Monday, August 22, 2016

3 Ways Poetry Can Enhance Your Novel

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You know what I've been thinking about lately? Poetry.
I know, right? I'm as shocked as you are. I've never been much of a poet. I mean, I rhyme couplets with the best of them, don't get me wrong. But I took a poetry class in college, thinking it'd be a breeze for me, and found out I sucked.

And granted, that was a college level poetic forms class. Really what I discovered is that I hate conforming to rigid rules in my writing. Some people flourish. I just feel like it stifles my creativity. There are certain genres I don't write for the same reason.

As with anything in life, if I really wanted to be good at poetry--form or otherwise--and I put my mind to it, applied myself, practiced, I could become good at it. I don't have the drive or patience. Basically, I just don't wanna.

But lately I've noticed several different works that have used some kind of poetry--poems, songs, prophecies, if we're talking high fantasy--that really enhance the story.

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The example I'll use is a film. It's called Interstellar. Has anyone seen it? If you haven't, it's fantastic and I'd highly recommend it. One of my faves. During the highest-drama parts of the story, when there's the most suspense, the highest stakes, they add a voice-over of Michael Caine (who has a beautiful, calming voice) reciting the Dylan Thomas poem, "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night."

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Something about the juxtaposition of those two things was just so compelling. The first time I watched that film was on a small screen with a terrible internet connection, but I was still completely entranced by it.

So why does adding poetry, lyrics, limericks, etc work so well when they're done correctly? 

1. It can be used as a contrast. It's hard to show high-action drama but also bring across a calm, emotional theme. If you stop in the middle of your action scene to philosophize about theme, it's gonna kill your story. Editors will gleefully take a red pen to that crap. But using poetry accomplishes both at the same time. (Okay, it's harder to do it at the exact same form in book format than in film form, but you get the idea. It's easier to insert a few lines of poetry in an action scene without disrupting the flow of action. Or you can put it right after the scene to reinforce the theme you wanted to get across without being preachy or "telling" your reader something.)

2. It can bring theme across in a more obvious way. Building on #1, you may have a theme you want to bring across, but of course you can't just tell the reader what it is. This is a great way to actually put the theme into the story in a more-obvious way. Some writers may feel that this isn't subtle enough, but I think if done correctly, it can be very powerful.

3. Reinforcement. I keep mentioning theme, but you can use poetry to reinforce anything. Character arcs, symbols, conflicts, foreshadowing. Anything you want. In short, it's another tool writers can use to help not only tell their story, but bring it across in a powerful way.

I've already started employing this method in my WIP, which is a high fantasy. It kind of opens up a whole new world of exciting possibilities.

Have you used poetry, lyrics or something similar in any of your stories? How did it go for you?

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Book Release Dates, Follow Friday, and Friday Funnies!!!

Announcements:



1. Bastions of Blood, Book 2 of Kremlins will be released August 16, 2016. That's only 2 weeks away. Yeah! I will be holding an online Launch Party. Visit THIS LINK for more info or if you're interested in attending. There will be prizes including free ebooks, signed print books, and gift cards





2. Desolate Mantle, Book 2 of Street Games, will be released September 13, 2016. I will be holding an online launch party for that one too. Details forthcoming. 





Follow Friday:

Gain new followers and make new friends with the Book Blogger Feature & Follow! If this is your first time here, welcome! You are about to make some new friends and gain new followers -- but you have to know -- the point of this hop is to follow other bloggers also. I follow you, you follow me.

The Feature & Follow is hosted by TWO hosts, Parajunkee of Parajunkee's View and Alison of Alison Can Read. Each host will have their own Feature Blog and this way it'll allow us to show off more new blogs!

How does this work? First you leave your name here on this post, (using the linky tools -- keep scrolling!) then you create a post on your own blog that links back to this post (easiest way is to just grab the code under the #FF picture and put it in your post) and then you visit as many blogs as you can and tell them "hi" in their comments (on the post that has the #FF image). You follow them, they follow you. Win. Win. Just make sure to follow back if someone follows you!



What are your favorite podcasts, bookish and non-bookish?

Oh dear. I'm afraid I have a very boring answer for this question: none. I don't usually listen to podcasts. I wish I did as I constantly come across dozens that sound fascinating, but I'm far too busy to spare the time and I currently don't spend enough time in the car or in other places that lend themselves to audio entertainment, so I rarely if ever indulge in such thing. Wish I had a more entertaining answer this week. :D

Friday Funnies


Welcome to Friday Funnies! Because everyone needs a good laugh on Friday.




This is by far the funniest thing I found this week:

It's a TERRIBLE pickup line. Please don't use it on anyone--man, woman, animal... but I did laugh for about ten minutes, and still chuckle whenever it randomly pops into my head.



Happy Friday, Everyone! Hope you all have a fun and safe weekend!

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

IWSG: Political Correctness in Our Time

Welcome to my Insecure Writers Support Group post. We post the first Wednesday of every month. Brought together by the wonderful Alex J. Cavanaugh, our purpose is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds! Sign up HERE and visit many other blogs to connect with other writers.

Political Correctness in our Time


So I was surfing Pinterest last week (one of my favorite past times) and I came across the article entitled something along the lines of "5 Signs Your Story is Sexist." I was intrigued so I clicked to read. My first eye-roll happened only the second paragraph. (I don't remember who wrote the article off the top of my head, or what blog it was on. I'm sure I could find it if I looked, but I'm not going to bc I really wasn't impressed with it.)

I won't go over every point the post's writer made, but let's just say there was no way to satisfy her where sexism is concerned. Basically, if you show a female character in any kind of negative light EVER, you're being a sexist. And on the flip side, if you have a male character in any traditional male gender role, EVER, you're being a sexist. 

Don't get me wrong. There were some interesting points that really made me think, but overall, how the hell do you write a story without showing SOMEone in a negative light? 

Answer: You can't.

And I suppose I just really started over-thinking this (I do that) and stressing out about it. Because anytime anyone puts a negative comment on...anything--blog post, FB post, book review, etc.--a host of other Negative Nancys are sure to follow. And it never ceases to amaze me how many people jump to "follow" in the political correctness arena. 

But we just have to remember that readers want compelling stories. And stories are neither compelling nor satisfying if there isn't a clear-cut villain, plenty of character flaws, and the villain doesn't experience poetic justice at some point. So the people who want to read our stories won't take this negative angle.

Then I realized something else about this particular article. It's common to have articles entitled this way aimed toward helping writers. (10 Ways to Make Your Villain More Believable, 5 Tips on World-Building, etc. I've written many such articles myself.) But this isn't a "write tip" article. "5 Signs Your Story is [Already] Sexist." Okay, I inserted the "already" for clarification, but this article was written to attack authors' already-published stories from a politically correct standpoint.

It fails to take into account the fact that these negative characters, be they men or women, eventually get their comeuppance. And THAT is where the true message the author is trying to send lies. Which means the article is missing the entire point of story-telling to begin with.

Always take a step back and ask yourself what an article's agenda is. If it's to help you as a writer--just offer friendly advice--then great. Take the advice. Learn from it. Incorporate it. But if the advice has a negative bent, don't let it stress you out. It's just another way for negative people to discourage you. Don't let them. 

As long as you're true to your characters and your story, and aren't actively TRYING to be bigoted (which almost none of us are) you'll find your audience. Writers, by their very nature, are better than most at seeing and presenting truth, especially that surrounding love, motivations, justice, and the character of a...character. Don't let anything get in the way of that. ;D

What are YOU insecure about this month?

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

What I Learned From a Year Away From my Writing Blog

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So the past year has been sort of a crazy one for me. I've mentioned this briefly in other posts. I've blogged off and on a handful of times, but certainly not very regularly. And really, the thing I learned was simply what I like to blog about.

That may sound simple, but here's the thing:

Two years ago, I was an avid blogger. I had different features that I did on different days of the week. Some did better than others. But I rarely had trouble finding things to blog about. But a lot of what I blogged about wasn't directly related to my writing.

So I decided that as part of focusing on my writing, I would change my blog a bit. I would focus more on writing and my author stuff in general.

Yeah, that didn't go over too well. Not only did I not do much blogging over the next year or more, but I hardly did any of my own fiction writing at all. I'm not saying I stopped writing because I changed my blog or anything. It was just par and parcel to how side-tracked I got from my writing.

But the things I HAVE focused on in the past year have been stuff that I genuinely enjoy. I've said that I do a lot in the TWD community. Most of what I do is interpreting symbolism and geeking out about characters and story lines. That's something I genuinely love doing for stories that I enjoy.

Now that I'm actively working on my writing again, I knew I needed to get back to my writer's blog, but I immediately started feeling blocked as to what to write. But of course I never felt that way before.

So what really gave me the epiphany was going to see the new Star Trek film over the weekend. Having spent the last year teaching myself to analyze symbolism, foreshadowing, and other writer-esque things when watching stories on any-sized screen, several really amazing things jumped out at me. (And the film at large was fantastic anyway.) I realized I wanted to do a review for it. But I don't really do things like that on my blog anymore.

So then I found an article about writing a successful author blog. It was a great article that talked about how outdated most author blogging advice is. (I think that's true of most things concerning writing in general these days.) And it simply said that your blog should be a reflection of who you are. Readers want to connect with us on a real level and know that we're real people.

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So I realized that the reason I was having trouble with ideas for my blog is that I'm trying to force my blog to be something I think it should be, rather than letting it be the most natural thing it can be.

So, moving forward, I'm not going to limit myself so much on what I post. I don't think I have the time to go back to 5+ posts per week, but my blog, while it will definitely still be writing and story related, will just be about what I'm thinking about this week and how it relates to my writing.

That will be much more a reflection of who I am, what goes on in my convoluted thoughts, and where my writing comes from. I hope to connect with many more people and on a much deeper level than I have in the past year or two.

I'm someone who loves being online and talking to and meeting people. It's one of my favorite past times. So if you want to chat or know anything about me, feel free to ask! ;D

How do you come up with blog content?

Friday, July 15, 2016

Feature and Follow Friday + Friday Funnies

Gain new followers and make new friends with the Book Blogger Feature & Follow! If this is your first time here, welcome! You are about to make some new friends and gain new followers -- but you have to know -- the point of this hop is to follow other bloggers also. I follow you, you follow me.

The Feature & Follow is hosted by TWO hosts, Parajunkee of Parajunkee's View and Alison of Alison Can Read. Each host will have their own Feature Blog and this way it'll allow us to show off more new blogs!

How does this work? First you leave your name here on this post, (using the linky tools -- keep scrolling!) then you create a post on your own blog that links back to this post (easiest way is to just grab the code under the #FF picture and put it in your post) and then you visit as many blogs as you can and tell them "hi" in their comments (on the post that has the #FF image). You follow them, they follow you. Win. Win. Just make sure to follow back if someone follows you!



What is your favorite character archetype(s)?


I have to pick a favorite, huh? I have an entire Pinterest board called Character Archetypes full of pictures of great potential characters. How about I name one from each of the genres I write?


1) Crime Fiction: Yeah, both The Botanist and Street Games have involve a detective. I know lots of people who work in law enforcement and therefore have a soft spot for cops. In both cases they're good guy cops out to catch a serial killer. And even though that borders on cliche, I hope I do enough with the character that it isn't. Cody Oliver (The Botanist) has a massive scar on his face from scuffling with a pedophile, so not a pretty boy. And Gabe Nichols (Street Games) has a dark and tragic past involving regret over a lost sibling. Always put a twist on your archetypes!

2) Historical: the only one I can think of here is my main character in Citadels of Fire. She's a main in the Kremlin palace and is definitely the mousy type. Not the strongest of female characters. Of course there's Ivan, who is an evil dictator, but he is anything but typical, and then I'm not sure real historical figures count as tropes.





3) Dystopian: I do have a wise, mentor type in Interchron. He's a white-haired man--yes, even called Doc...

...no, not that Doc. He's calm and wise, not at all erratic. But I like this trope because you can create mystery based on what this character knows or figures out that others haven't. You also have a well of knowledge, which can be convenient when dealing with a dystopian world you have to communicate to your readers.

What's YOUR favorite character archetype?




Welcome to Friday Funnies! Because everyone needs a good laugh on Friday.





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Hope one of these gave you a smile. Have a wonderful weekend, Everyone! :D

P.S. I completely forgot that I was spotlighted on Author R.K. Grow's website yesterday. It's for the above-mentioned giveaway. She's spotlighting all the authors who are giving away books and she featured me yesterday. It totally slipped my mind until she tagged me on Facebook yesterday afternoon. So head over to this link for the feature, and be sure to enter the giveaway if you haven't yet. There are tons of great books being given away! Happy Friday!

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

32 Crutch Words to Slice and Dice from Your Writing

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I've done posts about crutch words before, but I thought it was high time I re-visited it. I didn't realize how many crutch words I had until the wonderful Wyatt Winnie (author in my weekly critique group) started calling me out on them. Thank goodness for honest critiquers. Really he only picked up 2 or 3 that I used a lot, but then I started examining my own writing and found a ton more.

So, what is a crutch word, you ask?

It's a word (phrases count too) that any given author uses a lot. Too much, really. We use them in everyday speech as well. Words like, "like," "to be honest," "actually," etc. They're words and phrases that are used so often as crutches or place holders, that they really don't mean anything at all anymore. 

And while they probably aren't AS meaningless in your writing as they are in our everyday speech, what it really comes down to is that they don't add anything in the sentence. And that's my rule of thumb while editing: if I can cut the word and the sentence still makes sense, then I do.

There are exceptions of course, especially with particular character dialogue. Maybe you want them to over-talk so sound less educated or as part of their character. Totally cool if you do. As always, cutting these words is the author's choice.

So I've made it a habit, now, when I'm editing a chapter, to edit for crutch words. The easiest way I've found is to use Word's "Find" function (or whatever program and search function you use) to find and change them on a case by case basis. 

Is it tedious? Yeah, definitely. But as with all things, it just takes practice. At first it will feel like the embodiment of why hell is full of unedited first drafts, but I've gotten to a point where I can do it quite cheerfully. 

And how do I pull that off? Because like all editing, it's a way to make my writing better, stronger, and more readable. And I enjoy that. Not only that, but you know the rule about writing a first draft and then tightening/cutting by 10%? Editing for crutch words will often do that for you automatically. I'll give examples below so you can see.

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One other note before I give you the list. There are a few words that I use A LOT. Words like "was," "but," and "that." With those ones I make it a rule to not use them for more than once in 100 words. So if I have a 1000-word document, I can't use "was" more than ten times. Other crutch words that are used less often like "suddenly," "very" and "Just" I try to use zero times. But every so often is okay.

All right. So here is my list of crutch words. Yes, I really do edit every chapter for every one of these. But I'm getting better at it. Once you start noticing and editing for them, you'll unconsciously use them less in your writing, which will make the editing easier anyway. Also, remember that while these will apply to MANY writers out there, each writer has their own unique crutch words as well. So maybe some of these don't apply to you. And probably you have a few that don't apply to me. Isn't variation wonderful!?! ;D

Crutch Words to Edit For:


Because they're used WAY too often and we need to find stronger ways to describe things. Also to stay away from passive voice (was walking, were talking, etc.):

  1. was             
  2. but              
  3. were           
  4. that             
  5. had 

Because 99%+ of the time, you can cut them and your writing will be stronger by leaps and bounds (these are the ones that usually mean absolutely nothing in the sentence):

  1. just
  2. really
  3. especially
  4. suddenly
  5. finally
  6. a bit
  7. for a moment
  8. very 
  9. even
  10. might 
  11. looked 
  12. almost
  13. probably

Because in writing, you either do something or you don't do it. Something is or it isn't. No half-measures:

  1. seemed
  2. began/started
  3. tried/managed

To avoid telling:

  1. looked
  2. realized
  3. knew
  4. saw
  5. heard
  6. smelled 
  7. tasted
  8. felt

Also look out for 

  1. reflexives: "my own," "himself," "herself," "itself,"etc.
  2. transitional overuses: "then," "and" or "but" at the beginning or in the middle of sentences, etc.  
  3. prepositional phrases, especially at the beginning of sentences; they tend to convey information you've already conveyed elsewhere: "before the concert..." "on the way to the market..." "while she brushed her teeth..."

I know this is a lot, but if you get in the habit of editing your crutch words, your writing will be MUCH stronger. It also gives you a great deal of self-awareness as a writer, which is empowering. And that can only be a good thing. ;D

What are YOUR crutch words?

Friday, July 8, 2016

Friday Funnies + Giveaway Reminder



Welcome to Friday Funnies! Because everyone needs a good laugh on Friday.






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Just some random minion humor for you today. I'm kinda in love with Wolverine Minion, complete with white tank top and mini-claws. Love it! ;D


Here's a friendly reminder that the wonderful R.K. Grow is doing a massive giveaway wherein she's gotten lots of writers to done their books. I'm giving away an ebook bunch which includes an e-copy of Persistence of Vision, Dark Remnants, The Botanist, and Citadels of Fire to one lucky winner. So hop on over and enter. Even if you don't win my bundle there are TONS of great books being given away. Get in on the hype! 

GIVEAWAY HERE!!!

Happy Friday, Everyone! Have a fun and safe weekend! Xoxo.