Down Twisting Rabbit Holes

20140215-154748.jpg

DoWn TwIsTiNg RaBbIt HoLeS

eVeRyThInG i CoUld NeVeR tELl YoU
iS lOsT dOwN tWiStInG rAbBiT hOLeS

YoU sMiLeD wItH LiPs Of BrUiSeD wAtErMeLoN
YoUr WhIsPeReD wOrDs PiErCeD ThRoUgH tHe CaGe Of My HeArT

sHaTtErEd PiEcEs HeLd ToGeThEr
bY a SpIdErWeB oF fRaGiLe GoSsAmEr

tHe PiErCeD sKiN BLeEdS
sTiTcHeS CoMiNg LoOsE

i StAnD oN tHe EdGe
My LiPs SoFtLy taSte ThE sOuNd Of yOuR wOrDs

L O S T
O
V
E

© All Rights Reserved Kim Koning

20140215-154757.jpg

Prompts

#FWF Free Write Friday Valentine: Ponder This [Kellie Elmore]

#FWF Free Write Friday Image Prompt: everything i could never tell you [Kellie Elmore]

The Daily Post – Daily Prompt: It’s Friday, I’m in Love [The Daily Post]

Tango on the Lips

At first I was attracted to the shape and form of the letters in the word,

with curvy vowels anchored by strong consonants,
the word that came to mind was tango,
a beautiful woman held gracefully by the strong arms of her partner,

Before even reading the word, my lips were softly tasting the sound of the letters,

cool clean water with a subtle sweetness exploding on the end of my tongue,

I mouthed the letters out slowly in the first steps of the tango,

the man pulled the woman closer into his body.
her soft curves melted into his hard muscles,
as he pulled her in even tighter he started moving,
his body carrying her graceful form with him,

I whispered out the syllables into pairs and triplets,

the dancers slipped into an effortless and intimate elegance,
the dance was coming into its fullness,
the dancers had no eyes for anyone but each other
and only the beautiful sounds of the whispered word reached their ears,

e L e u T H e R o M a N i a

© All Rights Reserved Kim Koning.

Eleutheromania
(Origin: Eleutheria – Freedom, Greek)
noun; an intense and irresistible desire for freedom.

Inspired by
The Daily Post | Letters “I love the juxtaposition of scattered letters — a reminder that the elements within an alphabet are not only functional, but beautiful.”

*Featured Image: Tango Nuevo I by Pedro Alvarez*

Getting the words down | Electric Keyboards & Grand Pianos

Meet Jessica Fletcher

kim-typewriter1

Not the character Angela Lansbury played in Murder She Wrote…No this Jessica Fletcher is my newly purchased vintage typewriter. Yes, my typewriter has a name. If you can name your car, then I can name my typewriter. Jessica Fletcher is one of my all-time favourite fictional characters so what better name to use to christen my beautiful “new’ typing baby. As much as I am a technology-addict and have all the latest gadgets I am also a bit of a purist when it comes to the act of writing. I like a little of the old and the new. I have been looking for a vintage typewriter for about 5 years now and this month I found Jessica Fletcher. She is an Imperial Good Companion 5 Typewriter Circa 1957.

cropped-cropped-kimkoningbanner.jpg

Typewriters are works of art. Comparing them to our modern-day machines from MacBooks to iPad is like comparing a grand piano to an electric keyboard. Yes the electric keyboard is more portable but it is not a thing of beauty. Nothing beats a grand piano. For me a typewriter is a work of art. There is something that gets me excited about that clickety-clack of the keys or the smell of the ink or getting the ink stains on your fingers as you adjust or change the ink ribbon. The other day I read an article about an author who types out their first drafts on a typewriter for that sheer “inspirational digital-distraction-free ambience” and then transfers that to the computer for the editing stages. I LOVE that idea. It inspired me. Soon after reading this article, I found “Jessica Fletcher” online and I knew I had found my “machine of inspiration”.

Being the enlightened writing purist that I am 😉 I used Google to look up the history of “Jessica Fletcher” and her sister machines. I was delighted to unearth a few gems. The Good Companion Portable Typewriters were named after a best-selling novel “THE GOOD COMPANIONS” by English Novelist J.B. Priestly published in 1929. (Aside, a typewriter named after a best-selling novel – KISMET for this writer.)  The first Good Companions were unveiled in 1932 with the Marketing Campaign of: “The Good Companion brings fame to writers.” The typewriters went on to becoming the most popular typewriter in England when it got the Royal stamp of approval (Royal as in the The House of Windsor of Buckingham Palace.) when His Majesty King George V (Reigning Queen Elizabeth II’s grandfather.) purchased one for his own use.

From 1932 to 1963 the Imperial Good Companions went through 7 different designs and were called Good Companion 1 – 5. The Good Companion 5 – “Jessica Fletcher” was the last design and most modern version of these typewriters. Imperial then went on to manufacture three other typewriters after the Good Companions but the company ceased production and closed its doors in 1974.

“Jessica Fletcher”and her sister machines were very modern for the day. The innovative design contained these new additions to the Companion Portable Typewriters:

  • An aluminium body in a fibreglass case
  • A 4-colour choice ribbon
  • Touch-Control (where the writer/typist can choose the striking power of the keys to match individual finger strength)
  • Two colour Stencil Selector
  • Total Platen control for precision paper register
  • Automatic Ribbon Reverse
  • A Finger-friendly basket shift which means very little pressure is needed to operate the keys

I have tested all the keys and they all seem to be in perfect condition. I do need a new ribbon so will have to still buy that. The keys feel much smoother than any typewriter I used to use at school. The keys also feel much more tactile. “Jessica Fletcher” has the very sexy, curvy style that the most gorgeous 1950s ladies had. (Think the stylish female cast of Mad Men.) The colour is gorgeous too: a metallic silvery blue-green. It is not an accident that I compared the vintage looks of “Jessica Fletcher” to a Grand Piano. When I lift the lid and take a closer look it reminds me of a harp or an opened Grand Piano. “Jessica Fletcher” has only had one owner and it is obvious that she took good care of her baby.

No matter what instrument I use to “Getting the Words down”; whether it be pencil, pen, fountain ink, typewriter, MacBook, iPod, there is something about a vintage typewriter that inspires me in some deeper place. Perhaps it is the sensual feel of the keys that are made for my fingers or the sound of those letters hitting the paper but there is a definite sensuality that typing on a vintage typewriter brings to the craft of writing. Maybe it is a longing for simpler times and slower times when you did not have a million immediate distractions and a clamouring to use up time at a rate of knots. Perhaps it is the storyteller facet of this writer that is drawn to working on a vintage typewriter or longhand writing with a fountain pen because storytellers are the history-keepers of the world. So perhaps it is up to us storytellers, us history-keepers to constantly bring Renaissance to our corners of the world. Perhaps it is up to us storytellers to teach the stories of the past to inspire the storytellers of the future. What I love about “The Good Companions” in particular is that they were among the first portable typewriters that were not only inspired by a novelist and his novel but were marketed and manufactured for the Writers not the Typists or the Secretaries. This is a machine that must be cherished but must be used. It was never manufactured to collect dust on a shelf in an attic. It was manufactured to help writers tell their stories to the world. That is what this writer is going to do. “Jessica Fletcher” is going to let me tell my stories  with a romantic blush of the past and all the writers and their stories that have gone before me.

Jessica Fletcher, my literary Grand Piano, sits in pride of place next to MacGyver, my literary electric keyboard, my Macbook. Sitting, pride of place, in the centre of my beautiful antique roll top desk Jessica Fletcher has found her home.

” The Good Companion brings fame to writers.” – Kismet with perhaps a hint of destiny for this writer…

but

“This Good Companion brings joy & inspiration to this writer.”

There is a place for The Typewriter in the 21st Century.

Would you/Have you found a place for a Typewriter in your world?

If you have not ever used a typewriter, what are your thoughts on typewriters?

Which favourite vintage model typewriter do you lust after?

Related articles

Call me Writer 007 ~ I take my Coffee Shaken or Stirred with Words on the side

An image came up on my Facebook feed this week and sparked the idea for this blog post…

Image courtesy of: http://www.panyl.com/blogs/news/6369590-time-for-a-refill-study-shows-ambient-noise-other-people-working-leads-to-higher-individual-productivity
Image courtesy of: http://www.panyl.com/blogs/news/6369590-time-for-a-refill-study-shows-ambient-noise-other-people-working-leads-to-higher-individual-productivity

Coffee and Writers go together like Petroleum and Grand Prix.

Coffee and I began our love affair lustful addiction in a town on the southern coast of Greece, 50kms from Athens. I was 21 and on my first overseas trip to visit my BFF in Greece. I left South Africa innocent of the vice that was soon to have me addicted, enthralled and enticed. In Greece my two drink options were Coffee or Ouzo. With that first sip of dark viscous liquid (I am speaking about the small cups of Greek coffee not Ouzo. 😉 Ouzo is a post for another day. ) that looked like a cross between mud and volcanic ooze I was hypnotized and Coffee became my favourite vice. From there it was a short fall to sipping the sweet, strong, rich goodness of a Greek Frappé. (I am not talking about the Westernised Frappucino that tastes more like a milkshake than any cousin of the original Frappé.) The lustful addiction had entrapped me and I was lost to the rich, decadent embrace of caffeine.

Writers drink coffee. Writers love coffee-shops or cafes. There is an ambience to writing in a coffee shop that is akin to a GP racing car driver at a race track. Just like the aromas of petroleum and exhaust fuel excite a professional GP driver so do the aromas of caffeine and the inexhaustible supply of dialogue inspiration and quirky characters at a coffee shop excite the writer. This is especially true for the writer who writes full time. Writing is a lonely job at the best of times but when you are tucked away in your writing cave – just you and the voices of your characters – it can be very lonely. This is when a visit to the coffee shop offers fresh inspiration. You order your favourite order of coffee, tuck yourself in at a corner table, open up the laptop/macbook/pen&paper and start writing. I like to choose a corner table with a view of the baristas & coffee machines and a view of the comings and goings of the coffee shop patrons. At this spot, I can keep an eye on what is happening around me but also make sure that nobody sneaks up behind me: very important since my pages/screen tend to be filled with ghostly hauntings, chilling killers stalking my main characters and dark places.

Luckily great coffee is never difficult for me to find since I live on the northern coast of Auckland-New Zealand, rated by Conde Nast traveller as one of the 9 BEST places in the WORLD to have a Coffee.

Every time I drink a cup of coffee I am transported to the places I have enjoyed great coffee…from the coast of Greece to the souks of Dubai to the alleys of Melbourne to the many cafes of Auckland…coffee is a passport not only to creativity but to the memory of the places I have been.

There are still a few places I want to travel to enjoy coffee in…Rome, Vienna, Barcelona, New York but the top of this list would have to be…

My Coffee-Passport Bucket List

Paris, France

I would love to walk in the footsteps of Ernest Hemingway, Simone de Beauvoir and Jean Paul Sartre in Paris, another of the 9 best coffee places in the world. Every writer should travel to Paris and soak up the literary ambience. I shall save that for the Bucket List.

In the meantime, excuse me while I brew myself an Espresso Macchiato and open up the next page in my WIP. Mmm I can smell the rich smell of that decadent nectar now and it is sparking some fresh words in the WIP.

Do you have a love affair with coffee? What are your favourite coffee orders?

Do you write in coffee shops? 

Where in the world is your favourite place to enjoy coffee? What place is on your coffee-passport bucket list?

Below are some of my favourite coffee-writer quotes and some of my favourite coffee orders.

Oropos, Greece – where Coffee & I first met

Image credits: Apostolos J. Doulias @ http://www.panoramio.com/photo/49551457
Image credits: Apostolos J. Doulias @ http://www.panoramio.com/photo/49551457

“Coffee. Creative lighter fluid.”
–Floyd Maxwell

My favourite ways to drink the decadent dark nectar

Greek Frappé in Santorini, Greece

Image courtesy of: http://www.melbournecoffeereview.com/2008/07/a-greek-island-frappe.html
Image courtesy of: http://www.melbournecoffeereview.com/2008/07/a-greek-island-frappe.html

Make your own Greek Frappé

This recipe makes enough for one serving.

  • 1 1/2 tsp instant coffee (Nescafe Original red label is the most popular brand) 
  • (Greek Nescafe is super strong so for all other Nescafe use 3-4 tsp coffee)
  • 1 1/2 cups cold water
  • Sugar
  • Milk
  • Ice cubes

In a shaker or blender mix together 5 Tbs water, coffee and sugar to taste.

Shake contents for about 30 seconds or blend for about 10 seconds. The result should be simply foam.

Pour into tall glass and add the ice cubes. Add remaining water and milk to taste. Put in a straw. Milk and sugar are according to taste. It is not obligatory to add them.

 – Recipe courtesy of http://www.ineedcoffee.com

Espresso Macchiato

1 shot of espresso top with foamed milk

Image courtesy of: http://bananaleafespresso.wordpress.com/
Image courtesy of: http://bananaleafespresso.wordpress.com/

“Coffee falls into the stomach … ideas begin to move, things remembered arrive at full gallop … the shafts of wit start up like sharp-shooters, similies arise, the paper is covered with ink …” -Honoré de Balzac

Espresso Con Panna

A double shot of espresso top with whipped cream 

Image courtesy of: http://www.steamykitchen.com/79-espresso-con-panna.html
Image courtesy of: http://www.steamykitchen.com/79-espresso-con-panna.html

 “The morning cup of coffee has an exhilaration about it which the cheering influence of the afternoon or evening cup of tea cannot be expected to reproduce” – Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. 

Cappuccino

A double shot espresso + 2.5oz frothed milk + 2.5oz steamed milk 

Image courtesy of: http://www.gourmetcoffeecorner.com/tag/make-cappuccino/
Image courtesy of: http://www.gourmetcoffeecorner.com/tag/make-cappuccino/

“I have measured out my life with coffee spoons” –T. S. Elliot

Image courtesy of: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americannovel/timeline/lostgeneration.html
Image courtesy of: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americannovel/timeline/lostgeneration.html
Ernest Hemingway wrote, “It was a pleasant cafe, warm and clean and friendly, and I hung up my old water-proof on the coat rack to dry and put my worn and weathered felt hat on the rack above the bench and ordered a cafe au lait. The waiter brought it and I took out a notebook from the pocket of the coat and a pencil and started to write.”

The Next Big Thing #11 | Blood & Ink

I have been tagged in The Next Big Thing by Judith Van Praag @ Hope Filled Jars. So in this game of “Tag, You’re it” my current Work in Progress gets to be tagged and then I have to tag 5 other writers’ WIPs. When Judith tagged me in this post and emailed me the idea behind it, I was thrilled to be in and to be tagged. This blog-tag post is perfect for writers as most writers I know, including myself, hate talking about ourselves but ask us about our stories and our characters and we can wax lyrical. Look for the five writers I have tagged at the bottom of this post – their “Next Big Thing” posts will be posted between the 11th and the 17th of September so make sure you keep your eyes peeled for those.

What is the working title of your book?

The Tattooist – Blood & Ink #1

Where did the idea come from for the book?

I was reading an article about tattooing and how intimate an art form it can be and it sparked an idea. A few nights after reading this article I dreamed the first scene of the story. I woke up at 4am and started jotting down the dream and within a couple of hours I had the first draft’s main plot-points drafted out.

What genre does your book fall under?

Paranormal Psychological Thriller

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Heroine = Sasha Roulette
Keira Knightley is the perfect actress to play my main character in The Tattooist. She has that rare quality of being believable as a bad girl turned good but also has this raw vulnerability that gives her depth. Keira IS Sasha in The Tattooist.
Image credit - wallpowper.com
Image credit – wallpowper.com
Hero = Shane Patrick
Colin Farrell IS my bad boy hero. He is the perfect flawed character, the bad boy who you want to reform. He IS Shane Patrick, my bad boy hero.
Image credit - collider.com
Image credit – collider.com
Villain = Michael Dali
For my villain I needed to cast someone intense, charming, seductive but chilling – who better to fit this role than Viggo Mortensen. My villain is known by many names but the one he chooses to call himself is Michael Dali. Killing is not just an occupation but it is a calling and an art form to this ice-cold killer. Viggo IS Michael Dali.
Image credit - releaseddonkey.com
Image credit – releaseddonkey.com

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

A paranormal psychological thriller about a tattooist who bonds psychically with the people she tattoos who realizes that she can now read a sadistic serial killer’s mind and is the only one who can stop him but if she can read his mind, can he read hers?

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I will be submitting it to agents.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

I am still in the process of the first draft but typically a first draft takes me 4-6 weeks to write.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Who or What inspired you to write this book?

I have long been fascinated with tattoos and I have been designing my “dream” tattoos for years now. I have not yet found the perfect tattoo that I would want inked on me permanently yet so the search continues. But a tattoo is so much more than a symbol or a fashion accessory, in many cultures it is an integral part of the culture’s history and spiritual practices. Tattooing is a bizarrely intimate ritual: a ritual where a person literally carves a symbol, words or an image into your skin with permanent ink. As a writer alone this bizarre ritual where blood and ink are fused together into a permanent “stain” sparks my imagination. This long-held personal fascination with tattoos and the desire to seek out their history in different cultures + the article I read sparked the idea for The Tattooist.
The Tattooist is the first book in a Series: The Blood & Ink Series. The what if’s started piling up in my imagination and before I knew it I had a plot.
Next the characters themselves inspired me to write their story. All three main characters, the heroine, the hero and the villain have a very strong voice. I also wanted to write a story where the heroine is not your typical girl next door or perfect heroine. I love flawed characters and characters that have to fight their way through life. All three of my main characters are deeply flawed and in this story the truth is never just black and white. Nobody is all good or all bad in this story.
The story’s theme is about facing the fact that we all have darkness within us and that we could all be pushed to give in to that darkness if the stakes are high enough. All three main characters, the two protagonists and the antagonists fight this inner darkness as their own demons threaten to overwhelm them. At the end of the day whether they choose the darkness or the light is what will be both the making and the breaking of them.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

  • Tattooing
  • Samoa
  • New Orleans
  • Crime
  • Criminal Profiling
  • Serial Killers
  • Evil vs Good
  • Darkness vs Light
  • Psychic powers
  • Clairvoyance
  • Precognition
  • Telepathy

Tag, your WIP is “The Next Big Thing”

Message for the tagged authors and interested others:
Rules of The Next Big Thing
***Use this format for your post

***Answer the ten questions about your current WIP (Work In Progress)

***Tag five other writers/bloggers and add their links so we can hop over and meet them.

Ten Interview Questions for The Next Big Thing:

What is the working title of your book?
Where did the idea come from for the book?
What genre does your book fall under?
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Who or What inspired you to write this book?
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Include the link of who tagged you and this explanation for the people you have tagged.
*****
Writers: What is your Next Big Thing keeping you awake at night?
Readers: What Next Big Novel are you biting your nails for in anticipation?

The Cost of Creativity: Unblocking the dam before it breaks me

*Warning: This post is messy and doesn’t sugar-coat the ugly truth and is a personal confessional of sorts*

Writing is hard work. Writing is especially difficult when you are expected to plumb through the dreck, muck & mire in real life dramas to find a spark of creativity. Non-writers who think that writing a story is easy have obviously never tried themselves. Life is no easier for a writer than it is for a non-writer. There is no “escape” from real life dramas. Real life is Messy at the best of times and at the worst of times it takes all your strength to keep swimming to keep yourself from sinking and drowning. Sometimes the mess that is LIFE drains all the energy – both physical and mental – out of you and you are as creative as a dried-up sponge with all the water squeezed out of it. It is so tempting to stop swimming and just let the tide take you. You tell yourself “It is not giving up. It is just giving in to the inevitable.”. You wonder what the point of fighting it all is for. Why bother to keep swimming if the tide is going to overpower you and wash you out to sea eventually?

The thing is LIFE is a journey and not a destination. Nobody said it would be a vacation. Nobody said it would be fair. Nobody said it would be easy. Nobody said there would be enough good to balance out the bad. Creative people are by nature more emotional and more sensitive. We wear our hearts on our sleeves and with every tear and every scar from our lives we flesh out our characters, shade our stories with emotional truths and try to make sense of the MESS. But sometimes real life truths are too painful to plumb for a creative spark and a kernel of inspiration. Sometimes the last thing we want to do is rehash real life in a story. Even fiction has an underlying element of emotional truth. And sometimes it is easier to believe the white lies than face the truths. This is when writing is hard for me. This is when I go into hiding from my own creativity. This is where I have been living for the past two months. Although ‘living’ is an optimistic term because really all I have been doing is ‘surviving’ at the best and treading water just keeping my head clear enough to gasp out a few breaths at the worst.

Usually writing helps keep me sane. Only 3 times in my life have I been in hibernation from writing and now is one of those times. I look at my screen and the flashing cursor mocks me. I take out my notebooks and try to write down words, any words at this point will do. But the words don’t come. It feels like I have a dam inside me just about bursting through the walls of my heart. I know I should let the dam wash through but I am scared the heaviness of the waters will pull me under. So instead I tamp down on the dam’s strength, I build the walls higher and bolster them with false euphemisms, easy white lies I tell myself. Every time I look at the screen or open a blank page of my notebook I know what I want to write but they are not good words, not a creative spark. They are dark thoughts, heavy emotions and poisonous threads that will weave themselves into a cobweb around my words and my creativity.

As I write this post I realise though that I am a writer and words are my way of dealing with crap that I don’t want to deal with. Which is why the cursor mocks me, the blank note-page empty of ink splotches mocks me. Because I am fooling nobody but myself. I don’t want to process the dark emotions. I want to hibernate from everything but especially words. Because one thing I cannot do is write a white lie to make things easier. That is just not how I am built. My words are the truest part of me. When I want to take a vacation from my real life I escape into the world of stories. I realise I have been blocking myself. I am my writer’s block. Hibernation and not writing is easier but it kills me a little more inside. I am the dam wall holding back the words, keeping the emotions at bay. Life should not be about surviving. It should be about LIVING and that means the dark shades are as important to colour in as the light shades are. Perhaps the darkest shades are the ones we need the most because if there is no dark there need be no light. I am ready to un-dam those waters and let the dark words out so the spark of a match will lead me back to my creativity and back to my place of sanity: writing. I have to remind myself  that even the rubbish words are still words. As scary as it is, it is time to un-dam the words. Otherwise I may as well just give up now. I am too stubborn to give up yet.

I am reminded by an old saying that some parents tell their toddlers: USE YOUR WORDS. 

How do you find the creative in the dreck of real life drama?

Have you ever felt like you were your own wall, your own block?

How did you work through it?

I leave you with the advice of one of my heroes: F. Scott Fitzgerald. A man who knew the darkness and wrote a way out of it.

November 9, 1938

Dear Frances:

I’ve read the story carefully and, Frances, I’m afraid the price for doing professional work is a good deal higher than you are prepared to pay at present. You’ve got to sell your heart, your strongest reactions, not the little minor things that only touch you lightly, the little experiences that you might tell at dinner. This is especially true when you begin to write, when you have not yet developed the tricks of interesting people on paper, when you have none of the technique which it takes time to learn. When, in short, you have only your emotions to sell.

This is the experience of all writers. It was necessary for Dickens to put into Oliver Twist the child’s passionate resentment at being abused and starved that had haunted his whole childhood. Ernest Hemingway’s first stories “In Our Time” went right down to the bottom of all that he had ever felt and known. In “This Side of Paradise” I wrote about a love affair that was still bleeding as fresh as the skin wound on a haemophile.

The amateur, seeing how the professional having learned all that he’ll ever learn about writing can take a trivial thing such as the most superficial reactions of three uncharacterized girls and make it witty and charming—the amateur thinks he or she can do the same. But the amateur can only realize his ability to transfer his emotions to another person by some such desperate and radical expedient as tearing your first tragic love story out of your heart and putting it on pages for people to see.

That, anyhow, is the price of admission. Whether you are prepared to pay it or, whether it coincides or conflicts with your attitude on what is “nice” is something for you to decide. But literature, even light literature, will accept nothing less from the neophyte. It is one of those professions that wants the “works.” You wouldn’t be interested in a soldier who was only a little brave.

In the light of this, it doesn’t seem worth while to analyze why this story isn’t saleable but I am too fond of you to kid you along about it, as one tends to do at my age. If you ever decide to tell your stories, no one would be more interested than,

Your old friend,

F. Scott Fitzgerald

P.S. I might say that the writing is smooth and agreeable and some of the pages very apt and charming. You have talent—which is the equivalent of a soldier having the right physical qualifications for entering West Point.

*Aside: For my writer friends out there, this is a great letter from F. Scott Fitzgerald about the price one needs to pay to be a successful writer. 
A little background, in late 1938, eager to gain some feedback on her work, aspiring young author and Radcliffe sophomore Frances Turnbull sent a copy of her latest story to celebrated novelist and friend of the family, F. Scott Fitzgerald. Before long the feedback arrived, in the form of the somewhat harsh but admirably honest reply seen above.*
[Source: F. Scott Fitzgerald: A Life in Letters; Image: F. Scott Fitzgerald, via. Globe Bookstore and Cafe (facebook)]
***
The greatest creative minds don’t waste time telling white lies and don’t waste words sugar-coating the ugly truths. They dive into the deepest tides of that sinking mud and they get messy with the truth. They embrace the dark to give the light a canvas to shine from.

Related articles

Kick-Ass Heroes – No! Make that Kick-Ass Heroines

I have two new addictions to add to my telly watching: Missing and Unforgettable. These two shows have been added into my favourites:

  • Alias
  • Nikita
  • Missing
  • Unforgettable
  • Rizzoli & Isles
  • Women’s Murder Club
  • Cold Case
  • Bones
  • Castle

What do all these shows have in common? Crime, Murders, Mysteries, Adventure and Intrigue – Yes! But they all have one important factor. All of them are headlined by powerful Kick-ass Heroes Heroines. What a change to see how far the world has come that top crime shows are no longer just headlined by men but that the shows headlined by women are becoming more and more common.

As a woman this makes me excited and as a writer it makes me doubly excited. I love writing about strong, independent women in a man’s world. I love reading about strong, independent women in a man’s world. What I also love about these shows is that every single one of these kick-ass heroines have not sacrificed their femininity to portray these roles. I love that a woman can still be a woman and do a “man’s job” as well as the man. I love that women are no longer held back by their gender and instead are empowered by their sheer femininity and their differences from men are what set them apart.

What a different world we live in and how things have changed, gender stereotypes most of all. I remember when I grew up, my favourite shows were Magnum P.I., MacGyver, AirWolf, The A Team, Rip Tide. These shows also had the common elements of crime, murders, mysteries, adventure and intrigue but they had a major difference in that they were headlined by men. Admittedly there was Murder She Wrote which was headlined by a woman but as much as I love Angela Lansbury, she was hardly going to be chasing down any criminals in an alleyway.

I shared with you, in a blog post last week, that I would have loved to have been an FBI agent. I guess this is one of the reasons I watch the television shows I do. I also love reading these types of stories. Tess Gerritsen’s Rizzoli & Isles series, Kathy Reichs’s Temperance Brennan series and James Patterson’s Murder Women’s Club are all favourites of mine. The women in these stories and in these television shows are feminine, intelligent, strong, independent, tough, take-no-nonsense kind of gals.

Kick-ass heroines are also a reason why I do not read romances or watch romances or write romances. I have nothing against romance but I have a big problem with the so-called “heroines” of the traditional romance. In my opinion there is hardly anything about them that can be called heroic. These women are characters who traditionally need a man to fix all their problems, to give them happiness and to show them the way. As a woman I am really annoyed by this completely false and outdated view of women. But this post is not about romances and the romance genre and again each to their own. Those genres have their fans but I am not among them.

Back to my favourite kick-ass heroines…

Not only are these headline characters strong women but the shows have great plot-lines. In particular, Missing is a show full of twists and turns, cliffhangers, lies and secrets: after all what else would a show about the CIA be other than this. But the real winning element of this show for me is the main character played by Ashley Judd. Her emotion and her adrenaline keep me on tenterhooks each week. For those who are unfamiliar with the show, it follows the story of a mother (Ashley Judd), who just happens to be a retired CIA agent, who is looking for her son who has gone missing. Each episode opens up a little more of her back story while also giving the viewer more questions. Each episode also takes us to a new destination in Europe as she is on the run both being helped (at times) by the CIA and more often than not being hindered by them. But nothing will stop her looking for her son and finding him. You know she will not rest until she has found him. What more womanly trait could you find then a mother who will not give up searching for her son and making sure he is safe? But this mother is no housewife. She is a tough, no-holds-barred, trained government agent who ends up getting in more skirmishes than the average mom would be.

As a woman first and a writer second it is so refreshing to watch, read and then to write about stories where the heroine is the one fixing her own world, solving crimes and mysteries and still having to navigate being a woman in a “man’s world”. These women are not given any special privileges because of their gender and if anything have to work harder, be tougher, and prove themselves more to be respected in their roles. They still fall in love, are still emotional and feminine and still feel conflicted about having to walk the tight rope between being a woman and being a woman in a “man’s world”. This is what draws me to their stories. I find they are more complicated, face more challenges and are more conflicted then men in those same roles are. They bring an emotional angle to stories that traditionally shy away from emotion. The best thing is that there will be even more stories to watch, to read and to write about Kick-ass heroines and that makes my day.

This keeps me inspired to write the stories I do. As a woman I want adventure, thrills, chills and spicy romance. Now we aren’t just the swooning young girl or the calculating older woman, we are the kick-ass heroines fixing our own problems and standing on our own feet. No longer are we the Bond girls. We are now Bond! No more Superman needed because we can be Lara Croft.

(Aside: I am also thrilled that for the first time ever, this year’s Olympics was a triumph for women when every single country that took part had at least one woman athlete competing for her place in Olympic history.)

Tell me… Who is your favourite kick-ass heroine?

What do you enjoy about series (television and/or literature) with women lead characters?

A Tendency to Obsess…

I know quite certainly that I myself have no special talent; curiosity, obsession and dogged endurance, combined with self-criticism, have brought me to my ideas.”                           – Albert Einstein

Is obsession a bad thing? Sometimes it can be especially if your obsession is a person. But for most careers and most dreams obsession *in a particular field/set of skills* is not only healthy but necessary for success. I – like so much of the world – have been caught up in the Olympics over the last few weeks. With 9 dedicated channels to 24/7 Olympic coverage on the television, there is always some event to watch or some interview with an athlete. These Olympian athletes are prime examples of Obsession being a necessary boost to fulfilling their ultimate dream of besting their personal best times and ultimately standing on the podium accepting a medal.

Growing up I was fascinated by the law, science and journalism. I chose my high school subjects with that focus in mind. It was a toss-up between being a criminal prosecutor, a pathologist, a criminal psychologist or a National Geographic journalist or a war journalist. I was also enamoured *and still am* with the FBI and MI6. Unfortunately though geography did not favour me here.

“A writer is someone who writes, that’s all. You can’t stop it; you can’t make yourself do anything else but that.” Gore Vidal (Writer)

Life had another route for me though, one that would lead me to the truest path for me and that is writing. If I had pursued any of those adolescent dream careers I might have come to the writing path much later. I am certain no matter what route I chose it would have eventually lead me to writing. But for now I am really glad that due to life circumstances I did not pursue any of those careers.

obsession |əbˈseSHən| noun the state of being obsessed with someone or something: she cared for him with a devotion bordering on obsession.• an idea or thought that continually preoccupies or intrudes on a person’s mind: he was in the grip of an obsession he was powerless to resist. DERIVATIVES obsessional |-SHənl|adjective,obsessionally |-SHənl-ē|adverbORIGIN early 16th cent. (in the sense ‘siege’): from Latin obsessio(n-), from the verb obsidere (see obsess) .*Dictionary Definition*

I am a 100% all or nothing type of person. When I put my mind to something I put it in 100% effort and everything else falls to the wayside. I also have a perfectionist gene inherited from my German mother that won’t allow me to be anything than the best or put any less than 100% effort in. Which is why I am glad I did not pursue those early dream careers. I would have thrown myself headfirst into them and writing would have fallen to the side.

The creative habit is like a drug. The particular obsession changes, but the excitement, the thrill of your creation lasts.” – Henry Moore (Sculptor)

But my dogged determination, my stubborn perfectionism and a tendency to obsess serve me perfectly in Writing. As a writer my characters have their own careers, their own obsessions that have to come across as authentic. So here is where my leaning towards the law, justice, science and journalism can be played out on the page.

I’ve been called many names like perfectionist, difficult and obsessive. I think it takes obsession, takes searching for the details for any artist to be good.” – Barbara Streisand (Actress)

One of my favourite parts of a new story, any story, is the research. To come off as authentic your plot, your setting and your characters have to be obsessively researched. Once you have come up with the idea then the FUN part begins. You get to throw yourself into a hunt for information of all kinds.

“If you don’t have obsessions, don’t write. My characters are obsessed.” – Marguerite Young

My current WIP deals with serial killers, psychics, tattooists and the FBI. So to get my facts correct I must study up on everything I can to get the characters right and to come up with an authentic plot. The internet is fantastic for the modern-day writer. Now with a tap of a button I can research millions of articles related to the subjects contained in my WIP. I can connect with experts in these fields through their online presence by following their blogs, emailing them pertinent questions and picking their brains on likely hypotheticals.

What moves those of genius, what inspires their work is not new ideas, but their obsession with the idea that what has already been said is still not enough.” – Eugene Delacroix (Painter)

Even though I am writing fiction, I still have to get the facts straight. If I don’t, the errors will be picked up by readers. The worst thing for a writer is to come across as inauthentic. So for this WIP a tendency to obsess combined with an adolescent fascination of criminal law and justice gets to play out in my research. This means I am in my element. For the time that I write in the Voice of my characters I get to see the world and the story through their POV. I get to “be” a criminal profiler much like the actors on shows like CRIMINAL MINDS (One of my television obsessions.) have to step into the shoes of criminal profilers. I also get to understand the alternative world of the tattooists and psychics.

The trade of authorship is a violent, and indestructible obsession.” – George Sand (Writer)

So even though I did not become a criminal prosecutor, a criminal psychologist, a pathologist, a National Geographic journalist or a war journalist…I get to “be” all these for a time period in my stories and through my characters. I get to write about people in these fields and for as long as I crank out the words in the drafts I get to “be” these people. I get to rub shoulders with the experts who are willing to assist me.

“You’ve got to get obsessed and stay obsessed.” – John Irving (Novelist)

Yes, a tendency to obsess over the details and the facts and to walk in your characters’ shoes/inhabit their lives is necessary to write authentic fiction. I know I am a writer because even in life’s worst circumstances in real life I am spinning these seeds into story ideas. I hear things, see things, experience things and my itch to get it into a story is nothing if obsessive. It is true what they say, be careful what you tell a writer…you may read about it in one of their stories. Writers are the obsessive magpies of the world always on the hunt for that shiny new idea.

What are your obsessions?

If you could have your life over, what dream career would you have?

As a reader, have you come across glaring errors in stories that have had you questioning the author?

As a writer, what has been your favourite subject to research and obsess over?

Stories: Passports without borders

Stories are passports without borders. Stories are passports without visas. Stories are passports to adventure. Stories are passports into the exotic and the extraordinary. Stories are portal doors into worlds unknown. Stories are magic carpets.

One of the first reasons that made me fall in love with stories is the ability to travel to exotic places, experience exotic cultures all without leaving my chair. I love traveling and often call myself a Gypsy at heart. New places usually mean new people to meet and new adventures to experience. In an unknown place the average and ordinary can suddenly become extraordinary. Having a coffee in my local cafe is very been there, done that. But having a coffee in some little plaza in an Italian village on the Amalfi coast would immediately be extraordinary for me. In the same way, that Italian local may find having coffee in my local cafe an extraordinary event.

For this reason I have always read books that are based in foreign countries and even foreign cultures. I come from South Africa, now live in New Zealand – to me neither of these two places is exotic. They are what I know. They are familiar. But when I have told American friends that I come from South Africa and now live in New Zealand – they are always fascinated. They want to know if I have seen lions in the wild. When I tell them that we had a family of leopard living on one of the farms my father managed, they go: “WOW!”. They want to know all about New Zealand especially since the Lord of the Rings Trilogy that really put NZ on the map. But for me exotic places are in Europe or in Central Africa/Northern Africa or the Amazon in South America. But I doubt those same locals who live in these areas think that they live in an exotic locale.

That is the joy of reading stories and in my case going one step further and creating your own stories. I love writing about places I have not been because I find often what may be fairly ordinary to the locals there becomes extraordinary and special in my fresh eyes. One of my favourite pastimes is searching for fresh inspiration for not just story ideas but setting ideas. Pinterest (new addiction) comes in as a very useful tool in these moments. I also love reading/studying/researching the history of each setting and often finds it seeds an idea in my imagination that I let lie and germinate to see what it could potentially blossom into. Nowadays with the ease of the internet and software like Google Earth/Google Maps your research into a place can become acutely accurate down to the street names and the name of that cafe on the corner in that Italian village on the Italian Amalfi Coast.

But at the end of the day the best research you can do when checking out a setting in an exotic locale (if traveling there is absolutely ruled out) is to talk to the locals on the internet. In this day and age there is an internet group for just about everything and there are blogs for just about every type of subject. So I trawl the blogosphere and see if there are any local-specialised blogs devoted to the locale I want to set my story in. Setting is so much more than just a geographic location or street names. Setting is also about the quirks that make that place unique. Is there a particular smell? Smell is a big one. For instance when I smell oranges and lemons I immediately think of Athens, Greece. One of the strongest memories of my time spent there 12 years ago was the tree-lined streets with trees heavy with oranges and lemons. So the smell of oranges and lemons now sums up Athens for me. Location bloggers will give away a lot of these type of tidbits in their blog posts. And most people are always flattered when you tell them you want to learn more about their home because you find it fascinating.

So while I have begun writing on my next project I have been trawling the internet for setting ideas. So I will leave you with some images from my Pinterest board. Some of them are definite settings in my story and some of just teasing seeds of inspiration right now…Mum’s the word (for now) on which settings I am actually going to be using in both the current WIP and upcoming ones. Perhaps you can guess which settings I have chosen.

Perhaps you have been to these places or live there. I would love to know at least 2 quirks that I could not find out from the internet that is unique to each place. Leave me a comment in the comments.

Tell me>> What exotic places would you like a story to be set in? What places grab your imagination?

Source: weburbanist.com via Kim on Pinterest (Abandoned mountain town in Sardinia, Italy)

Source: worldtopjourneys.com via Kim on Pinterest (Manarolo, Cinque Terre, Italy)

Source: toptenz.net via Kim on Pinterest (The City of the Caesars, Patagonia, South America)

Source: underthesunexperience.blogspot.co.nz via Kim on Pinterest (Carcassonne, Languedoc Roussillon, France)

Source: earmchairtraveler.blogspot.com via Kim on Pinterest (Meteora, Greece)

Source: accommodation-bol.com via Kim on Pinterest (Dubrovnik, Croatia)

Source: une-deuxsenses.blogspot.com via Kim on Pinterest (Swallow’s Nest, Crimea)

Source: toptenz.net via Kim on Pinterest (Angkor-Wat, Cambodia)

Source: weburbanist.com via Kim on Pinterest (Gunkanjima, Japan – “Ghost Island”)

Source: roman-empire.net via Kim on Pinterest (Herculaneum, Italy)

All imaged embedded via My Pinterest boards – Feel free to follow me there…

Writing Epiphanies in the Brushstrokes of Picasso

This last weekend I had the rare pleasure of attending an art exhibition of the Modern Masters “Degas to Dali” that called my city a temporary home on loan from The National Galleries of Scotland. With 79 works by over 60 Modern Masters from Renoir to Monet, Degas to Dali, Picasso to Warhol and Van Gogh to Matisse it was a feast for the creative senses.

You are probably wondering what an art exhibition of The Modern Masters has to do with writing and Wrestling the Muse. Everything. Writing is just another form of art. Where the great Masters of the art world used exquisite brushstrokes to create pictures and stir the senses, writers use ink blotches and words to create worlds that a reader can step into. Writing, Painting, Sculpture, Music are all forms of Art. If you are a writer, you are a creator of worlds and an artist of words.

What struck me during my tour of the exhibition was how alike a painter wrestling with his creation is to a writer wrestling with his. We both have a very specific vision of the completed work but at times the journey to get to that point of writing The End or framing that completed canvas is fraught with struggle. There was a room where the quotes of these great Modern Masters had been displayed on a wall. These are some of the quotes that stood out to me. These same quotes could directly be used for us writers.

  • I begin with an idea and then it becomes something else. – Pablo Picasso
  • I have a horror of people who speak about the beautiful. What is the beautiful? One must speak of problems in painting  a story! – Pablo Picasso
  • If there were only one truth, you couldn’t paint write a hundred canvases stories on the same theme. – Pablo Picasso
  • Inspiration exists, but it has to find us working. – Pablo Picasso
  • It took me four years to paint write like Raphael (insert a Master of Literature here), but a lifetime to paint write like a child. – Pablo Picasso
  • Action is the foundational key to all success. – Pablo Picasso
  • An idea is a point of departure and no more. As soon as you elaborate it, it becomes transformed by thought. – Pablo Picasso
  • Are we to paint write what’s on the face, what’s inside the face, or what’s behind it? – Pablo Picasso
  • Art is the elimination of the unnecessary. – Pablo Picasso
  • Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone. – Pablo Picaso
  • Others have seen what is and asked why. I have seen what could be and asked why not. – Pablo Picasso
  • Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success.– Pablo Picasso
  • Painting Writing is a blind man’s profession. He paints writes not what he sees, but what he feels, what he tells himself about what he has seen.- Pablo Picasso
  • The hidden harmony is better than the obvious. – Pablo Picasso
  • The more technique you have, the less you have to worry about it. The more technique there is,the less there is. – Pablo Picasso

Just like the great artists, us writers have to get messy with our creations. We have to be willing to be ink-splattered. We have to be bold and unafraid. We have to let the story take control over the technique. We have to disappear so our characters can talk to the reader. We need to remember to tell stories like a child does. We need to let loose our passions into the story. We need to remember that up close we the artists may see only brushstrokes and mess but from a distance our audience the reader needs to see the full picture. We need to step back and look at our work with the eye of a reader to truly see if we are consistent in the path our story has taken. Remember to not only read but to look at beautiful art, listen to beautiful music, touch a beautiful sculpture. Seek out inspiration and it will show itself to you.


My muse is a tease

My muse has been distracting me this week. I have been teased with images of exotic locales that want to be settings in new stories. This happens to me every time I open my mind up to creating, which is what I have been doing this week. Suddenly I am teased by random pieces of inspiration whether they be, images, words, articles, media – you name it but the doors to inspiration are wide open.

I read an article today that says the average brain has 12 000 thoughts every day and it can run to having up to 60 000 thoughts a day. This does not come as a surprise. Our brains are always off on tangents even when and especially when we are supposed to be concentrating and working. I know mine is.

People always want to know where story ideas come from. It is the no. 1 question that readers like to ask writers and even writers like to ask other writers. My ideas come from anywhere and everywhere, the ordinary, the mundane, the strange and the extraordinary. I have had ideas come to me in vivid dreams. I have heard something on the radio, watched something on television or read something and it has sparked an idea. But the main thing that always starts me on the scent of a new story is: What if? I love teasing out the answers to that mysterious question.

I am lucky enough that I am never short of story ideas. I have two huge lever arch files of story ideas and story inspirations. But the annoying part is that my story ideas come to me while I am working on another current story idea. They never wait their turn politely. Unfortunately too I have a low patience meter so the minute a new idea comes to me I really, really want to drop everything and play with the new idea.

Is this wrong? Should I rather ignore it?

No, ignoring it does not make it go away instead just the opposite. If I actively try to ignore the new story idea, I can think of nothing else. Believe me I know this from experience. Even if I fill my waking hours with work and distraction, the idea will enter my sleep. It tugs at me constantly.

So I have now learnt that the most effective way to deal with new story ideas, to quieten their cries of need just long enough to hear myself think is to write them down and then file them. This way they feel acknowledged and don’t take their creative anger out on me or my sleep. Instead after writing the idea down, I can get to work on the story I am meant to be working on and that new idea has a chance to percolate in the to-be-done file of my imagination.

  • Pinterest is a fantastic tool to accomplish this. I can pin an image from the post that caught my attention and that way I can go back to that article when I am ready to play with it. Pinterest is also fantastic if you are more a visual thinker than a verbal thinker.
  • Evernote is fantastic for quick note taking/idea filing. I have the application downloaded onto both my laptop and my iPod so that even if I get an idea from a dram I can roll over, pick up my iPod and without turning on the light type in the note.
  • Then I also have my trusty Moleskine notebooks: I have a bright green version for my new story ideas and a deep blue one for my current WIPs. (Any excuse to buy more stationery 😉 )

I am truly thankful for an abundance of story ideas but I need to teach my muse to be more disciplined and to wait his turn in bringing me the ideas. But it is a catch-22 because I would hate to get to the spot that I don’t get ideas any more. So for this week, I have shelved the new story idea (it is a very tantalizing one) to percolate and see what comes of it.

Now it is back to work on the stories that need to be written and worked on.

Do you find you have too many ideas clamoring for attention?

How do you handle the new ideas that you just don’t have the time for?

Where have your ideas come from?

Many Ways to Skin a Cat | Shevi Arnold

Blog Series: Researching “The Many Ways to Skin a Cat” in Publishing

Over the next few weeks I am going to be looking at all the ways “to skin a cat” in publishing. I am going to interview and feature guest posts with different authors from different publishing options. So if, like me, you are at that painful and exciting point of trying to make the most informed choice…stick around and watch this space. Perhaps one of the options will stand out for you and perhaps one of these authors that I interview or who guest-post will inspire you down the same path.

I am coming at this with a completely open mind and non-judgmental attitude. I am doing this series as much to get more information for myself and educate myself as I am any reader whom finds this interesting or useful.

Open Call*

Also if you want to be one of the authors to be interviewed or guest post on this topic in this series, please shout out.

*My Guarantee: No Cats will be harmed or skinned in the writing of this series!*

😼   😼   😼   😼   😼

Today I have the pleasure of interviewing a woman of many talents. Not only does she have a way with words but she has a way with pictures and illustrations as well. She is definitely a “cat” with many lives. She has been an editorial cartoonist, a newspaper illustrator, a journalist, a comics magazine editor and now she is a published author. She has a unique view on the world of publishing since she has been in the industry of words and images for over 20 years. I have been itching to get her views on “the many ways to skin a cat” in the publishing industry and what better time and place than right here and right now on Dragonfly Scrolls. So relax, sit back, put your feet up while the talented Shevi Arnold and I chat.

1. Can you tell us what “being Indie” means to you?

Shevi >> I came to indie publishing after trying to break into traditional publishing for nine years. I found some success—one of my novels, Ride of Your Life, won third place in a big national contest and received numerous requests from literary agents for full manuscripts—but I found a lot of frustration too. I was okay with rejection letters, but when so many agencies switched to a “no response” policy, I just couldn’t take it. I couldn’t handle not knowing, never knowing, not even if my query letters had been received. It felt like I was sending my stories into a black hole. It got so bad that I literally got palpitations every time I hit the send button on a query letter. I have this thing that I do when I hit a wall. I stop, reevaluate the situation, and ask myself why I got into it in the first place and whether it’s still worthwhile to continue along the same path. Over those nine years, indie publishing had evolved. After taking a long hard look at it, I realized that traditional publishing couldn’t offer me anything I didn’t already have. I had years of writing experience. I had years of illustrating and designing experience. I even had years of editing experience. True, all of this was in newspapers and magazines, but it was still experience. And I could use that experience to adventure out on my own. For me, being an indie author means taking the fate of your work into your own hands. It means that you’ve chosen to believe in your own work, instead of waiting for someone else to believe in it for you.

2. Nowadays there are so many options for authors but the sheer amount of publishing options can create confusion.

Why did you decide to go the pure Indie route of self-publishing?

Shevi >> I’m not sure I would say that I have decided to go the “pure indie route.” I have for now, but things might change in the future. I’d like to keep my options open. Indie publishing does take a lot of time, however, which is why I’m focused only on that. And I am enjoying my freedom. Independent publishing lets you take chances a traditional publisher might be hesitant to take. I like that the reader gets to see my vision for the story, because no one made me change something to make it more marketable or for some other reason. For example, I like to illustrate my own stories. Even my YA novels, like Toren the Teller’s Tale and Ride of Your Life, have illustrated chapter headers. I feel this gives the readers extra value when they buy my books, and the readers seem to like it. When I was working for the Jerusalem Post, I used to draw illustrations for my own consumer column, but a traditional book publisher might not want me to do that. I like that as an indie author that’s a choice I can make.

3. You hear of authors switching methods of publication from seeking traditional representation from agents & the Big6 to small press to self-publishing.

Did you try any other route in publishing before settling on self-publishing and can you tell us what these routes were?

Shevi >> (See my reply to question 1.)

4. On the converse side of the debate, are you a dyed-in-the-wool Indie author or would you ever consider the lure of a Big6 publishing contract?

Shevi >> It depends. I like to keep my options open.

5. What would you say is the most important piece of advice you were given in your dream to become a published author?

Shevi >> When I was in college, I majored in English Literature and Theater Studies. I took a playwriting course, and the professor told me I should be a writer. I guess that was the most important piece of advice I was ever given on the topic. Before that, I wanted to be a film director, but then I thought, “Writing… Hmm, that’s not a bad idea. It’s just another form of storytelling, after all.” But I guess what you’re looking for is something your readers can take away. I’m not going to tell you, “You should be a writer.” I haven’t just heard you read the play you wrote, so I don’t know. What I can tell you is that you can learn a lot about writing by studying Improv. You can learn, for example, that it doesn’t have to be perfect. It just has to be done. Perfection, after all, is unattainable. You’ll drive yourself crazy if you try to get it perfect, and you’ll never write a thing. But something really amazing can happen and you take a piece of crap and edit the crap out of it. Of course, before you can do anything, you’re going to need that piece of crap written down. Otherwise, you’ll have nothing to edit. You’ll be like a sculptor without a block of clay. Of course, it might be fun to watch a sculptor trying to create something out of thin air, but in the end the sculptor will have nothing to show for it. The only difference is that as a writer you need to create your own block of clay.

6. Being Indie means that you have to be your own Marketing guru and Public Relations expert, what have you learnt about marketing your own books as an Indie Author?

Shevi >> The main thing I’ve learned about marketing is that I’m really bad at it. I’m first and foremost a writer, and I have qualms about some of the marketing tactics I’ve seen some in other indie authors use. For example, I wouldn’t feel right about rewarding people for reviewing my book, and yet I’ve seen other indie authors do just that. And I can’t stand seeing posts on Facebook from authors shouting things like “Like my fan page! Download my book! Vote for my book in this contest!” How about instead you write a great book, create a great fan page with great content, and then let me be the judge? I’d rather let my books stand on their own merit. I don’t want you to buy my book (or like my Facebook page) because I told you to. I want you to do it because it sounds like something you’d want to read. There’s a magician in one of the stories that Toren tells in my novel Toren the Teller’s Tale who refuses to be paid until the customer is fully satisfied. I feel the same way. I want you to be happy that you bought one of my novels because you enjoyed the story, and not because I told you to.

7. Everyone keeps on about the importance of developing “your own brand” as an author.

Do you agree and how have you built “your own brand”?

Shevi >> I think this was actually one of the main reasons why I came so close to landing an agent but wasn’t able to, if you’ll excuse the cliché, seal the deal—I don’t fit a single brand. I wouldn’t even want to. My tastes are eclectic. I wouldn’t want to read just one kind of book. Why would I want to write just one kind of book? Brands are so limiting. I think that no writer is as well branded as JK Rowling. But look at how she got locked into writing Harry Potter books for years. I couldn’t stand that! Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely adore my characters. I look forward to writing the next book in the Toren the Teller series, and I have another series I’ll be starting soon– the Gilbert the Fixer series– with characters I love to death, literally! But I think I would go insane if I could only write one series over several years. I actually wrote a blog post about this. I concluded that if brands were colors, my brand would be rainbow. I can’t help it. It’s just who I am. The only thing I can say is that humor is a part of almost everything I write. Even my most recent novel, Ride of Your Life, which is possibly the most romantic, bittersweet thing I’ve ever read–a story that made me cry buckets while I was editing it–has funny, surprising scenes in it. I don’t know. Maybe “quirky” is my brand. I certainly am a different kind of writer. Steve Martin is one of my heroes. He doesn’t limit himself to one thing, not even one medium. That’s what I want, to be able to tell any kind of story any way I want.

8. Nowadays the world is a smaller place through social media and the internet.

How important a tool do you believe social media is to an author today and what tips would you give an author in how to use it effectively?

Shevi >> I believe that social media is the single most important kind of marketing that writers have today. It’s also the cheapest, and writers have the best tool to take advantage of it– the ability to communicate in writing. The truth is there’s so much to learn, way too much to be summed up in a brief paragraph. I would highly recommend that you read several books on social media marketing. I’ve read about a dozen of them. We Are Not Alone: The Writer’s Guide to Social Media by Kristen Lamb is a great place to start.

9. What would you say has been the biggest learning curve for you in Indie Publishing, and would you say the greatest challenge was the publishing aspect or the marketing aspect?

Shevi >> The greatest challenge for me was and still is the marketing aspect of indie publishing. There’s just so much to learn; and if you’re shy, putting it into practice can be quite daunting.

10. Considering the question of editing, how important do you think it is that all books (Indie or Big6) be edited professionally?

Shevi >> Generally speaking, I would say that, yes, all books should be professionally edited. However, I have edited my own books. I used to edit a magazine, and I moderated a critique group for many years. I’ve also been offered editing jobs, so I guess you could say my books were professionally edited, even if I did do it myself.

11. If you have a Big 6 contract and/or an agent – you have project deadlines to keep you motivated to finish that draft and keep you from procrastinating. How do you, as an Indie author, keep yourself motivated to keep finishing those drafts?

Shevi >> I used to be a journalist. Journalists have to meet deadlines. I had a 1,000-word midweek column, and a 2,000-word weekend column. Sometimes I had additional freelance work. Writers who finish the work and meet deadlines get paid. Writers who don’t finish the work and don’t meet deadlines don’t get paid. It’s a great motivator. I try to view my work now the same way, even if the rewards are a bit different. I’ve learned so much from being a journalist. It’s not just discipline. It’s also humility. It’s hard to think highly of your writing when you know that tomorrow it’s just going to be lining a birdcage.

12. If an unpublished writer came to you to get advice on whether they should go the Indie route or a more Traditional route in publishing, what 3 tips would you give that writer?

Shevi >> I wouldn’t give tips. Maybe it’s the journalist in me, but the first thing I would do is ask questions and listen to the answers. Why did the writer decide to write a book? How well did the writer research the market for this book? How much does the writer know about publishing? Has the writer studied other books in this genre? Has the writer studied writing? Has the writer studied literature? Who did the writer write this book for? How long has the writer been writing? Is this the writer’s first book? Is the writer in a critique group? The advice I would give would depend on the answers to these questions. Generally speaking, I think it’s best for writers to develop their skills over time. Unfortunately, indie publishing today makes it so easy to go from wanting to write a book to having one published in almost no time at all. Don’t rush it. Great books aren’t written overnight. That being said, there are exceptions. Douglas Adams wrote the radio play that was later adapted into my favorite novel, The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, when he was just 19 years old. It would have been silly for me to tell Douglas Adams at that time to wait, especially considering that he eventually died quite young. So a tip that I might give one person would be completely irrelevant to someone else. The indie route is right for some people, but it isn’t right for everyone. Study your options, and choose the one that’s right for you. Leave your options open, because you might change your mind later on. Whatever you choose, I hope you have fun. I think writing is the most fun you can have, and if you have fun writing it, there’s a good chance others will have fun reading it. 

Thank you Shevi for your insight into the many publishing options nowadays. It is wonderful to meet such a diverse writer with such a varied experience in the publishing world. What stood out the most for me out of chatting to you is: “You can learn, for example, that it doesn’t have to be perfect. It just has to be done. Perfection, after all, is unattainable. You’ll drive yourself crazy if you try to get it perfect, and you’ll never write a thing. But something really amazing can happen and you take a piece of crap and edit the crap out of it. Of course, before you can do anything, you’re going to need that piece of crap written down. Otherwise, you’ll have nothing to edit. You’ll be like a sculptor without a block of clay. Of course, it might be fun to watch a sculptor trying to create something out of thin air, but in the end the sculptor will have nothing to show for it. The only difference is that as a writer you need to create your own block of clay.” Before we even think of publishing options, we need to be continuously writing, creating and “moulding” our own block of clay. We need the product before we can sell it or market it after all. Words of advice every writer can take to heart. Great words on motivation and how to stay focused as well. Thank you for taking the time to share your writing journey with  us. ~ Kim

 

Author Notes

BIO: When I was little, I wanted to be God. Then I discovered that job was already taken. So I decided to become a film director instead, because that seemed like the next best way to create worlds. Then I discovered that directors have to work with a lot of people who don’t necessarily share their visions for those worlds. So I decided to become a writer. After graduating with degrees in English Literature and Theater Studies, earning a teacher’s certificate, and studying art and design, I began working in newspapers and magazines. Over 12 years I’ve worked as an editorial cartoonist, a newspaper illustrator, a comics magazine editor, an arts-and-entertainment writer specializing in comedy and children’s entertainment, and a consumer columnist. In 2001, I left my job to move to New Jersey in search of a better education for my autistic son. After that, I decided to start writing what I wanted to write, the stories that had been playing like movies in my brain since I was a little girl. I’ve since written seven novels and I’ve published three–Toren the Teller’s Tale, Dan Quixote: Boy of Nuevo Jersey, and Ride of Your Life. Why My Love Life Sucks, book one in the Gilbert the Fixer series will be out later this year. After that, who knows?

Shevi can be found writing on her blog: http://shevi.blogspot.com/

Shevi’s author page can be found on Amazon, where you can also find her books: