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How Do You Face the Page When You’re Exhausted?

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Editing Book 4 of my epic fantasy tetralogy, The Sword Bearer’s Ascension, has been going slower than expected. The reason? We’re in the process of moving to another country, and for the last month we’ve done nothing but pack and make arrangements for the movers to first come over for two days to wrap and then take our stuff, hoping we’ll see everything in one piece and all present when we get there! Sorting out what we want to take with and leave behind (and the fact that once you’ve decided, even if you’ve made a mistake, once it’s done it’s done!!) is mentally and emotional draining, to say the least!! This includes my entire life of stuff accumulated over 45 years that I must now fit into a few boxes and what’s left gets thrown away, the latter being more stressful and painful than can be described in simple language.

It has taken a few months to make the final decision to move to the UK and leave behind all I know, including my poor mom. During this chaotic time I have done very little work on my book, and with teaching ballet (my afternoon/evening  job) five days a week, finding the time to sit down for a couple of hours and get something significant done has been nigh impossible.

Now I know some of you will say that even getting in half an hour is better than nothing and I agree. But what level of quality will my work exist at if I just squeeze it in quickly here and there? Surely I need a good 2-4 hours at least to lose myself in my story once more and connect heart and mind to ensure it doesn’t become superficial and amateurish? Doesn’t that cheat the reader out of the best of me?

You see, I know myself too well. I need that full emersion to get the entire spiritual experience. I have to live my story and my characters, to see their world and partake in it again every time I sit down at my computer in order to feel what I did when I wrote that frenzied first draft, when the true magic of creation happened.

Everything you do has the potential to be brilliant - but if you're too tired to see it then you and your readers won't experience the magic you've created!

Everything you do has the potential to be brilliant – but if you’re too tired to see it then you and your readers won’t experience the magic you’ve created!

No, I MUST find the proper amount of time to spend on the book, to edit it well so that my existing fans, and future ones, will not be cheated out of the final installment that I worked so hard to create. They deserve all of me – all of my emotion and attention and creative force, that which makes magic on the page and leaves them wanting more. Isn’t that our duty as storytellers, anyway, to ensure that our readers get what they want from a story – laughter, tears, love, joy, excitement, fear, adventure… It is vital we bring our readers what they want and need, and to do that we need to invest all of ourselves into every word. Therefore, I will make the time to edit and edit well so that I and my readers are completely satisfied.

What do you say, dear Writer? Do you write when you’re tired? I have heard it works and I have experienced an interesting emotional effect when I do the same. But when it comes to editing, that extremely detailed process that requires a clear mind, isn’t it preferable to be more alert? I’d love to read your thoughts. Please leave a comment and let’s discuss.

 

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What Would You Attempt To Do If You Had No Fear?

QuoteWith the new year spread out before me and nothing yet written – both figuratively and literally (and I am talking new works here) – I have the power to create not only new literary works but my very life, and the message I’ve been reading and hearing about the most since 2014 began is that I have the power to decide what I want and how to go about getting it.

Whatever your faith, whether you believe in God or the Universe or your own creative power, I know that this is possible, and therefore I have presented myself with a challenge: This year will not be a year of negating or doubting my skills as a writer, creator, student, teacher, and wife. I want this year to be different to last year. Oh, I accomplished a lot last year, but by the time December rolled by I had a distinct sense of non-achievement. I could have done more, achieved more, written more, learned more, and become more.

The Cover Image for The Sword Bearer's Ascension: Book 4 courtesy of Jon Sullivan

The Cover Image for The Sword Bearer’s Ascension: Book 4 courtesy of Jon Sullivan

So, this year I am going to achieve great things. I am going to improve my writing skills; I’m going to finish rewriting and editing The Sword Bearer’s Ascension: Book 4 and get it published, and then rewrite and edit the book I wrote for NaNoWriMo in 2012! Yes, I haven’t had time to do it yet because my tetralogy had to be completed first and I’ve never been the kind of person to handle two writing projects at once. That’s just how my brain works! I give all my attention to one main project and if an idea comes along for another book I jot it down to come back to it later.

Now, some of you may think that all this is a simple case of procrastination, but, unfortunately, it’s worse than that. Feeling despondent because I’m not selling as many books as I’d like, or because more people are interested in 50 Shades of Grey than epic fantasy, is quite simply an excuse to not to keep focusing on what I want! I began writing my Sword Bearers tetralogy because it needed to be written; it needed to be read and shared with the world – even if that world was only a handful of people.

When I started, I wasn’t as skilled as I am now. I made mistakes and I had to learn as I went along. I read excerpts from Book 1 now (The Sword Bearers) and I pick up those small mistakes, things that a rookie might do their first time out. But you know what, I’m so proud of that first book. I nicknamed it The Beautiful Monster because it was both beautiful and a monster in that it took so much out of me – blood, sweat, and tears, as it were. But I did it! It was one of the greatest achievements of my entire life! I didn’t give in to the fear of public opinion or my lack of knowledge or the fact that I was writing in a genre that wasn’t as popular as romance or thrillers or the paranormal.

Book 1 in The Sword Bearers tetralogy

Book 1 in The Sword Bearers tetralogy

My writing career began in 2009, and by the time 2013 came along I had read hundreds of blogs by experienced writers and editors and publishers, enough to make me doubt myself that the fear I defied writing Book 1 suddenly reared up and took hold of me and I started slowing down. There were too many people telling me what I was doing wrong and, the worst, not to publish until my work was perfect! Perfection? Really? I didn’t know that perfection actually existed in the human race!

Thank goodness I didn’t listen to those ‘perfect’ bloggers and experts but rather to the writers who had tried and failed, tried and failed, tried again and failed again, and how they kept going and finally succeeded. Those are the people I gravitated towards because those are the people who were like me. They had faced their fears and had snubbed their doubts and had pushed ahead and had conquered not only their fears but their shortcomings regarding their skill as writers.

So, this is what I have decided for 2014: No resolutions, but rather a decision to approach my year with the same fearless tenacity I had when I decided to write my first novel. I have grown so much as a person and a writer since The Sword Bearers: Book 1. I am a better writer – more skilled, more knowledgeable, braver, and more confident – and armed with these truths and a determination to create my future, I will accomplish a lot more than I did last year and the year before that and the year before that!

My message to you today is to defy your fears, your doubts, your concerns, and those people who say you can’t and press forward with new determination. If you need more knowledge then go get it; if you have a weakness then face it and deal with it; if you have lack in a particular skill then find out how to improve it. But whatever you do, do it with no fear!

Truthfully, there isn’t really anything that exists that you can’t accomplish this year. You just need to believe it, and then hold on to it as you approach every new project.

Personally, I have to rewrite and edit The Sword Bearer’s Ascension: Book 4. Writing this incredible story, a story that began in 1978 when I saw Star Wars for the first time, has been a thrilling, joyous, and often tearful journey as I’ve told the tale of the characters that have lived with me for over thirty years! Coming to the end had me sobbing, and I mean sobbing! But typing that last sentence filled me with such a sense of accomplishment and joy and all because I started it with no fear!

I love hearing your thoughts! Tell me about your fears and doubts and how you overcame them. Do you still face any? Maybe I can help.

Visualisation: The Art of Drawing Your Reader In

Action and Visual Perfection - the art of creating emotion

Action and Visual Perfection – the art of creating emotion

There, that’s the moment you’ve been waiting for, the climax, the explosion, the huge secret reveal, the plot twist to make you gasp and scream “No! That can’t be happening!!!” And that’s why you sit through a movie you’ve been dying to see since they announced it was being made two years ago!

And that, dear writer, is what your reader wants at the end of your novel!

BUT before they get to the end they need the build-up, the lead-in, the gradual and almost painful journey to the point they can scream or cry or jump up and down and yell either “Bitch!” or “Bastard!” at you. Yes, that ‘George R. R. Martin‘ moment, that’s what makes your reader and future fan come back for more. And I’m sure you know exactly what it is: the ability to paint with words, to enable your reader to ‘see’ the entire story in their head like a movie, to see it clearly and become emotionally hooked from page one.

My Escape

Now, every book I’ve read approaches this differently because the writer has her own idea of HOW the story should unfold and how quickly or slowly. There are many masters of the Build-Up, my favourite being Stephen King, and I sit with bated breath waiting for the ending, devouring his books at a furious rate because I want to know. I have to know, dammit!!

When I wrote my first novel I had to learn how to paint with words. I have always been extremely visual in my thinking, thanks to about 40 years of dancing and choreography, and when I took the plunge to go from professional dancer to writer I had to teach myself how to express the glorious, exciting, moving scenes in my head onto the page. It took patience and practice, but by the time I found my own style and the words began to flow faster, I experienced the joy of expressing myself to my future readers in a way that I knew would move them and enable them to join me on my epic fantasy adventure! They would ‘see’ what I ‘see’ and feel what I feel, and to me that made me a successful storyteller.

In the big blockbuster movie we go to have a visual feast – to gasp at the latest CGI techniques and the hot actors in tight costumes 🙂 – and we expect to be entertained and get our money’s worth. If we are not satisfied we gripe and moan and complain on Facebook and Twitter, and soon the movie loses its punch and becomes a flop. This, as you know, happens with books, as well. As writers, we have to learn to draw our readers in or we run the risk of being flops ourselves.

Saying that, it’s vital to know your audience and pay attention to your reviews – good and bad – and learn from both. If you want to be popular you need to give your audience what they want. BUT, and a very big but here, never compromise your skill or style or passion to write and tell your story your way in favour of pleasing everybody. As I’ve said in so many of my previous blogs, ALWAYS HAVE BALANCE!

Pen on Paper

There’s nothing I love more than hearing a fan tell me how they couldn’t put my books down, how they were drawn in and got so involved with my characters and their dramas that they had to keep reading until they finished. And my epic fantasy novels are long books! How wonderful to know that although I’ve written such a big story that not once did my reader become bored! Now that’s a compliment I can bathe in for the rest of my life 🙂

Do you have a particular way of approaching your story that paints the most vivid picture for your readers? Is it important to you to grab the reader from page one or do you prefer the gradual Build-Up? I’d love to read your thoughts. Please leave a comment and share.

Hearing the Heartbeat of Your Story is Essential for Realism

Dancers have to feel and express the rhythm of the music in order to interpret it correctly and thus deliver a convincing performance the audience can FEEL and experience with them!!

Dancers have to feel and express the rhythm of the music in order to interpret it correctly and thus deliver a convincing performance the audience can FEEL and experience with them!!

We’ve all experienced it: We get a great idea for a story, and then we begin writing it down. Is it that simple? Yes and no.

Anyone can get a great idea – a twist on a classic or a recent movie or a song – because they’re all out there for the taking. So, what turns a great idea into a masterpiece? Right from the very beginning, as the words take form and the outline reveals itself, you must find the unique heartbeat, the specific tonality, the feel of the tale that separates it from every other story out there. And to hear that singular ‘voice’ speaking to you from wherever you believe stories come, you need to have the ability to listen, then recognise it, then express it in words.

It has been proven time and time again that if a group of say twenty kids get given the same sentence with which to begin their story you will invariably end up with twenty different stories. But the one that gets the A+ is the one that went outside the box and found a place so different from where convention dwells that the reader (in this case, the teacher) is blown away and immediately identifies the unusual/unique potential of that student. It’s not that the student had any special educational advantage over her peers, it’s rather that she lives her life by exploring the unconventional and opens her mind to things that most kids do not. The dreamers, the inventors, the ones that usually get into trouble for not concentrating in class – those are the kids the innovators of the world should be paying attention to and helping them expand those gloriously open, unfettered minds.

There are no limits to the imagination!

There are no limits to the imagination!

A great tool to use when writing – and this is fantastic if ever you find yourself stuck for an idea – is to ask: “What if?” What if the laws of nature didn’t apply to this character or this situation? What if there were no morals or ethics binding a character to act a certain way? What if reality wasn’t reality but mere illusion? What if the impossible was possible?

Many writers would say that getting to know your characters as if they were your best friends helps to make the story more real even if they’re writing about fantasy or the paranormal or science fiction. To imagine themselves where the characters are, to get in on the conversation and feel and hear what each unique personality is saying, lends greater passion and realism to a scene, even if they’re talking about swords and sorcery.

Every story has its own rhythm. Every character has his or her unique style and personality. But to get all this to a place of realism you need to live your story through every word and action. Place yourself in their position – the good and the evil characters – and try to understand them as though they were you. ‘See’ how they move and ‘hear’ how they speak (the inflections and nuances in their voices – including what they’re thinking), the way their faces move, the way their bodies move, and, of course, every single emotion they experience, whether expressed in the scene or secretly thought and felt. If they are angry you must feel angry. If they are upset or weeping then you must share in it with them, for if you can experience it all then your reader will, too!

There's great magic in realism!

There’s great magic in realism!

When writing in the same genre there is a danger that an author can end up having books with similar characters who have similar behaviours and find themselves in similar situations. I find this happening even among the greatest authors of our day. Their stories are all different, but I sometimes have a sense of knowing a character too well like I’ve met them before, and then I realise they’re a lot like another character in another book by the same author! It never fails to disappoint.

Have you written many books? If so, have you made sure that each new story has its own voice, its own heartbeat?

I urge you to spend time getting to know your new characters intimately, giving them their own existence, and making sure they don’t have a clone lurking around somewhere in another book. Take the time to make them unique, from their looks to the way they speak and act and interact with the other characters, because, believe me, your reader will pick up on a fake character just like they pick up on a fake actor who has not immersed herself in her role. It’s painful and distracting and makes the viewer want to stop watching because it’s impossible to get totally absorbed in the story when it feels unrealistic or fake.

Surrender to the power of the tale and allow it to direct you instead of the other way round! This is a quote from a friend on Facebook that is just perfect for what I have spoken about today: “Authors do not create characters. We open our minds to the unknown worlds and allow them to tell us their stories through these unseen doors. Then we write it all down for those who do not have the ability to open the doors on their own.” ~ Beth Fullaway

I love hearing your thoughts! Tell me about your experiences as a writer and creator of unique tales, and if you struggle – or don’t – with bringing your characters to life in a way that makes them as real as possible!

Visions, Understandings, and Prophecies

Magic by Gioradi sxc

No, I’m not getting all religious on you, but I am going to chat about the absolute vital act of believing in yourself and your abilities, because unless someone makes you think about it and ponder it, you most probably won’t even give it a second thought.

When I started writing I was so new and so ignorant of many things that my first novel, The Sword Bearers: Book 1, began as an act of love and passion that slowly bloomed into a project of obsession that taught me how to be a good writer. I made a few mistakes (and I’ll probably end up rewriting and editing somewhere along the line), yet not for one second do I second-guess my abilities and my passion to be a storyteller.

In just about all my posts I have mentioned at least once that you, dear writer, have to have absolute faith in yourself if you want to make that dream come true. Now, hearing that cliché makes me want to roll my eyes. Yes, yes, yes, I want to make my dream come true, but until I do it creates a certain frustration inside me because it hasn’t happened yet. And that is where the problem lies. As soon as I begin to focus all my attention on what I don’t have yet instead of what I want and where I want to end up, I establish a habit of bad thinking and self-doubt that only escalates and, on bad days, gets totally out of hand!!

My first novel and my greatest joy!

My first novel and my greatest joy!

You see, if we perpetuate wrong thinking and allow self-doubt to permeate every waking thought then that is what we will end up getting. If I look at my first novel and focus on what I left out or didn’t do as well in Books 2 and 3, I can make myself go crazy!! Instead, I learn and change and study and read as much as I can and focus on the successes of the greats and in so doing slowly but surely begin changing into a better, more knowledgeable, more masterful writer every time I sit down at my computer and write the next line, chapter, book.

Daily I take time to imagine where I want to end up, what I want to achieve, and what I want to accomplish. I envision the future with as much clarity as my limitless imagination can conjure, and I bathe in the joy, excitement, and glory my visions bring. And as I connect to my bigger self, the one that is without ego and, in fact, my true self, then I begin to understand my place in the universe and I begin to see the big picture. It takes but a few minutes out of my day to imagine the biggest dream I can and allow my emotions to stir into a frenzy. Doing this every day brings me encouragement and a deeper understanding of my abilities, that they are in no way limited, except if I get in my own way and sabotage the destiny I have been given.

This is not fantasy, dear writer, but truth as I have personally seen this work in my life many times, and I believe absolutely that I will reach my end goal, and then go beyond it. As I’ve also said many times in other posts, I am constantly learning and improving my craft, and I make sure I do it passionately and without limiting my thinking in any way, no matter how tough or frustrating it gets.

The greatest gift you can give yourself is this: Always be teachable! Never think you’ve arrived. Believe that your talent is limitless and your potential eternal. Do not put your mind or spirit in a box and say you have nothing left to learn, but rather crave knowledge, crave insight, crave a deeper connection to your Source – whatever or whoever you believe that to be. But never stop being open and willing to receive even more than what you already have.

I started small, and today I can truly say that I have become someone bigger, stronger, and way cleverer than that very first day I put words on paper.

Even the Superstars Started at the Beginning!

Even the Superstars Started at the Beginning!

NEVER despise the day of small beginnings!!! You can only go higher, further, deeper, and wider from there.

I hope this post has inspired you. It was something I had to share because I know we all need to hear as often as possible that we’re awesome and beautiful and gifted, and that there is nothing we cannot do or achieve if we but believe in ourselves and the gifts we’ve been given in never-ending abundance.

And what exactly is prophecy? It is man seeing and understanding what’s on God’s mind through His eyes as it pertains to His creation. You’ve been made for greatness. You’ve been born to impact the world. You have been gifted with a unique voice, and it is up to you to use it. Either it can be small and insignificant, or it can be heard across the world and beyond. The choice – the amount you believe in the truth – is entirely up to you.

So, what are you going to choose: greatness or a mediocre existence? Create your own prophecy. Choose to make your life and career as glorious as it was meant to be the day you were conceived. Me? I’ve chosen greatness because I believe that it is my ultimate destiny.

I love hearing your thoughts. Do you have any self-doubts? Do you need to chat about them? I’m here if you do. I’ve been through every high and low you can imagine, and learned to recognise when I’m pulling myself down with wrong thinking. Sometimes it takes work to pull yourself out of a slump, but it is so worth it!!

Top image courtesy of gioradi

Cover Reveal for The Sword Bearer’s Awakening: Book 3!

Cover for Book 3

Yay!! Here it is! The gorgeous cover for Book 3 in my tetralogy, The Sword Bearer’s Awakening! I am thrilled to share it with you guys. My publisher has been given the go-ahead from me – after scrutinising the final galleys etc for hours! – to release the ebook and printed versions (paperback and hard cover), and they should be available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble (go check out my product pages) within four to six weeks! I will let you know the moment they become available for purchase.

I’d love to hear your comments about the cover so please feel free to do so. Here’s a short synopsis for Book 3:

“She’d never experienced such agonising loss before, not even when she lost everything to the demon on her home-world, Theras, five years ago.

Driven into the darkness of emotional torment and despair, KC, the Sword Bearer, slowly struggles up towards the light to try find a way to continue on with her life after losing the one person who made it possible.

But her lust for revenge may yet undo her – and if she succumbs to it and loses sight of who she is, then the entire Universe may forever fall into the claws of Drakoor s’et, arch demon and destroyer of worlds!

Happy weekend, everyone!

Are You a Giver or a Trader?

"Please, God, I'll do anything! I don't need to be happy just rich and famous!"

“Please, God, I’ll do anything! I don’t need to be happy just rich and famous!”

If you had the opportunity, would you do anything to become a famous author, even if it destroys your soul?

I’ve just finished watching a fantastic programme called “Tapping the Source”, and one of the lessons I learned from this inspiring programme (one of many, let me tell you!) was doing something without expecting anything in return. That’s a very hard thing to do never mind to even consider, and it’s a good ol’ smack in the face for our egos because since when in these tough lives of ours do we do anything without hoping for or expecting something in return? I mean, we give cash to receive the things we desire, be it food, clothes, toys, that new iPhone, so we grow up learning that when we give something to someone then it is our right to get something in return.

The ironic thing is, though, that in reality if you want the great results in life like joy, abundance, success and even fame, it requires you to be thankful for everything you already have – whether you like those things in your life or not – and to give without expecting or demanding something in return. Your ego screams at you, “No, no, no! Don’t be an idiot! The next thing you’ll have people walking all over you and abusing your generosity. Are you insane?!”

Who's in control of your life, your arrogant, self-serving ego or the giving, loving person you were created to be? One destroys, the other creates.

Who’s in control of your life: your arrogant, self-serving ego or the giving, loving person you were created to be? One destroys, the other creates.

It’s true. As a ‘normal’ human being, brought up by well-meaning parents, I was taught that you don’t just give away what you’ve worked so hard for. Nothing’s for free! In order to get something you have to earn it – pay for it in some fashion. In other words, unless you trade something that’s precious to you then you will never get like in return and you learn to expect the same from others.

It’s very difficult for us to give away what we’ve poured sweat and tears into, what we’ve poured our very souls into. Like our books. For most of us it takes months of writing, then a couple more to revise, then a couple more to get edited, proofread, compiled, and then, finally, almost a year later, published. Now I must just give it away without getting anything in return? you ask. Are you nuts?!!

If you had to be honest with yourself, whenever you have those fabulous Amazon Select days when your precious work is available for free, you must feel a little cheated when hundreds of copies get downloaded (after you’ve only sold about twenty to thirty at .99c so far) and you know you will never see a dime; you will never get anything in return for the precious gift you’ve given to those hundreds of people. What exactly are your expectations going in? Do you ask yourself questions like: “Geez, can’t anyone just afford .99c, for goodness sake?” or “Are they buying it because I’m a great writer or because it’s free? Do they even know who I am? Do they even know what other books I’ve written?” Your ego steps in to protect and defend you with teeth bared. You feel despair, and that awful feeling of unfairness, of being done a great wrong, creeps into your gut and starts chomping away. Was the give-away as satisfying as you’d imagined, then?

The question you need to ask is this: What was my motivation for doing it?

If your motivation was to get a hundred reviews, and all those people demanding more of you and your writing, then okay. But what does it do to you when you don’t get that exact return on your investment? Do you begin to lose hope? Do you begin to doubt yourself and your abilities? Do you begin to think that everything you’ve done has been a waste of time, that an entire year of effort has been for naught and that it and you are now worthless and, in fact, completely invisible to the millions of readers out there?

I certainly hope not, dear writer!!!

I guess it boils down to expectation. But there’s the rub (I apologise for the copious clichés). When you give your beloved work away what exactly are your expectations? Do you expect to receive the same value back that you so generously put in? Or do you do it out of love – to share your work and passion and talent with the world and become wonderfully elated in the divine act of giving and sharing freely?

Having balance is always the wisest choice

Having perfect balance in your life and work is always the wisest choice

My advice would be to create a balance, because that’s what makes life so enjoyable and fulfilling. Have one give-away as an act of love and as your gift to the world to feed your soul with the joy it deserves, and then do a give-away where you work really hard to encourage people to get to know you and your work, to encourage them to spend money on you next time because you’re so incredibly worth it.

You are worth getting paid for what you do, but you are also worth the joy, love, and fulfilment sharing and giving without the expectation of receiving will bring your heart and soul. Find balance and your rewards will be beyond your wildest expectations.

The choice, dear writer, is yours.

I love hearing your thoughts! Please leave a comment and tell me about your experiences and what you think about giving without expecting anything in return, especially if it involves the sacrifice of your most precious gifts.

Images courtesy of eyebiz, wgroesel, and sradion

Related Articles:

Don’t Sell Yourself Too Cheaply – You are of Great Worth (moniquerockliffe.wordpress.com)

The Bitter-Sweet Process of Editing – the Path to Becoming a Genius!

The Cover Image for Book 3: The Sword Bearer's Awakening

The Cover Image for Book 3: The Sword Bearer’s Awakening

I’m around twenty pages away from finishing up with Book 3: The Sword Bearers Awakening, and it feels like I’m preparing myself to say farewell to a best friend.

It was worse with my first book, The Sword Bearers, because I’d poured my new-found creativity into this ‘beautiful monster’ – my heart, soul, sweat and many tears – and then I had to let go of it, set it free, and allow the world to take possession of it.

And, boy, did it hurt.

Since the day I began this wonderful journey of creating with words instead of dance – dance had been my entire life since the age of five – it amazed me how emotionally involved and invested I became with this wonderful story. This epic tale has been with me since as far back as I can remember, and first putting it down on paper then giving it away to the world and allowing them to see it, handle it, talk about it, judge it, and scrutinise it was more painful and terrifying than I could ever have believed. I joked with friends and family that writing and then publishing my debut novel was like giving birth because it was one of the most trying and challenging things I’d ever done in my life. And I don’t do anything small! I may only be five foot two inches tall but Monique has never done anything small in her entire life!

Sometimes my characters take possession of me!!

Sometimes my characters take possession of me!!

As Book 2: The Sword Bearer’s Journey took shape and the story expanded and evolved, and my writing technique and storytelling abilities got better and better, it became a little easier to create. But not for one second did the emotional attachment dissipate. No way! In fact, it became even more intense. The characters got a hold of me in ways I never expected. I thought about them constantly and even dreamed about them! I role-played and spoke to myself – out loud! – because they had, quite literally, taken possession of me, and I didn’t mind in the least!

I know those of you reading this, who have also created their beautiful, unique stories and characters, know exactly what I’m talking about. Ernest Hemingway said that when we sit down at our typewriters we bleed. I understand that completely.

Hemingway

I agree with a few fellow bloggers, who have recently mentioned in their posts that when we write we leave parts of our souls on the page, that our characters are extensions of ourselves to a small or large degree. That’s why it’s so hard to kill off a character or turn a good character bad (I kinda feel like I’m betraying them on that one), or create a tragic event for a kind, soft-hearted character, because I experience each one of those events and situations as if they were happening to me. When there’s death I weep; when there’s anger or rage I feel aggressive; when there’s betrayal I feel pain and anger; and when there’s fear or frustration or danger my body is so tense I have to take a break and ask my hubby to massage the knots out of my shoulders!

Then, after I’ve ‘bled’ onto the page, I am required to do something cruel and downright mean: I have to edit. Cut, change, rearrange, remove or replace – the worst of it being cutting out entire scenes, sometimes pages long, because they don’t flow or are unnecessary to the story or redundant. My characters ‘stare’ accusingly at me as though I am wiping out parts of their very existence, which is actually true, and I don’t blame them. I HATE doing it! But when one is writing an epic fantasy the first draft is usually too long, anyway, and desperately needs editing. I have no problems creating. I can write one-thousand-page books with relative ease. I never want for ideas. But I always have to remind myself to be frugal, and since Book One I’ve learned how to get to the point faster and write more succinctly from the beginning.

Book Three was actually the first one I wrote in the tetralogy. It is the most emotionally charged, intense, powerful book out of the four so far, and is the crux of the story and the most important for the main character, KC/Khyri, the Sword Bearer. Here’s a snippet from Book 3 for your enjoyment:

. . . Cilicia easily knocked Khyri’s hands away and gently took her face in her hands and bent lower so she could hear. Trying as best she could to separate her mind from the vicious relentless blows as the mass penetrated her back again and again, she looked deeply into Khyri’s eyes and said in a calm voice that belied the agony she was experiencing: “Listen to me, Bearer.” A stricken KC listened. “You are the arm of Kurrn. You are the beautiful gift He gave this Universe twenty-three years ago to restore balance and destroy evil for this time in history. You are the hope of N’varda, your people, and your son. Kurrn’s mark is upon you not Drakoor’s. Compared to you the demon is very weak, and he is very afraid of what you can do. I feel it now with him inside me.” Cilicia sobbed, and then cried out as the attacks on her body increased, but she gritted her teeth and honed all her remaining will and concentration on Khyri through eyes blurred with tears. “Drakoor is nothing to you. There is no comparison. He was created by Kurrn but no longer has His favour or His power, whereas you have the fullness of Kurrn within you. Do you not see it, Khyri? Do you not understand the power you possess?” . . .

Editing for me, although sometimes painful and frustrating, is an excellent way to learn my craft and perfect it. It teaches me to recognise what’s important and to make decisions for the good of the story. Just like the special effects geniuses in movies it is my job to make the reader unaware of what it took to create the magic. I once watched an interview where a special effects director on Lord of the Rings said that if the audience does not notice what they’ve done in the film then they’ve done their job! Wow, I thought then, that means that all their hard work is basically ignored. But for a movie lover like me, who loves watching the interviews and “How the movie was made” snippets on the dvd, I will always admire and acknowledge the geniuses who make my movie experience so magical. Even in the dance world the ordinary person on the street has no idea what it takes to produce and present a full-length ballet. All they see is the end result and none of the huge effort that created the magic and beauty.

Planet Hell by Zakeros

I am like those special effects geniuses: my goal is to create so artfully, so perfectly, that the reader has not clue how tough it was for me to give them that powerful, magical experience.

Editing is bitter-sweet. As writers we keep nothing back when we expose our souls to the page, and that’s what our readers deserve. What they don’t see is the pain; all they see is the glorious results of our efforts. And I for one hope they never find out how hard it was to produce those results. I for one hope they see me as a genius one day, too.

Please share your editing experiences and agonies! I loving hearing from you!

Planet Hell courtesy of zakeros

What Keeps Me Going When Hiding Looks So Darn Good?

Flu1 by evah sxc

As you can tell by the heading, I’m feeling fed up, and having a cold doesn’t help matters at all!! It’s more than just feeling tired and gross that has me feeling like throwing in the towel, though, and here is that reason:

Are all my efforts paying off? Are all the hours spent editing my third book, and promoting and marketing the first two and the soon to be released third, actually going to make a difference to me or the world? Will I ever see my sales skyrocket? Will I ever be on a best-seller list? Do my 2,360 followers on Twitter and over 1000 fans on Facebook actually care what I’m writing? Do they even know that I’m writing?

The answer: I dunno!!!

Next question: Does it matter?

Answer: Yes…and no.

Yes because it’s my responsibility as a self-published author to reach my followers on Twitter and fans on Facebook through self-promotion and marketing. It’s my responsibility to make people notice me and learn about me and my work and to educate them on what I do. It is my job to learn how to do all of this effectively in the minimum amount of time.

When I decided to go Indie I accepted the challenge to do everything myself, therefore it most certainly is my responsibility to train and educate myself on how to go about it, and then to get on with it! My unique personality is what attracts more attention; my relationship with friends, fans, and followers across the entire Social Media platform is what draws them to me and ultimately my work.

Hand Shake1 by pixelstar sxc

Trust is key. I cannot earn trust without building relationships – relationships that are powerful, significant, and influential. Be smart, I always say to myself, not busy. Doing too much can become as ineffectual as doing nothing at all. Learn from those who are successful and listen to your intuition when it comes to what information to use for your specific situation and goal.

So, yes, it does matter – but only when I’m smart and spend less time doing too much of the superficial stuff and more time doing what’s deeply effective, personal, and more attentive towards those that are potential readers of my work. The focus should be on them. I now believe that being too inwardly focused is damaging to my relationships and, as a result, my work. I need to focus more on the hearts of my potential readers than in trying to ram my novels down their throats. Maybe then I’ll get the attention I want.

Now, the answer to the question is also no because when it comes right down to it I am mainly writing for the privilege of being able to create an incredible, unique story of thrilling adventures and filled with so much emotion, fantastic characters, and detailed experiences that I am always left amazed when I read my first draft after all the writing’s done. “I made that,” I often exclaim in astonishment, and once again I am humbled by the indescribable gift of storytelling I’ve been given.

I may never be a best-seller or rate up there with Stephen King and Terry Brooks, but I most certainly will produce the best piece if fantasy literature I can achieve on my journey at this moment in time.

Of course, all the effort is worth. I have to learn to be more efficient, less long-winded in all my promotion and marketing, and more attentive and faithful to my potential readers.

And never, ever must I give in to the feelings of helplessness, despondency, and doubt that attack me when I least expect it. Those tough moments are delivered to me with love, and within them are lessons to be learned and encouragements and urgings to review what I’ve done in the past and move on from those things that are not working.

Cover of "Carrie"

Cover of Carrie

No effort is ever wasted. Those sincere attempts might not be as potent and productive as they could be but they always count – whether you’re learning how to do it better or finding out what’s not important. If what you’re doing isn’t producing results then change it or discard it or it will eat away your enthusiasm like bubbling acid until there’s nothing left and you feel like giving up and throwing your work in the bin. Remember what happened to Stephen King? He threw Carrie in the dustbin and his wife fished it out, told him to finish it, and then submit it. It was his first novel and he got over $200, 000.00 for it!! He never looked back after that! Thank goodness his wife never accepted the despondency and discouragement of her husband. Can you imagine what would have happened to King if he’d done that with all his later manuscripts?

Oh, and never make judgements and decisions about editing/writing when you’re tired, hungry, or sick!

Hope this helps you in some way. My personal situation has certainly taught me a lot these past few weeks and finding a balance between caring and not caring – caring about what works and not caring about what appears to be failing (when it actually isn’t) – is the most important place to be as a writer at all times. Being aware of potential failures and things that don’t work and never will is a good place to be because at least then you can recognise the dangers and steer clear of them. Go after what rings true to your heart and spirit and trust in your best Friend – your Muse/God/the Universe – who always faithfully carries you through the tough times, even when you aren’t aware of it!

Dreams in Pi 2 by ugaldew sxc

I love hearing from you, so share your ‘dark’ moments with us so that we can be encouraged and our enthusiasm boosted to continue on with our beautiful craft!

 

First Image Courtesy of evah

Second Image courtesy of pixelstar

Fourth image (Dreams in Pi 2) courtesy of ugaldev

The Next Big Thing Blog Hop – Yup, it’s my turn!!

Image courtesy of Jeff Whelan

Image courtesy of Jeff Whelan

This is the first time I’ve done a blog hop, and, I must say, I’ve had such fun! I am also honoured to be included with such fabulous writers today, and I want to thank Jared Anderson for inviting me to participate in this blog tour and follow on from him. Jared posted last Wednesday, the 9th, and here’s the link to his blog: http://jsascribes.wordpress.com

Jared is working hard on his first novel, The White Room (or he might still call it Cadence). It’s a horror/thriller with an erotic edge.

His second novel, Beautiful Monster – a collaboration between himself and his mentor, author Kim Williams-Justesen – has been accepted for publication. I wish you great success with both novels, Jared!

The Cover Image for Book 3: The Sword Bearer's Awakening

The Cover Image for Book 3: The Sword Bearer’s Awakening

Now, time to get down to business and answer these fun questions!

What is the working title of your book?

I’ve decided to speak about my third book in The Sword Bearers tetralogy because it’s about to come out around March/April. It’s in the editing process at the moment and taking shape. It’s titled: The Sword Bearer’s Awakening.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

This is an interesting question because even though this is the third book I actually wrote it first. The crux – more like the emotional crux – of the story is in this book. It is the most powerful and moving out of the four so far because of what happens to the main character, KC, who is the Bearer of the Sword of Heaven, a powerful, supernatural weapon that resides within her body and is capable of destroying entire worlds!

This story has been living with me since I first saw Star Wars when I was eight-years-old. The scope, the imagination, the power of that film blew me away and I realised even at such a young age that there is nothing my imagination can’t dream up. The characters and their plights, the antagonist and his relentless evil and power, and the struggle of the heroes to overcome victoriously made a huge impact on me as a kid. My imagination – always busy and utterly boundless – exploded after seeing Star Wars and I began to create my own world and characters. It only took me around 35 years to get it down on paper!!

What genre does your book fall under?

It is an Epic Fantasy/Science Fiction fusion (I love mixing genres :)) filled with high adventure, action, grand galactic battle scenes, passion, romance, loss, victory and defeat, and, of course, revenge. It has it all!

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Because nothing else on earth could match me seeing my story in the big screen I have already given some thought to this question in the past. It has taken this blog hop, however, to make me sit down and really think about it. Here are my initial choices:

KC/Khyri Vindor’hien: my main character is extremely complex. She requires an actress who can portray a carefree teenaged princess that gradually – into Books 2 and 3 – turns into a young, troubled woman carrying and learning to cope with a great burden she never wanted any part of.  In Book 1 she goes from being that happy teenager into a despairing, angry mess because of being cruelly betrayed by those she loves. Later, she falls madly in love and slowly emerges out of her shell, but throughout the story a constant, simmering anger hides just beneath the surface. The actress has to be able to express immense grief and, in Book 3 especially, gradual insanity and inner torment. But KC learns to overcome it all and in Book 3 prepares to face the demon, her arch nemesis. The actress needs to be capable of extreme physicality and well-trained in fighting techniques with sword, knife, and hand-to-hand combat as KC is an incredible warrior with skills that are preternatural in their execution.

The only actress that is the right age and can act brilliantly and has the physical capabilities for this part is Saoirse Ronan. She was superb in Hanna. If someone can suggest anyone else then please be my guest. Kate Beckinsale or Milla Jovovich would have been perfect if they were younger.

Ahloren Vindor’hien (KC’s mother; she is Sword Bearer in Book 1 before passing the Sword on to KC, and Cai’rin (High Queen) of her Territory, Theras): the perfect actress is none other than Cate Blanchett (Lord of the Rings). She has a very brief but emotionally charged scene in the beginning of Book 1/the movie.

Khyl Vindor’hien (KC’s oldest brother): here I was thinking of Chris Hemsworth (Thor).

Brahn Vindor’hien (KC’s second oldest brother): Chris Pine (Star Trek) would be perfect!

Aa’rel Beloruuis (KC’s cousin – a princess): I can see Amy Adams (Enchanted) in the part – beautiful and strong.

Jae’el Beloruuis (KC’s cousin and Aa’rel’s brother – a prince and warrior): I seem to like my Chrises :), but I think Chris Evans (Captain America) for this part would be great.

Korin Beloruuis (KC’s uncle, king of Verai – one of the largest Territories in the galaxy of N’varda – and leader of the Alliance of Territories, the most powerful opposition against Drakoor s’et, the arch demon, who’s after KC; father of Aa’rel and Jae’el): Neal McDonough (Band of Brothers; Desperate Housewives; Minority Report) has the bearing and those expressive eyes and magnetic persona!

Drakoor s’et (arch demon and the main antagonist, who appears in human form most of the time): no doubt in my mind for this one – it’s Michael Fassbender (X-Men: First Class; Prometheus). He carries off psychotic very well!!

Yanec/Jaryth (KC’s youngest brother turned into a monster by Drakoor and Bearer of the Sword of Shadows – he’s twisted, has no conscience, and is completely insane): another hard one, but I do like Logan Marshal-Green (Prometheus) for the part.

Ren dei Pal’din (KC’s first love and mate – a prince from Theras and a warrior of great skill): Orlando Bloom (Pirates of the Caribbean) has just the right look and bearing for this part, and he’s quite nice to look at, too 🙂

Talis (KC’s partner in Books 2-4 and a powerful warrior – he’s a Shadow Weaver capable of existing in solid form and transforming into shadow form at will – intense, quiet, and mysterious): I think Timothy Olyphant (Hitman) has the right intensity for this part.

Devad Tanesin (First General of Verai in charge of security for the Alliance of Territories as well as its military leader – he becomes very important to KC in a way I can’t reveal here without giving away too much of the story): my choice for him is Damien Lewis (Homeland; Band of Brothers).

And, of course, directing these fabulous actors can be none other than the visionary Peter Jackson!!

These are the main characters for Books 1-3 so I’ll leave it at that!

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

The only hope of the Universe lies in the hands of one broken-hearted girl, and if she fails to accept who she really is and doesn’t allow herself to fully understand and embrace who she was created to be, then the entire Universe will be annihilated by the greatest evil ever unleashed.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I have published Books 1 and 2 through Xlibris Publishing (a self-publishing company), therefore to maintain consistency in look and style I will be publishing Books 3 and 4 with them, as well.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

I would say about six months.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Although my story and characters are completely unique, I have been influenced through the years by some of the great Epic Fantasy writers. If I did compare my books to other authors’ works it would have to be J. R. R. Tolkien, Raymond E. Feist, Tad Williams, the late Robert Jordan, and George R. R. Martin to name but a few, and then some of my other favourite writers David Eddings, Terry Brooks, and Stephen King. But unlike these writers’ stories my story doesn’t stay on one world – it moves across the galaxy and back, a little like Games of Thrones in space with kings and queens vying for power, planetary and galactic war, a great malevolent evil to overcome, and enemies amongst those you thought friends and allies!

Who or What inspired you to write this book?

As I mentioned earlier, seeing Star Wars when I was eight-years-old, my mother’s shared love for Fantasy and Sci-Fi movies, plus my voracious hunger for reading since I was old enough to pick up books and superhero comics, all contributed.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Even though my books are long – true to the Epic Fantasy genre – they read fast. I don’t waste time on long, drawn out explanations and backstories, and I don’t spend pages and pages on descriptions and setting up a scene, although I don’t neglect anything, either. My story is character-driven and a lot happens very quickly, keeping the reader fascinated and completely involved in the adventurous and action-packed tale. Emotionally, it is a very powerful story and every scene written is vital to what happens next. Nothing is wasted and there’s no waffling. The characters grow and learn constantly, and especially KC who, across Books 1-3, gradually learns to accept who she is – the Bearer of the Sword of Heaven. In Book 3, she finally comes to understand why she was born, and in Book 4 she learns the truth about her real identity (and it’s not what the reader thinks they know about her in the first three books 🙂 You’ll have to read Book 4 to find out what I mean!!!). The reader shares in her struggles (and those of her family and the other rich characters) and partakes of first her failures and then her victories – a truly inspiring tale of overcoming great loss and suffering.

I will be posting right here when Book 3 is released, and I’ll also inform everyone on all the Social Media platforms when the book is available. In the meantime, please go to my pages below to view Books 1 and 2 and purchase your copies 🙂

Here are my book and Social Media links:

Amazon Author Page

Barnes and Noble

Facebook

Twitter

Goodreads

Tumblr

StumbleUpon

LinkedIn

These are my four extremely talented tagged authors to follow on after me for The Next Big Thing Blog Hop. Between them they cover a fantastic range of genres. Please support them next Wednesday, the 23rd!

Ruth Watson-Morris

Scott Richards

Roy Hudson

John C. Scott

Thanks for taking the time to share in my first blog hop!

I love hearing from you. Please leave a comment or any suggestions you might have. If you have questions you’d like to ask about me or my books please feel free to do so in comments.

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