Ducklings in a Row

 

Being in between projects can take its toll on a writer (or any creative sort.) Last week on Twitter I saw an image with the following uncredited quote:

“Writing is the only intoxication that keeps the writer sober.”

That’s so true! During the past three years of heavy writing and editing, I’ve tried to pace myself and take breaks between finishing a draft and starting the next manuscript or editing round, but I turned anxious and jittery within a few days of idleness. Now I get that way after half a day.

Addiction?

Possibly.

I’ve been without an active project over forty-eight hours now. Granted I have eight manuscripts of The Possession Chronicles in various stages of editing, I haven’t started a round on one since I completed the seventh draft of book eight Sunday night. Being sickly (lovely sinus issues) the past several days has slowed me further. I’ve spent time reading, resting, and increasing my marketing outreach, but seeing my daughter’s expertly displayed collections of her beloved Palace Pets and Littlest Pet Shop figures got me looking at my own spaces.

I need to focus on personal/family for a bit. The other day I played books in my China cabinet—where I keep my antique and vintage books. (It smells lovely in there! Dorothy Eden is a favorite Gothic author of mine.)

Up next: tackling the top of the filing cabinets, and maybe the dust bunnies under the furniture. Here’s to keeping busy to battle the possessed by projects demons.

Literary Reflections

Last Saturday I gave my “Kid Lit 101” presentation to a group of writers in Gulfport, Mississippi. While what is categorized as (upper) middle grade is my first literary love, the past few years I’ve been focusing the majority of my reading time on Gothic—classic Gothic, Southern Gothic, Gothic Romance, etc.—to be sure I’m doing the category justice with my own stories.

Revisiting the books I touch on in the presentation (which are everything from baby books to young adult novels) was like visiting old friends. I haven’t given the presentation in about two years, much less dove so deep into conversation about my favorite coming-of-age genre, so it was refreshing. I remembered why I started writing—awesome books like these. And rereading Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson this weekend helped solidify that.

The past few days I’ve forced a separation for myself from The Possession Chronicles. While I’ve been writing and editing the eight books in the series almost non-stop for over two and a half years, I still love everything about it. I’m not sick of the characters or the story lines. I could happily move to round ten of edits on book six, or any other draft, but I know I need to distance myself from this epic project before I tackle professional edits for book one, Perilous Confessions (releasing January 8, 2019.)

So in the meantime, I’ll be exploring the scary world of the MG/YA manuscripts I wrote as a teenager. Maybe I’ll find a nugget of hope within one of the stories that with major resuscitation (thanks to decades of acquired experience) would be able to bring one of them to life. If not, at least I’ll be able to see how far I’ve come as a writer.

What helps you rediscover your literary roots?

Gothic Lit with Stephanie Lawton

Today I welcome good friend and fellow indie author, Stephanie Lawton. If I had to pick a favorite of her novels, it would be Shrapnel–an eerie blend of gritty contemporary YA, paranormal, Southern Gothic, and historical.

Thanks for letting me guest blog today, Carrie! We have a lot of things in common, but a few in particular that I think your readers will find interesting.

By now, you’ve probably heard of the concept of six degrees of separation or Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. Because even if you’re removed from Carrie by five or six degrees, you’ve undoubtedly heard of her Southern historical gothic series, The Possession Chronicles, to be published by Bienvenue Press. What captured her imagination and kept her writing for eight books? The same things that prompted me to write Shrapnel. The same things that have kept readers furiously flipping the pages of scary novels since Mary Shelley and Bram Stoker, to Stephen King and Anne Rice.

First, history.

Let’s be honest—old stuff is creepy. It’s dusty, it makes weird noises and we don’t understand it. We don’t know what people were thinking back then and why they did the odd things they did…like lobotomies that scrambled your brains, or whale-bone corsets that rearranged your internal organs. And yet, human nature implores us to stick our fingers in the wound to see if it’s as bad as we think. (It’s usually worse.)

Stephen King dabbled in early American history in Jerusalem’s Lot. Anne Rice has written in nearly every historical era. Carrie’s new series spans the turn of the last century along the Gulf Coast. My novel, Shrapnel, bounces from modern-day to the Civil War in the Deep South. We commonly use phrases like, “tar and feather” and to “run someone out on a rail.” But do you know what those actually entailed? The historically accurate answers are terrifying.

Second, the unknown.

Fear of the unknown is a basic human fear in every era in every corner of the planet. It just is. Exploiting that fear through literature is the job of the writer so readers can experience those fears vicariously. Afraid of getting your first period? Read some Judy Blume. Afraid of your darker desires? Read Carrie’s upcoming series. Afraid of adult responsibilities and the power that comes with it? Read Shrapnel.

Any situation or thing you fear has been written about in some form, whether an actual thing—like clowns or spiders—or feelings and events. Sometimes the writing is allegorical and sometimes it’s more forthright and literal. Regardless of how it’s presented, plumbing the depths of our fears and the unknown through fiction is infinitely safer than facing them in real life.

Third, good old-fashioned, tension-filled lust. 

Until recently, I would have said that this is where Carrie and I have major differences. My books unabashedly capitalize on lust, while Carrie has always leaned toward very subtle hints of tension between characters. Both approaches have their places and their fans.

While not all horror/gothic/Southern gothic/historical fiction novels include overt sexual tension, I’d bet my Mulder and Scully figurines that readers find the idea pretty irresistible, even if the situation can be construed as “wrong” by conventional standards. Sexy vampires? Horrible! Seductive ghosts? Disgusting. Ever seen the previously banned X-Files episode called, “Home” or the first season of True Detective? Or, even better, Mads Mikkelsen as the latest (incredibly sexy yet skin-crawingly creepy) incarnation of Hannibal Lector. All feature completely repulsive monsters, yet we can’t look away, even if we have to watch/read through our fingers.

I’ve shared some of my favorite nail-biters above, let’s hear yours. What creeps you out, but keeps you coming back for more? What is it about them that you love?

 

SOCIAL MEDIA LINKS

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/StephanieLawtonWriter/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/@Steph_Lawton/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/Steph_Lawton/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5601445.Stephanie_Lawton

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/steph_lawton/

Shrapnel can be found at any of these retailers: https://books2read.com/u/bP1vjJ

 

AUTHOR BIO:

Always a misfit, Stephanie Lawton writes twisted romance that tugs the heart strings then punches you in the gut.

She has a tendency to psychoanalyze people, which comes in handy when creating character profiles. She has a fascination with teacher-student relationships, bullies, psychics, doomsday preppers and larger-than-life characters.

Making readers squirm is her greatest pleasure.

Proceed with caution.

 

Guest Post: Steven Moore

This week I’d like to welcome my friend and fellow Inscribable, Steven Moore.
He’s the superhero artist behind this masterpiece.
(See below for more information about our super group.)

Science Fiction, Fantasy & History—Hand In Hand

I’m currently writing my next Gnome Legends™ Downtime Read™—The Timeless Crystal and have found myself fascinated by how easily science fiction and fantasy can blend with historical events and characters. Though much of the story takes place in my usual fantasy world filled with gnomes and elves, it includes an element of time travel. I wanted to give the future part of the story a bit of a steampunk feel, so I put the “future” characters in the late 1800s. With that I realized there were people perfect in real history for a time travel story—enter Nikola Tesla and his good friend Samuel Clemens. I already had a slight fascination with these men, but a little research showed me that they were ideal for a retro science fiction addition to Gnome Legends.

Fiction is fiction. Once you have an idea and begin to outline it, the story usually writes itself (of course your skills determine how well it writes itself). Though the story uses the crystals which had already been a part of my world as its focus point, it was the “timeless” aspect that quickly took over the story. The time travel element brought in characters that really added a nice layer of reality to my world and gave me a handful of rich characters to enhance the story.

As a reader or a writer, never be afraid to venture a little outside of what you’re comfortable with. If you decide you don’t like what you’re reading/writing, then move onto the next thing. But along the way you’ll most likely find the variety to be refreshing.

Dear reader—thank you for sharing your time with me. And Carrie, thank you very much for letting me be a part of your blog. 

Here’s a little sample of the Timeless Crystal: http://www.grimtrojan.com/timeless.htm

Please feel free to visit my website: http://www.grimtrojan.com. I’d love to have you stop by and share your thoughts.

 

Born in Frankfurt Germany on a U.S. Army base, artist/writer Steven Moore has traveled to several countries and been to numerous states within the U.S., but has lived most of his life near the Gulf Coast of Alabama. He currently resides in Loxley, Alabama with his wife and daughter.

Downtime Reads™ are books written for the entire family to enjoy during their downtimes and specifically written to motivate mid-grade readers and reluctant teen readers to read.

Steven is a proud member of The INSCRIBABLES: a group of successful writers and artists who have teamed up to educate, inform and inspire the creative young. 

Blog Hopping

I’ve been all over different websites lately and posting/sharing the links on my social media pages, but in case you’ve missed them, here’s the latest.

 

Book Review:

This post is a review of my historical novel, Fortitude, by MeLeesa Swann, a newcomer in the world of Middle Grade fantasy.

 

Guest Blog Spots:

This one is about seeking inspiration in the world around you, on MeLeesa’s site, including examples I find of Fortitude and Corroded in the world around me.

Then newest is a feature on some of my favorite books featuring Autism Spectrum Disorders on Stephanie Lawton’s blog. (Enjoy contemporary upper YA and New Adult novels, she’s your lady!)

 

Q&A Posts:

Steven Moore hosted me last weekend with some great questions. Check out his website while you’re there. He’s a fantastic artist (“Mr. Illustrator” from The Inscribables, who drew my “Word Rocker” avatar.) If you love fantasy books, games, etc. be sure to browse his offerings.

And I had another stop with MeLeesa Swann (she’s been great to me) to answer her burning questions.

 

Thanks for following my  blog journey and  checking out my literary friends.

P.S.

Be sure to signup for my newsletter because BIG NEWS is coming soon!

Weeding Through It

This past week I was struck with plot problems, which coincided with both a beta reader critique as well as a Revise and Resubmit from a publishing company. One major issue was pacing and the other was that I missed the mark on a key turning point for two main characters, which in turn reflected on other issues needing to be strengthened. Yes, this is for book one in the Gothic family saga that’s possessed my time, energy, and effort the past two years. And since this issue was pointed out in the first manuscript the effects will ripple through the seven other stories in the series.

After my initial freak out—which I let simmer over night—I read through the critique/suggestions again and decided to turn to the place I go when I need to plot: the yard. Yes, it’s January but on the Gulf Coast there’s always yardwork to be done. After the last freeze, the remainder of the lantana plants were ready to be pruned for the season and the flower bed was in need of weeding.

So I took my pensive thoughts, grabbed the wheelbarrow and pruners, pulled on my gloves, and set to work. By the first half-hour I knew the problem wasn’t as big as I feared. The situations, people, and history were there already, I just hadn’t dug into that corner of the character’s past thoroughly because I didn’t want to wallow in that part of his dark life. As I worked, I allowed my mind to wander and focused on two despicable people associated with the character in question that I knew could be involved. It was easy to narrow down the right one once I gave myself permission to dig deeper.

After about an hour, I knew which minor character would be the catalyst and began forming the outline of a new character from the shadows of the past I’d kept locked away. The new character was always there, just not named or explored.

With the situation, characters, and history mapped, I processed where in the manuscript the information could be placed. As organically as the history came to me, it was clear to see that there were natural places to insert the backstory into the manuscript without jarring or taking away what was already there. Looking at the coming manuscripts, the revelation only solidifies the anguish and choices he will make in the stories as the saga unfolds. The history was there all along, I only needed to prune away the unnecessary layers hiding the base of the character’s life.

When all else fails, go to the garden.

Where do you go to think?

Silence is Golden

Silence on the blog means I’ve been busy.

How busy?

I did the math and in twenty-one months I wrote 718,447 words and edited six manuscripts between three and fifteen times (the newest one only three times so far.) My last project totaled 105,689 words in fifty-three days. The most cumbersome one finished the first draft at 132,768 words. I’ve whittled it down to 123,787 in six drafts but it still needs more tidying up.

Do I have anything to show for all this work?

The satisfaction of knowing I can now fast draft.

Larger than life characters living in my mind.

Massive amounts of notes/research/photographs/mood music.

Some amazing critiques from writing buddies.

A few rejection letters.

Several “we want to see more” notes.

And patience, lots of (anxious) patience.

If you’ve followed my journey on social media or elsewhere, you’ve probably heard that I’m working on a historical Gothic series for adults. That’s what these hundreds of thousands of words are for, that’s what has caused my housekeeping skills to lapse, and my brain to forget other things. I’ve been living, breathing, and following these characters through the Edwardian Era in the Mobile Bay area for almost two years now and I look forward to the time I can share more with everyone.

For now, you can see sneak peeks at some of the inspiration for the characters and settings on two Pinterest boards. And on Wednesdays from my Twitter account I participate in #1linewed, which shares one line from a work-in-progress based on the chosen theme for the day. So check there for tidbits from these characters. (This week, August 16, the theme is “song.”)

Here’s to hoping all this blog silence turns to many books for you to read in the months and years ahead. And, of course, extra information and news can be found when I send out a monthly-ish newsletter.

And, as a side note, check out this fabulous list by The Grateful American Foundation for Best Books for Kids. (Hint: FORTITUDE is on there!)