Guest Post from Sonya Clark

September 7, 2010 at 5:55 am (fantasy, September Blog Tour) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Note from Cassandra: It brings me great pleasure to introduce Sonya Clark today. Her debut fantasy novel ‘Bring on the Night’ is available from Lyrical Press. Thanks Sonya for hosting me on your blog today and thanks for sharing your thoughts today on your writing process. Hope you all enjoy this fantastic post and then jump on over to Sonya’s blog to check out my interview.

My writing process tends to be inconsistent and chaotic. Sometimes I outline, frequently I fly by the seat of my pants. Sometimes I start with a character, other times a plot or situation. Sometimes the words come quickly and I’m riding the rapids without a kayak. Sometimes I’m dragging a story, heavy and manacled to my body in rusty chains, across the desert Ray Bradbury called Dry Spell, Arizona. Hopefully one day I’ll figure out a sure-fire method to consistent writing.

One thing I have learned is how to start the actual narrative. I write urban fantasy, an action-heavy genre to be sure, but I think this could work for just about any genre. When I first started writing I made the newbie mistake of starting with set-up and background. I thought I needed that to set the stage, so to speak. I didn’t realize what I was doing was the dreaded info dump. I had a manuscript I was unhappy with. Well, I was happy with the manuscript but the beginning was seriously lacking. It was way too low-key and did a poor job of introducing my main character, a vampire named Jessie. One thing I tend to do when I’m having trouble with a manuscript is take a detour, write a short story or flash fiction about a character or two. It helps me learn about the characters and I’ve found it’s a good way to get past a block in the main work. So I did this with Jessie, and liked what I came up with so much I used it as the beginning of Bring On The Night. Rather than tell what she was all about, this showed it. From that experience I learned to always start with action. Find a way to introduce your main character that shows what they’re all about, and fill in the background details later.

Here’s an excerpt from that opening scene:

“Or are you one of those guys who want to take what you want, but you don’t want to put

the hurt on? Huh? You too tender-hearted to listen to some poor girl scream and cry and beg for

mercy?”

“But that’s not how I roll.” She laced the fingers of one hand in his hair and pulled his head

back sharply, black eyes boring into his. “I like to put the hurt on, and I want you to remember

every second of it when you wake up.” She leaned closer, close enough he should have been able

to feel her breath on his face. “If you wake up and you go looking for more girls to drug, you might want to think of tonight as a cautionary tale.”

She opened her mouth. He watched in horror as two teeth began to elongate into sharp,

curved fangs. He began to scream as she lowered her mouth to his neck, struggling in vain to free himself. Her fangs sank into his flesh like hot knives, ripping and tearing as she jerked her head. The blood began to flow, followed by the echo of his screams.

**

Learn more about Sonya Clark at her blog. Bring On The Night is available for purchase from Lyrical Press and the Amazon Kindle store, as well as other ebook retailers.

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Versatile Blog Award

September 6, 2010 at 5:51 am (Author Info) (, , , , , , , , )

Tessa Quin has kindly passed on the versatile blogger award to me. Thanks so much Tessa.

The Rules for The Versatile Blogger Award:

  1. Thank and link back to the person that gave you the award.
  2. Share seven things about yourself.
  3. Pass the award to fifteen bloggers that you think deserve it.
  4. Lastly, contact all of the bloggers that you’ve picked for the award.

So thanks again Tessa and I have included your link.

Seven things about me:

1. I own at least seven different dictionaries (names, mythological characters, etc).

2. I don’t borrow books from the library because I have a hard time returning great stories.

3. I recently started playing netball again, for the first time in five years.

4. I don’t mind spiders unless they are crawling on me.

5. I am trying to learn to speak Japanese – in all that free time that I don’t have.

6. I still own a hula-hoop from when I was seven.

7. I don’t like eating toast.

Passing this on to:

Everyone who is hosting me in the blog tour: Eric, Geoffrey, Lua, Sonya, Alex Willging, Laura, Alex J Cavanaugh, Mason, Carol, Susan, Jemi, Nancy, Lee, Stephen, Barb, Steven, Rosemary, Little Scribbler, and Hart Johnson.

This is a great list of blogs from some of the most supportive bloggers I’ve met. Thanks all of you and congratulations on the award.

Just a reminder, tomorrow I am going to over on Sonya’s blog for my first interview of the tour.

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More Rejection

September 5, 2010 at 5:42 am (September Blog Tour, Thoughts on Writing) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

I’m currently faced with a decision. To keep agent hunting with my MS in its current form, or to overhaul the MS and see what happens. Technically I’ve only been rejected from four agents, which isn’t bad and two of them were not form rejections, which is better than when I first started trying to get Death’s Daughter published but still, I’m tossing up in my mind whether I need to go back and refine the work or whether to give a few more agents a try.

I guess what it is going to come down to is whether or not I actually think I can make the MS better than it is. One of the comments I received was that the beginning felt a little generic and so there is the question of whether I can change the beginning and make it better. If the answer is yes, then I should. However, I started sending the MS out because at the time I thought I had reached the limit of what I could do without further guidance and I was happy with how the story worked.

Before I send out another submission I will definitely be re-reading the MS, particularly focusing on the opening. I will probably make minor changes (just because  I never read anything I’ve written without changing something), though I may be facing another round of rewrites.

At the end of the day, I can only do what I can do. As long as I’m happy I’ve put my best effort out into the world, things will be alright.

How do you know when you need to revise more? How do you decide your MS is ready?

In other news, if you missed the start of the tour:

September first I visited Eric’s blog and he guest posted here.

September second I visited Geoffrey’s blog while he guest posted here.

Yesterday I visited Lua’s blog and she guest posted here.

Join me on the 7th on Sonya Clark’s blog.

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Guest Post from Lua Fowles

September 4, 2010 at 5:52 am (September Blog Tour) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

Note from Cassandra: I’m over at Lua’s blog today but she has left a great post here for us all to read and enjoy. Thanks Lua for sharing these thoughts with us, and wishing you all the best on your writing journey.

‘a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction’

By Lua Fowles … says Virginia Woolf and I think she has a point. It’s not just women who need a room of their own but I think it goes for all writers; we need solitude, we need quiet and we need a door to shot out the world. The Muse is a strange creature, it wants to be alone with the artist, it requires our full attention to help us put that story on to paper. So basically, yes Virginia, we need a room to develop that idea we have into a novel.

But that makes me wonder- what about before we discover (because lets face it, ideas are discovered not created) the idea of our story? It is necessary to get into our room and close the door once we have the story idea but what are we supposed to do with all that peace, quiet and an empty room when we have no story to tell?

I love the word “frustration”. The dictionary says it means, “a feeling of dissatisfaction, often accompanied by anxiety or depression, resulting from unfulfilled needs or unresolved problems.” That feeling of dissatisfaction, that impulse to solve the unresolved problems and fulfill our needs is what drives us to tell stories. For me, telling stories is the only way to make sense of this world, to understand myself and others, to stay in balance in this chaotic world. It is the only way that I experience satisfaction and solve my problems. In that case, I suppose, it’s safe to say that I need frustration before I need a bunch of money and a room of my own.

Ideas need to develop “outside the room”. They don’t develop because we’re perfectly satisfied with ourselves and with the world around us, they don’t emerge because we don’t have any issues with the world. They emerge from dissatisfactions and frustrations. Having a room is great, once you have your story idea. Then you can go inside your room and work on it, develop it, make it a masterpiece without any distractions or interference. But before that, to find your idea- you need to go outside and get frustrated a little. No- make that “a lot”. You need to get frustrated, a lot

Lua Fowles is an aspiring writer from Istanbul  Turkey, currently working on her first novel, ‘Closed Eyes, Change of Heart’… On her blog, Bowl of Oranges, she’s talking about the difficult but joyous journey of becoming a writer. She’ll be on her way to the University of Kent to get an MA degree on Creative Writing this September.

Visit Lua’s blog here: http://likeabowloforanges.wordpress.com/

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Two Visits Done

September 3, 2010 at 5:04 am (September Blog Tour) (, , , , , , , , , , )

The blog tour started well with my visit to Eric’s blog. I want to thank Eric once again for his brilliant post and for kicking off the tour. I then dropped in to Geoffrey’s blog for day two. Thanks so much Geoffrey for your excellent post here in the realm.

But there are many days to come in September.

Tomorrow I am visiting Lua Fowles blog where I discuss excuses for not writing, while Lua brings her own brand of wisdom here to the realm.

After that there is a bit of a break before I visit Sonya Clark on the 7th for an interview.

Thanks to everyone who has already started following the tour and I hope to see you on my ‘travels’.

Between now and the 7th, I have received an award that I am going to share.

Before I’m done though, here are the 5 things I’ve learned from planning this blog tour:

1. There are many, many helpful people out there, so when you ask if anyone would mind hosting you, be prepared for an inundation of offers.

2. It helps if you do a blog swap rather than just a visit and that way you don’t have to worry about writing two posts on a given day and it lets the people hosting you have a chance to visit another blog.

3. Make sure you have a bucket load of free time because you will spend twenty times longer writing the posts for the tour than any of your other blogs.

4. The time difference between Australia and America becomes really noticeable when trying to coordinate with people on the other side of the world.

5. Despite the work, this has been really fun and I can’t wait to plan another one next year.

Thanks all and see you around.

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Guest Post from Geoffrey

September 2, 2010 at 5:48 am (September Blog Tour) (, , , , , , , , , , )

Blogging Like a Kindergartener — by Geoffrey Cubbage of Misanthropology101

Hello, Cassandra’s readers!

Hello Geoffrey, you say.

Miz Jade is on her second day now of a whirlwind blog tour.  That was not a phrase that actually held much meaning for me when she first used it, but she was kind enough to explain it to me, and it’s sort of been like that since I got started over on Misanthropology101 —  Cassandra left the first comment on my first post, in fact (well ahead of my deadbeat friends), so it’s an especial pleasure to be visiting her blog in turn.

Cassandra invited me to say “something about writing communities and internet presence,” and I promised to give it a shot.  She’s vastly more qualified to speak on the subject than I am, but I’ll try to lay some things out without lapsing into too much navel-gazing (people who really want to gaze at my navel can always visit Monday’s post at Misanthropology101, but I swear I didn’t time it that way deliberately).

Anyway, it all comes back to skills learned in kindergarten, or at least the sort of skills that other people say they learned in kindergarten (I learned that even if a kid was bigger than you a brick was still functionally bigger than him, but I was picking up exactly the opposite of the skills you want for getting along in online writing communities).  Share and share alike, disseminate every interesting piece of information you know to anyone who will listen, don’t show anyone your swimsuit bits — that’s the kind of thing I’m talking about.  Unselfconscious spontaneous interaction is what the writing blog/forum scene is all about!

To be sure, there has to be a certain amount of practical content, particularly for blogs.  If you want to connect with other writers, it does help to have “writing” in the blog tags somewhere — I assume that’s how Cassandra found Misanthropology101, back when it was first getting started.  She’s very good about keeping an out for newcomers on the scene (another great kindergarten skill).  But I’ve learned that people are less interested in day after day of nuts-and-bolts technical lessons than they are in “Storytime with Geoffrey” (also true of kindergartners, to keep the metaphor rolling).  I like many of my posts about writing technique, and think them to be generally good advice, but they are not the heavy hitters in terms of comments or pageviews.

That is because blogging — and writing, ideally — is about fun and about interaction.  If people don’t get both of those things, fun and interaction, they aren’t going to come back for a second or third visit.  And there’s certainly a self-serving element to all of this; we want people to have fun because we want them to keep playing with us, i.e., keep reading our blog or referring it to our friends or what have you.

And that’s just fine. There is nothing wrong with wanting your blog to be more known, more visited, more popular, whatever.  The trick is to remember that you want all those things because it gives you more people to have fun with, not because the numbers are inherently valuable.  So by all means tailor your writing for maximum entertainment and engagement, pander shamelessly, post topless pictures of yourself — whatever you think will be enjoyable to share.  But remember that it’s all kind of silly unless the ultimate goal is to meet even more people that you enjoy sharing things with!

One thing that everyone seems to enjoy is lists, so I’ll finish one (and maybe should have started with it, for the short-of-attention-span):

GEOFFREY’S GUIDE TO BLOGGING LIKE A KINDERGARTNER

1.  Say hello to everyone, especially if they say hello to you first.  Introduce new friends to your other friends!

2.  Share all your thoughts!  Unless they are deliberately rude or mean.

3.  The more fun everyone in the group has, the more everyone will want to play again.

4.  No, seriously, the brick is bigger than you.

If you liked this post, tell Cassandra!  Also tell your friends, and drop by Misanthropology101 every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for many more absurd thoughts on the writing life.  Cassandra’s guest post is of course featured today, and she is welcome back any time she likes — keep up the good work Miz Jade, and keep up the good reading all the rest of you!

Cheers,

Geoffrey Cubbage

Misanthropology101

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Guest Post with Eric

September 1, 2010 at 5:34 am (September Blog Tour) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

Note from Cassandra: I’m visiting Eric’s blog today but he has generously agreed to guest post here in the realm. Thanks Eric, it is great to have you here. After you’ve checked out Eric’s post, pop on over to Working My Muse and check out the first post of my blog tour.

First off I’d like to say a huge thank you to Cassandra for having me at Casa ‘del Jade.  Guest blogging here (being the first person, no less) is awesome beyond words.  But since you’re all expecting at least a few words, I guess I better become temporarily brilliant.

When I began to search my brain for a topic, I’ll be honest;  I became a little stressed.  While I do have my own flair, this is a new type of fun and puts blogging on a whole new level.  And fronting for Cassandra is pretty dang cool.  This thought took me down an interesting path however, and I began thinking about my characters.

When we write our stories, it’s expected that our characters deal with change, with difficult situations.  This is part of what helps propel our stories forward and keep the reader interested.  But isn’t it reasonable to have our characters get a little stressed from time to time?  And how do we show that in our writing?  One way we can describe this is through physical effects.  For example, I tend to get cold sores on the inside of my lip when I get too stressed.  If I really get stressed out, upset stomach is an indicator.  I can imagine something similar for my characters.

What about situational descriptions?  If my characters come upon a body, torn apart from some unknown violence, do they just abstract about the nature of death or do they lose a bit of their usual cool demeanor?  Consider the following conversation:

“Oh damn Billy, that guy’s dead.  Lookit how his arm is hangin’ kinda wrong.  And his head is split open like one of those punkins you toss out at Halloweenie.”

“Yep, he ain’t with us no more.  Can’t tell who he was, but them tears along his belly look almost like Freddy Kruger claws.  Weird, huh?  So you wanna go get some pizza?”

Now unless you’re looking for a comedic moment, the reader might be expecting a little more from these two characters stumbling across an obviously mangled body.  Dead bodies usually cause sane people to freak out a little.  Perhaps one of them just crumbles on the floor, wailing in agony while the other one is more interested in investigating what happened to the poor chap.  However you choose to deal with this situation, moments like these are a great opportunity to show characterization.  The only caveat I would add is to avoid clichés or stereotypical responses to stress.  If it fits your character honestly, then cool.  But if it sounds like the same ol’ phrasing everyone uses, you probably want to avoid it.

To sum up, stress doesn’t have to be a bad thing, especially when we’re writing a story.  Stress is one of the best moments we can use to bring our characters alive, make them truly real.  Just keep the writing honest, not cliché.  Thank you Cassandra for allowing me to grace your page.  This has been a fun exercise for me.

As for the rest of you, have you stressed your characters out lately?  If not, what are you waiting for?  A stressed-out character is a real character – even if they’d rather be in Cancun sipping a margarita on the beach.

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Prep For the Tour

August 29, 2010 at 10:04 am (September Blog Tour) (, , , , , , )

Hey all,

Turns out planning a blog tour is exciting, exhilarating, and a lot of hard work. The tour kicks off on Wednesday the 1st of September over on Eric’s blog, working my muse, and Eric is going to be visiting the realm so I am definitely looking forward to it.

I’ve been busy, writing guest posts, double checking links, making sure everything is going to plan and knowing that something is probably going to come up anyway. I’ve also been helping out with the 40 hour famine. As always, so much to do and so little time. Writing has definitely been taking a back seat but I’m getting back on top of everything so hopefully I’ll have a few really good writing sessions in the near future.

First week of the blog tour begins with Eric and then on the 2nd I am visiting Geoffrey, followed by Lua on the 4th. Hope to see you all there and please pass the word on.

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Shiny

August 25, 2010 at 5:24 am (Plot, Thoughts on Writing) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Shiny, glittering, distractions.

It is how magicians get away with their tricks and it is frequently how movies manage to make even the weakest of stories seem somewhat plausible.

It would seem that in writing, distractions can’t save a poorly written story because you don’t have all the shine and glitter – you certainly don’t have an amazing soundtrack and special effects.

Still, many writers seem to use a bit of shine.

Colourful humour and language to throw the reader off the scent of poorly executed scene.

Flowery language and description to gloss over the massive plot hole.

Throw another dead body into a scene that was feeling like it was going nowhere.

Introduce a new character to hide the fact that one of your other characters has suddenly had a personality transplant.

And the thing is, as an audience member, you frequently allow yourself to be distracted by the shiny because it is fun. Because even though you know that you are being had, that something is missing, what you are being given is still enjoyable and there isn’t really any fun in pulling it to pieces. You know what is going on and you let it happen. At least when it is still enjoyable.

You start to really question the shiny when that is all you are being given. There is nothing else underneath and it isn’t really going anywhere. All you’ve been given is the glossy overcoat and there is no substance. As a reader, a lack of overall substance just can’t be tolerated.

So what shiny distractions do you enjoy reading? Which ones have you used? When won’t you accept a shiny distraction?

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The Highly Improbable

August 24, 2010 at 5:23 am (Character, Thoughts on Writing) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

Alice recently tried to do six impossible things before breakfast and no one accused her of being too pessimistic in labelling them impossible.

Impossible seems to be a big no-no at the moment. It seems by pointing out that something is impossible you are being overly negative.

It may not seem like a nice thing to do but sometimes pointing out the highly improbably nature of certain outcomes can be a kindness. Of course it can also be tactless, mean, cruel and spiteful. I guess it all comes down to motivation behind the statement and the delivery.

But whether or not you like the word impossible, do your characters? Are they the negative type who likes to think that doors are closing everywhere around them when in point of fact they have millions of unrealised opportunities? Or are they optimistic to the point of insanity? Somewhere inbetween perhaps?

When people discuss character they talk about motivation and they talk about appearance and goals and all of these other sorts of things but the idea of them being an optomist or pessimist doesn’t seem to come up. The basic underlying personality that should motivate most of what they do.

I’ve actually been trying to figure this out for a character from one of my WIP’s that I’ve been playing with lately. The character is inconsistent at the best of times but I’m starting to see an underlying logic in her actions. She’s ridiculously optimistic. Her erratic actions and seemingly illogical behaviour actually come down to the fact that she genuinely believes that things will work out okay so you might as well jump. Now that I know where she’s coming from I can probably clear up some of her more bewildering actions and make it all kind of work out okay.

How about your characters? Optimists or pessimists?

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