Hump Day Musings

Photo by Favim.
Today is sort of an anomaly in itself. It's Wednesday, it's the day I crossed over the halfway marker for NaNoWriMo, and it marks two-weeks into the month. Pretty neat, huh? Well, I think so. And if you're like me, it's one of those oh-my-Thanksgiving's-NEXT-week kind of days. Every year Time decides to sprint towards Christmas. Research papers, finals, NaNoWriMo, book club, gift shopping, and many other things that I have to do keep me on edge about the time. All the stress makes me want to escape, and how do I do that? Books, of course! (Not to mention my favorite television shows, which might not be of interest to you since this is a blog for writers. Noted.)  
Anywho, the other day while sitting in the car waiting for my husband to come out of the hardware store, I jotted down a few lines in attempt to express my desire/love for books.
There's something to be said
about a life that's well-read.
One with countless stories
and characters immortal and undead.
A never ending flight
to a world behind sight
where minds are portals
and dreary days turn to wistful nights.
Life with a third eye
from which to question why
the world has definitions
but imagination reaches beyond the sky.
The most amazing power
comes from just one hour
nestled in a book,
and invisible to reality's watchful tower.
Are you thinking of making an escape? What book/s will be your retreat this holiday season?

A Writer's Tool Belt: Writing Tools for the Serious Writer

Just as a handyman needs his tool belt, so too, do we world builders. Building something takes longer and is more painstaking without the right tools. And if you're like me, I'm always on the look out for tools that are going to make my life easier. I mean - work smarter, not harder, right? Here is a list of tools for the serious writer.

- Dictate your novel with Dragon. Costs apply.
- FreeMind if you're a a concept map person. Free.
- yWriter helps you keep up with scenes and chapters. Free.
- Scrivener is an all-in-one tool to build your novel. Free Trail.
- Sonar is a submission-tracking software. Free.

If you've got others that help you, please leave a link in the comment section.

Photo by Favim.

Day 2 of NaNoWriMo

Okay, first of all... I promise not to write a post every day the entire month of November. BUT I figured I vent my already frustrations and motivations of NaNoWriMo.

First lesson/frustration: When your computer independently asks you if you'd like to save your document, click "YES" not "CANCEL." Because you think you're going to be able to keep writing, and somehow you're in complete control of your computer. Yeah, think again. I lost my first crucial 600 words yesterday and had to re-write them again (or what I remember of them) on an already extremely tight schedule. Here was my day:
    1. Get new tires on car.
    2. Hurry home and pack up my life in order to spend a day an hour away from home.
    3. Drive for over an hour to family's house.
    4. Have lunch with family.
    5. Jot down the measly 600+ something words, twice.
    6. Notice that your shoes have decided to fall apart an hour before you need to be at school.
    7. Rush to shoe store, buy ridiculously expensive shoes that cause you to immediately have buyer's remorse.
    8. Head to study group at school, which no one but you shows up for. Awesome.
    9. Have unexpected but pleasant informal meeting with professors.
    10. Sit through three classes.
    11. Drive over an hour home.
    12. Eat a late dinner.
    13. And fall flat on your face into bed.
Yay for my Thursday! I failed at meeting my 1600 word goal on the very first day! How does that even happen??

Okay - I'm done ranting. Now for the upside. I was able to exceed the word goal for today and totally make up for my lacking yesterday. Relief. Also, I checked my NaNo inbox and found a wonderful little pep talk from author Kate DiCamillo. She said:

"So as you enter this month of writing, write for yourself. Write for the story. And write, also, for all of the people who doubt you. Write for all of those people who are not brave enough to try to do this grand and wondrous thing themselves. Let them motivate you."

Ahh.. I feel motivated already. Maybe even motivated enough to spend another few minutes writing.  :)

My NaNo nickname is VanessaEccles, feel free to "buddy" me.

How's it coming for you?

First Day of NaNoWriMo!

On the first day of NaNoWriMo - My writer-self said to me, "A marathon in semester, ARE YOU CraZY?"

Okay... so it's been a long time coming, but I've finally decided to jump of the rollercoaster that is NaNoWriMo! I've been debating it heavily, but this year it just felt right. (Partially because I have this new novel idea that I can't wait to write.) I will be juggling three research papers this month for school in addition to what will be the madness of 50,000 words this month. God help me. I feel like I've lost my mind. That's a normal feeling for a writer, right? :)

I have the same feeling in my stomach right now as I've had while waited in line for a rollercoaster. The good news is that it will be quick and exhilarating. The bad news is I'm in for a couple of loops.

If you're a participant of NaNoWriMo, let me know. I'd like to follow your progress. We're all in this together.

Cheers to a month of fun!

How to Build [a] Character

                                                                                  Photo by Favim.
My pastor has this saying that he uses to illustrate how we build our character, and I couldn't help but think how it would also be useful in building literary characters. This is how it goes:
  1. Sew a thought, reap an action.
  2. Sew an action, reap a habit.
  3. Sew a habit, reap a character.
  4. Sew a character, reap a destiny.
Some characters come to us complete - living, breathing beings. Others come to us partially complete - with a few details that need addressing. And still others, we need to build from the ground up. For the sake of example, we will work with one that needs complete building. There are a few questions you will need to answer to start:
  1. What does he/she looks like? Does he/she have distinguishing features?
  2. Name at least three flaws and strengths of this person?
  3. Any unusual habits? phrases? opinions? that make him/her different from the norm?
  4. What is unique about he/she's background/family?
  5. Is he/she optimistic/pessimistic by nature?
  6. What is he/she's view of life? (faithful, undecided, or otherwise)
  7. How will the totality of their character mold their destiny?
My character Rowena, for example, has flaming red hair that is long and hangs in tendrils. She is insecure, quiet, and painfully shy, but she is deep, has and old soul, and intriguing to many. She wears rosemary in her hair (for the smell), wears a rosary as a bracelet, and believes in the metaphysical world. She grew up without a mother, with a blacksmith as a father. She's unsure and slightly pessimistic by nature, but turns to her faith in times of distress. Her character traits lure someone to her that will change her life and his forever.

In order to have realistic characters, they must have strengths, flaws, opinions on life, habits, differences, and some type of background. (I'm sure there are things I've missed, but you get the picture.) Next time your creating a character, I hope that you will find the phrase useful in building a rounded character. For more information about building characters, see my other posts How to Create the Greatest Character You've Always Known and Character Development: Let's Play 20 Questions.

Write on! :)

What is Art: An Exploration of Your Writing Style and Ideas

Photo by Favim.
So, it's fall. And just as the squirrels stock their nuts, so too do we stock our books (which sometimes makes us look like a nut). You know you have a problem when your book shelves are two to three books deep, and there's still books that find their way in some inconspicuous corner of the room. Ahhh... I love fall. How about you?
I wish I could say that my hiatus from blogging has been because I've been stuck in some fantasy land of some spectacular book. Unfortunately, that's not entirely the case. I'm in my last semester of college, and it's a doozy. ONLY six more weeks!! I digress.
What's really been occupying my thoughts and my time lately is this looming question of "What is Art?" I am writing a research paper on it, but more importantly I've become most interested in the styles of art. I've started to evaluate what art is to me. I should note that when I say "art" I am lumping everything in: writing, music, drawing, painting, etc. But for this post, let's keep it focused on writing. In order to write good art, should we not first have to search our minds and hearts of what we feel art truly is? I think so, and I must admit that analyzing art has vastly changed my writing style and purpose.
There are numerous literary arguments about what makes good art. I have narrowed them down to two just to keep it a simple post: Romanticism, Realism, Modernism. I feel that these are particularly important in today's writing.
  • Romanticism - A belief that art exists somewhere out there, and the writer is merely a transcriber. The writer does sometimes create characters, scenes, etc., but the real story and characters have their own story to tell. There is also is an interest in the metaphysical.
    • The Brothers Grimm's stories are a good example of Romantic art.
  • Realism - A belief that life should imitate art. The art is created by using real life scenarios and situations that are meant to draw in  readers' own experiences. With realism, there is little need for suspension of disbelief. No fantasy.
    • Mark Twain's work is a good example.
  • Modernism - Modernists do not follow typical and expected literary techniques: plot, climax, conclusion. They usually are sparse in words and do not leave audiences with concrete ideas or endings. 
    • An example of Modern poetry would be H.D. and Pound. An example of Modern drama would be Beckett's Waiting for Godot.
These are just my own, on the fly, definitions, so feel free to explore them further.
Now that we've got a few of the terms out of the way. (I don't expect all of you to be English majors.)  We can explore the concepts of art. Below is a series of questions that I asked myself when coming up with my theory of art. Think about your own writing when reading these:
  1. Any fantasy or metaphysical (outside what we can see)?
  2. Is the work allegorical? What ideas does the work plant in the readers' minds?
  3. Are the characters living, breathing, and have their own story? Do they come to your mind nearly fully formed?
  4. Do you look for beauty of real life and try to convey it through words?
  5. Does the work deal with some social problem?
  6. Is the work simply "art for art's sake?"
  7. Does the work mirror a specific author's style? If so, what did he/she feel about art?
  8. Is there a need for suspension of disbelief at some point in the work? (Think Coleridge's "Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner.")
  9. Are you trying to convey a human condition in your work?
  10. Do you plan your work methodically or let it flow spontaneously?
  11. If you were asked to give a reason for why a reader should read your work, would it be:
    1. To be entertained
    2. To provide an escape into something different
    3. Because it highlights societal issues
    4. Because it is different than anything he/she would have ever read
    5. Because it is a unique story
I could go on, but hopefully, you've found something in these questions that have you thinking about your own writing. When I went through these questions (and lots more), I came to the realization that my work and my style falls into the Romantic category. I write about the metaphysical, and my characters have their own stories. I rarely even know what is going to happen when I sit down and write. I agree with Tolkien that works shouldn't be allegorical because that could easily be construed and resented as propaganda. I tried to think about why I read and what I like to read too. I like some type of fantasy and something that makes me suspend my disbelief because I want to escape and be entertained. A great work that explores Romantic art well is Pirandello's Six Characters in Search of an Author.
I expect some of you are shaking your head right now in disagreement with my style and statements, and that's good. We need variety in the book world! But some of you are in agreement, and that's better because you're on my side! lol (only kidding) The point is, how can we create art that's meaningful to us if we haven't explored what we think makes good art?
Here's the fun part... now that I've told you mine, it's only fair that you tell me yours. Go ahead. Tell me what you think, or feel free to ask questions. Don't be shy. :)

Author Interview - G. Tyler Mills

Today I'm glad to share G. Tyler Mills' interview with all of you. Many thanks to him for his participation in my on-going effort to share and support writers. Feel free to post comments and/or questions for him in the comment section.

Brief Bio:

G. Tyler Mills was born in Charleston, South Carolina and grew up in north Alabama. Graduate of the University of North Alabama. Member of the Alpha Tau Omega Fraternity. Married to an amazing wife. He and his wife share one son and two dogs.
To read more about G. Tyler Mills and his writing, please visit his website.

1.) What made you want to be a writer?

It began with my long-standing hobby of reading. I’ve always enjoyed it and like most readers I usually wondered what it would be like to write a book of my own. I had tossed around a few ideas over the years but always came up with excuses. When my wife and I discovered we would be having our son I realized that life was going to move quickly from here on out. I’ve always told myself  that you have to make time to have time, so I started to make time. I started jotting down ideas and things I’d like to write. Soon stories began to form and before long I was writing.

2.) How long have you been seriously pursuing a career in writing?

I started writing my novel almost a year ago now. My first novel has been available on Amazon for nearly three months.
3.) If you had to choose three words to describe your writing nook/office, what would they be?
My Kitchen Table
4.) Where do you draw most of your inspiration from?

I began to write this novel when my wife and I found out we would be having our first child. I had wanted to write for some time, but I wanted something driven by a compelling emotion. I discovered the feelings gained when having a child can be an overwhelming joy and I knew this was an emotion I wanted to guide my character. The feelings I immediately felt would cause me to do anything for this child and I knew it was a something that many have felt. I chose this relationship to be the motivation for the actions of my protagonist.

5.) Give us a one sentence pitch for your first novel.
At less than 100 pages it is a thriller that will cause the pages to move quickly and each reader to walk away with something different. Visit here to read more about the novel.  

6.) What are some of the projects that you are currently working on completing?

I am currently thinking of another novel that follows the life of a man in the early 1900s. Only a few notes on the storyline have been made, but I have decided on the general theme. That’s about all I have now.

7.) What are some of your recent publications?

8.) Are you an outliner or a seat-of-your-pantser?

I’m a definitely an outliner. I try to create the entire story with central ideas I’d like to include in each chapter and paragraph.

9.) If you could only own one book, what would it be? Why?

It may sound a little gimmicky, but I would have to say the Bible. I believe that the text was divinely inspired, and it’s something is and will continue to be relevant to my life.

10.) Favorite childhood book/books?

One of my favorite books from childhood, and still to this day, is Lord of the Flies.

11.) If you could meet any author, living or dead, who would it be? Why?

I would like to meet Cormac McCarthy. He is an author I’ve admired for a long time. His writing style is unique and his career spans several decades. He keeps his personal life very guarded and doesn’t do many interviews, which adds to the allure a private conversation with him would have.

12.) If you could meet one character in a book, who would it be? Why?

Atticus Finch. He’s a character that is both the stereotype of a loving father in his era and a model men still strive to be today. Completely fictional yet for many he is the face associated with the idea of civil rights and he was just the man to present it to a people that needed to be challenged. And above all that, he’s got arguable one of the best names ever created.

13.) Where do you hope to be as a writer in five years?

Still enjoying the process as much as the outcome.

14.) Favorite quote/personal motto:

“Think like a man of action, act like a man of thought.” - Henri Bergson

15.) If you could give any advice to other writers, what would it be?

I guess the only advice I would give is to not be afraid of what others may think or say. Your only concern should be to make sure your thoughts are conveyed authentically and without omission. I’ve always liked the quote by Hemingway that “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”  Seems to be easy enough.

Freelance Writing Guide: What to Expect in Your First Year as a Freelance Writer - By Christine Rice - Blog Tour

I'm excited to be a part of Christine Rice's blog tour for her new book. Many thanks to her for thinking of me and allowing me to show my support! :) Another interview with Christine can be found here. To purchase the Freelance Writing Guide: What to Expect in Your First Year as A Freelance Writer, visit here.

Freelance Writing Guide: What to Expect in Your First Year as a Freelance Writer is a helpful career guide that informs readers of the experiences the author had and what she learned during her first year as a freelance writer. The purpose is to educate writers who are considering becoming freelance writers, on what they can expect in the beginning of a freelance writing career, so that there are no questions or fear of the unknown. It covers ghostwriting, article writing, book reviewing, book writing, self-publishing, traditional publishing, business and finance topics, the lifestyle of a writer, income and types of pay, and many other topics.
1.) Give us a one-sentence pitch for your book.

Freelance Writing Guide is a career guide book for people who are interested in becoming freelance writers, which educates them on what they can expect in the first year of their career.

2.) What is your favorite chapter and why?

I would say my favorite chapter is chapter five, which is called “write a book,” because it’s one of the longer chapters that goes into detail about all you need to know about writing and publishing a book, and the different ways to do it. The chapter covers four aspects that a person requires in order to complete a book project, differences between print books and ebooks as far as cost and format, the traditional publishing process for both fiction and nonfiction books, what self-publishing a book entails, and information about print-on-demand publishing.

3.) Do you ever experience writer's block?

Years ago, when I decided to become a writer, I had a strong desire to write but couldn’t come up with any concrete ideas. So I wrote about my thoughts, feelings, and experiences with that in my poetry and essays. Around that same time, I started writing articles for Helium, and since the website already has the article titles picked out, I wouldn’t have to come up with that initial idea, and that made writing easier. Lately, I’ve been coming up with ideas entirely on my own and I have many! I have a couple books I’m working on and ideas for a few others that I’m planning to write.

4.) What suggestions would you give aspiring authors about editing/publishing a book?

If you put effort into the first draft of your manuscript, the proceeding drafts will be easier and will go quicker. Editing can be taxing because it’s harder to do than write, so the easier you can make the editing process for yourself, the better the experience. Most importantly, you’ll be publishing your book sooner after the first draft is complete than if you did a sloppy first draft. And all writers begin to look forward to getting their manuscript published after they complete the first draft.

5.) Where did you receive your inspiration for this work?

Before beginning the book, I thought back to when I began my freelance writing career and realized I had had a lot of questions about the field and wondered what the future would hold. Then, I reminisced about the experiences I had over the last year and could see I had learned a lot, and I wanted to share it with others so that writers who are contemplating becoming freelance writers can gain some insight into what they can expect in the beginning.

Research: Beauty or Beast?

Photo by Favim.

This is the season of research for me. I'm working on a conference paper about the Grimm fairy tales and a historical paper about them. I've been feeling overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information that I've found, and I often find that I get lost in the abundance of articles and books on the subject. There is a positive side, though. By December it will all be over! I'm kidding, the real bright side is that I'm actually finding that I'm having a good time reading and learning about my interests.

I think that when doing research there will always be times when you look at it like the beast that it truly is, but then there are other times when there's beauty in the process (mainly found near the completion of the project). lol I've been reading some helpful books on the how to do good research, and here some tips that I've found helpful.

1.) Pick a topic that you can stand reading A LOT about.
2.) For a standard research paper (9-12 pages), don't pick a subject that's too broad.
3.) Don't limit your thesis in the beginning. Often when researching, you'll find that a good thesis evolves after gaining more knowledge on the subject.
4.) Ask questions. What do you want to know about the subject? What stands out to you as different?
5.) Take periodic breaks from your research, if you can. This will allow fresh eyes and perspective on your work.
6.) Gain your knowledge from a variety of sources: primary and secondary. Use books, articles, newspapers, journals, etc.
7.) Read other perspectives that you do not agree with. This will allow you to make your claim (argument) solid because you know what other thoughts are out there and how to address them.

When tackling a research project, whether it be a book or a conference paper, keep in mind that there will be times when you want to just throw in the towel. Don't. Finish what you started. Keep going. You can do this. Heck, I can do this... right? :)

Nook Reveal: Writing Nooks of the Past and Present

July is coming to a close and before we know it fall will be upon us. I don't know about you, but I usually spend more time in my nook writing or reading when the weather gets cooler outside. When the soft gray of cool approaches and the smell of pumpkin and cinnamon fills my house, it puts me in the mood to snuggle up with a good book and/or write one.

A few months ago, I read Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own and realized the importance in having a writing sanctuary. My new space is under construction now, but I've had a wonderful space for the past year that I will share, along with a couple of other writers and photos of the Greats at their desks.

If you're like me, you're sitting at your desk right now with perhaps a cup of coffee and maybe a few books stacked neatly (or not) on the corner. Whatever your doing, wherever you are, I hope that with this post you find a new appreciation of your nook and maybe even inspire you to spend some time there today captured by the trappings of your own imagination. Cheers & happy writing, friends.

Charles Dickens
Ernest Hemingway
Louisa May Alcott
Mark Twain

                          Virginia Woolf

Author, Christine Rice's Nook
My work space is my haven for crafting writing pieces, whether they be blog posts, books,
book reviews, or ghostwriting assignments. I call it a haven, because I feel completely
comfortable there, which allows me to work effectively and effortlessly. Plus, I have everything
I need there, all in one location, which makes working easier. I have a small comfortable bed
next to my desk to do reading and research for my writing pieces. You cannot see it in the
picture, but I also have a bookcase that holds various books on writing that I occasionally refer
to. I keep my workspace tidy all of the time. I respect it and it respects me.

         Author, Rena J. Traxel's Nook

I work from home, and my home happens to be quite small. So my writing space is in my living room and has been designed to encourage creativity. To the left is my dining table but mostly it’s used for storyboarding picture book stories. I lay my corkboard out and swap around lines until I get the order just right.  Behind the table is a bookshelf full of references books for writers and my favourite picture books. To the right is where my computer sits and where I spend the majority of my day (writing, blogging, networking). You can’t see my computer a.k.a my scheming machine in the picture, but I assure you it’s there. The bookshelf beside my computer holds my favourite comic books and middle grade novels that way when I’m writing my books are at my fingertips. In the center is my cubbyhole  (inspired by the movie Inkheart). This is where I go with my notebook in hand to scribble down new ideas.  My husband built this cubby specifically for me. Bookshelves line the one side of the cubby and the cubby looks out on my deck and garden. It is the one place that no one goes except me even my dogs aren’t allowed in.

My Writing Nook

Sometimes messy, sometimes neat
A place to write, a place to eat
Comfy and spacious with southern charm
Bright and always perfectly warm
Windows lined with wandering greens
Offering inspiring scenes
Peeking through, I can see the lake
Happily, my seat I take.

A special thanks to Christine Rice and Rena J. Traxel for sharing their nook with us. 

Nook Reveal: Submit Your Writing Space

Photo By Favim.

Hi everyone! My apologies for being M.I.A for the past few weeks. Summer classes are like semesters on steroids, and I've been incredibly busy. Anywho, I wanted to touch base with y'all to let you know what to expect @ The Writer's Block for the rest of the summer.

I will be hosting a Nook Reveal in July, which I am very excited about. I already have a couple of entries, and I'd love it if you'd enter too! Here's what you need to do to apply:
  1. Take a killer photo of your writing space.
  2. Send a short paragraph telling us about your space. Don't be afraid to experiment with your writing here. Make it creative. ;)
  3. Don't forget to state your name and a link to your blog/website.
  4. E-mail me @
For more information, click here.

Another note, author interviews will be postponed until the end of the summer. If you've been sent a request to be interviewed and have sent me the completed questions, don't worry. You're interview will be published first thing in the fall. I'd like to thank everyone for making the author interviews a huge success! Y'all are truly wonderful.

For the rest of the summer, I will be focusing on inspiration and writing exercises.

I hope that all of you are having a beautiful summer, full of warmth and happiness. Don't forget to take time to stop and smell the gardenias (for you southern folks). Heck, why not just take one home with ya'? Who says that beauty has to be left untouched? No good writer leaves beauty alone -unsearched, unanalyzed, unravaged. Cheers to spotting something beautiful and making it even more magical through words. :)

Author Interview: Nicole Pyles

It's a pleasure to have Nicole Pyles with us today. A special thanks to her for her great answers. I especially enjoyed the advice she gives for other writers.

Brief Bio:
  • Nicole Pyles grew up in the Bay Area of California and now lives in Portland, Oregon. She has her Bachelor’s Degree in Communication and still hopes to be a published author when she grows up. Over at her blog, she writes about her journey to achieve her dream of publication and hopes to encourage other writers to continue pursuing their dreams.

      1.)   What made you want to be a writer?
  • For me, it wasn’t one particular person or even book, but it started when I was young and my love of books and telling stories just grew. I was writing stories as young as Kindergarten! I remember the first full stories I finished was about 50 pages handwritten called, “A Light Burns at Midnight.”  For me, I think it was the power of telling stories that inspired me to continue on with pursuing that dream.
2.)   How long have you been seriously pursuing a career in writing?
  • I’ve been writing and pursuing being published for a very long time. For the past several years I’ve been working on and submitting various short stories, although since graduating from college this past June, I have been able to give it a lot more of my attention.
3.)   If you had to choose three words to describe your writing nook/office, what would they be?
  • Oh wow, I wish I had my own nook! Mostly I write on the couch in the living room or my bedroom. So, I’ll describe my bedroom in three words instead…colorful, peaceful, and treetops (I live at the top of a very large hill where I can see right across the valley, so that just matches my view completely!)
4.)   Where do you draw most of your inspiration from?
  • The world around me! I also get inspired by weird things like posts I see online, things my family members say and what they observe. Most recently I got inspired by an abandoned house by my apartment complex as well as a graveyard you can only see from the street.
5.)   Give us a one sentence pitch for your first novel.
  • (Warning: this sentence may turn out to be a run on):
  • At the age of seventeen, Talia learns of the darkness inside her and her destiny to save her world before the Faceless Woman breaks free from the Underworld.
      6.) What are some of the projects that you are currently working on completing?
  • My goal right now is to finish my first novel by the end of March and I really feel like that goal will happen for me. Aside from there, I’m working on a couple short stories – one of which has been submitted to a few magazines, another is still in draft form.

      7.) What are some of your recent publications?
  • I haven’t been officially published yet! But, I do post some of my own video poetry on YouTube which you can check out here.
     8.) Are you an outliner or a seat-of-your-pantser?
  • It varies – I’m an outliner with longer works, but when it comes to short stories I’m a pantser.
     9.) If you could only own one book, what would it be? Why?
  • Vanity Fair by Victor Hugo or I Know This Much is True by Wally lamb – both of those are books rich with characterization and plot.
    10.) Favorite childhood book/books?
  • Tell Me a Story Mama and  Park in the Dark were my favorites!
   11.) If you could meet any author, living or dead, who would it be? Why?
  • Robert Jordan, because he used to be one of my favorite fantasy novelists, but he died within the last few years.  He is one of the novelists who have inspired me. (Another would be Mary Shelley)
   12.) If you could meet one character in a book, who would it be? Why?
  • Can I cheat and say my own main character Talia? I would love to know what she thinks of the book!
   13.) Where do you hope to be as a writer in five years?
  • I hate to say published, because so much of that is depending upon a lot of different factors. So, instead of saying that, I will say that I hope to have a finished manuscript and be done with my current fantasy novel. I also want to have another novel outlined and started.
   14.) Favorite quote/personal motto:
  • You are here and you matter. Don’t let anyone else define who you are. (as said by my mom!)
  15.) If you could give any advice to other writers, what would it be?
  • Confidence can do so much for you. Believe in yourself first – never be your worst critic, because there are too many people out there who are willing to wait in line to tell you how crappy you are. So, don’t be in that line. Be in the line of people telling you how awesome you are and to never quit.

A Book that Speaks: Literacy and Making Good Use of It

I'm currently taking an African American literature class, and we're studying slave narratives this week. There is a constant theme throughout them of a talking book. Not being able to read or write, slaves would often think that when owners were reading that the books were actually speaking. Olaudah Equiano writes in his Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano this:

I have often seen my master and Dick employed in reading; and I had a great curiosity to talk to the books, as I thought they did; and so to learn how all things had beginning: for that purpose I have often taken up a book and have talked to it, and then put my ears to it, when alone, in hopes it would answer me, and I have been very much concerned when I found it remained silent.

This passage and others brought forward some emotion from my colleagues, as well as myself. Could you imagine not being able to read? Could you imagine everything you would have missed out on: the knowledge, entertainment, and joy? It's difficult to comprehend what life would be like if you couldn't read. It hits close to home for me, though, because I have a grandparent that cannot read. His parents needed him to work the fields instead of go to school when he was young. That was the only way they could feed themselves. He's spent his whole life basing his reality and personal truths around what the trusted people in his life told him.

What's scary is that the illiteracy rate in American is rising. There are 49.6% of Americans that can only read at the lowest literacy level, and many that cannot read at all. Many equate the rising rates to the migration of Spanish speakers. Nonetheless, the ability to read is necessary to society. Studies have shown that low literacy rates can lead to higher crime rates. It simply saddens my heart.

What does this have to do with writing? As writers, we want our books to speak back. Olaudah listened but didn't hear anything. We want our words to scream off the page with emotions, teachings, and inspiration. There are wonderful books out there, but there are even more wonderful books yet to written. Great books inspire people to want to learn to read. Many children grow up and have their parents read to them before bed, and it's not long before they develop a longing to be able to read the books themselves.

As writers, we are the promoters of books. We believe in them. We know their purpose and there's no one better to share it with the world. Together we can fight the decline of literacy by writing good books and by inspiring young people to read.

What are your thoughts?

The Wings of Imagination

Photo by Favim

During one of my web ramblings where I browse through photos and articles searching for something that sparks my imagination while simultaneously existing in a sub-zombie state, I found this lovely Burton-esque picture. I feel that it tells the 1,000 words of my life right now. Everything else is muted, but the single little butterfly. The symbol of my imagination. Writing, the expression of the symbol, is a bright source of color in my life.

I, too, have been guilty lately of hiding my little butterfly under a glass lid. Ideas come, sometimes I jot them down sometimes I don't, but lately I haven't been writing much besides the occasional poem. I'm finding it hard to find the time to do everything that needs to be done, and rarely ever do I get to the things that I want to get done. I'm sure all of you can relate.

 Quotes that I need to remember:

"I wasted time, now doth time wasteth me." -William Shakespeare

"It is a mistake to look too far ahead. Only one link of the chain of destiny can be handled at a time." -Winston Churchill

"All great achievements require time." -Maya Angelou

"Dost thou live? Then do not squander time, for that is the stuff life is made of." - Ben Franklin

How do you find time to let your butterfly out? Do you have a schedule or motto that helps motivate you? Share your words of wisdom.

Guests- The Good and the Bad: Post by Rena J. Traxel

Today we are joined by the lovely Rena J. Traxel. Many thanks to her for returning back to The Writer's Block and sharing with us guest post etiquette and helpful tips.

Photo by Favim

Last month for the first time ever I invited guests onto my blog for poetry month. I was a bit hesitant at first, but in the end felt hearing from variety of voices would be beneficial to me and to my readers.  Here is what I learned from having guests on my blog:

1. Make sure to check all guest posts as soon as they came in to make sure you have everything you need. Or you might end up having to write the post yourself.

2. Allow your guest to use their own voice after all you invited them to your blog because you wanted to hear their point of view.

3. Don’t be afraid to approach a potential guest and ask them to be on your blog. Couple of the people I e-mailed didn’t respond, a couple declined due to time constraints, but the majority were eager to help.

4. Make sure to thank your guest bloggers. I thanked each guest on my blog as well as sent the guest an e-mail.

5. Have a set of rules. Some rules to think about:

·  Do you want the post written in first, second, or third person?  For me I like it when writer’s user personal examples, but this might not work for your blog and that is okay.

·  Desired word count.

·  Deadline for the post. I was a bit flexible with my deadlines, but only because I knew the guests and knew they wouldn’t disappoint. But I think in the future, for my own piece of mind, that I will have specific deadlines and stick to it.

What about you? Do you like having guests on your blog? Why or why not.

Bio: Beware of the fiery haired writer who calls herself Rena J. Traxel. She spends her days brewing up a batch of fantastical stories. To learn more about her head over to her blog On The Way to Somewhere…

Author Interview: Susan Helene Gottfried

Today's interview is with the talented Susan Helene Gottfried.
Susan, I sincerely thank you for joining us.
For more about Susan, please visit her website or blog.

Brief Bio:

Susan Helene Gottfried is the author of ShapeShifter: The Demo Tapes — Year 1, ShapeShifter: The Demo Tapes — Year 2, Trevor’s Song, and ShapeShifter: The Demo Tapes — Year 3. She can be found online at, where you can find The Meet and Greet, among other goodies.

A tone-deaf rocker-at-heart, Susan worked in retail record stores, in radio stations, as stage crew, and as a promoter while earning two college degrees in creative writing.

Susan walked away from a continued career in the music industry in order to write books, so it makes sense that most of her fiction revolves around rock bands. Once you get those record stores, radio stations, and fellow roadies and promoters under your skin, they never leave.

To fill her time, Susan takes on freelance editing projects.

1.)   What made you want to be a writer?
  • I was born this way. Seriously. I need to write and create characters and stories the way others need to breathe.
2.)   How long have you been seriously pursuing a career in writing?
  •       That’s actually hard to answer, because I’ve been doing it so long. Was it when I was in college and my professor sent a copy of the manuscript I’d been working on to his agent? In graduate school, when the department would pay for us to send out manuscripts to agents and for short story submissions? When I landed my first agent? When I retired from freelance editing the first time to pursue writing? When I published ShapeShifter: The Demo Tapes (Year 1)?  Maybe someone would say it was when I was ten and decided to write my first novel. Who knows? Like I said, I was born this way.
3.) If you had to choose three words to describe your writing nook/office, what would they be?
  • Too damn cluttered.
4.) Where do you draw most of your inspiration from
  • Everything and anything. I like to look at life around me and wonder how this character, or that would, would interact with what I’m seeing. If I had to pick just one source of inspiration, though, it would be music. I’m constantly inspired by what I hear on the radio
5.) Give us a one sentence pitch for your first novel.
  • Trevor Wolff, bass player for rock darlings ShapeShifter, may have to make common cause with his mortal enemy – his best friend’s girl --  if he’s to survive the fallout from the secrets he’s been hiding.
6.) What are some of the projects that you are currently working on completing?
  • King Trevor, the follow-up to Trevor’s Song, is scheduled for an April 12 release. I’ll follow that up in October with ShapeShifter: The Demo Tapes (Year 4). Behind that will be a stand-alone featuring new characters. I’m still drafting it, so we’ll have to see how it comes out.
7.) What are some of your recent publications?
  •  Last summer, I put out ShapeShifter: The Demo Tapes (Year 3). More info. here.
  • I’ve also had a few short stories in anthologies, which is always a fun way to meet new readers (and for readers to meet new authors). Visit here to check out my short stories.
  • I continue to post blog fiction every few weeks. Whenever I’ve got time to write something, really. It’s worth keeping an eye on my blog for, as I’ve got some recurring characters, such as the Roadie Poet, who aren’t in book form yet.
8.) Are you an outliner or a seat-of-your-pantser?
  • Definitely a seat-of-the-pants writer. To me, the whole purpose of the first draft is to figure out where the story is going. From there, you can craft the beginning and middle into the right shape. Yes, it usually changes the ending, too, but… that’s why writing is a craft. 
9.) If you could only own one book, what would it be? Why?
  • Hmm. That’s a tough one because I rarely re-read books. There are just too many out there to limit myself to one. But if you’re going to make me pick, I’d have to say it would be some compendium that’s thousands of pages long and chock full of great reads. Like 100. Full length.
  • Yes, I’m breaking the rules.
10.) Favorite childhood book/books?
  • Ooh, this is also hard. Let’s go with a series I don’t  mention often: Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain series. I have vivid memories not only of the books but of going to the library and going downstairs into the dark hall before getting to the juvenile room, and taking the books off the shelves. It was a very grown-up feeling to do all that by myself, whereas before, my parents or sisters had always come with me.
11.) If you could meet any author, living or dead, who would it be? Why?
  • Hmm. I’m not sure. I’ve met so many, and what I take from each one has been so different. I don’t want to limit myself. What if I choose Janet Evanovich so I can learn the secrets of writing comedic characters, but Christie Craig would have been the better teacher?
12.) If you could meet one character in a book, who would it be? Why?
  • Trevor. Definitely Trevor. Why? Well, he comes off at first as this abrasive jerk no one wants to be around. But as you get to know him, you see how deep the guy really is. Add in the fact that he gets away with a brutal honesty that no one else in life gets to show, and you’ve got a slam-dunk. Trevor’s got a magic to him that I simply envy. It’s part of what makes writing him so much fun.
13.) Where do you hope to be as a writer in five years?
  • Making a living from my royalties. Continuing to write and put out great books. Being a bigger presence in the writing community. You know: all the basic world-domination components, run from my home office.
14.) Favorite quote/personal motto:
  • I have a bunch, but I haven’t pulled this one out lately: @$%& it all and no regrets.  That one fits my head space at the moment, I think.
15.) If you could give any advice to other writers, what would it be?
  • Learn the industry! I can’t stress this enough, and it’s become my #1 piece of advice. Learn every last thing you can, from craft to the business end of publishing. Make sure your book is ready to be published; learn what happens when you hit PUBLISH too soon. Learn what it’ll take to market your book, how to approach a book reviewer, the value of a writer’s conference. Learn how to do a reading and how to revel in your fellow authors’ successes. And be sure to learn everything I haven’t mentioned here, as well.

It's Flash-Fiction Day: How Will You Celebrate?

Finals are over. (Hear me take a deep sign of relief.)

This morning I've finally had some time to catch up on some blog reading. Today Melanie Conklin wrote about National Flash-Fiction Day in the U.K, which is today. Even though it's mainly celebrated in the U.K. It is quickly becoming an international event. I did not know about it, but now that I do, I'm intent on celebrating. :)

I do not write nearly as much flash-fiction as I used to, but I still love it. Flash-fiction is usually written based on prompts, and is generally a quick read. Often times there is a set amount of time given for the piece to be written and edited to further push the writer to their limits. From my experience, it's been about 30 minutes or less. It usually highlights a specific scene, which challenges the writer to get to the point and peak the reader's interests quickly. Often this is difficult because we all know that writer's can turn three minutes into five pages. lol It's our love affair with words, what can we say?

I took a few moments and wrote a little something as a offering to this special day. I hope that you will do the same. I'll even give you a prompt: ocean. Happy Writing. :)

Photo by Favim.

"Ocean Talk"
(C) Copyright 2012

My taffeta dress brushed his right shoulder by accident as I walked by.  Our eyes met with a quick glance that was broken by my hurried walk.  I felt that I could hardly breathe in the room full of elegant people.  Their fake laughs and their forced conversations caused a wave of anxiety that I needed to escape.  When the outside breeze met my face, I took a breath of peace.  I soaked up the ocean’s air and listened to its angry roar. The dark waves crashed on the massive boat’s hull. I watched, intrigued, while they slapped fiercely the vessel which carried me and all the rest.

That’s when I heard his voice for the first time.  It was strong, deep, unlike anything I had heard before.  Then there was another voice.  A weaker voice.  One that sounded frightened.  They were arguing over something I could not make out.  Their voices rose.  My curiosity peaked, so I decided to take a better look.  The strong man had the week one bent over the railing of the ship.  My heart began to beat faster as if my own safety was threatened.

“I warned you,” the strong man whispered.

The small man said nothing, but his quivering was apparent even from my angle.

I peaked around the pole of the deck to see if anyone else was watching.  There was no one.  The blissful music from the inside glared out onto the deck.  The laughter of the people, the clinking of glasses, and their ignorant bliss made this moment somewhat poetic.  I stood in amazement not knowing what to do but knowing exactly what would happen next.

“So long, Jimmy,” he said as he gave the man a final push that sent him plummeting down into the angry waves.

I quietly gasped.

The man stood there for a moment in utter calmness. He straightened his tie and secured his shiny cuffs.

That’s when it happened, for the second time. He glanced, unexpectedly, at me standing nervously behind the pole. Our eyes locked, and in some kind of secret telepathy, there was an agreement between us. The glance was broken as I quickly walked away.