Gently, I placed my hand on hers. I dared not disturb her when she looked so peaceful and yet I couldn't help but find comfort in the contact. Somehow, I felt as if this may the last chance I would get. Her eyelids flickered weakly but remained closed. I imagined her lips had turned up softly at the corners, a gentle smile.
Beep, Beep, Beep…........
I looked up the monitor. My mouth went dry. Such a familiar and oddly comforting sound that sound had been. I gripped her hand, so small, so fragile.
Shouts. People, lots of people, rushed into the cubicle. I was dragged away as I watched the frantic scene unfold. My own voice joined the fray but only the one lady stayed by me. A stranger, telling me to stay back, a hand on my arm as if to restrain me. But I did not pull away, it would not have helped. Her bed was wheeled away. I stood and watched, my voice holding all of the love in my world.
I will see you again, one day, my love.
I’ve been writing since I was a little kid. Goofy comic books to more elaborate ones. I won the student of the month award in 11th grade for writing a horror novel. (I’m still trying to figure out where my mother hid it so I can burn the horrid thing.) A 20 year career in the army kept me writing in those precious few spare moments but I never stopped. By 2010 I had more than 12 full length- I mean really full, like 170k words long- manuscripts. It wasn’t until 2011 that life smiled and I was starting to get published. Sales are slow, but what can you expect from a guy who doesn’t have a name yet?
I thought I’d be a horror writer but that bug died early. I have always hovered around traditional fantasy, but go light on the elves and such. There are better things to write about than pointy eared androgynous figures who live forever. The recent trend with vampires and silly teenage girls who fall in love with them certainly put a dent in my plans to conquer the literary world but the war continues. If I am to get to Valhalla by the end of this journey I need to keep fighting.
I've been able to use my military and combat experience to make my battle sequences more realistic. Nothing bugs me more than watching a movie or reading a book where the author/director clearly has no idea about tactics. The Lord of the Rings were great movies, but horrible from a professional soldier's perspective- especially on keeping soldiers alive. So I decided to change that and make things more realistic. That means that (gasp) sometimes the good guys die too. I'm not sure if my formula is perfect or not, but the audience seems to approve.
Right now I have four novels in print, four in the editing/ review process, four more under consideration for publication, participated in several anthologies, won an award from the L Ron Hubbard writers of the future contest and have a ton more work to get done before I can rest. My publisher and I are expecting to have nine novels for sale by the end of the year. So if you’re interested in a strange, full steam ride sit back, pick up a copy and buckle up. This train doesn’t stop.
About Christian Freed
My name is Sergeant First Class (Retired) Christian W. Freed. I have been writing for a very long time. Years of toil are paying off. I currently have five books in paperback in May 2013(Armies of the Silver Mage and the first four books of my Northern Crusade series: Hammers in the Wind, Tides of Blood and Steel, Empire of Bones, and A Whisper After Midnight) and have written another ten full length sci-fi/ fantasy novels since finishing this. Most of my work centers on the epic quest in a twisted science fiction and fantasy world. I have also written my combat memoirs and a children’s book.
I spent 20 in the United States Army. I am a trained Field Artilleryman with almost 5 years of overseas experience. I spent two years in Korea along the DMZ and then deployed to Afghanistan in 02, Iraq in 03 for the invasion, and Iraq again in 05. I was deployed in combat for parts of 02-06. My last position was as an instructor at the United States Military Academy at West Point, NY.
I am married with two children (son and daughter) and have a thirteen year old daughter from my first marriage. My wife and I have recently learned to love our newest editions, our two Bernese Mountain Dogs.
I have used my experiences to enhance the battle scenes and combat action in my stories. The overall goal is to make them as lifelike as possible, but still in a fantasy setting. A fan critiqued me by saying that he enjoyed how I was able to take modern military tactics and place them in a traditional fantasy setting.
Many new authors only begin marketing themselves and their new books once published. I say that marketing should begin much sooner than this. Begin marketing your writing while working on your novel. Yes, it is hard work but it is worth it.
Imagine this: You’ve finally self-published your first novel. To you it is a shining star, your best work, your pride on paper. However, no one knows it exists! You have no fan base, no one who has been waiting expectantly for your novel to be published.
You can avoid this scenario. Start marketing your writing before publishing. By doing this you form a fan base who will follow you online and enjoys the writing you have already produced even if this writing isn’t in the form of novels. These people are the ones who know you exist, know your writing exists, and will know when your novel is published. How? Because they will be listening when you tell the world it’s out there!
Begin marketing your writing now. Create a website, form your social media accounts, and let the world see you and your writing.
Scarlett Van Dijk
Image courtesy of stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.
These words by Samuel Beckett have meaning for authors at every stage of their profession, be it emerging, mid-career or established writers like myself.
People often want to know what I find most difficult about writing a novel and seven books into my writing career, my answer to this question remains the same. I revel in the research, find joy in tapping out the first draft and dive into the second and even third drafts with enthusiasm. It’s only when my novel is finished and I’ve deemed it ready to send out to publishers that my stress level rockets. Will it be stuck at the bottom of a slush pile for months? Worse, what if the acquisitions editor reads it and doesn’t like it. In other words, how will I handle the inevitable rejection that every writer must face again and again while maintaining the optimism necessary to keep on trying?
Recently, I received a long and detailed rejection letter from a prestigious Canadian publisher, which gutted me to the point that I had a friend read it first and summarize the main points of why my book had been rejected. Even though the letter was encouraging and full of praise, I was left with a sense of shame at my obvious failure to write an engaging story that would appeal to teens everywhere.
This sense of shame stayed with me for months. I allowed it to paralyze my creativity and found myself unable to write a single word. I felt indignant, humiliated and angry. Worst of all, I felt inadequate as a writer. One day, weeks after I received that rejection letter, my son asked me if I’d heard back from the publisher. I mumbled that I had, but that it had been bad news. “They hate the book,” I lamented, grossly overstating the truth.
He gave me a puzzled look. After all, this wasn’t the first rejection letter he’d seen me receive and it wouldn’t be the last. “So, did you send it out to another publishing house?”
“Not yet,” I replied. “I hate failing and I’m having problems coming to terms with it.”
“But you always say that ‘success is not possible without failure. That the only way to avoid failing is to not try.’
I thought about his words overnight. I’ve often told writing students exactly that. After a stern self-talk, I choked down my self-pity and sent out multiple submissions. I haven’t heard back from anyone yet, but I’ve regained my confidence. I know I am a good writer. I just let my ego take over and I forgot Beckett’s words.
Thank Goodness there was someone there to remind me of them.
When Scarlett Van Dijk asked me to write a column for her blog, I agreed reluctantly, convinced that I had little advice to give to others struggling to launch their writing careers. For weeks I felt like a fraud so I didn’t write anything. It was only after that conversation with my son that I realized I had something really important to say. I thought about Stephen King and his multiple rejections. I remembered other successful writers who had experienced rejection; William Golding, John Le Carre, J.K. Rowling and Tony Hillerman to name just a few.
If you are a writer, the odds are good that you too will experience the pain of a publisher not liking your work. If you are just a want-to-be, you never will, but nor will you know the joy of holding your newly printed novel your hands, or taking it off a shelf in your local bookstore.
So, it’ my turn to pay it forward and to pass on this most valuable of advice: Keep trying until you succeed. I promise you, it’s worth it in the end.
About Julie Burtinshaw
Julie was born in Vancouver and has lived in many different cities and towns both in and out of Canada. Julie is an award winning author of six books for young adults. Her fifth novel, The Perfect Cut,is included in the Canadian Children’s Book Centre, Best Books for Teens 2009 list, and was nominated for the prestigious Ontario White Pine Award. She has read and facilitated writer’s workshops in high schools across Canada (BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario) where her highly interactive and lively workshops have helped to foster a love of both reading and writing to young adults and adults everywhere.
She is an active blogger and has judged many celebrated writing contests, including the 2008, BC Book Awards. In 2011 she was selected as a judge for the Red Cedar Award (BC), as well as the2011 and 2012 Mate E. Palmer Professional Communicators Contest of the Illinois Women’s Press Association (IWPA).
The Darkness Between the Stars, Fiction, McKellar Martin, Vancouver, BC, 2011
The Perfect Cut, Young Adult Fiction, Raincoast Books, Vancouver, BC, 2008 (308 pages)
The Freedom of Jenny, Young Adult Historical Fiction Raincoast Books, Vancouver, BC, 2005 (186 pages)
Romantic Ghost Stories, Adult Short Stories, Lone Pine Publishing, Edmonton, Alberta, 2004 (224 pages)
Adrift, Young Adult Fiction, Raincoast Books, Vancouver, BC, 2002 (163 pages)
Dead Reckoning, Young Adult Historical Fiction, Raincoast Books, Vancouver, BC, 2000 (119 pages)
Disadvantages of Short Stories
Writing short stories is its own entity. Novels are not short, short stories are not long. Novel writing includes detailed setting creation (especially in the case of fantasy writing), drawn out plots and sub plots, well-formed characters with strong motives, personalities, and background stories. When writing short stories you may not have the available word count to permit for such detail and instead are required to 'cut to the chase'. Writing short stories may actually hinder in your ability to write novels as you may find it difficult to compose longer pieces and invent plots which are not predictable or which contain multiple sub plots and concepts.
I recommend to any aspiring novelist to write what their heart desires. If their ideas transform into short stories or novels it doesn't matter. Short stories can also be a selling point for novelists trying to sell their work since they take less commitment from a reader. There is no quick way to learn how to become a novelist, it comes with practice, and the best way to practice novel writing is to write novels.
Scarlett Van Dijk
Image courtesy of Sicha Pongjivanich / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Writing is one of the most creatively freeing activities a person can do. Writing can be beautiful, it can be ugly. At times it can be difficult, whilst many times words can just fly off the page. Writing can reflect on your experiences, what you see in the world, what you'd like to see in the world, and it is often the first exposure a person will get to entertainment.
But sometimes we have a little trouble using the "D" word. That's right. Diversity.
There was once a time where I read books just to read books, because they had pretty covers, or interesting plots about fallen angels, or unattainable love, where "insert character here", saves "insert character there."
But through this journey of written colloquy, it wasn't until my 20's I noticed how short reaching the narratives I read came from. Typically American, young, white, able bodied, almost always straight and cis-gendered. I cant say they've always been male, because I typically connect easily to women protagonists vs men, but many others disagree.
Attending this year's BookCon, I had the greatest opportunity to sit in for the #WeNeedDiverseBooks panel. This whole #WeNeedDiverseBooks hashtag started over the lack of diversity at a children's book panel, and to be honest, it's been happening since anyone can remember, the only thing that's changed was author Ellen Oh refusing to stay quiet this time.
Writing should be an extension of yourself. And while that infamous phrase "write what you know" has been etched into the narratives of many of the things you may write as we speak, do you take the time to make sure you're writing is diverse?
No one should have to tell how important diversity is, I think many of us are open minded enough to know that by now. And also, let me make myself clear. No one is asking you to write what you DONT want to write. No one is asking you to make characters to fill a quota, and writing diversely is not, I repeat, IS NOT or should be seen as being on some agenda.
But when you step outside, do you only see one type of anything? Ok, maybe you don't live in Sacramento, CA. Maybe you're from a small community where you don't encounter many strangers or tourists, and don't openly seek people different from you.
But the world is full of people. Diverse people. The world wide web itself is a thriving source of diverse people, that with the click of a mouse, are at your fingertips. Having a day job is living diversely. Even going to Starbucks, puts you at the mercy of being around different people you might have nothing in common with.
Even if you don't recognize it, you are living diversely everyday. Why cant your writing reflect that? If there isn't a reason NOT to write diversely, there shouldn't be anything standing in the way of creating a gay main character, or a character in a wheelchair, or an Polynesian protagonist. And it doesn't have to be mutually exclusive! Try telling someone who actually is Polynesian, disabled and queer, that their narratives don't matter. Just the idea of that type of invisibility is dangerous, because it isn't just to show people who are Polynesian, disabled and queer that they can be heroes.
It's to show everyone who isn't that they can be too.
About Guinevere Thomas
Guinevere Thomas is one half of a blog duo known as "Twinja Book Reviews." She and her twin sister blog about diversity in books, their favorite martial artists, and wholly support more women, more disabled, more queer, more people of color, and diverse body types and religions in books. If you have a book that highlights strong characters like this, look don't be afraid to check her out! And yes it's pronounced Gwen-ah-veer!
A Writer's Tale
Scarlett Van Dijk
Writer of young adult, fantasy series, the Sky Stone series, poetry and short stories.
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