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Today’s guest post comes from Emerald Barnes, author of Piercing Through the Darkness.

~*~

There are days when it feels like the world is against you, when you can’t find any inspiration for your writing.  It feels like every word you type is garbage and you even doubt edits will fix the garbage you’ve written.  But is it really garbage or is it you thinking it’s garbage?
Inspiration at times is the hardest thing to find.  You have these ideas running around your brain, but they aren’t coming out right.  You know how the story is supposed to go, but on paper, it’s turning out completely different.  You resist the urge to toss your laptop across the room and never write again.
When this happens, take a break!    Distance yourself from your writing.  Take a brisk walk outside and clear your head.  Put on a movie or some music and focus on it.  Take that break and gather your thoughts.

Focus on the good of the novel.  Once you’ve taken a break, focus on the good parts of the novel you’re working on it.  It doesn’t even have to be what you have written.  It can be something you plan on writing, but focus on the good.  Nothing good ever comes from dwelling on the bad.

Find the love for your work again.  We all fall in and out of love with our work.  If you’re frustrated, you’re probably falling out of love with your novel, but you had some good times with it.  Don’t lie.  Think about those.  Think about the characters you have written.  You created them.  You know their ins and outs; their loves and hates.  You know them.  Surely you haven’t fallen out of love with them.  Rekindle that love.

Move on with the work.  Try again.  Start over if you have to, but don’t abandon it yet.  Don’t give up so easily.
If you can’t move on with your work just yet, try starting another project.  Write a short story, poem, essay, anything.  Then try working with that frustrating piece again.  Maybe you’ve had some time to reevaluate the work after you’ve focused on something else.

Find your muse.  Find the very thing that motivates you to keep writing.  What is it?  Is it the thought of success?  Knowing you’ve finished your work?  It is the glory you feel when you’ve met your word count goal of the day?  The feel of writing a scene brilliantly? Whatever it is, just keep writing.  Focus on what keeps you going when all else fails.

Talk it out.  Seek out a trusted friend.  They can be a fellow writer or your best friend.  Virtual friends or real life friends.  You’ll be surprised how well you’ll feel when you’ve had a conversation about the characters, the plot and the overall story once you talk it out with someone.
Most importantly, don’t give up!  Whenever it feels like your writing is letting you down, face it head on and keep writing!  After all, you can’t call yourself a writer if you don’t write.

How do you find inspiration?

~*~

Emerald Barnes resides in a small town in Mississippi, where she writes novels and short stories as well as blogs about writing when she isn’t spending time with her nieces and nephew.  She has self-published an e-book, Piercing Through the Darkness, and has been published by Phyllis Scott Publishing in their book Blue Legs and Other Coming of Age Stories.  She works diligently to finish more works for publication.  Read Me Dead, a YA suspense/thriller/romance will be available soon.  You can follow her blog at http://ebarnes23.wordpress.com.  Follow her on Twitter @emeraldbarnes and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/fanpageforemeraldbarnes

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Today’s guest post comes from Lisa M. Lilly, author of The Awakening.

~*~

I’m going to knock on wood as I say this. I’ve never had writer’s block. Because a lot of writers struggle with feeling like they simply can’t get many pages written even when they carve out time to write, I’ve given a lot of thought to this topic. I’m hoping these thoughts will be helpful to other writers when facing the blank screen.

My first serious career ambition was to make a living as a singer/songwriter. I started getting up on stage, first at open mikes, then at coffeehouses and festivals, when I was 16, within just two years of learning to play guitar. One thing I found right off about performing — if I hadn’t practiced recently and repeatedly, I’d forget words and chords even to songs I’d known for years. Including songs I’d written myself. Lack of practice also significantly increased my pre-performance sweaty hands, nausea and dry mouth.

Because I’m not a fan of feeling nauseous, or of stumbling in front of an audience, I practiced an hour a day, usually from six to seven a.m. before school or work. (My parents were amazingly tolerant of this and probably should get a medal for not complaining, especially when I also decided to learn the banjo.) When I started to write seriously, I thought of writing the same way I’d thought of practice. I set a schedule of when I would write, and when the time came, I wrote whether I felt like it or not. If I didn’t have a story or novel on-going, I wrote journal entries, or I wrote about what I might like to write about. Some days when I felt inspired and thought I’d written something fabulous, I read it later and found it clunky, wordy, and boring. Other times I trudged through each line and was sure I’d have to toss out the pages, only to find it was some of the best writing I’d ever done. And vice versa.

The second reason I’ve been fortunate enough to keep writing regardless what else is happening in my life is the courses I took in college. Ironically, the fiction program at Columbia College disappointed me in many ways. I’d hoped to learn plot, theme, and characterization, and I found the fiction courses and teachers rarely touched on those. Instead, what seemed like forever was spent on exercises. Sometimes the teacher went in a circle and had us each say a word, any word. Without saying why, the teacher might then reject the word and make a student try another. I’m guessing now the rejected words were too closely related to the last person’s word or didn’t evoke much emotion or imagery, such as “the”. Another exercise was person-action-person. The first student chose a person, meaning a man, woman, boy or girl, an action verb, and another person. An example is “man holds girl.” The next student chose another combination, and so on. Yet another was to sit in complete silence and listen to the sounds from the room, the building, or the street below. Sometimes I suspected just making us sit still in silence for endless periods (the class lasted 4 hours) was what generated the ideas, as you’ve got to entertain yourself somehow.

After whichever exercise, a few people were asked to describe the scene they’d imagined. Then we were told to “write as much as you can as fast as you can.” We could write about anything triggered by the exercise, even a scene someone else described. We later turned the pages in to meet our 4-page-a- week requirement. Grades were based on total pages for the semester and also on improvement over time. We rarely got feedback from the teacher, but our work was occasionally read in class.

At the time, I thought this process related only to first drafting. But I realized later that it really helped with two other steps in writing. First, it helped generate ideas and, perhaps more important, pay attention to what we saw, heard, and felt so that we were open to story ideas wherever they arose. Second, the process, with its emphasis on writing fast and not getting much feedback, helped disengage the editing/reviewing part of our minds. That matters because it’s the editor that stops the writing process dead. It’s that voice, which might sound like your mother or your fifth-grade English teacher, that chimes in before you type or write a word. (Mine definitely sounds like my mother. When I started my second novel after having collected a hundred rejections on the first, my mother asked why I’d bother to write another book since no one bought the first one. Did I mention there are some people you shouldn’t discuss your writing with?) The editor says that your idea is boring, no one will like it. It says that the first sentence you’re considering is all wrong – which could mean dull, clunky, too many syllables, too few syllables, too wordy, too sparse, not the way real mystery authors/literary authors/horror writers/real writers actually write.

The editor is important, in fact crucial, when it comes to revising. The editor spots sentences that are unintentionally rambling; it catches typos and makes your work polished and professional. But letting the editor out during a first draft may ensure no first draft is ever finished, because nothing you consider writing will ever be good enough for the editor. If you do manage to get a first page or even a first chapter written, the editor will make you rewrite it a hundred times before you go forward. Three years later, you’ll have a fantastic first chapter. And nothing else.

To this day, I have moments where I sit down to write and feel my throat and stomach constrict and my breathing get shallow. But I have ideas bouncing around in my head, so I have somewhere to start. I also typically outline (which is a topic for another post), so I have a map of where I’m going. And when the editor starts talking, and it always does, I ignore it and write as much as I can, as fast as I can.

_______________

Lisa M. Lilly is the author of THE AWAKENING, a mystery/thriller about a young woman whose mysterious pregnancy may bring the world its first female messiah — or trigger the Apocalypse. She is also an attorney and the author of THE TOWER FORMERLY KNOWN AS SEARS AND TWO OTHER TALES OF URBAN HORROR.

THE AWAKENING is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Check out THE TOWER as well, at both Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

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This weekend begins a brand new year. It’s hard to believe that 2011 has come to an end. It seems to have gone by so fast! Now is the perfect time to look back at the year and see everything that you’ve accomplished. Are you happy with what you’ve achieved this year? Is there more you wish you could have done?

As you reflect back on the year, think of all of the new memories you made that you can take with you as you continue your journey through life. You’ve probably learned some valuable lessons that you can use, and perhaps even pass on to others. You’ll remember both the good and the bad moments that have come to pass this year, and perhaps start to be able to deal with some of those moments.

While reflecting on the moments of 2011, keep in mind that just because the year is coming to an end doesn’t mean you can’t still make changes to your life that you wish to. A brand new year is upon us, and that means we have another whole year to begin new adventures, set new goals, accomplish old goals, and make new memories. Happy New Year!

Andrea Buginsky is the author of “The Chosen,” a Young Adult fantasy about a young dwarf who learns her true calling in life and sets off on a quest with a group of warriors to save their home world, Phantasma.

Halli is a shy, young dwarf who has no idea of her true calling. When the evil Prince Gastle sets out to detroy the world of Phantasma, Queen Laurali of the Elves comes to tell Halli she’s a Holy Paladin with the power to heal, and will join The Chosen, a group of brave warriors being sent to defeat the evil beast and save Phantasma. Will Halli be accepted by her group, and be able to keep them alive through their adventures? Will the evil Prince Gastle be defeated, freeing Phantasma from his destruction? Only time will tell.

Available from Solstice Publishing and for the Amazon Kindle

You can find Andrea:

On her website, Andi’s Realm

At Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Andrea.Buginsky.Author

On Twitter: @andreabuginsky

On Google+

On Goodreads

Happy holidays!

 

 

 

 

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Today, James Wilcox, author of Sex, Lies, and the Classroom, The M-16 Agenda, and Musings of a Particular Bear, shares his very personal story on why self-publishing was the right route for him.

~*~

I knew something was wrong the minutes I saw my mother walking up to the front door of my house. Although my mom only lives about ten minutes away, she rarely, if ever, stops by my house unannounced. It isn’t that she isn’t welcome, anytime, it’s just that she always calls before she comes over, mostly because she knows how busy my wife and family are. This August afternoon though, I happened to glance out the front window (the school year hadn’t started yet, so I was still home with the kids for summer break) and saw her walking up the steps and I just knew something wasn’t right.

I opened the door and invited my mom inside. We sat down on the couch and started the small talk as my three children ran into the room to see their grandma. After a few minutes, my mom asked the kids to go play in the back room for a little bit because she needed to talk to me about something important. My stomach dropped at her words. Once the kids disappeared into the back of the house, she broke the news: she had cancer.

Needless to say, my mom’s announcement had a profound effect on me. Surprise, shock, anger, frustration and fear all flooded into my heart and mind. I tried to be strong for her. I tried to offer words of encouragement. I tried not to show her how worried I was, but I am pretty sure I failed miserably. I also started thinking about a promise I had made to her years before. I promised I had failed to keep.

Although I love my mother and have a close relationship with her, I think that our relationship is rather unique. There are two things that make this relationship unique: our love of books and our love of politics. My mother shaped my political ideas and beliefs in ways she probably doesn’t even realize and she instilled in me a love of reading that nearly borders on obsession. I am just like my mother in this respect. My mother is an avid reader. She always has a book she is working on. I learned to appreciate books and reading because of my mother’s example. In fact, this is one of the reasons I always dreamed of being a writer. I wanted to write a book that my mother would be proud to read, which brings me back to the promise I had made to my mother several years before.

I promised my mother that she would see me in print before she died, which is one of the reasons that I was so shocked when she told me that she had cancer. I hadn’t been published yet and right then, I didn’t know how much time I had left to make good on my promise. I had already finished writing my first novel Sex, Lies, and the Classroom and almost finished with my second The M-16 Agenda when she broke the news. Unfortunately, I simply had not had any luck getting them published. I had been trying for over a year to find an agent or a publisher who was willing to take a chance on me, but to no avail. Although I had looked into self-publishing, I just wasn’t sure if it was the way to go because I still dreamed of landing the traditional book deal with a major publisher.

Now, I was scrambling. I desperately needed to find a way to get published, but I didn’t know how much time my mother had. I hit the internet, did research, contacted another round of agents, submitted to some small presses, all in an effort to fulfill my promise to my mother.

It happened a couple of days after the Thanksgiving break. A student of mine can to show me the book she had just published through a company named Createspace. I hadn’t heard of Createspace, but I proceeded to pick her brain to learn as much as I could. When I got home from school that night, I pulled out the computer and got to work. I re-edited Sex, Lies, and the Classroom, sent it off to my editor for another look and signed up for Createspace. In the days that followed, I frantically tried to put my book together. I polished the manuscript, took photos for the cover, designed a cover, and did everything I could to have the book ready by Christmas.

When I finally had everything ready, I submitted my work to Createspace and waited for it to be approved. Those were some of the longest 48 hours of my life. Then, I ordered proof copies of the book, paid the extra postage to have them delivered on time, and then desperately waited for them to show up in the mail. They arrived on Christmas Eve. I had ordered two proof copies as Christmas gifts for two special people: my wife and my mother.

One of the Christmas traditions my wife and I have developed over the course of our 17 years of marriage is that we each get a book in our Christmas stocking. Unfortunately, it is also tradition that we look in our stocking after the kids have opened all their presents. It was hard to wait for my wife to get into her stocking and at first she didn’t realize that she was looking at my book, the book that I had written. When she finally realized what she was looking at, she let out a shout and threw her arms around me in a huge hug. I then had to explain everything to her about Createspace and getting my book self-published (I obviously hadn’t told her about it yet).

When it was time to head over to my parent’s house for Christmas dinner, I was bouncing in anticipation. I could barely wait to give my mom her present. Although it was obvious that she wasn’t feeling very well that Christmas day (the chemo treatments were taking their toll), the look of pure joy that broke across her face when she torn the wrapping paper off her present and saw my name on the book in her hand is one that I will member and cherish for the rest of my life.

Although the struggle has been hard, I am happy to say that my mother is still with us today and although I won’t be presenting her with another one of my books this Christmas, she has witnessed the publication of my second novel The M-16 Agenda and my newest release Musings of a Particular Bear: A Poetry Collection.

This is why when friends and fellow readers ask me why I decided to self-publish, I usually smile, and say, “My mom made me do it.”

 

 

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I write fiction and I love it. In the spring, when I began writing Come the Shadows, all that pounded in my head was “I want to write books and I want people to read them.”

The statement still rings true but only now am I really understanding what comes in the middle of two simple desires and there’s a LOT of middle.

A huge

Gaping

Cavernous

Canyon

Of a middle.

Writing a book and suddenly having thousands of people read it would be the literary equivalent of winning the lottery. It doesn’t never happen but it’s so close to never that it might as well be never.

The main problem is that my existing sphere of social influence does not a reader pool make, which is true for any new author. I have to grow that sphere to grow my reader and fan base and that’s where that Grand Canyon comes in. It must be filled.

There are lots of ways to do that. I could fork over money (which I don’t have) for PR and ads. I would probably get lots of short term sales and maybe even make my money back. But the reader to fan ratio may or may not pan out and fans are the ones who keep coming back.

I can do interviews, but how many times do people want to hear me answer questions about what my books is about, my writing process, or my upcoming work? They are good to do, but they cannot be all an author does to reach out to fans. It’s just gets boring for the reader too easily if that’s all you’re putting out there.

Self-published authors have to rely heavily on modern social media and one of the core staples of that is blogging. Blogging is like grown-up tweeting. You’re forced to have a real conversation about something. Sometimes it’s easy and sometimes it’s hard but it always helps the author and reader connect over an idea. I would call it a virtual “let’s get a cup of coffee and chat”. I’m not sure why I call it that, since I don’t even like coffee, but it has the same ideas of sharing knowledge and companionship. It’s less preachy than an essay (dinner speaker) but more formal than a tweet or Facebook thread which is often the equivalent of crashing on someone’s couch in your PJs.

Some blog on their own, and some blog for others. Authors frequently do guest blog posts, which is an area I’m just starting to explore. I’ve done a few interviews already and my guest posts will soon start appearing. I’m exited to reach readers in new ways but I also must admit that I’m struggling with it.

Why? It’s just writing, you say. I have written two full books and another one that’s a nearly complete first draft plus countless other articles, poems, songs, scripts, and so forth. This should be cake, right?

No.

The difference is that all my fiction, articles, etc, are focused outward. I write about other people’s flaws, emotions, and lives. Now I’m delving into a whole new arena where all the attention is focused on me and that’s a bit strange for this Lone Writer Girl. If I could, I would write books and shove them out the door of my little writer’s closet. Then I would immediately start on the next one. It’s not that I don’t want to connect with people or (God forbid) think that anyone out there is less important than me – quite the opposite in fact – but putting the attention on me is so viscerally opposed to my nature that it is almost frightening at times.

What I lack in extraversion I make up for in spades with determination, however. If I can write fiction that is enjoyable, surely I can do this too. While these types of writing are agonizing in their differences to someone like me, they have one thing in common: the readers. Most readers want to know more about the person behind the words and guest posts give important insight into the mind behind work. So, while I groan and strain against my desire to return to my little cave I will remember that, and keep pushing myself forward on this incredible and rewarding journey and with each new guest post I intend to grow as a writer and author AND to further connect me with my readers.

In light of this I have started two new pages at the top:

The Interviews

Guest Posts

Keep checking back in the next few weeks – both pages will grow!

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I’ve wanted to be a published writer for a long time but, like many authors, could not get past the idea of pouring out this big, time-consuming project only to have it rejected over and over by agents.

Then one day my husband saw some links on successful self-publishers. That is what you need to do! he said.

I read. I waffled. I read some more. J.A. Konrath, Barry Eisler, Amanda Hocking, and John Locke are the poster children with a lot to say on the topic.

The guys are all “we’re awesome!” while Amanda Hocking tries to bring in a dose of realism but all people see is the notoriety and, of course, the money.

She also mentions one very important nugget that was a huge factor in her success:

Book Bloggers

I caught that and thought, “ah-ha!”

But it’s not so simple.

There are more book bloggers than decoys  in a Where’s Waldo picture and they are (rightfully) selective. They favor certain genres. Some take reader files while some only take print. Some will accept self-published work and others won’t. Some are eager for reviews and others make it clear you will face trial by fire before you get a review from them.

I don’t fault them for any of that even while I find it frustrating. I cannot imagine how inundated even the little guys and gals are with review requests.

As an author, I quickly start to wonder, though…… how different is this than going the round with agent queries? That is such a daunting path, full of rejection and heavy criticism. But are reviewers different?

On the criticism front – quite a few won’t publish less than medium-grade reviews, which I appreciate.

But when it comes to power – wow – do they hold it! Reviews can make or break a book, and an author. They are gatekeepers, withholding or granting entry rights into the competition for readers. If no one reviews your book, your footprint is tiny. Main-stream publications won’t touch a self-published book. It’s the indie bloggers, who do it for the love of reading, that hold immense leverage over this fast-developing arena.

Each time I send an email to a book blogger I question if I made the right decision to self-publish. I enjoy it. I even had fun developing the cover. But is it the right career move? For some the answer is a resounding yes!

So, reviewers, every time I approach you….be nice? 🙂 So far I’ve only had a small percentage (2) even respond, which I understand I guess. (Would you rather read or answer emails? Yeah.)

For now I leave you all alone and go do what I love best: work on the next book!

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