To quote Magnum, PI: "Now, I know what you're thinking. And you'd be right! Only..."
One of the most common pieces of writing advice I've heard is this: You need a Killer First Line, one that will hook the reader, be he/she an editor, an agent, your best friend, a stranger in Barnes and Noble, or even your mom. A Killer First Line grabs the reader's attention and pulls them, helplessly into your story, ensuring that they will read the second line. A Killer First Line sets up the rest of your book. And there's always the hope that if you nail that Killer First Line, it's going to be gracing blog posts and articles about writing from here until the end of time.
Needless to say, there is a TON riding on your first line. So much so, that you can spend hours, days, sometimes even weeks tinkering with the line, loving the line, hating the line, re-writing the line again and again, getting caught like a fish on a... line (see what I did there? :) ). It's daunting, that Killer First Line. It can even be debilitating. Which is why I recommend that you completely ignore the Killer First Line.
"WHAT?!" You exclaim. "Ignore the first line and lose out on fame and fortune and retweets? Are you insane?"
No, I'm not (or at least this isn't proof of it). I'm not saying never address the Killer First Line. I'm saying ignore it for your first draft. Maybe even your second or your third draft. Leave it alone - write a place-holder line and then ignore the stupid thing. Write the book first. Then write the first line.
I know this sounds backwards, but I actually have some good reasons to suggest this: the first being, if you choke up on the first line, you'll never finish the book. Trust me, I've been there before. I concentrated so hard on one stupid sentence, a sentence I couldn't conquer, that I lost interest in the book and faith in myself and the story died on the vine. Tragic, I know, but I recovered.
But the more important reason is the second one: Until you've written the book, you don't really know what it's about.
Stories are funny things. You set up a scenario, you find your characters and your settings, you outline, and you begin. You think you have it all worked out until suddenly, magic happens, the story twists, and you find yourself in a place you never expected. Or, the story turns out somewhat like you'd originally imagined, but halfway through the story, you realized a deeper meaning to the story or the characters. This is the good stuff, these unexpected treasures. Second drafts were made to expound on them, take advantage of them, and pare away the dross of unneeded prose so that the shining gold of your discovery can be made visible. And once you find the gold, bam! There's your Killer First Line.
That's not to say that your Killer First Line is going to be any easier to write in draft three. Most likely, it'll be just a tricky. But at least then you'll know what story your actually setting up, the true story, the story that lay buried deep within your initial outline (or in your imagination, if your pantser).
The moral of this story? Killer First Lines are amazing, but they aren't actually the first thing. Your story is. Without the story, without the book itself, the Killer First Line is really just a line, a throw-away that means little without the bigger story to back it. So write your story first and the Killer First Line will follow. It's practically a guarantee.
Agree? Disagree? Have a better idea? Comment below and let me know what you think!
I first met Derek Foley when Terry brought him on the Early Late Night Live Show as co-host and it quickly became apparent that we had a lot in common, including a love of Star Trek. (Though he's prefers Picard and I'll always choose Kirk.) A pool player and organizer of Super Megafest, Derek's intro was an easy and fun one to write. Enjoy and let me know what you think!
Star Trek – TOS:
Captain’s Log, supplemental:
On a mission from Star Fleet to bring back a piece of stolen technology, Mr. Spock and I find ourselves trapped behind the Neutral Zone in a small Romulan frontier town called Sargon’s Waste. We have the technology, but our ship has been destroyed. Thanks to Spock’s quick thinking and Vulcan resemblance to Romulans, we’ve not been discovered yet. Time is running out and we find ourselves in need of a ship and a pilot. We’ve been directed to Garak’s Tavern and told to ask for a man named Foley, who won’t ask too many questions…
Garak’s was like any other tavern on the outskirts of any other civilization: run-down and tense, with representatives from every corner of the galaxy. The people who congregated at these places only had two things in common: a love for alcohol and the desire to be anywhere but home.
The Vulcan was adapt at many forms of communication, but the tavern was clearly out of his depth. He hesitated in the doorway and Kirk, breathing easier in an atmosphere he understood, nudged him gently.
“In the corner,” he murmured.
They weren’t the only anomaly in the bar that night. A human stood bent over a game table, a game that reminded Kirk strongly of pool, though this one was played with holographic tribbles that were hit into the mouths of crocodile-like creatures. As they approached, the human sunk a shot and, looking pleased, stepped around to set up his next move.
“Are you Foley?” Spock asked.
The human glanced up at him. He was sturdily built, with short cropped hair, and, unlike most of Garak’s patrons, clean shaven.
“Depends on who’s asking,” Foley said, and turned back to the table. His cue stick struck with practiced efficiency and the hologram tribble squealed as it disappeared into the crocodile’s maw. Foley grunted with satisfaction and straightened up. “If you’re looking for a pilot, I might be available.”
“Nice shot,” Kirk said.
Foley glanced at him and grinned a lopsided grin.
“I hate tribbles,” he said with simple sincerity.
In that instant, Kirk knew that they’d found their man.
My brother, Spencer, loves all things western, especially when they're detective shows set (better still if created in) the 1970s. Think Rockford Files. The fact that Spencer actually owns and frequently wears a cowboy hat (despite having never left New England) made this an easy intro to write.
The biker leaned over me, his hot breath fanning my face. I was still reeling from the car accident and my eyes hadn’t yet adjusted to the burning desert sun. The dust was thick, choking my throat, rasping at the throats of the jeering, cat-calling crowd that surrounded me and Julie. Julie was whimpering – but with two men pinning my arms and the third demanding money I didn’t have, there was little I could do.
“I said, you gotta pay the toll, man,” the biker said. He leaned in closer, his leering face inches from my own. “You gotta pay.”
“I haven’t got anything,” I rasped and grunted when someone jammed a fist into my ribs.
“Well now, ain’t that just too bad?” the biker said and he stepped back. “All right, boys…”
He never got a chance to finish. There was the roar of an over-sized engine, a squeal of tires, a cloud of red-tinged dust, and then, most ominously of all, the booming shock of a shot-gun, fired close by.
The dust settled around an enormous pickup truck. A tall, rangy man with a battered jacket, a cowboy hat, and a tin star stood in the doorway of the cab. He held the shot-gun like it was a part of his arm and his dark brown eyes scanned the crowd as he chewed slowly on a wad of tobacco.
“Party’s over, boys,” Sheriff Traynor said and adjusted the shot-gun ever so slightly. “I think you all better go on home now.”
Every once in a while, I post on my Facebook page, asking friends and strangers for volunteers in a writing exercise. Essentially, I write an intro for them into a non-existent novel. It's a fun exercise for me, as I try to use what I know about the person to inform, not only their entrance, but the style of the book or story that I think they'd best suit. About two weeks ago, singer/songwriter and actress Kate Eppers graciously allowed me to use her likeness in this, a scene from a fairy tale/fantasy. Be sure to let me know what you think!
Mila’s heart was pounding in her chest. Fear screamed for her to run onward, but her brother’s desperate cry forced her to turn. Elias was on the ground, his legs entangled in fallen branches. Beyond him, still hidden by the forest, bodies crashed through branches and underbrush. The goblins were nearly upon them.
She ran back and pulled on the branches, but they were woven tight. Elias’ face was streaked with tears, his legs scratched and bloody.
“Come on!” Mila cried, tearing at the branches. It was no use – it was an enchanted trap and there was no immediate escape. Even as the first goblin appeared, a nightmarish creature all teeth and claws, clutching its club and screeching in triumph, she knew they were lost.
“Mila!” Elias pushed her off. “Run!”
“No!” She grabbed a fallen branch and held it ready as more goblins appeared. She wouldn’t leave her little brother and if they had to die, at least they would die defending themselves.
The goblins screeched in triumphant unison and scrambled towards them, teeth bared and mouths dripping in anticipation. Cold fear drenched Mila’s body and she stepped forward so that she could absorb the first blow. The nearest goblin launched himself at her, so close she could see the black flecks in his glowing red eyes and… suddenly, everything changed.
A song rent the air, high, delicate, and gorgeous. A shimmering translucent wall of pure energy sprung up in front of Mila. The goblin hit the wall, hard, but didn’t go through. He fell to the ground and rolled away, his skin black and sizzling from where it had made contact. The same thing happened when the other goblins touched the wall, until they were all burning. They ran along the wall, looking for entrance, but it stretched far out of sight and the song held it strong. Finally, burnt and angry, they disappeared into the forest. And Mila, still reeling from this sudden change of events, turned to see singer.
A woman stood behind the two children. Even her hand had not been raised for the spell, they would have known it was she who conjured the wall, for she resonated with pure energy and song. She was of medium height, with loose blond hair, dressed a white robe. She lowered her hand, finished the song, and then smiled brightly at the two frightened children.
“It’s all right,” she said. “You’re safe now, in my kingdom.” She made a motion with her finger and the branches released Elias.
“Who are you?” Mila stammered, as Elias got to his feet.
When the woman said her name, it was so long and complicated that the children could only stare in confusion. The woman laughed.
“Just call me Kate,” she said and reached for their hands. “Come on! We’ve got places to go and things to see!”
Rejection is part of the game of life. But what does it actually mean about you, personally?
As part of my new 2020 initiative, I decided (among other things) that I was going to be braver, that I was going to put myself and my work out there a little more. I've always wanted to be a published author (hooray for Amazon!), which I managed, but I wanted to reach out and try it a different way. I decided I need to query more literary agents.
Now, for those of you who don't know, when you write a fabulous new novel, authors these days have two options: they can publish it themselves, using Amazon or WattPad or any number of platforms, or they can do it the old fashioned way. As I've always had a not-so-secret hankering to be published by HarperCollins or Penguin, I decided to pursue this route, which entails writing a synopsis of your book, a query letter for said book, and then sending query letters and samples to literary agents who, if they like it, will sign you on as a client and then shop your manuscript around to publishers like Penguin and HarperCollins.
I've been down the query road many, many times before. My twenties is a decade papered over with rejection letters. It hurt back then, when I was a tenderfoot, but now, I decided, I was tough. I've gotten bad reviews. I've gotten rejected, both to my face and online. I can take whatever is dished out. Accordingly, I lovingly crafted my letter, my synopsis, and triple-check my sample and then sent it out to a number of agents. I got back the usual auto-letters, thanking me for my submission and politely informing me that I can expect to hear back from them in 2-8 weeks. "Fine," I thought, "I can wait."
Not an hour later, the first rejection letter came in. One particular agent couldn't wait to clear my query out of her inbox. As it turns out, I was wrong - you're never too tough for rejection to sting a little.
To be absolutely fair, the pre-filled rejection letter was polite and even encouraging. My story was not to the taste of this particular agent, but fret not, for surely the perfect agent must be out there! I was not inclined to take this part of the letter to heart. All I could see was the sentiment "Thanks but move along."
Turns out, this reaction of mine is not uncommon. Being cautious creatures, who long ago were at the bottom of the land-based food chain, we tend to focus on the dangers and the pains rather than the bright side of any situation. But just because we initially do, it doesn't follow that we have to stay there.
In real terms, however, this one pre-filled rejection letter does absolutely nothing (except sound the death knell on a potential business relationship). The literary agent was quite correct in saying that just because my story didn't appeal to her, it doesn't mean that it doesn't appeal to anyone. But let's say the worst happens. Let's say no one wants to publish it. What then?
I realized very quickly that, if every literary agency in New York City rejects my manuscript, if Penguin or HarperCollins never learn of my existence, if every troll on Amazon puts my work at the top of their target list, none of that really changes anything. I'll still write. I'll still pepper my friends with questions like, "Would this work?" "What do you think of this plot twist?" I'll still type until my eyes are so tired until they feel like they are going to fall out. I'll still day dream and compose and make up brand new worlds in the privacy of my own head. It's what I do. It's what I've always done. Rejections sting, 'tis true, but they don't actually change much. I'm still me. I still like what I do and what I write, and lucky for me, I can still do it, regardless. There is great power in realizing where the real power lies.
So if you like what you're doing, keep on keeping on. Keep working it, keep growing, keep learning, keep trying, and remember: no amount of rejections can stop you from doing what you love. It may lead you to a new or different way of expressing your passion (you may not work with Leonardo DiCaprio, but you can still be in some pretty cool indie films), but in this day and age especially, there a more avenues for creative expression than ever before. So stick with it and keep going.
So I guess I better keep on keeping on. And while I'm at it, I'll treat myself to a chocolate bar tonight. Because rejection, even if it doesn't mean all that much in practical terms, it still has a sting.
I love it when a book defies my expectations and takes me to a terrific place! So imagine my delight when Risah Salazar of Reader's Favorite reported the same thing happening to her in her review! Below is the full review. Many thanks to Reader's Favorite for the review and remember folks: if you need a Christmas Gift, Universal Threat is at your disposal! #shamelessplug
Reviewed by Risah Salazar for Readers' Favorite
When Heather Miller introduces Jeff Levinson to her family as a friend, her brother, Nick, doesn't buy it. And when she tells them they're going hiking up a mountain, Nick had something else in mind. The three of them were supposed to trek up Lorne Mountain but Nick, in the hopes of wanting to see Jeff give up, took them to the steeper and wilder Stark Mountain instead. Heather protests but soon gives in, and the next thing they know, they are carefully treading up Stark Mountain. With Jeff getting excited, Nick feels defeated but doesn't lose hope. However, Nick's plans are put on hold when they hear a not-so-successful landing of an alien spaceship nearby. Universal Threat by Killarney and Margaret Traynor will make you scared yet have you clinging to hope at the same time.
First of all, I did not expect anything big from this book but I was wrong. This story was exciting and action-packed. I loved all the characters and how they developed throughout the plot. Though they made some pretty bad choices that seemed impractical and naive, I was still able to relate to them in some ways. Nick meant no harm, he just wanted what he thought was best for his sister. Jeff is not afraid to express himself although sometimes his personality makes others uncomfortable. Heather sees the good in everyone and believes that good will triumph over evil every time. The underlying concept of love and unity amidst conflict was evident. Killarney and Margaret Traynor's Universal Threat will help restore your hope in humanity. Trigger warnings include divorce/broken family and violence.
1. Hi and welcome to Wanderings! Our audience is dying to get to know you, so tell us a little bit about yourself!
Thank you for having me. It’s nice to be here.
I’m what would qualify as a ‘lady of mature years’, having raised five children, unofficially adopted another, who between them have brought twelve gorgeous grandchildren into my life, two of whom are now married. It’s rather disconcerting to also be mother to a grandfather, since we now have a great-grandchild. Yikes! Where did the time go? And here I am, only 26 years old! The upshot of all that is that I have loads of life experience to bring to my writing, as you can perhaps imagine.
I’ve always been a writer. It captured my heart as soon as I realised I could express myself that way, and I used to love essay writing at school. I wrote articles for the Women’s Page in a local newspaper when my children were young. Then progressed to short stories for magazines. And now, I write Contemporary Women’s Fiction, and have 9 published novels sitting on my bookshelves.
I’m currently enjoying a bit of a departure out of my comfort zone and have a historical romantic strand in my contemporary work in progress. It’s still in the early stages, but I’m thoroughly enjoying the research I’m having to do and the adjustments I have to make to my writing style to invoke a different era.
Although I was born in London, England, I have lived most of my life in Scotland - ten miles outside Edinburgh for the past forty or so years and my novels are all set in and around Edinburgh, though some of them wander elsewhere in Scotland in the unfolding. I love going ‘on location’, checking out the settings and making sure of my facts.
2. What inspires your writing?
Stories! I have so many stories buzzing around in my head all the time. It’s great to have a way to record them. I’m a ‘people person’, sociable and interested in people of all sorts. A ‘people watcher’ too, making up stories about the man running for the bus, the woman in the checkout queue ahead of me who has rather a lot of wine in her basket, or the teenager looking round furtively as she walks along the street. My novels are very much character-based as a result. There’s always a story, but it’s people who inspire me.
3. What inspired you to write Gold Plated?
My latest release, Gold Plated, was inspired while I was on holiday in 2016.
My husband and I were walking on a beach in the North of Scotland. Often, walking is a great time to chat, sharing thoughts and dreams, decisions and schemes, but today we were silent. There was a heavy mist on the North Sea and the horizon was hiding, taking our words with it. There was something about the haar: it silenced birds, the wind, the whisper of long grass as well as our words - but it couldn’t silence the continuous rolling waves as they broke onto the beach - and it couldn’t silence our thoughts.
Often, thoughts would tumble out of our silence and we would share them. There was no reason not to today - yet we didn’t. We were enjoying a world shrouded in a soft, white veil, from which rays of sunshine struggled to break free while the sea, ruthless, relentless, ripped through to crash on the shore.
I didn’t ask what he was thinking, but concentrated on the story that was forming in my mind.
We were here on vacation with our family and there, set like a pearl in the middle of the two weeks in 2016, was our anniversary. Forty-nine years of married bliss.
But that’s never true, is it?
No-one is perfect, so no two imperfect people can forge a perfect marriage - not even us. We’d had ups and downs - never ins and outs - and some years were better than others - but we’d never not wanted to be married to one another.
Our children had asked what we wanted to do to celebrate our Golden Wedding Anniversary the following year, 2017.
The conversation still swirled in my mind as my husband and I walked in our misty, magical silence.
Then, in a sudden rush of gold, the sun won the struggle to light the world, compelling us to pause to take a few photographs.
I stood at the water’s edge.
Wave after wave of water rolling in, breaking with cold white froth over the landscape of the beach - year after year of life rolling in, breaking with warm love over the landscape of our marriage.
But what if?
What if it had been different?
So I wrote a story about a very different couple who had a very different fifty-year marriage from ours.
4. What is your new book about?
Gold Plated is about a couple, Rosanna and Paul, who are celebrating fifty years of marriage. When the story starts, their daughter, Heather, is helping Rosanna plan a Golden Wedding Anniversary party, and it looks like being a wonderful night: sixties music, all their friends and family present, good food and a beautiful location. Rosanna has been wresting with what to get the man who has everything, but has now bought the perfect golden gift for Paul:
“I can already feel the glow in my cheeks at his surprise in my choice. I think he assumes I’ll be getting him solid gold cufflinks or something.”
When an uninvited guest shows up at the party, Rosanna’s world is shaken and she is forced to look back over their fifty golden years and see them as they were.
Were they golden? Or just gold-plated?
So this book traces the ups and downs and drama of a love affair that lasts more than fifty years, surviving against all odds - but has it? And will it continue to survive?
5. Romance is the best! Which classic couple is your favorite: Elizabeth and Darcy? Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester? Romeo and Juliet? Or do you have another favorite and if so, what makes them the best?
Of the ones you mention, I’d have to say Elizabeth and Darcy. I think theirs would be a love that would last. They were both mature and made their decision to marry based on a love so deep it was able to overcome the constraints of the era.
I don’t usually write romance novels as such, though there is always some romance in the course of telling the story. I write about life, relationships, family - and romance is certainly part of that, just not always the main story line in my novels.
Having said that, this latest one, Gold Plated, is a love story so plenty romance in it. In fact, it is Contemporary Romantic Fiction.
All of my books, including Gold Plated, are ‘clean reads’ with no sex, swearing or gratuitous violence. I find it’s possible to allow the reader to feel romance and emotion without being graphic, by using a few well-chosen words and phrases. Like Jane Austen in Pride and Prejudice, it is possible to show passion in your writing while still keeping the book family friendly.
Bonus Question: So, you’ve just written a book: what’s next?
Another book of course. Set in Scotland again, this time partly contemporary and partly set in the early years of the 20th Century. And I’m having a great time writing it.
Check Out All of Christine's Links Here!
Amazon author page: http://author.to/ChristineCampbell
Facebook Group: Christine’s Kist Of Stories: https://www.facebook.com/groups/199853890760414/
YouTube Video: https://youtu.be/Cw0Dyt1Yeq4
Trailer for The Reluctant Detective Series: https://youtu.be/kg8HIhMszg4
1. Hi and welcome to Wanderings! Our audience is dying to get to know you, so tell us a little bit about yourself!
Hello, and thank you for having me by. I’m the proud author of eight sweet, historical romance novels. I live in Toronto and love living where I can walk to everything. But we also love to get out of the city and hike in nature. Like most authors, I started out as an avid reader and I still love to read. Another passion of mine is travel. My husband actually inspired both of these loves. He dared me to start writing and he’s the one who got me hooked on travel. I’m also “trying” to get addicted to exercise since both reading and writing are sedentary activities and I want to be healthy enough to keep pursuing my interests until I’m old and gray.
2. When did you begin writing? What inspires your writing?
For me, these two questions go together. I’m an avid reader, as I said. If I’m reading a good book, even if the house exploded, I might not notice until I finished. My husband, not an avid reader, doesn’t love this particular quality. He used to complain about my reading and suggest I ought to be writing books instead of reading them. Finally, when I wouldn’t stop reading, he challenged me to write a book before I read another one. I didn’t think I could do it, but I accepted his dare and stuck my behind in front of my computer and gave it a shot. The end result, after a year or two of hard work, was my first published book, Tempting the Earl. Now I love writing almost as much as reading, but it doesn’t preoccupy me in the same way so my husband doesn’t mind nearly as much. And I love my husband dearly so I would say he’s my inspiration. This challenge took place about ten years ago with my first book getting published in 2010.
3. Family is so important! How does your family inspire and support your work?
My husband is very supportive. He thinks it’s great that his wife is a published author. He “lives” every book along with me. While we both know my characters aren’t real, we have been known to discuss them as though they were. If anyone ever overheard us, it would be hilarious! And my parents are my biggest fans! They read each draft of every book and then buy it when it releases. They are my motivation because they’re always anxious for the next one.
4. I know you love to travel! Do you set your stories in places you’ve been?
Yes! But I did it in reverse. I started writing my books set in England before travelling there. I had just signed the contract for my first book when we went to London to celebrate. It was a wonderful trip. We went to so many museums. There’s a museum of interiors where they have the same townhouse but how the interior would have changed through the years – VERY cool!! And then in the summer of 2016 we went again to explore places outside of London for my characters to visit – Brighton, Southampton, Bath, Salisbury, Marlborough, Blenheim… Such a fantastic trip. And SO much inspiration!! I’ve just started writing a series based on inspiration I received on that trip.
5. Where would you rather live: Avonlea with Anne? Or Concord with the March sisters? Why?
It’s hilarious you would ask this question – my first two favorite authors were Louisa May Alcott and Lucy Maud Montgomery. I want to say it’s a tie, I would love to spend time with both Anne and the March sisters. But I’m actually from Atlantic Canada, even though I now live in Toronto, so I’ll say I would rather live in Avonlea with Anne. Prince Edward Island is beautiful. And I think Anne (with an “e”) might be a little more peaceful of a companion than being in the midst of the four March sisters.
I have read all the Anne books and all of “Jo’s” books multiple times. Now that you’ve reminded me of them, I should dig them out and read them again!
You'll never know what you don't know about a period until you're writing a book or making a movie about that era.
Seriously. It's odd what you find yourself typing into the Google search bar. For instance, when I was writing Necessary Evil, I needed to know everything worth knowing about engagement rings during the Civil War. Were engagement rings used? If they were, did they have stones? Were they gold? Could we tell what they were just by looking at them?
Similarly, with The Dinner Party, I've found myself researching things that I never would have dreamed of looking into. Here are a few instances:
- If you were a jerk, would you call an Irishman a 'potato-eater' (Answer: yes.)
- Do the Felsons own a mill or a factory? (Answer: both. It is a factory, but its powered by water, which means it would have commonly been referred to as a mill)
- Would a husband lead a wife into the dining room for an elegant dinner party? (Answer: no, indeed! The very gauche idea!)
- How close would an owner's/overseer's house be to the mill/factory he ran? (Answer: it varied, probably dictated by wealth, wife, and how smelly the factory/mill was.)
- What would young radicals be ranting to their elders about? (Answer: pretty much the same thing they are ranting about now, only with fewer selfies.)
Fortunately, I really love this kind of thing. Research like this makes the past come alive in ways a text-book can't quite touch. Movie-making, too, allows us to remember that our ancestors were, at the end of the day, people just like you and me, trying to make a go of things and learning, working, laughing, fighting, and loving along the way.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to find out whether lemons would have been available in New Hampshire in May of 1906...
1. Hi and welcome to Wanderings! Our audience is dying to get to know you, so tell us a little bit about yourself!
Thank you for having me. I am a happily married homeschooling mother of three kids. Writing is my passion and cover design my hobby. I love a good story. If I can’t find one, I endeavor to write one.
2.What inspires your writing?
Life inspires me. I love people: how they make decisions, relate to those they love and hate, and what they pursue. Situations can spark ideas. Conversations, visual impressions, and people’s body language all have provoked me to mull over new ideas.
3. What inspired you to write this book?
Seventh Born, and the whole Talented Trilogy, started with an idea over a decade ago now. My husband I were having difficulty having children and I was faced with the very real possibility that we would remain childless. As I realized that dream might be slipping away, I prayed a lot, trying to find a new long term dream or goal, a purpose. The answer was publishing. With that in mind, I struggled with the fact that all of the publishers I looked into were not looking for what I wrote: non-magical historical-like medieval-like romance with adventure. So, I decided to try to write straight fantasy. What if one of my main characters were a public official in a country that officially followed a different religion, sort of like the prophets of the Bible? What if I used the seventh son concept that I kept encountering in my reading at the time? What if I threw in some special abilities that could be possibly genetically engineered? But I didn’t want to do science fiction so I set it in a regressed society inspired by some Roman cultural aspects (in their dress, architecture, and vocabulary), but not in everything, which gave me room to world build in new directions.
4. Romance is the best! Which classic couple is your favorite: Elizabeth and Darcy? Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester? Romeo and Juliet? Or do you have another favorite and if so, what makes them the best?
One of my long-time favorite books is Jane Eyre. However, Elizabeth and Darcy hold a close second. Darcy, especially, has inspired a character in some of my books. Lord Dentin of Honor and the Novels of Rhynan series is almost a medieval version of Darcy. However, all that said, I tend to be drawn to romantic couples and their relationships. Realistic romance tends to crop up in all of my books.
5. So, you’ve just written a book: what’s next?
More writing and publishing is on the agenda. I currently have five novels (the next two in The Talented series, the first installment in a science fiction series, a contemporary inspirational romance, and then third novel in the Novels of Rhynan series) are in the pre-publishing process. I am currently writing the first draft of a novel in a new series, with at least five more installments planned. I still even more ideas simmering on the back-burner for more novels. I can’t wait to write them all!
I know, I know, I feel the Monday blues, too. But to lift your spirits and to keep you motivated, here are some quotes from the best writers in the business.
Happy Monday, All!
Arthur Daigle is the author of the William Bradshaw series, as well as a biologist, avid gardener, and amateur artist. In this week's Five Questions For, he talks about his inspirations and why he isn't the tortured-writer-type.
1. When did you begin writing?
I started writing back in high school. I had free time between classes and not much to do (I’m not much of a joiner), and I decided to spend some time writing. It’s addictive. My earlier works will never see the light of day, and that’s for the good of mankind, but it was a steppingstone to the work I do today.
2. What inspires your writing?
Oh where to begin? I draw inspiration from places you’d expect and ones you’d never guess. Books, movies, TV, dreams, back of the box video game descriptions, and sometimes the ideas just kind of show up, no idea where they came from.
3. What do you hope people get from your work?
I want them to laugh so long and so hard that the world looks a bit better when they’re done.
4. I know when I write a book, I always have a particular person in mind as an audience. Who do you write for?
See, that’s not the way I write. I write the kind of books I wish I could find at bookstores and libraries, so I’m basically writing for myself. I’ve since learned that middle school students, adults and seniors enjoy my work.
5. Not only are you a writer, but you love the natural world: tell us more about that passion!
I have a degree in biology and am a lifetime gardener. This helps me make fantasy worlds that better follow real world laws. You wouldn’t think that matters, but there comes a point where even lovers of fantasy ask why basic facts of nature are being ignored.
6. I use soundtracks to help keep me on track with books. Do you have any writing rituals to keep you motivated and in the mood?
I take long walks. Besides being good exercise, I find it helps me think. I imagine scenes from my books like short movie clips running in my head. These clips ‘run’ anywhere from a few seconds to five minutes long. Once I have enough of these mental clips, I sew them into a complete book and then begin writing.
7. I love sci-fi and Star Trek, so I have to ask: who’s better, Kirk or Picard? And why?
Kirk. There is an episode in Next generation where Worf’s adopted brother alerts the Enterprise that a world with intelligent aliens is about to suffer a worldwide catastrophe that will wipe out all life. Picard replied that the Prime Directive required him to let the world’s inhabitants die. It was a legalistic response without humanity, and it basically meant that a society not advanced enough to ask for help deserved to die rather than “contaminate” it by helping, as if extinction was a better alternative. The episode really bothered me. Kirk would have said, “Saving innocent people is more important than the rules.”
8. Okay, now the big question: Star Trek or Star Wars?
That’s a hard one because Star Wars has literally decades of TV shows and Star Wars has only the movies. I like both for different reasons. Trek has a wider universe with many sides (Klingon, Romulans, Cardasians and so forth). Wars did a better job of showing what life was like for the average man and the worlds looked more lived in.
9. So, you’ve just written a book: what’s next?
Write more books. Like I said, it’s addictive. I’ve heard of the tortured writer and I just can’t relate to that. When I write I get into a sort of flow where time flies by unnoticed. It’s a good feeling when I make work I’m proud of, and whether my books sell well or not, I’ll always keep writing.
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In this new feature, we ask indie writers five very important questions about themselves and their work! Five Questions For... will appear on this blog every other Monday - be sure to sign up for the newsletter and never miss a great new author!
Jenna Books is an award-winning novelist, editor, columnist, coach, and instructor. She writes psychological thrillers that focus on domestic violence and its shattering aftermath, with a special emphasis on family law and the court system. She talks to us here about her passion for writing. Be sure to check out her interview on the Late Night Live show on Narrow Street Films on April 25!!
1. I know when I write a book, I always have a particular person in mind as an audience. Who do you write for?
I write to get my anger out. I write for me. I want people to open their eyes and look around before it’s too late, before they’re facing a situation and don’t know what to do about it. I have to admit, when you read my books, there’s a lot of high style venting. I think I just write so I don’t die of intestinal problems.
2. What made you angry?
I worked as a divorce coach, with a specialization in domestic violence. One afternoon my client and I was threatened by her ex, threatening to run us down with his truck – revving his engines, screaming at us through his window. Not an active threat, but a visual. I got her into her car, sent her on her way, then turned to him and said, “Look, moron, I’m not your wife. If you kill me, you’re going to go to jail.” (I have no sense of self-preservation.)
I was furious. I was driving home, shaking, and suddenly it occurred to me, “What if he had done it?” And that’s where October Snow was born.
3. Family is important! How does your family inspire and support your work?
My son hasn’t even read my books! My daughter edits them, though. They are really supportive. When I told them I was quitting my job and getting a tiny apartment to write full time, they weren’t even surprised. They just said, “Hey, that’s great, Mom!” I think they’re used to my doing weird things. We are a really weird family.
4. Which author is you biggest influence?
The apostle James. I’ve gotten more out of that little book than an entire library. He’s kind of like me, just bucking conventional wisdom. Paul’s pretty good, too.
5. Do you have any writing rituals to keep you motivation?
I don’t even write from an outline – I just write when I’m in the mood. I always know what social message I want and I go from there. Though, as soon as I type ‘The End’, I sigh contentedly, I light a cigarette and pour myself a shot of amaretto. So that’s a ritual.
Bonus Question! So you’ve written two books and two coaching guides. What’s next next?
Next is book three, Meltdown. Jack’s back. That’s all I’m going to say. Anyone who’s read it will know what it means.
Previously published, but worth repeating....
Now with helpful illustrations!
It is inevitable that every writer will, upon submitting their novel for editing, have that conversation. You know, the one where your editor slides your baby, the thick pile of pages that you've spent so many doting hours on, and utters those dreaded words: "I think you need to cut this scene."
Cutting unnecessary scenes is normal, a natural part of the writing process, and one that should be faced with dignity, maturity, and calm acceptance. But since we're writers and artists, calm and dignity might be expecting a little much.
It can help to know that, not only are we not alone, but there are actually five stages to receiving and accepting an edit. For the benefit of mankind, I outline them here, with illustrative dialog (which may or may not be autobiographical).
Behold: the Five Stages of Editing Acceptance (or, How to Survive Your Mean Editor, with helpful illustrations...)
The writer will resist the cut/edit/suggestion vehemently, to the point of self-delusion.
"What are you talking about? This doesn't need to be cut. This is a perfectly gorgeous scene, so well written Shakespeare would have prostrated himself before my pen! PG Wodehouse would have given up and gone into drama. Shelley and Keats would rise from the dead just to praise me in verse! Yes, it's absolutely necessary. Why? Um, character development, of course. Yes, character development. No, I'm not making that up. Shorten it? Are you nuts? The main character finds a squirrel in her house - it takes twenty pages to describe that properly!"
On facing the editor's implacable insistence, the writer will often turn hostile.
"Well, what do you know, anyway? I'm the writer - in this story, I'm the puppet master, the know-all, be-all and end-all. You just don't understand. Like everyone else, you can't just leave art alone - you have to try to destroy it. Why are we even friends? Yes, the squirrel is important! Do you hate squirrels or something? No, I will NOT keep my voice down. Yes, I will keep that scene, I will, I will, I will! You can't make me cut it. YOU ARE SO UNFAIR!"
Feeling helpless, the writer will then try to regain control of the situation.
"All right, all right, fine! I'll consider it. How about I cut it back by about five pages. Seven? Ten... Ten, and I'll also cut the grocery store scene. Okay, okay, okay, final offer: I'll cut the squirrel scene by fifteen pages and the grocery store scene and toss in another romance scene to sweeten the deal, what do you say?...
"Read it again and get back to you? If I do that, can I keep the squirrel scene?"
Being forced to accept the authority of the editor, the writer will inevitably slump into self-recrimination and depression.
"Yes, I re-read it. You were right. It's horrible. It's stupid, a complete waste of time, ink, and paper. I can't believe I wrote this. Actually, I can. I'm the worst writer ever. This book make PS: I Love You look like a Pulitzer Prize Winner. I should never have learned to write. And what's worse, I ripped into you like... like....
"Well, that’s it. I quit. I'm turning in my keyboard. I'll throw myself on my pencil. Why am I even here? I'm a terrible writer, a terrible friend, a terrible person, and I need a double shot of Crown, like, right now."
Moving forward, the writer sees the wisdom in the suggestion and begins to rebuild their self-esteem - which will last until the next edit or critique.
"Okay, okay, I've cut the scene altogether and you know what? The story flows so much better now! It isn't terrible at all! It's tight, it flows, and I am a genius! Oh, right, it was your idea, I know, but that's what editors are for, right?
"Hey, you know, I was feeling so good, I actually added an epilogue. Remember the tangerine incident? Maybe you haven't gotten that far, but it's hilarious, so I expanded it into this cool little...
"Oh, you read it? What did you think?... It's not trite. It's cute!... Cliche! Honestly, you make me so mad sometimes!"
Writers: making the emotionally unstable look like stoics since the invention of the hieroglyphic.
Your writing projects can be great sources of conversations at parties. They can, in turn, be causes of disillusionment. Every once in a while, I'll have a conversation that goes something like this (apologies to every unfortunate soul who got stuck standing next to me at a party!)
So, I hear that you're a writer. Do you make much money off your books?
Good heavens, I'm lucky if I make anything at all!
Oh, all right, so you must have a deep, meaningful message to share with the world.
What is that message?
Um... The world is a cool place with nice people in it? History is fun? Always take time to smell the roses?
<Me thinking: Wow, that is so deep! Maybe I really am a philosopher!>
<thinking: That's about as deep as a Hallmark card.>
So, you write to promote <names a cause>?
Well, I guess if it does, that's a good thing.
Oh, I see! Then you must do it for art?
Art? Golly, I'm not sure if what I do can be called art, but I'll take the compliment, thanks!
Right... So, uh.... why do you write?
Why do I write? That's very simple! It's because... Because... Uh... well, I guess because I like it.
You like it.
Yeah. Plus, I've been doing it so long I don't know what else to do, you know?
That's not terribly artsy. I thought all artists had deep philosophical thought or musings or... something. Anything. Even angst will do.
Yeah, I used to think so too. But angst is exhausting and kinda over-done, don't you find?
Oh, well, I guess... I'm sorry, why do you write again?
Because it's there.
That's why you climb mountains.
You've obviously never written a book. It's much the same.
...Okay, I'm going to go talk to your sister now.
I don't blame you. Have fun.
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