The End | Bittersweet

The End

Image by Thalita Carvalho ϟ via Flickr

Do you ever have the feeling that you don’t want to write The End? 

“Books are never finished, they are merely abandoned.” 
Oscar Wilde

I am nearing the end of my 3rd and final draft of my WIP. I am finding every excuse to drag this out. I have spent 6 months with these characters and this story. I am not sure that I am ready for that relationship to come to an end. Thankfully I am working towards a deadline otherwise I would procrastinate by working on character arcs and story arcs for another 6 months. These last 6 months I have disappeared into the world of this story. I know the end is coming and I have already seen it in my mind’s eye. This does not make it any easier to accept. In fact it makes it worse. That is also why I am dragging out these last few thousand words. I know what is coming. I know I must write it this way because everything has been leading me to this point.

“The great art of writing is knowing when to stop.”                                                                    – Josh Billings

I have tried numerous alternate endings to this story. Why you ask? The ending that this story has been written before the story even began. If I change the ending, I may as well start over. I am dreading this ending though because even if I know how this story turns out, it will still be difficult to write.

“Finishing a book is just like you took a child out in the back yard and shot it.”
Truman Capote


Sometimes with some stories you have to get ruthless with your characters. This is one of those stories. As I have been re-reading the last part of this WIP, I am quite shocked at my own cruelty. I am not cruel by nature. But writing just shows you that everyone has the ability and aptitude for both the good and the bad in life. In this story, I have had to bring out the ruthless and the cruel. It breaks my heart to end this story simply because I know the worst is yet to come. I almost want to send out a distress message to my characters to warn them.

“If you focus on the humanity of your stories, your characters, then the horror will be stronger, scarier. Without the humanity, the horror becomes nothing more than a tawdry parlor trick. All flash and no magic, and worst of all, no heart.”
— Don Roff

Why is it so difficult to make your characters hurt? For all the characters I have created, hurt and pain are integral parts to their growth and resolution. This sounds logical in theory but in reality when I am writing these scenes that I know will cause great hurt there is a macabre sense about the words. It is almost the same feeling you get when you drive past an accident or hear about a terrible incident. You don’t want to listen but you can’t help but listen. I think writing difficult scenes especially endings are in the same vein.

“I try to create sympathy for my characters, then turn the monsters loose.”
Stephen King

So this brings me to this week and bringing this story to its final resolution: its final resting place. I will bring this story to an end this week. I will more than likely shed tears and rant and rave at the ending. But everything in this story has been leading to this point. I cannot put it off any longer.

“If you start with a bang, you won’t end with a whimper.”
T. S. Eliot

So this next week will be dedicated to finishing this story. Then writing the full synopsis for it. The drum roll…..Submission time!

“Writing a book is an adventure. To begin with it is a toy and amusement. Then it becomes a mistress, then it becomes a master, then it becomes a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster and fling him out to the public.”
Winston Churchill

Kim

B.I.C | Just Write

Procrastination

Distraction and Procrastination are 2 of the largest bug-bears in the Writer’s World. Procrastination is a daily battle that needs to be fought aggressively but is purely up to the Writer for success. Distraction however is something that can happen if you use the computer for your writing.

“Hutchison’s Law:
Any occurrence requiring undivided attention will be accompanied by a compelling distraction. ~ Robert Bloch

Thankfully there are some amazing programs out there that allow us writers to work in a distraction free focus environment.

If you are a WordPress user, you will now see that the lovely developers at WP have made our blogging environment distraction free too. They have now added a full-screen option to both HTML and VISUAL writing modes. I am busy writing in the full-screen right now. I love it. It is clean: Just my words and I on a pale gray background which is uncluttered and distraction free.

I have been using WP for just short of a year now. It is my blogging environment of choice. I have had very few instances of problems. When I started blogging, I had no clue as to what environment was the best so I trialled a couple. Of all the ones I tried, which included Blogger, WP covered all the options I needed. It catches all my spam with Akismet. It is easy to post a page/post. My 2 favourite options is: 1) that it keeps a subscription page of all my favourite WP sites so that my inbox does not need to be cluttered up with subscriptions. 2) it is simple for readers to comment on any part of my blog, no annoying hieroglyphics Capture phrases to enter in, unlike many other blogging platforms. Now I can add a 3rd favourite option: The Full-Screen Option. If you don’t use WP already, it might be time to make the change.

What programs do you use for a better focused, distraction free writing environment?

My favourite is OmmWriter Dana II. I have been using this amazing program for about 6 months and can sum up my experience with two words: LOVE and ZEN.

“Be master of mind rather than mastered by mind”                          ~ Zen Proverb

OmmWriter is software that was initially designed for Mac users and then adapted for PC users. It is a simple txt edit program that allows you to write in a full-screen mode. Mmmhhh… Sounds like a lot of other software out there, doesn’t it? What makes OmmWriter unique is that the developers have put the focus on creativity. There are 8 different full screen backgrounds you can choose from. All of them either improve your creative focus with colours that are easy on the eyes and decrease eye-strain or they boost your focus with subliminal creative messages that are put there to inspire you. Another great tool in OmmWriter is the 8 different soundtracks. These range from classical music to the sound of a simulated womb environment with added heart beat. Prefer working around the sound of people. Try the library environment option: this simulates the sounds of a library. Now you can write in whatever room you want in your own house/office but Omm puts you in a library. If you still need convincing, the best advice I can give you: Try it for yourself!

What helps you keep a distraction free writing environment?

“Never put off until tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow.” ~Mark Twain

Now as for the other bug-bear: Procrastination. The best advice I can give you here is the simplest.

B.I.C (Butt in Chair)

Just Write

“The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair.”
 ~ Mary Heaton Vorse

Kim


Time – The Expensive Commodity

The Passage of Time

Image by ToniVC via Flickr

What is the most expensive commodity in today’s fast paced and increasingly digital world?

  • Gold?
  • Currency?
  • Land?

If you answered any of the above, you would be incorrect. The most expensive and the most priceless commodity in today’s world is:

TIME

Time is the one commodity that nobody can afford. No amount of gold, money or property will buy you extra time in a day, week, month or year. No amount of gold, money or property will allow you to repeat time that has passed. Every individual in every culture and every socio-economic class in the world has the same 60 seconds in every minute; the same 60 minutes in every hour; the same 24 hours in every day; the same 7 days in every week and the same 52 weeks in every year.

“Yesterday is a canceled check; tomorrow is a promissory note; today is the only cash you have – so spend it wisely.” – Kay Lyons

How important than is it for us to cherish time? Use it not abuse it.

Time is one of the reasons I decided to go full-time writing. I found I was squeezing in every morsel of time after my EDJ (Evil Day Job) to devote to my writing. However, this left little time for the basics in life like eating and sleeping. This all left very little time to spend with the people who I love. I found that to continue writing alongside a full-time job in management I was stretching myself very thin and the candle was becoming nothing more than a wick. I ended up resenting my EDJ for not allowing me more time to write. Sometimes, much to my chagrin, I also resented my urge and need to write because it did not allow much else in my life.

The Writing Muse is a jealous lover. He resents your time away from the blank page. He interrupts you at the most inopportune moments. For myself, it was usually in the crisis point of a meeting or disciplinary with a staff member. Very seldom did he interrupt with his inspiration and ideas at a time when I had a notebook open and ready. No, when I did have a notebook open and ready he then stubbornly kept quiet or worse went off on another tangent for another story and not the story I had in front of me.

“Writers live twice. They go along with their regular life, are as fast as anyone in the grocery store, crossing the street, getting dressed for work in the morning. But there’s another part of them that they have been training. The one that lives everything a second time. That sits down and sees their life again and goes over it. Looks at the texture and detail.” – Natalie Goldberg

In November I took part in NaNoWriMo. I was very fortunate to be on annual leave from the EDJ for the first 2 weeks of NaNoWriMo. I was in bliss. I could write for a solid 8 – 10 hours without interruption. It left me time to catch up with my friends and family. With that bliss of uninterrupted time for writing in my mind, I forged ahead to prepare to do this full-time.

Now I am in the place that I have longed to be for so long. Do not get me wrong. I am not telling you to just quit your EDJ and go writing full-time and you will make millions. I did not take this step lightly. I have prepared for it for over a year. I have saved money and now have a good cache to dip into for daily living expenses until I do start making money from my writing. I also have the most important element: support and encouragement from a loving family and an amazing group of friends. In this group of friends I am quick to add my writing friends who have really been behind me every step of the way over the last year.

Now I have the commodity I longed for: Time. But every gift can be a curse. The trick is to use time not abuse it. This means that though I may not have an EDJ to answer to I now answer to myself. I am very serious about writing full-time. This is more important Work to me then any other job I have ever had. Therefore I am treating this full-time writing like any other job. I have read many blogs and posts on what other writers do with their time. The most important aspect I have seen is that they get up and have the same starting time for writing – their new work – every day. They clock in with this job just like you would with an EDJ.

“We must use time as a tool, not as a couch.” – John F Kennedy

In reading and listening to many posts of advice on full-time writing, I have come up with a short list that I am going to use to make sure I am Using Time not abusing time.

  • Have a separate writing space/office from the rest of the house.
  • Get dressed/groomed every day, even if pjs seem comfortable, I am a professional and as such need to dress the part just as I would for any job.
  • Clock in every day at 10am in the morning.
  • Write until 6pm every day, breaking for lunch and tea.
  • In this 8 hour work day: Keep at least 1 hour free for editing the previous day’s work and at least 1 hour free for research if needed.
  • Turn off the internet/email unless internet is needed for research.
  • During the hours of work/writing, turn the mobile phone onto silent.
  • Have a whole day free from writing every week. (This will be Sunday.)
  • All emailing/internet/blogging/errands/general housekeeping/gym to be done in the morning before starting the day’s writing.
  • The evening should be left alone for time spent with family and friends – it is vital you maintain their support, so you need to spend some time with them to show them how much you appreciate their support.

These are going to be the 10 points that I am going to schedule my writing job to. My mind needs to know that even though I am not leaving the house to go to a EDJ, I am still in work mode. They say it takes 7 days to form a habit and 28 days to break a habit. So it is time to start training my mind into a daily writing-for-work schedule.

“Don’t count every hour in the day, make every hour in the day count.” – Anon

Kim

Journaling my Adventures in Full Time Writing

This is my Blogging journal where I will be journalling down the adventures and experiences I have in the world of Full Time Writing.

Many of you will already be following my blogging on Dragonfly Scrolls. Not to worry I will still be blogging from the Dragonfly Scrolls studio but I will be doing mainly my popular Warrior Wednesdays Interviews as well as reviews and other writing related blogging news.

This blog will be where the blogging about writing will move to.

After 16 years of working in a day job and doing my writing after hours which meant that I worked two full-time jobs – the EDJ (Evil Day Job) and Writing – I have now decided to get serious with my writing and put my money (and all my bills and other living expenses) where my mouth is and go Full Time Writing.

So as of Friday, 13th May 2011, I have now become self-employed as a Full Time Writer. This means that I will now be committing most of my time to writing for publication, whether this be Poetry, Short Stories, Flash Fiction or the Holy Grail of being a published Fiction Novelist.

So join me in my journey with my pen as I share my adventures and experiences as a full-time writer. There will be comedy. There will be drama. There might even be some spooky signs along the route. But above it all, there will be writing and all things writing-related. So if you are writing full-time, dream of writing full-time or just curious about us strange and wonderful people who decide to throw all caution to the wind to write full time…then join me on my journey here.

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. – Mark Twain

Anything’s possible if you’ve got enough nerve.               – JK Rowling 

___________________________________

Aside – Spooky Signs from the Universe

“Perhaps you know this, but, if not, it will be my gift for you to take with you into this new life.

In many traditions, Jewish, Muslim, Native American to name a few, 13 is the number of transformation and healing. Exactly what you are doing. Native Americans believe the dragonfly leads the swan into the dream. The swan is a transformer. It begins life black and molts into a lovely white creature. As you learn to be a fulltime writer, you will heal parts of you that felt unfulfilled. Eventually, the fulltime artist emerges. Blessings on your journey.

If you wish to read more, try Jamie Sams “Dancing the Dream”, pg 94.

Best Wishes,

Robin”

– This comment was just posted on my latest Dragonfly Scrolls post from a friend and fellow writer, Robin Yaklin. Remember that I promised you some spooky signs…well this is one the Universe has just shown me. Thank you Robin for that amazing symbolism. – 

Kim

Thursday Tip ~ Stop Time Takers

 

 “Time takes it all whether you want it to or not, time takes it all. Time bares it away, and in the end there is only darkness. Sometimes we find others in that darkness, and sometimes we lose them there again.” –                                         ~ Stephen King
 

MMmmhh time for confessions.

I am hard at work on my final and third draft of my WIP – Betwixt & Between….but…

I have also been distracted lately by creating a new Author Website, which you can view here, a new Poetry Portfolio, view here, and a promotional video for my WIP – Betwixt & Between.

One of my lovely CPs put me onto an amazing video slide show creator that allowed me to create my promotional video for Betwixt & Between.

Here is the video I created for my current WIP – Betwixt & Between.

Betwixt. (Animoto site)

Betwixt & Between (Video on my Author Website)

Do you find that sometimes you can be caught up in a lot of behind the “writing” tasks that can get in the way of your writing? Are these the ultimate procrastination tools or necessary to promoting your WIP or building your online presence?

I admit I am guilty of loving anything that allows me to be creative: whether this be Website Design / Video Creation / Poetry Creation/Blogging/Writers Groups/Social Networking. But sometimes I have to insert a large 

Stop in the name of your WIP

So as much as I love these Time Takers….alas I must return to my WIP.

So these Time Takers are being put aside for a moment. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t see these tasks that have distracted me as “bad” but the key word here is “distracting”. So it is Time to get back to my WIP…

So how do I plan on getting back to focusing on the WIP. Yes I could unplug the internet but if you don’t have that option?

I use a great program called OmmWriter Dana 11 brought to you by the team at OmmWriter. This is an amazing frills free/distraction free writing program that allows you to switch off from the worldwideweb for a moment and inspires creativity. I have done a complete review on this program here.

Another tool I use is Focus Booster. This is a simple timer that you can download and place on your desktop to boost your focus while working. This is a great tool if you fear large chunks of time but want a way to have creative spurts in manageable bites of time. This is also a great tool for Word Wars.

What are your Time Takers?

– Kim

© All Rights Reserved Kim Koning.

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

 

 

____________________________________________________________

 

Story A Day May – Challenge!

Day 27 Short Fiction
Image by texasgurl via Flickr

Story A Day | About.

Pushed for inspiration in May. Why not try “Story A Day in May”?

I have just signed up. This is  a great opportunity to get writing and get creating in the short story format. 

Every day this website posts a writing prompt for your short stories. The aim of the challenge is to write a short story every day for may or write 31 short stories.

Stretch yourself and take up the challenge.

My user name on the site is: lastlines

Look forward to seeing you there.

– Kim

Creating a Magic System – Contest Alert!

Might and Magic
Image via Wikipedia

Creating a Magic System Final and Contest.

So you would know from a few posts this year that I am on a Short Story roll right now. I am loving turning an idea into a short story. At the moment I have so many ideas flying around in the Aether of my imagination that I am hard pressed to capture them all. So instead of turning all of them into potential full length fiction, I am turning some of them into short stories.

Above is the link to a wonderful short story competition about Magic.  The contest will start from today, and run until May 31st, which should give you plenty of time to plan and get your submissions in.

Contest Part 1 – Create a magic system, using roughly the format outlined here. 2,000 words is the goal.
Contest Part 2 – Use that magic system to write a 5,000 to 10,000 word short story, and submit both it and the magic system to L.M. Stull. She’ll blind them and pass them on to the judges, and we’ll pick which ones are the winners.
Prizes – And the part I’m sure you’re all wondering about. We’ve got a $50 Amazon gift card for the first place winner, and a $25 card for second place.

So not only do you get a chance to practice your short story writing skills but you get to play with a new magic system that you have created. On the original contest link you will find a series of posts on magic systems and what they can consist of.

So let’s weave some story magic and tell a tale that is short, magical and entertaining. Win yourself an Amazon gift voucher.

– Kim

Book Country – Genre Map

Off the Map
Image via Wikipedia

Book Country – Genre Map.

Ever looked at an agent’s/editor’s list of genres and wondered where your story fits in. My friend and CP, Leigh K Hunt, wrote a post about the frustrations of genre-mapping your story.

Some story plots are clear-cut. They fit into one of the overall genres: Romance, Thriller, Mystery, Fantasy or Sci-Fi. But what happens if your story is a fantasy with a mystery element. Or a Thriller with a Romance element. 

Above is a link to a genre map that might help you make sense of your story’s genre. 

Now do you know which genre you are writing in?

– Kim

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. ;-)


Subconscious Hauntings…

A Haunting
Image via Wikipedia

“You write out of your subconscious hauntings.” ~ Susan Cooper (Born 1935) British Author


This quote came up on my Tweetdeck this morning and it struck a chord with me. This perfectly sums up how I have been feeling about my writing lately.

I have been editing my November WIP for a full request I received. Being busy with the other WIPs and my short story, I had not re-read the entire draft for at least 6 weeks. This month while I have been editing it, it struck me that I wrote this MS almost as someone else. Does this  feeling have something to do with the fact that it is a Supernatural Horror/Suspense? Does it have something to do with writing the story in 1st POV through the eyes of the antagonist? It could be none of these reasons, it could be both of these reasons.

I do have the feeling that my subconscious was haunted for a while when I wrote this story. I believe that any good story can take over the direction of your writing from your conscious self.  I know that I physically wrote this story but in re-reading it I find that I am in as much suspense as a reader might be. The Story’s twists take me by surprise. I forget what is coming round the corner even though I know that I wrote all the scenes. 

Susan Cooper writes fantasy novels. She is most well-known for “The Dark is Rising“. Stephen King also mentions something similar in his book “On Writing“. In it he says that his mind is often filled with different people all clamouring for his attention. 

So it begs to be asked of your characters….

Do you create your characters?

Or

Do you characters already exist and introduce themselves to you?

This is a difficult question and throws me into a quandary. I would like to think that I, as the writer, have created my characters but with some characters it is not so cut and dried. Some characters, like my antagonist in this November WIP, arrive with fully fledged personalities and backstories and I seem to take dictation.

Who is to know whether that character was in the Ether just waiting for a willing ear and an obedient pen? Can you safely answer no?

For me I feel that when the character arrives in my thoughts that is when the writing just flows. There seems no effort. Indeed it is all I can do to stem the tide. 

For this specific character, I viewed the story through her eyes as she took me through it. I was a participant in the story rather than just the Story Teller. The Story is so real in my mind that it invades my dreams while I sleep. Dreams being the seat of the subconscious, you could safely say she has haunted my subconscious.

Have you ever had that experience with any of your characters?

Do they direct your story or they purely directed by you?

Have your writings haunted your subconscious?


© All Rights Reserved Kim Koning.