Inspiration Can Come from Anywhere (Vol. 1)

Like I tell my students, Inspiration can come from anywhere. You just need to be on the lookout.

Everywhere I turn I see and hear inspiration. I can often be seen jotting down a quick note in case at some point I want to use something I’ve observed in one of my books. These notes help me to enhance a scene, a character, a setting, a plot, or even a book title.

Sometimes there is a scene from a movie or show that I love so much that I can’t wait to put my own twist on it. During an old Jurassic Park movie, the people fled from raptors through very tall grass. Several people were pulled below the tips of grass, never to be seen again. I loved that it was not gory and yet more terrifying than if it had been. It was so intense. I wanted to create a similarly powerful scene in VERVE STONES. If you’ve read it, you may recall a leaping nygar (a giant lizard) attacking from beneath the cover of tall grass. I hope that others get that same tense feeling from my story that I got when I first watched Jurassic Park.

Fellow writers, where do you get inspiration? I’d love to hear.

Advertisements

Thanks Dad

My dad’s message about purchasing a copy of VERVE STONES for his library at the middle school he works at brought a smile to my face.

“Look, your book now sits on our library shelf for students to read.”

Thank you for your love, generosity, and support, Dad!

Superhero Stories in Disguise

VS Wallpaper NO TEXTI believe many popular shows, movies, and books are superpower stories in disguise.

I LOVE superpowers! I grew up watching Spiderman, Batman, and the X-men cartoons just to name a few (otherwise the list would be too long). I wait eagerly for Superhero movies to be released and try to watch them in theaters as soon as they come out. I have always enjoyed learning how each hero got their powers. I am captivated by the evolution of the characters, watching them fail, train, and then grow into the heroes they needed to be to save the day. I love superheroes so much that my wife helped me decorate my classroom with a superhero theme. (She has tried to decorate it in all sorts of things before, but cutesy doesn’t work for me. This is much more my style! Thanks, Wifey!)

Every super hero has an origin story depicting how they obtained superpowers. Spiderman received his powers from a radioactive spider. Wonder Woman discovers she’s a demigod. Tony Stark keeps shrapnel out of his heart by building an arc-reactor that he later uses to power a suit of armor. Captain America receives super soldier serum. Batman trains his mind and body in order to gain superhero abilities. You get the idea.

I see other popular shows, movies, and books in the same light. In Harry Potter, characters use wands to produce superpowers. The Lord of the Rings, the rings of power give their wearers superpowers. The Stormlight Chronicles have superpowers in the form of shardblade or bonding with a spren. Mistbornhas superpowers from burning metals in their bodies. Naruto uses chakra. Gummy Bears use gummy bear juice. Ninja Turtles use ooze. Dragon Ball Z uses ki. I could go on and on. I have a feeling I could find superpowers even in some of those cheesy Hallmark movies my wife watches.

My love of superpowers means that I can’t help but have them in my stories, too. When I go to write a story, they are usually the first thing I research. I create worlds and storylines with superpowers in mind. In VERVE STONES, rare characters can access verve stones which give a variety of superpower abilities. In NINTH NIGHT, I included the mystery of a mythological creature so there is at least a possibility of a superpower. In UNDER, Boyd uses a superpower from the Glide-Suits. In a story in production, superpowers are passed down from descendants. For example, King Midas passes on his golden touch.

I nerd out about superheroes. What is your thing? What could you talk for hours on end about?

 

Does This Happen to Anyone Else?

img_6624

Writer’s block is the real deal. My most common form of writer’s block is simply letting myself get distracted.

I’m two and a half chapters away from finishing my latest draft of BACK OF BEYOND. Two and a half chapters! This should be a cause for celebration. I should be dancing in the streets. I’m so close. A few hours from finishing. Yet, I can’t convince myself to finish the story.

This reminds me of when report cards are due in a week. All I ever want to do is reorganize my math manipulatives, deep clean student cubbies, and organize my classroom library. Anything and everything except completing those report cards.

I’m experiencing the same predicament. I’m completing home projects, researching practice bass amps, selling items on marketplace, and writing blog posts when I should be finishing the final chapters!

Does this happen to anyone else? If so, any tips to help me get done what I actually need to do? Thanks for commenting!

My Writing Habits this Summer Break

img_6586As an elementary school teacher, I’m blessed with a sizable chunk of time off in the summer. These weeks I can enjoy camping, barbecuing, and vacationing with friends and family. I also have a lengthy list of chores to accomplish. Thankfully I am able to get in some good writing time. Writing over the summer fills me with joy because I feel like I’m a career author.

This summer, I’ve found I do my best writing between 6:30 and 8:00 AM. Writing magic happens the moment my loopy-morning-brain is infused with a cup of coffee. This combination allows my creativity to flow. I also type far more words per minute than any other time of my day. It’s amazing!

Currently, I’m three chapters away from finishing my current draft of BACK OF BEYOND. I’m wrapping up Spoon’s dilemma and planting seeds that will grow within THE LEGEND OF SPOON #3. I can’t wait for everyone to read this book.

When are you most productive? Do you get time off to enjoy summer? I’d love to hear from you. Please leave your answers in the comments below.

Question: BACK OF BEYOND

Brady asked, “How is Back of Beyond looking? I’m just itching to read more of The Legend of Spoon!”

I wish I could say it’s ready today. Best guess, four to six months. I’m making changes to the last few chapters, which I’m working on most mornings. I’m going to have my friend, author, Robin Puelma, read it over again. Then I will make any changes needed before I have two more friends read it over. These edits can take three weeks to three months each. I am super excited for this next book! Hopefully, the final edits will go faster than expected. They often do. Thank you for your patience! I’m working hard to finish BACK OF BEYOND, even while I’m on summer vacation with my family. I have it formatted and the cover complete so when editing is finished, I’ll be able to publish it quickly.

When reading a new series, I hate waiting for the next book to come out. When I first started reading Harry Potter, only the first few books were out. It was torture waiting for the next book! What books have you found yourself waiting impatiently for the next in series?

 

First Rejection Letter

img_5904

Over my past twelve years of writing as a hobby, I’ve received over 100 rejection letters or emails. I wrote or emailed publishers my picture books and novels. None of them are as memorable as my first rejection. In 2008, I sent my first version of VERVE STONES to several publishing houses.

To prepare, I bought a book at Barnes and Noble about how to submit a children’s book. I researched synopses, cover letters, and query letters. All these were new terms for me. Each one took me a month to write.

Every publisher requires something different for a submission. One might want a query letter and the first three chapters of a manuscript. Another needs a synopsis and cover letter. The next will read a query and the first ten pages. You get the idea. Most only read them if sent by mail. A few via email.

Sometimes the publishing houses will mail rejection letters in self-addressed stamped envelope prepared by the submitter. Usually in three to six months. Less use emails. Some inform submitting authors that their answer is no if three months pass. Many publishers only review submissions from agents, which is a whole nother beast.

When I finally dropped off an armful of letters and envelopes at the post office, I wanted to throw a party. From that moment on, I checked the mail every day. Twice on Saturday. I refreshed my email page every hour. No joke. I filled my free time daydreaming about a publisher calling me to offer me a hundred times the normal $5,000 authors received when they signed a new contract.

Around that time the final HARRY POTTER book released. I read an article wondering where the next HARRY POTTER book would come from. I vowed it would be VERVE STONES. I still feel that way.

Finally, I received my first rejection in the mail! To this day it is my only personalized letter. A nameless employee at Houghton Mifflin wrote out, Dear Mr. Aries, double underlined, thank you, sorry, and every success. My favorite part of the postcard-sized rejection is a handwritten message in the bottom corner that says, “Great writing & pace. Best of luck with Spoon!”

I’m still waiting to get my stories published with a publishing house. I’ve moved on to self-publishing, which has its pros and cons. But whenever I’m feeling like a crummy writer who will never become a full-time author, I repeat, “Great writing & pace. Best of luck with Spoon!” as a mantra to keep myself motivated.

Do you have your own rejection story? What keeps you going when you feel discouraged?