Glimpse Into My Summer

Starting in early spring, I reduced my screen time to only a few hours a day instead of ten hours a day. Other things have taken priority, things I’ve enjoyed immensely. However, fall is quickly approaching, and I plan to increase my online presence slightly. Slightly because most of my screen time will be spent writing, not on social media. In fact, I’m not on social media any longer.

Gone are Twitter and Facebook. Instead, I’m dedicating my time to writing books and blogging only. Below is a collage of images from the past few months. I’ll expand on them in the near future.

Summer of 2020

A Busy Spring and a Book Launch Sale

I can’t get over how busy the past four months have been for me. While I have been writing a little, editing a lot and formatting books, an equal amount of time (if not more) has been spent offline, away from the computer.

Life is going in the direction I had planned, so I’m far from complaining. However, I am rethinking a few things I had planned.

For instance, I wrote two short novels last year, both under 70,000 words. They were not fantasy and because of advice from other writers and Amazon’s algorithms, I had decided to publish these and others of similar fashion under a new pen name. Of course, a new pen name would create a few challenges of its own, but I was prepared to tackle them.

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Brandon Sanderson: Fantasy Writing Lectures

I’ve been watching a series of lectures by fantasy author Brandon Sanderson on the craft of writing with the focus on the fantasy genre. These lectures took place at BYU. Whether you write fantasy or not, much of the writing advice applies to all stories.

I’m working my way through them, but what I’ve learned so far is:

  • I’m a chef, not a cook.
  • Conflict connects characters, setting and plot.
  • Everyone must be good at something.
  • Yes, but; no, and.
  • Captain Jack Sparrow is the perfect character who is incompetent, yet highly proactive, and that’s what makes him (and SpongeBob) interesting and entertaining.

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Magic Rules in Your Fantasy World

I’m not one for strict rules so while watching fantasy author Brandon Sanderson’s YouTube lecture “Magic System”, I kept thinking, The magic in my novels doesn’t have rules.

However, afterwards I considered the ideas he presented and once I broke through the dam, the rules flowed swiftly. The magic within the realm of Ath-o’Lea does have rules. Some are soft, others firm.

Sanderson imparts this sage advice: Flaws are more interesting than powers. Things your characters can’t do are more interesting than what they can do. Flaws and limitations of magic are interesting.

With that in mind, I considered the powers and the limitations used in my novels.

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Supporting Characters Who Stole the Show

When we set out to write a story, we know which characters are the main characters, the ones readers will cheer and invest emotions in. That is until books are turned into movies and actors cast to play supporting characters do such a tremendous job, they steal the show from main characters.

Did you know the main characters in Pirates of the Caribbean were Elizabeth Swan and Will Turner? Jack Sparrow was a supporting character . . . until he stole the show.

Did you know Phil Coulson was only a supporting character in The Avengers. Writers thought it was okay to kill him off . . . until fans rattled their cage to have him resurrected.

The same happened in Thor: The Dark World. They killed Loki, then realised he was too big a character to knock off, and they had to bring him back. He was supporting Thor, but we know how that went down with Loki fans.

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Critical Drinker Inspires a Wins vs Losses List

Shortly before Christmas, I stumbled upon the Critical Drinker, a YouTube critic mostly of films, but he critiques books at times, too. The Drinker is Will Jordan, author of Redemption: Ryan Drake 1. I’ve watched several of his videos for both the entertainment and insight in to how movies were constructed or, in many cases, how they were poorly constructed. As a writer, he comments on character development, plot and other aspects of story building.

His dissection of the three recent Star Wars movies is brutal. I am a huge fan of the original Star Wars trilogy – Star Wars, Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi – and his critiques tell me the new movies are ones I never want to see. In fact, they should be burnt. The stories trampled over our heroes of the past and are extremely disrespectful to their legacy. While I didn’t think it would be as bad as it was, I had an inkling of what was to come.

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The Over-used Trope for Character Development

Over the weekend, I watched Good Will Hunting. No, I’ve never seen the movie before even though it was released in 1997. That was the year I was working 40 hours a week at a garden centre, giving birth to my first child and settling into a new house, so I didn’t watch much of anything.

Throughout the movie, I was waiting for the inevitable. I say inevitable because many of the books I’ve read and the movies I’ve watched the past 20 years have used death to jolt the main character out of their ‘destructive’ daze and into change for the better. I’ve seen it so many times, I can often pick which character will be sacrificed for the good of character development. If it’s a character I’ve invested emotion in, I pull back before the death, knowing it’s coming. If I’m unaware, it feels like a betrayal by the writer.

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My 2020 Goals are About Writing and Living

Today, my mother turns 92 years old. She never thought she’d see this age, yet here she is. Like many of us, we are never aware of what we’re capable of doing. We just do it.

2020 is a transition year for me. There are things that must be done, and only by working off property will I accomplish them. So, this spring, I plan to begin working 40 to 50 hours a week, which will take me away from writing in the short term, yet will deliver me closer to a few long-term goals I want to accomplish in the next five years.

Much like when I worked at the garden centre a few years ago, this job will be physical (my favourite type), and I’ll be outdoors most of the time. It will chew up most of my time from April to December. Then I’ll be free to write through winter again.

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A Look Back at 2019

Eye on the DestinationIf I had to wrap up the year 2019 in one word, that word would be Unexpected.

While many things I expected to happen happened, there were many unexpected things that happened that had never before happened. They were a mixture of good and bad. All I can say is I survived intact, and it’s time to sum them up and keep moving forward.

On January 7th of last year, I posted my epic goal challenge. Here they are exposed like the bare rocks on the seashore.

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Editing the Crutch Word Could

Healing Stones coverDecember has been unexpectedly busy outside my writing life, so I’ve not completed all I planned this month. That includes releasing Healing Stones, book 4 in the Castle Keepers series. The final edits are taking place. It will be released near the end of January.

One of the many edits of a manuscript includes searching for specific words to see if I’ve overused them. These are often called crutch words. A selection of these crutch words are filter words, words that show the story through the lens of a character instead of allowing the reader to experience the story first hand.

Filter words include ‘heard’, ‘felt’, ‘watched’ and ‘noticed’. For a more detailed explanation of filter words, check out my post: Filter Words: Who Knew? Not me.

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Automatic Writing or the Genius Named Jack

Twice within 24 hours this week, I was told, “Like automatic writing.” The first time someone said that was how I wrote, I considered it, but didn’t act to learn more about it. I assumed it was another term for those who wrote without using an outline, a writer who could let the creative juices flow and write that story quickly.

When someone else, unrelated to the first conversation said it, I had to look into it further. I’d never heard of automatic writing. Was it something new? Or something old but had recently made the headlines?

But let’s rewind a bit. My discussion previous to this comment was on writing a story and not knowing where that story was going. While I joked about the genius in the wall named Jack, who hung over my shoulder and told the story for me to record it, it’s actually what happens most days. For a few years, I’ve been saying that I’m not actually creating the story; I’m recording events that have already happened in another time and realm. At least that’s how it feels when I write my Castle Keepers epic fantasy series.

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Safeguarding Our Personal Treasures Before and After Death

One of my genealogy columns published over the summer was titled There’s No Guarantee in Life or Death. It’s about wills and estates, something I’ve been thinking about a lot in the past six months because my mom is in the final stages of Alzheimer’s Disease. I’m thinking about my final wishes more than hers (hers are taken care of) and wondering what mess I might leave my kids to sort through. I’m also wondering about the things I value, such as my genealogy research and the books I’ve written, and who would appreciate them most.

“In these days where diseases, such as dementia, are on the rise, I believe it is less likely the well-thought out plan for estates will be executed.”

Why? Because a person’s ability to control their affairs and stuff while they’re still alive becomes almost impossible when diseases of the brain take hold. This leaves control of their stuff with those they live with or those, family or friends, who enter their home to see to their daily needs.

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Writing Characters Who are Consistent in Actions

A book I finished reading a few days ago has stayed on my mind; I can’t shake it. Not because it was a great story. It was an okay story. I’d rate it 3 of 5 stars. I seldom rate anything 5, so 4 is what I rate a book I really enjoyed reading.

The book is not stuck in my mind because it contained a life-changing message. It’s not because it made me think of the world from a different perspective.

The reason I can’t shake the book from my thoughts and why I can’t help but analyse characters in my novels is because of character consistency. I can accept a lot of twists, but my mind is tripping over the main character, let’s call her Jill, in this story. Here’s a brief description.

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Like Every Wise Boy Scout: Be Prepared for Opportunity

In this minute, if you were given the opportunity you had always dreamt of, would you be ready to accept it?

I’ve asked myself this question many times since the new year. Before May, my answer was an undeniable, regrettable NO. The no applied to many areas in my life, not just writing.

Ready means I’m able to accept that opportunity at the moment I’m offered it, or, given one hour, I’d be ready to accept it.

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The Magic of Confidence and Letting Go

Two weeks ago, giddy from riding a wave of confidence growth, I tried to explain to my sister how I felt. In my mind, it was like dragging that Krazy Karpet to the top of the hill in two feet of snow, then pushing it to get started because the snow was soft and the friction kept me still. After about six feet, I felt the momentum of the Karpet, and I had to use less effort to increase speed and then, I hit the smooth, icy section and I was off!

Confidence is like that. I’ve never really had much in life; it was something others had, something I envied and sometimes felt annoyed by because some had too much and were in my face or not bothering to look back to see how they looked from the perspective of others. That was my problem, not theirs.

Long ago, I gave up the desire to obtain confidence because I thought it was something not for me. It was like the talent to play guitar, the ability to recall phone numbers after hearing them once, the skill to walk in high heels and not feel like an idiot.

Over the past two months, that’s changed. I can’t thoroughly explain why; I don’t understand it myself. I just feel different.

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