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Posts Tagged ‘writers’

As a girl, I loved Little House on the Prairie, and other books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. And I still enjoy them today. The television series featuring Michael Landon, Melissa Gilbert, Karen Grassle, and others didn’t follow the books’ story lines all the time, but nevertheless remained faithful to the themes and spirit of Laura’s books (and life experiences).

Writer-reader geek that I am, I visited the Ingalls farm, school house, and the house that Pa built in De Smet, South Dakota. The area is still beautiful and wind-blown. It wasn’t difficult to image the Ingalls family riding in a buggy to town or to the store where Harriet and Nellie Oleson spent their lives annoying others (including Willie and long-suffering Nels). A bit “off the beaten path,” I’m glad we took the time to visit De Smet.

These memoirs, for that is what Little House in the Big Woods, By the Shores of Silver Lake, and On the Banks of Plum Creek seemed to be to me, breathe life into American history. And I think my enjoyment of history was helped along by Laura’s books (as well as family stories and my father’s fascination with history – especially American history).

Currently, I’m working on several historical projects. They will never obtain the readership or popularity of Laura’s books, but I hope to breathe life into the men and women dwelling in their pages – for history matters!

And these words from a tiny (4′ 11″) pioneer woman still ring true: “The real things haven’t changed. It is still best to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasures; and have courage when things go wrong.” — Laura Ingalls Wilder.

For those who’d like to view some historical photos of Laura, and learn a little bit about Laura and her family, husband, and life – here’s a link to a wonderful article: The Amazing Life of Laura Ingalls Wilder Part I: Old Photo Archive. Enjoy!

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“I’m writing a first draft and reminding myself that I’m simply shoveling sand into a box so that later I can build castles.” – Shannon Hale, author of The Princess Academy and lots of other books.

Great quote by Shannon Hale which reminds writers what a first draft is really like — nothing but a bunch of sand in a box! It’s the rewrites and revisions that take the sand and compress it, shape it, and add a little magic to it. Then, you have your story (or book).

Shoveling sand is where I am on several projects. I don’t mind the shoveling or knowing I’ll be spending lots of time trying to make a castle out of the raw ingredients. It’s all part of the journey.

Today, was a good day. I discovered 2 books which will aid in my research. Both are terribly expensive, but I think they’re worth the cash. I also managed to jot some notes down which will end up in a manuscript. And then there’s the story which I’ve been trying to build — it seems to have a mind of its own. Not such a helpful thing when the story needs to fit in a themed anthology. It feels like every time I get a castle nearing completion, a wave knocks it down and I must start again.

So to my writer friends out there, have a great day, whether you’re shoveling sand or building castles.

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People often ask me where do I get some of my more unusual ideas for writing and art work. My response is often, “Truth is stranger than fiction.” Then, I tell them some of the “true” things which were the beginning place for a story, poem, or painting.

Yes, I use conversations I over-hear or oddities I spot while traveling, but sometimes the internet has links to marvelously weird science. Here’s the link to a video of 10 of the strange, but real creatures on our planet. If they don’t inspire alien life on other planets, nothing will!

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Almost every writer dreams of finding an agent to represent their writing. So many publishers’ websites say “agented work only” or some variance of that statement.

The un-agented path to publication is often small or Indie publishers. There’s nothing wrong with that path – in fact for many writers, it’s the best path to seeing their books in print. Indies are more hands-on, and you can develop a personal relationship with them. The larger publishers often don’t have the time to develop a personal relationship with their writers – so many authors prefer the Indie route.

But what if you want to go the agent-larger publisher route? Where in the world can you find agents looking for science fiction and fantasy (or whatever your genre is)?

A great (though somewhat dated) source is the article, “Agents looking for Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers,” from Publishing and Other Forms of Insanity. The same useful BlogSpot site also has the articles: “Literary Agents Seeking New Writers” and “3 New Agents Seeking Clients – Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Nonfiction, Thrillers, YA, and More” and “7 Established Agents Looking for Writers – Literary Fiction, Memoir, MG, YA, Fantasy, Romance, and More” and lots more articles on agents looking for writers.

So if you’re in the market for an agent, keep on knocking on their metaphoric doors (more likely email inboxes), and best of luck in your search.

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After a slew of acceptances, I’ve gotten 3 rejection letters lately. All of them were modified with “good, but not for us,” or some similar comment. But “close” doesn’t make much of a difference to a writer. We still see the word, NO, in blinking letters.

Taking off my writer’s hat, and putting on my editor’s hat, I know if an editor takes the time to add any comment to a form rejection, you made an impression. So it really is good news when there’s a positive comment added to the “not for us.” And, believe it or not, editors do feel bad when they say “No” to a good story, new writer, friendly writing acquaintance, etc. We’re trying to publish the best book or magazine we can, and honestly,  we just can’t fit all the good stuff in.

With another take on rejection from both side of the editorial desk, is On Sending and Receiving Rejections from the Liminal Stories Magazine blog.

So, like me, when you receive a rejection, take a deep breath, shrug your shoulders, and find another market for the rejected story. Send it off again. Then, start writing the next story. Persistence really is the key to success!

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Vonnie2 Hello. Yes, it’s me, back at Whimsical Words. It’s been a tough 8 months since I fell and seriously injured my left shoulder and arm. I’m finally done with physical therapy (for a while at least). Plus, the heart problem discovered when I had surgery seems to be stable. Good things!

What have I been doing, career-wise during this time? Writing, editing, submitting work, and illustrating – just at a less energetic pace. Which means, I’ve edited and submitted more previously published work than usual. Finding markets which accept reprints can be challenging, but doing the research necessary to locate the markets means I’m meeting new editors. A good thing!

Fulfilling a New Year’s resolution made January 1, 2016, I’m finally sifting through my haphazard boxes of notes, ideas for art and writing, and contributor’s copies of papers, magazines, books, etc. where my work has been published. I’m trying to not only become more organized, but to create somewhat complete writing and art bibliographies. Again, good things!

At last, I’m going to return to a more “normal” routine on April Fool’s Day with an eye on completing some of the writing and art projects which sleep on my shelves and in my files like unloved orphans. Hopefully, this means I’ll have lots of new stories, poems, and art to submit to magazines and books. Though I doubt I’ll ever reach the output levels of Robert Silverberg, Jay Lake, or James Van Pelt, I hope to have many submissions in the mail (or email) in a few weeks.

As before, I will try to give my readers not only “what’s going on in my life” posts, but information which will be of interest to them (or helpful to a friend). And so, today, I want to recommend a wonderful post by the afore-mentioned James Van Pelt on Submitting Short Stories.

The first part of the article is a clear, concise list of the steps most writers would suggest to follow if you want to get your stories (and for that matter, poems, essays, etc.) published. Then, Mr. Van Pelt suggests an alternate plan for prolific writers he labels the shrapnel grenade school of submitting short stories. Besides being a most colorful name, it is an interesting approach.

Thanks for sticking with Whimsical Words. I hope to bring you lots of cool and thought-provoking posts in 2016. Here’s today’s link to James Van Pelt’s post on Submitting Short Stories. – Vonnie

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I taught poetry residencies for the Maryland State Arts Council’s Artists-in-Education Program for over ten years to students from kindergarten through grade twelve. It was a wonderful, but exhausting, experience. The first thing I wrote on the board when I walked into the classroom was: “”Poetry excites the senses!” And then, I’d write my name.

Because of the limited number of words a poet has to express their ideas, they must choose wisely. In my opinion, the wisest way to express yourself and grab a reader is to use sensory language. I used to had out a list of sensory words for all five senses, then I’d have the students read aloud the smell and/or taste words. I still hand out that list to prose and poetry writing workshops I teach – whether young writers, college level courses, or adults.

Why? Because a writer needs to be observant. He or she needs to see, hear, smell, taste, and touch the world around them, and use that information to enrich their writing. Readers can more easily become immersed in your world when they can identify with the sensory experiences your characters are having.

Again, I’m going to link to writing friend Steven R. Southard’s blog, Poseidon’s Scribe where he discusses another way for writers to think like Leonardo da Vinci: Sensazione.

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cinder I’ve never tried to write a novel in November (National Novel Writing Month), but I cheer on my writer friends who make the attempt. And I salute those persistent friends who manage to complete a novel in a month’s time.

I’ve heard all the doubting Thomases and Thomasinas who say, “Why bother? Nothing good comes of writing a novel in thirty days.”

Actually, they’re wrong! Many NaNoWriMo novels prove quite successful, including one of my favorites, Cinder, by Marissa Meyer. Here’s the link to: Seven YA Must Reads That Started As NaNoWriMo Projects from the Barnes & Noble Teen Blog if you want to read more.

So keep on writing NaNoWriMo challenge-takers. I wish you success, and admire your dedication.

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I must admit, Stephen King’s stories (whether novel-length or short story) scary me. Not just a little heart-beating-faster kind of scare, but a can-barely-breathe-looking-over-my-shoulder-and-shaky kind of scare. Which is just what a reader wants, and a horror writer strives to create.

I own, and recommend, King’s book, On Writing. Not your classic “how-to” writing book, it nevertheless is filled with information that writers will find useful. And it is in that spirit of learning that I share a wonderful article from The Guardian by James Smyth, “Ten things I learned about writing from Stephen King.”

In this article, and elsewhere, you’ll find announced a new short story contest (deadline December 18) to be judged by the master of horror writing, Stephen King himself. Interested? Here’s the link for the Stephen King Short Fiction Competition.

Good luck and keep writing!

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0061-eWomenNetwork Thanks to author Gail Z. Martin for stopping by and sharing tips on how to make epic fantasy epic. And lots of links to free reads. Enjoy!

Making Epic Fantasy Epically Epic By Gail Z. Martin

By definition, ‘epic fantasy’ deals with sweeping storylines, plots that involve the rise and fall of kingdoms and dynasties, the fates of empires and massive battles. There are a lot of moving parts in a good epic fantasy, but if you do it right, it purrs along like a race car, taking you on a breathless journey.

That requires a lot of engineering under the hood—or between the covers, as the case may be. I’ve written two sprawling epic fantasy series (The Chronicles of the Necromancer/Fallen Kings Cycle and The Ascendant Kingdoms Saga). They involve a large cast of characters, a big map, lots of battles, and complicated magic—which is a lot for an author to keep straight!

Shadow and Flame, the fourth (and final) book in the Ascendant Kingdoms series comes out in 2016, wrapping up that series. I found in this book that it’s as complex to wind down an epic series as it is to ramp it up. (I didn’t have quite that challenge with The Dread, the last book–for now–in the Chronicles series, because in my head, it’s not really the last book. There’s a seventeen year break in the action where the characters get to rest up and drink some beer, and then there’s more action coming their way in six more books I haven’t written yet. But since it’s not over for me, it’s not over. )

DEADLY CURIOSITIES-VENDETTA Which got me thinking about how epic fantasy works under the hood. No matter how big and sprawling your series will be, in your first book you’ve got to get people to care about your main characters or they won’t get to the truly epic part. It usually starts in one of two ways (or you can combine them if you’re tricky!) Either a person has a big problem, or a person has the chance to go on an adventure. Let’s look at both.

Sometimes it all begins with one person who has a big problem. If that problem could have been dealt with before it got out of hand, the world might have been able to stay as it was. But because the main character has to do something dangerous or brave or reckless because of the problem, the wheels begin turning and nothing will ever be the same again. Only of course, at this point, he/she doesn’t know everything’s about to change. Your protagonist only knows that he/she’s gone from having a big problem to having an even worse problem with no resolution in sight.

In hindsight, once everything blows up, you see that had the powers-that-be been a bit more fair, a tad less heavy-handed, a smidge less ruthless or greedy, they might have gotten to hang on to their status quo. But no, they had to piss off the wrong man (or woman) who then sets in motion the events that lead to the fall of the bad guy’s power base. That’s because whatever it was that cheesed off the hero, it wasn’t really an isolated problem. It was part of a larger, systemic rot that had been going on for a long time, getting more and more out of control, in a system unable or unwilling to reign in its abuses. And finally, they screw over the wrong person, who decides that he’s mad as hell and he’s not going to take it anymore. Cue epic movie score.

Martin_WarOfShadows-TP[1] In other cases, the protagonist gets sent on a journey. It’ll be fun, they said. You’ll see new things and meet new people, they said. Instead, something goes wrong. The simple journey ends up drawing the protagonist into bigger issues that have their own ramifications. Things go from bad to worse, usually involving magic or soldiers. Companions are found along the way with the skills to get out of one jam, but those same companions often create the next dangerous situation. And all the while, the protagonist is being drawn into a funnel of events whose scope and ramifications just get bigger and bigger until the young person who was sent to market to sell a goat ends up fighting off the armies of evil or winning the throne.

A lot has been said about epic fantasy embodying Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey, and that is at the heart of many stories, with plenty of twists and embellishments. But I think that’s because Campbell really described a process that happens in real life—at least, in a life where someone is seeking something better, maybe even enlightenment. We all in our heart of hearts want to go on an adventure that awakens greatness within us, connects us with people who are loyal friends, triumph over adversity and return home victorious, wealthier and wiser.

Two of the other pieces that need to come together include imagining the villains and the problems that confront the hero. Usually, the hero doesn’t start out intending to fight the Ultimate Bad Nasty of Evility. It starts with a corrupt guard, a thief, a garden-variety bully. But as the hero gets more enmeshed in the situation, the stakes rise. Larger and more dangerous villains appear. That means the author has to plan the story to escalate, envisioning how and why the small problems become big ones, how the small bad guys become big villains, how the forces against the hero and the forces on the hero’s side coalesce.

There’s a lot more that goes into making an epic fantasy epically epic, but these are a few of the big pieces. The next time you read epic fantasy, ask yourself ‘what’s going on under the hood and how did the author do that?’ You’ll have double the fun!

Print My Days of the Dead blog tour runs through October 31 with never-before-seen cover art, brand new excerpts from upcoming books and recent short stories, interviews, guest blog posts, giveaways and more! Plus, I’ll be including extra excerpt links for my stories and for books by author friends of mine. You’ve got to visit the participating sites to get the goodies, just like Trick or Treat! Details here: www.AscendantKingdoms.com

And now, readers, the good stuff:

Book swag is the new Trick-or-Treat! Grab your envelope of book swag awesomeness from me & 10 authors before 11/1!

Trick or Treat! Excerpt from my new urban fantasy novel Vendetta set in my Deadly Curiosities world. Launches Dec. 29

More Treats! Read an excerpt from Bounty Hunter a Jonmarc Vahanian Adventure.

Epically epic treats! Here’s an excerpt from The Summoner.

Lots of Tricks! New Blaine McFadden (Ascendant Kingdoms) short story set in Velant Prison No Reprieve.

Trick Or Treat with an excerpt from The Raven’s War.

Treats not Tricks! Excerpt from Creiton’s Sword.

About the Author:

Gail Z. Martin is the author of the upcoming novel Vendetta: A Deadly Curiosities Novel in her urban fantasy series set in Charleston, SC (Dec. 2015, Solaris Books) as well as the epic fantasy novel Shadow and Flame (March, 2016 Orbit Books) which is the fourth and final book in the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga. Shadowed Path, an anthology of Jonmarc Vahanian short stories set in the world of The Summoner, debuts from Solaris books in June, 2016.

Other books include The Jake Desmet Adventures a new Steampunk series (Solaris Books) co-authored with Larry N. Martin as well as Ice Forged, Reign of Ash and War of Shadows in The Ascendant Kingdoms Saga, The Chronicles of The Necromancer series (The Summoner, The Blood King, Dark Haven, Dark Lady’s Chosen) from Solaris Books and The Fallen Kings Cycle (The Sworn, The Dread) from Orbit Books and the urban fantasy novel Deadly Curiosities from Solaris Books.

Gail writes four series of ebook short stories: The Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures, The Deadly Curiosities Adventures, The King’s Convicts series, and together with Larry N. Martin, The Storm and Fury Adventures. Her work has appeared in over 20 US/UK anthologies. Newest anthologies include: The Big Bad 2, Athena’s Daughters, Realms of Imagination, Heroes, With Great Power, and (co-authored with Larry N. Martin) Space, Contact Light, The Weird Wild West, The Side of Good/The Side of Evil, Alien Artifacts, Clockwork Universe: Steampunk vs. Aliens.

Thanks again to Gail Z. Martin for her guest post. Watch Whimsical Words for more guests, Quotable Wednesdays, blogs from me, and more. Have an epic day! – Vonnie

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