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Archive for March, 2011

Unforgettable

It took me a while to arrive at what topic to write about. Marta had left the field pretty wide open, “amything about writing, marketing, publishing, or creativity would be great” she told me. One of the really great things about being around bloggers who review books, or those who write, blog, and review, is the spectrum of perspective you can get from seeing different approaches. But you get to read that all the time.

So I struggled a bit with what to present. Then it slapped me upside the head as I was listening to my iPod . . .

Unforgettable — That’s what you are . . .

It can be intensely challenging to gently draw your reader into caring for a character or seeing, immersing themselves into a scene you try to set through description. Consider the very manner in which the human brain works when reading text—it sees letters as individual pictures, and in many cases not even all the letters in a given word are visually seen, our brains learn what a given word likely is just by the arrangement of characters. Seeing words and letters as pictures isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but there is a huge drawback: as a reader there are an overwhelming number of them. The brain has a hard time retaining text; actual pictures or images are an entirely different matter. The brain can recall detail in a photo for a stunning length of time after the image is first seen. Not so with text.

So what’s my point?

You must not simply present your story or characters. You must evoke some internal reaction from the reader, provide something they can bite into.

Unforgettable — Though near or far . . .

I have been told (more than once) that I can be verbose. Could I tighten things up—make them punchier for the sake of brevity? Undoubtedly. And in some instances I truly need to focus on that; but for others it would mean sacrificing the very thing that brings subtle accent to my style: my voice. Somewhere, in that murky, foggy acreage between the two is where I strive to be.

Like a song of love that clings to me
How the thought of you does things to me. . .

Clinging. In that one word you get a feel for some form of desperation, be it warm or chilling. Associate it with the proper modifier—like ‘love’—and you elicit a powerful emotion from the reader. Who doesn’t want to experience, or even recall fondly, clinging, welcome love? By choosing the best words you can achieve the best effect.

For instance, if a character is beaten, worn down by her circumstances, don’t simply say “she looked sad and exhausted.” Find a way to try and provoke your reader. Sit back and think about what another character might see if witnessing such melancholy: “His finger tucked under her chin, its tip warm with sympathy. As he raised it he could see the sad surrender in her eyes.”

I’ll grant you that it’s verbose. The more important question: Did it draw an image for you, or elicit the slightest twinge of emotion? Did it cling?

Never before has someone been more

Unforgettable — in every way
And forever more, that’s how you’ll stay. . .

If you can get out of your soul, and under your readers’ skin, your characters will stick with them . . . because the reader becomes, as we all have among the words and pages of stories that touch us, part of the story themselves.

Selling lots of books is a goal any hopeful author has, but for me the more genuine aspiration, the more profound and noble achievement, is to perhaps attain an effectual status with a reader of my words—to reach the silent warmth of unforgettable.

All My Best,
J.W. Nicklaus

J.W. Nicklaus is the author of The Light, the Dark, and Ember Between , a collection of short stories. Want to know more . . . of course you do! Visit his website avomnia.com to see what others have said about his published debut, or visit his blog.

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I’m like a lot of you, I think — my mom calls fairly often. We live across the state from each other; in the winter, across the continent. I dread the question I know she’ll ask: “anything new with your writing?”

Perspective, attitude, goals, discipline: these all change the same way we introduce ourselves to different people. When strangers ask me what I do, I sound glamorous; when my family asks, I can be more honest about the drearier side of being an author—the constant submission whether by me or my agent; the waiting and the hoping.

A recent message I wrote about attitude took a page from winning Super Bowl Mike McCarthy’s playbook: when you get measured for your Super Bowl ring? The fact that the coach had his players measured the night before they played and won probably didn’t cause the players to win the game, but I’m sure it reminded them of the goal. Winning in this business means being read.

To reach that goal of establishing a readership, I employ discipline. And here’s where I tell you my other secret: I don’t put clean words on fresh paper every day. The act of writing takes a village of disciplines. The successful author knows that research in many forms, editing, reading and marketing actually take up the bulk of the process we call writing.

Being an author is always thrilling in one form or another: either we’re riding high or we’re on the down-swing of the bungie ride; the wind beneath our wings. The journey involves both trust and vulnerability. I write from my gut, spilling out my best words and phrases, sharing my dreams, my heart, in the hope of somebody (in the best Sally Field moment) will LIKE me! And tell all their friends.

What’s new with me? I’ve written two novellas and will start another batch soon. I’m so delighted by the direction my new group blogs are taking. Check out thebarndoor.net and reflectionsinhindsight.wordpress.com. I’ve sold some short stories to Harpstring Magazine, check out writtenworldcommunications.com. I became the editor-in-chief of a Wisconsin literary magazine, I’ll be leading two workshops in March and April; I’ll be teaching a course for ACFW online in May, and my sales are picking up.

Who else will bleed for you like an author? What’s new with your writing?

Kindle grace: http://www.amazon.com/Healing-Grace-ebook/dp/B002V8XYES/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1286155380&sr=8-1-fkmr0

Fictionwise Grace: http://www.fictionwise.com/ebooks/b91909/Healing-Grace/Lisa-J-Lickel/?id=13425

Print Amazon and Barnes and Noble:

http://www.amazon.com/Healing-Grace-Lisa-J-Lickel/dp/1934841226/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1244721331&sr=1-1

http://search.barnesandnoble.com/booksearch/results.asp?WRD=Healing+Grace+by+Lisa+Lickel&box=Healing%20Grace%20by%20Lisa%20Lickel&pos=-1

Amazon print: http://www.amazon.com/Meander-Scar-Lisa-J-Lickel/dp/1934912239/ref=sr_1_1_oe_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1267452628&sr=1-1

Amazon Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/Meander-Scar-ebook/dp/B0037Z6YM8/ref=tmm_kin_title_0?ie=UTF8&m=AG56TWVU5XWC2

Meander on BN: http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Meander-Scar/Lisa-J-Lickel/e/9781934912232/?itm=1&USRI=Lisa+Lickel

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After receiving a journalism degree, Susan Goldsmith was an undercover private investigator, worked as an outside sales rep, and then spent five years in pharmaceutical sales. Today, she is living her dream with her high school sweetheart and their two daughters in The-Middle-of-Nowhere, Arizona, where she spends her days unleashing her rampant imagination and documenting all the crazy places it takes her. Be sure to visit her Facebook page and website to learn more about this author and her work.

Q: It’s wonderful to have you here, Susan. Why don’t you start by telling us a little about your background and how you started writing?

A: Stories are what got me through my childhood. When real life was overwhelming, I’d crawl into my imagination where sick mothers could be made better with a magical potion, or crazy fathers weren’t really crazy. They were just more evolved than the rest of us. Could see whole words and realities we couldn’t. Mean teachers? Witches – the whole lot of them. I soon branched out, and after sitting in Stephen King’s head for a while, decided my life was a Disney movie compared to the stuff his characters endured. Poor Carrie. Now that girl had issues!

I loved stories, and had an endless supply of original ideas that would make fantastic books, but darn it, no matter how hard I willed those ideas to be carried through osmosis from my brain to my favorite authors’, it never happened. There they sat, alone in the dark, wilting, while I pursued every career, but writing, and no, graduating with a degree in Journalism most definitely doesn’t count. Journalism and imagination are two words that don’t belong in the same sentence.

A creative imagination was also frowned upon in my brief stint as an undercover private investigator with Pinkerton when I was placed in a company (no, I’m not telling which one!), and was told to write down my observations. Uh oh, I had a captive audience but couldn’t embellish what I was seeing and boy was my imagination coming up with some really good stuff. In reality, I was bored silly. Eventually that boredom had me shaking things up… but that’s another story entirely.

Several career paths later, fate intervened and I found myself home, being a full time mother and wife. Suddenly, I was staring at the blank computer screen, not writing, just staring. I’d make a point to walk by it on my way to the bathroom, in-between Barney episodes, or during those times when my children actually did fall asleep during nap time.

Eventually, I did turn the computer on, and have been writing ever since.

Q: Congratulations on the release of your first novel, Abithica. That’s an unusual name. How did you come up with it and what does it mean?

A: Abithica is a word I made up. Without giving too much away, it is the name of the main character, so it had to be both unique and otherworldly.

Q: What is Abithica about and what was your inspiration for it?

A: Abithica must borrow all that she is from others: names, lives, even bodies, but only for periods of time she cannot control. What is she, and why is she compelled to fix the lives of the people she inhabits, even the despicable ones?
When she switches into the troubled life of Sydney Turner, she ends up breaking the one rule that has sustained her, the one thing in her control—never get attached—and learns the pain of loving and being loved in return.
My vacuum, Thomas Moore and my very persistent imagination were the inspiration behind Abithica. Maybe I should explain that. You see, all my best thoughts have come while pulling a vacuum. Now enter Thomas Moore. He wrote a book called Care of the Soul. In it, he asked a very profound question: what is your worst fear? Hmmm, what is my worst fear, I wondered. Naturally, I grabbed said vacuum and unleashed my imagination.

Losing my husband and children was the answer. Oh, but what if I was taken from them without their knowledge and they didn’t even know I was gone? Ouch! That would definitely suck. But what would suck even more is if another soul took my place and I was there, unseen, invisible, watching their lives continue as if I had never existed.

I was getting closer to my worst nightmare, but I wasn’t quite there yet. It needed a little something more. Got it! What if the body I was in had never really belonged to me in the first place? What if it was me who had been the intruder all along? I had been borrowing the woman’s life… and now… she wanted it back.

The question became an obsession, and my vacuum and I spent a lot of time together. Soon, the idea of “switching” was born. It grew legs and arms and even acquired a face, Abithica’s face.

Q: What is your protagonist like? Tell us something irresistible about her.

A: She is you and me. She is anybody who has ever asked the questions, why am I here? Is there a God, a purpose, a cosmic plan? She perceives herself as a victim, a pawn in some cosmic joke, only to discover in the end she is oh, so much more!

Q: Who is your target reader?

A: My target readers are bound to be urban fantasy lovers, the romantic at heart, and those of us who like to ponder all those enormous, unanswerable questions about life, and what the heck we’re doing here.

Q: How would you describe your creative process while writing this book? Was it stream-of-consciousness writing, or did you first write an outline?

A: You have no idea how funny that question is! My “creative process”, if you insist on calling it that, was throwing tantrum after tantrum. I wrote and I wrote and I wrote, but the words… they weren’t matching the woman in my head. The tone was wrong. The voice was wrong. The action was wrong. The whole darn story was wrong. It wasn’t Abithica, not even close.

The problem I soon learned was I didn’t have an outline, so I ended up re-writing the first chapter 30 different ways and every one of them was the beginning of a completely different story. I was like an artist standing over an empty canvas. Was I going to use pastels, pencil or paint? Was it going to be a nature scene, or a portrait? Why not an elephant? Did it even have to be on a canvas? Why not the side of a building or a sidewalk? I had no idea so I kept trying a little of everything, until eventually, nothing worked and I found myself pinned to the ground, screaming uncle.

At the same time, I was well aware that some of my best writing had come about by accident when I had unwittingly allowed the characters to tell their own story. They were the writer, I was the vessel. Every single writing session after that, it’s what I strove to duplicate. I’d sit down at the keyboard, clear my mind, and relax enough to set the characters free. On a really good day, they’d talk for eight hours straight and take me places I had never even imagined. Eventually, I got better at it, I started to set an alarm to remind myself to eat. I’d then set it to remind myself to start dinner and then again to remind myself to pick up the kids. This was the reason I wrote, and the reason I kept coming back for more.
I had a problem though. What I needed was something to keep Abithica on task, without constricting the creative flow I craved. The answer: a plot summary. I took the next couple of days building on that concept until I had a sketchy beginning, middle and end. I now had a direction, but Abithica still had plenty of wiggle room to be creative and I was still willing to follow her on whatever tangents she chose to take me on.

Q: What is your writing schedule like?

A: My writing schedule revolves around my family. When the girls are at school, my hubby is at work, and I’m alone, (if it’s possible to be alone with 3 dogs, 2 cats and a bird!) I unleash my imagination and hold on for dear life. My favorite part is the end, when I get to read the crazy places my imagination took me that day.

Q: How did you find Twilight Times Books?

A: Twilight Times Books was recommended to me by my mentor, Gerry Mills, who helped me put some “magic” into my writing. It didn’t hurt either that TTB was recommended by Predators & Editors, or that the water cooler discussion on Absolute Write had nothing but positive things to say about TTB and its founder, Lida Quillen.

Q: What has been the most surprising aspect of publishing for you so far?

A: I was delusional. I actually thought when I wrote, The End, I was done. Oh contraire! That was only the beginning. The hardest writing I’ve ever done was condensing 95,000 words into a one sentence summary!

Now, I’m learning the wonderful world of marketing. All I can say is, God Bless Goodreads! If it wasn’t for that website nobody would know Abithica exists, and believe me… she is so done with that!

Q: I hear there’s a sequel in the horizon. When is it coming out?

A: Yup, there is a sequel. I am 40,000 words into it. The beginning and the end are done. All I’m doing now is filling in the middle.

Q: What is your best tip for aspiring novelists?

A: Don’t just talk about it, do it. Write it for yourself, and then later, after you’re convinced it’s a masterpiece, set it in a drawer and forget about it, the longer, the better. Then read it with fresh eyes. Fix all the problems, and then repeat, again, and again, and again….

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

A: Come visit me on Goodreads, facebook, or even my website. I love talking to readers!

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