Keeping It Fresh: Advice for the Mid-career Writer by Janet Elizabeth Henderson

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Welcome to the blog tour for my special guest, Janet Elizabeth Henderson. She’s been a guest before, and I always love having her on my blog. This time, rather than an interview, I’ve asked her to share some writing wisdom for those of us who have been in the writing game for a while. Check out her advice below, and be sure to read all the way to the end so you can read all about her new book: Reckless.


There are a lot of fiction writing advice books out there. Most of them focus on teaching the basics of the craft and guiding you on how to find your voice. There are very few that concentrate on what to do once you have the basics down. I think this lack of balance reflects a deeper problem within the world of fiction writing—a lot of writers assume that once they’ve found their personal style and understand the basics there’s nothing else to learn.

They’re wrong.

If you don’t want your writing to stagnate… If you don’t want to write the same book over and over… Then you have to challenge yourself in every new piece of work you write. Think of the process as mining. You can dig down a little, find something interesting and then stay at that depth forever as you widen the same hole outwards. Or, you can go deeper and find something more precious. Maybe even find something that no one has ever found before. And yes, digging deeper is harder. But it’s worth it.

So, if you’re a mid-career writer and you want to dig deeper, how do you go about doing that? You could try some of the following:

Get out of your character comfort zone

Challenge yourself to write a character unlike any you’ve ever written before. If your speciality is alpha men, write the weakling—but do it in a way that makes him lovable, desirable and magnetic. (Be careful he doesn’t morph into your usual character type throughout the book. Keep him true to himself.) If you write great submissive women, try writing about a strong, leader-type woman. Get into the head of your character, changing your language and adapting your style to suit the character’s voice.

Make story, not plot, your priority

When we first start out, we cling to the formulas for plotting as though they are lifelines. The problem with this is that sometimes the flow of the story can become mutated or get lost to accommodate the structure you feel it must fit. Instead of following a pattern for your book, focus on the story. Story is the natural development of a tale which meets the criteria of your fictional world and the needs of your character. Plot is a series of events which follow a set structure. Do you see the difference?

Try not to think about whether your fiction fits accepted norms, but rather whether the story flows or not. Ask yourself: is this is the story your characters need to tell? Does it make logical sense within the frame of the world you’ve created? When you read something written by a natural storyteller, you often can’t see a structure at all. It’s buried underneath the very real dilemmas of the characters. It flows with a natural rhythm that suits the world the writer has set up. And it always surprises the reader.

Do one thing in each piece of work that you haven’t done before

With each new book, try to do something new and do it well. If you’ve always focused on the internal drama of your characters, write a scene where everyone has to deal with an external drama. If your last book was full of action, make this one full of emotion instead. If your last book flitted all over the world, set this one in a single room for the duration. Do something hard that will make you think deeper for every single scene in your story.

Never go with your first idea

I learned this one in art college! Always brainstorm your story ideas. Keep asking “what if?” until you hit an angle that you wouldn’t have come across otherwise. This will keep your stories fresh and give greater depth to your writing. The first few ideas we have are usually pretty obvious. Dig deeper. Find the idea that’s going to surprise you and your reader.

Critique your own work

There is a difference between having a critique and being a critic. Being a critic is often a negative thing; staging a critique is a productive event. The difference is that a critic often compares your work to the work of those around you, whereas a critique asks questions of the work itself to make you consider it on a deeper level.

Have a critique of your work by asking questions of it and not being afraid of the answers. Ask things like: “Is this truly in character or am I trying to bend the hero to fit the plot?” and “What other outcomes are possible from this set of circumstances?”

Always ask yourself why you’ve chosen something and whether there is a better, more unusual choice to be had. Make “what if?” your mantra. What if the plot took a different direction? What if the character did something else? What if there was another person in this scene? What if the setting was different? “What if?” is a question that will help you mine deeper into your work.

Okay, so that’s five things I try to do with each new book. I hope, if you give it a go, that you’ll let me know how it works out for you. And if you have some suggestions to add, all the better—I’m always looking to improve my writing!


Celebrate the release of Reckless

by Janet Elizabeth Henderson!

Follow the tour and enter to win great prizes!

2 grand prize winners will receive a $10 Amazon Gift Card.

2 runner-ups will receive an e-copy of choice from Janet’s backlist!

Click HERE to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway!

Visit all the blogs participating in the tour for reviews, excerpts, guest posts and more chances to win!

07/23/2016

Romance Junkies

Splashes Into Books

True Revue Book Blog

Carrie’s Book Reviews

07/24/2016

Kitty’s Book Spot!

Deluged with Books Cafe

Those Crazy Book Chicks

Books and Bindings

She Hearts Books

What Is That Book About

Just Books

Reese’s Review

Nicole’s Book Musings

07/25/2016

It’s All About The Romance

07/26/2016

Indie Authors, Books, and More

I am, Indeed

07/27/2016

Tamar Hela

Reviews From The Heart

Catherine Mede

07/28/2016

Swept Away By Romance

07/29/2016

Happily Ever Chapter

The Power of Three Readers

Loves 2 Read Romance

We So Nerdy

07/30/2016

Fiona Reads and FoodSpots

Splashes Into Books

Lynn’s Romance Enthusiasm

Joyfully Reviewed


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About Reckless

Synopsis:

The new London office of Benson Security hasn’t even opened its doors yet and already it’s neck deep in its first case…

If the mission doesn’t kill him, his sexy partner just might.

Dimitri Raast and Megan Donaldson have a common enemy—the head of an organisation that specializes in human trafficking and sexual slavery.

They have similar motivation—Dimitri’s sister was taken by the organisation, and Megan’s sister is threatened by it.

They have the same goal—eliminate their enemy and save their sisters.

Given they have so much in common, you would think working together would be a piece of cake.

You would be wrong.

While Dimitri brings skills and experience from years as a US Army Ranger to their partnership, Megan brings a background in failed career choices and an ability to cause trouble wherever she goes. Yet, even with so much at stake, Dimitri can’t resist Megan’s particular brand of crazy.

She’s wild, she’s sexy and she’s fearless. An irresistible combination for a man who lives his life completely in control. Now, after almost a year with one all-consuming focus, Dimitri finds himself torn between rescuing his sister and protecting the woman he wants—from herself.

Before she gets them both killed.

Available at: Amazon | iBooks | Kobo | B&N


Excerpt:

They were meeting Johnny Rotten in a dark alley. Of course they were meeting a guy called Johnny Rotten in a dark alley. Megan rolled her eyes. Obviously Johnny went to the TV movie school of how to be a bad guy.

“You stay here.” Dimitri pointed at a dumpster. Yeah. A dumpster. She half expected some guy with a camera to shout cut and make them start again.

“You don’t mean in the dumpster, right?” Because—eew!

“No. Beside it. In the dark.” He didn’t even try to disguise that he was losing patience. “Don’t move, don’t make a sound, don’t interrupt.”

Blah, blah, blah, let the big boys play. She was so tired of hearing the same old tune. It was time to change the radio station.

“Right,” Dimitri said. “I’m going to drive round and come in from the other end.”

“Why can’t I just wait in the car? It’s cold and it stinks here.”

“Because…” He stretched the word out. “You’re supposed to be my hostage. I can’t just let you hang out in the car.”

“I can pretend to be drugged.”

“No. Too dangerous. He might spot you, know who you are and that Rudi wants you. Then what would stop him deciding to eliminate me and take you to Rudi himself?”

She stamped her feet to get her blood circulating before the chill removed her toes. “Why didn’t you just take me back to the office?”

“You’re my backup.” There was a silent ‘idiot’ attached to that sentence, she just knew it.

“The backup that hides in dumpsters?”

“The backup that phones for help if it looks like things are going south.”

Megan blushed, grateful he couldn’t see it in the dark. “So, I need my phone?”

He put his hands on his hips and looked skyward for a moment. “Where is it?”

“Car.” She gave him what she hoped was an apologetic smile.

He stomped off, cursing under his breath and came back a few minutes later with the phone. “Sorted now?”

Megan nodded. It probably wasn’t the best time to tell him she really needed to use the bathroom. She could hold it. How long did it take to have a covert meeting in an alley anyway?

She gave him a thumbs up and watched him march back to the car. Leaving her alone in a stinky, dark alley. Alone and not thinking about how good Dimitri’s lips felt against hers. Nope. She wasn’t thinking about that at all. She was a professional—nearly. She had a job to do. She backed into the shadows and tried to become invisible. Ninja Megan. She could do it. It was all about the power of the mind. She closed her eyes and took a few calming breaths.

That’s when her stomach rumbled. Her hand smacked flat on it as she bit her lip. Maybe all that fried food wasn’t such a great idea after all. Not that she would ever admit that to Dimitri. She was still mad at the man. Sure she’d been the first to say they weren’t in a relationship, but he didn’t have to agree so enthusiastically. He’d sounded affronted. As though she was the last person on earth he’d consider dating. It was insulting. Her stomach made a strange bubbling sound as she saw Dimitri’s SUV pull up at the other end of the alley. He got out and stood under the yellow glow of the street lamp. Waiting. Alert. Moody.

Megan’s stomach rumbled again. Loudly. This wasn’t good. So much for not making a sound. Her own body was working against her. She crouched down in an attempt to dull the noise, and hoped it worked. She closed her eyes, tried to calm her stomach and think thoughts that made her invisible.

That’s when she farted.

It wasn’t silent.

Megan dropped her head to her knees. If the bad guys didn’t get her, she’d die of humiliation.

And then her stomach rumbled again.

© 2016 Janet Elizabeth Henderson


About Janet Elizabeth Henderson:

I grew up in Scotland, but now I’m living in New Zealand – married to a Dutch man whom I met in America. (It can get a little confusing in my household!) When I’m not living in my head, I’m a mother to two tiny kids, three pet sheep, three miniature horses, three alpacas, one dog, two cats, several chickens and an escape artist goat.

5 random things about me:

  1. I accidentally mooned a crowd at a Bolivian wedding.

  2. I’ve been chased by a gang of baboons. And I mean gang. They were organised and vicious. All that was missing was their leather jackets and tattoos!

  3. I wrote my first novel when I was 22. It was a cross between Star Wars, Monsters Inc. and Tinkerbelle. Funnily enough, no one wanted to publish it. Odd, that…

  4. I was a portrait artist on the streets of Amsterdam for a time.

  5. I worked night shift as a security guard at Stirling Castle in Scotland while I was in art college. The castle was on a terrorist hit-list back then. To defend it they gave me a flashlight, a two-way radio that only worked one-way and made me wear a polyester A-line skirt…

If you’d like to sign up for my newsletter, which happens sporadically – usually when books are being released – then you’ll find a form on my website. I hope you enjoy my books. Happy reading!

 

Find out more: Facebook / Website / Twitter / Goodreads

 

The Godling Chronicles: A Trial of Souls

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Title: The Godling Chronicles: A Trial of Souls

Series: The Godling Chronicles #4

Author: Brian D. Anderson

Genre:  YA/ Fantasy

Length: Pending

Release Date: August 2013

ISBN-13: Pending

Imprint: Mythos Press

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The time has come for the world to see the true power of the Reborn King. His vast armies march, bringing death and devastation to all who would dare oppose him. But hope will endure if the bonds of friendship, both old and new, remain strong.

Gewey, split between the man he wants to be and the god he must become, will test his very soul in order to fulfill his destiny. And only through his love for Kaylia can he hold on to his humanity.

Brian D AndersonAbout the Author

Brian D. Anderson was born in 1971, and grew up in the small town of Spanish Fort, AL.. He attended Fairhope High, then later Springhill College where his love for fantasy grew into a lifelong obsession. His hobbies include chess, history, and spending time with his son. Jonathan Anderson was born in March of 2003. His creative spirit became evident by the age of three when he told his first original story. In 2010 he came up with the concept for The Godling Chronicles, that grew into an exciting collaboration between father and son. Jonathan enjoys sports, chess, music, games, and of course, telling stories.

My East Coast Book Tour

I recently came back from the trip of a lifetime. Never in my wildest imagination did I think I’d be going on a “book tour” and speaking to people about something I created—something I never thought would come into existence. I guess my imagination isn’t wild enough, because that’s exactly what I did on my vacation. I’m still pinching myself for the fact that the Boston Public Library has my book available for check out. It’s times like these I am in awe of the blessings and opportunities presenting themselves in my life.

I left for Boston on Monday night, October 1st, with one of my assistants, Jesse, in tow. He came along as my bodyguard, extra set of muscles, person to remind me of items needed for events, personal map, general entertainment…You know, all the things any fabulous assistant must be. We were missing one third of our triad, however: the lovely Jessica who arranged all the events. Thanks to her hard work, all our events went very smoothly and were more than I could have ever hoped for.

Tuesday morning, 5:35 am, Boston time, Jesse and I slumped off the plane like tired pilgrims from a long journey. Overnight flights will do that. After grabbing our luggage, Jesse bought us passes for the T—Boston’s subway system—and we set off to find our hotel. The hotel, supposedly on Shirley Lane, was not on the Shirley Lane we found. Turns out, there are two Shirley Lanes in opposing directions. But staying in high spirits, I suggested we eat breakfast before setting off on another adventure.

Hours later, we arrived at the correct Shirley and took a long nap after checking in. The afternoon greeted us with the doom and gloom of rain clouds, but no matter—we bought tickets for the famous Boston Duck Tour anyway and were true tourists, sightseeing in the city. It was great.

Wednesday was our only sleep-in day of which we took every advantage. The afternoon would bring a hotel change, equaling the hauling of heavy luggage on the T, and our first event at the Brookline Public Library in the evening.

Wen we reached Brookline, Megan, the college intern who had arranged this event, greeted us warmly and made us feel at ease. Then it was time to begin. I turned on my public speaking brain and spoke about my book, my life, my opinions…it seemed long and short at the same time. There was another author present, who also shared about her writing process, opinions, challenges…it was so interesting and inspiring to hear from someone who shared my passions in a different way.

A short reception followed where we mingled for a while. That night, my mom and her best friend flew into Boston and picked up Jesse and me from a nearby cafe. The evening ended with a light dinner, and thank goodness—a car ride rather than the subway—to take us to our hotel.

Thursday…I was exhausted. We woke up at 5:40am to prepare for a two-hour drive to Hanover, New Hampshire. The drive, though rainy, was breathtaking. We were in awe of the beautiful and majestic landscape. I have never seen fall colors like THAT. Even the pictures I have don’t do the real deal justice. Upon arrival in Hanover, we found a local cafe, The Dirt Cowboy, and became nicely caffeinated before heading to Hanover High School.

9:50am was our first class. The kids were a riot! I spoke for the entirety of the period and did a book giveaway. The remainder of the day was similar. A very different school system intrigued us, since we found out the kids did not have a lunch period. They were allowed to eat in most classes. They enjoyed an open campus forum, and had more of a collegiate atmosphere than the typical high school.

Jesse and I took a very short lunch break, in which parking was a pain in the arse, BUT we had success and found parking in a garage for—get this—twenty-five CENTS!!! Unreal. After school, our drive back was amazing. We stopped a few times, but the best stop was at this lake that was completely serene and unlike any like I have ever witnessed. I cannot properly describe its beauty, so it is pictured here:

Friday was the final event day. In the morning, I spoke to a freshman English class at Snowden International High School in Boston. It was very different than Hanover High. I enjoyed the kids, played a game with them, gave away lollipops and bookmarks, and two books.

My last event with the Boston Public Library was not until 3pm, so Jesse and I killed time by finding me a dress for the wedding I was to attend on Sunday, eating sushi outside (gorgeous day that day), and trying and failing to print more bookmarks at Kinko’s. Then we headed to the library. It turned out to be my favorite event.

The Teen Room was set up for my visit. Six girls came to hear me talk about my book and ask me questions. I wanted to know about them, too. We had a very intimate setting with snacks, a small table, and bright red chairs. Jesse, my mom, and our friend sat to my left. The librarians sat behind the girls, beaming at me.

We talked and exchanged opinions, stories, questions and answers, and reflections for almost ninety minutes. It was great. One girl left immediately after I spoke; the other five stayed a bit longer. Lucky for them: I had exactly five copies of my book and gave them each a signed book. What a fun afternoon. Finally, we headed to dinner at the oldest restaurant in the U.S.: The Union Oyster House.

After that, it was late and we headed back to the hotel so Jesse could get his bags before going to the airport at 2am. Around 12am, Jesse and I headed back into Boston’s Little Italy, where we drank espresso and laughed at the funny, crazy adventures we had on our trip. 1:40am, the cafe/bar began to shut down—our queue to leave. I dropped him off at the airport, wished him a safe journey home, then drove back to Andover in the eery silence of 2-something-AM, without traffic.

And that, my friends, was the majority of my journey. I hung out with friends in Salem on Saturday, went to a good friend’s wedding in Ipswich on Sunday, traveled to New York on Monday, and flew back to California on Tuesday. About eight days of travel, entertainment, new places and faces, good food, friends, and opportunities for which I will be forever grateful. I can only hope that this is the beginning of something great and cannot wait to see where these new connections may lead.

I have one more book/author event on October 20th, at the Santa Clara Public Library. After that, it’s time for an event hiatus in order to finish book two! I think I have the energy to write 60k+ words…maybe. In the meantime, I am planning a huge Halloween event for my work. Once that’s done, it’s NaNoWriMo time, baby!

Here’s to more writing, stress, and wonderful chaos. May I continually be humbled by the unique and incredible opportunities that seem to be flooding my life at the present moment. Below are some fun NYC photos… And, cheers to Boston!

Until next time…

-Tamar