So You Want To Be A Writer: Harvesting Inspiration

So You Want To Be A Writer, Weekly Features, Weekly Novel Writing Inspiration

I usually post a photography feature for novel writing inspiration, and I would like to share my thoughts on how inspiration in the form of a snapshot can become a window into something spectacular.

todays pick ... hot off the bench ... upscaled vintage bottles

There are countless ways to bottle inspiration. Reading a Jane Austen book, going for a walk along the Seine, watching an Italian film, or a whirlwind romance with a handsome stranger you met in Trafalgar Square. I’m asked quite often, “Where does inspiration come from?”

My answer, “I harvest it.”

Surrounded for Illuminations

That usually stumps the inquirer.

eloise

Many writers are faced with this question daily. Where does inspiration come from?

Lion

Can you buy it in a store, like bread and eggs? Is it a commodity to invest in? Or is it simply a far away muse that can only be tapped into if the diva allows it?

Umbrella

Inspiration for writers, both young and old, is not tangible. It is different for each person. We experience the world through a pair of eyes, and a pair of hands. Photography has provided a glorious window for a moment in time to be captured, and many authors will say a certain photo grabbed them so intensely that they wrote an entire book trying to explain it all.

The flea

Lois Lowry, who is most famous for writing “The Giver” was inspired by bunch of unwanted photos in an antique store, that she purchased them all and wrote a book surrounded the exact photos she’d found. That book became “The Silent Boy.” And although inspiration, like love, can’t be bought, but it can be found in the strangest of places.

Estudio Domus

Where would J.K. Rowling be if she hadn’t ridden on that train and found the nucleus of the Harry Potter series dropped into her lap?

It all ends.

Where would Stephenie Meyer be without the dream about an ordinary human girl falling in love with a vampire?

Haha

Where would most of the publishing world be without these tiny sparks of inspiration?

Fairy Tales

Photography allows me to “harvest” inspiration in the forms of little scenes, captured in time. One day, it may be the right time, the right moment, when a pretty picture could spark the beginnings of a book idea.

Lady Bannon of Berwick

Harvest your inspiration like you harvest love.

Sow the seeds and search out your inspiration in the beautiful world out there, and you’ll reap inspiration in the most unlikely places.

:)

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Review: Phantom by Laura DeLuca

Book Reviews, Writer Wednesday

Phantom

Laura DeLuca

Advance Review Copy

Grade: *

Grading Scale: 1 (*) – 5 Stars (*****)

The “Phantom” was a musical phenomenon that Rebecca had always found enchanting. She had no idea that her life was about to mirror the play that was her obsession. When her high school drama club chooses “Phantom” as their annual production, Rebecca finds herself in the middle of an unlikely love triangle and the target of a sadistic stalker who uses the lines from the play as their calling card.
 
Rebecca lands the lead role of Christine, the opera diva, and like her character, she is torn between her two co-stars—Tom the surfer and basketball star who plays the lovable hero, and Justyn, the strangely appealing Goth who is more than realistic in the role of the tortured artist.
Almost immediately after casting, strange things start to happen both on and off the stage. Curtains fall. Mirrors are shattered. People are hurt in true phantom style. They all seem like accidents until Rebecca receives notes and phone calls that hint at something more sinister. Is Justyn bringing to life the twisted character of the phantom? Or in real life are the roles of the hero and the villain reversed? Rebecca doesn’t know who to trust, but she knows she’s running out of time as she gets closer and closer to opening night. Only when the mask is stripped away, will the twenty first century phantom finally be revealed.
—Synopsis courtesy of the author’s website.

This book had a lot of potential. There was a potential for a great interpretation of the Phantom of the Opera, but the way it was carried out was a bit clumsy, and a little too reverent to the Andrew Lloyd Webber version of the story. When they referenced the musical, or were singing from the musical, none of the song lyrics were from the show at all. I’m guessing they were excerpts from the original story by Gaston Leroux, but it felt…off. I can understand from a business standpoint why an independent press might not want to take on the financial aspect of using lyrics from the copyrighted show. I felt that should have been taken into consideration when referencing the show almost exclusively in the text. Using made-up lyrics when Becca and Justyn are singing for example, Point of No Return, was something that should not have happened.

“Lord Justyn” only had one or two good lines in his dialogue, and the rest seemed pretentious and overbearing, like he knew he was trying too hard to be a Byronic-style hero. He was a brooding, stereotypical Goth high school student, who practiced Paganism and wore only black. I wanted a little bit of a variation from this stereotype, and truly wanted to like Justyn. But he was too flat and one-dimensional to be relatable, and his lifestyle as a Pagan was one-dimensional as well. Instead of showing the reader that Paganism wasn’t all black cats and pentagrams, it seemed to do the opposite in my opinion, by seeming a bit comical.

Becca, the heroine of this novel, reminded me a bit of Bella Swan from Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Saga. She had her good moments, but those didn’t outweigh the terribly cliched areas of her character.

The plot had an interesting twist near the end, and that justified some of the moments that dragged, but I really wanted to like this interpretation more than I had. I felt that the publishing company could have presented this novel in a better way and might have possibly hindered any sort of positive reception to the book by their choice of cover and cover artist in the edition I received. I had to use a black book cover over the design because it was so distracting. A reader’s first impression of a book is always the cover, and this one wouldn’t have made me pick it up off the shelf if I saw it in a library or in a bookstore.

Even if this interpretation of the Phantom of the Opera wasn’t what I expected, I think I would give this author another try anyway.

Visit Author Laura DeLuca’s Website

http://authorlauradeluca.blogspot.com/

Oh dear. I think I laughed too hard.

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So inbetween stop-and-go stints with the third round of revision on my current manuscript, and looking for a distraction so I wouldn’t buy a set of $1000 bagpipes just so I could wear the skirt, I came across something I knew I had to share with the writing community.

http://slushpilehell.tumblr.com

Maybe we’ll all think twice, or three times about what our queries say when we send them in. This guy deserves an award. Or cake. Yeah, cake is good. 🙂

Review: “Troubadour” by Mary Hoffman

Book Reviews, Book Reviews, Uncategorized

 

 Troubadour

This is a story of persecution and poetry, love and war set in thirteenth century southern France. A troubadour, Bertran, witnesses the brutal murder of the Pope’s legate, and risks his life to warn others of the war that he knows is certain to follow this act. The lands of the peaceable Cathars – deemed heretics – are now forfeit and under threat from crusaders who have been given authority by the Pope to take the Cathar domains by force. But the Pope is trying to track Bertran down and so is somebody else: Elinor, a young noblewoman, in love with Bertran but facing a loveless arranged marriage, flees her family and becomes a minstrel herself. Soon both Bertran and Elinor find themselves enveloped in a rising tide of bloodshed that threatens the very fabric of their society.

Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.com

 

Troubadour was a richly told story told in third person, jam packed with little-known facts of France from this time period when the tumultuous Crusades were still in full swing. Although the deluge of minute details wouldn’t engage a teen reader unless they particularly love this author or this genre, I felt thoroughly educated while reading this historical novel.

Elinor was a relatable character and displayed a great deal of attributes common in a modern feminist. She refused to marry the suitor her family had chosen for her and ran away disguised as a young boy in order to gain her freedom.

I felt there was a lot of buildup in the ‘relationship’ of Elinor and Bertran the Troubadour, and sadly this ‘tale of love’ fell short in that department. There was no budding love between them as the dust jacket promised, only the gift of a red brooch to Elinor was the only indication of their romance. The age difference between Bertran and Elinor was a contributing factor to this dilemma, and I felt sorely disappointed when Elinor chose to marry someone she had only known for a few chapters near the end, when she pined over Bertran for ninety percent of the novel. Elinor’s husband could have been a better developed character and come earlier into the story for her choice to make more sense.

The sudden switching in viewpoints mid-chapter without much indication that the narrator had changed was a bit confusing at times, causing me to backtrack to find out who exactly was speaking.

But despite the novel’s shortcomings in the character and relationship development it was rich in plot and historical details. I will give Mary Hoffman a lot of credit for doing her research so carefully and painstakingly. It takes quite a dedicated author to but that much detail into a novel! It was enjoyable and I will probably read Mary Hoffman’s other works.

Vampire Deluge: Surviving the YA section

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I recently came across this vlog from a friend of mine and it is an honest (if swearing-laced) view of the YA section at her local bookstore. She comments on the literal deluge of vampire books in the teen market.

Note: This video contains slight cursing.

Do you think the YA market should move on to a new topic of interest? Is everyone through with the Twilight-copycats yet?

So you want to be a writer: Living in the written word 25/8.

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I get asked this question a lot:

“I’ve always wanted to write a book but I just can’t finish anything I start! What should I do?”

Well, before I dispense of my answer to this question I would like to impart the wisdom of Ron Dakron on how to be “Zen” with your writing.

“Samurai Poet Rules (Go Forth Grashopper)”

Ron Dakron

1. Write like you’ll live forever — fear is a bad editor.
2. Write like you’ll croak today — death is the best editor.
3. Fooling others is fun. Fooling yourself is a lethal mistake.
4. Pick one — fame or delight.
5. The archer knows the target. The poet knows the wastebasket.
6. Cunning and excess are your friends.
7. TV and liquor are your enemies.
8. Everything eternal happens in a spare room at 3 a.m.
9. You’re done when the crows sing.

 

The first thing I can tell you is: get comfortable with yourself, because honey, you will be spending a lot of time by yourself if you choose to go the road less travelled and become a writer. Writers live lonely lives, but fascinating ones at that because all of the greatest adventures in mankind…happen in their head. 

Ask yourself if you are willing to be a walking contradiction. Why? Because as a writer you have to be both an introvert and an extrovert, able to read people easily and shut them out completely when necessary. You have to be in the “in” crowd, yet revel in the “out” crowd. See what I mean?

If, after a lot of soul searching, you find that you are willing to have no social life, essentially consider writing as a job, and never get a tan from all of the time spent indoors… then welcome. We’re glad to have you. 🙂

Writing is a very hard job to do, and it requires focus and thought 25/8. Which means, thinking about characters and plotting your story 25 hours a day, 8 days a week.

Here are a few things that I like to keep in mind whenever I’m working on a project:

1. Writing is my priority.

2. Keep your voice and writing genuine.

3. Writing the first draft is the easiest part of the process.

4. Editing is the hardest part of the process.

5. Don’t pull my hair out if I find something in the plot or character isn’t working.

6. Always have pen and paper. No matter what!

7. The Internet is my best friend and worst enemy. It is a major asset to my research but distracting when I watch Lady Gaga videos on YouTube when chapter 7 should be edited.

8. Finish the project you are working on and don’t get distracted when a “new” book  idea pops into your head. Write the idea down in a seperate notebook, then keep plugging away at your current project until it is finished.

 All in all, you have to love the written word in order to spend 25/8 on it. So, for those of you who want to know, “Okay, but how do I start my novel?”

It’s simple.

1. Relax. It is easy to be overwhelmed with plot ideas and character names, etc. but a relaxed brain works way better than a tense, worrying brain.

2. Read a lot. Read books that inspire you to follow your dreams, favorite books from childhood, new bestsellers and anything you can get your hands on from Harry Potter to Pride & Prejudice.

3. Keep a notebook with you to jot down ideas. The more you daydream and think, the more ideas you will have.

4. Find out where you feel the most comfortable to write. Some writers like to do the cliche thing and write at a busy cafe, while others hole themselves up at home with their Macbooks. Nothing is ever wrong if it gets you results. Write where you can be at peace with yourself and concentrate.

5. Find out what you are comfortable writing with: typing it on a computer or writing it long hand a la Virginia Woolf. I prefer to do the latter, but unlike Ms. Woolf I actually don’t need to stand and walk while writing. I feel my writing is more organic that way, plus a notebook never needs batteries or disk space.

6. Find a subject that excites you, preferably something you know nothing about. Writing is a journey, and if you know all about a subject you will get bored quickly.

 Writing is therapeutic, and if you devote yourself to the characters in your head then I promise it will be a rewarding experience when you have your finished manuscript in your hands.

And darling, the rest is up to you…

Send in your writing questions and I will be more than happy to answer them!

 

 

Enter to Win Advance Review Copies of “Linger” by Maggie Stiefvater!

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Linger Cover LargeIn Maggie Stiefvater’s Shiver, Grace and Sam found each other.  Now, in Linger, they must fight to be together. For Grace, this means defying her parents and keeping a very dangerous secret about her own well-being. For Sam, this means grappling with his werewolf past . . . and figuring out a way to survive into the future. Add into the mix a new wolf named Cole, whose own past has the potential to destroy the whole pack.  And Isabelle, who already lost her brother to the wolves . . . and is nonetheless drawn to Cole.

At turns harrowing and euphoric, Linger is a spellbinding love story that explores both sides of love — the light and the dark, the warm and the cold — in a way you will never forget.

Comes out in stores everywhere July 20th. Pre-order here.

Enter to win an advanced review copies of LINGER, Sisters Red, The Dead-Tossed Waves, and The Replacement on Maggie’s blog.

Review: Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

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Review: Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

 
 
Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater
Review
“Shiver” is the story of Grace, a girl who is entranced by the wolves appearing at the edge of her backyard and has been fascinated by the yellow-eyed wolf that saved her life when she was attacked by that same pack years earlier. She discovers that these are no ordinary wolves, and were once humans themselves, lost in the cold months as lupine beasts in the woods of Mercy Falls, Minnesota.
A classmate of Grace’s disappears and is assumed to have been killed by the wolf pack, although no body was ever found. Through the hunt for these beasts by the townspeople, Grace meets Sam Roth, and she suddenly realizes that he’s the same wolf that she’d watched on the edge of her yard for the past six years, his yellow eyes bright and feral. He struggles against the “shiver”—the state he goes into before changing back into a wolf if his body turns cold.
“Shiver” is classified as a paranormal-romance, a genre that largely did not exist ten years ago. Although this kind of YA fiction book is a bit overused in the wake of the Twilight Phenomenon, the cover drew me in and I gave it a try.

Werewolves and their perspective have been used in Stephenie Meyer’s series before, but Maggie Stiefvater gave the werewolf a different twist, so I felt that I wasn’t reading the Twilight Saga all over again.

At times, the characters draw the reader in with their first-person narratives in alternating chapters. I felt the cold that Sam feels upon his skin and his desire to stay human for Grace. I sensed Grace’s urgency for spending time with Sam before it’s too late, and her need to find him a cure. Throughout several sequences however, the author’s voice was too present, and the characters were held at arm’s length, marionettes instead of “real” teenagers.

The characters had moments when they were a bit idyllic and used “teen speak” more often than necessary, in turn jolting the reader from the storyline to focus on the cheesy descriptions or metaphors.

The storyline at its base is a love story, and though it has honest flaws in its execution, I was entranced by the struggle for Sam to stay human. I rooted for him to triumph over the obstacles that he faced, and hoped he would have his happily ever after in the end. Grace’s character could have been stronger, but love drove her forward and heightened the pace of the novel.

The cleverness of the temperatures at the beginning of each chapter were a great addition to this new work by Maggie Stiefvater, and the next book in the series “Linger” will surely be on my to-read list.

Maggie Stiefvater is a Young Adult fiction author residing in rural Virginia. Her other published works include “BALLAD” and “LAMENT“.
 
 
 
For more information on Ms. Stiefvater, please visit her blog
 
 
 
 
and website