#CoffinHop … Haunted by the dark

Click on the “EYE” to take you to my COFFIN HOP TRICK for a TREAT Prize Page…Enter if you dare…Enter or be scared….Contest ends at the Witching Hour (3am) 31st October 2012…(Contest closed)

kim-coffin12

So we are a day away from the end of Coffin Hop 2012. Just like last year it has been a BLAST. However it is not over until it is over so don’t feel glum. If you have not had a chance to hit up all the incredibly talented authors on this blog tour, you still have 2 days left to catch up & still 2 days left to enter my contest *Click on the EYE above*. Just click on that skull at the bottom of this post and it will take you to the Coffin Hop Boneyard where you can find all the other incredible authors.

Now, I know some may scratch their heads wondering what sort of person writes horror or reads horror. Well I can’t speak for all horror authors but I can speak for myself and I can speak of most of the other coffinhoppers since I am privileged to call a lot of them friends. I think Horror has got a bad rap over the years and Horror Authors along with it. So much so that the publishing industry uses every other euphemism to market a Horror Author and their Horror Fiction other than the term: Horror.

In May I wrote a post on: What is Horror? It was a question posed and answered by a group of horror author bloggers. You can find the full post here: Shivers down my Spine

But here are some passages that I would like to highlight for you…

horror |ˈhôrər, ˈhär-|noun1 an intense feeling of fear, shock, or disgust: children screamed in horror.• a thing causing such a feeling: photographs showed the horror of the tragedy | the horrors of civil war.• a literary or film genre concerned with arousing such feelings: [ as modifier ] : a horror movie.• intense dismay: to her horror she found that a thief had stolen the machine.• [ as exclamation ] (horrors) chiefly humorous used to express dismay: horrors, two buttons were missing!• [ in sing. ] intense dislike: many have a horror of consulting a dictionary.• (the horrors) an attack of extreme nervousness or anxiety: the mere thought of it gives me the horrors.2 informal a bad or mischievous person, esp. a child: that little horror Zach was around.ORIGIN Middle English: via Old French from Latin horror, from horrere ‘tremble, shudder’ (see horrid) .

I think the very origin of the word answers the question: What is Horror? Horror is an involuntary trembling and shuddering from sheer terror. For me however, true horror is those scenes that play with your mind. Psychological fear is far more intense and horrific than mere physical fear. The mind is a scary place. It’s capacity for imagining the worst and the darkest is scary. Think of your favourite horror movie, the imagined monster behind the shadow at the foot of the door that is ajar is far scarier than the monster that is seen and can be fought. What is unknown is far scarier than the known? For me, that is true HORROR.

Horror is the difference between the UNKNOWN vs the KNOWN and theUNTHINKABLE vs the IMAGINED. Horror is those shivers down my spine, that prickling on my skull and the bone-deep chill that makes my heart want to stop.

This is how Stephen King defines Horror:

“The 3 types of terror: The Gross-out: the sight of a severed head tumbling down a flight of stairs, it’s when the lights go out and something green and slimy splatters against your arm. The Horror: the unnatural, spiders the size of bears, the dead waking up and walking around, it’s when the lights go out and something with claws grabs you by the arm. And the last and worse one: Terror, when you come home and notice everything you own had been taken away and replaced by an exact substitute. It’s when the lights go out and you feel something behind you, you hear it, you feel its breath against your ear, but when you turn around, there’s nothing there…”

So what is so different about Horror Authors? I will tell you this. I think Horror Authors are the SkyJumpers of the publishing world. To be a Horror Author you need to plumb the depths of the human heart and all its terrible secrets. You have to face the darkness and then shine a light on it, exposing it. Not only are we SkyJumpers but we are SkyJumping into a dark night sky. That takes guts! It requires a strong spine and a streak of recklessness. On top of that we are the red headed step child that the Publishing world does not want to acknowledge.

But when you – as a reader – read a piece of horror fiction, you have no other choice but to dig deep yourself into your own emotions and FEEL. Horror Fiction strips away all your defences and lays you bare as an emotional being with equal amounts of joys and fears. Horror Fiction strips away all polite etiquette and gets you to connect with your most primal and your most HUMAN instincts and emotions. You may be scared stiff but you won’t stop turning the pages to find out what happens. Horror fiction is a guaranteed Page-Turner. Horror Fiction has a way of getting under your skin and being unforgettable. For a time, while reading that Horror story, you forget your own horrors.

“Blessed are the weird people – poets, misfits, writers, mystics, painters and troubadours – for they teach us to see the world through different eyes.” – Jacob Nordby

Horror Authors > Are we crazy? Are we dark? Some may be. But then great minds are always called Crazy by someone, somewhere.

But is it crazy or dark to have the courage to acknowledge both the light and the dark, the day and the night, the joy and the fear? Call me crazy then and call me dark. But it is through writing down the dark stories that I can get to the light. It is through writing down the dark stories that darkness does not overwhelm me. Humanity can be a horrific thing and sometimes we need to acknowledge the truth of that horror to let the wild and precious beauty shine in through the cracks in the dark. You cannot appreciate the Dawn unless you have experienced the coldest, loneliest, darkest hour of the Night. If I didn’t write the stories and poems that I do…then I would truly be haunted by the dark…

“You need chaos in your soul to give birth to a dancing star.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

Remember to visit all the other coffin hopping macabre and haunted places buried in the

COFFIN HOP BONEYARD

for frightful contests, spookilicious giveaways and horrific halloween inspired swag.

You can also click through to the linky list included on this blog here or click on the creeptastic skull beneath…

Tell me do You CoffinHop?
x marks the spot where the spirits watch you from veiled shadows…
Don’t forget to enter my TRICK Haunted Flash Fiction for TREATS
Enter if you dare…Enter or be scared…

x

Thanksgiving | Create-Spirational People

It is Thanksgiving in the USA. I am not in the USA nor am I American but I have many American friends. Thanksgiving is a time to be grateful and appreciate people that you care about in life. I have been blogging now for 18months and in that time my friendship circle has grown to include inspirational people – writers, poets and artists from all around the globe. I am continuously inspired by the creativity and imagination of these people. So in honour of Thanksgiving I am going to create a new Blog Award which will be given out annually to mark my gratitude and to honour the most Create-Spirational Blogs that add to my Inspirations…

Announcing The Annual…

The Annual “CreateSpiration” Blog Award ~ Awarded by Dragonfly Scrolls

There are rules and requirements for this blog award to be passed on…

  • Pick 20 Blogs that have truly inspired you in the year
  • Write an acceptance blog post
  1. Choose a quote on Inspiration.
  2. Choose a quote on Creativity.
  3. Choose and post a song-video that has inspired you this year. (After all what is life without music.)
  4. Write down a list of 5 things that inspired you in the year.
  5. Write down 5 ways that you plan on being inspirational in the coming year.
  6. Pass on the award to the 20 blogs you have chosen.
  7. Each year you must choose 20 new blogs, you can only give out this award once to someone.
  8. Link back to the post where you were awarded.
  9. Link to this rules & requirements page  – The Annual CreateSpiration Blog Award
  10. Awarded every Thanksgiving. (The last weekend in November)

_______________________________

The 20 Blogs who are my Favourite Create-Spiration Blogs for 2011

For the above Awardees, grab the following award widget                                                                                      (by clicking on the image) to feature on your blog:

© Dragonfly Scrolls 2011-2012 Blog Award

Favourite quote on Inspiration:

I dwell in Possibility | Emily Dickinson

Favourite quote on Creativity:

You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus. | Mark Twain

My 2011 Song of Inspiration:

This song inspires me in both its lyrics and because it is a celebration of New York – a city that truly is an inspiration in looking for the silver lining in a heavy storm cloud – and because it is a song about having a “pocketful of dreams” and going out into the big wide world to chase those dreams and make them a reality. 

Five things/people that Inspired me this year:

  1. My family – who supported me in my dream to become a full-time writer
  2. My friends – who always cheer for me in all my endeavors and who always believe in me – also counted on to give me a good butt-kicking every now and again. Special mention to: Alethea Dantes, Vasiliqui Galanopoulous, Jay Smith, Jane Webb Olivier, Desre Tate, Emma Mees, Colin Nel, Leigh K Hunt, Rachna Chhabria, Drew Cross, Al Boudreau, Judith Van Praag, Penny Epel, Danielle Beith Ruschena. (Each of you have a trail of footprints in my heart. I am honoured that you are in my life. Thank you for your love, support, encouragement and the constant source of inspiration through friendship that you gift to me just by being you. x)
  3. Eat,Pray,Love – This book and this movie have inspired so much in my life
  4. Social Networks – All those I follow and connect with through blogging, twitter,Facebook ect.
  5. PostaDay 2011 and PostaWeek2011 – These helped me get into a regular blogging schedule.

Five Ways I plan on being inspirational in 2012

  1. Through my Amazon Wanderings where I take off into the wild yonders of South America and write about it.
  2. Through this creativity & inspiration blog @ Dragonfly Scrolls
  3. Posting a photo at least once a week in a new photo-blog starting 01.01.12…link coming soon
  4. Posting a poem at least once a week in my poetry portfolio @ Soul Photographs
  5. Creating a gratitude journal that will work in combo with the new photo-blog.

Myths & Legends & Lore

Various mythos.

There is something magical about mythology. I have always been fascinated by Mythology. Mythology has really shaped the modern fairy tales and modern stories. One could say it is the cornerstone of fiction. I have been delving into different mythologies over the last year while doing research on my current works in progress. What I love most about mythology is that it teaches us about the human character – both good and bad. The other thing about mythology is that one never tires of it.

No matter how many times I read the tales of Greek mythology, I never tire of it. There is always something new that I learn to love about it. Over the last few months though I have been delving into ancient African mythology, Native American mythology and Romani (Gypsy) Mythology. All this mythology has been research for my works in progress.

Researching all this mythology has made me wonder about the writers of these early myths and legends. Except for the Greek mythology, many of these mythologists remain unnamed but yet the myths have lived on for centuries and for millennia. Many of these myths were created before writing. They were told around fireplaces and passed down generation to generation. Like with all tales that are spoken, they changed subtly over the years with each telling. One could almost say that all mythology is like chinese whispers: that childish game where you sit in a circle and whisper a tale into someone’s ear and then that person whisper’s into another’s ear and so on until the last person has to say aloud what was whispered. What comes out is very rarely what was first spoken. Perhaps this is why the writers remain unnamed. Instead of just one story-teller there were different story tellers with each generation.

Last year I met Chris Vogler who wrote The Writer’s Journey. He was one of the main key speakers at a writing conference. He gave a fascinating talk on Muses: where the idea of muses came from and who the muses are. He was also saying about how so many modern stories have their basis in mythology. It was a fascinating talk.

One can learn so much about a nation by studying their myths, legends and folklore. Every culture has their own mythology and their legends are how they identify themselves with both the inner and outer world. For me these tales are so much more interesting than flat history tomes. The history that these myths and legends tell of is rich in imagery and evocative in description.

Even the modern tales of magic, vampires, elves and dragons are built on the foundations of this mythology. Another thing that I find fascinating about mythology is that whether the myth is Greek, Roman, African, Russian, Celtic in origin; they have the same elements of good and evil. Who is to say what is fact or fiction? In mythology the reader gets to decide what is real or imaginary. To me that is very exciting.

What is your favourite mythic tale or legend?

What mythology would you like to know more of?

Kim

Talking E-Books,Indie Publishing and Writing

There is a lot of talk in the world of writing and publishing about the shape of Traditional Publishing vs Indie Publishing and Print Publishing vs E-Book Publishing. Many writers are adamant on which side of these particular fences they sit. But there are still some who are caught between a rock and a hard place. This could be because they do not know enough about the newer industries of Indie Publishing (Independant or Small Press Publishers) or E-books. Perhaps you have already made up your mind about which side of the fence you are on but if you do have questions and want to know more then this is the interview you want to sit in on.

Today I am talking E-books, Indie Publishing, Editing and Writing with Susan Landis-Steward: Writer, Editor, Publisher.

So take a seat and get comfortable. Time to be informed by a lady who knows the different sides of the publishing debate. She also has the unique position of being both a writer and publisher.

Welcome Susan. Thank you for joining us here today.

 

girl with a quill: Tell us a bit about yourself. Who is Susan Landis-Steward?

Susan:  I’m an almost 60-year-old woman with way too much education and way too many ideas. I fully expect to die at my desk with my slippers half on (just as they are right now) doing something involved with editing, publishing, or writing. But not for another 20 years or so. I am a lesbian mom in a very long-term relationship. We have three stupendous daughters and are relieved that the youngest just got her own apartment. We do not suffer from empty nest syndrome, but maybe that’s because we both have such interesting lives of our own. We also have four amazing grandkids, ranging in age from 13 years to three weeks. I’ve spent my working years doing things like computer systems analyst, journalist, editor, child welfare worker, teacher, professor, and even did a brief stint as a call center minion. Probably the most interesting thing to other people is that I am brain injured. I died during minor surgery, caught a jump-start from a passing surgeon, and was shouted back to life by a small elderly nurse who spent the better part of a day yelling at me to breathe. I ended up with some minor brain damage and fibromyalgia. Blessing and curse. The blessing being that I can no longer work for someone else as I need frequent naps. The curse is obvious, I think.


girl with a quill: When did you decide that you wanted to be a Writer?

Susan: I started writing at the age of four and never looked back. I always enjoyed writing, but it wasn’t until I was in my 20s that I realized I’d like to actually write something for people to read. I didn’t get the courage until I was in my 30s and went to work as a reporter.  Having thousands of people reading my work was terrifying. I tried to resist my first byline, preferring anonymity. But I got over it. After a couple of decades of journalism, I wanted to try my hand at fiction. Here’s another blessing of the brain injury. There is a women’s writers group that meets at the local community college on Wednesday afternoons. With no job, I was free to join. I started my first novel, Blind Leading the Blind, and it was just published in March 2011. I’m currently working on the sequel, Blind Spot. They are lesbian mysteries featuring a former detective and a blind therapist. Love, sex, action, horses, motorcycles, belly dancers, crime: what more could a girl want?

 

girl with a quill: How long have you been writing?

Susan:  Well, that involves math, but I’m 59 now and I was four then so 55 years? Is that right? But professionally, I’ve been writing for 27 years as a journalist, freelance writer, academic, professional writer for the State of Oregon, and many other tasks. I’ve made my living as a freelancer exclusively by the pen for the past five or six years.

girl with a quill: You founded Puddletown Publishing. How did you get into this?


Susan: Wow. I bought a Nook Color last fall because my eyes can no longer be sufficiently corrected to allow me to read most trade paperbacks without removing my glasses, covering one eye to keep the astigmatism at bay, holding the book two inches from my face, and squinting. With my Nook, I can bump up the size, change the font, and make the background a comfortable color.  Great adaptive technology for the baby boom. So, on January 2nd, we went to a party. It was the fifth party that week and I actually tried to get out of it. But my partner insisted, so I took my Nook. That’s what introverts do; we make sure we always have a book along in case we need a breather from the clamoring crowd. So, when I got tired of socializing, I went and sat in a quiet room with a friend,  CONTACT _Con-3B5146219 Renee LaChance, and we started talking about e-books.  Renee was the founder and publisher of Just Out newsmagazine, Oregon’s gay rag, and was itching to get back into publishing. I was a bit at loose ends myself, one regular editing gig having ended, and pretty soon the conversation went from “Why isn’t anyone doing this?” to “Why aren’t we doing this?” Within a week we were on our way. We published our first flush of books in March and our second group of nine books is coming out soon. We are having the time of our lives.


girl with a quill: Do you take control of the editing process like traditional publishers or do writers self-publish through your company?

Susan: We are not a vanity press. We call ourselves an indie press because we’re small, but we function like a traditional publisher in terms of acquisitions, editing, art, and all that rigmarole. Even my own book was submitted to the entire process. Our readers read it without knowing it was mine.  One of my books got a no, so it’s due for some serious rewriting if I ever have the time. 

girl with a quill: For those of us in the dark about e-book publishing, explain to us the process of submitting and publishing a book through your company?

Susan:  When we are accepting submissions, ask that books be sent as Word documents with a short bio and a synopsis. Right now we’re looking for books by lesbians and women of color—it’s a small group, but we don’t want to be swamped with submissions. Others will get their chance. We publish all genres. We do expect submissions to be well-written, tell a good story, and be carefully edited. I’m a bit of a grammar and spelling Nazi and won’t waste my time on something with lots of errors. I’ve quit reading many traditionally published bestsellers because they are so poorly written and edited. The books are then sent to readers who tell us if they think we should proceed with the project. Usually we go with their recommendations, although we do take another look if they say no and we think the project still has merit. Once contracts are signed, we (meaning I) do the first editing pass, looking for obvious structural problems and glaring writing problems. I take notes, send the book back to the writer, and work with the author to make it the best it can be.  Meanwhile, Renee starts working with illustrators and other sub-contractors. Once the book is up to my standards, Renee, who is a masterful copy-editor, goes through it with a fine-tooth comb and catches all the picky stuff I might have missed. Renee and I are a good match. I’m a good editor, while she’s got a business brain like no other. So she handles the contracts, the sub-contractors, the money, the traditional marketing, and all the parts I hate to do. I do work with the authors around social marketing because I enjoy that part. Renee also does the formatting for POD. Finally, we format the book, load it at all the usual suspects, and celebrate. The e-book goes up as soon as the book is ready. POD follows a few weeks later. Oh, and we pay better than average royalties and have the luxury of working with great new writers. It’s so fun!

girl with a quill: This is an e-book Publisher. What do you believe is the future for e-books and more publishers like yourself taking advantage of the wave?

Susan: I hear people all the time who say, “I’ll never get an e-reader. I love ‘real’ books too much.” Most of them are younger folks.  I said the same thing until I realized I hadn’t read anything for fun for a few years. I used to read between 200 and 300 books a year. Suddenly, I was barely getting through three.  My eyes just couldn’t handle it. I did a few rounds with my eye doctor and finally gave up. Then, bang! e-readers.  I’m reading like a maniac again. So older folks are snatching them up because you can read anything on an e-reader. Kids love them. My grandkids grew up on computers so the e-book is an easy transition for them.  And studies show that kids are reading more with e-books. Even my 30-year-old daughter bought one because she wants to be able to carry several books in one compact space, and the new apps for the Nook Color make the thing a small computer that fits in a purse. Lots of servicemen and women are buying e-readers because they fit in a uniform pocket and can hold hundreds of books. The traditional publishers have been slow to change and are going the way of the dinosaur. With books by indies costing only a few dollars, more and more people can afford to buy a book. And I love being able to check books out of the library without leaving my house. I don’t think books are going away any time soon, but the Big 6 and the brick and mortar stores need to enter the 21st century if they want to compete.  I also see a lot of writers who still want a “traditional” deal, even though it’s not in their best interest. Why spend years scrabbling for an agent, waiting for the agent to shop the book, then wait another year for the book to come out? All for 7.5 percent royalties. And, if your book doesn’t sell well, it’s on the shelves for 3 months before being remaindered, and you still haven’t earned your advance back. No wonder writers don’t make any money. An e-book is for sale forever. Writers are finding that they can either self-publish or go with the smaller e-presses like Puddletown and have their books on sale in weeks instead of years. The royalties are better, the quality is often better, and you can still have print copies for POD. There are still some problems to be worked out, like the inconsistent quality of self-published books, but I think the market will take care of that over the next few years.  Overall, I see e-books continuing to take a larger and larger share of the market. They’re cheap in a poor economy, they’re green in a society that should be worried about that, and they’re technology that Americans have shown they adore. Barring major solar flares knocking out the grid or the end of the world, I think even dyed-in-the-wool book lovers will be reading e-books with some regularity.  

girl with a quill: Why have you chosen to do predominantly only e-book publishing? Is it a personal preference? Why?

Susan:  It’s a fairly wide open market, it’s environmentally friendly, and it’s better for the writer in the long run.  We also are committed to a “green” workplace and you don’t get much greener than this.

girl with a quill: Many people in 9-5 jobs have a water-cooler space where they go to talk with their colleagues about work issues. Do you have a “water-cooler” group for your writing life?

Susan:   I’m an introvert so I like being alone. With Dropbox, I can see my business partner and our subcontractors working away at their homes. (Dropbox alerts you when other folks access the files.) I have my dog and some cats, so I’m happy. I also belong to several Facebook groups that I visit throughout the day. Renee and I also talk on the phone almost daily, and we meet once a week to go over the endless list.

girl with a quill: Who or what is the greatest influence on you as a writer? and Why?

Susan:  Without a doubt, Madeleine L’Engle. She’s been my favorite since I was a child and got A Wrinkle in Time for Christmas the year it came out. Her writing and her liberal perspective on faith have both influenced me greatly over the years.  I was fortunate to study with her for a short time.

girl with a quill: If your life story were a novel, what genre would it be and what would be the story-arc up to this point?

Susan:  Is there a genre called crazy-as-hell? My life has been a roller coaster with all the usual events: marriage, family, work, taxes. But there’s been a huge element of surprise as well: house burned down, floods, and we’ve got two more horsemen yet to come. I’ve died and lived to tell about it, started several new businesses and driven them to success. If I told you everything, you probably wouldn’t believe me. Sometimes, I think I’m trying to work out several lifetimes of karma in one.

girl with a quill: Tell us about the place that you write? What do you fill that space with?

Susan:  I have a room of my own in our home, lined floor to ceiling with books, and a desk that is cluttered beyond belief. I need a big monitor so I have a 32” flat screen TV I can blow everything up to 200 percent on. I have several computers, usually a couple of cats lounging around, and a lot of outsider art and photos of family and friends. There are also a lot of art supplies as I like to dink around with other creative forms. I’m primarily a fiber artist in my spare time.  Like Gandhi, I believe we could have world peace if everyone would just spin their own yarn.

girl with a quill: Tell us about your writing process from that magical moment when the story’s idea / character voice interrupts your thoughts…what happens next?

Susan:  I mull. I gestate. I listen to voices in my head. Finally, when I can stand it no longer, I sit down and start writing.  It’s almost like mental illness.

girl with a quill: Are you a plotter, a pantster or a little of both?

Susan:  A pantster, for sure.  I tried plotting but could never get the whole thing done. Finally, I sat down and started writing.  Sometimes I have no idea what’s coming next, so I get surprised.

girl with a quill: What genre do you write in now?

Susan: I love mysteries so I write mysteries. I’m also working on a couple of theology projects (I trained as a theologian), and one book that combines theology with mystery.

girl with a quill: If you could try your pen at another genre, which genre would you choose?

Susan: Probably fantasy or science fiction. With lesbian protagonists. I like women’s voices and there’s not enough good lesbian literature out there.

girl with a quill: Are you working on any WIP now? Can you tell us a bit about it?

Susan: I’m writing two sequels to my first book.  The first is Blind Spot and the second is Blind Faith. The first three are all in the POV of the detective who is neurotic as hell but can see. The fourth book will be Blind Leading the Blind and will be in the POV of the blind therapist. That will be a challenge.

girl with a quill: Why do you write?

Susan:  Because it’s what I do. If I’m not writing books, I’m writing articles, or sermons, or blog posts, or…

girl with a quill: Do you have a common theme or Omni-Premise that threads its way through all your writing? If so, what is it?

Susan:  Hmm.  I guess the combination of lesbian and liberal theologian makes me most interested in the ideas of inclusion and diversity over all other themes. I want to write things that normalize all the differences for my readers. Like the idea that lesbians can just be normal folks or that a blind person can lead a rich, rewarding, and creative life. Or that one can be spiritual, even religious, without leaving your brain behind.

girl with a quill: If you found a golden lamp with a genie and he told you he could either make one of your stories come true or that you could become a character for a short time in another author’s book, which option would you choose and why?

Susan:  Oh! I’d be Meg Murray in Madeleine L’Engle’s books. Or I’d be Anna Pigeon in Nevada Barr’s books. I like Meg because she’s an awkward kid and so was I. I like Anna because she gets to work in the National Parks. 

girl with a quill: What is more important to you: Story or Character? Why?

Susan:  I like character driven books best. If you have a good character, one that I can get to know and care about, I’ll probably forgive minor issues with the story. I’m not as forgiving about great stories with flat or stereotypical characters.

girl with a quill: Who is your favourite character that you have created and why?

Susan:  I’d have to say Erik Walton (short for Erika) in my Blind series. She’s smart, tough, smart-assed, and neurotic as hell. Her weaknesses and tenderness shine through all her bluster. Her inner dialogue is pretty true to my own life.

girl with a quill: Who is your favourite character in the literary world and why?

Susan:   Marvin in Dr. Seuss’s Marvin K. Mooney. He cracks me up.

girl with a quill: If you could throw a dinner party and invite 5 famous creative people, who would they be and why?

Susan:  Madeleine L’Engle. Well, duh. Nevada Barr, because she writes gripping books with great female characters.  Rita Nakashima Brock, one of my favorite feminist theologians. Mozart, because I’d want him to play for us after dinner, and he was a crazy child prodigy.  Willa Cather, because she’s one of the few writers who can take my breath away, and I can’t figure out if it’s the story or the writing that did it. An amazing thing when that happens.


girl with a quill: If you could throw a dinner party and invite 5 of your favourite fictional characters, who would they be and why?

Susan:  Anna Pigeon, because I love her adventures in the wilderness.  God as portrayed in Gospel by Wilhelm Barnhardt, because he’s laugh-out-loud funny as hell, doesn’t take him/herself seriously, and is much like God as I imagine him/her.  Alex Delaware, from the mysteries by Jonathon Kellerman, because I could use a good guitar-playing shrink.  Stephanie Plum, Janet Evanovich’s bounty hunter, because she makes me laugh and she’s the kind of person I like to hang out with. Rina Lazarus from the books by Faye Kellerman, because I want to know everything about her faith.

girl with a quill: If you could give yourself one piece of advice at the beginning of your writing career, what would it be?

Susan:  Just write. Don’t wait for it to be perfect. Just write.

girl with a quill: What is the one piece of writing advice you could give your future self, 10 years from now?

Susan: Just write. Don’t wait for it to be perfect. Just write. And publish it.

girl with a quill: What do you want your lasting legacy, as a writer, to be?

Susan: Mostly I think about my kids and grandkids. I want them to be proud of my body of work. Even though I don’t want the grandkids reading some of it until they’re older. I think explicit sex, even if fairly tame, has no place in the hands of kids under 15 or 16 or so.

girl with a quill: Finally where can we find on the web?

Answer: HYPERLINK “mailto:susanls@puddletowngroup.com”susanls@puddletowngroup.com

HYPERLINK “http://www.puddletowngroup.com/”http://www.puddletowngroup.com/

Facebook: HYPERLINK “http://www.facebook.com/PuddletownGroup”http://www.facebook.com/PuddletownGroup

HYPERLINK “http://www.facebook.com/pages/Blind-Leading-the-Blind/196477380374053″http://www.facebook.com/pages/Blind-Leading-the-Blind/196477380374053

HYPERLINK “http://www.facebook.com/slandissteward?ref=ts”http://www.facebook.com/slandissteward?ref=ts

Blogs: HYPERLINK “http://puddletown.wordpress.com/”http://puddletown.wordpress.com

HYPERLINK “http://susanlandissteward.wordpress.com/”http://susanlandissteward.wordpress.com/

Twitter: HYPERLINK “http://www.twitter.com/susanls”http://www.twitter.com/susanls

HYPERLINK “http://twitter.com/puddletowngroup”http://twitter.com/puddletowngroup

 

 

____________________________________________________________

 

The Dark Side

Human Nature/Life Death, Art Institute...
Image by christine zenino via Flickr

Do you have a Dark Side? You may think you don’t. But I have news for you. If you are human then you do have a dark side. It is part of human nature. Does that make you dark in nature? For some the answer here may be yes. For most, the answer will be no. I am sure you are wondering where I am going with this. Well let me tell you.

Today in one of my online writing groups one of the writers posed an incredibly interesting question that got me thinking. Part of the question is why we write? I have been focusing a lot on this over the last few weeks. For me, writing is cathartic.  But I also believe it serves a tool in giving a voice, in a safe environment, to people who feel they have no voice. 

The question also explored why one writes in a specific genre. A lot of my writing explores the Dark side of the world and/or human nature. Is it because it fascinates me or repels me? I would say both reasons would be correct. For whatever reason people who have been severely hurt in life are drawn into my inner circle. I believe that everything in life does happen for a reason even if at the time a person cannot understand it or explain it. This I believe includes the Dark Side of life. 

Do I believe there are evil people or do I believe that there are just people who commit good and bad deeds? Again my answer would be yes to both of these questions. I have had a brush with a really evil person in life. It still haunts me to this day. But I am thankful for that experience. I will not go into too much detail here but I will share a bit. When I was growing up, there was a spate of missing girls in the same age group as I was. (early teens) We used to buy milk cartons that had the girls’ pictures on and asking for people to phone in with any information. It was something to be feared especially because the police had no leads on why these girls went missing or what the link was beyond their similar age brackets. The girls were taken over a large area and over many years so police did not connect the dots. I remember numerous news casts warning young girls to be vigilant.

During a school holiday I was visiting a friend and on one of the days we were out walking in the holiday town that she lived in. After a while we noticed a car that seemed to be trailing us for a few blocks. Being a holiday town where people were often driving very slowly and sightseeing, this may not have been unusual. However, something prodded my sub-conscious. 

I have always had an uncanny sixth sense. For many years I viewed this sixth sense as a curse. What is my sixth sense I hear you asking? It comes in two parts. I can tell a person’s true nature within moments of meeting them. I inherently know when people are deceitful or dangerous. You may think this is a great tool to have but it is not. You see, sometimes you do just want to see the surface mask of a person. You really do not want to see any hidden skeletons straight off the bat. That day my sixth sense kicked in.

Something prodded my sixth sense into overdrive and I told my friend we had to get to somewhere with more people immediately. My friend though confused saw my alarm and urgency and agreed. So we picked up our pace but the car just increased its speed to keep up with us but not overtake us. All of a sudden, the car passed us and pulled up onto the curb in front of us blocking our path. An older man got out with a map in his hand. At this point everything in me screamed to run and not look back. Danger with huge flashing lights seemed to be playing over and over in my mind.

What about the man’s appearance triggered this? To be honest, nothing. But when I locked eyes with the man I felt sick to my core. I felt like I was looking at pure evil. I could not explain it but it is just what I felt at the time. He was an ordinary and unprepossessing character. He could have been someone’s kindly  and quiet uncle. In fact on pure appearance he looked trustworthy and non-threatening. But it was there in his eyes. They seemed dead to me. Not without emotion dead but there was a nothingness there, a hollowed inhuman look that seemed to want to penetrate my soul. 

The man started moving towards us and he started saying he was lost and needed some directions. All the time he steadily advanced towards us keeping eye contact all the time. As much as I wanted to break eye contact I could not. My friend started then walking towards him. Being a sweet girl she was always the first to help others. However this time I knew this man did not want nor need help. He did not look lost. In fact he seemed to know exactly where he was and what he wanted. Everything in me told me it was not directions he was after.

I grabbed my friend’s hand harshly and started running with her. She struggled at first and said that I was being paranoid. Until she realised the man had got back in his car and done a u-turn to pursue us. I ran with her to the building nearest us which happened to be a clinic. We ran in the clinic. A nurse came out with us to see what we were running from. There was nobody there. The man in the car had disappeared. 

Though this event shook me and my friend. I eventually put it to one side in my mind. But there was always a niggling reminder. It was not until about 5 years later while watching an emergency news broadcast that suddenly I went ice-cold. The broadcaster announced that there was an emergency announcement from the police. They had solved the cases of the missing girls. The murderer was found after a suicide-murder in which he killed first his partner in the kidnapping and subsequent murders of the young girls and then killed himself. They unearthed the bones of a few of the girls. But many they could not find. The police showed pictures of the murderer/kidnapper/paedophile and his partner. 

I was watching the news with my parents at the time. I turned white as a sheet and almost fell from the edge of the chair that I was sitting on. A cold permeated my being that I could not shake. The picture of the man in the tv was the same man who my friend and I had run away from when we were young girls in a holiday town. It was then that I told my parents what had happened all those years ago. They could not believe it. 

To this day it haunts me that I came so close to a killer who was so evil. I am thankful that I was with my friend that day and that my sixth sense kicked in. I shudder with dread to think what may have happened if I had not been there. She might have been another picture on a milk carton. But it also haunts me that this man went on kidnapping/torturing and killing girls for 5 more years before the police knew who he was. To the nurse at the clinic that day my fears seemed irrational and childish. I allowed her to convince me that I had just over-reacted. What if I hadn’t allowed her to convince me otherwise? That question haunts me to this day.

Perhaps this is why so much of my writing has vulnerable girls thrown into dangerous, whether it be physical/psychological/supernatural. events and having to find a way to survive. Perhaps I am trying to re-write the stories of those missing girls whose pictures haunted my adolescence. Perhaps I am trying to re-write stories where the victims can become victors and take their vengeance or become survivors that can teach/help others. 

But I do believe that our lives and the events and experiences do form us as both people and writers. We all have events that haunt our memories. This event that I have described above has had a huge impact on my life. I shared it because there are some truths that do need to come to light. For me writing is a way to give these hauntings a place to free themselves from the clutches of my memory. Writing these stories and these characters give me a safe way to cleanse my mind of horrific and difficult situations.

  • Do you write to let out your inner hauntings, those memories and events that lock onto your sub-conscious?

Writing and Truth are two-edged swords. The power of the written word can both harm or heal. Much like truth. I believe writers like all artists have a powerful purpose in this world. We can depict truth in all its ugliness and beauty and people can heal through our work. We need to wield our words carefully. We can choose to cut to heal or cut to harm with this sword. It is a task not to be taken lightly.

© All Rights Reserved Kim Koning.

Ring of Fire – Hope ~ Tales for Canterbury

Table of Contents – Hope | Tales for Canterbury.

Ring of Fire – Hope – Tales for Canterbury

My first short story will be published in the upcoming month in an amazing anthology of short stories called Tales for Canterbury. This is a project that I am proud and honoured to be a part of. Firstly it is a wonderful selection of stories by very talented authors. Secondly it is a project dear to my heart personally as not so long ago I called Christchurch, New Zealand home. So to be able to be part of a project that honours Christchurch and raises funds for the Red Cross is very special to me.

The book has been broken up into 3 parts:

  • Survival
  • Hope
  • Future

Each part has stories that are themed around one of these three parts.

My story, Ring of Fire, is set in the Theme of HOPE.

When I was first invited to submit for this anthology I was only given these 3 key themes and told that the story needed to encapsulate either one of these three or could be a combined theme of all three. I was also told that it needed to be a fantasy-based story.

At first I pondered on these three themes for about a week or two. I realised that these three themes are core themes of the human drama we face in all cultures. I also felt a kinship with these themes as these are the themes in most of my own writings from my poetry to prose to novels. I believe in Survival, Hope and Future. But for me the greatest of these three is HOPE. For without hope it is difficult to survive and without hope it is impossible to conceive a future out of that survival. So I knew that I had chosen a theme that not only was the basis for the other two themes but something I desperately believe makes all the difference in our lives as human beings: HOPE.

Did I have a story in mind? Not immediately. But the story found me. Or rather my MC found me and told me her story. Within a few days I had the story in front of me. I was ready to compile it and submit it through to Tales for Canterbury. This story is unlike any of my other stories but the theme and premise is the same that threads its way through all my stories. The character was a challenge for me as it was a different POV than I am used to writing in. But the story weaved itself out onto the page and before long I knew I had a “quilt” of hope, survival and future in MS form.

This story is set in a dystopian world and centres on one Main Character who against odds is forced to be a Survivor. This MC is similar to my other MCs in that looking at the MC you see a vulnerable character who does not quite fit in with anyone or anything. Two terrible crises brings the inner strength of this character to the light and hope shines through a dark time. The story is told through the voice and perspective of the MC. As this character experiences danger and is thrown into a fight for survival, so you the reader will feel the same fear, doubt, flight/fight response, rallying strength and refusal to give up and in the end pure HOPE: the lifeblood that gives her strength to see a future that is brighter than what has gone before.

It is wonderful when a character is able to capture your heart. I believe this character will capture your heart as mine was captured. I believe in this story and I believe in this MC. But more than that I believe in the underlying message that threads its way through the story. It is not only the strong that survive. Sometimes it is those that seem most vulnerable that shine in sheer strength when their soul is tested by great trials. Sometimes vulnerability and innocence are just masks for a pure and noble spirit. In times of great conflict and drama, these masks fall away and the true spirit of strength shines though. Sometimes all a person/character needs is hope and a reason to fight for survival. Give them both and you have a warrior that is pure and strong in heart.

That is Ring of Fire.

_______~~~_______

What is Tales for Canterbury?

Tales for Canterbury is a short story anthology loosely themed around survival, hope and the future. All profits of this anthology will be donated to the Red Cross Earthquake Appeal.

Tales for Canterbury

The anthology will be released in April/May 2011 in electronic and paperback formats.  It features stories by RJ Astruc, Philippa Ballantine, Jesse Bullington, Anna Caro, Cat Connor, Brenda Cooper, Debbie Cowens, Matt Cowens, Merrilee Faber, AJ Fitzwater, Janis Freegard, Neil Gaiman, Cassie Hart, A.M. Harte, Karen Healey, Leigh K. Hunt, Lynne Jamneck, Patty Jansen, Gwyneth Jones, Tim Jones, Kim Koning, Jay Lake, Helen Lowe, Kate Mahony, Tina Makereti, Juliet Marillier, Angel Leigh McCoy, Linda Niccol, Ripley Patton, Simon Petrie, Grant Stone, Jeff Vandermeer, Mary Victoria and Sean Williams.

Pre-orders are now available from Random Static Press.

If you would like to contact us, you can email Cassie at winterchild9@gmail.com

We are so excited to have pre-orders open! Check out our new page Get Your Copy!” or go straight to the source and head over to Random Static.

The print copy is priced at NZ$24.95 (including postage within NZ) and the digital version is a mere NZ$12.00! At those prices, you might as well pick one up for a friend too. ;-)


What is your Story’s Premise?

tower of books and a man interested
Image by zen via Flickr

http://narrativedisorder.com/storycraft/2011/03/storycraft-book-chat-1on-writing-by-stephen-king/.

Yesterday I sat in on a tweetchat on twitter. The link to the chat transcript is above. The subject was: The Premise.

So what is “The Premise” of your story?

Bill Johnson defines it as “the Foundation of Storytelling”. He breaks this down even further with:

“A story premise sets out a story’s core dramatic issue, the movement of that issue toward resolution, and the fulfillment that resolution sets up for the story’s audience.”

So to break that definition into even simpler terms:The Premise needs to have the Dramatic Issue of your story, the movement and the fulfilled resolution.

i.e. “Lajos Egri in The Art of Dramatic Writing goes into great detail about what a premise is. Egri’s premise for Romeo and Juliet: ‘Great love defies even death.'”

The chat started off discussing individual Premise’ for each story but then evolved into whether as writers we have an omni-Premise for our writing. I have been reflecting quite a bit on this chat and on this subject and came up with what The Premise means to me, my individual stories and my combined writing.

Do you always have a Premise figured out before you start writing a new story?

Sometimes I do but sometimes the Premise grows from something floating above my head to something solid. It grows as I talk to my characters and find out what their story is. The Premise then becomes their answer as to why I am telling their story.

Does this mean “The Premise” is unique to my story or my characters?

No. Many writers and many stories could have the same premise but this does not make them the same story. For instance if you took Romeo and Juliet’s Premise – ‘Great love defies even death’ – I can pull up at least one other great love story that has the same Premise: Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. Now beyond the fact that we know over 200 years separated Mr Shakespeare and Miss Bronte, we also know that these two stories are completely different from one another.

Do all stories have a Premise? and Does a story have just one Premise?

Yes. All stories have a Premise. The Premise is the core and the foundation of your story.

One Premise? This is a catch-22. You could argue that a story could have many different Premise’ but ultimately I believe there is one core Premise that is the foundation. Just like a building of brick, concrete or wood has only one foundation. A story is also a building, it is built from words and imagination.

Do I have  an Omni-Premise that is the foundation of all my stories?

Your stories may all be very different whether that be in terms of genre, category or voice. But if you look at them even closer do you perhaps see a thread of thought, call it moral for argument’s sake, that twines its way through all your stories?

I realised that for myself there is an Omni-Premise that is at the heart of all my stories. Indeed I even find that same thread winding its way through my poetry as well.

My Omni-Premise is:

Trials and Tribulations are the diamond dust that polish a noble and pure soul into a shining gem that can survive the heat of any soul-fire and through that polishing it grows into the person it is meant to be.

I realised my stories are about those characters that are viewed as externally vulnerable but have an inner core of independence, refusing to be called “victim”, are always being tested by trials and tribulations. My stories are about survival and my main characters finding the courage to survive against all odds. Indeed it is only through their suffering that my characters find their true path as survivors. I am always drawn to the darker subjects because life is not a bed of roses but a life lived without trials ensures a soul that has not been tested for its true strength. I find my reading habits all have this Premise to them. Of course I read many types of stories being the bookworm that I am but the ones that I re-read and the ones that resonate deep within me all have this surviving in the heart of trouble/darkness/conflict. I guess you could say that though I am drawn to darker subjects…I look for the rainbow after every storm. Without storms there can be no rainbow.

So what is your Premise for the story you are working on? Do you have an Omni-Premise that threads its way through all of your writings? Are you drawn to certain types of stories? Why? What sort of stories do you want to tell?

© All Rights Reserved Kim Koning


Short,Sweet & To The Point

story

I have recently been stretching my narrative abilities through the medium of Short Story. This is a medium that I find very challenging. Not since High School have I really read or written any Short Stories. Last year at the RWNZ Writers’ Conference that I attended I specifically enrolled in a talk on the Short Story and on Novellas. Then this year I started looking at writing some Short Stories for competitions. This month though I am working on three Short Stories. One is for an anthology that I have been asked to contribute to. The other two are for writing competitions. So I thought today’s post would be focused on the Art Form of Short Story Writing.

What is the difference between a Short Story and a Novel?

A short story is a work of fiction that is usually written in prose, often in narrative format. This format tends to be more pointed than longer works of fiction, such as novellas (in the 20th and 21st century sense) and novels. (Wikipedia)

A short story is more concise and tight in writing than a novel. Unlike a novel where there may be a number of incidences leading to one climax; a short story usually contains one incidence.

A novel can have multiple plot lines, different settings and a variety of characters. A short story has one plot that covers a short time period in one setting and fewer characters.

A novel is very structured in the traditional 5 point structure: Plot; Exposition, Complication, Climax, Resolution and Anti-Climax. A short story on the other hand follows a much looser structure. You have a limited space to write in so often the beginning of the story is started abruptly and often in the middle of action. The Short Story still has a Climax/Crisis/Turning Point. The ending of a Short Story is abrupt and open sometimes having a moral turn to the story. Short Stories that follow a strong moral or ethical theme are called Parables or Fables.

Now we come to the Length of a Short Story. The classic definition of a Short Story dictates that it should be read in one sitting. When talking Word Count though there are varying definitions. Often the consensus is that a short story is between 7000 and 9000 words. Once a short story gets to a count of 15 000 – 20 000, it starts becoming a Novella. Stories with less than 1000 words are called Flash Fiction.

The History of The Short Story

Short Stories find their birth in oral story telling. All the ancient cultures of this world have a base in oral story telling. Stories that were told to one another to pass down truths and teach lessons. These stories were the fodder for early imaginations. As children short stories are the first stories we come to hear, read and love. Whether we call them Fairy Tales, Bedtime Stories or Fables; these are all Short Stories. Think of ghost stories you heard sitting around camp fires or the stories your parents told you to calm you when you woke from a nightmare. In contemporary times, magazines are filled with Short Stories. Radio brought another form of media to the art of Short Stories. Short pieces are pieces of fiction to wet our imaginative taste buds.

These are the points to write a successful Short Story:

  • Have a very clear theme but Beware of being Preachy
  • Have a very strong Protagonist with clear characteristics and antagonist and a maximum of 2 other characters should secondary characters be needed
  • Hook your readers with a powerful first paragraph
  • Immediately grab the reader’s attention with an action or a conflict point
  • Strong POV – Choose 1 point of view to write from
  • Stick to one tense: Either Past Tense or Present Tense
  • Decide if your Narrator is going to be subjective or objective
  • Write tight and meaningful dialogue
  • Be very concise in your setting: Include just enough detail to put your reader into the story but make sure your detail only adds to the story
  • Set up the plot very clearly before writing
  1. Beginning – Start with a situation of conflict
  2. Middle – Present the problems (Rising Action) that occur from this situation
  3. End – Solve the problem. Keep the reader’s suspense by revealing the final point as late as you can.
  • Create Conflict and Tension quickly
  • Build this Conflict/Tension to a Crisis Point/Climax
  • Find a Resolution by showing your character has learnt and will grow from the Conflict you threw them into
  • Use vivid imagery
  • Use your words like a man uses water in a desert: very sparingly and with clear intent

Below are authors that were successful at both the Art form of Short Stories and Novels:

Charles Dickens, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., Nathaniel Hawthorne, Virginia Woolf, Boleslaw Prus, Rudyard Kipling, William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, James Joyce, P.G. Wodehouse, H.P. Lovecraft and Ernest Hemingway

Like with any medium of story telling you need to immerse yourself in Short Stories to be a successful Short Story Writer. Read Short Stories. Read some fairy tales or fables. Take note of what points the various authors use to make that Short Story a success.

What have I learnt from Short Stories?

I have found that dipping my pen back into Short Story telling is teaching me to be concise and to the point in my writing. It is teaching me the value of a gripping start to a story. It is teaching me to have a very clear POV. IT is also teaching me the essential tool of having FOCUS in a story. I have even been editing one of my full length novels with all the above points in mind. I think that the lessons from writing a short story translate perfectly into a Suspense / Thriller or Adventure story. Your words and sentences have to be short and sharp. You have to connect with the reader in a very immediate way that is very visceral in impact. This is definitely a medium of writing that I am going to continue to further hone my writing craft.

Have you written any Short Stories? What challenges did you face?

Stretch your creative muscle this week by writing a Short Story. You may just find that this Art Form teaches you essential points about writing that you have missed before now.

© All Rights Reserved Kim Koning

To submit or not to submit

Banned Books #4
Image by ellen.w via Flickr

“This manuscript of yours that has just come back from another editor is a precious package. Don’t consider it rejected. Consider that you’ve addressed it ‘to the editor who can appreciate my work’ and it has simply come back stamped ‘Not at this address’. Just keep looking for the right address.” – Barbara Kingsolver

Writing is not a job description. A great deal of it is luck. Don’t do it if you are not a gambler because a lot of people devote many years of their lives to it (for little reward). I think people become writers because they are compulsive wordsmiths.” – Margaret Atwood in The Times

Any man who keeps working is not a failure. He may not be a great writer, but if he applies the old-fashioned virtues of hard, constant labor, he’ll eventually make some kind of career for himself as writer.
Ray Bradbury
The reason 99% of all stories written are not bought by editors is very simple. Editors never buy manuscripts that are left on the closet shelf at home.
– John Campbell
There are three difficulties in authorship: to write anything worth publishing — to find honest men to publish it — and to get sensible men to read it.
– Charles Caleb Cotton
An artist’s sensitivity to criticism is, at least in part, an effort to keep unimpaired the zest, or confidence, or arrogance, which he needs to make creation possible; or an instinct to climb through his problems in his own way as he should, and must.
Christopher Fry
I went for years not finishing anything. Because, of course, when you finish something you can be judged…I had poems which were re-written so many times I suspect it was just a way of avoiding sending them out.
– Erica Jong
You may be able to take a break from writing, but you won’t be able to take a break from being a writer…
Stephen Leigh

To submit or not to submit…that is the question of the week?

It is one thing to decide to write a story, it is another thing to finish this story and still a completely other thing to submit the story to a professional. It takes courage to do all three but I believe the greatest accomplishment and most courageous of these three is: to finish this story. Of course there is nothing stopping you from then putting your completed manuscript in a hidden drawer with the secret knowledge that you have completed a book.

Is this why you wrote your story? To hide it, unacknowledged by any but you. Perhaps this is your reason. For that I, nor anyone, can judge you. But what happens if there is a fire and your manuscript burns before you can free it? Then you would have put all that work and courage, all those tears of frustration and smiles of joy, into something that has become nothing. Soon, you will forget your story and then it will disappear like a thread on the end of a zephyr’s tail.

What is your other option? You are then faced with the quandary at the beginning of this post:

To Submit or Not to Submit

  • You have written it and rewritten it countless times.  You are at that point in the relationship where you commit or leave.
  • You commit.
  • You write a synopsis.
  • You write a query letter.
  • You find agents who accept your genre.
  • You submit your manuscript.

Now you wait. From some agents you wait for weeks, some days, some moments. But eventually answers will start trickling in. Some of them will be non-committal. Some of them will be bland refusals. Some will be harsh. Some will be filled with constructive criticism. But all these first ones, if you are like most authors both known and unknown, will be rejections.

But are they rejections?

Yes, they have refused to take your book under their wing. At first, your initial reaction will be like that of a parent being told their kid was the only kid not picked for the sports team. You will feel personal anger, even irritation. Then you will feel doubt at your own ability.

Again I ask the question, are they all rejections?

Perhaps the question should be why am I being rejected? You may get the answer to that with the rejection slip or you may never know. But you must remember one very important fact: Agents / Editors / Publishers are all human beings. This means they are fallible. They are subjective. They are emotional beings. They can make mistakes. They have personal likes and dislikes. Second important fact: As a first time submission, they do not know you personally. This is not a rejection of YOU.

Here are some important rejections you can take heart from:

Emily Dickinson: Recluse and poet Emily Dickinson is a commonly read and loved writer. Yet in her lifetime she was all but ignored, having fewer than a dozen poems published out of her almost 1,800 completed works.

Theodor Seuss Giesel: Today nearly every child has read The Cat in the Hat or Green Eggs and Ham, yet 27 different publishers rejected Dr. Seuss‘s first book To Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street.

Stephen King: The first book by this author, the iconic thriller Carrie, received 30 rejections, finally causing King to give up and throw it in the trash. His wife fished it out and encouraged him to resubmit it, and the rest is history, with King now having hundreds of books published the distinction of being one of the best-selling authors of all time.

J. K. Rowling: Rowling may be rolling in a lot of Harry Potter dough today, but before she published the series of novels she was nearly penniless, severely depressed, divorced, trying to raise a child on her own while attending school and writing a novel. Rowling went from depending on welfare to survive to being one of the richest women in the world in a span of only five years through her hard work and determination.

Jack London: This well-known American author wasn’t always such a success. While he would go on to publish popular novels like White Fang and The Call of the Wild, his first story received six hundred rejection slips before finally being accepted.

So the question is: After submitting and after rejection do you give up?

Do you give up after 5 rejections?

Do you give up after 25 rejections?

Jack London did not give up after 600 rejections. You may say: I am not Jack London. No. Quite correct. You are not Jack London. You are YOU. As such you have a unique story all of your own. Do you hide that ability, do you deny that story to the rest of the world just because some people do not want it? There are hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of agents and editors in this industry. The right one will come along. It may take you years. But if writing is your passion, your focus, your purpose: Do you dare give up?

Now I leave the question with you:

To submit or Not to submit?

To give up or To PERSIST?

Only you can be your guide.

– Kim


© All Rights Reserved Kim Koning.

Cutting the stone into a diamond

A scattering of "brilliant" cut diam...
Image via Wikipedia

I have just finished reading the full first draft of my critique partner’s MS. The story had me riveted and I finished it in an afternoon’s setting. I realised how much work and energy goes into a first draft and how close a writer can be to that first draft. It takes great courage to release that first draft from your safe hand to the hands of a critique partner or beta reader. I think it must feel something like dropping off your child at nursery school or hiring a baby sitter to look after your child for the first time. We writers have the same attachment to our stories as a mother to a child. There is that same protective streak and a sense of pride and love when we think of our WIP. This is even more the case with the first draft.

Why?

I think the first draft is the closest to the writer’s heart because it is written not only with ink but with emotional angst, blood, sweat and tears. It is written alone and maybe even in secret. It is actually just like a secret. The writer may have spent months with it, maybe even years, and then the point comes that someone else has to read it. At this point I am sure there are writers out there that fail to show it to someone else, instead they keep this first draft a secret. But for those who do need someone to read it to tell them if it is any good, it takes the courage of a warrior to take that first step and let someone else read it and then judge both them as a writer and the work on its own merit.

So if you are a writer who has just finished their first draft or perhaps you have buried it for a while; take it out and air it. Remember why you wrote this first draft in the first place. What drove you? Was this story begging to be told? Now you could bury it right back again but then you would not know whether your first draft was the bones of a great story that needed to be told or whether it is indeed just a story.

For me writing a story in first draft is like deciding to mine some soil. You don’t know whether there is anything under that soil. You could just dig deep down and find nothing but sand. But you could dig and find a vein of gold or silver. You could dig deep and find oil or water. You could dig deep down and find precious stones. You could dig deep down and find that most precious of gems: a diamond in the rough. The point is that you do not know what you are going to find, you know only that you have to dig. So you spend every precious moment you can spare to dig and dig, all the while writing down the bones of something that is becoming bigger than just a faint idea. Everyone around you at this point may be cheering for you or you may be doing it furtively. You could be that miner who is going out in the dark of night digging up the land behind your house and then covering your tracks. You might be that miner who is digging in plain sight of all your neighbours and friends and people are tut-tutting at the suspicion that you may be mentally unstable at the worst or fanciful with your head in the clouds at best. Either way, you keep on digging. Slowly you start striking a few things, you decide you have to write further and dig deeper to find out if there is a treasure at the end of all your digging. You get to the end of your first draft and you have struck something. You peer at it intently and wonder if this is it, you dug and dug for a dirty stone?

Now you are faced with a choice: You can either decide this was pointless and re-bury the stone, fill up the mine again and walk away. Or you can decide to see if there is something more to this stone, maybe it just needs to be washed clean of its crust of dirt?

If you take the second option, you take your stone and go to wash it. It still looks like a stone. You look at it under a magnifying glass. You cannot see anything but then again you are not an expert miner. What would you know? This is when you need to have some advice or another set of eyes. So you take it to someone you trust. It has to be someone you trust because in your heart of hearts you are hoping that they will tell you, “Job well done. Wow You have found a true diamond.” and all your work will not be in vain.

You find your person you trust. This may be a partner, a friend, a writing partner or a beta reader. You ask them politely and with your heart in your hand that they read this and give you their honest opinion. Is this just a stone or could it be a diamond in the rough? You ask for them to be gentle with it as you have spent months maybe even years mining at it.

You wait anxiously as they read your precious first draft. You know that they will try to be gentle but that they will be honest. It is this honesty that you fear the most. Will everyone be right, are you mentally unstable and just fooling yourself? Or even worse what if it is a diamond, what do you do then, the pressure would increase exponentially?

Finally they come back to you with the read story in hand. They look at you and give you their opinion. They tell you that they enjoyed the story but that there are some issues. They don’t understand certain things and some parts you put too much detail in and lost their interest. With each of these words, you feel like something is piercing you. You now know you were hoping they would say it was perfect. It is a diamond already cut, shaped and gleaming. Instead they are telling you it needs more work. Then you realise that this may not be a bad thing. They are saying this is a diamond but it has to be cut into a shape. The cuts may shave quite a lot from the stone, it may even cut it to half its shape. Then it needs to be polished. After all a diamond in the rough looks just like a dirty misshapen stone. You listen and then thank them because you realise they are trying to help you. They have taken time to critique your find, your work. You need to take the time to listen.

Now the hard work begins. You need to cut at the stone to get its true shape. There are a few external flaws that even you can see and then there are finer flaws that your expert pointed out. So you begin the process of the second draft and this is the cutting, the shaping. You know this will also not be the end. You will need to polish once you have the stone cut. Then you will have your true reward: a diamond. Sparkling, precious, flawless and a stone to be admired and coveted.

Remember the choice you had after finding the stone: if you are still at that crossroads, I urge you to not re-bury the stone. You may just have a stone in the end but you may also have a diamond. If your courage fails you and you don’t show it to someone else and don’t do a second draft, you will never know. Many writers have tried and tried many times and failed many times before their first success. But think if these writers had not made the choice to take the stone from the ground. Their diamonds, the books and stories we now love and learn from, would be lost forever. That would be a tragedy. So take courage. Remember why you wanted or needed to write this story or start digging in the first place. Let’s see if you have found a stone or a diamond mine?

– Kim

© All Rights Reserved Kim Koning.


 

Perfectionism is the great Oppressor

Train tracks HDR edit
Image by Zach Bonnell via Flickr

I am the daughter of a german mother. This means that I cook and bake well. But it also means that I have the roots of perfectionism planted into my foundations. Now usually most people who are not perfectionists would think that being a perfectionist is something that will push you higher and higher along the ladder of success.

Perfectionism is a gift and a curse. It is also unattainable. But for a perfectionist this very unattainability makes it the apple in the Garden of Eden. You just want to bite into it.

As a perfectionist my competition and my critic and judge is myself. This perfectionism also has another word in my world: procrastination by perfectionism.

For me there is always the hunt for the perfect story then building the perfect character then writing the perfect first line then writing the perfect ending. I can sit for hours breaking apart every word, throwing it out, twisting it into origami and then putting it back in. I will not even go into the area of Grammar. That would take up 10 blog posts. I am sure you get the picture.

However there is one form of my writing where I do not have the gloom of perfectionism hanging over my shoulder. That is my poetry. When I write my poetry, it is visceral and primal. My mind and thoughts do not come into any of my poems. It is the seat of my soul, my heart and my emotions. It is the base instincts that make me, me which is at the heart of my poetry.

This has led me to an epiphany today: a true A-Ha moment.

If my poetry and my thoughts are two parallel tracks at a train station, then I need to switch tracks when working on my prose or fiction. I need to switch tracks because the conductor of my poetry train is not a perfectionist. This conductor is the inner workings of me before cynicism and realism took hold. This conductor is my 6-year-old self who is wide-eyed and curious at everything new and always full of questions. She has two black pig tails slightly skew because she is learning to put her own hair  up in the mornings. She has wide green eyes that seem to swallow in the world and everything she looks at. She is dressed in jeans and a red t-shirt. She has slight smudges on her hands from climbing her favourite tree and reading her favourite book, her dog waiting faithfully at the foot of the tree. Her favourite word is Hoppergrass. This is her name for grasshoppers because sometimes when she squints her eyes just right a hopping grasshopper looks like a piece of hopping grass. This child is not concerned with finding what is wrong. She is just concerned with “finding”.

The conductor of my fiction train has had too much control over my writing. He is a grumpy old man dressed in a pin stripe suit and starched white shirt. His hair is flattened and smoothed to an inch within its life. There are no laugh lines around his mouth but his temple has become a road map of discontent and disapproval. He goes only by the title of professor. He has rimless round spectacles that are always perched on the bridge of his nose. He talks in a clipped german accent and all that he says is that he expects more, I could have done better, it is not good enough and worst crime of all it is not yet perfect therefore not yet ready.

So today I have decided that I am switching trains and taking a different track with my WIP. I have been letting Professor Perfect be the conductor of my words. I need to let the 6-year-old child, Kimmi, be the new conductor. I need to write without stopping to think. When I stop to think during writing, I do not get very far beyond going over and over trying to make things perfect for the Professor. I need to allow the peals of  6-year-old Kimmi’s laughter to drown out the words and thoughts of Professor Perfect. I will need him at the end of this draft when I need to edit. But for now, he needs to go and bother someone else and take the train on the parallel track from me.

So from today, Professor Perfect gets to clip someone else’s ticket stub. I am boarding the train conducted by my 6-year-old self and I am taking the track of emotion. This WIP is a difficult one for me to write but I realise now in the light of today’s epiphany that it has only been difficult because I was over-thinking Professor Perfect’s thoughts. Instead I need to let the child of emotion run riot. She needs to play cowboys and indians and hide and seek. She needs to ask questions all the time. She needs to remind me that the purest part of me, the most elemental core is what will make this writing fluid. This is a WIP where I need to feel, experience, question, go off kilter, climb trees, laugh out loud and weep crocodile tears.

Eureka!

The Road not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost


© All rights reserved Kim Koning.