Yes, but how do you really feel?

Carlie M A Cullen:

This is a lady after my own heart. She believes, as I do, that showing emotion in writing engages the readers much more than just telling what the characters see and feel.
This is something I’m passionate about in my writing and have written articles on this very subject, but don’t just take my word for it, see what Connie J Jasperson has to say (oh, and by the way, I happen to get an honourable mention too!):

Originally posted on Life In The Realm of Fantasy:

x - y chromosomesI love writing and I love my characters, but they are so stubborn about some things. Of course, many of them have ‘Y’ chromosomes, but still…. It’s frustrating because they don’t want to to talk about how they’re feeling.

Oh, for the love of Tolstoy–don’t they get it? I’m  a woman. I need you people to talk to me. Tell me what’s going on in your imaginary head.

It’s difficult to show the characters’ emotions and thought processes when it’s so much easier to just say he felt, or she was some emotion.  These thoughts and feelings are central to making our characters feel real. But describing them from a distance, as an author must do, may disconnect the reader from that character.

Sometimes, descriptions don’t allow the reader to experience the moment with the character. Instead, the author is telling them how the character feels.What we must ensure is that our…

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#AprilPrompts Day 12 – Infinity

This was a hard prompt to work with – until my lovely Muse gave me some food for thought . . .

Infinity

Day 12 - Infinity

Day 12 – Infinity

When we’re young, we think we have an eternity to do all the things we dream about; we don’t consider how short our fragile lives really are.

As a teenager, I wanted to travel the world, have a successful career, a comfortable life and eventually find someone I would love for all time. And I thought I had endless time in which to achieve my goals.

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Even in my twenties, I still believed I had infinity ahead of me.

But one day I woke up and I was forty. Abruptly I came to realise my life span was capped. I didn’t have the alleged limitless time of my youth and what was worse, I hadn’t managed to fulfil all the dreams I once held.

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Losing my parents was a wake-up call. It taught me, not only that my life wasn’t infinite, rather it was too short to be unhappy and not doing things I love. So I started making changes.

I walked away from a miserable marriage where I was mistreated and started living for me.

Plunging headlong into a new world, with hope in my heart, I devote myself to writing and my daughter. I don’t have infinity, but I’m happy!

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#AprilPrompts Day 6 – Growing

When you hear the word growing, most people would automatically think of plants, flowers, vegetables et al. But I’m a writer, so when I hear a word, my mind goes off in a different direction . . .

Growing

Day 6 - Growing

Day 6 – Growing

It’s funny how life changes in a relatively short space of time and you grow into someone more than you envisioned yourself to be.

Two and a half years ago, if someone had said to me that in the next thirty months I would publish a book, have written a second, co-written and edited an anthology, be running a writing group and be a professional editor, I probably would have suggested they visit a shrink. Yet it’s exactly what DID happen!

Since completing Heart Search: Lost, I’ve worked hard to hone my craft and I’ve learned heaps (although I know I still have plenty more to learn). I feel I’ve grown as a writer and am still growing.

Being able to express my emotions through creativity is very cathartic. It has empowered me to move forward from the traumas of my past and embrace a new future as a writer and editor.

As I continue to grow, my writing becomes better, which ultimately, is good news for my readers, and me.

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#AprilPrompts Day 2 – Muse

Is it a coincidence that one of my favourite bands is Muse? I’m not sure. I listen to their music quite a bit when I’m writing as it inspires me. But there is another Muse who inspires me more . . .

Muse

Day 2 - Muse

Day 2 – Muse

A Muse is a writer’s best friend. They give us inspiration, ideas and help us on our writing journey.

When I began writing Heart Search: Lost, I didn’t know who my Muse was. However, a clairvoyant friend gave me a reading and since then, I’ve got to know her very well.

Catherine (I’m not sure if she spells it with a C or K though), my Muse, lived in the sixteenth century.  She has an oval face, gentle hazel eyes, pale lips and is quite pretty. Her hair is dark brown and hangs in ringlet-type curls down to her knees. She wears a long, jade green, velvet dress typical of the times and an unusual amulet hangs around her neck.

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She was an herbalist and healer – a dangerous profession to have in those days. She loved to help people and was very generous, often giving medicine away for free to families who couldn’t afford to pay for it.

It’s not clear who in her village accused her of witchcraft, but she was ambushed in the woods one day when she was picking herbs and murdered, driven through by a sword.

Catherine is always with me and I treasure her.

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#BlogFlash2013 Day 21 – Success

Another #Blogflash comes to an end. This is the final prompt. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my posts on the various subjects we were given. I’d like to say a big thank you to Terri Guiliano Long for hosting the event – I’ve really enjoyed the challenge and have made some great new friends!

* * *

Success. How do you quantify it? Society defines success differently to ‘ordinary’ people; if you haven’t got millions in the bank, a high-profile career, your face on the cover of magazines, or a title, you haven’t ‘made it’. That, to me, is superficial crap. Here are my thoughts on the subject:

Success

Everyone has their own yardstick for measuring success. For some it’s having enough money to do as they please. For others it’s gaining a promotion, winning a competition, passing an exam, or having a long and happy marriage.

I measure my success differently, and on two fronts:

The most important to me is having raised a daughter who is beautiful, talented, and clever, but above all kind, generous, honest, loving and giving.

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My secondary success, but still important, is my writing. When I look at reviews written by readers about my book, and I see how much they enjoyed it, I feel successful.

” 5.0 out of 5 stars Could not put it down, 10 Oct 2012

By Pat JonesSee all my reviews

Amazon Verified Purchase(What is this?)

This review is from: HEART SEARCH – book one: Lost (Kindle Edition)

I started to read this in a waiting room at the hospital – nurse had to call my name three times before it registered – I was so deeply engrossed in the book. I found I was hooked, wanting to kick Remy and say “dont waste your time looking up the M6″. To me a sign of a good book is one where you are in there with them and in this case I was right in there.
Totally enjoyable and addictive – cannot wait for book 2 – hope its soon!”

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#BlogFlash2013 Day 8 – Chocolate

Just the thought of today’s prompt made my mouth water!

Chocolate

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My weakness, and my downfall, is chocolate! As I place a piece on my tongue, I savour the rich, creamy flavour and know that just one piece is never enough.

Chocolate cheers me up when I’m feeling down, fortifies me when I’m writing long into the night, and gives me a treat when I’ve worked hard.

The colour of milk chocolate is warm, inviting – I have accents of it in various rooms around my home – it gives a sense of welcoming and comfort.

Could I ever live without it? If I had to, I suppose, but not by choice!

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#BlogFlash2013 Day 1 – Laughter

Last year I took part in the BlogFlash run by Terri Giuliano Long and I loved every minute of it. It really helped me to explore writing in a different way, especially being limited to 100 words. Now she’s running another one and I’ve signed up again. So every weekday in March I’ll be posting what I’ve written from the prompt supplied. Day 1’s prompt is Laughter. I hope you enjoy it!

Laughter

laughter

Tinkling chuckles, loud guffaws and huge belly-laughs echoed around the hall. The comedian drew satisfaction as he continued his act. He lived for this. It was his destiny to brighten people’s days – or that’s what his mum always said.

Even as a child he was always joking around. “My boy will be a famous comedian one day,” his mum often bragged to anyone who would listen. And they nodded and smiled.

Fame was elusive; there was too much competition, but he didn’t really care. He made a modest living doing what he loved – making folks laugh was enough.

Dilemma

Dilemma

Have you ever come across a book that’s so badly written you would rather cut your arm off than turn another page? That’s how I felt last night! Let me explain . . .

I was contacted by an American author who asked me to review her book for Amazon UK. She hadn’t received any reviews on my side of the pond and was keen to change this situation. I agreed and she sent me a free copy in return for a review. I added it to my list and began reading it Thursday night in bed.

Astounded by how immature the writing was (and bearing in mind I was really tired), I put it down telling myself it had to get better. WRONG!  I picked it up again last night and after half an hour I couldn’t stand to turn another page. This is what I found:

>          The book had either been self-edited or edited by someone who wasn’t professional and didn’t really know what they were doing. Whoever did edit it should be pinned against a wall and shot!

>          The characters were like cardboard cut-outs and one dimensional. There was no emotion SHOWN whatsoever. The reader is TOLD someone is happy/sad/hurting/angry, but there’s no emotional connection so you can’t empathise with the character. You can’t imagine what they’re feeling because there’s nothing to hook into.

>          There was no description used anywhere. When the characters were in a tropical location I wanted to SEE the golden sand, HEAR the waves lap gently on the shore, SMELL the salty air, ADMIRE the lush scenery with its colourful blooms, WONDER at the indigenous people’s customs. I didn’t want to be TOLD the place was ‘beautiful and peaceful’ I wanted to SEE and IMAGINE it for myself through good use of description.

>          The dialogue was stilted and unrealistic, even robotic in places.

>          The plot moved on, but because the writing was so bad, you couldn’t get a sense of where it was heading.

>          Part of the book is set in Eastern Europe yet the characters don’t have names typical of their Iron Curtain home, they have English/American names. The author obviously hasn’t done any research on the country and very little on their customs.

>          If I didn’t know better, I would say the book had been written by a six or seven-year-old as the style is like, “The cat sat on the mat”, and “He was a coward and his name was Fred”. I think you get the gist!

In the right editor’s hands, this book could possibly have been made into something half decent, but it would have meant scrapping it and starting again.

Anyway, here’s where my dilemma comes in. I’m not one to publicly trash another author’s work – I would hate to have it done to me – yet she’s asked me for a review. I won’t normally review a book unless I like it and am therefore reluctant to post a one-star review with nothing positive to say about it. I could email the author and give her a private critique, explaining why I don’t want to publish a review, but my instincts tells me she won’t take it in the right spirit. I think she’ll (A) blow off my critique because she thinks she’s such a good writer and her crap doesn’t smell (I’m sure you know the sort I mean), or (B) bad-mouth me for daring to criticise her work, or (C) run a hate campaign against me and try to smear my good name, or all of the above.

I’ve worked hard to build my reputation, both as a writer and an editor, and the last thing I want is to have my name tarnished.

So what would you do? All opinions very gratefully received coz I’m really stumped!!

 

Special Guest – Maria V A Johnson

Today I have a real treat for you! My special guest is none other than my wonderful editor, who is a published author and poet in her own right – Maria V A Johnson. Now I’m going to make her blush before I begin the interview – I happen to know Maria was nominated for International Young Poet of the Year in her second year of University! What an amazing achievement! Is that cool or what??

Anyway, I managed to twist Maria’s arm to take time off from editing Heart Search book two, to talk to us about her emotive poetry book, Hearts & Minds, writing and editing. And, as a special treat, Maria has agreed to me sharing one of the poems from Hearts & Minds here for your enjoyment.

Maria

C: Welcome, Maria. It’s great to have you here today.

M: Thanks so much for inviting me, Carlie, and for the wonderful cup of tea!

C: Congratulations on publishing Hearts & Minds, Maria. Tell us, how did you feel seeing it up on Amazon for the first time?

M: I guess I was numb. You know how you get when the unachievable startles you? That’s how I was! I’m rather a pessimist and just seeing it up on Amazon wasn’t enough to make me truly happy; and I didn’t start believing in my work until I got my first good review.

C: I can relate to that. So, how long have you been writing and what got you started?

M: I guess I was a bit of a late starter. I did the odd poem or story in school for assignments, but I didn’t really start writing per se until 2004 during my A Levels. It was at that time my grandmother passed away, and I wanted something personal to read at the funeral. Good student as I was, I researched heavily into funereal poetry before attempting to write my own; and I haven’t looked back since.

C: I don’t think that’s particularly late – some people don’t start writing until they retire! Anyway, I noticed on your bio you have a Bachelor of Arts Honours Degree in English and Creative Writing. What aspects of your Creative Writing degree did you love? What did you hate?

M: Well I loved most of it, but the fiction writing course was my favourite. I have the beginnings of about 10 stories – because each submission had to be a different story – and the hardest part is going back and picking which one to finish. I would have to say the screenwriting course was the hardest for me; I really struggled. Believe it or not though, poetry wasn’t one of my favourites. My teacher was constantly on my back saying it wasn’t modern enough, that it had too much story to it. I read some of his, and honestly I have no idea how he managed to get it published!

C: Where do you get the inspiration from for your beautiful poetry?

M: A lot of my inspiration comes from my experiences. When I first started it was a very emotional time for me, and there was something so cathartic about pouring my emotion onto paper that I’ve kept going in that vein. Some of my inspiration actually came about as assignments. I had to write about a certain subject, and something worthwhile came out.

C: Everyone needs an emotional outlet and I think it’s wonderful how you channel yours into your poetry. How much of yourself do you actually pour onto the pages?

M: A lot! I’m one of those people that tend to bottle up their emotions until they make themselves ill. Writing poetry has helped me release some of that tension. To be honest, I believe poetry is a way to share yourself and your views with the world. If you don’t pour yourself in, then what is your poetry?

C: Good point! Do you write stories as well? If so, what genre and age group?

M: Well, the genre is easy – Fantasy. I fell in love with it as a kid, and haven’t looked back since. My favourite age group to read is teenage/YA, and that’s the genre I aim to write for, but most of my ideas tend to be younger than that!

C: You are also a professional editor. What is it about editing you enjoy? Is there any part of it you hate?

M: The most rewarding part is getting to turn a raw manuscript into something people would buy and read. The part I love most however, is getting to read the stories first! I guess the only real downside is being unable to switch off the editor. Now, whenever I read, I constantly notice mistakes and it sort of spoils the enjoyment. Even big authors like Charlaine Harris (who wrote the True Blood books) aren’t free of mistakes.

C: Damn! You were supposed to say your favourite part of editing was working on my books!! [Laughs]. So, what’s next for Maria V A Johnson? Are you working on anything at the moment?

M: Right now my writing group, Writebulb, is just starting work on a second charity anthology. We released one towards the end of last year raising money for Farleigh Hospice, and we have decided to do another. We haven’t quite chosen a charity yet, but Little Havens Children’s Hospice is the logical choice since we are attempting to write for 6-10 year olds.

As far as my individual work goes, I’ve been playing about with a space story for young children. I haven’t quite figured out which age group it’s going to be for – I’ll wait and see once the story is written. The idea actually started as a writing challenge in my group; take a song title out of the hat, and write for 30 minutes. I got the title Supermassive Black Hole! I might even use that as the title for the book…hmmm.

C: Five fun ones to finish off:

Favourite food?

M: Now that’s an easy one! I’m quarter Italian, and I love pasta in any form.

C: Favourite book/series?

M: Another easy one! Are you planning to ask me anything that’ll make me think? It has to be the Otherworld Series by Yasmine Galenorn (over 16’s only readers!), but with The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien running a close second.

C: Uh-oh! Now she’s getting sassy! [Laughs] Ok, try this one! If you could be a supernatural being, what would you be and why?

M: Ok, now you’re upping your game! I love vampires, but I’m not sure I’d want to be one. A steady diet of blood would get really boring after a few hundred years. So in that case I think I would have to pick two: Fae (because they can live for ages – even half-fae can live to a thousand), and a Were. Even though Weres have to change form on the full moon, they can change whenever they want. I’m not sure which species of Were I would prefer, maybe seal because I love to swim, or maybe one of the big cats. Though I love wolves, the Weres have a bad rep as being too aggressive.

C: Hmmm. I can see the attraction of Fae, but not sure about Weres. Let’s see if I can really get you with this one. If you could pick one place in the world to go, where would it be and why?

M: Now this is a hard one. There are so many places I would love to go, how do you just pick one? I have already been to Paris and Rome, so I think I would have to go for either Milan or Venice. Milan, if I’m being reflective – my paternal grandmother came from a little village on the outskirts, but Venice is one of the most romantic cities in the world, and I would love to experience it.

C: Yay! That one made you think. Finally, if you could have dinner with any one person, living or dead, who would it be and why?

M: Prince Charming! Oh, did you mean a REAL person? [Chuckles]

C: Thanks for taking time off from editing to let me interview you, Maria.

M: Thank you for asking me here. Now, how about another cuppa?

Cheeky, isn’t she?! Lol. Now I happen to know Maria’s book cover was designed by the wonderfully talented, Ceri Clark; I think it’s fabulous, what about you?

Hearts & Minds

Here is the blurb:

The most important human experiences of love and death are beautifully explored in this anthology. With carefully selected and themed sections: Loss; Love; Lyrical; and Life, the emotions invoked by the words as they flow over the page will touch your heart.

And now, as promised, here is one of the poems from the book:

The Chair

The chair sits stark and silent,

its occupant gone.

A mass of letters

stacked nearby, no one

there to open them.

A brown patch stains

the ceiling, a stale

smell clings to the fabric -

old smoke.

A spaniel casts its lonely eyes

approaches, sniffs

and slinks away.

Reading glasses discarded

on its arm, blank screen before it,

no haunting strains

of Emmerdale make us

yell for quiet; no better tune

than the one we lost.

Hearts & Minds is available from Amazon UK, and Amazon.com for Kindle or paperback.

Check out Maria’s website here: http://mariavajohnson.com

Affirmation

It’s strange how our minds’ work. It has this strange habit of sowing doubts, making us question things we were once confident about. Let me explain . . .

After finally publishing Heart Search, book one: Lost, I was euphoric. My dream of seeing something I’d written on the pages of Amazon had come true and I was riding a wave of triumph; I’d achieved my goal!

I knew early on in the writing of Heart Search: Lost that the story wouldn’t fit into just one book and made the decision to spread it over three. It didn’t faze me in the slightest, at the time, and I looked forward to getting the next section drafted. Once the blog tour was underway, I began making my plans to push forward with it during NaNoWriMo. It would give me the discipline and momentum I needed to get it written quickly, I told myself, and was eager to start.

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November 1st came and I sat down to write, full of ideas and inspiration, confidence running high, and then my mind decided to throw a spanner in the works.

Despite the fact the story was flowing quite well and I’d written over ten thousand words by the end of day three, I began to doubt my abilities. I suffered a crisis of confidence. Just because I’d successfully written one book, did that automatically mean I would be able to complete another one? Did I have another novel in me? Would I find enough of a story to finish it? Was I a good enough author to write a second book?

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All these questions and more spun around in my head like a Tasmanian devil on crack, and it was a horrible feeling. On one level I truly believed I could achieve this second goal, but those niggling doubts had taken root and the tendrils were spreading. I kept my own counsel during this worrying time, dug my heels in and gave myself a strongly-worded lecture. And I carried on writing.

As the word count grew, and one chapter led to another and another, my confidence began to come back a little at a time. The fears didn’t go away, but instead of letting them overpower me, I took back control. I was determined to prove to myself that I wasn’t a ‘one-trick pony’!

I finished the first draft of Heart Search, book two, on 11th January – just eleven days ago – and have now begun the revisions and edits. I can honestly say I experienced the same sense of achievement and joy as when I finished writing book one; I’d overcome my misgivings, my confidence crisis and affirmed that yes, I did have it in me to produce another novel.

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I have no idea where the doubts came from or why my mind decided to throw me a major curve ball. What I do know is, I can fight it and win!