Awesome Writer Spotlight: Mary E. Pearson

It’s no secret. I’ve said it before: I do a lot of reading. King said it best, “If you want to be a writer you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no other way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut,” (On Writing). Last year, I read fifty books and have made it through 22 books so far this year. I read, and I’ll read most anything, from romance to suspense, to YA and MG, to fantasy and contemporary, from fiction to nonfiction, reading is my lifeblood. While I like stand alone novels, I’m a sucker for a kickass series, and adore well written fantasy. Needless to say, I’m always on the lookout for a good book. Last year, on Instagram, a noticed a recommendation for The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson. Off to Amazon I went (because, unfortunately there aren’t any independent book stores near me). Labeled as a Young Adult fantasy with an intriguing blurb and an awesome looking cover, I was immediately intrigued. I took a chance, ordered the book.

Read it. Couldn’t put it down. Loved it so much I ordered the rest of the series before I’d finished the first book. I read the remainder of the series and adored it. Now, I would say Mary E. Pearson is one of my favorite authors.

Dance of Thieves  is the first novel in a Duology. Vow of Thieves will be released August 2019.

Dance of Thieves is the first novel in a Duology. Vow of Thieves will be released August 2019.

I’m currently reading the first book in her new duology set in the same world of Remnant called Dance of Thieves. Halfway through and I’m in love with it . It’s one of those books that I know I’m reading it too quickly; I want to slow down to savor it but I can’t because I NEED TO KNOW NOW!

As a writer, here are five reasons I love Pearson’s writing and what I’m learning:

  1. The perfection of economy. Pearson knows when to elaborate and when to keep it simple. She doesn't belabor points that aren’t purposeful to the whole of the narrative. Her world building is stellar. She takes us into the world and guides us through rather than dropping us in where we get lost in the details. She unfolds it bit by bit as though we live there, seeing it through the eyes of the characters who live it day in and day out. It isn’t overpowering, but it blooms like a flower - beautiful.

  2. The chemistry she develops between her protagonists is heart thumping (and wistful sighing by me - the reader). She takes me on that emotional journey drawing out the romantic tension.

  3. Her stories are action packed and page turning. The conflict and related tension is tight which makes me think just one more chapter. Then I’m still reading after three.

  4. Her female characters are strong and defined - they are gorgeously human, independent and adept. Her male characters are strong and defined - they are gorgeously human, independent and adept. Both of them developed into complex people with triumphs but also with complex flaws.

  5. The dialogue! I’m picky about dialogue and one of the biggest reasons I’ll close a book. When dialogue reads like I’m standing amidst two people having a conversation - magic. Pearson does this well. I love the way she uses dialogue to embody the conflict and additional characterization of her rich characters.

I could go on about regarding Pearson’s work, but I think maybe picking up her work and reading it for yourself is a better option.  Are there author’s you adore because of how they write?

I read the Remnant Chronicles last year. So good.  Here  for Mary E. Pearson’s Amazon Author Page.

I read the Remnant Chronicles last year. So good. Here for Mary E. Pearson’s Amazon Author Page.




The Letters She Left Behind PLAYLIST

BOOK PLAYLIST

This Spotify playlist is a labor of love for two characters I’m so excited to share with you: Adam and Alexandra in The Letters She Left Behind (Available on Amazon May 7, 2019).

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Each of the songs selected is a part of the journey of rewriting this story to share with you. The order of the Spotify playlist tells Adam’s and Alex’s story like a soundtrack, and as I wrote supported the emotional connection to their experience. I sincerely hope listening to this soundtrack will help you fall in love with them like I have; I adore this love story. All the feels. I hope the music will enhance your reading of the novel when you do.

  1. Motion by Khalid

  2. Bed by SYML

  3. Naive by RKCB

  4. Gravity by Sara Bareilles

  5. Forgiven by Vancouver Sleep Clinic

  6. 1000 Times by Sara Bareilles

  7. Josephine by RITUAL

  8. Under You by Nick Jonas

  9. This Ain’t Love by Andy Grammer

  10. Breathe Again by Sara Bareilles

  11. Better by Khalid

  12. Hurt Somebody by Noah Kahn & Julia Michaels

  13. Fuel on Fire by Bear’s Den

  14. Hurt Nobody by Andrew Belle

  15. Closure by Vancouver Sleep Clinic

  16. Far Out Dust by Talos

  17. Can’t Help Falling In Love with You by Kina Grannis

  18. Crystalline by Jome

  19. I Choose You by Sara Bareilles

  20. As Long as I have You I’m Home by Imaginary Future

YA Author Series Launch: CL Walters

Over the next seven weeks, this blog will feature seven different authors who write Young Adult Stories.

Each Monday in April (and into May), a new author (published and unpublished) will be featured along with a 500-1000 words selection of her work (sorry, guys - no men submitted! What the heck!?!? Your assignment is to go read any or all of these authors: Marcus Zusak, Jeff Zentner and John Green).

Today, I will launch the format using my own work so you’ll get a sense of what to look for in the coming weeks. I hope this series is beneficial for you as readers (maybe you’ll find your next favorite author in the coming weeks), as well as for the author as a growth opportunity to share their voices.

FEEDBACK WANTED!

Be sure to provide the guest authors some CONSTRUCTIVE FEEDBACK! Either in the comments section or in some capacity on their social media platforms. As writers - constructive feedback fuels us.

Drum roll please . . .

CL Walters

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Tell us three things about who you are and why you write . . . I write because I can’t not write (please forgive the double negative). When I don’t, I turn into a bitch and that isn’t healthy for my family or my marriage. Writing is like breathing, so without it, I’m not living. Second, I adore stories - reading them, studying them, writing them - it all blends together. Finally, I write stories which I categorize as “young adult” but I hope they are just human stories that anyone at any age can enjoy.

Tell us about the story we’re going to read (your elevator pitch). . . Gabe is faced with a choice between life and death; the question is, what will he discover about himself to help him make the decision.

What are three things you want us to know as we read? This story is the third act of a trilogy. The first two books explore Abby’s and Seth’s stories in Swimming Sideways and The Ugly Truth. Gabe’s story The Bones of Who We Are has been challenging to write but not only because of the writing, but because of the content which swirls around bullying, victimization and depression.

Where can we find this story? Where can we find you (IG, Twitter, FB, website). The Bones of Who We Are is slated to be published this coming October (2019). In the meantime, you can catch up with Swimming Sideways and The Ugly Truth which are on Amazon (Kindle and Print). I can be found on IG (@cl.walters) and Twitter (@peeledandcored), my website (www.clwalters.net) and FB (CLWalters).

From… The Bones of Who We Are:

(YA Contemporary - Language Warning…)

I hate walking through the Quad. It’s a necessity twice a day unless I want to take the long way around the outside of the school. The deciding factor is always which one has the potential for more problems. Outside, I run the risk of an actual fight. In the Quad, I run the risk of mocking, maybe shit thrown at me, or something else to make me feel less than human. The first one means physical harm. The second one emotional and mental, but I can usually block it out with my headphones.

When I turn the corner from the stairwell into the opening of the Quad, it’s full. This time of the school day - lunch - it usually is. People are either in the cafeteria or there, especially as the weather turns rainy and cold. They sit on or around a myriad of red and black tables, congregate by the vending machines in red and black metal cages, and flirt with someone they crush on moving like honey bees from table to table. Some industrious students use the space to study, but not very often at lunch. It’s a space with very little adult supervision. This is for several reasons. First, the school office is across the way which adults must assume is a deterrent for teen bullshit (it isn’t) and, second, it’s lunch time. Teachers are either in the cafeteria, eating lunch with their work friends, or in their classrooms making space for those industrious students needing a place to escape the teen bullshit in the Quad.

I hesitate for a moment, consider walking around the outside or cutting through the offices, but then am annoyed for even thinking about it. I have every right to walk through the Quad. I shouldn’t have to feel worried to do it. But then that’s the problem of positivity, of allowing in layers of hope. It crumbles without a proper foundation, and just like I’d told Doc it would happen, the mouth of the escape route collapses burying me inside. It was, after all, only a matter of time.

I’m halfway across the space when I’m yanked backward. I keep my feet, but my hoodie cuts into my throat choking me. I rock backward and then forward.

Laughter.

“What the fuck!” I turn.

Tommy Pilner, his hands raised in mock surrender and smiling like he’s just caught a mouse, says, “Yo. Daniels. You don’t have to go all HAM, dude.”

I’ve known Tommy since coming to Cantos and he’s always been the same; he loves the Freak Challenge. He’s taken full advantage of the fact I don’t throw hands. Seth used to say his dad described Tommy as a younger version of his old man. I think: aren’t we all, which doesn’t bode well for any of us. “Fuck off,” I tell him, and turn away.

He grabs my hood again, but this time pulls with so much force I’m yanked off my feet. I slam against the floor on my back.

Laughter.

“Jesus, Daniels. What the fuck? You really should be more careful. You could get hurt.” Tommy laughs looking at his friends. “You all see him slip?”

They are laughing.

I’m on my feet.

Here’s another thing about hope - besides the risk of losing it - it begins to warm the cold and melt away the perceptions of what you’ve come to think you deserve into something more golden. You look outside the clear window, feel that sunshine, and think: Yeah. I could go out there and play. When the storm comes in, you remember what that sun felt like, and you want the fucking sun.

So, maybe I wouldn’t have a few weeks ago, but I take a step toward Tommy.

His smile falters.

The Bones of Who We Are… Coming October 2019

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#momlife, #writerslife

Humor me with a flashback: When I was thirteen I was positive I was going to be the next Emily Dickinson with the romantic idealism of wasting away in our farmhouse attic and writing poetry that would one day be famous.  The purpose of this flashback is to offer an anecdote to show I’ve been writing and have wanted to be a writer for a long time. I wrote my first story when I was eight, so writing is a formative experience on my timeline from then to the present. But this reflection isn’t so much about the past as it is about how it informs the present.

I was twenty-seven when I had my first child. A girl. Looking back, I’d only just slipped on my adult shoes: I’d been out of college for three years and just started my professional life as an educator. When she was born, remembering life before her was difficult because it felt like life had just begun.

My Baby Girl: she had attitude from the moment she was born.

My Baby Girl: she had attitude from the moment she was born.

I took a year off to be a stay-at-home mom. During that year, I got to know my daughter, and in between being exhausted and enamored, I wrote my first novel. It was a historical romance novel with an amnesia twist. (I know. I know. We all have to begin somewhere. It is in a drawer where it belongs). This milestone provided me the experience that I COULD be a mom, and I COULD write a book.

At twenty-seven, I was pretty sure I had it all together. I don’t remember thinking: I’m changed, but looking back, I see now I began to redefine myself. Maybe some mothers would say the redefinition begins during pregnancy, but in my experience, my shift toward motherhood was relegated to healthy choices and weight gain. I still felt like myself - only, slightly better. It was after Baby Girl was born motherhood began to reshape my identity. It shaved down my edges into a smoother more pliable version of myself. It challenged my perceptions and pushed me to learn and seek new understandings about previously held opinions. I began to understand what it means to be selfless.

As a writer, I am a self-centered person. Let me clarify: I don’t mean SELFISH. That’s different. I mean my focus is centered around whatever is happening in my head. I think most creatives and artists can relate. Becoming a parent insisted I reorient. My time was no longer my time alone.

My daughter took this of me - I was sitting at the computer attempting to write. This was about the fifth time she’d interrupted me.

My daughter took this of me - I was sitting at the computer attempting to write. This was about the fifth time she’d interrupted me.

I continued to write, but it was between things like breastfeeding, working, commuting to and from work, feeding the family, playtime, bath time, book time, and bedtime. And Baby Girl was a strong willed child, so nothing ever went as planned. Thank goodness there were two of us. There wasn’t much time left.

Baby number two arrived four years later. I had my Baby Boy. And I returned to being a Stay-at-Home mom with him. I got to know my little guy, who is so different than his big sister, the epitome of happy and content. I began to write again. This time I completed two romantic suspense novels set in Hawaii. Queried and was rejected.

He was only a week old when I took this picture. He hasn’t stopped smiling.

He was only a week old when I took this picture. He hasn’t stopped smiling.

Then I went back to work, but this time, I worked at the school where my now school-aged children began. My identity hovered around my children, my family, and my work. Writing took a back seat - as usual - but not because I couldn’t. It was because that was my choice. I still wrote, but sustaining any writing was difficult. So, in between new ideas that I’d list in a notebook, I spent ten years writing and rewriting a YA novel, a paranormal romance. Queried and rejected multiple times over and over. I put it away, sure I was never meant to be a writer.

Life twists and turns. I changed jobs and focused on my career as a teacher. It hosted my identity and made me feel validated because it is something at which I excel while my writing faced rejection after rejection. Writing - my writing - was given only the time I provided to my journaling students but somewhere in the mix, I rewrote that YA again, removing all of the paranormal elements. I don’t know why. An exercise perhaps.


Where does the time go? We blink and the distance between events expands.


Suddenly, I have a daughter moving away to college and a son starting high school. Time devoted to them and our family stretches out before me. I’ve heard many mother’s lament the loss of their babies. I feel it. I see pictures of my babies, my children as toddlers, each stage a beautiful dance all the way through. I feel joy and poignant loss. And then I see pictures of myself and think: I don’t recognize you. But I don’t feel lost. In a way, I feel reborn.

I took a leave of absence from teaching this year. As my I transition from a mom of independent children, I’ve had the opportunity to look more closely at myself. The mom duties have changed now, have reoriented from all my time to some of it. I’ve had the opportunity to help my son transition to high school, be available for college freshman woes, but the need for mom has waned significantly other than to be a nag about homework, a taxi and a hug.


And there it was - time. Stretched out like a ribbon wrapped around a gift. I could write again.


So I have. I’ve dug in. I rewrote that YA. It’s independently published. I wrote the second book in the series. It’s Independently published too. I’m revising the third book in the series, and it will be independently published later this year. I completed Nanowrimo this year with 70,000 on a new book and a host of ideas in that notebook. I still have time for my family, they just don’t need as much of it.


What I would tell myself as a young mother now that I’ve lived her reality: Don’t worry about your time. You will get it back. Enjoy every moment of these children - even the difficult parts. It goes so very quickly.

Now, I look in the mirror and think: I know you. I knew you when you were thirteen and thought you’d be Emily Dickinson. I laugh at my reflection and think: There’s time. There’s time.

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Character and Conflict Part2: Motivation

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Having read - a lot - a definite way for me to want to throw a book at the wall is when the narrative either loses sight of the conflict or an author struggles to develop one. As a reader, a lack of or an unclear conflict can feel like sitting in a staff meeting without a purpose. Whether you’re a writer who wants to write a more cohesive story, or a reader who’s developing their critique technique, one thing to look for in respect to believable and developed conflict is the main character’s motivation.

Characters - if developed as a round, dynamic, fleshed out character - are motivated to act. Their movements don’t just spontaneously combust into forward movement for the sake of moving plot. If they do, there is a problem with author insertion and adding to a reader’s awareness of a plot feeling contrived. If you aren’t sure why a character makes a choice in the action or dialogue, or feel confused by it, chances are the character’s motivation isn’t clearly defined or the author is intruding.

With respect to characterization and conflict: do you ask your protagonist, antagonist these questions?

With respect to characterization and conflict: do you ask your protagonist, antagonist these questions?

Motivation for a character, just like in our own lives outside of the pages, can be intrinsic or extrinsic. Intrinsic motivation is the internal means of propelling a character based on internal desires. Harry Potter, for example, in The Sorcerer and the Stone (J.K. Rowling) was motivated to understand who he was outside the Dursleys. He wanted to know more about his past which propelled him on a journey toward personal enlightenment. Intrinsic motivation. Frodo Baggins, in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (JRR Tolkien), however, was motivated to get the one ring out of the Shire in order to keep his home safe from an external danger. Extrinsic motivation. While the stories begin with a specific sort of motivation - internal or external - this doesn’t mean the motivation won’t change. We see both Harry and Frodo undergo changes along the journey to change what motivates their choices, just as that occurs in our own lives.

I took a wonderful class many years ago that helped me as a creative writer. The class was called The 90-Day Novel by Alan Watt. Character motivation was one idea which really stuck with me. A simple tool Mr. Watt presented which I have used over and over in my own writing is the following sentence:


If (Main Character) can (fill in the blank) then s/he can (fill in the blank).

Here’s an example from Star Wars: A New Hope:


If Luke Skywalker can get off Tatooine then he can be happy.


This is Luke’s reality in the opening of the movie. A clear motivation which propels his curiosity. The longer we follow his journey, however, his initial motivation shifts as the he moves forward in the hero’s journey. When his family is murdered, his motivation shifts. This is a mirror to reality; our motivation is constantly shifting based on attained goals, redefined wants, and personal desires.

So to mirror Luke’s shift in motivation:

If Luke Skywalker can help the rebellion he can avenge his family’s death.

It is important to follow the motivation to the root, however. As the above example shows there are still questions: Why does Luke want to avenge his family?

If Luke can avenge his family then he can clear his conscious for leaving them.

A round and dynamic character’s motivation will always modify and shift as the journey shapes her; that is what makes her more relatable to readers. These changes in motivation whether intrinsic or extrinsic are often rooted in the journey (which if you aren’t familiar with Chris Vogler’s work on the Joseph Campbell monomyth be sure to look it up). As the story moves forward, the motivation serves as a guide for interaction with other characters, propels the main character’s choices, and determines forward action which is believable rather than contrived.

Think about your favorite novel or your current work in progress. Can you create an If/can, then/can statement?

Up Next: Pacing your story . . .





2000 Words Out Loud: The Bones of Who We Are

Publication day is getting closer, and today’s Love Your Novel Challenge insists on the sharing 2500 words. I’m up for it, but I’ve shortened it to 2000 words - a chapter from The Bones of Who We Are when Gabe learns that Seth has been in his accident. Enjoy.

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Point of View and Writing

In the act of writing, I don’t think I have ever made a conscious decision when beginning to write a new story about point of view.  What I mean by that is, I don’t think I sat down and planned in conscious manner I would be writing in first person or third person, omniscient. I wonder if any writer does? I’d love to hear from them.

In my process, as I mentioned in a previous blog post, new ideas, new characters, often come in snippets, so when I sit down to explore the snippet further, I just write and by write, I mean word-vomit whatever is going on in my mind. I don’t think about the point of view, I just go for it. To review: Point of view is the way a story is written. There are three points of view: first, second and third, but to complicate things third can broken up into two types: third person, limited and third person, omniscient.

First person is when the character writes in a way that places the reader in an intimate place within his thought process, as if reading the character’s journal. The first person perspective uses pronouns like I, me, we, us. Swimming Sideways and The Ugly Truth are written in first person point of view.

Second person is when the reader becomes the character. Remember the Choose Your Own Adventure books? Those were written in 2nd person and replied on the pronoun you to include the reader as the protagonist of the tale. This isn’t a frequently utilized point of view, however a great example is Freewill by Chris Lynch (A YA Mystery and a Printz Honor Award Winner published in 2001).

Finally, third person is the removal of the audience from the story by placing them outside of the action but providing them with a bird’s eye view. This is done by using pronouns like he, she, them, they. Not a part of the action but witness to it, the audience is afforded the opportunity to understand a character without being connected to them. First person, limited, is when the point of view (narration) never leaves the experience of a single character. We see this happen a lot in YA literature when an author identifies which character she is writing to explore various character’s experiences. Several examples of this third person, limited are Leigh Bardugo’s Crooked Kingdom or Veronica Roth’s Divergent, and an all-time favorite work of fiction - J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series.  Third person, omniscient, then, is when the narration of the story is god-like, and the impact of events and thoughts of characters can be explored at will. Examples include Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice or Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway.

Want more examples of different POV?  Click here.

Want more examples of different POV? Click here.

Writers, then, often grapple with which point of view do I choose? If you google it, the answer is often: whichever one suits your story best. Hah! Thanks for nothing.

If you remember the story of the creation of Swimming Sideways, it was initially a very different story. A paranormal teen romance with angels and demons, the first time I wrote it, it was in third person, limited. I switched back and forth between Abby’s perspective, Seth’s and Gabe’s. The style of the story which worked to keep the reader outside - looking in - and distant made third person a logical choice. When we think about stories that incorporate extensive world-building, this is often the case.  Swimming Sideways was revised to a very character-driven story which lost the paranormal elements altogether. When this happened, I made the decision to change the third person, limited view to a first person in order to make it more personal between the character and the reader. Successful? The jury is out.

For me, making the decision as to which sort of point of view to write a story is linked to character and goals. Is the story character-driven or plot-driven? What level of emotion am I building into the conflict (more on conflict in a later post)? The analysis of my goals will often answer the question for me. While, I haven’t found a tried and true methodology to identify which POV to write my stories, I would say that by reading (a lot), I have been given maps to understand POV and successful implementation of each.

Do you have a specific methodology for choosing POV? Comment and discuss below!

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Character: Conversations

When I tell people that my characters “talk” to me, I often get the look that indicates I might have a screw loose. Well, maybe I do. One of those tiny screws like on a pair of eyeglasses which needs one of those tiny special screwdrivers, because honestly, the rest of me is pretty factory settings.

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When I say a character “talks to me” it’s literal. There is a voice inside my head carrying on a conversation. Sometimes it’s a one-sided monologue as the character tells me about something. Other times it’s a dialogue between the character and me. I become a reporter asking pointed questions trying to get to know him or her better. It’s an intricate mental dance. Okay, maybe not intricate, but certainly a dance.

The thing is, and I think lots of writers would say this. A character steps into the mind's eye in pieces. Maybe a smile that makes me curious, or maybe a one liner to another character which shocks me. And then I’m off and mentally running after her to understand what I just learned. “Why did you say that?” I might ask. It’s the dialogue - the talking - which fleshes out the character into a living being in my imagination. I will ask: what’s your favorite pizza. Seth said: Pepperoni. Abby said: I don’t really like pizza; cheese disagrees with me. Oh dear! I responded because cheese is like my favorite food. Gabe said: all the meats, to which I grimaced because I prefer veggie pizza.

In the development of my characters from main characters to secondary characters, I work to get to know them. I’ve noticed both as a reader and a writer, it is these details which help a character jump from the page. Understanding a favorite color, or favorite band, or whether she cleans her room or not helps the character become three dimensional not only for the writer but for the reader. For example: Seth keeps his room neat. Why? What is the underlying reason for this teenage boy to be so orderly and particular about his room? After talking to him, I learned it was about control. The detail - random at first - took on more meaning when I understood why.

Seth’s story.

Seth’s story.

In my writer’s process, what might begin as a conversation in my head leads to a sketched out conversation in my writing journal. The dialogue becomes questions I have followed by the character’s answers. I have learned when I get stuck in a particular scene, or in the narrative of the larger story’s picture, if I take some time to talk, the dialogue often clears up the jam.

An example from one of my writing journals. The highlight is me as the author asking questions.

An example from one of my writing journals. The highlight is me as the author asking questions.

As a reader, consider your favorite literary characters. I have a theory that the authors took some time to really understand the characters to help them leap from the page. As a writer: if you haven’t tried this (and probably most of us have) take some time to “talk” with your character. It’s easy. Start small with a “favorites” list, but as you continue, get to know their “greatest secret” or ask “the biggest fear.” Understand the nuances of the character whether it makes it into the story or not, and the character might walk from the page.

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