Happy Monday! It is time for another batch of writers links from No Wasted Ink. This week I was heavy into reading writing tips as I gear up to return to revisions on my novel “Christmas in Kellynch”, the sequel to “The Curate’s Brother”. There were many great articles about writing fiction, including a good one at Tor.com about Speculative Poetry. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.
Happy Monday! Welcome to No Wasted Ink’s top ten writing tip article list. As I surf the world wide web, I earmark writing articles that I personally find interesting…and ones that I hope you will too. This week is heavy on the writing tips, but there are a few about journaling and being a better reader that might be worth your looking into. Enjoy!
Author Maurice X Alvarez writes what he loves to read. He tries to make his stories much more fun that the real world. Please welcome him to No Wasted Ink.
Hi, there. My name is Maurice, and I live in New Jersey with my wonderful wife, author Ande Li, two great kids, a dog and a parakeet. I grew up in NYC, and still consider myself a New Yorker at heart.
I’m an avid cyclist, finding the activity and the exploring of new places cathartic after a long week of work.
When and why did you begin writing?
I’ve been writing since I was around ten years old. I was fortunate to have family that encouraged my writing, including a cousin whose feedback proved invaluable at that early age.
I’m often asked about “when” I began writing, but seldom “why”. I was inspired by films like Star Wars, The Monster Club and Xanadu. They made me dream things I’d never dreamed before, and opened my mind to the kinds of places I wanted to explore and people to learn more about.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
There’s nothing more convincing than that first time you hold a printed copy of your book in your hands. That was January of 2011 for me. But I’d suspected I was a writer long before that, probably in high school when I found myself writing a number of sequels to a short story I’d written in 8th grade. One of them required me to do some research on travel to Africa and diamond mining. That’s when things got real.
Can you share a little about your current book with us?
“Return to Averia” is the first book of a trilogy called “The Trouble With Thieves”. It falls under portal fiction, a subgenre of sci-fi/fantasy I learned about recently.
It’s a lighthearted story of a thief from a distant world and two young women from Earth who are drawn into the adventure of their lives as they hunt down a borderline sociopath with delusions of grandeur. How’s that for a one-liner?
What inspired you to write this book?
The inspiration came from a drawing my wife created one day. As I sat there admiring the drawing, a friend happened to peer over my shoulder and mused, “I wonder what the story is behind that!” I’ll never forget those words. He made me realize that I wondered what the story was too! Within a few hours, I had the character names, the epilogue and a basic plot.
Do you have a specific writing style?
I’ve heared others refer to my writing style as “seat of my pants”. I know some authors create outlines and have other elaborate methods for their writing. And perhaps some of that goes on in my head, but I definitely don’t engage in anything so formal. My characters lead the way most of the time, and they get themselves in and out of situations, often to my surprise.
Aside from that, I write the way books I have enjoyed are written: easy to read and focused on characters that change and grow from their experiences.
How did you come up with the title of this book?
Each book in the trilogy contains the name of a planet within that book. “Return to Averia” is actually the second time one of the characters goes to that planet. The backstory of their first trip to Averia became so rich that it evolved into a forthcoming prequel story.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
That’s a tough one! I would have to say it is to look past small issues and just enjoy life. Like us, the characters each start out with a personal struggle that they bring to their relationships with each other and with others. The adventure in “Return to Averia” begins putting things into perspective for them. And that growth progesses throughout the trilogy.
What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?
There are so many! Issac Asimov, Larry Niven, Stephen Donaldson, Jack Chalker, Edgar Rice Burroughs… the list goes on. Their characterizations and worldbuilding skills were true inspirations. And with authors like ERB and Doc Smith, it’s more about the whimsical nature of the stories; you can just zip through them, losing yourself completely but without feeling like you’ve read a deep work of literature.
Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustration?
The original artwork on which the cover is based was my wife’s doing. There’s a pencil-version of that image which I converted into a 3D graphic for use as the cover. I’ve always been partial to the pulp paperback book covers of the ’60s and ’70, and this was my attempt to mimic their style. Though I did change the title about a year ago when books two and three were released, in order to get a consistent look across the series.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Prepare yourself to receive a lot of feedback. Some will be good and some bad; that’s just the way it is. But you will have to learn how to deal with it. Just don’t let it get you down. Read it, ignore it for a day or two and let your chemistry settle down, then read it again and see what you think of it then.
Whether you’re new at it, or it’s old hat, you can always learn something from other writers. This is especially true for us, the self-published. Ours is an ever-evolving world, and it helps to stay on top of the latest trends.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Whether it’s my book or someone else’s, have fun reading!
Return to Averia
Some questions. But do you know the answers?
Almost everyone has sprawled on a grassy hill or mountain meadow. Or simply sat on the ground in a backyard. Have you ever knelt, gently parted the grass with your hands, and looked to see what you might overwise have never seen? The sprouting seedling, with its neck curled to the sun, an earthworm keeping my yard green, a sugar ant scaling a blade of grass, a 1987 penny: yesterday in my front yard. In less than thirty seconds I looked upon a hidden world, right under my feet. Same thing, but use a magnifying glass! What all do you, might you, can you SEE?Without looking, do you know whether the last time whoever mowed the grass went back and forth, up and down or diagonal? Why not? Do the daffodils need cutting back, has the last tulip bloomed, and were your lilacs caught by the cold this spring? Do you know?
Without looking, do you know if it is sunny or cloudy outside? Is the sky a bowl of brilliant blue or pale whitish blue? Do clouds shuttle across, great sails of billowy white or are they multiple shades of threatening grey? Are there mare’s tails, or is it, perhaps a mackerel sky? Are there a million pricks of light or a blanket of thick clouds? What phase is the moon in? Is it a child’s fingernail clipping or a fish-bellies moon? Have you seen the space station skittering across the sky? Do you know? Have you?
Have you looked to appreciate the diamond glitters of dew catching the morning sun on the grass? Do you know if the birdfeeders are empty or full? Do you have one? What birds come to feed? Have the bluebirds returned? The hummingbirds? Do the goldfinches have their summer colors yet? Did you notice how the calls of the robins, cardinals, and blue jays have changed? Have you seen? Have you noticed?
Have you ever found a bench to sit on and relax in town and simply watched the throng pass by? Are they staring at their phones or looking where they are going? Do they ever look up to catch the colors of a morning sky or notice a checkerboard of contrails? Do they stride or stroll? Can they tell, without even looking, when the crowd pauses for the light as if part of a school of minnows? Do they notice the world around them or are they secure in their little bubble? Are they busy talking? Do they even hear the car horns, the clack and stomp and shuffle of feet on a sidewalk, or the sound of the vendor on the corner? How do they look? Happy, busy, sad, depressed, mad, or stressed? Are they smiling or frowning or are they blank-faced or excited? How do you move in the crowd? Ever thought about it?
If your desk is near a window, do you notice how and when the sun slants in and gets in your eyes? How it moves from one side of the window to the other as the year progresses? What is outside that window? No, not ‘just the backyard or the street. Across the backyard, we have a long, four-foot-tall woodpile. It is also the chipmunk condominium, the opossum’s den, and is half-buried in pine needles. The older wood is blackened from time, weather, heat, and cold. The newer wood is still pale browns, golds, and oranges depending upon whether it is cherry, pine, oak, or birch. Between here and there are goldfinch feeders, lawn chairs (which absolutely need new cushions) and a wide expanse of (diagonally-mowed) grass. Goldfinches, resting on the grass, look almost like dandilions.
Is your coffee cold in its cup or still steaming hot? Has the ice melted away to dilute your drink? Where are you reading this? At your desk? On your cell in the car? Waiting for the kids or on a subway? What are three distinct sounds you can hear right now? Listen …–Listen, don’t just keep reading! I can hear the furnace running and feel the heat on my bare feet. I can hear the annoying clicking my fingers make on the keyboard, (some keys click louder than others; most noticeably the space bar!) and I can hear the dog barking. It is her ‘Mom, the bunny’s in the front yard again and I want to go play with it! Can I, Mom? Huh, huh? Can I?’ whines and yips.
As writers, as poets, we need to be observant. It is most often the little things that can give poetry the nuances and levels to make a point. Poetry depends upon fresh descriptions and new ways to see things. Perspectives change and morph depending upon a vantage point. How we, as writers, describe things in the world around us requires us to become excellent observers. Otherwise, one sees (and writes) the same old cliched phrases.
Imagine, for a moment, you were a sugar ant. Blades of grass soar upwards. The root of a tree is a mountain. Then aiming up the truck, following a scent that means food, you travel upwards, for almost half an hour as you traverse bits of knobby bark, branches, knotholes. Thirty feet off the ground, something ‘big’ brushes you off the tree and you fall, covering in seconds what it took a very long time to achieve. Assuming a bird doesn’t snatch you mid-air, do you know what happens to that ant when it hits the ground? It bounces, shakes itself, and then starts a totally different journey. Assuming I could manage to climb thirty feet up into a tree, I seriously doubt I’d be able to pick myself up, dust myself on and just continue on my way collecting food!
Observation also comes into play when reading poetry. Ours or others, it is still the same. There is so much to be learned about writing poetry from reading a plethora of poems. Experienced writers tend to write in layers. The poem is so much more than x-numbers of words arranged in a pleasing fashion. Word plays, multiple meanings from the same words, a deeper meaning, a layered nuance. Poems are rarely what’s just on the surface! You need to take a deep breath, dive down and explore the multiple meanings that can be found, the deeper message. Then, get that magnifying glass back out and look again!
Then it more[hs into the MORE! Not just in our daily existence. You will find yourself seeing the stuff that was right out in the open that you’ve missed! The little things others do for you that they don’t mention. That cup of coffee brought to you just when you realized you wanted one. The haircut. The new shirt. That they mowed the yard or that there were fresh flowers on the table. Maybe someone else (for a change!) did the dishes or folded laundry. Maybe they didn’t touch their cell once while you both were talking or one of the kids did a good job on their room or chores without being prodded to do so! Little things. Tiny things. But they add up to so very much! Sometimes, you need to work for it –it isn’t just handed to you on a poetic platter! Don’t just read for the snack –read, write and –live (!) for the feast!
It may be hard in our day-to-day lives with significant others, kids, pets, work, dealing with covid on top of everything else, but once you get yourself in the habit of being a dedicated observer, it will become second nature. You will be amazed at all the things you’ve been missing out on.
Cut me: I bleed ink. There is a space, a fathomless well of unsprung thoughts that exists inside me. I write to pull forth the words; grasp and yank them screaming or dancing, from deep within and set them free upon the page. This, this is why I write, for if I didn’t, then I shouldn’t be alive at all.
My ‘Journey Collection’ is a contemporary fiction series about groups of people with a high-risk of suicide: things read when people are not mid-spiral may surface when they are – and let them break free. Nothing like a phone call from someone saying they walked away from the Golden Gate Bridge because something in ‘Journey to Jukai’ made them think again! Or receiving an email from someone wondering if I am trans or gay because I nailed ‘the who they are!’ (I am not. Intense, deep research is your friend!)
Robin Moyer is an author, poet, great-grandmother, veteran, creative writing teacher, wife, world-traveler, free spirit and book publisher. (wynwidynpress.com) She has eight books under her belt including a prize-winning series and three works in process.
Happy Monday! No Wasted Ink has a new top-ten of interesting writing related links for you to enjoy. During my own surfing of the internet, I earmark craft articles that I find useful and engaging and share these with all of you.
Writing Rogues, A Study o Batman: The Animated Series
Whose POV Should It Be?
The Joys of Scrivener – My Favorite Software for Organizing Your Book-In-Progress
Achieving Immortality Through Fiction
Writing Rules vs. Writing Fashion: Should Writers Follow Fashion Trends?
Everything You’ve Always Wanted to Know: Hybrid Publishing
A Display Hack for Your Story’s Outline
Using TikTok to Sell Books
Affiliate Income For Authors
Why You Should Know Who Your Narrator Is Talking To