Monday, May 30, 2011

Frustrated by Rejections? Change Your Angle: Week 7 with Tarot's Fool

Tarot's Fool has been on his journey for weeks now in his quest for success and fulfillment. What lessons has he shared with us so far? The ones that we know, deep in our hearts, are ours, as we journey toward our own Holy Grail of writer's completion?
1. the importance of joy in the endeavor
2. knowing that magic and luck are ours, but are not a matter of chance—they come from belief in ourselves and in the unknowable
3. the necessity of alertness, bravery, even aggression and bravado
4. the compensating necessity of self-reflection and avoidance of foolish assumptions
5. the all-powerful significance of love in our lives, whatever form it may have, and its overwhelming value to us even as it takes us from our chosen path and throws us to the winds of growth and change.
Previous posts in The Fool's Journey are listed at the end of this entry.

Wow, that seems like a lot. It seems like enough. This is where many novels end, right? With the discovery of true love and how it opens up a whole new, thrilling but scary (in its unkowableness) future?  But guess what. This Fool is far from the end of his journey. Because he's not the novel. He's the seeker. He's the writer.

Last week we left The Fool in a deep sleep on the barren terrain he must cross to reach the tree line on the horizon. He's eaten his last morsel of food, drunk his last sip of water, and fallen into an exhausted state of near oblivion, but he's dreaming of victory.

At mid-morning he's awakened by a disturbance in the Force. No, it is the Force. Or so it seems.

There, a mere few feet from him, are two tremendous steeds, one black and one white, pulling a gold and silver triumphal cart with an armored warrior in it.  The warrior is staring at The Fool, challenging him to wake up and get on with it.  This is The Chariot.

"Who are you?" The Fool asks, wondering if he's still dreaming. But the water from the flagon the Charioteer hands him is real enough and he begins to feel its renewal rush through him as the warrior answers.

"You've asked what is the best way to defeat an enemy," The Charioteer says, as if it's obvious why he's rolled up in his Chariot.

"Yes, I dreamed of victory," The Fool says as he stands. "You see, I've followed a different path than I thought I would, a better path, with not just flowers, but fruit and dancing and . . ."

The Charioteer holds up his hand (enough backstory, already). "What enemy do you face?"

"The prince of this kingdom has barred my way to the tree line at the edge of his property; he's thrown me into this barren land filled with cracks that a person could fall through, and never be heard from again! (agents are raining down rejections, some of them not even telling me why, and the mega agent who was interested says that even though my writing is good, my protagonist's arc is shallow. Shallow! If he'd just take me on and show my work to the editors at the publishing houses, he'd see who's shallow!)

The Charioteer nods. "I can help you." At this The Fool perks up, the scowl slides from his face and he  stands still in front of the warrior, alert to the message to come.  The Charioteer gazes at the midmorning sun for a while, then says, "Have you ever tried to swim against the tide in the ocean?"

"Ummm," The Fool says.

"If you try to swim forward, into the tide, you go nowhere." The Charioteer waits until he sees he's been understood, then goes on. "The tide will pull you back; the harder you swim against it the more exhausted you get, and then you go under and drown."

The Fool stares at The Charioteer, riveted.

"There's only one way to win," The Charioteer says. "You have to swim parallel to the shore, and come in diagonally, slowly enough not to sap all your energy."

The Fool hates the idea of appearing to be, well, a fool, but he has to know what the heck this means. "That sounds good, but I don't really understand," he says meekly.

"It's like fighting in a chariot," The Charioteer says. "To defeat your enemy, you have to come up alongside him." There's a glimmer of understanding forming in The Fool's eyes, and The Charioteer continues.  "See," he says, nodding at his beasts. "Your steeds keep you moving, but you must use control and provide direction to achieve victory." When The Fool is obviously pained with trying to understand, he tries again. "Think of your enemy and yourself as dark and light." He points at the steeds again. "You must make them pull the chariot together, in harmony. It's down to you."

"Ah, I think I understand," The Fool says. (That mega agent will be so impressed with the changes he makes to strengthen the protagonist's character, not to mention the new killer story twist that's connected, that he won't know what hit him! Or, if he won't look at the ms again, it will be his loss, there're other mega-agents out there.)  "Thank you!" The Fool says to The Charioteer, "I think I know how to win my war now."

He turns toward the tree line, but The Charioteer stops him and says, "One more thing. To win, your confidence in your cause must never flag."

"I understand," The Fool says, feeling stronger by the moment, and feeling the pull now to the forest. "Anything else?"

"Yes, never forget that victory is not the end, it is the beginning."

The Fool mulls that over as he strides toward the trees in the distance. Victory is only the beginning? Well, whatever that means, he's ready for it. He's never felt more determined.  And that pull he's started to feel . . . there's someone waiting for him in the forest, he's sure of it.

Links to Fool's Journey posts:  0—The Fool1—The Magician2—The High Priestess3—The Empress4&5—The Emperor, and The Hierophant; 6—The Lovers
My interpretation of The Fool's Journey as it applies to the writing life is my own, but the journey is long-established from a variety of sources. Those I've relied on most heavily are:  TAROT BASICS by Burger & Fiebig, AECLECTIC TAROT by Thirteen, and EVERYDAY TAROT by Fairfield

Friday, May 27, 2011


Release ties to the past
When you let go of the old,
 you make room for the new.

Cheryl Richardson

Far too often we get bogged down with preconceived notions about writing and we get stuck. What's worse is that we don't even know that we are stuck.

Thoughts that we don't need an editor, opinions on self-publishing, waiting forever for a specific agent, fear of shifting from third person to first... we all have attitudes and opinions that might be holding us back.

If something isn't working... evaluate and fix it.

Resources are numerous. Support systems everywhere. If you could let go of something today to make room for the new, what would that be?

Dedicate today by letting go of one thing, and open your heart, your mind, and the door to your future... Opportunity will come knocking. 

Enjoy the Journey!

~ Karlene

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A Tough Decision

My amazing friends convinced me not only to share my news, but to share the story of how it came about. It wasn't an easy decision, there was a lot of fear involved. My young adult urban fantasy, The Secret Of Spruce Knoll will soon be published. Why am I not screaming like a banshee, tossing confetti about, and jumping for joy? I am inside but on the outside I am cautious about the reactions my decision will receive.

An opportunity arose with a small press. This was the kind of thing I had been dreaming about. A traditional publisher wanted my book! But it happened after I had made the monumentally tough decision to self-publish with Abbott Press (associated with Writer's Digest). I hadn't taken the plunge yet though so I was stuck with an even harder decision. Small press or self-publish? I know what you're thinking, believe me, I thought it. And then I thought about it from every conceivable angle.

Here is what factored into my decision:

My Rights:
        *Self-publish and I retain my rights
        *Small Press, they own my rights.

        *Self-publish I receive 50% of the sales.
        *Small Press I receive 10% of the sales.

        *Self-publish with the package I'm looking at, receive:
                *Channel Distribution to 25K Retailers
                *Google/Amazon Search Program
                *Booksellers Return Program
                *Press release to 30,000 opt-in journalists and more than 250,000 news subscribers
                *potential Writer's Digest mark of quality
                *Personal Abbott Press Bookstore Page
                *Included in Abbott Press catalog
        *Small Press:
                *Page on their website

With both I would be sold on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. With the small press contributing nothing to marketing and not getting my novel in the stores, self-publishing was the stand out choice. Am I crazy to have passed up traditional publishing for self-publishing? Maybe, only time will tell. But I feel good about it. It feels right. And more importantly, I feel like I'll be in good hands with Abbott Press considering that Writer's Digest is behind them. With Abbott's marketing strategy, Writer's Digest affiliation and mark of quality, I think they may be the wave of the future. Quality control in self-publishing is something that is going to revolutionize it. 

In another incarnation, it was even represented by an agent and was widely submitted to editors. When traditional publishers didn't buy, my agent and I parted ways. My agent didn’t want to see a rewrite despite a lot of positive feedback from editors. Now I know why. Most editors won't look at something again, even if they were on the verge of buying and you revise it based on their feedback. They just don't have time. So I completely rewrote my novel novel and it has been through a professional editor. Now I'm confident that it is polished and ready for the world. I hope it finds it's way into your hearts and on your shelves. I'll keep you posted about it but you can expect it to be available late this summer or early in the fall.

~ Heather 

Monday, May 23, 2011

Follow Your Heart: Week 6 with Tarot's Fool

How does a writer's journey relate to that of The Fool from Tarot? It's a pretty amazing parallel, from initial enthusiasm to developing strength and traction to being on a roll, then the pitfalls, and those mysterious deep truths that ambush us just when we think we've got it all figured out. And then the glorious moments of insight and breakthroughs and the thrill of getting lucky and maybe even becoming an overnight sensation (even if it's after twenty years of blood, sweat, tears, and carpal tunnel syndrome). Ah, there's nothing more like the writer's journey than that of The Fool.

So far, we've traveled through the initial stages of excitement, the magic of a great idea, understanding that luck is not a matter of chance, and that we must devote ourselves body and soul to our quest to develop it. Also, recognition of the importance of being alert and brave, and the necessity of being grounded and solid in our core if we want to avoid the traps of foolish overzealousness. (Earlier posts in this series are listed at the end of this entry.) 

Now The Fool is back on his path, feeling deepened, empowered, energetic, and more determined than ever. He has a sense of longing for the success he knows can be his if he sticks to this path.  He whistles as he walks, and then he goes silent as he comes to a crossroad. There are two paths in front of him. Each is marked by a tree—one is flowering, and marks the path The Fool wants to take. The other tree bears fruit, and in front of it stands a woman (a new plot development that was unplanned and unexpected). An amazing, alluring woman.

She's hardly the first woman The Fool has ever been attracted to, he's no child, after all. And she's certainly not as beautiful as some of the women he's known. But there's something about her that makes him not notice anything else (she was a character whom he fashioned to serve his book, but now she's taking over the story and peeling the onion of what this book COULD be, if given a real chance). He doesn't notice the man next to the flowering tree, the archangel overseeing the scene, or the serpent on the fruit tree. Even if he did see those things it wouldn't matter. Because it's as if he's been hit by a bolt of lightning. He talks to the woman and discovers it's like they are two sides of the same coin. They laugh at scurrying shared thoughts, finish each others sentences, and seem to know each other at a level so deep it's as if that angel has simply brought their souls back together after a lifetime's absence. The Fool knows he's found a part of himself that he's been searching for all his life.He can't take any path that doesn't include her. Like the fruit tree, she will fulfill him. Just like that, he's chosen a new path. The right path, no matter how it may complicate his journey.

So this is a little setback in terms of timing—this new path is longer and has more twists to it, but The Fool is not only satisfied he's made the right decision, he's happy. Happy, as only love can make him. Thank goodness The Hierophant stopped him from being impulsive about his ambitions, or he never would have known the journey itself was such a nirvana.

But all is not smooth.  Yes, the path since the crossroads has been wonderful (he's revised his draft completely to reflect this new and incredible depth of wisdom and perception about his story, and he loves it! Loves writing it, loves reading it, loves querying it, and LOVES the requests he's receiving for partials and even a couple of fulls). But there are enemies appearing!  

The prince of the kingdom (whose land The Fool now trods upon and must cross to reach his goal) gave him permission to enter, even smiled
and slapped him on the back with enthusiasm and welcome when The Fool told him of his quest (that mega-agent lit up at his elevator pitch, and when The Fool gave his whole pitch, the agent said, "I love it! Send me pages. No, send me the full manuscript!) But now The Fool is hungry and thirsty and the land he's on seems barren (it's been six weeks since he submitted, and he's heard nothing, even though the agent said the ms. would be top priority). What blight is this that has removed all the nourishment from the land? (Could it be some annoying intern who hasn't gotten around to the manuscript, or even—gasp—lost it? Should he email the agent and ask about progress? And not only that, but he's had four rejections from other agents in the past week and a half.)

The Fool is exhausted. He drops to the ground and scrounges in his pack for food and water, and consumes the last small amounts he's been keeping for an emergency. Too weary to stand, he lays back on the hard land and closes his eyes. He needs rest. He needs help. How will he ever overcome the obstacles in front of him—the dry, barren earth with its fissures, and the hostile creatures that live there— if he can't even see them, if he can't know them before they attack him? (He made the right decisions about his plot and character development, he knows he did, because the story is so much deeper and more powerful, but there must be something wrong with the structure now, or maybe he's just having a run of rotten luck. He needs luck!) With his last ounce of energy he thinks about what he does know that might help him. There's a treeline in the distance that promises renewed nourishment, if he can just get there. If he has the persistence and strength to move on to that treeline, he'll find the help he needs.

But for now, he'll just rest a little to build up his strength. The Fool drifts into a deep sleep, and dreams of victory.

When he wakes up next week, The Fool is going to get a thrill and a shock, as a Charioteer in full regalia, commanding two tremendous steeds, one white and one black, pulls up alongside him and holds out a magnificent, warlike carafe of purest mountain water. Come back then to see what happens next.

Links to Fool's Journey posts:  0—The Fool; 1—The Magician; 2—The High Priestess; 3—The Empress; 4&5—The Emperor, and The Hierophant

My interpretation of The Fool's Journey as it applies to the writing life is my own, but the journey itself is long-established from a variety of sources. Those I've relied on most heavily are: TAROT BASICS by Burger & Fiebig, AECLECTIC TAROT by Thirteen, and EVERYDAY TAROT by Fairfield

Friday, May 20, 2011

Self-Publishing: More Info... just in case you go there

Last month I had the great opportunity to listen to Nathan Everett, at the PNWA (Pacific Northwest Writers Association) monthly meeting, talk about self-publishing.

Nathan Everett’s talk:  
"Writing was the easy part:  The Mechanics of Self-publishing.”

Synchronicity was at work. I attended Nathan’s seminar and learned a couple things that I had never thought of about self-publishing—font, and margins. And go figure, I can’t find my notes to tell you the exact secrets. But I can give you a hint… Do not use Times New Roman. Don’t skimp on inside margin space.

Nathan said that Times New Roman looks “chunky.” He also said that many publishers charge significantly more if you go over a certain number of pages because they make you increase the space on the inner margin, thus requiring more pages. Then he said, “you want it to look like a real book.” I had never thought that it wouldn't. Was this good advice?

Now synchronicity slips in.

When I returned home, a book was waiting from a friend who self-published. The moment I opened his book I realized what Nathan was talking about. The font was thick and black. "Chunky." Not the font of any book I’ve ever read... bad enough to irritate the reader. I then specifically looked at the margin space and realized it was very hard to read the words close to the inner margin—the book was too thick. The author/publisher also did not heed the advice of the inner margin spacing. There is a reason for this added space, beyond charging us for more pages.

In addition, my friend's memoir is an incredible story of an aviator’s life that could have been a best seller, but the author wouldn’t listen to the professional’s who wanted to help him tell his story. The sad news is, this book will get lost on the shelf, and perhaps the reason why self-publishing has received a bad name in the past. 

Advice to all those who are contemplating this route and want their book to fly off the shelf:

  • Find a company that does more than just print. Unless you know what you’re doing—which I certainly don’t—the price you’ll pay for an expert is worth their weight in gold. Cliché? Of course; but true.
  • Hire an editor, or have people you trust to read and find holes. You want them to point out everything they see— you only get one first chance to do it right.
  • Read your novel, as many times as necessary, until you don’t find anything to change.

Before you make your decision: 
  • Read what Melissa Ohnoutka and Kristie Cook have to say about their  self-publishing experiences 
  • Visit Krissi Dallas, our hero, who self-published first, then was picked up by a traditional publisher.
  • If you decide to publish, and want to keep the cost low buy using a publisher where you format and upload, contact Nathan. He's brilliant and will help.

Click on the names below to visit your Self-Publishing Resources: 

Tell us what you think about self-publishing, and share your resources. More than that, what are the pros and cons of self-publishing? Is there a downside if your book is perfect? 

Enjoy the Journey!
~ Karlene

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Finding Your Voice

Recently a friend asked me about voice problems he was having in his novel. It got me to thinking. More and more lately I come across agents who are looking for a unique voice. At first I thought, what in the world does this mean? After a bit of research I realized they meant an author's style, what makes them unique and authentic. More to the point, it is what makes them stand out. Finding your voice isn't about being the next Stephenie Meyer, James Rollins, or Stephen King, it's about being you.

So how do you find your voice? It sounds mystical and sometimes unreachable but really it's quite simple. Your writing voice is your style, it's the way you put words, paragraphs, and even chapters together. Your voice is about the unique way you twist a plot, breath life to your characters, and keep the reader hooked.

You cannot~or more to the point should not~emulate another writer's voice. Don't overthink it. Let the words flow. This isn't to mean you can't use how-to books, tutorials, or attend workshops and retreats. That's style, not voice. By all means learn as much about style as you possibly can. But when it comes to voice listen to your instincts and your heart. Let things flow in the most natural way they can for you. If that means first person, write first person, if it means third, then write in third person.

Don't follow the latest trend or writer style. Be true to yourself and let your own shine through. When its your voice and not a copy of someone else, the authenticity will draw people to you and set you on the path to publication.


Monday, May 16, 2011

You Can Make Your Writing Work with Focus, Insight, and Understanding: Week 5 with Tarot's Fool

FoolThe Fool is movin' now. The Magician showed him his options, The High Priestess helped him pick one, and The Empress gave him an understanding of how to develop it. (Previous posts in this series are listed at the bottom of this entry.) The path is taking him forward.  He's working hard, and all his senses are on alert so he can pour the best of himself into his quest. His confidence is building and his steps are sure and strong (the pages of his first draft are flowing like a river!).

So now that he's got all this good stuff going for him, how will he manage it? It's never too early to plan (even for a panster). How will he make his journey clear and concise, make sure he has the right environment to achieve his quest and nourish the world with the fruits of his labors (make sure he gets the best agent and publisher who do what he wants)

Luckily for him, right there in the middle of the path now is The Emperor. Seated on a throne of stone, The Emperor's kingdom is clearly under his control. There's a buzz of activity around him as his people do his bidding efficiently and happily.  The Emperor is watching The Fool's approach with interest, inviting him to ask his question.

The Fool is in awe. "Everyone does exactly as you tell them," he whispers to The Emperor, his eyes wide. "How do you do that?  How can do that?"

"That's two questions," The Emperor says with a glare, "but I will answer." He smiles a bit and The Fool breathes out in relief.  The Emperor goes on. "To control the elements of your quest, you must be alert, brave, and aggressive."

"I can do that!" The Fool says. "Thank you, Emperor." The Emperor nods, and The Fool steps past him with renewed vigor, back onto his path. He only vaguely hears the Emperor add, "and you must understand the larger picture."

No more dreaminess, The Fool tells himself. No more questioning whether I should step onto a different path.  I know what I want, it's time to take control! (My draft is finished, it's time to query!)

He moves on with new purpose, clear directions in one hand (a copy of Literary Market Place), and a baton to orchestrate his determination and action in the other (his computer, where he inputs his query letter, and the names of agents into his contacts list). All he has to do now is go on stage, do his dance, grab for the Holy Grail (hit the send button).

He's so excited he's not even watching the path in front of him. But just in the nick of time, he looks down. Yikes! There's a wide open steel-toothed trap right under his foot!  Who put that there? He veers around it, stumbling. You'd think he'd be nimble at this sort of thing, but something about that trap was so shiny and alluring it was hard not to step into it (that subplot is SO cool, it might even be better than the main plot. It does sort of dominate the second Act of the book, but still, it's too good to change. Maybe he'll just tweak the query letter to let them know his next book is about this one's subplot! Yeah, that'll work.) Whew, that was close. Good thing he's mastered the suggestions of The Emperor.

But suddenly, The Fool is not just rolling along his path at a good clip, he's roiling. He's being assaulted from within. That trap brought him up short. What if there are other traps? (His finger hovers over the send button, but he's too scared to hit it.)  He's got his solid foundation to build his future on (his manuscript), but what if it gets taken away from him somehow? What if someone steals it? Or it just vanishes (his computer crashes and his backup drive implodes)? Or, what if the foundation he's built isn't as solid as he thought? What if it's not good enough? That's a horrible thought!

A post at the side of the road has a sign at the top of it, pointing off the path to a Holy Place. Hallelujah! The Fool dashes off the path to find the Holy Man who can help him.  This is The Hierophant.

The Hierophant is surrounded by acolytes, who listen respectfully to his wisdom and will pass on his teachings. The Fool approaches, and when The Hierophant says, "How may I help?" he pours out his story.  "I feel crippled by these fears," he says when he's told him all about it. "I'm too afraid to go forward, too afraid to make a mistake. How can I be free of these terrible fears?"

The Hierophant gazes at The Fool with sympathy. "The answer is simple," he says. "There are only two ways. You can either give up your quest, so that your fear of its loss no longer has any power over you, or you can go on in the knowledge that whatever happens, you will never lose what you have learned, what you have experienced, and what you have gained as a person because of these things."

"I see," The Fool says ("But I want to be published and rich and famous now!" he mutters, stomping his foot). Somewhere in his brain, though, it's as if there are rubber bands holding his ambition captive like the ball in a slingshot, pulled taut to the breaking point with the ball aimed straight ahead, and they have just been gently relaxed. "Ah," he says. "I understand." He looks at the ground for a while, letting himself get the feel of the earth beneath his feet, then looks back up at the Hierophant. "Thank you," he says humbly. Perhaps he will give some deep thought to the real meaning of his quest before he does anything rash (there's a great writing workshop coming up. Maybe he'll take a chance on THAT before he shares his masterpiece with the gatekeepers to publication). He leaves the sanctuary of The Hierophant and steps out to find his path once again, to face whatever challenges lie ahead with a clearer eye.

And next week he'll meet one of the most delicious challenges of all, when he comes upon The Lovers.

(Special Note: Don't miss Karlene's post on Book Country from Friday. Thanks to Blogger's mishaps she couldn't post until afternoon, but it's a great one—just scroll down!)

~ Linda

Links to earlier Fool's Journey posts:  0: The Fool1: The Magician,  2: The High Priestess, 3: The Empress

My interpretation of The Fool's Journey as it applies to the writing life is my own, but the journey itself is long-established information from a variety of sources.  Those I've relied on most heavily are: TAROT BASICS by Burger & Fiebig, AECLECTIC TAROT by Thirteen, and EVERYDAY TAROT by Fairfield

Friday, May 13, 2011

Calling All Writers

We may have just found a new place writers can call home: Book Country

This enterprising Country invites fiction writers, of all genres, to read other writers’ work and leave comments, or post your own novel for constructive criticism. This is a Country where we can share experiences, be the first to read the potential next best seller, or learn about the publishing industry, together. 

Book Country is a subsidiary of the Penguin group, and has made quite a splash in the media this week. Read what others have to say then check out the site, and you be the judge.
Yes, this site is very well credentialed, but what about "security" while posting your work for the world to see? They have disabled the edit/copy function, but will that enough? Not sure.

Check out Book Country and tell us what you think. My vote is swaying to the side that Book Country is a great opportunity to gain writing exposure and do some brainstorming with other writers. I've joined... will you? 

Enjoy the Journey! 

~ Karlene

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Mothers In Fiction

In honor of Mothers everywhere since last weekend was Mother's day I felt it would be appropriate to write about the significance of mothers in fiction. From the beginning of storytelling mothers have played an important role in our tales. Beowulf dates back, some think, as far as the eighth century and is an unforgettable story about a protective mother. It has endured the ages and still inspires writers and filmmaker's today. Though its main character is the warrior who slays Grendel, the story would be nothing if Grendel's mother hadn't set it all in motion. It will always be one of my favorites.

Even further back is the story of Alcmene. Her notorious affair with the god Zues produced the infamous Hercules. Then of course there was Hercules's stepmother Hera, the woman scorned. Both of these *clears throat* 'ladies' helped shape one of the most famous stories in history.

Be they good or evil, mothers are essential to our stories even if they aren't about them. Mothers have a profound affect on their children and have a hand in shaping how they turn out. By bringing them into our novels we can add depth, tension, drama, or tenderness. They can be part of the background or forefront, either a main character, supporting character, or a memory. If your book is lacking something think about adding mom! For more on parents in fiction check out this post.  


Monday, May 9, 2011

Nurture Your Creation: Week 4 with Tarot's Fool

A few weeks ago we met The Fool, from Tarot, and found out he's a lot like us when we start off on our magnificent quest to write a book. Filled with excitement and possibility, he's practically giddy with imagining what he may accomplish. But as the little dog nipping at his heels warns him, he needs to watch his step, and learn from all his upcoming encounters in order to find his true path. There will be 21 enlightening, scary and joyful encounters with amazing personages and situations along The Fool's journey, and each Monday we'll travel with him to find out what he learns, and what we can learn about our own journeys to publication.

So far, The Fool has nearly stepped off a cliff (nearly started his story with "It was a dark and stormy night; it was raining cats and dogs!"); he's been astounded to learn from The Magician that he has all the tools he needs to succeed—intellect, passion, emotional range, and solidity—in the pack on his staff; plus, he has some excellent new ideas to work with (he's got a plot!). On top of that he's received guidance from The High Priestess in the form of ancient knowledge (the universal source of the heart and soul of his story) that got him totally revved up to get back on his journey (and write, write, write!). Links to previous posts in this series are at the bottom of this entry.

He's impatient to make his dreams a reality. He walks all night, through secret and unknown forests (scribbles away, channeling the secret knowledge he's received into the most stunning plot and character developments EVER). He trusts the path beneath his feet, and is aware, thanks to The High Priestess' influence, that with each step, he's shaping his destiny. Each step is affected by the last, and affects the next, for with each, the sole of his shoe is minutely worn into a different shape that will have an almost imperceptible but nevertheless real effect on how he moves forward. But before he gets too swamped by these deep ponderings, the sun comes up, shining a bright and inviting light on his path, and he gets a new surge of energy.

The Empress, card iii
There just off the path in front of him, is a magnificent woman he instantly knows is a creator. She's wearing a gown covered with pomegranates (pomegranates, again!). She has a crown of stars, a heart-shaped Venus shield, and a rod that looks like it's alive with power. And she's sitting on her throne in a field of wheat. This is The Empress.

Without a second thought The Fool kneels in front of The Empress and tells her his story ("there was lightning and thunder, and then his life passed before his eyes and he moaned, 'stardust,' but that was just the beginning . . .!!!"etc., all the way to Plot Point 1).

The Empress smiles and The Fool's heart leaps with joy. "You have beautiful ideas and passion," she says gently. "A new creation is fragile." His heart settles back down. "It requires fertile soil, time, nurturing," she says. He thinks he might not want to hear this, but she looks straight into his eyes. "Much nurturing. Only this will bring it to fruition." She gestures to the verdant land around her that seems to draw its abundance and beauty from her patience and strength, her very being, and The Fool begins to understand.

It will take time to build his future (to speak from the heart and lose the clichés). It will take patience and perseverance and skill. He can do it!

"Thank you," he says humbly as he stands, and looks at her with gratitude.

She bows her head in acknowledgment and he turns to continue on his journey. As he moves onto the path, he is sad to step beyond The Empress' golden aura, but he hears her say, "Love and healing are their own reward, you will see," as he goes.

He begins to move faster. She was fabulous and all, like the best mom ever, but he's got places to go and things to do. All that nurturing and love and healing talk can make a person squirm. The Fool won't forget what he's learned from The Empress and will be forever grateful for it, but he needs action. Lucky for him, it's just around the corner.

Come back next Monday to find out what happens when The Fool encounters The Emperor. (hint:  it's all about making ideas shape up and fly right.)


Links to earlier Fool's Journey posts:  0: The Fool1: The Magician,  2: The High Priestess

My interpretation of The Fool's Journey as it applies to the writing life is my own, but the journey itself is long-established information from a variety of sources.  Those I've relied on most heavily are: TAROT BASICS by Burger & Fiebig, AECLECTIC TAROT by Thirteen, and EVERYDAY TAROT by Fairfield.

Friday, May 6, 2011

How important is Character Description?

My editor was halfway through my novel when she commented, “I just realized that I don’t know what Kathryn looks like.” She doesn’t know, because I don’t say. The reason I didn't say was because most of the early chapters are from Kathryn’s point of view. And those that aren’t, well they are from a man’s POV.

Would a man really think about, or even notice, the color of a woman’s eyes or the texture of her hair if they weren’t romantically involved? What if they've been married for ten years, and he's clearly not in love with her, would he think about her looks? I don’t think so.

Do I need Kathryn’s description, or can I allow the reader to imagine what the she looks like?

If I need it, how do I slip it in? Her focus is all about the investigation, not about her looks. She looks in the mirror, but that is a major no no.

I’ve also heard that if you plan to describe your character to do it early, so the readers hasn't already formed a conflicting mental picture. The first possibility wouldn't be until the seventh chapter.

The plan for my novel is the big screen. Dream big I always say. In this case, is it better to not restrict the image of the main characters physically? I’ve seen movies, after I've read the book, and thought they ruined it because they didn’t cast the parts correctly—undoubtedly because of character descriptions in the book.

Does the genre make a determination in the necessity of character description? My novel is a thriller, and all about the action. How important is what Kathryn looks like, verses her character and actions?

I’m coming close to the end of my final edits. Battling “how too” squeeze in a description, without it being forced. The jury is still out if I need to or not. The agent who wants to read it again did not comment on this issue. Is it an issue? What do you think?

Thank you for your help!

Enjoy the journey~ 

~ Karlene

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Query Letter Critique Winner

In celebration of Jessica Subject's one year blog anniversary the Critique Sisters participated in her massive giveaway and offered up a query letter critique. Thank you to everyone who celebrated with us and stopped by Jessica's blog. She is an amazing, giving person that is always the first in line to help someone else. It was an honor to be able to give a little back to her.

The winner of the Critique Sisters query letter critique is...

Congratulations to Amie! I'm happy to report that when I contacted Amie she said the timing couldn't be better for her as she is getting ready to start querying next week. I love it when a giveaway comes together like that. For those who didn't win don't worry, we'll be doing another query letter critique very soon. This time a drawing perhaps... So if you are getting ready to query be sure to check back next week, we'd love to help you polish that pitch up!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Tap Into Mysterious Forces: Week 3 with Tarot's Fool

Welcome to week three of The Fool's Journey, from Tarot. When we first met him, we saw that The Fool is a lot like us when we start our magnificent quest to write a book (although it seems fair to call ourselves Sojourners, since we've thought about this journey a bit, or a lot). Filled with excitement and possibility, The Fool takes off on his journey, relying on the little dog at his heels to keep him from stepping off a cliff in his enthusiasm. The journey will be exciting, scary, arduous and fruitful. There will be 21 encounters with powerful forces along the way. From each encounter The Fool will learn more about his true path to achievement, and we're traveling with him, like a third-person pov camera sitting on his shoulder, to see what he sees, feel what he feels, and best of all, learn what he learns. (For those interested in the story from the beginning, links to previous posts are at the bottom of this entry.)

After a narrow escape from nearly stepping off a cliff into the void, followed by a fascinating encounter with The Magician, who reveals to The Fool that he carries all the tools he needs in the pack on his staff to do and be whatever he wants, The Fool gathers his tools back into his pack and sets off once again. Where, he's not sure, but he's on a path, and does know that it will take him where he needs to go. Day fades into evening, and as the warmth and brightness of the sun that shone on The Magician yield to mysterious dusk, he rounds a corner and comes upon a deeply serene and wise figure sitting upon a complex throne. She is The High Priestess.

The High Priestess sits between two pillars, one black and one white (negation and beginning), with a pomegranate (secret knowledge) curtain behind her. She holds an ancient scroll (arcane information), and there are two moons—one in the crown of Isis she wears and the other a crescent at her feet, that illuminate her. Talk about symbolism! And, she knows everything there is to know about The Fool. He is aware of this, absolutely, without her uttering a word.

The Fool lays out his tools at her feet. "The Magician showed me these," he says, "and I know I can use them to achieve success, but there are so many things I can do! I don't know which is the best choice." She gazes at him silently, but not coldly.

"You know so much about me," he goes on, "could you help me? Tell me which to choose?" He sits at her feet and opens himself to her teachings.

"Take these," she says, and hands him two ancient scrolls. "They will teach you how to decide."

The Fool reads them by the light of her crescent moon. Finally, he knows enough to decide what he wants, where to go and what to do. He is filled with energy and can't bear to wait a minute longer before he resumes his journey, although he's quite sure there are many more things The High Priestess could tell him. Those pomegranates, that curtain. He instinctually feels their power, and he's right, because they lead to the deepest, most esoteric and secret knowledge of all.

He's apparently not ready for that yet, because off he goes, impatient to reach the next bend in his path. But as he leaves, he notices that there's water bubbling up from beneath the High Priestess' throne and he hears her rich, smoky voice whisper, "We'll meet again, when you're ready to travel the most secret path."

Intrigued (but let's be honest, more than a little freaked out), he strides on, anxious to make his future real.

Okay, so now, thanks to hours of meditating in a darkened room with only flickering candles, images of the River Styx, and a deep voice from within to keep him company (er, I mean The High Priestess' secret knowledge about how life's mysteries unfold), he's got a plan for what to do with at least one of those ideas The Magician revealed to him. I'm thinking he's feeling pretty good, kind of cocky, knowing how to get from point A to point B, with a general sort of idea of what comes after Plot Point One (oops, I mean point B). But there's something nagging at my mind, something about that hidden knowledge that The High Priestess didn't reveal. Without that, can he know what awaits him on his journey? Should we worry?(He's obviously a panster, not an outliner! Hmmm.)

We'll get a glimpse of what's in store next week, when The Fool steps into the golden light of a new day and experiences an overwhelming sense of abundance just out of reach, which, he realizes, is emanating from the magnificent figure in front of him, The Empress.

Links to earlier Fool's Journey posts:  0: The Fool, and 1: The Magician

My interpretation of The Fool's Journey as it applies to the writing life is my own, but the journey itself is long-established information from a variety of sources.  Those I've relied on most heavily are: TAROT BASICS by Burger & Fiebig, AECLECTIC TAROT by Thirteen, and EVERYDAY TAROT by Fairfield.