Thursday, March 31, 2016

Writer's Block? Or is it distraction?

I, like many writers out there, have had my bouts with writer's block. But, so far, they have been infrequent. My real problem is all of the distractions that either derail my thought process or prevent me from writing altogether. So now, I'm beginning to question if I've actually suffered writers block at all.
Okay, to the Googles...

writer's block
1. the condition of being unable to think of what to write or how to proceed with writing.

1. a thing that prevents someone from giving full attention to something else. 

Ah, okay. That helps. I think it's important to understand the difference between writer's block and distraction because one of them may very well be avoidable (well, in theory that is).

My distractions, for the most part, are self inflicted. I simply have too many interests. Did I really just confess that? Don't tell my husband! It's true though - I enjoy a wide range of things. My hobbies include writing, baking, reading, woodworking, horses, crafting, spending time with family, Netflix & chill, etc, etc. (No, this isn't copied from my profile on Coffee Loves Bagel. I don't have a profile, silly! :) )

For many writers, they can use their interests as inspiration for their stories. I haven't quite found where any of my interests fit with my characters. Well, not anything I can do in real life anyway. I write fantasy. Besides, though I do all sorts of things, I still think myself rather dull and I'm pretty sure nobody would be interested in reading my life story. I digress...

I think, if I really analyzed my writing process, I would have to conclude that I've never truly experienced writer's block. I always have ideas for things to write. What I often lack is focus. Too often I'm thinking up great scenes for books I haven't even begun to write. Not helpful when I'm still trying to get my second book through final editing :(

It also hasn't helped that I've been working on projects for my sister's wedding and renovating two houses - the one I live in and the one I'm selling. Sure, I'll probably get a better offer when I sell the old house, and my current home will be all the better by my efforts. But, meanwhile, my second book is getting cold and lonely.

When I can sit down and write, I'm thinking about all of the things I have to do. I start to feel guilty working on my book when I should be working on my "to do" list. So, it's Distractions = 1, Writing = 0. Could this be an avoidable situation? Absolutely! Why? How? Well, because I'm the one "inventing" my distractions and, if I would just stop making more work for myself, I'd have more time to write.

Sure, some things have to be done - they must take first priority. But, some distractions can very well wait their turn! It's all a matter of setting my priorities and focusing my energy to doing one thing at a time and doing it well. Am I going to give up all of my other hobbies entirely? No, ain't gonna happen. I just need to organize my time better. Oh, and figure out a way to earn a living from my writing so that I can quit my job!

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The Power of Words

I've never been what I'd call a poet. Oh sure, I can make things rhyme if I give it some time (haha!). But, I am well aware that it takes more than that to write a good poem. And, just because it rhymes, doesn't mean it's worth the ink it was written in.

Take the first poem I ever wrote, for example:
I like Easter because we hide eggs
and it makes me move my legs
If this poem had a scent, it would be likened to a stinky cheese and a high school gym locker. But hey, I was only seven when I wrote it. Proof that I was not a child prodigy, yes. But, I was kind of a cute kid and I think that made up for it.

You would think, with poetry skills like that, I would have given it up altogether, right? Well, not exactly. Though very rare, I do like to play around with poems. Sometimes the words flood in - words that don't quite qualify as a story, but shouldn't be left to wonder aimlessly through my mind. So, I put them on paper that I may see them and keep an eye on them.

Words can be tricky characters. You never know when they'll change or evolve into something else entirely. They start out as a passing thought and, before you know it, demand your full attention. If you don't write them down, they could take you over entirely - consume you.

Oops, I got off on a bit of a dramatic tangent. What was I talking about? Oh yeah, poetry...

Well, though I see myself as a novelist, poetry certainly has it's place in my stories. They may not be short verses dedicated to a theme, but rather, poetic words woven in to highlight a mood or scene. I love the challenge of trying to lure a reader into the heart and mind of my characters.

Poetry grabs the reader. It provides depth to emotion and meaning to dialog - giving it volume and shape. With the right words, a story can truly come to life. So, while it is unlikely that I'll ever publish a book of poems, I will always write with my "inner poet" sitting comfortably on my shoulder.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

The Devil in My Ear

"You do know you're not very good, don't you?" came his calm, baritone voice, smooth as the finest silk.

He was so well spoken - so artful and articulate. His voice, merely one of his vices, was enough to entice anyone to listen. Soft, yet commanding - as if he spoke only truth and wisdom.

“I’m good enough,” I argued, though perhaps with little credence.

Why do I always answer back? I take up his words like bread crumbs all the while knowing they only lead to more abuse – more sadness. But stubbornness is my vice.

“Hmm, perhaps. But you’ll mess up,” he chuckled, sending fire through my veins to warm my cheeks. “You’ll be an embarrassment to yourself and all who know you.”

He always knew the chinks in my armor – aiming his worded dagger with skill and precision. It’s true. I feared failure above most anything. The only anxiety to equal it was that of losing the respect of others.

The tip pierced a place not yet healed from the last wound, bringing moisture to my eyes. Too easily I could give in to self-doubt. Years of his abuse made sure of that. But was it fair to believe the worst of my friends and family? Would they be so fickle?

Clearing my throat, I replied, “Everyone makes mistakes. It’s how we learn to improve.”

“Then your ‘lessons’, as you call them, are piling up.”

He always had a “come back” – always another weapon to brandish.

“My dear, honestly, why do you punish yourself?” he sighed, as if he truly cared anything for my suffering. “Why keep grasping for something your arms are too short to reach?”

The simple truth? I often wondered myself why I refused to give up. With every obstacle cleared only to be presented with another, who wouldn’t, in their right mind, resign?

As often as this question came up, the answer was firmly planted inside me. To quit would deny me everything my heart held fast to. In the end, my dreams were mine alone. Nothing, and no one, could take them from me.

Normally, this would be the point in this recurring debate where I would say nothing. Never quite as clever as him, I could seldom find the words that spoke from my soul. But, today was different. Our many unwelcome conversations prepared me for this.

Choking back the tears, I lifted my head high - looking at my dreams lingering like clouds over my head.

“I reach for what I cannot touch, knowing that I may never embrace it, but believing that I will be rewarded for my effort.”

Anticipating a harsh rebuttal, I was not prepared for what he would say next... nothing. The weight of his defeat lay heavy by his stillness. Could this be true? Had I finally spoken the words to silence him on this matter?

With nothing more than the faint whisper of his retreat, I sat alone, enjoying my peaceful thoughts. Though I knew he would be back, and no doubt too soon, I celebrated with a self-satisfied smile at my tiny victory.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Interview with Brian Rathbone

This week, I am so pleased to interview Brian Rathbone, author of the Godsland Series and several other books too numerous to list here. But please check out his entire collection on his Amazon Author Page.

Brian's author bio reads like this:
Brian Rathbone is not quite right in the head, but that hasn't stopped him from achieving his life-long dream of becoming a full-time writer. When not tending to the needs of the cats he rescues, Brian spends a little too much time thinking about unicorns and telling questionable dragon jokes on Twitter.
I thought it would be fun to include a couple of these aforementioned jokes:

So, you're probably wondering what the Godsland Series is about. I was too, so I asked Brian to give us a little blurb.
Catrin Volker dreams of a peaceful life training horses. It's not to be. Comets appear in the night skies, announcing the return of a goddess. While trying to save her friend from bullies, Catrin unknowingly triggers powerful, ancient magic, and fulfills a prophecy that says she will destroy entire nations. Her quest for peace captures the imagination with fantastical landscapes, magic and dragons.
The majority of your books are Epic Fantasy. What draws you to this genre?
I've always loved fantasy fiction; it is among the only genres where we can take social issues out of context and look at them in a different light. It's also a whole lot of fun to read and write.
Have you ever considered writing stories for other genres?
I write a little science fiction, paranormal, and non-fiction. With regard to future works, I put no limits on my creativity.
Yes, limits have no place with creativity ;) 
When did you first discover your passion for writing?
It all started with my love of reading fantasy fiction. I've always been a storyteller; it just took me a while to set aside enough time to write those stories down. I started writing part-time in March of 2005. I went full-time in August of 2014.
What inspires your stories?
Much of my inspiration comes from my love of reading fantasy fiction. My experiences as a professional horse trainer also give me a deep well to draw from. As for the rest of the crazy things that pop into my head, I'm guessing aliens.
Well, I suppose writers do need an explanation for our crazy ideas. So, why not aliens? 
What does a typical day look like for you when you sit down to write?
I start by walking and allowing myself free thinking time. Once I have cleared my mind, I start taking hand written notes about the next scene. Once I have about a page of notes and the scene playing smoothly in my mind, I sit down and write with wild abandon.
What would you say is the best part about being a writer?
I get to share my thoughts with the world and will continue to do so even after I am gone—magic.
Writing is kind of like magic - with words, you can make a whole world appear (or disappear).
In your experience, what is the worst part about being a writer?
While writing is an art, publishing is a business. The only way I can write full-time is to generate income from my work. It's not always easy to take off the artist hat and put on the businessman hat. While I struggle with this sometimes, I must also say that it is a positive as well. I like having some diversity in my work day.
Most writers I've interviewed would prefer never to take off the "artist hat". I admit I wish that were the only hat I owned :)
Do you ever feel self-conscious when writing love or sex scenes? Why or Why not?
Nope. Not even a little. Mostly because I write clean fantasy for young adults. I'm not saying there is no romance at all in my books, but there are no sex scenes. Perhaps someday I'll write books with more adult themes, but I suspect it won't be an issue. I grew up on a horse farm and understood life at a very early age. I'm glad my family never tried to shelter me from reality. It has served me well.
Are you ever worried about how believable your scenes will be to your readers?
Absolutely. Few things are as important to me as a writer as protecting the reader's suspension of disbelief. I might not always succeed, but it is something I try very hard to preserve.
Do you write for yourself or to what you believe your readers want?
Both. The longer I write, the more I write for my readers. As a writer of commercial fiction, I must be cognizant of those who pay my bills. I belong to the reader. The great part is learning how to do that and still, write what I want. What fun!
Yes, I imagine this is a decision all writers have to make sooner or later if they want the business aspect of writing to succeed.
What do you do to get book reviews?
My approach is to get a lot of books into the hands of readers, and then I include a note at the end of the book that asks readers to consider leaving a review. I also provide a link to make the job as easy as possible for them.
How successful has your quest for reviews been so far?
I've been fortunate to garner over 10,000 reviews. I can hardly believe it, and I am grateful to my readers.
Wow! That is certainly impressive!
How do you handle negative reviews?
If a book averages 4 stars or better, I ignore the negative reviews, since they generally only serve to demotivate me, and the people complaining are largely outnumbered. If the number of negative reviews is higher, I give them a serious look. Issues mentioned by more than one reviewer hold a lot of weight and are given additional credence.
What is your marketing strategy when announcing your books?
I'm not big on book launches and focus instead on driving steady traffic to my titles over the long term. If I were traditionally published, I would have to reconsider, since the first 6 weeks of sales often determine the level of support the publisher provides in the long run.
Was there any technique in particular that had the best or most immediate impact on your sales? If so, would you care to share it?
Giving away the first book in a series in ebook and podcast audio has been my best audience building technique by a large margin. Promoting those titles using targeted mailing lists (ala BookBub) can be very effective. My free ebooks and podcast novels have drawn more than 3.5 million downloads.
Do you find promoting your books challenging or enjoyable?
The longer I do it, the better I get at it and the more enjoyable it becomes. Promotion and marketing are really the most difficult part of being a successful writer, and are jobs that never end. Editing is hard…but once it's done, it's done.
Is there anything you would avoid in the future with regards to marketing?
I no longer try to sell books to friends, family, or acquaintances. Instead, I concentrate on finding my market and making my books visible to them while avoiding the words 'buy my book.'
I've learned the hard lesson about marketing to family too :(
What do you think of traditional publishing vs. self-publishing?
I respect those who succeed at traditional publishing, but I tend to do things my own way, and I might be a little stubborn. I've been approached by multiple agents and publishers but have yet to make a deal. I have little doubt that I will become a hybrid author in the future—one who is both traditionally published and self-published.
Would you say there is a stigma to being self-published?
Absolutely. In some cases, that stigma is well deserved, which makes it very difficult to overcome. The best way to do so, in my opinion, is to create a product as high quality as what traditional publishers turn out. This is not always easy, and I might not always succeed, but it is my goal. This is why I employ talented artists, skilled designers, and professional editors who specialize in fantasy fiction and work with major publishers.
I think readers will agree when I say that the artwork is stunning!
It is said to be a good writer, one must be a good reader. Do you have a favorite author?
I have many favorite writers, but David Eddings influenced me greatly.
What are some of your favorite books and why?
The Elenium and Tamuli by Eddings feature one of the best equine characters I've ever read. Faran reminds me a lot of horses I worked with over the years.
What projects are you currently working on?
I have three new releases in the works, six new audiobooks, and I am outlining the fourth trilogy in the Godsland series.
Do you identify with any of the characters in your book(s)? Why?
I try not to write myself into my books; mostly because I have a tendency to do really terrible things to my characters. Oops.
Haha! That's a good reason not to liken your characters to yourself.
Would you like to give readers a bit of a teaser for your latest work?
Dragon Airways – Imagine how much better you'll feel without all that baggage.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Don't give up. Write with wild abandon, and then edit with cold calculation. Have fun with it, and believe in yourself and your story.
Is there anything you would like to add?
The entire Godsland series is available free on Kindle Unlimited.
Thanks to you and your readers for taking some time to get to know me. May the dragons you meet be friendly but not too friendly!
Well, thank you for taking the time to share a bit about yourself. You are, without a doubt, an inspiration to us all! Where can readers go to learn more about you and your work?

Amazon Author Page:  http://