Saturday, July 29, 2017

The Many Reasons For Keeping a Journal

I believe that everyone has a story. Some of the best ones I’ve read came from members of critique groups who were writing their life stories to pass along to their grandchildren. Those stories were filled with captivating details about times and places long gone. How did they do it? Aside from great memories, most of the writers kept journals. The ability to revisit times and places through old photos and the written word was invaluable.

I’ve kept a journal for most of my adult life. It began with boyfriend and school issues, then slowly progressed to work challenges, and later parenting ups and downs. Lately, I’ve discovered another reason to keep a journal. In fact, I’ve started a second one which has nothing to do with me as a writer, but as a daughter.

I call it the dementia journal. Our family saga began two and a half years ago, when my sister and I realized that our mother’s cognitive skills were diminishing. It seemed like a good idea to record what we were experiencing. I’ve since learned that journal records can give healthcare professionals better insight as to what’s happening.

Journals have many purposes, and not all of them are about writing fiction or memories. You don’t need to be a professional or even a passionate writer to note things down. But you can jot down a few lines about a memorable vacation or event. How about keeping a food journal filled with great recipes you’ve experimented with? What about writing down goals, or challenges to help you focus, or put things in perspective?

In his blog, Benjamin P. Hardy outlines several potential benefits when one starts to keep a journal. It’s never too late to start. 



Friday, July 21, 2017

Writing Mary Sue

If you don't know what a Mary Sue is, go read this discussion on fanfiction.net. You still won't know, but you'll be highly entertained.
A Mary Sue is, by general consensus, a female character who irritates people other than the author by drawing all the attention to herself. True Mary Sues are adorable to the other characters and/or to the reader (in the writer's mind, at any rate) because she's perky and perfect or a lovable goof-up who nevertheless saves the day. True Mary Sues exist only in fan fiction -- stories set in established universes like Star Wars, Star Trek, Tolkien's Middle Earth. Hard core fans of those universes resent these upstarts' hogging the limelight and warping the stories/personalities of the official characters.

Some folks claim that, if the official stories and personalities aren't warped, the new character isn't really a Mary Sue.

NOW, as someone points out in the discussion I linked, sometimes the character labeled a Mary Sue fulfills the author's fantasies: She battles bad guys. Or she has a romance (preferably doomed) with an official character. Or she saves an important person's life. And she's the main character of the story, driving the action and solving all the things!

AND, as someone else pointed out in the discussion, and I think this is my point, although I'm never sure, all our characters are pieces of us, living out fantasies of what we would do if we were in various situations. But kind of not.

Because our characters are not us, playing out fantasies. Our characters have their own backstories, their own likes and dislikes, their own childhoods, and they can't all be the same as ours. That's why I have so many prompts asking things like, "What's in your character's wallet?". Sauron doesn't have the same things in his wallet as you do, most likely; why should any of your characters?

It's fun to write #menotme characters who get into and out of scrapes in other people's universes and wrap the narratives around themselves. And there's nothing wrong with doing that, if it pleases you. Just do it on purpose, because you choose to do it, not because you don't know any better. And expect some people to call your character a Mary Sue and sneer at her. Because folks are like that, sometimes.

Me, I've done it. And I've extracted my Mary Sue, changed all the official characters, and given her her own book. ha!

Marian Allen, Author Lady
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Friday, July 14, 2017

The Power and Importance of Reading

From an early age, I’ve loved to read. Books kept me company in a life that involved frequent moves, and were solace when family life was tough. Although I didn’t plan to become a writer, a love for the written word and a good imagination found me delving into the world of fiction.

Reading has many benefits. One study says that readers live longer. An article in Blinklist states that the common link among the world’s high achievers isn’t IQ or luck, it’s a love of reading. Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, Elon Musk, and Mark Zuckerberg, for instance, are all avid readers. I’m not saying that they read fiction, but that they make a point to read daily and often learn something new nearly every day. How cool is that?

I’ve learned a lot about the craft of storytelling by reading thousands of works of fiction and books on writing. I’m turning to other types of nonfiction these days, and I can’t wait to learn many more things.

By the way, for those of you who love to discuss books, I belong to three great groups on Facebook. All are well moderated, so the discussions usually stays friendly.



Happy reading!

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

#Canada150Event!

To celebrate Canada's 150th birthday, my publisher, Imajin Books will be giving away 150 ebooks to Canadian residents and 150 ebooks to international residents. To enter, just subscribe to the Imajin Books Inner Circle (IBIC newsletter).

Winners will be selected from subscribers and will be able to choose their ebook prize. This is a great way to add to your summer reading collection, for free!



Good luck!

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Imajin Book’s Summer Sizzles Ebook Sale, July 1 - 15!

My publisher, Imajin Books, is about to launch a terrific two-week sale on their ebooks from July 1st to July 15. My first Evan Dunstan mystery novella, DEAD MAN FLOATING, will be on sale for only $.99 (U.S.) through the following links:




Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/573302, (use promo code HF32M)

One wrong decision…

Security guard Evan Dunstan didn’t expect to find a body floating in a campus stream. An empty vodka bottle nearby suggests that the highly despised George Krenn, head of the plumbing department, had drunkenly fallen in. Refusing to let the death of a vile man ruin his romantic plans, Evan decides to leave the body for the next shift to find.

One friend in trouble…

When it’s discovered that Krenn was murdered, Evan has a lot of explaining to do. So does his friend Sully, Krenn’s least favourite student. Evan uses his hacking skills and campus knowledge to keep them both out of jail, but the investigation forces him to question Sully’s innocence.

One mystery to solve…

Uncovering the truth proves to be more than challenging. It may cost Evan his job, his friendship, and his woman. Will Evan find the killer, or will the killer find him first?





Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Using Flash Fiction as an Outline

I've done Story A Day May for five years, now. Last year, I intended every story to feed into a collection of various previously established characters of mine. The ones based in the SAGE world, I collected, along with some others, into SHIFTY. But, in 2014, I wrote one called Salali and Vernando. That also ended up in SHIFTY, but not quite in the form I had thought.

If you follow the link and read the entry, you'll see that what I have is a bare-bones tale, with a segment in the middle that merely catalogs action. I also had a notion that everything I wrote would be only the first part of an adventure tale.

When I started expanding the story, I front-loaded A LOT of explication, backstory, and world-building into the running-away section. I tend to do that, damn my eyes. I put so much on the story's head, it falls over backward and can't get up off the floor. But, because I had written all that detail, I was able to cut almost all of it out and merely touch on it, using telling details in place of elaborate paragraphs. While I was at it, I added an encounter that turned out fortuitous, as such encounters so often are in fairy tales.

I was wrong about the continuation. The longer section of the story stub turned out to be the only adventure in it. In a way, that's too bad, because I do like a tale that goes on and on, with chases and narrow escapes and magic combs and such. This one ended up as sort of a locked-room adventure, I guess.

THE POINT IS, I've turned quite a few flash fiction pieces into longer stories, and stories into novels.
Pick the story apart. Each thing that happens is a plot point. Each plot point can be expanded and/or bracketed by rests between the beats. Room can be made for subplots. And this can all be done formally, with Roman Numerals and Capital Letters, or informally, by the seat of the pants, with the short version serving as a series of torches to show the way.

Marian Allen, Author Lady
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes