March 3, 2015

Insecure Writers' Support Group - February Grace and Upon a Time OR where to find inspiration for writing

According to Jack London: “You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.”
While I agree that finding inspiration feels like a fight a lot of the time, we can also find it in places that are staring us right in the face. For this blog post, I’m referring to fairy tales. They’ve become so familiar to us that we may overlook them as sources of inspiration.

Take, for example, the story of Cinderella. Out of curiosity, I wanted to know how many versions of the story have been written. Wikipedia listed too many to count. The one we’ve come to recognize as the classic tale with a pumpkin and fairy godmother came from Charles Perrault in 1697 under the name of Cendrillon.

The amazing thing about writers and our creativity is that if you gave 50 authors the Cinderella story, or any other fairy tale, and asked them to write their version of it, you could end up with a hundred different stories (at least if some of them were like me and had more than one way to make it different).

When my blogging friend February Grace used it for inspiration, she came up with a version I had never imagined myself but now treasure as one of my favorites. To summarize the plot:

A blacksmith’s apprentice who would be a knight. The heir to the throne, at death’s door. One woman who would save them both, if she could… 

Charlotte was number sixty-four in the second group of young, hopeful maidens intended to meet the Prince at a grand ball in his honor. 

That introduction was not to be. 

She returned home to her tiny village—and her visions of a future limited by it—without any warning of the drastic turn her life was about to take. 

Soon she would be fighting against the odds to help keep a gravely wounded stranger alive; and waging war with her own heart, as he stirred feelings in her she’d never known. 

When the stranger’s royal identity is revealed, Charlotte is faced with an entirely different battle: one to keep her family, village, and the injured Prince in her care all safe from a madman set on taking the throne by any means necessary.

When I asked February what had inspired her to write this particular version, she said, “I have always wondered in the back of my mind what happened to the girls who weren't picked at the ball. So that turned into the idea of Charlotte, which turned into UPON A TIME but somewhere in it all it became so much more than her story. It became that of Thomas (the blacksmith’s apprentice), and the Prince, and the trials and physical challenges they would have to overcome.

“The characters became dear to me (as someone who faces physical challenges every day myself) and I can only hope it makes those out there facing all kinds of physical struggles to feel understood, inspired, and less alone.”

To read a brief exerpt, go here.  To see where you can find this beautiful story in e-format and paperback, read my last post. To find inspiration, maybe you can look for it in stories you already know. If you need more encouragement, check out the other posts for The Insecure Writers’ Support Group (posts available March 4th).

March 2, 2015

Blog Blitz - Official Release Day for "Upon a Time"

Upon a Time is a beautifully written re-telling of the fairy tale Cinderella. February takes the familiar story and turns it on its ear with imperfect characters, intrigue, and unexpected twists in the plot.

after reading the Wattpad edition, Bru's version has now become one of my favorites (along with the movie "Ever After," and way before that, the 1965 Rodgers and Hammerstein version with Lesley Ann Warren that i watched every time it was on the tv.)

here's where you can purchase Upon a Time in paperback at Amazon or Barnes and Noble Online, or in e-versions at the Amazon Kindle Store  and the Nook store.

on March 3rd, i'll be putting up the answer to a question i asked February about the book. stay tuned.

January 14, 2015

IWSG - (finally)... on getting stuck

this is a picture of my driveway, taken sometime in the winter of 2011. such a pretty picture. you'd never think that just around the bend to the left would be a place that scared me for a couple of winters.

we don't get a lot of snow at a time here in Butte, MT--maybe 2 - 3 inches on a good day. but some days it can be up to 6 or 8. and there are places in my driveway where we get drifting, so the snow can be 12 inches deep in some spots. and that spot around the corner is one of those.

add to that that we haven't had a snow plow up until just a few days ago and you can see where this is going.

granted, i have an SUV with 4-wheel drive, but that doesn't help when you don't know how to drive in snow because you spent most of your life in Phoenix, AZ.

so even though my husband kept telling me that i had to get up to at least 25 mph to get up my driveway, and not worry about the back end of my car sliding, i never listened to his words of wisdom, despite the fact that he could always get up the driveway.

i always approached the ascent up that particular spot with caution. slow caution. anything to avoid the sliding around. and i got stuck in that spot at least 4 times, maybe more. and since i'm not good at backing down a curved driveway without going into the ditch, and i'm not keen on digging myself out, the car would stay there until my husband got home and then he had the frigid task of getting it up the drive.

last year in March, after we had a really big snow, i decided i'd had enough of getting stuck. i wanted to learn how to get my car up my driveway every single time. i asked my husband for a driving lesson. so, with my husband in the passenger seat and me in the driver seat, i went up and down that driveway, as fast as i could make myself go, at least a dozen times without stopping.

i had the scary adrenaline rush every time (which i don't like). there was slipping. there was sliding. my husband kept saying, "embrace the slide," (which i don't like either.). but i got over my fear of the driveway.

i still have to take a few deep breaths before i floor it to get up the hill. i still get the niggling fear in the back of my mind when i get to that spot that says i'm not going to make it. i still get the adrenaline rush when the back end starts to slide a little, and it lasts all the way into the garage (i even get that rush when my boys make the drive).

but now i can laugh about it. now i can be confident that, barring a really bad snow dump, i can always get up the driveway, whether the snow is deep or the ground is icy.

a few weeks ago, i finally saw the link between my driveway experience and my writing.

time to go gun the engine.

January 7, 2015

IWSG - ???

i was going to post today but something came up. i'm hoping to post on Thursday or Friday. in the meantime, i have links to two or three years of IWSG posts from the past, listed from oldest to newest.

December 31, 2014

and a happy new year

i think i've used this New Year's wish from Neil Gaiman before, but it's just as good this time around.

May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you're wonderful, and don't forget to make some art -- write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.

December 23, 2014

Christmas blessings... you and your family from Montana.

here's wishing you peace, good health, and if you're a writer, all the words you need to finish your novel and/or ideas to start a new one.

December 3, 2014

IWSG - why post to IWSG at all?

that was my thought today as i remembered that the monthy IWSG post was coming up. i've been posting for IWSG from the beginning and i'm not sure i have anything new to say. there are 268 blogs on the list. would adding my 2 cents to the great advice out there be worth it?

ironically, i realized those can be excuses for not writing--and are both based in my insecurities. why write when there are so many books out there? who's going to read a book that uses a plot line used by so many others. do i really have anything unique to say?

then i remembered a Dr. Seuss quote: “Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”

so i took a few minutes to write an IWSG post because among the 268 participants, i'm the only Michelle Gregory out there. if only one person reads this post today, i will have encouraged that one person, and that was always my original reason for blogging.

to see who the other 267 participants are, you can go to the IWSG sign-up page. they all have something unique to say too. i wish i could visit every one of them and say, "Good job. Keep posting. Someone is going to be encouraged, even if it's only me."

November 20, 2014

"Eight Terrible Titles"

my friend Christine Hardy posted this writing game on facebook. to play, you blindly scroll through your manuscript. as you scroll, let your cursor fall wherever it may. select the phrase it lands on and–BAM! you’ve got yourself one terrifically terrible title! repeat this 7 more times.

i used my forever work-in-progress, Black Heart, and gave myself a good chuckle. if you feel like playing along, leave your terrible titles in the comments.

1. The Dark Presence was Back

2. Like a Normal Family

3. You’re Bleeding

4. Shouldn’t You Have Inherited It?

5. She Counted Place Settings

6. You Look Like You Know Something 

7. I Can’t Count the Number of Times Mother Scolded Me

8. You Know You Have to Marry Her Now

September 29, 2014

Insecure Writers' Support Group - overcoming the obstacles

(This post includes an interview and is longer than the recommended 300 words for IWSG, but it also includes 2 giveaways for a great read.)

I started writing in 2005. Since that time, I’ve met a lot of writers. I’ve heard a lot of stories about the difficulties and insecurities they’ve had to overcome to get their books published. And whether they went the traditional route or the self-publishing route, they’ve all had to fight to get their books out into the world to be read. One of these writers is Kristal Shaff. 

I’ve known Kristal since 2005 or 2006. We met because we’d both posted comments on another writer’s blog. We started chatting via AOL chat and discovered we had some common ground. She was a mom in Iowa with three young kids. I was a mom in Arizona with three young kids. We were both working on a first novel. We were both writing fantasy. At the time, I just wanted one copy of my book to hold in my hands to prove I’d written a novel. Kristal wanted her story published. 

Very soon after meeting, we agreed to help each other with our stories. Over the years, we’ve shared each other’s frustrations and tears and triumphs—not just over writing, but life. We’ve pulled each other out of our writer slumps and given each other a kick in the seat of the pants when necessary. We’ve critiqued and proofread each other’s stories, and helped each other become better writers.

After all this time of watching her overcome one obstacle after another to publish her book (a fantasy story I’ve read in all of its forms more times than I can count, and enjoyed every single time), I now have the privilege of helping her promote it. 

MG: Kristal, thank you so much for stopping by beautiful chaos as part of your blog tour.
KS: Sure. Thanks for having me here.

MG: Why did you want to write The Emissary?
KS: I’ve always been an avid reader. It wasn’t until I read the YA fantasy novel, ERAGON, that I realized I wanted to give it a go myself. Christopher Paolini, the author, inspired me to try because he was only a teen when he wrote his book. It showed me that it doesn’t matter what age you are, young or old. If you want to write a book, why not try.

MG: How long has this process taken, from the time you decided to write the novel to the release date?
KS: Oh my. Well, it’s been a really long time. I wrote the first, terrible words back in 2005, then didn’t have anything workable until 2006. My first completed draft was almost 200,000 words of complete crap. It took some time to edit it down into something workable. Finally, after about 8 drafts, I was able to find an agent. That was in 2008. After a year of trying to sell the book with my agent, it failed. I’ve pulled it out and rewritten it several times after that. So it’s been a very long process, but I’ve never given up on it.

MG: What were some of the things you did to try to get the book “out there” to be read?
KS: I went the agent route first, and that failed. I also submitted it to several publishers on my own. Some of those submissions were almost successful, such as a rewrite from Little Brown Publishing and a nice personalized note from Baen. I also entered it into some open door submission and was very close to publishing with Strange Chemistry. I also got some beta readers along the way, which was really good for me. I found a group of fellows on a slinging forum (where people like to throw rocks with slings and talk about it). I’d approached them for research on using slings for my book, and I found them to be very friendly and helpful. Several of the fellows on there were great assets for beta readers and gave me a lot of encouragement to my battered self-esteem.

MG: What were some of your fears and insecurities along the way?
KS: Rejection is the biggest fear. Even now that it is out in the word, there is a fear that someone won’t like it. And after each rejection, you doubt that you can actually do it again. Writing is such a personal thing; you open your mind up to others. So I believe it’s completely natural to have some fears. Being a writer puts you in a very vulnerable state.

MG: How did you overcome them?
KS: My fears? You don’t totally overcome them. You learn to deal with your fears, cover them up, harden the outside layer to protect you. I think writers should worry more if you feel confident all the time. Writers who think they are wonderful are most likely to be the worst at their craft, because they can’t see beyond their glory. You need discernment to improve.  I do think that all the rejections have helped me to improve, and also prepared me for bad reviews. Even the most famous writers get bad reviews. So going through the pain of the process, I believe, prepares you for the destination of publication. I’m more equipped now because it was a long, hard journey.

MG: If you had it to do over again, would you?
KS: I think so. I’ve learned a lot and gained a lot of friends. There is something to be said for that alone. I’m still very new to this “being published” thing, that I’m honestly having a hard time wrapping my brain around it. I feel the same as I did before, but there is a sense of closure to it finally.

MG: What advice would you give other insecure writers?
KS: It’s okay to feel insecure. It’s normal. Like a hero in your stories, the key is to push through and be brave even in the midst of self-doubt. The best heroes are the ones who succeed after struggling through trials and insecurity. Be a hero, like the ones in your stories, and keep going. With a little stubborn perseverance, and the willingness to see your faults and rejections as opportunities to grow and improve, you can succeed.

For more information about The Emissary, Kristal, or the blog tour, click here, or on The Emissary’s cover at the top of my sidebar. 

The blog tour host, MaryAnn at Chapter by Chapter will be giving away 5 digital copies of Kristal’s book at the end of the tour, October 25. If you want to enter, here’s a link to the rafflecopter website.

Completely separate from Chapter by Chapter, and Month9Books (Kristal’s publisher), I will be giving away 3 copies of The Emissary (out of my own pocket because I love this story so much) in a random drawing of people who comment on this post. I will choose winners October 4. They’ll get to choose from e-book or paperback.