ON WRITING

“It’s very easy to quit during the first ten years of writing. Nobody cares whether you write or not, and it’s very hard to write when nobody cares one way or the other. You can’t get fired if you don’t write, and most of the time you don’t get rewarded if you do. But don’t quit.” Andre Dubus

JOIN YOLANDA RENEE ON HER BLOG TOUR!

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Inspirational literary women who inspire me - today - Maya Angelou.

Hi my friends!

I want to pay tribute to a wonderful writer who died today. I mourn Maya Angelou, the prolific African-American writer who penned more than 30 books, won numerous awards, and was honored last year by the National Book Awards for her service to the literary community.

I first came across Angelou many years ago through her wonderful poem and auto-biography by the same name: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Even though describing metaphorically the deep pain and suffering of the Negro, its tone lifts and inspires the reader. She writes in the final stanza:


The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.


At first, Angelou doesn't even know what freedom is, but she understands that her life is not the one she wants. So she does what she can, singing her song, and by the end of the poem, and towards the end of her life, she's a little bit closer to freedom.

In her book of essays, Wouldn't Take Nothing for my Journey Now, Angelou is nothing if not opinionated and forthright. One her essays, Our Boys, tackles racism. 

'The plague of racism is insidious,' she says, 'entering into our minds as smoothly and quietly and invisibly as floating airborne microbes enter into our bodies to find lifelong purchase in our bloodstreams.'

Angelou goes on to say, 'It is time for the preachers, the rabbis, the priests and pundits, and the professors to believe in the awesome wonder of diversity so that they can teach those who follow them. It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength. We all should know that diversity makes for a rich tapestry, and we must understand that all the threads of the tapestry are equal in value no matter their color; equal in importance no matter their texture. 

Our young must be taught that racial pecularities do exist, but that beneath the skin beyond the differing features and into the true heart of being, fundamentally, we are more alike...than we are unalike.'

...Mirror twins are different
although their features jibe,
and lovers think quite different
thoughts
while lying side by side.

...

I note the obvious differences
beween each sort and type,
but we are more alike, my friends,
than we are unalike.

  1. Maya Angelou 
    Maya Angelou was an American author and poet. She published seven autobiographies, three books of essays, and several books of poetry, and is credited with a list of plays, movies, and television shows spanning more than fifty years.
  2. Rest in Peace, Maya...




Do you know and love Maya Angelou? Do you find her inspirational? What literary women inspire you?






Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Write...Edit...Publish - Chapter Three of 'Somewhere in Paris.'

Hi everyone!

Here is my entry for the Write...Edit...Publish permanent monthly blogfest. The prompt is 'Failure. Or is it?' I've picked up my Paris novella. I've previously posted the first two chapters for earlier WEP blogfests. 

The story is told from the POV of Willow, a teenager adrift in Paris, looking for her mother who has disappeared, fleeing from a domestic violence situation back home in Australia. Now here is the third installment...I have edited the original to 1,000 words.

For those who haven't read the previous two chapters, Jacques is the young Frenchman Willow has met after she arrived in Paris. 

If you want to read Chapter One, here it is.
If you want to read Chapter Two, here it is.


Somewhere in Paris

WILLOW

There is the world of
The flesh, and there is
The Spirit World.
When the flesh is gone,
The Spirit forever
Remains. Their voices
speak to those who
know how to listen.
Wisdom is born in the
Heart, and then spoken.

Wolf Clan Song.

I gather my courage in my warrior arms. I chant my mantra over and over. My mouth feels stiff, my teeth chatter.

My mother is not dead.
My mother is not dead.
My mother is not dead...

Jacques and I are in Cafe Paris again, but this time everything is veiled in a mysterious red mist. A noise startles me. I spin around in my chair to see two rough-looking men shove the door open, brushing snow from their shoulders. Both wear black overcoats and fedoras, dim figures escaping the cold. They pause and look back over their shoulders as if to check no one has followed them. The door screeches shut. The men remind me of ghosts as they maneuver their large bodies between tables towards the darkest corner of the room. 

‘Willow?’ Jacques, so dear to me already, leans closer, but his presence doesn’t help. Will I ever be warm again? I feel a soft shawl around my shoulders and briefly wonder where it came from.

‘Jacques, the f…fire…put some more w…wood on…fire.’ I tug the shawl tighter.

Alek comes running from his posse behind the cash register. He kneels before the flames, tossing sweet-smelling logs onto the huge open fire. I lean closer. My fingers look like stiff skinny icicles that will break off at the merest pressure. 

'Thanks Alex,' I whisper, thinking how much he resembles Jacques. I scoot my chair closer to the fire, hold my hands to its flames, but the heat doesn't touch me. I must be outside its radius. Or maybe I’ve suddenly become made of finer stuff, like a vibration, like light that has no substance. My hands feel nothing, my mind feels nothing, not even the warmth of my mother’s love. 

‘Willow!’ Jacques’ voice. The undertone of worry reaches me through the fog. I’m drifting, disembodied like some spirit that can’t find its way home. I’m bound to the earth, but I'm no longer of it. I’m a wisp of smoke drifting upwards from the logs on the fire. Does smoke die? Or does it just drift upwards from one place to another, becoming more and more incandescent?

I press my knuckles against my eyes, then look up. Alek holds out a mug of steaming cappuccino. The aroma brings me back to earth. Coffee, my drug of choice since I shared mugs with my mother in the early hours of the morning after Dad had left for work. Jacques takes the cappuccino from Alek, holds it to my frozen lips. I force a sip of the frothy, sweet milk down my parched throat. It tastes oh-so-delicious. 

Moisture oozes from my pores. The fire scorches me. I scoot backwards, tipping my chair into Jacques'.

I shake my head again and again. I’m alive. I exist. I’m not dead.

My mother is not dead.
My mother is not dead.
My mother is not dead...

‘Your mother is not dead, Willow.’ Had I spoken aloud? ‘Old Paul wished her dead,’ Jacques continues, ‘but that does not mean she is dead. Paul would not hurt a fly. He told me he will be haunted by a redheaded thief the rest of his life. But he did not kill her.’

I raise my head and stare at Jacques. ‘So I did see my mother at the bookstores along the Seine.’

‘Yes, it must have been your maman.’

‘But that argument I saw between my mother and that bouquiniste* was fierce.’ I hug myself and rock the chair. I turn to Jacques. ‘He looked angry enough to toss her in the Seine.’

Jacques holds both my shaking hands in his. ‘We will go to see my papa. He will help us find your mother.’

‘Really? You’d do that?’ I try to stand, but fall back onto the hard chair. A vision of my mother’s stash of books on her bedside table flashes before my eyes. ‘This whole thing’s got something to do with her books.’

‘It may well have.’ He moves me away from the fire. ‘But you’re not going anywhere until you eat something.’ He snaps his fingers. ‘Two croque monsieurs, Alex, tout de suite.’

I cram the fatty, delicious, oozy sandwich down my throat. I wipe the crumbs from around my mouth and ball up the napkin, toss it onto my empty plate. ‘Thanks, Jacques.’ Great French cuisine it was not, but it was just what I’d needed, a warm hug to my stomach.

***

‘Shouldn’t we go to the police first?’ I ask Jacques as we dodge snowdrifts beside the Seine.

‘And tell them what? That you think your mother is in Paris. That you think you saw her in the distance this morning. That you think she was having an argument with a bouquiniste? They would think we are a hoax.’

When he put it that way, it didn’t sound a very convincing argument for scouting out the closest cop shop or whatever they called a police station here...gendarmarie

‘What about the river? River police? We could tell them that she might have fallen into the Seine.’

Might have are the operative words. If she did, it’d be a bit too late to save her now, don’t you—‘

I howl, clapping my hands over my ears. ‘My mother is not dead, Jacques!’

Alors, pardon. I am sorry. I cannot imagine your pain.’

The street lies under a blanket of white. Parked cars are slowly being obscured by inches of white powder. There is no blue in the steely-grey sky. The air is thick with wood smoke as Parisians keep themselves warm.

I have to find my mother. So far I’ve failed. But she’s here in Paris. I can feel her.

I look over my shoulder. The two men in black coats are following us.

***

bouquiniste - bookseller

WORD COUNT: 1007
FULL CRITIQUE PLEASE!

I hope you enjoyed this installment of my Paris story.  Please click on other names on the list in my right-hand sidebar, or visit Write...Edit...Publish here.






How I Found the Write Path

Click here if you're looking for my Write...Edit...Publish post, but I hope you'll check out my letter to my newbie-writer self before moving on.

Hello everyone!

My post this week is for the How I Found the Write Path blogfest. Go here to learn more.


Letter to ten-years-younger Denise

(((Happy dance)))

After years of carrying your dreams around in your pocket, it's time to get pen to paper!

Well, Denise, when you started out on this writing gig, you had a dream of eventually writing a novel, didn’t you? But who realised it was going to be such a long and difficult journey! Remember how confident you felt at the outset that the world was waiting on tiptoe for the beautiful prose that would drip off your quill! How many years had you spent reading books? You could do that, right? Wrong! 

Your first victim was New Woman magazine. New magazine; surely they’d be looking for new writers? Wrong again! What to do with that first rejection? Well, hide it in a drawer and try not to think about it too much of course. How embarrassing to be turned away on your very first submission. It was time to think a bit harder about that dream.

Give up? Not an option. So, what to to?

Do a few more courses on writing. 

  • That Diploma of Journalism was pretty handy for learning how to pitch. 
  • Those creative writing courses helped get other opinions on your work. 
  • How-to books opened your eyes big time. Who knew there were so many books to nudge novices along the writing journey? You read a heap, but your go-to, can’t-do-without book is, was, and ever will be ‘Writing the Breakout Novel’, by Donald Maas. The first time you used one of his writing prompts, you hit pay dirt. You entered that short story into a competition—and came second! 

(((Happy dance))) 

That dream was getting so close you could feel it, couldn't you? You were getting the idea of this writing gig. Here's where you adjusted the plan. You were going to keep writing short stories to learn your craft until you were ready to begin the Great Australian Novel. Might even help to earn a few dollars along the way to pay for all those books you were buying.

Was it easy getting short stories published? Uh uh, not at all. You learned the hard way, didn’t you, that you have to read the magazine that you’re pitching to. Then chances are they’ve just accepted a story like yours…or something along those lines. About this time you stumbled across 'How to Write and Sell Short Stories' by Della Galton. She taught you how to target specific magazines, taught you the wealth of genres to explore, taught you how to submit after making your story sparkle. The more you wrote, the better your stories became, and finally short story publication could be ticked off your to-do list. 

(((Happy dance)))

And then you discovered blogging. That proved to be a good way to practise writing and to learn about writing from all those author gurus out there. Following a gazillion writing blogs was a fabulous idea, especially Karen Woodward's. Those excellent craft posts - writing scenes, writing short stories, writing novels! What more could a writer ask?

Blogging meant finding Critique Partners. Blogging meant writing at least once a week. Blogging meant sharing what you've learnt and offering opportunities to both established and newbie bloggers through writing challenges.

Now your dream of writing that novel is coming to fruition. After practising your craft by writing several novels during NaNoWriMo each November, you’ve finally finished one to publication stage. It's back from the editor and after re-writes it will be good to go. 

So, what has ten-years-older Denise learnt so far?

  • Write a lot, but don't beat yourself up if you don't write every day. Chill time can re-ignite that fire.
  • Read a lot, both in your genre/s and out.
  • Don't be daunted by best-selling writing. Learn from it. You too can write a best-seller.
  • Don't rush into publication. It's not a race, it's a long-term goal.
  • Remember, you don't get a second chance to make a first impression.


Denise Covey
Writer of romantic fiction - flash fiction, short stories, contemporary novels
Website – http://laussieswritingblog.blogspot.com
Permission granted for the e-book compilation. 

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------








Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Write flash fiction, short stories or novellas? Even Amazon is actively seeking your stories...

Hello visitors and friends!

I don’t know why at times there seems to be a stigma around writing short stories rather than novels. Unless you’re a best-selling author, there’s just as much money, or actually more, that can be made from penning short stories if you study the paying market. That’s where I started when I got serious about making some money from writing a few years ago. I absolutely love writing fast fiction and short stories and have my eye on a novella or two, constructed from my flash fiction ideas.

Fast Fiction magazine in Australia publishes four times a year and is chock full of shorts of various lengths and various genres. Accepts internationally. It's my favourite market and pays really well. Here is a link to the first story they accepted to give you an idea of how open they are. 

The news is good for shorter fiction in these days of digital publishing. From being sneered at, unloved and unbought, short stories, serials and novellas are having quite the resurgence. Consider how many buyers are using their phones and tablets to read. I for one don't want to read 100,000 words via my phone.

WHAT THE EXPERTS ARE SAYING

The New York Times says, "Stories are perfect for the digital age...because readers want to connect and want that connection to be intense and to move on."  

Book marketing guru Penny Sansevieri said in the HuffPo: "…short is the new long…consumers want quick bites of information and things like Kindle Singles."

Short stories can also be a marketing tool for longer works.  Digital Book World's Rob Eagar said, "Selling your book means writing effective newsletters, blog posts, short stories, free resources, social media posts, word-of-mouth tools, magazine articles, etc."

WORD LENGTH FOR SHORT STORIES/NOVELLAS

There’s a dilemma about what actually constitutes a short story—word counts vary from publisher to publisher. Some call short stories anything up to 30K, with novellas coming in at anything between 30K-50K. Harlequin romance writers know that there is a romance novel requirement of 50K words.

Read the guidelines of the various publishers before writing to a market. Entangled Publishing just won a prestigious award for being one of the best digital publishers, and they are always looking for shorts, novellas and novels. Check them out their submission process here.

AMAZON WANTS YOUR STORIES

Many short story competitions require anything up to 10,000K or less. And some publishing houses consider 15K a novella. Short story anthologies are great for your resume if you can get accepted in a prestigious one. Don’t forget online zines. I found this link on Anne R Allen’s blog to a great list of genre story markets put together by Romance author Cathleen Ross.

So, whatever your preferred length, there’s someone out there who wants your stories. Even Amazon. Amazon actively seeks short fiction for their Kindle Singles program (published authors only need apply) and their new literary magazine Day One magazine actually accepts debut authors. Take note: when the Kindle Singles program launched in 2011, they sold 2 million "singles" ebooks in the first year! More details below...

Another positive: keeping your name out there is easier with shorts. Most writers can’t pen more than two or three books a year, (and what an achievement that would be), but they can turn out a lot of short stories and novellas.

WRITING OPPORTUNITIES – Paying it forward from Anne R Allen…go to her blog for more...

Amazon’s literary journal Day One
 is seeking submissions. According to Carmen Johnson, Day One’s editor, the litzine is looking for “fresh and compelling short fiction and poetry by emerging writers.” This includes stories that are less than 20,000 words by authors that have never been published, and poems by poets who have never published before. To submit works, writers/poets can email their work as a word document, along with a brief description and author bio to dayone-submissions @amazon.com.

So, dear writers, let me know if you find success in the short story/novella market. So many opportunities, so little time!

Don't forget--you can practise your short stories, flash fiction, poetry etc during the WEP challenge each month. Current prompt - FAILURE...OR IS IT? You can sign up right here in my sidebar. Love to have you - you can request critique, suggestions...we may even help you get published!!







Thursday, 8 May 2014

Australian debut author, Ella Carey, lands her Paris Time Capsule on my blog.


Hello writers and booklovers! I'm reposting this post for the Cephalopod Coffeehouse, which is book review heaven at the end of each month. There is an author interview below my review. Please feel free to skip this and just read the information about the book.

If a book has got 'Paris' in the title, I'll buy it. And my latest 'Paris' purchase is by Australian author Ella Carey with her debut novel The Paris Time Capsule (I believe she has plenty of trunk manuscripts too!) And what a debut! But first, a little about Ella. 


Like me, Ella Carey is a self confessed Francophile who can almost claim Paris as her second home. Ella spotted the story of the apartment in Paris that had been abandoned for seventy years on a blog in 2011. At that time, Ella was working with an agency in London on a novel about a mystery surrounding valuable art. But the story about a woman who left her treasure filled apartment in Paris, not to mention a valuable Boldini portrait hanging on the wall, never to return again, seemed the perfect inspiration. Why did the apartment’s owner, Madame de Florian never return to Paris? Why did she keep the apartment a secret until she died? What’s more, the story held all Ella’s passions in one perfect package. Ella has degrees in English literature and Music, and a passion for Art and History. She has learned French since she was five and has travelled to Paris at least a dozen times. Ella has had her work published in the Review of Australian Fiction and has written stories for as long as she has spoken French. Ella Carey lives with her husband, two children and two divine Italian greyhounds.

About The Paris Time Capsule

2010: New York photographer Cat Jordan has always fought against her past, but when a stranger dies in Paris, Cat finds herself the sole inheritor of an apartment in the ninth arrondissement that has been locked up for seventy years.

A stash of love letters belonging to Marthe de Florian, one of the Belle Époque’s most famous demimondaines, and the appearance of the beautiful and mysterious Isabelle de Florian’s grandson leads Cat in search of the reasons why Isabelle kept her Paris apartment a secret until her death, and why she left her entire estate to Cat.

As Cat unravels the story, she too embarks on her own journey, realizing that the secrets in the apartment may finally unlock the future…

I loved this book, so arranged for Ella to pop up on my blog today as part of her rounds to talk about her debut novel, her writing life and whatever...



Your novel is set in Paris and in various other locations in France. Have you ever visited the places where you set your novel? If not, how did you create the atmosphere?
I have visited all the locations set around France in the novel, have wandered their streets and was enchanted by their atmosphere. I won't give away where they all are here, but each of these places were memorable as they were not only beautiful but were also evocative of earlier times. They were perfect for my novel. There is even a special 'musee' in the novel that Cat can't help but visit - and that really exists too! However, I can tell you that there is one location that is fictional. The village in Provence is a figment of my imagination. But, I have spent some time in Provence, and have visited so many villages there that my own Saint Revel could easily just slip into the landscape without any of us knowing it wasn't real.
I saw on another blog that one of your favourite writers is Hemingway. As he is rather a fixation of mine, I wondered what particular aspect/s of Hemingway's writing style you admire and have you worked to incorporate it/them into your writing?
Hemingway was one of the first writers to write in a more modern style, cutting out lengthy descriptions that were characteristic of the nineteenth century novel. I adore nineteenth century novels, but I re-read Hemingway's work a couple of years ago and was inspired again by his own wonderful descriptions, especially of Spain, in 'Fiesta: The Sun Also Rises,' and of Paris in 'A Moveable Feast.' I do love the way Hemingway writes dialogue. I don't think I consciously attempt to incorporate Hemingway's skills into my own writing, but sometimes, I look at aspects of my own work and see where I have been influenced by my favourite writers, including Hemingway.
Katherine Ann Porter, in the Paris Review, talks about the event of a story being like a stone thrown in water - she says it's not the event itself that's interesting, but rather the ripples the event creates in the lives of the characters. Would this be true of your story discovery, and the way your story unfolded?
I think this is an excellent analogy. I can say that I haven't finished with this story yet - it is still rippling away in my mind and has been doing so for a long time now. I am working on the second novel out of what will be three novels inspired by this story. As for my characters - finding that this apartment contained not only abandoned treasure, but a history that rippled through several generations and families - will lead them to chasing that elusive stone around a deep lake for a while yet!
Human motivations are very complex - why do we do what we do. Did it take a lot of brainstorming to work out the motivations of the main characters in your novel - especially Cat's? Did you sympathise in any way with her motives?
I always know my characters' motives at every level, from those aspects of themselves that they don't understand right up to the way in which they interact with others and the world around them. I spend much time thinking about this during the stages of research and planning. I think in order to sympathise with one's characters, the question to ask is what you would do if you were that character? This way, I empathise with Cat.
Would you describe yourself as a prolific writer? What are you working on now?
I write every day, for at least three or four hours - I would love to write more, and I confess that I measure out a day's enjoyment by how much time I've had to write! If I'm not writing I am often off in my own world thinking about my characters. The second novel inspired by the story of the Paris Time Capsule is set in Lake Geneva and Paris in 1934, and in a village just outside Berlin in the present. I am immersed in that now.

 For more information on the Paris Time Capsule please visit Ella at www.facebook.com/paristimecapsule or www.ellacarey.com

Thank you for having me here Denise. Your questions were most interesting!
I have a question for readers here today, although please feel free to just chat if you would prefer, and as well. I'd love to hear who your favourite writers are and what you admire about their work.

We have one free kindle copy of 'The Paris Time Capsule' to give away to one commentator!


So come on commenters! Have your say and you could win a free e-book here! Love mystery? Paris? Love? History? Then you'll love this book!
Want more?

Praise for Ella Carey:

'Ella Carey creates an almost impossibly romantic atmosphere.' Rachel Edwards, Review of Australian Fiction.

'I am so looking forward to the release of The Paris Time-Capsule. Ella Carey is one of the most talented writers I have ever worked with. Roll on release day!' Melanie Milburne, USA Today best selling author.
BUY LINKS:

Amazon UK        Australia
 India      New Zealand 
US and rest of the world      Amazon US







Wednesday, 7 May 2014

#Insecure Writers Support Group Post - having trouble getting your story accepted? This may help.

Hello fellow writers!

Another month has zoomed past and it's time for another IWSG post. The brainchild of Ninja Alex J Cavanaugh, this group goes from strength to strength. Posts are welcome if you have something to say about writing, what you've learned and what you'd like to learn. Click on the badge to read the list of posters. There's something for everyone.

I love reading what the folks have to say at Writer's Digest. Today I'll share what I learnt from Dave Housley (BarrelHouse - a literary magazine that bridges the gap between serious art and pop culture).

There's no shortage of people writing short stories, essays and poetry, that's for sure. As for trends, I think we're through the part where a lot of short fiction writers were imitating George Saunders. You could certainly do worse in choosing somebody to imitate, but that particular imitation is extremely hard to pull off (I know, because I also spent a few years trying).

Housley goes on to tell us why writers don't get accepted for quality literary journals.

On the writing side: Stories that take too long to get started, stories where nothing really happens or where most of the action is presented as backstory or flashback, stories that don't trust the reader to understand or figure out what's going on. I generally have a pile of stories in front of me, and if yours doesn't really start until page 3 or 5, the odds are very strong that I'm going to reject that story and pick up the next in the pile.
What have your learnt about submitting recently? Been rejected lately? I have. Been accepted? I hope to be soon.Share your story with us...

STOP PRESS!!  On May 5th, Stephanie Faris has released the most glorious cover to her new novel, 25 Roses. Visit Stephanie to read all about it!!