Simplicity is difficult for almost everyone, and especially us writers. We take a simple concept and allow other distractions to crowd in: adjectives and adverbs; side stories and backstories; trifles, that though beautiful, should be cut.
—I can still fight this my legs strong (if weak in the knees)
& it yet lies beyond my grasp
for how can you hold the sea?—
Because I don’t know the poet personally, I can’t tell if the succinctness of his poetry came first, followed by the collection’s secondary title — 101 Tweets to Inspire Your Followers — or vice versa. I suspect the former, with the latter capitalizing on what people can relate to.
What I know, however, is that for me, poetry is abstract art. I have to find an artist whose abstraction speaks to me in a language I understand, which I find that to be true for this poet’s verse. His choice and combination of each poem’s few words sing in my head, rather than confuse me.
—a held remark stiff in the craw a stone in the belly baked at oven temperatures you know I must let it go so I run into the wood.—
The abstractness of poetry in general comes in all textures, from soft to bed-of-nails harsh. I’m fondest of the comfort level this poet from Nova Scotia exudes: a firmness that drives out the sentimental to leave a form of salt residue like that along the ocean. In other words, a rough natural beauty. Because all too often when dealing with themes of passion, desire and love, the temptation to rose-color the human experience proves irresistible. Not so with these poems, which leave me feeling true in a windswept, scoured way.
Considering how precious your time is, the question is legitimate: Why spend 30 minutes of your time with me?
Get a First Peak at My Next Novel
Be among the first to get a sneak peak at my next novel, Winter Light, which will be published Oct. 6, 2020, by Vine Leaves Press.
I’ll create a list of those who join me and will offer you the opening chapters when they’re ready, as well as the opportunity to be an advanced reader before publication.
What Questions are You Dying to Ask?
When I finish a book, I’m always dying to ask the author specific questions about the story.
“How come he did that?!”
“Why couldn’t they have done something else?”
“Where did you get that idea?”
Come ready to sate you’re curiosity!
Hear How an Unusual Story Came to Be
I promise you, the path to the publication of this book began before the internet became a thing and continued on a circuitous path.
Get an Inside Look at What It Takes to Get a Book Published Nowadays
If you love books, they seem to appear out of nowhere, yet the obstacles are numerous! By answering questions, I hope to deepen your appreciation for storytelling and those who endeavor to tell those stories.
Ask Writing Questions
If you know me based on my character development book, Growing Great Characters, please feel free to ask questions regarding the writing process.
I want to give a shout-out to my friend and fellow writer, Martha Alderson, who today releases her new workbook designed to help all of us creatives learn ways to deal with those significant humps that accompany every project.
As Martha writes on her website:
Boundless Creativity is a transformational guide that incorporates a powerful technique called “The Universal Story”. The Universal Story is a four-phase program with easy-to-follow steps and exercises. Using the Universal Story, you learn to identify and dissolve the emotional and energetic blocks that create self-doubt and get in the way of your creativity.
These tips and tools give you the keys to unlock creative imagination, inspiration and intuition. As a result, you’ll see yourself and the world in new ways —with acceptance, emotional balance, and a tolerance of imperfection.
I haven’t completed a creative project yet that hasn’t had at least a few hair-raising, doubt-laden, wish-I-could-give-up moments. Martha’s book is written by a creative for creatives to help us discern what’s important and what’s not.
Because the long and short of it is, we need more art in this currently bad-news world! Art enlightens and elevates us all. So if you’ve got a story, but are having trouble telling it, consider purchasing Martha’s book. And check out her inclusion in a recent Forbes magazine article, How to Lift Your Mood in Troubling Times.
I’ve always thought that as a writer, my first duty is to be curious about people. Not a little curious, but doggedly quizzical until I get as close as possible to understanding how people think and why they act as they do, including myself. But the observation and research skills I’ve built over the years are nothing compared to those of Viktor E. Frankl, author of Man’s Search for Meaning.
Even 23 years after his death, through his work, the Holocaust survivor continues to be one of the best examples of a human wholly devoted to studying the inner workings of humankind. Not because he wanted to write a bestseller, but instead because he believed helping people find their meaning in life allowed them to find happiness, which in turn leads to a better world.
This book is fantastic — and still relevant — on so many levels, determining which to list first is a challenge. And while the book could be simply described as a man telling how he survived three years in not one, but four WW II Nazi Germany concentration camps, including Auschwitz, that would be to excise the many surprising twists and turns.
The first is that Frankl was liberated in 1945 when the war ended. After several months spent recuperating, he sat down and wrote the book in nine day in his native German. The English translation of the title was From Death-Camp to Existentialism. New editions, along with the revised title, came out in 1959, 1962, 1984, 1992, and 2006. I read the last version, which was published nine years after Frankl died in Vienna.
Frankl didn’t leave Germany as so many Holocaust survivors did. Instead, he resettled in his hometown of Vienna where he spent the rest of his life until his death in 1997, by which time his book had sold 10 million copies and been translated into 24 languages.
Consider reading the 2006 edition, which contains extra material, and in particular, these three key sections: Frankl’s preface to the 1992 edition, Experiences in a Concentration Camp, and Logotherapy in a Nutshell.
When Frankl was arrested, he was already a doctor of medicine who’d chosen to specialize in psychiatry and was working on his doctorate in philosophy. The first day he entered a concentration camp, he did so with a fully-researched academic paper in his pocket.
Though immediately stripped of the document, along with every piece of clothing, he found scraps of paper on which to jot notes and so set about rewriting the paper in his head. The credited the task with giving him a sense of purpose so deep as to give him the strength to endure his hardship.
He even determined to build on his paper by including his observations of camp life. The result is that even as he gives very intimate details of his first-hand experience, he also includes a distant, clinical viewpoint, a combination that proves riveting.
“When one examines the vast amount of material which has been amassed as the result of many prisoners’ observations and experiences, three phases of the inmate’s mental reactions to camp life become apparent: the period following his admission; the period when he is well entrenched in camp routine; and the period following his release and liberation.”
As a writer, I appreciated his unsentimental observations of prisoners who fell into two groups: those who found a meaning that helped them survive, and those who lacked meaning and perished.
Again as a writer, I found myself making parallels to creating characters, whether fictional or not. Specifically, it’s a writer’s job to find a meaning worthy enough to propel a character forward with enough strength to surmount one obstacle after another.
I had assumed Frankl’s account of his time in the camp would be the main takeaway. When I began the section Logotherapy in a Nutshell, I did so half-heartedly. In dry, clinical writing, Frankl explains the following is an attempt to answer readers’ questions about logotherapy, a technique that helps people find their meaning in life.
Within two pages I found myself highlighting section after section as either aligning with what I’ve discovered in life, or providing new insights I’d never made before.
Again reading through the dual prism of a human being and a writer, I’ve gleaned ideas for being a better person and a better writer:
What a person finds meaningful in life can change over time according to her/his circumstances.
The struggles people endure should not be a source of embarrassment, but instead a badge of courage and source of pride at persevering even in dire circumstances.
It’s during those rugged periods that people are afforded the opportunity to realize their potential by making a conscious decision about how to act. Will they be terrible to others, or helpful and kind?
Lastly, the goal in life should not be to attain notoriety through awards, but instead, those are simply the outcome of passionately pursuing what one feels is important.
I’ll be chewing on his lessons of positivity and purposeful living for a long time to come. If you read the book, I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Author Brian David Floyd recently decided everyone everywhere needed inexpensive distraction during this time of shelter-in-place. So he organized a Fun Reads for April! book promotion that offers readers 29 — 29! — books for free download, including mine (The Wind Thief), from April 7 – May 1.
Brian easily accomplished the task through BookFunnel. The online company offers a variety of services depending on the plan an author buys, the least expensive costing $20.
Even at that level, BookFunnel offers authors what they most need, an easy way to upload a digital copy of their books — and have it sent where it needs to go — for promotional purposes. Those include book giveaways or providing advanced reader copies (ARCs) to people who’ve agreed to read and review your book before it’s published. Authors can even send two hours of an audio reading of their books to subscribers.
BookFunnel also allows authors to create, or participate in, group promotions like the one Brian organized. I opened an account at BookFunnel last week. When I saw the listing for Brian’s promotion, I thought, why not?
When I saw the response he got from other authors, along with the beautiful display of book covers, I finally understood the power of teaming up with other authors.
BookFunnel and BookSweeps, a company that organizes book promotions and collects email addresses for authors’ subscriber lists, make it easy to meet authors who write books similar to yours. Not only is it fun to reach out to those authors and find out who and where they are, but you can work together to provide your readers with a much more expansive list of book suggestions.
By being generous in promoting fellow writers’ books, your readers will come to see you as one of them, a reader who loves great writing. And as a member of the tribe, they will appreciate you even more!
Author Byddi Lee has created a dystopian tale in which she’s nailed all three facets of great science fiction:
a flawed, yet highly admirable main character readers care about
a plot that accelerates in intensity and speed toward en exciting conclusion
a deftly-written narrative where facts and descriptions about the world are slipped in around the character’s actions, thus creating a smooth read
Three reasons I loved this book!
The setting is some twenty years after aliens attack the earth, causing billions to die and ice sheets to melt so high there’s little arable land left. Most people live in subscrapers embedded in the ocean floor and that rise high above the surface. To control the population, no one can have a child until someone within the family dies, typically an older person, who feel pressured to die and make room for the younger generation.
Dr. Bobbie Chan is a doctor who works in a subscraper off the coast of Ireland with the ultra-elderly, 110 or older, whom she loves. Every day she tells her patients they have value and should live to the fullest until the very end, a passion that makes Bobbie extremely admirable. What she doesn’t divulge is that the death of her twin sister when they were young so traumatized Bobbie she fights the very existence of death.
When a strange disease spreads among her patients and the elderly elsewhere in the world, causing them to seemingly get younger, Bobbie at first sees the heightened quality of life potential. But when enough disturbing symptoms emerge, Bobbie begins to suspect foul play on the part of the Belus Corporation that runs the world. Bobbie’s diehard commitment to her patients’ wellbeing pushes her to investigate.
The author does such a fine job of slipping in descriptions of this new world and its advanced technology that there’s never a feeling of being overwhelmed. Instead, the story stays riveted on Bobbie’s changing emotional state and her fight for truth based on her belief that no one should be made to feel like a burden.
Often books and conferences for writers focus on the big parts of stories, such as plot, characters, pace, dialogue, etc.
I tend to approach writing in the opposite manner. Specifically, that the best writers are those who start from the smallest of details and build upward. My logic is that if they’ve taken the time to imagine a single, spot-on gesture, they’ve thought through the characters and story with equal care.
In the short story collection titled Cheers, Somebody, author Katie Lewis consistently nails the minute details that make the characters and their interactions real. Often simply admirably precise, other details are appropriately blunt and crass, while others are painfully truthful. Together the constant and consistent attention to the smallest parts of each story quickly create the mini-universe that is a short story, while also providing that necessary spin of uniqueness on common themes of love, loss, conflict and culture.
Choosing an example from the multitude is difficult, but here’s one from the first story for which the book is titled:
Collins danced his empty cup on the table, making a pock-pock-pock noise with the indented bottom’s echo until Stew placed his hand on top of the cup to make it stop.
The author continues that careful attention to detail throughout the story’s dialogue. Here’s an example from Ink J, the story I found most powerful.
“I, uh, I don’t know how to bring this up,” Bilson after several silent minutes of chewing rubbery licorice. “Not ‘I got news today’ or ‘Here’s something,’ but, well, I suppose. Anyway. I found out today that my college roommate died.”
While I’d term most of the stories accessible literary, a few stretch the mind, including a dystopian love story and a tale that uses brief and highly intimate scenes to portray the narrator’s relationship, seemingly with one man.