Category Archives: 2015 A to Z Challenge

Z is for Zeal

Z is for Zeal A to Z Challenge -- April J. MooreI’m glad there are only 26 letters in the alphabet. The 2015 A to Z Challenge has come to an end and I had great time, but I’m ready to scale back a bit. This is the first time I’ve participated in the blogging event and it was a fun time. Through the process, I’ve come across some wonderful writers who’ve now been added my blog reader. I’ve learned a great deal from them.

So, on to Z . . .

Zeal is defined as earnestness or fervor; a hearty and persistent endeavor. See ENTHUSIASM, my Oxford Pocket Dictionary and Thesaurus tell me. A fabulous word to end this challenge, don’t you think? 

Go write, my writer pals! Write with zeal, fervor, and enthusiasm! Don’t second-guess yourself; don’t over-think it; don’t stop to ask questions; just bring your best effort and write. 

Happy writing.

A to Z Challenge 2015

Y is for Yo Moment

Y is for Yo Moment 2015 A to Z Challenge -- April J. MooreThis is a tiny bit of a departure from my previous posts, but it still entails family. My late father-in-law was one amazing guy. Nearly eight years ago, he passed away from cancer just eight months after my own father succumbed to the disease. Maybe it’s a Dad-thing, but both guys would say “Yo!” But it turned into almost a signature expression for my father-in-law. 

Celebratory moments would garner a “Yo!” and fist bump from him—a simple expression and gesture that told you he was beaming with pride on the inside. We don’t superfluously throw around The Yo; only certain times warrant it and those are Yo Moments. That’s when you know it’s a big deal, such as when my last book came out, or when our son aced his 5th consecutive semester, or when The Husband got the promotion he had been hoping for. 

These Yo Moments are important. They carry us along as we continue to strive and push ourselves toward that next Yo Moment, when and wherever that may be. I encourage you to strive for your own Yo Moments, such as finishing that first draft, selling an article, or publishing a story. These are moments worth celebrating.

Y is for Yo 2015 A to Z Challenge -- April J. MooreThis is on the shelf in The Husband’s office as a reminder that life is full of moments. Go find them.

How do you celebrate your accomplishments?

A to Z Challenge 2015

X is for . . .

Having no idea what to write for my “X” post, I’ve put it off until the night before. Had I been writing about cult classics, I could have gone with “X-Files.” Or if I wrote erotica, “X-Rated” would be a given. But my theme is writing + old family photos . . . and here are my choices.
X is for . . . 2015 A to Z Challenge -- April J. MooreI suppose I could have gone with “Xtreme,” “Xerox,” “X marks the Spot,” “X-Factor,” “X-Games,” “X-mas,” but none of these jumped out at me. So this is how I feel about today’s letter of day:
X is for . . . 2015 A to Z Challenge -- April J. Moore

A to Z Challenge 2015

W is for Writers’ Block

W is for Writers' Block 2015 A to Z Challenge -- April J. MooreThere’s a wall there, you just can’t see it. Apparently, my sister wasn’t in the mood to smile. I tried to help, but there was no getting through that wall. Blocked. That’s how I felt for a while because I had been struggling with what to write next. I’m not a big fan of the term writers’ block and I think we give it more power than it deserves. Maybe that’s why I’m so big on writing prompts—they can get you going when you’re stalled in the writing process. 

Look, the muse doesn’t give a shit if you’re staring at your computer screen, fingers poised on the keyboard, asking nicely for some inspiration. In fact, I’m convinced muses revel in watching us suffer, which is why you have to take charge. If you’re struggling with a scene in your WIP, get away from it. Distance can be the exactly what you need in order to come back with a fresh mind. Over at The Writing Bug, I recently wrote about using pencil and paper to get out all my thoughts—every possibility, every angle, every idea, and it worked; it got me my new novel idea.
Pencil to Paper -- April J. Moore
I also recently picked up The Amazing Story Generator that creates thousands of story ideas. 
The Amazing Story Generator -- April J. MooreThis book combines random settings, characters, and conflicts; the rest is up to you. That’s how I feel about writers’ block—it’s up to you. You’re the only one who can get yourself past a lull in your writing, so don’t count on being struck over the head with an idea while you’re binge watching on Netflix. That can happen, but, again, don’t count on it. You’re a writer; so write. No matter how crappy it is, it’s writing—and it will lead somewhere.  

How do you get going again when you’re stalled in your writing?

A to Z Challenge 2015

V for Vested

V is for Vested 2015 A to Z Challenge -- April J. MooreThis is my grandmother holding her first grandchild—my sister. Even before Amy was born, Grandma had a vested interest in her. No monies, just love. Of course the gains on that investment repaid ten fold. 

We often hear writers reference their books as their babies. There’s a lot of truth to this: we labor over it for months, or years and it can be painful and joyous. Just as squeezing something the size of a football out of something the size of pea, is one helluva accomplishment, so is writing a book—usually. (Not to minimize childbirth, but go with me on this.)

In addition to time, writers put a lot of blood, sweat, and plenty of tears, into their work, so to say they have a vested interest in their book, is an understatement. Being emotionally vested is no joke. The idea, would be that in return for the emotional turmoil of writing a fantastic book, the writer gets paid (yes, please) and that the book receives high praise. Right? We all want to experience some level of success, that of which, is different for everyone.

Do you feel this way about your work? Do you feel devastated if your work isn’t received as well as you hoped? Do you think that the amount of work you put forth into your writing is worth every writing hour; every rip-you-hair-out moment; every agonizing editing session? Or is it easier for you to cut your losses and move on if a writing investment doesn’t go as planned? 

Where do you draw the line between love and business?

A to Z Challenge 2015

U is for Uncertainty

U is for Uncertainty 2015 A to Z Challenge -- April J. MooreUh, there’s some uncertainty going on here . . .

But not us writers, right? I mean come on, whoever heard of such a ridiculous thing? I mean, if there was ever a group of people more certain about what they do, it’s wri—

Ahem.

*Covers mic*

*Frantic whispering*

What?!

*Embarrassed look + nervous laugh*

Uh, well, apparently I might be wrong about that . . .

Yeah. Covered, wrapped, coated, slathered and dipped in uncertainty and self-doubt; that’s how we writers roll—at least once in a while. Will people like it? Will readers “get it?” Am I making a fool of myself? Uncertainty can get us into trouble. It can stop us in our tracks and derail our progress. It can make us over-think everything, thus, hinder ourselves. It can cause great works from ever getting read at all.

When you feel this way, here’s what I suggest:

  • Try to establish why you’re uncertain. Is the work offensive? Poorly written or executed? So personal you’re afraid of how it’ll be received? Pinpoint the WHY.
  • Let someone whom you trust for an honest opinion, read it. 
  • Decide what to do with their advice, then move the f*!@ on. 
  • If you can’t shake the uncertainty, give yourself some distance and write something new, then come back to the work in question, with some clarity. 

A lot of uncertainty comes from our insecurities. Banish those right now, otherwise, they’ll always get the best of you—and your work.

How do you deal with uncertainty as a writer?

A to Z Challenge 2015

T is for Trends

T is for Trends 2015 A to Z Challenge -- April J. Moore

As you can see back in 1985, my sister and I were rocking a few trends: Banana-seat bikes, leg warmers, and those heated curlers called Benders.
BendersThey were all the rage, let me tell you. Okay, trendsetters, we were not. 

When it comes to writing, do you think it’s important to follow trends?

I don’t know about you, but by the time I’ve identified a trend in writing, it’s already too late to cash in. In fact, I’ve heard agents say to never follow trends; just write a great book. Andy Ward, Nonfiction Editorial Director at Random House says, “Most of the books I work on take two to four years from acquisition to publication, so I feel in some ways that trying to predict trends is a recipe for frustration or even failure. I look for books that have the potential to survive any given moment, that either present ideas or writing that will be as interesting two years from now as they are today. So I guess the trend I try to follow is quality, whenever possible.”

Usually, what dictates a trend, is an uber-popular book. Agents saw a flurry of wizard books after the first Harry Potter. After Fifty Shades of Grey, agents were inundated with BDSM. In 2008, Writer’s Digest reported that in the Romance genre, vampires and paranormal subjects were hot. For thrillers, “terrorism” was on the top of the list, and “sexy, tongue-and-cheek urban fantasy” was taking over the sci-fi/fantasy market.

Jump to 2015 . . . here’s a list of what agents and editors are hoping for. They may not become trends, but it’s good to know what they want.

  • Less dark and gritty dystopian YA, and “back into interesting worlds with strong characters and intriguing plot setups.”
  • No more heroines who think they’re weak and lack confidence (thank you!)
  • YA that features more diversified characters, particularly those with disabilities. 
  • In Science Fiction, “LGBT characters are becoming more prevalent—less a major plot point and more just a character trait.” 
  • Science Fiction with thriller/suspense elements.
  • One editor expects to “see a lot of bighearted, outlandish eccentricity in the next year or so. . .look for a lot of color and spice this year. Imagination is paramount.” (The Last Illusion, 2. a.m. at the Cat’s Pajama’s, and Preparing the Ghost.)
  • Sophisticated voices with contemporary themes that can crossover from YA to adult.
  • YA mysteries and thrillers are in high demand.
  • Less angst and more fun: “it should be time soon for lighter, frothier material to come back.”
  • Historicals set in unconventional settings and time periods.

(source)

So there you have it; now go write.

What trends are you hoping will die off? And what do you see making it’s way to bookstores?

A to Z Challenge 2015

S is for Subjective

S for Subjective 2015 A to Z Challenge -- April J. MooreNot everyone will like your book. Some will love it, while others might say, “meh.” Like art, books are subjective. Readers come from all walks of life, carrying with them, different perspectives and life experiences. These play a huge role in whether or not they like a particular book. Even Book-zillas like The Help, The DaVinci Code, and Pulitzer Prize winner, The Gold Finch, were not liked by some. It happens.

If you’re lucky enough to get any feedback from an agent regarding your query, sometimes their response includes a line about the book industry being subjective. Hence, don’t give up. It’s true. Yesterday, I talked about how my mom and I share books and more often than not, we have differing opinions on them. She and I are a lot alike, so it’s interesting to see that we don’t always like the same books. But that’s how it is sometimes. 

This is so important to keep in mind when getting a not-so-good review on Amazon, or receiving a rejection from an agent; it’s subjective. (However, when they all start pointing out the same things, you might want to investigate whether or not these things should be fixed.) Otherwise, ignore them and move on.

Subjectivity is something we just have to deal with; you can’t please everyone. 

Any advice for dealing with an agent’s rejection, and/or those who leave a less-than-positive review? 

A to Z Challenge 2015

R is for Reading

R is for Reading 2015 A to Z Challenge -- April J. MooreBy now, we’re all probably aware of the quote from Stephen King about the importance of reading if you want to write: “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” I think he knows a thing or two about writing, so I take serious heed of this particular piece of advice.

My mom has always been an avid reader and passed this habit onto me early in life. We enjoy sharing books with one another and discussing what we both think of them.

So read, dammit. It’s all part of learning the craft of writing. Don’t limit yourself to writing magazines and books on the craft, but novels, nonfiction . . . you name it. I’m in a book club and because we all have different tastes, I end up reading books I wouldn’t ordinarily pick up. I’ve come across some wonderful books and authors this way. 

Reading great books inspires and teaches. As with most other professions, you wouldn’t dive in without seeing how others do it, right? Books allow you to discover the many different ways of plotting, character development, storytelling, and writing beautiful prose. 

Even if you only have ten minutes a day to read, that’s all right, because I have a feeling that those ten minutes will eventually turn into twenty, thirty, sixty minutes . . .

What are you reading these days?

A to Z Challenge 2015

Q is for Quirky

Q is for Quirky 2015 A to Z Challenge -- April J. MooreMy dad’s not necessarily being quirky here; acting silly, really. But you get the idea. Readers like characters who have peculiar behavioral habits, or quirks. It’s what makes them interesting, endearing, engaging . . . and human. When you think about it, we all have these idiosyncrasies to some extent, (which we may not recognize in ourselves) so we may forget to give our characters these reader-loving traits. Chances are, some of your favorite movie, television, and literary characters have quirks—they’re part of why they’re your favorite.

Maybe your character . . .

  • Laughs at inappropriate times.
  • Rocks back and forth while waiting in line, or standing in a crowd at a party.
  • Has an adverse physical reaction to those who misuse grammar while speaking.
  • Straightens up unfolded towels in other people’s bathroom, or messy clothing in a department store.

Check out this list of character traits and quirks that you’re welcome to steal.

Do you make it a point to incorporate quirky habits in character development? 

A to Z Challenge 2015

P is for Portrayal

P is for Portrayal 2015 A to Z Challenge -- April J. MooreI admit, this is fairly broad, so let’s stick to characters here. Readers want to fall in love with characters; they just do. We crave connections with other humans, even if those humans are fictional. Usually, when we swoon over a book, it’s because characters left an impression.

Readers don’t have to “fall in love” with characters though to enjoy them. Make them memorable. How you realistically portray your characters can make or break a reader’s overall enjoyment of the book.

How do you do this? Here’s a few suggestions.

1. Dialog. Readers should have a clue into the character’s personality by their first few lines of dialog. Do they ramble on when they’re excited? Get discombobulated when they’re angry? Using punctuation–without going overboard–is a way to also show their emotions when speaking. Try to reveal a piece of your character with every line they speak. How they talk to a bank teller or a TSA agent, is very telling about a person, so think about the little things. A great example of this is The Rosie Project by Greame Simsion and Gillian Flynn’s Dark Places

2. Use of the five senses. Author Ken Harmon, in my critique group, is always reminding us of this, which is good, because we tend to forget how important this is. Incorporating your character’s reactions to their surroundings gives the reader a deeper POV and insight into the character. How would they react to going into the house of a cat-hoarding agoraphobic? By using the five senses, you’re not only creating a richer scene, you’re developing the character’s personality, which readers love. This is where all that showing (instead of telling) comes in handy. For help, envision yourself in the scene, then try it with different people in your life: your spouse, your mother, or your sister. 

3. Body language and gestures. As I’ve mentioned before, 55% of communication is nonverbal. Even if we don’t realize it (which is probably most of the time), we express ourselves, whether it’s our likes, dislikes, fears, and other emotions through gestures. In writing, these say a lot about characters and the trick is to keep them consistent throughout the book. If your character can be self-conscious, she might, periodically throughout the book, glance in mirrors wherever there is one; straighten her clothes, put her hand to her mouth to check for bad breath, etc. Tie one or two of their emotions to body language and gestures. Sometimes, a gesture is much more effective than words; actions can speak louder than words.

4. Observation. When they walk into a room full of people, what’s their first thought? Do they look for certain people? And why? How do they react to what others are doing and saying? When they watch someone pick their teeth, or their nose, do they judge? Do they stare with interest? Do they look away? What a character sees going on and how they portray it to the reader is an important tool to developing them as a memorable character. 

What are your tips for portraying memorable characters—likable or not?

A to Z Challenge 2015

O is for Originality

O is for Originality, 2015 A to Z Challenge -- April J. Moore

Original is defined as present or existing from the beginning; first or earliest. It’s also said to be an eccentric or unusual person. Well, that’s clear as mud. 

It can be difficult to be original. Some even say that there aren’t any original ideas or thoughts left. Mark Twain famously stated, “There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them a turn and they make new and curious combinations. We keep on turning and making new combinations indefinitely; but they are the same old pieces of colored glass that have been in use through all the ages.”

Do you agree? Perhaps on a quantum level, so to speak, that’s true; we take all these tiny pieces that are established ideas and feelings, and put them together to form a bigger picture. Maybe it’s the bigger picture that needs to be as original as possible. Then again, readers also like age-old themes and concepts because they tend to be relate-able. 

Either way, I believe striving for originality in our writing is critical. We all have writers we admire and wish to emulate, but to what degree? For me, I won’t even bother trying to be like my favorite authors, because I know that ‘s as likely as me staging underwater Civil War reenactments. If you have a story (boy meets girl; boy loses girl, etc) the key to originality may be with the characters. How interesting and unique you make them, can sell the story. Make them memorable people and you may just have yourself a winner. But just your everyday folks? Boring. So then your setting has to be rock solid. 

How about when it comes to trends? At the NCW conference this year, a publisher said that editors don’t want to see anymore dystopian  stuff . . . unless, it’s unique and original.  How do you know when you’ve done that? I suppose it’s when you sell the manuscript. 

Do you agree with Twain? And how difficult do you think it is to be original? And do you feel it’s essential as a writer to be original? 

A to Z Challenge 2015

 

N is for Notice

N is for Notice, 2015 A to Z Challenge -- April J. Moore
As you notice here, I am doing my best to get noticed, but the camera is pointed at my sister. Someone noticed, however, and took my picture, but did I notice? I doubt it. I was to busy trying to get noticed elsewhere.

How often do we do this as writers? When you stare at your Facebook page, or list of Twitter followers, do you ever feel like you’re jumping up and down, waving your arms and saying, “Look at my book! Look at my book!”? It always feels like everyone’s looking the other direction. 

Chances are, the more you parade around with your book, the least likely people will take notice. Just this week, I’ve come across a few authors who have some stern advice on author self-promotion. Delilah S. Dawson, tells us why we need to just shut up; and Jody Hedlund gives us her 5 reasons for unfriending authors on Facebook. And as always. Chuck Wendig offers his sage advice on the subject.

Bottom line, it sounds like we’re going about this all the wrong way. Dawson points out, social media does not sell books (which I’m tending to agree with), so maybe it’s time to stop trying to get noticed by those means, and start looking at the other avenues that are actually there to help get your work some attention.

Goodreads. It’s where the readers are. GR offers affordable advertising for authors, as well as opportunities to discuss your book and answer questions from readers. 
Talk to local libraries. If you have a group of fellow authors willing to spend an afternoon doing readings, approach libraries with the idea. They want to draw readers, too, so it could be a win-win. They usually have author programs and events, so it doesn’t hurt to reach out to them.
Bookstores. Yes, this is usually a no-brainer, but these days—at least where I live—a lot of the bookstores are charging authors $50-$200 to have a solo signing. Usually, promotion (print and online) is included in that, but if you ask me, that’s still a lot of money. With that said, they’re still worth looking into; you never know. Plus, if you rope in a few other authors, you could make it worth the smaller fee. 
Gift shops, coffee shops, etc. What if your main character runs a cafe? See about having a signing at your favorite local coffeehouse. If you mention a certain store or city in your book, you might have luck contacting that store, or bookstores in that city willing to host a signing. Local commerce usually loves it when their fine city is mentioned in a book.
Radio shows and podcasts. I talked about this yesterday, so I won’t get into here, but it’s certainly an often-overlooked venue for writers. 
Contact websites, eZines, and magazines that fit into your book’s genre/subject matter to review the book. Have a PDF version of your book ready to go so that you can shoot it off to someone who is interested. They may be willing to trade; they’ll review it if you write an article for them. Also be willing to send off hard copy freebies to some well-known reviewers. And think big, because you never know. If you’ve written an amazing book, why wouldn’t Leonardo DeCaprio want to make it into a movie?
Offer your services. Present at conferences, or teach a workshop with the local writing organization. These are great ways to showcase your talents and pass your words of wisdom onto others. Offer readers the the chance to read the first chapter or two of your book; or if you’ve written a short story, offer it for free for a limited time. Cross promote by offering a guest post to a fellow author. Like I mentioned in a previous post, it’s not about you; it’s about readers and what you can impart on their lives.

So if you feel as though you’re not getting noticed with the usual outlets, maybe it’s time to look in other directions.

What have you found to be the best way to get noticed as a writer?

A to Z Challenge 2015

M is for Media

M is for Media 2015 A to Z Challenge -- April J. MooreSpecifically, radio. A lot has changed since the reel-to-reel days of yore. This is from the early ’80s when my dad was Program Director and deejay at a radio station. Radio has come a long way and with the advent of the podcast, hitting the airwaves has never been easier for a writer. I’m hooked on listening to podcasts like Criminal, Serial, This American Life and Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me. Check out my post at The Writing Bug where I list several free writing podcasts. Lots of radio programming makes room for authors, so here are a few to check out.

BlogTalkRadio
The Author’s Show
Writer’s Voice
Authors On Air
NPR Books

It doesn’t hurt to add radio and podcasts to your list of promotion to-dos. 

I’ve done a few radio interviews to promote Folsom’s 93, and earlier this year, I got to chat on Justice For All, a radio show in Virginia.  

My first taste of being behind the mic was probably about the time this picture was taken. My sister and I would record songs and jokes in the station studio and send them to my grandparents. For your listening pleasure, I’ve got the recording Amy and I made for my grandfather’s birthday thirty-some years ago. The first 50 seconds are echo-y, but then it goes to normal. Around the 1:37 mark, you’ll hear my sister punch me in the arm. We sing songs, tell jokes, then start to bicker. You’ll also hear my parents with some background commentary here and there. Classic stuff.

 

 

Amy and April reel -- April J. Moore

 

 

A to Z Challenge 2015

L is for Language

L is for Language 2015 A to Z Challenge -- April J. MooreI love this picture of my mom. It’s 1975 and she’s holding my older sister, who is only a few days old. Mom’s at the old Denver airport and her father took this picture. She’s showing him what she thinks about having her picture taken.

It’s pretty easy to express language through gestures in everyday life, but what about writing? 

Sometimes, it’s not so easy.

While in conversation, we roll our eyes, talk with our hands, or show certain expressions that are easily translated into how we feel (and sometimes, all in the same conversation)! I love that about language. Experts say that 55% of communication is nonverbal. Just drive in traffic at rush hour and you’ll see what I mean.

With books, however, readers expect most of the communication to come through the dialog exchanges between characters. Reading about a gesture is much different than the actual act of the gesture. If we have our characters roll their eyes, well, first your critique group will point out that your eyes are not dice, so they shouldn’t be rolling; and they’ll also tag all the other instances of eye-rolling in your book and tell you to cut most of them—it’s too many; it’s redundant. But isn’t that how people communicate? Like, all the time?!  

I find it can be so difficult to succinctly describe gestures and body language in my writing, and I suspect a lot of authors do; so much so, they choose to avoid it when they can. When we grudgingly  give into an argument, don’t we throw up our arms? Toss them in the air? Well, if you’re writing about zombies, then that could literally be the case, but readers might stop and ponder it too long. It’s probably not a huge blunder, but I’m guessing an editor would flag it. 

Most of what I’m talking about, are everyday gestures that we often do without even thinking: shrugging; guffawing (what does that even look like?); scrunching our nose when we smell something foul; or showing our dislike for someone or something. 

Even though these are common nonverbal cues, we are usually told to keeping them to a minimum in our writing. I think the key is to stay away from cliche descriptions of them, but can we still get our point across? Bottom line, gestures are visual cues and so as writers, it’s our job to convey these gestures in a succinct, clear, yet unique way.

How do you handle describing common gestures in your writing? 

A to Z Challenge 2015

K is for Keeping Secrets

K is for Keeping Secrets 2015 A to Z Challenge -- April J. MooreDoesn’t it look like my sister knows something you don’t? A little unnerving, isn’t it?

It can be easy for writers to keep secrets from their readers, but it generally doesn’t go over well. You want to surprise the reader, or build suspense, so you withhold a few things, but you can end up pissing off the reader. It can also feel insulting, as if the author thinks you’re too dumb to catch on. It’s not fun to be reading a book, when suddenly the author drops a bombshell that he clearly knew about from the beginning, but didn’t let you in on it.

Seriously, how does it not come up sooner that her father is half-alien?!

This is particularly annoying when it’s the protagonist whose coming clean in the last chapter. There is a fine line between deceiving the reader and devising a suspenseful plot. 

There’s also a difference between building suspense and building tension. It might be more beneficial to be honest with your readers by letting them in on it and then build tension by keeping the secret(s) from other characters, for example. You want to shock and surprise the reader, but your main character can’t be deceiving. You got yourself an unreliable narrator—which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it has to be done right. 

The Murder of Rodger Ackroyd, by Agatha Christie, was one of the first books featuring an unreliable narrator. We read this one in my book club last year, and we seemed to be mixed on our feeling toward it. I hate to give anything away, but basically, it isn’t until the end, that we discover our first person narrator isn’t who he says he is. Yet, somehow, Christie pulled it off. The narrator didn’t actually lie about anything; he was truthful when asked questions—it was that the other characters didn’t ask the right questions. That, and Christie created a character with a trustworthy background. 

Other authors who did this well: Palahniuk (Fight Club); Bret Easton Ellis (American Psycho); and Emily Bronte (Wuthering Heights).

Be careful about keeping secrets from the reader because you can end up deceiving them. If you’re concerned about doing that, have someone who knows nothing about your story or book, read it. They’ll likely pick up on that stuff right away. 

How do you feel about unreliable narrators?  

A to Z Challenge 2015

J is for Juxtaposition

J is for Juxtaposition, 2015 A to Z Challenge -- April J. Moore
Look at how well my sister and I are juxtaposed. Despite our matching attire, we had very different personalities. Not opposite; just different. Growing up, comparisons were often made by teachers; not only with looks, but with behavior. (She was way more behaved than me.)

Juxtaposition is a literary device that clues the reader into the contrasts between characters, concepts, and places. By drawing comparisons between two dissimilar things/concepts/people/places, writers can create a vivid picture in the mind of the reader. When I looked up some concrete examples of this, the same darn ones kept coming up. I didn’t want to regurgitate them, but they really are great examples.

Characters: John Milton’s narrative poem, “Paradise Lost.” In it, Milton places good and evil (God and Satan) side-by-side, in order to showcase the contrast, thus, making Satan’s inevitable exodus below ground, a reasonable conclusion. 

Concepts: Shakespeare was a juxtaposition genius and there were several examples of this in his work. This part, from Romeo Juliet, Will wanted to show the contrast between “light” and “dark.” He is wanting to show that despite the darkness of night, Juliet ‘s face radiates against the skin of an African: 

“O, she doth teach the torches to burn bright!
It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night
Like a rich jewel in an Ethiope’s ear;” 

Place: Charles Dickens does this in A Tale of Two Cities:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way…”

(source)

I did come up with a few examples on my own, that are more modern. In the Harry Potter books, readers are aware of the good vs. evil concept, and Rowling does a great job of doing that, by subtly placing Harry and Volemort side-by-side. Harry has a nightmare where he faces several doors, but then the scar on his forehead burns. The reader surmises/is reminded that it is the work of Voldemort. 

Stephen King is also a master of juxtaposition. In Cujo, we see the marked contrast with this vicious, killer canine and the everyday suburban life. In Secret Window, King places us in a quiet, idyllic setting with the tortured, chaotic soul of a writer. (Which is another thing he got right.) 

You follow me?

Common proverbs in the English language make use of juxtaposition:
You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.
All’s fair in love and war.
Make a mountain out of a molehill.
When the cat’s away, the mice will play.

Other ways things to compare:
Young and old
Funny and sad
Warm and cold (as in emotions or personalities)
Pious and atheism
Clean and dirty (such in The Odd Couple, or prude vs. not-so prude )

You don’t have to beat the reader over the head with these differences; being subtle and consistent can be enough to show what you’re trying to get across to the reader.

Do you use juxtaposition in your own writing? If so, how?

A to Z Challenge 2015

I is for Impression

I is for Impression 2015 A to Z Challenge -- April J. Moore

I dedicate this post to Ivan Doig, a great American author, whose work left a lasting impression; a literary legacy worthy of admiration. 

Oh geez. 

I’m not sure what impression I was trying to make here, but if Facebook had been around in 1982, you bet your ass I would have posted this gem. 

I’m not always known for making a great impression, or even an appropriate one, and I often tell myself I should stick to leaving an impression with my books, essays, and stories.

Writers leave impressions because they want their name and/or their work to be remembered. Author Kristen Lamb made a hilarious impression by promoting her books using feminine hygiene products. (Seriously, it’s hilarious.) When it comes to book promotion and signings, I tend to lack the creativity to come up an impression-leaving gimmick, so I try to leave an impression with my work. 

We hear so often about having a strong beginning to snag readers, which is still important, but what about an ending? Isn’t that your final opportunity to leave a lasting impression? It could be what’ll make a reader hug the book to her chest and sigh, or close the book and say, “Hmph. I was kind of hoping for . . .” Even if she enjoyed the rest of the book, the impression you leave her with, particularly at the end, can change how she feels about the entire book. That can also be a good thing. What if the reader found the book just okay, but the ending brought it all together? It happens. Obviously, our goal as writers is to wow from start to finish. 

Every book and story is different and it doesn’t have to  be a happy ending or a cliffhanger, as long as it leaves the impression that you hope it will. Take a step  back and decide what your overall message is and bring your story around to that; hint at it, at least. Maybe you’re trying to bring awareness to a particular issue. Or that you hope readers will be more open-minded about something. Or maybe you just want them to close the book, smile, and write a raving Amazon review. 

Endings can be hard to write; they’re not usually my favorite part to come up with, but they are very important to the reader, so devote a good deal of attention to them. You only have one opportunity to leave a last impression.

How do you like to leave an impression as a writer?

A to Z Challenge 2015

H is for Harmony

2015 A to Z Challenge, H is for Harmony -- April J. MooreIsn’t it great when things work in harmony? As you can see, my sister and I are enjoying our harmonious photo session. There are lots of ways authors can have projects that work in conjunction with other projects of theirs. 

For example, I recently learned at the NCW conference, that children’s book authors should look into creating an app based on their book(s) so that they can not only offer more to their readers, but broaden their audience as well.  

Kelly Baugh, author of Miss You Once Again, which takes place in Mississippi, will be releasing a companion cookbook filled with her Southern grandmother’s recipes. 

I’m contemplating writing a novella based on the alter ego that the main character of my novel has. Maybe you have a secondary character who’s worthy of his/her own story? It could make for a great companion book. 

What about creating a Facebook or Twitter account for one of your characters? Or create accounts for two characters and entertain tweeps with their banter? Pair up with another author and have a battle of tweets and promote each other at the same time. Perhaps you build a website with a bunch of “extras” for readers to enjoy. 

Branding. Come up with an idea, a book for example, and then create products that work in harmony with your book. J.K. Rowling, Rick Riordan, and Veronica Roth also have companion materials to go along with their books. (They’re huge, so of course they do.)

With some creativity (c’mon, you’re writers!) you can create some great ideas that can work in perfect harmony with your current book(s). 

How have you extended the life of your book? What ways can you think of that can expand your audience?

A to Z Challenge 2015

G is for Grace

Grace 2015 A to Z Challenge, G is for Grace -- April J. MooreHave you ever met an arrogant author whose book you’d like to shove down their throat? 

I don’t think I have. I’m lucky to be surrounded by talented and humbled writers who never make others feel inferior, but rather, who offer support and guidance. And I mean that.

But let’s be honest, I’m sure we have all, at one time, experienced a little jealousy toward peers who are enjoying some writing success. Even if you don’t like the book, or you think the author is a self-serving windbag, it’s always good to exhibit grace and congratulate them. Same goes for when you hit the big time: be gracious about your successes. People won’t forget how you acted toward others and their accomplishments, and will remember those times when you’re experiencing your fifteen minutes of fame.

Nothing’s worse than someone who whines, wallows, and whimpers about not being as successful as so-and-so. And no one likes an arrogant s.o.b. either. There have been some very well known authors who have publicly insulted other authors (who may struggle with character development or rules of grammar, but can suck readers in with a compelling story). It really bugs me when people try to bring down others and their successes. I may agree with them; that the writing stinks in these books, or that the characters are lifeless boobs, but I’d never join in on the bullying. 

(I should point out that I’m talking about books that don’t promote hatred, racism, bigotry, intolerance, etc. Those who do write that crap deserved to be skewered, so fire away.)

Anyhow, if you’re a pretty well known author, then chances are, you’re a pretty good writer, so then you shouldn’t feel threatened, right? Just do your thing and shut up. And when you come across these high-horse writers, you don’t have to say congrats—choose to smile and nod. Be an example of grace and class, otherwise, it can come back and bite you in the ass. 

A to Z Challenge 2015

F is for Feelings

2015 A to Z Challenge, F is for Feelings -- April J. MooreMy sister hated surprises; still isn’t a big fan of them. Her feelings toward them, came out loud and clear. (Love ya, sis!) Remember that scene from The Princess Bride, when Count Tyrone asked Wesley how he was feeling after getting a year of his life sucked away? He genuinely wanted to know—for research purposes. (Yes, I’ve referenced this scene before.)

Maybe we should spend more time asking our characters how they feel about things, then let them ramble on, as if on a therapist’s couch, while we jot everything down. Take the time to really listen to them and figure out what makes them tick. How do they feel about climate change? About Broadway shows? About the demise of the Twinkie? Ask them all  kinds of questions—tough ones, where they really have to dig deep to come up with an answer. (Why does it make one cry when others sing “Happy Birthday” to them?)

Oh, and do this without injecting your own opinion. Be an unbiased listener—that’s your job, right? Besides, wouldn’t it be fun to create characters who are nothing like us? Who do things we’d never do? Readers want to connect with characters, so how you portray their feelings is important. Remember, if you don’t give your characters unique and authentic feelings, you won’t evoke feelings in your reader. Spend some quality time with your characters and ask lots of questions. For some help, check out these questionnaires:

Gotham Writers
1000 Character Development Questions
The Script Lab

A to Z Challenge 2015

E is for Exposure


E is for Exposure, 2015 A to Z Challenge -- April J. MooreTo sell books, exposure is crucial. But what’s the right exposure? And where do you find it? How do you avoid over-exposure? Hell if I know; I’m still trying to figure it out. For what it’s worth, here’s my two cents:

Attend writer’s conferences. These are great places to network and get noticed. If you’re an expert in your field, or have a great workshop idea, many conferences offer opportunities to submit a proposal for teaching a workshop or doing a presentation.

Blog. I know, some of you hate blogging and I get it. You don’t have to do it, but it is a good way to showcase your writing chops. I love this post by Chuck Wendig who takes a hysterical look at whether or not you should blog. I do it because I enjoy it. I might say stupid things every now and again, but I really do try to be helpful and maybe even entertain here and there.

Offer free stuff. Many authors will tell you to never write for free, and I agree, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with offering a free chapter or two to entice readers. There’s no obligation to the reader, and if your work is the on par, it will get readers to buy. (You can read the first 4 chapters of my novel, Bobbing for Watermelons HERE. I didn’t plan this. I promise.) I talk about a Lead Magnet in a previous post about marketing that might help. 

Be active on social media. Choose your poison: Facebook, Twitter, Google +, whatever . . . focus on one and submit quality content. I don’t have a big Twitter following, but I enjoy using it and meeting others and tweeting helpful links. 

Join a local writing organization. This is another opportunity to network and talk shop with like-minded folks who want to help you on your writing journey. The more writers you connect with, the more writing/book events you’ll attend, which will lead to getting your name out there.

A couple of don’ts:

Don’t over-tweet or over Facebook your book. That’s over-exposure and people will soon ignore you because they’ll think you’re a narcissistic ass-clown.

Don’t post pictures of your bare ass.

That is all.

What do you do for maximum exposure? 

A to Z Challenge 2015

D is for Determined

D is for Determination -- April J. Moore
This is probably the face I gave when I was told to do something, like to come inside when it got dark. I probably also shot this look at those who said I couldn’t do something. Either way, I likely used it often and according to The Husband, I still do. I like to think it’s my determined look. It’s the I’ve-Got-Stuff-To-Do face . . . so watch out. 

I think we should all take a picture of ourselves with our best determined look and post it where we’d see it everyday. Mine is on my bulletin board in my office. It’ll serve as a reminder that not only do you have the ability, but you have the drive to accomplish what you set out to do, so get out of the way and do it!

I was determined to get my novel published, and after much personal growth and determination, my book came out two weeks ago. If only I had the motivation to apply the same principles to cleaning out my laundry room. 

Do you find it’s easy to stay determined? Any tips?

A to Z Challenge 2015

C is for Collaboration

C is for Collaboration -- April J. Moore

If you ask my mom, she’d probably tell you that collaboration wasn’t mine and my sister’s forte. We had our moments, though. My bedroom closet had this giant step in it; a carpeted platform on one side, on which we could climb. It had a shelf along one wall and a little desk on the far end. It’s where I conjured up all kinds of trouble. And It. Was. Awesome. My sister and I made up this game called “Connie & Connie” . . . two quirky office gals who apparently did . . . office work. Using my tape recorder, we’d record ourselves pretend-typing and once, recorded me falling out of the closet. Funniest thing ever. Wish I still had that tape.

Anyway, Amy and I didn’t always collaborate well, and we differed more than just with appearances. (I’m on the left.) But we still made a go of it and had a helluva good time. Usually.

Sometimes, it’s peoples’ differences that can make a project exciting; what we bring to the table as individuals, can also make it a successful project.

I’ve collaborated with other authors on books and it’s been great fun. I’m also hoping to have a children’s book out later this year, that I’m working on with the amazing Kerrie Flanagan. I urge you to connect with other writers and artists and come together for a common goal. You don’t have to be alike; in fact, I encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and take a risk by working with someone you may otherwise shy away from—it could be the start of a beautiful collaboration.

How have you collaborated with others on  projects? Any advice/tips?

A to Z Challenge 2015

B is for Bad Habits

B is for Bad Habits, 2015 A to Z Challenge -- April J. Moore

This picture was taken by my grandfather. In fact, many of the pictures you’ll see this month from me, were taken by him. He was an amateur photographer and myself, along with my sister and all of our cousins, were the subjects of hundreds and hundreds of pictures taken by him over many years—same with our kids. He was also (and still is) a smoker. The glasses in the picture belonged to my grandmother. Despite not being a fan of cigarettes and smoking, I like this picture. It’s a slice of life within a slice of time that holds a lot of great memories for me. (It makes for a great writing prompt, too.)

Bad habits can be hard to break. We know this as writers. These habits can pertain to writing itself, such as improper comma usage, passive voice, or run-on sentences. Other bad habits can sabotage our efforts to write in the first place. Fortunately, unlike smoking, I think these habits are a little easier to break.

Playing it safe. We don’t always take risks as writers and push ourselves, or our characters, to new limits. If we don’t, we’ll never see what we’re capable of. Try writing in a different genre, or in a different style; write characters who scare you, or write about a subject matter that makes you uncomfortable. You can take risks in lots of different ways to beef up your writing and show readers what you’re capable of.

Not setting a writing schedule. I’m certainly guilty of this. Sometimes, I only write when I’m feeling it. Such a lame excuse. Just the act of sitting down and free writing can make you feel it. It’s the same when I’m not “inspired” to hit the gym, but when I force myself to, it doesn’t take long for those endorphins to kick in and I end up being happy I dragged myself out of bed. If we all waited until inspiration struck, we’d rarely produce any work. In The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron urges us to keep “morning pages,” in which we free write at the same time every morning, typically after we wake up. Writing is the fuel for our creativity.

Quitting when the going gets tough. It’s so easy to say, “Screw it!” when things don’t turn out the way we want, or we come upon a difficult scene to write. We oftentimes want to throw in the towel when we start accumulating the rejections, but that’s when it’s time to either trudge through that difficult scene, or to take another look at the query letter. Something may not be working, so look into another way of doing it. 

Comparing yourself and your work to others. We all have authors we admire and even emulate, and that’s okay; we can learn a lot from them. The problem is that we can fall into the trap of thinking we need to be them in order to be respected as writers. Other times, it’s easy to get wrapped up in jealousy of fellow writers who are enjoying success. It’s natural to get sucked into all of this, but we need to embrace the reasons we’re different from those authors and start channeling that envious energy toward mastering the craft, as well as your own unique style.

Being negative. Stop beating yourself up! Many writers, whether they say it to themselves, or to others, the constant, “I’m never going  be good enough,” or “I suck,” does nothing but create this dark cloud hovering over your head. Plus, it annoys the hell out of those around you. If you think you’re so terrible, try to pinpoint what areas you think you need help in and focus on that area: go to the library and check out reference books, enlist a friend to help read over a troublesome chapter, take a class through the local writing organization. Even getting away from your WIP and trying something new can rejuvenate your writing mojo and cast that black cloud away.

These are just a few of the bad habits we as writers can easily fall victim to. What are some others and how do you just say no to them?

A to Z Challenge 2015

A is for Androgynous

A is for Androgynous A to Z Challenge, April J. Moore

Oh, goodness. 1989, aged 12. Around this time, I had been in California visiting family and spent a day playing with a kid named Ray, a friend of my cousin’s. Apparently, the whole afternoon, he thought I was a boy. He obviously hadn’t caught my name, so when it came time to leave, something came up about names. “April? But that’s a girl’s name,” he said. Androgyny happens . . . especially when sporting a pre-pubescent short haircut. But I think I could go either way in this picture.

In 1832, poet, Samuel Taylor Coleridge said, “The truth is, a great mind must be androgynous.”

In A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf interpreted Coleridge’s quote by saying, “And I went on amateurishly to sketch a plan of the soul so that in each of us two powers preside, one male, one female . . . The normal and comfortable state of being is that when the two live in harmony together, spiritually co-operating . . . Coleridge perhaps meant this when he said that a great mind is androgynous. It is when this fusion takes place that the mind is fully fertilized and uses all its faculties. Perhaps a mind that is purely masculine cannot create, any more than a mind that is purely feminine . . .”

Woolf asserted that “an androgynous mind is present when one is working at the absence of sex-consciousness, thus producing output at its highest capacity, without impediment and free from gender-biasness.” (source) Woolf believed that “to write without consciousness of sex is to see the piece of work for itself not as its author.” Much of this theory stems from the sexist treatment she and other women writers had endured. 

Woolf received a great deal of criticism for this view, resulting in a ping-ponging of arguments, but the whole idea of having an androgynous mind is fascinating to me. Recently, author, Andrew Smith got speared for some comments he made when asked why his books lack female characters:

“I was raised in a family with four boys, and I absolutely did not know anything about girls at all. I have a daughter now; she’s 17. When she was born, that was the first girl I ever had in my life. I consider myself completely ignorant to all things woman and female. I’m trying to be better though. 

A lot of The Alex Crow is really about the failure of male societies. In all of the story threads, there are examples of male-dominated societies that make critical errors, whether it’s the army that Ariel falls in with at the beginning, or the refugee camp, or Camp Merrie-Seymour for boys, or the doomed arctic expedition, they’re all examples of male societies that think that they’re doing some kind of noble mission, and they’re failing miserably.”

Some authors accused him of calling women “less than human,” while others said Smith was only being honest; that the underpinning issue is that as a culture, a book’s default is to feature white males.

So where am I going with all of this?

I’m not entirely sure, but I found Woolf’s theory intriguing. Can “a single person of either sex  [embody] the full range of human character traits, despite cultural attempts to render some exclusively feminine and some exclusively masculine?” And thus, create authentic emotions and insights of characters of both genders? Is it even possible? Or are we merely guessing when we write the viewpoints of the opposite sex? 

I wasn’t offended by Smith’s comments. I think he unintentionally kicked a beehive. I’d be interested to hear what Woolf would say, however. Are authors (particularly male authors) obligated to include female characters in their books? (And of course, they can’t be gun-toting, bikini-wearing blondes, right?) 

I realize this is a much deeper issue than what I’m making it out to be, but in order to scratch the surface, I’d like to know, 1.) Is it possible to write with androgyny? and 2.) Are we being sexist if we don’t?

A to Z Challenge 2015

Blogging A to Z Challenge

A to Z ChallengeI will be participating in my first A to Z Challenge beginning tomorrow, April 1st. I’ll be posting old family photos and writing about how these old memories (some, painfully embarrassing) pertain to writing—which I hope will be of help to all of you. I’m looking forward to checking out the many other bloggers who are participating in this alphabetical challenge. If you’re also a blogger taking part in the challenge, let me know so I can be sure to include you on my blog travels.

Old pictures--April J. MooreBest of luck to everyone who signed  up for the challenge!