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NaNoWriMo: It’s Here Again! Will You Be Joining In?

NaNoWriMo Participant-2014-Web-Banner

Yup, it’s that time again and I’m ready for it! I wasn’t sure if I could handle NaNo and still work on my novel (The Sword Bearer’s Ascension: Book 4) and get it finished for publication early next year, but I think a specific goal of reaching 50 000 words in 30 days will encourage me to set aside a few hours every day to do both NaNo AND Book 4 and complete them by the end of November. Hey, I’ve never done anything in small measures in my entire life and I’m not about to start now!

The South African Flag

The South African Flag – SA, my first home on this earth.

Moving from South Africa to the UK was utterly exhausting, as you can imagine. Picking up your entire life and dumping it in another country is not for the faint of heart and should not be attempted too often in one’s life. Exhaustion aside, I am thrilled to be here in a country that appreciates fantasy and science fiction authors more than they do in SA. Sad but true. I was told by an agent in SA that the fantasy genre is a difficult sell in our country, local author or not. As it is, there isn’t much room for the arts in any form there unless the community does all the work and finds private funding. Thankfully, there are the handful in each field, including a few corporations, that have the passion to make things happen in the face of ignorance and apathy; our leaders have no idea that without the arts a nation has no soul and will soon die. They are oblivious to the enormous potential of its highly skilled and talented people, of which there are thousands, therefore these struggling artists get no recognition or support from their useless, unaware leaders.

I have many South African author friends and they are doing fantastic things on their own and raising awareness in their field. They love what they do, and despite how hard it is to be an artist in SA they are thriving because they’re doing what they love. They make me proud to be a writer and an artist.

Make time to write every day even if it's just for a few minutes! Feed your soul!

Make time to write every day even if it’s just for a few minutes! Feed your soul!

NaNoWriMo is growing in leaps and bounds, and I am proud to be part of it again this year. South Africa did brilliantly last year and I just know they’ll do even better this year. I will always support and encourage them. This year I am thrilled to be part of a huge writing community in the UK that is participating in NaNo. Hello, Kent! This year I am sticking to a scifi novel. As I work on finishing my epic fantasy tetralogy I am looking forward to having new projects to focus on next year, and since I will have two novels – one, a mixed genre of fantasy, scifi, horror, and western from 2012 – and this year’s scifi, along with another horror/scifi short story, I will have lots to keep me busy in 2015.

So tell me, dear Writer, are you participating this year? I would love to hear what you have up your sleeve and which tactics you will be implementing to succeed. Do share. If you need to chat and discuss issues and even your fears of not making the word count goal then let’s chat about it and encourage one another. I wish you luck and word count success by the 30th! I will keep you updated on my own progress right here. Now, go write!

Why Writing is Like Flamenco Dancing

Flamenco Dancer

For the last two weeks I’ve been doing Flamenco. As a dance style it has always been one of my favourites. It’s fiery, passionate, rhythmical, powerful, sexy, and as much about the music as the steps and movements. The last time I did Spanish dancing was at Art School thirty years ago and I missed it a lot when I matriculated and ended up in a classical ballet company. Don’t get me wrong, I love my ballet, but there’s something about Flamenco that stirs that ancient part of man that feels and desires and recognises earthy rhythms!

Now, it’s extremely difficult to do Flamenco if you aren’t musical. The time signatures, the syncopations, the pauses, silent beats, co-ordination of body, skirt, and castanets has to be flawless in order to do Flamenco well. Fortunately, I was born musical; I hear rhythms very easily. I started my dancing career as a tapper at the age of 5 so it’s part of me. It’s different to the intricacies of classical music; the rhythms and phrasing in Flamenco can get pretty complicated. But once I allow myself to become engrossed with the sounds and beats and nuances then it takes over my movements and I am led by it rather than trying to manipulate the music to follow me.

Stephen King Quote 2

It is the same with writing. Finding the rhythm of my writing, the ebb and flow, the cadence of the story, is vital to the creative process and the development of the story, especially in the beginning. When I allow the story (music) to take control of me then the words (steps) become easy and the story tells itself.

When you watch a professional Flamenco dancer, she doesn’t count her music 1-2-3-4, but rather the music weaves around her and she becomes one with it and in so doing tells her story effortlessly, drawing her audience in, creating emotion and passion and excitement with every step, every twirl of her skirt, the undulation of her hands, arms, and body, the beats of her castanets, the emotion on her face.

As a writer I have to use my words, the core energy of the story – its passions, colours, visualisations, characters, environment – to captivate the reader and draw him in. And to do so effectively I have to have the perfect rhythm, a rhythm that doesn’t break or stop or become annoying or disturbing because of an unnatural style which the reader will sense instinctively.

Just as a dancer has to create movements that are effortless and as close to perfection as possible so as to hypnotise her audience, so, too, does a writer.

Ebb and flow, rhythmic perfection, minimising mistakes in language, grammar, punctuation, and style, is how the writer creates the performance his readers will applaud!

Music Fades by Billy Alexander1 sxc

As a more experienced writer, after three published novels and a short story, I still have to work hard every day to perfect my style and rhythm. While I edit I ‘listen’ to my story, sometimes reading it out loud, to hear if there is a break, something that will distract the reader and pull him out of his trance. The goal, dear Writer, is to keep the reader entranced from page one. Do nothing to disturb the rhythm of your story or you will lose him to discordance.

What are your thoughts on writing style and rhythm? I love reading your thoughts. Please share!

Last image courtesy of Billy Alexander

You Never Lose What You Gain – as a Writer or a Dancer

Polina Seminova

Polina Seminova

Yesterday I did a ballet exam for the first time since I was 17. It was an interesting experience, as you can imagine. At 44 one would think a person done with such intense exercises, but I wanted to get fit again and have a goal to work towards for the end of the year, besides finishing Book 4 during NaNoWriMo, of course 🙂 I was just informed that I got the highest mark and a fantastic report, which makes me smile and nod sagely to myself because although I am no longer as subtle or fit as I used to be there is one thing I retained after all this time and that was the technique required to pull off an exam of that level. It’s called muscle-memory, and depending on how good your training was as a kid you never lose that knowledge.

This goes for writing, as well.

It should please you to know that as you constantly learn you become better and better at your craft, never worse. This, of course, depends on whether you develop bad habits and faults and allow them to perpetuate your writing. The same principle applies to ballet. Bad habits are hard to break unless, with steely determination and a lot of hard work, you attack them with the very opposite and completely remove said bad habits and replace them with a good, solid foundation upon which anything is possible to achieve.

Having the right mindset is vital, naturally. You must want it badly enough, and by ‘it’ I mean perfection. I want to be a perfect writer, knowing this is impossible just like being the perfect dancer is impossible – but with regards to both careers I can get pretty close. It is up to me, however, to create an environment in which to work – at home and inside my head – that creates optimal achievement.

Writing Inspiration

I must gain knowledge in order to improve, to achieve, and, ultimately, to succeed and reach the heights I’m aiming for.

As a ballet teacher my goal is to train my dancers to think correctly. I have all the knowledge to turn them into better dancers, but they must want to receive that knowledge and apply it, then make it part of not only their dancing but themselves, for what they learn in the classroom they can use in all aspects of life. Knowledge empowers them to become better dancers and thinkers, and as their teacher I must make sure they understand that knowledge and then show them how to apply it.

As adults we may no longer have tutors to guide and nurture us, but we have learned the responsibility and discipline to make sure we continue our own education to the best of our ability. Even though I received the best training as a dancer there were still things I needed to be be reminded of and become more conscious of again nearly thirty years later. As a writer, I keep learning and reading and gleaning from the experts because I need and want what they have in order to apply it to my work and become better and better. I still need reminders of the details, the intrinsic stuff that makes the whole picture look so much more professional and appealing to my readers. It is my responsibility to keep learning and relearning so that I can keep growing and improving.

The learning never stops! Please remember that!

I’ve spoken before of being willing and open to learn and gain knowledge, and of finding the balance between knowledge and passion – it’s what this blog is really about. Never stop learning and you’ll never stop improving. It’s as simple as that.

I love hearing your thoughts. What are your opinions about continuing your education? Do you feel pretty confident where you are in your career as an author, or are you constantly aware of the need to keep honing your craft with more knowledge?

If you’d like to read other posts on this subject of passion verses knowledge please check out my Archive.

Remember, you can find all my books right here Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, and Goodreads.

Writing is my Drug. Without it I’m too…normal!!

My Escape

 

Only writers will get this, but when I can’t sit at my computer everyday and write I feel disconnected from the universe, from myself, and from my characters. Reality crowds in and I start getting irritable and my husband thinks someone else has taken up residence inside his wife.

Sometimes life and work crowd in and take over; well, they actually take me away from where I really want to be and from what I want to do. Working to pay the bills and put food on the table is necessary, but if I had a choice I wouldn’t do it. It’s days like that when I envy professional writers their freedom to not have to do another job besides their beloved writing.

I’ve been bogged down with dance festivals for the last three weeks, and even though I’ve had a few days where I’ve managed to get down around 10-14 pages, they came too seldom. I enjoy choreographing and creating dances for the kids I teach; I love seeing the end product on the stage and watching my girls, with whom I’ve been rehearsing for months, performing their hearts out and getting rewarded for their hard work and dedication. Now, this used to be my entire life – dancing, performing, rehearsing, choreographing – but when writing came along and my dance career slowed down it became my entire existence. I couldn’t believe that creating with words was as intoxicating, if not more so, than dancing. Oh, believe me, nothing beats being on stage in front of an audience and drawing them in and making them laugh or cry or applaud – it is definitely an art form where you get instant gratification and recognition – and even though writing produces the same results it just takes a little longer and a lot more (and a different kind of) work.

Pen on Paper

Writing when I’m exhausted is also hard and it takes great effort to sit down in front of my computer and make the start. But what I’ve learned as a reasonably new author, is that once I begin, once I set my imagination free, then there’s no stopping me. Tired or not, I can write all day. The adrenaline, the force that pulses through me, is addictive and one drug I hope never to give up.

Dance and writing are very different and very similar: they are both visual art forms and require the observer to use their imagination; they both take the observer on a magical journey, an escape from reality that the observer craves; they both grab the observer’s attention and hold them captive, and here is the first major difference: dance incorporates music, lighting, costumes, sets – basically, all the visuals are physically provided to help the observer become engrossed in the atmosphere created for them – whereas in a book the observer, with the author’s help, is left to create their own world, their own physical interpretation of the story, all taking place in the mind.

I thank God for giving me the ability to create and imagine. Albert Einstein is quoted as saying: “Imagination is more important than knowledge…” He understood the power of imagination, that it is limitless whereas knowledge is not, and as a dancer, dance teacher, and a writer I understand and acknowledge and welcome its power, and I’m grateful for the ability to use it to its fullest extent – tired or not 🙂

When I danced professionally it consumed my world; I could not even contemplate doing anything else. But time past and life, too, and when I discovered the world of writing I realised that dance isn’t all there is. There were other ways for me to express and share what was inside me, what was inside my mind and heart, just that now it was with words. I approached it tentatively, this new, scary thing, and once I tried it and discovered that putting down on paper what was in my head was just a little harder than creating a dance piece (choreography is as natural to me as breathing!), and it slowly started taking hold of me like a powerful drug coursing through my veins and setting my heart and soul on fire! Never did I think that writing would consume me so, and I allowed it to because it replaced my passion and love of dance, soothing the pain of leaving that world behind.

Image courtesy of blackballerinas.tumblr.com

Image courtesy of blackballerinas.tumblr.com

Teaching dance is my job; writing is my new passion, and I cannot think of doing anything else. It’s a good thing I can write ’til I drop dead one day. I don’t think this body would be able to do leaps and turns as well as I used to as the decades go by 🙂

When I write I feel invincible, I feel alive and full of joy, so when the ‘normal’ stuff of life encroaches I get very grumpy. I even hate stopping to have food when I’m in the flow. Ask my hubby; he’s had full on conversations with me while I’ve been writing and I haven’t heard a word!! He’s slowly learning not to mess with me when I’m in the zone 🙂

Tell me about the things that you’d rather give up than have your writing interrupted. I love reading your thoughts! Please share!

The Afterglow of Finishing a 700-page Novel – again!!!

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

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

Yes, that’s what I’ve just accomplished! It’s done! It’s being printed – hard and soft cover – and formatted as an ebook to be released very soon, and I walk around, whether at home or at work, in a kinda daze ’cause writing my third epic fantasy novel – all three around 700 pages long! – is like conquering Everest…thrice!!!

Whew! *wipes brow*

What a journey of sheer ecstasy, mingled with the usual blood, sweat, and tears, but I wouldn’t give it up for anything. These characters, this exciting, thrilling world is so part of me now I can’t even imagine parting with them. The fourth book, The Sword Bearer’s Ascension, is the last in the tetralogy, and I’ve already started it. I know how it ends, and every time I think about it I can cry. Those tears are for the moment I edit the last word and then, with the touch of a key, send it off to be published. On that day there will be many tears and perhaps a lot of drinking (I don’t drink, by the way, which tells you how bad it’s gonna be!), and my hubby will have to deal with a weeping mess.

Flu1 by evah sxc

I believe my sadness stems from the undeniable fact that my characters are so intrinsically part of me, and saying farewell is like losing part of myself. This story has grown and evolved inside me since I was eight years old, that’s thirty-six years of living with and breathing life into this wonderful tale, bringing life to my characters, and creating a brand new world from scratch; thirty-six years of bringing this story to fruition, to a place where I could finally put it down on paper and realise a lifelong dream of being published and sharing this marvellous story with the entire world!

Hemingway

I know many of you reading this know exactly what I’m talking about. I understand what Hemingway said about ‘bleeding’ onto the page. It’s the same as a dancer losing herself in the choreography, and a musician losing himself in his creation. It is in those moments that the observer/listener sees the magic, the glory, the power, and joins with the artist in a journey that takes them far away from boring reality.

When I get comments from reviewers saying they are moved to tears when they read my book, I know I’ve bled enough. Then I know I held nothing back, and that I have accomplished what every artist seeks to accomplish: making a ‘normal’ feel, imagine, live, experience, become so utterly absorbed that they temporarily forget where they are.

The Sword Bearer’s Awakening: Book 3 is the powerful, emotional, thrilling continuation of what transpires in Books 1 and 2. Out of the four books I wrote this one first because it is the very heart of the story; it is where the adventure began for me; it is the birth of all the characters and of this unique universe.

I will keep you up to date as the release date nears, and as soon as I have a copy of the cover you’ll see it right here – and all over Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, ect.

Butterfly Heart

I want to take this moment to thank everyone who has supported me during this great adventure, from reviewers to readers to friends and family. All of you make this magical dream possible.

Writing Book 4 is going to be an amazing, emotional experience for me, and even though it will be one of the saddest days of my life when I complete it, I will be celebrating a near lifetime of glorious creation. I will write many, many more stories for I have a boundless imagination that contains an endless supply of fantastic tales (one is almost finished actually, thanks to NaNoWriMo 2012), and I just might continue with The Sword Bearers into the next generation…?

I love hearing your thoughts, so put them down right here. Tell me about your personal journey, and how it makes you feel when you end a project you’ve become so emotionally attached to.

Does Genre Fusion Work – and is it Wise?

I’m finally done with my week-long dance show and now I can get stuck into my writing again and catch up for NaNoWriMo. I’m excited about this novel because it’s new territory for me.

“Write what you know,” I’ve heard countless times in my short writing career, and I believe I’ve stuck to that good advice. I’ve also interpreted it to mea, write what you’re passionate about, what you spend most your time reading and watching on the big screen. The thing is, I love so many genres and I read them all, too. I am as passionate about fantasy as I am about sci-fi, action, adventure, thrillers, horrors, and even some romance.

When I decided to embark on NaNoWriMo I made up my mind to try something new. As I mentioned in a previous post, I am most probably nuts trying to do this for a time-sensitive writing challenge when I don’t have a lot of time to think things through first and investigate and research it for too long. But if you knew me better you’d understand my love for new challenges and how comfortable I am working under pressure. I thrive under pressure; I’ve always had the knack to perform better and deliver and accomplish that which I set out to. Also, I’ve had this idea in my head for quite a while, since I had an awesome dream one night, the kind of dream that sends my imagination into overdrive and I think, Dang, that would make an awesome movie! Now when I write I’m imagining what my story would look like on the big screen because I am a very visual person, coming from a world where everything relies on aesthetics – dance, drama, and art, i.e. the performing arts. Therefore I see my story and then put it down on paper. The moods, the colours, the way the characters look, the environment – it all has to come together visually first and then I begin to create with words.

Image courtesy of Emil Bacik

Let me tell you about Avalin: A Vampyric Legend, my novel for NaNo.

You need to know from the start that the Twilight films made me cringe at anything vampire because of the poorly written books and the awful execution and acting in the films. I roll my eyes whenever I hear someone rave about the films, especially about the glittering vamps! I mean, seriously!! I cannot conceive of vampires being pretty in any shape or form, no matter how “kind” their personalities appear. They are all killers, just shy of animals – capable of love and passion, sure, but killers nonetheless. So when I decided to write my story I knew it needed to be serious, to have gravitas, for the characters to be true to themselves, and for the situations and emotions and circumstances to be as close to real as possible within the fantastical story.

Synopsis:

“In the era of the gunslinger, dangerous creatures of the night roam free and undetected.

A beautiful woman, once wealthy and respected and married to a man of great influence, is forced, out of great personal loss and desperation, to become a prostitute. Working in a high-class brothel, she catches the eye of two mysterious men and ends up spending a night with them, only to discover, in the heat of passion, that they are vampyres.

In what she thinks are her final moments, she begs them to end her life of suffering and grief. But these are no ordinary vampyres: they have searched for Avalin for many years, they reveal to her, and now that they have found her they have no intention of ending her life. She has something they desperately need. She is unique, they tell her – one of a kind.

Fascinated, yet sad that her suffering will not end that night, she agrees to remain exclusively theirs, and so the extraordinary legend of Avalin begins. As she gets to know more about her mysterious benefactors and protectors the more frightened she becomes.

These are no ordinary creatures of the night; they have a terrifying secret, a secret that could mean the end of all humankind!”

My story has a fusion of the following: fantasy, urban fantasy, horror, romance, adventure, mystery, thriller, and, I say this hoping not to reveal too much, a little sci-fi.

Image courtesy of boogy_man

Those who have come to know me and my books know that I am a Fantasy author with two Epic Fantasy novels under my belt and another two in the current series to come. For Christmas I will soon be publishing a sci-fi short story on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords titled ‘The Door’. Now, fantasy and sci-fi can sometimes be quite similar in my experience, so creating stories in both genres isn’t that hard for me. The story of Sword Bearer’s Journey – Book 2 in my Sword Bearers tetralogy – moves into deep space and immediately involves some sci-fi elements along with the strictly epic fantasy style. For me, mixing the two isn’t hard; I’ve read enough of both genres to know how to write both with comfort (not that my research ever stops if I want to make things convincing).

Personally I think bringing different genres together isn’t a problem. One, two, and even three work quite nicely if done well, but here’s my real question: Can fantasy, urban fantasy, horror, romance, adventure, mystery, thriller, and sci-fi work together?

This is what I am attempting to do. I have taken all the above genres and put them into one pot, and I am attempting to make an awesome stew!! This is an experiment in more than just a genre change for me; it is a combination of every style that I love to read and see in movies, and by the end of the month I’ll see if I’ve been successful.

And then, dear reader/author/reviewer, you can judge it for yourself, for I have every intention of publishing it!

I’d love to know your thoughts on this topic. Have you fused genres in your writing? Does it work for you? Have you tried it or even considered trying it? Let’s get a discussion going.

 

Related articles

Keeping it Real in an Unreal World

English: Opening logo to the Star Wars films

English: Opening logo to the Star Wars films (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The one thing that made the latest Star Wars movies (Episodes 1-3) not work for me was the terribly weak script. Everything else was spectacular except the dialogue. It was stilted, boring, uncomfortable, and above all, it lacked believability.

The three lead protagonists of Star Wars, from...

The three lead protagonists of Star Wars, from left to right: Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), and Han Solo (Harrison Ford). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The first Star Wars movie (Episode 4: A New Hope) is the one that sent my imagination and passion for storytelling into overdrive when I was eight years old because I completely believed in the characters and the brilliant, unique story. Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Chewbacca, Han Solo, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Darth Vader all had very distinct personalities and they behaved accordingly in every situation they were in. Their responses to every predicament were believable – they were REAL! I bought it because I lived it with them; I was there with them every moment – being chased, shot at, tortured, swerving, diving, and rolling with the Millennium Falcon! It was awesome! But then came the disappointing prequels, which, for me, quite simply sucked in comparison.

Ewan McGregor (left) as Obi-Wan Kenobi and Hay...

Ewan McGregor (left) as Obi-Wan Kenobi and Hayden Christensen (right) as Anakin Skywalker in Attack of the Clones. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Is it because I’ve grown up? I asked myself over and over again. But the more I thought about it and analysed it the more I came to understand that, no, what was wrong was that the characters lacked any kind of credibility and normalcy.

Now how can fantastical characters be normal, you may ask? Isn’t the whole point of fiction that our characters are bigger than life (especially in Fantasy), that they, and the situations they find themselves in, are blown up out of proportion to elicit greater emotion for the reader, to draw them into the story and make them ‘see’ it and experience it, no matter how unreal the story? But tell me, how can you do that without making your characters relatable to the reader, and without creating characters they can understand? How can you expect a reader to become completely absorbed in your story if they can’t ‘see’ themselves there or ‘say the words’ your characters are saying without it being jarring thereby distracting them from the emotional aspect of the story, which shallow, forced dialogue does instantaneously? And then the reader loses interest because they cannot sense the integrity and ‘realness’ of the characters. These are questions I have to ask myself each time I write dialogue in my books.

My characters are like my best friends after creating them and writing them for three years now and counting. I know their personalities inside out, so when I write a scene I know exactly what they’re going to say and how they’re going to say it. I know their individual reactions and I know what they’re thinking, too. I can tell immediately if the dialogue isn’t working and if a particular character says something he or she would never say.

Hayden Christensen as Anakin Skywalker in Reve...

Hayden Christensen as Anakin Skywalker in Revenge of the Sith (2005) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In Episodes 1-3 of Star Wars the characters are very tough, very strong, and very individual with distinct personalities, but the dialogue doesn’t match those personalities. Anakin Skywalker does not portray his anguish convincingly enough (granted, the acting isn’t great, either); his change from despairing Jedi into dark lord is pathetic, and the dialogue does nothing to make it real for me. I felt frustrated because I couldn’t ‘feel’ what he was going through – I couldn’t go on his terrible emotional journey with him and fully experience his turmoil as he murdered those Jedi children.

Isn’t that the task of every writer/film maker/poet/artist, to take the observer on an emotional journey with their characters/art? Isn’t that what makes a great story a best seller, a hit that leaves the public clamouring for more?

Yes, the otherworldly circumstances our fantastical characters find themselves in will never really exist, but their emotional experiences certainly do.

KC (my main character) will never be a Sword Bearer in real life and fight an Arch Demon in the coldness of space, but she will have fears and doubts and struggle to come to terms with who she is and deal with her unwanted responsibilities. When she argues with her brother, Khyl, and unleashes her anger on him for not caring about her and causing her so much pain, that’s REAL!! So when they’re dialoguing  it has to sound convincing otherwise the reader won’t be able to get involved in the conversation and feel what KC is feeling and feel Khyl’s frustration and guilt!

Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader duel on Mustafar.

Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader duel on Mustafar. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I watched the latest Star Wars films from a distance and only thoroughly enjoyed the marvels of the special effects and the amazing artistry and costumes and music. But the characters were distant and cold, and I left the theatre feeling flat instead of uplifted and excited and fired-up as I felt after the first film. I missed the magic, the wonder, the adrenalin rush, the powerful longing to be in that world and partake of the awesomest adventure ever!

These are my personal tips for creating believable characters:

Get to know every single one of your characters intimately (if you’ve read my last blog – My Character and I Are One – a Journey into The Sword Bearers Series – you should know your characters are pieces of you, anyway!!); place yourself in their situation in every dialogue you write, and then write it like you mean it! Feel the emotions, the tensions, the subtleties; ‘see’ their actions – why don’t you act it out, if that helps?!! Or even speak it as you write it so that you can experience the emotion in the room – whether it be love, anger, passion, hatred, pain, tears . . . whatever it is live it for yourself! Dang, I cried when one of my main characters died! The scene was charged with overwhelming emotion and horror and grief, and my tears made the computer screen blurry as I wrote it. When that happened I absolutely KNEW my readers would cry, too!! It was powerful; the scene, the characters, lived!!

Two Excellent Blogs on Character Development

I’ve read two blogs this week about building believable characters that I feel I must share with you. The first one is by Victoria Grefer titled ‘Writing Believable Characters’, and the second by Codey Amprim from the Mythic Scribes website titled ‘Five Tips for Writing Kick-Ass Characters’. Do yourselves a favour and go read them. They offer more great tips on character development that will help you if you need it.

I love hearing from you. What do you do to get your characters to ‘live’, to become believable? Please share it with the class!

Related articles:

My Characters and I are One – a Journey into The Sword Bearers Series (www.moniquerockliffe.wordpress.com)

The Fact that ‘Ordinary’ People Don’t Understand Us Artists Is So True!

Polina Seminova

I just hate it when someone speaks about writing or dancing as if they know what it really entails when, in fact, they don’t have a dang clue!!

I have met people in my life who are so clueless about artists that they think they know everything about them! Know what I mean? They sprout such nonsense, and speak such lies with straight-faced confidence, heck, I’m almost convinced they know what they’re talking about!

As a young kid and later a teenager, already firmly established in my dancing and with complete understanding of how much hard work it entailed, and I told new friends and their parents what I did, my pet peeve was when they asked me to please show them something. “You know, do a twirl or something,” they’d twang, and I’d cringe inside and brim with annoyance, but I’d just smile and (with as little sarcasm as possible) tell them it was impossible because I didn’t have any space. I mean, did they really expect me to do grand jetés (split leaps) and pirouettes (turns) in a room full of furniture and break my neck? Yup!!

I know someone who recently told my husband – who knows very well that I danced professionally – that all it takes to be a dancer is to move your body to music, and that it didn’t require any special skill or much work, whereas professional rugby and cricket took years of dedication and immense skill, talent, and training. Now, only one of those statements is true, and as to the other, well, it showed how utterly ignorant the man was about what it takes to be an artist, and that he thought that sport and dancing didn’t compare. According to him, dancing can never be taken seriously while sport was a god to be worshipped! (My biased interpretation 🙂 ) That dance is called a sport by some infuriates me to no end! Yes, a dancer is an athlete in regards to physical exertion, but that’s where the one and only comparison ends!

Now, if I had been present, firstly, he wouldn’t have dared say something like that (I can be snarky when I get defensive!) and, secondly, I would have given him a very sharp lecture on exactly what it took to become a professional dancer – the long hours everyday of your life; sacrificing parties, holidays, and other social events to do exams, festivals, competitions, and spend more time in the studio learning how to control your body (in a way that is completely unnatural to the way the human form is put together); the physical pain and bleeding feet and pulled muscles and swollen joints; the disappointments and failures before the winnings and successes; the never-ending commitment because missing one week of dancing was like losing an entire month of training!! I could go on and on, and I would’ve eventually had him on his knees begging for my forgiveness before I’d finished with him!

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(Sidebar)

Okay, so this is my explanation regarding dance. It is NOT an anti-sport statement because I LOVE sport and watch the Olympics with as much fervour as anyone else. This is an earnest comparison; you, dear reader, can draw your own conclusions:

Ethereal Beauty!

Yes, I understand that sport also takes heaps of commitment, especially if one wants to do it professionally, BUT training to become a professional dancer begins the day you walk into a studio at around three years old; kids with aspirations and talent to become professional sportsmen/sportswomen only begin serious training when they’re teenagers, and then the training they do only requires them to train what their bodies can already do naturally. (What follows includes sports like gymnastics, tumbling, ice-skating – anything that can be linked to dance and that requires artistry) With ballet everything you do is beyond the norm for the body: turn-out; spinal rotation beyond the norm of the human spine; co-ordination of the entire body while moving to music; listening to phrasing; interpreting the music; facial expression and performance; acting; spatial awareness; correct weight placement; elevation with stretched legs and feet while holding the body still in the air and expressing perfect line, style, and quality; flexibility (WAY beyond the natural uses of the human body, not required in sport); strength to elevate the legs, these days, to almost a one-hundred-and-eighty-degree angle to the floor; arched feet (the girls have to train to balance and turn en pointe for years – and professionals will tell you, the training for that never stops!); perfect balance – these are but some of the requirements for a dancer. Tell me where a sportsman or woman has to do all these things SIMULTANEOUSLY everyday of their lives?

Shirley Maclaine – a consummate artist!

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I recently read a blog by a mom who is a serious writer with a firm goal to one day earn a living as a novelist. She is already a journalist and does a lot of other writing jobs when she isn’t working on her novel. But being a mom requires her full attention, and as a result of her working at home her kids think she does nothing all day but sit at home, then only leaves to fetch them from school and take them to extra-mural sporty activities. They even write on their school forms that she’s a ‘stay-at-home-mom’ because they don’t think that writing is a job. Her solution? To treat her writing like it is one – leave the house at 9am, go somewhere like a library or a coffee shop or somewhere quiet to write, then return home at 5pm. She discovered it was the only way she could find the time to get done what she needed to, and get it through to her kids that what she did was serious work, and that when she worked then she was off-limits, so to speak.

In short, I found this story very sad, and it brought out all the feelings of frustration and, yes, even anger that I earlier expressed. What is it with the ‘normal’ world that doesn’t get us? Why is it so difficult for them to see us as creators and designers and artists, something that they could never be because they were gifted with other skills that do not require out-of-the-box thinking?

A very wise man! He understood the necessity of Magic!

As artists we are borderless and limitless. We are visionaries and dreamers, and we only live on this earth because the laws of physics say we have to (for now, anyway!!). If we had a choice we would rush at the chance to explore the Universe – inside us and out there – without fear because we believe that dreams are more important for our continued survival as creator-beings and for earth and it’s inhabitants to evolve!

The kind of people I mentioned above – the ones that think dreaming and allowing magic to lead us and dictate how we should approach and live our lives is rubbish – do not understand that without us dreamers and visionaries they wouldn’t have music and movies and art and dance and design and technology and, when you get right down to it, without us they wouldn’t see any progress as the human race. In their blind arrogance (which is simply ignorance) they think they can have everything in their lives without us. But if they just stopped and looked, and took the time to understand what it takes to write a story that came from a place us authors could never explain; to understand what it takes for a dancer to be so magnificent in her performance that it brings tears to an observer’s eyes and makes it difficult to breathe; to understand that an artist can paint something so beautiful that it can render its observer immobile for hours because of its power and beauty; to understand that a piece of music can make grown men cry and can turn a five-year old into one of the most brilliant composers of all time (Mozart)!

I admit, this post is a bit of a rant, but, as with just about all my posts, I believe my goal as a blogger and an author is to inspire you, dear reader and writer, to never, ever think of yourself as anything less than your partner who has a ‘real’ job and cannot understand your obsession with writing, or your kids that do sport and can’t understand why you spend so much time writing when you don’t earn anything for it, or your friends who have boring, uneventful, safe desk jobs and who can’t understand that you would give up parties and social events to spend more time tweaking your novel so that it can be ready for publication in a few weeks.

Be proud, is what I’m saying, for without you they would not know magic! They would never even be aware of its existence!

You are an artist! You are Magic incarnate! Keep producing and keep conjuring your masterpieces and being the creator-being you were meant to be. Teach those that do not understand, that do not get it, how much work and skill and talent and dedication it takes to be good at what you do, and that even if they don’t see the results – or as in the case of this man who didn’t have a clue about what being a brilliant dancer was all about – it doesn’t mean that those results are not there, it just means that these people don’t know what good or brilliant is! Or even what art is, for that matter! They don’t understand the power or joy or reverence or exuberance writing brings you. Perhaps just be a little more patient in your explanations than I would have been with that clueless man; after all, I am quite cheeky when I want to be 🙂 And now that I am a writer I feel it is my duty to defend us authors against those that scorn and misunderstand us, just as much as I continue to defend dancers who have a reputation for being stupid and uneducated!

Please leave a comment! I love hearing from you! And you can rant all you like – against or for!!

Come Enjoy this Fab Interview The Wiz Did With Me!

This week I want to share this zany and fun interview Green Wiz did with me on The Wizard’s Cauldron. I loved doing it and I just know you’ll love reading it! We discuss life as a writer, and as a dance teacher, plus what I do in my spare time (if any exists), and, the best part, what I would do if Somali pirates kidnapped me and allowed me only three books, two CDs and one DVD to while away my captivity!! Come read what I said!

Here’s the link: http://greenwizard62.blogspot.co.uk/ or just click here.

Have a fab weekend, and may next week yield many sales and great friendships! I know mine will!

PS Tell me what you would read, watch, and listen to if you were kidnapped by pirates!! I love hearing from you.

It’s Women’s Day in South Africa! Today I Honour the Women Who Influenced My Life

Polina Seminova

Yup, we’re celebrating the beauty, courage, and glory of South African women today, and I can’t help but think of all the incredible women I have met in my life who have changed and shaped me into who I am today:

Firstly, my mom who gave unselfishly and consistently of herself in every way – although she was a single mom and had to work her heiny off to feed me and make sure I had the best education. She also sacrificed so much to allow me the opportunities to pursue my dream of becoming a professional ballet dancer. Through Art School (high school), after-school dance studios (ballet, modern, and tap) and every possible dance competition I wanted to partake in, she made sure I did it all. As a child I was never aware of the enormous pressure she was under – financial and emotional – until I grew up and looked back and understood! So today I honour her and express my love and thanks for being so amazing and generous and caring.

Fred and Ginger – Sublime Performers!

Secondly, I honour all the excellent dance teachers I had throughout my life. From the age of five I had a group of ‘second-mothers’ who moulded me and pretty much created the person/artist I am today because of their incredible talent and passion and love of dance: Mavis Senior (Tap Teacher since I was five); Ethné Ferraris (Royal Academy of Dance Ballet Teacher since I was seven); Ruth Inglestone (Cecchetti Ballet Teacher since I was twelve); Dianne Souter (Tap and Modern teacher since I was fifteen); Adele Blank (Artistic Director of Free Flight Dance Company). These women each contributed towards turning me into a brilliant dancer; their training was flawless and I ate it up!! I loved them all very much and I know they loved and cherished me and the relationship we shared. Each of them gave in such different ways, but combined they created the kind of dancer that could perform any style of dance without much effort. This stood me in good stead throughout my professional career; I couldn’t have been the performer I was without them.

Strangely, although I am now a writer, I still carry their spirit and passion within me. The attention to every detail, the desire for perfection, the drive, the love and addiction I have for the art of writing could not have been mine if I had not met those wonderful women. In a sense, while I have published already, I am still a student, still learning my craft, still achieving perfection and learning how to become better and better. They taught me how to embrace the mistakes and the failures and turn them into successes. Those are lessons engraved on my heart and my very soul where my stories are born and where my spirit takes flight – not in dance anymore, but through words. Just as dance has rhythm, flow, imagination, joy, light and shade, effortlessness, beauty, passion, tension, drama, and magnetism, so does writing! I’m sure you all agree, yes?

Shirley Maclaine – she inspired me to be a great performer like she was and still is!

I am privileged and honoured to be a woman today, a woman shaped and moulded by such excellent examples of character, integrity, love, joy, and heart.

I’m sure, ladies, that you also have wonderful tales about the women in your life who have influenced and shaped you into the gorgeous, talented beauties you are today. Please won’t you share your stories with us? It would be wonderful to be uplifted and rejoice in your uniqueness – but together as women, the one thing we all share!

To read more about the true meaning and history of Women’s Day in South Africa please click on this link: Women’s Day South Africa 9 August

Flag of South Africa

Flag of South Africa (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

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