Is That Even A Joke? It’s All About the Subtext

So, um, a lot of the time during the podcast Shaun will say something that makes Carrie have these huge pauses because she’s reading the subtext underneath what he’s saying.

Honesty moment: Shaun’s subtext is usually naughty, which is totally okay because they are married, but Carrie has these brain hiccups when that happens because:

  1. She is from New England and grew up where people pretended intercourse didn’t happen and people made babies by sitting on unclean toilet seats.
  2. She is a children’s book writer, but not the cool cutting-edge kind that writes about intercourse and she’s worried about her branding. Just kidding! Sort of…

Anyway, Alicia Rasley said that in writing: “Subtext is like a gift to the astute reader—an additional layer of meaning implied by the text but not accessible without a bit of thinking. … Experienced readers aren’t confined to the text—what’s printed on the page—they interact with the text, fully participating with the writer in the making of meaning in the story.”

Sort of how Carrie interacts with Shaun during the podcast.

Writing Tip of the Cast: Not everything has to be super obvious. Trust your readers. Remember your book, like a podcast, is a conversation, not just a monologue.

Dog Tip for Life: Don’t be afraid of the subtext. Notice people’s nuance, the meaning under what they’re saying.

SHOUT-OUT

The music in this podcast is “Check Them In” by Ema Grace and her site is here. We’re able to use this amazing music, thanks to Ema’s kindness and the Creative Commons.

Writing News

The Spy Who Played Baseball is a picture book biography about Moe Berg. And… there’s a movie out now about Moe Berg, a major league baseball player who became a spy.

You should totally buy Carrie’s book about Moe. It’s awesome and quirky and fun. She’s heading to Houston, North Carolina, and Virgnia soon, just to talk about it. How cool is that?

My Post copy 6

OUR PODCAST DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE.

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness as we talk about random thoughts, writing advice and life tips. We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow.

Writing Coach

Carrie offers solo writing coach services, but she’s also teaching a Write! Submit! Support! (WSS) six-month class online via the Writing Barn in Austin. For details about that class, check out this link. For more about Carrie’s individual coaching, click here.

WSS-Testimonial-Mountains-1-300x300

And finally, for the month of July, Carrie’s book FLYING is on sale in ebook version on multiple platforms, which means not just Amazon. It’s a cheap way to have an awesome read in a book that’s basically Men in Black meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer but with chocolate-covered pretzels.

Screen Shot 2018-07-05 at 3.37.18 PM

Proof of the sale-nature of July.

 

Thanks so much for reading my blog! Please comment or say ‘hi!’ if you feel like it!

 

xo

Carrie and Shaun

Is That Even A Joke? It’s All About the Subtext

 
 
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What Makes A Story Awesome.

Yesterday on our podcast, Dogs are Smarter Than People, we talked about emotional pulls of stories and premises.

That’s a big key about what makes a story awesome, but there are a couple more important ingredients that you need to make your story shine bright like a diamond. Thanks Rhiannon.

It needs conflict.

There needs to be a want and obstacles to the want.

It needs to be fresh.

When I wrote Tips on Having a Gay (Ex) Boyfriend, I was trying to understand a hate crime that I’d heard about, but I also was trying to write not from the point-of-view of the evil bully or the gay man. I decided to write from the point of view of the ex-girlfriend. It was a different angle. And it was picked up off the slush pile out of thousands of novels and published because it was fresh. And it won a IPPY award because of the same reason.

It needs emotion– See that podcast

 Dogs are Smarter Than People

It needs to be believable.

It may end up being a story about a boy wizard, but it needs to start somewhere real, like ‘What if there were magical people and one of them was evil and killed the parents of a boy. But what if he didn’t die because his mother’s love was the greatest, strongest magic of all? And what if he survived to fight that wizard, eventually?” The what-ifs are a writer’s best weapon. But the premise needs to be based in something we all understand (or want to), which in that case was love.

Do Good Wednesday

So, since I have a tendency to come on people in stress and duress and since it’s my stepdad’s death-i-versary and he died of a heart attack, here is my do good Wednesday idea.

Take a CPR class.

It’s important. It helps. It can buy people time until an ambulance arrives or a defibrillator is there.

This link takes you to CPR classes run by the Red Cross, but there are so many places you can take them.

Writing News

The Spy Who Played Baseballis a picture book biography about Moe Berg. And… there’s a movie out now about Moe Berg, a major league baseball player who became a spy. How cool is that?

You should totally buy Carrie’s book about Moe. It’s awesome and quirky and fun.

OUR PODCAST DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE.

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness as we talk about random thoughts, writing advice and life tips. We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow.

Writing Coach

Carrie offers solo writing coach services, but she’s also teaching a Write! Submit! Support! six-month class online via the Writing Barn in Austin. For details about that class, check out this link. For more about Carrie’s individual coaching, click here.

 

Dogs Are Smarter Than People Podcast and Camper Update!

A lot of the times that Carrie works with writers, she notices that they are pulling back from the emotion that is happening in the story. Instead of allowing the reader to feel the terror of being kidnapped or the anxiety of moving to a new place or the desperate sorrow of losing a loved one, the writer skims over these emotional times with a simple moment of telling like, “John was sad that his dog died.” Or worse. “The dog died. John went to school.”

These are lost opportunities. They are also places where the story goes flat or in writer speak, “fails to resonate.”

A lot of writers, especially children’s book writers, are kind people and by default they don’t want to hurt their characters or dwell in any negative emotions. They are trying to protect their characters and the readers.

But those good intentions don’t actually help anyone.

The real world has pain. Our stories have pain, too.

We have to learn to deal with hardships. Our characters do, too.

And the emotion of stories, the ups and downs, are the ride that our readers are signing up for. They want to feel with us, be transported into others’ lives.

For example, Harry Potter had hardship after hardship and so did his friends. J.K. Rowling didn’t shy away from the hard emotions and hard times. She’d add in beats, moments of dwelling in those big moments of joy and sorrow. What Harry felt, the reader felt.

The premise of your story needs to do this, too. It has to have an emotional hook that makes you wonder and care right away. Again, think of Harry Potter – the story of the boy who lived, a lonely orphan who must overcome the evil wizard who killed his parents. Just thinking about the premise fills you with thoughts and wonder and worry and so many questions. The emotional stakes are so high.

Dog Tip For Life

Embrace your emotions. Think about what makes you snarl, yelp, wag your tail. Go after the ball. Go after the moments that make you feel good.

Writing Tip of the Pod

Um… again… embrace your emotions. Don’t be afraid to express real emotion. It feels safer to hide your emotion, but passion makes better life and better stories. Be passionate about what you’re writing and about how your living.

Dogs are Smarter Than People

Direct link to this episode of the podcast is here! If you listen to the podcast, you’ll hear all about our first few days in the camper, which we now call the cramper. 

Writing News

The Spy Who Played Baseballis a picture book biography about Moe Berg. And… there’s a movie out now about Moe Berg, a major league baseball player who became a spy. How cool is that?

You should totally buy Carrie’s book about Moe. It’s awesome and quirky and fun.

OUR PODCAST DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE.

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness as we talk about random thoughts, writing advice and life tips. We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow.

Writing Coach

Carrie offers solo writing coach services, but she’s also teaching a Write! Submit! Support! six-month class online via the Writing Barn in Austin. For details about that class, check out this link. For more about Carrie’s individual coaching, click here.

Shout-Out

The music in this podcast is “Check Them In” by Ema Grace and her site is here. We’re able to use this amazing music, thanks to Ema’s kindness and the Creative Commons.

 

Writers, Go With Your Gut and Bring Out the Big Emotion

A lot of the times that Carrie works with writers, she notices that they are pulling back from the emotion that is happening in the story. Instead of allowing the reader to feel the terror of being kidnapped or the anxiety of moving to a new place or the desperate sorrow of losing a loved one, the writer skims over these emotional times with a simple moment of telling like, “John was sad that his dog died.” Or worse. “The dog died. John went to school.”

These are lost opportunities. They are also places where the story goes flat or in writer speak, “fails to resonate.”

A lot of writers, especially children’s book writers, are kind people and by default they don’t want to hurt their characters or dwell in any negative emotions. They are trying to protect their characters and the readers.

But those good intentions don’t actually help anyone.

The real world has pain. Our stories have pain, too.

We have to learn to deal with hardships. Our characters do, too.

And the emotion of stories, the ups and downs, are the ride that our readers are signing up for. They want to feel with us, be transported into others’ lives.

For example, Harry Potter had hardship after hardship and so did his friends. J.K. Rowling didn’t shy away from the hard emotions and hard times. She’d add in beats, moments of dwelling in those big moments of joy and sorrow. What Harry felt, the reader felt.

The premise of your story needs to do this, too. It has to have an emotional hook that makes you wonder and care right away. Again, think of Harry Potter – the story of the boy who lived, a lonely orphan who must overcome the evil wizard who killed his parents. Just thinking about the premise fills you with thoughts and wonder and worry and so many questions. The emotional stakes are so high.

Dog Tip For Life

Embrace your emotions. Think about what makes you snarl, yelp, wag your tail. Go after the ball. Go after the moments that make you feel good.

Writing Tip of the Pod

Um… again… embrace your emotions. Don’t be afraid to express real emotion. It feels safer to hide your emotion, but passion makes better life and better stories. Be passionate about what you’re writing and about how your living.

Dogs are Smarter Than People

Writing News

The Spy Who Played Baseball is a picture book biography about Moe Berg. And… there’s a movie out now about Moe Berg, a major league baseball player who became a spy. How cool is that?

You should totally buy Carrie’s book about Moe. It’s awesome and quirky and fun.

OUR PODCAST DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE.

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness as we talk about random thoughts, writing advice and life tips. We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow.

Writing Coach

Carrie offers solo writing coach services, but she’s also teaching a Write! Submit! Support! six-month class online via the Writing Barn in Austin. For details about that class, check out this link. For more about Carrie’s individual coaching, click here.

Shout-Out

The music in this podcast is “Check Them In” by Ema Grace and her site is here. We’re able to use this amazing music, thanks to Ema’s kindness and the Creative Commons.

Writers, Go With Your Gut and Bring Out the Big Emotion

 
 
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Writing Advice – Down on My Shins, Baby

Writing advice.

Everyone has it even if it’s as simple as, “Don’t listen to advice.”

But there is no one way to write the same way there’s no one way to live.

On my trip to the Indigo/Chapters Teen Choice Awards awhile ago, the first leg of my trip ends in the flight from Bangor to Philadelphia. I’m really psyched because:

1. I like Philadelphia even if it is just the airport.
2. I was in the first row of the plane so I was like the third one off. SCORE! That never happens.
3. I am easily psyched.

 

This t-shirt would be appropriate for me to wear all the time. You know, if I wore this kind of t-shirt.

It turns out that I have to get to another terminal in order to catch my next flight to Toronto. To get there you have to walk through one terminal and go to a place where it says SHUTTLE TO TERMINAL F.  To get to this magical shuttle place you have to go down an escalator. This should be nice and easy, except the space at the bottom of the escalator is not big enough to hold the bajillion people who want to go on the shuttle, so everyone has to turn immediately right and form a line that runs parallel to the escalator. This also should be easy, right? We are smart people who fly on airplanes, forming a line is easy-peasey.

But, apparently not all of us:


1. Like to form lines.
2. Understand how to form lines.
3. Like to follow the directions of the men yelling, “Go to the right! Form a line, people! Go to the right!”

When I come down the escalator there’s a flight attendant behind me and I figure that:


1. She is in a hurry.
2. She is a bit frustrated by people who fail to form lines.
3. She is moving on flight-attendant warp speed.

 

So, when I step off the escalator, she steps off right behind me. I wait for a second to see if the man in front of me understands the whole MOVE TO THE RIGHT AND FORM A LINE THING.

He doesn’t.

Flight attendant lady wants none of this, so she scoots around me, but when she does her luggage (on rollers) hits the back of both my knees — one, two — in this perfect way that makes me fall right down to the floor on my shins, so it looks like I am praying to the shuttle gods or something. Not that there are shuttle gods, obviously.

So you must picture me on the floor surrounded by people who can not form a line to the right.

And you must picture all those people staring at me with their mouths wide open.

And you must picture me laughing hysterically because (seriously) how funny is it that I got taken down by a flight attendant’s luggage.

And you must picture everyone thinking I’m a weirdo.

And then I bounce right back up and got in line, because that’s the way this writer rolls. 😉

Is there a point to this story?

Yes and no.

Every story we create out of our lives (or out of fiction) has underlying truths inside of it. I could have chosen to cry and sue the flight attendant, which would have made me wealthier, probably. I could have chosen not to tell this story about me falling down, which would make me seem cooler, probably.

Writing experts, blog experts, life experts, marketing experts, expert experts would probably have told me that my vulnerable story of darkness isn’t going to sell any books, which is what I’m supposed to do because it’s how I earn my living and buy dog food. They’d tell me to write not quite so conversationally. They’d tell me to make sure my SEO has words like ‘tips and hints’ in it to drive blog traffic.

But here’s the thing? For me, I’m going to form a line when I’m supposed to if it’s helping the greater good. And I’m usually going to laugh if I get knocked down because it’s better than crying – usually.

And I am going to explore the wonderings and the questions that are inside of me about life and writing and people’s love and people’s cruelty, their selfishness and selflessness in every way that I know how. And I am going to find meaning in little things and big things.

 

My only writing advice, my truest writing advice is this:

Expect that you are going to be stupid sometimes.

Expect that you will fall.

Expect that writing a story, just like a life, is a big adventure that you can’t always control.

Our job as humans and as writers isn’t to dictate belief sets to other people, but to give them possibilities, questions to bounce off of and explore, moments of ‘huh’ and ‘what ifs,’ seconds of laughter and failure and poignancy that they can use as a launch pad for their own explorations.

What are your ‘huh’ moments? When do you think, ‘what if?’

Writing News

I’m super excited about the upcoming TIME STOPPERS book coming out this August.

This middle grade fantasy series happens in a secret, magical town in Acadia National Park in Bar Harbor, Maine and it’s all about friendship and magic and kids being awesome.

An imaginative blend of fantasy, whimsy, and suspense, with a charming cast of underdog characters . . . This new fantasy series will entice younger fans of Harry Potter and Percy Jackson.” –  School Library Journal 

“A wild and fresh take on fantasy with an intriguing cast of characters. Dangerous and scary and fun all rolled into one. In the words of Eva the dwarf, I freaking loved it!” –  Lisa McMann, New York Times bestselling author of The Unwanteds series

“Effervescent, funny, and genuine.” –  Kirkus Reviews

It’s quirky. It’s awesome. It’s full of heart. You should go buy the first two books now. 🙂

CARRIE’S BOOKS

For a complete round-up of my 16-or-so books, check out my website. And if you like us, or our podcast, or just want to support a writer, please buy one of those books, or leave a review on a site like Amazon. Those reviews help. It’s all some weird marketing algorhthym from hell, basically.

OUR PODCAST DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE.

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness as we talk about random thoughts, writing advice and life tips.

We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. Please share it and subscribe if you can.

Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow.

My Post Copy-2

 

 

Writing Heroes That Don’t Suck – Dogs are Smarter Than People Podcast

Who do you root for?

In your own life, this question is easy. We root for ourselves. A lot of the time we root for our friends, our family. We almost always root for the dog. I mean, even in Cujo, the horror-novel by Stephen King where the dog is killing everyone? A lot of us still root for the dog.

But when we write books?

We want to root for the hero. The hero is who we like. The hero is who we admire.

Sometimes though, that’s sort of hard.

There are moments in Harry Potter where we’re rooting for Hermione more than Harry because Harry’s being a butt face, stubborn, sulky and insolent.

But Harry’s a better hero because of that. We can relate to him and find hope in our own hero potential because he is imperfect. If imperfect people can be heroes, so can we.

So can we.

Here’s the truth.

Heroes aren’t perfect. Not in real life. Not in books. And a lot of the time people don’t identify with heroes that are too perfect like Captain America or Superman because their goodness seems so impossible. They’ll prefer Iron Man or Batman because they are flawed and moody or temperamental and snarky. It’s easier to relate to that lack of perfection.

This is not true for Carrie obviously. She’s all Cap all the time because she can relate to being imperfect because of her own self righteousness and savior complexes more than being imperfect because she’s moody, sulky snark. It’s kind of a problem, honestly.

But back to the point. Your hero probably shouldn’t be perfect. Perfection is kind of annoying.

HOW DO YOU WRITE A  HERO WHO ISN’T TYPICAL OR BASICALLY DOESN’T SUCK?

The same way you write everyone else.

Listen

Listen to people other than yourself, how they talk, how they think. Use your empathy to understand their character and then steal some of those traits and motivations for your own hero.

Tweak

Tweak the trope. Sure you have archetypes of messiahs/warriors/matriarchs/mystics, but go beyond the trope when you’re making your hero. She might be like Xena the Warrior Princess, but she can have a goofy Whose That Girl side like Jess. Give your ‘mystic’ trope a ‘matriarch’ profession like a lawyer or judge.

 

Think

Think about your own heroes – the ones in real life. What do they do that isn’t all that heroic? Talk with their mouth full? Wipe their boogers on the edge of the seat of the car? Use that.

carrie-jones-you-know-life-fractures-us-all-into-quote-on-storemypic-5c727

Dog Tip For Life

When you let go of your need to be the perfect puppy all the time, you get to chill out a little bit more. Chilling out is good for your heart.

Writing Tip of the Cast

We all want to be perfect. We aren’t. Our heroes shouldn’t be either.

Here’s the link to this week’s podcast all about this! And more…

 

 

WRITING NEWS

Carrie’s back from Book Expo America and super excited about the upcoming TIME STOPPERS book coming out this August.

This middle grade fantasy series happens in Acadia National Park in Bar Harbor, Maine and it’s all about friendship and magic and kids saving their magical town.

It’s quirky. It’s awesome. It’s full of heart. You should go by the first two books now. 🙂

CARRIE’S BOOKS

For a complete round-up of Carrie’s 16-or-so books, check out her website. And if you like us, or our podcast, or just want to support a writer, please buy one of those books, or leave a review on a site like Amazon. Those reviews help. It’s all some weird marketing algorhthym from hell, basically.

OUR PODCAST

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness as we talk about random thoughts, writing advice and life tips.

We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. Please share it and subscribe if you can.

Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow.

xo

Shaun and Carrie, Sparty, Gabby and Marsie (the honorary cat-dog)

Dogs are Smarter Than People the podcast
Gabby is not a perfect dog

We love her any way.

Writers, Be Simple – Dogs are Smarter Than People Podcast, Episode 18

We’ve all heard the statistics:

  1. Writers take ten years to get their first novel published, on average
  2. The average children’s book writer makes 5k a year, if she’s lucky.
  3. If you are a writer for a living, you will starve.

Some writers will sell you their books about how you can be a thriving artist versus a starving artist as if there is this dichotomy between the two, an either or situation.

Life isn’t that simple.

Here are the Three First Steps To Being A Writer, MADE AS SIMPLE AS POSSIBLE

You write the story you want to write.

You hone it and craft it until it’s the best story you can make it.

You send it to agents and editors or self publish it.

That’s it.

That’s how you become published.

You might make a ton of money. You might not. One book might make $500. One book might make $100,000.

It’s not the easiest thing to control, but what you can control is whether or not you’re lonely.

That you can battle.

You can create an in-person writing group or an online group, but if you are lonely in your writing life, YOU CAN ABSOLUTELY make friends, form a pack.

Writers. Loneliness. Tips to make a writing group

Writing Tip of the Pod

How do you form a writing group?
Here’s four easy steps:

 

  1. Decide the goal of your writing group – Support? Accountability? Critique
  2. Figure out when, where, and how often you want to meet.
  3. Invite a few people. Three to five is a good starting number.
  4. Find a way to communicate in between meetings that works for everyone. Facebook? Email? You get to decide.

Dog Tip for life

It’s okay to want a pack to roam with, to howl with. It can even include cats.

208422_10150237184694073_7701072_n

The link to the podcast file is here! Or here on iTunes!

Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow.

xo

Shaun and Carrie, Sparty, Gabby and Marsie (the honorary cat-dog)

Writers, Be Simple

We’ve all heard the statistics:

  1. Writers take ten years to get their first novel published, on average
  2. The average children’s book writer makes 5k a year, if she’s lucky.
  3. If you are a writer for a living, you will starve.

Some writers will sell you their books about how you can be a thriving artist versus a starving artist as if there is this dichotomy between the two, an either or situation.

Life isn’t that simple.

Here are the Three First Steps To Being A Writer, MADE AS SIMPLE AS POSSIBLE

You write the story you want to write.

You hone it and craft it until it’s the best story you can make it.

You send it to agents and editors or self publish it.

That’s it.

That’s how you become published.

You might make a ton of money. You might not. One book might make $500. One book might make $100,000.

It’s not the easiest thing to control, but what you can control is whether or not you’re lonely.

That you can battle.

You can create an in-person writing group or an online group, but if you are lonely in your writing life, YOU CAN ABSOLUTELY make friends, form a pack.

Writers. Loneliness. Tips to make a writing group

Writing Tip of the Pod

How do you form a writing group?
Here’s four easy steps:

 

  1. Decide the goal of your writing group – Support? Accountability? Critique
  2. Figure out when, where, and how often you want to meet.
  3. Invite a few people. Three to five is a good starting number.
  4. Find a way to communicate in between meetings that works for everyone. Facebook? Email? You get to decide.

Dog Tip for life

It’s okay to want a pack to roam with, to howl with.

Writers, Be Simple

 
 
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Look. Lying is Bad for Your Health and Authors Stink At It, No Matter What “Experts” Say

Seriously.

I know people lie all the time. I know these people get powerful, get fame, get money, get whatever… I know that their lies are there to shelter them, protect them, because they are afraid that their past mistakes or inadequacies  will make people love them. Or just because they are ashamed of what they’ve done and who they are.

I know that we all do it.

That we all lie.

Sometimes.

I’m not talking about the white lies where you tell someone their butt looks good when it doesn’t.

I’m talking about the lies we create to try to dig ourselves out of humiliating experiences. You know what I mean right? When you mess up on your job. When you mess up in your book. When you mess up in your relationship.

Those kinds of lies.

Lying makes you sick. It makes your heart sick. It makes your body sick. I don’t want you to be sick.

I knew a man who was in an insufferable marriage. Before you judge, just know it was bad. He had an affair and then he had eczema, terrible eczema. He finally divorced his wife and the eczema was gone. Yes, correlation doesn’t always equal causation. I get that. But I also get that lying messes us up.

According to an article in the Atlantic, people lie about 11 times every week. It’s no wonder we as a society have forgotten what truth is, right? We lie an average of 572 times a year. And sometimes, telling the truth is seen as the act of the unsophisticated.

Yeah. I am not cool with that. I’m not cool with lying to get ahead or lying to get out of trouble or lying so that your public persona seems better than it is. Because I know that lying hurts your insides. I want your insides to feel good, darn it.

In Gunderman’s story for the Atlantic, he writes:

Researchers at the University of Notre Dame followed 110 people over a period of ten weeks. Half of the participants were asked to stop lying over this period of time, and the other half were not. Both groups took weekly polygraph tests to determine how many times they had lied in the previous week. Those who were able to reduce by three the number of lies they told had four fewer mental health complaints (such as feeling tense) and three fewer physical health complaints (such as headaches) than those who did not.

So how do you not lie?

  1. Sign an ethics agreement with yourself.
  2. Avoid conflicts of interest
  3. Realize that if you lose your job, or mess up big-time, people can and still love you. They’ll relate to you because it’s happened to them, too. And if they can’t? If your act of imperfection is unforgivable to them, then move on honestly. It will be better for you in the long run.
  4. For some people writing down the Ten Commandments or similar articles of behavior is a reminder to be honest and helps prevent dishonesty.
  5. Don’t pick a job or a lifestyle or a relationship that rewards dishonesty and encourages it. Here’s an old story about that with Wells Fargo.

Lying and Writing

The perception is that all writers are liars. We construct these fictional worlds that aren’t truth. Therefore we must be lying, right? We must be suffering from the same health effects that liars-in-real-life do.

Yeah. No.

Writers create entire worlds. Yes. We fabricate details. Yes. We make people up. Yes.

But we aren’t experts in lying. We’re experts in truth.

“Wait… What…?” you’re probably saying.

But here’s the thing. Writers create worlds. But we create worlds out of truths. We put in key details. We focus on being believable. But what we’re doing is using art to tell the truths of our own stories, of the world’s stories, which is the truth of people’s stories and existence.

The best writers are the best truth tellers because their story matters to them. The depth of what they’re writing about (grief, racism, oppression, love, justice) is the truth that needs to come out of their soul. That’s the opposite of lying.

So, go write. If you’re writing your inner truth? That’s only going to lift you up.

Do Good Wednesday

Make a pact with yourself to tell the truth as much as you can. It’s that simple.

 

WRITING NEWS

Yep, it’s the part of the blog where I talk about my books and projects because I am a writer for a living, which means I need people to review and buy my books or at least spread the word about them.

I’m super good at public image and marketing for nonprofits but I have a much harder time with marketing myself.

So, please buy one of my books. 🙂 The links about them are all up there in the header on top of the page on my website carriejonesbooks.blog.  There are young adult series, middle grade fantasy series, stand-alones for young adults and even picture book biographies.

Write! Submit! Support! Begins Again in July!

 

It’s not easy to create a thriving writing career in the children’s industry, but what if you didn’t have to do it alone? Write. Submit. Support is a six-month program designed by author and Writing Barn Founder Bethany Hegedus. Classes are led by top creatives in the children’s industry field; they’ll give you the tips and tools you need to take both your manuscripts and your developing career to the next level. Think of it as an MFA in craft with a certificate in discovering (or recovering) your writer joy! – Writing Barn 

More about the class I specifically teach? It is right here.

Here is what current students are saying:

Carrie is all strengths. Seriously. She’s compassionate, funny, zesty, zany, insightful, honest, nurturing, sharp, and…Wow, that’s a lot of adjectives. But really, I couldn’t praise Carrie enough as a mentor. I’ve long respected her writing, but being talented at something doesn’t automatically mean you will be a great mentor. Carrie just happens to be one of those rare cases of extreme talent and excellent coaching. Aside from the specific feedback she offers, she also writes letters in response to the process letter and analyses. These letters have been so impactful for me as I writer that I plan to print them and hang them up. Creepy? Maybe. But they are so inspiring. And that, in the most long-winded way possible, is how I would summarize Carrie as a mentor—inspiring.

Make Your Setting Kick Butt

Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of writing where setting is just… Well, it’s missing.

You begin a chapter and there are just these talking heads and you’re not quite sure where they actually are.

Chapter One of Book Of Pretend

I grabbed a Coke.

“I am so upset with you,” I said.

“I’m more upset,” he said.

“No way in heck.”

“Seriously.”

 

And the reader is like, “Cool. They have Coke. They are upset. But where are they? Are they floating in the ether? Are they in Newark? I just don’t know.”

So the first rule of creating a kick butt setting for chapters or scenes in your book is:

Actually have a setting.

I know! I know! This seems obvious.

It is not obvious.

Chapter One of Book Of Pretend

I grabbed a Coke out of the mini fridge that John had in his dorm room.

“I am so upset with you,” I said.

“I’m more upset,” he said.

“No way in heck.”

“Seriously.”

Make the Setting Somewhere Cool if you can

A lot of stories have scenes around a dining room table.

There are places in the world that aren’t dining room tables. It’s okay to have a domestic scene in a bathroom, a bedroom, a basement. It’s okay to make the dining room cool. It’s okay to make the dining room a couch.

Chapter One of Book Of Pretend

I grabbed a Coke out of the mini fridge that John kept in the back of his MINI Cooper.

“I am so upset with you,” I said.

“I’m more upset,” he said.

“No way in heck.”

“Seriously.”

Think about Theme and Mood

If your book is about misery make your settings reflect that. If your book is about displacement, do that, too.

 

Chapter One of Book Of Pretend

I grabbed a Coke out of the mini fridge that John kept in the back of his MINI Cooper. It was crammed into the backseat somehow. I have no idea how he even kept it charged. Nothing made sense about it being there, but then again, nothing about John ever made sense.

“I am so upset with you,” I said.

“I’m more upset,” he said.

“No way in heck.”

“Seriously.”

Remember Detail

Depth and intricacy aren’t swear words. The Belles, a newish YA novel does such a fantastic job of having setting become part of and enhance the story. J.K. Rowling? Same thing. Give yourself a moment to really breathe and live in the place that your characters are breathing and living in.

Chapter One of Book Of Pretend

I grabbed a Coke out of the mini fridge that John kept in the back of his MINI Cooper. It was crammed into the backseat somehow. I have no idea how he even kept it charged. Nothing made sense about it being there, but then again, nothing about John ever made sense.

“I am so upset with you,” I said, shutting the door. There were stickers all over it, declaring, “MEAN PEOPLE SUCK” or “FREE TIBET,” or “HEGEMONY NOW.” Some of the stickers were peeling off at the edges, like they were trying to escape the actual refrigerator door, but they couldn’t. They were stuck.

“I’m more upset,” he said.

“No way in heck.”

“Seriously.”

 

Study Old Books

The Charles Dickens’ and Brontes of this world were masters at making you live inside the settings. Don’t copy them, but pull out one of those old books where time was spent creating the stage. Roots was a book that always felt real to me. Color Purple, too. The Bluest Eye.

Find a book where you feel like you live in the place and study a paragraph or two and try to determine how the authors make you see that world.

 

Use Your Senses and Your Symbols

Setting isn’t just visual. It’s smell. It’s the feel of the air on your skin. It’s a million things all combined. The symbols and objects that create your place also reflect the story. Think how Twilight was rainy and dark, foreboding with its trees as opposed to Bella’s original sunny south.

Chapter One of Book Of Pretend

I grabbed a Coke out of the mini fridge that John kept in the back of his MINI Cooper and shut it fast. Broccoli smelled rolled into the air, sickening and heavy.

The mini fridge was crammed into the backseat somehow. I have no idea how he even kept it charged. Nothing made sense about it being there, but then again, nothing about John ever made sense.

“I am so upset with you,” I said, shutting the door. There were stickers all over it, declaring, “MEAN PEOPLE SUCK” or “FREE TIBET,” or “HEGEMONY NOW.” Some of the stickers were peeling off at the edges, like they were trying to escape the actual refrigerator door, but they couldn’t. They were stuck.

“I’m more upset,” he said.

“No way in heck.” I popped the top of the Coke. The click and fizz of it satisfied me more than this conversation ever could.

“Seriously.” John swallowed hard.

I met his eyes.

He looked away and slammed the door of the MINI shut before leaning across the top of it, hiding his head in his arms.

The rotten broccoli smell somehow got worse. Gagging, I took a swig of the Coke, forcing it down.

Now, go back up and read the first pretend excerpt again. It’s a totally different story, isn’t it? It’s weird because I’m weird, but it’s better.

My Post-40WRITING NEWS

I’ll be at Book Expo America on June 1 at the Lerner booth from 11:30-12.

There’s a free information and inspiration session from  Write! Submit! Support!, a six-month intensive program through the Writing Barn.

It’s a one-day only thing just to hang out and learn about the program. I swear! No weirdness involved at all. More info is here.

TIME STOPPERS THE MIDDLE GRADE SERIES OF AWESOME

Time Stoppers’s third book comes out this summer. It’s been called a cross between Harry Potter and Percy Jackson, but with heart. It takes place in Acadia National Park in Bar Harbor, Maine. I need to think of awesome ways to promote it because this little book series is the book series of my own middle grade heart. Plus, I wrote it for the Emster. Plus, it is fun.

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Time Stoppers Book Two! Out in paperback this August! 

Dogs Are Smarter Than People

And finally, the podcast DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE is still chugging along. Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness. We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of.