Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Cure For Writer's Block

   Hey, folks. Wow, it's been about three weeks since I posted anything. But during my hiatus, I finished up the first half of my next novel and sent it off to my editing team, so it was time well spent. Thanks for your patience. It's good to be back.

So, having spent time overcoming some of it myself, now might be a good time to talk about a topic near and fear (not a typo) to my heart... writer's block!

What is it?

If you look up writer’s block on Wikepedia, you get a condition, primarily associated with writing as a profession, in which an author loses the ability to produce new work.” On a grand scale, this can be a career-ending and character debilitating. Perhaps you’ve run out of ideas, or every idea you come up with falls well short of the last work you published, which was well-received. You find yourself spending all your time coming up with excuses for not producing. Finally, you just give up.

Yikes.

So far, that hasn’t happened to me (unless you count the decades I spent “working up the nerve,” which you probably could). I have a long list of ideas – I’m not saying they’re all good – that could never be exhausted in the short time I have left on this earth. And, I’m pretty secure in the perspective I have on my own writing that it is steadily improving.

But, if I ever suffer from such an extreme manifestation of writer’s block, I bet it will be caused by the same things that plague me on a daily basis and that plague many other writers I’ve talked to.

We’ve got the idea. We’ve got the characters. We may even have an outline for our story. Yet, after finding a few precious hours to write, away from the thousand other obligations in our lives, we stare at the blank screen of our laptops, our fingers poised over the keyboard as the time ticks away. And nothing gets done. We’re stuck.

What causes it?

There are three things that cause the kind of blocks I’m talking about, and they’re the same things that make us unable to accomplish other things we want to in our lives. They are fear, impatience, and perfectionism.

Fear is the mind-killer.” Remember how Paul Atriedes used to recite this litany in Frank Herbert’s classic sci-fi novel, Dune? It’s true. When we dwell on the possibilities of failure (or even success), our minds are frozen into inactivity.

Impatience makes us want the end result without taking the necessary action. It causes frustration, raises blood pressure, and sometimes makes us take a short cut we know will lead us in the wrong direction. It might even lead us to give up.

Perfectionism is really a specific form of fear. We want what we write to be the best, and god forbid it fall short of the perfection we strive for. So the lines we have in our heads are never good enough to put on the page, and therefore they never get there.

What to do about it…

Stay in the moment. It is the key to conquering fear. It is the cure for impatience and perfectionism. When you are in the moment, there is no past to regret, no future to be afraid of. There is only the now, and now is the only time we ever get anything done.

Staying in the moment conquers fear. Fear comes from what might happen in the future, and in the moment there is no future.

Staying in the moment dissolves impatience, because we aren’t concerned with our destination, only with where we are right now.

Perfectionism cannot exist in the moment. We cannot strive to be what we already are.

It wasn’t until I developed the ability to stay in the moment that I ever achieved any success in writing. It’s the single skill I have to thank for being able to finish a project I’ve started, and when I get stuck, it’s the thing I fall back on first to get myself unstuck.

A valuable exercise I use regularly is to ask myself the question, what is my character feeling right now, and how is he/she reacting to it? That not only puts me in the moment, it puts my character there, too. You see, I may or may not know where my character is supposed to end up in the scene, but I can’t write about that. I can only write about what’s going on now, in the moment.
So, I write about how my character feels. I write about how my character reacts. Before I know it, my character has taken some action, and it is written down.

Okay, so those are all the wise words I have today. I’d tell you what’s coming up next week, but I’m staying in the moment. J Until then, Happy Reading!

But Master..., you might say.
Hush, young Grasshopper, I reply, leave it in a comment below.
 
...after you've checked out the first two Red Wolf novels, enjoying an average reader rating on Amazon of 4.45 out of 5 stars!

The Draculata Nest -----------------------------------------------------------------------

Click on the link to order:
ebook for Kindle                                            in Paperback     
ebook for Nook                                              in Charlotte                    
ebook for Kobo                                              Smashwords

The Dragon of Doughton Park ----------------------------------------------------------
Click on the link to order:
ebook for Kindle                                                                   in Paperback
ebook for Nook                                                                     in Charlotte
ebook for Kobo                                                                     Smashwords
 

Friday, July 5, 2013

Top Five Paranormal Countdown - #1

July 13, 2013
   Just a quick note:
      Thanks for dropping by my blog. If you're a regular, I hope you're not too disappointed to find I haven't posted anything new. I've foregone blogging for a few weeks while I prepare part one of the next Red Wolf novel for my editing team.
    Chill. In the long run my time spent writing away from this blog will be for the greater good (mine, anyway - I hope yours, too). I'll be back towards the end of the month with more pithy posts. Meanwhile, happy reading!
   -John

 Hi, folks. For the past five weeks I’ve been counting down my top five paranormal fantasy book series. It's been so much fun sharing the best of the best that I almost hate to see it come to an end. 

Here’s where we stand, so far…
#5 The Twilight Saga, by Stephenie Meyer
#4 The Mercy Thompson series, by Patricia Briggs
#3 The Vampire Academy series, by Richelle Mead
#2 The Sookie Stackhouse novels, by Charlaine Harris

And now it’s finally time for numero uno. Oh, boy. Ooooooh, boy.

Sin is her specialty… and business is booming.

That’s the tag line on the cover of Succubus Revealed, the final book in the Succubus novels, an adult series by Richelle Mead. Mead, better known for her Young Adult novels (you saw I had her YA Vampire Academy series at #3), can also provide some sizzle for a more mature audience. I mean, the chick can flat out write!
 
The series follows succubus, Georgina Kincaid, who sold her soul nearly two millennia ago to wipe the memories of those she had hurt so they would no longer suffer for her mistakes. All the novels take place in the present, and each stands on its own as a fine tale. But the background story that runs through the whole series is one of the most touchingly romantic concepts I’ve ever run across. My heart raced, soared, got torn apart, and ultimately melted as I devoured each book.
     So, let me break it down for you....

What I liked…

Georgina Kincaid…
… is the greatest female heroine in English literature. Okay, I can see men of letters everywhere spewing their lattes and sputtering indignantly (as if any of them read my blog). To them I say, read the damn books. She’s funny, flawed, has the purist soul of any of the damned, and, of course, sexy as hell.

The supporting characters…
… in particular, the oddball crew of non-humans she hangs out with. Mead may have just come up with the truest version of Hell, the ultimate multi-dimensional corporate bureaucracy. Sure, Georgina's boss is a powerful, badass demon who holds power over her soul, but the true penance she must suffer stems from the quotas she’s saddled with and the red tape she must wade through on a day-to-day basis. She is unquestionably working for The Man.

The sexual tension…
… is merciless. The steamy chemistry between Georgina, the succubus, and Seth, the mortal, is ever-present. Yet to consummate their relationship is to steal Seth’s soul, and to truly succumb to her passion means certain death for the man she loves. Could there be any more tension than that?

The sex…
Hey, she’s a succubus. A girl’s got to feed, right? I took a lot of cold showers on my journey through this series.

The romance…
Did you think The Notebook was sweet? Did you shed a tear? Hell, that was nothing.

The series ends…
Bittersweet as it was to read that last chapter, the story was over, and the series had run its course. Richelle Mead proved once again, just as she did with Vampire Academy, that she knows when to call it quits.

What I didn’t like…

Music, and Fashion, and Shopping, oh my…
I’m grasping at straws here, I know, just so I can say there’s something I didn’t like about the series. Richelle Mead has to have grown up in the 80’s, because she insists the music of that decade was the best, an opinion she sneaks into her writings now and again. I disagree. With a few notable exceptions, the 80’s were a musical wasteland sandwiched between two very exceptional vibrant and verdant decades, the 70’s and 90’s.
And then there’s the fashion and, my personal hell, shopping. Mead will describe in great detail the outfits Georgina picks out for herself and everyone else, and what they’re wearing. She’s good at it, I’ll admit. I’m flawed in that area, I’ll admit. I can do without it… I’ll admit.

The series ends…
Sigh. I know I just said I liked that it ended. The story’s over. It was great while it lasted. But I miss my favorite succubus. I always will.

What I stole…

The love story…
Spoiler alert! I didn’t realize what I was doing until I was well into the third novel in my Red Wolf series, so the theft was unconscious. But love that transcends the grave is a theme that surfaces in the initial Red Wolf trilogy and will be explored even more thoroughly in the upcoming Half Human trilogy, which will finish out the Red Wolf Saga.

My drink of choice…
When I started researching specialty coffee drinks while developing the character of Danielle, a barista at a local Starbucks, Georgina’s favorite popped out at me off the menu, and I had to try it. Richelle Mead got that one right, too. White chocolate mochas have fueled the writing of nearly three novels for me since then. There’s nothing better. Unfortunately, I don’t have Georgina’s succubus metabolism (nor Clifford Crane’s werewolf metabolism) to burn off the calories.
 

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So there you have it, the best paranormal fantasy series. What is your all-time favorite? I’d love to hear your comments. Maybe you can introduce me to one of my next top five. Just scroll down past the blatant promotions for my own series and click on "Comments."
Next time… the Cure for Writer’s Block.

  Hey, you might not want to scroll by these too fast, after all. The Red Wolf novels currently enjoy an average reader rating on Amazon of 4.45 out of 5 stars!

The Draculata Nest -----------------------------------------------------------------------

Click on the link to order:
ebook for Kindle                                            in Paperback     
ebook for Nook                                              in Charlotte                    
ebook for Kobo                                              Smashwords

The Dragon of Doughton Park ----------------------------------------------------------
Click on the link to order:
ebook for Kindle                                                                   in Paperback
ebook for Nook                                                                     in Charlotte
ebook for Kobo                                                                     Smashwords