Tuesday, August 30, 2011

For the Love of Writing

It is said ‘true writing’ (not proto-writing) was invented independently in two different places; Mesopotamia around 3200 BC and Mesoamerica around 600 BC. Debates have erupted in various circles also crediting Egypt in 3200 BC and China in 1300 BC, lest we forget about the Tartaria Tablets from Transylvania that predates all of the others from 5500 BC. No matter where ‘true writing’ surfaced, it is by far the most exhilarating concept known to man. The simplistic idea of having the tool to communicate one’s thoughts or stories for all to interpret across the ages of time is mind boggling.

Mankind learned to record their script on several different types of materials such as clay, tree bark, stone, parchment and later on papyrus (plant found in Egypt). The ancient Egyptian scrolls were used as the first form of a book in 'roll' format when they glued sets of papyrus together to create a tablet of sheets. Eventually this material was imported into Greece where it dominated the land as a new writing element from an exotic nation. After the fall of the Great Roman Empire, parchment became the main writing material once again as the trade with Egypt was no longer available. After the development of Codex (books), and before the invention of the printing press, monasteries would copy text into books by hand which is why they were so rare and expensive to make because of the labor intensive work it took to create and make a single copy. Unfortunately, some works of art were ultimately destroyed by the Monks because they were deemed 'dangerous' for their lack of religious content and were feared to have the ability of manipulating the person in contact with the book. 

Fast forward several centuries and you have the ease of uploading any form of writing onto the internet for all to view. As consumers in an advanced society, we no longer have to hold a piece of paper in our hands to read but can browse the electronic pages pictured across our mechanical devices. What is that saying for future historic prosperity? Are we removing an art form from our genetic line as humans by relenting to the ease of technical mechanics? Personally I’m inclined to say yes, although many people would say I’m not thinking about how this saves on natural materials and refraining from leaving my carbon footprint. But I must add this small comment before moving on; peruse the old books from before and notice the gorgeous handwritten calligraphy, the intricate swirl of cursive and the originality of personable printing. From an artistic stand point these scripts are priceless, but speaking as an author I am eternally grateful to be living in my current era of keyboards and automatic print! Can you imagine the carpal tunnel claims and ink poisoning statistics from the insurance departments of the renaissance generation? (snark) Now, moving forward…

I have asked several people their opinion regarding paper or electronic books with answers dividing the argument straight down the middle. Prior to my meager interrogation of several avid readers, I must admit I had a clear assumption that the younger generation would veer toward the viral world as opposed to the older contemporaries leaning toward traditional paper books (with my generation stuck in the middle of understanding both arguments equally). I was actually proved wrong on both points, which under normal circumstances I would not outwardly admit, but in this case, I’ll let it slide; for humanity’s sake of course! Depending on which side of the fence you stand, the choice is irrelevant because the art of writing wins the battle hands down. We are still able to read great works such as Austen, Dickens, Tolkien, Twain and Lewis. Or modern authors like JK Rowling, Cassandra Clare, Stephenie Meyer and Dan Brown, regardless of which source it is read from, the outcome is equitable. Whether you enjoy turning the pages and feeling the weight of the paper rustling beneath your fingertips while the smell of aged ink whisks lightly below your nostrils or it’s the ease of carrying your electronic device weighing less than ten ounces and holding up to 2,000 books while simultaneously surfing the net and responding to twitter. Whatever tickles your fancy is your prerogative.  The beautiful part of the great debate rests simply with that of the individual. You can stand loyally to one or share the best of both worlds by actively participating in either sets of scholarly utopia; paper and/or electric.

Writing this post made me think back to my younger years and remember how I first got started as a lover of words and who my person of influence was who inspired my reading passion. I was in third grade and my older sister Kim would sit with me in our room to read Greek Mythology while I envisioned the wondrous creatures, epic battles, and sheer beauty of the story. My imagination was filled with incalculable fantasies and extraordinary stories that still remain vividly in my mind today. How I loved to listen to the ancient expressions and later read them for myself and now share that same love of reading with my own children. I'd like to thank my sister for taking the time to read to her kid sis and thus spawning a lifelong fanatic of historic mythology. It’s a cyclical and harmonic cycle passed down through generations and the key to future works of art. As you sit and read this segment, what was the infamous book that turned the tides from a regular reader to bibliophile and how has that shaped your interest for your genre of choice? Is reading an escape from your everyday life; an opportunity to venture beyond the boundaries of time and relevance or purely out of delight? Post your comments on this blog or on twitter @fuentes_kate1 using hashtag #readingfan. I would love to read your opinions!

To learn more about my Elements of writing, you can visit my webpage at http://www.katefuentes.com/

Any historical content featured in this article was gathered from http://www.wikipedia.org/ .

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Break the Bread

As children we are taught to share with others; our toys, food, time, love, along with many other characteristics. On the journey to ‘teen land’ our objectives have a tendency to develop into the realm of being self-absorbed, not necessarily selfish, rather unaware and solely concentrating on fellow adolescents, music, fashion, and/or/simultaneously on hormones. Not all teens go through the above mentioned, but some do and I can be honest and say when I was a teen I did just that. I walked around in my own little bubble, oblivious to the troubles of the world or even the financial burdens of my own household and how this type of stress can affect adult relationships.

When you finally reach the fork in the road to stay in the child world or venture into adulthood the 'sharing' characteristic surfaces once again. The choice is that of the individual; will they choose to sincerely share with others their happiness, wealth, education, compassion, love, and friendship or will they resort to the behaviors of gluttony, greed, and narcissism?

A thought ponders on the edge of my brain; are others truly and genuinely happy for their peers/friends or does an ulterior motive of sabotage linger in the dark corners of their psyche? When looking at my author colleagues, does the above rule apply as a competitor’s impairment?  Have I read too many conspiracy theory novels and watched far too many movies about treachery for my own good? I hope not, I rather enjoy those types of intrigue and would like to continue to benefit from the various forms of entertainment without the after affects of guilt or paranoia. So, back to the question at hand, how easily does ‘sharing’ come to you?

I’m personally drawn toward people/authors/writers/entertainers that exude individuality, creativity, charisma, kindness, and humor. The world is a vast exodus of untapped resources (literally speaking) and hidden treasures that are waiting to be discovered by the next individual. That could be any form of discovery including exciting new inventions, befriending someone from a different culture and/or religion, perhaps creating a novel. I will be the first to say small doses of competition are healthy (speaking from my experience as an athlete), and I will stand behind my opinion in which I’m sure others will wholeheartedly disagree. Of course, I welcome their argument without judgment and bring forth an open mind. The desire to be on top of the mountain is intrinsic in us all, but when you rise to the peak and take a look at those around you, do you want a friend to encourage you or a foe to pull your feet from under you to watch your descent back down to the bottom?

I choose thoughtfulness and positive support; it’s less painful and a safe bet you will receive it back tenfold. I would rather deliver the benefit of doubt as opposed to thinking my peers are out to get me. I have mingled in settings where fellow authors are leery of others and have a cynical outlook regarding their literary companions. I have sympathy for those conflicted only for the mere fact that embracing those ill feelings will cause you nothing but grief. I'm happy to report I have experienced nothing but genuine thoughtfulness from other authors and writers who are not the enemy but heartfelt comrades willing to help fledgling novelists new to the publishing world or give words of encouragement to keep on going.

When I look back at my early teenage years I cringe at how horrible my attitude was and I’m grateful I decided to try my luck down the path of benevolence. I have been growing ever since and hope to continue to search out new ways to give back to those around me who have assisted me along the way or new friends in need of a helping hand. Should I have written this in stone for all to see, absolutely! No one is perfect, no one is safe from ridicule but why not be the first to put it out there in an effort to expose your blemishes for others to compare with against their own and accept them for what they were. That's right, past tense, WERE. Change is definitely possible and most of the time can be accomplished without sacrificing a great deal. Share both your faults and your strengths; in the end you will gain a healthy respect not only for yourself, but from those around you as well.


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Bestselling author John Locke

Late Friday evening all is dark in the house with the exception of the wall Scentsy (Lavender scent of course) and the blaring light of the computer screen. I gather my mojo and decide with all certainty to do it! Yep, I’m going to click the send button and take the virtual leap of faith by requesting an interview with John Locke, bestselling author and the person who happened to give me the encouragement I needed to continue my literary journey (unbeknownst to him of course).
I sent a small note via the ‘contact me’ section from John’s website http://lethalbooks.com/ and thought my blurb would be buried under thousands of inbox messages, never to be opened and more than likely archived automatically. To my astonishment and giddy elation, I received a reply the next morning from John Locke himself! Did that just happen? He graciously agreed to answer a few questions for my interview even though his time was extremely limited. (Due in large part to his anticipated release of his new and upcoming western for his eager fans)
Without further ado, please see what John Locke stated in our interview last weekend:

You must be in the top 1 percentile of men who are able to multi-task exceptionally well. May I say respectfully, great job and do you give private tips for husbands? (For the record, I know there are men who can multi-task; it’s just a rarity, an anomaly, at least at my household. Just kidding honey!)
Question 1:
I think my female readers would appreciate a male perspective on your unique situation; how do you juggle family time, career responsibilities (such as being a successful bestselling author), a feverishly devoted fan base, a businessman, and still continue to create and deliver outstanding novels? (In two different genres, I might add!)
John Locke:
I have to keep my priorities in line. First is my family, where I try hardest to always be available. Second is my full-time business, where I get a break because even though my business needs regular attention, it almost never requires immediate attention, which means I can postpone my work at any given time to help my wife pick up the kids or take them to practice, or run other errands, and so forth. Family and business take up the bulk of my time, but I’ve always had a few extra hours each day to devote to other activities. Now that I’m writing, it’s a matter of using that extra time for different things. I no longer cook dinner every night, or read books. I watch very little TV. On vacations I try to set aside three hours each afternoon to write, or market my books. I find ways to create blocks of spare time. When I can block off more than two hours, I use it to write. Most of the time it’s less than two hours, and I use the smaller blocks of time for emails, blogging, twitter, and interviews.

Question 2:
How would you describe a spontaneous romantic evening for your wife and how would that differ from your famous character Donovan Creed?

John Locke:
My wife is an extremely busy, high-energy person who goes all day like the Energizer Bunny and crashes in the evening. We have two kids at home who are always doing something with sports and of course, my wife and I are very involved at their school. That’s hard to quantify, but we volunteer a lot and my son does three sports, my daughter two. This year my wife is the field hockey team mom, which makes me team photographer, which means she and I will be attending 31 games in the space of 10 weeks. That doesn’t count the daily practices, or my son’s practices and games, or their celebration parties, and so forth. So, sadly, we don’t have much opportunity for romantic dinners, even spontaneous ones. How does that differ from Donovan Creed? Simple. Creed ALWAYS gets laid! (Can I say that on your blog?)

Question 3:
Do you see self-publishing authors versus big publishing industry as a modern David & Goliath? If so, is there hope in site for a cordial relationship, dare I say, a common thread of respect for literary camaraderie?

John Locke:
I don’t consider self-publishing to be the enemy of trade publishing, or vice-versa. I think there are many ways to create symbiotic relationships between the two camps, and to me they seem obvious. I think the biggest mistake people make is thinking deals can only be structured within specific parameters. But that’s old-style thinking. This is a new age in publishing, and as long as we focus on the reader, and put the reader first, we can do some unique and exciting things that have never been attempted. I’m working on one such idea right now.

Question 4:
Who or what has been your greatest form of inspiration and why?
John Locke:
My mother has always been my greatest inspiration. She taught me early in life I could accomplish anything, be anything, and have anything I desire provided I’m willing to put forth the necessary effort. That means study long enough, work hard enough, and practice.

Question 5:
You currently have novels in two different genres; three if we include your book How I Sold 1 Million Copies in 5 Months, is there room for another genre of books in your repertoire?

John Locke:
The short answer is yes, because this is what writers do: we write. I spend most of my life in sales, and happened to sell insurance. But I could have sold any type of product, because I was a salesperson. A writer should be able to write in any genre because writing is telling a story, and genre is how you tell it. Start with an exciting, action-based story and you’ve got a thriller. Put the characters in cowboy hats, change the setting and dialogue, and you have a western. Make them younger, clean up their language and actions and you have a young adult book. Switch the murder from the climax to the beginning and you have a mystery. In the end, it’s really just a story. How you tell it determines the genre.

I would like to thank John once again for his graciousness and willingness to partake in the interview for Sired Scribblings! Your time is extremely valuable and I wholeheartedly appreciate the opportunity to speak with you. Best of luck on your continued success with your novels! If you would like more information about how to get John Locke’s novels, please visit his website at http://lethalbooks.com Also available online at http://www.amazon.com Follow him on twitter @DonovanCreed.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Soup for the Soul

Hair refuses to cooperate, kids drank the last of the milk last night (which means no cereal for me), new puppy decided to wake up at the crack of dawn (for no apparent reason), and my husband forgot to put out the trash bin. GOOD MORNING WONDERFUL DAY FROM THE GATES OF HADES!

It’s inevitable that one bad day will catch up with you sooner or later but sometimes it seems to hold out for long periods of time before crashing down on you like a ton of bricks. Today was that day! The victim in us all suddenly cries out in protest ‘why me?’ and a series of unfortunate events continue to rain down on your already pitiful hair making the remainder of the day drag on.

Crazy, ranting, maniacs come out of the woodworks to call you repeatedly throughout the hour and tell you (without empathy) how unhappy they are with you. The ‘to do’ list hit an all-time high comparable to the infamous list of Santa Claus himself. To top it all off, the buckle from your new fabulous platform shoes is digging into the ankle bone relentlessly causing further grief and discomfort. Just when you think it couldn’t get worse, surprise! It does…

Weary and drained your body is internally holding up the white flag of surrender but it is only lunch. ‘Push through, hang on a bit longer!’ you scream to yourself. The continued calls from more ungrateful, angry people flood the phone lines and you’re ready to throw in the towel in defeat.

A hand written envelope catches your attention and you hesitate to pick up the next call. Two notes written on college ruled paper are unfolded and the telltale penmanship of an elementary student emerges. The letters are from recently arrived refugee siblings from the Ivory Coast of Africa. Their family fled to escape impoverished conditions and religious persecution from their native country by arriving here in the United States and becoming citizens. The children, ages nine and eleven, are starting school for the first time in America and could not afford backpacks or supplies. Through generous donations (via the outreach ministry I work for) over 1,000 backpacks were supplied to students in need and the two siblings were recipients of the much needed packs. Their smiling picture receiving the bags and gracious letters were enough to seal the deal and snap me back into reality.

All day long I wallowed in self-pity yet these beautiful children from a life of hate and banishment are elated to receive a small backpack filled with basic essentials. Their sincere appreciation saturated the small notes and I immediately received a refreshed sense of determination to finish the day with genuine thankfulness for the blessings in my life. What a wonderful way to be humbled, by the innocence of two children making an impact in this tough world! Thank you to “A” and “J” for showing me the true meaning of Grace! (I cannot disclose their real names for confidentiality reasons)

If the above story wasn’t enough to pull your heart strings, I was hit yet again with a sensational and inspirational story via twitter regarding a mother’s plight to communicate on behalf of her son and his remarkable journey through life with autism. She resolves to continue her undying support for her child through unconditional love, patience, endurance, and education through life lessons.  To learn more about autism, please visit Jennifer’s blog at http://ht.ly/5TKSS and for more on how to volunteer in support of refugees, please visit my links and resources page for the website to World Relief.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Power of Opinion

I often find myself repeating the same encouraging statement to my children 'believe in yourself' yet shamelessly I also find I tend to be the first person to doubt my own abilities. Does this make me a hypocrite? Why is that? Is it because we are our own worst critic or is it human nature to second guess our own talents?

In a technologically advanced society where virtual conversations and opinions are so easily accessible, I feel exceedingly vulnerable when putting my literary work on display for all to see as it has the potential to be ripped to shreds by thousands world wide. Thankfully, the feeling only lasts momentarily and I inherently push the send button to press my luck and ride the virtual opinion wave with gumption and eager anticipation!

I have experienced first hand the meaning of 'hard exterior shell' when my recently released YA novel, Elements The Beginning, hit the market. It is without question a debut book and unknown author are vulnerable to the onslaught of bad reviews. Concurrently it has just as much of an equal opportunity and substantial chance of receiving a positive opinion, capable of launching an author into a successful writing career from the same group of avid readers, reviewers, bloggers and critics. The catch is, as the writer, how much of the bad outweighs the good and vice versa?

I am not one to believe this is an easy feat to come by and the chances of being the exception to the rule and an overnight success are slim to none, but I would be in a perpetual state of denial if I didn't admit to daydreaming about it and conclude that anything is possible. (This coming from a fiction writer, of course)

Social media networks provide a myriad of marketing strategies, public relations, customer service, advertising and (the sometimes dreaded, brutally honest) personal opinion. Instead of feeling overwhelmed and defeated about my chances of extraordinary achievement, I am revitalized with the emotion that in the vast open planet, on this place we call earth, dreams can come true! Whoever said it was going to be easy?

I have decided to adopt the following quote as my motto; Success only comes before work in the dictionary (this quote actually is taped above my desk, no joke). Nothing comes without hard work, effort and diligence and in all honesty I wouldn't want it any other way. Personally, the struggles I have experienced in my journey have shaped me into the person I am today and continue to evolve into. I think it is safe to say many people may harbor the same opinion about themselves and their work ethic. Constructive criticism is extremely helpful, even if it stings at first, pick yourself up off the floor after a good cry or temper tantrum and put the suggestion to good use.

I must end this segment by expressing my endless gratitude for all the reviewers, bloggers, readers, fans, critics, librarians, literary agents, publishers, and everyday book fanatics for their extreme devotion and uncompromising allegiance to the literary world. Even if they are not hardcore fans of mine, their loyalty to books is duly noted. Thank you!

Keep the dream alive and hug an author today! You never know they might need it!