Posts tagged ‘Writing’

November 4, 2015

Kevin L. Nielsen, author of Sands and Resurgent Shadows

I had the privilege of meeting author Kevin L. Nielsen about six weeks ago. By then I had already heard of his first book, Sands, which was released in July. (As of today, Sands has 83 reviews on Goodreads and is #4 in the Amazon paid store in the myths and legends category for teens and young adults.)

My first impression: Kevin L. Nielsen is the kind of person you want to meet no matter what the situation is. It’s easy to celebrate successes with people who are as kind and fun as he is.

I’m delighted to be able to feature him in a question-and-answer format. It’s the first big post I’ve published in a long while, which makes it all the more fun.

Here it is:

Please describe the fun successes you’ve had with your first novel, Sands.

I’ve had a lot of fun with my first novel, Sands.  It is a fun novel with lots of twists.  I’ve been able to be on panels at Salt Lake Comic Con, had my own solo signing at the King’s English Bookshop, and even been on TV.  It has been pretty amazing.

When did you first start writing Sands, and how long did it take you to finish?

I started writing Sands in February 2014. It took me about 95 days to finish the first draft.  From there I did a couple more drafts over the next few months before ending up meeting Helena Steinecker from Future House Publishing at the LTUE convention in February 2015.

I understand you have another book coming out soon. What is it, and what would you like to share about it?

I’m very excited about this book.  It’s called Resurgent Shadows and it is essentially the story of how the fantasy world and the modern world came together in cataclysmic events that rendered electricity useless.  Dragons fill the skies and creatures some call goblins and trolls travel in massive hordes.  The race of man is on the brink of extinction.

It comes out on the 12th, so stay tuned for additional information – for the most up to date news, sign up for my newsletter at http://eepurl.com/buUhMT– you’ll get updates on all my book releases.

Who is your publisher, and what makes them great to work with?

Future House Publishing is my publisher.  They are great to work with because they have a great team that truly treats you like family.  They are a small, local pressed based here in Utah, but they’ve got a great presence and the potential to become one of the stronger presses here in Utah.  They also do great covers.

What do you do to find time to write?

Mostly, I just stay up really late and get little sleep.  I find time to write during the small moments each day, early in the mornings or even during my lunch breaks at work.  You just have to learn to monopolize on the small moments you have each day.  It also helps to have a super supportive wife who will watch the kids when I need extra writing time.

What is your favorite writing experience so far?

Outside of just publishing my first novel in general, my favorite writing experience so far is tied between meeting Jason Lyle Black, a musician I have admired for years, who wrote several songs based off my novel and being able to be a panelist at Salt Lake Comic Con.  Those were both great and amazing experiences.

When did you first know you wanted to be an author?

I realized I wanted to be an author when my reading ability surpassed the library’s capacity to supply books.  This happened when I was in the 6thgrade at Patterson Elementary in Gilbert, Arizona.  I’ve been writing ever since.

What plans do you have for the future?

I have a lot of plans for the future.  The sequel to Sands, called Storms, will be out in December or January.  The Sands series will have five total books and Resurgent Shadows is book one of the Successive Harmony Series.  That will be four books (for now).  I’ve also got several other novels I’m working on at any given time.  For a complete breakdown of my current projects visit my current projects page on my website at the following link:http://kevinlnielsen.com/current-writing-projects/

I hope to be able to review some of Kevin L. Nielsen‘s work here in the future, and also to follow up with some of the great things he’s doing. He is one author to watch.

Kevin Nielsen, author of Sands and Resurgent Shadows

Kevin L. Nielsen, author of Sands and the soon-to-be-released Resurgent Shadows

 

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June 2, 2015

The power of cutting words

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Last week a fellow author showed us a writing exercise he recently participated in. As preparation for an upcoming workshop, he condensed the entire opening chapter of his work-in-progress to 150 words.

The chapter was already powerful. The 150-word version was dynamite.

I’m going to try it. Here on the blog. Because I can, and because I love the idea of practicing where I can get good feedback.

While I finish the rewrite of my own current work-in-progress, I’m creating space under my ‘bits of my writing’ page for these exercises.  The exercises will show up as posts first and then as links on that page.

Just for fun, they’ll be moments in the life of Lily, the heroine from my first two books. I don’t know if the exercises will make much sense, or if they’ll ever grow into anything more than exercises. To be honest, I don’t expect them to.

I do, however, plan on having a lot of fun. 🙂

June 2, 2015

MISSING: A 150-word exercise with Lily and Orval

Orval’s grandmother isn’t here.

Sunset looms. Red reflects in a long dagger, pinning a note to her empty clothes—pinning her clothes to the bed—pinning our hopes to emptiness.

Silence.

The crimson sky deepens, flushing across the abandoned city.

Orval breathes with white-knuckled fists, teeth grinding, every muscle tightened.

“Did you do this?” he asks.

Dismay rocks me. I stumble, reaching for his hand. He jerks away.

My heart weeps blood for the loss of Orval’s trust. “My love—”

He yanks the dagger out of the bed. The red-tinted note flutters into my fingers.

Orval’s voice pounds me like an avalanche. He waves the blade under my nose. “Read it.”

I am a trembling leaf, dead already, waiting for snowfall to bury me in the cold ground. My quivering voice rushes.

“Come north. They have returned.”

My sweetheart blinks and sways.  “North,” he whispers, “Where death lives.”

 

 

 

 

December 14, 2014

The Heart of All Magic is live for Kindle!!! #thenightones #theheartofallmagic

'The Heart of All Magic' went live for Kindle tonight! :)

The Heart of All Magic’ went live for Kindle tonight! 🙂

I’ve spent the last two months polishing ‘The Heart of All Magic.’ (Which means I haven’t been blogging much.)

It’s finally here. Book two of the two-volume series ‘Legacy of the Night Ones‘ is finished!

Tonight ‘The Heart of All Magic‘ went live on Kindle. The paperback will be available sometime next week.

I really love this game!

Please take a few minutes to look at the Amazon page! If you read it and like it, please leave an Amazon review. And if you get to it in the next two weeks, I would LOVE to have nominations for the Whitney Award! It takes five nominations to be officially entered.

Thanks so much, everyone! I’m looking forward to being on the blog a little bit more again.

Wishing everyone a very happy December. 🙂

February 24, 2014

What magic looks like: Nine imagery questions for fantasy writers

What does magic look like?

What does magic look like?

My little sister and I used to play I Dream of Jeannie. I have fond memories of her lifting her folded arms, nodding her head and blinking and then explaining whatever magic she had just performed.

It was beyond fun. It was a practice in imagination for us both, an exercise in feeling powerful.

Which, I think, is one of the reasons writing fantasy appeals to me. Writing about using magic brings the same powerful feeling that playing magic did when I was a child. I still love to think about what magic looks like.

Writers are faced with a different type of challenge, though. They can’t just tell their playmates about their pretend magic and expect them to accept it. They have to explain it, describe it, use imagery to plant the picture of what magic looks like into their reader’s brains.

Is imagery what convinces readers that the magic is real, at least in the setting of a book? If so, maybe it’s what helps the magic feel real enough to keep fantasy readers turning pages. And buying books.

My advice to myself, and to other fantasy authors: Know what your magic looks like. Know the rules for its use, know how often it’s used and what the consequences for using it are, but most importantly, know how to describe it to your readers.

When I write, I often make lists to follow that help me cover all my bases. Here’s a list of the type of questions I use when I’m trying to create the imagery of a particular piece of magic:

  1. Does the magic have a color? If so, what is it? Bright blue? Mud green? Are there different kinds of colors for different kinds of magic?
  2. How luminescent is it? Does it glow? Or hide in the shadows, barely noticeable to an untrained mind?
  3. How quickly does it move, and what verbs can I use to address that? Does it zing across space, or slither along the edges of a wall, or meander, or cozy up to something?
  4. How loud is it? Is it a breath, a whisper, a choke? A shout, a clash, a thunder? How do the ears of my characters feel when magic is going on around them?
  5. Does magic have a tangible feeling? If a character touched it, would they burn? Or freeze? Would the magic grate against their skin, or slide, or bounce, or caress? And again, are there different feelings for different types of magic?
  6. What types of scents does the magic carry? Something acrid? Smoky or fresh? Bitter or sour or sweet?
  7. As a character detects a scent of magic, do they taste it as well? And if so, what expressions will cross that character’s face?
  8. How does the magic interact with the world around it?
  9. How do characters feel emotionally during a magic episode? And how do they show how they feel? Does the magic cause fear, and if so, do the characters run or fight or try to shield themselves? How fast do their hearts beat?

I’m sure there are a host of other questions fantasy writers can ask themselves as they write magic scenes. These are just a few, and realistically, they apply to all sorts of action sequences.

In my mind, they apply to magic in particular, because who really sees and hears and smells magic in the real world? No matter how many video games we play, or how many television shows we watch, some things still take a little brain power.

Imagining and writing about magic requires a level of creative thinking that can evoke the strong emotions (the kind that sells books).

That’s what really makes writing about magic powerful.

September 22, 2013

Journaling my reflections on life

Gardner Village at night

Gardner Village at night

Lately, most of my writing has been very private. I’ve focused on my journals almost exclusively, detailing such events as my daughter’s first solo drive through a big city, another daughter’s busy schedule, and my toddler son’s newest adventures–somersaults and toilet training.

In my mind, these journal entries are tiny reflections of the lights in my life. They ripple easily when I touch them, blur with time, but they’re beautiful.

My daughters keep their own journals. My son is still to young to write, and too young to care that I write, except when I’m engrossed at my computer and he wants me to play with him.

Most often, he wins out. I can’t say that I regret it, and I doubt I ever will–although I do try to jot down paragraphs and sentences when I can. Sometimes I have to be sneaky. He knows the particular squeak of my office door.

My newest trick: I bring my work into his room, rather than my office, and watch him play while I edit, plot books, and network with writing friends by telephone.

Luckily for me, he knows some of my writing friends, and when I’m on the telephone with them, so is he, courtesy of the button that turns on the speaker.

This is sometimes good, since they dote on him and love to hear about his adventures (although I’m usually the one doing most of the talking). I love the proud smile he wears when they congratulate him on some milestone. It’s also sometimes not so good, when we’re trying to read passages aloud to each other. He has a very competitive voice.

Little by little, words on the screen are turning into stories, and daily events are becoming stories of their own. I wonder sometimes whether these more private moments will ever amount to something he’ll want to read, something that will make him feel as proud as writing friends on the telephone do.

It occurred to me, when I wrote about him earlier this evening, he may remember events entirely differently than they way I remember him. It’s all a vision, I suppose. When water meets the light, the reflections look different depending on where you stand.

I can always hope that he’ll see these written memories as something beautiful, something that can shine when he’s grown up enough to face his own long dark nights of the soul.

 

 

 

 

August 6, 2013

Reality Check: even writers need down time

For me, crashing sometimes involves exploring new and interesting places.

For me, crashing sometimes involves exploring new and interesting places.

It’s been ten days since B.R. Chaston’s wedding, and nearly three weeks since my last blog post, I’ve been wrapped up in family and friends I never get to see, keeping promises to my children and catching up on everything else that was neglected during this time…including my works-in-progress, which I think are now somewhat back on course.

Overall, it’s been very enjoyable…although, a few times, I really was running faster and laboring more than I had strength and means. My beautiful Mom told me once when I get that way, I’m like a car running on empty. I’m sure she’s right. As is normal for me when I let my life get unbalanced, I had to take some time to re-adjust my attitude.

At one point, my sweetheart shared with me something he learned in his certified public management course: You can do anything, but you can’t do everything.

Logically, I know this. Getting my heart to concur is a completely different story–hence my sometimes-obsession with time management strategies.

I suppose it comes from loving life a little bit too much. There are so many things I want to do, so many people I care about and want to help, so many things to enjoy and so many wonderful things to learn that I sometimes overwhelm myself with self-imposed deadlines. My long to-do lists that needlessly increase my stress levels. When my stress gets too high, my body is affected and my ability to do anything productive drops dramatically. This includes my writing.

I get frustrated with myself for not being perfect RIGHT NOW. And I know I would never treat any other human being as harshly as I treat myself, which is also frustrating…

When I reach that point, I have to take time away. It’s no one’s fault. It’s one of those things that simply IS. I do better with my writing, with my parenting and other relationships, with everything else in my life, when I take time to perform a reality check.

For me, this usually involves five steps:

  1. Crashing–a day or two away doing something relaxing, completely unrelated to anything else in my life. In the past, crashing has taken the form of escaping into nature, reading all day, watching Korean historical dramas, sometimes playing video games and in very rare instances, exploring someplace new and different on my own. (Once, when I had no resources for traveling by myself, I spent all day long on Google Earth, exploring Ireland and Scotland and the Shetland Islands.)
  2. After a day or two of these kinds of solitary activities, I’m able to take stock of who and what I am–what my goals are, what my dreams are, and what is realistic for me to accomplish with the time, means and energy I have.
  3. I almost always end up prioritizing my dreams, and usually I find I’ve spread my energies too thin. I have to pull them back, refocus them on the highest priorities in my life and forgive myself for not being able to do it all right now.
  4. As I do this, I tend to take stock of all the wonderful things I already have in my life. The truth is, I really think I have everything I want, right now. When I remember that, I remember also that I don’t want my life to change too quickly. I want to savor and enjoy what I already have, and that means I want to slow down.
  5. This realization recharges me with gratitude. Once my heart is thankful again, I find I have plenty of energy to keep working toward my goals.

For me, it’s a somewhat spiritual process, and the cycle takes at least four days to complete. This time, it took a full week.

I suppose I’ll get the hang of real life some day. I know I’ll have on-and-off periods like this while I try to keep my world balanced. There’s something wondrous and grand and completely mysterious about the whole process. I secretly feel if I can find a way to balance my life and keep it that way, I’ll have gained access to the secrets of the universe.

Meanwhile, I feel very much like this:

June 12, 2013

Indie Recon marketing thing is going on this week, and other things

I keep adding free books to my Kindle. :)

I keep adding free books to my Kindle. 🙂

It’s Marketing Mania Week over at Indie Recon.

Yesterday’s post by CJ Lyons was all about branding, which is something I keep thinking I need to think more about. The truth is,  I love variety and don’t like the thought of getting stuck writing just one genre. This post made me feel like I could actually create a brand for myself and still maintain my writing freedom. It was heartening.

There’s a great post today on marketing in general (and to young adult target audiences in particular). Wednesday will cover Ten Lethal Marketing Mistakes, Thursday will focus on marketing advice from bestselling Indie authors, and Friday there will be a secret giveaway. Fun for everyone!

Other things on my mind:

  • The more I read, the more I want to write. I see a plot or a style I like, and I think “I have to try this out sometime and see if I can do something like it.” The same thing happens when I watch a good movie (although I want to write stories, not make movies). I want to do it my own way, of course, but the draw is there with every good book I pick up. Does anyone else experience this? Is this what inspires people to write fan fiction?
  • I’ve decided I really, really love ebook Habits and Free Book Dude. I keep adding stories to my Kindle, which I’ll read someday when life slows down.  These sites list books that can be downloaded for free. Browsing through their lists has become part of my daily e-mail ritual.
  • The beans are up! And some of the kale I planted earlier this spring is ready to harvest. Hurrah for fresh kale at lunch! 🙂
May 25, 2013

Star Trekkin’ to deadline, and worlds we love

Star Trek on my television screen :)

Star Trek on my television screen 🙂

I now have less than a week to my next deadline. This assignment has been challenging, both because of the topic and scope and because I used most of my time working on family-related projects.  Somehow I’ve gathered enough information for eight solid drafts.

I hoped to finish a more polished draft yesterday afternoon. Instead, I ate pizza and fun-size Snickers and drank raspberry soda (Friday is my eat-anything day), and then I watched the newest Star Trek movie with my sweetheart. We’re tentatively planning a trip to the cinema latter today to see the even-newer one.

A small part of me wonders whether I should take the time to go, but that’s just a very small part of me, easily silenced by the promise of entertainment. The thing is, even if I stayed at home and chained myself to my desk, I couldn’t do much more than I’ve already done until the people I need to check facts with are back at work.

That leave me until Tuesday morning to enjoy the Star Trek world.

As I listed my priorities for this weekend and for early next week, I realized that losing myself in make-believe worlds is completely therapeutic for me. I found myself mentally counting worlds I’ve enjoyed losing myself in–C.S. Lewis’ Narnia and Tolkien’s Middle Earth, Harry Potter, both Star Wars and Star Trek, Jane Austen’s writings and even occasionally Little House on the Prairie–and the list goes on.

I think it’s partly why I like to write. Authors are world-creators. They spark imaginations, provide a safe escape from reality and allow us the chance to experience something we could never find ourselves doing otherwise.

I fall for great settings, mapped out through action and sensory-experiences: colors and shapes, sounds, smells and the way something feels under fingertips. Even the history of a place, if written well enough, wraps itself around me, and I find myself digging deeper into the story. If these experiences are new, I become an explorer, hiking to the top of the next ridge to see what’s beyond it. I have always loved exploring.

When an author creates a world this alluring, I come back to visit as often as I can. These world-immersions have become a family tradition: Harry Potter in the basement on hot summer days, Lord of the Rings on the family room floor at Thanksgiving.

Today, it’s Star Trek. In the cinema. And I am happy.

 

May 13, 2013

Write more and sell more

If everything you write is a pebble or a grain of sand, someday you'll have a beach where good things will wash up.

If everything you write is a pebble or a grain of sand, and you write a lot, someday you’ll have a beach where good things will wash up.

Does anyone else follow The Passive Voice? I’ve been getting updates from this site by e-mail for a while now. On the whole, there’s a digital warehouse full of good information for authors—what’s going on in the publishing world, for instance, and what’s going on in the self-publishing world, and tips for marketing your books so you can make money as a writer.

Most of the posts here have been reposted from other spots around the internet. My favorite so far was a post entitled What’s Your Novel Worth? NVP and Cash Flow, by author and publisher Jeff Posey (check out the comments on his site, too–some are very insightful).

He said this:

The most productive thing a publishing writer can do is write and publish.

And, a few paragraphs later:

Lesson: Write more, do other stuff less.

Posey has an MBA in corporate finance and uses this article to teach authors to think of their writing in terms of Net Present Value, or what your novel is worth financially. He uses three examples to show how to evaluate this, and then says it’s not cash flow. His advice, for authors who want to build a nice residual income, is to be persistent, talented and patient. It takes some time to get where you want to be.

This particular post was inspiring for me partly for two reasons:

  1. I was wondering how much time I should be spending marketing and promoting books. Although I believe this will always be a large part of the formula for success for any author seeking to actually make money through writing books, perhaps it still can be looked at in a different light. Writing and writing well is still the most important thing. That makes me happy! Writing a lot, and getting it out there where people can find it, seems to be a true strategy for success.
  2. Knowing that it takes some time to build up a clientele makes writing feel like a business rather than a hobby. It becomes something you can build a solid business plan around. Most of the writers I know hold other jobs, too, but this allows them to at least daydream realistically about the future when they will be able to set everything but writing aside.  I read somewhere else—and now I can’t remember where—that it takes nine years for a nonfiction author to build a solid platform for marketing books. Perhaps fiction writing is similar. (The lesson here, I think, is not to give up if your first few books don’t magically change your life. Keep at it, and chances are this dream can still come true. )

Although the analysis was geared toward authors, I bet this advice can be applied to photographers, painters, poets and artists from every other persuasion. Just enjoy what you do, and don’t give up. It’s the whole Rome-wasn’t-built-in-a-day thing.

With that in mind, I’m wishing everyone a happy and productive week. 🙂

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