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?

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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.

Writing Prompt – Two Types of People

In 300 words or less, write a short story inspired by the theme “Two Types of People”. Post your writing and I’ll pick my favorite to feature in my next blog post!

Two Types of People

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There are two types of people who go to a funeral. The first type are the ones who are sad to see the deceased go. They wail and make a right mess of themselves over something that’s going to happen to everyone. This group turns everyone else off to the experience.

The other type are the ones who are happy to see the person in the box go. Sometimes these cheery folks aren’t even allowed to step foot in the church in the first place. On the rare instance that they are, it’s funny to see them try to hide it. They sit there with a grin on their face like they’re at some god damn carnival and give away how happy they are. This group is full of idiots.

I land somewhere between these two groups.

Now this probably makes you wonder if that would make me a third group. My answer to that is shut up and let me work my explanation. There are two groups. I’m in between.

Why am I happy and sad at the same time?

I’m happy cause the woman in that box is someone I hated more than anyone else in the whole god damned world. But it’s a bittersweet kind of happy. I loved to hate her, and I don’t know what I’ll end up doing with myself now that she’s dead.

Then again, I was the one who killed her. That’s always good. Although who else will I get to kill now that the woman who made my life a living hell is gone? I should’a worked up to her, maybe start with a few other annoying people before I took all my anger out on the person who really deserved it. I probably would feel a little more satisfied.

Why Bad Reviews Are Actually Great

It’s every writer’s worst nightmare. Or really any artist’s. You put weeks of work, maybe even months or years, into a creative project. There are long nights, days you forget to eat, and more coffee than any human being should rationally consume, but when that project is finally done, it’s not just a book, or a song, or a painting. It’s YOU.

And then the wake up call comes. Reviews come in and the world absolutely hates it.

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It’s hard hearing a negative review. People telling you something you put all that time and effort into, is bad can hurt. But let me tell you, bad reviews are a good thing.

Before you close the page for thinking I’m crazy, hear me out.

When you get a bad review, or even a hundred bad reviews, there’s only one place you can go from there. Up. Well, you could stop creating art all together, but then the only person you’re hurting is yourself. Instead of looking at negative feedback as an attack, see it as you’re starting at square one, and now all you have to do is create something better than the first piece of art you put out to the world.

Still getting bad reviews after your tenth submission? Maybe it’s time to learn from that feedback. Now, I will say learning from trolls is going to be near impossible, but you can learn from the negative feedback you get from people who are giving constructive criticism. If you keep doing the same thing, over and over again, and expecting people to feel differently about your work, the only person you have to blame is yourself. Take a step back, hear what they’re saying, and learn from your mistakes.

And lastly, negative feedback keeps you humble and teaches you how you handle rejection from your audience. When you talk to authors who are on their third or fourth book, they’ll all tell you the same thing. You can’t please everyone 100% of the time. You can, however, learn how to overcome the insecurities that piggyback on artists from every field. When you see that negative review, acknowledge that it hurts, but instead of giving up, move on. Know that person isn’t in the demographic you’re writing for and find a different audience.

I know it’s easier to say this than to do it, but trust me. The minute you learn how to handle rejection from the audience, the more you’ll be able to tap into a creative part of yourself that isn’t afraid of what others will think.

 

How do you handle rejection when it comes to your artform? What keeps you going when you get a negative review?

Author Interview #7 – Alexandra Badita

My favorite part about these author interviews are getting to speak with and learn about writers from all genres and walks of life. This week, I have Alexandra Badita, a woman who’s actively trying to make the world a better place through her blogs and writings.

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Q. I like to start with a quick introduction. Tell the audience a little bit about what your life is like outside your writing life. 

A. My day to day job is juggling tasks and deadlines as project manager in a digital marketing agency. Writing though keeps my evenings and weekends busy, together with my other passions that I try to squeeze in my schedule, such as salsa dancing, learning to play the piano, reading, getting better at cooking, volunteering in a bookstore and discovering my current city of adoption, London.

 

Q. In your blog, you talk about how you came up with the word “Impressivity”, and that people should “make impressions wherever they go”. How do you live your life by this mantra, and what advice can you give to live a more impressioned life?

A. When I thought about this word, I pictured all the small things from our daily routine that can make an impression on us, like spotting a blossom tree on the way to the office or smelling the fresh croissants from the street bakery, as well as big things that make a bigger impact. Impressivity also incorporates the meaning of each of us making an impression on the world surrounding us, as the beautiful and unique individuals that we are. I just believe we all need to collect daily impressions and also leave an impression  whenever we step into a room and there is no secret recipe for all this, just take the time to observe and be observed.

 

Q. I was taken by your website, “The Guy That”. What inspired you to create a website to help people through their past relationships?

A. Writing has always been the best way for me to get over strong emotional episodes in my life. Besides, I figured there are so many things – crazy, beautiful, interesting things –  happening in my life on that front, that I might as well share my stories and maybe other women will learn from my mistakes. When I hit the depression stage a couple of years back, I went to therapy for a while and the best cure was the writing exercise that my therapist recommended. Putting feelings onto paper is one of the most useful tools to cope with extreme emotions. That combined with my passion for writing about relationships lead to “The Guy That” idea.

 

Q. As you help people through relationships, give advice on everything from life, to fashion, to your life in London, who’s there for you the most when you need advice?

A. I obviously turn to my friends for pieces of advice and to my parents, but  there are situations when I choose to stay introvert and debate it with myself rather than put it on someone else’s account.

Q. What would you recommend for people who want to tell their stories but are too nervous or don’t know where to start?

A. Write it, then burn the paper. If it’s the fear to share your thoughts, this will come with time and confidence and understanding that one must not be ashamed of their feelings. But the most important step is to write your feelings down, your thoughts and everything that seems unnatural to be spoken out loud. Then rip it out or burn it. But once the first wave of relief washes over you, writing will soon be the best reflection of the stories that you keep inside and deserve to be shared.

 

Q. In the “How To” portion of your blog, you have a great list of “How to make time for things that really matter”.  Do you find it easy to take your own advice, or is that something you have to work on?

A. It’s definitely not easy to juggle with a day job, a side hustle, hobbies and an active social life. And I know most of the people manage it. But my 3-step secret to be able to keep up with the schedule is to ‘List, Prioritize, Commit’. I hear so many of my friends finding excuses  that they don’t have time to accomplish their goals. But it’s all about time management. Not having time is my own fault for not being able to prioritize. Finding excuses won’t make the day longer or put more minutes in an hour. We make the choice. We commit to what is important to us.

 

Q. You do a lot of traveling, and have pictures of yourself in places all over the globe. Where’s one place in particular that you are the most inspired as a writer?

A. The best places where inspiration hits me happen to be by the water – whether it’s at the seaside, on the quiet shore of Edinburgh’s beach, along the Seine river in Paris or just by the Thames in my London neighborhood. Water always calms me down, lets my thoughts clear away and gives me a sense of clarity.

 

2326098Q. What book would you say has made the most lasting impression in your life?

A. The How of Happiness by Sonja Lyubomirsky was one of
the life-changing books that gave me a new perspective into the abstract concept of happiness. After my panic attack and coming close to depression, I became more and more interested in this whole happiness pursuit and reading this book has opened so many windows of my understanding.

 

Q. What have you found to be the most rewarding part about your writing?

A. Writing has always helped me in the soul-healing process, but beyond the personal benefit, the best rewards are the pieces of feedback from my blogs’ readers who find meaning and useful lessons in what they read.

 

Q. Like many writers, finding inspiration can be difficult and often times an uphill battle. How do you deal with writer’s block when working on your blog, or is it something you don’t believe in, in the first place.

A. I wish this was just a myth, but I’ve experienced writer’s block to the extreme decision of taking a break from writing. After going through an attempt to a relationship that dropped my self-esteem level and drained my whole energy, I just couldn’t get myself together to write down the experience. Whenever I’d sit down in front of the computer, I would stare at the blank Word document trying to dive into my thoughts but I was too angry with myself for having allowed  my inner balance to be shaken again. It was too painful to accept having been offended to such an extent that I considered myself guilty. I had to deal with all the demons first, then I went by myself on a trip to Paris to reflect and reach my healing point and only then I started to write again.

 

Q. Are you working on making your blog or website into a book any time soon?

A. My plan for this year includes writing a book about – what else? –  writing. People need to be encouraged to find their way into this beautiful world of healing through writing and I believe that there is a writer in all of us.

 

Q. On top of giving advice, you also do movie reviews and talk about current films that are popular in today’s culture. What do you think makes for a good movie, and what type of movie would you like to see more of?

A. As far as I am concerned, a good movie has to connect with myself and reflect a realistic way of seeing life. I am not a fan of SF or action movies, although I do appreciate their entertainment value. But I am more intrigued by movies that question real life aspects like Richard Linklater’s trilogy of the Befores (“Before Sunrise”, “Before Sunset”, “Before Midnight”) or Woody Allen’s films.

 

Q. What is your favorite part of living in London?

A. I have to admit, I’m not a fan of big cities. But there is always something to do here: if you want to be entertained, you just look up plays, shows, the newest bar, or if you want to take a long walk, you just get comfortable shoes and head to one of the parks or along the river. I am lucky to live in a beautiful neighborhood and I rarely feel the need to indulge in the hustle and bustle of the city.

 

51j10qkqfsL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Q. Let’s say you’re snowed in for a few days, and you only have five books in your whole house to keep you busy. Which five books are they?

A. “Indian Love poems” – I just can’t get enough of reading them, there is a special way of putting love into words in the Indian culture; “Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now” by Maya Angelou – so many great lessons and insights on feminism, racism and much more; “The How of happiness”; “A Tale of Love and Darkness” by Amos Oz – the writing was really impressive and I’d love to re-read it, “The Girl With The Lower Back Tattoo” by Amy Schumer – she’s funny and witty, curious to see how she puts it in writing.

 

Q. Your goals for 2017 was to push yourself out of your comfort zone. How have you been reaching for this goal, and what do you have planned to help you achieve this in the future?

A. Although it’s only been less than half a year since my New Year’s Resolutions, I have to proudly admit I already took a couple of steps that were the most frightening to me. One was my trip to India in March, which included so many firsts ( first long flight, first trip to Asia, first time applying for a visa and so on). But I am so happy I did it and now my travel planning is no longer limited to Europe, I can be more confident when thinking about future destinations. Another big step outside of my comfort zone was launching “The Guy That”, after two years of playing with the idea of this project and I am excited to plan its evolution into more and more challenging tasks. It’s the only way to succeed.

 

Q. Your fashion photos and personal style looks like it came straight off the runway! If you could sit down to brunch with any fashion icon, past or present, who would it be and why?

A. Fashion is for me more of an esthetic way of playing with impressions. Dress to impress, right? There are many icons along the history who made daring steps in the evolution of this art, but if I could sit down and talk fashion, I would do it with Annie Leibovitz, one of my favorite fashion and portrait photographers. I’m sure she’s seen so much style and beauty in her photo shoots that her stories must be fascinating.

 

Q. Lastly, are there any big projects coming up on your horizon that you’d like to promote, or talk about?

A. Many ideas are lined up on my agenda and it may be premature to talk about them, but I would like to see my websites helping as many people through live workshops and online courses and obviously through the upcoming book that will be full of tips and valuable advice for healing through writing.

 

Want to know more about Alexandra and her projects? Check out the links below!

34b98e6Website: www.theguythat.com
Blog: www.impressivity.net
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Impressivity_
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/impressivity/ & https://www.facebook.com/theguythat/
Instagram: http://instagram.com/impressivity_by_alexandra & https://www.instagram.com/the_guy_that/
Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/impressivity/ & https://www.pinterest.com/theguythat/
G+: https://www.google.com/+ImpressivityNetbyAlexandra

 

 

If I Were a Character… – A writing exercise

There are little things about characters that make them more real to both the author and the audience. Birthmarks, scars, and little quirks are all things that contribute to who that character is and how they act in a story.

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Victoria Griffin created a list back on April 10th, 2016 to pinpoint the things about herself that made HER a character. Check out what would make her stand out on a page here, but in the meantime, I figured I’d jump on board and play along with my own personal version of the game.

What makes me a character….

  • I have a scar on the left side of my head from not wearing a helmet on a bike ride to work. I had to get twelve staples and it still aches sometimes.
  • I have a bad habit of biting my cuticles till they bleed when I’m very nervous.
  • Half my head is shaved, the other half is almost to the middle of my back, but when I’m working, it’s always thrown up in a bun.
  • My clothes always have at least five strands of dog hair on them.
  • I rely on my stage acting knowledge to come off as more confident than I really feel.
  • I whistle way more than is probably socially acceptable.
  • There’s usually something odd in my pocket (worry stone, tiny Ganesha, a nail or screw from a project, a shell I thought was cool, etc.)
  • I’m almost always wearing jeans and flip flops, if the weather permits.

 

How about you? What makes you a character, and how can you pick out little things to make your MC unique? Not a writer? What little things do some of your favorite characters do, have or say that makes them unique?

Author Interview #6 – Claire Brown

Time travel, war, and a dog named Hero. Claire Brown’s social media caught my attention the instant I saw it, and since I’m a sucker for all three of those things, I spent hours panning through her pages. With three books under her belt, and more on the way, I hope to be able to do a book review for her work soon. For now, enjoy her interview, and keep an eye out for more from her in the future.

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Q.  As always, I like to do an introduction before we get to the writing questions. Tell us a little bit about yourself, outside of your writing life.

I don’t think I’m ever outside of my writing life!  I’m one of those writers where there is always a story in my head playing like a movie in the back of my mind.  

That aside, I’m an avid reader, movie goer, theater lover, baker and dog walker.

 

Q. I already mentioned this to you, but your dog, Hero, looks like such a sweetie. IMG_1598What are the joys that come when working with a close animal companion?

Thank you, Hero is as his name suggests a ‘hero’.  He’s a four year old Golden Retriever.  I’ve had Retrievers most of my life, Hero came in to my life when he was four weeks old and I was looking for a companion for my mam while I was at work.  We’d lost my dad the year before, while he was ill we couldn’t have pets but without him and without a dog there was just something missing.  From the moment we met Hero and he decided to chew my shoe we knew he was meant to be with us. 

HeroSo since the day we brought him home at 9 weeks he’s been a joy to be around.  Even as I write this he’s sitting beside me trying to close my laptop so I will take him for a walk.  He’s the kind of dog that makes you move, he never leaves your side and he makes you laugh everyday. 

He is the inspiration behind Captain in The Poppy Garden because he is in his own way a service dog to us.  He’s just a very naughty one!

 

JonahAxe_SMASHWORDSQ. Your Jonah Axe Series looks filled with action, adventure, and time travel. What inspired you to write this series, and how many books are you planning on writing for it?

Like most people there are times in life when something happens or you do something and wonder what if I’d done it differently, would things be better, worse or just the same?  I decided if there was a way to change things in life how would that work and how would it impact the lives of the people given that power to change things. 

I think the opportunities for the series are endless, I have drafted out a second novel which would look a little deeper in to the background of some of the main characters, after that I  have considered going back in time to the Tudor court, to Jack the Ripper and so on. 

 

 

Q. Being from Sunderland, England, what made you want to study American history?

I always had an obsession with America from childhood, I’m not quite sure where it came from.  When I applied for University and was talking to advisers about courses one recommended Joint Honours and since it gave me the opportunity to go to the USA and study there as well as in the UK I jumped at the chance.  I studied at Western Washington University for part of my second year and made some great friends.  

 

ThePoppyGarden_iPADQ. As a military spouse, I’m always grateful to writers who capture how war affects not only those who fight, but those they come home to. When writing The Poppy Garden, were you able to speak with multiple veterans, or was it inspired by solely your grandfather’s experiences?

I lost my grandfather when I was 16, and I always feel that the book of his life has so many blank pages. I tried for a long time to fill in those blanks but there is a lot of information on what happened to him that it’s just not possible to uncover. I couldn’t tell his story completely and that always frustrated me.

I was working in my garden one day trying to restore it from the manic digging of Hero when it dawned on me how much my grandfather relied on his garden and that it wasn’t just a hobby  for him.   When I started to think about it in a different way I found that there was another story I could tell. Initially I was able to speak to my grandfather’s brother who could tell me what happened once my grandfather got home. 

As part of my research I have spoken to a lot of ex-service personnel from forces and other uniformed services and I also managed to contact a member of my grandfather’s crew who told me what had happened to all members of the crew after WW2 and how they had coped or not as the case may be. 

I also looked to the women in my family who had coped with extremely stressful situations and how they were able to support their partners they became the inspiration for Sky. 

 

Q. Authors from all walks of life it seems has an opinion on one very controversial topic. Writer’s block. Do you believe in it, and if so, how do you get out of these slumps?

Oh yes I believe in it and I have had periods where I just haven’t been able to write.  I think for me it’s when real life outside of writing becomes too stressful or there is too much going on and your mind is just too tired.    I usually try not to beat myself up about it, I’ll try other things to relax be it go for a walk, go to the gym, read a book.  I think it’s about giving myself permission to have a break, not feel guilty about not writing and allow my mind and body to relax, then when I’m ready the ideas will start coming back. 

 

Q. Looking back on the past three novels you’ve written, what advice would you give to not only your younger self, but writers just starting to put out their books?

Write, just write anything and everything, don’t get hung up on the end goal whatever that is for you.  Write whatever your imagination inspires you to write.  Not every idea will become a book, maybe you’ll have an idea but you don’t really expand on it for a year or so, the main thing is you sit down, make time for writing to be part of your life because it makes you happy. 

When you have your framework or even finish your book, don’t be disheartened by those who criticize you, not everyone will love everything – it would be a rather boring world if that were so.  Pick your reviewers carefully, family and friends are great but if your friend is a horror fan giving them a romantic drama probably isn’t the best idea.   

At the end of the day as long as writing makes you happy that’s the most important thing. 

 

Q. With your extensive knowledge in history, what time period do you find yourself drawn to the most, and why?

I think it would have to be either Tudor England or WW2.  

When I was around six or seven I remember getting a magazine on Queen Elizabeth I and since then I’ve always loved the Tudor period.  I’m constantly watching documentaries about it and reading up on the dynasty from the War of the Roses through to the Gunpowder plot. 

Obviously my interest in WW2 stems from my grandfather, I used to spend my weekends with him and my Nan watching old movies, listening to Glenn Miller.  I also think my personal style suits 1930’s/1940’s dress – just as some people love the Boho look or goth look I tend to love that Old Hollywood style. 

I think everyone has some time or something that they harken back to as almost a golden age, looking at it through rose tinted glasses and that’s probably how I look at both these time periods.

 

Q. The editing process can be a long road if you don’t know where to start. When it comes to make adjustments to your first draft, what’s the first thing you look to improve on?

Initially once I’ve completed a work, I give myself around two weeks away from it so when I go back to it it’s with a fresh mind.  I then tend to work on grammar, layout and story edits as I go.   I think once I have it in almost the right format it’s easier for me to work through and spot the errors, omissions in the story.  I can then work on expanding where I need to or cutting out what’s no longer necessary. 

 

Q. From your blog, you say you have a love of baking. What would be your favorite pastry to make, and your favorite pastry to eat?

I’m love making a steak pie – I do have to be careful with some foods so I tend to make it how my nan taught me as a puff pastry top rather than a full pastry base.  There’s nothing better than having that golden crispy top to slice through and hear crack and crumble. 

On the sweet side at the moment I’ve been making a lot of Jam twists and spirals which are so simple to make and taste great.  Or there is a recipe I came across on Goodfood to make an almond biscuit which is like a cross between a meringue and a macaroon which are completely addictive. 

If I’m buying a pastry I’m a sucker for an almond croissant.  I love anything with almonds and/or marzipan. 

Q. What made you decide to do the independent route when it came time to publish your books, and how has it been the most rewarding?

I had tried from the age of nineteen to go down the traditional publishing route with a few projects including a screen play and radio play.  I took some time away from writing during my dad’s illness, after I lost him I decided life was too short to wait for someone to believe in me and if I wanted to be a published writer there were now ways and means that weren’t available when I was nineteen. 

It was a great moment for me to finally see my work in print – as a paper back and as an ebook, it did boost my spirits and help me in darker times to focus. 

 

Q. In Chapter 9 of your blog is all about the right visual for book covers, and I agree with you that Jeanie Henning’s work is eye catching and beautiful. While many authors don’t even get to speak with their cover artists, let alone have a say in what goes on said cover, what’s your favorite part about building your cover with a fellow artist?

I was really lucky to find Jeanie when I did, she’s a great artist where as my artistic talents are probably more like a two year old with colouring pencils.  I’m creative just not artistic!  Jeanie is great as she has a way of working that really works for me.  For my first two novels we work on a Q&A basis from which she draws out the major points of the novel and works on creating images to match that.  Once she has a draft we discuss it and make minor changes.

For The Poppy Garden, it was a slightly different process as I knew the visual I wanted – I put in to words what I was looking for provided some images and Jeanie expanded on that.  The first version we discussed and tweaked before we got to what is the cover now. 

I think for me its vital to get a cover I love as it represents me and my work so I have to really connect with it. 

 

Q. What genre do you love to read the most, and who’s your favorite author in said genre?

I can be pretty eclectic in all things, books, movies and films. 

I do love Agatha Christie, so when I want something familiar and reassuring that I know I’ll love I tend to go for a cozy mystery, I love the Agatha Raisin Series and recently I’ve been reading some of the British Library Crime Classics which are brilliant.

History wise I love reading Lucy Worsley, her book The Art of British Murder is a favorite.

Romantic Drama’s are great and I’ve really enjoyed books by Fiona Harper, Samantha Tongue, Holly Martin and Lisa Dickinson. 

I’m also a Christmas obsessive so any Christmas book is good for me.  I love classics like A Christmas Carol each year I have a stock of Christmas themed novels to read from the beginning of October. 

 

Q. Novel writing and blogging can be two completely different animals, but it looks like you’ve tamed them both. What’s the most enjoyable part of blogging that you’ve found to be different from writing novels?

I think for me blogging has become a bit like keeping a diary, while I’m not going to reveal any deep dark secrets it does help me clear my mind.  It’s like having a conversation with a friend over a cup of coffee and piece of cake. 

 

Q. Holidays play a big part in your blog. If you could spend Christmas with any author, alive or dead, who would it be and what would you get them?

It would have to be someone like Charles Dickens for Christmas – he created the imagery of Christmas for me, the snowy Victorian streets with the carol singers just make me feel all warm in side. 

I think as a present for him it would have to be a leather monogramed notebook and fountain pen – I’m not so sure he’d appreciate an ipad! 

 

Q. My favorite topic to talk about with other writers are when it comes to their antagonist. Even if it’s a “situational” antagonist, the relationship between the writer and their villain has always fascinated me. Which antagonist do you find yourself enjoy writing the most, and how do you relate to them?

For me as a child I was bullied severely from around 5 to 16, as anyone who has been bullied will probably tell you those experiences stay with you.  I think for me my villains take on the worst elements of the bullies, I’m not sure if I enjoy writing them or whether it’s just become a way of me addressing something that shaped my life. 

 

Q. You’re very organized when it comes to your creative process. What would you say is the best part about the way you work?

I think for me love the whole process of writing be it making notes in a not book because I’ve had a great idea in the most ridiculous of places, or walking with Hero and looking like a right idiot as I dictate ideas in to my phone. 

There’s nothing better for me than sitting by the fire with my laptop writing away it’s like dictating a movie that plays in my head only if I don’ like a scene I can quickly rewind and change it. 

 

Q. What novel would you say is under-appreciated that you’d suggest the audience to go out and read?

One of my all time favorites is Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Lerox, I think the musical outshines the book in peoples mind and while I love the musical the book to me is a darker exploration of what makes a complex monster and the social constructs of the time. 

 

Q. To end, tell us a little bit about what you’re working on right now and when you hope to have it finished.

Currently I’m working on an idea for a romance with a hint of fairy tale about it. 

 

IMG_0760Want to find out more about Claire Brown? Check out her websites and social media below.

Website:  http://clairebrownempire.wix.com/clairelbrownautho
Blog:http://clairelbrownauthor.blogspot.co.uk     & http://myifeasawriterwhennotscribbling.blogspot.co.uk

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ClaireLBrown.MyLifeAsAWriter/
Instagram: https://instagram.com/clbrown_author/
Twitter: @CLBrown_author
Amazon: http://amzn.to/1L86LHd
Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCRBjOrUZiRwUliIJ-I9hB7A
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/clbrown34author/
Draft to Digital; https://www.books2read.com/u/bzp9qq

My Intro to Mud Run Training

muddy-shoes-4-1433316I like to think I’m a little athletic. I go on walks, I enjoy runs occasionally, and during the warmer months, I hike wherever I can with my two dogs. That being said, I’m not ready for an obstacle course race, or an OCR if I want to sound like less of a rookie. When I really look at myself, I’m not in shape for more than the walks I go on. I spend my days behind a computer screen writing, or working at a museum and, while I was a rough and tumble tyke, I haven’t been active enough to do a OCR in years.

With my husband in the military, he’s more than happy to help. When he spends months out in the cold and snow for training, I think he’s finding the thought of me training for even 3.1 miles of mud hilarious. He’s agreed to help, but I’m a little scared of what his type of training entails. The last time I encouraged him to work out with me, I found myself with a rucksack strapped to my back, hiking up the side of a steep hill in the middle of the Texas heat. Since I know he’s a big believer of tough love, I’m not sure I want to jump into the rough stuff yet.

Instead, I started doing my own research, and here’s what I’ve learned from the web.**

  1. Get ready to do more than running. 
    This should be a given, especially since it’s an obstacle course, but this is the first thing I need to add to my workout routine. Ditch jumping , bear crawls, and rope climbs are all events I expect to see, so I plan to add weight lifting and yoga to my list of things to do. Weight lifting for the strength, and yoga for the balance.
  2. Get ready to get dirty.
    Of course, another given, but I don’t go running when it’s wet or muddy out, cause I’m lazy like that. I need to expose myself to different environments if I plan on keeping up with my team. Since I live in Washington, and it’s STILL the rainy season (and let me tell you, as a Texas girl, I’m not enjoying the constant wet weather, when I’m used to dry Hill Country heat), there will be plenty of chances for me to get used to being uncomfortable while I run.
  3. Eat better.
    This is going to be the hardest part for me. While I don’t do a lot of fast food places, I love my pastries, carbs and occasional salty snacks. I don’t eat nearly enough protein, and I could stand to have more veggies in place of cookies. On top of all that, I drink tea and coffee like it’s water. I can’t get enough of my earl gray, jasmine pearl, or green ginger tea. Luckily I’ve been cutting down to one or two cups of coffee a day, depending on how much I’m writing. I should really focus on drinking more water, especially on my writing days, and just eat healthier over all.

I have till June 24th to get my training done. As of this moment in time I’m a 5’4″, 165 lb, writer, with a body fat percentage of I don’t even know what. I’ve got a long way to go, but here’s hoping this change to my lifestyle sticks long enough for it to become a habit!

 

 

**Now I’m not a personal trainer, clearly, and most of these pointers are all things I read about online or heard from my husband. I don’t recommend doing any major changes to your diet or workout schedule if you haven’t spoken to someone first, and I plan consulting my local gym, so I don’t hurt myself. If you’d like to do an OCR, or if you’re training for any sort of race or triathlon for the first time, please talk to your doctor, and someone who knows what they’re doing. 

Author. Blogger. Traveler.