Writing: The journey continues

Hello, Writing Friends and the Merely Curious:

Write Now

My Personal Poem a Day Challenge is only in its sixth day, but I’m pleased to say, I’ve written a poem every day since May 1, after having written – along with a bunch of other writers – 30 poems in April. The May 6 poem was inspired by the aroma of cut grass and dandelions that wafted through the window as I drove home from town.

SPRING HAIKU
The smell of cut grass
shot color into my world
and my whole self smiled.

Being inspired in this way reminds me of the recent Dreams and Creativity seminar featuring Jan Beurskens sponsored by the Las Vegas Literary Salon. Writing inspiration comes from many experiences. Dream symbolism is something I’ve been trying to explore since the seminar, but I have yet to remember a dream after the fact.

Sight, smell and emotional response to something seen or experienced is more likely to get my brain firing with ideas.

Mary Rose Henssler, one of the Lit Salon team members, wrote a great “kick-in-the-pants” article on the Salon website. Sometimes, that’s what we need, a little jog to get our writing out of a self-created rut.

Prompts are great ways to stimulate one’s thinking. You might not even use the prompt, but it’s food for your fertile brain so you can come up with something more, something different. If you are stuck, Google ‘writing prompts’ or ‘poetry prompts’ and be ready for the deluge of websites that have tons of them.

Here are a few links to get you started:

700+ Creative Writing Prompts to Inspire You Right Now
500 Writing Prompts to Help Beat Writer’s Block
125 Of The Best Poetry Writing Prompts For Poets | Writer’s Relief
101 Poetry Prompts & Creative Ideas for Writing Poems

I know, daunting, isn’t it? But when you run through these, you see they represent a myriad of life experiences or ideas you’ve probably already had. It becomes doable to give the basic idea legs by adding your own experiences or creative thinking to the mix.

Writing is most often spurred by simply sitting down, and going at it. Writing is work. The more time you put into it, the better you get. You can spend a lot of time getting down the basics of grammar, plot development, character profiles, who’s the good guy and who’s the bad girl (or vice versa), but until you sit down and pound away at the keyboard, all that know-how will be for naught.

The greatest deterrent to writing is – I hate to say it – being afraid your work will never see the light of day, or laziness, only you can decide.

So, write, but after that – or in the process, look for outlets for your work. I have a writing friend who doesn’t believe writers should give their work away, that payment represents validation. “If you don’t value your work,” she says, “how will anyone else?” She has a point. And her next point is as important: getting published is hard work and you have to work hard at it.

Why am I writing a poem a day for 365 days? It’s writing practice, but my plan is to indie publish the best of the poems in a collection. Entrepreneurial publishing is gaining ground and I already have experience in the field. See my author page on this site. Click on the Books tab in the menu for links to the books I’ve written.

It matters not what you’re writing – fiction, nonfiction, poetry – the satisfaction you derive from creating a work from start to finish, is a reward all its own. Avoid apologizing for what you’ve written after the fact. You did it, maybe you made some errors or your work didn’t get the recognition (sales) you hoped for, let it be. Move on. Learn from your fumbles so your next project is an improvement over the last. Every new book, or article, or poem, or short story is its own creation.

There is a book on the market called Write. Publish. Repeat. (The No-Luck-Required Guide to Self-Publishing Success). I’m not recommending this book because I haven’t read it, but I like the title’s message. Write. Publish. Repeat.

What are your writing tips and tricks? What fires you up for writing. Enter your thoughts in the comments and I’ll share them in a follow-up post.

Happy Writing!

And now for the next adventure

Yes or No

I’m in that battling through ideas stage, wondering what thread of excitement engages me enough to begin story development. It sounds easier than it is. Some ideas will be best expressed as poetry, others as a short story and others in a novel.

How does one get past the muddled mess and move forward? Here are five questions to help you determine how you want your inner storyteller to tell the tale.

Is this a story with interwoven plots and subplots?

  • Complex stories can be told in any form, including poetry. Think of The Iliad by Homer, a marathon Greek poem about the Trojan war, or Caged Bird, by Maya Angelou, a story about freedom. Could these tales have been told in a different way? Probably, but not as poignantly. That said, if you have a story that’s deep and wide, consider writing a novel, or at the very least, a novella. You have more time and space for compelling characters and intriguing plots.

Is this story a shovel or a knife?

  • A shovel digs deep and uncovers what is hidden; a knife is more precise and goes to the central theme without a lot of lead in. Deep is best handled in a novel; precision in a short story or poem. O. Henry was the master of short form writing with satisfying – often unexpected – endings. Remember The Gift of the Magi?

What audience is the story geared toward?

  • I don’t like to bring it up, but yes, you do need an audience for your work, no matter what you write. Children’s books are written in a certain way for very good reasons. Consider carefully the profile of your reader and forge ahead accordingly. One of my favorite authors is David Baldacci.  This is a writer who knows his audience and creates powerful characters in compelling situations. His novels sell worldwide and have been translated into many languages.

How much do you love your idea?

  • Writing a story is a process. The seed is just that, a seed. For it to grow into something that will inform and entertain requires nurture (creativity), weeding (editing), and feeding (revising).

But – as writer and literary agent Lisa Cron would ask – how much do you know about your  character before you push him or her onto page one of your novel?

  • Cron, the author of “Wired for Story” encourages writers to understand their protagonists’ deeply and well before proceeding. This isn’t pre-writing; it’s exploring the lead characters backstory so, as the author, you know going in the “inside intel” that drives the character and mucks up his or her life as they make their way forward. It sounds easy, does it not? Well, it isn’t. It is probably the most difficult thing a writer must do. Is it worth the effort? Cron says, yes, citing authors in her acquaintance who – by way of this process – went from rejection to seven-figure book sales.

My stumbling block is focus. To write, one needs to set everything else aside an focus on the goal, and be willing to do the work.

Back to basics. Who is my story about? What does she want? What does she fear that will keep her from achieving that goal? How can she overcome her fear and succeed? Therein lies – THE STORY.

Wish me luck!


I am an indie author of six books and two chap books of poetry. Check the BOOKS tab to find out more. Follow me at www.vandermeerbooks.com, https://www.facebook.com/vandermeerbooks, Amazon Author Central



 

Which do you prefer and why?

And what are you reading now?

This is something everyone knows, but I would like to use it to stimulate a conversation. Do you prefer fiction over nonfiction or nonfiction over fiction? Why? What are you reading now and what is it about the content that keeps you turning pages? Are you a writer or a reader?

Fiction or Nonfiction

Author Profile: Carmen Baca

From Carmen’s Amazon Author Page: Hello! I’m Carmen. As if 36 years in the classroom weren’t enough, I now “teach” from home, helping aspiring authors with their own manuscripts, researching marketing strategies, and working on my next book. You can find me in the mountains of northern New Mexico where my husband and I enjoy a peaceful, quiet life caring for our animal family and any stray that happens to stop by.

Below are Carmen’s responses to a Q&A interview about her work as a writer and published author.

Carmen BacaQ. What genre do you work in?
A. The majority of my works are literary regionalism with a touch of magical realism. My first book, El Hermano, is a historical fiction based on my father’s induction and subsequent rise to leadership of our community’s brotherhood of Hermanos Penitentes. My second book, Las Mujeres Misteriosas, is a ghost story mystery, which pits La Muerte against la Llorona in a fight over the soul of a young woman. My third book, Cuentos del Cañón, is a short story collection. It’s a companion book to the first because it’s comprised of the backstories of characters featured in the first book. My fourth, Viajes con Fantasmas, is a sequel to the second, which will publish this summer. My fifth, a short story cycle, is called La Quinceañera. It’s a parallel narrative of three plots which intertwine in 12 separate short stories. It is currently in the editing stage. I have also published 17 short pieces, fiction and non-fiction, in online literary magazines since 2017.

Q. Why that genre?
A. I found my voice in the first book and discovered that my readers appreciate both the stories I tell and the style I use to tell them. The realization that I could be a small voice whereby I could inform, educate, and entertain those who are interested in my culture is why I love writing regionalistic literature. It’s what I know, what I love, and what I want to leave behind as my legacy to New Mexico’s literature. We New Mexico Hispanics have a rich history, but we are not well-known. We are distinct from Latinos of other countries, and I want to tell everyone I can reach about our uniqueness.

El HermanoQ. What inspires you?
A. A locked wooden box, which revealed the secrets of los Hermanos’ brotherhood, inspired my first book. I was disappointed with the way their religious practices were sensationalized in other publications. I wanted my book to show readers that the brotherhood is so much more than what people think. That box gave me the historical information I needed to set the record straight – so to speak – without revealing private information none of us has to know, since we are not of them. Now, I’m inspired by elements of my culture in addition to religion: dying traditions and customs, superstitions, folklore, and beliefs, lifestyle, dialect — all of which I include in most of my works to show younger generations how our ancestors lived, to remind those my age and older of the old days we share, and to preserve the past. I’m inspired by life and death, real human struggles, my career — so many themes in life to write about. I’m also inspired by a variety of writing genres. This allows me to experiment in writing.

Q. What is your preferred work environment as a writer?
A. I worked as a teacher for 36 years, leaving my beautiful home built by my husband on the land of my ancestors. I retired in 2014 and am living the life of my dreams: working from the comfort of my home surrounded by mountains and meadows. Several times already I have caught a movement in the reflection of my PC, which turns out to be elk or deer peering in the window next to me. There is nowhere I’d rather be.

Q. Who do you most admire and in what ways were you influenced by this individual?
A. That’s a hard one. I can’t focus on anyone, other than Jesus Christ. I admire those who persevere, who are honest, and humble, and who attain their goals through willpower and courage — too many to name individually.

Q. Where can your work be purchased?
A. All my books are available on Amazon, Barnes & Nobel and Goodreads; they can also be found on a variety of other websites as well as local venues: Tome on the Range in Las Vegas, Op.cit in Taos, Bookworks in Albuquerque and several other locations.

Follow Carmen on Facebook


Quick Look @ Thunder Prime, Hunter’s Light

Book signing and reception, 2 p.m., May 4
Paper Trail, 158 Bridge Street, Las Vegas, NM
Tune in to KFUN May 1, 9 a.m., for a preview.


Thunder Prime Hunter's Light


Follow Sharon @
www.vandermeerbooks.com
https://www.facebook.com/vandermeerbooks
Amazon Author Central


 

Writing is what I do


Thunder Prime Hunter's LightAuthor Sharon Vander Meer: I love sci fi and I love contemporary fiction and I love mystery/adventure and I love poetry. As a writer, I’m told I should stick with one thing or the other, but if a story or poem pops into my head, it will end up getting written. Not everything gets published, but the work of creation is my heartbeat. A writer is what I am; writing is what I do. My dream is that you will enjoy the results of my labor of love.


Character and plot development are like 1000-piece puzzles: you start with the edges and work toward the heart. You don’t get the full impact of the image until the last piece is in. Therein lies the secret of storytelling.

My latest novel – Thunder Prime, Hunter’s Light – is now published. The last piece of the puzzle is in place. The book is available as an e-book  ($2.99), or as a paperback ($15). I will have copies available by April 5 if you would like to buy directly from me and get a signed copy.

Sci-fi action and futuristic politics combine in this story of a young woman who is on a quest to find her mother. Pella Soames will allow nothing to stand in the way of her search for Trish Soames, taken from Earth by a known galactic trader in slaves. Not a downed transport, attempts to abduct her and well-meaning friends who want to stop her mad and dangerous search for a woman who may not even be alive will stay her resolve. Fate, unexpected help and Pella’s wily sense of self-preservation keep her out of the hands of abductors… mostly.

When events conspire to bring her closer to reaching Chandor, a planet at the edge of the galaxy, Pella is faced with the difficult choice of protecting the children who have come into her care or using them as a means of reaching the holding of the hated Chandorian chieftain who took Pella’s childhood away.


This is my fifth novel. If you are looking for genre fiction from me, you will be disappointed.  If you’re looking for stories about independent female protagonists, then I have great tales to tell.


 Thunder Prime, Hunter’s Light may be purchased from online retailers and directly from the author. For more information contact sharon@vandermeerbooks.com.

Other works include Blind Curve, Finding Family, Future Imperfect, and The Ballad of Bawdy McClure, two chap books of poetry and a book of daily inspirational readings.


Follow Sharon at:
www.vandermeerbooks.com
https://www.facebook.com/vandermeerbooks
Amazon Author Central

 

My newest baby!

Thunder Prime, Hunter's LightYea! It is this close to publication! Thunder Prime, Hunter’s Light, is the sequel to The Ballad of Bawdy McClure (now under the title Thunder Prime, Fog Island),published more years ago than I care to admit. Thunder Prime, Hunter’s Light, has been a long time in the birthing.

Some readers will receive a print copy in the next week or so. Thank you to those who signed up to receive the episodes one-by-one over time as they posted on my website, www.vandermeerbooks.com. I hope you will all read the final version as some things have changed.

I can’t express how happy I am to get this into print. It’s a good read with strong characters and a story that could be told in any era, this just happens to occur in the distant future. I read somewhere that space novels are really nothing more than westerns with rockets in the cowboys’ pockets.

I don’t know about that, but in most westerns the good guy wins and rides off into the sunset with the girl. In this case, the cowboy is a girl and you’ll have to read the book to find out if she wins the day, and the guy.

Expected publication date: March 29, 2019. If you would like a review copy, please email sharon@vandermeerbooks.com. I will appreciate you posting your review in all the obvious places, and providing me with a link to the review.

The book will be available in paperback and ebook formats.


For more information or to pre-order Thunder Prime, Hunter’s Light, email sharon@vandermeerbooks.com.

Q&A With a Truth Seeker: Kathleen M. Rodgers

Q. In one sentence, who is Kathleen Rodgers?
A. I am a seeker of truth, and I use storytelling to try and find it.Kathleen M. Rodgers

Q. What do you wish people knew about you?
A. I am empathetic to those who struggle. Because I’ve overcome many obstacles in life, I try and encourage others not to give up. I joke that “HOPE” is my middle name. I try and offer hope in my stories.

Q. In writing Johnnie Come Lately you use grim themes about bulimia, addiction, and betrayal. Talk about how the complex story line developed?
A. My protagonist, Johnnie Kitchen, came to me many years ago while I was working on my first novel. At the time, I knew she was a woman who had overcome eating issues that developed from neglect she suffered as a child. Raised by loving grandparents who lost a son in a tragedy that stunned them to silence, Johnnie must find her way in the world while also dealing with an absentee mother. As a young wife, she carried these issues of abandonment and neglect into her early marriage, and years later her loyal and hardworking husband learns about an old betrayal. I also address the issue of military service during a time when our nation is at war. My challenge was to write about how the trauma of war can affect generation after generation. I’m continuing this theme in the sequel, Seven Wings to Glory.

Johnnie Come LatelyQ. Your characters are down-to-earth. You don’t take the easy way and make some inherently good and others identifiably bad. Where did you get the inspiration for these very relatable people?
A. Nobody is all bad or all good. Every human being is flawed, and I work hard to remember that when I create characters. In all of my fiction, my characters are sometimes composites of real people and other times they come fully formed in my imagination. For instance, Aunt Beryl in Johnnie Come Lately might be considered an antagonist. She’s a bossy busybody, and yet, she is also the truthsayer and the person in Johnnie’s life who finally tells the truth about who her father was. I also think about Johnnie’s husband, Dale. Dale is tasked with the job of trying to figure out how to forgive his wife. The fact that Dale initially withholds forgiveness from Johnnie makes him human. This character flaw intrigued me and helped propel the story forward. Even Granny Opal and Grandpa Grubb, as good as they were, had their own flaws and secrets, and Johnnie suffered because of it.

Q. This family has some obstacles to overcome. Without giving away the plot, talk about your journey to get from the telling moment of betrayal to resolution.
A. As I stated in the last question, Dale is such a good man. But even good men can hold grudges. The challenge for both Johnnie and Dale is how to move forward in their marriage and heal a hurt that cuts deep and affects every member of the family, even Brother Dog. And Dale, despite being a hard worker, has been holding Johnnie back from wanting to return to college. He uses money or lack of money as an excuse for his wife to pursue her dreams. There’s a scene in a restaurant when Johnnie discovers the truth about why Dale resists the idea of her going back to college. I cried when I wrote this scene because I hurt for Dale and the pain that followed him through life, no matter how successful he became. That’s a theme I write about a lot, how our past still affects our present and our future.

Q. Who do you identify most with in the story?
A. Johnnie’s two sons, D.J. and Cade. One is an artist and pacifist and the other is hell-bent on joining the military and going to war. (I continue this theme in the sequel.) Brother Dog, the family pet, is the glue that keeps this family together, and I relied on him to guide me through the story. And then there’s Mr. Marvel, the portly airline pilot who is Johnnie’s mysterious neighbor. I identify with Mr. Marvel because no matter how successful he became professionally, he still suffers from a childhood tragedy and the guilt that follows him. Mr. Marvel is every misunderstood person that gets marginalized or profiled or labeled. I have a deep abiding love and respect for this character. He taught Johnnie many lessons, and he lives on in both of our hearts. (And yes, I think of Johnnie as a real person.)

Q. You use journaling and writing letters to people you want to “speak to” but, for various reasons can’t. How does this method advance your story?
A. I have always loved the letter form. I used a series of letters in my first novel, The Final Salute, to cover a period when some of my characters went off to war and others stayed home. Letters and journal entries in fiction have the opportunity to pull readers deep into the story because they feel a personal and emotional investment with the characters. Because I received so much positive feedback from readers who loved that section of the novel, I decided to make Johnnie Kitchen a “closet writer” in Johnnie Come Lately. When she can’t share her deepest thoughts with the living and the dead, she turns to her journal and pours her heart out on paper. The reader discovers many secrets about beloved family members, old lovers, and Johnnie’s deepest fears and dreams for her future and that of her family. By parceling out tidbits of information here and there in the journal entries and in class papers Johnnie writes when she returns to college, we are able to piece together the missing pieces of the puzzle that makes up Johnnie’s life and the lives of the other story people (both the living and the dead).

Q. You’ve done quite a lot of writing and been published in various magazines. What challenges you about writing fiction?
A. I reached a point as a freelance writer when the subject matter stopped feeding my soul. Plus, I was limited by the confines of nonfiction and I wanted to explore so many more themes and subjects. And the only way to do that was to turn to fiction.

Q. How is writing fiction different from writing nonfiction?
A. With fiction, I can “write outside the lines.” I can use real life experiences and give them to my characters without letting actual events dictate how the story is told. My stories are full of emotional truths and themes that are dear to my heart, and my characters take on the issues and themes that I might not feel comfortable writing about in a nonfiction book or magazine article. Plus, I love to incorporate a touch of magical realism into my stories, and I’m not brave enough to deal with that in nonfiction. Writing fiction teaches me to be brave. I find courage by exploring deep and serious issues through my story people.

Q. What do you hope people get from reading Johnnie Come Lately, which by the way I thought was a wonderful story from beginning to end?
A. Thank you, Sharon. I hope my readers are able to apply some of the story lessons from the novel and apply them to their own lives. Most of all, I hope they are entertained and finish the book feeling hopeful for their own lives and the lives of their families.

In any of my novels, I want my readers to laugh and cry with my characters. I want fiction and reality to blend into a seamless dimension where my characters know they are real people and my readers think they are my characters.

Current news about Kathleen

Kathleen is working on Seven Wings to Glory, the sequel to Johnnie Come Lately.

Sequel concept: After sending her youngest son to war in Afghanistan in 2009, Johnnie Kitchen finds herself battling a war of racial injustice in her small hometown of Portion, Texas. Will she back down after being threatened for speaking out? Or will she do the right thing and pursue justice? And will her Army son, who took an oath to protect ALL Americans, return home safely to Portion?

Click here to read Kathleen’s blog. 

___________________________

More about Kathleen from her website: Texas based author Kathleen M. Rodgers is a former frequent contributor to Family Circle Magazine and Military Times. Her work has also appeared in anthologies published by McGraw-Hill, University of Nebraska Press/Potomac Books, Health Communications, Inc., AMG Publishers, and Press 53. In 2014, Kathleen was named a Distinguished Alumna from Tarrant County College/NE Campus. Three of her aviation poems were featured in a new exhibit at the Cradle of Aviation Museum on Long Island, NY. More…

A blatant pitch for book sales

…from a terrible marketer

Finding Family

My problem with writing has nothing to do with writing; it has to do with selling. Every book I have written is worth reading, the last one perhaps more so than the first three. Not because it is a better book, but because I learned a lot between book one and book four.

What I should have had for all my books is a good editor. Reality check here. As an indie author, I can’t afford an editor. A good editor is worth what he or she charges, no doubt about it, but given that I’m so horrible at selling my work, I’d never recover my costs. The argument in favor of an editor is that grammar and punctuation improve copy so it will sell better.

Uh, “Fifty Shades of Grey” anyone?

Hel-lo-o!

I have not read the books because erotica isn’t my cup of tea, so my statements here are based on reviews and commentary, written by people who write for a living. Many of them are baffled by the success of these books, which by some accounts are poorly constructed, have questionable content, and basic plot problems – as in there isn’t one. And yet, “50” and its sequels have netted author EL James A LOT OF MONEY! She has sold MILLIONS of copies and landed a lucrative deal for movie rights. I don’t know if she had an editor, but if she did, she paid her too much. What James does have is an identified audience looking for cheap thrills. Erotica sells.

So, what does it take to sell books? That is a very complex question. It helps that –

a) You have absolute confidence your book is the best thing that’s ever been written.
b) That you are willing to wring out of every one you know a promise to do a review (POSITIVE ONLY) and post it on Amazon and Good Reads and wherever else they can find to post it on your behalf.
c) Know your audience, or at the very least, have one.

First off, I hesitate to use friends to promote my work. Number one, I’m afraid they will feel obligated to say yes while thinking, “Is she kidding me? This thing is the worst thing I’ve ever read!?”

And second… forget it, I can’t get past number one. It’s the fear of “not being good enough” that plagues even accomplished writers.

The thing is, I believe my books are quite good. Good enough, in fact, to fly magically off the shelves without much help from me. Won’t happen. Like all authors, I must work at promoting my books every single chance I get, something I am totally not good at.

A second and equally important factor is that, “knowing your audience,” thing.

I may not be there yet when it comes to confidence, but identifying my audience is at a whole other level. People who like to read books? Hmmm, yes, but there is so much more to it. The whole genre thing drives me nuts. Plus I haven’t written just one kind of book. I’ve written the books I like to write. One is a book of inspirational reading, two are sci-fi, and the fourth is a contemporary novel about a women of a certain age.

In “Finding Family,” it is clear early on that Lilly Irish has never understood her worth to others. Following the death of her husband she becomes accustomed to living alone. She is stubbornly independent. And then her dead sister’s daughter and her three children arrive with their dog. Calm turns to chaos and along the way Lilly… well, if I said any more I’d be giving the story away.

This story is funny and sad, just like life. You will recognize the characters because they’re like all of us, trying to find their way in life, day-by-day. “Finding Family,” characters aren’t based on any one in particular, or any family in particular; it is grounded in the reality that no one is perfect. How these imperfect people come together makes for an entertaining and satisfying read.

And yes, this is a sales pitch for “Finding Family,” and a request that you buy it, read it, and post a review – brief or long – on Amazon and Good Reads and wherever else you can. I would like for it to be positive, but I would rather it be honest.

Thanks,
Sharon

NOTE: I have Finding Family available for purchase. If you would like to order a book directly from me e-mail me at fsharon@msn.com. Book price is $19.99.

Finding Family is available at Amazon and other online book retailers in soft cover and as an e-book from XLIBRIS

Paperback: 232 pages
Publisher: XLIBRIS
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1499035489
ISBN-13: 978-1499035483


Also look for my latest book:
Thunder Prime Hunter’s Light
Paperback $15
Digital Format $2.99