Monday, October 26, 2015

Reads for Writers: Kresley Cole Provides a Masterclass in her Immortals After Dark Series

From Kate’s Writing Crate…

As a reader, I always love finding books that appeal to me. As a writer, I am twice as pleased when the authors also provide masterclasses within their books.

          Masterclasses take place when performance artists and musicians work one-on-one with students. Writers don’t generally have this option, but I have found some books to be masterclasses for characters, backstories, plots, settings, voice, and/or creativity.  

          As a nod to Halloween, I write about paranormal fiction in October. It’s not the genre I’m most likely to read, but I always learn a lot from authors who write it well.        

Fiction is difficult enough to write in settings readers recognize or can relate to easily, but authors who can create whole new worlds for characters with preternatural abilities have to be really good to make it believable.

One of these authors is Kresley Cole who writes the Immortals After Dark series. Among her characters’ abilities: it’s very hard to kill these immortals—usually they have to lose their heads. Some can regenerate limbs, some have access to magic while other count on supernatural strength. They all look human, but some change their looks when they are fighting, in fear, or there is a full moon. All have allies and enemies as their world is a dangerous place.

          In this series, Cole inhabits her novels with werewolves (Lykae Clan), vampires, Valkeries, witches, sorceresses, and many other creatures with an amazing array of powers. In A Hunger Like No Other, the first book, werewolf leader Lachlain MacRieve has escaped from being imprisoned in a fire pit for 150 years by the powerful vampire Demestriu because he sensed his true mate was on the street above him.

Mates mean everything to werewolves so they will do anything to find and protect them. But Lachlain’s dream of happiness with his mate, Emmaline Troy, may be doomed as she is nothing that he expected while Emma wasn’t expecting a mate at all. She is considered weak by her family so she is in Paris alone to study. Now she has a handsome and powerful suitor who claims her, but is unkind because of her background. Her instincts tell her to run, but she cannot escape her fate--or can she?

Lachlain also still has to even the score with Demestriu. The werewolves and vampires are headed for battle, but love is complicating everything. Once he accepts his mate, he will do anything to keep her happy. However, his clan’s interests clash with his responsibilities to Emma. Difficult choices have to be made by both Lachlain and Emma. Who will prove to be stronger?

One of my other favorites in this series is Wicked Deeds on a Winter’s Night. Many more creatures take part in this book as the plot revolves around An Amazing Race-like contest only the winner of this game gets to use Thrane’s Key to go back in time twice.         

          The two main characters are werewolf Bowen MacRieve, Lachlain’s cousin, and Mariketa the Awaited who is a witch. Bowen wants to go back in time to save his fiancée. Mariketa’s parents need to be saved as well so both are determined to win the prize.

Bowen is drawn to Mariketa, but he despises witches as one devastated his family. Also, he has remained true to his mate since her death so he doesn’t want to acknowledge any attraction.

Mariketa hasn’t yet transitioned to her immortal state, but Bowen is unaware of that fact. When he traps her and several other contestants in a burial chamber during the game, he presumes she will escape using a spell. However, her magic is strong, but not very accurate. She doesn’t want to blow everyone up so they prepare to wait for rescue. Unfortunately, there are gruesome creatures in the tomb who want to feed off her…

          When Mariketa doesn’t return to her coven, her fellow witches try to track her down. Discovering Bowen had been giving her trouble, they tell Lachlain to expect war if Maiketa isn’t returned quickly.  Once Bowen realizes she cannot save herself, he rushes back to rescue her. He is not prepared for her reaction to his return or all the obstacles he will face getting her home.

          Bowen's instincts are telling him Mariketa is his mate so when his fiancée reappears he is torn between the two of them. Who is his true love?

Monday, October 19, 2015

The Soul of Creative Writing by Richard Goodman

From Kate’s Writing Crate…

          I discovered Richard Goodman when I read his Introduction “In Search of the Exact Word” in the Oxford American Writer’s Thesaurus (post dated 6/9/14). It’s a tribute to Flaubert for penning the phrase le mot juste, i.e., the exact word. According to Flaubert, “All talent for writing consists after all of nothing more than choosing words. It’s precision that gives writing power.”

Wanting to read more of Goodman’s work, I tracked down The Soul of Creative Writing which includes his complete essay “In Search of the Exact Word” as well as four other essays in Part 1: Words “The Music of Prose”, “The Secret Strength of Words”, “Some Things English Can’t Do—and Shouldn’t”, and “The Nerve of Poetry”. Part 2: Writing consists of four essays and a list of maxims: “Using the Techniques of Fiction to Make Your Creative Nonfiction Even More Creative”, “Finding a Great Title”, The Eminent Domain of Punctuation”, “It’s About Nothing: Finding Subjects for Creative Writing in Everyday Life”, and “Maxims about Writing”.

I do not have space to share every paragraph and passage that inspired me, but here are some highlights:

In the end, the creation of original music in prose—or style, if you will—is that mysterious combination of everything you’ve learned, read and practiced with who you are. It’s unique, like your handwriting or fingerprint, though achieved with blood, sweat, and tears. But worth it. Because, in the end, as Flaubert said, “One must sing with one’s own voice.”  (page 16)

…The thing is, though, there are many pains in writing, but one of its most narcotic joys is putting down a word you believe does the job extraordinarily well. It’s just right. It’s juste. When you see it there, on the page, grinning out at you in all its handsome self, you know it’s been worth the effort. And when you return to it, it will still be just as handsome.  (page 22)

…in Beowulf, the Anglo-Saxon word for sea is “whale road,” hronrade. As a poet, as a writer, of course this would excite him [Borges]. What a metaphor! It turns things on their heels. The sea does not belong to we humans, but is—and here we name it—a highway for enormous swimming mammals. The implication is that here we have peoples, who despite their lack of mercy, were capable of outright awe, of perspective, of knowing their place in the world. Though often murderous, they understood the sea was a place where boats were, at best, uninvited guests.  (page 33)

By thinking of those people who created bits of sound that could be repeated to others reliably, we link ourselves to the tidal struggle of what it means to be human. We link ourselves to the effort of trying to make sense and order of an often perplexing world in which we live. To imagine this is to feel a responsibility. I think that, as with the seeds of plants and trees, we are the stewards of words.  (page 34)

But the most important thing to observe here is that Robert Finch is absolutely unafraid to write about something as “insignificant” as a hornet. In fact, he’s confident that it’s significant enough to warrant writing about. Why? Because he trusts his own predilections and lets them go where they will lead him. And here we turn to Emerson, one of our great wise men, to give this idea some big-name clout. In his famous essay, “Self-Reliance,” Emerson writes, “To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men—that is genius.”  (page 100)

If you have a thought, an idea, a change, don’t ever delay putting it down—not even for three seconds. It will escape forever. No amount of pleading, prayer, or cursing will bring it back. A small part of your mind will be like the Flying Dutchman, searching fruitlessly for the lost thought for all eternity.  (page 108)

Write some of whatever you’re writing in longhand. Sculpt the words with your ink or lead. Experience the connection between your mind and your pen or pencil. You are an artificer as well as an artist.  (page 109)

Monday, October 12, 2015

What's Scary About Writing?

From Kate’s Writing Crate…

          When I see actors being interviewed on TV, they often talk about looking for and accepting roles that scare them. They want the challenge to dig deep and make it work even if they might fail. However, if they are being interviewed about “scary” roles, it’s because they successfully met the challenge.

          For most of us, everything about writing is scary:

Facing a blank page;

Searching for ideas;

Struggling for just the rights words; and

Feeling stupid or self-indulgent as well as exposed.

          On this year’s Emmy broadcast, Jane Anderson was the winner of the Limited Series or Movie Writing Award for her Olive Kitteridge script. In her acceptance speech she said, “First let me just acknowledge all my fellow writers out there who were nominated tonight. We all face that horrible, horrible blank page. And we’re here and we solved our scripts and isn’t that remarkable!”

          It is remarkable that we write in the face of all the scary obstacles, but, if we are brave, we learn to write in spite of them. We know there are rewards—a phrase or sentence that entrances , a piece we are proud of, or as Ellen Gilchrist describes it on page 68 of her book, The Writing Life:

“…Because it feels good. The brain is easily addicted to feeling good and nothing on earth, with the exception of great sex, feels as good as having written well and truly in the morning. Actually it is better than sex because you control the whole activity and the afterglow can last for years if the work is published and other people profit from it. The lasting pleasure is not in their praise but in your knowledge that you have contributed something of value to the culture from which you derive your being.”

           Be brave. Write. Dig deep and make it work. Contribute something of value to the culture. Make your mark. That’s why we are here.

If we write, we may or may not end up being interviewed on TV or winning an Emmy. The rewards from our work will remain unknown unless we overcome the scary challenges of writing.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Ode to My Writing Desk

From Kate’s Writing Crate…


          After writing last week’s Masterclass post, I was inspired to write about my own writing desk. It’s vastly different than the hulking one with 19 drawers featured in Great House by Nicole Krauss.


          Writers are in business if we have pens and paper or computers, imagination, and determination. We can write in beds, on couches or comfy chairs, or at café and kitchen tables, but desks are where most of us work so it’s imperative to find the right one.

          Every desk in my house while growing up had drawers. My father’s. My mother’s. The one I shared with my siblings. We even had a desk built by a great, great grandfather with lots of big drawers. Whenever I visited my grandparents, I loved to sit at my grandpa’s desk, always cluttered, even with five drawers.

So when it came time to buy my own desk, I assumed I would be drawn to drawers. But the desk of my dreams is sleek with long tapered legs and only a keyboard drawer. It looks more like an elegant dining table except for the wooden ridge along the back edge and down a third of the way on each side so pens cannot roll off and disappear—useful although I corral most of my pens in the keyboard drawer along with a few memory cards, Post-it Notes, and other office necessities.

Along with its simplicity, I love all the surface space. At 58 inches long and 26 inches wide, there is plenty of room to work even with a 24-inch wide, three-shelf bookcase filled with reference and writing books in one back corner with my printer in front of it. There is still room for my monitor, computer, keyboard, and mouse. Everything I need is at hand.

Sitting at my desk, I’ve written about 78,000 published words for this blog (over 120,000 including drafts) over 1,100,000 words in published magazine assignments (about 1,500,000 including drafts), and another 3,000,000 or so for freelance work and projects (about 3,400,000 including drafts). In total, over 5,000,000 words have been written at this desk as every word counts, published or not! (There are less draft words in the word count for projects as  there are no drafts when filling a notebook a month.)

My desk is beautiful, but battle-scarred. After 18 years, the dark stain is fading along the front edge from my hands sliding on it as I type—I’m surprised I don’t have permanent stain near my wrists. There are more than a few scratches across the top, but the legs still look good even if a puppy might have chewed one.

I don’t mind any of that. When I sit down, I have a strong and stable base to support me and my accoutrements as I write. I don’t have to think about my desk while it does its job and I do mine. We’re partners—one I wouldn’t want to be without.