Word, Word, Word, Word…..

STUCK. Ever have one of those days that you feel so stuck you could scream? Artists of every kind have at one time or another. The painter stares at a blank canvas, a photographer stares at an empty lens, and a writer stares at a blank sheet of paper. Stuck. Nothing. Nada. Ziltch. It is a frustrating experience isn’t it?

How do you go about getting unstuck? A few ideas that may work for you: run,swim, meditate, walk, or jump up and down. Some people find it helpful to do an artistic exercise of a different kind. If you are a writer then scribble a doodle. If you are a painter then write a poem, and if you are a photographer….well, I used to turn the camera upside down just for a new perspective. For writing I like to consult my Delve Writers group who can always come up with a new tip or trick. The latest comes from the top in the unstuckedness class of writers, Chris Mandeville (author of 52 Ways to Get Unstuck). Her advice for today: write the word, ‘word’ over and over again and see what comes out.

I was so inspired by this I ended up with two blog posts. So, in honor of getting unstuck I want you to have some fun too. In the comments please write ‘word’ over and over again and see what comes of it. You can see mine at arbitrarydustbunnies.

….and begin….Word, Word, Word, Word…..

Kristi Lloyd

We are pleased to have Kristi Lloyd join us today to chat.

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

First of all, I would like to say thank you, KJ. It’s an honor and a privilege to have the opportunity to be featured on your blog.

I am an Army wife and stay-at-home mother of two children. I’m originally from a suburb of Pittsburgh, PA, but I’m currently living in Colorado. I have a bachelor’s degree in psychology and used to work in a psychiatric hospital, which has helped me with my writing. I have a blog at http://www.thumpsbumpsandthrills.blogspot.com. You can also find me on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/kristi.l.lloyd or on Twitter @KristiLloyd1926. You may email me at generations1926@gmail.com.

2. What are you working on right now?

I’ve recently completed an urban fantasy novel, FAMILIAR GENERATIONS, the first of a series. I’m getting ready to “send it into the world,” a scary yet exciting sort of feeling! The second book of the series has started to unfold as well.

3. Of the books/stories you have written, which one would you like to tell us about?

Familiar Generations: Victoria Braumwell is a Wiccan with a number of psychic abilities, but her greatest downfall is that she’s terribly attracted to bad boys. When she meets Chaz Paglione, a mob boss-turned vampire, Vicki knows she finally found the real deal. While falling for Chaz, Vicki discovers she’s a partial vampire herself and is offered a position as a manager at a hot new nightclub in classic Mafia fashion. But when spirit activity becomes dangerous in her new place of employment, Vicki will need the help of her friends to ensure the nightclub is safe for its guests.

4. What was the hardest part about getting this book/story from the first ideas to publication?

I began writing this book about a year and a half ago, while my husband was deployed to Afghanistan. However, the idea for it first originated about ten years ago. I never had enough confidence to be able to sit down and write it though. The characters (most of them) were there in my head, but I didn’t think I’d be able to come up with a plot. One night, I put my kids in bed and started typing away. From that night on, I knew I had answered my calling to become a writer.

5. Where did you get your inspiration for this book?

I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t attracted to the paranormal. At the age of nine, I saw my first vampire movie, The Lost Boys. From that day on, vampires held me enthralled.

As for my characters themselves, Vicki is modeled after me. Since I first started writing, she has taken on a mind and personality that are all her own. Her two BFFs are characterizations of two important people in my life. As for Chaz, I don’t know where the heck he came from, he just showed up one night. I’ve learned to let him have his way.

6. What books or authors have influenced you the most and why?

R.L. Stein’s Fear Street books had me turning the pages.

In my opinion, if you’re writing within the vampire genre, you owe an immense amount of gratitude to Anne Rice. I don’t know that there’s much more to say about that.

Madelyn Alt’s Bewitching Mysteries Series gave me the courage to open up more about my religion.

Laurell K. Hamilton is a master at what she does. Her Anita Blake books are beyond fantastic. Ms. Hamilton was the first author that made me think it might be fun to fall in love with a vampire.

7. What are your favorite books that you have read simply for pleasure?

Most of the books I read, I do so for pleasure, even when I read non-fiction. The most recent fiction books I’ve found completely entertaining have been the Miss. Peregrin books by Ransom Riggs. As for non-fiction, I’m currently reading Young Al Capone: The Untold Story of Scarface in New York, 1899-1925 by William and John Balsamo (although I guess that one doesn’t count because it is part of my research, but it’s very interesting).

8. What does a typical writing day look like for you?

Unfortunately, the writing doesn’t have much space on my daily schedule. As a mom of a four- and a six-year old, I’m quite busy during the day, even when we’re just staying at home. But I do make a point to write every night once my son and daughter are in bed. I usually end up with anywhere between two and four hours of writing time, depending on how long I stay awake.

9. Do you have strategies for getting past those days that are hard to write?

Yes, sometimes I’ll watch a movie to get some creative juices flowing. I’ll often turn to films about gangsters, or sometimes witches. Goodfellas and Practical Magic are two that I particularly like. Otherwise, there are times when I merely sit and stare at the computer screen.

10. If you took a two-week vacation in any book or story, where would you go and who would you be?

I’ve always imagined I’d make a great Mayfair witch. The Witching Hour (Anne Rice) has always been at the top of my favorites list for books. Charlotte, Mary Beth, and Stella are the characters I adore most. And come on, who doesn’t love New Orleans?

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Coming August 15: Chris Mandeville will be chatting with us about her new release, “52 Ways to Get Unstuck”.

The YA Emotional Rollercoaster

Life is a rollercoaster. From youth forward, there is a steady climb to the day we are freed from home and set out on our own. We scream down that first hill into the ups, downs, twists and turns of life. No matter how terrified we are, we can never get off the ride until it is over.

The Emotional Rollercoaster: Plotting the Young Adult Novel was the premise behind a workshop I recently attended at Lighthouse Writers Workshop’s Lit Fest, presented by author Wendy Wunder. Following the graphic below, we discussed the main turning points in the YA novel. The early pages set the stage for our protagonist. It is the who, what, where, why, and when of their situation. Then, in an instant, they make a life altering decision (the inciting incident) that sends them on the ride of their lives filled with heart pounding highs and gut wrenching lows. There are two main high points for the protagonist that are followed by the floor dropping lows, and at the end our protagonist has finally learned something or grown in some way.

Emotional Rollercoaster by Wendy Wunder, handwritten notes added by K.J. Scrim.

When you are writing your next novel (or the one you are working on now) take a look at your protagonist. Do they have the highs that touch the sky and the lows that slam to the ground? Your readers have been waiting in line for a long time for this rollercoaster and they want to feel the twists and turns that you put your characters through. They want to feel the wind as your protagonist flies over the highs and dives down into the lows. Are you taking your readers on an Emotional Rollercoaster? Young adults don’t hang out in the kiddie park anymore; this is the monster rollercoaster so give them the ride of a lifetime!

 

~~~When not spending time with her family, Wendy Wunder teaches yoga around Boston and writing at Grub Street.  Her first story was published in The Gettysburg Review, and is the author of The Probability of Miracles and The Museum of Intangible Things. 

Ashley Bazer

Ashley Hodges Bazer

Ashley Hodges Bazer

Today we are talking with Ashley Hodges Bazer, author of the Heralds of Crown: Poison, and Asylum: The Circeae Tales.

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I am a mom of three. My husband and I met online, and we’re going on our tenth year as a married couple. Right out of college, I worked at Disneyland as a stage manager. Currently, I’m a producer for an international daily radio broadcast. My first book, Asylum, was traditionally published by a self-publisher after winning their annual writing contest. Shortly thereafter, I rebranded my series, of which Asylum is a part, and created The Crown’s Call—a 15 novel sci-fi series. Each book stands alone, centering on a different set of characters in various time frames.

2. What are you working on right now?

I’m making revisions to the second book in my series, Fusion, which is scheduled to release in November. I’m developing the third book, Reconciliation, slated for a May 2015 release. I have two unrelated stories in the works—a sci-fi about a virtual reality system and dark fantasy which has a combination of characters from classic stories. I’m trying to market a fairy tale mash-up I’ve recently completed titled Once Upon a Heist. Think Ocean’s Eleven meets the Disney princesses. And sometime this summer, I will be self-publishing a young adult fantasy titled Checkmate about a human chess match.

3. Heralds of the Crown: Poison is your most recent publication. Would you tell us about it?

Poison is the first in my series that sets the stage for a cosmic war between good (the Logia) and evil (the Strages). The war will eventually lead to a religious holocaust. We meet Gaultier Lassiter, who is enlisted to help the Logia. He encounters a woman beaten and left for dead. She has no memory and no voice. As they discover her identity, Gaultier unlocks a much bigger mystery. His relationship with his brother is strained, and as the story unfolds, it grows more complicated. It’s a story of God’s grace told in a space opera setting.

4. What was the hardest part about getting this book from the first ideas to publication?

The hardest part for me was nailing down the timeline. With this being the first of a trilogy, as well as the first of a total of fifteen books in the entire Crown’s Call saga, I had to make certain the timeline was completely accurate. In my original manuscript, I used days as the time measurement. That was too hard to follow, so I translated it into years. As it neared publication, I went through and verified everything several times.

5. Where did you get your inspiration for this book?

I have two characters whose storylines are drawn from The Little Mermaid and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The inspiration for the story actually came from the first novel I wrote. I’d referenced a legendary character, Kincade the Space Sailor, which I completely made up. As I developed the Crown’s Call saga, I wanted to explore what this legend was all about. I started with the second book, Fusion, and after establishing the characters there, wrote the backstory, which became Poison.

6. What books or authors have influenced you the most and why?

I love reading Kathy Tyers, Lois McMaster Bujold, and C.S. Lewis. I found Tyers’ Firebird trilogy and Bujold’s Vorkosigan saga while working at Barnes & Noble. Firebird and its sequels spoke to my heart. I love how she captured sci-fi and romance together, and included a powerful message with it. I also loved the strong, yet flawed characters Bujold offers. I find C.S. Lewis’s use of allegory rather intriguing, and I try to model that in my books.

7. What are your favorite books that you have read simply for pleasure?

Juliette Marillier’s Sevenwaters trilogy. I loved those books! The series mentioned in the previous question are also favorites I return to time and again.

8. What does a typical writing day look like for you?

Oh, I wish I had a typical writing day! I work full-time, and after work, I spend time with my family. My writing day usually starts after the kids go to bed, giving me a few hours each day. I also write for work, though, which keeps those creative juices flowing.

9. Do you have strategies for getting past those days that are hard to write?

I don’t ever force myself to write if I’m not feeling it. I will usually move onto a different scene or a different manuscript, as I am not a chronological writer. I’ll think through or daydream about where I am stuck, which usually motivates me to get back to what I’m working on. I also like to crochet, which affords me time to think. If I simply cannot find the time to write, I don’t let the guilt get to me. I also carry a notebook with me everywhere I go, just in case inspiration strikes.

10. If you took a two-week vacation in any book or story, where would you go and who would you be?

I would dive into Anne of Green Gables, enjoying Prince Edward Island for a couple of weeks as the wonderful and memorable Anne Shirley—red hair, kindred spirits, puffed sleeves, Gilbert Blythe, and all!

~~Purchase Ashley’s book at:

Amazon: amzn.to/1quzPBn
Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/1gxXyfP
Smashwords: http://bit.ly/1l7aJ6V
Currently, it’s available in ebook format. A print paperback version will soon be available.

~~Website:  http://www.AshleyBazer.com

~~Contact Information:  ashleybazer@ashleybazer.com

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Coming on June 30th: Kristi Lloyd will be talking about her newly completed urban fantasy.

 

Heralds of the Crown: Poison

Heralds of the Crown: PoisonHeralds of the Crown: Poison by Ashley Hodges Bazer

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Heralds of the Crown grabs you from the first chapter and keeps you reading until the last page where you say, “When can I get the next book?” Ashley Hodges Bazer has written a fabulous story of a woman, Marcella, who must choose to stay on evil’s side or go to the side of good. She is faced with choices that are balanced between the two worlds. What a page turner!

View all my reviews

Watch for our interview with Ashley coming June 15th!!

52 Ways to Get Unstuck

52 Ways to Get Unstuck: Exercises to Break Through Writer's Block (52-Ways Book #1)52 Ways to Get Unstuck: Exercises to Break Through Writer’s Block by Chris Mandeville

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a fun, easy, and non-frustrating way to get un-stuck! I purchased Mandeville’s book only a month ago and it has already helped me out of several sticky spots. It is filled with tips and tricks that will help authors through those dry spells. Mandeville utilizes simple exercises that fit the needs of the novice to the seasoned writer. With chapter headings like, “Write Crap”, “Group Dating”, Nick a Name” and “Road Trip!” it is easy to see how fun can be put into a frustrating situation that many writers face. 52 Ways really gets the creative juices flowing again. It is a must for every writer’s toolbox.

View all my reviews

Coming Soon!

I am very excited to announce a new feature on my blog: The Author Interview. Beginning June 15th, I will be interviewing authors from every genre of writing to get insights into their writing experiences and sharing them with you.

If you are a writer and would like to participate please contact me and we will chat.

Please check back on June 15th!

 

PPWC 2014

Over the weekend I was treated to an amazing four days surrounded by writers. For the first time, I attended the Pikes Peak Writers Conference (PPWC) and I don’t think I have learned so much since I was in college. Let me share with you just a few of the highlights, but before I do, did I mention that I was surrounded by writers? Oh, and editors, and agents, and more writers. There were even writers who have books. Yes, plural….BOOKS that are actually published and available on Amazon (or a bookstore near you). I was in writer’s heaven.

I sat in on workshops taught by authors like Becky Clark, Kris Tualla, Linda Rohrbough, Brandy Vallance, Chuck Wedig, Cindi Myers, Jim Hines, and Carol Berg. I was given an opportunity to read a first page of my historical fiction to Beth Phelan (The Bent Agency) who had some great feedback for me. I had lunch with a detective, and dinner with an agent, and after every meal I was back at it again. WHEW!!

The workshops were all amazing. I could take each one and share all the details with you, but that would actually take an entire book and I really only have the space for a blog. So, let me just give you some of the tips (in the form of a bulleted list) that stood out for me.

  • Self-editing is, and must be, painful. Take yourself into “editing triage” and rip that first draft down to your best writing.
  • Do your research when it comes to indie publishing. There are a ton of options to publish that famous novel so check out all the available avenues.
  • Make a good marketing plan. You are your own product (I should say your book is your product) and it needs to be sold. A marketing plan will make that happen.
  • Know your genre. If you have written a horror romance novel, be sure you publicize it as such. Your readers will be upset if they think they have a romance novel when it is more a murder mystery with a bit of romance in it.
  • Create memorable characters that come to life off the pages. Think of them as people who live beyond your book. Who are they? What do they like? What is their favorite color?
  • Your first draft will be crappy and that is a good thing. NO ONE writes beautiful prose right out of the starting gate (well, I should never say no one but you know what I mean). Get your story on paper by any means. Don’t do any research during the first draft. Don’t do any editing during your first draft. Just get it down on paper!
  • Be sure to develop your characters as much as you develop the plot. One gives the other form and color.
  • Real life can be, at times, pretty boring. Leave it out! Your readers already have to live some of that boredom and you, as the writer, do not need to inflict this upon them in your book.
  • If you are writing a book….get Scrivener or some other software dedicated to writing novels. It will save your sanity and prevent balding. OK, you might still go bald, but you won’t rip your hair out while you write.

The four days did come to an end and I fell into what was referred to as post-conference slump. I wanted to continue riding the wave with my fellow writers, but alas, life called me back home. I made new friends and I learned so much about the craft of writing. I am looking forward to applying all the things I learned in my writing. I hope you will consider joining me next year at PPWC and enjoy a piece of writer’s heaven too.

Chocolate Trivia

Anyone who knows me, knows I cannot resist chocolate, and intense dark is my favorite. Every once in a while, I will be posting little tidbits related to things chocolate. So for a quick, and fun, start to the chocolate posts here are some chocolate bits for you.

  • Chocolate is America’s favorite flavor. Surveys show more than 50 percent of adults prefer chocolate to other flavors.
  • More than $16 billion of chocolate was sold in the U.S. last year.
  • U.S. consumers eat 2.8 billion pounds of chocolate annually, representing nearly half of the world’s supply.
  • Americans prefer milk chocolate by a wide margin, but dark chocolate has a growing fan base, perhaps due to its suggested health benefits.
  • Men and women purchase chocolate in equal amounts. (But, since men do most of the gift-giving, women probably come out ahead!)
  • According to a study at Colorado State University, chocolate is the most commonly craved food in North America. 40% of American women and 15% of American men are “chocoholics.”
  • More chocolate is consumed in the winter than any other season.
  • 66% of chocolate is consumed between meals.
  • 22% of all chocolate consumption takes place between 8pm and midnight.
  • Half of Americans choose what chocolate they eat by the shape of the piece.
  • 63% of Americans say they can’t resist buying chocolate for themselves when buying chocolate for someone else.
  • Chocolate manufacturers currently use 40% of the world’s almonds and 20% of the world’s peanuts.
  • U.S. chocolate manufacturers use about 3.5 million pounds of whole milk every day to make chocolate.

What is your favorite chocolate?

Happy Writing

Today I sat at my keyboard trying to decide what to write. I reached deep into my creative mind and I looked straight into a pure blank wall that reached far beyond my peripheral vision. I actually have been looking at this wall for days now and today I came to the conclusion that I am really tired of looking at it, but I had no idea how to get it knocked out of the way. What was this thing anyway? Why can’t I pull even a simple sentence out of my head?

I sat at my desk a good portion of the morning wondering what the heck was wrong with me. As I have shared with all of you before I am REALLY good at procrastinating and a talent for finding things to do other than writing. This huge grey wall is the problem. It is a wall that quietly sits at the tip of my nose and is expansive. The grey is the color of a day that is cold, dull, cloudy, and not quite snowing. You know those days. There are no leaves on the trees and the grass is brown and, if you live in the burbs, all of the houses are tan. This is my wall. It covers the whole of my mind.

After plowing through an entire bag of M&M Peanuts I had a break through…..I built this ugly gray wall in response to frustrations I have been facing in my writing. Enough is enough. I needed some help so I reached out to my wonderful writing friends at Delve Writers and posted this:

Some advice please….
Whenever I “finish” writing something I don’t really like it and it makes for motivational problems to write something more. I am in a constant state of frustration and this leads to not writing. I’m sure I’m not the only one with this issue….if you too have this problem what do you do to move past it?

I want to emphasis that I know I’m not alone in being stuck like this and I am sure there are a vast number of writers (if not all) that are in a constant state of frustration at some level or another. There were many responses to my post with many words of wisdom, but there were two links in particular that really rung true for me.

Ira Glass on Storytelling is a quick video giving advice to anyone who is embarking on a creative future. This particular piece struck a cord for me in that I need to be reminded, on a daily basis, that I’m at the beginning. I know what is good and what sounds good in a story and right now I hear a lot of bad coming from my creations so I have to keep plugging away to get to that point if being good.

“Why Writers are Procrastinators” is a fun piece by Mary McArdle that describes me to a tee. At times I feel like I am the Queen of Procrastinators and it is great to finally know why. I want to be at the end of the creative race without doing all the training and I figure that if I sit around long enough I will magically get there. HA!

Tonight I sit at my keyboard with a happy set of fingers itching to get back to it. If you are anything like me then take my advice….don’t sit staring at a blank wall. Not only is it boring, but it really doesn’t do much to get the creative flow going. If you don’t already, find a group of amazingly talented writers to share your burdens and successes with. There is no one else that will really get it like another writer. If all else fails, paint that wall a different color. Yellow might be a good color to start with then add some green, blue, and just a hint of red to give the scene some tension.

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