Mandy Eve-Barnett's Official Blog

Inspiration for Writers & Building A Community ©

Ask A Question Thursday

April 25, 2019
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I have just returned from a five day writing retreat in the Rocky mountains. It occurred to me that we (writers) all enjoy escaping every day life to write. So today’s question is: Where is your perfect writing retreat?

retreat

Would you prefer mountain or forest cabin, or a beach house or somewhere else? Would you go alone or within a group?

 

Last week’s question: How did you build your author platform? Was it by personal effort or did you have professional help?

 

Author Interview – Christa Conklin

March 26, 2019
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AuthorInterview

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What inspired your latest novel?

In my youth, my father filled my bookshelves with Tolkien, Lewis, L’Engle, Alexander, and Eddings. As I entered adulthood, he bought me Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time books as they released.

My dad’s health declined. I began writing my own fantasy novel, transforming my useless anxiety into imaginative scribbling.

During this time, Robert Jordan was diagnosed with a disease similar to my father’s. They endured identical treatments, even taking part in a study for the same drug.

Jordan passed away before completing the series which was finished by Brandon Sanderson. My husband gave me those last three books because my father was gone too.

The sole connection between my dad and Jordan may appear tragic, but out of despair came Tranquility.

How did you come up with the title?

Tranquility is the name of a book within my novel. I wanted the title of that book to clearly represent peace, which was the intended purpose of the rules in that book.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

When I buy a fantasy book, I’m looking for a good story to curl up with and enjoy. I wrote a book I would want to read. Great books stick with me, and make me want to discuss them with other readers. A fictional story becomes the reader’s once the book is in their hands, and any message received is personal. I hope my book provides what good fiction should be: enjoyment; a story that remains in hearts and minds; and a reason for thoughtful discussion. That’s a tall order, I know.

Tranquility - Front Cover.png

How much of the book is realistic?

My hope is that the emotions, characters, and general circumstances connect to the real world enough for readers to identify with them. Some of the setting and characters were inspired by the Adirondacks, one of my favorite places. The messengers in the last chapter were inspired by a pair of Southern Ground Hornbills, who still reside at the Philadelphia Zoo. However, this is an absolute work of fiction.

Are your characters based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

There are pieces of me, people I know, and experiences I have sprinkled throughout the story. Close family and friends tease me about certain characters, who remind them of me. The best fun is when people project themselves on characters, who are not at all inspired by them.

Where can readers find you on social media and do you have a blog?

My website is the best place to connect with me. I do not have a blog.

http://www.christaconklin.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/christaconklinauthor/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/christaconklin

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/christaconklinauthor/?hl=en

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17528828.Christa_Conklin

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Christa-Conklin/e/B0788392DJ/

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/christa-conklin-72002669/

Do you have plans or ideas for your next book? Is it a sequel or a stand alone?

I have the first few chapters of a stand alone WIP written and sitting on the back burner. The sequel to Tranquility is taking precedence.

Of the characters you have created or envisioned, which is your favorite & why?
I think Taelmai is high on my list of favorite characters. She struggles with hypochondria, but her nurturing personality drives her to care deeply for others, allowing an underlying bravery to well up. She’s a complicated, anxious, loving person, and I wonder about her reliability. She feels very human to me as I care for, worry about, and doubt her.

Do you favor one type of genre or do you dabble in more than one?

Fantasy is my favorite genre. I do like to dabble. My short story Kat, The Jailer, and Jack is a retelling of an Indian folk tale The Tiger, The Brahmin, and the Jackal. This was fun to write because it was backwards for me. I took this old story filled with personification and reworked it into a modern all human cast of characters.

Do you plan your stories, or are you a seat of the pants style writer?

Seat of my pants, definitely! Reading an interview with Madeleine L’Engle was a huge inspiration to me. Until I read it, I knew I had a basic idea for a story, but I didn’t know where it would go or how it would end. I thought I needed to have this outline to be a REAL writer. Then I read “The Wand in the Word: Conversations with Writers of Fantasy” by Leonard S. Marcus. He asked L’Engle, “Did you know from the start how the story would end?” she responded, “No. I’ve never done that! It is more fun not to know. If you know exactly what is going to happen, it doesn’t work. But if you start to write the story and listen to it, see where it wants to go … well, I think that’s how God creates.”

Reading this from one of my most-admired authors freed me from self-imposed constraints. I began to write, and the story unfolded.

What is your best marketing tip?

I value personal, grass roots effort as a strong starting place. I have a small teen/young adult tribe who have agreed to help me promote my book. They will be involved in everything from sharing and creating social media posts to live-streaming my author events and overseeing craft tables to talking to group leaders at their schools. Their peers are my readers. There is no better way to reach a population than to have some enthusiastic members encouraging their peers to enjoy what they have enjoyed. Also, talk to people and listen well. I discovered three friends, who have connections to newspaper/magazine publications. All three of them have helped me secure feature articles about my book. Talking to my town’s librarian and comic book store owner have secured me two author events. When I was on vacation in the Adirondacks, I talked to bookstore owners and loon conservationists about my book and its being inspired by their part of the world and the creatures residing there. I’ve made some great connections. Get yourself out there!

Do you find social media a great tool or a hindrance?

I have mixed feelings about social media. Tending to it takes a lot of time away from my writing and the personal engagement I prefer. However, it is a convenient way to reach a lot of people.

OPTIONAL QUESTIONS

What do you enjoy most about writing?

I enjoy losing myself in the story as it develops. This feels very similar to why I love to read.

Do you read for pleasure or research or both?

I usually read for pleasure, but now that I am a writer, I find myself reading differently, noticing technical writing choices. I try hard to put that away, and just enjoy, but sometimes I am struck by a point of view or how dialogue is handled and I become thoughtful about the craft instead of the story.

Where is your favorite writing space?

I dream of writing in a cafe, using WiFi, and sipping a cafe mocha. However, I am a homeschooling mom, who is thankful for the times that my kids are learning independently, taking a class, volunteering, at practice, or playing outside so that I can write by daylight. For me, it’s more about a favorite time to write. That would be by daylight, but out of necessity, most of my writing happens in the wee hours. As for where this happens, I mix it up between my kitchen table, dining room table, and sometimes, when the sun is still up, the desk in my bedroom. That makes me feel fancy!

Bio:

CHRISTA CONKLIN is the author of several articles, and two short stories: Moontail and Kat, the Jailer, and Jack. Tranquility is her debut novel for which she received the 2016 Cascade Award for Unpublished Speculative Fiction. She teaches piano and
woodwinds at a music school in her small New Jersey town. Her family hikes mountains, paddles lakes, strolls city streets, and picks their own everything at local farms and from their own gardens. She and her meteorologist husband home school
their children and don’t train their Miniature Goldendoodle.
Visit her at christaconklin.com.

Review:

Tranquility  by Christa Conklin
“Tranquility is a refreshing take on the fantasy genre. Filled with magic, prophecies,
and plenty of mythical beings, Conklin weaves an intriguing, imaginative
tale that grabs you and doesn’t let you go until the last page. With a rich cast of
characters, vivid world building, and a story you’ll be talking about long after you
finish reading, Tranquility leaves readers both satisfied and yearning for the next
adventure in the series.” —Kathryn Lee Martin, author, the Snow Spark Saga
Elk Lake Publishing, Inc.
March 20, 2019

Blurb:
She must prove there’s more to life than peace and more to death than dying.
The One People find guidance to peace and unity in the pages of TRANQUILITY. Drethene views the methods prescribed in the book as hurtful attempts to escape their diverse ancestry. Such pain is personal, as her parents aim to conceal how different she looks from the rest of their people. Even her job keeps Drethene quiet and secluded. While working in the Academy library, she secretly reads histories used only to teach future leaders to loathe the past. Drethene is inspired by these books filled with cultural variety. When she discovers another world as part of her people’s heritage, a well established enemy is revealed, and she rises to meet the truth and save both worlds.
Now Drethene must convince the One People that their lives are not as tranquil as they seem. They are being hunted and must reunite with a sisterworld that has been erased from their past. If they choose to remain in the comfort of their rewritten history and false sense of peace. they will be dragged into a maelstrom they have forgotten to fear.

 

Ask A Question Thursday

March 21, 2019
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Today’s question:

How big of a part does music play in creating your “zone”? Do you prefer a certain genre of music or silence?

music

Please join the conversation…and leave your reply in the comments below.

 

Last week’s question:

How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?

Did you feel more pressure to improve from your last book? Were you writing a series or a standalone?

How did you balance writing with promotion for your last book?

 

Ask A Question Thursday

January 31, 2019
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One of my characters in The Twesome Loop is an abuser. Readers have commented that they really hated him, which, of course was the idea. However, during the editing/revision process, I was asked to give some sort of an empathetic side to his character (a reason for his behavior). This I did and it ‘explained’ his motivation to some extent.

When I recently watched the Ted Bundy tapes (which are truly terrifying due to his charm & ‘normalcy’ to those who knew him) it made me think that in fiction we ‘explain’ character motives but in reality there may never be one that makes sense.

Today’s question is: Have you been asked to ‘explain’ a character trait?

Were you happy to explain it or do/did you feel it took something away from the narrative?

Click on the post heading and then scroll to the comments. Looking forward to everyone’s opinion and experiences.

 

Ask A Question Thursday

January 17, 2019
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The initial question was: Should you pick the genre before beginning your story or figure out what genre it is after you have written it?

(Look at the bottom of this post for the continuing query – Are genre formulas a myth?)

Last week’s responses:

I always have a vague idea of what the genre is going to be before I start a piece but if the inspiration takes me somewhere else then I don’t try and steer back because the characters lead the story.

Kristen Lamb 

Genre is essential for those who want to write professionally, for an income and for a living. For those who are having fun simply writing? No, doesn’t matter. For those who are new and learning? Not as huge of a deal but starting to be important. Those who want to be experimental and maybe want to win awards? Meh.

Yet, for anyone who want to be PAID for their books (code for product), genre is our lighthouse to keep us from smashing on the rocks.

The entire point of genre is so the author can locate and cultivate fans who will BUY his/her books…which they (readers) will also be able to locate because they will know where the book is shelved or what genre it’s listed under.

If no one has any idea WTH a book is, where to shelve it, or how to describe it? That’s bad.

If the book gets into a bookstore, then where do they put it? “General Fiction.” Okay. Sucky but okay.

But, since most people discover and buy books online, what keywords would you attach? Genre will matter BIG.

What other product/service/ business would be so indeterminate and hope to have any commercial success?

“You know, I am going to open a restaurant and just cook what I feel like and the ingredients just tell me what to do.” Um, have fun storming the castle. Rock on!

But marketing and advertising will now be a total nightmare. Good luck finding those who will eat a place no one can accurately describe.

Same with books.

Not impossible but adds a TON of unnecessary work when authors already have a ton to do as is.

I think a MAJOR misconception is genre somehow locks us into formulaic writing, which is patently false.

First of all, yes there are formulaic genres. Write a category sweet romance and there is a strict formula because these publishers know their readers and what they want.

And, since romance brings in BILLIONS and makes up over 70% of all books sold? Probably a good idea to listen to the guidelines.

Beyond that, genres can be melded and we (as writers) can get creative much like musicians who create fusions of sound, juxtaposing different types of music for a wholly unique sound (I.e. old gospel hymns influencing heavy metal).

Yet, the musicians KNOW music before playing around and reinventing new sounds.

Similarly, we should know and understand genre expectations. They exist for a reason.

Genres help us identify who is most likely to buy our book (which in the new paradigm we need to know no matter which way we publish).

Secondly, genres have rules and we break the rules at our own peril.

Breaking rules is fine. I do it all the time. But I know the rules BEFORE I break them.

For instance, there used to be a rule that one couldn’t mix POVs. If you began in first you had to stay there. If you began in third, you stayed there.

But WHY did the rule exist? Namely to stave off confusion. YET, Jefferson Parker (genius he is) wanted the audience to gain a closer psychic distance with the antagonist to make them more attached and thus more conflicted about him being apprehended/stopped.

So he wrote the antagonist in close first and the MC protagonist in third to make the reader psychologically struggle at a whole new level. Jeff knew genre, the rules, the constraints, THEN he bent them to do something never done.

Thirdly, genre is primarily for readers. It helps them find what they are looking for. When we don’t want to put a genre on our work because it ‘limits the muse’ or whatever, it is like asking our audience to go grocery shopping and buy canned goods with no labels and just trust it will be yummy.

Genres help readers have SOME idea of what they are getting. If we mislabel, there can be consequences.

Years ago, I had a client who believed she had a romance (but obviously hadn’t studied genre rules/expectations).

She self-published and got SLAYED in reviews, and panicked and sobbing, hired me to help. I took one look and knew the problem.

Yes, her writing was good and so was the story, but in her book…guy and gal didn’t end up together in the end.

In romance, (back then) you needed an HEA (Happily Ever After) which has loosened up to an HFN (Happily For Now) but the couple still has to end up together.

Without that? NOT a romance. She had a Women’s Fiction. She got a new cover, relaunched, slated in the correct genre and BOOM. Sales and great reviews.

In this instance, we had a case of completely different audience with different expectations.

When we slot a book in the wrong genre it’s like serving someone Tofurkey and trying to tell them it’s actually turkey. They are going to HATE it because the basis for comparison is TURKEY not vegan meat substitutes.

It’s like a bad bait-and-switch that ticks off readers.

Then, genre is going to give guideposts to word count. How LONG is the book roughly supposed to be?

Audiences in certain genres have preferences. Epic high fantasy readers give no figs about reading a 180,000 word book. Someone who likes cozy mysteries? No. Like 65K. Sure, feel free to write a 180,000 word cozy mystery but no one who loves that genre is likely to buy.

As far as considering genre ahead of time? I don’t understand how an author can’t do this, at least loosely. Stories are for the audience, not us. Unless we only want to sell a book to ourselves.

And this isn’t me saying “write for the market’ because that sort of “writing for the market” is when you, say, love writing Jane Austen historical romances and decide, instead, to write a techno-thriller because the genre is hot at the moment…and yet you can’t use your printer without tech support and are so bored by military fiction you want to kill yourself…but you write it because it is HOT.

Just no.

But beyond that, looking at genre is a FANTASTIC resource to understand our readers, who they are, what they want and not only give them what they want…but also slip in something they never knew they wanted until they read your book!

***This is why agents need to know genre. They have to have ammo to SELL our manuscript for the most BANK. If they can’t articulate what it IS, who is going to buy it? No one. Bye, Felicia.

Back to process. To me, failing to even roughly determine genre ahead of time is madness. I’ve done it (when I was a n00b) and it sucks and I have the scars to prove how dumb this was (for me).

My time is valuable. Without determining some broad strokes regarding genre, that is a formula for revision HELL. To be retro-fitting the Space Station for a hot tub.

It will make SEO and keywords a BEAST. Ultimately, it’s just a recipe for heavy drinking and ugly crying.

Just because we choose a genre in the beginning doesn’t mean we can’t get creative and blend or even veer at an angle toward a kissing-cousin genre (I.e. suspense can become a thriller).

In the end, writers can do whatever works for them and sells a lot of books. Yet—after fifteen years in this business professionally—I’ve found that, more often than not, writers who eschew genre rarely finish the book.

Or, if they do, revisions are like a trip to the fifth circle of hell which is why it takes FOREVER for them to ‘finish.’ Often, they can’t get traditionally published and so they self-pub and the books don’t sell (and there are reasons for that).

Look at authors making bank, traditionally and nontraditionally published. They KNOW their genre and audience and they WRITE FOR THEM…even the literary folks (*nod to Fredrik Backman*).

Anyway, long response but there ya go. My two cents…okay twenty bucks. Best of luck to everyone.

I’d say knowing at least a basic genre before you start writing is important. Maybe you know you want to write a romance, but figure out as you’re going along it’ll be an erotic romance. Okay, fine. But you can’t just start spewing words without knowing your characters, the plot, what genre, etc. You can’t sit down and just start typing without knowing some form of topic of what you’re writing. It’ll just turn into a mess that way.

over to you

So let’s look at this from a slightly different angle.

If you are writing in a particular genre do you ‘conform’ to the preconceived format of that genre? If romance – fall in love, difficulties arise, opposing feeling, loss of love, surprise event, and falling back into deep everlasting love? OR Sci-fi – the hero has to fight an enemy, the struggle is real and looks overwhelming, battles and fights, a glimpse of hope and the final defeat?

Do you want to conform to formula writing? Would you rather break the mold? Is it a myth that genres have formulas?

With a specific genre there is a better chance your book will be put into the genre bookshelf as opposed to a general fiction slot as Kristen mentioned.

Is this good marketing?

Does it restrict your creativity?

 

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