Guest Post: World Building with Jeffe Kennedy

It’s always a pleasure to “visit” Brenda here. If only we lived closer in real life!

But, since we can’t meet for coffee to chat, she’s asked me to talk a bit about how I do my world building. I can tell, because she referenced how I am the queen of spread sheets, that she’s imagining elaborate world building spreadsheets tucked away on my computer.

Really, it’s not so.

I mean, I *am* the queen of spreadsheets, so what I do keep track of is partly on spreadsheets, yes. The scary truth, however, is that I don’t do much detailed tracking of my worlds at all.

Most of it is in my head.

There’s a few reasons for this. The first and most relevant is that I believe time spent on world building tracking is time better spent writing. I know some writers, especially fantasy writers for some reason, spend HUGE amounts of time on building their worlds. They do tons of research and write thousands—sometimes hundreds of thousands—of words in world bibles. It’s fun for them, so great! But I know people who’ve spent YEARS working on their worlds. And don’t yet have a novel they’re happy with, if a completed one at all.

So, I begrudge that time, and I spend as little of it as possible on recording world-building details. That said, I know I’m lucky because I am able to keep a lot of it in my head. I’ve always had a vivid imagination, and an active daydreaming life, so my worlds are very real places to me, ones that I can mentally enter and wander around in.

A few things that I do when I need an answer to a world question.

Write

I write for discovery, which means that by the act of writing, I can enter the world and look around. If I need to know something I write about it.

Daydream

I’m a huge fan of “when you’re not writing you’re still writing.” I’m going to caveat that as when I’m not doing something like research, which occupies brain space. I mean while washing dishes, or cleaning house, or driving, or gardening, or even sleeping. I daydream about my worlds and that fills in fun details.

Ask My Assistant

This is my big cheat. I don’t want to spend my time recording details, but I’m perfectly happy to pay my assistant to do it! She keeps track of stuff. And if she doesn’t have it written down, she goes and looks it up in the books and comes back with an answer.

Ask My Readers

Sometimes I throw a question out to my readers via the private Facebook group we have (https://www.facebook.com/groups/JeffesCloset/), or sometimes on my public pages. I’ll do this when I’m looking for a nuance that’s not easy to look up, like if I ever gave the impression one character was another’s aunt or their cousin. I also ask my readers to name stuff if ideas aren’t coming to me. Their suggestions are always a kick.

Record Timelines

The one thing I *do* resort to spreadsheets for is calculating ages and timelines. Especially with The Twelve Kingdoms and The Uncharted realms books, I’m looking at about three generations now, and characters acting simultaneously in different parts of the world. I have to extract from what I’ve written and do the math from there. This feels very much like the conversations I have with my mother when we try to remember where we spent a family birthday celebration in 1996, and who was there. Only I can’t go back to the novels to piece that together!

But that last detail is revealing in that my imaginary worlds are as vivid—sometimes more so—than my memories of real life.

Sometimes I think they’re very much the same.

About Jeffe KennedyJ

effe Kennedy is an award-winning author whose works include novels, non-fiction, poetry, and short fiction. She has been a Ucross Foundation Fellow, received the Wyoming Arts Council Fellowship for Poetry, and was awarded a Frank Nelson Doubleday Memorial Award. Her award-winning fantasy romance trilogy The Twelve Kingdoms hit the shelves starting in May 2014. Book 1, The Mark of the Tala, received a starred Library Journal review and was nominated for the RT Book of the Year while the sequel, The Tears of the Rose received a Top Pick Gold and was nominated for the RT Reviewers’ Choice Best Fantasy Romance of 2014. The third book, The Talon of the Hawk, won the RT Reviewers’ Choice Best Fantasy Romance of 2015. Two more books followed in this world, beginning the spin-off series The Uncharted Realms. Book one in that series, The Pages of the Mind, has also been nominated for the RT Reviewer’s Choice Best Fantasy Romance of 2016 and won RWA’s 2017 RITA® Award. The second book, The Edge of the Blade, released December 27, 2016, and is a PRISM finalist, along with The Pages of the Mind. The next in the series, The Shift of the Tide, will be out in August, 2017. A high fantasy trilogy taking place in The Twelve Kingdoms world is forthcoming from Rebel Base books in 2018.

She also introduced a new fantasy romance series, Sorcerous Moons, which includes Lonen’s War, Oria’s Gambit, The Tides of Bàra, and The Forests of Dru. She’s begun releasing a new contemporary erotic romance series, Missed Connections, which started with Last Dance and continues in With a Prince.

In 2019, St. Martins Press will release the first book, The Orchid Throne, in a new fantasy romance series, The Forgotten Empires. Her other works include a number of fiction series: the fantasy romance novels of A Covenant of Thorns; the contemporary BDSM novellas of the Facets of Passion; an erotic contemporary serial novel, Master of the Opera; and the erotic romance trilogy, Falling Under, which includes Going Under, Under His Touch and Under Contract.

She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with two Maine coon cats, plentiful free-range lizards and a very handsome Doctor of Oriental Medicine.

Jeffe can be found online at her website: JeffeKennedy.com, every Sunday at the popular SFF Seven blog, on Facebook, on Goodreads and pretty much constantly on Twitter @jeffekennedy. She is represented by Sarah Younger of Nancy Yost Literary Agency.

http://jeffekennedy.com

https://www.facebook.com/Author.Jeffe.Kennedy

https://twitter.com/jeffekennedy

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1014374.Jeffe_Kennedy

 

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Invest in Yourself

This past month I signed a contract for my third novel. And as anxious as I was to start my forth, because starting a new project is the best way for me to deal with the stress/anxiety/freak-out of submitting a manuscript for review. I make it a point to take some time between novels to study my craft, either by attending a conference, taking an online class, reading books about the craft of writing, and/or reading widely in my genre.

Why? Because on one level, writing is about doing that, siting down and putting words on paper. Nothing can replace that practice. There is no way to “hack” becoming better at writing than by writing and practicing your craft. I’m at the journeyman point in my career, with a collection of short stories, two novels published and a contract signed on a third. I’m not a beginner. But I am not seasoned writer with twenty novels to my credit either. I was not an English or Journalism major and I don’t have a MFA, and I want to make it clear: none of the above degrees are necessary to write a novel.

But it is possible to improve your craft with out signing up for formal education. You can invest your time and money to learn new ways to communicate your ideas and entertain your readers. I’m a health professional and educator by training and am all about making plans to achieve your goals. In order to construct an educational plan for your writing career look at reviews of you work. What do readers complain about? And I’m referring to thoughtful reviews here, not troll-type reviews. What problems do your editors point out? Pacing? Structure? Plotting? Character development?

Here are some thoughts on ways to address recurring problems in your manuscripts. Have a problem with pacing? Study screenplays, or take a screen-writing class. Issues with dialogue? Study stage plays, watch movies from the 30’s and 40’s when special effects were limited, and dialogue had to carry the story. Problems with plotting and structure? Read, read, read in your genre, take time to see how the novelist did what they did by making an outline of the novel. Flat characters, or poorly designed character arcs? Read biographies, ethnographies, and memoirs, connect lived experiences with human behavior and character arcs. Struggling with world building and setting? Study filmmaking and photo journalism to see how setting is as much a part of the story as the characters.

Writers conferences offer opportunities to learn about the craft of writing but not every one  has time, money, mental, and physical health required to attend a writing conference. If a writing conference is not on your list of things to do, take advantage of the many low stress, free, or low cost resources for writers. My number one recommendation for resources is the public library. Most libraries are free, or low cost, and once you are a member you can use interlibrary loans to get just about any book or movie you want. Many libraries have a way to provide digital loans, saving you time, and the hassle of remembering to return your books/films/music. If you live near a university or college, check out their library and their theater productions. Creative Live offers courses on screenwriting, (https://www.creativelive.com and no, not I’m not getting paid to recommend them, they often have sales on their courses, so it pays to sign up for their newsletter.

Indie Film Academy (http://www.indiefilmacademy.com) is free as is Ted Talks (https://www.ted.com/talks) for interviews and lectures about writing, inspiration, and living a creative life.

Take time to invest in yourself and your writing career. You and your career are worth the effort. 

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Recover and Reset

I had planned on taking a break from novel writing over the Summer. I had home projects planned. I had visions of spending lots of time at the pool, hiking, and gardening and hanging out with my kids. I had planned on some promotion and marketing of my novel, Sum of the Whole,  set to release on June 19th

But then my mom had some serious health issues, and then this happened:

 My kiddo tumbled off the pirate ship. Surgery, two pins and one hot pink cast later I needed to change my ideas about summer.  Heartrending? Yes. Stressful? Yes. Overwhelming? Yes. Frustrating? Yes. Anxiety level off the charts? Yes. So I did the thing I always do when I don’t know what thing I should do next, and want some imaginary control over my life. I wrote.

 I wrote an outline while my mom was in the hospital.

The day after my daughter got home from the hospital I started writing my next novel.

I’ve left the deadline the original one that I set when I had planned out my summer and work projects. I don’t expect to finish writing it this summer, but when I sit down in the Fall when the kids go back to school I will be a bit ahead of schedule. It also gives me a sense of accomplishing something on those days I feel stuck.

My advice when life veers off the expected trajectory, take time to recover and reset.  Do the thing that grounds you, the thing that makes the rest of the world fall away even if it is just for an hour. Do that. And remember this:

“Nature never hurries, yet everything is accomplished.” Lao Tzu 

 

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Women’s Voices- Interview with Jeffe Kennedy

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You may have noticed that I have been on a Fantasy, with a capital F reading spree over the summer. I reviewed the first book in this series,  Lonen’s War in this post.   I confess to not usually being a fan of the slow burn type of romance, but Jeffe Kennedy has done the most amazing job of making it worth the wait. This book contains hands down one of the most scorching sex scenes I have ever read. If you have not started the series pick Lonen’s War and start from the beginning, although this book can stand alone, it will be infinitely better if you read the series in order.

If you are a fan of Jeffe Kennedy’s you may have wondered as I have at times: How the hell do you keep up with all of your projects? Blog posts, two series, short stories, interviews, teaching, etc.

Jeffe was kind enough to take the time to answer this, and other questions I had about her organization system and work process. If you can’t get enough of Jeffe after this post head over to https://sffseven.blogspot.com/ for more of her witty, engaging and informative posts.

  1. As a writer who is involved in many literary projects (book series, blog posts, short story anthologies, etc.) what is your system of organization? How do you go about managing multiple deadlines and stages of production?

JEFFE: You know the short answer to this, right? Spreadsheets! As the Spreadsheet Queen, I have an Excel workbook that’s called “Progress Count.” The name is a little deceptive because it contains so much more than that. That’s how it started, though – as a single sheet where I tracked my daily wordcounts – and that’s how I know where to find it.

In there I have a spreadsheet for every “live” project, from a fragments all the way through galley proof stage. I track daily, weekly, monthly and annual wordcounts, and I have worksheets for my priority list and commitments. The Commitments worksheet has Gantt Charts that help me visualize overlapping projects – like teaching online classes while also drafting a book, for example – and to monitor spacing of release dates. The Priority List worksheet shows which projects are in my court, which are in someone else’s court (e.g., with my editor, on submission, etc.), and which are still glimmers of ideas. I have a fairly complex system of interconnecting dates where I estimate how long a phase of a project will take, highlighting fixed deadlines, and that shows me what I need to focus on next.

Finally I have a separated workbook that houses my ongoing To Do List. My assistant tracks promo efforts – like when interviews like this are expected! – and I space them out so I do one per day. 

  1. You have generously shared your beat sheet spread sheets with word counts on the blog The SFF Seven How did those evolve?

JEFFE: When I was shopping my first novel – and was unsuccessful for a number of years – I cast about for techniques to tighten the plot structure. I hit upon the Three-Act Structure, using the percentages you reference in those beat sheets. It made sense to me as a way to understand the “bones” of my story – and to adjust the pacing – AND it fit nicely into my Progress Count spreadsheets! I use those percentages and beats to track the growth of a story as I write it, which also helps me to predict how much longer it will take me to finish. For example, once I’ve finished Act I (all the stakes are set and the Act I climax is complete), then I know I have 75% of the story still to write. It’s a very reliable predictor for me.

When I went to write a serial novel – and set up the worksheet for that – I played with the percentages to figure both the individual section pacing and where it intersected with the overall pacing. I did a blog post on that and a local RWA chapter asked me to come teach that, which led me to play with applying the formula to a trilogy also. 

  1. Do you envision a series when you start writing or start with one novel and see where it takes you?

JEFFE: I pretty much envision the series, but in a general way. The best analogy is that the whole series feels like planning a cross-country road trip. I know I’m starting in Seattle and that I want to end up in the Florida Keys. Or someplace like that. Then I start “driving” and see how far I get. Things change along the way – I might pick up hitchhikers or get stuck for a while in St. Louis. Sometimes I finish a “trilogy” and I realize I’d like to leave the Keys and take a ship to the Virgin Islands.

  1. You have referred to yourself as a gardener, building a trellis for your story to grow on versus a pantser or plotter. How did you arrive at your current system for writing organization? Do you consistently use the same system of organization?

JEFFE: I touched on this a bit above. As a writer I tend to operate intuitively. The stories feel like they flow from elsewhere and I like it that way. I’m fairly superstitious about messing with my process, too. So, yes, I consistently use this system, which has grown organically over the last twenty or so years of writing. If I find a way to tweak that system, I’ll try it out – there’s always room to grow and improve – but I’m a big believer in a writer learning her own process and owning that.

  1. If you had one thing you could say to the new/beginning/young writer what would that be?

JEFFE: It’s not popular advice, but I stand by it: Build a Consistent Writing Habit. For most people, that means writing every day, probably at the same time every day. I spent years fighting this because I simply could not fit it into my life. Finally I started getting up at 4am and writing for two hours before work in the morning. And I was *so* not a morning person! But it was the only time I could carve out to write consistently at the same time, every day. After years now, I have a consistent writing habit. I don’t necessarily have to start at the exact same time, I can take weekends off, etc. But that’s because writing is a habit for me now. I feel weird if I’m not getting the work done, instead of that awful endless cycles of procrastination and dread that consumes us before we build that habit.

jeffekennedy1

Jeffe Kennedy is an award-winning author whose works include non-fiction, poetry, short fiction, and novels. She has been a Ucross Foundation Fellow, received the Wyoming Arts Council Fellowship for Poetry, and was awarded a Frank Nelson Doubleday Memorial Award. Her essays have appeared in many publications, including Redbook.

Her most recent works include a number of fiction series: the fantasy romance novels of A Covenant of Thorns; the contemporary BDSM novellas of the Facets of Passion, and an erotic contemporary serial novel, Master of the Opera. A fourth series, the fantasy trilogy The Twelve Kingdoms, hit the shelves starting in May 2014 and book 1, The Mark of the Tala, received a starred Library Journal review was nominated for the RT Book of the Year while the sequel, The Tears of the Rose was nominated for the RT Reviewers’ Choice Best Fantasy Romance of 2014 and the third book, The Talon of the Hawk, won the RT Reviewers’ Choice Best Fantasy Romance of 2015. Two more books will follow in this world, beginning with The Pages of the Mind May 2016. A fifth series, the erotic romance trilogy, Falling Under, started with Going Under, and was followed by Under His Touch and Under Contract.

She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with two Maine coon cats, plentiful free-range lizards and a very handsome Doctor of Oriental Medicine.

Jeffe can be found online at her website: JeffeKennedy.com, every Sunday at the popular SFF Seven blog, on Facebook, on Goodreads and pretty much constantly on Twitter @jeffekennedy. She is represented by Connor Goldsmith of Fuse Literary.


 

 

The Deep End of the Pool

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My kids have been swimming in this pool since they were twelve months old.  The first time we came to visit their grandparents we would all take turns with them in the water. We used tiny life jacket and floats to help them learn to navigate the pool.  Back home we spent hours at the YMCA pool with swim classes and family swim time. Beside the fact that I think that everyone should know how to swim as a matter of personal safety,  I wanted my kids to be comfortable in the water. Notice I said comfortable not cocky. I wanted them to respect the process of swimming and to understand that not everything in life can be “hacked”.

Work, practice, and more work are the keys to getting better and experiencing success at anything. And work means that, doing the thing you want to be better at, swimming, cooking, writing, whatever,  not reading about it, or talking about the thing. You have to do the thing. Short cuts are for road trips, not skills. There is no substitute for time and practice.

 I am constantly amazed by the people I meet who expect overnight success as a writer. Writing, just like swimming requires time and commitment and overcoming your fear. Submitting a  short story, or poem, or novel, or play, or whatever it is that you write is like jumping into the deep end of the pool.  

 Don’t expect the first time you submit your work to go smoothly.  You will freak out and stew and worry before you press the send button or drop the package in the mail.  You will most likely be rejected and flail and struggle to get to yourself to submit again. Don’t quit, be fearless, jump in with both feet, honor the process of learning and practice.  

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Do the work, hit the send button, then get back to work so you can jump again.

Persistence: Keep On Keeping On

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Persistence and patience are qualities that every writer needs. Persistence so that you can keep going when others do not understand why you do what you do, patience as you send your work out and wait for a reply. Persistence as you continue to write and submit and edit. Patience as you continue to carve out time to write when you have a job/family/other obligations. Persistence to fight for your time to create.

If you are a writer/creative you have to keep writing, even if is only one sentence, keep moving. Some writers struggle with getting words on the page, and I wrote a post about writer’s block and not having time for it, which you can read here.  Making progress and achieving your goals can be achingly slow, and I have written about slow progress here .

As a writer who wants to be published you have to keep writing and submitting your work, you have to keep producing, and you have to keep sending it out there. Why? Because one day you might just get that acceptance letter instead of a rejection, because if you don’t send it out no one will ever read/see/experience your work.

If you are writing and creating just for yourself, with no intention of ever sharing your work with anyone else that is fine, but if you are serious about sharing your work with others you have to be persistent. The flip side of persistence is patience. It is hard to be patient, hard to wait for decisions to be made about your work.
So, what should you do to cope with the time between when you send your work off and hearing back, and how do you cope with rejection if you work is not accepted? Get to work.

Write, create, paint, photograph, throw clay pots, whatever it is that you do creatively, get back to work. Be patient. Be persistent. Keep going.

This week a short story that I wrote was published. It is not the first time I have been published, but this is the first of my fiction that has been published, and that makes it is special. So how did I celebrate? I wrote this piece, and got back to work.

Here is the publisher’s link  for the book. I hope that you check it out, the stories are unique and I am very happy to have my work included in this anthology.

Here is the link to Cheyenne Blue’s site for more information and tantalizing bits about the writers included in the this anthology http://www.cheyenneblue.com/

 

 

 

Here is the Amazon link for the book

 

Starting from Scratch

My kids think I can build or fix anything and this past weekend they asked for a pirate ship.  So after carefully surveying the collection of scrap wood and various other bits and pieces of raw materials in the basement, garage and recycle bin. This is what we ended up with:

It won’t win any prizes but they had a lot of fun helping me build it and making decisions about how they wanted the ship to look, and what amenities would be included. We had some things that didn’t work, we experimented, we were creative, and most of all we had fun.

I didn’t start out trying to teach them anything, but when they tell people the story of how they built their pirate ship, they are very proud of their contributions, and glory in the telling of how we problem solved.
Listening to them, I realized that beside being a really fun day, they had also learned a little bit about being resourceful, using what you have, and starting where you are.

I feel the same why every time I start a writing project. I inventory my lists of story ideas, found objects, interesting news bits,  and old story files to create something. Any creative project starts with an idea, a whim, a scrap of thought, a problem to be solved, or a request.

Many people say to me that they want to write but don’t know what to write about. This is my answer: Use what you have, start where you are, and don’t expect your first draft to be perfect. Just like our pirate ship, it needs the rough edges smoothed, and a coat of paint. That is what editing is all about, but you can’t edit a blank sheet of paper.

Even if you don’t have little pirates in your life asking for ships, take time to build /create/ write /draw/ photograph something. Quit staring at life waiting for something to happen, and make something happen.

Happy Sailing!

 

 

 

Fiona Zedde: Delicious Desire_ A Year of Women’s Voices

I met Fiona Zedde  in 2011 when she came to speak at the College of Wooster. We hosted her in our home.  She was lovely, engaging, and totally forgave my goofy dog for destroying an intimate article of her clothing. She gifted us a copy of Dangerous Pleasures (2011).

Being the voracious reader that I am, I finished it in a day, and just like one of her characters, I was hungry for more. More women secure in their sexuality, secure in their desires, and more of Fiona’s luscious writing. Her word choice, and character development are exceptional. Her writing is sultry, seductive, and tantalizing. Fiona’s stories feature lead characters that are smart, introspective and passionate.  Her novels achingly explore the intersections of love, hate and desire.

In addition to her contemporary novels and stories of lesbian love and desire, Ms. Zedde also has written two urban fantasy novels, Every Dark Desire (2007) and the sequel Desire at Dawn (2014). Her vampires do not sparkle, and would rip your throat out for even suggesting it.

Urban fantasy is one of my favorite genres.  I devoured Every Dark Desire (2007) and had to wait, not so patiently for Desire at Dawn (2014). Be warned!  Her writing is so engaging that I neglected to notice a bat flying around my house while absorbed in Broken in Soft Places (2013).  If you start reading one of Ms. Zedde’s novels you may not stop, even for a bat!

My favorite Fiona Zedde books/stories:

Dangerous Pleasures (2011) Risk, longing, denial, death, surrender, and love. What more could you ask?
Every Dark Desire (2007) and Desire at Dawn ( 2014) Hot, sexy, lesbian vampires, no sparkling. Did I say hot?
Bliss (2005) Edgy sexual exploration that leads a woman to her true self. A coming out story that captures the initial confusion and ultimate delight of becoming who you are.
Nightshade( 2012) An assassin makes her way through this collection of stories, kicking ass and taking hearts.
When She Says Yes (2014) A collection of provocative short stories, perfect for (adult) bedtime.

As a writer this is what I have learned reading Fiona Zedde:

1. Word choice is key in provoking emotions and driving narrative.
2. Don’t back away from the hard scenes, show them, warts and all.
3. Character growth is story.
4. Complex relationships create a compelling read.
5. Present the reality that is racism, homophobia, and class conflict in your stories.
6. Make your characters, even the vile characters, live on the page.

Here is the link to Fiona’s website: http://fionazedde.weebly.com and a short biography:

Jamaican-born Fiona Zedde is the author of several novels, including the Lambda Literary Award finalists Bliss and Every Dark Desire. Her novel, Dangerous Pleasures, was winner of the About.com Readers’ Choice Award for Best Lesbian Novel or Memoir of 2012. Her new vampire novel, Desire at Dawn, is available now. 

Alisse Waterston: Making Theory Accessible with Intimate Ethnography

This is my sixth post in my Year of Women’s Voices blog
series, and features my review of Alisse Waterston’s ethnography My Father’s
Wars: Migration, Memory and the Violence of a Century 
(2014).  In this intimate ethnography of her father, Dr. Waterston
has written a frank portrayal of her father as a man, a survivor, a soldier, an
entrepreneur, husband, and father.  Her
writing honors her father without maudlin sentiment.  She frames her father’s lived experiences
with migration and violence, and uses his experiences to illustrate social
theory in a way that makes it accessible for non-academics.
Her writing is crisp, clear, and rich with detail. She
chooses a concise series of her father’s life events that create a reading
experience that is informative, and moving. The reading experience is enhanced by the companion website that
contains photographs, documents, audio files, and videos of her interviews with
her father as she worked on this ethnography. The book becomes a much more intimate experience through watching the
interactions between Dr. Waterston and her father, observing their body language, and listening to their voices.
 As a writer I appreciate Dr. Waterston’s explanation of her
struggles in her dual roles as daughter and ethnographer, and her process of
conducting research. I truly appreciated her discussion of the discipline it
took to not be distracted by the numerous ideas for other projects that called
to her during this project, especially when the experience of the project
became difficult.
If you are interested in ethnographic studies, social
theory, history, Judaic studies, anthropology, or if you are looking for an
extremely readable book that might help you understand how the experience of
violence shapes lives, this is the book I would hand you.
 What I have learned as a writer:
  1.    It is okay to include yourself in the story.
  2.    Stick with the project even when it is hard, or
    other projects beckon seductively from your research.
  3.   It is possible
    to portray unflattering behaviors in a way that is not overly sympathetic, nor  vindictive.
  4.  Multimedia
    can make a non-fiction project a richer experience, and allows the writer to
    include    research material that would be otherwise not be available.
  5.   Write the story that is hard to write, be
    fearless.
  6.    Don’t be trapped by conventions of disciplines
    or genre.
 I am grateful that
Dr. Waterston has created a work that is compelling, and readable on a subject
that is difficult to read about. When
confronted with violence, most of us want to turn away, to shield our eyes and our minds from horrific events. Dr. Waterston reminds us that even if we
want to look away, we must not, we need to understand.
For a biography and more information about Alisse Waterston and her other books, this is the link to My Father’s Wars website and this is the link to Dr. Waterston’s home page

 

 

Embrace Your Attention Issues: Terese Ramin Interview

 

The bar. Again.

I met Terese Ramin at my first writers’ conference. Chicago-North RWA Spring Fling 2012 to be exact. I was loitering at the bar waiting to register. I noticed Terese’s conference badge, and struck up a conversation. She was presenting at the conference. We spent
most of the evening laughing, talking, and getting to know each other over
fries and good beer.

Terese is gracious,
encouraging, and supportive. She is also has ADD/ADHD, and is a successful novelist, and editor. She very kindly agreed to do an interview for this blog.  I have enjoyed Terese’s books.   This is the link to Terese’s Amazon page.   Her biography follows the interview.

1. When were
you diagnosed with ADD/ADHD?

 Terese: **I
was officially diagnosed with ADD in 1996 when I took my son for diagnosis at
his high school’s request. I took the test with him to be supportive.
2.
Was there a specific event that caused you to seek a diagnosis?
Terese:**My
son’s high school requested that he be tested (and put on medication).
3.
Do you think having a diagnosis helped?
Terese: **Yes,
it helped *me* realize what had always held me back / been “wrong” with me, and
why there were “bad conduct” marks on my school records. Girls didn’t have
ADD/ADHD when I was in grade school.
4.
Have you faced any discrimination because of your diagnosis?
Terese: **No.
As an adult, the only people who know about my ADD/ADHD are those I choose to
tell. And since being ADD/ADHD affects my entire life, I let people know. My
son, on the other hand, didn’t want people to know, didn’t want to take meds,
etc., because it would have labeled him in high school as “one of those kids”
who got called out of class to take a prescription medication. We worked with
his ADD/ADHD in other ways and, boy, am I glad! He’s very successful as a
teacher now.
5.
How did you organize/ focus yourself to write books?
Terese: **When
was first diagnosed, I saw a therapist who gave me suggestions to help keep me
focused – creating a CD that looped with the question “Are you on task?” played
at 5 and 10 minutes  intervals.
I
also used a CD called High Focus that essentially
plays white noise. It was highly effective, especially played softly. I also
used guided meditation and a couple of “In the Zone” CDs that are used to help
athletes maintain focus while they work out.
6.
What is the biggest challenge for you when writing a novel?
Terese: **Oh
man. <G> For writing a novel, I need to get to the place in the book
where I can go into hyper-focus. Hyper-focus is something I’m good at – as long
as I’m being stimulated by what I do, or as long as what I’m doing is a
relatively simple, repetitive task (I’m a great editor due to hyper-focus, and
I’m pretty good at detail work – as long my brain doesn’t decide the details
are boring.) Boredom is my biggest problem.
Another
thing that works is for me to be able to get up and wander around doing simple,
non-thinking tasks as I write – taking care of the laundry, loading the
dishwasher, dusting, etc. Those are things I hate to do, but when I do them
during the process of working on a novel, I don’t have to come out of the
“zone” or the story to do them. Doing
simple tasks allows me to daydream the next line, paragraph, or scene, and
return to the computer able to write a few more pages.
7.
Are you an Outliner or Pantser?
Terese: **HA!
I wish I could outline a novel or create a beat sheet, then just fill in the
blanks on the pages. The moment I start to do that, my brain screams “lunch!”
and refuses to budge – it’s that boredom thing or the restless ADHD thing
kicking in: an outline causes me to tell the story to myself, which means I’ve
already written it, which means “bored now” when it comes to trying to write
all 70-85,000 words.
To
counter this, I give myself a blurb to remind myself where I need to get to
from here, post that on the wall where I can see it, and slowly make my way
toward the end goal: a completed novel.
8.
How do you handle the distraction of the internet?
Terese: **Badly.
I have a routine of getting up in the morning, handling my email, reading the
online news, doing a little Facebook / Twitter / social media to keep my name
out there, but that means I also use up my best creative time. I might be
finished with all of those internet things by 8 a.m., but then the dogs need
attention, there are dirty dishes that need attention, the laundry needs to go
into the dryer, etc. It would be far better for me to revise that routine and
start with writing, but it takes a long time for me to create a routine that
works for me. It’s much easier to fall back on the routine I have. The bottom
line is that I’m much much more productive
if I follow a daily routine, but creating the right routine takes thought and discipline that I sometimes don’t
have.
9.
Do you think that it would have been helpful to be diagnosed at an earlier age?
Terese:**Possibly,
in today’s climate, yes. Back when I was growing up? Maybe – at least then my
parents and teachers would have understood the reason for why I was the way I
was. But being diagnosed earlier – especially back in a time when using
ADD/ADHD medication properly was still pretty new – might also have meant being
medicated, which brings up a whole new world of issues.
10.
What advice would you give writers struggling with attention issues?
Terese: **Embrace
your attention issues. I look at my son who’s always done seven or eight things
at the same time – and that worked for him. When he was in school, if he wasn’t
listening to at least one sporting event, playing the guitar (or the bassoon,
or something), reading a book, talking on the phone, trolling the internet AND
doing his homework, I knew he wasn’t getting his schoolwork done. He’s never
needed to be medicated and I’m proud of the man he’s become.
But
I also look at the way he innately handled his ADD/ADHD and I realize that my
own process of staying in the zone by doing housework while I’m writing is much
the same thing. I just need to “stay on task” get back to that routine.
 I hope that reading Terese’s interview inspires you to start writing if you haven’t and to keep going if you have stopped.
Biography:
Terese Ramin is the award winning
author of eleven novels and numerous short stories. Her autobiographical essay,
“Two-Puppy Theory”, is included in the anthology The Sound and the Furry, sales of which benefit the International
Fund for Animal Welfare. The Cured,
her most recent release with author David Wind, is her first suspense-thriller.
Her next release will be an urban paranormal romance with writing partner Dawn
Johanson.
Aside from writing, Terese works
as an editor, ghost writer, book doctor, and a paranormal investigator. She
lives in Michigan with her husband and a bunch of rescued dogs.