The Bare Necessities – Anne Barwell

The theme for this month’s blog comes from a friend at work. Thanks, Louise. She asked: how much time (book time) do you put in towards the everyday necessities like eating and sleeping? Characters need to eat and sleep, but how much of them doing that needs to be shown in the story?

The short answer is that it depends on the book. For a contemporary story set in our world a lot of those details can be skimmed over, as readers already know how that kind of thing works here, although I might include something local to a specific region depending on setting. For example in Sunset at Pencarrow Lou Sylvre and I had Nate and Rusty eating lamingtons and other local New Zealand fare.

As a writer I often need to figure out where the characters sleep and what they eat in order to ensure the continuity of my timeline. However, the final decision about whether those details making it into the book usually depends on whether they’re necessary to the plot and drive the story forward, or slow it down. Often it’s a thin line between the two.

For an historical, especially if the characters are doing a road trip, it can be a little more difficult working out the details of these everyday necessities. For example, if they’re being pursued across occupied Europe during WWII, they’ll need to find somewhere safe to stay and a way to find the food they need.

Buying food could be a problem especially if the area is under surveillance, and whatever they eat needs be accurate for the setting and time period. In Winter Duet Michel and Kristopher spent the night in a barn on a bed of straw after sharing a meal of Eintopf—thick stew full of beans and spicy sausage—with the older couple who own the farm. Later at another safe house, the meal is stew again but this time out of a tin. Being war time tea and coffee isn’t readily available either, and often what passes for it isn’t very palatable.

With that book being partly a road trip across Germany in 1944, I also needed to figure out where they could sleep without risk of being arrested. Keeping in mind what was going on at the time was important too as Germany was being bombed by the Allies. Having them staying in a town that had been destroyed a few days beforehand wouldn’t have worked very well. Instead I had them at ground zero taking shelter in an abandoned apartment building and sleeping on the floor when the bombs dropped. This helped to drive the story as they needed to get out of there quickly and find somewhere to shelter until the raid was over.

Coffee caused more of a problem than I thought it would in
Shades of Sepia
. Ben, a New Zealander, is working in a cafe in the fictional city of Flint, Ohio. Here in New Zealand, we’d go into a cafe and ask for a flat white. That doesn’t work in the U.S. Ben explains:

I had no idea serving coffee could be so complicated.” He’d referred to coffee with creamer his first day on the job as a flat white. The woman had looked at him blankly and asked why he was talking about house paint. In hindsight, he should probably be thankful he hadn’t handed her the coffee and called it a straight black.

On the subject of coffee, it’s weird that many of my characters are fixated on it, yet I don’t drink it at all.

If anyone else has topics or questions they’d like answered in future blog posts—within reason and I reserve the right to avoid spoilers—I’d love to hear from you.

This month—25 Ocotober-22 November—at Authors Speak we’re offering a rafflecopter giveaway. For more information, check out the post here.

The Importance of Audience Awareness

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Photo credit: Flickr/Matthew Rutledge

I recently read an article on Medium from a lady about a house she’d been wanting for a long time. She’d bought it, hired an interior decorator and got it exactly how she liked. In the end, however, despite how beautiful it was, it ended up feeling as empty as much of the rest of her life. It was an interesting article that, at first glance, I appreciated (if I had trouble following it at times and got a little lost in some of the verbiage). Then I scrolled down to read the comments.

I know, comments are the bane of any blog/news/whatever site and are most often some of the most toxic places out there. This particular site actually is pretty good around it. Though, whether that’s through moderation or simply the readers it attracts, I don’t know.

One particular comment caught my eye. It was quite long and I admit, I didn’t read all of it. My ADHD was already showing itself after the long article, so I started skimming. This commenter pointed out that, despite what the article’s author professes about her beliefs and political leanings, she came across as someone who was simply flaunting her wealth, rubbing in what she had and how good, then asking people for sympathy for a hardship most of us could only begin to comprehend.

As I said, I didn’t read the whole comment, but it struck a chord in me. Not because of her struggle—though I could, in fact, empathize with her—nor even the specifics of what the commenter pointed out. The article’s author had spent quite a bit of time enumerating the benefits of her Editor-in-Chief job at a big (unnamed) New York magazine. She’d dropped names of furniture and art that most folks wouldn’t even recognize, much less care about. And she’d discussed the kind of friend—her interior decorator—who “randomly dropped French words” into his speech. The kind of person I think most of us would want to punch in the face, not think was “cute.”

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Lines by Kyuubi, colors by Serani – Uchiha Itachi & Kamizuki Izumo are owned by Kishimoto Masashi & Viz Media/Shueisha

It was interesting to run across this article earlier this week because I have recently been on a kick to go back and reread some of my fanfiction. I’d been realizing lately I haven’t spent enough time writing for fun instead of work and my old Naruto fanfiction took me back to when that’s all I did with my writing. I couldn’t publish Masashi Kishimoto’s characters or world because they weren’t mine. It was all about the fun.

Well, I spent more than a few moments cringing behind my screen. There were quite a few chapters that I wanted to delete quickly from the AdultFanfiction.com servers or the AO3 servers so they never see the light of day again. All the mistakes I’d made before I knew how to write. All the epithets, POV filters, and overabundance of adverbs. Never mind just keeping a single POV itself.

But once upon a time, when I’d begun reading fanfiction all those years ago, I’d made a promise to myself. I couldn’t count on two hands and two feet the number of times I’d go back to reread a fanfiction, only to find it’d been pulled. Most often because the writer left the fandom or was feeling their writing as cringe-inducing as I was realizing mine was. And it drove me batshit, especially because I often read pairings that were exceedingly rare or with characters that got very little love. So, I promised myself when I started writing my own, that I wouldn’t pull my stories. Of course, that means I have some seriously horribad writing out there with my name on it.

I’m blushing just thinking about that.

At the same time, however, I have discovered over the years that fanfiction readers tend to be a lot more forgiving than readers of original fiction. Part of that, I have no doubt, is because it’s free. They don’t pay for it (except in their time reading). Part of it is also probably because they’re not necessarily going to find stories about two characters who’ve met once at a random gatehouse in the original canon. Fanfiction is one of those amazing places where you can put all sorts of weird things together—and even mostly have them make sense.

Sure, there’s always a comment here or there about editing. But it’s much rarer than in original fiction. If we—authors of original, published work—don’t edit our stories, we can be positive we’ll hear about it in reviews.

All of this together this week has given me the chance to reflect on a concept we sometimes don’t want to address but almost all of us still keep in mind.

Who are our readers? Who are we targeting a story to?

The author of the article from Medium, I suspect, hadn’t really kept that in mind when she wrote it. She was trying to appeal to folks who would have a lot of sympathy, yet didn’t quite keep in mind that many of them wouldn’t have the first idea what went into hiring an interior decorator for an expensive brownstone in Brooklyn. Much of the sympathy, I think, got lost in the description of an Editor-in-Chief’s salary, and fringe benefits—including, apparently, enough legroom in First Class to be unable to reach the seat in front of her. It’s hard to have the kind of sympathy she wanted for someone who has so much more than the person reading about it.

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Art by Robert Bone – Hyuuga Hinata and Hyuuga Neji are owned by Kishimoto Masashi & Viz Media/Shueisha

When I wrote fanfiction, my first story involved cousins. I got a lot of criticism for that (because there’s a lot of misinformation about them out there), despite the fact that it was something very common in the country my fanfiction was set in. Still, I learned and though I had that pairing again later, I learned how to ignore that.

But I still kept in mind who I was writing for. When I write my stories now, I am very cognizant of who is going to pick up my books. The vast majority are women readers. I’ve seen quite a few complaints out there about gay romance books that downright demonize women. Yes, there are women out there that are horrible. But there are often times where that’s all someone writes (I am not thinking of anyone specific here, to be clear. I don’t necessarily know of any, but I’ve heard about it).

As writers, we should be aware, at least in general, of who is picking up our stories. We can’t write for everyone—we’ll go batshit trying to do that. We do, in the end, need to write the story that needs to be written. But if we know, for the most part, who’s going to read it, then we can, at least, try to make sure we don’t go out of our way to make them angry or hurt them.

The Authors Speak *Bunch of Books* Giveaway begins: Win 9 ebooks from 9 authors!

We’ve set up a bunch of ways you can enter to win a bunch of books.
Get one backlist book from each of our nine regular bloggers. For more info about each author, check out their posts here on Authors Speak, or click on the menu tab above to go to the author’s personal blog.

  • Charley Descoteaux clouds-birds-library-425730_1280
  • Grace R. Duncan
  • Sarah Madison
  • Anne Barwell
  • Rebecca Cohen
  • Elizabeth Noble
  • Tempe O’Reilly
  • Lou Hoffmann
  • Lou Sylvre

Thanks for playing, and may luck be with you!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Why I Write

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Hello!

Has it been a month already? Well I guess it has. Welcome back for another of my posts on Authors Speak.

Last month I rambled on a bit about why I write what I write. This month I’ve chosen a broader topic: Why I write.

I probably should have led with that, sorry.

So, let’s delve into what drives a person (me) to spend a part of everyday working on creating a story, the type of story doesn’t matter, it’s the act of writing that matters. There are a number of reasons people begin writing. Some write as a hobby or as a stress reliever. Therapists recommend writing as part of recovery for many people. It’s a way to get feelings out of your head. Once I read of a method that advocated writing down what’s bothering you on paper and then burn the paper to clear away negative emotions.

Others (me) begin as children, making up stories about the world around them. It’s a way of correcting something gone wrong or to further explore a favorite book or television show. I didn’t learn until decades later that’s called fanfiction—more on that next month.

The great thing about writing is you don’t have to be good at it, you simply have to do it. I write because it’s something I love doing. These days I write with the goal of publishing, but that wasn’t always my motivation. Having your work published isn’t what makes one a writer.

What makes someone a writer is the drive to write.

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There are people who keep what they write private for a number of reasons. You know what? That’s okay. We’re not required to share every little detail about ourselves with the world. I kept much of what I wrote very private for a long time. During school, before college, I was the girl who walked around with a notebook hidden in with my other books. I wrote down all sorts of stories and tried out different styles. When I wasn’t reading books to escape into a little fantasy world I was writing them.

I love to read and eventually discovered a sure fire way to find exactly the types of stories I want to read was to write them. It’s a simple concept, really. Now it’s a bonus to me that others seem to enjoy reading what I write as well.

When I was very young I lived with my grandparents. Today that’s not such an uncommon thing, but in the sixties being a child of divorced parents who lived with her grandparents was unique to say the least. My grandmother was very sick and I often had to stay home from school to care for her. She was mostly bedridden and slept a lot, so the dog and I were on our own. All my friends were in school and I never cared for game shows or soap operas.

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There was no Netflix or digital books. Our house was filled with books, but more of them were for adults than a little girl. I had my own collection, but I’d read through them and often getting to a library to find other books wasn’t an option. Some days I really wasn’t in the mood to re-read, so I began to write. I wanted stories about adventure and space travel and horses, so I created them. Sometimes all in one story! That simple act allowed me to express myself and explore with my imagination. When I didn’t write, I went back and read my stories.

It was fun.

Eventually I learned what it was to be a published author and those were the people who created the books stored in our family room. I wanted to be one of those people. To me writing has never hard work, but something that seemed as natural as breathing. It’s my happy place after a day of dealing with the world.

So, to answer the question why I write? The answer is simple. I can’t not write.

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Lou Hoffman has a RaffleCopter Give Away be sure to check it out!

The Power of Saying No in Order to Say Yes by Sarah Madison

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stop: freeimage.com

I’m late getting here today. I’ve been out of town and, while I had the best of intentions as to writing this post in advance, I got caught up in all the post-vacation work stuff that occurs and barely managed to write this at all. But it’s just as well because my trip influenced my choice of topics here today.

I just got back from an annual vacation that my friends and I refer to as ‘Squee Weekend.’ It started seven years ago as a 3 day weekend among fandom friends and has evolved into a writers/crafting weeklong workshop with participants from all over the world. We still talk about our fandoms, but we also brainstorm over stories, share our love for other hobbies, such as journaling, or jewelry-making, and in general stay up half the night watching movies, talking, drinking wine, and eating too much. I look forward to going every year. It’s a place where I can let down my hair among friends—among tribe mates—and be myself for a few days. Every year the group gets bigger—and the lovely thing is we can all meet together for mass discussions or break down into smaller gatherings depending on what we might be interested in at that moment.

I always learn something new when I’m there: how to creatively decorate my bookmarks for con swag, for example, or the basics of podficcing. I’ll find out what fandoms my friends are in now and what stories I should be reading. One year I might learn how to put on winged eyeliner without looking like Bucky from The Winter Soldier. Another I might learn how to make charm bracelets or create a bullet journal or organize notebooks for my story ideas. I never fail to come home with more ideas for stories, either—the meeting of like minds is a fertile feeding ground for plot bunnies—so if I’d been feeling stale in my writing, I return to the keyboard refreshed and raring to go.

This time, however, my take-home lesson was something entirely different.

It came out of a random conversation. I don’t even remember what the original topic was, but I happened to mention I had a high school reunion coming up and I didn’t want to go.

“So don’t,” said one of my friends.

I grimaced. “I’ve already paid for the tickets and they were too pricey not to use.”

“That money is already spent,” said another friend. “Don’t compound the problem by investing in it further.”

“Yeah,” said the first person. “You’ve wasted that money. But don’t spend it AND be miserable to boot. Call it a loss and do something you’d rather do that evening.”

I confess, it was a bit of a new concept to me. The notion I could cut my losses without having to ‘get my money’s worth’ out of the price of the tickets already spent, that is. Granted, I’m bad about over-committing anyway. I have lots of Big Ideas and I want to implement them, and I frequently agree to things that sound good on paper but I wind up not having the time for it—or worse, I’m stressed by the number of things I promised I would do. This is especially true when it comes to my writing. I’ll agree to submit a story to this project, or sign up for that event, or participate in something I think will get my name out there and hopefully help me find more readers.

Over the years, I’ve gotten better about saying no to things I don’t want to do in the first place—and to not allow myself to be guilted into doing something I have no desire to do. But I’m still bad about over-committing to things that sound fun, or that I think would benefit me in some way.

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One of the things I had to do this time at Squee Weekend was pick and choose which discussions and activities I wanted to participate in. It was hard because I wanted to do them all! But Squee has become so large we can’t do everything we’d like. As it was, the days flew by and it felt as though we’d barely scratched the surface of our activities. I came home with a better feeling of what was important to me (yes, spending a couple of hours posing action figures in ridiculous shots and taking pictures of them was something I wanted to do with my friends). As a matter of fact, I ended up going miles out of my way on the return trip because I missed an exit. I wound up in the WRONG STATE and added more than an hour to my driving time. Normally this would have stressed me to no end, but instead, I found myself pulling over at a scenic overlook to—yes, take pictures of actions figures against the backdrop.

I’m going to do more saying no to say yes. No to the reunion, but yes to a nice dinner with the BF. No to all the anthologies so I can work on the stories I really want to write. No to so much marketing and yes to finishing that next novel. No to writing half a dozen blog posts and hosting more people on my website and yes to walking the dogs in this lovely autumn weather.

Saying no because I don’t want to do a particular thing is sometimes hard for me to do. I was raised to be helpful and accommodating at all times. But saying no to doing something because there is something else I would rather do—that I can get behind.

Lou Hoffman is doing a Rafflecopter here, so check it out while you’re at it!

The Importance of Young Reviewers (also The Sun Child Chronicles News—cheap book, new book, giveaway)

Lou Hoffmann Icon-logo-squareHi! Lou Hoffmann here, apologizing. I missed my slated date for October by two days, but Charley doesn’t take the stage until 6 days from now, but I figure I can still slide in here with a few thoughts and some quick news.

First the “thoughts” (since I do have a couple today). Young readers writing reviews is a truly wonderful thing. I fairly recently became aware that sites exist on the web where students can share their reviews of what they’ve read, as well as connect with others and find out what others are reading and loving. A couple examples: Scholastic’s “Share What You’re Reading” section of their teacher resource, and Biblionasium—the latter with a great interface for young readers, inviting and easy to use. I know of only one sight, though, where authors can specifically ask for reviews from reviewers, and where the reviewers are encouraged to learn the art of the review—LitPick, it’s called, and their administrator, Tynea Lewis was recently named in ILA’s 30 under 30, recognizing her work there. Fellow YA author Michael J. Bowler told me about this site last year, and I quickly took advantage of what the site offers. You can post your book for review by any interested reader, or you can support the site’s work by purchasing a guaranteed or rapid review. (No, they don’t guarantee a good review, only that one of their student reviewers will indeed review it.) I have had The Sun Child Chronicles books reviewed by a student reviewer, and although the young reader, Nictaf, did indeed award five stars, the joy of reading evident in the words of the review is a far greater reward. That’s why I believe having young people review books is important—because it gets them reading, and reading is most fabulous. Nevertheless, I am proud of those five stars, and LitPick gave me a badge to show them off.

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LitPick review of Key of Behliseth
LitPick review of Wraith Queen’s Veil

Now, about The Sun Child Chronicles…
In case you’ve missed it the ten million times I’ve already said it, Wraith Queen’s Veil releases this week, officially, on October 6th. I’ve got a blog tour going on, and I’ll post the schedule before I click out here today, but first some other news.

Today through Wednesday, Key of Behliseth is only 99 cents.

Yep. Book one for 99 cents today, book two release on Thursday. Pretty good set up, I hope you’ll agree. There will be other chances to save while the blog tour is going on, but, well… 99 cents, right?

Yes, I’m touring blogs. I hope to have some fun with the posts and maybe leak a few state (book-related) secrets along the way, and I also hope you’ll join me. Here’s the schedule. I reserve the right to switch up the blog topics, but this is how I think it will go for now. I’ll update with exact post links as they become available.

9/29
MM Good Book Reviews”: “Interview, Excerpt, and Giveaway”

10/5
Harmony Ink Press Microblog

10/6
C. Kennedy, Author blogspot: “The Beasts in Lucky’s Worlds: A loving look at the horrible, wonderful, treacherous, loyal, extraordinary non-humanoids in Lou Hoffmann’s The Sun Child Chronicles”

Divine Magazine: “Recommended Equipment: A Wizard, An Uncle, and a Faithful Horse”

Queer Sci-Fi—Sci Fi, Fantasy & Paranormal With a Bent Attitude: “Wraiths, Shifters, and a Ghost”

10/7
My Fiction Nook: “Familiar and Unfamiliar Places in Strange Worlds”

Prism Book Alliance: An author interview

10/10
The Novel Approach “An interview with Han Shieth and Henry George (a couple of badass characters)”

10/12
Drops of Ink: A different author interview.

10/15
C. Descoteaux Writes: “Why Bad Things Happen to Good Characters”

10/18
Emotion in Motion: “Character interview: Lucky and Rio (Yes, Virginia, there is a little romance in this fantasy)”

10/19
Rhys Ford: “How to Play the Game of Stars”

10/20
Rainbow Gold Reviews: “Blog Tour Finale: Why Magic? And Win a Signed Paperback Wraith Queen’s Veil!”

I also hope you’re feeling lucky (well at least luckier than Lucky, the series protagonist who has some tough times ahead) because a Rafflecopter giveaway is going on, with four pretty cool prizes.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

That’s it for my post this month on Authors Speak. Happy reading ’til we meet again!