Before the interview, I need to fill you all in about the #GuessWrite game on Twitter! Every month, several authors who host hashtag games (such as yours truly's [#2bitTues) choose a commonality for their themes during a certain week. One example: the latest #GuessWrite theme was "Friday the 13th", and I chose "" for #2bitTues. Every author who participates offers up a prize to the person who can guess the common theme the quickest... and this week, Kelly won my interview! Her serial sci-fi, Thelios, has been running for half a year now ... so as a new friend, I have a lot of reading to catch up on. While I'm doing that ... enjoy the interview!
1. What was one of your most random, unexpected inspirations?
A Twitter prompt! #2nights1stLine encourages late-night writers to share their first line of writing with the words “A great first line is pivotal and there’s no telling where that leap of imagination will take you in the wee hours of the night!” It was late at night and I needed to write up a short piece to supplement my main story when I read that. I focused on writing one good line. I had no thoughts or plans beyond that. It turned into one of my favorite scenes and led to the development of one of the defining characteristics for a main character.
2. Which book made you realize that you wanted to be an author?
While I’ve always enjoyed reading, I hated writing when I was younger due to my dysgraphia. I discovered my passion for telling stories via gaming. I love playing online roleplaying games with others: creating new characters, going on adventures, discovering their personalities and backgrounds. I started writing short little things for my characters (they were horrible, really, but I loved it!) When I started creating bedtime stories for my kids, my husband encouraged me to channel my creativity into writing. He had far more faith in my ability than I did - it took him 6 years to convince me to go for it!
3. Is there a book that you absolutely love that's the exact opposite of your "usual fare"? (Example: I hoard high fantasy, but have read Augusten Burroughs' "Running With Scissors" three times.)
I’m a sci-fi and fantasy fanatic, but I completely, unabashedly adore Lucy Maud Montgomery’s “Anne of Green Gables”. I love the entire series and can really identify with Anne’s life-long search for kindred spirits.
4. Do you ever craft playlists for your writing projects? (Please share some of the songs you've used, if you do!)
I’ve got a playlist called OtterGoddess that I play over and over when writing. Songs on it include X Ambassadors “Renegades”; Hozier’s “Work Song”; the theme from Pacific Rim; E.S. Posthumous' “Moonlight Sonata”; and “Here to Stay” by Korn.
5. Which authors do you read when you need to fine-tune your own writing voice?
I am thoroughly in awe of how Jim Butcher brings out the personalities of his characters. Reading his work, I feel like I could just sit and have a conversation with them. Be it a regular person, bigfoot, or a cat warrior, his characters feel real and alive to me. I aspire to develop that skill.
I’ve also been reading some indie authors online - styles that are different from my own. Reading Don Lorah, Christopher Slagle, and Neil Christiansen inspires me to stretch and refine my style beyond my current comfortable bounds.
6. What would your dream workspace look like?
A small octagonal cottage set off from my house. This would be my space that I don’t have to share with anyone else in the family. Large windows would let in plenty of natural light during the day. At night there would be soft lighting - not too harsh or bright. The cottage would have a desk I can use for writing as well as space for working on art. A small book shelf, but I expect it would hold more knickknacks than books (the books would be in the house for everyone to read). A chaise lounge for daydreaming/plotting, and a good sound system are vital components. I’d need a mini fridge and an electric kettle for heating water for drinks.
I have the plans for it drawn up for “someday” when we can build it.
7. Obligatory Writing Beverage of Choice Question! (Bonus points if it isn't actually stereotypically coffee!)
I bleed French Roast, so I suppose I fit the cliche of coffee-addicted writer. Usually, though, I have my coffee before I’m able to do any writing. While working I usually sip hot herbal tea or ice water with lemon and ginger.
8. CDs or MP3s (or, hey, vinyl or cassette)?
I was once quite proud of my 45 record collection! Nowadays it’s mostly MP3s. Once in a while, though, I grab a CD to play for my kids. After their initial reaction of “you used to listen to THAT?!” they grab it and keep if for their own players.
9. What's your favorite Disney movie? (The former aspiring animator in me NEEDS to know.)
I’m torn between Big Hero 6 and Tangled. I love the story of Big Hero 6, but Tangled has two songs on my OtterGoddess playlist.
10. If you had to model your entire wardrobe after any fictional character, who would it be?
Not sure about a specific character, but my wardrobe would likely be very steampunkesque or gothic due to the number of corsets it would include.
11. Is there a theme which persistently creeps into your work, whether you want it to or not? (Please tell me it's not just me.) If so: what is it? If not: tell me your favorite to read about!
Connecting music to magic. The musician in me would argue they are one and the same, but I don’t plan for it to be in all my stories! I didn’t intend to have this connection in my current project at all - so of course it’s become an important aspect of my world and plans are for it to be a major theme in a follow-up story.
You can find Kelly at her website, Thelios, or on Twitter as @OtterGoddessKel! Thank you for joining me Between The Lines, and I'll see you here next week!
I know, I know: no one wants to talk politics. We want to live our lives, and remain happy, or be happier. I do, too! The trouble is that right now, they're everywhere: Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, the news, the papers, television in general... and whatever your position on them may be, getting away is sometimes really hard.
Creative folks like myself see this as a double challenge. It is, traditionally, the duty of many artists ("volatile creative types", if you'll allow me to quote an old cartoon) to reflect the world around them in their art, be it through obvious or subtle means. If we do not reflect the world we live in, we can reflect the world we wish for, and thus create a contrast. All of this reflection is very important in fast-changing times, as 2017 promises to be... but sometimes, it's just tiring to be a prism, or a mirror, or light-reflecting device of your choice. Sometimes, a creator wants to just sit down and have fun. The trouble is: with this traditional burden on our shoulders, should we feel guilty for just having fun?
Absolutely not. Now, as much as ever, people need fun. If you need to be reminded of that, print it out, tack it to a corkboard, paint it on your wall... whatever it takes to get the message across to your brain. (Sometimes mine needs a sledgehammer.) Ready? Let's get to work.
Oh, wait. ... Can you focus? I know that lately, I haven't been able to. My mind keeps drifting to all the better things I could be doing. There's so much contradiction: people need fun, but the world needs voices for change...
Yeah. That. Thanks for the demonstration, J.D.
So, if your standard creative-type person can manage to settle on the fact that they're going to practice BICHOK (butt-in-chair, hands-on-keyboard), how to keep the mind from wandering? There are several possibilities:
Writing sprints - they aren't just for NaNoWriMo anymore! Set a timer for as long as you feel like you can easily focus. There's no shame in starting small: five, ten, fifteen minutes... even one! Put down what you can in that time, and treat it like meditation: if you find that your mind is starting to wander, just bring it gently back to your writing. One version of this is the Pomodoro technique: write for 25 minutes, take a break for five, repeat.
GET THE REAL PAPER OUT.
Sometimes longhand writing really is the best way to go about it, and keep from being distracted. It also has the bonus of being portable - you can write anywhere. If you already do this, and you find your focus waning, switch to typing and see how you do... but use an application like Cold Turkey to limit your website use. There are plenty of other internet browser add-ons that fit a similar bill.
If you can't write, doodle. Make an inspiration board on Pinterest. Do some writing-related research. Go over your outline. Chances are, if you do something related to your project, it will spark something after long enough, and you'll be able to start churning out the words!
Build yourself a writing playlist, or find music that helps you focus. If I don't have a set playlist, or the time to make one, I'm finding that electronic instrumentals do the trick for me. (If you're curious, you can check out my Pandora station.)
SET A DEADLINE.
"I'm gonna have this chapter done by the end of the week, so help me..."
DON'T SET A DEADLINE.
The world won't end if you don't finish. Remember: if your head explodes, you'll never make it as an author.
WHEN ALL ELSE FAILS, BRIBE.
No writing done? No ice cream. No new episode of Insert Favorite TV Show Here. No buying That Thing You Saw And Really Want. That's all there is to it. Your parents knew where it was at, guys. (Hi, Mom!)
So, there you have it ... a few techniques that I've proven work for me. If they work for you, go right ahead and rock them! If not ... I promise, I won't be offended. If you have a trick that helps you focus, please leave it in the comments below!
I'm not sure about the rest of you, but for me, the new year is the start of a new cycle: a time to refresh, take stock of what's ahead, and change anything that wasn't quite working for the best. This year, I'm not only applying that strategy to my home life (I spent the weekend rearranging my living room, to great success), but to my life as an author - if you haven't yet, please have a look around at the changes I've made to my website! It's now even easier to order both of my novels in the format you prefer.
Since change moves in ripples, and things elsewhere in my life are shifting, my writing schedule has changed, as well. Here's where you'll be able to find me during any given week:
Mondays: I post the theme for #2bitTues on Twitter, and do rounds of my other social media: Patreon, LinkedIn, Google+, Goodreads, Facebook, etc. (Links to follow me can be found on the home page!)
Tuesdays: It's #2bitTues, which means I encourage fellow independent authors to share lines from their current work-in-progress (WIP) on Twitter! I'll also do most of my catching up with other folks there.
Wednesdays: Updates to this blog will still happen on Wednesdays. It's also a writing day!
Thursdays: I participate in another Twitter game, #Thurds, do some writing, and kick back with a fellow indie author's book.
Fridays: Writing day again! The biggest change is that my newsletter, Friday at Charlie's, will only be going out on the last Friday of every month. This way, I can provide more content and take up less space in the mailboxes of my Friends of Aviario.
Weekends are for writing, and much-needed time off. I have loved ones to spend time with and a world to enjoy and be inspired by, after all!
That's all for now, friends! Until next week, I hope you all find reasons to smile!
You may recall that a few weeks ago, I mentioned a blog post written by fellow independent fantasy author Sara Secora. That post was the beginning of a dialogue between us, and it led to my being interviewed on her blog! You can find my interview with her here ... and today, I am returning her kind favor! Her debut novel, Throne of Lies, is the first in The Amethysta Trilogy. Have a look at her book trailer before we dive in....
What came first: your YouTube gaming channel, your voice over work, or your writing? And how do you balance all three without losing your sanity?
First there was writing, then YouTube, and finally, voice over. That was the order in which it started for me. Funny enough, I probably wouldn’t have ever pursued voice acting if it weren’t for YouTube. Years ago, I was doing "Let’s Play" videos for video games. People kept commenting that my novice attempt at reading the dialogue in the game was good enough for me to try voice over. That peaked my interest and so, that is exactly what I did! Fast forward to three years later, and voice over has become a staple in my life and the path I’ve taken. I’m thankful for the push my viewers gave me.
First of all, I would NOT recommend that another person take on all three of these ventures at once. It really does bring on a lot of stress, and it’s probably not healthy. A year ago, I asked myself where do I want to be in five years. I ended up not choosing YouTube. I really buckled down on my novel during that time and my voice over, which lead me to put YouTube on the back burner. The main reason for this is when I questioned what kind of future did I wanted, YouTube seemed the most uncertain to me. At any moment, that platform could vanish; I was at the mercy of a website’s success. That thought didn’t comfort me any, so I focused on things I felt I had more control over. I do miss YouTube and have just recently made the choice to reinvent my channel for a purpose that is better suited for who I am now. Finding a balance is very important, but so is accepting change.
Did you always know Throne of Lies would be the first in the trilogy? If so, do you have most of the plot lined up already, or are you letting Amethysta lead you?
Throne of Lies was the plan for a long time. While I did/do have other novel ideas that excite me, I always felt as though Amethysta’s story was the important one. I felt her story was the most thought out and impactful one – it really outshined the others. As for the plot question, I do have a lot written down in my notes that resemble that of a madman’s thoughts. The mess of notes are scattered, and so poorly written that only I can truly decode them. I do have an idea of the main scenarios that I want to play out in Book Two, but the details are still being fleshed out. I like having a good mix of set in stone ideas and letting my writing lead me. As for Book Three, it is almost a complete haze to me at the moment. So, I’m taking it a step at a time, or more accurately, a book at a time.
Which came first: your characters, or their world?
Without a doubt, the characters came first. Amethysta, of course, came before anyone else. Then was Soren, (who was originally named Sora) Arkarial, and Gehlin. The world came second, and admittedly probably a bit later than it should have. My first few drafts were heavily focused on building these characters’ personalities and plots. Then came the world and its backstory. Figuring out the world was harder for me as I was trying to make it feel alive and real – complete with history and landmarks. The struggle was also in trying to make my world unlike anything that had already been done.
What was your "gateway" fantasy novel? Was it the same as the one that made you want to write?
I would say there was a few and I’m going to list them in no particular order.
Alice in Wonderland: This was a magical tale that has resonated with me into my mid 20’s. In fact, it was so remarkable to me that I have half my arm tattooed with Alice’s imagery on it! I love it because of the whimsical nature of the story, the graceful writing, and the fact that there is nothing else quite like it.
The Hollow’s: This novel is the reason I chose to write Amethysta’s story in first-person. Even though I knew that the majority of readers preferred to read third-person and it was easier to writer in third, I still chose the former due to this particular novel and my experience reading it. First-person perspectives offer such a profoundly intimate reading experience that I felt it was most fitting for the Amethysta trilogy be told that way.
Stardust: I own the paperback, audiobook, and movie for this tale. It is by far my favorite piece of fantasy in the world. I cannot think of a story that has as much ground covered in it and is written as fantastically as this tale was. Romance, magic, struggle, and every piece of fantasy one could desire – Stardust has everything neatly wrapped in wonder!
That's one awesome book trailer you've made! (Is it you, narrating?) How long did it take you, and do you have any resources you'd recommend for authors looking to build their own book trailers?
Thank you! I was very hands on with every aspect of my book – even the trailer. While I designed the entire thing, I did not voice it. The woman, Holly Lindin, who voiced my audio book also voiced the trailer. That trailer was fairly quick to make, it took only a few weeks. Most of the holdup was my friend animating small portions of it, such as the magic bit. However, it was rather expensive to create. I probably spent around $500 buying the royalties of the clips via Video Block’s website. For those looking to create their own trailers, I’d recommend finding something within your budget! There’s a lot of options on the internet: from companies who can made movie like trailers for you to mid-range budget friendly options like I did to even a nearly free one of just using a template online without royalties involved.
What's your favorite way to connect with your readers?
I’m very involved with all things related to the internet. Mainly, I like to stay connected via social media! However, I am trying to find more ways to build up my network to stay in the know with them even better. That’s part where my new blog comes in – An Author’s Journey – I am building up a newsletter with those interested in following me and my journey!
And finally, what projects do you have simmering right now, in store for your fans?
Writing wise: My top priority is to continue writing Book Two of the Amethysta Trilogy. I’m also working on several other novel ideas on the side, exploring other genres and forms of writing.
Voice Over/Acting wise: I’m voicing tons of video games, animations and more. More surprising is that this year I’ve decided to take the plunge and attempt onscreen acting! So, you might see me in an indie film in 2017! *fingers crossed*
YouTube wise: I’ve been working on reinventing my channel so I can bring back some heart into my content again. I’d like to include my other ventures on this format and combine all my passions.
Thanks to Sara for joining me Between The Lines this week! Be sure to check out Throne of Lies: I've started my own copy and will be reviewing it here in time! I hope you all have a great week, and I'll see you all here next Wednesday. As always: until next time, I remain your hostess,
Well, hello there, 2017. We've been waiting for you. Nice to meet you.
Nothing earth-shaking has happened to me recently, but there have been enough small changes in my off-the-page life that are adding up. In trying to go with the flow of it all, I have realized that a change to my authorly routine is likely in order. I haven't quite figured out what that change is going to be, but I should have it ironed out by next week. Stay tuned!
Now, on to a subject dear to my heart: my Twitter community. As many of you know, I have connected with the majority of my indie author friends and supporters through Twitter. In metaphorical terms, Twitter's the neighborhood I grew up in. My friends and I hung out and played around, have gotten to know each other, learned and loved and lost together, and it's a pretty tight place. Everyone knows everyone on the block. But the neighborhood's gotten rougher over the past year: gangs of trolls have started rolling around more and more frequently, and the news is getting worse and worse. I wake up and look around the block in the morning, and everyone's yelling at each other about the latest hateful graffiti, arguing about what to be angriest about, and what to do about it.
Meanwhile, I just sweep off my front step and try to smile at the people going by, hand out a nice warm GIF or two, some friendly sentiment. A little support to keep them going. Some of them bring their own positive offerings to my doorstep, and that's so, so lovely and appreciated. We still connect about the things we used to, but not as frequently. We're all so distracted by the fact that the neighborhood's not so great anymore.
Like any other neighborhood, some people are giving up and moving out. The Seattle Review of Books articulated it far better than I could. But I like my little brownstone on the block, and I'm sticking around. Like Buster in the North End, I can see the value that remains, and the promise lurking underneath the piles of freshly-slung mud. This neighborhood still has its good people, and we will remain, stubborn and creatively prolific, defending our right to be here and, as Neil Gaiman once said, "Make Good Art".
There are some people who are constantly protesting the state of things - both in the neighborhood and in the world ... people who are up in arms for every cause, defending the offended, to the point where it almost seems like being angry is The New Cool Thing. I am, by no means, saying that being angry about injustice is not right. But what I will say is this: it is very, very, very tiring. I am an emotional person on a good day, and as much as I want to, it is difficult for me to join in every single fight - picket, sit-in, flyer-passing, rally, march, the list goes on! - in the neighborhood. I cannot fight for everything. So to my friends and neighbors: I have an important message for you.
Just because I am not as up in arms as you does not mean I disagree with you. I only have so much energy to fight. I must conserve the rest of it to live, so that the fighting is worth something. To create, so that in between the fighting, there is something there to restore our minds. I fight in my own way: I make beautiful things where and when I can to offset what troubles you. I spread kind words to counter hatred. A very famous writer once said, through the mouth of an equally famous wizard, that "(it) is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love".
So while some of my neighbors go out to fight to reclaim their virtual streets, I will be the one with my door open and the kettle on. If you need a quiet place to sit and recharge, I will be around. We'll chat. I'll share pictures of cats, funny stories, anything you need. And we'll Make Good Art together. That, in itself, small though it may seem, might redeem the neighborhood a little.
Until next time,
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