Tag Archives: author

Guest Blog: Write What You Know — David Reiss

Once upon a time–when dinosaurs roamed the earth, and I was still in high school–I had a wonderful English teacher who treated his students as peers and insisted that we all call him by his first name; his enthusiasm for literature and drama was outright contagious. He convinced me to read outside my preferred genres, and he pushed me to write, write and write some more. A tremendously harsh critic, he somehow managed to be supportive even while delivering the most ruthless dissections of my prose. I was a bitter and catastrophically depressed teenager who approached each school day with apprehensive dread, but for his classes, I held a genuine anticipation.

Until one lecture when he insisted that creating compelling fiction required that we ‘write what we know,’ and all my enthusiasm burned away into ash.

At the time, I thought that he meant that our prose should be limited to our experiences and our areas of expertise. I couldn’t imagine any subject less interesting or worthy of consideration. How could the experiences of a morose, sheltered and awkward kid be relevant to the life of an inhuman denizen of a fantasy dungeon? I wanted to write about dragons and laser pistols, camaraderie and adventure!

I occasionally wish for a time machine so that I could leap across the years and smack my younger self on the back of the head. Because the truth is every experience is something you can learn from. I may not have ever soared above a battlefield then folded my wings to drop into combat like the gryphon protagonist from one of my short stories…but I knew the feel of wind against my face and could add that sensation to describe my gryphon’s flight. I knew what it looked like when a hawk stooped towards its prey. I knew what anger felt like, and fear, and hope, and sadness.

To ‘write what you know’ doesn’t mean to write about yourself. It means to use your personal experiences to lend the power of authenticity to your prose.

There is a secondary meaning as well, and it is one that I try to take to heart more as an adult author: Research, knowledge and the acquisition of new sensory memories can make your writing more compelling. It’s tempting to feel content that having swung a baseball bat is sufficient experience to write a scene in which an armored knight wields a mace, and it is true that being able to evoke the memory of how your grip strained or how your shoulder shook at the moment of impact is important. But spending time researching how maces were used historically can help create a more powerful scene. Look up how much real maces weighed. Research the kinds of wounds that a mace caused. If you can, make a mace and create new sensory memories by beating up an old tire. Interview experts and NEVER rely on anything you saw in a Hollywood blockbuster movie because Hollywood is a lying liar who lies.

Try new things! Get your hands dirty in the garden, take a lesson in welding, bungee jump, hang-glide. Eat exotic foods and learn to mix cocktails. Live.

So, my advice to an aspiring author is this: Write what you know because you know much more than you think. And never, ever stop learning because who knows what you’re going to want to write about tomorrow?

About the Author:

While growing up, David Reiss was that weird kid with his nose in a book and his head in the clouds. He was the table-top role-playing game geek, the comic-book nerd, the story-teller, and dreamer.
Fortunately, he hasn’t changed much.

David is a software engineer by trade and a long-time sci-fi and fantasy devotee by passion, and he lives in Silicon Valley with his partner of twenty-six years. Until recently, he also shared his life with a disturbingly spoiled cat named Freya.

(Farewell, little huntress. You were loved. You are missed.)

David’s first book, Fid’s Crusade, has just recently been published; this was his first novel-length project, but it certainly won’t be his last—he’s having far too much fun!

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Mr. Price’s Dinner Table – Deborah Ratliff

 

Location, location, location.

How many time have you heard that a business’s location is essential to its success? It is. The same is true for the site of your story. Choosing a small town, an urban environment, or an alien world instantly sets the mood, the culture, and the anticipation for your story. Choose wisely, and the location becomes another character in your writing, adding depth and complexity to your plot.

Why we choose a location varies from our own experiences to the genres that we write.  I set my stories in the world that I know best, the Southern United States and often in New Orleans. To explain how I decide, I need to take you on a journey to my childhood.

I am a Southerner and quite proud of my roots. Growing up in South Carolina I was fortunate to have parents who saw no color differences in their fellow man. People from all walks of life and cultures visited our home.

Memories of my childhood remain clear today. The mimosa tree that I played under in our yard. Houses where all doorways, windows, and chimneys were trimmed in blue to ward off evil spirits. The dime bags of boiled peanuts sold on the street. The ‘air-conditioned tree’ at the Herlong Orchard peach stand where the temperature was twenty degrees cooler in the shade and the water stored in a metal canteen was ice cold. While there was a horrible undercurrent of division and anger in this place I love so much, there was also a goodness of soul. Family, friends, food, and good times existed as well.

My father worked at the Savannah River Plant in Aiken, South Carolina where at the time hydrogen bombs were being made. With workers from all over the world employed there, as a child I met a variety of people. One of my father’s best friends was a bear of a man, a Navaho by the name of Jess Brown. His wife Athea, a small, plump woman who might have been a better cook than my grandmothers, was like an aunt to me. I am about one-sixteenth Cherokee and Jess, and Athea gave me a sense of what being Native American meant. Proud, hard-working, gentle people.

Another friend of my parents impacted my life more than I realized. Mr. Price. Honestly, I am not sure what his first name was, my parents never called him anything but Mr. Price. He was older, a slight man, regal in bearing, with snow-white hair and a thick Southern accent that held a lilt of his mother’s heritage. She was a Cajun from southwest Louisiana, and it was his reminisces about his mother’s upbringing that fueled my love of the Cajun culture.

Mr. Price was called a ‘bachelor.’ In the South in those days, an unmarried man of means, a patron of the arts was referred to in that manner. Anyone who has read Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt will recognize who Mr. Price was. Polite society did not mention the word homosexual as that wouldn’t be gracious and respectful.

We often had Sunday dinner at Mr. Price’s home, a large two-story house near downtown Aiken. I remember the opulent crimson flocked wallpaper in the parlor, the glittering crystal chandelier in the dining room, and fresh flowers everywhere. While I loved to have dinner in the dining room,  if the weather cooperated, we would often eat on the back terrace surrounded by a formal garden.

Dinner? Not what you might expect for a South Carolina gentleman. While on occasion we might have shrimp and grits or barbecued chicken, we often feasted on shrimp etouffee or jambalaya, dishes Mr. Price’s mother made when he was small. At age ten, I had my first taste of that Cajun chicory coffee at his dinner table.

I was mesmerized as he would tell us of his parent’s home in Lake Charles, and his grandparents’ house in the country nearby. He would spin tales of fun in the bayou, and I was hooked for life. While I loved South Carolina, my heart drifted toward Cajun Louisiana. His memories stirred emotions in me that I have kept to this day.

When I began to write fiction again a few years ago, I knew I would set my stories in the South. While I have never sugar-coated the problems the area has, which are no different from any other part of the United States, there is an ambiance and tone about the South, the southern coast especially, that is alluring. When I began to write it was Louisiana that I set my first novel in, New Orleans specifically.

Having visited New Orleans a few times as an adult, I discovered that my writing muse was a resident of the French Quarter. New Orleans, the bayou, the jazz, the beignets, the sultry weather, all characters in themselves and ones I find creeping into my writing.

On a recent Sunday, I watched one of Anthony Bourdain’s final “Parts Unknown” episodes. We lost a unique individual with Bourdain’s death. A talented essayist on life and culture and how food is intrinsic to our existence, not only for sustenance but for our soula. This show centered on Cajun Mardi Gras as celebrated in Southwest Louisiana.

We know of Mardi Gras as a glitzy party of drunken revelry, resplendent with cheap shiny beads, gaudy costumes, and over the top parades, as well as – well – fun. Bourdain showed us a Mardi Gras few outsiders know,  celebrated away from the French Quarter. Equally as gaudy and drunken but steeped in tradition and meaning.

Despite the commercial decadence of the more popular party in the French Quarter or the more traditional decadence of Cajun Mardi Gras, the spirit of the Cajun people, their passion for life, food, and even voodoo fuel my imagination and my soul.

I realized how ingrained the Cajun world was to my writing when I recently started writing a short story for a romance anthology. I struggled with setting and story until my muse left the jazz bar in the Quarter and reminded me, I was a mystery writer. I knew where I belonged. My story is now a romance between a TV reporter and a detective brought together over a dead body.  The location you ask? The French Quarter.

There is something about the tenor and vibe New Orleans that touches me.  A city steeped in tradition and like Anthony Bourdain, unique.

After writing my first novel, Crescent City Lies, a mystery set in New Orleans, I realize that the Cajun culture remains embedded within me, sparked so many years ago at Mr. Price’s dinner table.

Location, location, location.

(photo from https://www.visitaikensc.com/groups)

An Anniversary

 
As you know, over the last three years Writers Unite! has grown into one of the largest closed writing groups on Facebook. What many of you may not know since you haven’t been with us the entire three years is that we had a pivotal moment that spurred our growth.
 
When now admin Paul Reeves joined Writers Unite!, he reached out to us about appearing on his radio program out of Detroit. I was chosen to be the voice of WU! for the interview, and on July 11, 2016, I had my first interview on Dr. Paul’s Family Talk.
 
Membership was at 6,600 that day. We began to see an uptick in member requests immediately and had added a thousand or more new members by the time I appeared the second time on the show in August 2016. Again, we saw the numbers begin to rise. Shortly after that, Facebook started to advertise us aggressively. As a fast-growing group, their algorithms picked up the increases and began to market us.
 
Our growth is indicative of what marketing can do. We did nothing different to promote WU! at that time other than appearing on Paul’s show. While not all our growth is attributed to his show directly, some has been by word of mouth, our appearance there was the catalyst that allowed us to grow.
 
Learn a lesson from this. Marketing matters. Do not shy away from doing interviews, go on the radio, do print interviews, do a book signing anywhere you can, send those emails blasts. It can work if you keep trying.
 
Over the last two years, Paul, through his radio program and his desire to contribute to Writers Unite! as an admin has helped us sustain this growth by providing a platform for authors to tell their story. WU! continues to appear on the show to offer writing information and many of the authors Paul has interviewed have become active members of the group.
 
We are grateful to Paul for his contributions to the group. Together, the WU! admin team is striving to offer media exposure, through Dr. Paul’s Family Talk and the anthology series for our members.
 
Without question, thanks above all to the members for being with us. You are what makes WU! successful!
 
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Below is a link to the first interview, WU! did on Dr. Paul’s Family Talk. Then on terrestrial radio in Detroit. The show is now broadcast live on Impact Radio USA. http://www.impactradiousa.com/
 
Writers Unite! on Dr. Paul’s Family Talk July 11, 2016
 

Guest Blog: Kelli Gavin — I Don’t Mean to Brag

 
 I DON’T MEAN TO BRAG, BUT MY POSTS ARE ENJOYED BY WELL OVER TWENTY PEOPLE WORLDWIDE 

A friend asked me the other day if I minded that my writing posts on social media don’t get very many likes.  I kid you not. Even I didn’t have a response to this question. I sat there dumbfounded. Not sure how to respond. If I should make a joke out of it or respond honestly.

I have been actively writing for less than two years.  Blogging for only 9 months. When I started writing, I discovered the long forgotten joy that writing brought me.  When I was a kid, my dad and I enjoyed writing short stories together. I took my first stab at writing a book when I was in junior high. Made it about 80 handwritten pages in and abandoned the project altogether.  When I was in high school, I discovered my love of poetry and storytelling through short statement sentences.

I had a few great teachers who influenced me and encouraged me to keep writing.  I completed a poetry assignment of 20 poems and handed it in two days after it was assigned. I had two more weeks before it was due, the teacher took it from me and said, “Are you sure you don’t want to spend a little more time on it?”  I told her no, I worked hard and was ready to hand it in. She started to page through the packet and asked, “How did you come up with 20 poems in 2 days?” I told her I had a free period the last two days and wrote them out on the computer in the library.  She stared at me. “You wrote 20 poems in 2 days? You didn’t write any of these poems beforehand?” I confirmed, 20 poems in 2 days. She was silent for such an uncomfortable amount of time, I had to say something. “Great. I will see you Friday in class.”

Poetry flowed out of me. I could hardly contain it.  Even if I wanted to. I wasn’t sleeping well at the time, I was working through a lot of emotions and feelings and all those teenage woes made great food for fodder. I wrote about relationships with my parents, with friends, with boys. I wrote about a relationship that needed to cease.

I was asked by the same teacher to stay after class on Friday. I completely panicked. She must have hated my poetry packet. I was going to fail this class as it was 50% of my grade. I approached her desk as all of my classmates exited the classroom and felt tears poking at the corners of my eyes. “Kelli. Your poetry packet is amazing. You have a clear voice. A distinct way of communicating what you want using a very limited amount of words. I could tell the two required rhyming poems were challenging for you. But I found them whimsical, humorous and delightful.  I doubted your ability to complete this project in such a short amount of time. I should have never doubted you. I am giving you a perfect score. You exceeded my expectations on both content and effort. Well done. I will be using two of your poems in class as encouragement to the other students.”

Encouragement to the other students? Wait. What?  I asked her not to use my name. She said no problem. She wanted to use one of the fun rhyming poems as an example that sometimes the best things come out of not trying too hard. I wasn’t sure if that was actually a compliment or not. But I wasn’t going to ask any further questions.

I quickly exited the classroom and headed to my locker so I could race to my next class.  I smiled the rest of the day.

I was inspired. My teachers’ compliments were all that it took to inspire me. Words of affirmation from an adult other than my parents.  I continued to write poetry for the remaining portion of the two weeks and knew that I was improving each time I hit the save button on the library computer.  When my poems were shared in class the next week, silence followed after the first one. I wrote about that relationship that needed to cease. I tried to be as inconspicuous as possible, but I knew I was fidgeting in my seat and probably was the most unnatural shade of red all down through my neck.  

“Okay.  Was this poem written by a girl? Because that was beautiful.  A boy wouldn’t be able to talk that way about something he wants but knows he shouldn’t have. It makes me want to know what happens next.”  Nodding and agreement. Our teacher proclaimed a mighty, “YES! That is what good poetry should do. It should make you want more. You should be intrigued by the first line and it should make you desire more. It should make you feel something deep inside. It should change you. It should make you think differently.”

Our teachers’ words spurred me on to write even more. All those hours I was awake at night made me burn through notebook after notebook. I wanted people that read my work, to want more. I wanted them to be hooked from the first line. I wanted them to desire more. And I wanted them to think differently and to be changed.

I continued writing and felt so fulfilled. I was proud of myself.  I felt better about who I was and felt that I had a purpose. To write. Even if only for a short time. Writing gave me a purpose.  Life happened and I wasn’t then writing as much. I worked hard the summer before college and then felt utterly consumed by moving away and overwhelmed by college and the workload that was expected. I sat down to write one night at school, and nothing. Nothing. I had nothing to write about. I didn’t feel inspired to write. I felt I should do it because I hadn’t. It felt like a task. It no longer brought me joy. It started to stress me out.

Filled notebooks and blank notebooks sat on my shelf above my desk in my dorm room. And they continued to sit there. By the end of my freshman year, I had completely abandoned my love for writing.

I have filled all of these past 25 years with some pretty amazing things. I got married, worked in a profession I loved and succeeded in. I was blessed by having two children. I started two companies and enjoyed the work. I began to write articles for the local newspaper when artists or writers came to town.  I would write about their life, their career, and my impressions of their speaking engagement. Sometimes, I would have a prearranged interview set up with them and others times would just make a point of asking questions and recording the answers.

I believe myself to be pretty savvy on social media. (That is a lie. I am a stalker at best. I would track those coming to town down on social media and assault them with numerous private messages until they answered me and agreed to an in-person interview or to respond to my questions. My shenanigans worked more often than not. ) Each of my articles was accepted at the paper. I was so excited.  Was I a writer? I sure was. I was writing more, and writing well. I thought I would take another stab at writing.

Once I began, I found that only about a dozen or so poems were ready to be written.  But I sat down and found I had a story to tell about my mom. My mom died about 5 years ago now.  She was so young, only 67. She was a ridiculously quirky woman who never met a person she didn’t love. I wanted to write about her. I wanted to write about my childhood with her as my mom. I wanted to honor her.  I started writing short, one or even two-page stories, every week or so. Then the stories about being a special needs parent came to mind. And about organizing your home and life, which is my line of work. Mostly, I wrote about my daily life. About conversations that I had with my kids and my friends. And sometimes I even wrote about the conversations I had with complete strangers.  

When I wrote a story, it was about something important. A lesson I had learned. Something that brought me joy.  Something that maybe still made me ache today. They were stories about memories I held dear. But when I told my stories, they were stories I thought others would also like to hear.  I felt they were stories that others needed to hear. Subject matters that would touch hearts and maybe even heal them. Stories that others could have written themselves. I wanted other people to know they were not alone.

I began submitting stories to dozens upon dozens of companies that specialized in storytelling.  I was quickly discouraged as I received 29 declines in my first 6 weeks. 29. But then yes. Another yes, we would be happy to publish this piece.  And even, what else can you send us? Editors started emailing me and actually asking for more samples of my work.

Absolutely, it feels great when a contract for printing is received. I have published with 20+ different companies and organizations and continue to submit weekly. 9 months ago when I started blogging, I didn’t just blog about my daily life, I added in all of the poems that I wrote, some of the newspaper articles and the books reviews.  I also started including all of my life stories in my blog.

And to the original question. Does it bother me that so few people like my writing posts on social media? No. The honest answer is no. How many people read my blog on a consistent basis? I don’t know.  But you know what matters to me? The messages that people send me or write on posts. The times when people ask me for help in solving a similar situation. The times when people tell me they are ready to call their mom and ask for forgiveness. But most of all, I enjoy the thank you’s. Thank for being honest. Thank you for writing about something that hurts. Thank you for helping me figure out this whole special needs parenting thing.  Thank you for making me cry, I needed that.

“Kelli,  I don’t know you.  We have never met. But we have friends in common.  I wanted to tell you I found your blog. I can’t stop reading.  Were we twins and separated at birth? You and I are the awkward honest girls. The ones that cry watching the news and retelling stories. Thank you for not making me feel so weird.”  Those are the messages that make me want to write more.

“Oh, sweet Zach. I read your article in the paper.  I had the joy of helping him at school a couple times last year.  I miss him so much. He was always smiling and so funny. I liked reading about your daily lives.  Thank you for the insight into special needs parenting.” Special needs teachers. I want to hug you. Thank you for all that you do for my son every day. Thank you for your patience, your ability to teach and your love for my son.

I have started writing a book. For real this time. A real book.  With chapters and page numbers and everything. This book will be more of the same. More of what makes me laugh. What makes me cry.  More stories I think others will want to hear. Stories others need to hear. No, I won’t ever sell a million copies, and make a bunch of cash.  But I will have told my story, filled my life with even more joy, and connected with people I have never even met. Hopefully inspired someone along the way.  And that sounds like a mighty fine endeavor to me.

“You don’t write because you want to say something. You write because you have something to say.”  — F. Scott Fitzgerald

About the Author

Kelli Gavin lives in Carver, Minnesota with Josh, her husband of an obscene amount of years and they have two crazy kids. She is a Writer, Professional Organizer and owns Home & Life Organization and a small Jewelry Company. She enjoys writing, reading, swimming, and spending time with family and friends. She abhors walks on the beach (sand in places no one wishes sand to be), candlelit dinners, (can’t see) and the idea of cooking two nights in a row (no thank you).

Find Kelli on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @KelliJGavin Blog found at kellijgavin@blogspot.com

 

 

First trailer for Writer’s Unite! Anthology: Realm of Magic!!

Writers Unite!’s Fantasy Anthology: Realm of Magic will be published on August 1, 2018.

Pre-order info coming soon!

Check Out the Trailer for Writers Unite! Anthology Realm of Magic Here



Guest Blog: The 9 Perils of Writerhood – Rosanna Bates

The 9 Perils of Writerhood

By Rosanna Bates

Thinking about taking up writing? As a hobby, or maybe a career? Well, be warned. You are about to pursue a perilous occupation. A vortex of chaos, creativity and solitude that will suck you into its inescapable depths. Writing is not for the faint-hearted.

On your journey you will encounter submission guidelines, internet trolls and *gasp* reading fees. If you are lucky enough to get away from them unscathed, you are still destined to fall victim to the countless dangers of writing. Although for the sake of time-saving let’s say there are nine.

 

The Curse of the Grammar Nazi

With proficiency in the written word comes an impulse to correct people’s grammar and spelling—a practice that is universally frowned upon. In no small part because it’s a little bit condescending even if it does clear up some outrageous uses of the English language.

As the rest of the world demands you keep your mouth shut, you will be forced to stew in your exasperation for eternity. Although, where the internet’s prying eyes cannot see, you will be safe to unleash your new curse. The household shopping lists will be impeccable, one way or another.

 

Demonic Possession

Short of floating out of bed and babbling in tongues, you wouldn’t believe you were being possessed at all. That’s what the Demons want you to think.

We believe the characters we create and grow to love are under our control. But they get under our skin, into our heads, and control our thoughts. Whilst innocently daydreaming some dialogue for your new imaginary friends, their words will come tumbling out of your mouth quite without your permission. At dinner, on the tube, at the library, in the middle of an important interview. At every conceivable inconvenient movement. So don’t be surprised if you come home to an intervention one day with a demonologist and a priest siting in.

 

Imagination Fatigue

The adrenaline rush of an idea grabbing you and running away is like nothing else. Your wedding day or that big promotion all pale in comparison to this thrill. Spending several hours on a whirlwind adventure in your own brain and putting it to paper is an excitement that has lured many a writer into its eternal clutches. However, after any epic high, there is an inevitable crash. When you’re finished with that flash of productivity, your brain will feel like an exploded water balloon. You’ll be lucky if you can think up what to have for dinner.

 

Legal Trouble

Writers research everything. How else are you supposed to craft realistic crime dramas and historical romances? Nobody’s that confident in their estimations of an autopsy to start writing about it without looking it up in a search engine first. Those Google searches are not for the squeamish.

As a result of your curiosity, your internet histories become weird and wonderful collections of web pages you’ve clicked on in the pursuit of piecing your work together realistically. They also become article one in your murder trials if your enemies are vengeful enough.

Whilst at the time your search on the world’s deadliest poisons was perfectly innocent, it may not look that way when there’s a dead body in your living room with all the signs of cyanide poisoning. Moral of the story, don’t be a writer. If you really must be a writer, then be sure to make no enemies who might be motivated enough to frame you for murder. As our next point explains, that may not be a problem anyway.

 

Dying a Social Death

Writing isn’t merely a hobby, it’s a lifestyle. It gets into every nook and cranny of your life, including the social sector. Coffees with friends make way for editor’s deadlines. Brainstorming sessions instead of hosting the parents. Losing your mind perfecting a scene instead of sleeping.

Your friends and family begin to question whether you ever existed or if you were just a figment of their imaginations. Until one day you finally show up to a birthday party and dole out a few heart attacks.

 

Keyboard Burn

When inspiration hits, you won’t be able to get the words down fast enough. So beware when speed typing, for your fingertips may burn on the red-hot keys. That best-seller in the making will gather dust at the back of your hard-drive whilst you enjoy the delight that is hospital food.

 

Irritable Scowl Syndrome

Writing takes peace and quiet. But the quietest times are the best until someone bursts into your study exclaiming that they need their dry cleaning done, there are no jam tarts left, or the house is on fire. Sigh.

Be warned, the first interruption will not be the last because when it’s OK to barge in once, it’s always OK. Such is the logic of serial interrupters. You will begin to develop a fearsome scowl upon hearing the words “Just before you sit down…” or “Are you busy?” that will send any enquirers scurrying in the other direction.

As these interruptions happen more and more (and rest assured, they will) this scowl will become your default expression for anything you even remotely disapprove of. Your reputation will be forever tainted and you will be remembered as a terrifying individual. Or perhaps that’s what you were aiming for.

 

Repetitive Name Injury

There’s names you like, and names you don’t. The names you give your characters you often love. That’s why it’s difficult to give these beloved names to only one character. Where does the injury come in? When you’re bashing your head against the wall trying to think of new ones that sound just as good.

 

Addiction

Drugs are bad, kids, and writing is one of the hardest highs out there. It starts out innocent, just a short story or two in the privacy of your home, but it doesn’t take long for this to escalate. You’ll start holing yourself up in your study penning novels and sketching settings. Soon enough, you’ll be writing on the train to work, and in the car waiting for your kids to get out of school. Write long enough and no rehab on Earth can help you return to the way things used to be.

 

 

About the Author

Rosanna Bates was born in Worcester, England at the height of baggy jeans and boy band popularity. Her childhood was spent reading and writing stories she was too embarrassed to show anyone. To date, she has had short stories and flash fiction published by The Fiction Pool, Ariel Chart, Anti-Heroin Chic, the Manawaker Studios podcast and Otter Libris. While she prepares her debut novel for publication, she also manages a book blog The Secret Library and regularly contributes to the online millennial lifestyle magazine, Unwritten.

 

Guest Blog: The Work by Kenneth Lawson

One sits in front of a blank computer screen and wishes the words would just magically appear on it. If one could only twitch a “Bestselling American Novel.”  But alas, the only person who could twitch a novel into existence was Samantha from the TV show Bewitched.

In September 1964, a new show arrived on ABC television. Bewitched followed the misadventures of a female witch married to a mortal man. A half-hour comedy that put a variety of interesting spins on normal family and business life with a witch involved.

What piqued my interest in this show concerning writing is one specific visual trick that they often used on the show. Samantha twitching her nose and making miraculous things happen. House cleaned, animals and people appear or vanish, and that’s just the small stuff the writers had her doing. While the effects worked perfectly in the overall story of the characters and their made-up world, in the long term, this introduced the audience to a concept of “Instant Gratification.” All they had to do was want something, and it would appear out of nowhere.

While anyone in their right minds knows we can’t just twitch our nose and get our work done, or clean our house, or any of the other things they did on the show, there is a broader concept or idea if you will. The idea that a vast majority of the things one wants or needs can almost magically appear.

A key example of this is Amazon. As anyone who belongs to their Prime service knows barring weekends, and holidays or the like that if they order something on Monday morning, chances are very good the UPS truck will be at their door by Wednesday afternoon. This, in fact, a form of “Nose Twitching”  One wants it, a couple of mouse clicks and the package on its way.  Not much more energy expended than twitching one’s “Nose.”

Another great example of the “Bewitched Syndrome” is Pandora, or any online music or movie service. One wants to listen to some classic Sinatra,  a couple of clicks on their mobile device of choice and it plays. One wants to watch a movie or series, a couple of clicks on the remote, and it’s playing on their preferred screen.
There was a day not that long ago when if one wanted to listen to Sinatra croon one had to do “The Work.”

Go to the record store, find and buy a Sinatra record, go home, remove the record from its jacket, place the vinyl record gently on the turntable to keep from scratching it and turn on the record player. The record spun, and mechanically, the arm with the needle moved over to the record and dropped, and the sounds of music came from the speakers. But wait, you weren’t done.

Once that side was over, in about 10 -15 minutes, you had to remove yourself from your favorite listening place and return to the turntable, turn the record over and repeat the process. These are but two of the many examples of the way people have unconsciously​bought into the “Bewitched Syndrome.”

Years ago there was only ONE phone in a house. It usually hung on the kitchen wall, with a LONG cord to the receiver. If one wanted to call someone, they had to know the actual phone number. In years gone by, they didn’t have 7 digit numbers like we do today, you had an exchange, such as the famous BR-549 from Hee Haw fame. You called the operator and told her who you needed to call, and she’d connect you manually to her switchboard. See. More work.

And if you missed a call, You were out of luck, and probably never know it, unless they told you later they tried to call. Today? Instant access, the “Bewitched Syndrome.”

There are so many examples of  “The Bewitched Syndrome” and how it is incredibly easy today to “Twitch” our way through life. To have a wide variety of things done or gotten for us almost magically.

But there are a lot of things there is NO shortcut for. Writing is one of them.

To create, one must sit down and actually do the work. Write the words, build the paragraphs and the chapters, and eventually one word at a time, build a book.
And you can be proud of it. Because you didn’t make it appear out of thin air, you did the work, put in the time, and energy it takes to create.

Bewitched has inspired a generation to create new worlds and tell new tales in different ways. The Bewitched writers did the work to create a television program. Now you must do the work to make your stories come alive, as actress Elizabeth Montgomery did the work to make Samatha come alive on the screen.

Yes, I’ve wished many times over the years I could twitch my nose and have my stuff done.

But alas, I’m mortal like the rest of us.

And I have to do is“The Work.”

 

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Author Bio:

Kenneth Lawson 1

Kenneth Lawson was born in 1961, in Western NY. He was born with a heart disease, called Transition of the Arteries. He is believed to be the first in the US to survive the procedure called the Mustard procedure.

He started writing as a teenager He enjoys classic movies and television, and a variety of music. When not enjoying movies. He can be found writing his eclectic mix of science fiction, mystery, and time travel.

Today he lives in Central Virginia, with his wife of 30 years, and the youngest of their four children.

 

Author Mark Reynolds: Interview on the “Dr. Paul’s Family Talk” radio program.

Chasing the Northern Lights

 

Author Mark Reynolds appeared on the “Dr. Paul’s Family Talk” radio program on the new Impact Radio USA internet station to discuss his most recent book, entitled, Chasing the Northern Light.

According to Mark’s Amazon page: “Fearless twenty-something Carter Boyd is in love with life and the extreme thrills that it provides to him. When he thinks he’s tried it all, fate provides him with one more, perhaps final, opportunity that he simply cannot pass up–to actually pursue and catch a little-known virus, dubbed by its underground chasers as the “Northern Light”, that threatens the very life of its host within an indeterminate period of time. And yet, it contains psychic properties that come to bear as the virus manifests–properties that allow the recipient to see their “truth”, and to discover a way in life that leads them down the path toward their own perfectness. For Carter, who is already running from personal demons and desperately looking for an out, the draw to pursue it is too great. In the shadow of Carter’s quest, a military viral specialist and a United States Senator have been working a thirty-year-old secret agenda to keep it from spreading. Carter’s chase follows him through a series of life-changing experiences with help from unexpected sources that lead him to a final confrontation, one that might deliver him from what he fears the most to that which he never knew he could do without.”

In addition to discussing Chasing the Northern Lights, host Paul Reeves asked Mark about his current projects, two novels, a book for children in collaboration with his wife who is a photographer and will be illustrating the children’s story, and a screenplay!

You can reach Mark through his Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/Mark-My-Words-Too-The-Mark-Reynolds-Author-Page-143155692767514/

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Be sure to listen to IMPACT RADIO USA for upcoming author interviews and more!

IMPACT RADIO USA provides the best in news, talk, sports, and music 24 hours a day, 52 weeks per year. Launched in the spring of 2017, our goal is to keep you as the most informed Internet Radio audience.

As we are continuing to add content on a daily basis, please feel free to click on the “LISTEN LIVE” button to hear us 24 hours a day.

Beginning on Monday, July 3, 2017, “Dr. Paul’s Family Talk” show will have live broadcasts 3 times per week on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 11:00 a.m. 

http://www.impactradiousa.com/

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Writing Your First Novel

One of the common questions asked by novice writers on our sister Facebook site Writers Unite! is “How do I start?” To help new writers with the daunting but fun task of writing, I have begun a series of articles on how to prepare writing your first novel.

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Writing Your First Novel

Part One

Read

 “Everybody has a secret world inside of them. I mean everybody. All of the people in the whole world, I mean everybody — no matter how dull and boring they are on the outside. Inside them they’ve all got unimaginable, magnificent, wonderful, stupid, amazing worlds… Not just one world. Hundreds of them. Thousands, maybe.”
― Neil GaimanThe Sandman, Vol. 5: A Game of You

All those words Gaiman speaks of rattle around inside of us. Eventually, the urge to allow them to escape becomes overwhelming. Time to write a story.

Fledgling writers come from all walks of life with a wide-ranging knowledge of the writing process. I remember my own experience when I decided to begin writing. Writing was not new to me, throughout my career I had written research papers, manuals, newsletters, speeches, and advertising copy.  However, crafting a fiction story was something I had not done since college. I recognized there was a lot to learn.

The question is where to start?  We can jump right in and begin to put words to paper or screen but are we providing ourselves and our future readers with the best effort we can make? Before we write, let’s explore the steps we should do to prepare ourselves to be good writers. Let’s begin with reading.

Read

What better than a book to fuel the imagination. One of my favorite quotes is from George R. R. Martin, A Dance with Dragons:

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies, said Jojen. The man who never reads lives only one.”

Reading the works of others is fundamental to the writing process. Any genre and any author (even a not so skilled author) can provide you with useful information. I do recommend selecting best-selling books in the genre/genres that you wish to write in, as well. Successful works related to the story you want to write can provide you with trends and what the readers of the genre prefer.

What you do you as a new author gain by reading? There are several reasons:

Vocabulary:

Reading increases vocabulary by presenting words we may not hear or see on a normal day. A diverse vocabulary is a great asset for any writer by providing an enhanced collection of words that convey the meanings and emotions of your story. A large vocabulary also provides alternate word choices which improve your writing style.

Grammar:

Grammar rules are analogous to rules of the road. Authorities expect us to obey the speed limit, stop at red lights, and follow the other traffic laws. Otherwise, chaos ensues on the roads. The same is true for writing. Grammar rules provide a framework for writing a clear and concise story that a reader expects. When reading, pay attention to sentence structure, verb choice and agreement, how complex or simple the sentence are. You will begin to acquire a feel for the author’s style which can help you find your own.

Plot Structure:

Read to understand how the author constructed their story. How do they open their novel, what hook did they use to draw you into the story? Notice the author introduces their main and secondary characters, build tension toward the climax, or employ foreshadowing, plot twists? Learn what techniques work to provide the reader with an exciting and emotional experience.

Trends:

While you should read all genres for a better overview of style, you should also select numerous books within the genre that you wish to write in. Trends are not only for clothing, but genres are also subject to the latest fad or the focus of a best-selling author. Knowing what your potential reader might prefer when choosing a new novel. A word of caution, trends fade, and by the time your novel is ready for publication, some other trend may have taken your place. Write your story the way you want.

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In subsequent articles, we will look at these topics in more depth as well as other tools for the novice writer.

(Quotes: https://www.brainyquote.com/)

Can Acting Help You Create Memorable Characters

actors

Whether I’m writing a comic, a blog post or a screenplay, the cornerstone of my writing remains the character.

From the very first moment you welcome your reader, and he reads your first paragraph, you want to make sure he knows:

  1. Whose story is it?
  2. What’s happening around the character?
  3. What’s at stake for the character?

This is because, from Shakespeare to Ibsen, the whole idea of dramatic writing revolves around the character: The one we root for, and the one who moves the story along with its actions.

But building character for fiction requires a deep understanding of human motives. A knowledge I had no access to until I shifted my perspective to a more experiential approach: That of embodying characters myself.

That of Acting.

And it changed me, it made me more aware of human dynamics. From the very first moment I started reading Lee Strasberg, Stanislavski and Grotowski, I noticed the similarities between my career as a psychologist, dramatic writing and those stories I wanted to create. 

But the real question is: Can acting work for you and your fictional characters as it worked for me?

Even without knowing you, and whether you suffer from stage fright or no. I do believe a short acting workshop can help you breathe life into your characters.

Here’s why.

Acting is a space for practice and creativity

Think of acting as a playground for discovery. Your own.

Acting will help you find your voice and it will give you a thorough understanding of your body language. All of this, on a playful and safe environment.

In this controlled space, you’ll have the opportunity to test, propose and create with others. It’s human interaction at its best.  

When you get back to your writing space, you will find how the relationships and interactions between your fictional characters become more natural and innovative.

Acting can teach you how to show, don’t tell

Regular conversations might sound like this:

“I’m sad;” “I don’t want to be here;” “I’m about to cry.”

I know, it sounds dramatic, but it has nothing to with dramatic writing. These are real life examples, yet you’re writing fiction. And since there’s no emotional value behind those phrases, we’re taught as writers to show and never tell.

Acting is no different. That means dialogue remains an extension of action. For example, a good actor on a good play wouldn’t tell the audience he’s about to commit suicide; no, we would see the signs: the gloomy tone of his voice, his gaunt appearance, his vacant stare and saggy posture. The way he thinks of life and the places he visits on a regular basis.

He’s hinting us. He’s suggesting and planting an idea. And we follow him along because we want to know if he’s going to survive or not. He’s in control.

That’s the power of character.

Acting teaches you to put yourself out there

Ok, all of this whole acting thing might sound promising. But what if you have stage fright? Or, you are self-conscious about your body, or your voice, or the way others look at you…

Just… don’t freak out. I feel you.

See, I’m an introvert. I like to read, spend time on my own, and sometimes too much social interaction can leave me heavily drained. Yet I’m so comfortable with myself that I can give a speech, act or sing in front of an audience –without fainting.

I had to learn that from scratch though. And acting helped me a lot.

Before acting I was afraid of looking at people in the eye. I was insecure. I didn’t know what to do with my body, how to move or whether to smile or not. I felt people would just laugh or criticize everything I did. But even when I forgot my lines, or made a mistake, I would just try again.

I didn’t die.

And that’s a huge lesson for us writers and aspiring authors. Acting teaches you to put yourself out there. It will help you with your pitching and that arrogant publisher. You will become more in control of yourself. And that confidence will translate into your writing. You will suddenly become less self-conscious about what you produce and you won’t feel afraid of being vulnerable.

Should you take acting classes?

I don’t think acting is for everyone, and I’m not encouraging you to pursue an acting career. But I do believe that it can critically improve your writing.

It worked for me, and my screenwriting feels more natural ever since.

Even if it doesn’t improve your writing you will have some fun, you will find an alternative way to express yourself creatively, and you will exercise too. Besides you can meet some interesting people in your classes –they could even end up as potential characters for your fiction book.

If you liked the article feel free to share it. Or, if you have any questions about acting and writing you can leave a comment below and I’ll be happy to help.

Happy writing –and acting.

Dan

Find me on my blog Fourth Walled

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Dan de Abreu is dedicated to helping  others aspiring authors while studying the relationship between psychology and writing.
He holds a BA in psychology and  works as a copywriter, screenwriter, and comics writer.
His longtime goal is writing scripts for his own animated short films.