Changes, legacies and thinky thoughts

My basement flooded recently.

It’s a special sort of treat said no one EVER!

So what the heck does this have to do with writing you ask? Well, it turns out quite a bit.

When I moved to this house twelve-ish or so years ago I had visions of using my finished basement in all sorts of grand and glorious ways. I could have a whole other floor of living space. I thought creating a living room and dining room down there would be a great place during the hot summer months. It’s nice and cool, I’d save on my electric bill.

Then the darn thing flooded–every few years. Yeah, that’s soooo much fun I can’t even begin to describe it. My oldest son (thank heavens I had the foresight to give birth to a plumber!) suggested an indoor pool during the last flood. Excuse him, he’s convinced he’s funny.

After this last flood I realized I don’t even like it down there anymore. It was time for a change. I decided I needed to move some of the shelves and furniture and things down there up into my main living space.

One of those pieces of furniture was this cute little dresser.

Since it’d been previously sitting in my basement for a decade plus I decided to go through what was stored in those drawers. Discovered something interesting.

Writers keep A LOT of paper. Lined paper, blank paper, colored paper, no pens just paper–I don’t even write by hand anymore! Some of those papers (and notebooks) had things written on them.

Writerly things.

One of those drawers was filled with different stories I’d written or begun to write. Some were from long ago when I was in school. A few were finished, others were not. I’d venture to say I could look in any closet or filing cabinet I own and find such a stash. These little writing clippets range from not so bad to OMG I hope no one ever sees these!

For the better part of the last six or so years I’ve written almost exclusively on my computer. My research, notes, ideas, visual aids are all on there. I have a few friends who’ve I tasked with the duty that if I drop dead they MUST come wipe my hard drive. I’d die of embarrassment if some of those things were seen by others.

Which is silly, I’d be dead so what’s the difference?

My recent find in that little dresser made me think, what about all that stuff I have written on paper and squirrel away throughout my house?

From a writer standpoint this stuff is awful. Gimme a break some of it was written as early as grade school! That’s not to say the ideas are horrible, some I think I might revisit and use. But the writing–gah, blah!

But then I thought how my kids make comments about my writing. Not what I write, but that I DO write. It’s part of who and what I am. My youngest son has commented numerous times the thing he remembers most about me when he was small was I was always creating stories. Writing them down and later typing them out.

Even if I think these handwritten bits and pieces of stories are horrible is it possible they might become something treasured to my children or grandchildren someday? A memento of who Mom was?

Maybe. I won’t know because of that whole being dead thing.

The fact remains, useful or not, these early stories I created do represent me. I’ve decided I’ll collect them all from their hiding places in the back of closest and forgotten drawers and put them in one place for others to find someday. If my kids don’t want them, they can toss them, no hard feelings and I’ll understand. However, it’ll be their choice. I shouldn’t take the opportunity from them to save something they might find precious and meaningful.

Now, as for the raunchy pictures that are purely research on my hard drive–they gots to go!

Until next month,

Elizabeth

To read the better stuff that is eBook compatible and not handwritten visit my WEBSITE.

 

Why We Need Our Storytellers Now More Than Ever by Sarah Madison

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This isn’t the post I intended to write.

I’d originally planned a lighthearted piece about the value of play in stimulating creativity, but that was before the results of the Presidential election. While this is not going to be a political post per se, it was written in reaction to the elections.

Suffice to say, I am horrified, shocked, and yes, terrified. And one of the side effects of this is that I’ve had to take a long hard look at whether I can afford to continue writing.

I know, that seems like such a trivial consideration when you look at the impact this election will have on our country, our citizens, and our planet for decades to come. But it is, I think, a valid one. Writing takes up a significant portion of my time. Yes, it’s a passion, but it is frequently a source of frustration as well. It’s time spent doing something I hope will also help pay the bills, but let’s be realistic: a second job would do that more reliably and efficiently.

Not to mention, I find it incredibly difficult to write when I’m stressed. This past year hasn’t been particularly productive for me, since I have been fretting about this election for at least that long. Now that my worst nightmares have come true, I am facing, at minimum, four years of high-level stress. That’s what I tell myself in order to make myself feel better, mind you. In reality, it will be worse for years to come. Possibly the rest of my life.

Then there is the feeling right now that writing is a frivolous waste of time. How can I occupy myself writing fluffy romances where there are so many battles needing to be fought? Wouldn’t it be a better use of my time putting that energy into other areas? At the very least, something serious and worthy?

So yes, for a period of about 48 hours, I felt as though all hope was gone. I literally did not know how I would continue in a country I no longer recognized as my own. And then I began reading messages of support and encouragement. They came from my friends at first—reminding me how much pleasure writing gives me, but also how much pleasure my stories give other people. For years now, I’ve said my main goal in telling stories was to make someone’s crappy day a bit better—to provide a few hours entertainment, to let someone lose themselves in another world for a little while—so they could forget the stressful job, or their chronic illness, or the burdens of their daily life. My dear friends reminded me of that, and I deeply thank them for their unwavering support and belief in what we do as creators. What I do as a creator. Now, more than ever, we are going to need relief we get from reading stories that make us happy.

But it’s more than that. A Finnish friend of mine, a wonderful writer, penned this statement as a means of encouragement to us all:

“We are the people who create. And I don’t just mean that we’re creative, I mean that in no matter how big or small a way, we bring something good into this world, make it better. We build instead of destroy, make things move forward instead of back. We create friendships and fandom families that stick together. We create positive thoughts and energy that will always spread farther than we think. We create better versions of ourselves, and help others grow that way too. We create stories, crafts, art, discussions, pictures, and so much more, and bring joy to others through what we do. We create love. So many times this place, the fandom, all you people, have saved my day when I have needed it the most. And every time I hear that something I did or created did the same for someone else, I feel a little surprised that I had such power, but also very happy that I could shine some light on a day that might have been anything between mildly grey and near dark.”

Her words came into my darkness like a shining beacon.

Chuck Wendig, an author who posts kick-ass blogs about being a writer, posted a list of constructive things we as creators can do, titled Mourn, Then Get Mad, Then Get Busy. I found this post heartening as well. In particular because it acknowledged my fear and despair, and then gave me practical things I could do about it.

My BF, God bless him, sent me this link, which also inspired me. It’s from the comic, Oatmeal, entitled It’s Going To Be Okay. I confess, I didn’t want to read it at first because I didn’t want someone trying to persuade me things aren’t going to be as bad as I fear, but I was very glad I did. You should read it too.

Last night, long after I should have been asleep, I came across this tweet from George Takei:

The Ministry has fallen. Death Eaters are about. But, my wizards, together we can defeat the dark tides of bigotry and intolerance. #WandsUp

It made me smile in a painful sort of way, but it also reminded me the power of the written word. The magic of stories that makes us not only see similarities between world events and books we grew up loving, but it makes us want to be better people. We want the Ring to get to Mordor. We want to see Voldemort vanquished, the Empire defeated and Palpatine destroyed. We want to believe that one day, ignorance, hatred, and intolerance will give way to the kind of society that creates Starfleet, and that people of all races, genders, nationalities, and species can serve together—as a team—on the greatest starship of all time. Because otherwise, we’ll all be living in Panem, and the Hunger Games will begin soon.

I won’t kid you. I’m terrified for the future of my planet, for society as a whole, for my personal health and safety. And I’ve been wondering what one exhausted, frightened, middle-aged woman can do. The answer is, I can continue to write. My stories might not change the world. I probably won’t create the next Harry Potter series, or write something that catches fire like the Hunger Games. I write romances, and heck, I probably won’t even write the next 50 Shades of Gray. But what I can do, in my own quiet way, is tell stories where diversity and acceptance aren’t dirty words, and where love wins in the end.

If I make someone fall in love with a character who is not like them—if I humanize that person for them and make that reader want what is best for them—then I’ve taken steps that might make them stop viewing ‘different’ as ‘other’. And if the only thing I achieve is that I make one other exhausted, frightened person feel a little bit better, a little bit calmer, even for a few hours, then I’ve done a good thing. If I can make one person say, “Whoa, that isn’t right, and we need to change that,” then I have done a great thing.

Let’s all go out there and do great things.

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Why is a Writer Like a Janitor?(A Lou Sylvre flashback post)

Lou Sylvre Gay Romance Happy Endings Hi, Authors Speak readers! I’m Lou Sylvre, and this is my first monthly post here. In case you don’t know me, I’ll post my bio and some info on my books at the end of this post—and I’ll tell you right here and now I’ve got a novella releasing this coming December or January, and it’s very dear to me, even though it’s not all my “usual.” It’s just, occasionally, when I write something I feel down deep that I’ve somehow pulled off writing a really good read, and I believe readers will find Falling Snow on Snow to be just that.

Talking about “writing a good read” puts me in mind of a post I wrote and shared on Love Bytes reviews back in January of 2015. The title, in fact, was “Writing a Good Read: Five Keys and a Pipe Wrench.” So the mystery of this new post title is solved—writers and janitors carry keys and may on occasion need a pipe wrench. Mostly, this post is for those of you who are looking to either start a writing career, or those of you who are writers and, like me, appreciate the addition of a new tool or a reminder about one you already have in your utility belt. But I’m hoping readers can enjoy this too, for a couple of reasons. First, sometimes it’s exciting to reflect on a book you did or didn’t like and be able to see what the author did that produced that result. Also, sometimes readers turn out to be writers, too.

So, from the original post, here’s all this:
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First, I’ll define what I believe the term “a good read” means.

Number one: A good read is a book that captivates a reader so that they finish the book, and when they do, it has satisfied something in their minds or hearts. They might have cried, or laughed, or gotten angry in the course of it, but they end up glad they read it, and most likely would want to read more about the characters or from the author. In order for the book to meet this criteria, it will have to meet the others.

Number two: The story makes sense. Brief anecdote—when I had children, my former mother-in-law bought me a cup that said, “Because I’m the mommy, that’s why!” Funny, and occasionally it works in parenting, at least for a minute, but if you find yourself explaining developments in your novel with the words “It’s fiction and I want it to happen anyway,” chances are you’ve made a jump that won’t work. I don’t mean it can’t happen in the story, but very likely you need to figure out what you need to do to make it happen in a way that makes sense. By the same token, the saying (immortalized in a pop song a few decades back), “It’s my party, and I’ll cry if I want to” does not translate well to “It’s my book, so I can do what I want.” This usually arises later in the process during beta reading or editing. Don’t misunderstand—you can certainly think that, even say it. But then if you want the book to be a good read, you’ll probably need to change your mind and do a little more work.

Number three: The characters make sense. No, really. Your characters can be quirky—in fact to make them seem real they should have at least some characteristics that could be called quirks. They can be likeable or loveable, but that can’t be all they are because that doesn’t make sense to anyone who has met a few humans—inconsistencies R us, right? Most stories will have a definite ‘bad guy.’ Sometimes a villain, sometimes a well-meaning or confused character who causes trouble for the ‘good guys.’ Sometimes it’s a group, or a thing, or an idea that fills the role. But even here, the ‘bad’ has to have something more—sorrow, possession, an unbreakable oath, a need to wreak havoc in order for their offspring to survive, or whatever. Again, to seem real, it cannot be flat as a two-dimensional plane, or it’s not interesting. There has to be a why, and most of the time some secondary whys, for everything anybody does in your story.

Number four: The world (or universe) of your story must make sense, too. Everyone’s heard about the pitfalls of world-building. It doesn’t just apply to speculative fiction (sci-fi, paranormal, fantasy, magical realism), but to every story, even if it’s written in real time, real place, real buildings. Why? Because your story never happened there. Your characters never lived there (even if they are based on people you know or real historical characters). In spec fiction, you have to be very aware of systems to make them all work together—if there’s magic, how does it work, where does it come from, what does it cost its user. If it’s a medieval town but they have a flying machine or flush toilets, fine, but make them have a sensible system. The farther you get away from pure sci-fi or fantasy, the fewer systems you must devise. Instead, though, just as importantly, your storyline and characters (which represent a system) must be incorporated as seamlessly as possible with the systems already in place.

I probably could go on about that, but I’m belatedly remembering that my post is supposed to be about five keys and a pipe wrench. Mind you, I propose these only as my own opinion, but I’m pretty sure that if you sincerely apply them (tweaking as necessary), they will at least help you get that book written, and make it a book you’re happy to put your name on.

1st Key—Never, ever, ever read those books that have titles that go something like Two Million Reasons Your Book Won’t be Published, or What’s Wrong with Your Writing. Hey, be real. We’re hard enough on ourselves. These books may purport to have good advice for you, but what they really do is drive home to you, consciously, that you don’t write well enough to be published. Subconsciously, they’ve got you rehearsing how to do things in a way that will end with a negative result.

2nd Key—Think small when planning your book. Start with a narrow premise you’d like to explore, a character or two whose story you think needs writing, a single storyline, or even just a start. This makes it possible for you to outline quickly and get to the writing. Believe me, the characters will multiply, as will twists, turns, and subplots.

3rd Key—Start the writing early in the process. Yeah, this might be called Key 2B, but I think it deserves a place of its own. The only way to begin to learn to write is to begin writing, so the longer you put it off, the longer it will take to learn. And, you’ll probably find that the longer you put off writing the story you want to turn into a book, the harder it gets to make that start. By “write” I don’t mean outline. Yes, do a broad outline, but right away pick a place to start writing—no this doesn’t have to be the beginning—any scene that calls to you. If you know how, you can kick start it by storyboarding, or just do a rough outline of the scene. You should be able to do that within an hour at the most. Then right away, put words on a blank page. It doesn’t have to be good! Just write it and don’t stop until the scene is on the page. Then do another one the next day.

4th Key—Remember you’re really not the boss, at least not all the time. Your characters will have things to say, and they will want you to write what they want to do. At least part of the time, you’re going to have to do it if you want the story to move forward—and momentum is a precious commodity in novel-writing. Likely, you will also realize that your characters have a pretty good understanding of what the story needs. Yes, they’re sometimes like berserk little children and you have to take their privileges and put them in time out (please don’t tell Luki Vasquez I said that), but they need play time, too.

5th Key—Trust your editor to be good but not perfect at their job; trust yourself to be good but not perfect at your job. This key is the only one I’m giving that’s not related to spitting out that first draft of your first novel. It’s for later, after the publisher has accepted your book, or you are at the stage in self-pubbing where you’re ready for the editor. (Yes, it will happen if you want it to and you do the work.) What I mean by “their” job and “your” job is that a good editor knows how a story works, how a sentence works, and lots of stuff about grammar, spelling, punctuation, etc. That’s their domain. If they say your story doesn’t work because something’s missing, it probably is. Or if they say your main character isn’t likeable, he’s probably not. Grammar is a grayer area, because in fiction sometimes an author writes in a way that isn’t exactly proper for voice or effect—and most experienced fiction editors will recognize that. It’s your job, as author, to determine whether that’s the case with each edit, no matter how small. It’s your job to know whether their suggested fix will have a different meaning than what you’ve written, because meaning is what the story is about, and that’s your domain. Take edits seriously, think about them, and respect your editor’s work and know-how. Your book will be a lot better for it when it makes it debut.

The pipe wrench— Most people probably know that a pipe wrench comes in really handy for plumbing. But not everyone knows how much a pipe wrench can do when you use it like a hammer, either tapping or pounding as the case requires. The name of this particular pipe wrench is “just write,” and it’s the most versatile, useful item in your toolbox. Key 1 reflects this, but the pipe wrench continues to be awesome throughout the process of the novel and throughout your career. You’ll get mysterious “writer’s block.” Your muse will go on strike. You’ll get negative comments from a beta reader and think you write sucky, so why try. Etcetera! In all cases, get out the just-write pipe wrench and put words on a page. It’ll smash the self-worth bugs, it’ll put the criticism down to size. Scare the muse into suiting up and showing up. Break the clog blocking the pipes into smithereens and let them flush away.

That’s it for my advice. Really. Enough, don’t you think… Thanks for reading! Thanks for writing. Keep doing both!
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Oh yeah, here’s a little about me, Lou Sylvre, too.

Some of my books:
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My bio, the short version.
Lou Sylvre loves romance with all its ups and downs, and likes to conjure it into books. The lovers on her pages are men who end up loving each other—and usually saving each other from unspeakable danger. It’s all pretty crazy and very, very sexy. How cool is that? She is the creator of the popular Vasquez and James series of M/M romantic suspense, which can be found at Dreamspinner Press, Amazon, and many other online vendors. A spinoff series began with the A Shot of J&B. She blogs at sylvre.com, is @sylvre on Twitter, and loves to hear from readers on Facebook or at lou.sylvre@gmail.com.

One place you can find my books
At Dreamspinner Press: https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/searchresults?q=lou+sylvre

My latest book, the cover and blurb.
A Shot of J&B 400x600 Six years ago, Brian Harrison helped save the life of Jackie Vasquez, and he’s never really forgotten him. After the rescue, Brian ended his employment with Jackie’s uncle Luki and left the US for England, aiming to distance himself from the confused feelings—not lust, but not brotherly—that then sixteen-year-old Jackie engendered. Now Jackie has become a man, and when they meet again by chance, lust with a dose of D/s rope kink is definitely on the list of possibilities. As they get to know each other, though, lust shows every sign of growing into love, deep and true.

When Jackie moves to London for graduate studies in criminal psychology, he and Brian hope they’ll be able to enjoy each other’s frequent company. But they haven’t factored in the claim Brian’s police job with Scotland Yard will make on his time, especially when the “Gaslighter crimes” sap investigative resources. An abandoned aide dog named Soldier leads to a breakthrough clue, and a chain of discoveries fall like dominoes. As Brian rushes to beat the criminal’s game before it escalates to true terror, he comes to an undeniable conclusion: Jackie Vasquez, the man he loves, is in mortal danger.

A tiny excerpt from my current WIP, Blackmail and Roses, sequel to Finding Jackie.

Jackie took three steps out of the LAX terminal and then the heat blasted him from all directions. The pavement baked him from below, all the surrounding structures radiated like oven walls, and the sun threatened to broil his freckles black. But it was the wind, the devil-born Santa Ana that splashed red in his eyes and stole his breath.

Jackie remembered a time in LA when the Santa Anas had seemed like the touch of some blessed god, in that October when he and Josh had first wandered into the warm, dry City of Angels after a damp summer on the Seattle streets.

“Damn,” Josh had muttered. “I hope it doesn’t blow like that all the time.”
But Jackie had just shook his head, not said a word. True, he wasn’t in the habit of talking much back then. Hurt boys often don’t, he’d since learned in his psych classes. But that time his silence was one of incredulity. Jackie had loved the rough, subjugating caress of those hot winds, would have stood for days and died inside them if he could have.

But that was before he’d seen their cruel side. Before he’d seen them weave a spell of apathy and violence on even those people who sometimes cared. Before he’d seen them spin the heads of friends around until they faced each other with fists and knives. Before he’d seen them launch bullets in back alleys. Now he knew they sometimes stripped the last inhibitions from the minds of drunks, the clothes from shaking young bodies, the last vestiges of hope from desperate hearts.

Thanks for reading! Your comments are welcome, should the notion strike you. I hope to see you next month.

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authors speak giveaway Be part of our community and get a chance to win a $15 gift certificate, too! Enter the Rafflecopter by signing up for email notices or registering for the blog between July 2 and July 16th, and you could be our winner. Get extra entry points by tweeting about the giveaway. Easy, right? (Scroll down the page a little for the entry form.) And by the way, guest posts are welcome from readers, writers, editors, reviewers—just let me know you’re interested and I’ll be in touch.

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