Category Archives: Uncategorized

An Interview with Author John Williams

Standard

It’s been so long since my last post I should be ashamed. And I am. It has not been for a lack of interest or desire but rather the pull of “life interrupting” that has kept me at bay.

But I have been inspired once again by the dedication and persistence of a fellow writer who has published his very first novel.

Here is my conversation with John Williams about his newly released novel, Exit To Eden.

 

Congratulations John- You Did It!!!

You wrote and published your first novel.

So many aspiring authors have a novel in them and spend years working on it but never seem to cross the finish line. You did… what an accomplishment.

How does it feel???

Yes I did finish and self publish my first novel, and it feels great. I have a copy on my writing desk and sometimes I just stare at it and say (did I do that?)

It was hard work (a labor of love I might add) putting the story together and at times it seemed that the right words or sentences would never come together so I would take a deep breath, scratch my head and keep plugging away then somehow out of the blue the ideas would flow. I guess there is truth in the old adage that hard work and perseverance pays off.  When the last words of the last sentence where down, it felt good to have stuck with it to the end. I was filled with a great sense of joy and relief that it was finally done. Yet after I finished the final chapter, there was a feeling that I had lost a friend, one who I had chatted with and passed ideas around with for years. However I consoled myself by envisioning that I might someday come back and chat with my old friend.

 

 

Tell us… how did it all start? Where did your idea come from?

I started writing the manuscript, off and on, I’m ashamed to say, almost ten years ago when I was still fully employed. After retirement, I devoted most of my time to finishing the novel and writing short stories in between. The inspiration for the book came from swallowing and regurgitating events, good and bad, of the world around me. It seems that throughout history many cultures of the world have suffered times when corruption and murderous acts rule their societies, so in order to save anything or anybody worthy of saving, only a total destruction of the wicked in those cultures make a new beginning possible. Sadly today, many societies all around the world seem to be trending toward their day of destruction, only time will tell if they survive. But for now their stories are there to be told, to be weaved hopefully into an entertaining and unforgettable tale of redemption and rebirth.

 

We are nothing without our characters. They are the ones who tell our story and connect with the readers for us. At some point in the writing process, they become real to us and we as authors become invested in what happens to them as the plot evolves.

Tell us about the relationship you developed with your characters.

Many of the characters in the book are people that take charge both good and bad. Some definitely mirror real people that shape the world we live in today. I try to take the characters that are good and put them into situations that test their spirit, their will to survive and unlike many of today’s young author who are willing to let evil win, I strive to show that, although some may die while others live, in the struggle for life, good will triumph over evil. And while the evil characters have their turn at bat with the bases load, they can score runs but I will never let them win the game.

 

Themes and Plots are always a hot button topic at writer’s conferences and workshops. While it’s the theme’s job to tell the “what” of the story and remains a constant throughout, it’s the job of the plot to tell the “how” and it, is ever evolving.

How did your plot progress throughout your writing process? Did it ever surprise you?

The theme of the story was clear in my mind many months before I began to write. Like many sculptures say, the median that they are working with tells them which direction to go in. I think that the same can be said for many artists. A certain brush stroke, one way or another by a painter may direct him or her to advance in a way that they were unaware until that moment. The same I think happens to fiction writers at least is was that way for me. For me, the plot line was like a day dream, my imagination could run wild and no harm was done. Bits and pieces of past and current events along with a made up future helped move the plot along. As for surprises, the biggest surprise came when I revisited the final product and realized that for better or for worst I had put together word after word, sentence after sentence a story that someday someone might find pleasure in reading.

A great many of us begin our novel and work on it, and work on it, and work on it…

At what point in your writing journey did you feel truly committed to finishing?

In a world with so many well known and prolific writers, being a novice author trying to enter their world is very intimidating. I began my novel as a sort of a way to blow off stream about a world I saw as sometimes cruel and unjust. As the pages grew, the story became something more than just a way to express my distaste for certain world events. At some point, at what I know now as half way through my novel, I realized that I had to go where the paper was taking me. I had to lead the characters to their final destination.

 

Listen in on writer’s group meetings around the world and you will hear more about the things that sabotage the writing process than things that move it forward.

How did you escape those traps?

I think that the biggest thing that can sabotage the writing process is fear – fear that the work is not good enough- fear of rejection. Also not being willing to commit the time is a major trap. Writing a novel is not for everyone it takes and enormous amount of time and effort to turn out a good work. I put my fear of rejection behind knowing that I would take the time to give it my best shot and if that was not good enough then so be it; I have plenty more things to do in my life.

 

Many people in the industry say that writing the story is the easy part…publishing and marketing- that’s the hard part.

Now that you have done it all would you agree?

In today’s world, publishing and marketing a book is enormously difficult as compared to writing the novel. Writing a novel fact or fiction, although it’s hard work, is mostly done at the writer’s convenience in the author’s comfort zone whereas finding a publisher for a first time author, unless you are somehow connected or you are that rare, exceptionally new talent, it is almost impossible to find a publisher that will risk taking you on. Enter the world of self-publishing. If one is luckily enough to fine a publisher or elects to self-publishing, then comes the task that I think most authors would rather not do and that’s selling the book. Fiction writers, who I think are mostly quite types and not salesman, would rather just write and leave the publishing and marketing details to others.

 

Self-publishing can be an overwhelming prospect for many authors.

What did you learn from the process?

Because of the intense competition and enormous cost associated with publishing and marketing a book, most novice author fined it almost impossible to connect with main stream publishing houses. Self publishing has provided the novice a way of bring their work out of the shadows and into the light to compete with the rest of the world’s authors. But the word self in Self publishing means that the focus is on self, yourself. All the things that a publisher would do if they took you on is now your responsibly, of which editing is the most important. A good editor well verse in your genre is crucial. A well thought out title, a relevant and handsome book cover as is a well written synopsis for the back cover are all important items to be dealt with if one is considering self publishing. Most of all do not try and rush the process. There is the temptation that once the manuscript in done to rush it to publication but as in carpentry, the saying ‘measure twice and cut once’ goes well with self-publishing also. Those considering self-publishing should check twice that all bases have been cover and then check the bases one more time to make sure the manuscript is ready to go.

Sooo… tell us is there a sequel in the making?

What’s next for your characters?

There is a chance of a sequel, the characters remaining at the end of the story I feel deserve to live on someday. But right now I’m fascinated by a series I’ve been working on where two retired college professors of Ancient History and Mythology, a husband and wife team, who opened a bed and breakfast on Long Island New York, meet one night with an evil Mythological creature.  Drawing on their knowledge of Ancient History and Mythology, they narrowly escape being devoured and somehow manage to defeat the evil being that preyed upon them that night. Embolden by their victory they decide that a B&B life, after what they had just gone thought was dullsville. So they sold the B&B and set out to use their new found talent to locate and stamp out evil wherever they find it.

Wow that sounds great!

We are very excited for you and all your friends at Somerset Ink are very proud of you.

Keep writing…we want more.

If you have read John’s book, which can be previewed and purchased through Amazon, and would like to leave a review, comment or question for John, please to do. John would love to hear from you…Lets start a discussion.

Advertisements

Focus Your Focus Group

Standard
Combination of 20px and rotated version of 20p...

Combination of 20px and rotated version of 20px to form icon for Peer Review process (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Asking a trusted friend, colleague or fellow author to review your work is a brave thing to do. And it’s an important and necessary part of the writing process- when publishing is amongst your goals.

If you have chosen wisely, your ‘critiquer’ will be someone who can be honest with you and whose opinion you can trust.

Still it’s never a good practice to hand someone your work and say, “Let me know what you think”.  Even a seasoned editor or literary agent has a checklist of plusses and minuses they refer to when diving into a new manuscript.

That being said, if a general impression is what you are looking for- ask for that. But if you want help identifying strengths and weaknesses in your piece, you need to focus your reviewer’s attention, without overloading them with too much to look for. Their job is to give you constructive feedback…not to edit your work for you.

My writer’s group Somerset Ink has one member each month offer a piece of their writing for peer review.  At the end of the submission are two or three questions for their fellow authors to work from. This not only helps to focus the critiques but also serves to identify patterns in the feedback when a group of individuals review the work. Similar comments or impressions can be red flags within your writing.

So, when handing over your ‘baby’ for critical inspection, ask your reviewer(s) if they can identify two or three specific issues including questions, which offer the opportunity for praise as well as censure- i.e., “What do you feel is my antagonists number one strength and number one weakness?”

When I asked this of Lucy, the main character in my novel, Lost and Found: The Souls of Rosewood, I got a resounding, “She’s too nice. She needs a dark side.” This warned me that the most important character I was creating was not authentic. My readers were not identifying with her because she was too good. I needed to give her a vice or a button, which when pushed made her angry maybe even unreasonable. Being the heroine does not exclude her from being flawed like the rest of us (most especially because she’s a teen).

As my own worst critic, I always have on tap plot issues I am sure I am writing into my story. I know I always struggle with tense. So I usually ask my ‘critiquers’ to point out where in my work, I may have switched tenses.

If you know you have reoccurring plot issues, be sure to ask about that.

Here are some other topics for your reviewers:

What would you ask of your ‘critiquer’?

I’ll Show You Mine, If …Nah, Forget It

Standard

Please enjoy the following guest post from author Kimberlee Thompson. Kim is a fiction writer and Poet with a sophisticated wit. She lives in the North East and is a contributing author of First Thursdays, a collection of short stories by member of the writer’s group Somerset Ink.

 

My birthday? 1/1/1900.  Or is it 2000?  I live at 123 Main Street.  My mother’s maiden name is Jones; my first pet’s name was Spot.  My birthplace was Intercourse, PA and I attended Sweet Valley High.

English: First 4 digits of a credit card

English: First 4 digits of a credit card (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I enjoy writing and reading fiction…except when I’m in a virtual stick-up.  Online, I’m repeatedly told to hand over my info if I want coupons, access to a site, or to establish my identity as an author.

My personal information is all over the web already, since I pay my credit cards online and grab my bank statements off the net.  I console myself that if anything happens to my bank account or credit card, the financial institution will make it right.  Plus, I assume – hope – that they have a higher level of security than, say, a liquor site that wants my birthday before I can see a new drink recipe.  And you can bet that Don Julio is not getting my real digits!  As long as I’m 21 in his electronic eyes, I’m in.

I enter fake birthdays and names all over the worldwide web.  My info doesn’t need to travel where I do.  But even this is difficult for me.  I don’t lie about my age in person, but online, I invariably make myself younger.  Not by much, but hey, I’m not going to get older just for anonymity’s sake.  So now I’m lying about my age, too.

Then it gets worse.  Facebook?  Millions provide it with free content.  Any tragedy that strikes, there will be a file photo of the victim, courtesy of guess who.  Not to mention the gigantic time suck.  I could be doing laundry instead of posting pictures for people who only want me to look at their stuff, anyway.  I could be reading.  A book.  Not daily ephemera and self-promo.

I read all over how I’m supposed to have a platform, an online identity, as a writer.  Don’t we write fiction to walk in others’ shoes?  So why all the personal info posted willy-nilly?  I feel like I’m dumping the contents of my wallet on a scanner and posting the copy for anyone who needs to scam me.  Or just plain ol’ violate my privacy.

I’m not sure how to reconcile my craving for privacy with the marketplace’s appetite for self-promotion.  How do others honor their integrity and protect themselves while displaying information that most folks kept to themselves until recently?

Oh, but I don’t want to write under a pseudonym, either.  I would like my writing to wear my name. I just don’t think anyone else needs to know my mother’s true maiden name to make my fiction worth reading.  By the way, her name was Smith.

I hope you enjoyed Kim’s contribution and find it fosters the flow of some fresh creativity.  Please feel free to comment on what Kim had to share and ask her any questions you may have. 

Look for future guest posts from Kim and more of my favorite writers here at Writer’s Block.

 

After All I Am The AUTHOR

Standard

Please enjoy the following guest post from author Marie Catalfamo. Marie is a fiction writer with interests in mysteries and exploring the myths and lore of her Italian heritage.  A native of the North East, Marie is a contributing author of First Thursdays, a collection of short stories by member of the writer’s group Somerset Ink.

Since my imagination is limited and you should only write what you know, I am working on a novel about my family, Time to Come Home.  It starts with my grandparents coming from Italy, living through wars, the depression and family troubles.  So I didn’t have to extend my mind too much – just follow their yellow brick road.  I mean, after all I am the AUTHOR.

I started by naming my characters, making a time line (several decades to go through) and picking out the most interesting conflicts to include.  The ending was set before I began.  I knew how I wanted it to finish.  All I had to do was fill in the middle, letting my pen do all the work.  Simple?  Right?  After all I am the AUTHOR.

At first they followed my pen nicely, going where I led.  As I’ve completed a little over a third of the story I realized my characters were revolting, going in different directions.  They refuse to go where my mind wanted to take them.  How could this be?  After all, I am the AUTHOR.

I’ve submitted my chapters to several of my Somerset Ink writing group members.  While they express interest and encouragement, they’ve chosen different characters to lead the story.  Flattering, although not the direction I’m going toward.  What to do?  After all, I am the AUTHOR.

I finally decided that rather than trying to shave, chisel, or jam my round characters into square holes, I would just let them tell me where to go (in the story).  It is amazing to see where they lead me in the telling of their life.  It has become easier to “pick up the pen” to continue rather than face another day of trying to justify myself.

Have I been replaced?  Has my creativity expanded?  Have the inmates taken over?  Yes, yes, and yes.  But it’s okay.  You see I made the decision to let them work hard while I just sit back and follow.  After all I am the AUTHOR!

Who is writing your story?

I hope you enjoyed Marie’s contribution and find it fosters the flow of some fresh creativity.  Please feel free to comment on what Marie had to share and ask her any questions you may have.

Look for future guest posts from Marie and more of my favorite writers here at Writer’s Block.

 

Take Your Characters Hula Hooping

Standard
A hula hoop contingent in the 2007 Summer Sols...

A hula hoop contingent in the 2007 Summer Solstice Parade, Fremont Fair, Seattle, Washington marched the route while “hula hooping”; they deliberately had an oversupply of hula hoops, and continually urged people in the viewing crowd to join them. Many did, at least briefly. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The best plot in the world won’t go anywhere without great characters for your readers to experience it with. Readers, whether they know it or not, live vicariously through your characters. If you’ve done your job right they will become emotionally invested in your characters and care about what happens to them by the story’s end.

Characters deliver our story to the reader through the events that unfold in the plot. If you really do your job right, your characters will grow, evolve and be forever changed by the resolution to your story’s conflict.

This change can be as simple or as earth shattering as you want. The more profound it is, the more satisfied your readers will be. Why? Because it means as a storyteller, you offered them a story where the stakes were high, and that, makes for good reading. These days, more than ever, your readers need to feel their time with your book is time well spent.

For me, I have come to discover that most times when my plot stalls it’s because I have begun to focus more on the plot and less on the characters. My first clue is when I write more than two pages without dialogue. It means my story is being told -not experienced.

Why does this happen? It happens because my characters stop talking to me. Always sitting on my shoulder telling me what happens next, my characters drive my plot. But when I write them into unfamiliar territory where they are not sure how they feel, what they would say or what they are experiencing emotionally and intellectually, they stop talking and my plot stalls like a car without gas.

At this point, I’m usually onto something good. After all the idea is to challenge your characters, take them out of their comfort zone, shock them. So, rather than abandon my plot’s current progression, I take a break and spend some quality time with my characters -outside of my story’s setting and away from the plot. This way I can get to know them better and even learn some things about them I never knew. The results? It’s like adding Nitrous to that stalled car’s engine.

Here are some ways I grow my characters.

Fill out an online dating questionnaire for them.
Have you ever seen one of these? They can be tedious and comical. They are designed to give a complete stranger a 360° look at who you are without boring them before they’re hooked. They ask everything from your shoe size to your bedtime. They put your sense of humor on a scale, make you choose between chocolate and vanilla and divulge your most embarrassing moment.

Play Truth or Dare.
Imagine you are at a party. Someone says, “Hey let’s play Truth or Dare.” First think about how willing your character would be to play. If they suddenly cry out, “Gee- look at the time… I gotta go.” Then you need to figure out why. If they stay for the game, think about some questions and how they may respond- truth or dare. If they keep saying truth, think of harder questions. If they say dare…don’t let them off the hook.

Invite them Hula Hooping.
One of my favorite writers, Lisa Markov (Cousin Lavinia, 2012) recently took up hula hooping. When she first told me I wasn’t sure I heard her correctly. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized this wasn’t something new I had just learned about Lisa. Hula hooping was right up her alley…energetic, colorful and fun.

One day Lisa shared with me that she was at a dead end with her new story. She just couldn’t get a hold on her characters and without them she didn’t care much about writing. So, I told her to invite them hula hooping.

Inviting your characters to join you in your favorite hobby or pastime is a great way to relax with them and get to know them better.

Would they be good at this activity or clumsy? Would they play fair and be a good sport? Would they have a lucky shirt they wore when they participated? Is this something new for them or do you share this interest with you? What kinds of things would you talk about if your minds were away from all of life’s trials and tribulations and you were having good clean fun?

Ask them to watch a marathon of your favorite TV show.
Play your favorite board game or go shoot some hoops.
Invite them to help you bake for a bake sale.
Take them fishing, rock climbing, to your spin class.
My personal favorite…spend a day at the barn.

The more intimately you know your characters, the more you can challenge them and richer their experiences will be throughout your plot.

What do you do to get to know your characters better?

Aside

A short story with a Big heart.
Available wherever eBooks are sold!

On a crisp winter afternoon, eight year old Inez steps out into the middle of her Papa’s tree farm with a piece of paper and some twine squeezed tightly in her mitten. A few days later, she wakes to find that one simple act of kindness is never truly a single act.

Now in the eve of her life, Inez seeks to pass on that simple act and does so in the most unexpected way.

Inspired by a true story; One Act: Papa’s Trees, takes its readers on a heartwarming, multigenerational journey that starts with one small wish and never truly ends.

Available wherever eBooks are sold!

One Act: Papa’s Trees