Monday, April 25, 2011

The Fuzzy Brain Attempts a Coherent Blog Post...and Fails

And we're on the air in 3...2...1...

GO!

Buzzzzz...the silence hiss of static and...is someone snoring?

Testing, testing. Hello? Heather, are you there? Tap tap tap.

Huh, what? Who? Processing*...Oh, yeah...I'm supposed to be writing a blog post. Gotcha.

So, ahem. Sorry. My mind blanked out. I'm editing right now and that kind of tends to turn my brain to fuzz. Like Pooh. "What you got in there for brains?" "Stuffing, actually."

Anyway.

Half Blood has been taking over my office. A few pages of draft 1 here, a stack of draft 2 there, red pens and markers all over the futon. Want to see my new wallpaper?

Yep, that's all my notes and outlining for Half Blood. It will probably expand as I finish rewriting the third draft.

My best advice right now? Don't change who the villain is partway through the story. I've done this to draft 1 of two stories, and it just makes everything messy. Lots of rewriting and story tweaking. Just sit down and figure out enough about the story beforehand. I think even non-outliners could do that. Hey, I'm a non-outliner, for the most part. It's fun that way. Your characters get to surprise you more. Except when the bad guy changes his name or rank. That's not so much fun.

So yes, editing. Come back next week. Maybe I'll have something more coherent and meaty and thought-provoking for you at that time. :0D

*And for those who don't know..."Processing" is an inside joke between my friend Mary & I. It happened after a late-night brainstorming session at her house. When we woke up, she asked me the time. I stared at my watch for about a minute and finally managed to spout one highly intelligent word..."Processing". OK, so maybe it isn't THAT funny. You had to be there. At least Mary will get a kick out of it. ;0)

Monday, April 18, 2011

Meet the Author: Fred Warren

I'm very excited about this interview today. Fred Warren's book The Muse was so fun to read, and I know that you're going to enjoy this interview.

How do you get ideas for stories? Specifically, what gave you the idea for The Muse?

It’s little things--a picture, a phrase, a song--something I notice in the world around me that catches my attention and sticks in my head until I figure out what to do with it. In the case of The Muse, I kept running into instances of writers talking about “looking for their muse,” or “finding their muse.” It struck me one day that if somebody literally found their muse, it might not be a positive experience. What if you encountered an evil muse? What might happen? The story grew from there.

When did you start writing? How did you know that God called you to write?

I’ve always enjoyed playing around with words, and I liked writing stories and essays in school. When I got to college, I began writing more creatively as a sort of recreation, to relieve stress. I wrote more poetry than fiction then, but as I got older, fiction became a bigger and bigger part of it, but I kept it mostly to myself. I realized after I became a father and my kids started to grow up that I couldn’t keep writing solely for my personal amusement--stories are meant to be shared.

Has God called me to write? I’m still sorting that out. In some ways, I think it’s a question I can only answer in retrospect, after a lot more writing than I’ve done to date. I do pray for God’s guidance and inspiration as I write. If my stories touch people’s hearts and minds for the better, I think I’m on the right track.

Do any of your characters take over the story, or do they generally stay well-behaved?

My characters are usually very cooperative, but they do surprise me from time to time, saying or doing something I didn’t expect. In The Muse, for example, my villain waltzed into the story several chapters earlier than I had planned, in a manner and form that I didn’t expect, and it definitely changed the story. I’m happy when my characters do things like that, because I always learn something new about them that makes the story richer, even though it also means more work for me.

Why did you decide to write fantasy?

I enjoyed reading both science fiction and fantasy growing up, and it’s fun to write the kind of stories I like to read. It gives me the opportunity to put ordinary people into extraordinary situations and then see what happens. Fantasy is more flexible than science fiction, in that there aren’t as many real-world limitations on the things you can do, but the story usually chooses its own genre. I couldn’t have written The Muse as a science fiction story.

You have all sorts of fantasy creatures in the end of The Muse. Which one is your favorite?

Having spent some time in the Air Force, I have a particular affection for flying creatures, so the winged horses and gryphons were fun to write.

Are Jilly, Stan, or Davos based off any writers you know? ;)

Not really. I suppose there’s a little bit of me in Stan, by necessity (it comes out mostly in his sense of humor), but neither the character nor his story are in any way autobiographical. Jilly and Davos are more representative of their genres than any writer in particular, though my mental picture of Davos was sort of a younger, beefier Isaac Asimov.

Who is your favorite character that you've created? That you've read about?

That’s like asking me which one of my kids I like the best. I think they’re all wonderful, and each one has their own special charm. As far as other literary characters, I’d have to say Tom Sawyer, who was probably the first really strong fictional character I encountered when I was a kid. I admired his ingenuity and ability to think quickly in tight spots. Mark Twain is still one of my favorite authors.

How do you go about writing a book or story?

It usually starts with a root idea, as it did with The Muse. I’ll sketch out a general outline of the story, its setting, and the main characters, but I won’t do much more than that before I begin writing. I find if I try to nail down too much of the story in advance, it inhibits my writing and restricts my ability to do the creative things that make the story more unusual and less predictable. As ideas come to me, I’ll jot them down in a notebook, especially if it’s something a little further down the road that I I tend to “live” the story in my mind, visualizing it and playing it over and over inside my head. If I stay interested, I figure there’s a fair chance the reader will be interested too.

What do you do if you have a severe case of writer's block?

I usually take a break for a while--do something non-writing. I’ve found it’s easier to break through writer’s block when I’m not actively fighting it, because the frustration just builds on itself. I’ll often get a fresh idea in the shower, or while driving to work.

Do you have a favorite funny writing quote?

"Being an author is like being in charge of your own personal insane asylum."- Graycie Harmon

Thanks, Fred, for being a guest on Magical Ink.

You can connect with Fred on his blog, like him on Facebook, and buy his book The Muse at Splashdown Booka. Have a good week!

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Muse By Fred Warren

Creativity can't kill--or can it?

In Fred Warren's book, The Muse, creativity is a deadly serious thing. The story starts out with Stan--an ordinary guy working an ordinary job, who aspires to be a fantasy writer--meeting with his writing friends, a paranormal author named Jilly and a science fiction writer named Davos. As they commiserate over being stalled in their various works-in-progress, a sweet librarian-looking lady stumbles into their meeting. She introduces herself as Leila Starling, a freelance editor, and offers to help them.

Divine intervention, right?

Well, Stan's wife Charity isn't so sure. She thinks its just a little too coincidental. Stan gently ridicules her fears, but events quickly change his minds. He has several writing sessions where he doesn't remember writing a thing--yet fills 20 pages of the best writing he's ever done in his life. All three experience great writing and wonderful opportunistic meetings that Leila sets up for them. But when Jilly lands in the hospital, apparently in a coma, Stan decides that thy have to take action.

The Muse is a wonderful fantasy that is part hilarious, part creepy thrilller, and part heart-breaking. I teared up at the sweet, achy ending. And I laughed out loud at the three writers as they bemoaned their writing problems. Don't I know how that feels! Wanna-be authors will probably find this book especially fun to read.

I was impressed with the way the story was written. The dialog especially is natural and sounds like it's coming from real people, instead of cardboard characters. All the characters are easily distinguishable from each other and have their own, fun quirks. They all made realistic choices and I could identify easily with them. Another thing that impressed me was that there was no cussing or intimacy (beyond kissing and flirting between Stan and Charity).

Overall, this was a great read that I recommend to anyone that enjoys speculative fiction. Five stars!

~I received this book for free from Splashdown Books as a book reviewer~

Next week, be sure to come by for a interview with the author of The Muse, Fred Warren!

Monday, April 4, 2011

To Borrow From Nike

Just do it!

That was my life mantra a couple of weeks ago. I caught a cold on vacation, and so for four days after getting home, I did almost nothing. Dishes piled up and laundry sat unfolded as I sat and watched The Addams Family on Netflix.

Then I realized that not only was the house a wreck, but I needed to finish a short story, because the contest deadline was March 15th. But I didn't feel like writing. I wasn't in the mood. Ack! What was I supposed to do?

I sat down that night and wrote 2,000 words in an hour and a half.

That's just what you have to do sometimes. Sit and write. Do the dishes. Work on school. Clean out the closet. Whatever. Just do it. I'm finding that most of the time, if I say, "OK, I'm just going to get in there and do this" then I end up getting more down than I originally thought I would. With writing, it made me re-excited (is that a word? If not, it should be) about the unfolding story. I ended up finishing it the next night and got started on another story that I need to finish. "Just doing it" made me excited about the writing process all over again.

Maybe I need to tape those three words of wisdom above my writing desk. ;0)

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