Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Writing on a Schedule

This week's question comes from Marge:

Do you write on a schedule?

When I first started, I wrote when inspiration struck. I contribute this to my starting in middle school and not having much of a life. So, when inspiration struck, I had the time available to sit down and devote an entire day to writing. The Curse of Atlantis was written this way, mainly during weekends and holidays.

I used to stand on my non-schedule platform and proclaim that I wanted to enjoy writing. I didn't want it to become a chore. When I entered college, writing when "inspiration struck" became tricky. In fact, I would often have to deny myself the luxury of writing. For example, when I have a research paper due the next week, I couldn't afford to spend an entire day writing. The more I got busy, the more I denied myself. And the more I denied myself, the less often inspiration would strike. The result was The Lord of Nightmares took two years to write and the sequel to the curse became stagnant after two years in the work field. I was stuck. I was no longer writing. And I was no longer a happy person.

I am a stubborn individual. Therefore, it took countless people telling me to write on a schedule until I finally gave in. It was two years ago now and I attended the Tony Hillerman conference in Santa Fe, New Mexico. (Loved that conference.) But one of the things that struck me was a successful author stating even if you write ten minutes a day, at least you are writing. He called writing a perishable art. I could relate because, at that time, I had not written a creative sentence in at least four months.

I started writing ten minutes a day and that quickly expanded to twenty. I still allow more time when vacations come around. But now, I am very comfortable on the schedule. When I first began, my writing was stagnant and very tough to create. But, as I continued on the routine, what I found was inspiration became more controlled. It's like my mind knew I would write when I woke up. Therefore, ideas would start to roll as I got dressed in the morning. And I never had to deny myself.

Sometimes I miss the days when inspiration would grab hold of me, increase my heart rate, and demand I release the words welling inside. I think that partly went away because I am older now--every emotion as a teenager is a little more heightened. But I have not fallen away from my passion for writing. It's just passion that is more controlled. The control didn't create a chore, but, rather, reserve time to satisfy my need to write. If anything deserves time set aside, it is writing.

So, in short, I do write on a schedule--even though if you knew me in high school this statement might shock you.

Keep the questions coming! I enjoy answering anything: Writing tips? Questions of on my stories? Anything you wish to ask an author? Click here and fill out the form. I will try to answer one every week.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Greek Gods in Myth versus Literature

I have loved mythology since I was ten. There is something about the stories that captivate me. So, if there is a book or movie referencing the topic, I get excited. The more I read/watch, the more I started to notice a distinct difference between the gods in mythology and those in popular literature.

In mythology, the gods dominate over Earth, but they are selfish. They live to satisfy their own needs and desires. They collide with each other when their desires clash. They are petty and hold grudges. Their mythologies center around these topics. They are adventures, or tales of mischievous actions. Even in Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, the gods are to be feared, but ultimately like giant leaders who happen to have powers.

Literature, however, seems to focus on the darker aspects of being a god. These gods are not driven by sexual desire or personal gain. They are driven by sacrifices. Neil Gaiman's book American Gods focuses on dark characters representing gods. One basically eats a character as a sexual sacrifice. Even in the TV show Supernatural, gods are depicted as existing and interacting for sacrifices. They want people to worship them and sacrifice to them. Literature explains this is where the core of their power comes from.

What I find interesting is that, while this has religious basis, I have yet to read about it in the actually mythologies. It makes me wonder who began the trend of turning gods dark. Perhaps it has always been around. Either way, I have to say mythological gods are light and fluffy compared to literature gods. Funny because current literature is just as soft compared to the Greek classics.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Monday's Quote: Neil Gaiman

"The world always seems brighter when you've just made something that wasn't there before." ~Neil Gaiman

This is by far the most popular quote last week. I think it is my favorite as well. I spent a lot of time discussing why I write. Gaiman pretty much sums it up in one sentence. The world is brighter when I write. In fact, if I go too long without writing a story, I get moody and depressed. Everything in life is horrible and I no longer like my life.

But, the moment I begin creating, the world opens like the skies after a storm. I am refreshed and renewed. My spirit is lifted and I love life once again. This is how I know I could never stop writing. Even if, one day, I am kicked out of the writing world, I know I will still be hidden in my room typing out the movies playing in my head. My only wish is that everyone can find something they feel the same way about.

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Friday, July 26, 2013

Have Comic Fans Changed?

Last week, many of my writer friends participated in San Diego’s Comic-Con. I have wanted to attend any comic convention, so envied them. This is a new desire as I embrace my fantasy genre. Why not before? Because, when thinking of Comic Con’s, The Big Bang Theory comes to mind. Four grown men, smarter than anyone I know, who are enthralled with comics. They collect every single installment, as well as any memorabilia. They wear T-shirts with comic insignia and debate which character has the better superpower. They are…geeks.
When I was in school, I was a self-proclaimed nerd. So much so, that in my social group, we had the valedictorian, salutatorian and every single one of my friends graduated top ten percent of our class. We were straight A nerds…but not geeks. I know. But I think life is full of categories and subcategories—especially in high school. Therefore, I believed I would not fit in at a comic convention. I don’t “speak the lingo.” I don’t dye my hair colors in the rainbow and I will not be dressing up as my favorite character unless it is Halloween…well, probably not even then because I am no longer a teen.
So, how could I possibly go to a comic convention and believe I would ever “fit in.” For one simple fact, I believe the fans are changing. I think it started with television. Shows like Supernatural were present at San Diego’s convention. But Jennifer Lawrence represented the Hunger Games series at the convention, which means it is spanning outside just comics. Movies, in an effort to capture a bigger opening weekend, have embraced a wider audience. So, they go with more action. Stories like Wolverine and Iron man always rake in a lot, but they also have huge budgets for their actions and special effects.
The question then becomes, have these movies changed the scope of comic book fans. In essence, has it become mainstream? This was confirmed for me in a news segment. They were interviewing someone at the convention. This individual stated that more people were attending the conference than ever before, that they weren’t “like us” but that they are welcome to join. I found this statement interesting. Is the face of the comic fan changing, or are conventions changing to capture more interest? Pulling in actors from genres like paranormal and young adult seem to indicate the latter.
Maybe it is as the interviewee stated. There will always be those who wear their comic tee-shirts with their blocky glasses who will buy every memorabilia (I love Big Bang Theory if you can’t tell). But, I don’t know if we can say any longer that the audience at the movies will reflect this. More importantly, I can’t say that this is even the target audience anymore. As the two genres merge, the question remains is it just a trend or a permanent change. Who cares as long as the plots are good!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Finding My Atlantis in Arizona

I grew up in Arizona, USA. Therefore, a lot of inspiration for the climate of my Atlantis novel came from the surrounding areas. While most think of Arizona as a desert, we do have higher elevations. The picture below is taken in Flagstaff, Az. I went to college here for a few years and loved the area. It always reminded me of Atlantis with the pines and the towering mountains.

This particular shot reminds me a lot of Hades Fury in the novel with the flat planes leading up to the rugged mountains. In the novel, however, the mountains rise taller. I imagine there would be better images in Montana where the planes meet the Rocky Mountains. But I share this because I think it is crucial to a writer's life. We must take the world around us and expand. Exaggerate the sights and situations to create something new. I can't travel the world, but I can certainly try to provide the feeling like I have--or better yet take my readers to someplace all new.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

What Inspired Your First Story?

Today's question is a continuation on Martha's. You can see the first part here

What inspired your first story?

Most authors hate being asked what inspired a specific story. In fact, in person I might fidget slightly if asked this question on any story other than the first. But I am happy this specifically asked about the first novel because I actually have a good response other than "I don't know" or "life happenings in general."

I am considering my "first" story to be The Curse of Atlantis because that was the first full-length novel I ever wrote. Before that, I would mimic novels I read and songs that I listened to. These would last about twenty pages, and--before anyone asks--no I will not release them as short stories...ever. I was in the 6th grade at the time and my understanding on the world--as well as how to conduct a plot line--was super small. I read them only when I want a laugh.

The second attempt at a novel was a murder mystery, and lasted fifty pages. This is mainly because I got bored of the story. Therefore the beginning is thoroughly developed and then it ends. Even still, I don't know if it would have come close to novel length...even for the typically shorter genre. I have no idea where this story came from. But, I did disturb my mother because, as a seventh grader, I wrote a novel that opens with a family of five being murdered in their own home by an assassin. Given the state of schools nowadays, I probably would have been forced into counseling when I shared it with my teacher.

So, that leaves The Curse of Atlantis. I had already dabbled in two traits that make up this novel: fantasy and historical backing. This is not to say they are historical novels. But, I had previously based a shorter story on the Bermuda Triangle. I discovered that I enjoy twisting lore with unique plots. I think that helped me when I was sitting in my World History class as a sophomore in high school.

I had the best teacher that least for me. He would act out history in his lectures, making the events seem more like a story than a string of events. This, of course, captured me from the start. I can't remember what we were studying or how it came up--however he did proclaim himself as somewhat of a psychic--but he announced one day in class that we will discover Atlantis in seven years. That captured my ear. What if we did discover it? The original story began with an explorer discovering Atlantis at the bottom of the sea. Then, while examining a statue of Poseidon, he is transported to the new Atlantis where there is a curse.

The trouble with that plot line was that he had to come in when the curse was in full swing, which meant a lot of back story to explain how it developed. Not to mention, his being new in the area was a hindrance to the plot. Points of views switched, the beginning was cut, and the new story developed. But it all started with a teacher and an idea.

What is interesting to note is that within seven years researchers found what they believed to be the ruins of Atlantis. They didn't discover a lot, most speculation based on the location, which is why it's not all over the news. But I remember smiling when I heard the small story. I guess it took the world a little longer to find Atlantis than for me.

Have a question for me? Wondering something about my novels? Have a question you always wanted to ask any writer? Click here and fill out the form. I will try to answer one every week

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Perseus: mythology's version of David and Goliath

One of my favorite characters in Greek mythology is Perseus. I just saw a trailer for the newest Percy Jackson movie. I remember thinking not too long ago that they needed to make a second. In fact, this book series is one I have on my "want to read" list, which is forever growing.

I'm not sure what captures me the most about Perseus. Maybe that he is the illegitimate son of Zeus who ultimately defeats Medusa. I know he is a demi-god, but I like the tale of him and Medusa. It's kind of like mythology's version of David versus Goliath. He goes out as a young kid to prove he can bring the king any gift he desired. Many men had tried and failed at the task, but Perseus figures it out.

Yet, what I like most about Perseus is that he is not perfect. After all, pride sends him on his voyage to kill the Gorgon. In fact, this pride lands him into the king's plot to kill him. He could easily have died from his adventure, especially since he never considered the risks. But, he survives due to a little assistance along the way, which is another thing I like. He might not have asked for it, but Perseus receives items to help solidify his success. He still had to use his skill to defeat Medusa, but it would have been harder without the assistance. This shows that even the son of Zeus is allowed to ask for help in accomplishing a task. And, if it's okay for him, then it's certainly okay for a mere mortal like myself.

Besides, And he comes away with a beautiful maiden to love, which is the perfect fairy tale ending. What more could a girl ask for in a mythological tale?

Monday, July 22, 2013

Monday's Quote: Mark Twain

"Good friends, good books and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life." ~Mark Twain

I think most readers can relate to this quote. And, while I have heard the first two a lot, the one I love is the "sleepy conscience." It's not something that we think of a lot, especially nowadays. I know in my life, I am always on the go. My "days of rest" have slowly turned into "days of catch up work". My mind is constantly strategizing how to maximize the hours in the day. The more advanced the technology, the busier I get. I have mastered the art of doing three things at once...although my memory is starting to suffer. I blame it on living by surviving the moment and not capturing it.

In fact, reading is the only time I can justify stopping. I treasure the days I can sit for hours and enjoy a novel. I tell myself it is better than watching television, because at least my brain is somewhat active. I think most of us can work on the sleepy conscience more in our lives: enjoy a stroll with the dogs, or maybe just swing on the glider out back in the twilight of day. So, let us slow down for just a moment and treasure this short time we have to live.

On that note, I start my full-time job teaching teenagers today. I will still post every day, but if the times fluctuate, then you will know the cause. But it shouldn't take me long to find my routine...I am the queen of schedules, after all.

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Friday, July 19, 2013

Does Reading Open our Minds?

In one of my discussion groups, the topic came up about the power of books to change society. The proposal was that people who read books have a tendency to be more open minded. I think it’s an interesting point. After all, reading is all about placing ourselves in another’s mindset. Readers live a different life, that’s part of the joy…the escape. We keep ourselves open to other’s feelings and experiences by doing that.

But, then I got to thinking. Why do I drop a book? Or, why do I hate a book when others give it 5 stars. Being a writer, I tend to rest on the style or voice. Sometimes I contribute it to a plot that is not developed enough for me. These are all my opinions, of course, but they seem to fit well enough. Yet, this same book received 5 stars from someone else. Part of me wonders if I am truly more open minded. Or, do I simply find and like books that match my own frame of reference and hate those that don’t?

I think the same can be said about radio programs, TV shows, and friends. If something is proclaiming a belief I am completely against, then there is a great chance I will not hang around for very long. This, I find, is especially true with politics. I know there are other opinions, and I know those people have their logical reasoning’s, but my world is happier outside of the argument. Can I say the same thing about books? Do I agree with the morals of the protagonist? Do I accept the premise because it is within my belief system…maybe matches my “way of life” more?

How many would read a book from a serial killer’s point of view? That might be okay for a chapter or two, but probably not for the entire book. What about a corporate sleaze who is after money and power? Then again, let’s not look at something so blatant. I live in middle class America. How many books I have I read where the protagonist is a poverty stricken person in a third world country? How many books are even written with similar conditions?

I think books open our minds only as far as we let them. With that being said, I do believe there are powerful novels out there that can change society. In the classics: The Wife of Bath where Geoffrey Chaucer questions societal norms. Number the Stars by Lois Lowry certainly opened my eyes to a world I could barely understand. I haven't read The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini but have heard it, too, is one of those novels capable of profoundly impacting the reader. There are countless dystopia--what I call big brother--books that cause conversation. Even The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins has room for a dialogue on modern society. There are countless more books that surpass mere entertainment. So, do books make us more open minded? Only if we seek out those outside our norm.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

New Website Art

I thought I'd take a moment to share some changes this summer. The major change has been to redesign my website. With that, I asked my brother (the family graphic designer) to create a new banner representing both books. I am very proud to showcase it here. Look for new book covers in the future as I republish novels and continue the Atlantis series in the next few months.

As always, I am nothing without you all!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

How Much Planning is Spent on Life Lessons and Themes

This week's post comes from Cindy.

When planning a story, do you contemplate life lessons or do themes go naturally?

This week's post is a tough question for me to answer. It involves a part of writing that is still a mystery. When I write, I am focused on my characters and the story I want to tell. But, most of the time I stumble into the "bigger picture" connections. So, let me try to attack this question in two parts...since I believe the answer involves both aspects.  

To address the first, I am drawn to a certain incident in college. I loved being an English major. In fact, the moment I chose this path, I came alive with novel discussions...that is until we started predicting what the author was "trying to say." I hated this because I knew some things in writing just happen. Then, I stumbled across something that proved my point. Robert Frost's poem "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" is famous for repeating the last line: And miles to go before I sleep. Critics raved about the repeated stanza, debating Frost's true intentions. What was he trying to say? The common speculation was that it highlighted death, transferring the meaning of the poem to another dimension. Frost refused to answer the question for many years, but finally caved and stated he simply needed another sentence. Sometimes things just happen in novels. I need to drive the course of the plot or I simply stumble onto a parallelism, but have no idea how events lined up for me to connect in the middle, but they do. There are other aspects readers have brought to me about my stories that I never intended, but am still overjoyed to realize exist in my work. Ultimately, I write for the reader's interpretation. If they take something away from my work, whether intended or not, then I have done my job.

As I mentioned before, this question does have a second part. There are some things that I plan. This part comes from my studies on Joseph Campbell. I spend most of my effort examining the path of the Hero's Journey. In fact, I highly recommend The Writer's Journey by Christopher Vogler for any writer (although a reader might enjoy it as well) wanting to learn the mythical plot structure. This book gives a very thorough outline for the changes a hero must face as well as the types of individuals they can encounter along the way. I don't plan very extensively into this, although it is always in the back of my mind. Too much planning, in my opinion, stifles the story. What I ultimately outline is where I begin, where I am going, and what I want change I want to showcase. I often say when I write, I start with the ending, find a beginning and then write not knowing the full journey. I do begin an idea asking a question, which does lead to a theme. Most themes involve human strengths. In Lord of Nightmares, there was most definitely a moral question I wanted to ask. But I will also say there are vast other themes that just happened (some I recognized while writing and others readers have pointed out). But, even with this limited planning, I don't think I do as much manipulation as my English classes would like to suggest. I would also be surprised if the majority of authors do.

Toni Morrison probably mapped out her symbols, allusions and themes. But, I would venture to guess the rest of us plan about half of what readers discover, which is how it should be. If I planned too much, then there would be no room for the reader to insert themselves into the novel. After all, their experience is part of what creates a great novel.

Have a question for me? Wondering something about my novels? Have a question you always wanted to ask any writer? Click here and fill out the form. I will try to answer one every week

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Mayans descendant of Atlantis

Whenever I'm writing a new Atlantis book, I always go back and conduct a little research, mainly because I like to add flavor to the plot. Sure, two characters can talk about the strange circumstances of a fellow soldier's death, but wouldn't that scene be so much better if it takes place in a bath room? Or what about adding a scene that takes place around an ancient game? Sometimes, the best cultural/governmental traits in a novel comes from real life.

The goal is to add a little truth behind the make-believe. When I wrote the first novel, I used Plato's writings only. I was fifteen at the time and therefore didn't realize how big of a topic Atlantis really was. I've discussed before the crazy theories behind the myth, but I always like to stray more toward other words no Alien assistance. On my research for the second novel, I came across one theory that the Mayans were descendants of Atlantis.

This struck me as an interesting twist. First, there's the fact that the origins of the Mayan culture is unknown. Theorists add this to the idea that "old world" architecture is very similar to the "new world"--i.e. artwork, column design, temples, and mummification. How did these designs become so similar if the two societies were completely separate? This is not the article I used for my research (I couldn't find it), but it does discuss the connections between Atlantis and the Mayans.

When I built Zeus society, therefore, I thought it was only best to add a little Mayan culture to the mix. I find fantasy literature is not about uncovering truths, but taking mythology and expanding the idea. Does it matter if I can prove a connection between the two cultures? No. But speculating and exaggerating the idea is so much more fun than proof anyway.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Monday's Quote: Steve Jobs

"Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life." ~Steve Jobs

I think this quote is relevant for anyone, especially writers. In my 20's I found myself comparing successes. I compared myself to friends who were settling and starting families. I compared myself to colleagues who got promotions. I compared myself to writers who were living the life I "wanted." I believe the 20's are spent trying to decide what we want out of life and to start to live it.

I like the idea that we need to live the life we want. Not the life society says we should live. Not the life our parents might say we should live. And most definitely not the life we think we should live. We need to live the life we want to live. We need to strive for what we love, cherishing every moment. That is the only way to be.

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Friday, July 12, 2013

Should Protagonist Age Match Reader Age?

In a conversation about the trend in books…I know, very stereotypical writer…I brought up the emergence of the New Age genre. It’s a genre between YA and adult, specifically targeting those in their 20’s. In theory, this genre can address the “coming of age” stories regarding college kids first entering the world and establishing their life. That means the industry will now have children’s books, Middle grade, YA, New Adult and then Adult. One writer mocked NA, saying now we have a genre for every age. In each genre, the protagonist should match the age group. It makes me wonder about The Curse of Atlantis, in which Pandora grows from ten years old to her twenties. Can I market it as all of the above genres….although she wasn’t the narrator, so probably not. I was once told I couldn’t possibly market as YA because my protagonists are not in their teens (typically around 16 for YA). So, when people started defining the NA genre, I became excited since mine tend to be in their 20’s. 

In theory, the age of the protagonist in each genre will be the age of the reader. I find this interesting for a simple fact. In elementary school, I only read when required. At least my teachers let me pick my own books, but I had to track so many hours per day. Being forced to read brought out my stubborn streak that asked me to rebel. I hated it for this, but also because I hadn’t found my preferred genre yet, which is what I tell non-reading teens—which is why, while classics are important, classes should focus on more modern genres as well. But that is a different post, so let me focus. I read children’s books in elementary school. My absolute favorites: Tuck Everlasting, Witch of Blackbird Pond, Sara Bishop, Shiloh, and Number the Stars. 

When I got to middle school, I completely skipped to Adult. I think part of the problem was because YA and middle grade tend to be series and the commitment frightened me. I also think that’s because they were weaker genres then. Once I became an “adult,” I began reading…and enjoying…YA. 

So, what’s my point? This industry requires authors to state their audience. I can’t simply say I write for all readers without being cast aside as an amateur without a focus. Yet, I've also heard writers criticize those who define themselves in any genre, saying they are creating limitations—selling out. While I wouldn’t go that far, I do wonder. I know many adults who read and enjoyed Harry Potter…technically a children’s book. So, should we define a market with rules of age? I know, personally, I break most of these standards. While I know I can be a little weird according to society…but am I really that far out of the norm? Maybe we should just say it’s a good book and be done. But maybe that’s too much like anarchy in the book world.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Inspiration from Mother Nature

July in Arizona is known as the Monsoon season. Typically, this is where we see the most of our rain fall in the course of five weeks. It also provides quite the entertainment of lightning, rain/hail, and flooding. And, being an Arizona native, you'd think I would have quite the selection of stormy pictures to show. But I never seem to take pictures unless on vacation. So, I thought instead I would link my local newspaper to share some awesome pics. My favorite is number 6/17. Below is an awesome lightning shot a friend of mine caught a few nights ago.

July is also the month I tend to write the most. The darkness of the storms...the unnerving roll of thunder...the rain pounding the all creates quite the nerves. For me, these nerves are the perfect ingredient for a writing session. Luckily, I have a laptop, so I don't have to worry about losing anything to power fact that may even compel me to write even more!

This year is proving to be very active, and therefore productive for my writing. I love Arizona for this month especially. But also hope everyone stays safe through this crazy time.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Where Does Inspiration Come From?

This week's question comes from Martha:

Where do you derive inspiration?

I think I get asked this particular question more than any other. I admit, even though I write, I still ask this question sometimes. Typically, the mark of a good book is when I end thinking “where did they get the idea for that?” 

I see a lot of articles and tips on how to manufacture inspiration. Many involve “people watching” at the mall or coffee shop. I still contend that this will freak people out more than it will help story ideas, but who knows. I have also heard of people reading newspaper articles and watching TV shows (or just reading books for that matter). When I first began writing, I mimicked songs, so I would suggest this particular method above all others. Some people devote their time to writing prompts and others join writer’s groups. Writers have to be careful on the latter, though. There is a thin line between finding inspiration from other writers and stealing their ideas, which is frowned upon. 

I found a blog on inspiration this morning, trying to figure out how I was going to answer this question. It lists dreams for one of the methods. I found that funny because it’s not like I can control my dreams…if I even remember them when I wake. But, I must admit that I have had dreams lead me to certain scenes. For example, in the novel I just finished about a family who can manipulate fate, I came up with the idea of a sisterly feud from a dream that was so vivid I woke up in a funky mood. Stephenie Meyer often says Twilight came from a dream of Edward talking with Bella in a field, which she later wrote into the book. So, while I can’t control my dreams, I think this is the strongest source on that list.

I actually hate when people try to come up with lists for writers to try. Typically my sources tend to be out of my control. The Curse of Atlantis came from a teacher proclaiming in history class that we will find the ruins of Atlantis in seven years (he was a little wacky, but some of the best teachers are). The Lord of Nightmares came on a dark night when I was feeding my rabbit and I looked up at a full moon, envisioning blood running over it. 

No matter where my stories come from, they tend to stay stagnant until I fall onto a question. The Curse of Atlantis was “What if we did find Atlantis?” which turned into “What if they existed and had a curse?” The Lord of Nightmares was “What if supernatural beings were the reason behind horrible crimes on the news?” The sequel to the curse is “What happened to Zeus after the war?” My ideas actually don’t start to generate until the question is defined. Where the question comes from changes, but it normally doesn’t happen until I am almost done with the book I’m currently writing—I am not one of those writers who can write multiple books at a time. This, of course, leaves me with the fear that the ideas will suddenly stop coming. Then, maybe, I will go to the lists of manufactured inspiration. 

I’m not sure where inspiration comes from while a story progresses. My method of writing involves talking out the plot with my mother (because she tolerates my crazy questions and synopsis, even giving ideas of her own). Besides that, I listen to my muse and let the story run. 

In short, where does my inspiration come from? I like to think it comes from God whispering in my ear.

Have a question for me? Wondering something about my novels? Have a question you always wanted to ask any writer? Click here and fill out the form. I will try to answer one every week

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Are Muses for Writers?

The most common question I get asked is where my inspiration comes from. In fact, that is the question I will tackle tomorrow. I can see where the Greeks came up with the idea of Muses. I, being more of a Christian, will often settle on God being the source of my ideas. This is a better answer than saying "I don't know." Even as I write, I can't explain where the scene develops. Why did I go this direction instead of that one? Typically the answer is my characters took me there and I'm just following along.

Time seems to stop when I write. Everything falls away and I am left transferred to this world I have created. I am simply an observer in that world. True, I manipulate things for the purpose of plot--my mother still has not forgiven me for killing off certain characters in the Atlantis series. But, a lot of connections just "happen" as the story unfolds. Maybe it is my love of Greek mythology, but I like to think I have a muse sitting with me. Modernizing this idea, maybe it's a Guardian Angel who whispers in my ear as the words flow from my brain to my fingers. Whatever it is, I certainly enjoy the experience.

Here's a nice blog I stumbled upon this morning. It discusses Greek muses, but also ties them into writer's inspirations. Does it answer the question of where inspiration comes from? Not really. But it does give great insight into the world of the writer and the muses who inspire them.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Monday's Quote: Diane Duane

“There is a rule for fantasy writers: The more truth you mix in with a lie, the stronger it gets.”~ Diane Duane

Today's quote is from a fantasy writer I actually have never read. I found her quote searching through goodreads. What I like about this is quote is that a lot of times people view fantasy as unlike the real world. In fact, I once heard this explanation for the difference between fantasy and sci-fi: sci-fi explains things in such a way that the reader believes it possible (i.e. the submarine before there was one or the flying car) and fantasy just has things happen (i.e. by magic).

While I agree with that to a certain extent, I believe the best fantasy touches on elements of reality. In fact, the more truth the author brings, the more the reader starts to buy into the story. Fiction is about readers accepting the story can happen and therefore caring about the characters. Fantasy is no different. "out of this world" with a touch of reality. That's the makings of a great book.

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Friday, July 5, 2013

Are Protagonists Wimpy this Summer?

I have heard and read a lot about how to write a good protagonist. Everyone has their philosophies. The top is that the protagonist must be sympathetic. Nobody wants to read about a character they don’t like. As readers, we have to buy into their story. We have to find ourselves caring. Therefore, introduction of said characters is imperative. For me, the start of a novel is the toughest. I often have editors tell me to cut the first scene down, or add in different elements to make it stronger. “Why should I care about so-in-so?” I don’t feel bad admitting this struggle. Many books begin with a fight scene, car chase, etc. Why? Because it is an easy way to grab attention, and—if done right—captures immediate sympathy for the main character…at least for a time.

Besides sympathy, the secondary trait I hear a lot is that they have to be relatable. As a reader, I have to be able to put myself in their shoes and experience their journey. At the very least, they have to feel like someone I could call a friend. Otherwise, why devote my time?

I’m curious if this second insistence is why I see so many struggling characters this summer. It seems like every book I pick up throws the main character into foreign situations—not unique considering this is the typical hero’s journey—and there are really only two avenues worth exploring. They typical “hero” story will have the character adapt and thrive in the new environment. They find hidden talents and train easy. They have street smarts they never knew and can outmaneuver their counterparts. This summer, authors seem to focus on weaknesses. They flounder, mess up and struggle to adapt while those around them (typically already of this new environment) protect and compensate for them—enter the love interest. 

The first scenario is a little more fun to read, but the second is by far the more realistic. The question remains…do I want to read about reality? Typically, when I pick up a book, it is because I want to escape myself and the events surrounding my life—not that those events are horrific, but hopefully you get the point. If I were suddenly asked to fight demonic beings, I would probably not be very successful. I would scream and cry. I would try to fight, fail and probably get my butt kicked. But, do I want to read that…for the entire book?

On some levels, I like the struggle. The suspension of disbelief is stronger when the protagonist used to be a nerdy loner and suddenly turns into a confident warrior. I’ve discussed before how struggling—maybe even failing—actually creates suspense. But I think this can go the other way. If the protagonist has to be saved at every turn…that’s kind of boring. As always in literature, there has to be a happy medium. I just hope the trend in publishing agrees.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Happy 4th of July

On this day in 1996, the movie Independence Day came out starring Will Smith and Bill Pullman. It was genius marketing because America was battling Aliens on the anniversary date of establishing independence. Can't you feel the patriotism?? Why bring up this movie, because, while it is about  an Alien invasion, it has one of the best speeches for American patriotism:

"Good morning. In less than an hour, aircraft from here will join others from around the world. And you will be launching the largest aerial battle in the history of mankind. 'Mankind.' That word should have new meaning for all of us today. We can’t be consumed by our petty differences anymore. We will be united in our common interests. Perhaps it’s fate that today is the Fourth of July, and you will once again be fighting for our freedom… Not from tyranny, oppression, or persecution… but from annihilation. We are fighting for our right to live. To exist. And should we win the day, the Fourth of July will no longer be known as an American holiday, but as the day the world declared in one voice: We will not go quietly into the night! We’re going to live on! We’re going to survive! Today we celebrate our Independence Day."

There are wonderful speeches in real history. Ones that rest on moments that changed the country, or even the world. Yet, sometimes literature and entertainment can grant the most compelling, thought-provoking speeches. People talk about them and remember them well after the "publication date." That is part of why I love to write. Literature has the opportunity to capture the attention of many, posing questions and inspiring nations.

I will be enjoying family time today as we watch the fireworks and celebrate this country. It is not perfect, but it is where I call home. May you find your own inspiration in literature today...wherever you are.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Why do You Write?

This week’s question comes from Taylor. Keep them coming!

“Why do you write?"
I typically answer this question in the simple “because I can’t not write.” I think this is similar to Stephen King’s answer. Another NY Times Bestselling author, I can’t remember who, said something along the lines of not knowing what else to do. In fact, David Morrell says if you can imagine yourself doing anything else, then you should because writing is a tough business. I think my answer would be the same if not for a blog I read a month ago.

In it, the man discussed feeling shame when he asked this question of fellow authors and they gave the “because I have to” response. His point was that he could stop tomorrow and live life just fine. Most writers will then stand on their platform and proclaim that therefore he doesn’t love the profession enough, but it got me to thinking. Aside from the dramatic response of death without writing, I think I could walk away. Just like, if necessary, someone had to give up their smart phone, television…hell, electricity in general. Can we do it? Sure. Would we enjoy doing it? No. Would life be as pleasant? Probably not. But, if we had to we could quit. 

So, in answer to this question of why I write, I have to say I do it because it is what brings joy to my life. When I go long periods without writing, I begin to feel like a part of me is shut off. In fact, in middle school I hid my talent instead of throwing it away when I felt backlash that writing novels for fun was just “not cool.” I have to write because it is who I am. Could I live without it? Yes. Could my life have some meaning without it? Probably. But would I wake up every day and know I am being my most authentic self? Absolutely not. I am a writer. I am happy to be a writer. And I will always be a writer.

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Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Is Mount Olympus an Elite Club?

When I think of Mount Olympus, I can’t help but think of it as an elite club for the Greek gods. Think about it. The Greeks have countless gods for every little thing in life. I’ve been looking at a few on this blog for a few months now and still haven’t made a dent on the list. Out of all of them, only fifteen reside in a throne room on Mount Olympus. They rule over the others, making sure everyone stays in line while exerting their authority. In some ways, they are much like a republic government for the deity world.

But, straying from the political makeup, they also remind me of those elite clubs that have members pay for admission. The price of this club, though is not monetary, but rather a birthright. Most gods in the throne room either originated from the first god, Cronus, or were born from Cronus’ son, Zeus. In fact, those children of Zeus not in the throne room were the result of mortal/god relations, illegitimate children so-to-speak—which is also very reflective of society.

If we accept Joseph Campbell’s premise that mythology serves to teach society, then I wonder about the purpose of Mount Olympus. Does it simply exist to illustrate government structure? The few who lead the whole. Republics have certainly existed alongside monarchies for quite a while. Or, is it speaking more to society? That there are the elite, the people placed on pedestals—I think we all could agree the gods, like some celebrities in our society, did not always deserve such a rank. And, probably more importantly, should they be there based on lineage alone? Some things to ponder on this Tuesday morning. 

Monday, July 1, 2013

Monday's Quote: Jim Butcher

“When everything goes to hell, the people who stand by you without flinching -- they are your family. ” ~Jim Butcher

I am actually surprised it took me so long to highlight a Jim Butcher quote. He is one of my favorite fantasy authors. I like this one because it speaks to me in my life. I would not be where I am without the support system of my family and friends. They are my cheerleading squad pumping me up when I get depressed and frustrated. They keep me going, believing in me every step of the way. I would have given up and denied myself the pleasure of writing a long time ago if it weren't for them. They all are truly a part of my family circle. My hope is everyone can have the same support system.

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