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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Keep Learning

Picture Credit: http://www.gboe.org/school%208/
I've always been a fan of finding ways to keep learning. I don't believe learning is ever done.

For anyone else interested, though, I have come across FREE internet access to a college class on writing taught by Brandon Sanderson. For anyone who likes fantasy but hasn't read Sanderson's Mistborn series, you need to. It's one of my favorites (despite the really ugly book covers).

Sanderson has written many other books and he is a master at character building and at packing in an exciting story.

He apparently teaches a writing class at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah and he has made his class available to anyone who wants to learn from it. You can access all of his lectures, homework assignments, and extra credit assignments. Check out the website here.

I'm excited to get started! Hopefully we can all pick up some new things.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Similes and Metaphors

First of all, I must say that I was VERY happy that I found a cartoon for both similes and metaphors. When I started my Google search I hadn't had much hope of success looking for even one of the two.

What are similes?

Picture Credit: http://wronghands1.wordpress.com/

A simile is a comparison between two things that are kept separate. In short, it is to say that someone is as happy as a clam (an English cliche simile that probably isn't used in other languages this posting may be translated to). In a simile the comparison is limited. If I say that Hank is as happy as a clam, I am not indicating that he is as wealthy as a clam with a pearl. I am not saying that he has a shell like a clam, or any other comparison you may think of. I am limiting the comparison to Hank's state of happiness.

What are metaphors?

Picture Credit: http://www.sleuthsayers.org/search
A metaphor is comparing two things by saying that they are, in fact, the same thing. To reference my cartoon, it is to say that someone stabbed you in the back. If Mary says her friend stabbed her in the back (an English cliche metaphor), she is opening up the comparison to mean many things. Her friend hurt her just like stabbing would hurt. Her friend surprised her with the betrayal just as if she had been stabbed from behind. Her friend's betrayal was wrong just like stabbing a person is wrong. Any comparison that you can think of between stabbing a person in the back and betraying them would be considered right.

Why use similes and metaphors?

Similes and metaphors add to the effectiveness of writing if they are used correctly. Especially if the comparisons are ones that the reader hasn't heard/read before. They can help to paint a scene because they bring sharp pictures to the reader's mind. By showing how the characters are thinking and reacting to the things around them. If the main character confronts a tiger and the simile/metaphor used is something about how pretty the striped fur is, then obviously he or she has a reason to be calm. If the same character confronts a tiger and the simile/metaphor is about how horrible the teeth and claws are, then the reader will be more likely to envision the frightening situation and the character's fear.


Be careful with cliches. As with almost every rule, I disagree with the idea of NEVER using a cliche. But you need to understand that if you use a cliche then it will stand out. If you have a character that likes them then go for it sparingly. However, even a character that uses cliches will start to get old if he or she throws in too many. Just make sure that you have a reason any time you add any type of cliche.

Don't overuse this tool. Like most tools, similes and metaphors can be overused. They should be peppered in to add to the scenes. They should not take over the prose. How much is too much? I'm afraid you'll have to decide that on your own. Every person's writing style is different, which is a good thing. Some people use more than others. They best way to know if you should add more or take some away is to get feedback from an editor or from a reading group.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Interview with Elsie Park

I'm here introducing Elsie Park, a debut author and a friend whose book Shadows of Valor is coming out September 7, 2013.

Rachel - Before we talk about your writing, tell me a little about yourself. 

Elsie – First of all, Rachel, thank you so much for having me as a guest on your blog. I’m both honored and grateful *smile*.
I grew up in a small town outside Yosemite National Park, California, U.S.A. I enjoy playing soccer and the piano, reading, writing, art and spending time with family. Years ago I spent 18 months in Italy teaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. Seeing the castles and old Roman cities enhanced my fascination for ancient and medieval culture (unfortunately, my Italian is now a little rusty). In college I studied zoology, botany and criminal justice. I've worked as a wildland firefighter, security guard and a police officer, but I am currently a stay-at-home mother of three. I love thinking up new ideas for interesting stories and composing musical scores to go with them.

Rachel - You have had quite the career experiences in firefighting, law enforcement, and lately as a stay-at-home mom. How did you decide you wanted to be an author and how did you come up with the idea for your story?

Elsie - After leaving my careers behind to be a mother, it didn’t take long after having my first baby that I got antsy to do something more than just dishes, changing diapers and grocery shopping. I’ve always loved books, reading and watching good movies (especially historicals), so when some adventurous medieval scenes started invading my head, I thought, “Hey, those would make a good movie or excellent story if coupled with a good plot, but can  I really write a full-length novel? I’ve never done anything like that before. Hmm.Yes. Yes, I could . . . or at least I could try.” So on a whim I jotted my ideas down and my first step to writing Shadows of Valor was taken.

Rachel - What is “Shadows of Valor” about?

Elsie - Taking place in 1300 A.D. England, The Shadow (aka Sir Calan), a knight-spy working under the direction of King Edward I, hunts down and arrests smugglers who defy the law and evade paying their taxes. The Shadow’s duty is fueled by vengeance from a childhood experience against smugglers. Dealing with society at its worst, The Shadow becomes cynical and struggles to rein in his desire to execute lethal justice before turning the perpetrators over to local authorities. He feels his soul turning black with hate in his continual fight against evil. A childhood acquaintance, Lady Elsbeth, enters his life years later, bringing light to his soul once again, but in an effort to keep his identity and duty secret, he must also deceive her. This creates distrust and uncertainty between them, as she accepts another man as her suitor. Smugglers infiltrate the area and The Shadow must discover who they are before Elsbeth and others are hurt or killed.

Rachel - What made you decide to place your story in the medieval time period?

Elsie - I have always loved fantastical and historical stories about princesses, knights, pirates, Vikings, wizards, dragons, and anything adventurous in another time. I don’t dislike contemporary stories, but since I’m already living a contemporary life, I often want to read about times and places far from my own. I like to get lost in unknown worlds . . . places I don’t experience everyday. I chose 1300 A.D. England because I like the clothing, and King Edward’s wool tax causing some people to smuggle their goods. Created a great backdrop for an exciting story. Also drawn to the poems in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings written by J.R.R. Tolkien, I also wrote ballads into my story, even composing the written music for them. I’ve included a medieval recipe in there as well. My awesome publisher gave me the unique opportunity to compile two of my songs into a 2-minute score for my visual book trailer too. I was flattered and elated to take part in it.

Rachel - Do you have a favorite character in your book and what makes him/her your favorite?

Elsie – Besides my two main characters being my obvious favorites, I also like one of my minor characters, Sir Giles. He brings a lighter feel to the story with his humor and easy-going manner. He constantly has some sort of food in hand as he’s ever snacking on victuals or looking for the next meal – a tribute to all those who, like my husband, can eat and eat but never gain weight. Unfortunately, I don’t fit into that special category, never gaining weight *smile*. Maybe I’m living a dream through that particular character *laugh*.

Rachel - Help me see inside your daily life. When do you work on your writing and what is your process like?

Elsie – Wow, I’m no authority on finding time to write. With the addition of two kids since I first started Shadows of Valor (I have a total of three now), I’ve had less time to dedicate to writing. But this is what I TRY to do: After taking my oldest to school and then working out for an hour, I spend a half hour to an hour on social media before attacking my house chores. After the dishes, laundry, grocery shopping, feeding the kids and putting the youngest down for a nap, I feel I can jump on the computer again to beat out a few pages of manuscript. This doesn’t always happen as distracting things tend to pop up, but this is what I try to do. I sometimes stay up after the kids have gone to bed and write a bit, but I lose a lot of sleep and tend to be a cranky, tired mommy the next day, so I don’t do that very often.

Rachel - What is the hardest part of being an author? What is the best part?

Elsie – For me, the hardest part about being a debut author is getting my name known, but with social media and gracious people and friends who allow other authors to answer interview questions on their blog, it makes this task easier. The best part about being an author is imagining fun and exciting stories and writing them out so others can read and share the adventure with me. 

Rachel - What have you found that helps you out the most in the editing process?

Elsie – My secret editing weapon is my sweet mother, who majored in journalism, worked as a reporter for the Deseret News before she was married, and proofread all my rewrites. She’s a saint! But when I’ve edited on my own, I’ve found sticking to the basic rules of grammar is the most helpful. I also listen to what seasoned authors suggest about grammar and editing, and I apply their knowledge. When I sit down to edit (something an author doesn’t ever look forward to) I just DO IT, even though I know the process will take a while. Some things I try to avoid in my writing is the overuse of “–ly” verbs, the word “that”, similes and clich├ęs. I also love the “find” and “change” option on my writing program so I can find and change certain words within seconds throughout the entire manuscript. I also print out my manuscript at some point and read it on paper. Things just look different on paper than they do on the computer screen, and I catch mistakes on paper that I didn’t catch on the screen. I also read my manuscript aloud at some point to see how well my sentences flow while speaking them. If they don’t flow, seem too wordy, or I stumble over the syntax, I change it up.

Rachel - Can you tell me a little about what you’re working on now?

Elsie – I’m working on another story that takes place several years after Shadows of Valor. I’ve taken a minor character from Shadows of Valor and have weaved a story around him. The story takes place in England again, but ventures into Scotland as well, drawing on the historical happenings and battles that took place between the countries at that time. You don’t need to read Shadows of Valor to read my next book. Though they share a common character, it’s not a sequel. It’s a separate story.

Rachel - Do you have a favorite author?

Elsie – Oh boy, this is a hard one because I love so many authors. No, I don’t have ONE favorite author, but there are some who stand out in my mind as writers who have produced stories that are unforgettable to me. I love these authors and their timeless stories: Jane Austin, JRR Tolkien, and Charles Dickens.

Rachel - Where can readers find more information about you and “Shadows of Valor”?

Shadows of Valor will be released September 7, 2013 through Jolly Fish Press. It can be ordered from any bookstore including Barnes and Noble and Amazon and will be available in hard cover, paperback and e-readers (including Kindle, Nook, and Kobo e-readers, and can be downloaded to any tablet, smartphone, or computer). I’m excited over the release of Shadows of Valor, and I hope people will love the story and my music as much as I loved writing and composing it.

Elsie Park’s contact information:
Twitter - @elsiepark1

To schedule a book signing, appearance, or interview, contact my publicist, Kirk Cunningham: kirk@jollyfishpress.com or me: elsie_rees@hotmail.com

Monday, July 1, 2013

PBS is a Great Start

Picture Credit: http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/influenza-
I have to give a shout-out for PBS's series American Experience.

For the last several years I have been playing with the idea of writing about the Spanish Flu Epidemic. But there has always been one thing that has stopped me: I write fantasy. I didn't want to be that author--you know who I mean--the one who jumps around from genre to genre so much that even once they publish something they can't keep any fans. Besides, I believe in the series that I've been working on.

Well, a few months back I decided to test the waters by doing a little research on the Spanish Flu. I went to my local library and checked out PBS's American Experience: Influenza 1918. I was amazed at how wonderful it was. PBS doesn't do things half-way. It was a quality production. Further, their website gives more detail about the epidemic as well as good recommendations for books and websites where I could learn more. Check out their site here. The information they presented, along with their suggested sources, gave me a great spring board into what I have studied every spare hour since then.

Now that I have spent a few months buried up to my eyeballs in research, I am ready to formally announce myself as a historical fiction author. The fantasy books I was working on are going back on the shelf--at least for now. I have to admit, though, as sad as I am to say goodbye to my old plans, I am equally excited about my new plans. And maybe one day I can dust off my old fantasy manuscripts and try them out again.