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Tuesday, 27 September 2011

The Blackberry vs. The Library - A Writer's Tool Kit - Deb Nam-Krane

A year ago, I had a Blackberry. It let me be all over Facebook, Twitter and most of the rest of the Information Super Highway. I even wrote a number of blog posts from there- and not all of them were scattered and nonsensical. 

It was great- except for the way it removed me from my life. It was great that I could obsessively email, catch up on the news, update my statuses and tweet with it, but despite what the good people at Facebook and Google have to say, only so much of our lives are electronic. I like people watching on the train and listening to the stories I compose about where they're coming and where they're going. I like taking in the sights as I go walking with my children; maybe just the right word will finally come to me to describe spring in Boston (other than "rare") or the onset of autumn (other than "eternal"). I'm fortunate to live in a place filled with history and contradiction; I can better observe and learn from it live and in person than through research on my handheld. 

So I ditched the Blackberry and got a notebook and pen instead.

I jot down observations, make sketches of things I see and sometimes just clear my head with it. Sometimes I'll start drafting blog posts there or note revelations I have about my characters.

But when I go to write I'm happy to do it on a computer- in fact, I insist. (And while I can sit on the couch and edit, when I go to write large, new pieces I need to be sitting at a desk.) I love being able to use the internet for research, although I've found that I only get my initial ideas from what I find via a web search; if I want the real scoop, I need to get to a library and get a book.

So, for me, it's a notebook, a pen, a computer, a desk and a library- very 1990s.

Deb Nam-Krane

Born in New York City, raised in Cambridge and making a home in Boston, Deb Nam-Krane is thoroughly urban and her writing, whether on her blog or in her fiction, unapologetically reflects that. After hiding her interest in women's fiction and romance for decades, she came out of the closet in 2007.

When not writing fiction or being tugged on by her four homeschooled children, she can be found indulging her news and policy habit at Deb in the City . A history major, she was pleased to have the opportunity to write the History section of the upcoming Moon Thailand travel guide, to be released in late 2011.

Although she does her best to keep her blog focused on raising children in a city and within a budget, sometimes current events interfere.

She also blogs at the Jamaica Plain Patch and is a regular contributor to Moms Talk on the Jamaica Plain Patch and Literary Boston . When she can't strong arm an editor into publishing her book reviews, author interviews or thoughts on books in general, she takes matters into her own hands at Written By Deb . If you think she's a little bit obsessive about mythology, you might be right.

A longtime book reviewer, she is always looking for good things to read, but still prefers being able to hold a book and flip its pages.

Friday, 23 September 2011

This is My Job, Thanks

I’ve been my own boss for almost ten years now in one way or another. I opened two small businesses even before I was a full-time writer, both of which taught me a great deal about the itty-bitty details and necessary workings of organizing my life around being responsible for my own livelihood without a safety net.

When I sold one business and closed the other in favor of writing as a career, I actually forgot that was part of the deal. Honestly, I still had THE DREAM in my head. You know the one. Write a best selling series, find the perfect agent, wrangle multi-million dollar book deal, live happily every after. Um, yeah

Okay, deluded. But I got over it. And decided after much disgust and frustration with the present publishing model that I would go it alone as an indie. Fabulous. Mind you, I still have a few projects out there with small publishers and will continue to do so, I think. But the bulk of my career is my responsibility. And honest, that’s exactly how I like it.

Here’s the thing. Being your own boss is fabulous when you have clients waiting for product or projects. Deadlines. A business plan.

Did I mention I somehow fell off the entrepreneur wagon and into the fairy tale of being cared for by those who knew better? Right, then. Last year, my first, I wrote five novels. For some, that’s brilliant. For me, it was a great deal of time wasted. But I was holding back, resting on my surety that any second now some brilliant agent would recognize my talent and make me a star.

I woke up at last thanks to the help of some fabulous friends and the understanding that I wasn’t happy just waiting. There were books to write and voices to still. I’d developed a plan over the years to get my work done in the past. Why did I abandon it? Starting fresh, I reevaluated, created a business model and a forecast schedule of writing and publishing and dove in

Much better. I have deadlines again, goals and landmarks to hit. This year I will have completed thirteen novels and published nine. Next year is even more ambitious. Why? Because I mean business again. Not fun and games, not some Hollywood dream (although I’m planning on some of that being involved, let me tell you). This is real life, and a real career. I have to treat it like that. Or I get nothing done.

And for the folks who ask me what I do and either a) think I’ve got it made because I have books out there or b) looks skeptical that what I do is a real job… I can only say this. Like you, I work hard every day. Harder sometimes maybe. Because no one else is looking out for me.
I’m a businesswoman. I’m a writer. And I love every minute of it.

About the Author:

Patti Larsen is a middle grade, young adult and adult author with a passion for the paranormal who writes a great deal of horror for someone who is afraid of the dark. She lives on the East Coast of Canada with her very patient husband Scott and four enormous cats.

Her new series, The Hunted (Run, Hide, Fight and Hunt), is available now at and

You can find her at!/PattiLarsen

and her work on

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Ordinary Men Are Heros! - Alberta Ross & The Sefuty Chronicles

Thank you, Erin, for inviting me onto your discussion on Heroes, during my book tour. 

What is a hero?  Definition from the Oxford Dictionary
  • A man with superhuman strength, courage or ability, favoured by the gods; a demigod.
  • Man/woman distinguished by the performance of extraordinarily brave or noble deeds; such as an illustrious warrior
  • Man/woman admired, venerated for achievements and noble qualities in any field
  • Chief male character in a poem, story or play.
As spinners of yarns we need heroes to lead our plots but which ones do we choose?  How are we influenced by our pasts to form their characters?
When I was young I relished the ‘myths and legend’-type heroes from the Greek and Norse lands such as Jason and Beowulf.  All through my childhood I learnt to admire knights and buccaneers, the Lancelot’s and Francis Drake’s of history.  Then there were the red-coated brigade of derring-do of the Victorian era. It doesn't do to examine these heroes too closely though. Those Greeks and Norsemen were not particular whom they raped and murdered.  What is a knight of old except a killing machine, enjoying murder, rape and conquest? The buccaneers were only pirates by another name – Johnny Depp’s character is Hollywood, truly!!  Real pirates were the scum and outcasts of society; they murdered, raped and stole.  The Victorians may have brought a legal system and civil service to large swathes of the globe but turn over that rock and it's the same old picture: murder, rape and conquest with a great deal of exploitation.  Heroes are not such ‘nice’ folk if you don't fit their picture of OK.
When I was young my real life heroes were the Edwardian explorers such as Shackleton and Scott of Antarctica.  I drew up my code of conduct for life from them.  Truth, honesty, loyalty and the value of friendships; a stiff upper lip just get on with it without complaint principle.  Whether or not they lived up to these ideals isn’t really the point, as it never has been.  Heroes are people you look up to.  They are of their time.  All those above reflect the events at their time.
But do we need heroes?  It seems we do. They have been with us I suspect since storytelling began.  Look under the gloss, under the mire, and a pattern becomes apparent.  We believe the myth of them.  The killers are defending or enriching their own, the looters are doing the same.  In an uncertain existence the ordinary downtrodden people of each place want to feel someone cares about their problems.  We all have this need.
Rulers/politicians don't seem to hit the right note in this respect!  We want to know Robin Hood stole from the rich to give it all TO US.  We want to know dragon-slayers would ride to lay down his life FOR US if the need arose.  The knights’ code of honour was designed to make women feel safer in a world where they were worth less than a side of venison.  The buccaneers brought their looted gold back TO OUR country.  As the Victorians did with their exploited looting and hey, if all these heroes killed and maimed on the way, they were doing it TO THEM, ‘them’ have always been a threat.  Modern day heroes are those who show social mobility is within our reach.  Talent, luck and charm can take us up there with the super rich and if you're super rich you need not fear anyone – right?  Wrong.  One day you will want a hero of your own.
So who to choose amongst this motley band of ne’er do wells?  After all we want our readers to like our heroes so we must create unrealistic ones.  The motif of a hero if you like, not the reality.  So the story becomes a fiction, rewritten to begin life again.  Now the motifs of the above include charm, native wit and intelligence, courage in bucketfuls.
The knights’ code of honour is still respected today, we 'know' they were 'parfit, gentil' men sworn to protect the weak. But they really do not need to be dashing, they could be ordinary men.  The explorer can go armed with cameras instead of guns.  The sailors can win races instead of despoiling.
So in The Sefuty Chronicles I choose the 'ordinary men' to be the local heroes.  Those who stepped up to the mark when the going got tough.  I also have an intrepid band who are the legends and demigods of the future (they are actually quite ordinary also!).
PS: We should throw in good looks and a six pack as well; young ladies have a subtext for their heroes: strong/good looking = virile = fertile = able to protect. Like the peacock's tail proves nothing.
Young men have a similar subtext for heroines: beautiful/fit = fertile = his genes more likely to succeed.
Am I a cynic?
Where to find Alberta Ross & The Sefuty Chronicles

Friday, 16 September 2011

Introducing A Writer's Kit

'A Tool Kit! ' My friend sniggered from behind her chardonnay "But I've seen you write an entire poem on a napkin with an eye liner pencil I'd hardly say you need a handy man's tool belt" That was an inspired moment and my lack of preparedness had one hand diving into my handbag and digging out the next best thing to a writing tool while the other was snatching at the passing waitress' tray snapping "Can I have that?" the point of my brief flash back ... As the words begin to live inside a writer that fire bursts at any moment. Creative passion will be found anywhere and regardless of the situation being able to capture that inspiration by any means possible is important. Every writer needs a tool kit. Whether in the office, out and about doing daily chores, away from home for the night or a little longer myself and other writers to share how we prepare for life as writers. Stay tuned for the upcoming series on A Writer's Tool Kit


Friday, 9 September 2011

Introducing "My Hero!"

Without a hero you have no story and yet unless your reading or watching the latest action thriller would you consider the main character to be a hero?

What is a hero?
A Hero is:  
  • A person who is admired for having done something very brave or having achieved something great
  • The main male character in a book or film who is usually good
  • Someone who you admire very much
 You'd think that as a writer I'd be more concerned with the second definition from the Cambridge Dictionnary... but actually ... for this series I'm interested in all three. I hope to bring an insight into the how creators of fiction think. How does an author form the hero of their novel? Do they draw the qualities from the heroes of modern day society? If they are writing heroes then who are the writer's heroes? I've invited several guest bloggers to join me in sharing their views on this subject and over the discussion will continue over the coming weeks.
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The Legal Bit

All characters have no existence outside the imagination of the author and have no relation to anyone baring the same name. They are not inspired by an individual known or unknown by the author and all incidents are pure invention.

The articles, excerpts, and other written work published under the pseudonym Erin Cawood are copyright protected by the author. Guest articles are published by arrangement and also copyright protected by the guest author.

Images of Erin Cawood are provided by Paul Miguel Photography.

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