Monday, September 29, 2014

Guest Post: Perseverance by Doug Solter



First, I would like to thank Billie for allowing me do a guest post on her blog. Today I want to share a personal story about perseverance. No, I'm not a life coach and I refuse to tell you any secrets about unlocking your true potential. But sometimes writers can't see the end of the road because we are so caught up inside our story forest that we lose sight of the road that can lead us out of the forest. Now some writers enjoy being lost inside that forest. However, if that writer wants a finished book out of that journey, they better find a way out of that stupid forest before it consumes all their creativity and time. How do I know? Because it happened to me.
One day I had this idea for a new book after reading Twilight. (Yes, I did read it and stop all that snickering. Say with me on this.) Okay, I didn't like Bella Swan's character because to me she was rather weak and I like strong female characters. So it got me thinking...
What if the girl was strong? Like a werewolf? Yeah, but that's been done in some books. Okay. What if the boy was weak? He's not special and actually needs a strong girlfriend to bring him out of his shell and make him learn how to be stronger? And she can't bite him and turn him into a brave werewolf because that would be cheating.
Thought that was a good enough idea to start an outline of my story to see if I had a book there. I always outline my books. Not to say I follow them to the letter when I'm writing the first draft, but it's nice to have something you can go back to if you lose your way on the path through the story forest. (Sometimes you can build a lot of new paths in the story forest, which is fine, just as long as they ALL connect back up at the end.)  So I did my outline and felt like I had enough material for a book. I knew the beginning and the end of my story. Had a few good sub-plots and story elements that would support the middle sections of the book. I felt I was in good shape for the first draft so I took a hike deep inside my new story forest, confident I would get to the other side of the path I was on.
Wrote the first act of the story and everything was great. Halfway into the second act and the story elements were hitting on all the correct notes. So far so good. And then I hit the midpoint of the book and the path stopped.
Hmm. I could see the ending. The path that began the third act was in the far distance. I could see my ending, but I had nothing to connect it with. All the sub-plots and story elements I had planned to use for this portion of the story had already been used or were not strong enough to last into the second half of the story. A novel needs conflict and tension in the middle to drive it towards the third act. But all my good story ammunition was already spent and here I am stuck right in the middle of the novel.
Yeah, I was in trouble.
I rewrote the book from the beginning to see if the creative juices would help build up the momentum and carry me over that empty space. Surely something new would pop into my head to fix that big gaping hole in my second act.
It didn't work. I was still stranded inside the forest.
I tried writing the book from the werewolf girl's POV to see if that unleashed an idea.
It didn't.
I rewrote the book alternating between the boy and girl's POV.
Nothing. I became frustrated. Why couldn't I solve this? It's ridiculous. I was a writer. I created stuff. Why wasn't this connecting up? It was a paranormal werewolf story not freaking War and Peace.
I abandoned the novel and worked on two other projects, hoping the answer would come if I gave the story some distance. Again and again I would return to that stupid werewolf book and then again and again I would stall in the middle of the second act. I loved the characters so much that a part of me still wanted to solve this personal enigma because I wanted to see these characters complete their story. But I still couldn't crack it. Another part of me wanted to get rid of the novel so it wouldn't keep wasting my precious writing time on a project that was going nowhere.
I confided to a writer friend about my torment and my intentions on deleting the book. Joe told me not to do that and kept encouraging me to keep working on it. But I wanted to be free of the torment the book produced in my creative life. So I deleted the book from my hard drive.
Then I loaded the backup file of the novel back on to my hard drive.
Damn it. I couldn't kill this stupid book. The story still clutched at my heart. Still not wanting to die. Still hoping I found a way to save it from extinction. Instead of deleted the back up file, I left it alone again.
At this point, I had lost count on how many times I tried to restart the book. However, on whatever numbered attempt it was, I decided to simplify. Instead of focusing on escalating the stakes of the plot, I decided to escalate the natural conflict inherit in the relationship between the human boy and the werewolf girl. Make their relationship so toxic that it would keep the reader engaged until the third act drops in to take over. And then that major shift in thinking allowed the words to flow out. A series of new scenes began a new sequence. Three main plot sequences and a new sub-plot sequence helped build a new path through that last half of the second act which finally connected to the old path.
Finally I was able to walk out of the forest with a complete novel called My Girlfriend Bites.
Now I'm not telling writers to stick with every project that doesn't work. Sometimes you can outline an idea and then find out it's not strong enough to last 60,000 words. That's a good discovery because it saved you precious writing time that could be used towards another idea that will make a much better novel. But if you ever find yourself stranded in that story forest like me, don't be afraid to give your book some breathing room. Have the confidence in knowing that the answer you need to fix your book is somewhere deep inside you. It might take more time than you realize, but don't get discouraged if the answers don't come right away.
They will. In time.
Remember that patience and perseverance are always a writer's best friends.
New Release Blurb:

 Last season seventeen-year-old Samantha Sutton shined as the hottest new racing star of Formula One, but the girl's rise to the top takes a hit when her boss steals her arch-rival Emilio Ronaldo away from Ferrari and makes the sexist jerk her team's number-one driver. This sends Samantha's perfect life into a tail spin that threatens to destroy everything she's worked so hard for.

Besides her six wins last season, the best thing Samantha won was Manny, the cute German boy who saved her from herself. But Manny chafes against the self-absorbed racing star rising above the ashes of the simple girl he fell in love with. Can he save that simple girl from destroying herself again?

While Samantha's performance on the track suffers and her status on the team plummets, Emilio rises within striking distance of another championship. Is this the final wake-up call the girl needs to beat Emilio and win the world championship? Or will the pressure break her.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Interview: Norm Hamilton, author of From Thine Own Well



What inspired you to write your first book?

Frustration with the Harper government in Canada was the catalyst for From Thine Own Well, a story of a dystopian Canadian future. They signed a 31 year agreement allowing Chinese corporations to sue Canadian governments should there be rules and regulations that hindered their profits. That motivation grew to include irresponsible mining, polluted watersheds and corporate control of government. In short, disgust with political matters was the inspiration.


Do you have a specific writing style?

No; short and simple, no. I write when inspiration prompts me. If what I do is to be considered a writing style, it is that I write, rewrite, read and rewrite. Then I have it edited and set about rewriting again.


How did you come up with the title?

I believe in food and water security; that we must provide for ourselves and not depend on others for life-sustaining necessities. That said I encourage our communities to safeguard our water systems jealously.

Although I’m not religious by any means, the phrase in Proverbs 5:15 “Drink water from your own cistern, running water from your own well” caught my imagination. I reworked the last four words for the title.


Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

Our world teeters on the precipice of disaster. Investigating alternate forms of energy and reducing dependency on fossil fuels is paramount. We can no longer allow the multi-national corporate control of our governments. We require resources but obtaining them must have minimal impact on the environment, regardless of the demands of corporations.

Providence connected me with water.org as a result of writing this novel. These good folks work at providing clean water throughout the world. A mere $25 can provide clean water to someone for a lifetime.


How much of the book is realistic?

I believe the story presented in From Thine Own Well is not only possible, it is plausible. Similar situations are now taking place. For example:

·       Opening of the Peel Watershed in Yukon to mining development and fracking
·       The recent devastating tailings pond spill at the Mount Polley Mine in BC.

Statements from readers on how realistic the story is:

·       A wonderfully realistic dystopian!
·       This is what I would call realistic dystopian.
·       From Thine Own Well is a pertinent piece of eco-fiction
·       An attention-getting look at the future


Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

As alluded to above, the story is based on reality. I’ve watched corporate control of government decisions place profits before people. I lived in Yukon, a pristine area of the world, for 40 years. Recent agreements with Chinese mining corporations are disconcerting. Opening the watersheds to development by oil and gas companies causes concern, and may prove disastrous.

Changes to the Navigable Waters Act in 2012 removed protection for all waterways in Canada except for the three oceans, 97 lakes and 62 rivers. This left the majority open to destruction. In Yukon, only the Yukon River is protected.

Some of the characters in the story are based on real people, as I see them. Others possess characteristics of folks I have met.


Are there any deleted scenes or “cut” characters you’d like to share?

There’s a dog, Bob, who is an integral part of From Thine Own Well’s story line. At one time there was a scene where Bob was killed. As it turned out, that scene didn’t work so it was reworked.

There is another scene that I wrote, removed, re-wrote, deleted and finally put back in. I was having difficulty with the feelings it evoked in me, but eventually chose to leave the emotions as part of the tale.


What books have most influenced your life most?

Some books have influenced my writing and beliefs.

·       Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid's Tale”
·       Ken Follett’s World War II novels, epic volumes of The Pillars of the Earth series and the Century Trilogy
·       Stephen King and Justin Cronin for their horror and apocalyptic passages.

Dan Millman’s Way of the Peaceful Warrior and other books in his series of shamanistic writings and self-help have helped shape my personal life.


If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?

I would choose Ken Follett as my personal mentor. His ability to create worlds with live characters, locations that appear in the mind’s eye and believable situations is amazing. Couple that with the inclusion of factual information and historical accuracy and he provides everything I could ask for in a writer.


What book are you reading now?

At the time of this writing I just finished reading Writer (Daughter of Time Book 2) by Erec Stebbins. It’s a tale of survival and cooperation between species and races, an account of hatred, vengeance and annihilation. But woven throughout is a remarkable love story. You can read my review on my website. http://normhamilton.ca/writer/writer-daughter-of-time-book-2


Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?

I have been enjoying the work of indie writers exclusively for the past few months. Some standouts, out for me, are Martyn V. Halm (Amsterdam Assassin Series), Carmen Amato (Emilia Cruz Series) and Erec Stebbins (Daughter of Time Series). These authors are proof that indie writers are every bit as good as those promoted by mainstream publishers. I have posted review on their works on my website.


What are your current projects?

I am honing my short story skills, taking instruction from experts and practicing the craft. The result of this is that I am busy writing a number of shorts with varying styles, emphases, and subjects. That said, they all have human relationship in common.


Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.

I am fortunate in that I have friends that support me in my endeavours. However, I’ve learnt to not rely on them for more than moral support By that I mean friends will always tell you something is great because, for them, it is. They love your creation.

The greatest help I had to write a novel was the National Novel Writing Month. (NaNoWriMo) http://nanowrimo.org/. Joining this in 2012 gave me the impetus to complete a first draft. A year of re-writes and editing later, I published From Thine Own Well.


If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?

I’m going to answer with a resounding no. The reason is that once the project is completed, published and marketed, it’s time to move on to another. The things I learnt creating the last book will, inevitably help in the writing of the next.


Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

I’ve always had a desire to share my thoughts and stories through the written word. For most of my life I chose to work outside the home, have a family and raise our children. Now that I’m retired and the kids are grown, I have the opportunity to take that off my bucket list.


Can you share a little of your current work with us?

As mentioned earlier I am honing my craft. Hence, there really isn’t a “current” piece of work to share. I have an inspirational personal story being considered by editors. A short love story and an essay on personal growth are in the works.


Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

The greatest challenge, for me and many others, is fear. I’ve written a guest blog for this website that explains it further than I can go into here. See http://bit.ly/YkXRCX


Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?

I’d be repeating myself here. See my comments on Ken Follett in the “If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?” section above.


Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?

No, I haven’t traveled at all concerning my books.


Who designed the covers?

I have had cover designs done by Elliot Hamilton-Boucher as well as creating some myself.


What was the hardest part of writing your book?

For me, the most difficult part was, and is, having confidence in myself and my work. It seems that no matter how many great reviews I get or how many times I’m published, I still get that twinge of insecurity.


Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?

The biggest thing I learnt is that I can do it. That is huge. There’s been all kinds of writing, publishing and marketing lessons as well, but realizing that I can actually write a book is, by far, the greatest lesson of all.


Do you have any advice for other writers?

The one thing that I can suggest is something you will hear over and over again. If you want to write … write. Don’t wait for everything to be perfect, write. When you don’t feel up to it, write. The only way you will ever get anything written is to, you guessed it, write.

Everything else will find its own way. Tell your stories.


Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

The main thing I’d like to say to my readers is Thank you.

Thank you for sharing part of your life with me by reading my work. I hope that the words that were written as I laboured over the keyboard will have some meaning in your lives.


What were the challenges (research, literary, psychological, and logistical) in bringing it to life?

I did a considerable amount of research before attempting to write From Thine Own Well. There were two main reasons for that.

One, the subject matter is one that I wanted to maintain objectivity and present as balanced a picture as possible.

Second, I believed it necessary to have as much factual information as possible so the dystopian world that was created is believable.



Author Bio

Norm Hamilton (1951- ) lived in Whitehorse, Yukon for 40 years and has now retired to Vancouver Island with his wife, Anna, where he is meeting people and experiencing new adventures.

Norm had numerous feature articles published locally while in Whitehorse as well as a column on photography that he wrote for a year. He has one non-fiction book, The Digital Eye, a compilation of articles for people wanting to improve their photography skills and a novel, From Thine Own Well, about a dystopian Canadian society after the fracking.


Book Blurb
Disillusioned former Yukon mining exploration worker, Landon McGuire, is torn from his self-imposed exile into a Canada he no longer recognizes. Water is a precious commodity, and the environment is contaminated. Individual rights are non-existent and corporate rule is the law—a law enforced by the corporation’s own brutal militia.

Unregulated fracking and irresponsible mining have destroyed the watersheds. A small group of people band together to combat the ruling coalition, but find themselves embroiled in a dangerous game. Landon meets Nora and is drawn into the fray. What begins as a fact-finding mission turns deadly as they get closer to the truth.

Deceit, threats and violent encounters emphasize the reality that economy trumps environment even when lives are at stake.

Reviews

"This is a truly thought-provoking story that people need to read. I enjoyed the plot twists and the vivid description, the tension and moments of humour."
Erin Potter, Shamrock Editing

"A sensitive topic, spiced up and delivered with insight and originality, as tense as it is thought-provoking."
Matt Kruze, Author of Crime Mysteries


Excerp

“A plume of black smoke belched from the Peterbilt's exhaust stacks as Josh brought the powerful diesel through the curves and began climbing the 8% rise in the highway known as Jackson's Hill. There was a lookout at the top where he would be able to turn off and take a break after seven straight hours of driving from the mine. He felt a surge of joy as he pushed down the throttle to keep the containers with 21,000 kilograms of ore moving upward. He loved being in control of that much power.

Who would've believed that little Joshua Parsons from Trinity, Newfoundland could be making this much money and giving so much to Beth and the kids, he thought. He crested the top of the climb and pulled into the viewpoint. He slid out of his seat, down the step and then walked over to the guard rail, overlooking a section of the Tintina Trench a bit south of Stewart Crossing.

In the distance he could barely make out the flags that were flying on the top of the oil and gas rigs that dotted the low-lying plain. He was thinking of those damned environmentalists who had tried to stop development in this area. They're stunned as me arse, he thought. There's a lot of people working because of all of this. All kinds of money has been taken outta here. Oil and gas exploration is good for the economy. Mmm-hmm, this is the best thing that's ever happened to me.

He walked back to the big rig and climbed back into the cockpit. He was anxious to get to the next stretch of road as it was a gradual decline into the lower reaches of the Trench and he would be able to make some good time. He was looking forward to getting home to Carmacks.

The massive starter shook the huge PACCAR MX engine as it cranked up to starting speed. Another belch of black smoke and the 18-wheeler was ready to roll again. He dropped it into gear, released the air brakes and cranked the shiny red behemoth back onto the road. He started humming the tune to “Missing Home Today” and a moment later broke into full song.

The truck lurched precipitously toward the side of the road. He held tight to the steering wheel as he brought it back toward centre.

The sound of tires screaming and air from the brakes hissing echoed through the valley below as Josh wrestled the truck to a stop. He squinted, then his brow furrowed as complete disbelief ran through him. The road ahead was undulating—moving up and down like a gymnast's ribbon. Unbelievably, the motion was headed toward him.

He was glued to his seat, terrified and locked in by the seatbelt when it hit. The groan of twisting metal and the crash of breaking glass went unheard as the roar of the trees and rocks being thrown about drowned out all other sound. He stared, unblinking, as the truck was raised 10 metres, then dumped on its side to roll into an ever-expanding maw of moving earth.

It was over less than a minute later … “


Buy/Contact Links

Amazon.com – http://amzn.to/1ikb6bC
Smashwords – http://bit.ly/1feqDuK


Thanks for the interview, BC Brown. It’s a pleasure to share my experiences and joy of writing with you and your readers.