Thursday, June 28, 2012
I always feel as if I'm standing on the edge of the abyss and am about to take off on a new adventure. I'mm admit to becoming rather obsessed with the idea, the characters and the plot of the new work I'm about to begin. The characters follow me into my dreams and I begin to spin a bedtime story featuring these characters. I always wish I could remember those dreams since I feel they would make putting the words on paper a breeze.
I have just begun a new work. For weeks I spun stories about the characters in my head, bits on pieces of papers. I even wrote out the opening scene. Only it turned out this wasn't the real opening scene. I was creating a new world. This was a fantasy and would be a trilogy. I don't like prologues but this story called for one. My plan was to write one that gave the background of this world. This prologue doesn't. The prologue starts with a young man facing his father's death and promises he makes to him. Death bed promises. Now this is an abyss. And I leaped.
Where did I land. Not in the first scene I had sketched out to begin the book. Somehow the fingers began to write a scene that seemed to come from nowhere but my pen flew across the page. The scene I had envisioned as the first one became the second one in the book.
Sometimes when you're standing on the edge of the abyss, you just have to push off and fly into the depths. The discoveries can astonish you. In another story just completed, a scene written contained a short interlude that made no sense to me when I wrote the words but something told me to keep this scene in the story. As I neared the ending the reason for those perhaps fifty words became clear. I was very glad I flew into that abyss and those words appeared.
How about you? How do you feel when starting a new story? Are you scared? I know I am until I take the plunge and soar into the abyss.
Wednesday, June 27, 2012
I just came back from an amazing vacation in the Mediterranean and I had a blast taking photos. It was a fresh creative outlet for me and I ended up with some (if I do say so) stunning shots. I have always enjoyed taking photos and have always treated it as a hobby rather than a career possibility. Writing has been the art I have always struggled with as trying to be successful artist.
Book 2 of my middle grade fantasy series THE ADVENTURES OF RUPERT STARBRIGHT was just published and sales are, well, ehhhh. Book 1 had better sales and I am trying to boost Book 2 to at least those who enjoyed Book 1. I have Book 3 98% complete but I am not sure I like it. It is hard and frustrating and I think a lack of reward for hard work can take its toll of your motivation to continue.
In my case, I must create. Its my most important nutritional need. I tend to get depressed and unfocused between projects. I recently had an article published in OUR USA Magazine about growing up in a crazy neighborhood in NYC. It has motivated me to get back to one of my unfinished projects: a book filled with the stories of my colorful youth. Trouble is, I have a dozen other ideas poking and prodding me for attention. Also - those dangerous doubts taunt me:
"It won't sell!" "Who is gonna care?" "Make another film!" "Write that guaranteed best seller instead!"
All utter BS. I know. I need to focus. I am enjoying the nostalgic and humorous romp down memory lane. I really need to finish this book no matter what becomes of it. Having these stories - about a lost time and place - has its own intrinsic value. Monetary value? Who knows? One should never write for money. I know. I know.
We live in a time when everybody thinks they are a pro. I blame technology to a large degree. Movie making has become cheap and easy so we get tons of crap films clogging the airwaves and these newbies thing it is all genius. We get dance shows on TV and now every teen wants to be a "celebrity dancer" without the struggle or sweat or failure. Music makers, photographers (who think Instagram makes you a great picture taker) and bloggers have so saturated the world with product it has impacted those who have real talent, who have struggled and worked hard. Maybe this is good?
The cream used to always rise to the top. Not sure if that is the case anymore. The top is now separated out from the "masses" and they are the established names that made their way to the top just prior to the explosion that has hit the internet. So we get stale product on TV and in the movies and Itunes because fresh talent is drowning down below. Few new ideas are invested in or even given a shot.
But I will battle on. What choice do I have? If your were born to create- you create. And once in a while bitch about the struggle. Hey- I earned that right.
Mike is the author of three novels: MILKY WAY MARMALADE, THE DOOR TO FAR-MYST and THE SECRET OF FAR-MYST. He is also a filmmaker and his last feature is called TRIPTOSANE. www.mikedicerto.com
Monday, June 25, 2012
Let me end the suspense right away. The winner of the 2012 Colorado Book Award in the Juvenile Fiction category is – City of Orphans by Avi.
Even though Letters to Juniper didn’t win, the folks at Colorado Humanities and Center for the Book went out their way to make all the finalists feel like winners. The awards event was held on Friday, June 22, at the Doerr-Hosier Center at Aspen Meadows. A few hundred people gathered for an afternoon of celebrating books in a gorgeous mountain setting. What a party! A fabulous time was had by all.
Congratulations to all the Winners of the 2012 Colorado Book Awards!
Anthology/Collections: Monumental Majesty: 100 Years of Colorado National Monument, edited by Laurena Mayne Davis, The Daily Sentinel
Biography: The Man Who Never Died by William Adler, Bloomsbury
Children's Literature: Light Up the Night by Jean Reidy, Disney Hyperion
Creative Nonfiction: Dances in Two Worlds: A Writer-Artist's Backstory by Thordis Simonsen, The Fundamental Note
General Nonfiction: Math for Life by Jeffrey Bennett, Roberts and Company
Genre Fiction: The Soul Mirror by Carol Berg, Penguin Group USA
History: From Jars to the Stars by Todd Neff, Earthview Media
Literary Fiction: The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown, Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam
Pictorial: Thomas W. Benton: Artist/Activist by Daniel Joseph Watkins, People's Press
Poetry: Circle's Apprentice by Dan Beachy-Quick, Tupelo Press
Young Adult Literature: Lucy Dakota: Adventures of a Modern Explorer Book 1 - Rocky Mountain Beginnings by Carol Sue Shride, My Piece of the Puzzle
Now available at Amazon
PFC Liberty Stryker
Letters to Juniper – 2012 Colorado Book Award Finalist
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Friday, June 22, 2012
Steamboat Days for Winona, MN, was last weekend. This takes over most of downtown Winona, with streets blocked off for rides like a merry-go-round or ones with names like Zipper and Orbiter. There were food booths and booths with games of chance as well as a car show. At the lake there was a children's fishing contest, a kiddie parade and boat racing. Sunday had the big parade and fireworks later in the evening closed the celebration. (more pictures here, if anyone is interested).
Small towns in the Midwest often have a 'Day' (or Days) during the summer or fall. Winona's used to be over the Fourth of July weekend, but there was competition with festivities in nearby towns, so the date was changed. It's a good way to celebrate as a community. The state or county fairs are bigger get-togethers, and that's where the more rural side is often honored, with livestock and agriculture competitions.
Whether it's a town fair, a carnival, state fair, Renaissance festival, amusement park or circus, the setting provides a place where people meet and gather together, try different foods, experience rides that make them dizzy or nauseous, and win prizes (or not). There are also celebrity elements, from beauty pageant winners down to marching in the band. All of these festivals have some descriptions in common: the sights - crowds, flashing lights, bright colors; the noise - music and loud sounds of the various rides as well as crowds of people talking; the smells - cotton candy, popcorn, hot dogs and various fried things as well as unsavory smells.
Town fairs and carnivals are good backdrops for a story. Romance at a summer carnival used to be a popular theme of YAs at one time. Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes and The Circus of Dr. Lao by Charles Finney are examples of fantasy/horror. On television, Phineas and Ferb's town of Danville has already had a Meatloaf Festival as well as a Midsummer Festival and a street fair. It's interesting to explore the festivals from the townspeople's point of view, though the carnival people's perspective can also captivate readers. Gillian Summers has a series (Faire Folk) set at Renaissance festivals but with elves.
Renaissance festivals are good examples of what this type of celebration could look like in a fantasy story (though one would want to do some research to avoid irritating more knowledgeable readers). Gloria Oliver has s well-depicted festival in her Cross-Eyed Dragon Troubles.
For science fiction or futuristic examples, Circus Galacticus by Deva Fagan starts off on present-day Earth, but when her main character runs off to join the circus, she finds herself travelling to the stars. Barry Longyear's Circus World is a collection of short stories of a planet whose population consists of the descendants from a crashed circus ship.
Carnivals can work for all genre - horror, fantasy, romance, mystery, thriller and even science fiction. What are some of your favorite books with a carnival?
Thursday, June 21, 2012
Wednesday, June 20, 2012
Yes, I treasure each memory of growing older. I enjoy every hour of every day God gives me. Which reminds me. Gotta run. My skateboard awaits, along with my character who is teaching me the basics of an Ollie. What's that, you say? I'm too old! NEVER!
Monday, June 18, 2012
This year we had two awesome keynote speakers. Fabulous illustrator and writer Dan Yaccarino told us about saying 'yes! - basically build your bridges and your ins in this industry wherever they present themselves, and be ready and willing to stretch yourself to get to that next place in your career if you need to. A lot of great opportunities/challenges have come his way, and he's gotten to where he is by always saying YES! (I don't think he said Yes to the Dress, however.)
Then our closing keynote speaker was Kate diCamillo. I brought my hardcover copy of The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane from home. It was always one of my favorite books, and now that it's signed it's a real treasure. Anyway, Kate told us about her journey to becoming a writer, how she said for years she was going to do it, but it was always 'later'. That is one thing I think a lot of people do -- always talk about it and come up with a million excuses why they can't do it today. That's been MY problem lately. It's easier to NOT write than write, because there are a million things to do, and with finishing grad school and working full time, I've been doing a lot of "I'll do it later"- ing myself.
But more importantly, Kate said she writes two pages a day. Just two pages. The woman who wrote Because of Winn-Dixie, and The Tale of Despereaux, and my beloved Edward Tulane, writes just two pages a day (apparently much to the chagrin of her agent...). She adheres to this rigidly, stopping at the end of those two pages.
Some people I know have a time limit, like 2 hours. Problem is, you can spend two hours a day staring at the screen and never finish a single manuscript. Two pages may take you 30 minutes, if you're feeling the story, or all day if you're stuck. But there it is, a commitment to just two pages every day.
And I thought, I used to do that. I used to have a goal of a mere 500 words a day, which is about two pages, give or take. But then I got too busy and decided to put writing aside for a few months so I could concentrate on my grad school work. But that's over for the summer -- so what's my excuse now?
So I am going to make a new goal. Just two pages. Some days it may be two pages on three different projects, but there will be two new pages every day this summer. And into the fall. And by the end of the year, that will be a lot of pages.
Friday, June 15, 2012
Remembering him makes me ponder on the father figures in my own writing. I realize how much of my own father is in those characters. One of my dad's favorite things to do was to go fishing. And, without a conscious thought, I made one of my main characters a fisherman.
My dad also liked to hunt. My father characters spend a lot of time tromping about in the woods. Usually, they are hunting someone lost, instead of an animal. But I remember that my dad once, only once, shot a deer. He had such remorse over that, he never attempted to actually hit one again. He still went hunting, but he was out there more for the walk in the woods than anything else.
My dad also liked to instruct - showing us how to do just about anything he knew how to do. All we needed to do was ask, and we were rewarded with the gift of his time. My father characters are the same, guiding and teaching, and, above all, just being there.
My father protected us, just as the fathers in my books protect their offspring. I felt safe in his presence, as if he could hold back all of the dangers and evil and hurt of the world. And I never felt lacking in any need, whether it was basic - food, shelter, clothing - or frivolous - camping, vacations, new toys. We didn't have as much money as the father characters in my books - royalty all - but somehow my dad made me feel as if we were just as rich - maybe even more so.
So, on this Father's Day, I think of my dad and all that he did for me and my siblings, and I thank him. And, I like to believe, that the kids in my books are thanking their respective fathers as well. boop-boop-de-boop, Dad. I love you. JennaKay Francis "More magic than you can imagine."
Wednesday, June 13, 2012
But it didn't work.
I thought. I brainstormed. I sat with my fingers on the keyboard.
So here are a few things to do while you wait for the muse to get to work.
1. Find a spot to sit and watch the flowers grow.
2. Crochet some juggling balls and learn to juggle.
3. Enjoy a bit of wine.
4. Bake some bread.
You know what. No number five. I'm lying to you. You can't wait for the muse to strike, you have to go and hunt it down and make it work for you. If you wait you'll keep waiting.
(Of course if you do the above you'll be relaxed and well-fed and maybe the muse will creep back in on its own.)
So, what do you do when the thoughts are jumbled and won't come?
Sunday, June 10, 2012
Originally posted at: http://hhowellauthor.blogspot.ca/2012/06/why-paranormal-romance-are-teen-boys.html
Friday, June 8, 2012
1) Belonging - Writing is a lonely thing, but a lot of writers are also social creatures. While social media helps with this, there's still nothing more awesome than being face to face in a room of your peers, being able to compare notes, exchange experiences, and knowing you aren't in this alone.
For readers this goes double, as you've now found a place where there are others that love the same books, the same authors, the same TV shows or movies, and you can gush with them in wild abandon and no one will look at you weird.
2) Networking - For authors, conventions are a great place to connect with others for the long term. You get to see others in the field and get seen by them as well. When sending queries, it helps to be able to say in the letter that you were happy to have met 'so and so' at 'blank' convention - shows there's already a connection between you. And if they remember you, so much the better. (As long as it's in a good way! :P)
For readers, it gives the chance to meet other fans and create long lasting friendships. Even better, you get to meet favorite authors and discover new ones, as well as get the skinny on what they are all up to. You can meet the person behind the things you love and enjoy.
Even if you're a wallflower (Like me!), you'll gain benefit from this. I found two of my publishers by just listening in on conversations. :P
3) Learning - Conventions are an awesome place to learn about the trade. There'll be panels with actual pros on all facets of the business of writing, publishing, and more. What pitfalls to avoid, how they got their start, what agencies or publishers are looking for, how not to put a foot in your mouth when trying to be discovered, and on and on!
As a reader, you can discover what books, shows, and movies authors you like love and why or why not. (They're fans too!) Discover sub genres you may not know about or hear about books you might not have come across and more.
4) Costumes - Almost every convention out there encourages people to wear costumes or has a costume contest. So not only does your mind get fed but so do your eyes. You will be wowed by the work and dedication that goes into many of the costumes you'll see. Amazing! If you'd like a peek at some, here are photos of some of the ones at this year's A-kon - an anime convention in June. I posted a bunch of pics from there at my blog.
5) Buying - If you're a shopper, conventions are also for you! Most have a Dealers' Room and some an Artist Alley, giving you unique gifts to buy for yourself or loved ones. They normally have books, but also toys, jewelry, comics, home made items, clothing, original art, and more. (I abstain from looking as much as possible - there's too much temptation! lol)
Whatever you're into, there's a convention out there for you. Why not give them a try and see if you enjoy what they have to offer? Have fun!