Who Do You Look Like?

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I remember standing in my paternal grandmother’s living room being asked that question. Her neighbor came over to visit, took one look at my older sister and saw the family resemblance. She gazed over at me, studied me up and down and asked the question, “Who do you look like?”

I was quite young at the time, maybe five or six, and refused to answer. My mother always referred to that reaction as being a stubborn Swede. Stubborn Swede or not, I didn’t like the question. What did she care who I looked like? My sister was my sister and so what if we didn’t look alike? If I had the nerve I do now, I might have answered, “the mailman.”

Maybe that’s why, to this day, I have such trouble describing people in my novels. I’m always stumped when it comes to descriptions. I’m aware people want to know the color of the romantic lead’s eyes or the hero’s hair color. Is the character tall or short? Lean or has muscles? Then it’s on to the lead female character. Full lips? Flowing hair or cropped short? I could go on and on.

Descriptions are important in a novel so I started a folder of character traits. Whenever I come across one I like, I add it to the list. I found a website that describes eye color, not just the green, blue, brown but all the shades in between. Definitely a keeper!

All authors have their own personal stumbling blocks. Mine happens to be descriptions. It carries over to scenery and clothes, too. To help the process, I study pictures, close my eyes to envision my character, and write and keep rewriting until it flows. It’s a type of writer’s block and can halt the whole writing process.

I guess you’re wondering if I ever gave that neighbor an answer. I’m sure my dad wasn’t too happy with my silence and prodded me to speak. I remember that day as clear as if it was yesterday. I finally did answer the question, “Who do you look like?” I looked her straight in the eye and uttered just one word, “Me.”

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Summer Writing Series: It’s All in the Mind

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Summer Writing Series continues! I am excited at the response I’ve had from my author friends and can’t wait to share them with you. There are so many eclectic ideas and writers. I want to introduce you to another YA author from Fire and Ice—Erin Elliot.

Erin is a girl after my own heart. She had me at…the idea for her book started in her head. I can identify with that and how a story unfolds in the mind. There are many ways to write a story and that is just one of them. Read on to find out about how another young adult author, Erin Elliot, writes her novels.

My Writing Process

Until the last year, I didn’t have an answer for this. Sure, I had always wanted to be a writer and until I actually started the process, I thought it was something that was easily accomplished, but I found out just how wrong I was. It all starts with an idea. For me, I work out that idea in my head. I decide what I want to name my main characters, what I want the title to be, and how ultimately, I would like the book to end. Then the fun part, or the most nerve-wracking part for me, begins. Some people have trouble motivating their self to write on a daily basis until their story is done. Me, I have trouble making myself take breaks, especially when my characters are screaming at me, begging me to write their stories down. This is the part that weighs the most heavily on my mind and I literally feel like my brain is trying to implode. You know that feeling when you’re taking a test, that’s what it feels like for me only ten times worse. It’s both a horrible and wonderful feeling, which consumes my life until I get the story all down.

Then comes the various stages of editing. For me, this part isn’t quite as tedious, but it is time consuming. In my case, I revise my story, have my oldest son look at it and give me his opinion, and then I revise it again. I also have beta readers look at it and give me input on what needs to be changed and what is working really well. Basically, I’m cleaning it up to show off to the huge world of publishing. Getting into the publishing companies or literary agencies is a whole other story and one that takes a great deal of time. My best advice to this point is believe in yourself, believe in your story, and don’t give up.

Once, my book has been contracted, I begin working on the next story idea until my book is ready to go through the final editing process. I learned through my first round of edits, that this can be very personal and sometimes very painful. It’s not easy to let someone else read your work and at the same time, tear it apart in order to make it the very best that it can be. It’s a necessary evil and it helps to keep an open mind as well as a good working relationship with your editor and proofer. They mean well and they want your story to sell, too.

When I first stepped foot into the world of writing I, like so many people, thought it would be a simple process, without hardly any work involved. Since becoming engrossed in this world, I have learned quite the opposite holds true. Writing books is a difficult and extraordinarily personal event. You put your heart and soul into a book for the world to read. It is time consuming as well as thought consuming. Is it something that I love? Yes, writing books has become a passion and I encourage everyone who has the courage to write, to do so. The rewards far outweigh the amount of work that goes into it.

Erin has just released the first book of her series. Find her here:

Fire and Ice Young Adult Books

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Four Novel Questions

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Today I am doing something a little different. I’ve been sent four questions to answer on my blog.

I want to thank author Brenda Ashworth Barry for the questions.

1.) What am I working on?

I just finished releasing my young adult trilogy—Waiting for Dusk, Call of the Canyon and Stealing Time. Many readers love the characters from 1927.  It suddenly made perfect sense to write a historical romance novel involving Anna and Lucinda, Kate’s friends from the past. They start their journey in boarding school and the reader will find out how they made their way out west and what caused their falling out. Look for it Winter 2015. Besides that, I am working on a contemporary novel with a touch of fantasy. My character goes to a Medieval Faire and has flashbacks to another life.

2.) How does my work differ from others in its genre?

I like to write in a contemporary setting and then weave in a little fantasy. I hope the reader can visualize it happening to them. My Waiting for Dusk series is about time travel. A book makes the travel happen. There’s no time machine involved. I’ve read other novels where the main character drove through a storm in a car and ended up in medieval times.  In another, the character has no control when it happens and just vanishes. I haven’t found a novel where a book is the culprit.

3.) Why do I write what I do?

I was an elementary school teacher for 30 years. I gravitate toward children and young adult books.  I’ve always enjoyed the characters of Beverly Cleary’s Ramona the Pest and the lessons in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I never really planned on writing or becoming an author. I wrote short stories when I was in school. Then I was busy being a wife, mother and teacher.
Visiting National Parks became a recent passion. My husband and I had just returned from the Grand Canyon. A PBS series about National Parks was going to air and we decided to watch. My mind drifted to another place. I began thinking about the recent park visit, the history I just watched and how fun it might be to have a young girl move between the past and present. I had no intention of writing a novel. So it literally happened overnight.

4.) How does my writing process work?

It develops in my mind. I think the whole story through and where I want to take it. I also keep a folder on my computer for research I’ve done. When I begin the actual process of writing the story, the characters might have other ideas. I like the fact that sometimes you change your mind right in the middle of writing. That’s the fun part of writing a novel.

You can find more about me here: Amazon Author Page