Greetings, readers! Today marks the In Fabula-Divino Blog hop, where I get to tell you about this marvelous anthology that I am fortunate enough to be a part of. It was edited by splendid Aussie author and editor, Nicole Murphy, and features a host of wonderful authors, two of which I will be introducing shortly. The link for the site where all this hard work originated is: http://thetaletellers.wordpress.com/ Pay it a visit and learn how one editor can polish a rough bundle of words until they shine. Thanks, Nicole!
If you want a copy of In Fabula-Divino (and you do) the e-book edition is on sale at Amazon and Smashwords, but if you want a paperback copy, you’ll have to wait until the 28th of April, when the anthology will be launched at Conflux. Link here, for you fortunate Australians who can attend the event: http://conflux.org.au/program/sundy-april-28/
Now for our guest interviews. First up is Rick “PJ” Keuning whose delightful story, “Crossroads,” tells of an unforgettable encounter on a highway.
Rick (PJ) Keuning wonders if turning 50 this year will change his life again. It’s already been changed marrying his wife, having three children after he’d turned 40, 24 years of Christian Ministry and the sudden (40 years in the making) desire to become a full time writer. Rick lives in Leichhardt, in Sydney’s Inner-west, and wishes he had more time to enjoy the local cafés. You can follow Rick’s writing adventures at http://the-rick-blog.blogspot.com.au/.
Tell us about your In Fabula-Divino experience, Rick.
1. What was your inspiration for the story?
It came from a dream. In the original dream there was an old man in medieval armour sitting on a stool in a tent with a riffle across his lap and his head down. A young man, in armour comes into the tent and says, “Sir, there is a worrier woman name Jacq who wants to fight you in duel.”
The old man looks up and says, “Is it too late to tell her I’m not here?”
A lot changed from that first dream, but the heart is still there.
2. How different has the In Fabula-divino journey been from what you expected when you first submitted your story?
I really didn’t know what to expect, it’s all new to me. I was worried that my story was too different from the others that already had been published on the site. I also looked at the type of stories Nicole Murphy wrote and saw how different her stuff was from mine. So, I was half expecting the journey to end with some type of thanks, but no thanks. After my story was accepted, I had no expectation; I just went along for the ride.
3. What is the best thing about having your story in this anthology?
I can that I’ve done it. If I never have another story printed, which I really hope is not the case; I can say I have a story in ‘In Fabula-divino’.
4. Is there anything scary about having your story in the anthology?
That someone might ask me for my autograph! Actually, I can’t think of anything.
5. What was the most important thing you learnt during the In Fabula-divino process?
The need to see the story through the reader’s eyes. I certainly haven’t how to actually do this, but I learnt that I need to try. I thought I was trying, but it was really a case of, ‘It’s clear to me’, and assuming that it was clear to everyone else. This is not good enough I actually have to get inside the readers head, be the reader, see what they see, view the world through their eyes, understand words as they do and I have to do this from as many different reader perspectives as I can. So, the In Fabula-divina process has taught me that a good writer must have Dissociative Identity Disorder!
Here’s a sample from PJ Keuning’s “Crossroads.”
By PJ Keuning
Lord Melville shifted in his seat as he glared at the delicate curtains and petite pillows, covered in tiny bells that jingled and bounced with the motion of the carriage’s wheels on the cobbled road. He had sat opposite Cardinal Smit in silence for two days. If the silence bothered the cardinal, he didn’t show it.
“At our next stop, I’m changing to my horse,” said Lord Melville.
“But you must stay in the carriage,” the cardinal said. “It is befitting our stature. You are the Lord Marshall, supreme commander of the Holy Paladins of the ‘One True God’ and I am the personally chosen representative of the patriarch himself. We must arrive at the capital in the proper manner.”
“When going to the annual war council, I’ve found arriving by horse proper enough.”
“Ah yes, but now you are travelling with a cardinal who understands the importance of appearances. Besides, think of your wounds.”
“I am fully recovered.” Lord Melville pulled back his shoulders and straightened himself. “All my wounds are healed and I’m perfectly capable of riding my horse.”
“But battling a demon lord must have left you deeply wounded in other ways.”
“What killing a demon lord left me with was great satisfaction.”
“Well, it may be acceptable for you to prance around on your horse at other times. However, I expect you to show some dignity while travelling with me and to remain in—“
Next up, Joseph W. Patterson, author of the wistful “Franklin’s Rainbow.”
Here’s Joseph’s experience with In Fabula-Divino
1. What was your inspiration for the story?
The neglected and the forgotten. The situation that happens in my story is an everyday occurrence. Every moment of every day, someone is not getting the attention they deserve. My main character finds something out of the ordinary, and is given the opportunity to change his life for the better. All he has to do is choose.
2. How different has the In Fabula-divino journey been from what you expected when you first submitted your story?
I expected a rejection. I was rejected twice. The first story was formatted wrong; the second story was just too weird I guess. (Remember kids, aliens and crack don’t mix!)
After acceptance I expected a little fix here and a little fix there, done deal, but Nicole put me to work.
3. What is the best thing about having your story in this anthology?
The diversity! Every story is unique and stands on it’s own.
4. Is there anything scary about having your story in the anthology?
Not at all. This has been a superfantastic experience!
5. What was the most important thing you learnt during your In Fabula-divino process?
Perseverance. Getting accepted was hard enough, but I didn’t expect how much work was put into the editing process.
And now, a sample of “Franklin’s Rainbow.”
By Joseph W. Patterson
Object in hand, Franklin ran home and silently entered the back door. He stood quietly for a moment, listening for sounds or movement. His mother was home somewhere and he didn’t want to cross her path. The object radiated gold then dimmed to a soft yellow. He took that as a good sign so went through the kitchen, down the hall, and up the steps.
As he passed his mother’s room, he heard music. He slowly turned the knob and stepped in. His mother was sprawled across the bed, passed out. A gin bottle lay empty on the floor. Coldplay’s “Fix you” was playing on her laptop. Franklin took off her shoes and tucked her in as best as he could. He kissed her on the cheek and said, “I love you, mom.”
To read the rest of “Crossroads” and “Franklin’s Rainbow,” as well as my own “In the Woods” and many wonderful others, treat yourself to the In Fabula-Divino anthology.
Thanks for reading!
Alex asked me to write about my writing process for today’s blog. As she so well knows, I’ve struggled enormously with fitting my interminable array of arms, legs, tentacles, mandibles, and various unmentionables into this diabolical box they call (gasp!) The Outline.
Well, bugger that.
I simply don’t fit into the traditional process of outlining. And over time, I have learned to embrace this aspect of myself. I have followed my guts, listened to people far more writer-evolved than me, and developed my own Process. One that is tailor-made to my individual creative self, not an attach-this-widget-and-then-push-Go approach.
My message for You is to get close to your creative self too. Listen carefully, don’t interrupt, let it speak, even if it only dares whisper in the wee hours of the night.
Then…the most important part…Trust It.
For an example, I will share my individual process. But this is just to give you ideas to help you break into your own.
One: I usually start with a beginning and an end and a feel. Sometimes I only start with a beginning and a feel. But whatever lingers, comes back to me repeatedly at unexpected hours, this is the idea that needs to be written.
Two: Write it. My characters tell the story for me. (Which sounds strange when you’re drinking casually with non-writers. They crunch their eyebrows and lean away a few inches as if I might have farted. “Your characters do what?”)
Three: This is the strange bit. The Wigglies as I call them. I make notes about where I want to go, and I will even go so far as to roughly outline every scene as I work on it. This is so I have a structure for that writing session.
So in my mind, I do have a direction and characters and a sense of flow. But I let my characters do the work. They have to tell the story or else it isn’t any fun. And fun is what this is all about. (Fame and riches being such long shots.)
I also do “exercises” where I write from each character’s point of view. This way they can tell me where they came from, what their parents were like, how their first dog died, why they ended up the way they are. I give them a chance to talk outside of the story. (They love it, by the way. Don’t we all?)
This Step Three is the heart of the story and where it’s most important to trust your creative self and voice. I also tend to not talk about the project except in a vague way. It’s as if I don’t want to let it become diluted, or tainted, with other people’s opinions and judgments. It’s my precious baby, after all.
Four: When I’ve completed the story, I go back and make lists of character quirks, story themes, subplots, and any other threads I might want to keep track of.
Five: Now! 130k +/- words into the process, I write an outline. I detail what I’ve done.
Six: I make decisions about those inevitable plot holes.
Seven: I figure out which themes, quirks, and threads feel the best, and weave them into the outline. Remember, I go by the heart. If it feels right (and that includes bad things) then I try to Trust that. It ain’t always easy.
Eight: I revise using the above lists and outline.
Nine: Pray, drink red wine, eat chocolate. Be grateful for this wonderful gift called writing.
Now go find your own creative process and share it with us!
Happy writing, Karen
The Spring Stretch Challenge is well underway, so here’s a little inside scoop on how the turtle of our writing group is holding up. That would be me. ; )
First off, my Big Scary Goal of choice is to complete two 10k short stories by the appointed deadline. It’s not nearly as tough as completing a novel, but hey, one man’s anthill is another man’s mountain. Every writer faces different challenges and uses different techniques to combat those challenges. Curious to know what trials and techniques the turtle has been juggling?
My Inner Editor (you know, that thing some of us have inside that demands perfection at inconvenient times) is a nasty fellow. His criticisms can have me stuck on a scene for hours. For me, critique is invaluable in final drafts, but early on it chokes the life from a story and bogs the whole thing down with doubt.
There are many great ideas out there for stifling the inner editor. Mine is among the silliest and involves convincing my Inner Editor not to take my project seriously.
How? Well, when I need to get a rough first draft done swiftly, I write in present tense. Why? Because my brain connects present tense with writing exercises, experimental writing, outlines, ideas–present tense is what I use for fun or practice, never a “for real” story.
The Inner Editor that so often hovers hungry over my every word sees me writing present tense and says, “Harrumph, what’s this? Oh, she’s just jotting down half-baked ideas again. Yawn. I’ll check back when the real work begins.” He leaves me alone because a draft written in present tense registers as practice or playtime writing. Practice and playtime don’t cause a blip on his “Must Be Perfect” radar.
Sound silly? Maybe. Brain tricks often are. But it lets me explore a first draft without my Inner Editor trying to fix problem spots before the creation process is finished. After the rough draft is done, I have a good idea of where my story wants to go and can write a solid outline based on the material; this helps me stay on track when the, ahem, real work begins.
Little does my Inner Editor realize I’ve already finished the first draft of a Stretch Challenge short story. One down, one to go!
How about you? Does your Inner Editor hush up when you tell it to, or do you trick it into silence?
Hi, y’all. Sorry I’ve been away a while. I do have a some good news to share. First, Fireside Magazine reached its Kickstarter goal, so my short story “The Gangs of Gnome Jersey” will indeed be out for your reading pleasure sometime this year. Also, the In Fabula-Divinos anthology, which contains my story “In the Woods” is available in e-book format and will soon be out in a hard copy as well. I’ll post the details as soon as I get ‘em. And finally, the well regarded e-zine, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, purchased another short of mine, “Whistler’s Grove.”
As you can see, I’ve had a small amount of success with selling stories. And I hope to sell a couple more over the next year, although I’m pretty tied up with writing novels for the year. So when Alex asked me to write a blog on my writing process, I said yes–and then instantly turned my mind to the other side of the process. Yeah; I’m perverse.
See, I don’t really understand my writing process. Well, I know if I know how a story’s going to end, I’m much more likely to get there. Aside from that, I’m an intuitive writer and every time I sit down to write, I spend a few minutes going “Duh, what am I doing?” before anything constructive comes out. I don’t know how much that’ll help anyone.
But when it comes to submitting, I have a system. And since I’ve had some success with my system, I;ll be happy to share.
First, accept that you’ll never write a perfect story. This is harder than we all like to imagine it is. I’m a world-class story fiddler. Don’t fiddle. Once you write the story, you’re allowed to put it away for a month then look at it again and fix what you don’t like. That’s it. Anything after is procrastination. Submit that sucker. Create a file in your Word documents, or whatever you use for writing, and label it “Submission.” Put down your story’s title, word count, maybe even a brief synopsis. If you have several stories, make a list. Underneath each, type the names of the magazines or anthologies you sent the story to as well as the date you sent them.
This is just common sense, and I suspect everyone reading this blog already makes note of these things. Here’s a harder suggestion: only send to pro sites. If they’re paying you less than .05 cents a word, cross them off your list. The only exception to this rule is if the market in question has a prestigious name. I’ve considered submitting to The Strand, even though it pays less, simply because it would be an honor to be published in the same mag that published the work of Arthur Conan Doyle.
Quite a few beginning authors feel intimidated by submitting to pro sites. And it’s true; you’re competing against top-level, published authors when you submit to a pro site. But that’s how you build your reputation among fellow authors. You may have written the best short story in the world, but no editor’s going to be impressed when they hear you were published for free in Mort Sleezum’s Magazine of the Awesome. Editors want to know what their peers think of your work. Oh, and as a general rule, don’t bother with contests, unless it’s either a free contest, a prestigious contest, or the prize is really, really–and I mean really–good.
So you submit a story. Forty-nine chances out of fifty, you’re going to get a rejection notice. When it arrives, you’re allowed to feel a bit lousy. You can sulk a while. Then, no later than the following day, write down the date of your rejection in your business log. Then submit that sucker again.
I rejection notice does not mean your story is lousy. It does not mean you need to fiddle with it again. All it means is that it has not found the right editor. I sent “Whistler’s Grove” to eight different markets before Beneath Ceaseless Skies bought it. Perseverance and a small amount of talent is all it really takes to show a modicum of success.
So, get those manuscripts out there. Remember to follow the guidelines on the submissions pages. Be meticulous in keeping records, and never build up a grudge against an editor. Best of luck to you all. and I mean that, even if it means your story is the one that ends up getting purchased instead of mine.
Remember: every word is a triumph. So is every submission.
This past Sunday I began the Spring Stretch Challenge and for the first day managed to get absolutely nothing written. I had been working on the plot for the rewrite of my novel Ignition, came up with several cool new ideas the day before, and then managed to let life and the internet get in the way because turning those ideas into scenes wasn’t happening.
Monday after getting up way too early to let in the Culligan man and finding the basement covered in water from a frozen sump pump outlet pipe, I decided the plot just wasn’t clear enough even though it now had an overall structure, and proceeded to ignore it for most of the day. (The basement I couldn’t ignore.) That evening at Alex’s suggestion I reread Rachel Aaron’s awesome book 2K to 10K: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love. Far and away the best .99 I have ever spent.
By actually following her advice this time, I was able to crank out over 4K on Tuesday and it was fun! Knowing what you’re going to write before you write it (aka roughly outlining the scene or fragment of a scene) makes an enormous difference. When I’m not trying to make significant plot decisions while writing narrative, I don’t get bogged down.
The next most useful technique for me turned out to be writing the story backwards. I was still struggling with an early scene when I realized that even though I had a rough summary of the climax, I still wasn’t sure where the plot was going and what would happen to the characters internally at the end. And so I started to write the climax, or actually the crisis leading into the black moment. And it flowed.
My characters started to have voices. And personalities. And backstory that I hadn’t known about, because it made sense for the scene and for the story as a whole. Suddenly (over the last 3 days) the motivations for the characters’ conflicts with each other early on in the story became much clearer. An accidental separation during a riot became a quarrel and then a betrayal that now reverberates all the way to the climax. A minor character became an arbiter of life or death over a main character because of a crime thousands of years old.
Rachel makes the point that if your enthusiasm for the project is flagging and you feel stuck, something is probably wrong with the story. So it proved for me. All of a sudden* it’s all hanging together, and I am looking forward to my writing sessions. It also helps that most of them involve sprinting with other Spring Stretch participants.
And when I finish the climax in a day or two, I will try writing the bit right before the crisis, and then the bit before that and see if I can’t construct the story all the back to the beginning. I’ll let you know how that goes. ‘How did they get here’ turns out to be a much more useful question for my peculiar brain than ‘what happens next’. Go figure. No, go write!
*’Suddenly’, as in after a year of writing a discovery draft that I mostly threw out, and replotting the story several times. But it feels sudden.
So lately I’ve been reading this book, wherein the author tells you to do the biggest, scariest, most important thing in your day or in your life first. No matter how much it hurts or how hard it is. Not only will the rest of the day be easier as a result, but you won’t get bogged down in procrastination and fear because you will have already done the thing.
Well, Tanith and I have decided to do this. For us, as writers, it means doing the big scary thing in front of us. For me, writing a complete first draft (the scariest part of the process) and for her, rewriting her novel according to the new outline she’s made. 90k and 80k, respectively. In about 4 weeks.
So, in the spirit of tackling the thing in front of us, we’ve set up a challenge and somehow convinced the rest of our writer’s group (and a few friends) to join us. Starting Sunday and going for 28 days (until midnight on Sunday the 7th), we’re each working towards goals that seem just a little too big and scary to accomplish. The thing in front of us. And, like NaNo, we’ll report in every day and cheer one another on to victory.
And, occasionally, we’ll report in here on our progress, cheers and struggles, along the way.
How about you? What’s the biggest, scariest, most important thing you need to do and want to do in your life? Can you start tackling it this month? This week? Today?
This March, for us, is all about stretching to reach our goals. We can do it. We CAN.
Ever heard of an Artist Date? The idea comes from The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, and it’s all about making time, every week, for you and your inner artist to sneak off on a date. Not you plus your significant other, not you plus the kiddos, not you plus this or that friend–just you. Find something that fascinates the creative core of you and go have fun.
Lovely thought, eh? My first reaction was to file it under Unachievable. It’s hard enough balancing work, friends, and family life without carving out time for a ‘solo date’ that feels more like a ‘self indulgence’. My resident work ethic just about sprouts fangs at the idea.
Let’s cage Mr. Rabid Work Ethic for a minute and think about this. Odds are, if you’re any kind of artist, you’re not here because you love work. You’re here because you love your art, be it writing or something else, and it’s that love that makes the work worthwhile. And, unfortunately, no matter how awesometastic it is to get paid for something you love, sometimes the ‘hard work’ part of job life will strangulate the ‘fun’.
My inner artist is all about fun. It loves cackling like a mad scientist over a cauldron full of world building, character conflicts, and plot twists. It yanks experiences and insights from the deepest roots of my past and hurls them into the concoction, reveling in the art of creation.
Is it really so wrong to take a breather and seek out new inspirations for it to play with?
Maybe, like me, you can’t afford that fire dancing class your inner artist is begging you to take. But just like it’s the little things that empower family relationships, there are little things we can do to invigorate our inner artist. Think small. Think fun. What sort of activity makes you feel all merry and mischievous inside?
* Skip off to the kitchen and indulge in a culinary creation using a new recipe. (My adventure taught me the trials of homemade cheesecakes)
* Take a walk down a route you’ve never gone before. (A friend of mine discovered a tiny, forgotten graveyard tucked deep in the heart of a pine forest)
* Revisit old passions. What did you love way back when, but haven’t done in a while? (I love visiting craft stores and exploring their fabric section. Colors, patterns, textures–fabric has it all)
* Find new passions. What’s something you’ve always wanted to try? Candle-making? Candy-making? Book-binding? Give it a go.
An artist date is all about stoking the fire of imagination in whatever way appeals to you. Give your inner artist permission to have some fun.
For this Friday’s guest post, please welcome Delilah S. Dawson, an amazing fantasy / steampunk / romance writer whose first book, Wicked As They Come, came out this past year. She is a member of Alex’s writing posse and an awesome lady. Visit her on the web at: http://delilahpaints.blogspot.com/. Take it away Delilah!
Love and Books: You Got Your Romance in My Adventure
By Delilah Dawson
First off: I’m a romance writer almost entirely by accident.
See, I had this dream. I woke up naked on a slab of rock in a misty forest and found a seriously hot version of Mr. Darcy staring at me. And I knew that he wasn’t human, but he wasn’t a vampire. He was some sort of blood drinker. And a magician.
The dream obsessed me, and I felt obligated to build a world in which this intriguing man would be a natural creature, in which his magic and cleverness and danger and humor would all seamlessly mix. Plus, I wanted to spend more time with him.
That’s how WICKED AS THEY COME began.
Once I’d discovered the world of Sang, I had to send him on an adventure that included all of my favorite sorts of things: corsets, top hats, krackens, ghosts, submarines, dirigibles, horses, and adorable little animals that want to suck the marrow from your bones. There was romance, too, because the point of everything, for me, is romance. The tension, the hope, the dreaming, the will-he-kiss-me. But each time the romance galloped ahead of the adventure, I sent my characters behind a privacy screen, blacking out the sex to focus on the story.
The first time I nervously passed the manuscript on to a friend, she demanded sex.
Not of me, of course. Of my characters.
Apparently, readers want to know as many details about the hanky panky as they do the handkerchiefs. So I bought a bottle of wine, found a quiet spot, and tried to figure out how these two characters might proceed in bed. It was one of the most terrifying things I’ve ever done, and by the time it was written, I was drunk. And mortified. And ready to write the next scene.
There’s an unfortunate stigma against romance books, especially those with half-naked men on the front. Until the words “NYT Bestselling” are on your cover, no one will take you seriously. The big secret is that much of the romance on the shelves today also includes a damned good story, with tight writing, three-dimensional characters, and stakes higher than marriage. With scifi or fantasy books, you get an adventure. But with paranormal romance, you get adventure and sex, and who would willingly pass up a combination like that?
When writing the first book, I told an adventure story and inserted sex scenes. But now I know, almost as soon as I know the book’s log line, exactly when and how the characters will engage in physical intimacy and how that will build into the plot. There has to be a first kiss that asks more questions than it answers. There has to be a scene that gets things really hot but ends before everyone is satisfied, a scene that leaves both parties questioning themselves, each other, and their future. And then you finally get that one explosive scene where all the pieces of the puzzle fall into place and the characters have sex so perfect it only happens in books. Then, later, if you can work it in, another scene in which they explore another aspect of their joining of minds and hearts, and one from which they emerge together, stronger, and ready for the book’s climax.
Just as the characters twine together, so do the romance and the story, perfectly complimenting each other in an ideal match that leaves the head and the heart satisfied.
I know we’re always told not to judge a book by its cover, and I also know that we’re hard-wired to judge everything by its outward appearance. But even if you don’t consider yourself a romance reader (or you’re a dude!), flip that book over and read the synopsis. Read the quotes and reviews on the first pages, or check out the reviews on Goodreads. More than one half-naked hero has hidden a well-written book that could have easily found a home on the literary fiction shelf or the scifi fantasy shelf if only it had been given a different cover.
Except here’s another thing romance writers know: sex sells better. And if it takes two hot sex scenes to get people to buy my adventure? Then bring me another bottle of wine, and let’s hop back on that submarine.
Amazon link to WICKED AS THEY COME: http://www.amazon.com/Wicked-as-They-Come-Blud/dp/1451657889
Amazon link to THE MYSTERIOUS MADAM MORPHO: http://www.amazon.com/The-Mysterious-Madam-Morpho-ebook/dp/B007EE56AY
Bio: Delilah S. Dawson is a native of Roswell, Georgia and the author of the paranormal romance Blud series for Pocket. The second book in the series, WICKED AS SHE WANTS, and a second novella, THE PECULIAR PETS OF MISS PLEASANCE, will be out in April 2013, and her first YA, a creepy paranormal called SERVANTS OF THE STORM will be available in spring 2014. RT Book Reviews has called her “a wonderfully fresh new voice!”
Delilah is a member of the Romance Writers of America, the Georgia Romance Writers, and the Artifice Club. You can also read her product reviews at www.CoolMomPicks.com and www.CoolMomTech.com, where she is an Associate Editor.
Not surprisingly, as a writer one of things I Love most are books. I love reading them, holding them, sniffing them, looking at them, and letting them surround me as I’m swallowed up in yet another story.
One of the greatest parts of being a writer is my “homework” is to read as much as I can and everything I can. How wonderful is that? So to end this month of Love, I’d like to list books I’ve read over the last few months that left an impact on me. Each of them has a unique charm and message.
Of course, let’s start with my own two books. I couldn’t talk about great books without mentioning what I’ve written. Could I? (Okay, don’t answer that.)
If you have any aspiration to become or hire a freelancer, then The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Elance is for you. Elance is the world’s foremost “eBay for jobs.” Hire a freelancer here, or start your own freelancing business. I explain it all.
Have you discovered the social media website Pinterest? If not, check it out at www.Pinterest.com. I co-authored MacGraw Hill’s Pinterest Power: Market Your Business, Sell Your Product, and Build Your Brand on the World’s Hottest Social Network. The extremely long title says it all. But because I wrote it, it’s fun to read. Check it out.
Once you’ve devoured those…the list below covers some gems I’ve unearthed over the last few months.
Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (translated by Edith Grossman, brilliant translation)
- Have you ever read a book where you miss the characters long after the story has ended? This is one of those and possibly the best book I’ve ever read. Yes, it’s long. But Don Quixote and Sancho Panza are two of the purest characters I’ve ever encountered. There’s a reason this book has been around for 500 years. My bet is it’ll be around in another 500 too.
The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan
- It starts slowly, but by the halfway mark I couldn’t put it down and actually dreamed about it. Even if werewolves aren’t your thing, give this a try.
1Q84, Wind-up Bird Chronicle, Kafka on the Shore – all by Haruki Murakami
- My current favorite author, this guy’s a genius. Magical realism in Tokyo. I can’t say enough good things so will just say — read him!!
Breakthrough! edited by Alex Cornell
- 90 creative types give their advice on how to ignite that spark. Fun, easy to read format.
Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury
- He’s a god, what can I say.
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain
- Before, I thought I was “different.” Now, I realize I’m a shy, highly sensitive, introvert. And, believe it or not, there are a lot of folks out there just like me. Fascinating book!
Full Metal Alchemist by Hiromu Arakawa
- Have you discovered Japanese mangas? They’re actually a clever and oftentimes surprisingly deep art form. Slanderously, they’re also know as adult comic books. But don’t let that put you off. Out of 24 volumes I’ve read 9 and can’t wait for Amazon to deliver the rest.
Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
- A classic by the god himself.
Foundation by Isaac Asimov
- What a long way sci-fi has come. This is a classic. Great plot and world building, characters are a bit skimpy.
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers
- Heart breaking, rich, no wonder it’s a classic.
How about you? What have you been reading that’s left an impression?
This February I’ve been musing a lot on journeys, particularly on the writing journey. I went back to my old high school and talked to kids who wanted to write. I went to an amazing conference (Olde City New Blood) in St. Augustine, and got to talk about writing there with some amazing readers, bloggers, and other writers. Chuck Wendig did an interview of me (eep!), and I sat down with a reporter from my home town who did an article that knocked my socks off. In other words, I talked to a lot of amazing people who congratulated me on making it big and asked me what’s next. The trouble is, it doesn’t feel like I’ve “made it.” If anything, I feel like I need to work harder on the upcoming books to keep all of these lovely folks reading my work.
My mom asked me this month why I don’t seem happier. I think she expects me to jump up and down about the book–which I did, when the first contract came in, when the first book appeared in the store, and (my favorite) when the audio book auditions came in. But right now I’m finding myself too full of wonderful things that aren’t writing. I misplaced my first love; I need to find my way back to the little room and the little whiteboard that started this all.
The creative process is not about accomplishments. It’s not about failures either, unless the failures spark something new. Every day the computer screen opens and I need to pour out what’s in me on the page. Every day is new, and fresh, and empty. The best days are when the work speaks through me, when the song becomes loud enough to drown out the silence of the empty page and the words flow like rain.
It is that moment that makes all the work worth it. It is that moment that justifies all the hard ones, all the days of pushing the wheelbarrow of words up the impossibly steep hill. As I told Chuck Wendig, “When it’s beautiful, it’s beautiful, and when it’s hard, there’s nothing quite so hard in all the world. But I keep coming back to that feeling I love – of the world falling away and the story taking over.” The story is all. The writing is everything.
This February, I found that love reflected in so many people. I had a chance to talk story and books with amazing folks. And, today, I got to recapture my love again: that love of putting words on the page to tell stories. Today, for the first time in a long time, I sat down for hours on end and threw words at the empty page–and they stuck. It was beautiful, and I realized all over again how much I’ve missed it.
You know you’re a writer if you find those moments, those clear perfect moments of true word love, pushing you on. You know you’re a writer if you chase them, if you start running first and wait for inspiration to join you next. Sometimes the Muse wakes you up from a sound sleep, but mostly he joins you in your word-run along the way. But you run, either way, out of love.
This journey, for me, is all about love. The love of story. The love of reading and readers and books. But, above all, it’s about me and that keyboard, and the soft, pure solitary love of writing.
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