Hey, Scribesters! Suze here, coming to you from deep in the cave (the writer’s cave and its next-door neighbor, the editor’s cave).
Whatcha reading these days? Me, I’ve got a couple of books going.
Stephen King’s Doctor Sleep. Ever wonder what happened to Danny Torrance, the little Red-rum kid from The Shining? Well, he’s ba-a-a-ack! (I know, I’m mixing movies here) And honestly things are not so great for him. This is classic Stephen King–beautiful writing about horrifying stuff. I don’t want to put this down. I wish I had a couple days of uninterrupted reading time, but, like a fine wine, I need to sip, not guzzle this book. So far, I adore it!
I’m also reading a YA book, Slither, Book 11 in The Last Apprentice series by Joseph Delaney. This is scary stuff! Think Grimm’s fairy tales with every myth and monster you can think of (and some new ones too) putting our hero, Tom Ward, and the rest of the world into ever-increasing danger. While the prose reads like a middle grade book, in my opinion these stories are not for anyone younger than 6th grade. And the illustrations are gorgeous–done in the style of old woodcut drawings. There’s one more book in the series coming out next year, and while I can’t wait to see if Tom defeats The Fiend once and for all and if Alice can save herself, I’ll be sad to see this series end.
How about you? Are you on a horror kick like I am? What are you reading these days?
Hello Scribblers! J Monkeys coming atcha from inside a snow globe. Or at least that’s how it looks from my office window. A fresh batch of snow fell last night and everything in view is covered – trees, roofs, even the sky is white, matching the gently falling flakes. Quite a contrast from the book I’ve been reading this morning.
How do you select a book at the store? Usually, it’s one of two things that prompts me to pick something up – either a cover that attracts my attention, or the author’s name. When it comes to authors, naturally, it’s repeat business for me – I’m buying books by authors I’ve read before and enjoyed. Lynn Kurland, Julia Quinn, Julie Garwood, Jude Deveraux. Sometimes it’s a new book written by a friend or acquaintance – especially when they are written in a genre that isn’t typically my cup of tea, but where I know from experience that I’ll enjoy the ride – Kristan Higgins’ contemporary romances, Katy Lee’s inspirational romances or Casey Wyatt’s urban fantasies, for example.
This morning, I’m reading a book that I chose based on the author, but it isn’t an author whose work is familiar to me. In fact, the book I’m reading is his debut novel. Nor was the book/author recommended to me by a friend. I’m reading Dracula the Un-Dead written by Dacre Stoker – great grand nephew of Bram Stoker.
I’m almost exactly to the half-way point in the book and it’s a delight! It’s not scary, which is a good thing for me because I do NOT like scary stories. Mr. King’s The Shinning still haunts me 25 years after I read it! While I loved The Stand, there were parts that I found creepy – I remember reading it while sitting in a corner, hidden from any ghouls lurking in the ether. But Dracula the Un-Dead seems more like a drama than horror as I think of it today. It’s written as a sequel to the original book. In truth it’s co-authored by Dacre Stoke and Ian Holt apparently written (according to Wikipedia) “Because of the Stokers’ frustrating history with Dracula’s copyright, Dacre with encouragement from screenwriter Ian Holt, decided to write “a sequel that bore the Stoker name” to “reestablish creative control over” the original novel.” What an interesting idea. I don’t know the extent to which it would reestablish copyright – but hey.
But if you’ve enjoyed the rise in vampire stories in the last decade or so, you might want to take a look at this homage to the original. It’s well done (at least the first half!) and worth a few of your hard earned dollars. And, again according to Wikipedia, they wrote it based on Bram’s original notes and stuff pulled out of the original novel. Again, a cool idea.
Today’s secret: Dracula is Un-Dead and available at the bookstore once again. :) Oh and by the way, they have begun filming season 6 of True Blood, speaking of popular vampires. The delightful Mr. Skarsgard has revealed a spoiler-ish something from filming. Click here to find out what.
Today’s question: how do you decide to buy a book? What changes you from a browser to a buyer?
Let’s be honest - who here has ever suffered from stagnant brain syndrome? You know, that dull, woolen headed feeling that cobwebs are stuffing your brain. Nothing comes out right. Perhaps, you wonder if you have lost your mind because you suddenly seem incapable of putting two coherent words together.
Here is a definition, courtesy of Google.
stag·nant/ˈstagnənt/ – adjective
(of a body of water or the atmosphere of a confined space) Having no current or flow and often having an unpleasant smell as a consequence. (Umm – eww. Forget this. I’m not talking about brackish water today)
Showing no activity; dull and sluggish: “a stagnant economybrain“. This more like it!
Now it would be totally unfair to blame (or give any credit) to The Doubt Monster. What I’m talking about is a cousin to “burnout”. I’m also not talking about Writer Avoidance Behavior. This is when you are honestly trying to write and you just can’t focus.
Stagnant Brain Syndrome is when you let yourself get in a creative rut. You fall into a pattern. Using the same go-to plot devices or situations because they are familiar or easy. Suddenly, you realize that what you’re writing is not that engaging and your readers will know it too.
You stop writing. Blame ensues (Doubty gets in trouble). Or you decide that you have writer’s block because you struggle to put words on the page.
How do I know this? Because I’ve been there, dear readers.
But there is hope. You can overcome Stagnant Brain Syndrome:
1. Leave your house. But not to go run errands or the usual mundane chores. Take a walk. Clear your mind.
2. Or – go to the movie theater (I know it’s expensive. If your local movieplex has bargain night, go then). Again, leave your house and go somewhere without internet access or other distractions. Why the movies? Because a film is a few hours of diversion. This way you don’t end up watching a Downton Abbey marathon for two days. Not that I’ve done that….
3. Take a day trip (one of my favorites). I’m doing this today. So you won’t see any comments from me until later.
4. Clean out your closet. Yes, I mean the one you put your clothes in. Or tackle a chore you’ve been putting off.
5. Take a look in the mirror and clear out the mental baggage. Is something bothering you? Are there stressors in your life pulling you down? If so, can you tackle one or develop a plan to make it better?
6. Have you gone for a physical lately? Rule out physical concerns. And not to state the obvious but - get a good night’s sleep!
7. Play opposite day – tell yourself you’re not allowed to write today. Like when you want to eat that last cupcake or piece of chocolate. Pretty soon, you’ll be itching to write because it’s forbidden!
You may have noticed several of my suggestions involve leaving the house. Our brains need stimulation. We need to build life experiences and interact with the world around us. Otherwise, we could end up like that guy in The Shining, wielding an axe, shouting, “Here’s Johnny!”
Don’t let that happen to you!
Anyone else have this happen? And how did you overcome it?
Welcome Scribe fans! Suze here. Now that I have Eric Carmen singing in a continuous falsetto loop in your heads, let me tell you my story.
Like probably everyone here, I always wanted to be a writer. Over the years I wrote a few bad short stories, several bad first chapters to different novels, some OK poetry and some intentionally dreadful stuff (“A porkpie hat settles effortlessly to the ground . . . “). That last was just for hahas. Or was it? Now I understand it was a clever ploy to avoid actually, um, writing. I never took classes. Never tried to learn the craft. In fact, I didn’t even know you could learn the craft. I always thought “real” writers were born knowing something I didn’t, had some innate ability to put words on a page and have them make sense.
I never got past writing the first few pages of those novels. Because if I went any farther, I might fail. Confession time: I’m Suze, and I’m a Recovering Perfectionist.
Suze, you say. It’s good to be a perfectionist. Who wants to read crappy poetry or novels? It’s the American Way to strive for greatness. If you’re not a winner, you’re a loser. Coming out on top is all that matters. Well, I’m here to tell you that perfectionism is limiting and destructive. It holds us back from trying new experiences. It certainly held me back. If I couldn’t write Pulitzer Prize worthy stuff, right out of the box, I wasn’t even going to try.
Then, one cold December, I saw the words “Writers Group” on the calendar at our local library. And I realized it was now or never. Time to you-know-what or get off the pot. I told myself I would just go to the January meeting. That’s all I had to do. When the night of the meeting came, I grabbed a notebook and a pen and walked the block from my house to the library, took a deep breath of frosty air, then another, and opened the door. I said to myself, Suze, you’ve given birth. You can do this.
There were half a dozen or so people at that meeting, and I didn’t know any of them. I sat next to J Monkeys, and as I listened to her talk about her WIP (she had just come off NaNoWriMo in November), I recognized something in her. She had the same kernel of need in her belly as I — the need to write. I found a Kindred Spirit that night, a Diana Barry to my Anne Shirley.
I’d had an idea for a novel kicking around for years. With J cheering me on, I sat down to write it. And quickly realized that the story I was writing was very different from the story I’d envisioned for so long. See, I always thought I would write dark, literary, Joyce Carol Oates kind of stuff. And it turned out that the story that wanted to be told was in fact a light-hearted romantic mystery. Once I gave myself permission to let the perfectionism and pretensions go, I was able to put a whole novel into words. The night I typed “The End” on a manuscript, I cried.
When Casey Wyatt joined us, we found another Kindred Spirit. And it became increasingly clear to us that we needed more than the library group could give us. The group had gotten a bit unwieldy and we were never able to agree on a focus. Enter PJ Sharon, who told us about RWA and CTRWA. Once I joined CTRWA, I knew I was where I was supposed to be.
Now, I never miss a CTRWA meeting if I can possibly help it. The energy in that hotel conference room is nearly palpable — energy that comes from a whole lot of people with a common goal: to write our stories and make them available to readers.
Suze‘s advice to you? Let go of your perfectionism. Don’t worry you’re not good enough. Be brave. Join a group. If you can’t find a local group, why not start one? If you really, truly live out in the boonies so far that you can’t get out to meet other writers, I’ll bet you can find an online group (if not, contact me. It’s that important). You’ll never regret it.
Now for you, Dear Readers. Tell us how you felt when you finally typed “The End” for the first time. Who helped you get to that point?