Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Good Advice on Writing: Originality


The Writer's Voice: His Most Precious Gift

The most original thing a writer can do is write like himself. It is also his most difficult task.
-Robertson Davies

It is better to fail at originality, than to succeed in imitation.
-Herman Melville

In the pursuit of good storytelling, an author's best weapon is his/her voice. In just the way that each person has unique handwriting, each author has a unique ability to tell a story in a completely different way than it's ever been told by any other author. This is a topic that's near and dear to my heart, because I love to explore all the fun and interesting ways that I can tell my own stories. I strive to make sure that my voice is distinct and (hopefully) memorable. 

We've all heard the old adage "it's all been done before" and, in general, that's probably true. Most tropes are rehashed thousands of times a day, and because characters and worlds are based on what we know-- they're never very far from exactly that---what we know. HOWEVER!! It doesn't matter if the plot is the same as the next four books on the shelf. It doesn't matter if an author wants to retell a popular fairytale. Why? Because none of the stories will ever be exactly the same! That's one of the best things about reading. Books and stories may be similar, but no two are ever the same.

When learning the craft of writing, (and it's a job that's never really done!) authors have a responsibility to maintain their original voice. Voice is an amalgam of style, syntax, story structure, sentence structure, and even comma use. Our voice comes from our background, our experiences and our hopes and dreams. The best and brightest authors today have found their voice, and they know exactly how to use it to entertain their audience. 

Herman Melville was right. Imitating another author's voice will never really seem true to the reader. Likewise, trying to write to a current trend or fad in some way, when it's not an author's natural style, can make the story seem forced and stilted. 

I think both Herman Melville and Robertson Davies gave amazing advice on the topic of originality. Though the plot or the trope may have been done a million times, it hasn't been done by YOU.

Thanks for joining me for Good Advice on Writing! I hope that the advice from popular authors helps you find your voice!
                  -AR DeClerck



Sunday, May 14, 2017

The Role of The Mother in Storytelling: AR Talks Moms in her Writing


The Role of The Mother

In writing, as in reality, the role of the mother plays an important part in a character's journey. Even if the parental role isn't mentioned, the reader can assume that the character is who they are because of the presence or absence of a maternal figure. How the character interacted with his/her mother can meld how the character behaves. In many instances, the arc of the character can all be traced back to the character's childhood. 

In my writing, I use the role of the maternal figure in many ways. For example, let's examine the hero of Bound to You, Jacks Baine. Jacks' mother is only mentioned briefly in the story, but her interaction with Jacks when his powers were revealed shaped the way Jacks lived the rest of his life. At one point in the story, Jacks tells Lia that he knew the moment his mother stopped thinking of him as her son. She was afraid of what he was, and what he could do, and ignored him for most of his older childhood until he left home for the Intergalactic University. She and Jacks' father were embarrassed to admit to their peers that their son was 'abnormal'. This maternal disdain created a distrust in Jacks that followed him throughout his life and made his eventual love story even sweeter. 


In Forged in Fire, my heroine is the mother to a five year old girl named Luna. Maeve has spent the last few years of her own life working toward one goal-- keeping Luna safe. When we meet Maeve she's made a fateful decision about Luna's welfare. It's time for Luna to meet her father, the most powerful soldier, the Sword Guardian of Dinara. Maeve's choices seem skewed at first, but when we learn of her maternal motivations it becomes fairly obvious that she is the kind of mother who will do anything to ensure her daughter's safety. Even face the man who thinks she betrayed him to the enemy. I love the mother/daughter bond that exists between Luna and Maeve in Forged in Fire. Luna brings so much light and happiness to her mother that it becomes obvious she is the one thing that can bring Maeve and her father together.


Last, but not least, is Sharyn Moran from An Enduring Sun. Despite never having a biological child of her own, Sharyn is one of the most maternal characters I've ever written. She chose to raise the orphaned children in the ERCAn Territories as a young woman, and joined the elite spy group called the Rangers in order to keep them safe. Sharyn has a huge heart, and her greatest desire is to never see another orphaned child of war. I wrote Sharyn with these characteristics in mind because the hero of AES, Ren, needs that kind of love in his life. Taken from his mother at nine and raised as an experiment and later a soldier, Ren is reminded of his own mother when he sees how Sharyn interacts with her boys. Ren has experienced enough harsh reality, and Sharyn brings just the right amount of toughness, grace and adoration into his life. She loves him despite, and because of, his flaws. Sharyn is a fierce protector and a fighter when she has to be, and that makes her the perfect person to stand alongside Ren in the coming war. 


So this is my ode to mothers. The strong ones, the sweet ones, the uncaring and the ungrateful. They all make us who we are, and in storytelling they are far more important than we usually give them credit for. From birth to death, the love (or lack thereof) that our characters receive sets them on their path and makes their stories the kind we can't wait to read.


Saturday, May 13, 2017

Podcast Episode 028: Interview with Haven Cage





Interview with Author Haven Cage

In which we meet with Author Haven Cage. The podcast girls have questions and Haven has the answers! 

Don't forget to like and subscribe to our YouTube channel to catch the latest episodes, and you can also find us on iTunes, Google Play and more!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

CYBORG SUNDAY-- On Wednesday: Sevyn


Cyborg Sunday (on Wednesday): 

Meet Sevyn

The Aeon Project series follows four brothers and their father as they navigate the universe and learn to accept their place within it. The third son in the series (who will have the 4th book called RESONANCE) is named Sevyn.

There are many aspects to Sevyn's personality that make him an interesting character, but none so much as the fury that burns within him. I have never written a character who could not seem to function without the anger that burned in his gut; but Sevyn is the first! He's not a cruel or brutal person, but a good fight is just the way to lighten his mood. The more savage and difficult the fight is, the better he feels when he wins. And Sevyn always wins. 

My plans for Sevyn's book aren't set in stone, because the things that happen in the previous books will shape and alter his story as the series moves along. Finding just the right woman to let the heat out of his bellows (or maybe fire him up even more!) will be a difficult task. It's not going to be easy to find a woman he'll allow to breach the walls around his heart, but I know she's out there. I just haven't written her, yet!

One of the things I love so much about Sevyn is that, on the outside, he's extremely beautiful. The first thought people have about him when they see him is that he's gorgeous. But to Sev,

"What's on the outside is a ruse. A way for me to get close for the kill."

Poor Sevyn is sure that his physiology makes him a monster, and he's happy to live up to the expectation. Deep down, though, he yearns for acceptance like everyone else. It will be my ultimate pleasure to finally bring the beautiful monster to his knees!

This is how I picture Sevyn BF (Before the fall)

If Sevyn's story interests you, please start the Aeon Project Series with book I: An Enduring Sun. 




CONVERSION FOR ALL OR LIFE FOR NONE

Friday, May 5, 2017

WRITING PROMPT: Something Lost




How She Smelled

I opened my eyes to the strange thought, "I don't smell pancakes". Every morning for thirteen years I had opened my eyes to the sounds of birds outside the window, sun on my face, and the smell of pancakes wafting through the house. 

I sat up, shuffling my bare feet over the soft texture of the rug as I made my way to our bathroom. Had she gone out early this morning for some meeting I'd forgotten? I stared at my reflection in the mirror and saw the same old eyes, the new wrinkles and the disarray of my hair. I picked up my toothbrush and paused, holding it to my nose. Had we changed toothpaste? I didn't smell the normal, minty fresh brand we usually used. I put the toothbrush in my mouth and tasted the same old flavor. 

As I brushed, I counted the strokes like the ticking of a clock and when I reached one hundred I rinsed the brush and my mouth and decided to appease my growling stomach. If she was out, that would mean cold cereal for me this morning. I was terrible at boiling water, as she loved to remind me.

My footsteps thumped on the stairs as I headed for the kitchen, but I saw the light on and wondered what might be wrong. She would never leave the house with the lights on. 

When I passed over the threshold to the kitchen I saw her in her chair, her hair down around her shoulders and her head in her hand.

"Honey?" 

At my voice, she raised her head to look at me. 

"Is something wrong?"

"I can't see."

I hurried to her side and knelt by her, checking her for some injury. "What happened? When?"

"I was just standing here reading the paper and my eyesight blurred. A moment later I couldn't see at all." A tear rolled down her cheek as she clutched at my hand. "I'm completely blind."

"Don't worry," I assured her, pressing my lips against her hair. "I'll get you to the doctor right away." I frowned as I realized I didn't smell the citrusey orange of her normal shampoo. "You changed your soap?"

"No." She pressed her hands to my face, and she was shaking with fear. "What's happening to us?"

"I don't know, but we'll go to the hospital." I stood and my eyes locked onto the fresh stack of pancakes on the counter, still steaming from the pan. "You made pancakes."

"I always do." Her hand sought mine and our fingers tangled together. "Is something wrong?"

I looked from the pancakes to her, and then I leaned in again, breathing deeply. No softly floral fragrance wafted from her, no press of orange against my olfactory senses. I let go of her hand and went to the windowsill, pressing my nose against the geranium growing in the little pot there. No earthy smell of soil and pollen. 

"Darling?" She stood and moved toward me, her hands out as she tried to navigate the four or five feet between us. I grabbed her, pulling her close against my chest. She was shaking, and I was shaking and my mind raced with questions I couldn't answer.

"What's wrong?" she asked, the fear making her voice rise. 

"I can't smell anything."

"Nothing? Are you sure?"

"Yeah, I'm sure." I looked out the window and saw our neighbor Earl in his garden, his face pale as he stared at the birds. I waved to him, and he saw me, hurrying to the open window.

"Earl, is everything all right?" I asked.

He frowned, then pointed at his ears. He couldn't hear me.

I pointed to my nose and then to her eyes. What the hell was going on? The sound of screeching tires and twisting metal startled me, and I jumped. 

"What was that?" she asked, pressing against me. 

"Let's go check it out." I waved at Earl to follow us to the front yard. When I opened the door I saw cars piled at the busy intersection near our street, and people milling about in panic. Across the city the sound of sirens rose up over the calamity.

"Daniel? What is going on?" she asked again.

I stared at the smoke rising from the city center, and listened to the sound of sirens on the wind. I couldn't smell the smoke, and I knew that whatever had happened to us had happened to other people, too. "I don't know," I told her as I held tightly to her hand. "But whatever it is, it can't be good."


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Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Good Advice on Writing Part 3: Influences

 
 
 

INFLUENCES

"What one reads doesn't influence one as much as where one is. Still, a great many writers have had their effect on me. The serious ones were, I guess, Ford Madox, Joseph Conrad and Henry James. He was my idol, but to say he influenced me is absurd-- like saying a mountain influenced a mouse."
--Graham Greene
 
I want to spend this week's writing advice column talking about influences. Well, more specifically, I'd like to talk about the places I find inspiration for my own personal writing. When we say the word 'influences', we immediately think about other writers that we take our cues from in our own writing. But, the kind of influences I want to talk about today aren't writing related at all. Well, sort of. You'll see!
 
 
 
In the last few weeks my 10 year old daughter and I have decided that we're going to watch a show together every night. While perusing Netflix looking for a new show (we finished Pok√©mon) we came across Fairy Tail. At first I was like, "Great! Another dumb animated kids' show." But, I was immediately hooked. Why would I tell you about an anime adventure show when I'm talking about writing influences? Because this show is AWESOME! Also, because there are themes in this show that closely mirror the themes I choose to put in  my own stories. Despite the sometimes awkward sexual innuendo and the big-eyed anime slapstick, there are serious, heart-breaking themes that run through the entire show. Friendship, loyalty, and perseverance are the backbone of the storytelling. The world is built masterfully, bringing the viewer into the world of Fiore effortlessly. I WANT TO DO THAT! After only a few episodes I knew the major players in the show (the members of the Fairy Tail Guild) and I had already begun to care about them. I was itching to know their backstory, and the writers do a superb job of giving the viewer that story and making it EPIC. This show isn't filled with happy-happy, joy-joy, it has devastating and heart-wrenching storylines that build the 2 dimensional characters into 3 dimensional ones with feelings, doubts, regrets and unimaginable power.
 
I believe that most creative minds find inspiration and influence in everything about the world around them. A blue sky, a song on the radio, or a feeling elicited by a tv show, can all give writers the fuel they need to build amazing stories. Sometimes, the advice to writers is that they focus solely on their craft, but I heartily believe that writers need fuel for the creative fire. We can find it anywhere as long as we are actively looking for it. Don't be afraid to look for inspiration and find influence in the things that spark your imagination! There's a fine line between being influenced by something and wanting to copy it to achieve the desired result, so we also have to be mindful that we don't let our influences overshadow our own voice in our work. However, there's nothing wrong with loving a show, or a song, or a music video, and using the feelings elicited by that medium to make your own work more impactful. Study the artists who create work that moves you. Learn from that feeling that they create in your heart so that you can create the same feeling for your next reader!
 
That's it for INFLUENCES! I'm off to watch more Fairy Tail! Just remember, anything can inspire you if you're able to recognize it.
 
 
 




Friday, April 28, 2017

Good Advice on Writing Part 2: Editing


Good Advice on Writing Part 2: Editing


"Sit down and put down everything that comes into your head and then you're a writer. But an author is one who can judge his stuff's worth, without pity, and destroy most of it."
--Colette


In this week's foray into "Good Advice on Writing" I stopped on the above quote about editing. On our weekly FOCUS ON FANTASY ROMANCE PODCAST the ladies of the podcast and I interviewed an editor. Our conversation got me to thinking about editing and about the difference between thinking your work is good, and knowing it is. 

This is a double edged sword, in my opinion and one that many authors impale themselves on every day. At heart, writers are artistic beings with creative egos. We need to know that other people think our work is good. All too often, we are certain our story is the best, the most imaginative, the most perfect. It hurts us when our readers don't flock to us with reviews and words of praise. The publishing author has to get past this need for vindication, and understand that reading is subjective. Our vision of the "perfect" story is often at odds with our technical ability to create it. 

This is why we need editors! Editing comes in as many shapes and forms as writing, but in general there are three basic types of editors and they each provide important services to authors to help us create the best book we can. 

Content Edits:  When an author writes a first draft there are often "holes" in the plot, meaning that the story has aspects that don't actually make sense. The content editor can spot these issues, and point them out to the author. They also look for discrepancies in the story, like the main character had blue eyes on page 2 and brown eyes on page 98. Content edits are extremely important in creating a cohesive, streamlined story that the reader can easily understand.

Line Edits: Line editors are what most people think of when they think of "editing". Line editors look for spelling, grammar and punctuation errors as well as word repetition and overall sentence structure. Line editors can pick up on passive voice (telling, not showing) and on poor story structure. 

Proofreading: Proofreaders are the last line of defensive in editing. This is the last step a book goes through before it hits the presses. Proofreaders are reading for any typos (now instead of know, etc) and any errors the other two editors may have missed in their passes. Proofreading should catch those last minute boo-boos that might catch a reader's attention. 

It is the writer's job to write the story, the author's job to know when it needs help, and the editor's job to help! So, in this instance, I would agree with Colette. Writers need editors! We may study craft, may be astute at picking up errors in other people's work, but we are often the most blind to our own mistakes. Meet your editors. Know your editors. Love your editors. USE YOUR EDITORS! They are resources, just like your PC, your thesaurus and your imagination. If we want quality stories, we need quality editing. 


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