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Cailin by Rosalind Scarlett Is Atypical of the Genre

Back in the day, a left-handed misfit is something no mother wants in a child least of all a father. Perhaps left-handedness is more accepted these days. A lot of creative people are left-handed, maybe because they are in their `right’ mind. A great many right-handers started off to be left-handed but were forced into using their right hands since being left-hand was different and considered the mark of the devil. This past mindset is central to the understanding of the background and setting for Cailin by Rosalind Scarlett.

Born in 18th Century Ireland, the left-handed and misfit main character, Aislinn, starts life on the wrong foot. Her father doesn’t like her and things get worse from there. Even when she falls in love with Donovan, their life together is doomed. A vampire takes her away and her journey as an immortal begins. More than a period piece about vampires and the lust for immortality in common with its genre, Scarlett has crafted a beautifully descriptive tale that, although it will be lumped into the category of vampire novels, it is certainly not run of the mill. It paves new ground in a genre that is often ripe with cliché, perhaps resurrecting the category. Her delightful use of authentic Gaelic language lends an unusual flavor to the tale, also setting it apart from the normal fare of gratuitous blood-sucking. And she gives a pretty authentic feeling for the role of women in the period.

Not usually a huge fan of the genre, I have shied away from the popular tripe with which the genre is rife. Cailin is an exception, clearly not to be included in any sweeping condemnation of `those’ types of books. The plot is well conceived though at times challenged as it is immersed in a sea of descriptive language. That is uncommon and refreshing in a genre that is generally more about action than substance. Cailin has both along with the necessary blood and sex. It’s easy to recommend because it is atypical and well worth the investment of a day or two to read.

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Incomplete Chapters

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One thing I have learned over the course of writing several manuscripts is that if you take a break in the middle of a chapter, you’ll usually wind up rewriting the whole thing.

The reason you feel compelled to take a break is that something is not working. Why do I say that? Well, if the writer is bored, then what will happen when someone else reads it? Makes you think, doesn’t it?

A perfect chapter doesn’t necessarily continue the action from the previous chapter, but it must build on the story line, otherwise it is unnecessary. If there are several threads to the plot, it must connect with one of them somewhere. Early in the novel chapters may establish a character or two – perhaps an important relationship hinting of a conflict later on. However, when a writer is composing any chapter he or she may not necessarily know where the story is headed at that point. Characters tend to tell their own tale. If they didn’t present you, the author, with details and background it wouldn’t be much of a novel. Also, you could tell the entire story as a brief synopsis.

What works for me is using an outline after the fact of writing a draft. That is not to say that from the outset I don’t have a vague idea where the story is headed. Occasionally the outcome that seemed inevitable to me as I began to write turns out to be a red herring or at least a wrong assumption. It is important to allow the characters to tell their stories in their own ways and not force them into a corner or shackle them with your expectations. Although some of the characters may use your logic and generally do what you might do in an given situation, the best characters are those who do the unexpected and are the antithesis of the author, or at least a fabrication of his per her darker side.

Which brings me back on point. If you leave a chapters incomplete to take a break in the middle, whenever you return, go back to the beginning of the chapter and read the story. Fix whatever caused the trouble and then move on. Very often your characters will show you what the problem was. Their dialogue may have been strained or their actions inconsistent with their character profile. Something is amiss. Fix that and the flow and interest will be restored.

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Interview Today

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It’s been a while since I did one of those interviews for a job, not my books. Usually I’ve been on the other side of the desk, asking the questions. Anyway, I need income more than anything else. Also having a job again will focus my attentions and ration time which is always a positive thing for a writer. Discipline of sticking to a writing schedule is one of the keys I have found to overcoming what others refer to as writer’s block.

The position is overnight which would work out perfectly for me. I usually write in the early morning. So I could do that after work. Then take a nap and do promotional things in the late afternoon and evening before going back to work. Since I usually sleep for four to six hours, it won’t be bad. Also having something physical to do will help me shed a few pounds.

I’m also looking in the longer term. Usually it takes a while, and several books in print to make a living as a novelist. Establishing a brand is really what being a professional author is about. People don’t buy James Patterson’s books based on the title – at least most don’t. They expect a certain type of story and level of quality based on past experiences with the author’s work. Not saying I’m in his league but I write a lot and have a number of manuscripts to publish. I’ll get there.

My passion is writing; it has been for a while. It doesn’t mean I can’t do other things. But my goal is to do nothing but write. Of course promoting books is the necessary evil of being a writer. It’s the unfortunate linkage that drives everything else and I don’t know many authors who actually enjoy that part of the publishing game. Writing is a lot more fun. That doesn’t mean authors want to live as hermits – however attractive that might seem when one is beset by kids, pets, significant others and everything else that is all lumped together into the ‘reality box’ in which we exist. Also, I think most writers enjoy meeting the people who read their books. I know we love talking about our books, our stories and our ideas for new stories. It’s our passion, after all. So, that aspect of promoting books isn’t evil at all, even though it is necessary.

We all have to get over the concepts and notions others have about what it means to have a book published. It doesn’t mean it will be sold for movie rights and suddenly you’ll be a bazillionaire. It only means what it means: you’ve put a part of yourself into print for others to read and hopefully enjoy. A lot of people do that, most people don’t. Some who do do it better than others. A few do it quite well. Writing is not a lucrative enterprise but the reward is something quite apart from any crass monetary consideration. Sometimes I think the only reason I attempt to publish anything is just to have other people read it. Other times my stomach growls and suddenly I have another reason, too.

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Michelle Bellon Balances A Busy Life With Writing Novels

Michelle Bellon

What amazes me is how creativity affects different people in similar ways. Even though it may seem to manifest in strange and unusual ways, for writers, at least, it’s been my experience that we’re a lot more alike in our uniqueness than different. One of the many things that is a similarly is the obsessive compulsion to tell stories. Another is the way a story will insist on being told despite how busy we are at doing other things.

Recently I got the chance to ask some question of Michelle Bellon, author of Rogue Alliance and several other books. She’s always a busy lady but she finds the time to help others; it’s in her nature. She’s a nurse, a mother and a wife – not necessarily in that order – but also she loves writing and respects the process and others who write as well. Personally, I wonder about people like her, having no idea how she juggles all the spinning plates of her life on those spindly, wobbly poles and still find the time to write. That is, until I think about all the things that every author I know does to feed the compulsion – if not obsession – to write stories. It goes toward proving my point, though, that a story needs to be told and it will always find a way of getting onto paper or into a digital file on some writer’s computer. I guess as writers all we need to be is receptive to that creative impulse and capture the idea.

 

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Michelle’s most recent novel, Rogue Alliance, the first of a series. It is a genre stretching tale that held my interest from start to finish and turned me into a fan.

Trying to escape a horrific past, Shyla has immersed herself in life as a tough cop in the bustle of LA. When the case of a lifetime takes her back to her hometown of Redding, she is thrown into a world of organized crime, deceit, and bitter reminders of her childhood.

As Shyla’s path crosses that of Brennan, a troubled sidekick to the ringleader she’s intent on taking down, she discovers he has a past even darker than hers and she is forced to re-evaluate everything she believes about herself, her job, and what she knows about right and wrong.

Can she face the demons of her upbringing and learn to trust again? Her life will depend on it.

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Q: You wake up only to realize you don’t remember your name or what you’re doing in Des Moines, Iowa. What’s the story?

A: I’m terrible with geography. Is Iowa cold? I don’t like cold. Can we make this story start in Hawaii? I want to live there…in a hut…and live off shellfish…getting down with nature. But I don’t want to go all Tom Hanks in Cast Away, that’s a bit much. Did I answer the question correctly?

Q: Yes, it’s cold there. I think I like the setting for your story better than mine. Anyway, let’s talk about when you were a kid. In school were you a troublemaker, an instigator or the teacher’s pet? Explain

A: Oh, I believe I was all of those at one time or another. In second grade I had the best teacher ever, Mrs. Rogers, and I was surely teacher’s pet. I loved learning, craved it.

I found myself causing a bit of trouble in fifth and sixth grades but that was only because I have a cousin that had special needs and I wound up in a few too many fights defending him. I became known as a fighter about that time.

Then somewhere along the lines, around seventh grade or so, I just kind of got confused. Hormones kicked in and my brain cells ceased to function properly. I look back and it seems as if I were walking around in a fog all the time. I remember wandering around school, just kind of bumping around going, “What’s going on? Where am I supposed to be?”

That lack of brainpower only increased throughout the beginning of high school when I became absolutely boy crazy. Fortunately, I still managed to get decent grades. I was always friendly to everyone but maintained friendships with only a few close girl friends. I’ve always been careful about choosing friends. It’s sacred to me. It’s for life. My best friends are girls I’ve known my entire life. They’ve got my back, and I’ve got theirs. Forever.

Q: The next one is a fantasy type question: Imagine for a moment that you’re a famous, bestselling author. They’re making a movie out of your last book. What do you do next to top that you’re already achieved?

A: That is a huge accomplishment and one that many of us dream of achieving. I would be over the moon with excitement if one of my books made it to the big screen.

My next goal would be to write my next book. That’s it. I just want to keep making stories. It feels amazing to create something: a story, characters, another reality – that would have otherwise never existed.

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Q: Many writers say that being creative becomes an integral part of their daily lives and part of their routine. How do you balance your responsibilities to others around your need to create?

A: This is something I constantly struggle with. My family, my husband and children, are my first priority. Then there’s the responsibility of maintaining our home and fulfilling the needs of my day job as a registered nurse. My creative side, which for me is writing, comes at the end of all that, though I feel it is important.

There is another component here. After I became a published author, I learned that there is a huge responsibility to market your work. Once you dig into that and learn what it takes to promote your finished product, you find yourself consumed with that aspect of the industry and the actual writing takes a huge back seat.

Right now I’m at a huge turning point, where I’ve let all of that get out of balance to the point that I’m no longer writing. I just don’t have the time and then when I do find a small chunk of time and sit down at the laptop, I have nothing to give, because all of my creative energies have been leeched out by the marketing aspect of writing. It can be very destructive if you let it. And I did let it.

But I recently decided to re-prioritize and get back to what I love – writing. Here’s why – I’ve learned that there are things that feed you and things that starve you. Marketing and promoting, if let get out of balance, will starve you, creatively. When you write and tap into that creative energy where things come to life, it feeds you. I’m determined to get back to that. Writers must write.

Q: Every writer has that one story that clicked, inspiring him or her to pursue writing as a career. What was the story and what was there about it that made it influential?

A: As for any one book that I read and it inspired me to write, there’s not just a single story. They all did. I simply love to read. I love to jump inside of other people’s fictional lives and fall in love with characters. It’s so magical.

What inspired me to actually write my own book was the desire to tell my own stories and entertain an audience of my own. The moment that it all clicked into place was when I began to write my first novel, Embracing You, Embracing Me. It’s a coming of age young adult novel that deals with young love, tragedy, and self-realization. Though fiction, it’s loosely based on my own experiences and dedicated to someone special in my life that passed at much too young of an age. Readers respond strongly to that story and that moves me. My intention is for everyone who reads it to remember that we must tell the ones we love that we love them today. You never know if you’ll have tomorrow. It’s a bit of a tear-jerker, or so I’ve heard.

Q: Creativity comes in many ways – for example, painting, photography, sculpture, music and theater. What other things do you do or have you done that are examples of using your imagination or other artistic talents?

A: Actually, I don’t consider myself creative. Before I started writing I honestly believed that I was lacking a creative gene. I can’t paint. Every picture I take is blurry and off center. I can’t act and I don’t like to speak in front of crowds. I’m logical and detail oriented with strong OCD tendencies. Those traits often kill creativity.

It still surprises me that I have been able to write novels. Sometimes I pick up one of my books and stare it, thinking, “Holy crap! I wrote this!”

Even then, I don’t feel creative because it doesn’t feel like I’m the creator of these stories. When a book idea comes to me it’s not because I sit and brainstorm. The storyline and characters often just pop into my head, like a little gift from the universe, or sometimes I’ll dream them. At that point, it’s up to me to simply write it down and fill in all the details.

Q: Where do you see yourself at this moment in your life had you never decided to write a book?

A: I’d be doing mostly the same things; working as a nurse, taking care of my children, loving on my husband. But I’d still be convinced that I lacked any fraction of creativity, and that’s a sad thought. Writing opened up a whole new world for me with possibilities that I would have never imagined before. Most importantly, it’s taught me a lot about myself and what I can accomplish through hard work, dedication, perseverance, and passion. I had no idea that I had all of this inside of me.

Q: Family and relationships are important in peoples’ lives and so, it is little surprise that there are relationships between characters in books. How closely do the interactions in your books mirror your real life?

A: Very closely. For me, the crux of every story is the character arc, their internal and external struggle as they learn to overcome whatever difficult journey I’ve put them on. In each book I write, though most are radically different than my real life, I definitely incorporate my own life lessons and relationship trials into the fictional story I’m writing at the time. By forcing my characters to face their personal demons and reconcile challenging relationship dynamics, I’m essentially creating an outlet for self-realization, self-healing. My character learns and evolves, therefore so do I. It’s very cathartic.

Q: When writing I’m sure you hit snags where characters aren’t behaving or the plot just isn’t working. When that happens to be I play video solitaire. What do you do?

Omg! That is exactly what I do! When I get stuck, I stop what I’m doing, minimize my screen, and pull up solitaire. I like to play Free Cell. I have a 99% winning average. Is that a talent?

Q: It may be. I never mastered Free Cell.  Okay here’s a touch one: When friends, family and even people you barely know at work find out you are publishing a book they expect a gratis copy. It could be a touchy situation. How do handle it?

A: Oh, man, this is a touchy subject. I can’t even begin to tell you how many people ask, and even expect, a free book. And I’ve given out far too many. I just have the hardest time telling them no.

However, I’ve reached a point where, when asked this question, I have to kindly evade the part where I offer a free book. I have to start respecting my work by making a decision to earn something for my hard work. I feel that it’s so sad that the industry has “evolved” to a point where talented, hard-working authors are giving away their books for free. It baffles me when I hear a reader say that they only buy books if they are 99 cents or free. It makes me want to ask them if they’d like to work on a project for a year or more, pour their heart and soul into it, accept a hundred rejections before they finally find an outlet to showcase their work and then at the end of the day, they get a check for 99 cents? Yeah, somehow I don’t think they’d be down with that.

Michelle has published other books, look for these covers online at Amazon.com

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Michelle Bellon lives in the Pacific Northwest with her four beautiful children. She earned her Associates Degree in Nursing and fills her moments of free time with her love for writing. She writes in multiple genres, including, YA, romance suspense, women’s fiction, and general fiction.

Find Michelle Bellon Online:

http://www.michellebellon.com/

https://www.facebook.com/michelle.authorpage

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Michelle-Bellon-Author/544448685599147?ref=hl

https://twitter.com/MichelleBellon

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I’m An Artist: So, What Do I Know?

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What have I been doing all day – or all night for that matter? It looks like a lot of nothing to others, doesn’t it? I’m not writing so much lately. What I do is work on building a brand and fan base. It is a unpaid job for now and I do it for several hours each day, investing time and effort in the future, my dreams.

I’m building a fan base for other authors as well in my role as a publicist. Since none of my activities is paying a dividend at this point, I’m also looking for a job. I devote a good portion of each day looking for something I can do to make money. That is the same trap it has always been in my past. The lure of practical necessity, having to choose between surviving and living, is what each of us faces. It’s the way of the world.

What we do when we chase dreams is come into direct conflict with the practical side of the world. Only a few make it because its easy to become discouraged and listen to the naysayers and critics. They call us dreamers and misfits. To them we are nuts. They need to validate their own life choices urging us to give up and buy into the commonly held belief. They tell us the world is of limited resources and wealth and surviving is the constant struggle to seek your share of the wealth. Those who subscribe to that notion lack the vision necessary to overcome the struggle as well as the misery and suffering around them. And so they succumb too it. They trade in their dreams for practicality’s sake. Instead of focusing on their aspirations with greater resolve and determination, the let the weight of the world crush them into submission. The end result is that most people fail because they don’t have faith that they will intimately succeed if only they persevere.

There is a way if you want to find it and never give up.

No one says it’s easy to make it as an artist or a writer or anything else that involves using your creativity. How crazy are you to actually believe you can conjure something form nothing as if it were magic? Yet, some people do exactly that. They’re different than the norm, though, aren’t they?

Within each of us is a spark that has survived for however long we have lived. It continues until it expires. It is life. And through that we connect to the source and origin that is also our essence. Those around us who seem dull, lifeless and defeated have not lost their spark but have, instead, lost their way. The connection is concealed. It is clouded over with doubt and despair borne of defeat and the criticism of others we have accepted.

What is different about an artist is that the source is more readily accessible. It is clear to everyone of us who retain the ‘gift’ from when we were five-years-old and everything about the world was shiny and new, filled with hope and potential. Artists never learn how to become completely and totally adult-minded. We refuse to submit to the routine. At some point in each of our pasts we decided that being an adult is part of the problem that prevents us from achieving our dreams. We are expected to substitute the goals of others in lieu of our potentially greater ambitions of self-actualization.

Artists don’t deal with the adult world in the same way that others do. Although we have friends, family and others around us who constantly remind us of our responsibilities and our places in the world, we selectively filter out what does not strike us as pertinent to reaching our personal goal and vision. Yet, like everyone else we are expected to become mindless automatons. We are cajoled and sometimes coerced into playing the game the way our masters desire, according to the rules they have conceived. They are the wolves who want us to live as good sheep in the herd or are faithful dogs tending to the sheep that they exploit and harvest.

Artists are misfit to the prevalent system because we aren’t good at following arbitrary rules. Like a child, we question everything. Constantly we ask why? We may have acquired the gift of biting our tongues so that we can hold down a job, but the very reason we are artistic means we don’t fit in with the masses in larger, collectively accepted delusion that the world is an imperfect place.

So, for several hours each day I fill out job applications to serve roles that are functionally necessary for my basic survival. Yet, I don’t want to return to the shuffling madness that used to be my frustrated, self-destructive life. I’ve played that song and danced that jig but never truly benefitted from the experience save for graining some perspective on the way things work and how others endure the depression of their existences.

Something more than the mind numbing entertainment of the media is what I desire from life. What happens to the Kardashians or who won the big game last night could not interest me less. I’ll see something about those things on the Web, I suppose, provided I care to waste my time reading about it. The world does not hang in the balance of something as trivial as the scripted make-believe or surrogate reality of television. By the way, who write that nonsense? Hmmm?

A couple of years ago I set out on a journey to write of alternatives and possibilities in a world of dreams and fantasies that exist beneath the veils of grand deception and mass hysteria that we have collectively decided is real. I’ve never given up and I don’t care to do so now when I am closer to the goal than I was two years ago. I’m not convinced the practical side of the world was ever worthy of my undivided attention. But I continue to play the game as necessary. I can be a good sheep or a good dog same as anyone else. But in the background, the dream continues. It’s always the same.

Then, again, I’m an artist, so what do I know?

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Am I expert at anything? You decide.

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Having been around for over half a century, somewhere along the line, I probably gained some insight and knowledge. I’m not comfortable calling what I know expertise, but most of the things I know, I seem to know pretty well. The reason I’m mentioning this is that I asked other authors I represent as a publicist to send me a list of things like hobbies, interests, causes, charities and such. This morning I am compiling my own list. I call it ‘Things I Know’:

Computers. Can build them and usually I can figure out what’s wrong with them when they don’t work. I’m a technician. I use Mac OS now but I was an expert on Windows up into Windows 7 – mainly from having to fix things when they went haywire with my computer or those I had built for my kids. Also have used some flavors of Linux. I used to rep for several computer hardware and software vendors and did training for sales people and computer user groups. Expert? Yeah, close enough.

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Gardening. I love plants, especially trees. I’m also good with flowers, too – except for orchids. Orchids tend to die soon after they are exposed to me. Some people are allergic to plants, well orchids are allergic to me just glad it’s not the other way around. I love how they look, but, if I touch them it means certain death for them. Sorry.

I managed the garden center of a major home improvements retailer for a number of years. Seasonalities in both Florida and Connecticut, where I worked, is what I know best. With tropical plants I probably know about as much as anyone and I got to the point where I didn’t consider perennials weeds, although many do resemble weeds, don’t they? Lawn and garden chemicals as well as fertilizers were my forte and since I grew up on a farm I know agricultural crops. Expert? Pretty darned close.

Home Improvements. While I worked for that aforementioned major home improvements retailer, I managed every department and, so, I have more than working knowledge with every aspect of home improvement from electrical, plumbing, paint, hardware, millwork, lumber, flooring and wall covering. I’ve hung ceiling fans, installed lights, switches and outlets. I’ve installed sprinkler systems and outdoor lighting. Replacing garbage disposals, replacing the guts of a toilet and designed a deck are also on my list of accomplishments. When I was a kid I helped my dad’s cousins build our house. Granted most of what I did was banging nails with a hammer – fortunately most often it was the right nail and not the one on my thumb. Expert? Let’s say that I am, and just forget what my ex might have to say about some of the home repairs that were learning experiences for every one involved.

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Chinese language, culture and pretty much anything Asian. I know more about Asia as anyone born in the US who is not of Asian descent. I lived in Korea for a couple of years, my ex is Korean. I’m beyond competent in the proper use of chopsticks. Chinese Mandarin was something I studied in California and I can still get by speaking it, though I have an accent and probably my command of it is that of a six-year-old. Asian language and culture are something that fascinates me and I respect the people I have known and met over the course of my life. Having said that, Americans, especially our politicians, are pretty naive about Asians in our foreign policy. Also Asians consider Americans weak negotiators because we like to horse-trade, the give and take process. Asians bargain in an entirely different way. Am I an expert? Yeah, I’m close enough for government work.

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Another thing I’m kind of expert on is maybe the only thing other than writing, my family and animals (not necessarily in that order) that I am truly passionate about is veteran affairs. I served. If you didn’t don’t tell me you know because, well, you just don’t. And those who served in times or places where there was no shooting going on around them, they don’t really know everything either. The country owes a tremendous debt to those who served, and those whose loved ones served and are now disabled or deceased as a result of their sacrifices. There is a contract between those who serve and those who asked them to serve. If our government doesn’t intend to honor that contract then, I have a solution. It’s pretty simple. Don’t go to war. There, problem solved. But for those of us who did serve, that debt is still owed. It isn’t being paid all that well. Don’t throw about veteran’s applications of benefits just because the system is overloaded and under budget. Personally I doubt anything about our government is ever under budget and if it is then it’s because the money that was allocated for veteran affairs has been stolen to fund some other ‘priorty’ project intended to get someone re-elected. My advice to the government is don’t renege on your promises to the veterans. They paid the price and now so should you.

There are a number of other things I have learned about and probably have some level of expertise. I like history and so I know a lot of things that happened in the past. I seem to have this uncanny knack for remembering the odes facts. that come in handy when one writes. I have degrees in marketing and mass communication. But am I an expert? I know as much as the next so call expert on subjects that change almost by the hour.

I’ll end this as yet incomplete list with a line from one of my books that has yet to be published. I think it kind of sums up the whole issue of being an expert pretty well. “The difference between a sage and a fool is often a matter of having proper credentials.”

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