Trout Fishing (or, if you prefer, self-publishing)

Featured

 

something stinksSylvia Plath said that “nothing stinks like a pile of unpublished writing.” You might say it’s a bit like a pile of smelly fish. Well, I’m holding my nose around my desk right now. I’ve been piling up the pages the last few years and (duck my head) have even self-published a couple of novels. They’re published, but it still stinks!

Admittedly, I’ve ventured on an agent’s doorstep only once, and that was before I’d finished my first novel. She said she didn’t think there was a market for what I’d written. So I trashed it and started over again. That stinks!

On Self-Publishing

On Self-Publishing

I’ve gotten caught up in the self-publishing venue now, or what I’ve recently decided is Trout Fishing. Actually, I thought the term appropriate. You see, I got the idea from Richard Brautigan. I’ve never met the man, but he was well-known for his novel, Trout Fishing in America, and used the term quite freely. Thus, I’ve decided that until my novels start to sell to the general public, I’m just Trout Fishing.

To be truthful, Trout Fishing offers a bit of satisfaction even if it is what 200some might call poaching, but, let’s face it, this is 2013, and in just the past week, there were more books published than in the entire year of 1950. Excuse me, but my line’s getting tangled up with someone else’s right now … .

Back to Richard Brautigan: In his day (1945-1984), he wondered if “what we are publishing now is worth cutting down trees to make paper for the stuff.” And he was talking about the stuff written fifty years ago. He didn’t have a clue about the twenty-first century and self-publishing … uh, I mean Trout FishingJust think, though, he wouldn’t have to worry about the trees. We have Kindle.

The truth is I really do love writing, but I don’t care much for marketing … it just takes up way too much time. Believe me, I have better things to do (I won’t bore you with the details), but my days are full enough without all the social media.

friends_booksale_logo

However, if you’ve read this far, you might want to take the time to check out my books on Amazon and/or Barnes & Noble. You might even want to read through the reviews.

Dancing Naked in the Rain is Vol. I of The Beryl Stone Series.

Stars Walking Backward is Vol. 2.

Voices in the Dark, Vol. 3, is still swimming around in my head. Actually, I have completed about one-third of it, so you have time to read the other two before I start Trout Fishing again. Hey, what’s a person to do?

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=theresa%20cavender&sprefix=there%2Caps&rh=i%3Aaps%2Ck%3Atheresa%20cavender

 

http://www.mediabistro.com/appnewser/more-books-published-this-week-than-in-1950_b19683

Teach Them to Think for Themselves

MP900398745How many times have I heard a student ask the question: “So why do I need to study all of this literature? What good is it going to do me?”

Whether you’re a parent or a teacher, it’s important to answer  with something other than “You want to be well-rounded, don’t you?” Or “Everyone should know about Chaucer, Shakespeare, Bronte… .” The list is endless, isn’t it?. I juggled all sorts of answers before coming to one satisfying me as well as most of the students.

I read a story once about Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley who was searching for a school for her son, and she asked the advice of a lady who was quite known for a “sort of banality” when it came to advice. The lady told her to “send him somewhere where they will teach him to think for himself.” Mary Shelley retorted, “Oh, my God, teach him rather to think like other people!”

And, you know what? It’s quite beneficial to know what others think. Knowledge of great minds is critical in any setting and should certainly be part of education. However, when you combine that to methods of encouraging students to come to their own conclusions, a major step is taken to accelerate the students ability to develop critical thinking skills beyond simple recall.

In the literature classroom, educators should lead the students in the art of critical thinking. Yes, critical thinking is an art, a process that doesn’t come about haphazardly.

Critical thinking is:

  • the expression of more than ordinary significance
  • a skilled performance of workmanship
  • a craft of studied action

Critical thinking skills are:

  • comprehension (understanding of facts /knowledge)
  • application (transfer of learning)
  • synthesis (assembling, combining and integrating relevant information/manipulation)
  • evaluation (the student’s plausible and significant explanation of integrated knowledge)
  • analysis (recognition of emerging patterns in different aspects of literature)

Getting started:

  • choose literature appropriate for student level
  • assign reading
  • discussion (be as informal as you dare, even sitting on the floor in a circle facing each other; with your guidance, let the students lead in a well-orchestrated fashion: let them hear what other students are thinking while you continually question  why and how they reason as they do; make them prove their reasoning with supporting evidence from the text)
  • follow up (additional material/thoughts not covered)

To me, the key is to allow students to freely express their ideas. Eventually, through the educator’s guidance, students will learn that they can’t be willy-nilly in their discussion. Eventually, all students will learn to value not only their own ideas, but also those of others. They’ll realize that why can’t just be because I think so… .

 

 

 

 

 

On Keeping My Mouth Shut

“The author should keep his mouth shut when his work begins to speak.” (Nietzsche)

mouthshutI don’t agree with Nietzsche on everything, but the above quote caught my eye a few days ago. I’d been working on my third novel, Voices in the Dark, and, without hesitation, I stood right up on my soapbox and delivered a sermon.(Don’t worry. It was very short.) At the time, I thought, This is a bit preachy. Might need to take it out. Instead, I kept on writing. Later that day, I came across Nietzsche’s quote.

And that got me to thinking about my days as a classroom teacher when I finally learned to put the textbook-type teacher plans behind me and to listen to my students. It had taken me a while, but I finally learned that telling the students what they were supposed to think and know, just didn’t work for me. It was much more effective for them to find out on their own, with a little assistance from me, of course. Kind of like life.        Hamlet-and-skull-on-stamp

What fun it was to sit in a circle with everyone and listen to their voices–their ideas. No doubt the students found their peers’ thoughts on Hamlet’s dilemma much more interesting to follow than words constantly falling from my mouth. The results of such interaction–or is it a lack of (on my part)–was unbelievably relevant and productive. Of course, it goes without saying that I kept a checklist of points for consideration at my fingertips–you know, just in case they missed something. And, usually, they did, but it was good I still had a reason for being there. They needed me to keep them on track, to call on the shy ones, and to pass around cookies.

Back to my novel:

Megan, the main character, is talking to her husband, Jake, about how society often views and reacts to others who are “different.” Referring to the main character played by Kevin Costner in the movie, Dances With Wolves, she says:

“Well, after all he goes through, Dances With Wolves, has a better understanding of human nature. You know, seeing the other side of the so-called savages. I don’t know. It’s something like separating the physical human being from his nature. We’re all human. Basically the same. But our nature is so individual, so much a result of our environment. And the two butt heads continually. Mankind is so quick to judge based on what someone looks like, how they live, where they live. It’s too bad we can’t all understand what’s really true.”

The last two sentences, especially the next to last, kind of jump out and grab the reader by the throat. I think that’s where I should zip it up.zipit

Keeping my mouth shut–to an extent– works in the classroom (if you want a thinking classroom)–as I’m sure it works in a business when the boss is trying to get fresh ideas. And, in fiction, as a rule of thumb, I think Nietzsche was right.It’s a simple thing, but we can think for ourselves. Or, at least, we should.

I can think of another place in life where I’m learning to keep my mouth shut, but that’s a bit of another story.

Would love to have feedback. What do you think?

 

On Becoming a Writer

“For god’s sake, don’t do it unless you have to…It’s not easy. It shouldn’t be easy, but it shouldn’t be impossible, and it’s damn near impossible.”

I don’t know about you, but the above quote by Frank Conroy expresses thoughts that run through my head all the time.  Yesterday, I woke up ready to hit the keypad when I remembered I had a dentist appointment. Damn! And I was so pumped, so ready to put another chapter or two behind me. You might think, “So what! Go home and write.”

Well, I would have liked that, but then I remembered there were a number of errands to be run. It was lunch time when I started those, and by two o’clock I rushed home. Maybe now.

Woman-Stressed-Pulling-Hair-OutBut it didn’t happen. I stopped at the frig. I was starving and feeling mighty weak. I bypassed the sandwich and ate a few crackers and cheese so I could get on with my calling–you know, that little voice in your head that says, “Write! Write, you idiot! Quit finding excuses!”

I rushed to the computer, checked my email, tweeter, facebook–read, respond, delete, delete, delete– and it was three o’clock. At that moment, my husband walked in from playing golf and asked if I would like to watch a movie with him. “Maybe later,” I said. “Got to write.”

At five o’clock I was still messing with my blog, and I hadn’t even opened the file on my third book, Voices in the Dark. “Geez, writing is impossible!” Now it’s supper time. And after supper. Well, nothing’s going to pry me from cuddling in front of the TV with my hubby. Maybe tomorrow.

Dancing Naked in the Rain: Questions for Book Clubs

 

My "5" Year Extravaganza

2010 Romance Winner

1. The title of Dancing Naked in the Rain conveys a great deal of meaning for the book. When you first saw the title, what did you think? As you began reading the book, when did your first impression change? When you finished reading the book, what meaning did the title have for Megan? For Jake?

2. Thomas Hardy said that “while many things are too strange to be believed, nothing is too strange to have happened.” Explain how this idea relates to Megan. What do you think the author’s message is for the reader?

3. Describe Megan’s personality as the story begins. Which events have the biggest impact on her as she struggles to free Jake from his curse? How is she changed? Which events help to reveal Megan’s confidence? Her lack of confidence?

4. At the heart of this book is Megan’s struggle to save her love and her life. What happens that causes her to realize that she must take the situation into her own hands to win her struggle? What is the author’s message to the reader?

5. In Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Act IV, Brutus says, “There is a tide in the affairs of men. Which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries.” Could this idea be applied to Megan’s situation? How does it apply to life in general?

6. What does Megan’s dream of riding on the horse have in common with the tale of Tam Lin? How do they serve as a parallel to Megan’s relationship with Jake?

7. Although Jake’s character is seen through the eyes of Megan, he is a complex character. How does the author reveal him in such depth?

8. At the end of the story, Megan finally returns the stone to the Abby. What do you think her thoughts might have been as she returns to the farm?

9. Love is a powerful theme in Dancing Naked in the Rain. In the beginning, love seems instinctual to both Megan and Jake. As the story progresses, love becomes more complex. Although Jake is haunted by a curse that affects Megan and places her “under his power,” so to speak, how do these variations reflect on the nature of love? Of what is Megan’s struggle symbolic?

 

 

Writers: Dare to Be Unhappy

happy-unhappy

Each time I sit down to write, my heart begins this obnoxious thumping, seeming to warn me that I’m about to do something risky. You would think I had an appointment for my yearly exam, the old ‘put your feet in the stirrups’ and stare at the ceiling while the doctor gropes around for something neither one of us is expecting or desiring. Fortunately she doesn’t often discover anything. But when I sit in front of the computer with pounding heart and labored breathing, discovering something is exactly what I’m afraid isn’t going to happen.

Writing should be fun–and it is to an extent. Especially when you finally finish the novel you’ve struggled with for months or, perhaps, years. At least, for a while, but then you’ve got to sweat out wondering if anyone will even notice. (Excuse me, I’ve got to get on-line and check out my sales for the umpteenth time today.) Nope. Damn!

I guess you’ve guessed that I’m not always happy when I’m writing. Ironically, I’m even more unhappy when I’m not. Oh, I may be dancing wildly with anyone who’s brave enough to share the floor with me or clapping and cheering without any modesty for my grandson as he bows after his piano concerto or even rolling raucously around on the floor with my daughter-in-law’s Shih Tzu, Nala. From all appearances I have a perfectly joyful life. However, there’s always a tiny voice in my head that keeps repeating, “You should be writing … you should be writing …you should be writing.

I  feel quite confident in my feelings. After all, the incomparable Ben Jonson said, “Who casts to write a living line, must sweat.” More simply: Writing’s work. “Let’s face it, writing is hell” (William Styron) or “It’s a nauseous process” (Rebecca West). However, I must admit that once the juices start flowing, my heart beat slows and my breath comes more easily.

Yesterday I finally sat down again to work on my third novel, Voices in the Dark. It’s the third in the trilogy, The Beryl Stone Series. Getting started wasn’t easy. From 9 a.m. to 11:30, I had to reread what I’d written, make notes, etc.–after all, it had been three weeks since I’d sat down to write. At 11:30 I escaped to the rec center to clear my head and, then, began to make headway in the afternoon. I’m happy I managed to write a bit over 1000 words in that time, but unhappy because it took me so long to begin. And there’s the fact that I can’t write again until this afternoon as my morning is jammed with the paraphernalia of life. I should be writing … I should be writing … I should be writing.

I think I’ve “simply got the instinct for being unhappy highly developed.”

Dancing Naked in the Rain Reviews

My "5" Year Extravaganza

My “5″ Year Extravaganza

-Readers Reviews—–

“A teacher and a traveler, Theresa Cavender brings a lifetime of experiences to this tender tale of a love strong enough to overcome an ancient curse dividing two haunted hearts.”

“I didn’t want to put it down.”

“I just finished the book.  It was bewitching!  I just couldn’t put it down once I got going. Your imagination is amazing.  Will there be a sequel?”

“Wanted to let you know I really enjoyed the book. It’s one of those books that I’d complain about if it was turned into a movie. I have very strong visuals of the country farm, the characters, the cairn, etc. Funny, we’ve been wanting to head to Scotland for the golf history, but now I know I’ll have something to do, too. Also, from the very beginning, I could tell something wasn’t quite “right” with how drawn Megan was to Jake, but you didn’t give it all away. I kept thinking I was imagining it, very cool.”

”Mom just finished your book and said it was fabulous.  I’m next!!  Congratulations.  I had no idea.”

“I just wanted to tell you that I finished your book.  I enjoyed it a lot.  I must say, it’s very well written and it makes me realize just how difficult it must be to write a decent book!  My hat is off to you.”

“Thank you so much for visiting and sharing your newest creation. I took it home Thursday night and finished over half of it and have NOT been able to get back to it’s…grrrrt…I’m getting ready to put on my jams and finish. IT’S GOOD!  VERY, VERY GOOD! You’re word pictures are amazing and you have a story that keeps me engaged with characters I really like. You fleshed them out, and made me care about what happens….I am soooooooo trying not to read ahead. (yes, I know…it’s a bad habit of mine)”

”I received 5 emails from staff saying how much they enjoyed your Thursday visit. I really think our staff needed this time to share and make community and…serendipity…you were the catalyst! After many of us finish reading, please promise to stop by for a visit. It will be a great post read time with the author. Congratulations to you Theresa! I look forward to more published success!”

”I finished this book almost overnight. Loved it! I’m ready to book a trip to Scotland! Beautiful love story, and without giving toooooo much away…I really enjoyed the supernatural twist that added intrigue. Characters had breadth and depth and I hope there are more books to come. This author knows how to tell and write a good story. Very well written and just enough description to let you get to know the characters and want to meet them again.”

“Finished the book, loved the book!! Imma gonna dance naked next time it rains!!”

“Theresa Cavender’s characters are endearing, her prose so natural it seems you are witnessing the story rather than reading about it. If you have a large imagination you will find yourself completely entranced with the Scottish folklore this story is created on. If you have a small imagination you will find yourself caught up with the characters and their romantic endeavors. This romantic fiction story is beautifully written and a very enjoyable read.”

“‘Dancing Naked in the Rain’ is a wonderful love story with an unexpected twist. I truly enjoyed this novel. The author’s writing submersed me in the story and made me feel like I was a part of it. I feel like I have traveled and seen the beauty of Scotland. A very well written and fun read!”

“I ordered this book, with some trepidation, because a friend recommended it. I loved it! I took the book to Costa Rica and really enjoyed reading it. The characters are well developed. There is intrigue, a good amount of mystery and some magic too. It is well written with some limited but thoughtful references to classic literature, and if you know Jungian archetypes— reflects some classic concepts. It can be read and embraced on many levels. But you don’t need to know any of this to enjoy the book. I have already passed it on to a friend.”

“I heard about this book through a friend, and when I had the chance to read it I couldn’t put it down. I was extremely impressed with the author’s ability to make me feel like I knew Megan, and hoped she would overcome the tragedy that faced her. The writing style is absolutely beautiful! A true author!”

“Megan and Jake’s story is very compelling. I really had to find out what happened to them, and I enjoyed their Scottish love story. I was hooked by the adventure that Megan faced when she left the ordinary world of her classroom to move across the world to Scotland to have a different life. Becoming involved with a handsome hunk who’d been cursed was icing on the cake! You’ll want to jump into Dancing Naked in the Rain” and experience this wonderful story for yourself.”

“Dancing Naked in the Rain is a wonderful love story in which you become involved with the characters as the plot unfolds. It is written in a way that as you read the words, your mind can visually explore the setting. There are twists and turns that make the reader want to continue the book to see what will happen next. I highly recommend this book to others.”

I thoroughly enjoyed it!  It was a good read.  Do you have another on the back burner?

Review Links:

Austin Writing Examiner
http://www.examiner.com/examiner/x-19445-Austin-Writing-Examiner~y2010m4d30-Austin-Area-Author-talks-about-Dancing-Naked-in-the-Rain 

Video Links:

YouTube:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ANwILz9NeQs&feature=youtube_gdata

Yahoo:
http://video.yahoo.com/watch/7044829/18326479

MySpace:
http://vids.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=vids.individual&videoid=103221026

MetaCafe:
http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4222483/

DailyMotion:
http://www.dailymotion.com/video/20768744

Veoh:
http://www.veoh.com/videos/v19857325rKMDE3f8

 

 

 

My "5" Year Extravaganza

My “5″ Year Extravaganza

Anxieties and Desires & Then Some: Writing Advice

instead-of-writing-down-your-next-idea-draw-itI’ve been asked several times how I came up with all of the ideas for Dancing Naked in the Rain.  At first I said that a walk through a Celtic graveyard in Scotland gave me the basic idea–but, when I really think about it, I realize that’s not entirely true. That experience eventually became the nucleus for the setting, but, to be honest, I believe it’s a combination of forces that catapults the basis for most writing.

Iris Murdoch, an Irish-born British author and philosopher, best known for her novels about good and evil, sexual relationships, morality, and the power of the unconscious, says that “Any writer is inevitably going to work with his own anxieties and desires. If the book is any good, it has got to have in it the fire of a personal unconscious mind.” And I definitely agree.

Writing Advice Tip #1: Combining Desire/Experience

Both of my novels, Dancing Naked in the Rain and Stars Walking Backward,  grew out of a number of my own desires and anxieties. First of all, and, most obviously, my desire to write sneaked its way into the life of my main character, Megan McEller. At the beginning of the novel, she resigns her job as a teacher and takes off to Scotland to begin her life as a travel writer. Well, I didn’t resign my job as a teacher. However, as soon as I retired, I began writing, got stuck, took a trip to Scotland, and was fortunate enough to visit the very farm where I knew my story would begin.

However, this is where desire ends and experience moves in. As soon as we began the tour of a five-hundred-year-old farmhouse, my mind began spiraling. Everything I looked at, the big, cold rooms, the fireplace, the old wooden table in the kitchen, and even the pictures on the wall began to take on new life in my mind. I knew immediately that the setting for my story had begun to take shape. A desire to travel may have led me to Scotland, but the experience itself was a major influence in my story.

Writing Advice Tip #2: Combining Sexual Desire/Experience/Imagination

Sexual relationships? Yep. We all have those–and what would a good romance novel be without them? Or, for that matter, what would ordinary life be? No one ever asked me about that, but, one reader said she figured I had a wild affair while visiting Scotland. “It was just too realistic,” she said. I was flattered. That’s what I call good writing and imagination. Strangely enough, some of the male readers asked my husband about the love scenes. He just laughed and said, “I taught her everything she knows.” Good answer.

Writing Advice Tip #3: Combining Morality Anxiety/Experience-Imagination

Morality. This one’s the onus for most anyone. I don’t care who you are or what you do, morality’s going to poke its head in from time to time.  And it certainly does for Megan. She fights hard to do the right thing, and stumbles once in a while. Nothing serious, mind you, but enough to keep her scurrying between her seemingly unobtainable goal and the temptation that almost, at times, seems the easiest solution to her problems.

Writing Advice Tip #4: Good and Evil Anxiety/Unconscious Mind

Just as Murdoch says, and we probably already knew, Good and Evil are also major players in our stories. Where did they come from for me? I’d have to say right out of a Celtic graveyard. I’m serious. Well, maybe that’s part of my personal unconscious mind, I don’t know, but the tour bus almost left without me. I was too busy playing with the spirits that were swirling around me. Fortunately, I didn’t get caught up with any of the evil ones, even though I’m sure they were there. I’ve left that to Megan.

When it comes to the Unconscious Mind, I have to say, it’s a wonder. If it hadn’t been for the slippery edges that worked their way passed my conscious into my stories, the entire experience wouldn’t have been fun or interesting. I say, ”Sit back and let the unconscious mind rule.” It’s not easy, but it can be done if you’re willing.

We all have desire and anxiety, but if we’re going to be successful as the fiction writer, we’re going to need a heavy dose of imagination, and, at least, some basic experience. So sit back and relax. You’ve got it in you. You’ve just got to ignite that imagination and let the sparks fly. Happy writing!

——–

Are my first two novels good? Absolutely! Dancing Naked in the Rain won an Editor’s Choice Award AND a FIRST PLACE WIN in the 2010 Indie Book Awards Contest, Romance Division. And, my editor says Stars Walking Backward is even better.  I think that Iris Murdoch would like them. There’s definitely fire within the pages. I guarantee you that.

KEEP READING TO SEE WHAT OTHERS HAVE SAID ABOUT DANCING NAKED IN THE RAIN.

-Readers Reviews—–

“A teacher and a traveler, Theresa Cavender brings a lifetime of experiences to this tender tale of a love strong enough to overcome an ancient curse dividing two haunted hearts.”

“I didn’t want to put it down.”

“I just finished the book.  It was bewitching!  I just couldn’t put it down once I got going. Your imagination is amazing.  Will there be a sequel?”

“Wanted to let you know I really enjoyed the book. It’s one of those books that I’d complain about if it was turned into a movie. I have very strong visuals of the country farm, the characters, the cairn, etc. Funny, we’ve been wanting to head to Scotland for the golf history, but now I know I’ll have something to do, too. Also, from the very beginning, I could tell something wasn’t quite “right” with how drawn Megan was to Jake, but you didn’t give it all away. I kept thinking I was imagining it, very cool.”

”Mom just finished your book and said it was fabulous.  I’m next!!  Congratulations.  I had no idea.”

“I just wanted to tell you that I finished your book.  I enjoyed it a lot.  I must say, it’s very well written and it makes me realize just how difficult it must be to write a decent book!  My hat is off to you.”

“Thank you so much for visiting and sharing your newest creation. I took it home Thursday night and finished over half of it and have NOT been able to get back to it’s…grrrrt…I’m getting ready to put on my jams and finish. IT’S GOOD!  VERY, VERY GOOD! You’re word pictures are amazing and you have a story that keeps me engaged with characters I really like. You fleshed them out, and made me care about what happens….I am soooooooo trying not to read ahead. (yes, I know…it’s a bad habit of mine)”

”I received 5 emails from staff saying how much they enjoyed your Thursday visit. I really think our staff needed this time to share and make community and…serendipity…you were the catalyst! After many of us finish reading, please promise to stop by for a visit. It will be a great post read time with the author. Congratulations to you Theresa! I look forward to more published success!”

”I finished this book almost overnight. Loved it! I’m ready to book a trip to Scotland! Beautiful love story, and without giving toooooo much away…I really enjoyed the supernatural twist that added intrigue. Characters had breadth and depth and I hope there are more books to come. This author knows how to tell and write a good story. Very well written and just enough description to let you get to know the characters and want to meet them again.”

“Finished the book, loved the book!! Imma gonna dance naked next time it rains!!”

“Theresa Cavender’s characters are endearing, her prose so natural it seems you are witnessing the story rather than reading about it. If you have a large imagination you will find yourself completely entranced with the Scottish folklore this story is created on. If you have a small imagination you will find yourself caught up with the characters and their romantic endeavors. This romantic fiction story is beautifully written and a very enjoyable read.”

“‘Dancing Naked in the Rain’ is a wonderful love story with an unexpected twist. I truly enjoyed this novel. The author’s writing submersed me in the story and made me feel like I was a part of it. I feel like I have traveled and seen the beauty of Scotland. A very well written and fun read!”

“I ordered this book, with some trepidation, because a friend recommended it. I loved it! I took the book to Costa Rica and really enjoyed reading it. The characters are well developed. There is intrigue, a good amount of mystery and some magic too. It is well written with some limited but thoughtful references to classic literature, and if you know Jungian archetypes— reflects some classic concepts. It can be read and embraced on many levels. But you don’t need to know any of this to enjoy the book. I have already passed it on to a friend.”

“I heard about this book through a friend, and when I had the chance to read it I couldn’t put it down. I was extremely impressed with the author’s ability to make me feel like I knew Megan, and hoped she would overcome the tragedy that faced her. The writing style is absolutely beautiful! A true author!”

“Megan and Jake’s story is very compelling. I really had to find out what happened to them, and I enjoyed their Scottish love story. I was hooked by the adventure that Megan faced when she left the ordinary world of her classroom to move across the world to Scotland to have a different life. Becoming involved with a handsome hunk who’d been cursed was icing on the cake! You’ll want to jump into Dancing Naked in the Rain” and experience this wonderful story for yourself.”

“Dancing Naked in the Rain is a wonderful love story in which you become involved with the characters as the plot unfolds. It is written in a way that as you read the words, your mind can visually explore the setting. There are twists and turns that make the reader want to continue the book to see what will happen next. I highly recommend this book to others.”

I thoroughly enjoyed it!  It was a good read.  Do you have another on the back burner?

Review Links:

Austin Writing Examiner
http://www.examiner.com/examiner/x-19445-Austin-Writing-Examiner~y2010m4d30-Austin-Area-Author-talks-about-Dancing-Naked-in-the-Rain 

Video Links:

YouTube:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ANwILz9NeQs&feature=youtube_gdata

Yahoo:
http://video.yahoo.com/watch/7044829/18326479

MySpace:
http://vids.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=vids.individual&videoid=103221026

MetaCafe:
http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4222483/

DailyMotion:
http://www.dailymotion.com/video/20768744

Veoh:
http://www.veoh.com/videos/v19857325rKMDE3f8

 

 

 

 

Finding My Voice

MP900398789I must admit, I’ve always been drawn to an author’s style of writing as much as the story. Maybe that comes from years of teaching literature, maybe not. Maybe it’s just the way my mind wraps around the text.

To me, style’s not something you can force and get away with. I know, I’ve tried. And I’m not referring to formal and informal. It’s more than that. I think it’s something that just is but takes time, effort, and patience to fully develop. Sometimes, you have to dig for it. It’s like voice. Have you ever loved a particular character because of how she “sounds” on the page? That’s her voice. which, of course, is a reflection of the author’s own. And what I really enjoy is a voice that lights up the page. And, for me, that’s part of style.

How do we find our voice?

What works for me is to start with an individual, that is, a particular character. I have to become that character–get under her skin and find out who she really is. Truthfully, I don’t know in the beginning, but, gradually, after I’ve dug around for a bit, she reveals herself to me. When I attempt to begin with a particular type, I usually end up with an empty vessel.

Obviously, we as authors must find our own voice, and it’s not always an easy thing. Again, I know because of my classroom experience with my students. Whether we were in the process of writing the critical essay or our own personal stories or essays, finding voice was one of the most difficult tasks. It certainly wasn’t dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s.

Why is that?

What I’ve discovered is that the writer has to actually let go and let flow. And I’m not saying forget all rules of good writing. Granted, there may be some who really don’t care if you know anything about mechanics and grammar, but I dare say that the majority do. No, what I mean by let go and let flow, is to listen to who you are or to who your character is. Don’t try to mimic someone else’s voice, which I’ve tried (I love Wallace Stevens, and he was my model in my early attempts at writing fiction. It didn’t work, by the way).

It took me awhile to figure out how I, personally, could translate myself onto the page as a fiction writer with my individual style. One method that worked for me in the beginning was to get all comfy in an easy chair with my laptop, close my eyes, and visualize myself as the character in my story. I even spoke her words, cried, and screamed when necessary so I could actually feel as though I were in her shoes (this is actually true–I know it’s strange).

In Dancing Naked in the Rain, Megan, the main character, began as a character who wanted to be a full-time writer, sort of like me at the time–teacher/part-time writer, so I didn’t have any idea how she was going to develop, but I did my darndest to live within her as I wrote, sharing her time with Jake, her lover (oh, yeah), walking with her through the Celtic graveyard (I’d really been there when I traveled to Scotland, so that helped), and walking out on those “limbs of daring” with her, trying my best to share in her fear. I took what I knew about the cairn and made it hers. Believe me, her experience developed into so much more than my own. She wanted Jake so badly that she was willing to risk her life to be with him. (See my blog Drinking Water.)

Now, I know, you might be thinking that this lady has style and voice all mixed up, but you know what? They are mixed up. As I said early on, I’m not speaking about grammar and mechanics, although those two bug-a-boos can and do play into style and voice. Maybe Cyril Connolly says it best: “An author arrives at a good style when his language performs what is required of it without shyness.” And it’s that shyness that kept me and others I know from finding our voices as easily as we wanted.

It was while reading such writers as Shakespeare, Dickens, Steinbeck, Faulkner, Wilde,  and many others, that I realized why I enjoyed them so much. It wasn’t what they said as much as it was how they said it. It’s choosing the right word and knowing how to use it–which takes practice.

And I guess that’s what I’m trying to do as a writer–find my voice. I’ve had to search around inside myself for quite a time. It hasn’t been easy. And I know I’m not there yet. I hope to keep getting stronger each time I sit down. I’ve always loved change, and I’d be disappointed if I didn’t.

 

Writing Thinks for Me

MM900046559Writing the third book of my trilogy, The Beryl Stone Trilogy, has been an experience quite opposite from the first two. Dancing Naked in the Rain and Stars Walking Backward were an experiment of the unknown. All I really knew was that the main character, Megan, was a part of me. She personified that missing piece in my life that was clawing desperately to be seen–not particularly for anyone else, but for me.

Strange as it may sound, I didn’t know myself. Hidden deep within were little pieces of a puzzle that hadn’t found their place in the big picture. This isn’t unique. I think there are a lot of people who have been scurried into a life and then live it bravely. I’m also aware that many rebel and fight furiously to replace the missing pieces.

Writing showed me who I wish I’d been all my life–someone willing to take chances (without fear–well, maybe a little, but not the kind that stops you dead in your tracks and shoves a dream away to a place hard to reach). I’m not talking about dare devil stuff–don’t care to be Evel Knievel or Harry Houdini.

In Dancing Naked in the RainMegan puts down her chalk (yes, she’s a teacher just as I have been) and dares to attempt her dream. (Hence, the title, daring to do something a bit out of the ordinary.) Aww, rather slobbery, I know. But I think you’d probably agree: when we look back on our lives, we realize that there are things we wished we’d done.  I always wanted to write. Of course, there’s a difference, I don’t think I even knew how much until I began Megan’s adventure. See, I told you I didn’t know myself.

In Dancing Naked, Megan’s off to Scotland, writing her way across the Highlands, when she meets a man and circumstances that make her dig deeper within herself than she knew possible. She finds she must be not only a lover, but a detective, an explorer, and, yes, even a bit of Knievel. (When you’re dealing with the underworld, you either tuck your tail and run or brazenly attack the unknown.)

My apologies to Shakespeare, but Why didst thou promise such a beauteous day,/ And make me travel forth without my cloak/To let base clouds o’ertake me in my way,/Hiding thy bravery in their rotten smoke? Yes, I’ll blame it on the smoke, all those excuses that hamper the way.

In Stars Walking Backward, the second of the series, Megan’s tested again. Just at the point in life when she is ready to settle in to enjoy her dream, her stars begin taking steps in the wrong direction. So, she’s off again on another adventure, and this time she’s without not only her cloak, but also without her wizard. Whoops! Did I say wizard? Well, he’s not really, but he’s something like that. Guess I shouldn’t have told you that.  After all, I  don’t want to spoil it for you. However, I will give you a hint. He’s really there. She just can’t always see him.

Now I’m working on the last of the trilogy. I’ve entitled it Voices in the Dark. And, again, there’s a valid reason for that. You see, Megan has been curious about her Irish ancestors for some time, and she feels that since she is living in Scotland, searching for information on her ancestors would be most timely and convenient.

I had a heck of a time figuring out how to let her do this and keep it interesting for the reader. I contemplated, mused, and talked about it obsessively with my husband before it came to me. Yes, it came to me after I’d read a non-fiction book that a gym friend suggested. It’s funny, after I read the book, I decided it hadn’t helped me at all, but it was right after that that my idea materialized (in my head, of course). The idea was nothing like the book, but somehow it led me to a wonderful idea. And, I am now letting those voices in the dark be heard.

I’m a bit resistant to reading other novels like mine. I just don’t want to be influenced by them. I figure if I don’t read them, I won’t have that problem–obviously. I know, I know, I hear all the time that I should read this author or that author. I just can’t do it. I know how it is. My sneaky little mind would wrap onto an idea and then convince me it was my own. I want it to be mine. Just mine.

As I continue to write, I learn about myself and, somehow,  I learn to think. Oh, my goodness, I’m hearing my teacher voice. How many times have my students and I sat and talked about a piece of literature? How many times have I steered the discussion to the why’s and the how’s of critical thinking? Many, many times. They learned and were better off for it. And now I’m learning.

 

“The Less You Write, the Better It Must Be” –Jules Renard

Image

Importance-of-Writing-in-Online-business

THE NOVEL THAT TOOK ME FIVE YEARS TO WRITE

Oh, Jules Renard, could that possibly be true for me because I seem to be writing less and less, especially now with Christmas approaching. After having read an article about how we writers should keep a log of our dreams, goals, time we spend writing, how many words we write per day, hour, week, and year, etc., etc., I just have to shrug it off. Writing 1500 words a day every day for a year while logging every minute will supposedly produce 5 plus novels. I can’t imagine in what condition such novels  would be, certainly not worth reading if I wrote them. So, who out there can write 5 novels a year and still be sane enough to brag about it on December 31st?

Maybe it’s just sour grapes. I finally finished my second manuscript, Stars Walking Backward, and it took me a year. Of course, I didn’t write every day. In fact, some weeks I didn’t even sit at the computer. I tend to work in the garden, clean house, wash and iron, dance naked in the rain, go on a trip,visit with friends, or whatever else strikes my fancy.  There’s this little place in my mind that says I’ll get to it tomorrow. Yet, when I write, I’m in heaven, wishing I’d do more of it.

So for now, I’m going to support Mr. Renard’s theory–the less you write, the better it must be.

 

 

You Can’t Blame the Character

MP900227797 

Truman Capote said that “you can’t blame a writer for what the characters say.” I must agree with that, at least that is what I would have myself to believe. When I began writing Dancing Naked in the Rain, I decided to just let the characters do and say what they wanted. Maybe it was a way of taking part in some behavior from which I’ve always shied away. Maybe I just wanted and needed to know what it was like to be a bit more daring. At any rate, I convinced myself to let Megan, the main character in my first novel, do and say anything that popped into her head (or was it my head?).

I discovered a lot of stuff about myself that I wouldn’t have possibly discovered had I not written Dancing Naked. That’s pretty tough to admit. Actually, now that I think of it, I’d do just about everything she did, that is if I had the nerve (she’s a gutsy lady).

John Cheever wrote that “the legend that characters run away from their authors—taking up drugs, having sex operations, and becoming president—implies that the writer is a fool with no knowledge or mastery of his craft. The idea of authors running around helplessly behind their cretinous invention is contemptible.”

Whoops!

 

Drinking Water

Characters Should Always Thirst

When I taught creative writing, I would tell the students to make their characters want something right away–even if it’s only a glass of water. Characters paralyzed by the meaninglessness of modern life still have to drink water from time to time.—Kurt Vonnegut

Even though Vonnegut coined those words, I didn’t hesitate to borrowed them for my own creative writing class. I have to say they worked. For my students, it gave them a place to start. If they didn’t already have a starting place for a story, all they had to do was dig into themselves a bit. No doubt, each of us has a desire for something more out of life than just the same-old-same-old. Right?

Today I’m trying to decide what my main character in my Trilogy, The Beryl Stone, wants in the third book of the series.

In the first novel, Dancing Naked in the Rain, which has been published, Megan leaves her teaching job and goes to Scotland to begin a new career in travel writing. Along the way she gets distracted and mesmerized by a handsome Scot–nothing new  here. However, she also gets caught up in a spell–a deadly love spell–with the handsome man, and the remainder of the novel involves otherworldly twists and turns that keep her wondering how she got herself into such a mess and how she’s going to get herself out.

The second of the series is still in manuscript form, but is finished. In it, well, I just can’t tell you that. But I will say that she is on one adventure after another throughout the entire story, and the suspense will bind you to the chair. Bear in mind, that this novel, Stars Walking Backwards, is also a love story. Actually, I don’t think I could write anything that wasn’t based on romance. That’s just the way I’m made.

Now, Megan still wants water–and something else. I’m not sure what it is at the moment and that’s why I’ve started this blog–to figure it out before I get started. Mind you, I’m not one of those authors who outlines the plot, takes copious notes, keeps a journal, a log, or what-have-you. You might say, much to my embarrassment, that I fly by the seat of my pants. Of course, that’s not entirely true. I do a lot of ground work before I begin, like dig in the garden or even travel to Scotland and other romantic places. Really!

I do know this: Megan has a strong desire–as I do–to know something more about her ancestors, and as dull as this sounds, I think I’m going to accept the challenge: how to make the story fun, suspenseful, and still romantic, even if it does deal with a lot of dead people.

I must end with this note: Megan is not paralyzed with the meaninglessness of modern life. Not by any means. She’s a young woman who is infatuated with her Scottish lover and with the mysteries of the underworld that continue to badger her. And she desires so much more than a drink of water–just as I do.

 

Starting With a Memory

Holding Glasses over BibleAs children we are reared on stories of faeries, superstition, and magic—all sorts of fantastical myths. Why? Because myths are important to our culture, our values, and our belief system. They’re simply resplendent with lessons of life. And I think you would agree that we don’t outgrow the need for them.

Picture yourself as a child, sitting on your parent’s lap, storybook in hand. Hmm, let’s say it’s the classical story “Pandora’s Box.” Colorful pictures show a gruesome Zeus handing over a box to Pandora with the strict warning “Do not open the box.” HA! Well, we know what she does—and, more importantly, why. It’s all about curiosity. She, of course, opens the box and releases all the miseries of the world. Can’t you just see them flying out of that forbidden box and onto the splendidly illustrated pages of the book? And even today this archaic myth has meaning in our own world—one that could stir up a bit of discussion, don’t you think?

Nietzsche, the controversial but well-known German philosopher, believed that all stories are myths. And it’s partially true. Think back to your school days … to your classroom. Remember your English teacher harassing you with questions: What is the meaning of this story? What is the significance of so-and-so’s actions? Why do you think the author uses this setting? Well, you know what I mean. And I know that as you read novels today, some of those same questions come to mind. Well, okay, at least some of the time.

With that said, I would like to share with you how my novel, Dancing Naked in the Rain, came to be written:

Many years ago (actually three), a lady who had always dreamed of becoming an author finally sat down to begin her first novel. And she wrote and wrote and wrote. She wrote 50,000 words (enough for a short novel). But she knew it wasn’t the book she wanted to write. So, she wrapped a rubber band around the stack of papers and threw it in a box in her closet.
Then she went on a trip to England’s Lake District and the Scottish Highland. She walked walled cities, explored Roman Amphitheatres, and marveled at 14th century wood carvings of dragons, kings, angels, human caricatures, and monsters. She walked 50 million-year-old valleys and lakebeds and reread Wordsworth’s “Daffodils” as she sat in his garden overlooking hundreds of the golden flowers “fluttering and dancing in the breeze.” She walked the bonnie banks of Loch Lomond and even peered into Loch Ness with the hopes of a glimpse of the monster. But what really caught her fancy? No, it wasn’t the Cairngorms or Pitlochry or Edinburgh or Inveraray Castle. It was an unscheduled stop in a Celtic graveyard.

‘Woven from the many centuries of decayed debris of fallen limbs, leaves, and sphagnum, the soft earth sank like a richly nubbed carpet under her feet. The woodsy scent wafted up to fill her nostrils, carried by the simultaneous disturbance from her physical presence and the wind’s sinuous movement. She breathed in deeply, delighting in the fragrance. The towering trees whipped above, casting flickers of sunlight and shadow. She spread her arms, leaning back, her face tilted towards the sky. She fancied something, maybe some spirit …’ –from Dancing Naked in the Rain.

Anyway, that experience filled her (that’s me) with ideas, ideas that would speed my novel’s protagonist on to an adventure of her own, one involving an unfulfilled dream.
So I returned home and pulled my manuscript out of the box. In the end, I axed 20,000 words and added 60,000 more, spinning my story out of the Scottish folktale “Tam Lin,” a story that should definitely be one of our own. In the tale of Tam Lin, a young laddie is stolen by the faeries, and a lassie, as luck would have it, decides to save him because she decides she must, yes, I say must have him. (You know how that story goes.) In the process, she suffers through many horrific trials. Sound familiar?

Amidst the struggles of the young lassie in “Tam Lin,” as with the struggles of Megan McEller, the heroine of Dancing Naked in the Rain, is a moral, a lesson to be learned—that anything worth having is worth fighting for. You can choose to ignore the lesson if you like. The story is still entertaining. If you choose to look deeper, you’ll find some questions on my web site to help you along the way.

I wish you the best. Hold on to your dreams and don’t let go—no matter how many monsters wag their heads.