Monthly Archives: October 2013

First Author Event

On Friday, I embarked on what would become a nearly 20 hour trip from Ireland to the West Coast of the United States for my very first author event.  Originally from Washington, I was very excited at the opportunity to hold my first event in what I consider to be my hometown, in spite of my constant change of address over the past few years.

The signing was held on Sunday.  There was a decent turnout, and the number of cars in the parking lot as I drove up to the event instantly quelled my fears of arriving all the way from Dublin to an empty room.  The signing itself was held at a local vineyard and those gathered were offered the opportunity to sample some local wines.  A special thank you is due to Andee & Cheryl for helping to both advertise and organize the event.

For those who attended, specially designed postcards were handed out and many were signed upon request.  The reading portion of the event lasted about 20 minutes.  Three pieces were read: 1. the prologue of The Indoctrination; 2. a chapter from the middle of the same novel; 3. the first chapter of a novel titled Black Rose, a yet-to-be published fantasy.

Despite a bit of nerves, the reading went well and the event as a whole was excellent.  I feel truly blessed to have had so many people come out for the event and that they permitted me take up a portion of their time to introduce them to the various worlds and characters that I have created over the years.  I also received some great questions from the audience and would like to take this moment to say “thank you” to everyone who attended!

I am now looking forward with great enthusiasm to my second event, which will be held on Oct. 30th at another local WA vineyard.  If you live in the area, please feel free to check out the details posted on my events page.   Til then, I am off to a conference in New Orleans!

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Writer’s Block…Fact or Fiction?

One of the most common terms in a writer’s vocabulary is ‘writer’s block.’  This ubiquitous term encompasses a vast plethora of arguments which writers use to justify why they have not written a word, despite the numerous hours, headaches, and tears spent in front of the blank page.

My long time writing mentor, a brilliant writer we will call “L”, is of a philosophy with which I have most reluctantly found myself in agreement when it comes to this subject: writer’s block does not actually exist.  Now, this is not to say that writing is easy or that there aren’t days where writers cannot find the time or words to craft their next chapter, scene, or even sentence.  Instead, what “L” means is that there is no magic, invisible force preventing the writer from putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard.  Instead, the writer is being “blocked” (if you will) by some very real, identifiable issues.  Issues which, with time and practice, can be overcome.

Many possible solutions and suggestions exist in the idea of how to overcome the obstacles which might prevent one from writing.  As with many other facets of life, each method is not a perfect fit, and it may not be included here.  I offer only a partial list of what many professional writers recommend and have passed down to younger authors like myself.  It is up to you, the individual writer, to discover what method works best for you on a personal level.

For myself, the most simplistic solution I can give is that writing is a matter of habit.  The sooner an author gets into the habit of writing, the easier writing should become.  Developing habitual writing requires a person to write every single day.  Whether it is for fifteen minutes or several hours does not matter nearly as much as the act of writing itself.

This is a habit whose importance many professional authors stress.  For example, at a recent speech given during the Dublin Writer’s Festival, bestselling author Dan Brown (The DaVinci Code) stated that while writing a book, he sets his alarm somewhere between 4 and 5 AM every morning, every day of the year.  By doing this, Brown is able to ensure that he has time to write, undisturbed, for a least a few hours before other members of his household are even awake.  He states this helps eliminate distractions and helps him to focus.

Not a morning person?  (I know I am certainly not!)  Perhaps try writing at night instead.  Some of my best writing is done at the end of the day, when my other work is completed and I can use writing to help relax.  The time of day, much like the amount of time, is far less relevant when compared to the importance of forming the habit of writing on a daily basis.

Now, once the issue of finding and setting aside the time to write has been established, there comes the issue of finding the words to put on the page.  A common complaint is that, despite an author’s best efforts and their willingness to transcribe a character’s latest adventures, the character refuses to relate their tale to the author.

E.M. Forster once stated that characters, “arrive when evoked, but full of the spirit of mutiny.”   Because of this, an author must often find ways to negotiate and connect with their characters in, at times, unusual ways.  Personal favourites include 1) conducting an interview with the character in question 2) skipping ahead to a different scene or even 3) actually acting out the scene I am attempting to write (behind closed door with the curtains drawn with no audience… besides my cat).  All of these methods may serve to help you find new ways to speak to characters when they become silent or uncooperative.

As I previously stated, these are just a few possibilities that may help the next time your characters aren’t in a talkative mood or the words simply aren’t flowing.  Remember, like the majority of things in life, writing takes time, dedication, and often, lots and lots of practice.

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To Harm or not to Harm…the Protagonist

One of the most difficult lessons for any author to learn is to not be afraid to harm their characters.  Whether it takes weeks, months, or even years to create the stories which eager readers often finish in a matter of days, characters often have the ability to come to life upon the page.  For an author who has journeyed with characters through their creation, development, triumphs and failures, the thought of harming the characters is never easy.

I once listened to an author state that she had made a deal with her characters that she would stop harming any sub-character who the protagonist loved.  The problem, of course, was that a few novels in the series later, her protagonist had decided to love just about everyone.  The books, which were once a blend between a mystery and horror of a noir flavour, suddenly transformed into a safe novel, where the readers know for a fact that every major character will survive.  The novels lost their edge, that uncertainty that is created when one knows that no one is safe, not even the leading protagonist.

One writer who has successfully mastered this idea, without a doubt, is the author of the A Song of Fire and Ice series, George R.R. Martin.  Better known by its HBO title, Game of Thrones.  This series is full of competing protagonists in a world which seems contain only one unbreakable rule: No one is safe.  Martin seamlessly introduces and eliminates characters with each turn of the page.  This creates an emotional story-line and an air of uncertainty as readers remain uncertain as to who will be alive from chapter to chapter.

This tension helps to create a successful novel and prevents a given story from becoming predictable, repetitive, safe, and ultimately boring.  However, my personal experience shows that it can be extremely difficult act.  When I write, I embark on a deep and personal journey with my characters.  They become friends, confidants…even family.  Feelings of love, hate, frustration and friendship all exist within the various relationships created between myself and my characters.  The idea of harming, or even killing, the characters I have come to love as they have allowed me to journey with them is as hard if not harder for me as it is for any reader.  Breaking their hearts, their bodies, or taking their lives is an act which never gets easier.

Harming characters creates suspense, conflict and excitement within a story.  It creates the most emotional of moments, bringing intensity, uncertainty, and heartache into a given story.  Because of this, no matter how hard the act of harming characters becomes, it is still a necessarily part of the writing process for successful progression of a novel.  One of the keys to a good story is having characters, whether in a realistic or fantastical setting, seem as realistic as possible to both writer and reader.

In real life, bad things happen even to good people.  Ensuring the characters do not always leave a story unscathed is a way to reflect this realism which authors attempt to instill within their fictional worlds upon their characters.  The fact that a fictional character endures the same emotional and physical harms that people often find within their own lives, makes that character more real to readers by making it easier to share in their pain, as well as their joys.  It is because of this, that writers must so often work to overcome their inhibitions and be willing to harm the same characters that they worked so hard and lovingly to create.

Here’s another article with further thoughts on this topic:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mark-pryor/main-characters_b_5575533.html?utm_hp_ref=books

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