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Guest Post: The Heretic in Me by Kathleen Maher

In Guest Blogger, writing on May 19, 2013 at 11:01 pm

To quote the very eloquent Kathleen Maher, “Readers’ taste in fiction is so subjective, and the writing of it so difficult, that it still takes all my nerve to continue. Yet I can’t imagine stopping”. This will probably strike a chord with most writers, it certainly does with me, so I am thrilled to be able introduce Kathleen with this great guest post. Welcome Kathleen, and thank you.

Kathleen Maher - AuthorMany thanks to Amelia for giving me this platform to write about my passion, which is writing fiction.

I wanted to write fiction, it seems, as soon as I knew what is was. As a child I could see that fiction presented life as art. It distilled and validated my impressions. In contrast, non-fiction was interesting but rarely affected me to the core.

When I first attempted creative writing in elementary school, I earned praise without knowing why. This encouraged me, but, without guidance, it took years to find my way. I didn’t stop because the challenge of writing fiction filled me with such adrenaline that hours passed like minutes. Readers’ taste in fiction is so subjective, and the writing of it so difficult, that it still takes all my nerve to continue. Yet I can’t imagine stopping.

In the late 1990s, I woke up one morning with the character of Malcolm Tully, the diarist of Diary of a Heretic, at large in my mind. His comical sincerity, self-scrutiny, and hypersensitivity would not let me rest.

Malcolm is a reluctant cult leader, so I researched cults, and as the plot grew palpable (albeit vague as usual) I wrote the first draft. As thoroughly as Malcolm had claimed me, putting his story in words took me five years.

Rewriting has always been especially difficult for me, because sheer passion is not enough to carry it off. So in 2006, I created a blog, named after Malcolm’s diary (Diary of a Heretic), and began rewriting his entries as posts.

Serial online fiction is not especially popular, but serves me well. The form forces me to construct every line toward the conclusion. Online episodes cannot carry a superfluous word, let alone a tangent; few atmospheric descriptions or overwrought introspection. Diary of a Heretic, being a diary, depends on both. But the blog forced me to pick up the pace. Malcolm’s voice remains florid, but the final version, imperfect as it is, improved because of the blog’s forced discipline.

I rewrote Diary of a Heretic many times and put it away, I thought, indefinitely. My husband, who’s a wonderful writer and editor, revived it, because after reading it countless times, he still finds it entertaining. He formatted it for Amazon’s Kindle. Now I am reading it with fresh eyes, and although I see much to improve, I am happy to see my character Malcolm alive on the page.

Much of Malcolm’s diary is unsuitable for a family blog, but here is a short passage that conveys a bit of Malcolm’s (and my) passion:

We both stared at our feet until I couldn’t stand it, and blushing horribly, tried this: “Is it just me or what? Remember when people would say that?”

She smiled, answering, “When I was fourteen, I said, ‘Is it just me or what?’ And, ‘Whatever.’ And, ‘As if.’ ”

“‘As if’ came later, I think.”

We hugged. I pressed my cheek into her hair, which wasn’t as blonde as I remembered it, but much softer and straighter, smooth and reassuring. A veil of pure silk dried in balmy air after a fresh rain. I rubbed my cheek there and my hand played with the feminine waves. A sigh escaped and she pulled away. “I missed you, too, Malkie.”

…I never know what’s going to bring on a crying jag. “Is it just me or what?” was never, before or after its currency, said in earnest. People never said it unless they were referring to something indisputable, guaranteed to draw consensus.

So which do you think? Is it just me or does the irreversibility of time never let up? Is it just me or are there days when you, too, can’t get past every moment lost? I want every moment back: The good because they passed too fast, and the bad because perhaps with another chance, I could make them right.

Kathleen Maher is the author of Diary of a Heretic, a novel available on Amazon Kindle, and Underground Nest, a novella available in most e-book formats. She is a lifelong writer, with a number of short stories published in literary journals, print and online. Her fiction has won finalist and semi-finalist status in numerous literary contests, including the Iowa School of Letters Award for Short Fiction, and the Drue Heinz Literature Prize. Her blog, Diary of a Heretic (www.diaryofaheretic.com), features serialized short stories and novellas.

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Amazon’s Author Page
Diary of a Heretic on Kindle
Underground Nest on Kindle
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Facebook Author’s Page
Twitter: @kathleenmaher

Underground Nest Book CoverDiary of a Heretic Book Cover

Guest Post: Take Aim and Target Your Children’s Writing by Valerie Allen

In Guest Blogger, writing on November 25, 2012 at 12:01 am

As a children’s author myself, I am particularly pleased to welcome this week’s Guest Blogger, Valerie Allen. Valerie, who also presents workshops on the same subject, shares her philosophies on targeting specific audiences, and what to take into account when doing so. Welcome, Valerie, and thank you for being my guest.

To successfully reach their target audience, children’s writers must keep in mind four basic considerations: the child’s age, grade, reading level, and interests.

Age Level                                                                                                                             Most children enjoy reading about characters who are a few years older than they are. Children want to reach beyond their peers and experience possible future events in the here and now as they read. Most children’s books are written within an age range, for example, 6 to 9 years or 10 to 12 years.

Grade Level                                                                                                                       Grade level is usually an indication of a child’s reading skills, such as phonics, sight words, and comprehension. Books do not have to be written at an exact grade level, but within a grade range, such as preschool through Kindergarten, or sixth through eighth grade. Most computers can easily provide the reading level by grade. This is often written as 3.2 meaning third grade second month or 7.9, which means seventh grade ninth month. Keep in mind grade levels are based on the school year with September as the first month. A reading level of 4.5 would indicate the youngster is in January of the fourth grade.

Reading Level
A child’s reading level is not always the same as his or her grade level. Reading is based on comprehension as well as word attack skills.

There are 250 basic sight words, which make up approximately 70% of all reading. Most children have mastered these words by the end of third grade. Basic sight words are typically one, two, or three-letter words. An informal way to check your sight words is to highlight all of the little words on a given page of writing.
                                                                                                                                            Interests
Books based on hobbies and interests are varied and must be written within the youngster’s age, grade, and reading level. Vocabulary is critical in these books and the author often includes an index of terms and definitions, with or without diagrams. Both fiction and nonfiction can be used to engage youngsters in reading about their hobby or interest. Using the solar system as an example, you can write a book that:

1.  Describes the solar system and encourages learning and understanding
2. Provides facts, greatest moments, or important figures in space exploration
3.  Tells a story involving a child who wants to walk on the moon.

As adults we can make an instant connection with others when we mention Dick and Jane, Nancy Drew, or The Hardy Boys. Today’s young readers will connect with Hop on Pop, Harry Potter, and Pippy Longstocking. Helping children read for pleasure and information is the primary goal for an author of a children’s book. Creating those enjoyable memories that last a life time is the reward of writing for children.

Valerie Allen, psychologist, author, and speaker writes fiction, nonfiction, and children’s books. Her two books for children in grades three to five are, Summer School for Smarties and Bad Hair, Good Hat, New Friends. She presents writing workshops for authors based on her book,Write, Publish, Sell! Quick, Easy, Inexpensive Ideas for the Marketing Challenged.

Buy on amazon.com          Website           Facebook

Write, Publish, Sell! by Valerie Allen - Book cover
 

Find Your Passion, Find Happiness!

In Guest Blogger, writing on October 14, 2012 at 12:01 am

This week I am delighted to introduce my guest, author Marianne Spitzer, with her heart-felt post telling us about her various passions. One of which, of course, is writing. Welcome Marianne and thank you so much for being my guest.

There are many issues I feel passionate about. The first is my faith. I believe a relationship with God is the most Marianne Spitzer - Profile image on http://www.acblogger.wordpress.comimportant relationship I can have. If I trust in Him things will turn out the way they should.

I am also passionate about health issues. Cancer is the biggest of these. It has taken too many people from me including my grandmother, father and my son-in-law when he was only 37.

I am an emotional writer and when something happens in my life I write about it. It is usually the length of a short story, but after the words are on paper, I feel better. I write out feelings I can’t say out loud. It is very therapeutic, at least for me.

I have been writing since the sixth grade when my teacher told my mom that she should make sure I write something every day because someday I would write a book. I thought about it for years, but life has a way of detouring our plans. A husband, children, grandchildren, and all the joy and pain that come from life kept me from starting that novel. I had an idea and maybe thinking about it for years made it easier to write.

I divorced, my children grew up and left home and now my grandchildren do quite well without grandma around all the time. It was then that I decided it was time to tackle a novel. I also have rheumatoid arthritis which keeps me from doing a lot of outdoor physical activities. My lap top became a good friend. I am a night owl and I find the night a wonderful time to write mysteries and dream up plots and scenarios.

I wasn’t sure if I was ready to publish a novel and not sure how to go about it. I decided to first write short stories that I had told my granddaughter, Brittney, when she was young. I self-published Princess Brittney Stories to minimal success. It got my feet wet as they say and I tried a book of essays and I had a bit more success. I was ready to self-publish my first novel, Gypsy Spirits. When it began to sell, I was excited. I had already begun a second novel, The Letter, and also self-published it. It has been my best seller to date. I have finished writing the sequel to Gypsy Spirits entitled Annamarie and Magdalena. I am in the midst of editing it and will begin a sequel to The Letter during this November’s NaNoWriMo.

Since writing is my passion, I find it has helped me deal with the difficulties in my life caused by my Rheumatoid Arthritis. While others may be able to run and jump and go to fairs and carnivals walking from place to place, I can get lost in a world of my own making. A world no one except me understands. It’s a wonderful world where I can decide how my characters come to life or leave it. It’s a fun thing to do and I enjoy it immensely.

I feel passionately about the fact that everyone needs something to take them to a place that calms them and makes them happy. Our world is stressful and frightening at times. I find my calm place writing. I suggest you find yours whether it is knitting, woodworking, hiking, photography, or any of a number of things. Enjoy the happy things in your life and be blessed.

Bio:

Hi, I am a grandma of two wonderful grandkids and writing is my passion. I began writing when I was in grade school and never stopped. Everything about writing excites me. I love summer and star light, but snow and ice make my dislikes list. I love to read of course and some of my favorite writers are Wendy Corsi Staub, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie. When I want something a bit scarier, I read Stephen King or H.P. Lovecraft. Of course you can’t beat classics such as Dracula and Frankenstein. I prefer books over movies and have always loved mysteries since I picked up my first Nancy Drew book a long time ago.

My blog

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Marianne Spitzer, Writer on FB

Marianne Spitzer, Author

Books by Marianne Spitzer

Gypsy Spirits on Amazon - Book cover Princess Brittney Stories on AmazonThe Letter on Amazon - Book cover The Hair Comb and The Crystal Ball on Amazon - Book cover

Annamarie and Magdalena - Coming soon - Book cover

Breaking the Rules

In Guest Blogger, writing on August 19, 2012 at 4:32 pm

I am always so pleased when my guests come back again with another piece, and one such guest is the delightful Anne Chaconas.  Anne, as always beating the drum for her fellow writers, reinforces what we all suspected and longed for endorsement of – the never-ending list of rules of writing are made to be broken.
Guest Blogger Anne Chaconas on Amelia Curzon's Blog - Carte Blanche

Back in July, I wrote a post on my blog asking writers to please stop treating their readers like idiots. I encourage you amble on over and take a gander at it, if nothing else because it really seemed to resonate with just about anyone who read it. If you don’t feel like it, though, here’s the upshot: Don’t dumb down your prose just because you’re afraid people won’t get it. Give your readers a little more credit. Quit worrying about how many people will read your book, and instead focus putting the best story out there for the people who will read your book. 

I got to thinking about that post the other day, thinking that I really needed to do another post in my STOP TREATING YOUR READERS LIKE IDIOTS movement (because, yes, in my mind, it needs to be a movement). Then I realized that there was something even more important that we writers need to think about before we even start worrying about whether we’re treating our readers like grunting, monosyllabic, pseudo-humans. We need to worry about telling out story without constraints.

It’s an interesting predicament we find ourselves in, as writers. We’re creative beings at the core, but we also want to make money out of our craft. Because the idea of the starving artist is only appealing when it doesn’t actually materialize (after all, cheap ramen noodles only taste good for the first five days you eat them for every meal), we constantly obsess about selling books, increasing our sales rank, and making our work more appealing, widely known, universally praised. The ideal of the free-spirited artist is constantly at odds with the fear of dishearteningly low balances our royalty reports (or, even worse, our bank accounts). Therefore, before we even put pen to paper—or fingers to keyboard—we start obsessing about all the “rules for writing a good novel” that we’ve heard being spouted in books, blogs, and articles:

  • Never start a story with the weather.
  • Never start a story with a character waking up.
  • Show, don’t tell.
  • Keep your dialogue tags simple.
  • Keep your language simple.
  • Don’t write in the first person.
  • Don’t write in the present tense.
  • Don’t have a prologue.
  • Don’t change points of view.
  • Make your main character likable.
  • Don’t leave your plot unresolved.

And on. And on. And on. Just Google “rules for writers.” It seems that there’s a rule for every single potential beginning, middle, or end of any kind of work, whether in verse or prose. There are rules for dialogue, rules for exposition, rules for sentence construction, rules for starting (or ending) a story, rules for character development. Rules, rules, rules.

Too bad I can cite at least one exceptionally successful novel that broke at least one of each rule I could find—and, often, many, many more.

Sure, there are plenty of unsuccessful novels that broke the rules, too. I’m familiar with that counterargument. The ones that broke the rules are the exception. Yes, I’ve heard that, too. And I’m not saying that by breaking the rules you’ll be successful.

What I’m saying is that by following the rules, you’re not guaranteeing yourself success, either.

Success in the writing world is a tricky, tricky thing. It is 10% perspiration, 10% hard work, and 80% pure unadulterated luck. You never know what’s going to make a successful novel. No one knows. If we knew, this industry wouldn’t be quite so damn hard to break into.

What I do know is this: If you’re more worried about following the rules than you are about writing your story, then you’re not being true to yourself. Or your story. In fact, you’re being downright rude to yourself and your story.

If there is one thing every writer should do is write the story they want to write, rules be damned. You want to write a prologue? Write a prologue! You want to change points of view? Do it! Want to write in the first person? Knock yourself out! Want to have a description-driven novel? Go ahead!

SCREW THE RULES.

If everyone followed the rules, we’d be reading the same dull, trite story over and over. No one would have a unique Screw the Rules on Amelia Curzon's Blog - Carte Blanchevoice. All our characters would “say” things, never “spout” them. They would “yell,” but never “exclaim.” We’d be drowning in dialogue, yet know precious little about the immediate surroundings where the dialogue is taking place. And we would never, ever know about the weather.

Instead of worrying about the rules, worry about writing your story the way you want to write it. Instead of wringing your hands over whether the critics will call you out for your use of lengthy descriptions, worry about making sure your readers can picture with clarity where your action is taking place. Instead of worrying about your dialogue tags, worry about making sure your characters say things the way you want to say them.

Just like you don’t want to treat your readers like idiots, don’t treat your story, and yourself, like a second-class citizen. Tell your story how you want to tell it—how it deserves to be told. Throw caution to the wind. Let the chips fall where they may.

And when you become massively successful, smile a secret smile—because, like Frank Sinatra, you did it your way.

Bio: Anne Chaconas was born in Central America, educated in the U.S. Northeast, moved to the Deep South for love, and is currently living on the East Coast (and spends most of her time missing winter). Her awesome husband, adorable daughter, three rambunctious cats, and two very adoring dogs keep her busy. Her debut novel, Salve Regina, will be available this fall. In addition to being a writer of things serious (and, sometimes, not-to-serious), she is also a snarky mommy blogger and a book reviewer extraordinaire. You can find her on her websiteFacebookTwitter, and entirely too many other social networking sites

Art and the Writing Life

In Ancient Egypt, Guest Blogger, writing on July 22, 2012 at 12:01 am

“When something moves you, FOLLOW. Don’t look back”  That’s the philosophy of my Guest Blogger this week, the lovely Rochelle Campbell.  Rochelle tells us of the outlying origins which helped her to start writing again after suffering from the dreaded ‘writers block’ for a sustained period of time. Thank you Rochelle for sharing this great post with us.

The creative gene is an elusive one. You never know when that gene will kick in and begin producing at its highestGuest Blogger Rochelle Campbell on Amelia Curzon's Blog - "Carte Blanche" capacity. The gene can lay completely dormant, or it can produce minor pulses that tease. Or, it can turn on slowly building and increasing its output.

Sometimes external situations can jumpstart the creative gene. However, like an old car, one may need a sustained boost from the external source in order to produce a spark and get the creative gene going.

This last scenario happened with me. The external source, in my case, was Egyptian history.

Finding out that Ramesses II had red hair was fascinating! I thought all Egyptians had swarthy complexions along with dark hair. Not so. Why? Because of the numerous invasions Egypt suffered through. The Asians (Hyksos), Greeks, Romans, and others have intermingled their genes with the hearty Egyptian stock creating the world’s first mulattos and multicultural Peoples.

Ancient Egyptian shower on Amelia Curzon's Blog - "Carte Blanche"Researching and discovering that Ancient Egyptians had running water in their bathrooms and sturdy ships for warring and exploring amazed me. Replica of an ancient Egyptian ship on Amelia Curzon's Blog - "Carte Blanche" The ships utilized an elaborate rope-pulley system and did not require metal bolts to keep them together — and they were very sea-worthy vessels!

We all know about the amazing pyramids and how modern scientists and engineers still cannot construct a pyramid like those that still stand at Giza.The Pyramids at Giza on Amelia Curzon's Blog - "Carte Blanche" There are thousands of web pages and television programs that speculate that aliens built these colossal structures. One of these programs can be found on the History Channel’s Ancient Aliens (Season 3, Episode: Aliens and Ancient Engineers – http://www.history.com/shows/ancient-aliens/episodes/season-3#slide-9).

All I know is the intelligence of Ancient Egyptians is unparalleled. They were the epitome of creativity.

Some years ago, (okay, like 17 years ago…), I began writing a story about a few of the Egyptian kings and in it speculated about how they achieved their accomplishments. I felt at many points in the research and writing that I was having lucid dreams about Ancient Egypt! The world I was creating seemed more real to me than the nuts-and-bolts world that truly surrounded me. I became frightened and began wishing that my creative gene would stop churning out this Egyptian output and feed me instead safe, non-confrontational, pablum to feed myself and any who chose to read my work.

Around that time, I noticed that my creativity began slowly to shut down. Things stopped flowing for me and stories stopped wanting to be written leaving me with a very long dry “writer’s block” spell. There were fits and starts across these dry years of creative leanings. By actively shutting down that story that greatly inspired me, I did irreparable damage to my creative gene and my writer’s soul.

Akhenaten on Amelia Curzon's Blog - "Carte Blanche"

Nefertiti, the Amarna period on Amelia Curzon's Blog - "Carte Blanche"Tutankhamen - The Boy King on Amelia Curzon's Blog - "Carte Blanche"It took another cathartic experience to revive and resuscitate my creative gene — after 20-odd years, I graduated college and received my degree in Written Communications. That was a little over 18 months ago. In this short time, I completed a novel started over 4 years ago and compiled four short stories into a collection and made both of these works available online via Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble’s Pubit! E-book publishing feature. The blog came next and shortly thereafter, my author’s website. And most importantly? I’m writing real work again — that is, new short stories and work on two novels.

The moral of this story? When art and antiquity — or anything else for that matter — moves you, FOLLOW. Don’t look back, or stop for anyone or anything because your creative life may very well depend upon your complete and utter devotion.

Leaping Out on Faith by Rochelle Campbell, book cover image

 

Opening Up by Rochelle Campbell, book cover image

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Between Covers and In the Fridge

In Guest Blogger, writing on June 24, 2012 at 12:01 am

  This week I am delighted to welcome my Guest Blogger, Tori L. Ridgewood.   Tori shares the life issues which surge forth when she is writing!

Where do I begin?

When I am writing fiction, three issues from my life always seem to bubble to the surface, in no particular order:  poverty, the strength of women, and food.Author Tori L. Ridgewood - Guest Blogger on Amelia Curzon's Blog - "Carte Blanche"

Let’s talk first about food.

I have a love affair with pastries.  Chocolate truffles make me swoon.  I am married to a chef, and he spoils me terribly with delicious plates of stir fry, home-made meatballs, spring rolls, salads, pieces of cake made from scratch, scrambled eggs so light and fluffy they practically float on the fork, waffles loaded with his patented stewed apple mix (the recipe is a secret, but involves cinnamon, orange juice, and vanilla)…  The only thing he’s yet to make for me from scratch is spaghetti, fettuccine, or any similar dish with the pasta maker I bought for him.

There is a reason for my passion for food.

I was never without while growing up.  My parents always had food in the house, I learned at an early age to help my mother with supper, and I took it for granted that if my stomach growled, all I needed to do was go to the fridge or the cupboard and snack away.  Grocery shopping with my mother was torturous as an adolescent.  I didn’t care how the food got into my house, as long as it was there.

And then I moved out in my final year of high school, to share a bachelor apartment with my soon-to-be husband, and learned just how valuable food really is.

I learned that you can survive on a diet of high protein, high-msg processed foods, like peanut butter sandwiches, balogna fried or plain, ground beef mixed with whatever pasta was handy.  I also learned to hate most of those things.

I learned how good a fresh apple can taste after a week of stale cereal and breads.

I learned how painful walking through a grocery aisle could be, when every penny counts and your stomach is so empty it feels sick.

I learned that you can live on love, but it’s hungry.

We got through the lean years as students, and had our babies.  I had the inexplicable cravings and aversions for the foods we were just beginning to afford again.  I nursed our babies, always making sure to buy food before paying bills so that none of us would go hungry.  I felt a great deal of empathy for Scarlett O’Hara, standing in her barren field, searching for at least one more veggie that would keep her family fed just a little longer.

It’s better now, but having been through times of need awakened me to the privilege it is to be able to go into a store and fill your cart with nutritious foods.  It’s something I don’t want my own children to experience, nor take for granted.  And being hungry goes hand in hand with poverty.

Our poverty was deliberate at first:  two adults barely out of high school, choosing to live together because we couldn’t stand being apart; it was no wonder we were flat broke.  Being penniless also seems to be part and parcel of the college experience.  At times, we were so broke that we did our laundry in the bathtub.  I hoarded sandwich cards like gold, coveting the free submarine that I’d earn every few weeks.  We lived without cable for a while, courted disaster with overdue utilities, even faced being evicted twice.  We endured it and came out with many of our goals fulfilled, though we’re still more in debt than we had expected to be at this point.

So, in my writing, I find my characters struggling through the same uphill battles that I experienced over the last decade and a half.  My heroines — Charlotte in “Mist and Midnight” (Midnight Thirsts), Kate in “Telltale Signs” (Spellbound 2011), Trisha in “A Living Specimen” (Midnight Thirsts 2) — all are students, recent graduates, or struggling professionals aiming to move past their time of hunger and poverty to be self-sufficient and comfortable.  My protagonists are familiar with the sick feeling of a stomach left too long without food, have experienced the backache of scrubbing dirty jeans in a bathtub, have scrimped to buy the basic necessities, and have their sights set on a better life.  They’re not wealthy by virtue of inheritance, lottery, or employment.  My characters are real to me because they struggle, like me.  Through writing them, I understand my own progress and inner self in new ways.

Including my strength as a woman.

I don’t like labels, as a rule, because I believe there are so many facets to your personality that it seems unfair to partition a human or constraint him or her to a single impression.  We are glittering gems of life.  I am a woman, but I also have strongly masculine qualities.  I am Wiccan, and I am a witch, but I was raised Anglican and I have strong affinities for Hinduism, Buddhism, Egyptian mythologies, and Celtic traditions.  I am a feminist, but that doesn’t mean I won’t let a man open a door for me — I’m just as likely to open the door for him as well.  I believe in a woman’s right to her own body and its functions.  Yes, that’s contentious.  I believe in the right of others to disagree with me.

I believe that we are only given as much as we can handle by The Universe.  What if each of us has chosen the path we are on, to learn about life through the choices we make and take our knowledge back to the Cosmos?  Therefore, whatever we undertake, endure, survive, has the capacity to make us stronger.  It’s how we choose to interpret and move forward that determines the worth or impact of the things that happen to or by us, positive or negative.

For example, I have two children, but I have also lost two pregnancies.  The experiences of loss, the invasive, painful, and at times lengthy procedures involved to make sure I would remain healthy, the subsequent battles with deep and chronic depression — all have built me as a person and helped me realize how strong I am.  How strong women can be, and need to be in order to survive everything life can throw at them.  So in my writing, I challenge my heroines not only with the supernatural, but with life’s more mundane journeys as well.  They face the daily risks of driving in poor weather, inadequate housing, stalkers, loss of family, sexism, and their own fears of both failure and success.  Charlotte, Kate, Trisha, and those to come — Rayvin, and Tabitha — are not confident women.  They question their own strength and their decisions, being human enough to feel the impact of society’s judgement of their individuality.  They have to learn to believe in themselves and their potential, before they can grow.  And yet they remain vulnerable and sensitive enough to appreciate the support of a mate.  In my life, I have learned enough to understand that solitude has its place and its benefits, but so does partnership.  It’s achieving the balance that can be the real problem.

So when you have an opportunity to read my work — and I dearly hope you do — my wish is that you will see something of me in those strong women, and something of yourself.  That you will recognize the power inherent in a cup of welcoming tea, a plate of food, the handful of coins that will help you to wash your clothes.  Life isn’t easy for my characters, as it’s not easy for most of us.  But the challenges make the achievements that much more beautiful and meaningful.

Biography:

Tori L. Ridgewood is a full-time secondary school teacher, a mother, a partner, and a writer and reader of all things fiction and non-fiction.  Tori enjoys writing vampire / paranormal romances, sweet and humourous looks at pregnancy and childbirth, and horror fiction.  Tori enjoys writing plays for her students, watching thunderstorms, walking her dog, needlework (quilting, cross-stitching, and embroidery), collecting miniature furniture, traveling, and watching movies.  Currently working on a trilogy of adult vampire novels to follow “Mist and Midnight”, Tori also plans to write young adult fiction in the near future.

Ridgewood’s published works include:

“Mist and Midnight” (Midnight Thirsts, Melange Books, 2011)

“Telltale Signs” (Spellbound 2011, Melange Books, 2011)

“A Living Specimen” (Midnight Thirsts 2, Melange Books, 2012)

“Tabitha’s Solution” (Having My Baby, Melange Books, coming fall of 2012),

“Brain Games” and “Bio Zombie” (A Quick Bite of Flesh, Hazardous Press, coming in 2012).

“Thy Will Be Done” (Dark Moon Books, date tbd)

Links:  

Blog:  Tori L. Ridgewood – Romance and Other Dangers

Facebook: Tori L. Ridgewood

Twitter: @ToriLRidgewood

Goodreads: Tori Ridgewood

Midnight Thirsts - A novelMidnight Thirsts (also available in paperback)

Spellbound 2011 - A novelSpellbound 2011 (also available in paperback)

Know Your Passion, Know Your Art

In Guest Blogger, writing on June 3, 2012 at 12:01 am

A warm welcome to my Guest Blogger, Author Alex Laybourne, who shares with us the underlying passions which have driven him towards his success as a writer

We all have something that we do every day, something that we turn to when stressed, or upset, when celebrating or when in need of a distraction. We all have a passion. I don’t mean passion in the sense of showing your love for another, but rather a hobby. For some it is exercise, for others, it is cooking or collecting a particular item. Whatever it is, a passion is simply something unique to us that we know will always be there for us to turn to when we need it.Author Alex Laybourne - Guest Blogger on Amelia Curzon's Blog - "Carte Blanche"

Obviously, my main passion in life is writing. Yet, that is merely the surface of it all, for what drives us to write, what underlying themes and items are present in every piece we create? There are our true passions, the things that always creep in somehow.

When looking at it from this context, I have three things that I am passionate about, exercise, I love working out, lifting weights, the aches and pains the next morning, I love it all, and more often than not one of my central characters shares this same interest. While I do not currently have the time to actively pursue it, the passion remains, as does the knowledge that I will do it again, one day

As a parent, it goes without saying that I am passionate about my children. As a family we are always doing something, from crafts to the playground, baking to shopping, we do it all together, and I would have it no other way. Once again, when it comes to my writing, the main character(s) are always devoted to their children. Some are divorced and therefore on bad terms with their ex-wife, but the devotion to their kids remains strong.

It is unavoidable that parts of ourselves get reflect in our characters, or in the overall tone of our writing, after all the characters are us.

Aside from particular hobbies, one other thing that I am passionate about is hard work. I grew up surrounded by a society that almost encouraged unemployment. When broken down, I couldn’t really blame them, because they were being given just fifty Pounds a month less than me and had to do nothing in order to get it. However, I was instilled with a work ethic and could not imagine not working for my money. Do I like the work I do, am I passionate about it? In short, no, not in the least, but I work because it is the right thing to do.

There is a difference between this passion and being a workaholic. I give my 8 hours a day (8.5 if I work through lunch) but that is it. Then work is done and I go home. I give 100% everyday, but time is time.

As we age, our passions will invariably change. It is part of life. I loved computer games when I was younger, and while I still enjoy them today, it is more to relax and or reward myself for a job well done. However, whatever our passion, however new it is, there is a confidence that can be drawn from knowing that it will always be there to catch us.

Author Bio 

Born and raised in the coastal English town Lowestoft, it should come as no surprise (to those that have the misfortune of knowing this place) that I became a horror writer.

From an early age I was sent to schools at least a 30 minute bus ride away and so spent the most of my free time alone, as the friends I did have lived too far away for me to be able to hang out with them in the weekends or holidays. To this very day I find it all too easy to just drift away into my own mind, where the conditions always seem to be just perfect for the cultivation of ideas, plots, scenes, characters and lines of dialogue etc.

I am married and have three children (and a fourth on the way)and my biggest dream for them is that they grown up and spend their lives doing what makes them happy, whatever that is.

Alex is always interested in making new friends both readers and writers alike. You can find him at most hours of the waking day on Twitter under the name @vanplank on Facebook or on his blog www.alexlaybourne.com

Alex’s debut novel Highway to Hell and its sequel Trials and Tribulations, have been sign to May December Publications ( http://www.maydecemberpublications.com ) and are scheduled for release at the end of 2012 and start of 2013 respectively.

The Unbearable Lightness of Being a Writer by Gary Gauthier

In Guest Blogger, publishers, writing on May 27, 2012 at 12:01 am

Yesterday, while walking in the park, I watched a little boy as he picked the ball of a dandelion seed head. He held it up at the level of his nose and blew into it. The seeds gently floated away.  The scene inspired me to write this blog post.

Dandelion Seeds

Floating Adrift

All writers, at some point in their career, contemplate the fact that ours is a lonely lot. We don’t report to work anywhere. Our fellow writers are busy doing their own thing. We work alone. It’s a little less lonely now that we have Twitter and Facebook; but when it’s time to write, there’s no one around. Writing is a solitary pursuit.

Journalists may have to report to a desk and they do have deadlines to meet, but we’re not talking about them. They have anchors to keep them grounded.

There is no external, real-world grounding for writers like there is for most other professions. Like all true artists, we are vessels without moorings. There are no weekly meetings. We don’t turn in progress reports and there are no yearly evaluations. We just have to make time to write and keep writing.

Setting goals certainly helps. Did you hear the joke about the writer who was always busy writing but never could finish whatever it was he was working on?

Rejection, Humility and the Ego

It used to be the case that if you couldn’t handle rejection by the gatekeepers, your work didn’t get published. If you gave up after the first handful of rejections, you were effectively silenced—forever. You could, of course, continue to write anyway; but there was no easy method to get people to read what you wrote.

That’s all changed now. Writers, today, can easily maintain a blog or publish an entire book from a laptop. Gatekeepers can’t keep us silent anymore. We can bypass literary agents and publishing houses and go straight to the readers. Sure we have to deal with a retailer who acts as an intermediary, but it’s not a gatekeeper. They don’t pass judgment. Their job is mainly to run the marketplace and make our writing available to the readers.

We may have good reason to distrust the judgment of a skeptical (or clueless) agent. We may also have good reason to question the decisions an aloof publisher. The judgment of the reader, on the other hand, now, that’s a different matter altogether.

The biggest satisfaction for a writer is to be read and to elicit a positive reaction from the readers.  A writer can never be a success without a supportive readership that recognizes value in the writer’s work.  It’s for our readers we write and it’s their opinions and preferences that ultimately matter.

The reader is the Final Arbiter to whom writers must submit in humility. How talented we think we are has nothing to do with it.

On the flip side of the same coin, how talented we think we are has everything to do with it. A writer must be confident enough to know that her writing is worthy of publication and that an audience exists for it. Otherwise, what’s the point of calling yourself a writer?

Falling Into Fertile Ground

One book, or one writer, can’t please everybody.  Some readers appreciate a good historical romance; others won’t touch one even if they receive it as a gift. I have a friend who only reads murder mysteries. We all understand why many don’t appreciate the full measure of Herman Melville’s talent or why some don’t see the beauty in Moby Dick.

No author wants his genius to be discovered long after he’s dead. That was Herman Melville’s lot. Moby Dick, the story of the whale, cleared the first of two hurdles in Melville’s lifetime. The novel was published while he was alive. The second hurdle, critical acclaim, proved more elusive. It came 25 years after Melville’s death. He was talented, but he wasn’t lucky.

There are many similar stories and the more you hear, the more it seems that a writer’s success, talent aside, is subject to whims like the direction of a gentle breeze, or the roll of a die, or the disposition of a planet in relation to constellations of the zodiac. One author died and never saw his book in print, but his talent was “discovered” posthumously after his mother continued the quest to get the manuscript published.  The book won a Pulitzer.

The story becomes more poignant when we learn the author became depressed and committed suicide, in part, because he couldn’t capture the attention of a publisher. His name is John Kennedy Toole. The book is A Confederacy of Dunces.

Bloomsbury, the publisher of the Harry Potter series literally hit the jackpot with nary a clue. It owes its successful relationship with J.K. Rowling to the judgment of a perspicacious eight year old. She read a chapter from a manuscript and wanted to see more. It’s a good thing she was the daughter of the chief executive at the small publishing house. Wouldn’t you love to hear the rationalizations of the twelve publishers who rejected the same manuscript?

Publishers would like everyone to believe they excel at finding good books. But it seems to me that it’s the persistent authors—along with some good books—that find the publishers.  If they truly excel at judging the quality of books, the question to ponder is in comparison to whom? After all, until very recently, the publishing houses were the only ones who had access to the printing presses.

Creating Your Own Luck

Writers, nowadays, have more opportunities to be discovered even as the market becomes more competitive. Everything else being equal, writers can improve their chances of being successful if they have business savvy, take their work seriously, know how to market their talent, are able to create a following or can find a way to generate buzz.

Are you feeling lucky today?

See also: Rejection Letters: The Publishers Who Got It Embarrassingly Wrong

Dandelion Photograph: Lawrence Lu

Gary Gauthier - Guest Blogger on Amelia Curzon's Blog - "Carte Blanche"

Gary Gauthier is working on his first novel, a crime thriller set in New Orleans, just before Hurricane Katrina’s landfall. In real life, he works for a small publishing company no one’s ever heard of and that publishes books no one reads.

His blog, Gary Gauthier’s author blog, Literary Snippets, gives him an opportunity to express and share his appreciation for art and literature. He occasionally posts articles as well. Some of his favorite writers are Thomas Hardy, Charles Dickens, George Eliot, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Edgar Allan Poe. But this changes from time to time. Stay tuned! Follow him on gary gauthier on Twitter, gary gauthier on facebook, and gary gauthier on google plus.

Guest Blogger Gary Gauthier – First posted May 27th, 2012

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