• Linda Ulleseit, author

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Writing Craze

book_and_featherAs some of you know, I have begun taking online classes in pursuit of my MFA in Creative Writing. This endeavor has pushed me to write a LOT this summer. The summer is half gone, but I have written a chapter of Aloha Spirit, started a new flying horse book, written a short story and created four separate scenes. That doesn’t count the articles, chapters, and workshop postings I’ve had to read and thoughtfully comment on. It’s exhilarating. Required classes when I used to go to college always consisted of some really dull, or dully presented, subjects. Now, however, I am immersed in something I absolutely love to do–write! So today I thought I’d post a bit from Aloha Spirit:

On May 12, 1939, we board the Matsonia, one of Matson Lines’ finest ships. Every color is vivid, from the green rim of Punch Bowl on the hill above the city to the sapphire ocean below. On the pier, brass instruments flash in the sun as the Marine band in their white uniforms plays Aloha ‘Oe, Queen Liliʻuokalani’s beautiful song of farewell. Hawai’ian girls hula nearby, their hair twisted with white pikake that gives sweetness to the air. Family and friends wave smiling goodbyes, their clothing adding dots of color to the scene.

Behind the joyous leavetaking, green palm trees sway behind the Royal Hawai’ian Hotel, also known as the Pink Lady. Waikiki’s pale cream sand stretches toward Diamond Head, majestic as always above Honolulu. On the white ship, I am so covered in fragrant leis, orange and purple and yellow and pink, I can hardly breathe. It seems like every flower in Hawai’i has given its life to send Manley and I off in style to the World’s Fair in San Francisco.

I turn to wave toward Pearl Harbor, out of sight beyond Hickam Field, in farewell to Earl, who couldn’t get away from his new job. I imagine seeing past Hickam Field, its gray runways, planes, barracks, quonset huts, and jeeps, to Pearl Harbor with its American navy ships. Over there everything is drab and businesslike.  

The smokestacks with the big blue M belch dark clouds. The ship churns water as it pulls away from the dock. Honolulu fades until I can’t make out the Pink Lady. All eyes fasten on Diamond Head, the last view of home. In keeping with tradition, we throw leis overboard as we pass the extinct volcano as a promise that we will return to the islands. We watch until Diamond Head fades to purple distance and blends into the ocean.

Real Books

book 1

Jody Harvey

While reading will never go out of style, ebooks are fast replacing tried and true real books. I have mixed feelings about this since I love the weight of a real book, the sound of the pages turning, the smell of the paper. I love seeing the cover on my bedside table, and I love a wall covered with bookcases. I especially enjoy seeing my four novels there. Holding your own book in your hand gives new meaning to the concept of delight. My Flying Horse Trilogy (On a Wing and a Dare, In the Winds of Danger, Under a Wild and Darkening Sky) and my historical fiction novel (Under the Almond Trees) are accomplishments I am proud of.

Thomas Wightman

Thomas Wightman

On the other hand, I love that my Kindle will carry hundreds of books everywhere I go. Never will I be without reading material! Ebooks save paper, so they are better for the environment. That doesn’t change the fact, though, that thousands of books have already been printed. After they’ve been loved and read, what should be done with them?

Artists have a way of repurposing old things, and I’m thrilled to share several artists who are repurposing real books, you know, the kind with pages. These beautiful works of art ease a used book’s pain of abandonment a bit. They inspire in me the same sort of wonder that a new book does. An ebook may be more convenient, but I’ve never felt wonder looking at a

Justin Rowe

Justin Rowe

title in a list of titles. These book sculptures are filled with creativity and whimsy. They inspire awe. Someday maybe I’ll see one of these sculptors create a winged horse out of one of my books. I would be thrilled, as long as they had the ebook version on their Kindles.

Since I appreciate when people give me credit for my creations, I’ve listed the artist’s name below each picture. Search them for more examples of breathtaking book sculpture. And if you still enjoy curling up with a real book, grab one of mine! The Flying Horse books are set in Medieval Wales, in a remote town hidden in the mountains. The town is home to people who care for a herd of flying horses—the only flying horses in the world. Every year the Aerial

book 4

Sue BlackwellAnd the next time you read an ebook, don’t feel bad. Somewhere one of these artists is creating a masterpiece from the paperback version.

Games is held, pitting one barn of horses against another in aerial feats of racing and dancing. ON A WING AND A DARE center around characters like Davyd, who dreads following his family tradition and becoming a rider of the winged horses. And Emma, torn between her love two brothers, one the bad boy and one the dependable kind. IN THE WINDS OF DANGER begins with a Barn Leader trying something new—aerial jousting. Nia is disgusted with the idea and looks for something else to try. UNDER A WILD AND DARKENING SKY follows siblings Ralf and Alyna as they move into the town. Alyna tries to fit into barn life while her brother is more interested in the beautiful and dangerous Branwen.

Relevant Details

anpencil4

Anyone can write. One of the keys to writing well is to organize your thoughts so that others can follow your thinking. Students are notoriously bad at this. In a paragraph about caring for cats, one wrote about seeing a cat sitting on the fence. In a paragraph about butterflies, one wrote that stained glass windows are beautiful, too. Okay, I made that last one up. Still, writing relevant details is a skill to practice. I teach my students to outline paragraphs in order to make sure they have enough information to write it up.

A topic must be stated as a claim. For example, ‘dogs’ is not an idea that requires details. It’s easier to come up with good details if your topic is ‘Dogs make good pets.’

Now I tell my students to pretend someone says to them, “Are you crazy? Dogs, really?” Give this person three reasons why dogs make good pets. They are loyal, easy to train, and keep you healthy.

I can hear you all saying, “What?” to the last one, and that’s what I say to my students. Each reason needs a RELEVANT DETAIL. This can be an example, evidence, or explanation. An example is an anecdote from the student’s personal experience (I walk my dog every day, and that’s good for me.). Evidence comes from a book or article. (“Studies have shown that dog owners are far more likely to meet their daily exercise requirements—and exercising every day is great for the animal as well.” Health Benefits of Dogs, HelpGuide.org). Explanations come from the student’s own ideas. (A person would be really healthy if they played catch with their dog, walked it, and swam with it every day.).

The concluding sentence of the paragraph wraps it all up by restating the claim in the first sentence. Students must be taught that restating is not repeating. Write the same idea with different words.

So a completed outline might look like this:

T = dogs are good pets

1. loyal

2. follow you everywhere

1. easy to train

2. tricks, guide dogs, obedience

1. healthy

2. walk every day

C = best pet is dog

In this outline, the reasons are numbered with a ‘1’ and the details are ‘2.’ Every ‘2’ supports the ‘1’ above it. All the ‘1’s’ support the claim.

Once they have a full outline, students are ready to write the paragraph in sentences…but that’s another post.

Favorite Children

threecovers0I am often asked which of my books is my favorite, yet I’ve never had anyone ask which of my sons is my favorite. My books are like my children: they took a lot of effort to ‘raise.’ If I am distracted from them sales decrease, like children acting out to get attention. I’m proud of them, books and children, but I see their faults. Each book has its own personality and strengths.

My first book, ON A WING AND A DARE, has a love triangle. Emma loves both Davyd and Evan, who are brothers. I admire Emma’s strength, and enjoy reviews on Amazon or Goodreads where readers say they are rooting for Evan…or Davyd.

The middle child, IN THE WINDS OF DANGER, has a young but fiercely strong female character. Nia absolutely will not let anyone push her around, and it’s not always obvious who is trying to do so. Any parent would be proud of her independent fire.

The last in the Flying Horse trilogy is UNDER A WILD AND DARKENING SKY, which has a wonderful brother/sister relationship. Alyna and Ralf support each other even as they make choices that set

UAT front

them in opposition to each other.

My most recent book is UNDER THE ALMOND TREES, which is not about flying horses. The three main characters here are strong women who helped settle California and happen to be related to me. Ellen fights for women’s right to vote, Emily wants to be an architect, and Eva opens her own photography studio. All of this is taken for granted today, but for them it was a difficult road.

So each of my books are loved for different reasons. You can see my favorite love triangle, favorite strong female character, favorite siblings, and favorite inspirational women. But a favorite overall book? I can’t pick. Summer is under way now, so why don’t you read them all and tell me which is your favorite? Don’t forget to leave reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. Thanks!

Writing Successfully

anpencil3I love to write. That doesn’t mean I sit down eagerly at the computer every day and write thousands of words. Even with something I love to do, I have to come up with motivation and perseverance. I’m sure it’s true for my students, too, especially those who hate to write. My hope today is that if I share some of my frustrations with the very beginning of the process, others will be able to be inspired.

MOTIVATION. You would think that enjoying writing would be a motivation. It is, I suppose, but it’s not enough. I think of my current novel as a wonderful finished product, or bask in well-written chapters that are already completed. I am just about 2/3 done with the first draft, but haven’t been able to make much progress for months. I know that when I get started the words will flow until I am drained. I know that if I force myself just to start writing that the first page or so may very well be garbage I have to cut later. Having started, however, is what’s important. The good stuff hides behind a wall. Once that wall is broken, it leaps out.

I’ve finished four novels. The fact that I know I can do it is motivation. Chapters whirl around in my head until they just about spring forth on their own. The story I’m writing, Aloha Spirit, is a good one. I’m very happy with what I’ve drafted so far. I have ideas for revision, and sometimes I go back and work on a revision as a way to get started again. The motivation is there, I just need to move it from, “Someday this book will be finished, and it will be good” to “Today I need to write 2,000 words.”

PERSEVERANCE  Students know about procrastination. It’s much easier to put something off than it is to do it. Mostly I read or play Facebook games. For hours and hours. My mind tells me that I can write for an hour and still have an hour to read, and probably an hour to play Candy Crush, too. Life gets in the way, too, of writing. Grocery shopping, house cleaning, yard work, the gym, walking the dogs, cooking, errands–some of those things I enjoy very much, some not. They all get in the way of writing. The trick is to keep coming back to the piece you’re working on whether it’s been two hours, two days, or two years since you started.

I’ve always said that authors are the ones who persevered to finish their novel. I know several people with truly awesome unfinished stories. I have one of those too (Aloha Spirit!). The only difference between novelists and writers is that authors persevere until they are done. My first book, On a Wing and a Dare, took seven years. I gave it up for months at a time. I completely started over three times. I revised the entire thing four times. Most importantly, I finished it.

So whatever you use for motivation and however strong your perseverance is, I wish you good writing. I’m off to start that next chapter.

Foreshadowing – a writing device sometimes misused

Another guest post! Today I’m reblogging a post by one of my fellow horse story writers. So exciting that she mentions my own books in her article! Thanks, Connie!

by Connie Peck

A while back I was involved with a fairly tough critique partner who wrote in a vastly different genre than I. He was writing a 200K suspense/murder/mystery/drug & mind control novel while I was writing a simple horse story for fourth graders.

His biggest beef about my writing – foreshadowing. And of course real danger for my main character, an eleven year old girl who had a telepathic connection to her pony.

It was not a good fit.

My biggest mistake was that I let it get under my skin. But I eventually got over it. Then I did some research. For one thing, after re-reading some of his chapters, I recognized that his foreshadowing technique was actually almost pre-telling what was coming. I’m really not sure what category that falls into. Okay, so if a character, say a law enforcement officer, is approaching a potential bad-guy-hideout and slips the safety strap off his pistol, I’m going to look forward to a possible gun-battle. However, if the cop loosens his revolver, saying to himself “I’m sure I’m going to need this because this guy I’m after is crazy and I know he has an arsenal of weapons in there.” Well, that’s giving it away and since I know for sure what’s coming, I may just skim to see what’s next. (No that author didn’t write those words, that’s only an example. And he did get an agent.)

I did more reading.

A well-known children’s author who has won all sorts of rewards did the same thing in the first chapter by actually telling what the stakes were and how bad it could be right there in black and white. Instead of me looking forward to what might happen – be it good and wonderful, happy and funny, scary and adventuresome, I was no longer curious. I already knew. Sadly I couldn’t find the energy to keep reading. It was already told how dangerous it would be to approach the only means necessary to solve the big problem.

The best text for learning the technique of foreshadowing from both a writer’s perspective and a reader’s is THE LOTTERY, by Shirley Jackson, way back in 1948. And it still stands as the benchmark. Only a few glimpses, solitary items, which don’t really seem to add to the story – until the end.

What is foreshadowing? It’s an element in the story that you have no idea is there until the danger rises its scary face, or until the funniest thing in the world occurs. (Not all stories need to have death, murder, and mayhem involved to be really, really good.)

Foreshadowing is a passing glance at a picture on the wall, which may turn out to hold some secret vital to the outcome. And after dancing all around that non-remarkable painting, the reader is delighted to discover the clue hidden there. But if the author overstates the presence of the art, the reader will become frustrated when the MC doesn’t see it, or become bored with the whole story, and toss it in the corner without finishing.
horse
In my children’s book, LEGEND OF THE SUPERSTITION GOLD, which is my third Black Pony book, I dedicate a chapter to putting shoes on the pony, while dropping information about the upcoming trail ride along with a few stories about the Lost Dutchman Gold. Why the whole chapter? Well, it’s short and full of horsey stuff. Plenty of dialog between Annie and the pony. A humorous dismissal of the legends by the farrier (in my opinion one of the strongest pieces of foreshadowing in the book). AND every single element in that first chapter is seen again – several times. Not only that, the shoes themselves become in integral part of the plot. But you don’t know that until you read further.

My second chapter is dedicated to a pair of spurs and how they come to be in the possession of the main character. The spurs once belonged to Annie’s grandfather. Her uncle has very little success in using them and passes them to her. The connection won’t be noticed until mid-point of the book, but will be totally understood at the climax. But you never will know that until you get there.

Other bits of foreshadowing include Annie looking at hieroglyphics – and feeling a strange presence. Midnight warns her a few times that ‘The Others’ are nearby as well. True, I have a rather slow chapter where the whole thing is dedicated to a few of the stories, which anyone can google, about the haunted Superstition Mountains and its hidden treasures. But, they are all seen again. Besides, to at least a few of us, those stories are juicy and wonderful.

But, if at any point in the story I would have written ‘X is about to happen’ you may not have been interested anymore. Why do I point out that riding in the soft sand of a dry wash could be dangerous? Because a flash flood is coming! That was likely the most telling foreshadowing in the whole story.

I’ll never say that I’m anywhere near as good at foreshadowing as Shirley Jackson, or in fact dozens of other authors out there, but the fact remains. You will never know what part of a scene foreshadows the coming event until after that event has occurs and it all comes together in a satisfactory ending.

A few examples of books using foreshadowing from Goodreads include, THE AGE OF MIRACLES by Karen Thompson Walker, published by Random House; Mo Willems’ THAT IS NOT A GOOD IDEA; Though this next one has mixed reviews because of adult content, THE TIME TRAVELER’S WIFE by Audrey Niffenegger, is pegged as a great book for foreshadowing.

One of my personal favorite authors is Linda Ulleseit, who writes a series of The Winged Horses. You know something is up when an outsider falls in love with a filly, and there is dark talk of a long forgotten village, but you don’t know what it is until it happens. And you know something is about to happen when a young rider is torn between a soon-to-be barn leader with an attitude – who will do anything to win, and a timid rider who has a fear of flying, but you are blown away by what happens – and you didn’t see it coming, until you read it again, and again, and again. (Yes, I read it that many times.)

Goodreads has more if you wish to look them up. Of course mine is one of the best (in my opinion). http://tinyurl.com/p6wm6kf

How well to you foreshadow the events in your story? Do you let it all out before it happens, or drop invisible hints that show their glory at the end?

I’d love to hear your stories and examples.

Practical Advice for Beginning Fiction Writers

Today we have a guest post from Karin Rita Gastreich, author of Eolyn and High Maga.High Maga 2Eolyn_Audio Cover compressed

Practical Advice for Beginning Fiction Writers

By Karin Rita Gastreich

Enjoy the journey.

Writing novels takes time. There’s no way to get around this, no magic wand that will spit out a full-length novel in a few weeks. True, we have fun challenges like NaNoWriMo that encourage us to complete 50,000 words inside of a month. But anyone who has participated in NaNoWriMo will tell you the work doesn’t end there. The “completed” novel must be revised, perhaps rewritten, often expanded, and certainly edited before it can truly be finished. For this reason, while it’s important to keep an eye on the prize, you need to enjoy every part of writing a novel, from beginning to middle to end. Don’t stress out if it feels like you’re taking forever to finish. The time you spend with your characters is precious. Believe or not, you’ll miss those characters when you’re done.

Develop a routine that works for you.

Discipline is important in writing, and everyone has a different approach to discipline. Some writers keep journals, others compose on the computer. Some writers force themselves to put out a certain number of words per day, others ignore word counts but dedicate ‘sacred’ writing time as their schedule allows. While it’s good to look at how other writers organize their time, it’s very important that you identify a routine that fits your life style and your creative rhythm. The best way to write is your way to write.

Keep the day job.

The truth of the matter is, it’s very difficult to make a living as a writer. The advent of self-publishing and other industry changes has made earning money off of writing harder than ever. A recent study showed that median income for writers has dropped 30% in the last ten years. While we are all hoping the situation will change, for the time being there’s no sign that the market will become friendlier for those of us who peck away at the keyboard producing stories. Everyone who loves writing should keep writing. But you also need to find something else you love and make it the career that keeps food on the table. Someday, with a lot of hard work and a little luck, you may be able to leave the day job and devote yourself full time to writing. Until then, keep your financial bases covered.

Success comes in many flavors.

Because the vast majority of writers do not make money off their work, it’s important to keep in mind that success does not boil down to income. The highest success you can have as a writer is to craft a wonderful story. With that success comes many rewards. There’s no greater feeling, for example, than having readers tell you how much they enjoyed your novel. I have also found great personal satisfaction in the friends and colleagues I’ve met through writing. Writers are amazing people: talented, giving, empathetic, and supportive. Just being in their company is a privilege, and I’ve found some of my closest friends through writing. There’s also success in balancing your writing with everything else needed to make our lives happy and fulfilling. Everyone has their own personal definition of success. Learn to recognize and appreciate your successes as they come.

Have faith in your journey as a writer.

More than a job, writing is a vocation. If you feel compelled to write, follow that muse wherever it may lead. Some stories we write just for ourselves. Some are meant to be shared with a larger audience. It’s not always up to us to determine which is which. When we put a story on the market, we allow readers to choose whether they want to be part of our journey or not. This is a scary moment, but also, I think, a place where a little bit of faith goes a long way. If the time is ripe for your story to capture the imagination of thousands, then it will happen. If not, that’s okay too. Nothing will change the fact that you are a writer. The most important responsibility you have is to use your gift and keep writing.

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