Hello+Heads-up

Hello + Heads-Up

Hello to all you wonderful readers!

Last week was my blog’s first birthday and I wanted to throw A Grand and Glorious Party, but alas, I was on the road with no internet. The month of August turned out to be far busier than I had anticipated, so I was not prepared. However, I am still planning on a lovely celebration for the blog (giveaway and all!) so please watch for that next week!

If you have any requests or things you would like to see at this party-of-special-magnificence, please feel free to comment below or message me.

See you all there!

One Thing That’s Guaranteed to Make You a Better Writer

one thingthat is guaranteed

Looking over my blog today, the date on my last post tells me that I have not posted in a little over a month. Yes, a month. Pretty sure I haven’t done that one yet. While I do not like to take long breaks (I much prefer to be prepared—don’t we all?), it just happens to go perfectly with my post today. Because I was doing exactly what I’m about to talk about.

I was living life.

Writers have this reputation for sitting cooped up for hours behind locked doors, writing in solitude, shutting out the world. While we are fast changing this, writing still takes a lot of time, often off where we are free from distraction, alone with our steaming tea, our playlists, and our comfy socks. There is nothing wrong with getting away to maximize our writing time (I attempt to do this and usually fail), but we must be careful not to exclude, in our writing lives, the very key element of living.

I did Camp NaNoWriMo, a 30k blip on the screen of my writing life, but that is not what I’m going to remember from this month, nor am I going into August exhausted or burned out. In fact, I feel energized and ready to take on writing as if I had had a vacation.

This month I walked on the decks of historical tall ships for research (many of them having recently sailed across the Atlantic), worked on house projects with my Dad, took my youngest siblings out for ice cream, and ate authentic Yemeni food. I played soccer and duck-duck-goose with little children who couldn’t even speak my language, basketball with some of the best players I know (and I know roughly half the rules), and wrote a tear-jerking scene in a bumpy van full of teens singing silly songs. I built relationships with people I didn’t know very well at the beginning of the month, I went outside my comfort zone again and again, I learned new things.

This, in my opinion, is the best thing a writer can do for themselves. When you have authentic relationships, when you see life in a different culture, when you push yourself beyond your usual level of comfort, you build an authenticity in your writing that cannot be faked.

Writing should not be a segregated thing—this part of my life is for writing, and this is for the rest of it—but rather live first, and the writing will follow. Use your frustrations, your anticipations, your laughter, and your longings of everyday life to color your writing. The experience of life shows—people can tell the difference.

So don’t just run through life. Stop to savor your food; don’t forget the joy of wind on your face, or the excitement of something so little as a new book. Don’t forget the beauty of a smile.

Live.

July Camp NaNoWriMo: Ship Story

July Camp NaNoWriMo_

This July I am participating in Camp NaNoWriMo again, this time to make progress on/finish a book that is very near and dear to my heart. Currently it is simply called Ship Story, and it was going to be my debut novel until I decided to go with fantasy instead. It already has 75,000 words on it, and my goal this summer is just to help it along, and relax while doing it.

So without further ado, may I present Ship Story.

 

He sang of the sea in its restless glory, he sang of the beautiful sea….

Quick Synopsis: In 1696, Captain William Kidd was given a commission to wage war on the pirates that were preying on England’s shipping. Suspicious of the man’s ability, King William of England secretly outfits and commissions a second ship, under the command of one Captain Sutcliffe, for the same purpose. Sutcliffe does well for himself in the West Indies until he sets out on the trail of the most notorious pirate in the Caribbean. He is never heard from again. Willing to try once more, William lets the commission fall to Sutcliffe’s closest friend, Captain Stephen Wallace, who besides being a brilliant fighter, now has something to avenge.

Jeff Ramsey has been a no-one’s-son in a port town all his life, and after being forced into involuntary servitude, he vows to flee to the one safe haven he has—the sea. But when he signs on to a ship that claims to be neither pirate nor navy, promising him good pay and a good life, he is swept into a world he never knew existed: one of adventure, gold, and possibly death.

Genre: Historical Fiction

Time period: Late 1690s—early 1700s.

Setting: The Atlantic//The Gold Coast//The West Indies//Bristol//Foreign markets//Jungle islands//

Some of the main characters:

Jeff Ramsey: Main protagonist, about fifteen. Ran away to sea, has a quick eye, makes friends easily, fast learner.

Captain Stephen Wallace: Brilliant tactician, stoic Scotsman, has a way of instilling loyalty in his crew.

Second Mate Sean Lindsay: Referred to as the Cat-With-Nine-Lives, Sean has been more places and done more things before thirty than most men do in a whole life at sea. Wears his hair in a thick blond braid, takes a fancy to Jeff.

David Brodie: Helmsman, can steer any reef with his eyes closed. Old friend of the captain’s from Scotland, and trusted by the men.

Gunner Abednego Sweet: Eccentric, loves wearing earrings and sashes. Has the tallest tales in the business, and is always dragging his straight-laced gunner’s mate into them. May or may not be married to a French heiress on St. Lucia.

Kelby Morgan: Stolen from his home in the Pacific islands by a merchant ship as a boy, and then the sole survivor of its wreck, he has been searching for his home ever since. He calls it Aotearoa, and he is constantly signing on to ships bound for foreign parts in the hopes of finding it again.

Shark: Ship’s cook, has a bad limp from an old leg wound. It is rumored that he sailed with the infamous Captain Morgan as a younger man before he took up honest work.

Nicky Lydon: A topman who befriends Jeff and shows him the ropes. Loves heights and climbs almost as fast as his pet monkey.

Captain Edward Champion Camden: Son of a baronet’s daughter and a ne’er-do-well, he went to sea young and was found to have a talent. Now at twenty-two, he preys off of foreign merchants and pirates, and believes that there is no ship he cannot beat, since so far there hasn’t been.

 

Are any of you doing Camp NaNoWriMo? I would love to hear about your projects in the comments!

 

Why I Don’t Live Off the Tears of My Readers

Wjy O dpm

You see it everywhere in the writing community. It’s on t-shirts, mugs, and prints, in tweets and bios, etc. People say they love destroying feels, they drink the tears of their readers, they live for making their readers cry, and many other forms of the same idea.

I don’t think it is said in a way that is meant to be malicious or uncaring. But I think it is possible that it is said without giving thought to the future implications for both reader and author.

I want to take my job seriously

I love writing, and if I am a professional author I need to be considerate of my audience, who enables me to do what I love. Do some people like having their feels destroyed? Yes. Double yes. It’s not always bad. But the thing that separates a good writer from a manipulative writer is how they do it. If you’ve read enough, nine times out of ten you can tell when a writer is doing something just to create “feels” and not to serve the story. And that’s what I call unprofessional writing.

I understand my words have power

Let me tell you a good thing and a bad thing. Writers have lots of power. (Congratulations! You may now consider those plans to take over the world!) However, that means you have a responsibility to use that power well. You have a chance to influence your audience (which could be the world) for good or for bad, and that is not something anyone should take flippantly. When a reader picks up your book, it is always an honor. They are giving you a piece of their time, to hear your thoughts and see things through your eyes, and while we can get used to this, we shouldn’t forget that it is a privilege they are giving us.

I have known enough sorrow to have empathy

Do my characters die? Oh yes. Sometimes they die and they die bravely, they die too young, they die when they are the last people you want to see die. Sometimes they die because I have to work through grief of my own.

But that does not mean I enjoy it. Every death hurts. It should hurt. I have lost people I’ve known and loved, and that has taught me to be careful not to take character deaths for granted in a story. I will not write a death if it does not further the story, is not required for realism, or does not have a glimmer of hope. And I will definitely not go into unnecessary detail just for effect.

The story is paramount

The story must be served first. Even if it is sure to bring down a hailstorm of feels, if you put it in there with no other purpose, I promise you, you have shot yourself in the foot.

It’s all about the attitude

In media nowadays, I think human life has been cheapened. People die simply to make the story more interesting, the feels deeper, the stakes personally higher for the protagonist. Few people seem to care about the victim in a murder mystery—it’s all about the brains of the detective. In an adventure book all sorts of minor and secondary characters die just to plump up the action and make you fear more for what the antagonist will do to protagonist. Writers all around mwahaha about the characters they are going to kill and throw around terms like ‘I killed a character today’ or ‘I kill most of my characters’ with little thought.

My problem is not with death in stories. We writers tackle hard subjects that require it, and I think we should. My problem is with an increasingly callous attitude towards death—something that should never be taken lightly because it doesn’t stop with the authors. If the authors become callous, so will the readers. You see it in effect already. Our culture is incredibly callous towards death. Just look at the kind of media that is being consumed wholesale.

We authors have the ability to make or break our culture with what we write, how we write, and what attitude we choose to write with.

And that’s something we can’t just joke about.

Summer Reading List

Summer Reading List

Summer is not too far off (even though it doesn’t feel like it today!), and with the regular yearly activities coming to an end and summer ones beginning, I have started to make plans for my summer TBR stack.

So far I have:

Beauty by Robin McKinley: This was recommended to me some time ago by Susannah Rowntree (whose taste is impeccable), and I’ve been hankering after a good Beauty and the Beast retelling.

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson: A lovely old re-read. I feel like Stevenson is a kindred spirit in his love of the sea, and I am going to be (in July, hopefully) pulling out my historical fiction project set on the old high seas, so why ever not?

The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye: I was intrigued by a couple reviews friends did of this one, and I’ve been curious to check out a Russian-themed fantasy. I’m calling it market research.

Seamanship in the Age of Sail John Harland: This is a research book that you might remember from my spring TBR. That’s because it is quite a long book!  This covers historical changes in shipmaking, maneuvers, and drills as well as many other aspects of handing a square-rigger.

The Young Sea Officer’s Sheet Anchor by Darcy Lever: More research! This one specifically talks about the parts of the ship, what they do, and how to work them.

Two Years Before the Mast by Richard H. Dana: A real life account written by a student who was told to go to sea by his doctors as a treatment for over-studying, this is an intelligent, comprehensive, and entertaining book so far.

And that’s what I’ve got! The research books will take all summer, I’m thinking, and I’ve left room for whatever might strike my fancy mid-summer.

Do you have a summer reading list? If you’ve posted about it, feel free to paste a link in the comments so I can check it out!

The World of Writing Music Artist Feature: Peter Hollens

HOLD ON

About the artist: Peter Hollens is an American a capella singer and Youtube artist. He started an a capella group in college and met his wife through singing venues. In 2011, he began his Youtube channel and since then has collaborated with many well-known artists and released multiple CDs.

Why I recommend him:

I love his pure singing, and he covers a wide range of genres, from folk to pop to musicals. Because everything you hear is made strictly by him (sometimes only his mouth) his music tends to have a gentle quality. His songs and collaborations are perfect for character theme songs and setting moods.

What I use his music for:

-General playlist music

-Listening through an album start to finish

-Character theme songs

Favorite Songs:

Parting Glass:

Loch Lomond:

Baba Yetu:

For the Dancing and the Dreaming:

Now We Are Free:

 

And some others that are too good to leave off the list:

In Dreams

What Are Words

I See The Light

Into the West

The Last Goodbye

Have you heard any of Peter’s songs? If so, which are your favorites?

In Which I Talk About Some of My Favorite Blogs

In Which I Talk ABout Some of My Favorite Blogs

In the blogging world, I’ve found that some things are far more important than numbers and following.

Friends. Inspiration. Quality. The list could go on.

There are so many fantastic blogs out there that encourage and inspire me, or are run by the nicest people imaginable, and this handful, I think, deserves your attention.

So please, check these people out and give them a follow!

 

Curious Wren:

What you’ll find there: A little bit of everything. She interviews people, writes thoughtful articles, posts snippets, and makes everybody feel welcome.

What I love about it: It is like walking into a lovely old house with nooks to explore, gingerbread and tea, and delightful goings-on.

Favorite Posts

https://anniehawthorne.wordpress.com/2016/04/05/sehnsucht/

https://anniehawthorne.wordpress.com/2016/02/02/monthly-recap-january-in-which-i-read-little-and-nearly-forgot-what-my-family-looked-like-i-kid/

https://anniehawthorne.wordpress.com/2016/02/12/10-tips-to-beat-a-writing-slump/

 

My Lady Bibliophile

What you’ll find there: Thought-provoking posts on reading and writing, book reviews, and the occasional vlog.

What I love about it: Schuyler does not write lightly. When she tackles a tough topic, you can bet she’s put a lot of thought into it. She reads widely and prolifically, and she’s a wise, thoughtful voice in a world where it is common to blurt out your thoughts the minute you think them.

Favorite Posts

http://ladybibliophile.blogspot.com/2015/08/why-homeschoolers-need-to-read-modern.html

http://ladybibliophile.blogspot.com/2015/10/why-book-lovers-need-to-be-book-buyers.html

http://ladybibliophile.blogspot.com/2015/02/why-young-authors-are-tackling-tough.html

 

The Penslayer

What you’ll find there: Articles on writing and writing life, snippets, life updates.

What I love about it: Jenny is like a cup of strong coffee. She has strong opinions and states them strongly. I don’t always agree with her, but I do admire her fire and passion for what she does, and she has some great advice. Her articles are short and easy to read, and she posts frequently.

Favorite Posts

http://thepenslayer.blogspot.com/2016/04/4-life-altering-easy-ways-to-show.html

http://thepenslayer.blogspot.com/2016/03/how-i-cope-with-multiple-story-ideas.html

http://thepenslayer.blogspot.com/2016/02/what-regency-rome-taught-me-about.html

 

Story Port

What you’ll find there: Writing tips, story updates, and practical articles. I understand that she will be making some changes in the near future, so look out for that. It may be slightly different, but it’s going to be good.

What I love about it: Brianna da Silva is both a thoughtful writer and a born encourager. She’s sharp and perceptive of the writing world around her and she has advice worth hearing.

Favorite Posts

http://briannadasilva.com/2016/05/how-i-gained-my-first-1000-followers-on-twitter/

http://briannadasilva.com/2015/12/young-adult-cliches-that-need-to-stop/

http://briannadasilva.com/2016/02/10-traits-of-an-epic-hero/

 

Sarah Letourneau’s Official Website and Blog

What you’ll find there: Many things! She has lots of posts on technical how-to for writing, she posts updates on her WIP, reviews of everything from TV shows to tea, and links to her frequent guest posts elsewhere.

What I love about it: She’s down-to-earth, friendly, and writes conversationally, while giving you helpful, honest advice.

Favorite Posts

https://saraletourneauwriter.com/2016/05/06/diy-mfa-5onfri-market-research/

https://saraletourneauwriter.com/2016/05/21/identifying-and-cutting-lengthy-descriptions/#more-6231

https://saraletourneauwriter.com/2016/04/21/favorite-stories-have-in-common/

 

These are only a fraction of the wonderful blogs I’ve had the privilege of reading and enjoying. If you enjoyed this post and are interested in seeing another one like it, comment below and let me know!

 

A Beautiful Day to Die: Snippets Post

sneppt

In January I set myself a writing goal, and in trying to disconnect from Crowning Heaven as best I can in between edits, I have been writing like mad.

So far I have finished two novels, a novella, and a short story. So in celebration (and also just for fun), here are snippets for you all.

Aniak-Burn

 Novel//Alaskan Fantasy//A small community fights for their existence against treachery and foreign raiders//

Tarrant slid his spear into the crook of his arm and grasped both of Bayhard’s arms. “Bayhard, my cousin, my cousin—how can I thank you?”

“How could I do any less?” Bayhard answered steadily. “Did you think I would stand by and not hazard a drop of my blood while they spilt yours? We are kin.”

“Bless you.”

“Well, this must be farewell.” Bayhard’s voice caught on the edge of his words.

———-

He sat down upon the step to his house, leaning his back against the comfortable familiarity of the doorway, gazing out at the tall pines that ringed his stead so majestically, at the sky that was a bright, promising blue. Birds sang overhead, and somewhere on the hills north of the village he could hear a herd of deer passing through the woods.

It was a beautiful day to die.

———–

Three good dogs dead and nearly twice that number hurt, and he out of his head four days with fever, and perhaps months before he could walk and carry a spear—all for that Horned Beast which had been nowhere about when Tarrant arrived.

Life had played cruel with him.

Like a bear, he thought, that would end you with a careless slap and think no more of it.

 

Missing April

Novella//Modern Mystery//When crime strikes a small London family people are forced to rethink their decisions before it is too late//

She debated within herself a moment, and then she went up to him. “Hello,” she greeted in her stern policeman’s voice.

His eyes barely flicked up to meet hers, which nettled her. “Hello, Commander.”

“What are you doing here?”

“You keep asking me that about public places,” said Lesley, holding a cigarette in his mouth as he lit it. He put the lighter back in his pocket and took a draw, leisurely breathing out the smoke. “Seems to me you might be afraid I’m onto the very same thing you are.”

————-

The apartment was quiet and empty, and it had that cool, air-vent smell that he secretly liked. Even so, he should think about getting one of those air freshening things that you plug into the wall. Every so often the place started to smell faintly of cat and that would never do.

The cat, which belonged most definitely to his sister and not to him, met him in the kitchen, meowing conversationally and rubbing against his leg.

He set the bags of food on the counter, and scooping up the cat, took it to April’s room and shut it in. It would sleep until April got home from school and then she could take care of it. He had just bought some very expensive filet mignon and he could not afford for the cat to get it.

————

Maureen had been inside the school for over an hour, and had given no thought to her careless words, ‘Stay here, I will be back soon.’

Of course, he could break her order and go in, but that was hardly suitable, since she was an officer. Officers were like that after they had been authority long enough: ‘Wait here’, ‘Go do this lovely job or that lovely job’, with no thought to the future logistics.

In other words, the car was hot, he was thirsty, and his back was beginning to ache from the strange curve of the seat.

————

She pressed the send button and reached over to take a sip of her coffee. And her heart froze.

Sitting across from her, a coffee in his hand, was Lesley Granville, looking as smug as a cat who had got the cream.

 

Gladitorii

Short story//Historical Fiction//Honor and ethics collide in a Roman arena//

There was a certain smell to an arena, that once you’d been there, you never forgot. The smell of hot sand in the sun, of sweat—men’s when you were beside the gladiator pits, and animal when near the cages. There was the heavy smell of the animals themselves, above it, thin and sharp like sword beside the face, the metallic smell of blood that never quite went away, and to mock it all, the faint homey smell of bread and onions which the gladitorii ate.

———

He went to the weapons rack to select his weapon. There was the sword with the worn place in the pommel—his usual sword. He picked it up and weighed it in his hand, testing for the thousandth time its balance and keenness.

It had been his faithful defender for fifteen years; it would do one last time.

———

There was echoing in his mind a conversation he had overheard some years ago between the trainer of the young gladitorii and a rich woman who had come to personally bestow gifts upon her favorite gladiator, a fellow who unfortunately had been dead these past three years.

“I was told by a gladiator once that there is no honor among them—they are trained like animals, and they will kill each other practically for their next meal.”

“On the contrary,” the trainer had said, “he who says that has not long been among the gladiators. It is a strange honor, and not understood by many outsiders, but honor it is.”

Funny, how that of all things should be going through his head now.

 ———–

His master came and told him it was time, but he did not need to be told. He knew better than anyone else that the time was come.

He smiled to himself as he stood before the grated door, hearing the people calling his name. The blood-thirsty rabble that had haunted his dreams, tainted his life.

Even they would be gone, by and by. But honor, that remained. Honor was worth sacrificing for.

 ———

The long, drawn-out howl of a wolf cut through the low hum of the noise in the pits and Martinus raised his head.

Two hours. Two hours and he would be out on the glaring, hot sand, with the crowd screaming, screaming for blood, his perhaps, perhaps Flavian’s. Either way—there was blood to be spilt.

Had he not been so long in the arena, the idea would have made his stomach sick, but now he no longer cared. It was a thought as plain and distant as wondering what the weather might be outside the pits.

Ten Ways to Stay Healthy as a Writer

Ten Ways to Stay Healthy as a Writer

Writing is one of those professions/pastimes which can easily catch you sitting for long periods of time, staring at a computer screen, chugging coffee or losing sleep. Generally speaking, doing things that are not all that good for you.

That’s not to say it has to be that way. There are lots of small, easy things we can do to make sure we are taking care of ourselves while we crank out those words. Here are a few things I have found to be helpful.

 

—Drink lots of water: Try it with some lemon squeezed in for extra health benefits.

—Stretch: As little as five minutes makes all the difference in the world.

—Proper posture: Wrong posture does terrible things to your body. ‘Nough said.

—Take breaks: Try for at least once an hour.

—Unnplug: Take time to do something entirely different, don’t even think about your writing.

—Know your limits: Learn to stop when your body says stop. It is better to stop a little earlier and do something else than to beat a dead horse and accomplish nothing but frustrating yourself.

—Take an internet/electronics break: Get away from the screens, the social media, and do something real.

—Get lots of sleep: Everything works better and faster when you are well rested.

—Find an active pastime: Running, biking, skiing, dancing—it could be anything.

—Change up where you write: Buy a standing desk. Write in a notebook. I know someone writing on a typewriter right now. Find ways to keep writing without staying in front of a screen or sitting down the whole time.

What do you do to stay healthy? Are there any important tips I didn’t mention?