WORD! AWARD-WINNING ELLEN BOORAEM TALKS WRITING TIPS AND HOW SHAME KEEPS HER FROM GIVING IN TO PROCRASTINATION

Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
WORD! AWARD-WINNING ELLEN BOORAEM TALKS WRITING TIPS AND HOW SHAME KEEPS HER FROM GIVING IN TO PROCRASTINATION
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The amazing writer and human, Ellen Booraem, spent nineteen years as a small-town journalist before quitting her day job to write four award-winning fantasies for readers ten and older (The Unnameables, Small Persons with Wings, Texting the Underworld and River Magic.

In this bonus podcast, we talked about Ellen’s writing tips to deal with writing blocks, the big leaps she took to start a fiction career at 52, and the incredibly cool WORD festival (the annual Blue Hill Maine literary arts festival) that’s coming up this October (which you should all check out).

We also touch on how working at a newspaper made us visual writers and trained us for fiction.  

Ellen volunteers as a writing coach for students in her local middle school and is a founding organizer for Word, the annual Blue Hill (Maine) literary arts festival. Having ventured from her early time as Alton Hall Blackington’s next door neighbor in coastal Massachusetts, she now lives in coastal Maine with her partner, painter Robert Shillady.

Publisher’s Weekly called Ellen’s latest novel, “A dense emotional core, resonant voice, and themes of grief, shifting friendships, and family enliven Booraem’s contemporary fantasy, reminding readers that ‘hope is everywhere.’

To find out more about Ellen and her books, check out Ellen’s website:

https://www.ellenbooraem.com/

To find out more about WORD (which is online this year), check out its website:

https://www.wordfestival.org/

And Word’s full schedule including workshops, art, and readings is here:

https://www.wordfestival.org/word-2021-full-schedule

Throwing Poop on Your Landlord, Demon Texts, and Making Happy Endings

Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Throwing Poop on Your Landlord, Demon Texts, and Making Happy Endings
/

Carrie reads a lot of novels in progress and helps writers make those novels better and one of the big things that happen that keep a book from being super star status is an unsatisfying ending.

Yes. Yes, that is about books, not sex, Shaun. But some of the same principles apply to both.

You want your ending to be satisfying even if it’s an unhappy ending.

So, how do you make your ending satisfying?

Ah, just like the copulation, it’s all about fulfilling your promises to the reader in the lead-up to that ending, right?

Your reader has been hanging out with you for 50,000 words at least (usually) and that means that you owe them what you’ve promised them–a complete story with a damn fine ending.

Here are the things to know:

The character at the end of the book should have changed enough to react to the events in a way that they wouldn’t have reacted on page 10.

Most books that are satisfying have a main character that changes. They evolve (positive change arc) or devolve (negative change arc). Their situation is different at the end of the book and you, the author, want to recognize that and show us readers — WOW! Look at how Sparty the Dog is so much stronger now. He’s dealing with that squirrel in a way he never would have on page 10.

All the events that have happened prior to the climax and the ending have made Sparty the dog that’s able to handle his arch nemesis like a boss.

There needs to be emotional growth (or regression) in your main character at the end of this story.

And this growth at the ending has to be shown in the gorgeous story in between the beginning and the ending.

If we imagine the story as three acts, then the ending is where we see how Act One (the set-up, who the character used to be, their original want) and Act Two (where the character’s world changes and they proactively go after their wants, messing up, succeeding, learning and evolving) makes the character who they are now.

Do they get the girl? Save the world? Defeat the evil demon? Throw poop on their landlord?

Do they come to terms with grief?

The ending matters because of everything in the story that the hero has gone through to get there.

They have to earn that ending and when they do? Oh, boy, is it satisfying.

The Ending Doesn’t Matter Much if You Don’t Make It Matter

You want to give your readers the answers to the questions that exist in your story. No loose ends. No mysteries that just end with a ‘to be continued’ because you’ve hit 70,000 words.

It is all about satisfying the reader. If you promise the reader a sexy romance and there’s no sex and the significant other slinks off on the last page to go wrestle guinea pigs in Ireland with someone else? You’re breaking that promise to the reader and totally not satisfying. You are being a bad lover. I mean writer.

Nobody wants that.

WRITING TIP OF THE POD

Think about what your reader wants. Aim to please your lover/reader.

DOG TIP FOR LIFE

Sparty says it’s more satisfying to earn your treat rather than just be given the treat. The journey makes the ending more satisfying.

LINKS MENTIONED

https://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/uk-world-news/priest-demons-figured-text-messages-24898111

https://www.clickorlando.com/news/local/2020/12/28/23-of-the-strangest-things-that-happened-in-florida-in-2020/

SHOUT OUT!

The music we’ve clipped and shortened in this podcast is awesome and is made available through the Creative Commons License. 

Here’s a link to that and the artist’s website. Who is this artist and what is this song?  It’s “Summer Spliff” by Broke For Free.

And we have a new podcast, LOVING THE STRANGE, which we stream live on Carrie’s Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn on Fridays. Her Facebook and Twitter handles are all carriejonesbooks or carriejonesbook.

Here’s the link.

best positive podcast - Be brave friday
Send your Be Brave Friday stories to us here! Just hit the contact form or message us at carriejonesbooks@gmail.com
best podcast ever
loving the strange the podcast about embracing the weird

Writing With Dogs Who Slobber: The Three Secrets to Awesome Characters

So, you’re probably looking at the blog post title up there and thinking, “What?”

Stay with me a second; I’ll explain, I swear. I’m going to boil down the basic elements of crafting a good story by using my rescue dog, Gabby.

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Gabby is the sort of dog who people love or hate.

Gabby is the sort of dog that lets children climb all over her and hug her and kiss her nose.

Gabby is also the sort of dog who judges people by smell.  

If you have alcohol on your breath, she will sneeze and then bark at you. If you are male and have ever had a serious time taking cocaine and you are in my house? She’ll bark incessantly at you and never stop even if your cocaine use was over a decade ago.

So, why am I mentioning this?

Gabby is a conflicted character. You want a character like Gabby in your story.

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A conflicted character is a dog or person with a goal. There is a motivation for that goal and a conflict.

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Gabby’s goal is to keep me safe. She is super focused on making sure nothing happens to me or her dog brother Sparty or her cat sisters, Marsie, Cloud and Koko.

Her motivation? Probably because I feed her or because she’s a Great Pyrenees, and that breed’s instinct and training is to keep her charges happy and safe. We are basically her sheep.

IMG_9899Marsie insists she is nobody’s sheep, but I have seen Gabby carry her around the house. She is totally a sheep. 

And it might be because Gabby was abused as a puppy and spent her first year chained to a tree, always chained to a tree, never off a tree. She came to us small, terrified, malformed and malnourished. This is her backstory. All characters have backstories, the what happened before we meet them, the what happened that made them who they are when the story begins.

When Em and I picked up Gabby in Cambridge, Gabby was beyond terrified.

Every car was about to run her down. Every person was about to hit her. I sunk to her level and she pushed herself against me. Her ears were infected and full of pain. Everything about her was pain. But there was something else there. It was fear and want and need. She wanted to be loved so badly. She wanted to love back.1930658_10154095751489073_788625899982421964_n

The entire time we were in Cambridge she didn’t bark once.

The entire car ride back and the whole first week? She never barked.

“I have a miracle dog. It is a silent Great Pyrenees,” I told everyone.

The vet laughed.

The rescue organization people laughed.

I was so wrong.

Gabby started being able to sleep with both eyes closed. Gabby’s ears got better. We got her surgery on her knee. She took walks without being afraid that trees were going to fall on her, without thinking that every car held a monster inside of it that would hurt her.

She ate, but she would never fill out.

And she barked.

She barked at everyone who reminded her of where she used to be. She barked at dogs she didn’t know. She barked and jumped and tried to be as threatening looking as possible when she is easily the dog least likely to ever bite a human and most likely to snuggle. You know when experts say dogs hate hugs? Gabby would let you hug her all day.

Actually, Gabby’s dream day would just to be constantly hugged. 

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So, she’s got a lot of back story there?

What’s the conflict for Gabby or for your characters?

The conflict is the struggle. The conflict is how the reader engages with the character. It’s why the reader keeps reading. It’s how empathy is built. It’s how story is built.

So every character has this trifecta of things: 

Goal

Motivation

Conflict

As a writer, if you muck this up? You’re story will be flat.

As a dog friend/owner, if you don’t realize that your dog’s goal might conflict with a happy silence that comes with a life without barking? You’re going to have an unhappy dog.

So, Gabby’s trifecta of character is:

Wants to stop threats by barking (goal) because she wants to keep her happy home and the creatures within it safe (motivation we all understand), but everyone gets a headache when she thinks squirrels are threats and barks too much at them (conflict).

Meg’s in A Wrinkle in Time is:

Wants to get her dad back (goal) because who doesn’t want to get someone awesome back (motivation that is pretty understandable if your dad rocks), but dude, she has to travel through time and deal with this great darkness, basically like all the evil in the universe because why not (conflict).

But what makes a character conflicted?

Basically anything that stands in the way of her goal.

This can be herself (Gabby wonders if barking is her true calling and doubts herself – an internal conflict).

This can be others (The neighbors call the police because of Gabby’s barking – an external conflict).

This can be the environment (Gabby is in space and cannot bark because there is no sound. Horror! – a conflict caused by setting).

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Writing Tip

Make sure your  main character has that trifecta of conflict, motivation, goal.

Writing Prompts- 

Write about wanting to sing when you have to be quiet.

Write about wanting to tell a secret.

Write about being a zombie who is allergic to meat.

Do Good MONday – 

So, I wrote a lot about Gabby being a rescue dog. All my dogs have been. If you have the money, consider donating to a dog rescue. If you have the time and space and need and love, consider adopting. If you have the time, find a rescue near you and be a volunteer. I’ve done home visits and photos for rescues. If you don’t have any of these things, but have social media, share a rescue’s site or a post about a dog (or cat or gecko). You could be the step that helps bring a dog like Gabby to her forever home. Even the smallest things help.

Here are the rescues where I got Sparty the Dog and Gabby the Dog.

New England Lab Rescue

National Great Pyrenees Rescue

And this rescue is possibly my favorite one.

Big Fluffy Dog

 

Random Marketing Things

 

NEW BOOK ALERT!

I just want to let everyone know that INCHWORMS (The Dude Series Book 2) is out and having a good time as Dude competes for a full scholarship at a prestigious Southern college and getting into a bit of trouble.

Here’s what it’s about:

A fascinating must-read suspense from New York Times bestseller Carrie Jones.

A new chance visiting a small Southern college.
A potential love interest for a broken girl obsessed with psychology.
A damaged group of co-eds.
A drowning that’s no accident.
A threat that seems to have no end.

And just like that Jessica Goodfeather aka Dude’s trip away from her claustrophobic life in Maine to try to get an amazing scholarship to her dream school has suddenly turned deadly. Again.


What would you do to make a difference?

After his best friend Norah was almost abducted, Cole Nicholaus has spent most of his childhood homeschooled, lonely and pining for Norah to move from best friend to girl friend status. When birds follow him around or he levitates the dishes, he thinks nothing of it—until a reporter appears and pushes him into making a choice: stay safe at home or help save a kidnapped kid.

Cole and Norah quickly end up trying to not just save a kid, but an entire town from a curse that has devastating roots and implications for how exactly Cole came to be the saint that he is.

Can Cole stop evil from hurting him and Norah again? And maybe even get together? Only the saints know.

From the New York Times and internationally bestselling author of the NEED seriesSaint is a book about dealing with the consequences that make us who we are and being brave enough to admit who we love and what we need.

BUY NOW! 🙂 I made a smiley face there so you don’t feel like I’m too desperate.

The cover. Creepy, right?

You can read an excerpt right here.

Imposter Syndrome – You Kick Butt. Believe It.

My imposter syndrome is about a society where truth is never good enough because truth is not pretty enough. My imposter syndrome is about a society where people ridicule your heart, your kindness, your vulnerability and other people applaud that.

So, for my Wednesday Writing Wisdom post, I’m going to partially reblog something from 2016 with some new content because I still deal with this monster all the time.

What is this monster?

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Not Marsie the Cat.

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Not Gabby the Dog who looks like she’s about to eat her brother’s head. 

It’s Imposter Syndrome

How I Battle Imposter Syndrome

So, recently I was having a big period called, “I Suck At Everything.” It’s pretty much a variant of the dreaded Imposter Syndrome.

What is Imposter Syndrome? It’s when you feel like everyone is suddenly going to realize that you are:

  1. A big fraud.
  2. You suck
  3. Basically a big, sucky fraud that’s about to get called out by the YOU TRULY SUCK YOU LYING FRAUD PATROL WHO HAVE EXPRESSIONS LIKE THIS
goat (1 of 1)

And lots of amazing people have Imposter Syndrome. What kind of amazing people? People like Maya Angelo who has said,

“I have written eleven books, but each time I think, ‘Uh oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.”

So, yeah, Maya Angelou, THE Maya Angelou has it, which kind of only makes mine worse because I think,

“Um… I’m not that cool. I’m not even worthy of having imposter syndrome.”

This is even though I logically know that I’ve been on the NYT bestseller list, some of my books were bestselling books in other languages and I’ve even received awards for writing and I get happy reader email. And even though I just looked up “Carrie Jones Quotes” and found all these things I said that someone put to pictures/photos.

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(Yes, I did just google myself). My mom always used to google me, but she’s dead, so I can’t rely on her to tell me things about myself – or all the other Carrie Joneses in the world – any more.

Anyways, here is the thing:

Logic does not matter when you have imposter syndrome.

Some people think Imposter Syndrome comes from feeling like you’re more important than you actually are. This might be true for others, but – ohmyfreakingword – seriously? I barely think I am doing anything halfway good enough to make this world a tiny bit better. This is so not my problem. It’s totally okay if it’s part of yours though.

My personal Imposter Syndrome is linked to my I DO NOT DO ENOUGH syndrome. For instance if I don’t make a TO-DO LIST and strike things off each day, I will feel like I accomplished nothing all day. If I accomplish nothing all day, I hate myself, feel guilty, and go to bed depressed. So, I always try to make to do lists like this:

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This visual representation, PLUS the advice of a friend on Facebook (Yes, they do exist), made me realize that I had to do the same thing with my imposter syndrome. I had to start collecting visual evidence to convince myself that I don’t completely suck.

I remind myself that I have been called out before and I have survived.

As someone who was connected to our local, mostly volunteer fire department, I witnessed our community come together a lot.

It is a beautiful and glorious and sometimes harrowing thing to see firefighters leave their families, dinners, jobs and go out and help other people.

I blogged about this once and a large, pedantic man caught me off guard less than a week later and berated me for writing schmaltz. That schmaltz was my heart.

I was devastated. I was irate. I survived.

You can survive trolls and bigger baddies, too, like your skirt falling in NYC in front of a line of people waiting for a taxi, or a bad review or even a bad spouse or the school calling crisis response because you’re kid (who has autism and tends towards hyperbole) whispers, “I hate math so much, I’m going to kill myself.”

I try to remind myself of all the things I have survived, sleeping in a car, witnessing a terror attack, sleeping with the enemy, massive amounts of seizures, assault, in order to realize that people thinking I’m a fraud? Calling me out for sucking? It will hurt. It does hurt. But it can be overcome. Other people have overcome so much more.

Reminding myself of the bad things that I’ve survived isn’t something I like to do because I don’t want those things to define me. I don’t let them define me. But sometimes, it’s good to realize that being a survivor is something I can be proud of.

IMG_3096-224x300

That picture up there is me being super classy after my graduate school gave me an award for being an outstanding alum. Katharine Paterson gave out the award. Yes, THE Katharine Paterson. So what did I do? I put it on my head and giggled. So glam. So chill.

Anyway, some people have imposter syndrome that comes from comparisons. They see someone else doing awesomely (in the book world, a prize, a list, an invitation to a conference) and think, “I suck because that is not me.”

Mine doesn’t work that way.

Mine is about fear not about envy. Mine is about the fear that I will be ridiculed for who I am and how I think. Mine is about the fear that my abilities are not enough. (Honestly, I can barely tie my shoes because my mechanical skills are so awful.) Mine is about being so poor that you don’t know how you’ll survive, about the pain from being betrayed, about being hurt physically,  about public ridicule because of your political views or decisions, about cognitive degeneration, about not fitting in because you grew up outside of what society’s norms are. My fear is about things that have already happened to me and I don’t want to happen again.

My imposter syndrome is about exposure even when I have already been exposed, which is why I am doing the podcasts, “Dogs are Smarter Than People” and “Loving the Strange.” I am facing that fear.

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My imposter syndrome is about a society where truth is never good enough because truth is not pretty enough. My imposter syndrome is about a society where people ridicule your heart, your kindness, your vulnerability and other people applaud that.

My imposter syndrome is about fear.

That’s all it is.

Fear.

So I remind myself with my notebook that I have had  joys, that I have had tiny, kind interactions, where I have touched other people’s stories and gotten to glimpse at their truths and their lives and how amazing is that? It is amazing.

My notebook is to remind me that no matter what happens in the future, I have had those moments, been blessed by them, and lucky. It’s to remind me that you can’t be an imposter when all you are doing is being yourself. Your self.

Go be yourself, people.

Go write your stories! The world needs to hear them.

NEW BOOK ALERT!

I just want to let everyone know that INCHWORMS (The Dude Series Book 2) is out and having a good time as Dude competes for a full scholarship at a prestigious Southern college and getting into a bit of trouble.

Here’s what it’s about:

A fascinating must-read suspense from New York Times bestseller Carrie Jones.

A new chance visiting a small Southern college.
A potential love interest for a broken girl obsessed with psychology.
A damaged group of co-eds.
A drowning that’s no accident.
A threat that seems to have no end.

And just like that Jessica Goodfeather aka Dude’s trip away from her claustrophobic life in Maine to try to get an amazing scholarship to her dream school has suddenly turned deadly. Again.


What would you do to make a difference?

After his best friend Norah was almost abducted, Cole Nicholaus has spent most of his childhood homeschooled, lonely and pining for Norah to move from best friend to girl friend status. When birds follow him around or he levitates the dishes, he thinks nothing of it—until a reporter appears and pushes him into making a choice: stay safe at home or help save a kidnapped kid.

Cole and Norah quickly end up trying to not just save a kid, but an entire town from a curse that has devastating roots and implications for how exactly Cole came to be the saint that he is.

Can Cole stop evil from hurting him and Norah again? And maybe even get together? Only the saints know.

From the New York Times and internationally bestselling author of the NEED seriesSaint is a book about dealing with the consequences that make us who we are and being brave enough to admit who we love and what we need.

BUY NOW! 🙂 I made a smiley face there so you don’t feel like I’m too desperate.

The cover. Creepy, right?

You can read an excerpt right here.

There Is Nothing Better than a Sexy Setting

Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
There Is Nothing Better than a Sexy Setting
/

Lately, Carrie has been talking to a lot of writers that she coaches and edits about settings.

That’s because a lot of writers are blowing them off. So, she’ll read a lot of passages like this:

“Hey,” I sit at my desk, “you coming over later?”

“Yep,” Shaun says.

“Cool.”

“I thought maybe we could have some hanky-panky.”

“Okay?”

So, we know that Shaun wants to have some hanky-panky and the “I” of the story is sitting at their desk. But we don’t know what kind of desk, where that desk is, if there are other people around, or even how she or he or they are reacting to Shaun’s request for hanky-panky, right?

Setting is obviously the place where things happen, but it’s more than that, right?

Setting makes your characters real. It grounds them. It shows the reader what’s going on without saying, “Yo, reader. This is what’s going on.”

What do we mean? Well, here, let’s play with the setting of that excerpt above.

“Hey,” I sit at my desk, flipping through some tentacle porn, “you coming over later?”

The dirt-streaked wall of my cubby gives a bit with the pressure of his hand, holding him up as he leans over my shoulder. “Yep.”

Betty is just on the other side of that cubby wall and beyond her is my boss, the other workers, everyone typing on their computers, pretending to be busy reading emails, analyzing data, reading contract clauses. Liars all. The air smells of old coffee and pot, broken things, broken people.

It doesn’t matter. Nothing matters.

“Cool.” That’s all I say.

Shaun clears his throat, moves lower, closer to me, my hard metal desk, standard issue. His giant elbow brushing against the wall again. His voice is a low whisper. “I thought maybe we could have some hanky-panky.”

Someone coughs. That someone is Betty. I flip the page. A tentacle is exploring places on an elf that should probably not be explored. Shaun doesn’t smell like old coffee. He smells of sandalwood and pine, like man.

“Okay,” I whisper. “Okay.”

Totally different, right?

Now we have a lot more context even if we don’t know all the details of her office, the chair, the desk. The characters aren’t floating in a void.

Here, one more example before we move on. Same dialogue again. But different setting and different feelings.

“Hey.” Holding my phone in my hand, I sit at my broad, metal work desk, give up and stand on it, pushing the papers and books about writing and being a freelance human off with my heel. They flutter to the floor. From up here, I can see everyone. Janice with the pink hair. Bob with the coffee stained shirt and no hair. Countless nameless coworkers. I raise my voice into a yell that echoes across the vast space of the office. “You coming over later?”

Bob stares up at me. His mouth gaping open. I can see his fillings. He puts a finger over his lips. I give him a finger of my own. Lights flicker overhead.

“Yep,” Shaun says.

Janice gives me a thumbs up. Beyond her, other coworkers are watching and/or pretending not to watch. The fans above them, hanging from the drop ceiling, spin around and around. My manager opens the door from his office, starts angry striding towards me.

I say, “Cool.”

Across the office, all the way in a prestigious cubby by the dirt-grimed windows, Shaun stands on his own desk and shouts, “I thought maybe we could have some hanky-panky.”

Someone giggles. The world smells of promise, lemon bleach those cleaners use. The manager stops, his bald head turning from Shaun to me to Shaun.

I hang up the phone and yell across everyone. “Okay?”

Setting can reinforce what we’re doing, add context and even tension, right? It can transform an exchange into a story. You don’t want to blow it off. You really want to make it as sexy as possible.

Tips About Setting

Don’t glob it all down in paragraph after paragraph.

Sprinkle it into the dialogue and action like salt.

Let us reiterate: Don’t overdo it.

Seriously. See that first tip up there. It’s like art in your house. You don’t put all the paintings in one room. Spread it out.

Make sure that the details you add are the ones that are important to the reader.

Use setting to add subtext.

You can say “there is a fan in the office” or you can say, “The fans above them, hanging from the drop ceiling, spin around and around.”

Boom! Now you know that they feel trapped and like they are going in circles. Cool, right?

Be weird. Be quirky. Don’t be normal.

Our readers are aware of what a desk is, right? What an office is? But it’s the weird and different things that make a scene and setting matter. Let them see the escaped gerbil running across the floor. Let them hear the sound of a coworker sucking air through their teeth nonstop. Show them the broken blind, twisted and lopsided on the window.

Show the setting as your main character sees it. The readers shouldn’t see the office until the point-of-view character sees the office. Let the setting be discovered by them simultaneously. 

WRITING TIP OF THE POD

Settings make a book real. They add dimension and character. Layers. Don’t blow them off.

DOG TIP FOR LIFE

A sexy setting is so important in your life. Surround yourself with dog toys and cozy blankets, twirl around around before flopping down so that you feel perfect.

NEW BOOK ALERT!

I just want to let everyone know that INCHWORMS (The Dude Series Book 2) is out and having a good time as Dude competes for a full scholarship at a prestigious Southern college and getting into a bit of trouble.

Here’s what it’s about:

A fascinating must-read suspense from New York Times bestseller Carrie Jones.

A new chance visiting a small Southern college.
A potential love interest for a broken girl obsessed with psychology.
A damaged group of co-eds.
A drowning that’s no accident.
A threat that seems to have no end.

And just like that Jessica Goodfeather aka Dude’s trip away from her claustrophobic life in Maine to try to get an amazing scholarship to her dream school has suddenly turned deadly. Again.


What would you do to make a difference?

After his best friend Norah was almost abducted, Cole Nicholaus has spent most of his childhood homeschooled, lonely and pining for Norah to move from best friend to girl friend status. When birds follow him around or he levitates the dishes, he thinks nothing of it—until a reporter appears and pushes him into making a choice: stay safe at home or help save a kidnapped kid.

Cole and Norah quickly end up trying to not just save a kid, but an entire town from a curse that has devastating roots and implications for how exactly Cole came to be the saint that he is.

Can Cole stop evil from hurting him and Norah again? And maybe even get together? Only the saints know.

From the New York Times and internationally bestselling author of the NEED seriesSaint is a book about dealing with the consequences that make us who we are and being brave enough to admit who we love and what we need.

BUY NOW! 🙂 I made a smiley face there so you don’t feel like I’m too desperate.

The cover. Creepy, right?

You can read an excerpt right here.

SHOUT OUT!

The music we’ve clipped and shortened in this podcast is awesome and is made available through the Creative Commons License. 

Here’s a link to that and the artist’s website. Who is this artist and what is this song?  It’s “Summer Spliff” by Broke For Free.

And we have a new podcast, LOVING THE STRANGE, which we stream live on Carrie’s Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn on Fridays. Her Facebook and Twitter handles are all carriejonesbooks or carriejonesbook.

Here’s the link.

best positive podcast - Be brave friday
Send your Be Brave Friday stories to us here! Just hit the contact form or message us at carriejonesbooks@gmail.com
best podcast ever
loving the strange the podcast about embracing the weird

RESOURCES

https://www.esquire.com/news-politics/news/a39179/five-real-life-horror-stories/

https://www.upi.com/Odd_News/2021/07/30/canada-loose-llama-Arkell-Puslinch-Ontario/4701627667041/

Cheating On Yourself

I was once on a panel at a writing convention in Oklahoma and made fast enemies with the agent (now an editor) on the panel.

Why?

Because I disagreed.

I’m a pretty mellow human most of the time, but if you say something that I think might not allow people to ascend, to be themselves, or something full of hate? I’m terrible at being silent about that.

I mean, I’m not cable-news tv forceful, but I speak my mind.

What had the agent said?

It wasn’t anything scandalous, honestly.

She just said, “You should only write in your genre. No author is successful if they write in multiple genres. You can’t jump genres.”

And I objected and listed authors who did write successfully in multiple genres. M.T. Anderson. Anne Rice. Elizabeth Gilbert. At that moment, I had just jumped from literary young adult to genre young adult with a book that made me an international bestseller.

She wasn’t cool about me disagreeing.

I disagreed anyway. The reason that I did that is yes, it’s easier to brand and market your art or your writing and generally make more money if you only write one thing. But it’s also limiting.

If you are a person who writes erotic werewolf novels who wants to write a picture book about happy hamsters? You should do it.

Limiting our selves and our art to one specific genre or story or way of being? One specific process? One specific type of heroine or character or fight scene?

We don’t have to do that. We can cheat on our norms and even on our own (and our readers/reviewers) expectations if we want to do that.

Trying new things, cheating on your writing, your art? It can transform you. It can expand you. It can make you bigger and better and stronger and more powerful even if it’s a fail, even if nobody likes it or reads it, but you.

When we push beyond the boxes and labels that surround us (whether we give it to ourselves or others give it to us), we become interesting.

Interesting is so much more fun than dull.

Interesting is being alive, being quirky, being an explorer, being curious, being a doer.

And sometimes being interesting means being on a panel and disagreeing with a hot-shot agent and having her glare at you.

No. I’ll never work with that editor because of that interaction. Do I care? Nope. Because that editor is safe. That editor isn’t interesting. And that editor would hold me back even though people think she’s a genius. She probably is. She’s just not my kind of genius.

We all have people like her in our lives, people who keep us from being brave, trying new things. You don’t have to be a writer to know this.

However, we also do it to ourselves. We hold ourselves back. We are afraid to try. We follow other people’s paths and edicts and hope that we will be successful like them instead of forging our own way.

Here’s the thing: You will fail sometimes.

You will get rejected or hurt and it will suck. But it is worth it. Because failing means that you took a damn chance on something, on yourself, on another person. Failing means that you were brave and that you are growing and that you are exploring and it means that you’re interesting.

The interesting people are the innovators. The interesting people who go after their dreams and desires? They change the world. They move the world. They inspire the world.

So go out there. Cheat on yourself. Move on. Do you art in different ways. Do your work in different ways. Do your life in different ways. Try all the things. Be interesting. You’ve got this.


NEW BOOK ALERT!

I just want to let everyone know that INCHWORMS (The Dude Series Book 2) is out and having a good time as Dude competes for a full scholarship at a prestigious Southern college and getting into a bit of trouble.

Here’s what it’s about:

A fascinating must-read suspense from New York Times bestseller Carrie Jones.

A new chance visiting a small Southern college.
A potential love interest for a broken girl obsessed with psychology.
A damaged group of co-eds.
A drowning that’s no accident.
A threat that seems to have no end.

And just like that Jessica Goodfeather aka Dude’s trip away from her claustrophobic life in Maine to try to get an amazing scholarship to her dream school has suddenly turned deadly. Again.


What would you do to make a difference?

After his best friend Norah was almost abducted, Cole Nicholaus has spent most of his childhood homeschooled, lonely and pining for Norah to move from best friend to girl friend status. When birds follow him around or he levitates the dishes, he thinks nothing of it—until a reporter appears and pushes him into making a choice: stay safe at home or help save a kidnapped kid.

Cole and Norah quickly end up trying to not just save a kid, but an entire town from a curse that has devastating roots and implications for how exactly Cole came to be the saint that he is.

Can Cole stop evil from hurting him and Norah again? And maybe even get together? Only the saints know.

From the New York Times and internationally bestselling author of the NEED seriesSaint is a book about dealing with the consequences that make us who we are and being brave enough to admit who we love and what we need.

BUY NOW! 🙂 I made a smiley face there so you don’t feel like I’m too desperate.

The cover. Creepy, right?

You can read an excerpt right here.

When Children’s Book Writers Are Supposed To Dance Things Might Not Be Pretty

Back before COVID-19, I went to my first big writing conference (as a speaker) in L.A. (California) and I learned that there was a big gala thing and all of us children’s book writers (published and prepublished) were supposed to dance and schmooze there.

Despite the fact that my aunt owned a dance studio and I started dancing when I was two and despite the fact that author/poet/musician/playwright Ozzie Jones once gave me the best compliment about my dancing ever at a Bates College party and despite the fact that I’ve been in far too many musical theater productions, I get uptight about dancing.

Cough.

This is awkward to admit.

And I was supposed to hang out in a group of 900 children’s book writers who were going to be dancing? It was already super obvious who the extraverts are in the children’s book world and let me tell you? It’s the dancers. It’s the schmoozes. It’s the people who introduce themselves to you and aren’t awkward about it.

It is not me.

I thought children’s book writers were my people. Apparently, I was wrong. The whole situation was a lot more like a middle school dance than I thought it would be.

What I learned

1. Some writers can actually dance. I mean, they bend backwards. They throw off shoes. They are not me.

Get your boogie on and shuck off those ukeleles, authors!

2. Author John Green blushes and sort of crumples in half when kids tell them they’ve read Looking for Alaska‘s scene that involves a penis.

I am not spoiling here, but… I’m sure you can guess the scene. The truth is that scene has a bit of the Judy Blume phenom going for it. Kids I knew flipped to it, shared it with friends, even before or after they’ve read the whole book and I could go on for awhile about this and how it’s a very okay thing, but that would be a much longer post for later in the week. 

Also, despite a lot of lady writers asking him to dance, John Green managed to not dance. I envied him.

See, John. This is almost as steamy as your scene, and Raintree County is ancient, although steamy. 

3. It is hard to find people you know in a crowd of 900 and sometimes you just have to give it all up and hang with people you barely know. When doing this, try not to talk about the positive beauty of fleece TOO much. They will run away. 

4. Holding a beer makes dancing easier. I did not do this, but I should have. Thanks for the tip, Lisa Yee!

5. Once you tell people that you’re running off to get someone else to come dance it is REALLY REALLY hard to find those people again. Try not to worry that they think you were blowing them off and you are an evil mean girl or something.

I’m so sorry I lost you! I was busy dying inside from social anxiety.

6. Author Lisa Yee tells amazing stories. Many include peeps. Some include pee. Does there seem to be a connection?

I found this photo on Pinterest. Thank you, Pinterest!

Rock on, Little Peep. Rock on!

7. It’s okay to stand in the big grass circle by the taco makings instead of dancing because there will be other people there who aren’t drunk enough to dance either. These are some of your fellow introverts. Embrace them. Ask first though because not everyone likes embracing.

8. Even when there’s lots of room to spread out people will clump up to dance. I am not sure if this is because it is fun getting elbowed in the head or just for the hiding-your-dance-skills in a bunch of other people factor. Or maybe it’s just the hope for getting lucky is greater the closer you are to other bodies. Does anyone know? Is this an extrovert thing or an introvert thing?

9. Sometimes people can do amazing things with aluminum foil. Sometimes people can’t. This can be dangerous when the foil is used to make clothing. No. I am not posting a picture of this here. But also foil-clothing and dancing can lead to some NSFW photos of writers. Don’t enthusiastically dance if you’re only wearing aluminum-foil clothing unless you’re okay with other writers seeing body parts that are usually covered up and stuff.

10. Writer Cecil C (BEIGE) can hold while dancing:
    1. Plate of food.
    2. Eating utensil
    3. Massive funky-cool bag/purse
    4. Video camera
    All at the same time with a still-healing wrist, which obviously qualifies her for this status

 Yes, she is the dynamic force of both Wonderwoman and Superman combined! That’s super power.

And there you go. Helpful hints for when you go to a conference and there are a bunch of children’s book writers dancing.

Continue reading “When Children’s Book Writers Are Supposed To Dance Things Might Not Be Pretty”

Eyebrows and Taking Chances

A long time ago, I got new eyebrows.  That’s right. I did the eyebrow shaping thing. If you know me in real life, you will realize that this is stunning news. I’m going to write about that eyebrow event today. 

And yes, I could post something intelligent about the anti-multiple plot point aesthetic in young adult novels, or how discontinuities and detours excite me, but noooo ….

It’s all about eyebrows and taking chances. I have a really hard time doing certain things:

  1. Sitting still
  2. Looking at myself in the mirror.
  3. Spending money on myself.

    Let me tell you, this was a big-deal thing for me at the time because you have to sit still while professionals pluck your eyebrows and they do it in front of a mirror and they charge you, so grooming my eyebrows was hitting all those three things. In good news? I look A LOT better with new eyebrows. 
    And it DID NOT HURT.

    The nice eyebrow professional lady smiled at me as I checked out her lovely eyebrows and avoided looking in the giant mirror.

    I said, “I do not want old lady non-existent eyebrows. I do not want penciled-in eyebrows. Please do not do that to me.”
    She said, “I hate those.”

I whimpered. 

“It’ll be okay,” she said.
“Is it going to hurt?” I asked.

She nodded. “Probably.”

Then she put the goop on and yanked and it was SO ABSOLUTELY FINE! 
“That didn’t hurt,” I said.
“I used the small strips.”
“That’s amazing,” I said as she showed me the hair she yanked off. 

Then I started to giggle like I was, um, five years old and just saw the bottom of the cutest kid in kindergarten.

I could not stop giggling the entire time she did it, which was … probably four minutes at the most.

She said, “I love it when you come in.”


I giggled more.


She said, “You just kill me.”


Then she showed me my eyebrows and I bounced up and down.

And for some reason, I never went back again! I know! I know! It’s because I’m cheap. I couldn’t get over that part.

But the thing is. We can’t grow if we don’t take chances, if we don’t rip out our extra, ugly spots and examine them. We can’t grow if we don’t scrutinize ourselves and invest in ourselves.

That’s important because I know we all want to be the best people we can be even if that means checking out our reflection and seeing bits of ourselves we don’t want to see.

Take a chance. Scrutinize. Invest. Love yourself enough to grow yourself, weird eyebrows and all.

WHERE TO FIND OUR PODCAST, DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE.

The podcast link if you don’t see it above. Plus, it’s everywhere like Apple Music, iTunesStitcherSpotify, and more. Just google, “DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE” then like and subscribe.

Join the 233,000 people who have downloaded episodes and marveled at our raw weirdness. You can subscribe pretty much anywhere.

Last week’s episode.

Last week’s bonus episode with Anne Marie Pace, author of Vampirina Ballerina.

COME WRITE WITH ME! 

I coach, have a class, and edit things. 


NEW BOOK OF AWESOME

I have a new book out!!!!!! It’s an adult mystery set in the town where we live, which is Bar Harbor, Maine. You can order it here. And you totally should. 

And if you click through to this link, you can read the first chapter! 

And click here to learn about the book’s inspiration and what I learned about myself when I was writing it.

What Was It Like To Get a MFA When You Are From Maine and Have Social Anxiety

If you guys don’t know, Vermont College of Fine Arts offers a master’s program specifically for writing for children and young adults. This is a very cool thing. They actually accepted me and I got a degree there. Eventually, I was even awarded a Distinguished Alum degree at a surprise event in D.C, which was ridiculously cool and a great line for my obituary.

But when I started? I didn’t think I would ever get that far. That’s because I get super shy and social anxious about public events. I present an extrovert, but I basically have stage fright about things like singing in public, or going to board meetings or parties. I still go, but I get anxious ahead of time.

I was so anxious about going to Vermont. I was a newspaper editor. That is not the same as writing books for kids and I would be surrounded by people who were devoted to the craft of writing and that seemed so scary.

What was going to Vermont like?

Um…. It was great. No plots were stolen. I did not go to jail or die. All in all? I’d say it was a success.

But when I first got there it was a more than a little scary. I was petrified. You know how when you go into the cafeteria and realize that you know absolutely nobody. No, seriously, and everyone else looks like they know everybody else and so you just stand there with your tray … wondering how you can go into the kitchen and eat with the cooks because they seem really nice … the cooks. 

And then you meet all the other people in your class and it feels like everyone is SOOOOOOOOO much cooler than you are and they all sort of have roles.

There was HE WHO WRITES YA SEX SCENES and SHE OF THE PEACEFUL POETRY and MAGICAL URBAN FANTASY WOMAN and PICTURE BOOK GURU and I AM FLUFFY and then of course, THE ONE CUTE GUY. This is a children’s writer’s program. There is usually one cute guy. There is also usually one ridiculously beautiful woman.

(Note: We were a rocking class because there were actually three cute boys out of our 18 writers. There was also three beautiful women. This made our class ultra-cool.)

Anyway, I felt like I didn’t fit in because everyone else was so cool,  and basically I almost had a complete nervous breakdown the first residency until Lisa Jahn Clough talked me down and said, “Carrie, writers never feel like they fit in. That’s why we’re writers.”

And I said, “But I’m from Maine. I’m not used to all these people talking everywhere about writing. Actually, I’m not used to people, which is part of why I wear a parka inside buildings at all times. You can hide in a parka and pretend to be a snowman or something.”

And she said, “I know. I’m from Maine too, but it’s good. Really. It’s sometimes overwhelming, but it’s good. And parkas are fine.”

And it turned out she was right. 

Everyone in my class at Vermont helped each other and HE WHO WRITES SEX SCENES eventually WROTE PEACEFUL POETRY, occasionally and MAGICAL URBAN FANTASY WOMAN wrote an occasional picture book, and everyone in my class just basically loved each other, creating a happy ending much better than any 1980s teen movie and we eventually all crunched up together and looked all emotional and dramatic but right together. And we connected and learned.

And I kind of miss it because as Molly Ringwald (1980s actress always wearing pink or black) said in the movie, Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone“Us loners got to stick together.”

And you know? Writers wrote that line. And they also wrote that movie. Which is why we all need to support each other because sometimes… well… we writers stink.

Anyway, I really miss learning about craft instead of teaching about craft and becoming an exponentially better writer because of these other amazing writer/teachers.


And I really miss throwing cookies at people in the cafeteria and then looking all happy-faced.

Us loners got to stick together, baby, and that counts for writers and readers both, and writing programs give us writers a place to do it. So congratulations to all my friends who are starting programs, and to all my friends who aren’t. Because, basically, we all have our own paths and they are all cool. 

Well, almost all of us.

As C. JoyBell C. says,

“Don’t be afraid of your fears. They’re not there to scare you. They’re there to let you know that something is worth it.” 

This week’s episode link. 

Last week’s episode link.

Last week’s interview with writer Jordan Scavone! 


Continue reading “What Was It Like To Get a MFA When You Are From Maine and Have Social Anxiety”

Questions People Ask Me About Writing and If I’m Successful or Just Weird

People ask me questions a lot because I’m a writer and I’ve had some success at it. And also because I have no filter.

Last week this student I was mentoring asked me:

Are you a successful writer?

And I said, “I’ve made NYT bestseller lists and some of my books were internationally bestsellers, so I guess so. It looks good in my obituary.”

He then cracked up and inhaled and coughed a tiny bit and I felt bad.

But truthfully, I don’t feel like a successful writer. I don’t feel like an unsuccessful writer, either. Success is what you make of it, you know. It’s about how you define it, not how your c/v or resume or obituary defines it. It’s especially not how other people define it.

You define you. That’s my mantra.

HOW ARE YOU SO PRODUCTIVE?

There’s a lot of clap back right now about not being productive and taking the pause and embracing the gaps and I’m all for that if that works for you. It does not work for me. I live in my moments, I promise, but I actually love creating things and writing things and helping other people create and write things? So, I don’t think of it as being productive. I think of it as doing. And as long as I have energy I want to be doing.

But, um, also I constantly stress a bit about running out of money, so I try to figure out new ways to survive. I should probably get therapy for that, but again – I’m cheap and therapy costs money in the U.S. So, I’ll keep making a podcast, expanding it, being a writing coach, editing, having a Patreon and writing books and making paintings. It’s all fun. It’s all good. I wouldn’t want to not create. I’d feel lost.

What Do You Do When You Get Writer’s Block?

I write something else even if it’s just, “Blah.Blah. Blah. I hate writer’s block. It is the biggest stupid evil thing ever.”

If that doesn’t work, I set a timer and clean for 15 minutes. I tell myself I will have to clean the toilet if I don’t write 500 words. That evil threat usually gets things done.

Are you writing something right now?

Always.

See above where I talk about needing therapy because I have a compulsion to be production. I am so lucky to be a writer. I don’t want to lose that. This means I am always working on something. To be fair, I don’t know how to not work on something.

Are You Short?

No. My husband is just ridiculously tall.

Are you drunk?

Nope.

On illegal drugs?

Nope. I’m just really weird. I am the person at the party that other people point at and say, “You are so wasted,” but I haven’t imbibed at all.

Is Maine Creepy?

Occasionally, but only because I live here.

What’s the Hardest Part About Writing?

Stopping. And worrying that no human will ever actually read it.

What’s the Easiest Part of Writing?

I love everything else about writing.

Weirdest thing that ever happened to you at a public event.

A bookseller bit another bookseller while they were waiting in line to get my book. Actually, one of them might have been a librarian.

Weirdest Thing that ever happened to you in Maine.

There are so many. Ghost stories? Weird noises in the woods. Seeing the Obama family in my town eating ice cream? The naked man at the door. There are a lot of stories.

Do You Get to Work in Your Pajamas?

Yes! Yes! A hundred times yes.

Are Parentheticals demons (from hell)?

Yes, and so are their first cousins, the ellipses….


Here’s the link to this week’s bonus podcast, an interview with Jordan Scavone.

Here’s the link to this week’s regular podcast, Zoombombing, Tiger King and are Your Family Members Killing You During the COVID Lockdown?

AND FINALLY, MY NEW PATREON STORY

And over on Patreon, I’m starting a new story this week! It’s a chapter a month if you want to check it out. It basically costs $1 a month to listen to my story and $3 a month to read it. There’s a new chapter every week. It’s super fun; I promise. AND SO CHEAP. Help this neurotic writer eventually afford therapy and join the community!

WRITING NEWS! 

THE WRITING COURSE OF AWESOME

It’s our very own writing course! 

Basically, it’s set up a bit like a distance MFA program, only it costs a lot less and also has a big element of writer support built in. This program costs $125 a month and runs for four-month sessions and starts in April 2020 

To find out more, check out this link. It’s only $125 a month, so it’s a super good deal. Come write with us! 


NEW BOOK OF AWESOME

I have a new book out!!!!!! It’s an adult mystery set in the town where we live, which is Bar Harbor, Maine. You can order it here. And you totally should. 

THIS IS WHAT IT’S ABOUT

Rosie Jones, small town reporter and single mom, is looking forward to her first quiet Maine winter with her young daughter, Lily. After a disastrous first marriage, she’s made a whole new life and new identities for her and her little girl. Rosie is more than ready for a winter of cookies, sledding, stories about planning board meetings, and trying not to fall in like with the local police sergeant, Seamus Kelley.

But after her car is tampered with and crashes into Sgt. Kelley’s cruiser during a blizzard, her quiet new world spirals out of control and back into the danger she thought she’d left behind. One of her new friends is murdered. She herself has been poisoned and she finds a list of anagrams on her dead friend’s floor. 

As the killer strikes again, it’s obvious that the women of Bar Harbor aren’t safe. Despite the blizzard and her struggle to keep her new identity a secret, Rosie sets out to make sure no more women die. With the help of the handsome but injured Sgt. Kelley and the town’s firefighters, it’s up to Rosie to stop the murderer before he strikes again.

You can order it here.