An Honour And Big Shoes

Once in a lifetime, some folks are lucky enough to be the recipient of a life-altering gift. As far as I know, I’ve never been able to count myself among them.

Until this week.

Back in late autumn of last year (2020), I joined the Golden Crown Literary Society, a leading literary organization for editors, publishers, readers, writers, and friends/supporters who celebrate books about women loving women. A couple of months later, I applied to their writing academy. I was tickled pink when I got an acceptance letter! Their writing academy has educated, bouyed, supported and kick-started the careers of many authors. But as with quality education in anything we’re passionate about, it wasn’t free. They offer payment plans, so I wasn’t worried. Too much.

Just a couple of days ago, I was thrilled beyond words (which is saying a lot!) to find out that I’d been chosen to receive the very first Erica Abbott Mystery Scholarship! Erica Abbott was beloved and cherished by the lesfic community and when she passed away, she left a void that can never be filled. She was a friend to many and an accomplished and gifted writer as well. It is an unfathomable honour to be the first recipient of a scholarship in her name.

I have very large shoes to fill.

The Golden Crown Literary Society has apparently seen merit and potential in my writing, and it’s a mind-blowing opportunity to be accepted into the writing academy. I have a responsibility not to waste this moment…this gift. At the same time, I am reminded of the power the written word can have. Empires have been crumbled, or fortified with words. Swaths of wilderness and the animals that live in them have been saved or brought to ruin with a written word. The environment, and we ourselves can be saved with a series of words.

The pen is indeed mightier than the sword.

Tell me about a gift you recieved that changed your life, or the way you viewed something.

The Puzzle of Patronage

PATRONAGE: noun

  • the support or influence of a patron
  • the patronage of science by universities

Historically, artists, musicians, writers, and inventors would search out wealthy kings, popes, philanthropists and other folks of influence. Sometimes those influential people would search out artists, scholars, and the aforementioned creatives to sponsor. They would support the creative with social prestige, contacts through networking, encouragement and financial aid. 

Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and William Shakespeare all had patrons. The British Royal Family lends their patronage to various charities through exposure, contacts, time and occasionally, endowments. Modern benefactors support art galleries, museums, theater companies and other creative endeavours through financial support. Venture capitalists do the same sort of thing – supporting start-ups and emerging companies with growth potential. Only here, we’re talking about creative-folk. 

So why am I talking about this today? Because YOU can be a part of all this! 

On Patreon, patrons can support creators with either a fixed amount per month or every time the artist releases a new piece of art/piece of writing/podcast/whatever. A creator displays a goal that the ongoing revenue will go towards, so you can see what your support will be used for. Patrons can cancel their payments at any time. So what’s in it for you? Creators usually provide membership benefits for their patrons, which varies depending on their artistic mediums and the level of support. It could be a one-on-one with a rising star in film, or musician. You might get an exclusive sneak peek at a new piece of artwork before the general public does, or read a new chapter from a favourite author, or see an exclusive video from an animator. It all depends on the benefits each creator offers. But basically, fans subscribe either per work or per month in exchange for premium content.

Consider this, a donation of $3/month to a writer who promises to share exclusive flash fiction and sneak peeks at their current work in progress doesn’t sound like much, right? But if 15 people – patrons – all contribute $3/month that’s an income of $540/year. That could be the difference between paying car insurance or not. So your $3 enables a writer to get their own car to drive their kids to soccer, enabling the kids to be healthier. Or that extra $3 becomes part of a fund to help put someone’s kid through college. Or an emergency medical fund, or gas money for someone who has to travel for an ongoing medical procedure. My point is, what might seem to be a measly $3 to one person may become a part of something larger with enormous impact in someone else’s life. 

Is becoming a patron something you can do? Only you know the answer to that, but I do hope you’ll pop over to patreon.com and check them out. You might be surprised at the good you can do. If it appeals to you, you can find my page at https://www.patreon.com/cmcbride

9 Things Career Authors Don’t Do

9ThingsCareerAuthorsDon'tDo

This is an interesting and informative book that I’m sure will help many people. A lot of it seems to be common sense, but I’ve been writing for a few years. There are quite a few gems in here, including a passage on Writers Block. Consider the plumber, encourages the author. “Our plumber isn’t standing in the unfinished bathroom waiting for the Water Muse to strike him with inspiration.” Funny, but true. There is also advice on, among other things, being realistic, patient, being dedicated and being a “finisher”.
There’s a lot of gems here, and I think it’s a good little book for someone thinking of growing beyond a hobby writer into the realm of a career.

Left Turns and Plot Twists!

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The writing life is rarely straightforward. There I was, happily researching anthropology when a niggling voice at the edge of my consciousness kept pestering me. At first, I tried to ignore it, but it just got louder. I sighed and started to pay attention, and a woman’s voice got clearer. Anais Quinn refused to be silenced, or even wait until I was ready. She’s been nattering at me, telling me details, tidbits of her life, at all hours. So now I’m falling down a totally different rabbit-hole…for me.

“Tool marks where a door was forced open can indicate a point of entry, shoe prints can show a path of travel, and bloodstains can indicate an area where the conflict occurred…”

 

Want to take a guess what Anais Quinn does for a living?

The Cranky Cartographer Is Reborn

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Photo by Ylanite Koppens on Pexels.com

I know folks talk about authors being God-like, and to some extent it’s true. We build worlds, we create people, animals and then give them lives. It crosses my mind every now and then.

Today though, it has been at the forefront of my mind.

Many of you know that I’m elbow-deep in my book ‘Infinite Worlds’, and one of the things that I have always struggled with is character motivations. Why are they there? What are they meant to do? Are they doing what they should be or are they standing around being a participant? (This always puts me in mind of the folks that stand around watching at a disaster, but never contribute anything productive.)

I had this come up in IW when I had killed off a character. My editor left this note in the sidebar, “You’ve now killed off the only male character you had.”

It was an eye-opening moment for me. I literally sat back in my chair, blinked and said aloud, “Well, crap. Now what?”

After days of soul-searching, I realized I did not want to kill him off. Yeah, he was a whiner, but I wanted him back. But what to do with him? What role would he serve in the overall plot? Could he develop as a better person over the duration of the plot? Was there any real reason to bring him back?

Yup, there was. So I did. But now what to do with him? More days of soul-searching, followed by charting his personality so I could get to the bottom of why he was a complaining, irritating crank. Then I delved into the research books to find out what sorts of things would make a whiny cartographer…whiny. Boom, he had a backstory. Boom, he had a past bleak enough to make me cranky about it. Then all I had to decide was what he wanted. Out of life and out of the mission he’d been thrust into against his will. Then I decided how he could contribute to the mission, quit his bitching and become a person I could actually like. Now, he’s made a friend! One I didn’t plan on in the slightest. She literally sat down beside him at a feast, and they’ve hit it off.

(It feels a little like when my boys made their first friends at school or on the T-Ball team)

So why am I telling you all this?

To share the wonder of creating worlds and people, I suppose. To reassure even the shyest reader out there that if Villpe Jarvus, cranky cartographer, can be a better man and make a friend, so can we all.

Do you remember how you met your best friend? Let me know in the comments section below!

Carolyn

Writing From The Middle and Other Revelations

 

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An essay I read this morning has stunned me.

It was a sizeable piece by Sarah Minor, called What Quilting and Embroidery Can Teach Us About Narrative Form It caught my eye because not only does the craft of writing interest me, but I’m also a fibre crafter. I dabble in cross stitch and am a long-time knitter. So needless to say, I read the essay with high hopes. I’m ashamed to say that I don’t remember most of the piece, but one concept rocked me so much, I had to put down my breakfast and re-read the passage.  Minor wrote,

“This centre could be the most significant or challenging moment in an essay. From there, the process of “piecing” a text, rather than writing it in a straight line, could free the writer from concerns about repetition, foundations, and chronology. “

These two lines made me stop because I’m in the middle of my novel and for many months I’ve been unsure how to proceed. I knew where I wanted to end up, you would think it would be an easy thing to get to the end. But no, I was stumped. And didn’t write a word for six months, not counting grocery lists. I couldn’t see how to write the middle because I was looking at the work in a chronological fashion.

Now, that’s a little odd for me, because some of my best work (in my opinion) has not been written that way. The work I’m proudest of has come to me in snippets of scenes, or conversations between characters, or moments of intense stress and conflict. I write them down, in chunks, and then thread them all together. Rarely has writing in a chronological way ever worked for me.

So why then was I trying to write ‘Infinite Worlds’  in, for me, an un-natural format?

I have no idea.

But it has mired me for six months.

So to read Sarah Minor’s words of wisdom this morning was a lightbulb moment. I read the passage twice before literally leaving my chair with coffee in hand. I went to the window, dog close behind, and stared out at the grey sky. The clouds provided no further wisdom, but it was clear I needed to return to what moved my writing. Not so much write what I know, but write in a way that worked for me.

So that’s the plan.

Now if I could only get to the bottom of Chancellor Roberts…

 

Dancing Between Details And The Story

This blog has been neglected for long enough I think.

 

It’s been left to its own devices primarily because my internal monologue that was driving work on my novel….stopped.

Well, changed at least.

It was no longer about a team of women trying to effect a rescue on another planet, in another universe. I was getting caught up in details and I lost sight of the larger story. Now, for me, telling stories is a fine dance between details and entertainment. And when I stumbled trying to dance…I stopped.

But I haven’t stopped. That hardy and brave team stuck on another planet so foreign to them hasn’t left my mind.

I’m still working out how to get them home.

So bear with me, and them. We think they’ve nearly stumbled on an idea. We just need to chase it down and tie it up so it can’t get away again.

________________________________________________

When You Know Better…

Every writer should be an avid reader first and foremost. While it is important to read a great deal of work in one’s own genre, it is just as integral to read outside of one’s genre as well. Not only to see what else is out there but also for exposure to other author’s styles.

As a reader (and I assume you are, otherwise you wouldn’t be here) you likely know how irritating it is to stumble across a short story or novel that has a great premise but obviously wasn’t edited. Nothing makes me want to throw the tablet or book across the room faster. So why wasn’t the work edited? Any number of reasons ranging from the author was impatient to they just didn’t know any better, or perhaps English isn’t their first language.

We all agree editing is an important step that should be repeated as often as necessary, but I’m the first to tell you editors are miracle workers. Line editors, developmental editors, book doctors…they all deserve medals! A rushed book shows a lack of editors rather clearly, and a well-polished book never reveals their delicate work.

My own editing skills are far from ‘good’. As much as I enjoyed English class in high school, as much as I can express my feelings better on paper than with my words when it comes to self-editing, there’s a lot I still need to learn. Knowing this, when I think I’m finished with a piece of fiction, I turn to those wiser than myself. One friend can pick a boring piece out a mile away, another always sees ways to make mundane occurrences just a little bit different, while another friend is driven crazy by my faulty punctuation. I feel sorry for them all when I hand them a raw piece of fiction, but they truly are a lifeline for me. Then I turn to my wife, who became a line editor after many years teaching English. She’s more patient with me than some, but I’m sure I’ve driven her crazy too.

I tell you all of this to preface a public declaration of writing goals for the year. No, not resolutions, I don’t make those. But there are certain milestones I’d like to hit this year.

 

  • I plan on finishing the fourth(!) draft of my paranormal romance by the end of February. I have a potential publisher in mind that I hope will accept it.
  • I’d like to finish my science fiction manuscript and have it submission-ready by the end of summer
  • I’d like to sell my science-fiction short story ‘The Supplement’ to a professional market.
  • Over the course of the year, I’m striving to improve my writing by making it more immersive, tighter and as a result, make it stand out in an ever-growing crowd.

 

I found a quote today that sums it all up rather nicely.

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”

Maya Angelou

 

That’s what I’m shooting for, one word, one sentence, one paragraph at a time.

Judging By Covers & The Power Of A Summary

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As an author, I’m here to tell you, summaries are a bitch. Most writers dread them just as much as dental work or taxes. Why? Because after all the care we’ve put into our darlings that are our stories, we have to sum up the draw of the story. Not the plot, the draw. It’s said that an author should tease the reader with a summary that briefly explains what the main character has to achieve, what they’re up against, and what they stand to lose if that all-important goal is not met.

Not nearly as easy as it sounds.

But that summary will either hook a reader, or repel them. And if they put down that book, odds are against them picking it up again. Now, in this age of e-books, summaries are even more important. An author has three chances to land a reader.

  1. The cover (I’ll touch on that in a minute)
  2. The preview
  3. The summary

I cannot tell you the number of times I have started reading a summary, only to be met with a review, or a list of prizes the work has won. I read. I read like I breathe. I read A LOT. I read both in digital format and the words on a slice of dead tree. I see so many online summaries that trumpet how many reviews the work has. This practice seems to have become the trend among Indie authors. No plot condensed down, no reason why I should read it, just a blaring account of how many stars a novel has, or the prizes it’s won.

My fellow writers, I’m begging you STOP DOING THIS!

It will not land you a reader, it will not provide you with a die-hard fan that will buy every word you write, and as a reader, it tells me exactly nothing about your story. I want to be a fan of your work, but if your summary does nothing but tell me that your tale won a bestoftheweb award, how do I know if it’s worthy of my time? I have a TBR (to be read) list of over 350 digital works, and a physical stack of books threatening to overtake my bedroom, and I know many of my fellow readers are just as busy as I am. So please, do the work and give us a reason to want to read your story. Do the work and give us a summary that will make us dive right in and not cast your work aside. Thanks.

I read far outside the genres that I write in. I read free books, novellas, flash fiction and anthologies. I haunt my library enough to know their catalogue and search systems is a stinky mess and which librarian is best at their job. I happily spend my money on books whose authors I know, in both fiction and nonfiction. So I’ve seen a good many covers. I’ve seen covers that make me awe-struck. I have seen covers (I swear this is the truth) I stare at for long minutes in wonder. Those are the ones that ought to be framed. And heaven forgive me, I’ve seen a powerful amount of crap.

We’ve been told so often not to judge a book by its cover, but we pretty much have to. Most especially in this day and age of e-publishing.

A cover with a half naked couple grasping at each other is pretty likely either romance or erotica. We know that if a book’s cover shows a shot of a jungle and a leaping tiger, you’re probably not holding a science fiction tale. So yes, covers should meet certain expectations. But, they should also stand out. As writers, we’re advised to envision our book on a shelf at a bookstore, front covers out (as they like to do when they’re on sale or part of a themed display). Then we’re asked if our book would stand out, or be lost among the dozens of others in our genre or field of expertise. To that end, as a reader, I’d like to pass on some advice to Indie authors, and publishing houses as well.

  • Not every science fiction story needs to have a space ship on the cover! For the love of ink, please do something original with a space-themed cover! Not every science fiction story is going to be about a grizzled space ship captain who is Earth’s last hope, but many of those covers would have us think so. There are so many sub-genres within science fiction, that a little examination and imagination can go a long way to creating an attractive and engaging cover. Because let me tell you, after the twentieth science fiction book we’ve glimpsed in an online store, we won’t be able to remember which one had a great sounding blurb. They all blend together. The same idea is true for romance, thrillers, spy novels, paranormal, and don’t even get me started on YA. So be nice to readers and make your cover stand out from the hundreds of others in your genre.
  • If you write more than one novel, whether it is a standalone or part of a series, readers remember your work better if your covers bear some similarity. Even if that is as small as a consistent font choice for the title and the author name. Many of the biggest names do this and call it brand recognition, but as a reader, I’m here to tell you that we do  make an association between your work and the way the text looks. Most especially if you use the same font or your covers have a similar feel to them. Kristina Stanley does this, and her cover designer goes a step further to ensure that her covers stand out as a Stanley. Check any Stephen King novel that he’s released in the last ten years and chances are good, his name is always in the same font. Patricia Cornwell does this as well, as does Koontz, Piers Anthony, Clive Cussler, Dan Brown, Melissa Good and Arthur C. Clarke. (Okay, Clarke is dead, but my point stands) Readers want to remember your work. So give them every reason to do so, whether that be through your writing style, the feel of your cover, or the font you choose for your title and name. It may not seem like a big thing, but I can tell you that I can spot a Piers Anthony book across a bookstore, and nine times out of ten, if I spot it, I’ll buy it. The same holds true for online book shopping.

So that’s a few thoughts on how to hook readers, or at the very least, keep them from putting down your book. We don’t want them to put down our books. We want to engage them from the moment they pick it up, or it pops up on their screen. We have to compete for readers time and attention, so don’t give them an excuse to put down our work. Give them every opportunity to get hooked on your words, your work and your vision.

One of The Many Faces of Fantasy

portal2 As many Indies do, I’ve been struggling with finding just the right category for  my work. This has led to a closer examination of genre and sub-genres, some of which I’ve never even heard of! Here’s something that caught my eye this morning on the Best Fantasy Books website,

Portal Fantasy:

A doorway has opened to a magical world and a would-be hero has stepped through—that’s how almost all stories in the sub-genre of Portal Fantasy begin. The portal is a magical doorway connecting two locations separated by space-time. The hero either passes through it willingly or is summoned to the other world—usually to help save the other world. The hero usually spends the whole story trying to get home. But what draws readers to this near clichéd sub-genre? The portal itself is a powerful metaphor—it forces us to enter the unknown and open ourselves up to its possibilities. Even with its predictable plot, the reading experience this sub-genre offers can be unpredictable, because we never know what lies on the other side. 

Do you read fantasy? Why? Share your thoughts with us!