my books, changing this channel was just a little hard for me. It did not lessen my enjoyment of the story. I just had to park my brain in a different time. Do check this book out. It is for sure worth your pennies.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Where is Your Passion

I was looking forward to this post being about an editor I met on FB, but she didn't seem to have the time, stating a busy family life and the coming holidays. She wanted to post a short list of generic editing tips, whereas I wanted you to get to know her, to get a feel for her passion for the job, her love of taking a rough diamond and turning it into a polished gem. I wanted to showcase her to her advantage, but she didn't want to, didn't have time, sadly.

So...what is your passion? Where is your passion? Have you thought about it? It doesn't matter if you are in the writing business or not, are you passionate about what you do?

Writers? What of your soul do you pour into your stories? Are you excited (and terrified) to put your labor of love out there for people to read? Are you thrilled at every review, good or not so good, or even the bad ones? Even if you've written twenty or more books, is the passion still there? The excitement? The love?

Editors? Do you like taking that labor of love, that rough work, and turning it into a gleaming gem to be proud of? Are you thrilled every time you hear about or see a book that you know you had a hand in making it what it is?

Cover artists? Do you love putting together that perfect picture together and hearing how thrilled the writer is about it. Does it make you smile when you see it on a shelf somewhere, or on Amazon?

Publishers? Do you love taking these beautiful gems and putting them out there under your moniker? Does it make you proud knowing that book is such a culmination of so much work, and there it sits, glowing, waiting to reward everyone for all their hard work.

Notice I didn't mention money until the very end. Publishers are in the business end of things and so money is a large part of their concern, but the rest is no less important. Writers, editors, cover artists, and publishers too, if you are only in the game for the money, you are cutting yourself short. Of course, we all need to make a living, and yes, we should all get paid for our work, but if there is no passion, no excitement, why are you doing what you are doing? Life is too short to commit yourself to a job you have no love for.

I don't care if you are 'good' at telling a story, and being 'good' at editing can't be good enough either. I've worked with a 'dry' editor; I even spoke with him on several occasions. He always sounded bored on the phone, or maybe he was just tired. Creating an eye-popping cover takes attention to detail and a desire to create something beautiful. The bland, barely good enough cover simply isn't going to generate any sales. Believe me, I know. I have one like that.

If we all work together, with passion, excitement, and pride, the end product can only be a wonder to behold. You low budget publishers who can't afford to hire an editor for what they deserve to be paid, need to hire one passionate enough to make up the difference; your business depends on it.

So where is your passion? Is it somewhere here in the writing world? Is it perhaps in the reading world? Or somewhere else? Whatever it is, are you passionate about it? Are you proud of your work?

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Under Cover or Old Soul

Have you seen the movie John Carter, based on the book, Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs? We watched it last week (we own it, much to my pleasure), and because of that, I decided to start reading the book again. We bought the movie, which prompted my buying the series of books from Amazon for my Kindle Fire last winter when we were in town.

I might prefer books, but my kindle has made reading so much simpler for me. Until last year, I've needed to have a candle to read by, and though I like candles and have lots of wax to make into them, with my kindle I don't need candles anymore. The best part, I don't have to wait until I go to town and maybe get to go to a bookstore in order to find fresh reading material.

But I digress

Anyway, I started reading Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs, my absolute favorite author when I was a kid (meaning preteen). As I look back on that in regards to this author, I was already developing my obsession for collections as I must have read every book the man ever wrote, those that I could find anyway. I know I checked them out of the library multiple times as I read them over and over again. Tarzan was equally a favorite back then.

As I am reading the book, it occurs to me how the style varies so very much from today. The writing is almost lyrical and somewhat verbose by comparison. As I remember my own first writing, I wonder if I was imitating Burroughs. I think most beginning writers do that, imitate their favorite author in their style. At any rate, it was forever since I've read those books and I had completely forgotten about any style change over the years. I was just a reader; what did I know about writing?

When my first writings came out all sort of lyrical and somewhat scattered and verbose, I totally missed the connection and saw it only as something to overcome, a habit to be broken in the interest of writing a book people will find easy to read. Anyway, as I'm reading along, it occurs to me that I kinda like the style, though it's not something I'll ever imitate. If you've ever read Tolkien's books, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy, you can easily see how a writer's style can change.

Some years ago my husband bought me those books in a single binder. Reading through that book was pretty much the first time I'd read it for at least a few years, and at first I thought Tolkien intended the older style for the whole series, but then 'got into' the telling of the story and the lyrical style fell by the way side.

ANYWAY a few days ago, a friend of mine from a forum other than Facebook, finally published his book. I knew he'd been working on it for some time, and even having some financial difficulties along the way. I'd love to hear his story. But anyway, it was finally done and published. Originally planned for hard cover only, I couldn't hope to afford it any time soon, but I did my best to give him all the support I could. Then I get an email from him. Could I take a look at the kindle edition? Oh my, I was so honored and accepted the offer immediately.

Now there were some formatting problems with the edition I had but they were known problems so I offered to help there too however I could.

But again, I digress

Guess what? Upon my first glimpse of this book, I'm right back into the same style of Burroughs and Tolkien at first, that lovely, lyrical, verbose style that just sings to me. Oh and by the way, the friend I mentioned, he's better than either of them. The words flow smoothly and the picture is well painted. I can just see this proper gentleman with maybe an umbrella or cane swinging from his arm (or leather-bound notebook in his hand) walking down the street. Maybe he's wearing a top hat; at least he is in my painting. Oh yeah, completely enjoying this book. It's almost going to be hard to go back to Burroughs, though I will. I even stopped over to Amazon and bought the first two books of the Tarzan series. I'm curious if he kept the same style. I honestly don't remember though I remember the story well enough.

So, are you an author undercover as a writer from a previous life? Or are you an old soul very comfortable with a much older style of writing? Me - I'm beginning to wonder.