Thursday, June 26, 2014

So you want to be a writer

Guest Post by Lisa Regan, author of Hold Still

Some people are practically born writing.  I’m that type—I started writing stories at a very young age.  Other people come to writing later in life.  Either way, you can be successful at it if you work hard and are committed to it.  Even people like me who spend their whole lives writing sometimes still take a long time to get published.  Here are five things to keep in mind if you want to be successful at writing:

  1.  Figure out what you want to write and stick with it.  Many published writers are successful because they can keep readers coming back for more.  Readers like to know what they’re getting when they pick up one of your books so you should try to focus on one genre and really give it your all.  Pick a genre that you’re passionate about and stick with it.
  2. Read, read, read.  One of the best ways to become a better writer is to be a reader.  See what other writers do.  Get the bestselling books in your genre and read them.  Take note of how those authors craft and deliver a story.  Re-read your favorite books with your writer’s hat on and try to figure out what the author did that made you love that book so much.
  3. Write, write, write.  Try to write as much as you can.  Even if you’re not working on a story or a book.  Write emails, keep a journal—write something as often as possible.  One of the best ways to improve your writing is to actually write.  Remember, you don’t have to use everything you write, but you should write something.  Practice your craft and you will get better.
  4. Connect with other writers.  I’ve found the best way to do this is through blogging but with the internet there are so many ways to find and connect with other writers.  See if there is a writing group in your area.  Get yourself some writing friends and cultivate those relationships.  They’ll help you become a better writer and they’ll buoy you up when the business pushes you down.
  5. Research.  Take writing classes.  Read books on the craft.  Talk to other writers.  If you’ve already written something and want to get it published, research how to go about it.  Make sure you know as much about the business as you can before you put yourself out there.  You don’t want to be turned away by agents, editors or publishers or disqualified from contests because you didn’t take the proper steps to submit or did not follow directions.  Take the time to learn about the industry before you plunge into it.
Lisa Regan is a crime fiction author.  Her first novel, Finding Claire Fletcher won Best Heroine in the eFestival of Words Best of the Independent eBook Awards 2013.  It was runner-up for Best Novel.  It was also a Digital Book Today Best of 2013 ebook selection.  In December 2013, Finding Claire Fletcher and her second novel, Aberration were #1 Amazon bestsellers in the Kidnapping and Serial Killers categories, respectively.
Lisa is a member of Sisters In Crime.  She has a Bachelor’s Degree in English and Master of Education Degree from Bloomsburg University.  She lives in Philadelphia with her husband and daughter. 

Three men are viciously assaulting Philadelphia's prostitutes, and it's up to veteran detective Jocelyn Rush to stop them.  She catches two, but they won't betray their partner, the most dangerous of all, and the attacks continue, striking closer to home.  Jocelyn's only real clue comes when a monster from her past resurfaces--now she must race to connect the demons of her past with the villain of her present--before the sadistic attacker sets his sights on her.
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Monday, June 9, 2014

Hooray for the Brown Box!

Yes, that does sound a little sad.  But after a week in a Kyiv hospital my Brown Box Apartment felt like home.
My apartment is a tad brown.  Brown carpets, brown walls, brown fake leather furniture, brown cupboards.  Even my bedroom is brown.  And in the kitchen, the dark maroon cupboards do lean towards the brown side.  The bathroom has chocolate brown tiles on the floor and walls.  It is a little bit like a brown cave.  Even when the sun is shining brightly outside, I have to have lights on in the inside because of the very brownness of it all.  What stops it from being a bit like living in a pile of brown excrement is the green art deco chandelier in the lounge.
A brown box can be a depressing place to live, especially when I think of the white, blues, turquoises and purples I used to decorate my home in Cape Town to give it that beach cottage feel.  But I have got used to the brown, and instead of brightening it up with colour I have livened it up with cooking smells as I try out recipes for my cookbook I'm working on.
After 3 nights in hospital, 4 days but who's counting, all I wanted was to go back to my brown box.  Never had a brown box felt so inviting.  I wanted my kitchen so I could cook up a storm.  I wanted my fake leather couch that is so comfortable to lie on.  I wanted the comfort of my brown walls and feel the softness of my brown carpet under my feet.
It wasn't as if the hospital was terrible.  It wasn't.  I had a private room en suite and a bar fridge and a very comfortable easy chair.  But it wasn't home.
The nurses were pleasant enough even though they tried to avoid me as much as possible as they couldn't speak English.  Some of the doctors I saw had limited English.  It is a bit frightening when you have all these tests and nobody talks to you and explains what is happening.  Communication is a series of grunts and gestures.
The one doctor who did have decent English I hit.  I punched him and knocked him right off his chair so that he landed on his bum on the ground.  And I didn't even apologise.  The sadistic little turd deserved it.
The nurse had taken me to see this doctor and I assumed it would be another scan as I had been having a few of those each day.  He informed me with a cruel smile that he would be performing an endoscopy and asked me if I knew what it was.  I shook my head.  I should have run while I had the chance.  The doctor's bedside manner had been left behind at the Torture Chamber he frequented after hours.  "Lie on your side," he ordered with another cruel smile, "And open mouth."
Not having any inkling what was going to happen, I complied.  The doctor jammed a funnel in my mouth that tasted of toilet cleaner.  (I have never actually tried toilet cleaner, but this is what I imagine it tastes like.)  He then proceeded to force a large black pipe down my throat.  Of course I panicked.  On good days I suffer from an acute gag reflex and I often struggle to swallow pills.  He kept shouting for me to swallow, but how can you swallow when your throats clamps shut and you can't breathe?  I struggled to pull out the pipe, he continued to try and force it in and in my panic I decked him.
If I wasn't hyperventilating, I would have returned the cruel smile he had greeted me with.
"We must do it," he snarled.
"I can't do it!" I shouted clutching my throat.
"We must do it," he said through gritted teeth as he advanced with his pipe.
"Okay, I'll try."  I can't believe I said those words and gave in so easily.
The second time was even worse.  The nurse held the funnel to my mouth so I couldn't move and a young blonde man with Justin Bieber's famous hairstyle when he first made it and pink scrubs sat on me and held me down.  Doctor Evil advanced with his pipe shouting, "Swallow!  Breathe!"
I could not breathe at all and my eyes felt like they were protruding so much they were going to pop right out of the sockets.  I fought and managed to dislodge the pink scrub man who was sitting astride me and ripped out the black pipe so I could breathe.  "It's okay I'm finished," the doctor said, lying through his teeth.  There was no way he had passed it down my insides and had time to take photos.
I was severely traumatised by that experience.  The nurse kept patting my back and stroking my arm as she led me hyperventilating, with tears running down my cheeks, back to my room.  Never again.
And so I started dreaming about my brown box and how safe I feel there.
The doctor in charge of me, not Doctor Evil, was easily persuaded to let me stay at home and just go in every day for my blood pressure to be checked, injections and a drip.  Hopefully Wednesday will be my last day of commuting to the hospital.
Cindy Vine is a South African currently living and working in Kyiv in Ukraine. She is the author of Hush Baby, Defective, C U @ 8, Not Telling and The Case of Billy B. All her books are available on Amazon in both print and Kindle format.