Blog Hop: Writers on Writing

This post was originally  published on my official author blog at KMRandallAuthor.com on 08/12/2014.

A fellow author from Booktrope asked some of us lady authors to join a blog hop, which I’ve never really done befPictureore. So I thought it would be fun! The following questions are on writing, so if you’re interested in where I write, how names are chosen, reading reviews and that sort of thing, read on. Thank you to Tiffany Pitts, author of Double Blind, for letting me be a part of the hop! Additional thanks to Arleen Williams, author of Running Secrets and Biking Uphill for introducing me on her blog.

Where do you like to write?
I have my own office but I spend all day in it working as an editor for an online publication so when it’s time to let my creative juices flow I usually end up on my couch in my living room or family room. Although, I do find that when I’m getting tired if I go up to my office at the end of the night I can usually sneak in another hour. Something about the room just wakes me up. I think it’s because I already work within the space, so the energy is different, more caffeinated.

Which part of researching your current novel was most interesting?
Well, I’m almost done writing the first draft of my work-in-progress, so I usually save a lot of research and filling in for the second draft. But I had to do some research for the overall characters and it’s definitely been the mythology. Death-based mythology to be specific. The book, a paranormal young adult novel called The Reaper’s Daughter, threads various death deities within the storyline, and it’s been fun learning about the way Death takes shape within different countries and cultures.

How important are names to you in your books? How do you choose them?
I just wrote a guest post on this that’s going up soon and will be more in-depth, but names mean a lot to me. The main character in my recently released novel Fractured Dream is named Story Sparks. But in the eight years it took me to write the book, she was only Story for the last year or so. I always knew the name she had previously wasn’t the one, and it took a lot of searching and thinking about it until I came up with THE ONE. And it really was perfect for the story once I found it. I search for names that have meaning, names that fit the character’s personality or the theme of the book. If I’m not doing that, I’ll often find a name I just love if it seems to fit the character. But if the name doesn’t fit I don’t feel at one with my character, so it’s definitely a big part of my writing.

Do you read your reviews? How do you respond to the bad reviews (if you get them)?
I’m a newbie as authors go, with my first book only having been released this past June. So I read reviews and was fairly obsessed with them in the beginning. The awesome reviews are just that: awesome and amazing and wonderful. I’m realizing everyone gets a bad review eventually. Reading is such a subjective experience; what one person might love another person may hate. Any negative reviews have made me more aware of where other people in the market are at, what they like and dislike. And while I’d never change the story in my head to make a minority happy, it is eye opening and it’s good to have this awareness as I near finishing up my second book.

What are your favorite books to give as gifts?
I love to give Summer Sisters by Judy Blume, anything by Alice Hoffman and Annie Dillard and of course, A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson. I also just like to tell people about this book or that book I read and get them to try it as well.

That’s all folks! Check out the next author taking part in the blog hop!


Melissa Thayer
, author of The Stories We Don’t Tell

Sin City native Melissa Thayer writes fiction that touches upon the timeless truths of the human condition in poignant and thought-provoking ways. She enjoys writing about people and connecting readers with her characters.

She currently lives in Washington with her husband, daughter, and three cats.

THE STORIES WE DON’T TELL is her debut novel.


Blogger’s Block v. Writer’s Block

This blog post was originally posted on my official website at KMRandallAuthor.com on 8/6/2014

Is therPicturee such a thing as bloggers block? I posed this question on Twitter the other night. The reason is simple: I have been avoiding my blog. I don’t know why, we’ve always gotten along just fine, but for the last two weeks it’s been splitsville. Granted, I was camping for a week so it wasn’t necessarily that easy to blog in the mosquito-infested woods, plus I’d then have to wake my husband to use his hot spot and I wanted to work on my WIP. But when I got back, it was like I couldn’t bring myself to open the editor and click the “new post” button.

What is blogger’s block? Well, it’s the same thing as writer’s blog, but it only pertains to blogging. Wikipedia defines writer’s block as “a condition, primarily associated with writing, in which an author loses the ability to produce new work.” But as a writer, I’ve always felt more like writer’s block was merely the avoidance of writing. Maybe I’ve just never really experienced it. Although, I’m pretty sure I had a professor in college same this same thing, and I have found it to be true.

The topic of writer’s block recently came up on Goodreads. The question, specifically, was: How do you deal with writer’s block?

My answer: I write through it. I might be working on a passage and feel totally uninspired, but I keep writing even if it’s slow and stilted and I feel like the prose is bland. Eventually, I’ll hit a scene that gets the creative juices flowing. For me, the act of writing is a catalyst to inspiration.

And this is very true. I feel like writer’s block is a lack of inspiration, but for me, writing is what creates inspiration so if I write and write and write even though I hate what I’m writing, lightening will eventually strike and pulse through my fingertips onto the page.

Case in point is the book I’m currently working on, called The Reaper’s Daughter. I’m right near the end of the first draft, which is super exciting, especially since my first book took me eight years to write and this one only took about a year from concept to first draft completion. But I’ve been stumbling through the last 10,000 words, pushing through. The light bulb over my head isn’t completely out, but it’s been dim. It’s one of those transitional moments where I know I need to write something to get from point A to point B, but where I really want to be is point B so the getting there is rough. But I know if I keep writing it will come. It will come and it will flow and then it will be as magical as the genre I write in.

I suppose the very fact that I’m writing this blog means my blogger’s block has bid me farewell, and I’m cool with that. Don’t come back please. But I wonder what other people’s experiences with writer’s block are. How does it hit you? In what shape does writer’s block take form in your writing? How do you combat it?

In the meantime, I’ll be pushing through until the end. Coming soon to a blog near you, The Reaper’s Daughter first draft victory post.

Help me create a soundtrack!

This post was first published on my official author blog at KMRandallAuthor.com on 7/17/2014

7408925Okay, so anyone who has visited my site has seen that I’m letting my readers create the perfect soundtrack for my book. So far, I have a bunch of songs, but I’d really like anyone else who has read Fractured Dream to give me a shout out if you think there’s a song that you think fits the story or any parts of the story. I listed some of my favorite pics below. But I’d really like to hear some more and then maybe let everyone vote on their favorites. I feel that given the nature of the epic-ness of the book that I want to get something celtic-like in there at some point too. If anyone has any thoughts, let me know! The list below was compiled by a friend and colleague after she read Fractured Dream. You can check out her full list here.

Breaking Down | Florence + the Machine
Howl | Florence + the Machine
Transylvanian Concubine | Rasputina
Drumming Song | Florence + the Machine
Breaking Benjamin | Without You
Remember | Emilie Autumn
Little House | The Fray
Terrible Thought | Poe
Shake It Out | Florence + the Machine
No Trace | MS MR
A Sight to Behold | Eisley
Redeemed | Charlotte Martin

Buffy the Vampire Slayer soundtracks meets Fractured Dream

This post was originally published on 7/10/2014 on my official author page at KMRandallAuthor.com.

PictureA reader and friend has put together more songs for a playlist for Fractured Dream. I haven’t gotten a look at all the songs yet, but one song is Transylvania Concubine by Rasputina. I’m totally stoked that she chose this song because I love it. It takes me back to the good ol’ days of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, when most of my music mixes had songs from the show (my favorite show ever). But she chose it because it reminded her of two characters from my book, fairytales retold with a twist: Snow White and Sleeping Beauty. And I totally love it. . .

“They know what they do is wrong.
Stay here with us, it’s just time.”

I’ll post here when the rest of the playlist goes up on http://shelterofmagnolias.wordpress.com.

Check out some of her other playlists while you’re there.A reader and friend has put together more songs for a playlist for Fractured Dream. I haven’t gotten a look at all the songs yet, but one song is Transylvania Concubine by Rasputina. I’m totally stoked that she chose this song because I love it. It takes me back to the good ol’ days of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, when most of my music mixes had songs from the show (my favorite show ever). But she chose it because it reminded her of two characters from my book, fairytales retold with a twist: Snow White and Sleeping Beauty. And I totally love it. . .

“They know what they do is wrong.
Stay here with us, it’s just time.”

I’ll post here when the rest of the playlist goes up on http://shelterofmagnolias.wordpress.com. Check out some of her other playlists while you’re there.

Book blasts, blitzes and blog tours, oh my!

This post was originally published on 7/9/2014 on my official author page at KMRandallAuthor.com.

See below for dates on a blog tour for  Fractured Dream and other events if interested in participating . Thanks for your support!

REQUEST REVIEW COPY

Want to promo the series or participate in the blog tour?

Blog Tour (Sept 9th – 29th)

Twitter Blast (Sept 8th – 12th)

Book Blitz (Sept 8th)

Thoughts on poetry

This post originally appeared on my official author blog, KMRandallAuthor.com on 7/6/2014 

5431063I’ve read a lot of poetry lately from fellow writers floating around on Facebook and authors’ blogs. I used to be really into it when I was a teenager and even in my early twenties. But at some point it became less of a focus, or else I just lost my knack for it. But I’ve always loved to read it. I have books that belonged to my mother and my grandfather before her, that I’d sit with, endlessly flipping pages and trying to find the perfect poem to describe a mood or situation. A lot of angst-ridden teens, or even those without the angst, tend to get in on the moody word play that can be so satisfying in the art of poetry.

I honestly haven’t written a poem in years at this point except to have put together a prophecy for my novel,Fractured Dream, and that sort of writing is kin to poetry. But I thought I’d share one I wrote when I was 20 or so. This was after my first love broke my heart and I was left picking up the grainy pieces. And then the second is just my favorite poem from when I was younger. I used to read it over and over. It’s about death, which is morbid, but it’s also about endless love. And I think that’s what I liked best about it.

The poem by me is called I Loved You Last. I actually had it published in some book at the time, but it was one of those set-ups where you sent in a poem and, to actually get a published copy of it, you had to spend $20 or so to buy the hardcover book, which in this case was called The Brilliance Of Night: The International Library of Poetry. I don’t really think they were too discerning about who they put in the book. What can I say, I was young, naive and broken-hearted . . . I do have the book though. It sits on a shelf beneath my coffee table, although the cover is by now pretty worn. I did get to show the boy in question some years later the poem I had written after he’d so effectively torn my heart asunder. But by then, I was of course beyond the apology that was issued, although it was appreciated. Hearts break all the time and sometimes poetry is borne from it. I’ve since found two loves of my life, my husband and son, so this poem is just a blast from the past, but the heart healed long ago. You can be the judge of whether it was bad or good.

I Loved You Last

Do you remember when we first sat there and you told me you loved me? My gaze drifting away uneasily as I slightly smiled and said, “Thank you.”

And you claimed you’d love me until the end of eternity, and that roses would never smell so sweet, and that the sun would never burn so hot, and the wind would never feel so right if I wasn’t there.

Do you remember when I first started to love you, when your smile shone from the depths of your soul and I couldn’t help but fall, my “thank yous” stopped and “I love yous” began?

It somehow seemed at the end that it was I that loved you more, and the irony has fallen deeply on me since you’ve gone away, for the snow is not as fresh, nor the autumn leaves as beautiful, nor the night’s deep stillness as mysterious since you’ve gone away.

You loved me first, but I loved you last.

***

Now, reading the below poem, I remember why I liked it so much as a teenager. One, I think I was really into the fact that she had dark brown hair, like me, and thin lips, also like me. I was self-conscious at the time that I didn’t have the lush, full lips of all the girls in the books I was reading, or the movies as well as some of my actual friends. Second, I was fascinated with death, the afterlife. At that time in my life, my one friend and I had weekly sessions with the Ouija Board. And of course, finally, this poem is also a love story. I’m not the same teenage girl, but I do still love this poem. I like it now because I like what it says about living beyond death (my aging self likes to believe there’s something beyond), and that love never dies, which my now-jaded spirit can still get in line with. I’m a writer after all.

He and She

“She is dead!” they said to him; “come away;
Kiss her and leave her—thy love is clay!”

They smoothed her tresses of dark brown hair;
On her forehead of stone they laid it fair;

With a tender touch they closed up well
The sweet thin lips that had secrets to tell;

About her brows and beautiful face
They tied her veil and her marriage lace;

And over her bosom they crossed her hands,
“Come away! they said; “God understands.”

And they held their breath till they left the room,
With a shudder, to glance at its stillness and gloom.

But who he loved her too well to dread
The sweet, the stately, the beautiful dead,

He lighted his lamp and took the key
And turned it—alone again, he and she.

He and she; yes she could not smile,
Though he called her the name she loved erewhile.

He and she; but she would not speak,
Though he kissed, in the old place, the quiet cheek.

He and she; still she did not move
To any one passionate whisper of love.

Then he said: “Cold lips and breast without breath,
Is there no voice, no language of death,

“Dumb to the ear and still to the sense,
But to heart and to soul distinct, intense?

“See now; I will listen with soul, not ear.
What was the secret of dying, dear?

“Was it the infinite wonder of all
That you ever could let life’s flower fall;

“Or was it a greater marvel to feel
The perfect calm o’er the agony steal?

“Was the miracle greater to find how deep
Beyond all dreams sank downward that sleep?”

“Did life roll back its records, dear;
And show, as they say it does, past things clear?

“And was it the innermost part of the bliss
To find out so, what a wisdom love is?

“O perfect dead! O dead most dear,
I hold the breath of my soul to hear!

“There must be pleasure in dying, sweet,
To make you so placid from head to feet!

“I would tell you, darling, if I were dead,
And ‘t were your hot tears upon my brow shed–

“I would say, though the Angel of Death had laid
His sword on my lips to keep it unsaid.

“You should not ask vainly, with streaming eyes,
Which of all deaths was the chiefest surprise,

“The very strangest and suddenest thing
Of all the surprises that dying must bring.”

Ah, foolish world! O most kind dead!
Though he told me, who will believe it was said?

Who will believe that he heard her say,
With the sweet, soft voice, in the dear old way;

“The utmost wonder of this—I hear,
And see you, and love you, and kiss you, dear;

“And am your angel, who was your bride,
And know that, though dead, I have never died.”
–Sir Edwin Arnold

Fractured Dream’s playlist grows

This post originally appeared on my official author blog, KMRandallAuthor.com on 6/30/2014

 

I love music, but I’m not always that great with names of songs or even remembering to write it down when I hear something I like. So I think it’s really cool when I find someone who has read Fractured Dream and tells me that a scene or a character makes them think of a specific song. Recently, one of my early readers mentioned that Without You by Breaking Benjamin really reminded her of my main character, and once I listened to it I was totally on board. A work friend and fellow writer is currently reading Fractured Dream and told me today that Howl by Florence and The Machine reminded her of another character(s) in my book. Now, there are many fairytale retellings within these pages, so can you guess who the song might be about? I’ll let you think it out, and in the meantime, you can have a listen. I think it’s perfect. I could never build my own playlist for my book, but I love that readers are beginning to.

 

The search for symbolism & meaning in literature

PictureA friend of mine and I were recently talking about the launch of my debut novel, Fractured Dream. He went on to say that he’s never known an author before and began to reminisce:


“I always blanched at my English teachers who talked about symbolism and shite in One Flew Over the Cukoo’s Nest or Slaughterhouse Five or the Great Gatsby or the Catcher in the Rye. Now I can actually ask the author, what did you mean by that, and you can say, nothing, nothing at all.”

He has a point. I remember college discussions breaking down piece by piece various authors and their books. What did they mean by that? What did this object in this scene convey? What did it represent? I took a class, titled Witchcraft, when I was probably in my second year. It was an honors class in which we learned about the European witch trials as well as the original fairytales. And I remember thinking as we discussed phallic symbols (and there were a lot of them), did the writer really mean to pepper their prose with penis-shaped objects or clouds, or what have you, to symbolize masochism? Was there really a thought process behind it all? There very well could have been, but it does seem as if the readers and thinkers who came later perhaps pushed agendas onto whole pargraphs that were merely meant to be description or backdrop to the setting of a scene.

My friend continued to note how he’d gotten into an argument with a teacher in high school over a scene where Randle Patrick McMurphy, the main character in One Flew Over the Cukoo’s Nest, flicked a low hanging Halloween decoration of a bat with his fingers. and she told his class it symbolized evil and his aversion to it. My friend’s comment: “And I’m like wait, ‘I see a low hanging something anywhere and I just hit it for no reason. Isn’t it possible that it symbolizes nothing?’ She would have none of it.”

This is not to say that writers don’t have agendas, because they most definitely do. The Jungle by Upton Sinclair and Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe are just two examples of literature that was also a social commentary on the inhumane treatment of fellow human beings. And these novels helped to change the world. Even fantasy can have overarching elements. I’ve read before that JRR Tokien’s The Lord of The Rings was influenced in part by his dislike of industrialism.

But, sometimes description is just that. Description. I write fantasy, so first and foremost, I write for entertainment, to give people the mode to escape by discovering new worlds, by allowing people to revel in the magic of a new reality. That’s not to say there aren’t underlying themes, which if you paid enough attention to you could catch: class/racism, environmentalism, religion, cosmology and of course, loyalty, self-discovery, sacrifice, taking responsibility for one’s actions and love. I also often assign names to my characters that gives some insight to their personality or inner nature, and in doing so giving more meaning to their presence within the book.

Indeed, context and depth are important elements in my writing. But the rock, Story, my main character, picks up to skip across the water while lost in thought? It’s just a rock. And that bat was probably just a bat.

A fellow author and friend gives some insights into the use of symbolism in her own writing. She notes that although she believes a lot of times it happens on a subconscious level, using symbolism can also be a great writing tool. Check it out here at Thayer’s Grey Matter.

Fractured Dream launches!

PictureIt’s finally here! Fractured Dream (The Dreamer Saga) launched today! Eight years ago I had an idea and today that idea has come to fruition. I am so thankful to everyone who has supported me and all the reviewers out there for reading and getting the word out there. Check it out on Amazon, available in both print and e-format.

Here’s the blurb for anyone who might be interested:

Have you ever wondered where fairytales go once they’re created?

It’s been eight years since Story Sparks last had a dream. Now they’re back, tormenting her as nightmares she can’t remember upon waking. The black waters of Lake Sandeen, where her Uncle Peter disappeared decades before, may hold the secret to Story’s hidden memories, or a truth she’d rather not know. On a bright summer afternoon, Story and her two best friends, Elliott and Adam, take a hike to the lake, where they dive into the cool water and never reemerge. What they find is beyond anything they’ve ever imagined could be possible, a world where dangers lurk in the form of Big Bad Wolves, living Nightmares and meddlesome witches and gods.

 

Puff the Magic Dragon: Mommy Slayer

 

PictureThis week my mother gave my three-year-old son a children’s edition of Puff the Magic Dragon, along with little finger puppets featuring Jackie Paper and Puff. She recently told me he was very unhappy about the fact that he was missing the copy of Puff The Magic Dragon I had originally bought him some months ago. Except it was the old-school edition, adapted from Romeo Muller’s film version I’d always loved as a kid. He’d ripped many of the pages out of the book a while ago on some little boy’s destructive bender, and I’d taken it out of his room in an attempt to salvage what was left. This is why I highly doubted that he was actually missing this specific book, which we’d barely read because of its length. But she insisted. I think they have a secret language because my son is delayed in language so his expressive vocab is fairly limited at the moment. So like I said, I was skeptical he had actually detailed this to her in anything but a few words and gestures.

But anyway, he was happy when she brought it over. He’s been carrying around the book and the finger puppets for the last two days. But it was today when my heart got squishy over Puff, Jackie Paper and my son. My mom, as grandmothers do, loves to bring presents. Today, she came bearing a stuffed Puff music box that winds up and plays Puff the Magic Dragon, a poem written by Peter Yarrow and Leonard Lipton and first put to music in 1963 by Peter, Paul and Mary.

I made some comment about how his birthday must have come early, and she responded that Puff helped Jackie Paper talk (in the cartoon movie and Muller rendition). It was then that I realized why Puff was so special for a little boy still grasping with language. He’s been carrying around the stuffed toy all day and clutched it hard to his chest as we mounted the stairs to bed.

At bed time we always read books, and tonight it was Puff the Magic Dragon. As I sang this beautifully illustrated book rendition of the song to him, we used the finger puppets to make the book come alive, making Puff frolic through the air and Jackie Paper give him “sealing wax and other fancy stuff.”

But it was when Puff goes into his cave because Jackie Paper doesn’t come back that I felt like I was about to turn a magical bedtime moment into sniffles.

A dragon lives forever but not so little boys
Painted wings and giant rings make way for other toys.
One grey night it happened, Jackie paper came no more
And puff that mighty dragon, he ceased his fearless roar.

His head was bent in sorrow, green scales fell like rain,
Puff no longer went to play along the cherry lane.
Without his life-long friend, puff could not be brave,
So puff that mighty dragon sadly slipped into his cave.

While my son was winding up his music box Puff and making finger puppet Puff frolic, I was about to melt into a puddle and start sobbing. Because little boys grow up and it was never so apparent to me more than in that moment with my little boy snuggling his Puff. And someday he’ll talk in full sentences and the memory of the time when his vocab was a bit miniscule will be but a distant thought. But unlike Jackie Paper, I hope he never stops believing in the power of flying dragons, just like I will never forget the very essence of childhood magic wrapped up in a stuffed toy given as a symbol of love, a song and my little boy.