Happy Halloween!

happy-halloween

This is the first year Gator McBumpypants and his friends decided to get dressed up for Halloween. You can tell it was all Dee Dee’s idea, but I think Herman’s going to have the most fun.

happy-halloween1

This year’s jack-o-lantern won “Best in Show” and “Most Creative” at the annual pumpkin carving party. I won this adorable Witch’s Brew glass.

Feel free to share these Halloween greetings with friends and family.

I hope you get more treats than tricks.

 

 

Author Interview with Diana Rose Wilson – November: It’s not just #NaNoWriMo. Don’t forget #Movember.

pumpkins with mustaches

Visit saralukecreative to get your mustache stickers

bio pic of Diana Rose Wilson

Last month, author Diana Rose Wilson shared her great writing tips and tricks in her guest post Be Outrageous!  Now, just in time for her favorite holiday, Halloween, she has agreed to answer my questions about her writing, her websites and her love of mustaches.

We met at the Pacific Northwest Writer’s Conference (#PNWC16), so let’s start off with: When did you first know you were a writer?

I got the writing bug when I was in about 3rd grade. Between reading The Black Stallion and Watership Down, I knew it was what I wanted to do. I tried it up through high school but knew by then I didn’t have the chops to make a living doing it. In my twenties I wrote fan fiction and played text based role-playing games but couldn’t get anything published. I hung up my pen and went to the corporate world until a few years ago when I decided to try again with some life behind me.

Do you write every day? Tell us a little about your writing practice.

I do write every day but not always on a story. When I’m in story mode, I try to put down about 3k words. I love when I can get 5k but sometimes it’s more like 500. I am a little embarrassed to admit that I still play text-based role-playing games. When I’m in editing mode I don’t keep a word count and I will spend two or three hours ‘writing’ on the game.

Are you a plotter or a pantser (someone who outlines and plans or someone who writes by the seat of her pants)?

I was a plotter when I first started and then I went to pants’ing and now I think I’m a plantster. I like to have my characters fleshed out and some ideas of the story’s direction but I string the plots together a little like Christmas lights. Bulb by bulb. Right now I have a wide reaching story so I have a lot of wire to put bulbs in. I know where they need to go, I just never know what color light is getting hooked in next. Maybe I’m a new mutation: The Stringer.

What is your best trick for getting more words on the page?

When I can’t get a scene or plot to move forward, or when I’m completely blocked. I physically make myself type. I have sat down and wrote myself a pep talk until the scene started to form in my mind and I could transcribe it. I have written random character descriptions and histories and drawn up family bloodlines just to put fingers on keys to write something.

Where do you find creative inspiration?

I draw a lot of inspiration from music. Sometimes a song will just strike me just right and I’ll get an idea for a scene or a character or it will help drive me through a less than interesting point in a story.

Who have you found most influential to your writing?

My husband absolutely is the most influential. Not only because he’s a sounding board for all my ideas but he really pushed me to do what I love. He always encouraged me to write, even when I had completely thrown away the idea that I had ‘it’ in me.

Do you listen to music while you write? What do you listen to? Do you create playlists?

I always have music going when I’m writing. Depending on what I’m writing the music will change. I like a lot of sappy love songs when I’m doing the sweet scenes but very hard metal when for action and drama related scenes. I keep a few playlists and I have a songs I relate to various characters and tend to play them to get into the mindset to write them. I’m not a big country music fan but if I want to write something emotional it’s western music all the way.

Who are your favorite authors?

Richard Adams

Sharron Lee & Steve Miller

Jim Butcher

George R. R. Martin

Christina Lauren

What are your favorite books?

Watership Down (Who doesn’t like war-rabbits?)

MAIA

The Stand

Korval’s Game (Liaden Universe®), (Ok, so it’s two novels: Plan B & I Dare but do yourself a favor and try it. They are addicting. You’ve been warned.

Dresden Files (15 books) – I can’t order them in favorite.

What three writer’s blogs do you visit most often?

Jane Friedman – https://janefriedman.com/blog/

Janet Reid’s blog – http://jetreidliterary.blogspot.com/

L.M. Pierce’s most awesome and helpful blog – http://www.piercebooks.com/blog

What three writer’s websites do you visit most often?

http://www.georgerrmartin.com/ (For any whisper of the next book)

http://korval.com/ – Sharron Lee & Steve Miller. Sharron Lee has a great blog too.

http://christinalaurenbooks.com/ – Keeping up to date with release dates.

Also http://www.writersdigest.com/ – is a great site /for/ writers.

I know you love Halloween. Are you dressing up this year? Tell us about your favorite Halloween costume.

I love Halloween and El Dia de los Muertos and Samhain too. Then there are costumes! There’s something fun about pretending you’re someone else for a day (or weekend). I am pulling off Wonder Woman this year, just so I can wear tights, a cape and a mask! My favorite costume would be the year we cross-dressed as Napoleon and Josephine. I make a sexy Napoleon!

Very cool. I made Napoleon and Josephine costumes for my friends’ band. He wore his Napoleon costume for Mardi Gras this year.

I noticed you changed your name on Twitter from @DianaRoseWilson to DIE-ana Thorn Wilson. Are you doing any fun Halloween themed things on your website spiritbeast.org? The name sounds perfect for Halloween already.

I don’t have anything planned for Halloween but I am trying to get a gathering together this weekend. I released a free Halloween story for fans and hope to reconnect with some people I haven’t seen around for a few months. I welcome people to drop in and make a persona and check it out.

Let’s talk more about your webite. You have to swear you’re 18+ to enter. Is it scary in there?

Scary? Well, not really. I have been writing primarily erotica and worried if I didn’t have my disclaimer someone was going to get offended. I set up the spiritbeast.org site for fans that were dying for updates. I have this page set up for guests to make more of a persona rather than their ‘real’ information. I want it to be a safe chat area to talk about adult themes in text. There are forums and a chat feature. I have a few story-related goodies like the Harris and Wallace family trees (going back to the 1800’s). I’ve really thrown myself into world building so the website is a place to share some of the goodies.

You have another website Direwill.com. What will readers find there?

This is more of a general author website with information about upcoming books and what’s going on with me. I keep it tame and all-ages appropriate without spoilers, goodies or role playing.

You play a mean game of #pessimisticmoustache. Where do you get those great mustache GIFs?

I love me some manly facial fuzz! https://giphy.com/ is a great place for some action GIFs, or I do a search on Twitter for them. I have some secret weapons in my photo ‘stash’ as well. I come from a long line of bikers and outlaws, I think it’s part of the rule book that the men must have face fuzz.

This November you and I will be talking a lot about Movember. Can you tell the readers what that is and how they can participate?

Movember is a fundraising effort for men’s health issues. Like wearing pink for breast cancer awareness, the ‘mo’, slang for mustache, is the ribbon guys wear. For the 30 days of November men grow their ‘stache and form teams to raise money. No shaving for the guys upper lip for the month. Check out information and how to set up a team here: https://us.movember.com/

Since I’m not going to grow out a sister-stache, I’ll celebrate facial hair using your awesome game I have hijacked: https://experiencewriting.com/2016/07/22/the-pessimistic-moustache-game-avoiding-cliche-description/

There will be a mix of blog and twitter posts coming out using the #pessimisticmoustache hashtag.

Now, in your original game you encourage other body parts and throw an ‘ism to name it, but for the sake of Movember and awesome beards/mustaches/goatees/chops everywhere, I’m going to focus only on the hair.

I’m locating some random face-fluff pictures ala Santa Clause and players are encouraged to describe it with one word. An ‘ism, an ‘istic or something completely off the wall. I may have a list of a few for a multiple-choice vote to mix things up.

What are you going to do for Movember?

In past years KISW’s The Men’s Room (Seattle seriously has the best radio station!) usually has a Movember team and I donate to that. A have threatened to try to grow my own stache, but I’m just not brave enough. 😉

Are you doing NaNoWriMo this year? Have you ever?

I will! NaNoWriMo got me back into writing when I decided to try writing again. The first two years I didn’t win but the third year is when it finally clicked and that is the story that started the whole ball rolling. I’m not sure what my project will be exactly but I have a few weeks to pick what to focus on.

When you’re not writing, what is your favorite thing to do?

I’m very lucky to live in wine country between Napa and Sonoma where I can enjoy as much wine and fancy food as my little heart can handle. Food. Wine. Writing. Sounds prefect to me.

Are you a dog person or a cat person?

Cat person, on the crazy cat lady end of the spectrum.

What bit of wisdom would you share with new writers?

I encourage writers to to keep writing. Give yourself permission to write what you enjoy. Write as much as you possibly can and experiment until you find what brings you the most joy. The other thing is to find a support group of writers who you can talk and work with. Look for people who will lift you up and be kind in their feedback. Not a lot of non-writers can grasp what we go through when we’re living in an imaginary world with our invisible friends for weeks, months, years at a time.

Thank you, Diana.

Currently Diana lives in wine country with her husband where she enjoys good wine, better food, loud Harleys, 3-day eventing and the delights of deviant erotica. She is a member of the Pacific Northwest Writers Association, Redwood Writers, Snoopy Writers and CFTW Writer’s Block.

Readers, make sure to visit Diana at spiritbeast.org and Direwill.com and follow her on twitter @DianaRoseWilson.

Diana and I look forward to more players at #pessimisticmoustache for the month of #Movember.

 

Beware The Creeping Nouns

creeping-nouns

I am reading A Writer’s Coach: The Complete Guide to Writing Strategies That Work by Jack Hart. Though it is geared toward journalism,  the information is useful and inspiring for my fiction.

One sign of a skilled writer is avoiding redundancy. Mr. Hart uses the analogy of felling a a-writers-coachtree. The skilled woodsman takes efficient strokes and controls where the tree falls, but the “city slicker” hacks away, exhausting himself and endangering his neighbors.

Sharpen Your Axe

During your first draft, you don’t want to think about word choice, you just want to get your ideas down, right? But what if, some of those overused words, those pesky redundancies and expletives never got on the page? It would save you a ton of time during editing.

This Halloween, you are sharpening your axe for a monster hunt. You are hunting E.B. White’s “leeches that infest the pond of prose” and Jack Hart’s parasites that live alongside them in that pond. Once you are trained to recognize these monsters you can stop them dead before they get to your pages!

The Leeches and Parasites

leech

Leeches –

Expletives are more than the beeps we hear on TV. The word expletive also means any syllable,word, or phrase conveying no independent meaning,esp inserted in a line of verse for the sake of the metre (from dictionary.com).

Make sure to hack away at “it is,” “it was,” “there is,” “there were,” and “there are.”

Creeping Nouns are nouns that attach themselves to other nouns but add nothing but dead weight. Mr. Hart believes that if we avoid unnecessary use of “situation,” “field,” and “condition,” we could eliminate half the creeping nouns published. Here are a couple examples from A Writer’s Coach.

. . . and one source said the Cincinnati Reds manager faces a possible suspension for gambling activities.

Gambling is already the activity causing the possible suspension. Activities is redundant.

Officials are saying the combination of millions of dying trees, the seventh year of drought conditions and . . .

Drought is the condition thus conditions is redundant.

Hart’s other examples of creeping nouns you should include on your monster hunt are: field, industry, profession, concerns, event, experience, facilities, situation, and status.

Remember: these aren’t words you want to eliminate from your writing, they are words that can become creeping nouns that create redundancy when they cling to other nouns.

parasites

Parasites –

To avoid parasites, you want to avoid over using qualifiers. A qualifier is the same as a modifier – a word, phrase, or sentence element that limits or qualifies the sense of another word, phrase, or element in the same construction.(dictionary.com)

Mr. Hart calls these parasites “petty modifiers” and “needless qualifiers.” The monsters that should see the sharp blade of your axe before they mangle your writing are: rather, somewhat, generally, virtually, pretty, slightly, a bit and little.

And don’t forget the pernicious overused words: very, like and just!

Happy monster hunting and happy #Writober.

 

#NaNoPrep – Tips and Tricks

NaNoWriMo 2016 Banner

Getting ready for National Novel Writing Month in every way

Last year was my first November observing National Novel Writing Month. I had an idea for a novel and had done some research on my topic, but didn’t prepare other than that. I won, but it was really hard and came right down to the wire.

If you’re still not sure if NaNoWriMo is right for you, I wrote a post about my experience last year #NaNoWriMo Yes or No? The Pros and Cons of Participating in National Novel Writing Month that you might enjoy.

This year, I have a fresh story idea that has been running through my head since a newspaper article inspired in April. I’m using all the tools at my disposal to do some plotting and planning. Prepared, this year should be rewarding AND FUN!

Whether you’re a plotter, pantser or planster (like me) you should find some of these tips and tools helpful.

Declare your novel

Once you set up your account at nanowrimo.org  it’s time to declare your novel. This is the fun part where you type in your title and your summary.

Writing your novel summary is a great exercise to organize your ideas and will be a tool for down the road, when you have a finished novel that you want to pitch to agents and share your amazing story with the world.

Try this exercise: Imagine that you’ve already won NaNoWriMo. You’ve written your amazing story from beginning to end. Quickly write down everything that happens in your story. Great! Now look at what you’ve written and pick out your main character, what they want more than anything, what/who stands in their way and how they overcome the impediment. Try to get that all into one sentence. You have your logline. You’re ready to pitch your novel.

Now that you’re ready to pitch, head over to 30 covers for 30 days and submit your novel for the cover contest. Graphic designers volunteer to design covers for 30 lucky winners. It’s only a NaNoWriMo souvenir, but could get your writing some attention.

Once you’ve entered your novel for the cover contest, look over the rest of the forums, there is a ton of great information in the forums. Then, make sure to hit the Regions tab on your dashboard and introduce yourself to your local MLs (municipal liaisons). Your home region site should have events to put on your calendar and people to be your writing buddies and support. Here’s a chance to reach out and make friends.

You may want to hit the NaNoWriMo shop to get yourself the T-shirt you’re going to live in and a coffee mug to attach to your hand/face.

Set up your files

Last year, I used the NaNoWriMo discount to buy scrivener. I didn’t end up using it very much because I hadn’t gotten used to it. This year, I’m using the Scrivener’s note card view to outline my chapters. I’ve also set up character pages using character worksheets and character interviews, setting pages, word substitution and theme word sheets and name idea sheets. Having everything in my project file will save me a lot of time and keep me on the page.

You can set up files for any program you plan to use. The fun part of prep is thinking about your characters, your settings and themes. There are tons of fun downloadable worksheets and questionnaires around the web to help you flesh out your ideas. Explore and have fun, but remember to keep everything organized.

I recommend creating one file folder named for your project that you keep on your desktop. You can put a million different folders inside it, but put everything, EVERYTHING to do with your novel in that folder.

Tools

Websites

Dictionary.com and Thesaurus.com – I played around at thesaurus.com to create word pages for my major themes. I also have word selection pages for my overused words.

Your local library’s digital library – kcls.org is one of my favorite websites. I’ve been using it to try out African, Arabic and Worldbeat music for my writing soundtrack. It has a variety of newspapers and magazines, videos and e-books for research.

Google News Archive – This is a wonderful site full of old newspapers you can peruse just like microfiche. I wrote a post about it last month: A great tool for research, inspiration and hours of fun if you’d like more information.

Social Media

Facebook – My local region already had a writing group page to join. It’s a great place to meet other people planning for NaNoWriMo and to find out about upcoming events.

Twitter – Other than the obvious hashtags #nanoprep and #nanowrimo, there are a lot of great hashtags for writers. You may want to try them out during prep. Turning your favorite lines in to tweets is  great practice for creating succinct sentences with emotion and meaning. You may want to check out my previous post Twitter #Hashtags That Motivate Revision to find the hashtags and writing challenges that are right for you. Twitter will also be a great way to keep yourself motivated throughout the month. There’s nothing like a few likes on a sentence you just wrote to keep you writing more. Make sure to read and retweet your fellow writers to keep them happy as well.

Pinterest – I’m using Pinterest to create vision boards: one for characters and the other for themes and settings. I’ve recently found a lot of writing inspiration from images I collect.

WordPress – If you’re a wordpress blogger, you can use your blog to tell your readers that you’re participating, creating a promise to yourself and others that you will do the work. You can also type nanowrimo or nanoprep into the search bar of your reader page and find other writers who are participating and will be going through the same things you are.

Tumblr – NaNoWriMo.org has a Tumblr blog. I have found many fellow Nano writers have Tumblrs and I’ve filled up my reader quickly with tips and advice.

Youtube – last year I really enjoyed the NaNoWriMo write-ins on Youtube. I got a lot out of them and wrote some fun scenes I might not have written otherwise.

Your Personal Arsenal

Though there are a ton of tools available to you, only you know what’s best for you. Take a minute to reflect about your writing process and make a plan.

Do you journal? Do Morning Pages?

Gather up your journals- take a look at what you’ve been writing and organize your notes. What are your themes?

Where do you write?

Now is the time to get your writing space just the way you like it. Vacuum, dust, clean the windows, get some plants and candles. Put up motivational posters or seascapes, whatever works for you. If you like big visuals like I do, put up your big piece of paper for your timeline and plot point post-its. Make sure you have tons of colorful, big post-its. Have fun. Make your writing space a place you want to be and don’t forget your Keep-Out and Beware of Deadly Plague signs for the door. You may want to install a lock if you don’t have one.

Set up your play lists

Now is a good time to scour your music collection, your friends’ music collections and your library’s music collection. Think of your themes, your characters, your scenes. Do your characters have theme songs? Think of your settings. What music would be playing there?

You may want to make collections on Youtube, stations on Pandora, or playlists on Spotify.

It doesn’t matter how you do it, now is a good time to plan it out. Give it a test drive and see what really gets you writing.

Make exercise easy

One thing that can get pushed aside during NaNoWriMo is exercise. But getting some fresh air in the lungs and circulating it through that brain will help those ideas churn. So plan ahead.

Make sure to take a walk every day. Start the good habit today.

Keep exercise equipment like small weights, a mat, mini-trampoline, etc. near your writing space and use them when you take a break.

Don’t Procrastinate

Been wanting to paint your office? Do it now! You know the evil procrastination monster will hit hard during NaNoWriMo, so anything you can do now to head it off. Do it! Seriously, some of you know you’re suddenly going to need to clean out the crawl space in the attic in the middle of November (or November 1st). If that’s you, go clean the crawl space and paint your bedroom now. Just to be safe.

Everyone wishes they had more time to write.

What if you could just buy some?

You can!

Have you ever thought about having someone come in to clean once a week or just twice a month. Use NaNoWriMo as an excuse to try it out. It doesn’t have to be terribly expensive. I had cleaners come for a while and for a large house, they charged $70 each time they came.  It was so worth it.Not only did you just buy yourself hours to write, you bought peace of mind. You’ll feel better and  write better.

Hate yard work, but can’t leave the lawn for more than a week, let alone a month? Try hiring a lawn service or maybe a kid in the neighborhood. If your yard work is anything like mine, you just bought yourself at least six hours of writing time!

Have you ever thought about ordering your groceries to be delivered? Some large grocery chains will let you order your groceries online and deliver them to your home if you give them at least twenty-four hours notice. If you set up an order, don’t change it much to save time and  re-order each week instead of grocery shopping, you could add at least 4 hours to your writing.

Another way to add some time is to stock up on prepared foods and healthy snacks. I just did a shop at my local Grocery Outlet. They have started stocking Amy’s frozen meals. I am in LOVE with the gluten free, rice crust pizza. It is shockingly good. I stocked up on those, her spinach enchiladas and veggie burgers. I also grabbed dips for veggies and dried fruit and nut mixes. Having low-prep foods and easy, healthy snacks will keep you energized, out of the kitchen and at the keyboard. Adding at least an hour and a half of writing time every day.

If you splurge on all of these options for just the month of November (I’m estimating having a cleaner saves you 2 hours a week could be much more), you have 63 hours to write that you didn’t have before. If you write a reasonable 800 words an hour, you have all the time you need! 50,400 words

 

Want More Tips and Tricks? Grab one of these books on the subject!

Ready, Set, Novel!: A Workbook

NaNoWriMo: A Cheater’s Guide: Tips, Tricks and Hacks for Winning This November (Write Better Books Book 1)

No Plot? No Problem! Revised and Expanded Edition: A Low-stress, High-velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days

How to Win NaNoWriMo: 11 Steps to Writing Your Novel in 30 Days

When Every Month is NaNoWriMo

Have more great tips? Need a NaNoWriMo writing buddy?

Please leave a comment. And Happy Writing and Reading.

Thank You To Each And Every One Of You!

Experience Writing has reached an amazing milestone: 200 followers and growing! Over 200 people have visited my site and found my words and photographs useful and/or entertaining. That is WONDERFUL!

 

Poetry and The Fiction Writer

Pictures of books I recently read as a poetry study

Discovering The Art Of series and further study

The collection of books pictured above was inspired by discovering The Art of series at my local library. The Art of discusses different aspects of writing with examples from a great variety of texts. I wanted to learn more about the authors who wrote the series, so I picked up their poetry and essays as well. I’m glad I did. This group of books :intelligent discussion, imparted wisdom and beautiful poetry.

But I’m a fiction writer, why spend time with poetry and poets?

Words are a writer’s tools and poets have to use words in the most efficient manner for maximum emotional effect.

Ellen Bryant Voigt

The Art of Syntax: Rhythm of Thought, Rhythm of Song

Rhythm is what makes Ms. Voigt’s poems so amazing. Her contribution to The Art Of series is my favorite of the bunch. I learned some interesting vocabulary specific to the rhythm of words:

enjambment – the running on of the thought from one line, couplet, or stanza to the next without a syntactical break.

trochee – a foot of two syllables, a long followed by a short in quantitative meter, or a stressed followed by an unstressed in accentual meter.

caesura –

1. Prosody. a break, especially a sense pause, usually near the middle of a verse, and marked in scansion by a double vertical line, as in know then thyself presume not God to scan.
2. Classical Prosody. a division made by the ending of a word within a foot, or sometimes at the end of a foot, especially in certain recognized places near the middle of a verse.
3. any break, pause, or interruption.

fricative

palimpsest – a parchment or the like from which writing has been partially or completely erased to make room for another text.

Headwaters: Poems

I loved these poems. Though completely lacking in punctuation, the message is never lost and the rhythm is clear. Her word choice is beautiful. These poems felt like a magical discovery.

Mark Doty

The Art of Description: World into Word

I enjoyed the idea of “the sensorium”–finding the places of sensory overlap and allowing the senses their complexly interactive life.

I also noted that I should read :

Middlemarch by George Eliot and
Resurrection Update: Collected Poems, 1975-1997 by James Galvin

Deep Lane: Poems

These poems take you on walks with the dog and inspections of the garden. They take you there through lovely description and word choice.

Charles Baxter

Charles Baxter is the editor of The Art of series.

The Art of Subtext: Beyond Plot

Full of examples of how subtext is used in fiction.

Burning Down the House: Essays on Fiction

Mr. Baxter’s essays get into his thought process. They let the reader into the flow of a writer mind.

Here I also learned a new word: Pusillanimous – lacking courage and resolution

Brenda Ueland

If You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit

It felt like serendipity when Charles Baxter started talking about Brenda Ueland’s book because I already had it on my bookshelf. It’s a great book for those times you need a cheerleader, which, as writers, we often do.

I just opened to a random page and found this bit of fun:

Now Blake thought that this creative power should be kept alive in all people for all of their lives. And so do I. Why? Because it is life itself. It is the Spirit. In fact it is the only important thing about us. The rest of us is legs and stomach, materialistic cravings and fears.   –Brenda Ueland

Excited to fill up on some poetry?

Here are some links to poetry sites I enjoy, so you can get your fill while you wait for the books you just ordered from Amazon to arrive  🙂

Poetry Foundation

Poets and Writers

Eunoia Review

Tweetspeak Poetry

Are You Thrilled

Joy Write

Happy Reading and Writing

Don’t be pusillanimous. Get out there and explore!

Who is your favorite poet?

What is your favorite poetry book?

What is your favorite poetry website?

Tooling up for the new book: the photography of Gator McBumpypants

An array of affordable photography equipment

Some very affordable photography tools to enhance the magic of Gator McBumpypants

My first picture book, Gator McBumpypants Hears a Scary Noise, started out as a photography project. I was taking an online photography course and needed models for an assignment, so I took a couple of my stuffed friends outside and started taking pictures. As the photo shoot progressed, a story came into my head about how this alligator met a baby pterodactyl who was attempting to fly.

Last year, with my third book, Gator McBumpypants in Dee Dee Makes Three,  Mother Daughter Book Review published my post about a new hybrid genre in picture books. I believe that photo-illustration in children’s fiction will grow, but the photos need to be imaginative, colorful and fun. So, as I do with every one of my books, I have challenged myself to make my photo-illustrations even better.

After becoming very frustrated with the costs of photography equipment, I got creative. I

fisheye

Fish-eye effect

discovered that a very cheap fish-eye lens made some great effects, so I looked at other incredibly cheap options for effects I want.

Here’s what I’m trying out for the fourth Gator McBumpypants adventure picture book:

Some Extra Light

Last year’s photography focus was on light. I worked very hard on interior lighting and had some success with a small headshot studio. However, Gator McBupypants and his friends will be on an adventure in a place where I can only bring a small backpack, so I found some small light sources.

Macro Ring 48 LED Light

This light makes a great circular light in eyes, as apposed to the regular rectangle. Human subjects complain of its brightness when I stick my lens that close to their eyeball. However, Gator McBumyppants and his friends probably won’t be bothered.

Neewer TT560 Flash Speedlite

I’m excited to finally have a directional flash. This should be great for creating or reducing foliage shadows.

Some Extra Color

Opteka HD Multicoated Graduated Color Filter Kit

These color filters give a subtle effect over only a portion of the lens and rotate to the section of the image you wish to color.

Opteka HD Multicoated Solid Color Filter Kit

These solid color filters blanket the entire image and may be useful for dramatic mood.

Some Unique Perspective

55MM Professional Lens Filter and Close-Up Macro Accessory Kit

This is fun for getting pictures of flowers and insects, perhaps some close-ups of things Gator McBumpypants sees on his adventure.

Super 500mm/1000mm f/8 Manual Telephoto Lens

This is great for birds and other critters that are far away. I’m looking forward to experimenting with photos of the gang from far away.

More Unique Perspective

Recommended photography books:

The Unforgettable Photograph: 228 Ideas, Tips, and Secrets for Taking the Best Pictures of Your Life

Bryan Peterson’s Exposure Solutions: The Most Common Photography Problems and How to Solve Them

I hope you’re getting as excited as I am for the fourth Gator McBumpypants book. Don’t forget to like Gator McBumpypants and Friends on Facebook to keep up with all the fun activities leading up to the book release.

Carving Through Writer’s Block: Guest post from author Christopher Bailey

3 Ways to Conquer Writer’s Block

Bad guy on a boatIt’s a simple two-word phrase that can make a writer’s blood turn cold; writer’s block. It is the dreaded barrier against creative flow that every author struggles with from time to time. There are a number of causes of this mental road block, and a number of theories on how to cure it.

In an effort to give my fellow writer a leg up and over that wall of resistance, here are the three biggest things I’ve found, and my own personal variants, that have helped me past my creative constipation. No doubt you’ve all heard much of this before, so I’m going to throw my own spin on them and tell you exactly what variants work best for me. Experimentation is key to finding your own magical keys to open the writer’s block door, so by all means try out your own variations. We’re creative people by nature, after all, right?

Clear Your Mind

Easier said than done, I know. We live in a world where we’re all drowning in the pressures of our lives. Jobs, family, social obligations, finances, the list could go on for pages. It all results in the same issue however; stress and mental exhaustion. These are two of the biggest killers of creative flow.

Thankfully, there are a number of things you can do to push such things from your mind, however temporarily. Anything that helps you to rest and restore your mental clarity will work here. A few suggestions are meditation, take a nap, go for a walk, enjoy a break filled with your favorite, oft-neglected pastime. The drawback of course, is that all of these things take time.

For me, meditation is my go-to cure for mental mud when I sit down to write. It doesn’t villain meditatestake long. Even a ten minute meditation with emphasis on mental clarity works wonders. That ten minutes will often buy me so much more productivity over the course of my writing session that it makes up for itself six-fold. It does take time, but the payoff is well worth it. It’s also nice that you can do this at any time during your writing when you stall out.

Just get comfortable, close your eyes, and breathe steadily. No, the lotus position is not required. Count your breaths, but only up to five. Focus on breathing smoothly and evenly, and when you reach five breaths, start over at one. This helps to keep your mind on the breathing.

It will be obvious if you’ve lost focus, since you’ll count higher than five. Don’t get frustrated, just calmly refocus on the breathing and start over at one. Any meditative master, which I am not, will tell you that meditation takes practice like any other skill.

Handy tip: don’t set any kind of timer if the alarm will be loud and jarring. Most phones have a gentle alarm feature. Startling yourself out a calm meditation can send you spinning right back into a tailspin of frustrated, foggy thinking.

Remove Distractions

bad guy at the pianoOf course, some distractions are inevitable. If you’re a stay-at-home parent you’re unavoidably going to have to deal with child-oriented distractions on a regular basis, for example. Often, there are many distractions we may not even realize are problematic until they’re removed. The point is, when you’re trying to overcome writer’s block, eliminating all possible distractions makes a huge difference.

For me, having a designated space to write in is a tremendous help. It can be a special chair with your laptop, a writer’s nook, or even a home office. Find some place that is as quiet and calm as possible, as free from distractions as possible. And for crying out loud, turn off your phone. Texts and Candy Crush notifications will not help your writing!

Handy tip: If you’re going to play music in the background, experiment with styles. You might be surprised what you find is most beneficial to your writing flow. I tried classical, which I love, and my writing stalled out constantly. I tried soft rock, and I found none of my scenes held any real intensity. I switched to industrial metal, and suddenly even my love scenes had more impact and power. Go figure.

Can’t Write? Just write.

Okay, I get it. This seems counter-intuitive. Despite how odd it sounds, many writers will Bad guy walking a dogtell you that the best way to get past a creative speed bump is to power past it. Some will tell you to just keep writing in your current project. I don’t encourage this, personally.

You want your work to be the best possible, and forcing your way through a tough patch can often lead to sections in your finished piece that are the literary equivalent of binge-eating a gallon of mint-chocolate chip ice cream to get over a bad breakup. It might get the job done, but it certainly isn’t healthy and the end result is guaranteed not to be pretty.

Many writers suggest free writing, the practice of opening a blank page and just beginning to write whatever comes to mind, cohesive and coherent or not. I spent a lot of time working with this method, and it works passably well for me. It is not, however, what has been the cure-all for my own creative blocks, though it may work great for you and I do encourage giving it a whirl.

Handy tip:

Ready for my personal favorite trick? Here we go!

I write random, unrelated back stories for my antagonists. Often totally unrelated to my current story or why my villains are, well, villains.

Villain in the gardenJust little things, like psycho cop’s bachelor party, or evil galactic dictator’s childhood trip to the pet store. This practice always takes me to unexpected depths in my anti-heroes, and allows me to see and understand my malevolent friends a little better. This is not only good for the depth of my bad guys, but fun writing practice. Simple, right? I get stuck, I open a new document and write a fun little back story for a much-maligned character.

The crazy part is that every single time I’ve done this, I’ve had a random inspiration on my main story. I suspect this works on the same principle as the theory that we have our best problem-solving ideas when we’re not thinking about the problem at all. For whatever reason, it works absolute magic for me!

Keep Trying!

Whatever works for you, or doesn’t, keep trying! Don’t give up, and if you have to walk away for a time, do it. But come back to it soon. No art form is improved without practice, and writing is no exception. Don’t let yourself get discouraged or frustrated. Just clear your thoughts, remove distractions, and just write.

Happy writing!

 

picture of author Christopher BaileyChristopher Bailey lives in Seattle with his incredible wife and daughter, eagerly expecting their second child. A lover of literature from an early age, he began writing short stories in the third grade for a school assignment and has never looked back. Having worked professionally with children and teens for many years, he has developed a particular fondness for young adult fiction, which is where he now focuses his writing in the hopes of helping a few more children learn to love the written word.

Hey readers! Want to meet Christopher Bailey in person?

Chris has a full schedule of fun events he’ll be at this fall. Want to pick his brain in person, or tell him how much you loved this post and his author interview? Stop on by and say hi.

Jet City Comic Show in Tacoma, WA, Nov 5th-6th
https://www.facebook.com/events/1321988751163825/

Silver Bells Christmas Bazaar in Puyallup, WA, Nov 19th
https://www.facebook.com/events/912423608864757/

Victorian Country Christmas in Puyallup, WA, Nov 30th – Dec 4th
(Disregard dates on the banner, they haven’t updated from last year!)
https://www.facebook.com/AVictorianCountryChristmas/posts

 

He’ll be signing autographs at all three. He hopes to see you there!

cover of Christopher Bailey's new book WHISPER

If you don’t live in the Pacific Northwest and can’t make it to any of the above events to get your copy of his new book Whisper signed, don’t worry. Chris is having a Goodreads Giveaway for 5 autographed copies.

Interview with Christopher Bailey, author of WHISPER

cover of Christopher Bailey's new book WHISPERWe are in for a treat today! Christopher Bailey’s new book Whisper just hit shelves and he has taken time out of his very busy schedule to tell us about his writing life. Christopher Bailey is the author of many books including the Starjumper Legacy YA sci-fi series and Without Chance.

As I mentioned in my previous post Exciting Firsts, this is the first of a series of upcoming author interviews and what a fun and informative interview it is!

Let’s get started:

We met at a writer’s social meet-up, so let’s start off with: When did you first know you were a writer?

In the third grade, I was given a school assignment to write my own Greek myth. It didn’t have to be long, only 200 words, but I was dreading it. I complained and fussed about it until my mother finally made me sit down and get it done.

What I ended up with was a thousand-word short story about the God of Lost Socks, the one who was responsible for the disappearance of single lost socks all throughout the world, leaving its mated pair only to taunt you.

It was creative, it was funny, and to my third-grade mind, it was brilliant. I turned it in to my teacher the next day with more pride than I’d ever had in an assignment before or since. It was filled with errors and problems, but my teacher raved about it. Instead of berating me for the problems, she loudly praised my creativity and originality. She constructively showed me how to fix the problems, and then gave me an A on the assignment.

I was hooked, and haven’t stopped writing since.

Do you write every day? Tell us a little about your writing practice.

I wish. Seriously, I’m currently working on arranging my schedule to allow for this, but at the moment I write only a couple of times a week. Usually binge-writing, if I’m being honest. I’ll sit down on a Saturday morning and write non-stop for ten straight hours.

Luckily, my wife is a candidate for sainthood, and interrupts only occasionally to bring me food and give me kisses. Both are required to keep up my writing flow you understand, so those interruptions are welcome.

Countless times I’ve been told by other writers that I should write every day, but it’s just not possible right now in my life.

My best advice to writers struggling to write every day is this: write when you can, and don’t feel guilty when you can’t. Make sure you’re getting some time in, but it’s far better to write once or twice a week than not at all.

Are you a plotter or a pantser (someone who outlines and plans or someone who writes by the seat of her pants)?

Definitely a pantser. I plot only a start point, an end point, and maybe one or two key points along the way. My characters and worlds live so vividly within my mind that they inevitably stray from any planned course if I get more rigid than that.

When writing my first novel, I tried a trick one of my favorite authors told me about at his book signing. He writes out the major theme for each chapter on index cards, and sorts and reorganizes them until he has the best flow. Then for each chapter, he writes another set of business cards with major points he wants to hit in that chapter, and then does the same organizing and reorganizing procedure. Then he sits and writes it exactly as scripted.

I’ll be honest, I made it halfway through step one of that process, and I almost gave up writing for good. It was only after I realized that there were two different types of writers, plotters and pantsers, that I understood I could still write a full novel without scripting every single nuance before ever sitting down to write the story.

What is your best trick for getting more words on the page?

Detailed descriptions added in the first round edit. My rough drafts are never too short of my intended goal, since I’m a chronic over-writer anyway, but the best way I’ve found to push that word count up is to flesh out my descriptions during my own first round edit.

Changing “He pushed opened the creaky door,” to “He slowly pushed open the ancient, cracked wooden door and winced at the ominous creak,” only adds a few words to the sentence, but it adds a great deal of flavor, and will significantly contribute to your final word count when you do it to a few hundred sentences throughout the manuscript.

In my push to get the story out, I find I often miss opportunities to add flavorful descriptions like that in my initial rough draft. I just have to be careful not to overdo it.

Where do you find creative inspiration?

Like most artists, I draw inspiration from the world I see around me.

With my Starjumper Legacy trilogy:Starjumper Legacy: The Crystal Key, Starjumper Legacy: The Vanishing Sun and Starjumper Legacy: The Plague of Dawn for example, the idea originated from an argument between a pair of fourth graders I had been working with. They were arguing the advantages of magic over science and vice-versa, and I couldn’t help but point out that magic is simply science we don’t understand yet. The discussion that grew between the two children eventually became the idea for Starjumper Legacy.

My standalone Without Chance was inspired by a difficult situation I helped a friend through many years ago, as his parents threatened to disown him when he came out as gay.

Whisper, my newest standalone novel, came from a news story I had been watching about a kidnapping victim, and from a girl I dated in my teens who was schizophrenic.

Of course, once the initial concepts take hold, the stories themselves take on a life of their own and grow into something far beyond what I’d ever initially envisioned.

Life is such a wonderful, terrible, beautiful, ugly thing, that there are no limits to creative inspirations for stories of any kind if you’re willing to look for them in your own life.

Who have you found most influential to your writing?

My brother, Jeff. Since we were little, we’ve loved reading many of the same books and analyzing the stories to death. We look at everything, from the broad concept of the plot to the delicate nuances of character, right down to any hidden subtexts we can discern. We then debate the finer points potentially for hours on end. Our shared love of the written word has been a huge influence on my life, and most especially in my writing.

Do you listen to music while you write? What do you listen to? Do you create playlists?

Absolutely. I can’t write without music playing. I don’t create custom playlists, but rather add a few artists to a Pandora station and let it take over from there. My musical tastes are greatly varied, and I love everything from Beethoven to Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, from Michael Bublé to Metallica.

Interestingly, when I write I prefer heavy metal. I’ve tried a dozen different styles during my writing, including changing styles to suit the scene. For me, it breaks my flow to change styles, and anything other than the hard-driving metal seems to negatively impact both my flow, and the power of my writing. Some favorites include Samael, Rob Zombie, and Celldweller.

Who are your favorite authors?

Wow, this is a hard question. All right, some favorites that come first to mind would be Dean Koontz, Bruce Coville, Robert Heinlein, Brandon Sanderson, Terry Pratchett, Mercedes Lackey, Brian Lumley, and R.A. Salvatore. This is by no means a complete list.

What are your favorite books?

As above, this list could go on forever. There have been a few that have really changed my perspective, though.

I read Homeland by R.A. Salvatore as a youth, and the theme of a young man fighting to be a virtuous soul despite the darkness of his upbringing really resonated with me. I’ve carried that message with me my entire life, and attribute a great deal of who I am today to that book.
Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein almost literally rocked my world. His ability to take social norms and spin them so completely to force the reader to look at them from a completely outside perspective is staggering. So many things about our world that we simply take for granted. This book shook them all up for me.

Hogfather: A Novel of Discworld by Terry Pratchett is, I maintain, one of the finest pieces of literature ever created. The entire Discworld series is great, but this book in particular was absolute genius.

What three writer’s blogs do you visit most often?

http://thewritepractice.com/ is great for tips and tricks on the more technical aspects of writing.

http://www.thecreativepenn.com/ has some amazing information on marketing.

And of course, https://experiencewriting.com/.

Ha. Ha. Thank you very much. What three writer’s websites do you visit most often?

http://rebeccaconnolly.com/ This is a personal friend of mine and while I openly admit I’m not a big romance fan, her books are genuinely fun to read. It’s always interesting to see what she’s up to, since she always has some reader-participation game going.

http://brandonsanderson.com/ This guy is a brilliant writer in the Fantasy and YA Fiction categories, and I have yet to read one of his books I didn’t appreciate.

http://www.deankoontz.com/ Dean Koontz has always been a bit of a guilty pleasure for me, and I’ve read more of his work than possibly any other single author. The Odd Thomas series is among my favorites.

Let’s talk about your book:

What inspired you to write Whisper ?

Whisper was inspired by a combination of a news story I read about a kidnapping victim who had recently been rescued, and an experience I had with a girl I dated in high school who was schizophrenic. Sounds like an odd combination, but in my mind the pairing just clicked and the story came alive in my mind.

What was the hardest part to write? How did you push through?

The most difficult part to write was the part of the book where Jackson is in the mental institution for treatment of his schizophrenia. I had second-hand experience with schizophrenia, thanks to the girl I mentioned above, but have no personal experience in a place like that.

Wanting to get this part right was important to me, so I interviewed a number of people who had spent time in institutions just like the one now in the book. Some readers may have had different experiences than that portrayed in the final book, but that part is based closely on the personal experiences of several people who’ve spent significant time in a variety of hospitals and institutions.

Following that, the difficulty was in not allowing the darkness and hopelessness in many of those places from overwhelming the greater story. It was a tricky balance, keeping the realism of his experience there while not detracting from the story I was trying to tell.

When you’re not writing, what is your favorite thing to do?

I sort of collect hobbies. I paint, play guitar, do some low-grade woodwork and leatherwork, all sorts of random things.

That said, my two favorite things in the entire world are curling up next to my wife with a good book, and playing with my daughter.

Are you a dog person or a cat person?

I’m very much a dog person. They make sense to me, and I relate well to them. My wife teases me a little about this because she says I behave much more like a cat. Funny thing is, she behaves much more like a dog and is very much a cat person. Perhaps that’s why we’re such a good fit.

What bit of wisdom would you share with new writers?

Writing is an art form. Like any art form, nearly nobody starts off brilliant. We all start from the bottom, learning the tools of our trade and the techniques of our craft. Even the masters have things they are still learning.

Don’t get discouraged if your first piece isn’t a masterpiece. Nobody’s is. Practice, refine, listen to constructive criticism and tell those who offer only nonconstructive criticism where they can shove their unfounded opinions.

No matter what, keep writing. Brilliant or not, marketable or not, popular or not, pursue it because you love it. Write because the stories live in your mind and need release. Write because it is a passion, a freedom, and an outlet.

Just keep writing.

Thank you so mush Chris! Readers, go get your copy of Whisper !

picture of author Christopher Bailey
Christopher Bailey lives in Seattle with his incredible wife and daughter, eagerly expecting their second child. A lover of literature from an early age, he began writing short stories in the third grade for a school assignment and has never looked back. Having worked professionally with children and teens for many years, he has developed a particular fondness for young adult fiction, which is where he now focuses his writing in the hopes of helping a few more children learn to love the written word.