Monday, July 29, 2013

Write Enviroment

E.B. White and his boathouse
Writers discovered a long time ago that where the writing is done is just as important as what is being written. Great scribes such as Mark Twain and Jane Austin have had special places inside of their homes where their muses were most inspired to work.

J.K. Rowling authored the first part of Harry Potter in a coffee shop. Jim Harrison’s muse worked best in hotel rooms. The environment in which writers surround themselves can effect the flow of words from mind to page.

Perhaps your muse needs isolation like Virginia Wolfe who had a writing shed in her garden. George Bernard Shaw also had a writing shed. Only his had a literal twist, the shed was built to rotate allowing him to keep the sunlight in his window, his preferred source of lighting.

What’s in that space can make a difference too. Invasions into that space such as extra clutter, noise above the chosen novel soundtrack or family distractions can throw off the muse. Yet sometimes nothing can be out of sorts just being in the same place, surrounded by the same things can stifle creativity.

While having a write environment is great, getting out of it can be too. There are many wonderful places to write to inspire the story. Pack up and spend a few hours writing in a location from your book.

Your local library has tables and free internet. Plus, resources for research are just a few steps away. Coffee

Writing Room of Rudyard Kipling

houses are always fun, but try writing outside the box of normal ‘writer places to go’

Museums are awesome and love us writers. One of local museums here even has a café with lovely tables to sit at. Though I prefer to sit on one of the benches in front of a painting or historical piece that inspires me. Go to the park there are always benches, picnic tables, or gazebos to write in.

Find some place with a lot of activity like a mall food court. People watching can get a little distracting but it can also inspire some fantastic characters. In short your writing environment does matter.

Find your write place and what it takes to inspire your muse. Even something as small as a scented candle or a framed photo of your main character sitting near by can do the trick.
It can have the perfect lighting, an ergonomic chair and keyboard, desk that’s just the right height. But is it inspiring? Does sitting in that place make your muse happy and anxious to guide your fingers over the keys?

What’s your write environment like?

Hunter S. Thompson writing on the beach

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Gaming and the Plight of War Veterans guest post by author David Litwack

Please enjoy this guest post by David Litwack, author of the gripping contemporary novel, Along the Watchtower, and the deep, dark dystopia, There Comes a Prophet. Then read on to learn how you can win huge prizes as part of this blog tour, including a Kindle Fire, $650 in Amazon gift cards, and 5 autographed copies of each book.  

The Virtual World of Gaming and the Plight of War Veterans: A Guest Post by David Litwack

  Gaming and war would seem to be as far apart from each other as you can get. But while you’re in the midst of them, they share one thing in common—a sense of being in an alternate reality.

 I’ve always been fascinated by how much of what we consider to be reality is subjective, how each of us bring our own experiences and biases into play. But when we’re ripped from our normal lives and placed in extreme circumstances, our reality becomes totally fragmented. Such is the case with hospitals and war.

 A couple of years ago, I became engrossed in the online game, World of Warcraft, thanks to my son. I’m on the east coast and he’s on the west, so we’d meet every Wednesday evening in the virtual world of Azeroth, where our avatars would go on quests together. I was struck by how immersed I became in the mood of the game as we wandered through castles and crypts, solving riddles and vanquishing demons, how for a short period of time, I could totally buy in to the alternate reality.

 The fantasy gaming experience has a dream-like quality to it, which led me to wonder: how would this Along the Watchtower.
experience affect the dreams of someone whose reality has been fragmented by the trauma of war? These concepts—war, hospitals, and the fantasy world of online gaming—came together in

 I began to research the effects of war on returning veterans. I learned that 30% are diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress. That means after six months they’re still dealing with flashbacks, disturbing dreams, depression and difficulty re-assimilating into their former lives. And that doesn't account for the many others who are seemingly able to adjust but continue to deal with inner turmoil. The war experience changes all forever. Many have suicidal thoughts (the suicide rate among veterans is triple that of the general population. More soldiers have died by their own hand than in the war itself). Many struggle with dark thoughts and have difficulty forming relationships, unable to “turn off” the normal flight or fight syndrome, leaving them suspicious in crowds and always on alert.

 And then, there are the physical injuries. One of the ironic successes of these recent wars is the advance in battlefield medicine. The result is that far fewer die of wounds than in prior wars. The ratio of wounded to dead in WWII was 1.1/1, in Vietnam 1.7/1. In Iraq, it’s 7/1. More are saved, but more come home with debilitating, lifelong injuries. And 68% of the wounded have some form or brain trauma, penetrating injuries from shrapnel or non-penetrating concussions from the blasts of IEDs.

To learn more about brain injuries, I read In an Instant, the story of Bob Woodruff. The brilliant Woodruff had just been named co-anchor of ABC’s World News Tonight. Then, while embedded with the military in Iraq, an improvised explosive device went off near the tank he was riding in. Bob suffered a traumatic brain injury that nearly killed him. The book describes his recovery and recounts how fragile the human brain can be. At one point, the erudite Woodruff could rattle off the names of all prior U.S. presidents but couldn't remember the names of his own children.

And I read about post traumatic stress. One of the best books is Achilles in Vietnam. Written by Jonathan Shay, a Vietnam War era PTSD counselor, it compares his clinical notes from patients to the text from Homer’s Odyssey, showing how we as human beings have dealt with war trauma across the millennia. He shows how war disrupts our moral compass, leaving re-entry into normal life as a brutal and agonizing experience.

 Playing a make-believe fantasy game and going to war both have a surreal quality that takes us out of our normal reality. But for war veterans, the sense of normality doesn't return without a struggle.

The Wounded Warrior Project is a wonderful organization, dedicated to helping veterans adjust. Their stated mission is: “To foster the most successful, well-adjusted generation of wounded service members in our nation's history.” How successful we’ll be at achieving that goal will tell a lot about who we are. It’s one of the most important stories of our time.

As part of this special promotional extravaganza sponsored by Novel Publicity, both Along the Watchtower and There Comes a Prophet by David Litwack are on sale this week. What’s more, by purchasing either or both of these fantastic books at an incredibly low price, you can enter to win many awesome prizes. The prizes include a Kindle Fire, $650 in Amazon gift cards, and 5 autographed copies of each book. All the info you need to win one of these amazing prizes is RIGHT HERE. Remember, winning is as easy as clicking a button or leaving a blog comment--easy to enter; easy to win! To win the prizes:
  1. Pick up Along the Watchtower at its discounted price of $2.99 on Amazon
  2. Get There Comes a Prophet at its discounted price of 99 cents
  3. Enter the Rafflecopter contest below
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  5. Leave a comment on my blog for a chance at a $100 prize.
Author David Litwack
Along the Watchtower tells of a tragic warrior lost in two worlds; a woman who may be his only way back from Hell .  Get it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or iTunes. There Comes a Prophet A thousand years ago the Darkness came—a time of violence and social collapse. Nathaniel has grown up in their world of limits, longing for something more. For what are we without dreams? Get it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or iTunes. David Litwack, the once and future writer, explores the blurry line between reality and the Visit David on his website, Twitter, Facebook, or GoodReads.

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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Mark Barry Gives Hollywood a Shakedown

Gladiator's Pen welcomes Mark Barry to the ludis today for a conversation about his latest release Hollywood Shakedown. Refill your cuppa, prop up your feet and let's get acquainted with Mark.

We’re talking about your book Hollywood Shakedown today. Can you tell us what inspired this story?
I’m a huge fan of Charles Bukowski, and the main character in Hollywood Shakedown is the mythical son of Bukowski’s alter-ego, Henry Chinaski. He’s called Buddy and he’s just like his dad! Two friends of mine inspired the novel. First, my friend in Houston, Paul Vani, challenged me to write a short story, and at exactly the same time, my much more local friend, Clive la Court, inspired me to write a fiction novel. I combined the two challenges and wrote about some of my favourite things. Comics, horse racing, football, LA, London, women, crime, food and weirdly named worldwide pubs.

There is a scene that takes place at Hollywood Park, which is sadly, about to close after 75years. Can you tell us about that and the roll the racetrack plays as a setting?
I’m really annoyed and feel completely impotent about the closure of Hollywood Park. Over here, a place with Hollywood Park’s kind of history would have a Listed notice slapped on its gates and the developers clapped in irons. Did you know they’re replacing it with a retail and residential development??? Like, LA doesn’t have any malls. I have four months to make enough money to visit – it has been one of my ambitions. In the first chapter of the book, Buddy is tracked down by two goons who discover him in the stands of the Park. I try to put across the sounds and smells of the racetrack (see below) and also the baffling decline of horse racing as a spectator sport in the US. The book is full of racing – Bukowski raced there, too.

Was there a chapter, or scene, or part of the novel that was difficult to write, and if so why?
Most of it was quite tough. I once wrote a novel in eighteen days. This one took nine months, labouring over
every line for this because it was my first work of fiction.  The last chapter, which most people like, was very tough. I didn’t want to ruin the payoff – nothing worse than that, as a reader.

If you had one day to live inside of this book, how would you spend it?
I actually did! The gang watch an FA Cup match between Fulham and Notts County on the banks of the River Thames. I support the latter and the chapter is exactly as it sounds.

Do you have a favorite part or moment in the book you would like to share?
“The men walked up the stairs and into the main betting hall. Five bucks a piece found its way into the hands of a stony faced black woman in a red neckerchief. Like the track, she'd seen better days. Ramirez said something under his breath but the woman scarcely noticed, de-sensitised to everything but the thought of getting out of there.
      It was livelier inside than they expected: Bettors milled around the cacophonous hall, hundreds queuing at the windows, sitting in the carrels, some perusing the Form, others smoking, scanning the cheat sheets and Indian Charlie. The air was blue with cigarette smoke and smelled of tobacco, tacos, cheese food, hot dogs and warm beer - all mixed up with the usual gambler's cocktail of sweat, fear, excitement and anticipation. Yet even a pair of racing agnostics like Bishop and Ramirez could palpably sense the tradition and the heritage. The smoky trails of Walter Matthau's Marlboro, or Bing Crosby's briar pipe; Hollywood was seeped in movie culture. Every banister, every railing, every corkboard tile was dripping in it.
      Despite the best efforts of the hunched janitors in orange coveralls and their five-foot brushes
wielded like pikes, dead tickets found the floor with unerring accuracy. The joint was a firetrap waiting to happen. One reckless cigarette butt in the bin could see them all go to hell. The crowd's optimistic chatter and the frenetic pulse of the simulcasted commentaries from tracks around the country, from Aqueduct and Sunland and Oaklawn, accompanied the two men as they passed through the betting hall.
         “Bet the ponies, Bishop?” Ramirez asked as they made their way outside into the sunlight, their brogue heels tapping sharply and noisily on the floor.
         The older man shook his head. His craggy features never moved.
         “Stocks.” He replied.” That's the smart boy's gamble.” (Chapter One)

What are three things you must have when you write?
The Inuit hunting cap my friend and reader, Kelly Sherwood, gave me for Christmas 2010. Music. My writing voice nagging at me.

What element or elements do you believe make a story great?
Writing and vocabulary to start with. I like writers who take risks, who break the rules and try to push the envelope. Martin Amis is my all time favourite. What he can do with a sentence is sublime. Sadly, Indie is full of Novel Writing 101. Every great story breaks rules.  I love the adverb. I would start every sentence with And, if I could. The latest diktat from the Creative Writing gurus, “Show, Not Tell”, has caused a sturm-and-drang conformity, which has hamstrung the development of writing (and writers) because it has become a meaningless clichĂ©. Well timed exposition and stories within stories can turn a novel from a good story to a classic: Indie authors have forgotten that.

Do you write as the muse hits or do you have a set ‘work day’?
For a year, I wrote full time. Now, I’m working again, so I have to write when I can. As Paul Auster said,
really early mornings and late weekend nights. I wrote the bulk of Carla in a weekend, so I am best under pressure. I suffer from insane bursts of creativity.

How do you avoid or deal with distractions when in the writing zone?
I’m lucky that I live on my own so I can do my own thing. The Internet, and particularly Facebook, was once a huge distraction I struggled to beat, but my addiction to social networks seems to have abated.

Who are some of your favorite authors to read?
Of name authors, I worship Martin Amis, with the exception of his latest, which is bemusingly bad. I have also read everything by Paul Auster, Charles Bukowski, Henry Miller, Liz Jensen and John King. Of Indies, Suzanne van Rooyen, who writes YA and science fiction, Emma Edwards, who is making a stir with a quirky vampire novel set in Wales. Mary Ann Bernal writes innovative historical fiction and Ngaire Elder is a much-underrated children’s writer who should be much better known than she is.

What can we expect next from Mark Barry? Is there another tale being spun and/or event coming up that you can share with us?
I’ve just finished the sequel to my top selling football book, Ultra Violence. It’s called Violent Disorder and it should be out on August 1st.  I’m also writing a contemporary fiction novel about the lost generation in Nottingham, called Keith The Philosopher; a crime fiction novel called Painful Death and an anthology about sex, death and food; so, I’m busy.

What would you like to say to fans or fellow authors?
Try to push the boundaries in anything you do. Don’t listen to gurus, especially writing gurus, because, invariably, they know much less than you do. Listen to the voice within you and act on it.

Okay? Thanks Elise.

About Mark Barry: 
Mark Barry, author of “Hollywood Shakedown”, “Ultra Violence” and “Carla”, is a Psychologist and writer whose main interest focuses on relationships between people.   He has been writing since he was twenty one, having his first piece published in 1986.  He has written extensively on a variety of topics including, horseracing, football, personality disorders and human relationships.  Influenced by the great playwrights and screenwriters, much of Mark’s work transpires in dialogue.  He deplores exposition and in his fiction, leaves the reader in a state of nervousness more than he probably should.

Mark has had an extensive career as a professional project designer and bid writer, having accrued over £20m for groups and organisations working with disadvantaged people.  An ex-lecturer, Mark designed and delivered the UK’s first ever course in Criminal Psychology in 1997.  Much of this work infils his fiction:  Psychopathy and Borderline Personality Disorders are featured heavily in “Carla”, for example. 

Currently, Mark is a full time fiction writer and freelance blogger.  He has been interviewed on several Radio talk shows where he has given readings of his work.  His work has been featured in The Sun and Daily Mail and he has also been interviewed on Television.

Mark resides in Southwell, Nottinghamshire with his teenage son.

Where to find Mark: 

Sunday, July 14, 2013

You Should Be Writing

The trick is getting those words on paper. It’s not a first draft until it’s out of your head and on to the page. Unfortunately shaking your head over a blank piece of paper doesn’t work. (Yes, I have tried it and got nuttin but a few pebbles, an old commercial jingle and a few scattered thoughts)

You have to write or type those words onto the page one by one, sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph until an entire page is filled. Then another and another until The End.

The only way to do that is to make time to write. Daily word count goals can be great motivators. So are those great “You should be writing!” memes and posters. Encouraging us to find those little spaces of time to carve out a few words, even on the days we think it’s impossible.

A scheduled block of time to sit down and write is the best option. Yet sometimes there are distractions (Facbook… damn you Candy Crush) or interruptions (Mommmm can you…(insert item/ food/ thing to get or look at here).

 It is up to us to make sure that first draft gets all the attention it needs by taking the time for a few words
when that special writing time isn’t available or near long enough. Are you in a long grocery line or a coffee line? Pull out your phone, start the note pad app and start jotting down the next scene or ideas for it at least.

You’ll be surprised how many words you can pop out that way. Or, waiting for your order in a restaurant, I usually get at least a page out of that. The point is even if there aren’t blocks of time to write, we can get that first draft out of our head and onto paper if we grab a pen during those pauses in life.

Just as you can’t wait for inspiration to show up you have to club it. You can’t wait for the perfect time to sit and write. You have to grab it when it appears, even if its one word at a time.

Update Goals for Round 3 Week 2:
1. 1000 words a day on novel
1k a day did not happen. Still there was writing done every day. The second chapter of Outlaw Born is nearly finished.

2. Finish out this class to the next exam
The text for this section is a lot longer than I expected. I was also assigned to visit a local historic attraction and write a report about the business side of it. I am scheduled to do that next week. Yay! I wuve museums. See School really is fun!

3. Fill two more boxes of stuff to leave my abode.
This one was nailed. Two more boxes of things no longer welcome in my house are waiting by the door to be evicted on our next trip into town.

New Goals for Week 3 ROW80
1. Write on Outlaw Born every day and finish chapter 2
2. Get to that exam this week
3. Two more boxes of stuff to be evicted 

How do you steal time to write?  Do you have a favorite You should be writing poster or motto? 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

OneWord/60 Seconds: Derived is a website for getting the muse warmed up. Each day you get one word and sixty seconds in which to write what it inspires.This is my entry for today's One Word. What's yours? For more of my past One Word entries check out my One Word Profile EliseV

The blood dampened messaged read. "I have the proof. Meet tonight at the Black Pony. Bring the money and come alone." 

By the knife sticking out of her husband's corpse in the bar's parking lot she derived, he had been the victim of a payoff gone wrong. A search of his body as she called 911 produced nothing but a wallet, broken watch, and key ring.

As she played the part of distraught wife to the operator, she glimpsed an envelope under the car. That was it, her darkness revealed. But who else knew her secret? 

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Moving Forward One Word at a Time

"I used Grammarly to grammar check this post, because .a money in a barrel has better grammar than I some days."

There will be weeks that start off gangbusters then fall into shambles mid-week. Roadblocks can pop up at any time to distract or discourage from our goals. That’s okay because roadblocks are temporary.

You’re sitting on the road looking at a guy in an orange vest holding a stop sign, road construction going on behind him. You turn the radio up a little louder and watch for the dude with the sign to spin it around from stop to slow for your turn.

Notice that every so often as cars go through you get to move your car forward. Okay, it’s only an inch or two, but you are moving forward until the road is clear for full speed ahead.

Take that approach when writing. Don’t just let LIFE roadblock your muse. Inch that word count forward a word at a time. Even if you add only 10 words that day to your manuscript that’s 10 words you didn’t have the day before. The story is still moving forward and you’re still meeting your goal.

You might even find a way to squeeze in a few hundred words on those roadblock days blasting through the roadblock. Just try not to run the dude with the sign over. :o) 

Goal update:
1. Making that forward momentum on novel. Didn’t reach daily word count every day but there was writing every day so I call that a win.
2. Degree progress is moving forward. At least this class is interesting Historical and Adventure Tourism.
3. Clutter reduction was a plus too. There are 2 bags of clothing and two boxes of books and things to go to Goodwill.

New Goals for Round 3 Week 2:
1. 1000 words a day on novel
2. Finish out this class to the next exam
3. Fill two more boxes of stuff to leave my abode.

Last week LIFE interfered and yet words still got on the page and things got done. That story will be written one word at a time. Now it’s your turn. Did you reach goals this week? Do you have a tip that keeps you moving forward through the roadblocks?

For more about ROW80 click on the button below. 

Monday, July 1, 2013

3 Tips for Goal Success

July 1st has arrived with promises of adventure and achievement over the next 80 days. Round 3 of Round
of Words has begun and the goals for the quarter have been set.

Round 3 Goals
 1. July 1st is also the first day of Camp NaNoWrimo! 30 days of novling around the campfire. A new perk for campers this year is the ability to set your own word count. So my first goal is to meet my set camp goal of 25k.
2. Complete camp novel and start Edits
3. Finish out my Hospitality Management degree.

The plan for successfully meeting these goals for now is to simply take it one day at a time.  Far too often goals and stresses can overwhelm. We have a tendency to expect more and pressure ourselves more than anyone else.

Here are 3 tips for keeping the forward momentum through it all.

1. Break down your goal into daily bites. Daily goals allow for a realistic approach and the flexibility to make adjustments for the large scale. Plus those daily successes can build confidence and make you feel good about yourself.

2.  Don’t sweat the big stuff. Stress and pressure are the two biggest goal killers. Stress can make you physically sick if it’s prolonged. LIFE will always show up and it will be unexpected. The key to keeping the momentum moving forward instead of stress slamming the breaks is to not sweat it.

Have a moment or two of holy cow that suck monkey nuts. Then get over it. Let it go and look at the big picture a head. Honestly what does stressing over something do? Many times it can keep you from finding a solution and make things even more stressful. 

As the saying goes this too shall pass. Look at your goals and make some adjustments then put the gloves back on and get in the ring for the next match.

3. Celebrate. Celebrate even the smallest successes. Those happy dances can get you over those moments that LIFE throws at you. Celebrating helps you remember that you can make it on those days when achievement seems impossible. Making a big deal out of the small stuff can even take the sting out of the failures. Giving you the momentum to keep going and not give up.

Now ring the bell my gloves are on and I’m ready to step into the ring of Round 3 for the knock out.

How about you? 
Want to know more about Round of Words in 80 Days just click on the button to the left :)