Binge Watch Weekend

Are you looking for a show to binge over the weekend? Here are a few of my favorites that you might not have considered.

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theredroad_s1The Red Road – Drama
Where can you watch it? – Netflix
Watch if you like:
– Jason Momoa
– Psychological Drama
– Shows that end too soon

The IT Crowd – Comedy
Where can you watch it? – Netflix
Watch if you like:
– British comedy
– Workplace humor
– Awkward situations

The Fall – Crime Drama
Where can you watch it? – Netflix
Watch if you like:
– Murder mystery and psychologically disturbing situations
– Gillian Anderson
– Dark imagery
Contains sensitive subject matter. Viewer discretion advised.

Into the Badlands – Action/Adventure
Where can you watch it? – Netflix
Watch if you like:
– The idea of Westerns meet Kung Fu
– Original dystopian America
– Diverse cast and good action sequences

Lucifer – Fantasy Dogma/Comedy
Where can you watch it? – Hulu
Watch if you like:
– Cheesy tv
– Supernatural/Constantine/Sleepy Hollow
– Buddy cop scenarios but with the devil

airbender-completebook3Avatar: The Last Airbender – Cartoon Adventure
Where can you watch it? – Amazon Video
Watch if you like:
– Great storytelling well beyond its time
– Complex world building
– Beautifully designed settings

Gravity Falls – Cartoon Adventure
Where can you watch it? – Hulu
Watch if you like:
– Well written kids’ shows

– Family Friendly television
– Cryptozoology

 

 

Have you seen any of these on my list? Were you able to grab a second to watch any of these? Tell me what you think below, or what you recommend for a binge watch weekend.

New Blogging Schedule

I’m still learning when it comes to blogging, but as someone who loves structure and time tables, I decided I’m going to start a schedule so y’all know what to expect from my blog.

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Timing

Because I’m still trying to build my writer’s platform, I’m going to be posting three times a week, with one occasional weekend post a month. I might change that later on, but for now, this is going to help me learn how to be consistent with my blog.

Monday – Book Talk Monday

  • Author Interviews
  • Book Reviews
  • Calls for book suggestions
  • What I’m readings

Wednesday – Writing Wednesday

  • Where I’m at in current projects
  • Advice on writing
  • Favorite writing resources
  • My writing process

Friday – Life Updates, Movies, and More

  • Movie reviews
  • Any hiatus announcements
  • Life as an introvert
  • Personal updates

Saturday/Sunday – Optional days posted once a month.

  • Reviews on events I go to
  • Personal updates
  • Art updates (pictures of my art, or art of a feature artist)
  • Feature bloggers

 

Here’s hoping I get this blogging thing down!

Author Interview #9 – Mercedes Prunty

When I put out a call to writers, I’m always excited to get responses from authors who also take part in other art forms. As someone who draws pictures inspired by my own writing, I took a lot of joy in looking through Mercedes Prunty’s, my next author to interview, website!

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Q. What’s life like for you outside out of your writing? How do you like to spend your time when not behind a computer?
A.My life when I’m not writing is spent with my two daughters, my eldest is at school but my youngest is with me most of the time as she only does nursery a couple of days a week. So I’m mostly out and about with her going to toddler groups or seeing family.
 
Q. Tell us a little bit about the book you’ve recently published. When did it come out, and how did the project surprise you?
A. The book I recently published is called Junia, it’s a Fantasy I’ve set in another world called ‘Junia’. The story see’s a young princess called Mira go on an epic journey learning about the world she will one day be Queen of. A great war divided Junia and with the help of others she wishes to repair the magical bond that was broken but there is danger afoot as a grand dark witch called Andromeda plans on taking the throne for herself to turn Junia to the dark side. Along this journey Mira must collect the element souls which are the gods for each country of Junia each representing a different element, with those she hopes to destroy Andromeda’s plan but only if Andromeda doesn’t get them first. It was released in March this year and I have entered it into the Kindle Storyteller 2017 competition, so fingers crossed 
😉.
This book surprised me because I actually started writing it when I went to Legoland with my family on holiday, I purchased a notebook from the Lego Elves section and instantly fell in love with the world map at the back and whilst my family slept I drew my own world map in the notebook and that is where Junia began.
 
Q. What tips do you have for other mommy writers to work with kiddies underfoot?
A. Just work as and when you can. Some weeks I go days without writing because the kids have been a handful or I’m too tired after having so much fun. But don’t beat yourself up if you have short breaks from writing to spend time with your family because in my eyes they come first, writing comes a close second. I am even known to stay up into the small hours writing if I have an idea because that’s the time when I truly get any peace.
 
Q. You look like you have a love of obscure movies. Which movie do you recommend that you think is underrated? 
A. I love all the Final Fantasy films which my little sister got me hooked on so I would recommend all of those but also The Girl with all the Gifts, a great take on a zombie horror book and I find the zombies represent what would be quite realistic to me.
 
collage-2017-03-20-19_23_38Q. You have so much artwork on your website. Do you do them yourselves, or do you have someone else in your life who draws for you?
A. I tend to draw a lot of my own artwork, mainly because it helps me imagine my stories better if I can see them my way on paper. I also like to design my own covers more to do with a non existent budget because I don’t want to take anything away from the kids, so if I practice drawing more I hope to make even better covers for my future works.
 
Q. I’m always interested in why authors choose the way they publish their novel. What made you decide to self publish instead of going the “traditional” route?
A. I mainly chose the self publishing route because I have so many idea’s for stories that to chase agents and traditional publishers would take so much of my writing time. I also like the control I have over my books, I set the price, chose the cover and do all my own self promotion, which I have heard from traditionally published authors that they have to market a lot of their own work too so I thought I might as well just do it all myself.
 
Q. When you work on a novel, what is your favourite part of your writing process?
A. The first draft. I love just power writing it all down so I know the whole initial idea. It’s exciting getting to know the new story and also the characters and how they grow as the first draft takes shape. My least favourite part is editing but I think that’s more because of how much time it takes.
 
 
92f9654826ee60226cb97cf8ab62204eQ. Which author influenced your writing the most?
Funnily enough when I was younger I was obsessed with the Resident Evil franchise, the games, the films and the books. The books were written by S.D.Perry and I loved them so much I read them to death and had to buy all new ones again so I could re-read them. I think I liked her initial style and the way the horror and gore was described it made it scary not just a gore fest, which I have hopefully done in my horror books the Alone series. But another author who really got me writing the way I do is Laurell K Hamilton who wrote the Anita Blake series, the main reason for this is because she writes in the first person and since writing I find myself writing in first person as well. When I try to write in third person I really struggle and always end up back at first person so I think her writing influenced me as well as S.D.Perry.
 
Q. In your novel, The Keeper of the Key, Selene is tossed into a world of shadows and monsters. What type of creatures does she find there, and how were you inspired by them?
A. The shadow’s are almost like an illuminati type cult that plans on destroying the world (I think I like the world being destroyed scenario too much) but even though most of them are people a lot of them are monsters with dark powers too. The creatures can be anything from black mists with tentacles to her best friend becoming a source of all evil controlled by the head Shadow Master. I was inspired by them through other films and television shows I had seen growing up but also video games. I love Tomb Raider when growing up and wanted a feel to it a little like that, in the tombs there were always shadows that monsters could hide in and I wanted to play on that feeling of what the shadows in my books could hide inside them.
 
Q. Which of your protagonists do you find is the most like you? Which one is the least?
A. I think Stacie from Alone is a bit like me in the sense I gave her blonde hair and mine is naturally blonde. I saw a lot of protagonists that were heroines with dark flowing brunette locks and wanted someone I could connect with. I would also like to think that in a situation where the world was overrun by zombie like creatures I would be a survivor like her. I think Selene would be the least like myself but in a way they are all extensions of me so I can’t completely rule her out as not being like me a little bit.
 
Q. What do you find is the most rewarding part about writing?
A. Holding the published paperback copy in your hands, the smell of the new book and the feeling of accomplishment but also the proudness of my husband. He supports me so much with my writing and that is really rewarding because although they might not get anywhere in the book world he is proud of me and that makes it worth it.
 
Q. Some authors spend years editing their work, others don’t have an editing process at all. How long do you usually spend on your novels, and what advice do you give to fellow writers when it comes to editing?
A. Each novel normally takes me around a year to write and edit. I tend to write one for a couple of months, leave it and start another one, then go back to the first one, finish it and edit it. My advice when it comes to editing is; mistakes happen!! I have to edit all my own work I cannot afford for a professional, I also know someone who had her work stolen by an editor who published the work as their own and she had to fight and spend money on Solicitors and Lawyers to get it back which scares me, so I find trusting people with my work hard due to her experience. But I would say we are only human, there is going to be the odd spelling or grammar mistake no matter how many times you read it. I love my mistakes because to me I know that I made that work by myself, it was all my hard work and dedication that gave birth to my book baby and no one else.
 
Q. Do you set writing goals for yourself, or do you prefer to have a more freeform style with your work?
A. My writing is more freeform, I just write and hope to finish by a certain time of year. I normally publish books around March and August time so I just aim for those months with my works that are nearly complete.
 
Q. Which villain from a book or movie do you love the most? Which hero do you love the least?
!!!SPOILERS FOR WALKING DEAD IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN UP TO SEASON 7!!!
I’m obsessed with The Walking Dead and the Villain I love the most on there is Negan. He’s a lovable rouge even if he did kill my Glenn (highlight for word) which I don’t think I can fully forgive him for. I like how funny and charming he can be but also the dark, evil side is a bit attractive haha. The Hero I’m not the most keen on is Bella in Twilight, I actually loved the books and I liked Bella in the book but in the film I found her irritating and not at all like I’d imagined her but I guess that’s the risk with book to film adaptations.
 
Q. Who do you find yourself relying on the most in your writing life?
A. My husband, he is quite knowledgeable about things and I’m always asking him questions. He also advises me on the storyline and the characters. He is also like my agent as he’s always telling people about my books and getting me a few more sales.
 
Q. What’s your guilty pleasure “cliche character trait” do you love, even when everyone else says it’s over done?
A. The teenager that is the ‘One’ the chosen one. I know people find it overdone and annoying but I love it and enjoy reading and writing it.
 
Q. Tell us a little bit about the world of “Junia”! What’s your favorite part about world building?
A. Junia is a world built on magic and shaped like a pentacle star, each section or country represents a different magical element and has different cultures and races living there. I love world building because I can make it how I see fit, I make it fit my book not the other way around.
 
Q. The release date for your fourth book, Junia was set for April 9th. How do you prepare yourself for book release dates and how’s the event planning going?
A. The release party was indeed the 9th April although it had been out since mid March. I prepare by using apps on my phone to create fun games, create pictures with snippets from the book and teasers, I always buy one of my books to use in a competition that someone can win. It takes a lot of planning it’s not something you can just throw together.  I also make my book free to download as obviously as an author you want as many people to read it as possible and leave a review or two 😉. Next up I want to do a signing day at my local library or supermarket but I have to wait till pay day to order some more books.
 
Q. What’s next on your agenda? What’s your next project and when do you plan on finishing it.
A. I’m currently writing the final book in my Alone series, the end to my own zombie apocalypse. I’ve written half of it but with getting Junia ready it did take a little bit of a back seat but now I can plan and write again for it. I plan for it to be released around August time if I get my butt in gear that is.
 
Thanks for having me. xxxx
bdrWant to learn more about Mercedes Prunty, her love of vampires, and the world of Junia? Check her out below!
Twitter: @MercedesPrunty
Instagram: MercedesPrunty
 (.Com link)
(.Co.uk link)

10 Things About Me

Since I’ve wound up with a few new followers recently, I decide to do a little introduction.

Here are ten things about me that you might not have known.

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10. I’ve barely been outside the United States. I’m from Texas originally, so going to Mexico wasn’t that far of a trip, but one day I’d like to actually travel outside North America.

9. My music bank is mostly full of what my husband calls “cheesy indie songs” by bands like Oh Wonder, Amber Run, and Bastille… and Ninja Sex Party. I love Ninja Sex Party more than I probably should.

8. I got engaged a week before my 19th birthday and got married when I was 21. My husband occasionally gives input to my blog posts, or I’ll include his opinions on certain subjects. Mostly we travel together in our camper van and talk about what life will be like outside of the military.

7. My best friend, who I refer to as “Alaska” in many blog posts, is one of the main reasons why I write. She’s been someone I can count on through thick and thin, and I don’t know what I’d do without her.

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6. I have two dogs, a mastiff named Zeus and a lab named Hank. Hank is usually my writing buddy and is almost always at my feet whenever I’m working on the computer. Zeus, on the other hand, doesn’t care about my writing time at all.

5. I prefer to write male characters, as I’ve never felt like I’ve connected to my female leads. There are a few exceptions to this, but I generally wind up liking my male characters better.

4. Dragon Age is my favorite video game franchise. I’ve even read books the original creator put out just to get to know the world better.

3. When not writing, I work at a museum to make extra cash in a minor managerial role. It’s a pretty big source of inspiration, especially when it comes to talking to artists, meeting people from all walks of life, and interacting with tourists.

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2. My top five celebrity crushes are Adrien Brody, Mads Mikkelsen, Jason Momoa, Mathias Lauridsen, and Idris Alba. There’s a wide array of faces between those guys, jeez…

1. I started out drawing before I considered writing as a serious profession. My artwork was in a few galleries in Texas, and was up in a 3 night showing as part of a exhibit in Detroit. I still paint and sketch on occasion, but I found writing to be what I’m more passionate about pursuing.

 

Hope you enjoyed this little peek into my life! Tell me a little bit about yourself. Do you have a thing for dragon rp games, or are you just a fan of Mads like I am?

Connect with me on….

Facebook: @aemcauleywriter
Twitter: @aemcauley
Instagram: @aemcauley
Website:  http://aemcauley.wixsite.com/author/

10 Things To Watch for When Self Editing

I’ve been reading quite a lot of self-published work lately. Some great, others not so great, and what I’ve realized is most problems that arise in self-published writing comes down to the editing. Misspelled words, incorrect grammar, page layout, and fixing minor style problems are all things that slow your story down and get in the way of what could be a great novel.

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Now I’m not an editor by any means, but here are some things I’ve learned in my own work and in reading others that will improve your writing.

  1. Watch out for the same word showing up multiple times in back to back sentences. “She went up the stairs, and woke her sister up. “You’re late, it’s time to get up.”” It’s repetitive.
  2. U.S. writers have different spellings and word usages than other English speaking countries, which is fine, but make sure you’re being consistent. No “towards” in one sentence then “toward” in the following paragraph, or no criticizing one minute and then criticising the next. If you’re going to call “pants” “trousers” and “underwear” “pants”, stick with it through the whole book.
  3. When a new character starts speaking, start a new line. It’s very confusing looking at a wall of text and slows down the reader when they have to figure out who’s saying what.
  4. “And then she went up and walked down stairs. Then she smiled at her mother. Then she….” You get it right? “And then” can ruin a good book. Not only because it’s repetitive. It makes the story bland.
  5. Cut out flabby words in general. Better writers than me have written articles on this, check them out here and here. It might not always apply, but there are a lot of excess words that make a great book fall from readers’ graces.
  6. Say your dialogue out loud to see how realistic it sounds. A modern thirteen year old saying things like “Where do you purpose I venture from here?” sounds strange, if it’s not in the context of the story.
  7. When you make point of view changes, give a heads up by either changing the chapter, or separating it somehow from the rest of the work. Jumping into one character’s head and then another can be jarring for the audience.
  8. Keep your characters consistent. If your character doesn’t know something, they can’t suddenly have all the answers just because they read one paragraph of a news article. Or my favorite character inconsistency, “I’m a virgin who doesn’t even know how sex works”, but two pages later, “OMG that cutie has me thinking up dirtier things than Fifty Shades of Grey mixed with German torture porn.” It cracks me up every time.
  9. Keep the tone and style consistent. A book that starts out like Shakespeare, but ends like Stephenie Meyer after the fifth chapter, then turns into Hemmingway by the tenth gets confusing. All authors have their merits, but if you’re trying to copy a style, make sure you keep it steady. Again, this is only if it doesn’t make sense in the narrative. I’m sure there’s someone who’s pulled off changing styles, when it was in the context of the story.
  10. Conveniences are my least favorite thing in ANY book, self published or otherwise. This is the “The door was locked, but luckily he knew how to pick it using nothing but a spoon. But when he opened the door there was someone with a gun. Lucky for him, he knew how to use kung fu! They pushed him out a window, but luckily, he had super powers and whole time and could fly!” No one, not even a leprechaun holding a horseshoe made of rabbit feet, while also wearing a suit of four leaf clovers is this lucky! If you notice your character somehow getting out of every single situation from unexplained help, it might be time to make some edits.

Agree with my list? How do you go about editing your novel? What advice can you give to people who are new to editing their work?

From The Roots of The Family Tree – A writing exercise

It’s always surprising to me when I talk to writers and they know next to nothing about their character’s family history. Not because it’s a bad thing, but because I can’t get through writing my novel if I don’t come up with a few family dynamics for my main characters.

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This sort of thing helps me come up with everything from the character’s name to how they respond in social situations. Here’s a quick checklist I use when creating my character’s family history.

Who were their parental figures?: Not every character has to have a living parent, but everyone, whether they realize it or not, puts someone in that parental role. Who shaped your character’s life as a parent?
Why did their parents name them what they did?: This is by far my favorite way to name characters, because let’s face it, we have no control over what our names are, unless we change them. Which brings me to my next point – Why did they change their birth name if they no longer go by what their parents called them?
What philosophy or religion were they raised under?: While their parents might not have said “We’re raising you to be a stoic!” they very well could’ve kept a “tight upper lip” policy in the house. If you’re uncertain, here’s a huge list of philosophies and religions to research.
What’s their relationship with their siblings?: Or cousins, depending on if they have siblings or not. If they don’t have siblings, why don’t they have siblings, and how do they feel about being an only child?
Is the family a matriachy or a patriarchy?: Who’s more respected and looked up to in the family? A grand/mother or grand/father figure?
Who was the comforter and who was the teacher in the family?: Who did the character go to when they needed support, and who did they go to when they needed to be taught a life lesson?
How important was education, money and politics in the house?: Usually, this will be a basis for how your character acts towards society and the political sciences. While it might have nothing to do with your book, it does help build how they react to the world around them.
Do they still keep in touch with family members today?: Again, if your character doesn’t have any blood relatives, do they keep in touch with people they assigned the “family role”?

How do you build your character? Do you start from the family tree and move on, or do you have a different method?

Let me know if this sheet helps, and feel free to share with others.

Things to Do While Waiting for Agent Responses

I started submitting my first novel, Flightless, to agents this month, and one thing’s been made clear to me. I am NOT a patient person. The people who really know me will be shaking their heads right now, because they know this already, but to everyone who’s learning about me through my blog will quickly find out waiting is not my strong suit.

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To fill the time, I’ve come up with little ways to keep my mind off of the waiting game that is, “Will this agent like my work or not?”. Hopefully this will help anyone else who’s waiting, or at the very least make you feel less alone.
Start my next novel.
With Flightless over with, and three more books planned in the series, I’ve decided to take a little brake from my world of winged people and step into something a little bit darker. Wake the Dead is my next big project, and damn I am doing a lot of research. I’m creating my own magical system that revolves around life and death, and I’m learning all about alchemy, European magical societies, and high magical practices. It’s a lot of fun, and I can’t wait to get the project under way.

Play video games.
I don’t claim to be a “gamer girl” by any means, and really, I could only tell you about a few games I enjoy playing. I pass the time with things like Portal, Dragon Age: Inquisition, and Fable, or when I’m feeling nostalgic, Super Mario World. Diving into someone else’s story, in a different medium other than writing, helps me take my mind off work and lets me focus on the important things in life, like killing darkspawn and smashing koopas.

Read a new book, outside my genre.
I’m a fantasy/sci-fi girl at heart, but what do I really love to read? Crime and suspense! Give me a murder scene over a ride through a magical kingdom, or a daring detective over a knight in shining armor any day. Right now, I’m reading Crimson Lake, by Candice Fox and let me tell you, this author doesn’t disappoint. I’ve already breezed through Hades, ordered Eden, and pre-ordered Fall, when she offered to send me Crimson Lake after a book review. Now, all things are on hold while I finish this intense crime novel and her work helps me keep my mind off the “will they, won’t they” of my agent/author relationship.

Get off social media.
I’ll admit it. I’ve followed every agent I’ve queried, or want to query, just to keep up with them. I look into what conferences they’re going to, what online chats they might be participating in, or just generally what they’re looking for in an author. While I’ve been told this is a good strategy, this also means I’m not exactly taking my mind off all those queries floating around. So I started spending time away from social media to keep my mind off things. This has been the most useful technique thus far.

Watch a movie/tv show you know is bad.
My best friend “Alaska” will tell you, I have the worse taste in movies and TV shows. I don’t know what it is about cheesy, over the top action flicks or predictable television, but I find it hilarious and enjoyable. That’s not to say I don’t like “critically acclaimed” works out there, I’m just more likely to watch “Chronicles of Riddick” over “Annie Hall” when I want to be distracted. These sort of things are brain cotton candy for me, and it’s a great way to stop thinking about something serious and just have a good time.

And lastly, clean the house.
This is when I get really desperate, and we’re not just talking about doing dishes, or other piddily chores. No, I’m talking a top to bottom, dust the corners of the ceiling, take things out of closets, and run all the junk to Goodwill that I’ve been meaning to get rid of for months. Cleaning was always my mother’s way of keeping her world organized, and I think I picked this up from her. It gives you that little bit of control when you feel like you don’t have any. It helps, even if it does leave me exhausted by the end of the day.

Looking for other things to do to get your mind off waiting for an agent yes or no?

  • Visit a place you’ve been meaning to go but have been putting off.
  • Join a writing group to hear how other writers wait for the yes or no.
  • Take up another artistic outlet, or learn a craft you’ve always wanted to try.
  • Invite some friends over for a game night.
  • Work out.
  • Play a mindless phone game.
  • Write a letter to a teacher or adult who inspired you to write. Even if you don’t send it, it’ll help remind you of people who encouraged you in your life.
  • Take yourself out on a date. Go to the movies, see a play, eat at a nice place just to try it.

What helps you keep your mind off the waiting game? Are any of these suggestions one you’ve tried or are wanting to try?

Writing Female Characters: Physical Strength vs. Actual Strength

Say it with me.

“A physically strong female character doesn’t automatically mean a well written character.”

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Too many times, when a writer of any genre or media type wants to create a “strong” character, they make them physically strong.  Unfortunately, this is often done to females. We now live in a world where some writers rebelled so violently against the damsel in distress stereotype, we have many female characters that kick ass but who lack any real story or substance.

And don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying we can’t have female characters who can physically hold their own, but if the only thing a female character is good for is coming in, beating up everyone and then leaving, she’s no better than the underdeveloped “sexy lamp”.

So how do you write a strong female character?

1. Get rid of the words “strong”. If that’s the only adverb you can use to describe a character, she’s underdeveloped. What else is there to her besides her ability to kick ass? What is she passionate about? What is she skilled at that makes her more than just an action figure? 

2. And now that I mention it, stop saying your character is skilled, talented or extremely amazing at something and show it. I remember reading a YA book in my most recent brush with a writer’s group where the protagonist was supposed to be a great mountain climber who could hold her own on the roughest terrain. The character talked about it enough, but there was one problem, we never saw it. Even when it was a crucial part of a story, she’d only say she could handle it, and then she was never given a chance to shine.

Sure, a female lead can say all day long she’s fantastic, but tell the reader what she’s good at when you can show them? Let her share her knowledge instead of insisting she has it. Talk is cheap and if your character does nothing but brag, she loses her credibility. 

3. Create characters who can’t physically kick ass and who have real flaws. It’s no secret I’m a big fan of Patricia Brigg’s work, and in her Alpha and Omega series, the protagonist Anna spends less time relying on her ability to beat someone up and more on her gift of creating peace. She starts out as a quiet, scared little thing and grows into an emotional rock for not only her family, but for herself. She’s the only one who can stand up to even the most bad asses of men all because she’s comfortable with who she is as a person. 

We need more characters like this. We need characters that don’t say to the female audience, “You’re only strong if you can punch someone’s teeth in”. If a character is a great mother, we should celebrate that. If a protagonist is an introvert, we shouldn’t try to fix her. She doesn’t have to be physically strong or violent to be well written. Even if you’re writing a thriller, a superhero novel, or something where a female does need to be physically strong, that shouldn’t be the one thing that defines her. 

The world could use less female characters who are only put in place for kicking ass, and more female characters that are developed and hold their own in any situation.

What female characters do you feel like meet this standard? Which one showed you that it doesn’t take physical strength to be a strong person?

Also, if you’ve written a novel with a female character who’s more than just a one trick pony, lay it on me. I’m always looking for a new read to add to my pile.

Author Interview #8 – Jo Carson-Barr

I’m happy to announce my first children’s book author interview! Jo Carson-Barr creates adorable stories that are great for kids, teaching them about differently abled kids, and also including New Zealand Sign Language into her novels. As someone who grew up involved in the ASL community, I was happy to get a chance to interview her and share her fun books.

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Q. To start, let’s hear a little bit about you, outside of your writing life.

I am a wife, mother, sister, grandmother and I live in Auckland City, New Zealand.

I moved to the city after many years of living in Rural NZ where I was a very active gardener, created pottery and led the ‘good life’. Part of my work history was living and working with people differently abled people.

 

Q. Your children’s book, Talking to Nannie, was translated into New Zealand Sign Language. How has working with the differently abled community influenced your work?

I am keen to portray them in my books in a very natural way.

 

Q. You come from a big family with lots of kids. Do their ideas help shape some of the plots in your work?

A. Yes, their life experiences and mine influenced the short stories I wrote for adults.

My children’s picture books feature my grandchildren….exaggerated of course.

71fZ6hVHMPLQ. Simon Barr has created beautiful, colorful illustrations for your work. Which book do you feel like he’s captured the best?

Simon is my son, so this is a very hard question as they are all amazing…but I would have to say Waata the Weta: Can He Find The Perfect Home? this book has stunning illustrations.

 

Q. Do you ever foresee yourself writing for an older audience, such as Middle Grade, or do you prefer to stick to picture books?

A. I did start off writing short stories for adults, but because I am now working with Simon I imagine we will stay with picture books.

 

Q. When breaking into the world of children’s books, what’s been the most challenging part?

A. I think as a self published author the most challenging part has been the marketing, though I have been quite successful.

Q. On your website, you have the option to buy your books as part of a fundraiser. What fundraiser are you taking part in and how is it close to your heart?

A. We have completed two fundraisers, one for a club who help children and the other for a Hospice. At the moment one of my books is being used as a fundraiser to get a Downs Syndrome woman to attend a Conference in Ireland. This is very satisfying.

 

Q. As a librarian, what did you notice when working with children that’s helped you write educational yet fun books for a younger audience?

A. I must let you know I am not a qualified librarian, just a Play Centre librarian. That position exposed to a large variety of excellent children’s book which fueled my passion to write books and hopefully to add more excellent books to the world.

 

Q. What did you learn the most from your first children’s book, Talking to Nannie, and how do you feel like you’ve improved since then?

A. I learnt …..’I can do this and it is fun’…..and very rewarding working with Simon as a team to produce The GoodBye Chair, The Chill Out Chair and Waata the Weta.

 

Q. When it comes to being an author with a family, there’s always a fine balance between being with them and needing to work. What advice can you give to writers who are trying to find time to write with children and grandchildren?

A. If you have a real passion in your heart to do something you will always find time. I virtually never watch TV!!! Just DO IT.

 

Q. Who’s been the biggest part of your support system when it comes to your writing process?

A. I have a close friend who is an ex school teacher, who reads my manuscripts, helps me when I am stuck, makes suggestions and just tells me to go for it.

 

Q. What do you think is the most enjoyable part about writing for children that you don’t think you’d feel if you were writing for adults?

A. The best part is seeing the children’s faces, when they see the books, or they tell me this is the best books ever, or they just love one of the books and their Mum or dad tell me they have had to read it ten times.

 

Q. If you could sit down with any children’s book author, alive or dead, and have lunch, who would it be?

A. Being a New Zealander, my absolutely favourite children’s author is another New Zealander called Joy Cowley and I would love to have a chance to chat with her.

 

Where_The_Wild_Things_Are_(book)_coverQ. Which children’s book did your children love to have you read to them the most?

Where the Wild Things Are.

Q. You’ve been writing for ten years now. What piece of advice did you receive and didn’t take, but wish you did?

A. To be honest I don’t remember anyone actually giving me any advice. Now days I learn lots on webinars, fb pages, groups etc…..what I wish is that I had started earlier.

 

Q. Lastly, tell us a little bit about your upcoming projects, and when you hope to have them finished.

We have just finished The Chill Out Chair and are waiting for the books to arrive from the printer. We hope to have our third book in the Nicholas series and two more adventures of Waata the Weta by the end of the year and then I want to do a simpler version of the Nicholas stories for a board book series.

 

Want to learn more about this author? Check out her websites below, and be sure to look out for her newest children’s books!

Website: http://www.veritasaotearoa.co.nz
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/josephinecarsonbarr/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jocarsonbarr/

 

Authors Who Changed my Life – Neal Shusterman

The original copy of my favorite book of his, purchased when I was 13.

In 2004, I was a big eyed, quiet, never quite fitting in 13 year old. I hid in the library during lunch, wrote stories inspired by whatever book I was reading and had a close friendship with the librarian. Books were an escape from a hectic homelife and Neal Shusterman’s work was my favorite place to run to.

When the school announced they had invited Shusterman for a talk on writing, the librarian knew how much I loved his books, and snuck me in to the advanced class’s private talk with him. Now, I doubt he remembers me. In fact, I’m positive he doesn’t. I was one girl, in one small town Texas middle school, out of hundreds he’s gone to. He met me for maybe five minutes, but those five minutes changed my life more than he’ll ever know.

Sitting in the back of the room, I hung on every word he said. Here was my favorite author, an idol in the eyes a eighth grader, the person who created all the books I loved. A real writer. 

When he finished his talk, I lingered behind a long line to get his autograph. Unlike the other kids who rushed to greet him, however, I didn’t have one of his books in hand. I had five pages of a story I wrote.

I didn’t know why I brought those pages then, and still don’t know why it was so important now, but when I walked up to him, I held them out and said. “Full Tilt’s my favorite book. I want to be a writer, but I’m not very good.”

He could’ve just laughed, or told me to head out because I was one of the last kids of the day. Instead, he smiled and said something to me I’ll never forget. “I bet it’s great! Be proud of your work. If you keep it up, you’ll be a writer one day. You just need to practice and never give up.”

I was shocked. He was the first adult to ever tell me that. No one, not my mother or father, not teachers, no one encouraged me to write.

It was just five minutes of his life, and four sentences he probably told a lot of kids, but that was all it took for him to encourage a shy kid who didn’t have faith in her work. 

I’m 27 now, and last month I started sending my first novel to agents. I have to say, wherever Neal Shusterman is, I thank him. He said the words I didn’t know I needed, but that I still cherish to this day.

If you’re an artist of any medium, don’t underestimate how your words can help a child. You never know how much they might need that little push of encouragement.

Which author changed your writing life? Who do you have to thank for helping you get where you are today?


Learn more about Neal Shusterman here.

Author. Blogger. Traveler.