What do you visualize when you see this picture? A beautiful bush almost in full bloom?
Or do you see the fresh dirt under it and wonder what or who could be buried there?
Tell us what you think it is. Remember to be creative!
Today, we’re excited to have Tricia Zoeller as our guestblogger. I first met Tricia through another author we worked with, M.E. May. and we became fast friends. Tricia is a very talented writer and I’m looking forward to seeing many, many novels written by her. Please welcome Tricia to The Editing Essentials.
Tricia Zoeller lives in Marietta, Georgia with her husband, Lou, her little yappy dog, Lola Belle, and her big orange mutant cat, George. Her two stepsons, Joseph and Robert, make stopovers as well, making sure to keep life an adventure. Writing has always been a part of her life—like breathing and chocolate. Tricia loves to hear from her readers. You can catch up with her here: http://www.triciazoeller.com/ , https://www.facebook.com/pages/Tricia-Zoeller-Author/439025286173082?ref=hl , http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17670526-first-born
WD: What inspired you to begin writing?
TZ: I’ve always written. I’ve always been a reader. My father worked for his school paper and influenced me as I was growing up to take an interest in writing. He traveled frequently for his job and would read a mystery (quite often Agatha Christie) on his overseas flights and give the book to me when he returned.
In high school, I wrote for the school paper and in college, I pursued a degree in journalism from Indiana University in Bloomington. However, after graduation I never worked as a writer. Instead, I obtained my masters degree and worked as a Speech-Language Pathologist for over a decade. I liked that it combined my love of language, science, and helping people. I never stopped writing poems, novellas, etc. When health problems caused me to stop working as a therapist, I turned to writing as an outlet.
WD: Does your family support your writing?
TZ: My husband has a love/hate relationship with my writing. Sometimes, I get a bit obsessed or distracted. Also, I’m a thinker; he’s a doer. If he had his way, I would have published this book over a year ago. He also is not a fiction reader. So when I talk about shapeshifters or vampires or changelings, he will sometimes get a confused look on his face. But he never asked questions when I took over the one spare bedroom and made it into my writing studio complete with fantasy art for inspiration. I’ve also overheard him talking about my characters to people and realized that he really has been listening.
WD: Which authors do you enjoy reading?
TZ: I have focused on fantasy and paranormal over the last several years. One of my favorite books is Stephen King’s collection of shorts, Just After Sunset. I also enjoy reading Nalini Singh, J. K. Rowling, Robin Hobb, Jana Oliver, Kim Harrison, Charlaine Harris, Suzanne Johnson, and Anya Bast.
WD: How did Lily come to be? Is she based off of personal situations?
TZ: Lily came to me in her shapeshifter form after I read Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse series. I had an idea of creating a different kind of shifter. Even though I took a humorous approach to my character’s shape, there is a serious story behind it. Lily’s struggles with her shapeshifting directly relate to my struggles with Lupus. May is Lupus Awareness Month and it is almost exactly fifteen years to this day that I started cytoxan treatments for kidney disease.
I had read so many books where “bam” a character goes through a transformation, they suddenly can do anything, and they own it. I tried to take a more realistic approach to how it really feels to have your body out of control and the ups and downs of each day something new happening just when you feel like you’ve mastered the situation.
WD: Was there a specific person or event that inspired you to create Lily?
TZ: I may have based Lily after my friend Cheryl’s creature (no spoilers). Lily’s heritage stems from my experiences with eastern medicine. I did Korean yoga, sought Chinese healing sessions, acupuncture, etc. This influenced not only the creation of Lily, but another character in my book.
WD: Atlanta is your setting for the Lily Moore series. What made you decide on that backdrop?
TZ: I’ve lived in Atlanta off and on for over fifteen years. I know Atlanta and I love its greenery. It suits a shifter. You can drive 15 miles in any direction in Atlanta and find a wildlife management area, mountain, lake or river. In fact, the Chattahoochee River plays a big part in book 2.
WD: During the writing process, what is the toughest part for you to write—beginning, middle, or end or characters, setting, plot, action scenes and why?
TZ: The middle is definitely the hardest for me. I always know my beginning, end and the title. I also know my main character immediately. I have an idea of the middle, but organizing it can give me fits. First Born was the hardest because I insisted on having all these characters with plots and subplots. I actually used a flipchart, timeline and crime board at one point to hash out the details.
WD: Is there anything or anyone that specifically helped you during those more trying times in the writing process?
It takes a village. I attended many of the Georgia Writers Association workshops and took online writing courses through the Romance Writers of America Mystery/Suspense Chapter called Coffin, Kiss of Death. These got me back in the right mindset. I also visited crime scene writing forums via yahoo groups.
My friends and fellow writers provided me with a great network. Written Dreams helped me with the editing process—a painful but necessary step. My critique partners and beta readers have listened time and time again and prodded me along in this very rough last stretch.
To beginning authors, I say keep your eyes and ears open. Don’t give up! Listen to constructive criticism, but act only on those snippets that ring true for you. Know you will make mistakes, but learn from them and move on. Carve out a routine for yourself and write every day.
Thank you Tricia for being our guest today! If you’d like to leave a comment or question for Tricia, we’ll be sure to pass it on to her. Thank you!
Rob Killam, in the blog “Writing From the Peak,” recently listed reasons writers write. One entry grabbed my attention: “The blank pages will win if I don’t.” I don’t think of writing as a competition with a winner and a loser, but I understand viscerally what this writer meant. If I don’t write, the blank pages win, and I lose. This in turn reminded me of a concept of which I want to remind you as we head into warmer, drier, brighter summer days.
I was first introduced to the concept of Resistance in Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art. Resistance is that force in the world stopping you from doing what you want to do. Resistance is like a tiresome party guest who traps you in a corner just as the game or talk you’ve been waiting for is about to begin. At first, the bore annoying in a minor way, but as you glance behind him significantly and he blathers on, as other people catch your eye sympathetically on their way past you and toward the event you’ve been anticipating, as you try to lean slightly left or right to make your way gradually around the bore and he compensates for your movement and continues his lecture, you realize you are, indeed, stuck in his corner for the foreseeable future, and what you’d looked forward to is going on without you. If you want out, you will have to take concrete action, and you’re afraid of seeming rude. The easiest way forward is to miss what you’ve been looking forward to and stay in the corner, stuck.
The unfortunate and often unseen component in this scenario is, you are both the cornered and the bore.
Pressfield believes Resistance is why we say we want to do so many things we don’t end up doing. It’s the force that says both, “I want to write half an hour every day,” and “You’re so tired, and writing is such an effort. Wouldn’t you rather relax with a rerun of Mary Tyler Moore?” I say, “I’m going to run five miles today,” and I hear in return, “But the house is such a mess. You should polish the wood floor.” Interestingly, on another day I might think, “I need to polish the wood floors,” and hear in return, “But you haven’t run lately.” The activities involved aren’t the issue. The issue is Resistance stopping us from doing what we say we want to do.
Reading Pressfield’s description of Resistance was like encountering another kind of party guest, that little old man or woman who’s sitting quietly, watching everyone else. You sit down to be polite, and before you know it, you’re listening to a simple, enthralling account of Truth, and you can hardly turn away, even when it’s time to leave.
Thinking of Resistance as that tedious, time-consuming bore has helped me overcome it at times, because, of course, what’s needed is my voice saying, “Excuse me; I have to go do something else.” Politeness does not require a person to stay cornered; it is equally well-mannered to give a sincere explanation of why one must depart. Unfortunately, it is undeniably easier to stay and be bored than to go and do what you’ve planned to do. It is also easier to watch the rerun than to write the story, or polish the floors rather than take the run.
Sometimes, life happens, and our plans fall through. Often, though, we choose not to do what we’ve said we want to do.
Why will you write today?
I’m pleased to introduce Lessie today, Written Dreams’ Admin. Assistant. Growing up, Lessie and I spent many hours writing, reading, and dreaming together as best friends in school. I’m very excited to have her on our team, and believe you will enjoy getting to know her. Please welcome her to The Editing Essentials!
WD: Who are your favorite authors to read, and why?
LD. One of my favorite authors is V.C. Andrews. I started reading her books in high school, and it sent shivers down my spine with the way she told a story. I felt like I was actually there.
My other favorite is Danielle Steel. She can make you cry one minute and angry the next. I have quite a few “scary” authors I read as well. They range from Stephen king to Teri Gardener’s detective novels. I love dark drama that keeps me up at night. There are so many authors to choose from that I love to read!
WD: Where is your favorite place to read?
LD. I know today is all about technology, but to me there is nothing better than curling up in my husband’s recliner with my fireplace lit. Wrapping up in one of my Mom’s handmade afghans, grabbing a paperback novel and settling in for a new adventure.
WD: Who influenced you the most to read the authors you read today?
LD. My parents are avid readers and had me reading by the time I was four. My dad is the reason I love everything from sci-fi, drama, to horror-based. He’s a big Poe fan, and my mom has always enjoyed romance novels. The one person whom I spent a lot of time reading to and with was my grandmother. She had eye problems, so I would sit and read to her for hours when I was young. We had so many adventures together.
WD: What are your hobbies, or what do you enjoy doing when you’re not working?
LD. When I’m not working at Written Dreams, my husband and I get out on the road on our Harley. I love the way it seems to just take the stress out of the day. We also donate our time when we can to charity events for veterans. I spend at least one day a week with my parents. My family is very important to me. I want to take the time to make those memories.
WD: What does your family think of you working in the publishing industry?
LD. My family loves the fact that I am now living my dream by working with Brittiany. They have always been supportive of my decisions. My husband has been my rock while I have been going through my job transition, learning the ins and outs of the industry. I need to take him out for ice cream soon.
WD: Are you currently writing anything yourself?
LD. Brittiany has inspired me to write again, as she does with so many of our clients. I didn’t write for a long time due, so it feels good to just take the time to write for myself again. Currently, I’m working on several poems.
WD: What is one of your goals for your career at Written Dreams?
LD. My goals at Written Dreams are endless. I want to learn how to do everything! I love it!
WD: What is one tip you’d give to authors on their writing, or career as a writer?
LD. Whatever you write, be proud of it. It is your creation that is one of a kind. Just like you.
Thank you so much, Lessie, for taking time out of your day to be on the blog today. Please feel free to ask her questions or leave comments here, or email her at email@example.com. Thank you!
I turned fifty-one last week (yes, thank you, I had a wonderful day), and at some point in the day, I began musing on how rarely characters in books have birthdays; in fact, I couldn’t come up with a single example (but please feel free to comment and remind me of some I’m forgetting). So this week, think about one of your characters getting another year older. Would she celebrate, or is she dreading being another year older? Is she a go-out-to-dinner type person, or would she rather stay in? Does she expect many gifts? No gifts? What would please her from whom? Has she asked money to be given to charity in lieu of presents? Would she throw herself a party, or is there someone around her who would throw a party for her? How would she react to a surprise party, and who would be there?
I’ve always been a voracious reader. As I kid, though, I was a selective voracious reader; I wanted characters, plots, and ideas, but description—settings and the physical appearance of characters—generally didn’t catch my eye.Sure, if a story took place in 1850, the women were wearing long dresses and horses were the main mode of transportation.But who wanted to read long paragraphs about cloud movement or the exact placement of the bank, the grocery, and the post office along a city street? Who cared if the hero was blond and the heroine brunette?The words and the actions were what mattered, and as long as I had a general time period and country to go on, that was enough.
This habit caught up with me in college, where description in literature suddenly became much more important.Setting and physical description were often symbolic, and skipping over them made works less meaningful…and exam grades lower! East and West Egg in The Great Gatsby, the ocean in Moby Dick, the chess board in Alice in Wonderland—these and many other books’ settings become characters in and of themselves, and add immensely to the book as a whole.I got back in the habit of reading those exterior details and as I found meaning in them, they became more interesting and enjoyable.
Take a look at the setting in your current story. Are you using it to its best advantage? Are there symbolic opportunities you haven’t taken? Did you choose the setting for your story, or did you (as I have) simply plop your characters down without considering if another place or time might suit them better? How can the place you’ve chosen enhance the story you’re telling?
While there is no generally agreed upon definition for “flash fiction,” no one can deny the popularity of this form of short-term storytelling, which goes back to the days of Aesop and his fables. In more recent centuries, Chekhov, Hemingway, Kafka, Bradbury, and Calvino have all written very short stories. While these diminutive tales are literature in their own right, writing a complete story in 300-1000 words is also a great way for a writer to exercise his or her creativity…and often, a complete brief story can serve as a catalyst for the longer, surrounding story waiting to be written.
Where to find inspiration? Here are some images with which to work:
Or, of course, any image, emotion, or thought you have in your surroundings. I’d love to see some postings or links to postings of flash fiction stories on our Facebook page! Please feel free to share. Thanks!
Today, we’re very excited to have John Marco as our guestblogger. I first worked with John when he wrote a story, “The Hundredth Kill” for one of my anthologies I edited with Marty Greenberg. I was so touched by that story, I had to read his novels. His stories are so filled with emotion, depth and character, for me, it’s a joy to read his stories every time. Please help us welcome John to The Editing Essentials!
John Marco is the author of eightbooks, including the bestselling Tyrants and Kings trilogy and the books of the Bronze Knight, Lukien. His latest novel, THE FOREVER KNIGHT, has just been published by DAW Books and is a Barnes and Noble and Kirkus top pick for April. To find out more about John and his work, please visit his website at www.johnmarco.com.
Thanks so much, John, for being here and sharing your tips on writing. We wish you the best with the release of The Forever Knight. If you’d like to post a question or comment for John, we’ll be sure to pass it on. Thank you!
Last week I wrote about seeing even the very familiar with new eyes, as I did on a walk round the block I’ve been walking the past thirty years. Burgeoning spring coupled with a bum foot forced me to walk more slowly, and in my leisurely stroll, I found odd bits and pieces of the landscape I’d never seen before.
But there was more going on. The week had been busy, and I was tired of work, tired of being “productive”—so I went for a walk.
And…I must admit I was not a disciplined writer…or editor…or teacher at that point last Sunday, or for most of today. This bright, lovely spring day, I was a property owner, and I spent the afternoon raking away leaves, hacking out underbrush, and stacking next year’s wood while I waited for my mower battery to charge. Once the rider was going, I mowed for an hour and so enjoyed seeing the yard begin to take on a more cared for appearance. And although I’d had another busy week and still had plenty to do, I found myself feeling both more energetic and more peaceful as the day went on.
This week’s writing exercise is for the holistic writer in you, for the being who sits down with the computer or the typewriter or the pad of paper and writing utensil. So…did you get a good night’s sleep last evening? Eat well yesterday? Exercise a bit to get your heart rate up? Weather permitting, spend some time in the great outdoors? Get together with a friend? Remember, all these things recharge and rejuvenate the person who writes, and over time, it’s hard to continue writing if you are ignoring your writer. Take care of yourself so you feel like sitting down with your work.
What did you do today to help the writer in you recharge?
I’ve lived in the same house in rural Illinois for almost thirty years. Here, a stroll round the block is three miles long, and as you walk the rectangle, you go by what was a small plant nursery/antique store until the owners retired from the business. Now it’s simply their beautiful private home where they’ve put two tables near the road that spring, summer, and fall that have “free” signs on them along with starter plants and odds and ends left when the antique business closed.
There’s a small stable, too, with extensive pastures which usually have eight or ten horses grazing leisurely. Further along the block, there’s another pasture with Belted Galloway cattle that freeze when you walk by; Belted Galloways catch your eye not only because they are huge, but also because they are black with a white ring round their middle. On the calves and young animals, this white ring is startlingly white, as though someone is bleaching them regularly. A quarter mile past the Galloways is a small apiary. Further on, there are two small ponds, one on either side of the road. Later in the summer, the ponds will smell like Necco wafers; I haven’t been able to figure out why.
Around the next corner is a barn and enclosed yard for the miniature donkeys another neighbor breeds. A few years ago he acquired a full-sized horse that acts as a kind of guard for its smaller charges. On around and you come to what used to be a Christmas tree farm, but the elderly owner died several years ago and his son lives in another state, so there are rows of increasingly tall pine trees. Behind them is the natural prairie the Christmas tree farmer began to occupy his summers.
In short, it’s a lively block that I’ve walked for a very long time and know quite well.
But today, as I was walking around the block this fine, what seems like summer evening, I noticed for the first time behind some pines near the ponds, an old tree with something strange on the ground around its trunk. The tree is perhaps fifteen feet from the road, and there are pine trees obscuring the view, but this time as I walked I saw clearly many—sixty?—small—perhaps ten inches—oval-ish things crowding each other all around the base of the tree. What the heck were they? Small statues of some kind? Someone’s private shrine? I’d taken off my shoes to walk bare-footed for the first time this year, so I slipped my shoes back on and made my way through the pine trees.
I’m not sure if I’m disappointed or not. The small oval-ish things appear to be roots that poke out of the ground exactly as if someone had taken the root and crimped it over and over again. The crimps are relatively even in size and width, and they are completely vertical—straight up, over, and back down under the ground again before they resurface.
How does this relate to a writing exercise? Well, first, I come away from my walk reminded that ideas are everywhere, even places we are sure we’ve seen all there is to be seen. I’ve walked that walk thousands of times in the last thirty years, and that tree has been there the entire time. Second, I now have a mental image of a big old tree with small statues like Easter Island miniatures clustered around its trunk—surely there’s a story there! Third, I have a quest: what kind of tree is that and do all trees of that variety have similar root displays? If not, what happened to this tree to give it such character?
My challenge to you? Take a familiar walk, or go to a place you’re sure you know everything about. What’s the new thing you find?