Years ago I gave myself permission to write without censorship from my internal editor. To write what I enjoyed reading and to just be free to write whatever came into my consciousness.
Of course that resulted in pages and pages of material that I discarded, but I also began to form a characterization from this type of stream of consciousness writing. That character became my Main Character, Tina Munroe. Up until that point I had been forcing my character onto her and making very little progress with the development of her character.
Now I use this type of free form writing as an exercise to break away from my preconceived notions and personality and eventually uncover different characters. I think of this type of exercise as allowing the muse to take the reins and develop the characters on the page independently from me.
Another exercise is where I make a list of emotions, or states of being: Sadness, anger, fear OR vengeful, envious, greedy and write a paragraph showing a character in the throes of said emotion or state of being.
I’ve read that these types of exercises help to find one’s voice. Another interesting exercise is writing AS someone else. Say, writing the same paragraph over and over but as a different persona. Shakespeare would write that paragraph quite differently from James Patterson.
What writing exercises do you practice that help you flesh out your characters, or to find your voice, or your character’s voices?
Nancy A. Niles is the author of Vendetta: A Deadly Win, published by Second Wind Publishing Co.
I’ve heard so many successful people say that one needs Focus to create their dreams and goals. I’ve heard one needs to eat, live and breathe what it is their heart desires to accomplish. Focus. That magic word that implies a hundred percent of one’s attention and aim going toward a result, or end product.
And then there is the phenomenon of losing oneself in a project. Is that the same thing as Focus?
I think it is. I’ve noticed those times when I’ve lost myself in my writing, where nothing else enters my mind but the story and the characters, where I am transported to the world of the story and it is all so very real that time vanishes and it’s as though I’ve broken through into another dimension. During those times I can create freely and easily reach my writing goals.
Actually I think of it more as a possession. The writing possesses me. The story possesses me. I keep the story in my mind through the day. It is always churning and growing in my head like a living thing that’s trying to be born. It shows up in my dreams, it’s the first thing I think about when I wake up, it nags at me until I throw the words at the paper. It is with me while I’m driving, shopping, working, running errands, doing dishes.
When a story possesses me , that is how I Focus. It becomes very important and won’t just go away. Focus for me, is what my mind dwells upon throughout the day and night. Sometimes I don’t even know the story is talking to me until I sit down and start to type.
How many times have you sat down to write and thought: I don’t know what I’m going to write about? Suddenly the first word comes, then the second and pretty soon you’ve written a page and can go on and on for hours? I think that is Focus. How do you Focus?
Since we’re coming up on a holiday of thanks, sharing with friends and family and good food, I wanted to share some of my Good Food Memories.
I have heard that scent is very important to memory, but I find that food also is helpful in recalling things of the past. For instance, I cannot eat a corn dog without recalling a memory from a carnival years ago. And those big black and white cookies? Fuggidabout it! I will always remember my first trip to a real New York Deli!
The smell of popcorn takes me back to the Saturday morning movie matinees where I think every kid in town went. I have great memories of seeing all the Edgar Allan Poe movies with my brother and cousins and a theatre full of screaming kids. And there are some shocking food memories, too. Such as the time my cousin was eating a Bid Daddy candy bar. You remember those hard caramel candy bars on a stick that you’d bite into and it felt as though it was going to pull the fillings right out of your teeth? Anyway, he bit into the candy bar and pulled it away from his mouth to find his front tooth sticking out of the top of the bar.
At one point in my life I got very much into baking and very much into baking sourdough bread. I had my sourdough starter which I mixed with water and flour, put in a Styrofoam cooler with a small light and a thermometer to keep it at the perfect temperature and I grew my sourdough starter. The bread was great and it was really fun getting that starter up and running. Then there was noodle making, and clay pot cooking and fun with filo and wonton wrappers.
I remember all those endeavors with great fondness and there was great fun involved with my family, friends and loved ones. What fun food memories do you have?
I wish everyone a very Happy Thanksgiving and hope you make some new fun food memories this holiday.
Nancy A. Niles is the author of Vendetta: A Deadly Win and Lethal Echoes.
Change, the only constant in life, the only thing I can be sure will happen. This thought has brought me hope during those painful times in my life. This same thought has also brought me fear in those times where I was happy and the last thing I wanted was change.
I’ve come to realize it’s not the circumstances or the changes that dictate how my life will go, rather how I handle those changes and disruptions. A change of consciousness can ease those painful changes and an acceptance of life’s twists and turns and cruel blows can lead to some peace in the face of pain and fear.
As with a character in a novel, I can stay stuck, or I can change to meet the challenge and incorporate change into an entirely new reality. The biggest changes I’ve had in my life were the death of my husband and the recent death of a dear and trusted long-time friend and roommate.
On the outside that person is gone, there’s no one there to share my life with, or my joy, or anything else. On the inside I find a New Normal begin to take shape. One in which I become my own best friend, one in which I live without that other person and fill that gap with, what?
Actually, I don’t even try to fill the gap that person has left. I cannot recreate what was, or find a substitute. So what is there? Change. I look around and tell myself, this is my New Normal. This is an opportunity to rebuild, better, stronger, and more solid than before. It starts with very small things. Such as, cooking a meal for myself and going to the extra trouble to make it special, as I would have made it special for my loved ones. Getting into routines where I spend a certain amount of time each day doing something I enjoy doing, like reading, or watching a soap opera, or renting a DVD. Working, getting up early and facing the day, facing my life and living it until it’s time to go to bed. And then thanking God that the day is over and I am one day further into my new life, and perhaps one day closer to change that will bring me joy.
Change – the only constant in life.
I look back at how my priorities have changed during my lifetime. I see how my likes and dislikes have changed. I acknowledge how I have changed as a person. Nothing is stagnant. Everything has a season. And there was no way I could have predicted the way my life has gone and the things I’ve experienced. It has been a marvelous journey, and it is not over. There is more change coming, I can feel it. And during the depths of my pain I realize that someday my happiness will be just as deep, if not more so. Change, the very idea of it gives me hope today.
Nancy A. Niles is the author of: Vendetta: A Deadly Win, A Tina Munroe Mystery, published by Second Wind Publishing Company.
Tina Munroe, the Protagonist of Vendetta: A Deadly Win
My first mystery novel, Vendetta: A Deadly Win, has just been released from Second Wind Publishing Company. This novel is the first in a series of novels and my main character, Tina Munroe, is a character I have been developing and getting to know for a number of years. However, she still surprises me and over the years I have learned to just let her do her thing. I have found that developing a main character is very much like getting to know a real flesh and blood person. As time goes on they reveal more through their actions and history and also they change. Just as my priorities change, so do those of my characters.
Tina first approached Bernie Phillips at his Detective Agency because she needed a job and she wanted to learn how to search for people. Tina’s mother had disappeared when Tina had only been fourteen years old. Despite the fact that her mother left a note telling the family she’d been leaving, Tina always thought it suspicious and feared for her mother’s safety.
Finally, after years of searching, her father got a lead on her mother’s whereabouts, but then he died under mysterious circumstances and his office got ransacked. Tina felt more certain her mother had not left the family willingly.
But, as happens so often in reality, the details of Tina’s life get in the way. An ex-boyfriend, psycho, drug addict begins stalking her and intrudes upon her life in a big way. Tina is thrown off track and her own recovery from the experience takes up much of her time and energy. But, she never forgets her mother and even though she gets thrown into other cases, she never lets go of the quest to find out what happened to her mother.
With each new case, Tina changes, sometimes for the good, sometimes for the not so good. But always there is change. She gets a new partner, that partner undergoes changes, her old partner comes back a changed man, etc….
Like life, Tina experiences constant change. What do you like in a main character? Do you resist change in your characters or in your life?
Come and read the Prologue and First Chapter of Vendetta: A Deadly Win. http://secondwindbooks.wordpress.com/2011/01/07/vendetta-a-deadly-win-by-nancy-a-niles/
I thought a fun way to introduce the authors of Second Wind Publishing, LLC (or at least the ones who wanted to be introduced) would be to have them answer three simple questions so you can see how different authors perceive themselves and their writing. The questions:
1. What is writing like for you?
2. What is the most thrilling thing about getting published?
3. What is the most humbling thing about getting published?
Nancy A. Niles, author of Vendetta:
1. Writing is something that I can’t not do. It’s my best friend, sometimes a pain in the neck, but most times just something that I need to do for my own peace of mind.
2. The most thrilling thing about getting published is the encouragement it has given me to keep writing and keep allowing myself to express more freely and deeper. I think all those rejection slips had an effect on me and now being published is having a strengthening and very positive effect on my writing.
3. The most humbling thing about getting published is knowing that for a few hours the people who read my novel will be taken away from their problems and be in my world. It humbles me to know that for just a short time I can give them a little escape from their troubles. It is quite a blessing.
Laura S. Wharton, author of The Pirate’s Bastard:
1. Writing is like exercise. Sometimes, it’s really hard to get up at 4:00 in the morning to begin writing…the warm covers are oh so snuggly. Other times, the adrenalin rush about an aspect of the story-in-process surging through me has me up at 3:00, sitting still for three hours, and then reluctantly stopping so I can prepare myself and family for the work/school day ahead. Like exercise, it has to be done nearly every day to accomplish anything close to completion.
2. The most thrilling thing about getting published is reading reviews from unknown readers – and seeing that they really loved my story.
3. The most humbling thing about getting published is seeing typos after publication of what I thought was an error-free book.
Nichole R. Bennett, author of Ghost Mountain:
1. Writing is in my blood. I don’t mean that I come from a long line of authors, because I don’t. But I have to write. I have to get those words out of my body and onto paper. Some days those words flow and there is no stopping them. Other days I struggle over each and every letter. Either way, writing is something I have to do. Just like eating or breathing.
1. I haven’t found anything that provides the level of satisfaction writing provides me—the highs of crafting a perfect sentence, of self-discovery and exploring the universal themes of love and loss, dying and death, salvation, redemption, and keeping my parents alive and making them proud.
2. As writers, I think we all believe our work is the greatest since Hemingway, and seeing our work in print is affirmation, a thrill, that our work has merit—even if it isn’t really as good as Hemingway.
3. I find nothing humbling about getting published (I write with publication in mind), save for the process. By the time I receive my first proof copy, I’ve gone over my manuscript a dozen times or more and have probably a half-dozen drafts. An editor has gone over it, found several typos I’ve missed, and made suggestions for changes—some with which I agree, but most I discard. So I find it maddening and, yes, humbling, when I start reading my proof copy and find ways to improve the narrative, to rewrite a passage and, worst of all, I find a typo! I’m a perfectionist, so, yes, it’s humbling to learn I still can improve upon the process.
1. Writing is lonely and tiring. Even writing as a part of a team like I do with Jennifer is still lonesome. We live on opposite coasts and only communicate through email. I never show anything to anyone for critique. Never let early drafts out to the public. So having her around is also an act of real trust. We show each other our naked first drafts and still expect that we’ll respect each other in the morning.
2. I find that it is too easy to only hear from a friendly audience of family and friends so the biggest thrill for me is when a total stranger says or writes something good about my writing. I know it is genuine. Being published lets that person have exposure to my work and find something in it that resonates or entertains. That’s why we’re here, right?
3. Oh, brother, what hasn’t been? I’ve had signings at book stores I respect (and where I shop) I’ve been in panel discussions alongside authors I admire. I’ve met writers as an equal – a fellow published author, not just a fan. All that has made me feel grateful beyond words.
1. A few years ago I came back to writing fiction after a self-imposed twelve-year period during which I did not write, and found about twenty ideas of books rattling around in my head. My first official act was to get a notebook and list the novels, outlining them to the degree they had “marinated” in my imagination. For me, writing is getting out of the way and allowing those stories that germinated so long ago to take root, flower and bear fruit.
2. The thrill comes from somebody you don’t personally know buying a book, or seeking you out intentionally at a book signing. It’s also thrilling when someone asks you a question about your story in such a way that you know they have read it with comprehension.
3. A couple things strike me right away. First is the praise I often get from my colleagues. When another writer whose work I admire compliments my work in a way that reveals I’ve accomplished precisely what I set out to do in the story—that is humble. The second thing is when people I know hunt me down and pester me until I get them a copy of one of my books. And sign it to them personally. I’m not accustomed to adulation.
Lucy Balch, author of Love Trumps Logic:
1. Writing is like I’m in a time machine. I can work for hours on a story and it always feels like much less time.
2. The most thrilling thing about getting published is the knowledge that, finally, I’ll have something to show for the five years I’ve put into this obsession. Maybe I haven’t been selfishly squandering huge amounts of time?!
3.The most humbling thing about getting published is the realization that so many good writers have not yet been given the opportunity to publish. Is my book worthy of the privilege? As an unpublished author, I can always tell myself that my book will be well received when given the chance. The reality might be different. I hope not, but it’s a possibility, and once a book bombs there is no going back to the fantasy of it doing well.
Juliet Waldron, author of Hand-Me-Down Bride:
1. I write historicals, so writing for me is like entering a time portal—or, sometimes, like stepping out of Dr. Who’s callbox after accidentally pushing the wrong button. I have an idea of what may be there when I first look around, but I often find the world I’ve entered to be surprisingly different from my preconceptions.
2. The most thrilling thing about getting/being published is having someone you don’t know leave a message or write a review that totally “gets” the book. Shows I wasn’t as off-base as I sometimes—in those dark 3 a.m. moments—imagined.
3) The most humbling thing about getting/being published is that we have so much competition, and that there is a great deal of good writing out there. After publication there is the (IMO) far less agreeable marketing to do. The playful creation is now complete.
1. For me, writing is a journey. I don’t always know the final destination until I start traveling, but it’s always a rewarding trip.
2. The most thrilling thing about being published is when people read what I’ve written and they like it. I write for myself because writing is almost a compulsion for me. Readers enjoying my writing is a bonus.
3. The most humbling thing? All of the work it takes to get the books out and maintain a normal life while still trying to write. I realized pretty quick that I wasn’t superwoman. I’m still trying, but someone keeps standing on my cape.
Mickey Hoffman, author of School of Lies:
1. For me, writing is like being in that space just after you woke up from a dream but you only remember half of the dream and you spend all your waking moments trying to flesh it out.
2. I had some stories to tell and now I feel like they’ll be heard. And it really is thrilling. I feel like I’m white water rafting and I don’t need a boat!
3. I’ll be awed that anyone would take the time to read what I’ve written when they could be doing something more valuable with their time.
1. I am an entertainer. I don’t write for a cause or to pose my own thoughts or impressions on issues. My only function is to provide a suspense-filled, exciting ride the reader won’t want to stop until they reach the very last word.
2. The most thrilling thing about being published is seeing the words I’ve worked so diligently to craft actually in print. If what I present happens to be worthy enough for readers to tell others about Staccato, that’s all I could ask for.
3. Everything about being published is humbling to me. That readers would seek out Staccato, then take the time to escape from their lives for a while, makes me more grateful than anyone could possibly know.
1. For me, writing is like a dream vacation – a chance to escape the realities of my everyday life and travel to some faraway world where I can see the sights and meet new people.
2. For years, I wrote and wrote, wondering if anyone would ever read my words. What a wonderful feeling to be writing for readers who are eagerly awaiting my next release!
3. Every time I think I have a perfect draft, I find more errors glaring out from the pages of my proof. Very humbling . . .
Norm Brown, author of The Carpet Ride:
1. As a retired computer programmer, I see a lot of similarities between writing a novel and creating a complex software program. Both processes require an enormous attention to detail. All the little parts have to tie together in a logical way and a good flow is critical. And it’s hard work to get all the “bugs” out of a book, too.
2. The most thrilling thing for me was pulling the first copy of my book out of the box and holding it in my hands. It was exciting to see something that I actually created.
3. The most humbling thing for me about being published was discovering how much I have to learn about promoting my book. I’m still learning.
Jerrica Knight-Catania, author of A Gentleman Never Tells:
1. Writing for me depends on the day. Some days it’s the most wonderful romp through my dream land and other days it’s like getting a root canal.
2. Knowing that someone else believes in your work enough to put it in print is just about the most thrilling feeling. It’s great to hear friends and family say how much they enjoyed my work, but to have it validated by professionals is a whole ‘nother ball game!
3. I’m not sure I’ve been humbled at all! Haha! But I’ve never really had unrealistic expectations of myself or my work. . . . I’m prepared to correct mistakes and make cuts/edits as needed. I’m just grateful every day for the opportunities I’ve been given.
1. Writing is like a discovery process. I start with a beginning line, an idea or even just a character’s name and watch as the characters lead me where they want me to go.
2. I loved the fact that I finally was validated. Someone did think I was worth publishing and I wasn’t just “Wasting time with all that writing.”
3. Humbling? Wow, I think the most humbling – perhaps humiliating – step in the publishing process is all the rejection you get until someone finally says “Yes, we want you!”
Margay Leah Justice, author of Nora’s Soul:
1. For me, writing is like creating a baby. There is the conception (what a wonderful idea!), the writing/rewriting period (gestation, anyone?) and the birth (I can’t believe it’s finally here!). And then you nurture it for the next couple of years as you slowly introduce it to the public – and hope they don’t think it’s an ugly baby.
2. The most thrilling thing about getting published is the sense of accomplishment when you see it in print for the first time and you discover that people actually like it!
3. The most humbling thing about getting published is seeing the book in print for the first time and realizing that all of those years of struggling, writing, rewriting, submitting – all boil down to this one little book that you can hold in the palm of your hand.
1. Writing is multi-faceted for me. It is a joy, but also pretty hard work at times. I do much of my writing in my mind and when I finally sit down to get it on paper, it often comes out differently. I spend more time mentally forming plots and picturing scenes than I do writing them. I love having a whole day here and there to sit at my computer and concentrate on writing. If I have problems with a scene, I skip ahead to the next one so I don’t get frustrated.
2. The most thrilling thing about being published is getting my books out of my house and into readers’ hands–hoping people get some enjoyment reading them.
3. The most humbling thing about getting published is seeing mistakes and typos in what I thought was an error-free manuscript!
2. The most thrilling thing about getting published is seeing my name on a book cover.
3. The most humbling thing about getting published is finding out how supportive and happy my friends and family really are for me.
Mairead Walpole, author of A Love Out of Time:
1. In some ways, writing is a form of therapy. Not from a “work out my issues” standpoint, but rather it allows me to escape from the day to day stresses of the world. I can let the creative, sometimes a little off-beat, imaginative part of my soul off the leash and let it run. Some of my very early writing did dip into the realm of “working out my issues” and those stories will never see the light of day!
2. Can I channel my inner Sallie Fields and run around saying, “They liked it, they really liked it…”? No? Darn. Seriously, I think it is the whole – I did this – aspect. Someone read the book and thought it was worth publishing. That is pretty cool no matter how you cut it.
3. Opening yourself up to criticism, being vulnerable. Sure, you know that not everyone is going to love your book, and intellectually you know that some people will hate it and think you are a hack, but when someone actually expresses that to you it is a whole new experience. It can be very humbling.
1. I’m like a humming bird on too much caffine. I write in waves. When the wave hits I can put out several thousand words in an unbelievably small amount of time. Then when I’m not in humming bird mode I edit.
2. The most thrilling is probably the fact that there are people out there that I don’t know that have read my book and liked it. I had the pleasure a few times of meeting them and there is some twinkle in their eye that is amazing.
3. My son is always humbling. I recieved my proofs in the mail and my then seven year old son didn’t fully understand what it meant that I’d written a book. He flips through the pages looking for hand-writting. “I get in trouble when I write in books.”
1. Writing is like being in a triathlon for me. I power write for days or weeks at a time, then crash for awhile with the help of Tylenol and chocolate. Writing is a scary, exciting roller-coaster. It is exhilarating and draining, and Iwouldn’t do it any other way.
2. The most thrilling thing about getting published is the very act of being published! Something I wrote is out there, available for anyone to read. Holding the hard copy of my book in my hands gives me the good shivers. The other thrill is the pride in my family’s voices when they introduce me as “The Writer.”
3. The most humbling thing is feeling responsible for the places I take my readers. During the time they’re walking with and living the lives of the characters in my book, my readers are taking the same roller-coaster ride I took to write the
1. For me, writing is like the world’s longest crossword puzzle, one that takes a year to complete. I like playing with words, finding their rhythm, and getting them to behave the way I want. I like being able to take those words and create ideas, characters, and emotions.
2. Someday perhaps, I will find the thrill of being published, but to be honest it was anti-climatic. I am more thrilled at the thought of what the future might bring now that my books have been published.
3. I had no intention of answering these questions. After all, I was the one who collated all these mini interviews, but a fellow author said, “This is your party, too. People will tune in because of you. They want to know more about YOU. Don’t cheat your fans and followers.” Now that’s humbling.
Click here to read the first chapters of all Second Wind novels: The Exciting Worlds of Second Wind Books
ALL IS NOT AS IT APPEARS
For the past four days and nights here in Las Vegas, Nevada there has been constant rainfall. It varies between light and gentle to hard and furious. The streets are flooding, some of them are closed. Some of the phone lines have gone out, there are power outages and many fender benders. The news is warning of flash flooding which can sweep away cars and trucks and people die in these relentless rains that come every four to five years to the desert.
I watched a large home crumple and slide into the Virgin River right outside Mesquite, Nevada. There had been no huge shaking of the earth, or tornado or hurricane, just this mostly gentle, continuous rainfall. This rain does not call to mind danger or violence, in fact yesterday I took a walk with an umbrella and the gentle drops all around me were in a strange way relaxing and seemingly very peaceful. Yet the power that these rains generate is anything but gentle and peaceful.
And I am always amazed at how a desert landscape can be so completely wiped out and recreated, as though a celestial artist is at work busily creating a foreign landscape before my very eyes. Last night around midnight I glanced outside to see fog so dense I could barely make out my neighbors homes and the street lamps. As I stared I saw a scene that could be in London, or San Francisco. It did not seem to be my same old street in the middle of the desert, anymore.
I’ve always felt a certain mystical undercurrent to the desert. And after reading Carlos Castaneda’s writings again, (I started reading his work in the sixties and every ten years or so I reconnect once again with his books), I am even more convinced that the desert holds many secrets, both manmade and metaphysical.
Looking at the range of mountains called the Spring Mountains, not far from where I live, I have to wonder if there are secret rooms carved inside them. Or are they bunkers where the heads of state will hold up in the event of a nuclear world war? Some have said that extraterrestrials live in the mountains and are monitoring us.
And Area 51, the base that officially does not exist has many underground bunkers, and who knows what? Sometimes I think there are more mysteries all around me in this desert than are in the public library. What about your home? What mysterious things have you noticed? Do you incorporate them in your writing?
Nancy Niles is the author of Vendetta: A Deadly Win, and Lethal Echoes.