Friday, October 27, 2017

Five Year Goal Review: October 2017

Last Friday of the Month

Welcome. Some time ago I signed up to be part of the brainchild of Misha Gericke: the Five Year Project. She created it with the idea that if you have goal and work towards it, visiting it each month, having that accountability, that that goal might just become a reality; given enough time. Five years-worth of time. I’m all for goals, so I signed up a little over two years ago. Initially, my goal was to have the novel I was working on at the time, The Newstead Project, become a bestseller. And while that goal is still on my list, it didn’t feel big enough, broad enough. Crazy, right? Like having a bestseller isn’t enough. But for me it wasn’t. I’ve been to bookstores. I’ve seen Amazon. There are many more than many books out there that have been bestsellers. And saying bestseller signifies money. It’s never been about money for me. I’m a pretty content person. I don’t need any more than I already have. What it has been about is influence. In so many ways this culture breaks my heart on a daily basis. A little background on why I say that. I’m a psychiatric nurse, meaning I work with people who have just tried to kill themselves. And if that wasn’t heart-wrenching enough, I also do ultrasounds at a clinic for people thinking about abortion, trying to show them there’s a better way. In both cases I weep with them. I love them. I want so much more for them than what they’ve been given. They, each of them, are the heartbeat behind my characters, my stories. Their cries are my cries. I want for them what they want; rich, full lives full of love and hope. And while I believe I’m making a difference on a small scale with what I do day-to-day, I know there are people out there I’ll never meet who are just as broken as those girls who come into the clinic, as that kid who just slashed his wrist. I want to love them, too. And so Black and White was born. It’s a publishing company created by my husband and myself. It started as such a small thing, and in a lot of ways it’s still small. It’s nowhere near the world-class publishing company that has become my new five year goal. At this point it’s just a seed, a dream. A goal. Over the past year or so others have joined us in this dream. We now have seven authors (including myself), three illustrators, and a composer. We have sole rights to produce patent-pending Ubooks :
We’ve won awards for two of our publications: Jellyfish Jones, which one Children’s Book of the Year from Author’s Circle.


And The Newstead Project, Novel of Excellence, Paranormal, also from Author’s Circle.

Just seeds. Just a dream. Just the sort of thing that changes the world.


Want to join us? You can. Right now we’re accepting submissions for short stories of all genres for Ubook publication. Also, beginning on Halloween we’re opening for submissions for Sisters Grimm—a fairytale anthology to be released Halloween 2018. I’m really excited about this one. Jessica Gadra is illustrating each story, which will be amazing. You definitely want to get in on this one. Trust me. Find out more here.

 Or support us by reading our stories. All of them are free. Find them here. And if you love them, share them. Your help is appreciated more than you know.
Until next time--

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Authenticity vs. Filters: Writing Lesson Two

I’m not into selfies. I’m just not. I’m more of a be in the moment type of girl, and from what I’ve seen selfies have kept a lot of people from that. I know it has in my house. Now, I’m not naming names, but I have a certain eleven year old daughter who’s constantly taking them. And that’s fine, normal even, from what she tells me. What isn’t are the filters. Have you seen those things? My perfectly beautiful daughter takes a picture, hits a few buttons and bam—she’s got flawlessly glowing skin, perfect make-up and shining eyes. She even has flowers in her hair. It’s completely fake. And she doesn’t need it; like I said, she’s lovely.

Those of you who’ve read this blog for any amount of time know I value authenticity above almost everything. We’re all insecure about something. We all have issues. What’s the point in pretending we have it all together when none of us do? Any one of us can get that filter and make ourselves look that fabulous. But what happens when we’re out in public without the cameras and people really see us for who we are, giant pimples and all? No thank you. I’d rather you knew the real me right from the start.

I think that desire for authenticity is why I write the way I do. My characters are real to me. They have flaws, real ones, ones I don’t mind displaying to the world. They make mistakes and suffer the consequences for those mistakes. I hate books where the characters are beautiful and perfect—with flawlessly glowing skin, perfect make-up and shining eyes. Completely fake. Completely filtered. Who wants to be around someone like that? Because that’s what you’re doing when you’re reading a book—you’re spending time in that world, with those people.

With all that in mind, the writing lesson for today is this: How to develop authentic characters.

For me, it's watching people. Real people. Truly see them without any filters. I always keep a journal nearby and jot down things people say, expressions on their faces, positions of their bodies. What are they feeling, and how is that displayed? How are they interacting with each other? This has been especially beneficial when I’m in an environment I’m not used to. I worked in a jail once, mainly for this exercise. It worked. Marcus (one of the characters from the Newstead books) has so much more depth than he would’ve had otherwise. Now, I’m not recommending that to everyone, but there has to be someplace you can go that’s out of your element and watch people, pen and paper in hand.  Forget Facebook. Where can you go to get the inspiration you need to make your characters real to you and to me?

Friday, October 20, 2017

A Lesson in Writing: Part One

A few weeks ago, I started a Meet-up group. It was kind-of a random thing and kind-of not. I used to host a monthly writing night through SCBWI, but stopped a year or so back when time and life got in the way. It was too bad, really. Writing can be so solitary; it was refreshing to have that time to share with like-minded people. The kick in the pants came when my daughter transferred to a local college. She went to every group she could, trying to find “her people”. I was inspired. Who are my people? My thoughts went to that quiet group. Those were my people. I needed to find them again.

As I said in the beginning, I went to Meet-up and registered my group: Writing in Black and White and waited as the numbers slowly began to climb. My people! They needed me as much as I needed them!

I started planning our first gathering. My last writing night was held at the local Panera, but I’ve changed a bit since then, become a bit quirkier, I guess. I decided to have the new location be at a steampunk coffee shop down by the canal: Steamworks. It’s perfect. We met for the first time last night.

I was surrounded by great coffee and new/old friends. My people. We talked, we wrote, and while I was doing that, I thought of this blog. A lot of times I don’t write anything because I truly don’t think I have anything to say. You’re busy. You don’t want to read my rambling thoughts. But then last night as I sat next to an illustrator who wants to turn writer, and I taught her the very beginnings: how to get inspired, I realized I do have something to say, something worth reading. So, that’s what I’m going to do here on the Fridays after those meetings: I’m going to review the lessons taught and the lessons learned from the night before. So grab a cup of coffee and join me. I could always use more of “my people”.

First, this lovely woman had a blank notebook and a pencil that she was staring at while the rest of us plunked away at a fast pace on our computers. You could see the anxiety on her face, growing by the second. I pulled out my phone.

“My inspiration comes from lots of places,” I said, “But I’m a visual person. I’m guessing, as an artist, so are you.”

She nodded, relief on her face. She wasn’t looking at the blank paper anymore.

I scrolled through my pictures, showing her the *one that inspired Rachel, one of the main characters from my series. “See,” I said. “See how that woman looks scared, how she’s pulling her shirt in, how she’s trying to cover herself as best she can?”

The woman nodded. She saw.

“And look how she’s in a hurry, almost running to get away. What do you think she’s thinking? What do you think she’s feeling?”

“She’s scared.”

 I nodded. “Now show me some pictures that inspire you.”

She got out her phone and scrolled down. Within five minutes she was looking at a picture of an old building, wondering who worked there, what they did, and how life would have been like in those days. Within five minutes her paper wasn’t blank anymore. She was scribbling, writing as fast as she could.

What inspires you?

Let’s look at some pictures, and as you do, ask yourself questions.  

Who lives here? Who owns that car? What are they like? Are they poor/rich? What are their dreams? Have they lived there their whole life? Are they just waiting to move out? Is that why they bought that old Bug--and tried to fix it up with spare parts they found? What is their story? I want to hear it, don't you?
How about him? Is he running away--or is he just out for a walk? How old is he? Is he an only child? Who are his friends? Why is he alone? Does he want to be? Is he lonely? Is he lost? Tell me about him. Help me to know him. Help me to love him.
One last one:

Who are they? Did they just meet, or have they known each other forever? Did they grow up next-door and only recently realize that what they've been looking for all along is right there? Are they afraid to reach out again, to let themselves try, just one last time?
See how protective he looks? She how he's looking at her--and how she's looking at him? To them, in that moment, there's no one else in the world. She in him and him in her. Do you feel that? Because that's what this exercise has been about: feelings. Drawing them out, writing them down. People, all of us, are feeling creatures. We want people to make us want to give a damn. We want something to love, to fight for. As a writer, it is up to you to give that to them and you can't until you feel it first in yourself. Try it. Your future readers will thank you for it.
Until next time--
All pictures on this post have been obtained from Canva. Try them--highly recommended.
*An American Girl in Italy by Ruth Orkin