March 2016 Queen of Infinite Space Newsletter
Kristi Cramer, Author
March 5th Newsletter
In this issue: A new release, More on Productivity in the Writing Cave, Serializing a YA Historical Fantasy, a New Facebook Group for Strong Women in Fiction, and What's with the Pretentious Name
In case you were waiting...One Last Song is out.
If you didn't order it before March 1st, you missed the 99¢ price, but it is still very reasonable at $2.99. Get your copy today at most major etailers.
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I’m pretty new at this newsletter business, so I’m going to keep it simple. I’ll recap my blog posts, and expand on them. Such as, more information that has come to light since my post, or maybe share some comments on the subject. More answers to questions on interviews. Maybe something new if the inspiration strikes.
This will surely be an evolving process.
Writer’s Conference = Productivity! – Post from 2/17
President’s Day weekend I went to the 21st Annual South Coast Writer’s Conference in Gold Beach. As usual. (I’ve only missed 5 of the 21, I think.) This year I got a lot of bang for my buck. Not that I don’t normally, but this year they had some great speakers on topics I really needed to hear about if I am going to take a proper crack at writing full time.
I spent Friday in an all-day intensive workshop about the serious business of writing, facilitated by Jason Brick. One of many things he taught that really resonated with me is “The more you don’t want to have a schedule, the more you need one.”
Sigh. So, here I am. Writing a blog post because it is on my newly developed schedule. But you know what, instead of resenting it and fighting it, I’m actually enjoying the process. This is coming off as more “stream of consciousness” writing, but that is part of the plan, too.
Another presenter, Eric Witchey, taught that there are no wrong ideas. Or more precisely, the only wrong idea in writing is the one that never gets written down.
I came away with so many wonderful tools. Like how to use a Pomodoro timer to focus on my writing. To me it is comparable to what I learned in a 12 Step program: You can do for 30 minutes what you can’t imagine doing all day. Then you take a break and start the timer again. In this way you train yourself to focus and cut out the distractions.
Another tool is also courtesy of Mr. Witchey. Use a metronome to trigger ideas. Train yourself that with every tock of the metronome you come up with one idea – this is great for the brainstorming stage of writing. Each idea may be more wild and outrageous than the last, but something in that maelstrom of ideas will be the perfect torture to put my characters through.
I anticipate not spending quite so long pondering plot points, but rather coming up with more gut wrenching plots for your entertainment. My goal for the future is to not just entertain you with my stories, but really affect you with them. It’s time to move beyond the fluff, the mind-candy, and make some seriously memorable fiction you’ll want to read again and again.
One idea/tool I learned has so far been a bust. There are tools out there that supposedly block distracting websites, but everything I’ve found so far either just plain didn’t work (Cold Turkey) or only works on Chrome – and I really prefer Edge. So...rotten tomatoes there. Just going to use the Pomodoro (tomato) timer and make my willpower work. I did find an app (Screen Time) for my phone and tablet that locks me out of selected apps during “school” time and “sleep” time, and that has helped so far. It also limits me to an hour on each device, but so far I haven’t even come close to hitting the one hour mark. So maybe I’m not as addicted as I think I am—just that lots of little visits add up to a lot of time wasted.
And Now for Something Completely Different... Post from 2/24
Did you know I have written a Young Adult Historical Fantasy trilogy? Since it is so different from my other works, I've been trying to decide how to proceed. I think I've landed on serializing the story before a summer publication. As a result, the Prologue and Chapters 1-4 are up on Goodreads right now. Not sure if I'll publish one chapter per week, or two. I can probably do two, and get them all up before a June 1 release date.
Does this even make sense? I don't know. You don't have to have a Goodreads account to read them, but if you do have one, you can comment on the chapters, let me know what you think, ask questions, and ask for more. Once all three books are out, I will re-release them together, and put them out as a paperback.
Read the Prologue and first chapters of A True Prince, the first book in the Bonnie Isles Trilogy on Goodreads.
Here is the working blurb:
Aslynn and Sebastian have been friends nearly since birth. A friendship cemented by a tragic common thread: Aslynn's mother died giving birth to her, and Sebastian had been found floating in a sea chest after a storm. Though a magic spell had protected him, there was no clue as to his identity or his origins. Aslynn's father, King Isaiah, took the boy in to be raised by his swordmaster, and the two motherless children had shared a wet nurse, and a great deal of time over 15 years.
But now the forces of Change are moving, converging on the small island kingdom they call their home.
In a storm to rival the one that brought Sebastian ashore, a Stranger is shipwrecked, and rescued by Sebastian and Aslynn. In his gratitude, the traveling mystic offers to try to solve Sebastian's Mystery. In the course of his investigation the stranger uncovers clues, but events surrounding his arrival stir up more than just the past.
New Facebook group = What makes a Strong Woman? - Post from 3/2
I had something of an epiphany while I was at my sister’s house, after the Writer’s Conference. At the conference, I learned that I need to interact with people in my genre more, but I didn’t want it to be just about me, you know? I was trying to figure out how to encourage more interactions with people who, like me, enjoy a good suspenseful read with a strong female lead. Then it hit me: I could start a Facebook group for and about Strong Women in Suspense.
It’s off to a pretty good start. We’re already up above 25 members (which was my 3 month goal) and having some lively discussions about what makes a strong woman, in life and in fiction. We’ve shared some inspiring stories of current and historical strong women. We’ve shared inspirational memes and held each other up to the light.
We’ve even shared a blog post from a man who is suggesting tips for dating strong women. After all, the group shouldn’t just be limited to women. There are men out there who encourage, support, and inspire strong women, and it was never my intention to be a hen party of women bashing men. (So by all means, if you know a man who wouldn’t be threatened by this group and would, in fact, contribute, invite him!)
I like to write my female characters as strong women. Maybe they won’t always start out as strong women, but by the end of their story arc, they will be. My stories may even have more strong women than weak, or I like the word undeveloped better.
In my latest novel, I had two beta readers (out of four) say the teenage girls didn’t react realistically to the situation they were in. Part of me rebelled. How was the story supposed to move forward if all they did was scream and huddle together? Then I realized I was having a knee-jerk reaction to the perceived suggestion that my females were too strong, and I took a step back to look at it objectively.
I knew my girls were strong, especially the heroine, so what the beta readers were really telling me was that I hadn’t convinced them by showing why and how they could be so strong. Which led me to consider the kinds of things that make us strong.
First and foremost, education. In my book, Kylie is the daughter of a veterinarian, and her (single) mother brought her along when she’d go to special trainings, like disaster preparedness. In a small town where there isn’t a big hospital and most of the emergency crews are volunteer, it made sense to me that a vet, who has a base of medical training anyway, would want to be ready in the event of a tornado or a wreck on the highway. Janie isn’t the sort to just let Kylie sit in the car and wait. She was exposed to these clinics, and learned alongside her mother how to handle a crisis.
Second, I think, would be a loving and supportive family. Kylie’s dad only recently came back on the scene, but her mother was always there for her, as were her grandparents. She always had someone to look up to and receive love from. They encouraged her to be her own person, and even let her make her mistakes, but they were always there to love her.
This third element isn’t something every woman has access to, but Kylie grew up around animals that were larger than her. She learned to respect that size, but also not to let her fear of it control her. She gained confidence through the knowledge that she could work with a creature who outweighed her by hundreds of pounds, and bend it to her will. She learned that to give in to fear was to get trampled, hurt, thrown, and broken, and she learned to control her fear—not to say she never felt it, she just never let it control her.
I guess that could break down to learning about fear in general. I had a friend once who told me there are two kinds of people in the world. Those who are afraid and shut down, and those who are afraid and do it anyway. She and I were in the latter category, and so is Kylie.
What do you think makes women—or anyone—strong?
What experiences have made you strong?
One (anonymous) commenter on my blog said she didn’t feel strong, but she was handling her mood disorder pretty well. I think anyone who lives with a mood disorder is inherently strong in ways people who don’t have them can never understand. We all have vulnerabilities and weaknesses, but that doesn’t mean WE are weak. Sometimes strength is just what she said – handling a problem ‘pretty well.’
On Goodreads, Michele Boy said “To me, strong is the ability to admit when you are weak. To hold someone's hand through a painful experience and forget about yourself. I have had many experiences that I wouldn't wish on anyone but going through them, even badly, created me. Strong is failing more than you succeed, pushing, enduring, and growing.”
I couldn’t agree more.
I know that my experiences created me, too. I fell in love with a man who was more trouble than I ever imagined when I was 19, survived his subtle (and some not-so-subtle) abuse, and learned what I didn’t want out of life. I have worked a bunch of different jobs that have shaped who I am as a person as well as a writer. I started and walked away from two businesses—one successful, the other...not so much. I married a man when I was 38, and married into challenges I never dreamed I’d encounter.
Each event has chipped away more of the surrounding stone to reveal the ‘real’ me inside, like one of Michelangelo’s statues. But unlike a statue that breaks when it encounters a hard object, I have the flexibility and the heart to go on and recover/adapt to a new set of circumstances when the shit hits the fan.
That is why I call myself a strong woman. How about you?