Author Interview: H. A. Callum 2.0

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Author Interview: H. A. Callum 2.0

If you’re a fan of H. A. Callum’s then you know the last interview just left us wanting to know more about this wonderful, supportive writer and his new book, Whispers in the Alders. I’m thrilled to bring you the second installment, H. A. Callum 2.0. Enjoy!

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H. A. Callum’s Whispers in the Alders

Welcome back, H.A. I know you’re busy with the release of your first novel, so I appreciate you taking the time to answer my questions.

Hi, Donna! The pleasure’s all mine. I greatly appreciate the time you’ve taken away from your own writing for this interview.

 

For those who refuse to read the first interview, which they should since it’s incredibly entertaining, tell us about Whispers in the Alders.

 

Shame on them! Hopefully we’ll get them to go back and read the first to avoid any spoilers! Since there has been more publicity (just a little!) since the first interview, we can give away a bit more as the story of Whispers in the Alders is slowly revealing itself leading up to its release. Whispers in the Alders is more than just the collision of two worlds when Aubrey and Tommy first meet. It reflects society, where we’ve been as a nation socially, where we are now, and how two people can change their places in that social structure, regardless of the emotional cost to them. Whispers in the Alders is a beautiful story about how two misbegotten kids find their escape in the alder stand, and by getting lost in the pages of a book. How many of us can relate to that? I know I can.

 

I haven’t finished Whispers in the Alders yet, but I’m well on my way. I would have to agree. The characters and storyline have drawn me in from the beginning just by being relatable.

My stories often evolve from a spark or a glimmer of thought leading down a rabbit hole. What was the spark or glimmer of thought that inspired Whispers in the Alders?

 

The story behind Whispers in the Alders constantly pulled at me until it was given its rightful place on the page, staring back at me, ready to be told to conclusion. Variations of it played out in my imagination for years. Finally, late one night, I found the inspiration and courage to give this story its due. I hope that, as an author, I’ve done justice to Aubrey and Tommy’s story.

 

Speaking of Aubrey and Tommy, what can you tell us about the stars of the show? Who are Aubrey and Tommy? No spoilers, please.

 

They are an odd pairing, and it’s hard to say who they are without risking spoilers, because so much of the story is driven by their personalities and their relationship. Aubrey is the daughter of privileged parents, her childhood spent touring the country via countless relocations caused by her father’s corporate position. She’s the new girl in school every year, and her father’s reputation always ushers in her arrival. Finding friends is never easy for Aubrey in the towns that become part of her vagabond childhood. She backs up Tommy, who is the shy, free-spirited boy that spent his days hiding behind a book. He’s also from Alder Ferry’s lower economic class, and the shame of that is apparent in his first encounters with Aubrey.

 

Most of your fans only have two questions for you, where can we purchase your book? And is it available for pre-order?

 

Finally! I thought you would never ask! The kindle edition is available now for pre-order on Amazon at: http://a.co/egUo7XR. On release day, it will also be available on B&N, iTunes, Kobo, 24 Symbols, and many other online stores.

 

Many folks love eBooks, but for those who don’t, will there be a paperback or hardcover release coming in the future? If so, when can we expect to see it?

 

Yes! Paperback will be available for order on May 26th through all online retailers. As of now we are also working to place the paperback in select independent bookstores in the Philadelphia metro region. I also make personal deliveries for signed copies (wink).

 

I know what I’d do on release day for my book, but what will you be up to May 26th while the rest of us are reading Whispers in the Alders? Any fun festivities planned for the days leading up to and after the release?

 

I decided against the traditional launch party. In the end, I want to celebrate the release of Whispers in the Alders finally getting into the hands of readers. May 26th is going to be a busy day for me on social media promoting the book, and I plan to cap the day off with a dinner date with my wife whose support has been incredible. The writer’s life takes its toll on everyone whether or not we notice it.

Which isn’t to say there will not be any events! For as much time that goes into writing a novel, why sell its release short?

 

That sounds like a wonderful way to spend your release day! If I lived closer, I’d say, “Drop off the kids and have a fabulous time!” I’m sure you both deserve the celebration.

I intend to live vicariously through all my friends who get published, so what’s it been like realizing your dream? From words on a page to a novel?

 

Phenomenal, and challenging! It’s remarkable getting Whispers in the Alders out there, and finally holding the finished book in my hands is a priceless experience. There’s nothing that would stop me from doing this all over again, exactly as it has played out. To quote a line from Whispers in the Alders, “This is why we write.”

 

“…exactly as it has played out.” Are you sure? Nothing you’d do differently the second time around?

 

Honestly, no. Some of the best memories I have writing Whispers in the Alders are the many late nights my infant daughter spent snuggled against my chest. She’ll never remember those nights, but I’ll never forget them.

 

What a beautiful memory! Thank you for sharing it with us.

I asked a mutual friend, C. M. Turner, if there were any questions she’d like you to answer. She gave me one, and I have to agree I’d like to know the answer as well. Is H. A. Callum a planner or a pantser? Do you have the story worked out before pen touches paper? Or do you fly by the seat of your pants and see where the story takes you?

 

Yes – to both! I’m a planner, but not one who is afraid to let the story dictate the direction it needs to follow with some guidance. Whispers in the Alders had a drastically different ending when I started. Very different. After workshopping a draft of the first chapter at my writer’s group, I decided to outline the first several chapters. It gave the initial guidance I needed as a writer to stay on track, especially with the advice I received from experienced members of my writers group. I still outline in this way: the first several chapters, then outline each chapter prior to writing. As things change, so does the outline.

Writing is a process, and I’ve learned from experience that preparation never fails the writer. I will always be a student of writing, and I know it shows with each new story or poem I commit to paper.

 

I’m sure C. M. Turner will be just as surprised by that answer as I was.

Now that Whispers in the Alders is on its way to fame, what projects will you be focusing on? Any new books in the works?

 

Why yes, of course! My next novel is – nearly outlined – since you asked! I’ve begun drafting, and it’s a contemporary literary work. Partially inspired by recent events, it has also inspired a poem which is now out on submission, titled “Snow Ghost: Whitefish, Montana.”

 

You have a gift with words, my friend. Is there any chance of a poetry book in the future? Or a collection of short stories and flash fiction?

 

Aww … thank you! How did you know to ask?!?! I have multiple poems and short stories out on submission. Look for them in the next few months. I am considering a poetry collection as well, especially with the overwhelming and positive response to the poetry that I’ve posted on www.hacallum.com. Here’s another hint: Whispers in the Alders features new poetry as well.

 

After reading your poetry, you’d have to be daft to not put out a poetry collection. You have a gift with words and imagery.

When I’m not writing, I’m drawn to other creative projects. Do you find yourself drawn to other creative forms? If so, which ones?

 

Let’s just say that other mediums and I don’t get along very well! Running is a great outlet for me to recharge and get the creative juices flowing again. When I have time, cooking is a great way to express my artistic talents. But I think the best thing for me is being around my daughters and letting my imagination walk with theirs. That is what births creativity. Somewhere along the line most of us lose that, and without it we lose inspiration. My advice – stay in tune with your imagination, and never place boundaries on your imagination or the imagination of a child.

 

I couldn’t agree more. I draw so much from my children. They look at the world in a way many adults have forgotten.

My family and friends can’t wait for me to finally finish a book. How do your family and friends feel about having a published author in their midst?

 

They are full of love and pride. Everyone knows it’s an accomplishment, and really, how many people even attempt to write a book, let alone send it out to the world to be scrutinized? But here’s the thing: I don’t talk about it unless asked, and I refuse to be “that guy” turning every family event into a book signing. My family’s been great and I adore them for recognizing this milestone. The look in their eyes has said it all. What more could a writer ask for?

 

Researching for this interview, I read a blog post on your website about the querying process. I know it is the moment I most dread. Any advice for those of us filled with dread?

 

Don’t dread it. Just do it right – research agents and publishers that are open to submissions in your genre and follow their submission guidelines. You have nothing to fear if you do these two simple things. I spent many evenings querying, and trust me, it takes time. Two or three well-crafted and personalized queries in an evening is huge if you are balancing your writing life with family and work. Keep it personalized to whom you are submitting and professional in tone, then send it off and wait. I read the complaints from other writers about querying, and honestly – not to say that it was easy – for me it was a pleasant experience. I was surprised how many agents and publishers actually took the time to respond to my queries, and some even offered advice – which I considered in my edits and rewrites. In the end, publishing is about people and I hope that my work querying Whispers in the Alders, if anything, worked to develop my future relationships with agents and publishers. Next stop is to attend some of the many writer’s conferences offered in New York City and Philadelphia, pitch my work, and get to know the amazing people involved in the world of books and publishing. The people I’ve met along the way, and the friendships made, are a large part of what has made the publication of Whispers in the Alders so special.

I’m always amazed with the writing community, and Donna, you’ve been a shining example of how we as writers work to support not only our own works, but each other. Thank you again for supporting the upcoming release of Whispers in the Alders!

 

It’s not easy being a writer, worried if you’re any good and finding the time to get it done. The least we can do for one another is be supportive through the process. I’m honored to have been able to help in any way. Thank you, again, for taking the time to answer my questions. I wish you much success with the release of Whispers in the Alders and in the future.

 

To find out more about H. A. Callum:

Website/Blog

Whispers in the Alders

Twitter

Facebook

Goodreads

Blue Deco Publishing

Stalled Out on Indecision Highway

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Stalled Out on Indecision Highway

First, I lost confidence in my writing, then I found myself stalled due to indecision. This writing thing is much harder than just putting one word after another. I’m looking at you, Mr. Gaiman.

I’ve been editing book one of my young adult, fantasy books with book two at about the halfway mark. This had me thinking about agents and publishers, what research I needed to do, and mostly how close I was to having my first book ready to go.

These thoughts led me to question how wise it was to start with a trilogy. I’m an unknown author. How likely am I to find a book deal with a trilogy? On the other hand, my horror novel is part of a series but could easily standalone. I know, it seems like a no-brainer, but the horror novel is only half done.

For the last couple of weeks, these questions rolled around my cranium, begging to know the right answer, the fear of making the wrong decision leading me to indecision. I gave up working on any of them, worried I’d be putting the effort into the wrong one. I started two new stories, and although I was excited about the new stories, I wanted to finish a book.

The other day, I got a message from author C. M. Turner. If you’re not already following this amazing, supportive woman, you should be. C. M. Turner checks on me often. I think she might be only slightly less excited about me finishing a novel than I am. Hell, she might be more excited.

She asked about my writing, and I explained my problem. I got a message back right away. She felt like I did. The trilogy would be a hard sell, but the horror could be standalone if necessary. I immediately wished Twitter had a function to hug her across the miles.

I didn’t just need my own thoughts confirmed. I needed a trusted friend to give me an honest opinion, and I needed to know my concerns were justified.

Now, I’m back to work on the horror, hoping to make people’s skin crawl, and I owe it again to the amazing, supportive friendships built in the Twitter writing community. I can’t stress this enough, if you’re struggling with your writing in any way, ask your Twitter friends. They have answers, support, and will let you know you’re not alone.

Thank you, Lady. I’m fortunate to call you my friend.

Thank You

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After my recent post, Asking for Help, I received so many lovely, encouraging, and helpful messages and comments. I feel truly fortunate to be surrounded with so much support. I’m still working on trying to write, but I feel like you’ve all helped lift the darkness. I cannot thank you enough.

I’d like to thank the following people for being a light in the darkness when I needed it most. Thank you for taking time out of your day to comfort and help me in my time of need. I hope you all know your words touched and inspired me. I might not be back up to full running speed, yet, but the forward momentum I have is in large part from your support. Thank you.

Tante Willemijn (aka Linnie) – Website, Twitter, Her Words for Me on Depression

Chris Gould – Website, Twitter

Cindy Kolbe – Website, Twitter

Katspaks – Twitter

Alex Micati – Website, Twitter

Raimey Gallant – Website, Twitter

Tara K. – Website, Twitter

John F. Harrison – Website, Twitter

H. A. Callum – Website, Twitter

S. A. Franco – Twitter

Rosie Ellen Grey – Website, Twitter

Jenna Victoria – Website, Twitter

If you’re looking for wonderful people to follow and support, you’ve found them. Thanks again!

Asking for Help

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Over the years, I’ve learned to ask for help. It was difficult at first, but sometimes you just can’t go it alone. When headaches or my back are giving problems, my family takes on a few extra chores. When my depression is keeping me stuck inside my cranium, my daughter will ask, “Whatcha thinking about mama?” It breaks me out of those nasty thoughts and brings me back.

I don’t want to be a bother to anyone, which is why it’s so difficult to ask for help. Results help, though. When I get over whatever is ailing me and I don’t have tons of housework waiting on me, or when my depression is more easily managed because I spent less time trapped in my cranium, it’s hard to ignore those results. It makes it easier to ask for what you need.

Lately, I’ve been struggling to write or edit. I second guess myself and question what business I even have writing. I know this is a result of my depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem. They’re working together to make my self-confidence plummet. I know this because a month ago I was on my way to having my first novel ready for a professional editor, and I didn’t question myself then.

I’ve had a rough start to the year, and it seems determined to have a real go at me. Normally, I weather the storm and use writing to help. Unfortunately, I’ve had a sort of crushing realization that I don’t feel at all comfortable discussing, and I’m struggling to write or edit or even look at a page. Day after day, I’ve tried to figure out what I need.

I need help from my Twitter friends. The people who know what it’s like to write and lose confidence in yourself. How do you fix your self-confidence? What tips do you have for me? What can I try? I don’t care how you respond. Reply here, DM or @ me on Twitter, send me an email. I’d be very grateful. Thank you.

 

 

The Difficulties of Writing: Fiction Vs. Nonfiction

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The Difficulties of Writing: Fiction Vs. Nonfiction

Let me first thank Chris Gould for helping me, finally, find a new blog post topic. Thanks, Chris!

When I sit down to write one of these posts, I find it a rather simple task. Granted, I don’t always find it easy to find a topic, but once I do, the words pour out and off it goes to live on the internet. I can’t say the same for my fiction writing, though.

Blogging or writing nonfiction doesn’t have the same stressors attached to it. I sit down and write what I know of my perceived world. Nothing more, nothing less. Some posts are harder to write than others, like Learning to Love Me: Starting with the Basics, but not hard in the same way writing fiction can be.

When I wrote Learning to Love Me, I struggled with posting something quite personal to me. I didn’t know if I wanted to share those feelings. In the end, I decided I wanted others to know they weren’t alone, and so, I put it out there in the world. The act of writing the post only grew difficult because of the emotions I felt while writing it.

None of my posts have been difficult to write, though. I didn’t have to put a lot of thought into them. I wrote what I knew to be true. Some of them I had to edit more than others, but I didn’t worry about whether they were good or not. I knew some people would enjoy them and some wouldn’t, but I’ve never felt bothered by that.

So why isn’t it the same with fiction writing?

I write a short story, edit the story, and then I dwell on whether it should ever come in contact with human eyes. Every short story I’ve posted on this website, I posted with dread. I’m not sure what I dread. No one has ever openly criticized my writing, and yet, with each post, I’m waiting for some person to tell me I’ve written garbage. Deep down, I know the novel I’ve been editing will be even worse.

Others have mentioned how hard it is to put their writing out into the world, so I know I’m not alone. Why do we struggle with posting our fiction so much more than our nonfiction? What’s the difference?

The difference is in the truths. The real truth and the truth I’ve created for the reader.

When I write nonfiction, like this post, I’m writing what I know to be true, and since this truth hurts no one, it’s easy to write and to put out into the world. This is my truth. If it doesn’t resonate with you, you have a different truth. No biggie.

On the other hand, when I write fiction, I’m creating a beautiful lie that you need to feel is real in your heart. Essentially, I’m asking the reader to believe in this tale I’m weaving, to love these characters like they are real beings, and to feel the emotions they feel.

Our stories are built from our experiences with tweaks and what-ifs tossed into the mix. We build whole worlds, populate them with people, and we do it all from our minds. For me, writing fiction is like allowing someone a peek inside my mind, and that is scary as hell. I don’t even like being in there sometimes. It’s no wonder it’s scary giving someone a day pass.

I might be completely off base, but I think the difficulty lies in what we show our audience of ourselves.

In Answer to Kyle’s Questions

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In Answer to Kyle’s Questions

Please take a moment to visit Kyle’s Blog! To find the blog post I’m responding to, click here!

Those of us participating in the NaNoHop know, there’s some really cool folks in the NaNoHop. I wish I had had such a wonderful idea or the time to implement it. Thank you, Kyle, for the shoutout! 🙂

Q1. What is the Liebster award and how did you get it?

The Liebster Award is a way to recognize blogs and give them exposure. If you’re nominated and accept, you thank the individual who nominated you, answer a few questions, and nominate some more blogs for exposure. I was nominated by the author Ken Stark, an author I have reviewed and interviewed and now consider a friend.

Q2. Could you tell us about your flash fiction you posted?

Practice and prompts. All of my posted stories are the result of practicing my writing skills, stretching those muscles. Each one challenged me in different ways. Not Even Elephants was the first. I had to keep cutting and cutting on that one to get it under 500 words. It took everything I had to share that first story. Pyre came next from an image prompt as you can see in the next question. It started much shorter, but after some positive feedback, I fleshed it out a bit more. I’m quite proud of that story. I just like Pyre as a character, and *blush* I’ve been asked by a few people to expand it. Always an honor when someone likes something you’ve written. Pandemic came from a challenge to write a story, starting every sentence with a different letter of the alphabet, A to Z. I’m not sure if I was supposed to do them in order, but I did. I had a lot of fun figuring out how to move along the story with such harsh constraints. The Old Woman and the Shoe – I wanted to practice and had too many ideas. My son told me I should retell a nursery rhyme, so I did. One day, I might even get the other one finished and on here.

Q3. Can you show us the picture you used as a prompt for Pyre?

I used to use Tumblr which is where I discovered the picture. I followed a writing prompts blog that posted it. It came across with no information/description, and I immediately had a story to fit it. After I wrote Pyre, I wanted to find the artist. After some searching, I found their Deviantart page. It’s called “Watch Out for the Aliens Dear” by Silppuri. Click the link for a peek.

Thank you for the opportunity to talk about my writing. It was quite fun!

Author Interview: C. M. Turner

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Author Interview: C. M. Turner

C. M. Turner’s book, Where the Ironweed Blooms drew me in as soon as I laid eyes on the cover. I didn’t buy it right away, though, because after looking at the description, I wasn’t sure it was for me. The cover kept making appearances on my timeline, and soon, I found myself adding the book to my Amazon cart for purchase. I’m happy I did. The book was nothing like what I expected. Once I devoured the book, I had to review it.

C. M. Turner has many projects in the works, but she still found time to grant me an interview. I hope you have as much fun getting to know C. M. Turner as I have.

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I’m sure your fans are curious about the mysterious C. M. Turner. What can you tell us about yourself? Who is C. M. Turner?

 

Well, I died this year and lived to tell about it. I’m not sure how many can make that claim. This year also marks the debut of my first book, a dream I’ve had since childhood. I feel like the best is yet to come and I’m looking forward to sharing my next novels with you. Three are complete, one needs a little work – and two are in need of an ending.

 

Everyone needs a break from time to time. When you’re not writing, how do you like to spend your time?

 

Some of my free time is spent reading but most of it painting, cooking or gardening. Writing is always my first choice, while painting runs a close second. I consider it another art form in which to tell a story. I paint abstracts. There is something freeing about standing across a room slinging paint onto canvas and watching what forms. Whatever else beckons, I always return to writing. It’s the voice that calls me home. Within its margins of accuracy and realism, I find a kind of balance – that truth all writers pursue.

 

Every project has its ups and downs. What were your biggest challenges with Where the Ironweed Blooms?

 

The biggest challenge I faced with Where The Ironweed Blooms was quite simply, fact checking. The story poured from me but the history of the region and the era required hours, if not years of research. I spent years in that region learning its history and as I finessed the book with many rewrites to fit the area, my book and characters grew.

 

Where the Ironweed Blooms (WTIB) was such a great read. What can we look forward to next? And what can you tell us about your next book?

 

My next novel is in sharp contrast to WTIB. It’s a young adult novel set on the West Coast during the early sixties, the time period and place I grew up. It deals with personal tragedy – addiction, love, and loss, yet ultimately hope in the end. The main character carries his sorrow well into adulthood as he struggles to free himself from the past. As an adult, he lives on an island in the Pacific Northwest, where he still battles with old demons from adolescence, and the heartbreak that altered his life.

 

I’ve written some characters I truly love, and I’m sure you have too. Which of your characters is your favorite? Why?

 

My favorite character is one named, Dande. Her life flowed from me almost as if I’d lived it. I followed her journey from the time she was ten, through her eighties – longer than any other character. I lived every breath of the story alongside her, from the first line of the book to the last. Dande has an ironclad will, despite growing up in the South during a time women had little or no voice. Also a time of racial discord, she is never afraid to speak out over her male counterparts, or defend a cause no matter how contentious or combustible. This makes her my favorite character.

 

I’m constantly pulling from my life and experiences. Where do you find inspiration for your characters and settings?

 

I also draw my settings from real life – places familiar to me where I’ve lived at one time or another. Like many authors, my characters are inspired by people I come in contact with on a daily basis – then embellish with traits I instill to suit the role they will play. As I create them, I claim equal credit for the darkness in the villains, as the valor of the heroes. Whether inspired by actual people or my mind, they all share a portion of my DNA.

 

As I’ve mentioned on my blog before, my grandparents’ storytelling drove me to want to tell stories. What inspired you to become a writer?

 

My mother was a poet and for as long as I can remember, would tell stories about her family at bedtime. Sometimes she read from storybooks, but I always looked forward to the true accounts. Those are my happiest memory of her; and I’ve shared many glimpses of them in different books throughout the years. My favorites were the stories of her growing up in her uncle’s family home, Monticello, in Cynthiana, Kentucky. The estate was blueprinted and named after Thomas Jefferson’s home in Charlottesville, Virginia – built by her Uncle Tom (Thomas Jefferson Megibben) and destroyed by fire in July 1985. Fortunately, able to visit it beforehand, I was so impressed it inspired what would become Highland House in WTIB.

 

I have several authors I admire, and I strive to write stories that will make a reader feel the way I do when I finish one of their books. What are your favorite authors and books? Who inspires you to be a better writer?

 

There are too many to list and it’s difficult to choose favorites. I’d have to say Harper Lee’s, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” tops the list – then Richard Wright’s three novels, read at a most impressionable age; “Black Boy”, “Native Son”, and “The Outsider”. It wasn’t until living in the South during the sixties, that I came to be witness to some of the atrocities portrayed in these books. I also love everything by J. D. Salinger and Edward Albee. More recently, I haven’t been able to get enough of Joyce Carol Oates, John Irving, Albert Camus and Toni Morrison. All inspire me to to write better.

 

The writing journey is such a great teacher. What has your writing journey taught you?

 

The important thing this journey has taught me, is everything in my life happened to serve a greater purpose. What seemed tragedies at the time, resulted in books that never would have existed without having those experiences. I have also learned that a writer’s greatest tool is the ability to listen, and if you do, anything can be turned into a story. I’ve had entire books evolve from nothing more than bits and pieces, those things overheard around corners or through open doors – flashes most people probably would have forgotten.

 

What advice do you have for writers working on their first book? Asking for a friend. . .    😉

 

My advice for a writer working on their first book, is NEVER GET DISCOURAGED. Writing is like everything in life – there are always going to be naysayers and critics. The hardest thing is not to dwell on an unfavorable opinion, albeit, the neighbor, an editor or prospective publisher. For me, what is most difficult, is taking that opinion and turning it into something constructive. Like most writers, I have thrown myself into a siege of edits and rewrites but have also learned to believe in what I’ve written and stand by it. Eventually, the time comes when a project has been perfected to such a point it must be considered finished – so the best advice I can offer, is knowing when it’s time to let go. It is never too late to start, finish or publish a novel, I’m a great example of that.

Donna, thank you so much for the opportunity to do this interview with you.

 

A big thank you to you, C. M. Turner for granting me this interview. It was a pleasure to work with you. I wish you much success!

To find C. M. Turner:

Twitter, Smashwords, and Amazon

Pick up Where the Ironweed Blooms for only $2.99 right now on Amazon or Smashwords!

 

NaNoWriMo: What It’s Taught Me, National Novel Writing Month

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NaNoWriMo:What It’s Taught Me

For those who don’t know, NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month. The month-long event starts on November 1st and ends on November 30th. The main idea is to write a novel or 50,000 words in a month. There’s also a Camp NaNoWriMo, which I have not participated in, and a NaNoWriMo Young Writers Program, which my son participates in alongside my NaNoWriMo.

Last year, I debated on whether to do NaNoWriMo for the first time. The idea of trying to write 50,000 words in a month scared me. I didn’t know if I could do it. Heck, I pretty much thought I couldn’t do it. On the fourth day, I finally decided to give it a try. I talked it over with my son, who loves to write, and he wanted to give the Young Writers Program a shot.

We were both a little nervous, but we decided to think of it as a challenge. We realized whatever we got done would be a success. My son chose to try for 30,000 words and had his ideas almost immediately. I, on the other hand, struggled to think of a story. I started NaNoWriMo 2015 frustrated and scared. I had no idea what to write, and I was starting late.

I struggled in that first week. Then one day, I sat down to write, and I had a great writing day. I pulled in a large word count, and my brain started doing the calculations. I knew then I could do it. Even if every day wasn’t as good I could do it. Mathematically, I could still do it. Such a thought can really motivate you, and motivate me it did.

After that day, I tried harder. I wanted it even more. My daily word count became higher and more consistent. I found tricks to help me write and stay focused. At the time, I would play Murder She Wrote in the background. If I got stuck, I’d gaze off at the screen and get lost in the antics of an author trying to solve a crime. Soon, an idea would pop up, and I’d be off and writing again.

We may have started NaNoWriMo late, but we finished early. We were on top of the world. My novel wasn’t complete, but over the next couple of months, I finished it and began edits. I feel more confident now. I don’t get the voice telling me, “You can’t write a book.” I did write a book. I know I can now. Can you imagine how much NaNoWriMo boosted my son’s confidence?

This year, I didn’t have the same worries. I know I can do it, and I’m determined to do it. This year my worries are solely for my story.

What It’s Taught Me

  • Read – It’s true. You need fuel to write and reading is the fuel. If I haven’t been reading, I struggle to write, but if I’ve been devouring books, the words spill from my fingertips.
  • Find Your Focus – Last year, it was Murder She Wrote. This year, I’ve been using classical music and the focus playlists on Spotify. I prefer the music to have no lyrics, or I get lost in the story of the song.
  • Writing Conditions – Do I need distractions or a distraction-free environment? Hot or cold? How often do I need to stretch? The list goes on and on. When you’re trying to reach a goal, you have to be aware of what you need to complete the goal, and then make that happen.
  • Find the Time to Write – Before NaNoWriMo, I struggled to find a block of time to get writing done. Now I make a block of time to write. This is probably the number one thing I needed to learn. Whether it’s got to be broken up across the day, or one solid block of time, find your time to write.
  • It’s okay to allow myself to take the time to accomplish my goals. As a homeschooling, stay-at-home mother, I sometimes forget about me. I focus heavily on my family. NaNoWriMo taught me I deserve to pursue my goals too.
  • Any Month Can Be NaNoWriMo – Once you do 50,000 words (or whatever your goal is) in a month, you realize this could happen any month. I could ease up a month or two and do this again. I don’t need an event to do this. I could set a smaller goal and even write 50,000 words every two months. It’s up to me.

Last year, I didn’t know how I’d feel about NaNoWriMo. This year I donated to an event that got my son and I writing. When I think of all the kids out there writing just like my son, I can’t help but wish NaNoWriMo had existed when I was a child. This year, I feel even more dedicated. I want to keep this steam up all year round. I’ve been working on a schedule, and I think I’ll be making my own writing months in the future. Thank you NaNoWriMo for teaching me to be confident, giving me a supportive environment to grow in, and giving me the push I needed to finish my first novel. The second is on its way!

 

 

I Tried, I Failed, I Found Hope

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I Tried, I Failed, I Found Hope

I clicked the Thunderbird icon, hoping for news about the contest I had entered. I knew the results were supposed to be coming at the end of October, so I’d been checking for days. I don’t know what made me check right before bed or why. I wish I hadn’t.

The email was there, waiting to be read. I clicked and my stomach flopped. Please let me at least be an honorable mention, I thought. I scanned the email until I hit the first place winner. Damn, not me. I scrolled through the second and third place winners. Not me either.

My shoulders slumped and my heart felt heavy. I really wanted to place, felt like I needed to place. What I truly wanted was validation. Despite my best efforts, I still hear my grandmother say, “How do you know you’re any good?” I wanted to be able to say, “Here, this, this proves I have merit.”

Okay, I didn’t place, but maybe, just maybe, I was chosen for honorable mention. Twenty-three people were chosen for honorable mention, and do you know that not one of those names was D. M. Newlun? My world fell through a dark hole into an abyss. I didn’t make it.

I scrolled through the rest of the winners, door prizes. There, amongst others whose names had been chosen at random, was D. M. Newlun. As if I couldn’t feel worse, somehow, this door prize felt like the trophy to losers. “Here ya go. Thanks for playing ol’Chap,” as some man in a nice suit claps you on the back.

All the negative thoughts I had about my own writing came tumbling down on me like a window air conditioner shoved out of a second story window. My own mind battered me with insult after insult as I crawled into bed. I laid in bed, willing myself not to cry over the “stupid” contest.

My husband, always trying to be supportive, says, “The contest doesn’t mean anything. You’re a good writer.”

“If I had won, the contest would have meant something.”

He whispered how much he loved me and drifted off to sleep. I, on the other hand, had one helluva time getting to sleep, staying asleep, and not immediately focusing on the contest every time I woke up. I wasn’t surprised. I just wondered why on Earth I had to check for the results right before bed. (A Homer Simpson “Doh!” sort of moment)

I woke up and immediately dreaded having to tell my children, who had been rooting for me, that their mother had failed. I wanted to be that gracious loser, who smiles and says, “I’ll get ’em next time.” I couldn’t. I’m not proud. I shut the door to my room and went over the results again. I cried like a baby needing a change.

Let me be clear. I know it’s just a contest and it’s only one contest. I know it’s not the end of the world. I know I’ll have other setbacks and letdowns. Like I said, I just really wanted the validation. I wanted someone with no stake in it to say you’re a good writer. My family thinks I’m a good writer, but they’re sort of my biggest fans. I’ve had a few people on Twitter tell me I’m a good writer or that I “have a lot of potential”. I always wonder if they’re just saying it so I’ll retweet them, or if they just like me and don’t want to hurt my feelings.

Of course, where did I go when I wanted writer support, which should be a hotline. . . I went to Twitter.

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My whining…

After the tweet, I decided to try to brighten some of my friends’ days since mine wasn’t looking too bright. I ran through my “Twitter Friends” list and retweeted and commented to what I could. I found myself happy to find such wonderful stories to share today. My happiness didn’t last long, though. My stupid brain decided to sabotage my happiness with a whole lot of negative thinking.

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More of my bellyaching…

Guess what I got in return? The support I needed from writers who understood what I was going through. I cried when the first comments came through. It felt good to be understood in such a complete way. Then suggestions came in to help me out of my dark place. One of my friends gave me a bit of a pep talk, another told me to treat myself to something consoling and then kick my ass and get on with it, another suggested I write ten words for “darkness” without using the word “darkness”.

So I nodded at the wise words of my friends and took their suggestions to heart. I looked through my cupboards and thought what can I make to console and treat myself. Pasta! With garlic bread! I threw together a little pasta and garlic bread, and you know what, I did feel a bit better. It was like a hug from a friend.

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Pasta Me-Style (sorry, the garlic bread was shy)

After I ate a healthy helping of pasta, I moved on to my writing assignment, ten words – Darkness without “Darkness”. The assignment helped flush the worst of the negativity from my system. I debated whether to post those ten-word thoughts, but in the end, I wanted others to see them if they were having similar feelings. My words aren’t poetic or special. They are the feelings I had in the moment. Well, at least the ones I could encompass in ten words.

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The Yuck of My Brain, Not the Worst and Definitely Not the Best

I feel silly for letting a contest dominate me so thoroughly. I know rejection is part of being a writer, but damn, that doesn’t make it any easier. At least now, I don’t want to throw in the towel. Now, I want to find out how I can make my writing better, and then I want to do what’s necessary to get my words out to the world. You could say, I found hope. I’m hopeful for MY future as a writer and what I’ll be doing to make that happen.

Thanks to Alex Micati for suggesting the song, “That’s Life“. I’m not sure which version he intended, but I liked this one. Also, thanks for all the pep talks and support. You’re a constant support to the writing community. You’re a beautiful unicorn! Alex Micati’s Twitter; Alex Micati’s Blog

Thanks to Tante Willemijn (aka Linnie) for the words of encouragement and understanding and the wonderful suggestion to treat myself to something consoling. You’re a wonderful, supportive friend! You’re a beautiful unicorn! Tante Willemijn’s Twitter; Tante Willemijn’s Blog

Thanks to Greg McGraw for the “10 Words for Darkness Without Using Darkness” Challenge and the supportive words of encouragement. You’re a supportive friend. You’re a beautiful unicorn! Greg McGraw’s Twitter; Greg McGraw’s Book Page

*Special Note: In my family, we use the term “Beautiful Unicorn” when anyone does anything especially touching, meaningful, and/or caring for us or someone else.

Author Interview: R. R. Willica

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Author Interview: R. R. Willica

I had the great fortune to gain an interview with the witty and intelligent R. R. Willica. I first met R. R. Willica on Twitter and enjoyed the lines she shared. I decided to read her book “Darkness Falling: Soldiers and Slaves“. I loved the book as you can see in my review, so I asked for an interview. R. R. Willica was nice enough to answer a few questions despite working on her second book, “Darkness Falling: Shadow of the Seeker”, which is scheduled to release June 18th.

Let’s get started!

Q1. When did your love of writing start?

R. R. Willica:  I don’t remember the exact age, but I was pretty young, probably between six and eight years old. I was terrible at math, but my teachers always praised my writing. Even before that, though, I had a huge imagination and loved making up stories.

Q2. When you’re not writing, how do you spend your time?

R. R. Willica: I’m married and have 3 kids, so I spend time with my family doing things like going to museums or hanging out at home watching movies or television. I like playing video games. My favorite games are RPGs and MMORPGs like WoW, Skyrim, Fallout, Wildstar, and Final Fantasy (both on and offline.) I also work full time as a receptionist.

Q3. Where do you get inspiration for your characters and settings?

R. R. Willica:  I get ideas from everywhere; music, television, pictures, video games, and even just sitting quietly. My brain is always coming up with ideas and it’s up to me to sort them out.

Q4. Are there any future projects you’re excited to get started on?

R. R. Willica: I have a lot of future projects that I’m planning, many of which are already in progress in rough draft stages. I have already began a rough draft of a fantasy comedy, which will be my main focus after Darkness Falling. I also have plans for two other fantasies that are stand alone novels set in two separate worlds. Another projects in the works is a fantasy that is more magical realism on present day Earth, a teen zombie comedy, and two psychological thrillers. Yes, I am crazy, why do you ask?

Q5. What resources do you use to write?

R. R. Willica: I primarily use my computer. I do not like writing by hand, it’s not easy for me. I also often use my phone notepad to type quick scenes or lines when I’m away from my computer. As for writing guidance I read a lot of different blogs, articles, and anything that comes my way. Google is also my friend for research.

Q6. Who are your favorite authors?

R. R. Willica: I have a lot of favorites. For early inspirations I would say J. R. R. Tolkien, Katheryn Kerr, Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, and Tadd Williams. I also read a lot of Stephen King as a kid. Later I really enjoyed Douglas Adams and J. K. Rowling, and Jane Austen. Recently I’ve been having fun reading Terry Pratchett and Christopher Moore. Right now I’m reading a lot of indie authors, especially those who are “undiscovered,” like Angela D’Onofrino, Jewel E. Leonard, and D D Sydral, just to name a few. There’s a lot of good work out there to read. (But be warned, I’m a really tough reviewer, so watch out!)

Q7. What lessons have you learned from your adventures in writing?

R. R. Willica: Writing is really hard and you have to keep going. It’s a long road, and you won’t get the feedback you’re looking for the majority of the time. Sometimes it can be really frustrating, but if you keep going it’s worth it. Even if you never become famous or rich, if it’s what you love to do then it’s worth doing. 

Q8. What advice do you have for someone writing their first book?

R. R. Willica: My best advice is to not listen to too much advice. There is a lot of advice out there on what to do and what not to do, but really you need to trust your own instincts. Do what works best for you. Try out other advice, but if it doesn’t work, then don’t worry. “Real writers” come in all shapes, sizes, and mental capacities. It’s hard to get to the end, so don’t allow yourself to become bogged down with too many opinions.

Q9. If you couldn’t write, what activity would take its place?

R. R. Willica: If I couldn’t write I would slowly go into a dark wallowing of despair that I’m not fully aware of, and eventually I would find my way back out into writing again. Actually, I would probably play a lot of video games, that’s what usually happens.

Q10. What can you tell me about “Darkness Falling: Shadow and Seeker”?

R. R. Willica: Shadow of the Seeker starts only a few days after where Soldiers and Slaves ended. If you’ve read the first book, you know it ended rather abruptly and left a lot of questions not only what’s going to happen, but what in the world is actually going on. Shadow of the Seeker is going to answer a lot of those questions and starts to move the characters in new directions. All of this will hopefully set the stage for book three, Secrets of Syerset, and the final conflict. I’m hoping to have book three ready in the Winter of 2017.

A big thank you to R. R. Willica for being so kind as to do this interview. I wish you much success.

To Find R. R. Willica:

Website, Twitter, and Amazon Author Page

 

Pick up “Darkness  Falling: Soldiers and Slaves” for 99 cents right now!