Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Curious about what I've been up to in my creative life? Today I talk about my current project, what sets this story apart, why certain themes emerge in my work, and how I write.

This is part of a Kidlit Blog Tour, for which I've been tagged by the lovely Melissa Sarno and Faith Elizabeth Hough. Thanks, friends!

What are you working on right now?

The Louvre (photo by priyanphoenix from morguefile.com)
I'm about 2/3 through a sequel to Never Gone, working title Almost There. The summer after Dani's junior year, she plans to take an art-filled, family bonding trip to Paris.  But a crisis arises with her grandfather, threatening not only her trip, but her mother's fragile mental health. Dani wants to keep their involvement to a minimum, but her attempts at quick damage control only get them more stuck. When her clever schemes to manufacture happiness for herself and others fall apart, can she trust God to redeem the mess?

How does it differ from other works in its genre?

Most YA fiction tends to separate kids from their families and never deals with inter-generational patterns of dysfunction. But so many kids experience this in real life. I tackle this from inside a faith tradition that calls us to have hope for the most seemingly hopeless situations. I also explore the joys and challenges of having a serious romantic relationship when you're young. Most YA books deal with starting brand-new romances rather than maintaining and growing them for the long haul.

Why do you write what you do?

I see kids struggling to be real in a culture that glorifies superficiality. When beauty, strength and charisma are idolized, all the ways we are broken never see the light, never have a chance to heal. Instead they fester under the surface, filling our lives with poison. I write about kids in crisis who learn to let go of their pretensions and falseness and allow God to remake them as people who humbly hope, believe, and love.

How does your writing process work?

So far, it has been largely voice-driven. I begin with a character who speaks to me and listen to what she tells me about her background and situation. From there, I daydream and research until I have a sketchy sense of some of the most important plot points. I write and rewrite the opening chapters until they let me go forward (and that can take a very long time). That draftivising process goes on into the story middle, which will at times call for more research until the events of the climax really gel. Then I write out notes about all the events needed to get me there and steadily create scene after scene. The back end of the book writes much faster than the beginning.

I always revise as I go, and usually begin to garner feedback from my writing group once I've gotten the opening to my liking. I find I need other voices to walk me through the story middle, and keep me from making wrong turns that are out of character, based on the opening.

Any departing words of wisdom for other authors?

Find a writing process that works with your lifestyle and temperament. There's not a one-size-fits-all way to make literature. If a process is truly uncomfortable, you'll simply stop. So find a method that's energizing and plays to your strengths. You're better able to tackle your weaknesses from a place of confidence than a place of doubt.

My nominees to answer these questions are C.M. Keller and Melanie Schulz.

Enter today to win a copy of 
my redesigned debut in paperback!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Tuesday, October 29, 2013 Laurel Garver
Curious about what I've been up to in my creative life? Today I talk about my current project, what sets this story apart, why certain themes emerge in my work, and how I write.

This is part of a Kidlit Blog Tour, for which I've been tagged by the lovely Melissa Sarno and Faith Elizabeth Hough. Thanks, friends!

What are you working on right now?

The Louvre (photo by priyanphoenix from morguefile.com)
I'm about 2/3 through a sequel to Never Gone, working title Almost There. The summer after Dani's junior year, she plans to take an art-filled, family bonding trip to Paris.  But a crisis arises with her grandfather, threatening not only her trip, but her mother's fragile mental health. Dani wants to keep their involvement to a minimum, but her attempts at quick damage control only get them more stuck. When her clever schemes to manufacture happiness for herself and others fall apart, can she trust God to redeem the mess?

How does it differ from other works in its genre?

Most YA fiction tends to separate kids from their families and never deals with inter-generational patterns of dysfunction. But so many kids experience this in real life. I tackle this from inside a faith tradition that calls us to have hope for the most seemingly hopeless situations. I also explore the joys and challenges of having a serious romantic relationship when you're young. Most YA books deal with starting brand-new romances rather than maintaining and growing them for the long haul.

Why do you write what you do?

I see kids struggling to be real in a culture that glorifies superficiality. When beauty, strength and charisma are idolized, all the ways we are broken never see the light, never have a chance to heal. Instead they fester under the surface, filling our lives with poison. I write about kids in crisis who learn to let go of their pretensions and falseness and allow God to remake them as people who humbly hope, believe, and love.

How does your writing process work?

So far, it has been largely voice-driven. I begin with a character who speaks to me and listen to what she tells me about her background and situation. From there, I daydream and research until I have a sketchy sense of some of the most important plot points. I write and rewrite the opening chapters until they let me go forward (and that can take a very long time). That draftivising process goes on into the story middle, which will at times call for more research until the events of the climax really gel. Then I write out notes about all the events needed to get me there and steadily create scene after scene. The back end of the book writes much faster than the beginning.

I always revise as I go, and usually begin to garner feedback from my writing group once I've gotten the opening to my liking. I find I need other voices to walk me through the story middle, and keep me from making wrong turns that are out of character, based on the opening.

Any departing words of wisdom for other authors?

Find a writing process that works with your lifestyle and temperament. There's not a one-size-fits-all way to make literature. If a process is truly uncomfortable, you'll simply stop. So find a method that's energizing and plays to your strengths. You're better able to tackle your weaknesses from a place of confidence than a place of doubt.

My nominees to answer these questions are C.M. Keller and Melanie Schulz.

Enter today to win a copy of 
my redesigned debut in paperback!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, October 25, 2013

Last week I gave an informal presentation on using Goodreads and Twitter to a handful of my critique group members--all Gen X and Baby Boomers. Most of them tend to think of book marketing in purely brick and mortar paradigms, so book signings and school visits are where they believe all the action is.

Convincing them that social media is anything more than a time-suck hasn't been the easiest. Especially since making the most of some channels requires laying groundwork long before you have a book to sell.

Here are a few key benefits I pointed out for each of the two sites.

Goodreads (as a reader, pre-publication)
~A book-centric community
~Everyone on the site is naturally looking for reading material
~Learn what readers of your genre like and dislike
~Build relationships with those who like books similar to yours
~Win free books through the First Reads program
~Support other writers by posting reviews
~Build a network of support among readers and reviewers
~Develop goodwill in the publishing community

Twitter

~Easily access key influencers (best sellers, agents, editors)
~Find "your tribe" internationally
(tribe=group with natural affinities and interests)
~Easily connect to "your tribe"
~Share knowledge and encouragement (build goodwill)
~Generate traffic for a blog site
~Develop relationships with other writers
~Develop relationships with those interested in your topics and themes
~Listen in on important conversations
~Get great tips on writing, publishing, marketing
~Build effective presence in short bursts of time
~Utilize pithy writing rather than long pieces
~Support other writers easily through retweets

What other points would you add? 
Has using these sites opened special opportunities? I'd love to hear your stories!


Friday, October 25, 2013 Laurel Garver
Last week I gave an informal presentation on using Goodreads and Twitter to a handful of my critique group members--all Gen X and Baby Boomers. Most of them tend to think of book marketing in purely brick and mortar paradigms, so book signings and school visits are where they believe all the action is.

Convincing them that social media is anything more than a time-suck hasn't been the easiest. Especially since making the most of some channels requires laying groundwork long before you have a book to sell.

Here are a few key benefits I pointed out for each of the two sites.

Goodreads (as a reader, pre-publication)
~A book-centric community
~Everyone on the site is naturally looking for reading material
~Learn what readers of your genre like and dislike
~Build relationships with those who like books similar to yours
~Win free books through the First Reads program
~Support other writers by posting reviews
~Build a network of support among readers and reviewers
~Develop goodwill in the publishing community

Twitter

~Easily access key influencers (best sellers, agents, editors)
~Find "your tribe" internationally
(tribe=group with natural affinities and interests)
~Easily connect to "your tribe"
~Share knowledge and encouragement (build goodwill)
~Generate traffic for a blog site
~Develop relationships with other writers
~Develop relationships with those interested in your topics and themes
~Listen in on important conversations
~Get great tips on writing, publishing, marketing
~Build effective presence in short bursts of time
~Utilize pithy writing rather than long pieces
~Support other writers easily through retweets

What other points would you add? 
Has using these sites opened special opportunities? I'd love to hear your stories!


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

A phrase popularly associated with psychotherapy might be one of the best tools to developing a character your readers will consistently engage with. Keep it at the ready, especially when the plot thickens and action scenes become more frequent. Because those are the places where you'll be most tempted to leave your character's emotions behind. Places where your character is actually likely to have his or her most interesting interior world changes.

Call it your emotional pulse-check tool. Repeat after me:

Photo credit: anitapeppers from morguefile.com
"How does that make you feel?"

Your character has just met someone.
"How does that make you feel?"
The character's first impression might be fear, lust, or sudden peacefulness. Let that reaction come out in her posture, her attitude-filled thoughts, and/or her dialogue.

An obstacle arises. 
"How does that make you feel?" 
The character might react as decisively as you hope, but perhaps he naturally feels beleaguered at first. Unsure. Afraid. Wishing someone would advise or help. Moments like this separate realistic characters from the Mary Sues and Gary Stus, who never waver or falter--the kinds of characters who make readers roll their eyes and say "seriously? nobody really thinks like that."

An important battle is lost.
"How does that make you feel?"  
Watch where your character's heart leans in times of defeat. Is he first of all peevish because of wounded pride? Does his concern go first to his fallen or injured friends? Or is he righteously indignant that the evil ones prevailed and are free to continue hurting others? Don't assume a stock answer. Let your character reveal himself in all his complexity. Perhaps your hero is more narcissistic than he wants to believe, and realizing he over-values his personal pride could become a turning point in his emotional journey.

A love object declares his adoration. 
"How does that make you feel?"
If there have been numerous obstacles keeping your couple apart, let the heroine process them in a moment like this. Then the obstacles won't feel like annoying contrivances the mean author threw in their path for spite. Let her be stunned or tongue-tied, or even sarcastic and lashing out. No one believably does a 180 degree turn in an instant. The turn happens in smaller increments, often with some regression to old positions.

As I mentioned in the opening, be especially aware of incorporating emotion into action scenes. Clashing swords alone are not nearly so tense as when you can feel one of the sword-wielder's sweaty palms or icy surges of blood-lust. You wouldn't want to stop for a full-blown flashback, but flashes of back-story snippets can be extremely effective for making emotionally realistic action, especially when portraying a traumatized character.

Keep checking your character's emotional pulse throughout the story. Look for opportunities to work in
~physical responses, including gestures and emotion-based sensations
~attitudes, expressed in thought or speech
~processing, both logical and emotional

How might frequent emotional pulse-checks help you improve your story?
Tuesday, October 22, 2013 Laurel Garver
A phrase popularly associated with psychotherapy might be one of the best tools to developing a character your readers will consistently engage with. Keep it at the ready, especially when the plot thickens and action scenes become more frequent. Because those are the places where you'll be most tempted to leave your character's emotions behind. Places where your character is actually likely to have his or her most interesting interior world changes.

Call it your emotional pulse-check tool. Repeat after me:

Photo credit: anitapeppers from morguefile.com
"How does that make you feel?"

Your character has just met someone.
"How does that make you feel?"
The character's first impression might be fear, lust, or sudden peacefulness. Let that reaction come out in her posture, her attitude-filled thoughts, and/or her dialogue.

An obstacle arises. 
"How does that make you feel?" 
The character might react as decisively as you hope, but perhaps he naturally feels beleaguered at first. Unsure. Afraid. Wishing someone would advise or help. Moments like this separate realistic characters from the Mary Sues and Gary Stus, who never waver or falter--the kinds of characters who make readers roll their eyes and say "seriously? nobody really thinks like that."

An important battle is lost.
"How does that make you feel?"  
Watch where your character's heart leans in times of defeat. Is he first of all peevish because of wounded pride? Does his concern go first to his fallen or injured friends? Or is he righteously indignant that the evil ones prevailed and are free to continue hurting others? Don't assume a stock answer. Let your character reveal himself in all his complexity. Perhaps your hero is more narcissistic than he wants to believe, and realizing he over-values his personal pride could become a turning point in his emotional journey.

A love object declares his adoration. 
"How does that make you feel?"
If there have been numerous obstacles keeping your couple apart, let the heroine process them in a moment like this. Then the obstacles won't feel like annoying contrivances the mean author threw in their path for spite. Let her be stunned or tongue-tied, or even sarcastic and lashing out. No one believably does a 180 degree turn in an instant. The turn happens in smaller increments, often with some regression to old positions.

As I mentioned in the opening, be especially aware of incorporating emotion into action scenes. Clashing swords alone are not nearly so tense as when you can feel one of the sword-wielder's sweaty palms or icy surges of blood-lust. You wouldn't want to stop for a full-blown flashback, but flashes of back-story snippets can be extremely effective for making emotionally realistic action, especially when portraying a traumatized character.

Keep checking your character's emotional pulse throughout the story. Look for opportunities to work in
~physical responses, including gestures and emotion-based sensations
~attitudes, expressed in thought or speech
~processing, both logical and emotional

How might frequent emotional pulse-checks help you improve your story?

Friday, October 18, 2013

Never Gone has a new cover!
Additionally, the paperback interior has been redesigned and includes an interior illustration (which I hope will be viewable on Amazon soon.)




Dani’s dad can’t play peacemaker when he’s dead. Can he?

After her supportive father dies tragically, Dani has no clue how to cope alone with her perfectionist mother. 

Then she sees him: in her room, roaming the halls at church, wandering his own wake. Is it a miracle? Or is she losing her mind? 

Sunday school never prepared her for this kind of life after death.


Read an excerpt.
Add it on Goodreads
Purchase the e-book at Amazon.com, Amazon UK, Barnes and Noble, KoboSmashwords, iTunes
Purchase the paperback at CreateSpace, Amazon, The Book Depository

To celebrate, I'm hosting a giveaway.
Use the form below to enter

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Friday, October 18, 2013 Laurel Garver
Never Gone has a new cover!
Additionally, the paperback interior has been redesigned and includes an interior illustration (which I hope will be viewable on Amazon soon.)




Dani’s dad can’t play peacemaker when he’s dead. Can he?

After her supportive father dies tragically, Dani has no clue how to cope alone with her perfectionist mother. 

Then she sees him: in her room, roaming the halls at church, wandering his own wake. Is it a miracle? Or is she losing her mind? 

Sunday school never prepared her for this kind of life after death.


Read an excerpt.
Add it on Goodreads
Purchase the e-book at Amazon.com, Amazon UK, Barnes and Noble, KoboSmashwords, iTunes
Purchase the paperback at CreateSpace, Amazon, The Book Depository

To celebrate, I'm hosting a giveaway.
Use the form below to enter

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, October 17, 2013

By Tessa Emily Hall
author of Purple Moon

Like many teenage girls today, my protagonist, Selena, doesn’t have a very high self-esteem. She’s never been called beautiful, and often skips meals in order to be more pleased with her appearance. The thing is—if someone has a low self-esteem, they’re never going to come to a point when they’re pleased with their appearance. Why? Because they’ll always find something wrong with themselves. 

The pressure that society puts on us woman today is ridiculous. Just flip through a fashion magazine or even watch television commercials and you’ll see why. No wonder most teens today have a poor body image!

Although it is okay to wear makeup and jewelry and cute clothes, those things are eventually going to fade. As Selena’s neighbor in Purple Moon tells her, “all that material junk doesn’t define true beauty.” True beauty comes from developing your relationship with Christ; true beauty comes from being confident in who you are. 

What about you? When you look in the mirror, what do you see? If you have a negative perception of yourself, then I think it’s time for a little transformation of your reflection. And I’m not talking about the one in the mirror.

Have you ever seen someone and just knew, without even knowing them, that they had a low self-esteem? The reflection that you have of yourself will always reflect to others. 

The opposite is also true—it’s easy to spot those who have confidence. Even if they aren’t necessarily what’s considered “attractive” in the world’s eyes, these people know who they are in Christ, and other opinions cannot change that. 

What if I told you that you can be confident in who you are, without having to change your appearance? You don’t need a new image to create it—all you need is a new self-image. You will always act upon the image that you have perceived of yourself, and the only way to rise above a low self-esteem is to see yourself the way that God sees you.

“You made my whole being;
    you formed me in my mother’s body.
I praise you because you made me in an amazing and wonderful way.
    What you have done is wonderful.”
-Psalm 139:14 (NCV)

If you don’t find your reflection appealing, it doesn’t mean that it’s time to work out more. It simply means that it’s time to get a new perspective, to transform your reflection…

Of your reflection.

=====

Tessa Emily Hall is the 19-year-old author of Purple Moon, a YA Christian fiction novel published September 2013 by Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. She is also the editor for the faith department of Temperance Magazine, a column writer for Whole Magazine, a contributing writer for More To Be, as well as the PR for God of Moses Entertainment. Other than writing, Tessa enjoys acting, music, Starbucks, and her Teacup Shih Tzu—who is named Brewer after a character in her book, as well as her love for coffee.


About Purple Moon

Selena's life isn't turning out to be the fairy tale she imagined as a kid. That hope seemed to vanish long ago when her dad kicked her and her mom out of the house. This summer might finally hold the chance of a new beginning for Selena ... but having to live with her snobby cousin in Lake Lure, NC while waiting for her mom to get out of rehab wasn't how Selena was planning on spending her summer. She soon begins to wonder why she committed to give up her "bad habits" for this.

Things don't seem too bad, though. Especially when Selena gains the attention of the cute neighbor next door. But when her best friend back home in Brooklyn desperately needs her, a secret that's been hidden from Selena for years is revealed, and when she becomes a target for one of her cousin's nasty pranks, she finds herself having to face the scars from her past and the memories that come along with them. Will she follow her mom's example in running away, or trust that God still has a fairy tale life written just for her?

Add it on Goodreads / Like on Facebook


Enter to win the Purple Moon Prize Pack! 

For more chances to win, visit the next stops on Tessa's tour:

Friday, October 18: Behind the Scenes: Brewer’s Coffee: A Splash of Ink
Monday, October 21: Purple Moon Excerpt: Farkle at the Park: A Slightly Nerdy Bookworm
Tuesday, October 22: Teenage Dating: Tell The World
Wednesday, October 23: Q & A: The YA Book Stack
Thursday, October 24: How Much of My Personal Life Did I Put Into “Purple Moon”?: Read For Your Future
Friday, October 25: Fairy tales & Happy Endings + Contest Winners!: Inspiring Daring

Thursday, October 17, 2013 Laurel Garver
By Tessa Emily Hall
author of Purple Moon

Like many teenage girls today, my protagonist, Selena, doesn’t have a very high self-esteem. She’s never been called beautiful, and often skips meals in order to be more pleased with her appearance. The thing is—if someone has a low self-esteem, they’re never going to come to a point when they’re pleased with their appearance. Why? Because they’ll always find something wrong with themselves. 

The pressure that society puts on us woman today is ridiculous. Just flip through a fashion magazine or even watch television commercials and you’ll see why. No wonder most teens today have a poor body image!

Although it is okay to wear makeup and jewelry and cute clothes, those things are eventually going to fade. As Selena’s neighbor in Purple Moon tells her, “all that material junk doesn’t define true beauty.” True beauty comes from developing your relationship with Christ; true beauty comes from being confident in who you are. 

What about you? When you look in the mirror, what do you see? If you have a negative perception of yourself, then I think it’s time for a little transformation of your reflection. And I’m not talking about the one in the mirror.

Have you ever seen someone and just knew, without even knowing them, that they had a low self-esteem? The reflection that you have of yourself will always reflect to others. 

The opposite is also true—it’s easy to spot those who have confidence. Even if they aren’t necessarily what’s considered “attractive” in the world’s eyes, these people know who they are in Christ, and other opinions cannot change that. 

What if I told you that you can be confident in who you are, without having to change your appearance? You don’t need a new image to create it—all you need is a new self-image. You will always act upon the image that you have perceived of yourself, and the only way to rise above a low self-esteem is to see yourself the way that God sees you.

“You made my whole being;
    you formed me in my mother’s body.
I praise you because you made me in an amazing and wonderful way.
    What you have done is wonderful.”
-Psalm 139:14 (NCV)

If you don’t find your reflection appealing, it doesn’t mean that it’s time to work out more. It simply means that it’s time to get a new perspective, to transform your reflection…

Of your reflection.

=====

Tessa Emily Hall is the 19-year-old author of Purple Moon, a YA Christian fiction novel published September 2013 by Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. She is also the editor for the faith department of Temperance Magazine, a column writer for Whole Magazine, a contributing writer for More To Be, as well as the PR for God of Moses Entertainment. Other than writing, Tessa enjoys acting, music, Starbucks, and her Teacup Shih Tzu—who is named Brewer after a character in her book, as well as her love for coffee.


About Purple Moon

Selena's life isn't turning out to be the fairy tale she imagined as a kid. That hope seemed to vanish long ago when her dad kicked her and her mom out of the house. This summer might finally hold the chance of a new beginning for Selena ... but having to live with her snobby cousin in Lake Lure, NC while waiting for her mom to get out of rehab wasn't how Selena was planning on spending her summer. She soon begins to wonder why she committed to give up her "bad habits" for this.

Things don't seem too bad, though. Especially when Selena gains the attention of the cute neighbor next door. But when her best friend back home in Brooklyn desperately needs her, a secret that's been hidden from Selena for years is revealed, and when she becomes a target for one of her cousin's nasty pranks, she finds herself having to face the scars from her past and the memories that come along with them. Will she follow her mom's example in running away, or trust that God still has a fairy tale life written just for her?

Add it on Goodreads / Like on Facebook


Enter to win the Purple Moon Prize Pack! 

For more chances to win, visit the next stops on Tessa's tour:

Friday, October 18: Behind the Scenes: Brewer’s Coffee: A Splash of Ink
Monday, October 21: Purple Moon Excerpt: Farkle at the Park: A Slightly Nerdy Bookworm
Tuesday, October 22: Teenage Dating: Tell The World
Wednesday, October 23: Q & A: The YA Book Stack
Thursday, October 24: How Much of My Personal Life Did I Put Into “Purple Moon”?: Read For Your Future
Friday, October 25: Fairy tales & Happy Endings + Contest Winners!: Inspiring Daring

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

photo by jdurham, morguefile.com
My long-time readers might be a little disoriented, since the scenery has changed quite a bit around here. Laurel's Leaves now has a different color scheme, simplified post layout with click-through, and of course a cool slideshow. There are new tabs up top, separating my books from shorter magazine pieces, and offering other goodies like samples for blog readers. I expect to be adding other tabs in the next few months. The followers widget and search tools by date or tag have moved to the bottom, giving a cleaner look.

In addition to radically changing the blog design, I've also redesigned the cover for my debut novel. All this design tinkering is part of developing my author brand.

Brand is more than packaging. It's finding ways to marry content with form and presentation in a way that's winsome and emotionally meaningful.

Many of us, as we begin to move from single title to a body of work, have to stop and reassess our core strengths and messages. What do I want readers to think and feel about what I provide in terms of a reading experience? How do I build an overall aesthetic that communicates that?

Interestingly, one doesn't need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to these sorts of design decisions. Rather, learn from other authors whose look would be equally fitting for your work. After scouring the virtual shelves, I found a very different aesthetic had grabbed me by the throat, one based on some genre cousins in YA literary fiction.

I'll be back Friday for relaunch festivities. Meanwhile, have a look around!

What do you think of the new look? Have you developed a brand? How did you do so?
Wednesday, October 16, 2013 Laurel Garver
photo by jdurham, morguefile.com
My long-time readers might be a little disoriented, since the scenery has changed quite a bit around here. Laurel's Leaves now has a different color scheme, simplified post layout with click-through, and of course a cool slideshow. There are new tabs up top, separating my books from shorter magazine pieces, and offering other goodies like samples for blog readers. I expect to be adding other tabs in the next few months. The followers widget and search tools by date or tag have moved to the bottom, giving a cleaner look.

In addition to radically changing the blog design, I've also redesigned the cover for my debut novel. All this design tinkering is part of developing my author brand.

Brand is more than packaging. It's finding ways to marry content with form and presentation in a way that's winsome and emotionally meaningful.

Many of us, as we begin to move from single title to a body of work, have to stop and reassess our core strengths and messages. What do I want readers to think and feel about what I provide in terms of a reading experience? How do I build an overall aesthetic that communicates that?

Interestingly, one doesn't need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to these sorts of design decisions. Rather, learn from other authors whose look would be equally fitting for your work. After scouring the virtual shelves, I found a very different aesthetic had grabbed me by the throat, one based on some genre cousins in YA literary fiction.

I'll be back Friday for relaunch festivities. Meanwhile, have a look around!

What do you think of the new look? Have you developed a brand? How did you do so?

Thursday, October 10, 2013

This site is under construction

Beware of falling debris
(and dead links)


A beautifully refurbished blog 
coming soon!

image: North Safety Products (www.northsafety.com)

Thursday, October 10, 2013 Laurel Garver

This site is under construction

Beware of falling debris
(and dead links)


A beautifully refurbished blog 
coming soon!

image: North Safety Products (www.northsafety.com)

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Bonding with an animal is a very special kind of relationship, one that seems to find its way into my work regularly. How someone treats other living creatures communicates volumes about what he or she values.  If you want to know who will grow up to be a villain, look no further than the kid down the block who delights in maiming insects and tormenting stray cats. Similarly, someone who can connect only to a totem creature that's a narcissistic extension of himself (think Voldemort and Nagini) is likely to be coldly ruthless to every other living thing outside his tiny circle of self. Conversely, an aimless underachiever who rescues hurt animals demonstrates a courageous compassion that can blossom into heroism. Learning to care for and communicate with a living thing whose cognition is so different from our own stretches and grows us.

Once that bond is built, it's quite hard to say goodbye.

Yesterday we had to put down our 15-year-old dog, a shelter rescue Husky/Australian shepherd mix we adopted in November 2000. My hubby and I tended to think of Nicky as our "firstborn," the creature who prepared us to become responsible parents when our daughter arrived in 2002.

It was painful to watch his decline over the last several years. His gait became more stiff, his back legs atrophied. He could no longer climb stairs and eventually couldn't walk on his own. A hip harness to carry his back end on walks enabled him to stay mobile for a few more months, but the degenerative neurological condition eventually hit his front legs too. When the slow decline became a sudden, cliff-like-dive and he was truly suffering, we had to make the hard decision to let him go.

I'll especially miss his wolf-like howls of joy whenever I returned home--his way of saying "Woo-hoo! The awesome one is here! I'm so psyched to see you!" It was like having my own ticker-tape parade every day, the way that dog made me feel.

Today I'm deeply sad to no longer have Nicky's trusting, joyful presence in my life. Though I expect we'll stay dog-free for a while and enjoy our two sweet kitties, I'll keep on writing canine (and equine and other species) friends for my characters.

Do animals have a role in your life? Do you incorporate animals in your fiction? 
Tuesday, October 08, 2013 Laurel Garver
Bonding with an animal is a very special kind of relationship, one that seems to find its way into my work regularly. How someone treats other living creatures communicates volumes about what he or she values.  If you want to know who will grow up to be a villain, look no further than the kid down the block who delights in maiming insects and tormenting stray cats. Similarly, someone who can connect only to a totem creature that's a narcissistic extension of himself (think Voldemort and Nagini) is likely to be coldly ruthless to every other living thing outside his tiny circle of self. Conversely, an aimless underachiever who rescues hurt animals demonstrates a courageous compassion that can blossom into heroism. Learning to care for and communicate with a living thing whose cognition is so different from our own stretches and grows us.

Once that bond is built, it's quite hard to say goodbye.

Yesterday we had to put down our 15-year-old dog, a shelter rescue Husky/Australian shepherd mix we adopted in November 2000. My hubby and I tended to think of Nicky as our "firstborn," the creature who prepared us to become responsible parents when our daughter arrived in 2002.

It was painful to watch his decline over the last several years. His gait became more stiff, his back legs atrophied. He could no longer climb stairs and eventually couldn't walk on his own. A hip harness to carry his back end on walks enabled him to stay mobile for a few more months, but the degenerative neurological condition eventually hit his front legs too. When the slow decline became a sudden, cliff-like-dive and he was truly suffering, we had to make the hard decision to let him go.

I'll especially miss his wolf-like howls of joy whenever I returned home--his way of saying "Woo-hoo! The awesome one is here! I'm so psyched to see you!" It was like having my own ticker-tape parade every day, the way that dog made me feel.

Today I'm deeply sad to no longer have Nicky's trusting, joyful presence in my life. Though I expect we'll stay dog-free for a while and enjoy our two sweet kitties, I'll keep on writing canine (and equine and other species) friends for my characters.

Do animals have a role in your life? Do you incorporate animals in your fiction? 

Friday, October 04, 2013

photo by Alvimann, morguefile.com
I edit for a living, and yet when it comes to cleaning up my own work, I often blithely pass over simple errors.  Why is that?

Brain science says our minds are sense-making machines. Our minds will interpret what's in front of us as what we expect to see, mentally filling in omitted words, for example, or seeing expected end punctuation that isn't actually there.

So how does one trick the mind to stop making sense (and assumptions)? Here are a few tricks I use at work to ensure I catch everything.

Change the text's appearance

If you're accustomed to always reading a manuscript in letter size (8.5" x 11"), temporarily change your page size to A5, which is roughly the size of a paperback page. (In the "page layout" menu, select A5.) The shorter lines will make the text flow differently, thus making it unfamiliar. Your brain will approach the text afresh. You'll be better able to see what's actually there rather than what your brain assumes is there.

Changing the typeface and font size can also help. Make all three changes if necessary.

Expect to find errors

Remember how the brain sees what it expects to see? Expect errors and you will find errors.

When you do a first pass, focus on syntax and vocabulary. Question everything.

Word is pretty good at helping you find blatant typos, like "teh" for "the," as well as accidental repetitions and some punctuation errors. It's not so good at finding some kinds of accidental omissions or misused vocabulary.

You might find it helpful to search for each of the words on this list of most common homophone errors (misuse of sound-alike words) and check to be sure you've got the right term for the context. More homophones are listed here. The most extensive list is here (though the collector mistakenly uses the term "homonym" which means "same-name" and refers to terms with one spelling and multiple meanings, like bat).

Do a second pass, focusing on punctuation. Again, assume there are errors. Keep a style book at the ready. If you're not sure whether to add a comma or delete one, look it up.

Slow down

Silent reading allows one to breeze through a text quickly. In fact, it encourages skimming.

To make sure you catch everything rather than zip past errors, take chapters out of order (again, to make them fresh and unfamiliar) and read them aloud. Slowly. Make sure to say only what is actually on the page.

What is your most common missed error? Do you have any additional tricks to help you proofread? 
Friday, October 04, 2013 Laurel Garver
photo by Alvimann, morguefile.com
I edit for a living, and yet when it comes to cleaning up my own work, I often blithely pass over simple errors.  Why is that?

Brain science says our minds are sense-making machines. Our minds will interpret what's in front of us as what we expect to see, mentally filling in omitted words, for example, or seeing expected end punctuation that isn't actually there.

So how does one trick the mind to stop making sense (and assumptions)? Here are a few tricks I use at work to ensure I catch everything.

Change the text's appearance

If you're accustomed to always reading a manuscript in letter size (8.5" x 11"), temporarily change your page size to A5, which is roughly the size of a paperback page. (In the "page layout" menu, select A5.) The shorter lines will make the text flow differently, thus making it unfamiliar. Your brain will approach the text afresh. You'll be better able to see what's actually there rather than what your brain assumes is there.

Changing the typeface and font size can also help. Make all three changes if necessary.

Expect to find errors

Remember how the brain sees what it expects to see? Expect errors and you will find errors.

When you do a first pass, focus on syntax and vocabulary. Question everything.

Word is pretty good at helping you find blatant typos, like "teh" for "the," as well as accidental repetitions and some punctuation errors. It's not so good at finding some kinds of accidental omissions or misused vocabulary.

You might find it helpful to search for each of the words on this list of most common homophone errors (misuse of sound-alike words) and check to be sure you've got the right term for the context. More homophones are listed here. The most extensive list is here (though the collector mistakenly uses the term "homonym" which means "same-name" and refers to terms with one spelling and multiple meanings, like bat).

Do a second pass, focusing on punctuation. Again, assume there are errors. Keep a style book at the ready. If you're not sure whether to add a comma or delete one, look it up.

Slow down

Silent reading allows one to breeze through a text quickly. In fact, it encourages skimming.

To make sure you catch everything rather than zip past errors, take chapters out of order (again, to make them fresh and unfamiliar) and read them aloud. Slowly. Make sure to say only what is actually on the page.

What is your most common missed error? Do you have any additional tricks to help you proofread? 

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Narrative misdirection is a writerly trick of establishing false expectations in your readers, directing their attention to the wrong information and causing them to ignore correct information. It's an excellent way to surprise them, and has uses in nearly every genre, though it is a staple of mysteries.

J.K. Rowling happens to be a master of this technique. Time and again, Harry is certain he knows who the villain is, and every time he is wrong! Author and blogger John Granger goes into a great deal of detail about Rowling's method in his book Unlocking Harry Potter.

In my novel Never Gone, I also played with the technique in various places. For example, take a look at this excerpt from chapter 12.

Go ahead. I'll wait for you.

You're back? Excellent. Did you see how misdirection can be an effective tool to make humorous moments funnier?

I'll explain the elements of narrative misdirection by walking you through what I did, and why and how I did it.

1. Limited viewpoint. My piece is in first person. The only perceptions you have are Dani's. There's a good possibility that she does not have the whole picture. She very well might misinterpret the data in front of her. But it's hard for you, the reader, to know that because I've removed other sources of interpretation by limiting the perception to only what she directly experiences, knows, or remembers.

Rowling uses third person limited. Omniscient narrators are a no-no in this technique. Your POV must limit perception.

2. Sympathetic voice and reader identification. Dani's internal monologue paints her as a smart, arty dreamer who's a bit shy. She obeys her aunt grumblingly, having thoughts of being put-upon with "stupid" assignments. Everyone has felt this way at one point or another. As a reader, you sympathize and take her side. You become willing to trust her judgments about what is happening and why.

3. Playing with expectation. Aunts are those sorts of benevolent authority figures we expect to play "the straight man" in any joke. I describe Cecily having a young child who is usually weaving through her legs or swinging from her purse strap, which cements a picture in your mind: maternal and focused there. I give you only the details that would support your existing expectations of "aunt."

4. Clues the character chooses to ignore. This is VERY important. The truth must be in the scene and there for the astute reader to pick up. Otherwise you just have very annoying out-of-nowhere surprises, not narrative misdirection.

I hint that Janie should be around, and that she had been playing a game called "guerrilla stealth"--a name that implies unexpected combat. I also point out that Aunt Cecily is the instigator of Dani ever leaving the cathedral nave and going into the quire. As a reader, you chose to ignore the importance because Dani does.

5. Details that capture your MC's attention. Does the beauty of Durham cathedral's quire really matter that much? Or the fact that the guide has an exotic accent? No, but as a reader you're willing to be pulled along in Dani's flight of fancy because of the style in this paragraph. I used a little writerly magic dust of pretty words and alliteration and imagery to momentarily sweep you into Dani's distraction.

Keep in mind you can't do pages of this kind of thing, but just a paragraph can be an effective "sleight of hand." It's like the "jazz-hands" dazzle that magicians use to point you away from the real action.

Likewise, drawing Dani's attention primarily to the guy she tripped over keeps you, the reader, from looking deeper into what her family members are doing.

6. Confirm misinterpretations. Both Aunt Cecily and Janie play to Dani's expectation. The aunt scolds, the cousin becomes "ashy pale" at the scolding. And it's no small scolding. The aunt's big reaction cements the misinterpretation as true.

7. Payoff, in which misinterpretations are clarified. This is one tiny detail you might be tempted to overlook. Do wrap up how the surprise really happened, because it's annoying to the reader when you don't. Rowling always does. In my little scene, it was a simple exchange: "You weren't supposed to tell your mum" and "you never said that." I didn't have to give a detailed back story of how or when Janie and Cecily planned their trick on Dani. The reader can imagine it easily enough. But I did need to make it clear they were in cahoots deliberately from the beginning or the payoff would have fallen flat, because readers just wouldn't buy it.


So there you go, a quick primer on the basics of simple narrative misdirection. In mysteries, of course, it gets considerably more complicated. The author must layer in clues and dazzling distractions, one on top of another.

How do you think you might use this technique in your writing?
Tuesday, October 01, 2013 Laurel Garver
Narrative misdirection is a writerly trick of establishing false expectations in your readers, directing their attention to the wrong information and causing them to ignore correct information. It's an excellent way to surprise them, and has uses in nearly every genre, though it is a staple of mysteries.

J.K. Rowling happens to be a master of this technique. Time and again, Harry is certain he knows who the villain is, and every time he is wrong! Author and blogger John Granger goes into a great deal of detail about Rowling's method in his book Unlocking Harry Potter.

In my novel Never Gone, I also played with the technique in various places. For example, take a look at this excerpt from chapter 12.

Go ahead. I'll wait for you.

You're back? Excellent. Did you see how misdirection can be an effective tool to make humorous moments funnier?

I'll explain the elements of narrative misdirection by walking you through what I did, and why and how I did it.

1. Limited viewpoint. My piece is in first person. The only perceptions you have are Dani's. There's a good possibility that she does not have the whole picture. She very well might misinterpret the data in front of her. But it's hard for you, the reader, to know that because I've removed other sources of interpretation by limiting the perception to only what she directly experiences, knows, or remembers.

Rowling uses third person limited. Omniscient narrators are a no-no in this technique. Your POV must limit perception.

2. Sympathetic voice and reader identification. Dani's internal monologue paints her as a smart, arty dreamer who's a bit shy. She obeys her aunt grumblingly, having thoughts of being put-upon with "stupid" assignments. Everyone has felt this way at one point or another. As a reader, you sympathize and take her side. You become willing to trust her judgments about what is happening and why.

3. Playing with expectation. Aunts are those sorts of benevolent authority figures we expect to play "the straight man" in any joke. I describe Cecily having a young child who is usually weaving through her legs or swinging from her purse strap, which cements a picture in your mind: maternal and focused there. I give you only the details that would support your existing expectations of "aunt."

4. Clues the character chooses to ignore. This is VERY important. The truth must be in the scene and there for the astute reader to pick up. Otherwise you just have very annoying out-of-nowhere surprises, not narrative misdirection.

I hint that Janie should be around, and that she had been playing a game called "guerrilla stealth"--a name that implies unexpected combat. I also point out that Aunt Cecily is the instigator of Dani ever leaving the cathedral nave and going into the quire. As a reader, you chose to ignore the importance because Dani does.

5. Details that capture your MC's attention. Does the beauty of Durham cathedral's quire really matter that much? Or the fact that the guide has an exotic accent? No, but as a reader you're willing to be pulled along in Dani's flight of fancy because of the style in this paragraph. I used a little writerly magic dust of pretty words and alliteration and imagery to momentarily sweep you into Dani's distraction.

Keep in mind you can't do pages of this kind of thing, but just a paragraph can be an effective "sleight of hand." It's like the "jazz-hands" dazzle that magicians use to point you away from the real action.

Likewise, drawing Dani's attention primarily to the guy she tripped over keeps you, the reader, from looking deeper into what her family members are doing.

6. Confirm misinterpretations. Both Aunt Cecily and Janie play to Dani's expectation. The aunt scolds, the cousin becomes "ashy pale" at the scolding. And it's no small scolding. The aunt's big reaction cements the misinterpretation as true.

7. Payoff, in which misinterpretations are clarified. This is one tiny detail you might be tempted to overlook. Do wrap up how the surprise really happened, because it's annoying to the reader when you don't. Rowling always does. In my little scene, it was a simple exchange: "You weren't supposed to tell your mum" and "you never said that." I didn't have to give a detailed back story of how or when Janie and Cecily planned their trick on Dani. The reader can imagine it easily enough. But I did need to make it clear they were in cahoots deliberately from the beginning or the payoff would have fallen flat, because readers just wouldn't buy it.


So there you go, a quick primer on the basics of simple narrative misdirection. In mysteries, of course, it gets considerably more complicated. The author must layer in clues and dazzling distractions, one on top of another.

How do you think you might use this technique in your writing?