Job Shadow

One of my favorite recent experiences of being an author was when I had a few teenagers as job shadows. I spent an afternoon in my home with a few budding authors from Junior High.

They came prepared with samples of their work for feedback. I lugged out the huge white board and we discussed plot and character arcs. We even packed a lunch and half way through the job shadow, we went on a “writer’s-block-plot-walk” around a lake in my neighborhood. As I pointed out details and incorporating the senses, I told them how important it is to transport the reader.

I couldn’t believe their level of talent! Kids can be so determined when they’ve found their passion. Their excitement for writing rekindled mine.

It made me think how writing is cross generational. Some of my favorite authors are twice my age. Age is just a number and it’s weird to be that to someone else. I found myself really enjoying their company, their own stories, and their recommendations for books.

Words unite people. Stories and books unite people. I have no doubt that I will see these kids at some of the writing conferences I attend in years to come. They were excited to learn of the many wonderful youth opportunities within the local writing community.

Recently I opened thank you notes from them. I blushed and looked around thinking, “me? You think that about . . . me?” Among other things, they expressed how great the life of an author must be. I laughed and thought that maybe I’d done them a disservice by not informing them of the intense peaks and valleys authors traverse. (see my earlier post)

Still, their enthusiasm made me think that I should enjoy every stage of my writing career more fully. If you doubt your value, or talent as a writer, (or any profession, really) then share your experiences and knowledge with people who are just starting out and look at you with stars in their eyes. It’s kinda cool, kinda funny, and . . . kinda intimidating.

Now, here are a few of my favorite writing quotes.

Happy writing. Thanks for stopping by!

Tara

 

Author Life Month

February was Author Life Month over on Instagram and Twitter. I decided to post the photos—and captions about the photos—from my feed onto my blog. I didn’t post every day,  but I tried. My favorite day was “Challenge Overcome.” It made me realize that every person struggles to be creative. Everyone has the same doubts and the same insecurities, no matter where you are in your career.

Day one. Here was a breakdown of Author Life Month.

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Day Two. Author photo.

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Day Four. Work in Progress.

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Day 5, 8, 9. Book cover comps, awesome moment, challenge overcome.

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Day 10. Non-author photo.

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Day 16. Where you write.

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Day 17. Where I relax.

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Day 22. Dedication Page.

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Day 23. Bucket List item done.

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Day 26. Favorite book outside of genre.

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Day 27. Your signature.

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Day 28. Favorite event accessory.

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Another non-author photo of when I was in Hawaii a couple weeks ago. 

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So there you have it. Find your tribe, it makes the highs and lows bearable. 🙂

Thanks for stopping by!

  • Tara

 

 

Death in Writing

This past week has reminded me about the frailty of life.

I started writing this blog post about how to capture death in our writing two weeks ago, before some of my favorite people in the entertainment industry passed away. Also, my husband’s childhood friend passed away suddenly and we went to the funeral over the weekend. I thought to discard this post because what is my little voice going to illuminate that others have said better? But I’m feeling brave, so here goes.

First off, I loved David Bowie. I loved his theatrics. He made me brave in my art and I’ve listened to him while I create art, music, and words. As a child, I fell in love with him in Labyrinth and then I became a big fan afterwards. Honestly, the Goblin King stirred the first feelings of being seduced to something that seemed wrong, but made my heart race in an unexplainable way. I talk more about that in an old blog post HERE.

Also I loved Alan Rickman most notably, for me, as the Sheriff of Nottingham and Snape. His voice will forever be one that hypnotizes and calls to us beyond the grave.

*This is where my post begins that I started writing

before any of these deaths occurred. *

I have thought a lot about portraying death through writing. I’ve killed off many of my characters and am in the process of learning the best ways to do that. After considerable searching and research, I thought I would share what I’ve learned.

I’ve gone to many, many writing conferences and realized that I don’t recall seeing very often classes available on how to write about death. Yes, there have been crime scene classes and murderous weapon classes, but not really ones that focus on the aftermath of death. So, I did a little bit of digging through old conference schedules and writing seminars and it’s true, this topic isn’t offered much. And yet, so many characters die in books.

The below photo is one of my most pinned images on my Pinterest account. Which tells me that people are searching for validation and understanding about the grieving process. They are searching for an emotional connection.

Let us, authors, give that to them.

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How do we honor deaths and portray it properly in our novels?

  • First – You, the author, have to care about the character. If you don’t care about them, then your readers won’t care. If they don’t feel a connection, then it will come off stilted, forced, and cheap. “It’s not about the death; it’s about the life.” So breath life into your character before you take it from them.
  • Second – Why is the character dying? Sometimes it propels the story or main character forward and is needed. I both love and hate to kill off characters. Most, well all, of the time it is necessary for the story to continue forward.
  • Third – Have the dying character leave a legacy. Have their death have meaning afterwards. Show how your character has been strengthened after the death of a loved one. Make them proud.
  • Fourth – Don’t leave your surviving characters to grieve alone. I realize that happens in real life, but long passages of isolation in fiction, with only one character, tends to get a bit boring. The reader will start to look for “white space” or dialogue. Your characters can grieve in their own way, but on your timing. Don’t let it go too long with bloated writing. The character might start to come across mopey or whiney and that dilutes a good death.
  • Fifth – Take a break from the scene and then come back to re-read. This is important because often times the writer gets too sappy, or the scene is too long, or not long enough. I fully believe that we should write with your whole heart during the sad scenes. Let the words flow. Then come back with new eyes and see if you captured the emotion you wanted or if it sounds forced or unnatural.

Tips to get in the mood.

 Let me clarify that this is not the action leading to the death. This is the after effects, the grief. This is the shock, the depression, the denial of which your characters will feel after the murder, or sickness, or how ever your character died.

  • Listen to sad, melancholy music. My go-to is Moonlit Sonata by Beethoven (Link to song). On repeat, over and over. I’ll play it on the piano even. Pandora has countless hours of sad melancholy music playlists. I don’t know if it’s physically possible to write about death while listening to poppy or happy music. I’ve found that during these scenes I don’t like music that has words. Except for Darkness, Darkness by Robert Plant. I LOVE that song. Here is the song link. I really hope I didn’t jinx Robert Plant. He’s another old man crush. Even more so than Bowie, more so than just about any musician.
  • Pour out your own emotion. If your scene doesn’t make you cry or sad, as an author, there is no hope that it will make your reader cry or feel emotion. So dig deep. Write the scene with all of the emotion and feelings attached. Do not fight, do not filter your words. It is therapy. Feel what you write, if you want it to be felt by others. HERE is a link to a blog post I wrote about crawling out of a hole, especially when writing a memoir.
  • You have to be in the right mood. Sometimes I want to write action scenes, or kissing scenes :), or happy scenes. Other times I want to write about depression and sadness and darkness :(. The key is to not force what you are not feeling. It will totally, completely reflect into your writing.
  • Go to a cemetery and just sit. Read the headstones, feel the spirits who dwell there. Embrace that death surrounds you. You will hear things, if you listen long enough. Isn’t being a writer observing human nature? So why is that any different than observing the unseen?
  • Visit a mortuary. Over Halloween I took a youth group to visit a mortuary. Yes, I’m morbid like that. But it was fantastic! We asked the mortician all these bazaar questions, visited the crematory, and saw the ins and outs of the workings of the place. I learned so much about the proper care and respect that they give the bodies to prepare them for the funeral.
  • Attend a funeral. Of all the funerals I’ve attended recently, two funerals in the past five years really effected me. I don’t know how to write about them right now without getting emotional, but I will try:

The first one is about my Grandmother. She collected porcelain bird figurines. Ironically, at the same time as her passing, I was right at the crux of a death scene in my novel Broken Smiles. I had jumped around to other scenes because I was intimidated about writing that scene. Months and months before my Grandmother’s passing I had written about ceramic birds that were touched upon in Broken Smiles, but later became my Christmas novella Eight Birds for Christmas.

So, ceramic birds and writing were a big part of my life at that point. Then my Grandmother’s own death came, followed by her funeral. It was an emotional time for me and I lived far away from my parents and siblings. Deep melancholy had been settling over me for a while before. I felt lonely and sad that I hadn’t seen her the days leading up to her passing.

At my Grandmother’s funeral I spoke and compared her aging body to a cage around a free bird and I paralleled it to her ceramic bird collection. Many of the words made it into my book Broken Smiles. During the plane ride home, the words flowed out of me and onto travel pamphlets and any scrap of paper I could find in the airplane. Here are some condensed words, straight from my book.

***

She smelled odd, old, and decaying. Her pallor and limp gray hair made her look eighty instead of forty-eight.

Her voice trailed off. It was strange how long she held her breath.

After a few minutes she let go of her life with a sigh. Her hand fell slack, and the wrinkle lines smoothed on her face.

Her spirit ascended like a bird finally being released from its golden cage.

***

The second funeral I attended was of someone that I had an incredible amount of guilt over. Luckily, about a week before the person’s passing, I was able to make amends. Still, to this day, a huge hole resides where that person used to dwell.

Because of these raw feelings, I was able to relate, fully and completely, with a character I wrote in a novel that murdered someone unintentionally and the guilt that followed. The novel hasn’t been published yet so I don’t want to go into further details, but to me, nothing I’ve written has effected me more. Nothing.

—That is where you need to go emotionally when you write about death.—

There is no skimming around it, no brushing it off. You have to feel the fiery despair of an ernest soul if you want it to be felt by others. You have to live the emotion and recreate it on the page. It is gut-wrenching and hard, but so satisfying.

It’s therapy.

And you never know how your words will effect a reader. Think back to how many times a book made you feel something, or made you cry. Like I said earlier, people are searching for a connection to understand death. Words tie people together.

I hope I have done this topic a bit of justice. If you have comments or experiences in your own writing or reading, I’d love to hear about them.

Thanks for stopping by!

Tara

 

 

Shadows of Angels

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I am happy and honored to be a part of the Laura Rollins blog tour for her debut novel Shadows of Angels.

Here is her Bio:

Laura Rollins is an avid dessert creator, fiction writer, and probably Lucille Ball’s biggest fan ever.

She homeschools her four young children and finds the kitchen a perfect place to teach them math – 1/2 cup plus 1/2 cup equals a full cup – science – add the lemon juice to the sugar because the acid is necessary for the sugar to melt – and, of course, manners – please don’t grab the beater from your brother, I’ll get you a spoon of cookie dough instead. While Laura enjoys all forms of cooking, baking, and any other culinary expression known to man, her heart always leads her back to deserts, treats and the sweet things on the table.

***

I met Laura through a local writers chapter. We became fast friends who were currently writing in the same genre. I’d just started dabbling in the young adult dark fantasy genre and so had she. I’d put my YA novel Vagabond on hold, while my other two books (women’s fiction) were published within three months of each other. We’d swapped first drafts of our fantasies. I felt bad to present her with such a mess of a work in progress as she had given me a polished, clean novel, which later became Shadows of Angels.

We would call each other and talk for hours about our novels. We’d exchanged edits back and forth, then back again. Every writer should—and needs—to have such a friend and critique partner. I love her descriptive, lyrical writing. I love her broad imagination. But mostly, I just love her as a person. In all honesty, by reading her bio, you’d never guess that such imagination and dark creatures could emerge from her brain. It’s surprising, if you know her, and that is another reason of what makes it so great.

Shadows of Angels is a dark fantasy with multiple points of view. Rollins tests her characters, both physically and mentally. Romance is not a main part of the story, although, there are traces and I am excited to see where she will be taking that element into her next novels in the series. Her many intriguing characters come alive on the page and dwell in a fabulous world.

So, please check out her new Young Adult novel Shadows of Angels. You won’t be disappointed.

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Here is the blurb:
After the forest dwellers destroy her home and kill her father, Aerbrin sets off on a journey to find the truth about her people, her kingdom, and the mysterious Zaad stone that contains a power she never imagined. Magic and mystery join forces in this intriguing fantasy world. Full of shifting alliances and twists you won’t see coming, it’s a can’t-miss read.

Here is the excerpt:

Stay calm. Her father’s words echoed in her head. When you find yourself in danger, above all, stay calm. 

Aerbrin took a deep, steady breath and leaned down, reaching for her bow. One of the Forest Dwellers charged. It collided with her and knocked her to the floor. Raising a knotted fist, he bashed her head.

Sparks exploded across her vision. She tried to raise an arm, tried to call out. Her body wouldn’t respond. The Forest Dweller grunted again. The creature above her raised its fist again. She looked up. This was the end, she knew. When these monsters attacked, they killed everything. Animals, plants, and particularly humans. No one survived.

Closing her eyes, Aerbrin forced her body to relax. This time, there was no pain.

And Here are the purchase links:

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

Happy reading!

  • Tara

 

 

Christmas Yard Waste

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This will be a quick how-to on changing your outside flower pots into Christmas decor. People bring me their pots at my work and I charge them at least $100.00 to do this, so here is a bit of information on how to do them for FREE, yes, free! Then I’ll go back to my usual writing tips. It’s just fun to mix things up for a bit.

If you follow me on Instagram, (which you are more than welcome to do) you will see a lot of my plant creations under #taracottapots.

I’ve been putting evergreens in my pots for years and finally learned how to do it properly, which turns out, was pretty close to what I was doing all along. It’s very similar to greening a floral vase, only more fragrant with pine and holiday cheer.

  • First – Clean out and cut down the potted plants. Leave in the dirt.
  • Second – Find what you have in your yard. I had some pine shrubs and juniper bushes that needed a haircut, also some mock orange and dogwood twigs that I stripped the leaves off.

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  • Third – I also went to Home Depot to the Christmas tree department and asked if I could have some of the scraps from the christmas trees. I started doing this when I lived in a desert climate and didn’t have access to evergreens. It made me happy to reuse what was going to be thrown out anyway. So, no excuses if you live in the desert or don’t have a yard 🙂
  • Fourth – take the two largest sprigs of evergreen and place them in the the center of the pot, or more toward the back, if it is one sided. Pine sprigs tend to bend, so you put them up against each other for support. Like the photo below.

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  • Last – Start filling in with the rest of the evergreens. Droop some over the pot. Fill it in with evergreens and twigs and whatever strikes your fancy. Add Christmas bows or pinecones or ornaments.

Also, I hated my turquoise pots so I surrounded them with logs. A funny story about the aspen logs… (and the turquoise pots too. The story is on my Instagram under TaraMayoros)

I was driving down the road and saw a tree cutting company chopping down a beautiful Aspen tree. I slammed on my breaks and swerved over then asked them if I could have a bunch of branches and logs. They laughed as they loaded up my car and told me that in all the years they’ve done this, no one has ever asked for their logs. Those remnants of the beautiful Aspen tree has served me well as I’ve slivered the branches, turned them into a Thanksgiving centerpiece, and then wood burned snowflakes onto them for Christmas tree ornaments. Like this one.

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Anyway, I try to recycle as much yard waste as I can, especially when it can be used for decor. So, there you have it. Easy and free 🙂 And so beautiful in the snow.

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Happy Holidays!

Tara

50,000 words of leftover casserole

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^^This is why I only wrote one blog post in November.^^

NaNoWriMo was hard this year. There were a few days, lumped together, that I didn’t write anything. Playing catch-up really killed the creative juices.

During the last two days of the month, I had to write 10,000 words to reach my goal. To me, that’s five chapters. Five! Those last words I wrote are comparable to mashing all of the Thanksgiving leftovers into one big glob of chunky casserole.

Early on, I’d prepared a nice, detailed grocery list, recipes, and outline for my Thanksgiving feast of words. See my outline HERE. I prepared for my meal all month and lovingly sprinkled words here and there like seasoned salt and pumpkin pie spice. They were glorious and touched on all of my senses. “Writing is the best thing ever!” I thought over and over, when I was naive and visions of delicious words consumed my thoughts.

The deadline drew closer and I still flitted around the kitchen with a smile, writing words that were beautiful to behold.

But soon it got sweaty in the kitchen. I couldn’t cook up the words as quickly as I had. The flavors began to muddle together. But I kept at it. I cinched my apron tight and pulled up my sleeves. I was determined to create something edible. The timer dinged just after I put on the last of the edible embellishments.

Edible is relative. Everyone has different tastes. I shrugged my aching shoulders and sampled my feast of words.

It stinks. The turkey is dry. The mashed potatoes are blobs of goo. My delicious novel is finished, yes, but it is dripping with plot holes, spelling mistakes, and red ink. Even the crust of the pumpkin pie is burnt!

It stinks BIG time.

But unlike a ruined feast, I can go back and fix things. I can take out and add and make it delicious. I can deconstruct the stinky casserole! The words are at least there. The concept, outline, and rough draft are there. I can clear the air and put gravy on the dry turkey. Pumpkin pie is better loaded up with whip cream and without the crust anyway, right?

After NaNoWriMo last year, I wrote a post on how to edit your novel. It is called “Whip it into shape.”  Here is the link.

I can fix this feast of a novel because I am determined to make it delicious!

Happy writing (and editing)

  • Tara