Always Look on the Bright Side of Life

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It is a beautiful sunny Friday, or at least it is if you’re looking on the bright side of life, which I do. My sunny optimism might just be why I was nominated for the Sunshine Blogger Award.For starters, I want to thank Lee for nominating me and for following my blog and posting such nice praise about my recent cosplay project. I have enjoyed following you back and I found some more people to follow because of your post. Please everyone check out Lee’s blog Tolkien Read Through 

So let’s get down to business … to defeat the Huns.

Rules:

– Thank the person who nominated you in a blog post and link back to their blog. Check
– Answer the 11 questions sent by the person who nominated you. Will Do
– Nominate 11 new blogs to receive the award and write them 11 new questions.
– List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award logo in your post and/or on your blog. Check

Here are the Questions

I just love these types of questions.

1. What is your favorite book ever?

This is a tough one. It’s between the Silmarillion by Tolkien or Empress by Karen Miller. I’d probably  have to choose the Sil, not just for the stories, but because of the author’s love of the book. It really strikes a chord with me that it was his pet project that he never finished. I have a pet project of my own. Like Tolkien, it might be a little too ambitious, and I’m afraid I will never get it done.

2. How did you get into reading?

I used to watch my mother read. She read all the time and made it look like so much fun. It was the one thing she did, aside from watching soap operas, that we were not allowed to interrupt. I wanted to be able to read chapter books with no pictures like she did, especially Les Miserables. I passed it in a library as a child and thought it was huge. I asked my mom about it and she couldn’t tell me anything about the story, except that it was old and looked depressing. I was intrigued by the girl on the cover and wanted to see what it was about. I own it now, but I’ve yet to read it.

3. What was the first book you read?

I’m pretty sure it was Suki the Kitten, which is a book I got as a child from a garage sale. I liked cats. I remember struggling to read the word, window. My mom made me sound it out and she wouldn’t help me with it. I saved it for my kid. It was one of the first books he read. I’m hanging onto it in case he has kids.

4. What is your favorite quote?

“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”

I have to say that I like the way the movie worded it better, but this is still true today. What a greedy world we live in. This should be posted somewhere in every corporate office.

5. What is your favorite atmosphere for reading?

No favorite atmosphere. I could read in a plane or on a bus or on a train. I could read here or there. I could read anywhere. In a box with a fox, in a house or with a mouse.

6. How do you prefer discovering new books to read?

I really don’t have a preference. I just like them to jump out at me: an ad on twitter, a book  on the shelf that captures my eye, a dusty book in the bottom of a box at a garage sale. It doesn’t matter. A referral from a friend is always good. My sister told me to read Empress. My ex told me to read Game of Thrones (before it was cool). I enjoy both books. Sometimes your favorite stories are forced on you. Two of my favorite books, I was forced to read in college. Well, I wasn’t forced. It was the story of Gilgamesh and The Iliad. I just keep re-reading the Iliad hoping the Trojans will win …

7. Do you prefer physical books or ebooks?

I like ebooks because I can take them to the gym, but I do prefer physical books. I like to look at them on my shelf. I like to hold them. I like to smell them.

8. What inspired you to start your blog?

I had a friend start a blog. Sarah Wright. So when she was visiting, I checked out her blog and started my own. It was so fun getting to share my thoughts and interest and connect with other readers, writers, and geeks.

9. What’s the story behind your blog’s name?

My blog post is obviously making a play on rite of passage. I was basically writing about my writing journey and the process. It’s then evolved to include my other interest.

10. What are the things that inspire you?

I’m not sure what initially inspired me. But reading inspires me. This particular story was inspired by a fanfic, I’m not ashamed to say.

I also get inspired by my own experiences and the experiences of others.

I think your feelings, your beliefs, and your passions can inspire you. Your stories need to convey something, have a deeper meaning, and what better than something you are passionate about.

I usually touch on ethical themes about hate, violence, war, and human rights, which are things that are close to me. I also like to touch on family issues, so my family inspires me a great deal. The feelings I had when my brother left to join the military; how close all four of us were as children and how time rifted us apart, the close bond I have with my mom and sister, how devastating it was to be separated from my sister for the first time during college, my conflicts as a mother, how you can love someone and hate them at the same time. Family and love are complicated and I like to show relationships in a real and honest way.

11. When you write something, do you prefer to do it by hand or type straight away into your blog?

I just type it straight into my blog. My handwriting is so bad, I wouldn’t be able to read it. But sometimes I still write my book in a notebook. There is a special and direct connection that your brain can make with your pencil that it cannot make with keyboards, because your fingers leave the keys, which interrupts it.

Here are the blogs I’d like to nominate: this was a hard list. So many more people I’d like to include. Please check them out.

1 Sarah Wright: Blood & Ink

2 Staci Reafsnyder

3 Carrie Rubin

4 Rachelle M.N. Shaw

5 Jon

6 Lori Maclaughin

7 Shannon Noel Brady

8 The Story Reading Ape

9 Middle-earth Reflections

10 Jane Dougherty

11 Ali Isaac

Back to the Beginning

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What’s worse than starting at the beginning? Starting all over again.

Beginnings are hard, usually because they start at the ending of something else.

This year marks the beginning of my 30’s and the end of my 20’s. My original goal was to publish a book by the time I turned 30, but alas, I am only starting–or rather starting over yet again.

How could I not finish a book in a decade? Well, I did, actually. I completed a draft for book one and two. I spent hours outlining, researching, writing, re-writing, falling in and filling in plotholes.

So why is there not a completed MS?

I believe your twenties are for discovery and learning.

What I discovered: There were a lot of plot holes in my writing.

What I learned: This story was good but it could be better. I also discovered that my major supporting character should really be my main character. That changes everything.

So after starting all over on the outline, yet again, I finally began the first chapter for hopefully the last time.

So I didn’t accomplish my original goal. I thought I’d be finished by now, not starting over. I didn’t publish, but I did accomplish something. With diligent research and outlining and planning, I think I will be able to write the best book I possibly can by the time I’m 40.

 

Fictional Fridays #17

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I just wanted to share this delightful post from my latest follow Nandini, who I found via a meet and greet posted by Smorgasbord. I thought this was a great way to find more blogs to follow. I highly recommend you check out the meet and greet here. https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2016/07/16/welcome-to-the-party-meet-and-greet-some-new-bloggers/

Pages That Rustle

Who thought holidays could be more stressful than the months I have to attend college? Strangely, I find myself having no time to do the things I want to finish and having all the time in the world to complete TV series in record time during my semesters. Another example of time being a vindictive creature, I suppose. Putting aside selfish concerns for a bit, I decided to write something, anything, to take my mind off of things. Here is the result (Incidentally, it fits this week’s Friday Fiction with Ronovan Writes Prompt Challenge #33 – Favourite Food).

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Are You Going to Read Go Set A Watchman?

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Harper Lee is no longer a one-hit wonder. Fifty years after the publication of To Kill a Mockingbird, the long-anticipated sequel Go Set a Watchman is available in bookstores.

Was the fifty-year wait worth it? So far, the book has received mixed feelings from critics and readers alike.

The sequel has been labeled a poor stand-alone, that it would not have even been published if not for TKAM. On the flipside, it’s also been  praised for being more ambitious.

I’m not in a hurry to read it, but I want to know your thoughts. Please take the poll or comment below. Let me know what you think.

Tuesday Tip

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tip#1Have you ever seen a runner trip in a pothole? They’re in the zone, focused on the path ahead, running to the rhythm of their music when all of a sudden they stumble in a pothole. It jars them out of their trance and throws them off their running groove–not to mention hurts like heck.

The same thing happens to readers when they stumble upon a plothole–though it’s less dramatic and doesn’t usually require stitches or Bandaids.

Don't throw the reader off their groove!!!

Don’t throw the reader off their groove!!!

What is a Plothole?

The short definition is anything that can be asked but not explained, or poorly explained (not to be mistaken for an unanswered question like in a cliffhanger).

  • unlikely/impossible events
  • mistakes
  • contradictions
  • forced situations or character reactions for the sake of plot

Examples The Hobbit: In this example I’m talking about the movie. If you didn’t read the book before watching the final installment of the films, you may have asked, what happened to the Arkenstone? In the book, it’s placed on Thorin’s grave. In the movie, supposedly it’s still hanging out in Luke Evan’s shirt. Not a bad place to be necessarily.

The Arkenstone: returned to Thorin Oakenshield, or wedged between Evan's pecks?

The Arkenstone: returned to Thorin Oakenshield or wedged between Evan’s pecks?

Harry Potter: Usually I pick on George R.R. Martin, but today I’m going to pick on J.K. a little. The time turner is a prime example of why time travel almost always leads to plotholes. Why didn’t he keep using it? He used it to save two people, which seems like an insipid abuse of time travel in the grand scheme of things. What about the other people who died later in the book. Why not go back and save them?

Aladdin: One of my favorite Disney movies of all time. I’ve watched it a hundred times and suddenly I notice a whole new plothole (pun intended). Aladdin uses a wish to become a prince and yet it is considered lying when he tells Jasmine he is a prince. Um, excuse me, he didn’t ask the Genie to make him look like a prince, he asked him to make him a prince. I think he got ripped off. Also he could have given Jasmine the lamp in the end so she could wish him back into a prince, but now I’m just being picky.

Deus Ex Machina

Ok, this is more of a plot device than a plothole, but I think you don’t get one without the other. A deus ex machina is basically where an unsolvable issue is suddenly solved by a new event, ability or super power, character, or God. Essentially, it’s when a writer has written themselves into a corner and doesn’t know how to resolve the conflict.

The result: the resolution is unsatisfactory and the reader is robbed. A prime example of this can be found in (I’m sad to say) The Return of the King. Tolkien wrote himself into a corner by making Sauron’s army undefeatable. Realistically the army of Gondor, even backed by the soldiers of Rohan, a wizard, and a few shire folk could not defeat them. I imagine Tolkien spent hours scratching his head before inventing a ghost army to defeat them. After all, ghost can’t be killed. So last minute, they use the ghost to help defeat the bad guys. It would have been a more satisfactory ending had the characters come up with a battle tactic to defeat the larger army.

Checkhov’s Gun

This is the notion that if you describe something, it better come into play at some point. For instance, if you describe a chair, it better be flipped, thrown, broken, or at least sat on. If it’s described, it better be part of the plot or else you’ve created false promises or suspense.

I’m not a firm believer in this. I do see where too much attention to a seemingly significant item would be jarring if it never came to use, but something like a chair or table is sometimes just necessary to give the reader a sense o place. This is why it’s always a good idea to describe your scenery as the character interacts with it.

A great example of Checkhov’s gun. In A Game of Thrones, Sam gets a blade that several seasons down the road kills white walkers. Also, the necklace given to Sansa in season three or four is used to kill Joffrey. Those are some great examples of Checkhov’s guns coming into play.

Continuity

Lack of continuity is a major cause of plotholes. This could be something small like a sudden change in appearance, or something even more jarring like a character referencing an event they have no idea occurred. It could also be a sudden change in motivation, even age.

Example: Merlin (the television series). Mordred appears in season one as a child, but by season five, he returns as a teenager or young adult. Realistically the oldest he could be is 13, but he is at least 16 if not older when he reappears. Meanwhile, the rest of the characters have only aged 3-5 years. Soap operas do this a lot, because let’s face it, babies get boring after awhile.

When is a Plothole not a Plothole

Sometimes readers believe the unbelievable, especially in horror, fantasy, sci-fi, etc. These genres create a lot of their own rules, abilities, creatures, etc. Just because something can’t happen or doesn’t exist, doesn’t mean it’s a plothole. When you event something (like magic), you are relying on your reader’s ignorance of a subject in order to make them believe it. A world with two moons and seven suns probably couldn’t exist or sustain life (could you imagine gravity?); however, your reader is more likely to accept that than if your character’s eye color suddenly changes in chapter two.

This is because of the suspension of belief. You can create super human beings, magical powers, fantastical creatures, as long as you make it as believable as possible and keep it consistent.

Example: Superman For decades, people have accepted that there is a superhuman man who comes from another planet, but they don’t believe that he can disguise his identity with glasses alone.

yeah, you're not fooling anyone, Superman

yeah, you’re not fooling anyone, Superman

How to Prevent Plotholes

It’s easier to prevent a plothole than to fill one.

  • outline your story
  • create character sketches
  • outline the rules and limitations of your magic systems
  • research before writing
  • keep track of the time of day, hour, month, season, and year of your story so you don’t accidently skip summer and fall and go straight into winter.

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How to Fill Plotholes

Break out the shovels!

Break out the shovels!

  1. Identify your plot holes. Read through your MS and look for unanswered questions and things that couldn’t happen
    1. Your character could not have survived that fall
    2. Your character’s hair changed color
    3. Your character is angry in this chapter but fine in the next
    4. Your character’s worst fear is being shot, but you have her bravely confront an armed robber.
    5. Your character can’t swim, but saves a child from drowning.
    6. Your character’s dog went missing. You never explained what happened to it.
  2. Create setup: make sure you lead up to the event so it can realistically unfold.
  3. Make changes: no one likes to make big changes, but think of the big picture. You may have to adjust the setting, events, even drastically change your character so that necessary events can occur.
  4. Ask an outsider. Beta readers are far more likley to identify and resolve a plothole.
  5. Think on your back: they say lying on your back helps you think
  6. Step away from your WIP. Distance can help you see clearer. The solution may even come to you when you’re not thinking about it.
  7. Keep it simple: When filling plotholes, don’t make it difficult or over complicated.

It’s like Yzma’s plan to get rid of Kusco in the Emperor’s New Groove. She’s going to turn him into a flea, a harmless, little flea, and then put that flea in a box, and then put that box inside of another box, and then mail that box to herself, and when it arrives smash it with a hammer. She changes her mind–not because the plan was convoluted–to save on postage. She goes for a simple route: poison.

Recently I filled a glaring plothole–in the beginning of my book  no less–by using the methods above (mostly lying on my back and talking to my sister). What’s the biggest plothole you’ve ever had to fill?

Writer on a Warpath: Dylan Saccoccio Rampages against Reviewer

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There’s only one way to respond to a negative review: DON’T

Authors who challenge a review do nothing in the way of damage control. Quite the opposite, actually.

This is a major writing faux pas. At best the author comes off defensive or childish. At worst, the author comes off psychotic, especially when they threaten to post revenge reviews or even file a lawsuit.


On the offenders registry are authors Stephan J. Harper, Carroll Bryant, Emily Giffin, Chris McGrath, and now Dylan Saccoccio.

Today, I’d like to focus on Dylan Saccoccio (author of The Tales of Onora) for going on a rampage against a recent reviewer.


dylanDylan is an author I’m rather familiar with, having purchased his book based on the number of reviews, comparisons to Tolkien and George R.R. Martin, his impressive Amazon Best Sellers Rank, and the fact that I’m a sucker for an attractive cover.

You’ll note I did not determine my purchase based on the number of positive/negative reviews.

Similar criteria attracted the recent reader who left a less than positive review.

How Dylan responds is absolutely cringeworthy. See for yourself. If you’d like to see a train wreck, follow the link here.

His arguments aren’t even valid. He accuses negative reviews of being damaging to his novel’s success and a reflection of the reviewer instead of the author or book.

What I find funny: It’s his response to the negative review–NOT the negative review itself–that risk damaging his book’s success and his reputation as an author. So essentially he’s causing the very thing he is afraid will occur.

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With over 100 reviews (60% being positive), a large twitter following, a loyal fan base, and a high Amazon ranking, it’s petty and ridiculous that he would even hone in on this one review.

He is so afraid of others threatening his writing career, he isn’t even aware he is committing career suicide. That’s like worrying about getting West Nile from a mosquito bite while smoking a cigarette.

Let’s look at the damage, shall we?

The review did no damage whatsoever; however, his response could cost him fans (new and old), damage his reputation, hurt sales, and lose followers.

Case in point. I used to follow him on twitter, but I simply can’t follow any author who behaves this way. Will he notice the sting of one bee? Maybe not. But if enough bees sting . . . you start to feel the venom.

So what did he accomplish in the way of damage control? Nothing but assuage a bruised ego.


So why did he respond to this review? The simple reason would be a lack of logic. He wanted the reviewer to remove his review because he worried it would damage sales. So in truth, he wasn’t trying to be a defensive man-child. He was responding to misconceptions of the dreaded negative review.

Misconceptions

Negative Reviews Discredit Your Book or Writing

Negative reviews add legitimacy to a book’s reputation. Case in point, I almost didn’t purchase The Tales of Onora because it had too much praise. Without a negative review, I’m led to believe that his friends and family (or paid people) were a majority of his reviewers.

Negative Reviews are Slander

Slander and opinion are very different things. Can anyone tell me what a review is? Yes, for those of you who said opinion, you would be correct. We live in ‘Merica where everyone has a right to an opinion–whether informed, well-constructed, or biased. Does the latter describe this recent review. Hardly. He simply didn’t like it, and to be honest, neither did I. And for a lot of the same reasons as this guy, I might add. I guess I’m glad I didn’t review it. I’d hate to be the target of damaged pride.

Reviews are Personal

Youve_Got_Mail_20917_MediumHere’s where he really lost it, accusing the reviewer of having no sympathy or humanity. As if the reader’s goal was to bring down his career. Most of the time, reviewers don’t know you. Your success or failure isn’t their concern–and it shouldn’t be. This isn’t heartless, it’s just a fact. They are interested in finding a good book that they will enjoy. You are not their focus when they leave a review. Reviews are for READERS, not authors. They are telling other readers why they liked/did not like a book and whether they think it is a worthy read. Their opinions can be hurtful, but it isn’t an attack.


For the record, the ONLY good way to respond to a negative review is to NOT RESPOND.

You could try NOT READING THEM, though I think an author interested in growth should read and consider all their reviews.

Instead of going on a rant, consider these alternatives to take the sting off.

  • take a shot for every negative review (non drinkers can substitute shots for chocolate)
  • frame them on the wall of shame
  • burn them
  • put a hex on the bad reviewer
  • determine if their negative response is in fact positive criticism and use that to improve your writing in the future
  • whine to a friend
  • re-read positive reviews
  • sing Let it Go
  • go online and distract yourself with cat memes

Well there you have it. I’m a firm believer in learning from other’s mistakes, so let this be a lesson to the rest of you. When you get a review–good or bad–be gracious, be humble, be prepared, and most importantly be quiet. Whatever your response is, keep it out of the spotlight. In the end, your success or failure relies more on you than your reviews and readers.

Do dishes, go to the gym, pick up child from school, write the next best-selling fantasy novel: You know, just your typical to-do list.

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The life of a working adult is busy, and writers are no exception. If anything, we’re busier than the average adult.

My to-do list today literally looks like this:

  • buy drano
  • get gas
  • blog
  • wash dishes
  • fill out forms for summer camp
  • clean car
  • put clothes away
  • finish outlining book one
  • edit chapter 9-10 of sister’s fantasy parody
  • pick up child from school
  • go to gym

Yup, just your typical to-do list . . . if you’re a writer, anyway.

A non-writer’s list stops at put clothes away, freeing them to watch Netflix or pursue some other pleasure in their–what’s that word again? . . . oh yeah, free time.

A list certainly helps categorize, order, even prioritize chores that need done, but a calendar is so much better. Join me Tuesday for my next Tuesday Tip which will be all about making a writing/life calendar. Guaranteed to help you turn your to-do’s into already done.

What does your to-do list look like? How many writing vs non-writing items are on your list? How many can you check off in a day?