Interview with K. Starling: An insight into self-publishing

bookIf you missed my review of K. Starling’s novel In Beauty’s Veins you can read it here.

In Beauty’s Veins is a novel about the journey of four women all united by a Healer named Daphne, who comes to the town of Halfawaise with the intentions of finding a lost neighbor and to become a healer there. But the town is immediately suspicious: is she really a Healer that the Legends talk about?

It doesn’t help that another legend follows her there, when Berri, one of the women who befriends Daphne, discovers someone who was attacked by a Vampyre. As Daphne tells her story to her new friends, suddenly the things that used to be legend aren’t legend anymore.


Miss Starling was able to take time out of her busy day to sit down with me and have a chat about her new novel, self-publishing and the writing process behind it:

Me: What was your inspiration for In Beauty’s Veins? When did you come up with the idea?

K.S: It’s kind of embarrassing actually. There was a melange of reasons. It started as a romantic fantasy in my head inspired by a how-to-draw Gothic Manga picture that I found really sexy. Then Twilight came out and I thought, “Oh, I could probably make money on this fantasy.” But then I cared too much about my characters, so I actually developed them. And I actually get annoyed by romance being the end-all of any story, so it pretty much died.

Me: I did notice there was some romantic element, but it was refreshing to see all the different themes, like woman’s rights, sexuality, forgiveness, self-worth….was there a particular reason you chose to write about such things?

K.S: It was in the forefront of my mind just then. Our culture is at an interesting point in which we’re really self-reflecting on how we view people based on differences and I felt like exploring some of my own experiences through this story. These are topics that make people uncomfortable, but I don’t want to be uncomfortable about them.

Me: Nice. How long did it take to write the novel?

K.S: From start to finish, about seven years, but bear in mind that the first three drafts were an almost utterly different story. Berri didn’t exist until maybe three years ago and then I was working full-time and took a hiatus. Once I actually outlined it properly and dealt with the addition of Halfawaise into the plot (cultural and language development) it took me about a year and a half.

Me: It’s funny how first time writers always think that writing a book is a quick thing. It definitely does take time to develop. Why the title that you chose? Was there some thought into it?

K.S: It’s meant to allude to the allegorical reference to Beauty and the Beast, but also the depth and grit of the story (so veins and not blood, which has almost become sexualized as a word). I didn’t want someone picking this up thinking it would be fluff.

The world inside of K. Starling’s novel, In Beauty’s Veins.

Me: Going back to Halfawaise and the world that you’ve created…how did that come about?

K.S: I’m interested in cultural development. A lot of my studies have been deeply rooted in cultural identities, primarily Chinese and Celtic cultures. However, my interest definitely veered based on information I learned. I was curious what a Scandinavian Empire might have looked like had our continents drifted differently. I thought it would be interesting, too, to explore a pseudo-French Revolutionary culture that tends towards Communism and Atheism and how the cultures converse across borders.

Me: And the language that you created in the book? How did that come about? Was there some specific inspiration you used for that?

K.S: They’re purely derivative. I don’t really intend to do much expansion in the story, so I wasn’t going to spend a lot of time developing languages. (Laughs.) You’ve got Atwainsk, which is basically Scottish Gaelic plus some Germanic influence, and then Nordsk is just a combination of Germanic and Scandinavian languages. I did a little work on dealing with Middle versus Old versions of the languages (like Keltoig), but not a lot. The one Chinese expression, however, was made up. It’s Mandarin in meaning, but it’s not a real cheng-yu.

“Cao you bu hua” 草友不花  “Grass friends don’t flower” – it’s from the scroll Anwar shows Daphne. Chinese has a neat history of four character idioms (cheng-yu). I love them.

Me: On a different note, the story is told from different points of view…why did you choose to go that route?

K.S: It was originally a first-person sequential narrative, but I decided Daphne wouldn’t narrate first-person. That’s not the way she thinks. So I played with third-person before deciding that I wanted a different perspective on her story, so I introduced Berri, her polar opposite, to look at things with new eyes. But then Berri turned into such an interesting character that I wanted other characters to share their thoughts on her, so I expanded on Nade and Gerri, both of whom have their own slants. I just wanted to look at the different aspects of the landscape, to see what that felt like. Berri is just so ego-based that telling a story purely from her perspective would be exhausting, and Daphne is so conflicted and gentle that she wouldn’t be able to capture the facts.

Me: I think it was a good choice, the story felt more complete because of it. Is there any character that you identify with?

K.S: All of them to some extent. Although, I call Daphne my drunk self. She’s so determined to like everyone. But I have my Berri days for sure.

Me: Would you say Daphne is your favorite?

K.S: Daphne is the character I most admire, but I don’t think she is my favorite. I feel very protective of Rose, actually. I feel like I failed her as a writer sometimes. I wish I could have given her more screen time, in a manner of speaking. Her life was just so painful.

Me: I know you mentioned that you didn’t intend to continue the story, but can we look forward to a sequel, or another novel in this world?

K.S: I’m debating it. If I do, it would definitely be a different cast of characters, although I would take some time in Halfawaise. I haven’t decided. I have some ideas, but not enough to do much about it.

Me: One more thing on the novel: When I was reading it, I was toying with the idea that the four women really are parts of a whole, as each of the women have such different personalities…Berri having a darker side, Daphne optimistic, Gerri the nerdy type, Yolain who is concerned about her looks…combined into one, the four really do represent many of the issues that women struggle with in today’s world. Any thoughts on that?

K.S: With Daphne and Berri, I was definitely playing with polarity. Yolain and Gerri, who my writing group referred to as the Two Stooges, just sprung up for me. Gerri interests me for a lot of reasons, of course. She struggles with her sexuality, her desire to learn things, and to stay somewhat hidden to maintain that independence. Yolain projects confidence, but is very much living in constant fear of failure. Keep in mind she’s been carrying her experience of near-capture around with her for years. I think she understands better than anyone what it means to be a woman in the Skalda Domain.

***AND then we touched on the benefits of self-publishing…

Me: Why did you choose to self-publish? What are the benefits you think?

K.S: Frankly going the traditional route with this book never crossed my mind. It doesn’t fall neatly into any genre and is really hard to market. If a publisher picked it up, I can almost guarantee they’d want me to clean it up – remove the swearing, sexuality, and pump up the romance. They’d want the vampyres to be sexy, and that was against my philosophy.

Me: You mentioned that you had other projects you were working on…do you think you will self publish those as well?

K.S: That’s the plan. The next one takes place in Horseheads, NY, actually. It might have a place in traditional marketing, more than In Beauty, but it’s pretty brutal. I like maintaining creative control. I have no illusions that I can do this for money, and I don’t really want to. I like my day job and I enjoy my projects.

Me: Are there books that you might consider getting an agent, or publisher for, or no?

K.S. Probably not. I feel that I would remove part of the fun. I’m a project manager by day; I’m good at this stuff. I don’t need someone else putting a deadline on me. A lawyer, however, probably wouldn’t hurt. (Laughs).

Me: It is definitely a great ambition. And it says a lot that you are doing this for the fun of it, for yourself. How do you personally market your novel?

K.S: I’ve been really busy. Mostly I bought 50 copies and have persuaded some local businesses to carry them for me. I’m going to head over to B&N here in Madison and back in Elmira to let them know I’m local. I have a few book clubs I know of that have interest in it. Otherwise, I’m going to Johnny Appleseed it. I have some post-card style advertisements and I travel a LOT, so a few copies will find their way into international hostels and libraries.

Me: Did you hire an editor to proof read your novel at the end?

K.S: I did. It’s a bad idea for me to proof my own stuff.

Me: Is that the best way to go, you think? Also, getting someone to do the cover art?

K.S: I do. I would feel so horrible if my baby got out there and had a sloppy typo going on. My cousin has a friend in NYC who’s an illustrator who was looking for work and I know a local graphic designer. I wanted a nice-looking product, so I went big. Also, it’s a lot of fun to collaborate with other artists. I have a buddy in Brooklyn who did some costume sketches for me (on my website) and I’m so glad I hired her to do it. It really brought some of the scenes to life for me.

Me: I’ve always wanted to do that for some of my projects…it seems like such fun. What words of encouragement do you have for other writers out there who are trying to self publish?

K.S: It’s a serious investment of time. Pay attention to what you’re doing. Be ready to invest a little cash if you want a nice product, or else be ready to do a lot of legwork yourself. Know what your goal is with the project and balance that against what you can actually commit. I count myself lucky that I don’t need to do this for a living, because it’s a very competitive market and it’s almost entirely luck-based. If you’re not doing it because you love it, take a step back and find out why.

Me: I think all the outside views definitely make it hard to write what you want and for yourself, especially when you have others judging you. Did you struggle with writer’s fear at all? Writer’s Block?

K.S: I have moments to be sure. I try to just write piles of garbage until I get through whatever is in the way. I’ve actually started doing erotica on the side (under a pen name) just to keep writing so I can go crazy without fear of judgement. Fearlessness is critical when you’re expressing yourself, you know?

Me: Great words….How often do you write? Is there a specific time a day that works best for you? And did you have a regimen that you stuck to for writing In Beauty’s Veins?

K.S: I feel like every writer has their own mode of habit. With my job and hobbies, I can’t commit a lot of time to writing on a regular basis, so I try to mentally write (live in my head) when I’m waiting in lines or traffic to keep it going. When I travel, I write probably between 1 and 5 hours a day. With In Beauty, I hammered out 50,000 words when I was in Taiwan for 6.5 weeks. I have to make space away from obligations, so that means getting out of my house and away from people I know. I actually made a Ulysses Compact with myself for In Beauty… I wanted to finish it by a certain date, and I was having trouble motivating at the time, so I threatened to shave my head if I failed. I did not fail.

Me: (Laughs) Would you have really shaved your head?

K.S: Yes. You have to keep your word to yourself, you know?

Me: Oh, I know. What are some of your next projects, if you don’t mind me asking?

K.S: Sure! I’m working on a semi-apocalyptic piece in which magic is released again into the world (Unleashed), but it follows the paths of two sisters who hate each other, and who find very different ways to survive. I’m also writing a novel based on a film I made in college called Styx & Stones, which is about two college students who can interact with ghosts and how they cope. I’ve also got three others on the back burner that somewhat tie into the first two, but I haven’t decided to what extent yet.

Me: Do you have your own website/ blog where we can find updates?

K.S: Yes. It’s www.kxstarling.com. You can find my facebook account under K. Starling.

Me: Do you have any writing quirks or habits that you want to share?

K.S: I always make soundtracks for my books before I write them. And then I listen all the time until the novel is done.

Me: That’s awesome. Is the soundtrack on your website?

K.S: It’s not, but you know, I’m thinking about it. I’m planning to update some content next week when I’m off work. That could be fun!

Me: For fun, last question: What is your favorite book? Your favorite author?

K.S: Favorite book is probably The Sparrow, by Mary Doria Russell. It was magnificent. But I go through phases. Favorite author is probably Lu Xun, because I admire him so much. He wrote short stories during the Chinese May 4th Era – mostly cultural criticisms. Absolutely stunning.

*****And that’s that! She was able to offer us some great insight into self-publishing… and how important it is to make sure that the product you have out there is the best that it can possibly be!

I like what she says about Writer’s Fear:

“Fearlessness is critical when you are expressing yourself.”

Happy Writing everyone!


K. StarlingK. Starling has a Bachelors degree in Comparitive Literature and a minor in Chinese from Binghamton University. She has studied at National Taiwan University and University of Nottingham. In her spare time, she likes traveling, guzzling tea, and is training to be a Yoga teacher. In Beauty’s Veins is her first novel.

In Beauty’s Veins can be found on amazon.com, here. Look for updates on her website at www.kxstarling.com and on facebook at K. Starling.

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The Princess Bride, Ginger ale and chicken and stars soup

My last post was too long ago! I was house sitting for my mother last weekend and between working and errands, I think I’ve tired myself out. And although I slept nearly twelve hours last night – I know twelve! (I could probably sleep forever if my boyfriend would let me,) I have a terrible sinus headache today and I’m feeling just plain lousy.

Feeling “under the weather” made me think of all the things I used to do when I was sick and the foods that I would like to eat when I was a kid. (Something that hasn’t really changed now that I am twenty-six).

princess bride 2First things first: Choice of entertainment – The Princess Bride.

It was a movie that I always used to watch when I was sick and I still do. I’d alternate between the princess bride and the Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. The music that plays during the shire scenes in the beginning is so relaxing and calming for me. As for The Princess Bride, well that’s a given. It has everything for someone who just wants a good story before bedtime: romance, adventure, fantasy, humor, sword fighting and great characters.

Drink of choice: Ginger Ale.

Whether I’m suffering from the stomach bug, or a terrible head cold, ginger ale is calming on the stomach and refreshing. When you’re told to drink lots of liquids to feel better, why not have it taste good?

Food of choice: Chicken and Stars soup.

You know the Campbell’s chicken and stars condensed soup that the Progresso commercials say are not adult food? Yeah, that’s the one! haha 😉  But there’s nothing like some good saltines and butter and this hot soup when your head is pounding or you’re just ready to go to sleep.

Well, now that I’ve made myself all nostalgic and wishing Mom was here to sooth all ails, I’ve got a question for you all.

What do you like to watch/eat/drink when you are sick?

It’s all about comfort here, people. And these are definitely my comforts when I am ill. Hope everyone is having a great week so far.

Happy Writing!

8 TV Shows to love and find inspiration from

I get a lot of my inspiration from great TV shows, and I think people sometimes forget that TV Shows are only as good as the writers behind them. It has to have all the pieces in the formula to make it complete: great characters, an interesting and believable world and a great story.

I get inspired by these great stories and characters and love them sometimes just as much as my favorite books. So I thought I’d share some of my favorites of the past several years and why I think they deserve a good watch.

(It all depends on what you are into, too.) Me, I love science fiction/fantasy and alternate realities, but mostly I love great characters and these shows have all that and more:

8. Once Upon a Time Once-Upon-a-Time-Poster

From the brilliant creators of LOST, the first few seasons follow Emma and the other characters of Storybrooke, Maine in a world where fairy tale creatures don’t know who they truly are. The show presses you to believe in them as you follow these troubled characters and hope that they’ll be able to find true happiness. There’s true love between Snow White and Prince Charming, and despite the clichés, there happens to be something different and fresh about each character you see here, and you will see all sorts of fairy tale characters from multiple worlds.

7. Chuck1024x768chuck_sarah1

One of my favorites, but clearly not up to par as a show like Game of Thrones. Chuck is about “Chuck,” a man who works at a Buy More (think Best Buy) whose life changes when he has a super computer downloaded into his head. Mostly I love this show because of Chuck played by Zachary Levi. Others might know him as the voice of Flynn on Disney’s Tangled. He’s that awkward, yet handsome nerd that everyone has in their lives and knows and loves. He’s relate-able, there’s action, there’s chemistry, and instead of becoming repetitive, the show and the characters continue to grow throughout the seasons.

6. BonesBones_(1)Bones is about forensic anthropologist, Dr. Temperance Brennan, and how her partnership with the FBI helps them solve murders. I love the chemistry between Dr. Temperance Brennan (Emily Deschanel) and FBI agent, Seeley Booth (David Boreanaz). It is a relationship that definitely has more depth to it than just physical chemistry. You begin to understand that at the end of the day, these two are best friends, and can overcome any odds together. Plus, there’s a great cast and a humor that evens out the gruesome deaths and murders that the crew solves on each episode. Without the chemistry between all the characters, this show would have died a quick death a long time ago.

5. Downton Abbey

DowntonAbbey1A period drama that focuses on the lives of the people who live and work in a large house, “Downton Abbey” that functions in the early 1900s and into the 1920s. Each character faces trials and tribulations, and the characters downstairs, (the kitchen, maids, footmen, etc.) are just as important as the lords and ladies of the manor in all their finery. Maggie Smith delivers great one liners, and the costumes, colors and dialogue transports you to a world that is very different from the one we live in now. I have a hard time writing after watching this show, merely because the character’s accents and mannerisms get in my head and it is sometimes hard to switch it off! It is a great show if you need to escape for a while.

4. Breaking Bad

Breaking-Bad-Season-51It is fourth, merely because there are other TV shows that I love more, however, this one takes the cake when it comes to great writing. The show is about high school chemistry teacher, Walter White (Bryan Cranston), who is diagnosed with lung cancer. He decides to make and sell crystal meth to leave a legacy for his family.  I love the bro-mance between Aaron Paul and Bryan Cranston’s characters, and each season amps up the suspense as you’re taken along with Walter White on his journey of self discovery. It challenges the idea of right and wrong and each episode feels like a movie – there’s a lot of cinematic moments, great landscapes; Vince Gilligan is a pro when it comes to the awkward conversation.

3. Game of Thrones

Game_of_thrones_castGeorge R.R. Martin’s books come to life on the screen, the phrase “Winter is coming,” should be heard throughout the realm – this show airs on HBO on Sunday nights, although now we have to wait a whole year for the new season! The show follows several characters, (more than several actually) as they make their way through the seven kingdoms; some with desires for the throne, some with dragons, some with destinations of their own. There’s gruesome deaths, sex, love, fights, dragons, and epic fantasy. If you love all that…then this show is for you. The show doesn’t skimp on the special effects either…it is HBO after-all. Not for the faint of heart, but that’s what makes it so great.

2. LOST

lost-headerAnd yes, I wrote it in great big capital letters, like it appeared on the show. (Writing it in lowercase just seems an insult to the show really.) LOST follows the lives of several survivors of a plane crash on an island somewhere in the south pacific. Unbeknownst to them, there is a greater purpose at work here as we learn how these characters lives are interconnected. There are so many themes in here for the starving English major: Death/Life, Science/Religion, Heaven/Hell, Right/Wrong, Retribution/Rebirth; it is a conspiracy theorist’s paradise and the skies the limit on what may or may not happen here. I fell in love with this show, and it is definitely worth it to see great actors, Matthew Fox, Evangeline Lilly, and of course Josh Holloway’s dimples.

1. Firefly

FireflyI don’t know if you have heard the story: Firefly, the almost was. It aired for 14 episodes, when producers cancelled the show, not realizing (apparently) that it was starting to grow a fan-base; a fan-base so large that they were able to make a movie to conclude the show! I don’t know if there is a producer somewhere kicking himself for the mistake (there should be!) but had this continued on for five or more seasons it would have been a huge hit. Like every Firefly fan, it bugs me to no end that there weren’t more episodes to this show…ANYWAY…

Firefly follows Captain Malcolm Reynolds and his crew on Serenity as they ‘keep on flying,’ in the black; taking jobs when they can, either legal or illegally all while trying to exist under the empire of the Alliance, which tries its best to make the little man feel very small and insignificant. It touches on the idea of freedom and what it truly means; as well as friendship, loyalty and love. But mostly what draws you in is the great characters – a testament to Joss Whedon’s writing skills, of course. Viewers are usually hooked after the first episode. (I know I was!)

Well, that’s that! If you have other great TV shows that deserve a good watch, let me know! I’ve also recently started watching Orange is the New Black – and that one has got me hooked as well!

Happy Writing people!

 

 

 

 

Game of Thrones Season 4, Episode 7 Recap: Who is the Mockingbird?

Spoilers ahead!

Photo credit: HBO.  Sansa appreciates the snow in the Eyrie.

Well, what can be said about last night’s episode? What can’t be said?? For an episode that was said to be a ‘filler’ episode by my boyfriend, an awful lot happened.

The episode starts out with Jaime berating Tyrion about turning down the deal with Tywin to take the black. Jaime claims that he has “thrown his life away.” They exchange words about their father, how he wants to see Tyrion dead and Jaime back at his rightful place at Casterly Rock, yada yada…the thought is that Bronn will fight for him.

Bronn is sent for, and comes to explain to Tyrion that he has a chance to marry, and he has gold, (as arranged by Cersei.) He says that he is Tyrion’s friend, but likes his life more. The conversation ends, and they shake hands and the meeting ends on a good note…I think.

Later on in the episode, Prince Oberyn comes to visit Tyrion in his cell. It’s odd…a place so dirty and (presumably) smelly, yet Prince Oberyn seems right at home. He seems the type that can slip into any place and look like he belongs. The man is that comfortable in his own skin. It is refreshing for us, but must be terrifying for the rest of the characters on Game of Thrones, because who’s to know what the man will do next?

Like, decide to be Tyrion’s champion? Prince Oberyn is there at King’s Landing to get revenge, and he wants revenge against Gregor Clegane, or ‘The Mountain,” for raping and killing his sister. Gregor Clegane  is the champion that Cersei has chosen, (A.K.A killing machine and The Hound’s brother.)

Meanwhile, somewhere not so close to King’s Landing, Arya and the Hound pass an old man on the road who is dying from a stomach wound. He goes on and on and says a lot of things that aren’t particularly important. Arya says that “nothing is just nothing,” the Hound puts him out of his misery and teaches Arya where the heart is all in one stroke of his knife.

The next time we see them, the Hound and Arya get attacked by those trying to get the price put on the Hound’s head. Arya remembers one of the attackers as someone who has insulted her but she doesn’t know his name. The Hound asks the guy his name, he gets on Arya’s list, she stabs him in the heart. The scene ends with the Hound saying, “you’re learning.”

It’s an amusing scene, and fitting of Arya’s character, but should I be worried that I find such scenes somewhat amusing?

Later on in the episode, we see that the Hound is hurt by their attackers. He asks Arya about the sword she got from her brother, then he tells Arya the story of what his brother gave him. The scar on his face. Touched by the story, Arya offers to help clean his wound and stitch it up.

On Dragonstone, Melisandre convinces Lady Selyse to bring her daughter Shireen with them on the long journey. I’m guessing to King’s Landing? Melisandre claims it’s because the lord of light will need her. More blood sacrifices, perhaps?

Meanwhile, in Jon Snow’s world, Alliser Thorne is continuing to give him trouble; insisting he lock up Ghost, won’t listen to Jon’s suggestions about fortifying the wall and overall just being a regular pain in the ass. Here’s hoping he gets what’s coming to him soon…something that will probably happen because he doesn’t listen. Personally, I think Thorne is such an ass because Jon has the ability to lead, his friends are also loyal to him and Thorne is threatened by it.

In Meereen, Dany has her own version of trouble. Daario claims that he is only good at two things: women and killing men. She makes good use of one of those things. She tells Daario to strip. Something I thought that was a little out of character for Dany, but as she is growing into her role, I could see why she would make use of what she has…but it seemed odd. This is no longer the frightened little sister of Viserys that we saw in season one of this series.

While it is obvious that Daario desires her, there is no softness in Dany’s expression. She is still Queen. Ser Jorah doesn’t approve, of course. However, Dany does listen to him when he advises her not to kill all the slavers in Yunkai, where she sent Daario and the second sons to reclaim the city. She changes her mind and says that they will have a choice to follow the rules in her world, or die.

We also see a bit of Pod and Brienne in this episode. While not main characters, I love these two as there never seems to be anything bad in them. While stopping at an Inn to catch a decent meal, they meet Hot Pie who tells them that Arya is still alive, and that she was traveling with the Hound. Pod deducts that they would be heading towards the Eyrie, where the girl’s aunt lives. Sansa might be there too.

Meanwhile in the Eyrie, Robin…annoying, spoiled, stupid, whiny Robin, destroys Sansa’s snow Winterfell and throws a tantrum. Sansa slaps him and then immediately regrets it. Lord Baelish sees and says that it’s what his mother should have done a long time ago. (He makes a good point, you know.)

Sansa questions Lord Baelish about why he killed Joffrey and he confesses it is because he loved her mother, and says in a different world she could have been his daughter. Then he kisses Sansa. She pushes him away, but aunt Lysa sees.

Threatened by Sansa and jealous, and a trifle crazy, Lysa holds Sansa over the moon door and threatens her. Lord Baelish manages to calm her down, and then reveals to her: “there is only one woman I love,” he says,”and that was your sister.” He then pushes Lysa through the Moon Door and the episode ends.

-I thought this a great ending, as I was never a great fan of Lysa. What will happen next you think? Thought’s below if you got ’em!

 

 

 

 

What Game of Thrones can teach creative writers about hidden context

Source: HBO;  Margaery and Cersei walk together.

We saw it a few nights ago in the latest episode of Game of Thrones, in First of His Name. Margaery and Cersei are standing side by side, both staring out at the new King Tommen talking about King Joffrey, about the new king, about whether or not Margaery still wants to be queen. Talking about everything else than what is truly on their minds.

Game of Thrones, or more specifically, Game of Throne’s characters, presents a fine example of the importance of hidden context for creative writers.

In context:  Margaery and Cersei are having a conversation, they are talking about the troubles on hand: a recent death, a new queen and what they should do now. Margaery, is polite, beguiling, charming. She knows how to twist words to her favor, to ask a question, yet answer it in the same sentence. Meanwhile, Cersei’s words are clipped, sometimes barbed. The things she says are meant to shock, to entice some reaction from the person next to her, to try to make the person she is having a conversation with, uncomfortable.

Out of context: The tension between the two. The fact that they aren’t looking at each other. The pauses between words. The politeness. Margaery wants the throne and is doing what she can to get it. Cersei doesn’t like Margaery, but knows she must play nice and make small talk, or in Cersei’s case, idle threats. Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.

While the two, strong, beautiful women are making conversation, most of what goes on between them is what they don’t say. The glances, the gestures, the false smiles. Cersei says it best with a glance, a frown, or a twitch of her eye.

And all the while, there is tension.

You hear it time and time again, from a lot of creative writers, or teachers of the craft. There must be tension. Without tension of some kind there is no story, no problem or obstacle to overcome.

If two characters are having a conversation, and everything is happy, perfect, agreeable, there is no reason for the conversation and as such, there is no story.

That’s why it is so important to create great detail in your stories. Sensory details. Describe the scene and character and conversation in detail.

With detail you will create the tension, and in that tension is what isn’t being said – the hidden context. Which is sometimes the most important thing of all.

What are your favorite stories or TV Shows? Who are your favorite characters in them? And what does it teach you about writing or story telling?

Thoughts below if you’ve got ’em!

 

 

10 Reasons why you should watch Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog Tonight

Well, as emphasized in a recent blog post, you all know my love for Joss Whedon. I believe he is an amazing writer, a talented director, and just a great example of a person who loves great entertainment and wants to share that love with others.

During the writer’s strike in 2008, Joss Whedon, with the help of his brothers, Zach Whedon and Jed Whedon as well as actress and writer, Maurissa Tancharoen, created a musical web series: Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog.

The short film is about Dr. Horrible, or “Billy” (Niel Patrick Harris) who longs for the love of a young woman named Penny (Felicia Day). In the midst of an evil plot to do wrong in order to be considered for the Evil League of Evil, he final meets her, Penny, the love of his life. But like all of his plots to do wrong, he is immediately pushed aside by Captain Hammer (Nathan Fillion), his arch nemesis.

So, WHY should you be tuning in to see Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog on the CW at 9pm tonight?

  • Joss Whedon! Joss Whedon! Joss Whedon! – If you like great writing, you’ll pretty much love anything he’s involved in. ‘Nuff said.
  • Great cast – Nathan Fillion (Castle), Niel Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother),  and Felicia Day (The Guild).
  • Nathan Fillion – Just ’cause I love him so much!
  • Great music – You’ll be surprised how talented the Whedon family is as emphasized by the creation of this film.
  • Catchy songs – You’ll want to sing along with it. Durrh!
  • Great Story – It’s cleverly written, funny and oh-so-very entertaining.
  • It’s award winning – It’s won 7 awards already!
  • Great Characters – Never thought you’d feel sympathetic towards the bad guy? Ohh, think again!
  • Niel Patrick Harris – Great singer, great actor, great looking, great everything!
  • It’s Intelligent – Like everything Whedon is involved in, it’ll make you think and surprise you!

Okay, now I’ve given you my reasons time to find your own! Be sure to tune in tonight at 9pm on the CW!

Here’s a look at the first act right here, the rest is, of course, available on youtube:

And if you’ve already watched it, leave a comment and let me know what you think! I’d love to hear from you! 🙂

Once Upon a Time Review 10/7/12 – Why we love these characters

***Mild Spoiler Alert! If you have not watched last night’s “We are Both” episode of Once Upon a Time, I suggest you go do that now before reading this! And it was a great episode, I highly recommend it!***

Photo credit: ABC.

In this episode, we are reminded that if you love your favorite show’s characters enough, you will follow them anywhere. Once Upon a Time’s second episode, “We are Both,” reminds us why, we as fans, love this show so much. The characters are alive and accessible to us; we feel their tension, their heartbreak, their struggle. We love it when we see certain characters conversing with others. Regina and Charming. Charming and “Mr. Gold.”

It is the mark of great writing. To be able to take your characters anywhere. To make them grow. To show their weaknesses, to show their strengths. To remember that a character is loved not because they are perfect, but because of their imperfections.

Because perfect characters are boring characters and no one is as UN-boring as Storybrooke’s very own evil queen, Regina.

The episode focused on her story this time around and I love how we get to see the building blocks of evil and it makes us question and think: What is evil? Who is evil? Because everyone has a purpose of living, or a motivation of some kind.

The Highlights?

  • Granny with a cross-bow.
  • Seeing Rumpelstiltskin’s true golden self.
  • Dr. Whale asking if he can date a nun. And then standing next to Blue in a certain point of an episode. Coincidental? I think not!
  • Charming’s speech. He’s still got it!
  • Regina’s realization that she doesn’t want to be her mother.
  • The dwarfs with pick-axes.
  • Henry and “Gramps” at the diner. So adorable.
  • A glimpse of the enchanted forest.

Last night’s episode really reminded me how much I have come to adore these characters. It’s like with LOST all over again. I feel like I know these characters. They have written them so well that I feel like if they ever had to disappear, I would fight for them. That is the mark of great writing, and great characterization. And something that I think many TV writers/producers forget is the main point of great TV watching. We watch something because we love it. And Once Upon a Time definitely knows how to woo its viewers.

The Writer Brain: Seeing the Extraordinary in the Ordinary

Well, went to bed last night and I had a total of 10 views on my blog. Just checked my stats here at about 5 o’clock and I have 109 views! And from different countries, too! (I love that. That you can connect with someone halfway across the world. Oh, the power of words…thank you Mr. Internet!)

So, thank you, Joss Whedon fan out there, who shared my post: A bit of Joss Whedon, Firefly, Dialogue, and Great Writing. It is interesting the traffic change that just one “share” can do…amazing!

More Myrtle Beach…but I love the blue color here – looks so otherworldly! If only it was in better focus…

So, as I was sitting in church this morning I had a thought about what I was going to write about today, I guiltily recorded it in my phone’s notebook as some old lady looked on – no ma’am, I am not texting in church, honest!

I was thinking about this:  How as writers we always try to get the better story.

We twist and we turn things to suit our fancy. (Well, I do sometimes!)

For example, say you are presented with this situation: Your co-worker shows up late for work and then acts awkwardly around the boss.

My thoughts: What is she wearing? She looks sloppy. Okay, there’s a wrinkle in the blouse, her lipstick is smeared…is that cover-up or some kind of bluish-bruise on her cheek? Wait, no, it’s just a freckle. Perhaps the boss took her out for dinner. Maybe he hit on her. Oh, I know! Perhaps they went out to eat, got drunk, hooked up and now they are late because they had to get the morning after pill, but the car ran out of gas and maybe they had a flat tire…oh, and now she’s looking at me funny because I’ve been staring too long at the wrinkle on her blouse. Look away! Look away!

Well, you get the point. As writers we are always looking for the better story. We are always striving for that little bit of detail that will tip our readers off to the fact that hey, something important is about to happen here, pay attention!

In truth: The co-worker was probably late because her kid was sick and she acted uncomfortable around the boss, because he said something to irritate her the day before. That darn boss!

But, the other story was much, much more fun. I stumbled upon an episode of Castle the other day. It was a rerun of the first episode in the whole series, where Castle more or less accidentally helps Beckett solve a case. She gets irritated because he pushes and he prods: Why do people do the things they do? What’s their motive? What makes the better story? But he ends up helping her solve the case. Again, now, who doesn’t love Nathan Fillion?

For me, I am always seeing writing opportunities in normal situations.

For example: The old lady sitting next to me in church. She is wearing brown shoes. She’s got a hat on. White curly hair and sun spots on her legs. She is wearing a green skirt, a forest green in color, but her blouse that she wears is a turquoise green, patterned with flowered embroidery. Her clothing is old, but so is she. But the smile and sparkle in her eyes says that she is in excellent health. She acts nervous though; she told me during the greeting and welcoming portion of the service, it is because she is new, she doesn’t know anyone. But she is so kind to me, with a warm smile. She asks me about my interests. She smiles and pats my shoulder. She encourages me. This perfect stranger, who I only met five minutes ago.

My writer brain is thinking: Holy crap! This woman is a guardian angel. She’s one of God’s own. Oh, and she smells nice. Angels are supposed to smell nice, right? Perhaps she’s on a mission. I haven’t been feeling well…maybe she’s here to heal me, oohh, hallelujah!

(Laughs). Well, you get the point. Again. And I actually did think that today! What a nice elderly woman! I hope I see her again next time. And if I don’t…*cue creepy music*

I guess she was there for a reason. To inspire me to write this post to say: Hey, we writer’s do think differently sometimes…we prod and we poke and we stretch. We look for the detail that no one else sees. We look for the extraordinary in everyday situations. There is art in life. Just like we can create art. And going above and beyond the usual…

Well, that just makes everything much more fun!

Dawn’s Rising – Meet Chase Holden

My craptastic cover for Dawn’s Rising. All I can say is: Isn’t Photoshop just awesome?

Well, worked on Dawn’s Rising a little bit last night and just wanted to write a quick post to say that it still amazes me sometimes the power that some characters can have over the writer.

I’d been having trouble working on the story lately, and then I tweaked a few things and viola! My characters come alive with attitudes and minds of their own.

Sometimes it’s as simple as a name. This novel is teaching me a lot about the importance of names and how the name should match the character in all ways!

I used to firmly believe that it was the name that made the character, and if the name isn’t right, well, that’s that. How foolish I’ve  been!

While the name definitely does have to be right, if you are set on a name, you have to match that character to the vision you have. For me, whenever I let go of my original plans and let the characters form themselves, (go by instinct), I seem to have a better story and more rounded characters.

They show me where they want to go, who they want to be with…etc. I’d been trying so hard to stuff a character in a name, only realizing last night, that the reason the name didn’t fit was because I had created the wrong character. I gave him a different personality, a different body type, a different attitude and then he’s there. He’s real, he’s handsome, he’s stubborn, he’s thoughtful.

So meet…Chase Holden: He’s tall, about six feet. With a musician’s type body, long and lithe, with broad shoulders and strong arms. He’s got tan skin and short, dirty-blond colored hair, with green eyes. (He uses these eyes to his advantage…the clever bastard!) He can be ass sometimes certainly; he’s got his own form of mood swings. Right now, I have him wearing blue jeans and a long-sleeved blue, flannel shirt. On the outside, he lives simple…but don’t let that fool ya, this one is complicated. He does play guitar! He’s got a secret. And only Niel knows it. 

Hmm. What can it be? 😉 Time to focus on writing…Hope everyone has a fantastic day!

The Boy with the Bread

Been reading The Hunger Games today because I recently watched the movie last night and am struck with a particular scene in the novel: Where Peeta, the bread boy, throws a starving Katniss burned bread from his kitchen.

For those of you who haven’t read the book, I suggest you go read it now. Not only is it great reading, but great writing too! From the first page you are drawn into Katniss’s world, you feel her emotion, and the unrest in the dystopian society that she lives in. (I can’t tell you how much I don’t like that word, for some reason it just irks me.) It is a fast read, but not a read for the faint of heart, certainly.

Anyway, I guess the English Major in me is stuck on the Boy with the Bread Scene and the juicy little bits that scene may or may not represent. Oh, it certainly doesn’t have to represent anything, but I love that it can and that Suzanne Collins isn’t dumb. That deliberately or not, she has created a scene that sums up the heart of the novel, or at the very least a great portion of it and that is:

Sacrifice.

What does Peeta sacrifice when he throws Katniss the bread? Well, he certainly didn’t get hurt for nothing. He was willing to risk injury to himself, in order to be “kind” to help out Katniss, who was someone in need.
His motives? Well, love. He later claims that he’s been in love with Katniss ever since a young age. (Although it certainly takes her awhile to believe it).

And isn’t that at the very heart of the novel? Peeta’s initial sacrifice only goes to emphasize Katniss’s sacrifice; the offer of her own life in exchange for her sister’s at the reaping. It is because of her love for her sister that she sacrifices herself. And other characters experience their own sacrifices as well. It is the love and the sacrifices accompanying them that says a lot about family, about life and death throughout the novel.

Any thoughts? What do you love about the novel? About the characters? About Katniss?