From Leslie’s Pen


Greetings!  It’s been a while since I’ve blogged, and even longer since I’ve done my guest spots. 

Have y’all missed me? As one of my writing buddies has been saying, I’ve been working on a “super secret” project. Only, in my case, I suppose it hasn’t been super secret. I think I shared here that I was invited to be a part of this project for Cancer Research. 

So while I’ve had my nose to the grindstone plugging away on my short story for this,  I thought I’d let Leslie Moise have the platform today. Please give a warm welcome to Leslie!!

Five or six mornings a week, after I eat breakfast and let out my dog, I write.  Most often, I sit down in the comfy chair by my window overlooking the woods and close my eyes.  Then I ask a character in my novel-in-progress what she wants, or what he’s afraid of, or how she feels.  I keep still until the character walks me up to me in my mind and shows me the answer.  Then I open my eyes and write down what she’s done or experienced.

A couple of decades ago, my friend Rita and I attended a writers retreat led by author Louise Hawes.  She taught the participants how to listen to our characters and to write down what they genuinely did and wanted, instead of forcing them to do and feel what we thought they should.  Have you ever read a book and felt the characters didn’t ring true and the action felt forced?  The author must’ve had her own agenda and was making the characters move about in the book like stick puppets.  At that workshop, I learned to keep faith with my characters–and my readers.
For example, years later, I listened to each of my characters while I drafted my historical novel, _Judith_.  There were a number of times when I felt certain what Judith showed me could not be historically accurate.  I’ll change that after I fully research it and revise the manuscript, I thought.  Imagine my shock during research when I saw what Judith had shown me depicted on Assyrian tiles commemorating wars won by the Assyrian army.
But what about those mornings when life gets too disruptive for me to sit down in my armchair, or at my desk?  Like the week my 89-year-old father had stomach flu.  Or the day after I only slept for four very broken hours, and had minor surgery scheduled that afternoon.  Non-writers may imagine those are the times when a writer settles on the sofa with a glass of Merlot and binge watches a favorite series on Netflix.  People who think of writing as a hobby might treat days like these–when the muse is mute or unavailable–as days when the writer shouldn’t even try to write.  Reality is more prosaic and more inventive than that.
I may not produce lots of words on any given day–even a good day–but cumulatively, I produce many pages in a week.  And I average a drafted novel in a year, plus who knows how many poems, the occasional essay, and so on.
On those difficult days, I at least make notes for questions to ask my character/s on a better day, jot ideas about character dynamics (like who tends to see themselves as a victim, who is a bully, and so on).  At the very least, I do some preliminary research about how doors were hinged in 70 B.C.E., or the types of workboats commonly used on the Chesapeake Bay.   And I take at least one action a day to help promote my books already in print, submit a poem to a literary magazine, or contact an agent about my newest manuscript.
If I only get to take an action to promote my work in the morning, I may squeeze in some revision time in the afternoon.  Though I draft the best in the morning, when I’m fresh, revision or editing can work later in the day.
Before my stroke five years ago, I took a Client Attraction Seminar led by Sandie Griffin.  We talked about the importance of taking time off as part of the creative process.  Up until then, I never took a day off from writing, and felt guilty when circumstances meant I couldn’t write on a particular day.  Now, I choose a day or two to take away from writing each week, and if a day happens when I can’t write, I choose that as one of my days off.  But I try not to take many days in a row away from writing.  A day off after several at work refreshes; too much time away from the notepad and pen, or the keyboard, makes it difficult to get back into the flow.
There is a benefit to keeping my writing a priority:
When life happens and I can’t do any drafting for several days in a row
–when I can’t manage more than jotting those questions to ask my characters later, the way I had to when Dad had flu–something inspiring happens.  Decades ago, when I only wrote when the muse struck, this didn’t happen.  But now, if I don’t write for several days in a row, a poem will pop up, often later in the afternoon of the third or fourth day.
My mother died a year and a half ago.  For most of that time, I drafted poems about and for her, but none of them came alive.  Then, several days into Dad’s bout of flu, early one evening I read an article about spark birds, the bird that sparks a birder’s interest in birding–learning about them.  It set me thinking about my own spark bird, and a poem rolled through me about watching birds with my mother.  Neither of us knew or cared which birds we saw, but now I easily identify all the birds that come to my feeders.  I wrote about the Juncos my mother called “milk birds”, my spark bird.  I wrote about my love for birding that grew out of the love I shared with my mother.
It turns out that I’ve shown up for writing so often and so long, now if I don’t show up to write, writing shows up for me.  I am not the only writer I know of who’s had this happen.  A poet friend of mine would have poems force themselves into her daily life if she couldn’t find time to write when life got busy.  She worked at a meat counter in a butcher shop, and if a poem thrust itself on her at work, she jotted many a draft on butcher’s paper between customers.
Writing is like jogging.  If you do a little bit most days, soon you find yourself running longer, faster, farther.  It’s not about how much you accomplish in one day, especially if your life interrupts your writing time that day.  It’s about how much you write in a week, a month, a year–a lifetime.
No matter what life throws at you today, carve out five minutes to write.  Sit down with a notepad in your lap, if nothing else.  Put pen to paper, and write for that five minutes, even if it’s just wondering about your character, jotting down a poem idea, capturing a few ideas for an essay.  Sitting and staring out the window doesn’t count.  Writing does.  By keeping creativity’s door open for little things, you make it more likely big ideas may show up eventually, over time.
P.S.  I drafted a chunk of this blog post after a night of little to no sleep.  If I can do it, so can you.
Thank you Leslie, for sharing this insight. I hope you’ll come back and be my guest again soon! 
Leslie Moise’s historical novel, _Judith_, won a grant from the Kentucky Foundation for Women, as well as an International Book Award Finalist Medal in 2015.  _Judith_ and Moise’s knitting memoir, _Love is the Thread_, are published by Pearlsong Press, and are available on the Pearlsong site, as well as Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Powells.
Her poetry chapbook about her friendship with another woman writer, _Linked by the Joy of Words_, is published by R. C. Linnell Publishing, and is also available on Amazon.
She lives in Louisville, Kentucky, on a bluff overlooking the Ohio River.  She is on Facebook and welcomes discussion with other writers and fans.
Go check out Leslie’s books and follow her!
Trying to get back into my schedule for my blog posts, and now that the end is in sight for this one,  I have a little breathing room.
Write on my friends, write on!
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BADASS Tour Begins with Guest Shiv Ramdas


Welcome to the kickoff post for my

Bodacious Author Discussion And Spotlight Summer!

badass tour

Yeah it’s a long name,  go for the acronym.

Periodically, from now until the end of summer I will be hosting authors to discuss, share excerpts from their books, and/ or interviews.  There are some amazing authors in my writing community. I wanted to share their work with my readers.  If it’s not your genre, that’s cool too.  Maybe you’ll like the next one. If you’re looking for something new, maybe you’ll see one that sparks your interest!

I  love when I get to do author interviews.  I have the privilege to be friends with some interesting authors that write in various genres. I have rather eclectic taste,  not always sticking to the same thing.  I read or have read across the genres as I’m sure most of you have as well.

My guest today is Shiv Ramdas, author of Domechild.  A dystopian futuristic science fiction treat.

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Welcome Shiv, to my little corner of the world.  I read that you are a former radio host. Care to talk about that at all?

Well, it’s something I sort of dropped into and found that I quite enjoyed, because music has always  been something that’s really important to me.  It’s also a great learning experience from a writing point of view, because the one thing radio does teach you and fairly quickly is to have a healthy respect for the imagination of your listener. I found it to be an excellent signpost while writing too.  One mistake writers often make is over-describing everything from people, settings and even internal monologues and gestures.

Christopher Paolini is an example that springs to mind.  In radio, you learn pretty quickly that one of the tools available to you as a writer is your listener’s imagination. It takes a bit of a leap of faith to do it, I understand, but once you do, you’ll realise not doing it is essentially abjuring a very powerful tool in the creative process.

In short, I see it as a trade-off. As writers, we ask the reader for willing suspension of disbelief.  If in return we give them new places to explore – explore as distinguished from merely being told about  – well, that’s one way of making the whole greater than the sum of the parts, in my opinion.

 How have you found the traditional publishing experience? (Things you didn’t know that were surprising to you, things you didn’t like – whatever stood out in your mind.)

It’s been interesting to say the least. The one thing you learn, and very quickly, is finding a publisher, whether it’s a small one or a Big 5 as I was fortunate enough to manage, is not the end of the story as one tends to imagine in the days of pounding away at the keyboard, it’s just about the beginning. Whether you’re Indie or trad,  that’s one constant thing.

I’d say that if you do go trad, always keep in mind that your publisher is there to help you and even provide certain resources but at the end of the day, it’s still your book. A large publisher will do perhaps 250 books a year – you’ll do one or 2.

Own it.

I’ve seen a lot of writers just sort of get detached from their own books because a publisher signed them – which is a terrible mistake,  in my opinion.  At the end of the day, an editor may well believe in you and your book with a passion, but it’s still your baby. Your child may have great teachers at school, but that doesn’t absolve you from your responsibility as a parent. That seems like the most appropriate analogy I can think of at the moment.

 What inspired your idea for this book?

A conversation I had with a friend actually. It began in a workspace cubicle over a running joke about how his computer hated him because it hated his job. That was when I first started thinking about free will in the context of AI,  whether artificial life had inalienable rights too, as we tend to believe intelligent life does, and perhaps most crucially to the story, what would happen if humans were to face a Gandhi in an AI context  – a machine that  not only wanted freedom but was prepared to use unflinching non violent resistance to get there. It was a thought that really moved me – and eventually led me to write Domechild.

Can you explain a bit of your development process – how it comes to you. Like do you see the characters, you created them to suit your story, or a combination or something else? 

The best way to describe it that I can think of is the glasses with several different lenses that the optician makes you wear during an eye test. First it’s all blurry, and then as lenses get added or taken away, more and more of the letters on the screen come into focus and the clarity improves till you reach a point of optimum visibility where you can see everything you need to. That in a nutshell, is my process.

What do you think is the most important element in great writing?

Great is a very abused word these days, in my opinion, along with genius.  As for writing, can one isolate elements in great writing? I’m not sure. Would a cake with fantastic icing be a great cake or just one with great icing? Great writing is about several distinct elements that come together and somehow manage to form a whole that’s better than each of them, or even all of them together. Characters, plot, turn of phrase and many other things, they all play a part, but in my opinion for something to be truly great, it has to actually supersede the building blocks that make it so. The Taj Mahal is not great because it has a great dome, or great proportions – it has something else too, that’s a bit undefinable , but stands out so strongly it’s the first thing that hits you.

That is a “great” analogy. I would have to agree that great writing for me,  is the combination of all the parts that work together like an orchestra. Where do you write? Do you have a designated spot – a desk, or an office?

I have a desk, which I don’t use as much as I’d like. What I always need though, is a bit of space around my desk to pace – I do most of my thinking and plotting while walking.

What things inspire you and how does that inspiration manifest?

Anything and everything. It’s hard to say.  Something one sees, hears, notices, or even randomly thinks about with no context whatsoever. But in my opinion, the single greatest harbinger of inspiration is the two simple words “what if…”

Have you been reading my blog?  I can’t count how many posts I’ve made about  “what if”.  I would have to agree with you on that one, it’s  the best inspiration for me as well.  What would you say was your worst bad habit with your writing?

Editing while I write. I know one shouldn’t, but 2 books in, I still haven’t figured out how to manage not doing it.

Which is more daunting, beginning or the perseverance to finish, or cutting the “umbilical cord”?

Well, all three, actually. It’s as James Scott Bell said – the point of block varies from case to case (I’d say book to book) and it’s not a block, it’s The Wall. One must find a way to get over, under, around or through, but get past one must whether one prefers a ladder or a sledgehammer.

*laughs loudly* Thanks for that image.  Now I have this image of Shiv with a sledge-hammer running towards the dome screaming. Do you struggle with discouragement, distractions, or lack of motivation?

Discouragement, not so much. I’ve been tremendously lucky in my first book, both with what happened and how it’s been received. There are times you doubt your output in terms of quality but I’ve realized the best thing to do is plug on. I’ve discovered that when one goes back, separating the good days from the bad is harder than one realizes.

What advice would you offer to aspiring authors?

Never believe the people who say you aren’t good. Never believe the ones who say you are. Keep writing.

Have you ever jotted down your idea on a napkin, torn bag, wrapper, or sketched a quick drawing of an item on any of the above?

Quite the opposite. I rarely jot down ideas. I always have a ton in my head, and I use the ability of an idea to break through the clutter as the first filter of quality, so to speak.

Is there a celebrity that has inspired one of your characters? If so who?  

No, not really. I tend not to base my characters on real people, at least not consciously.

 

Are you up for the Fast & Furious Challenge? You answer with the first thing that pops into your head.

 Ready?

Plotter or Pantser? Plotting Pantser.

Favorite author? Herbert, Le Guin, Tolkien, Philip K Dick, Douglas Adams, Pratchett, Wodehouse. You can pick one because I can’t 😀

Always the rule breaker! GAH –  it’s ok though because I couldn’t pick just one either, 

Favorite book? The Mahabharata or Dune. Both are eons ahead of their time and tell these vast, overarching stories with ramifications far beyond just the journeys of the characters.

Hobby? (ies?) Reading, music,  and  a bit of gaming too. It’s a fantastic way both to play out certain scenarios as well as just let thoughts settle in the back of your mind and cook themselves.

Favorite drink: When I’m working, tea or coffee – I’m equally fond of both. When I’m not, anything with chocolate in it.

Favorite snack while writing: I tend not to eat when I’m working, actually.

That’s good,  it avoids crumbs in the keyboard. Favorite celebration meal:  Seafood.

What music do you listen to while writing or do you: I always work in silence, actually.

Name two foods you cannot stand: Kale and bitter gourd. They are proof that everything about this planet is not good.

What is bitter gourd? Funniest moment online:   Probably the time when I woke up to 3 friend requests from random people called Shiv Ram Das and variations thereof.  Or the time I first discovered “Stick win everytime” or any of the other hilarious things the internet is so good at providing out of the blue.

Best day in the past year: Easy. Day I finished the first draft of the sequel. Yesterday.

Wow that must be an awesome feeling! There you have it folks, the down and dirty on Shiv!   Isn’t he awesome to play along?

 

DOMECHILD

A SUICIDAL MACHINE.  A CHILD WITH A SECRET THAT CAN CHANGE THE WORLD.

THE MAN TRAPPED BETWEEN THEM.
In the City, where machines take care of everything, lives Albert, an ordinary citizen with an extraordinary problem: He’s being blackmailed into becoming the first person in living memory to actually do something.
What begins as a chance encounter with an outlaw child swiftly spirals out of control as Albert is trapped between the authorities and the demands of his unusual blackmailer. Forced to go on the run for his life, he finds himself in a shadow world of cyber-junkies, radicals and rebels, where he discovers the horrifying truth behind the City, a truth that will make him question everything he has ever known.

 

Author Bio: – Shiv Ramdas has hosted radio shows, sold advertising space, helped design sets and worked in both print and online media. He has also written advertisements, radio jingles, and numerous resignation letters. Domechild is his first novel.

shiv

 

Write on my friends, write on!