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SK Lamont interview with Robert Beatty Serafina and the Black Cloak

Giveaway! Win a copy of Serafina and the Black Cloak

In this week’s blog post I’m running a giveaway for a hardcover copy of, Serafina and the Black Cloak!

Robert Beatty Interview on Writer’s Digest

Recently I had the of honor interviewing local author Robert Beatty, the interview was featured on Writer’s Digest, you can read all about it here!

Writer’s Digest interview with best-selling author Robert Beatty.

To celebrate I’m giving away a hardcover copy of his best-selling novel Serafina and the Black Cloak. After the interview was released, I heard from a few folks that they would like to read the book, so I thought it would be great to give a copy away to one lucky reader!  The giveaway will run till December 14th at midnight (EST), so you should receive your prize in time for Christmas! (Click here to enter the giveaway or scroll down the page.) You can read it yourself or give it as a gift. My children and I have enjoyed the novel immensely, though it may be a little frightening for younger readers, you can read the first chapter below.

About Serafina and the Black Cloak:

SK Lamont author interview with Robert Beatty - Serafina and the Black CloakSerafina has never had a reason to disobey her pa and venture beyond the grounds of Biltmore Estate. There’s plenty to explore in Mr. and Mrs. Vanderbilt’s vast and oppulent home, but she must take care to never be seen. None of the rich folk upstairs know that Serafina exists; she and her pa, the estate’s maintenance man, have lived in the basement for as long as Serafina can remember. She has learned to prowl through the darkened corridors at night, to sneak and hide, using the mansion’s hidden doors and secret passageways.

But when children at the estate start disappearing, only Serafina knows the clues to follow. A terrifying man in a black cloak stalks Biltmore’s corridors at night. Following her own harrowing escape, Serafina risks everything by joining forces with Braeden Vanderbilt, the young nephew of Biltmore’s owners. Braeden and Serafina must uncover the Man in the Black Cloak’s true identity before all of the children vanish one by one.Serafina’s hunt leads her into the very forest that she has been taught to fear, where she discovers a forgotten legacy of magic. In order to save the children of Biltmore, Serafina must not only face her darkest enemy, but delve into the strange mystery of her own identity.

Here is the first chapter: Chapter 1 Excerpt

About Robert Beatty:

SK Lamont author interview with Robert BeattyRobert Beatty writes imaginative fiction for middle grade and young adult readers from his home in Asheville, NC.

His novel, Serafina and the Black Cloak (Disney Hyperion, July 2015), is a spooky mystery-thriller about a brave and unusual girl who lives secretly in the basement of the Biltmore Estate during the late 1890s. It’s an idea that grew from the author’s love of writing stories for his three daughters and from the rich history and beauty of Western North Carolina, particularly the forests of the Blue Ridge Mountains and Biltmore.

A former software entrepreneur, Beatty writes full-time now, but previously was one of the early pioneers of cloud computing, the founder/CEO of Plex Systems, and the chairman/CTO of Narrative Magazine. In 2007, he was named an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year. He’s co-founder of Beatty Robotics, an enterprise with his two oldest school-age daughters that designs and builds custom robots for science centers and museums around the world.

Recently, publisher Disney Hyperion gave the go-ahead for two more Serafina books. Look for Book 2 in the series, Serafina and the Twisted Staff, in August 2016.

To Enter

Use the Rafflecopter widget below! You get an entry for every item you complete in the Rafflecopter widget (up to seven entries! – you can also come back once a day and ‘tweet about the giveaway’, for extra entries!). You also get one if you leave a comment on the Writer’s Digest article, that is relevant to the interview posted. (If you already commented on the Writer’s Digest interview page last week, just hit I entered, and I will take that as an indication that you wish to take part in this give away!) You must have a US postal address to enter. The winner will be announced here December 15th. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


The giveaway will run till December 14th at midnight (EST), so you should receive your prize in time for Christmas!

Please share your comments in the comment box below, along with any other ideas you would like to share, I’d love to hear from you!

What book or books have influenced you the most as a writer or reader?

Follow me on twitter @sk_lamont

 


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Why I Write

 

sk lamont Fearless Writing

Fearless Writing – How I Write with Wild Abandon

Fearless writing – How I Write with Wild Abandon

sk lamont Fearless Writing - How I Write with Wild AbandonOut of all the people that I’ve talk to about writing their book, finishing their book or even starting their book, the root cause that has slowed them down or even stopped them in their tracks completely, is fear. What will people think? What will my family think, my friends, an agent- fill in the blank.

The thing that stops them is worrying about what other people will think, or perfectionism which is just another form of fear- of not being good enough.

But the good news is, if you’re contemplating your first draft, you are a long way away from showing your work to another soul. But there are some important factors to consider, if you want to write fearless. The main thing to take into consideration is that this is your story, your property, and as such you need to protect it. Think of it as a tiny little sapling just starting to push its way out of the ground, at this stage in the game, you have three roles, protection, space to grow and sunlight.

1) Protection

Don’t talk about your Book

I am a firm believer in never talking about my work-in-progress, I keep it hidden away, JK Rowling has a great quote that I believe in 100%.

“I find that discussing an idea out loud is often the way to kill it stone dead.”

~ J.K. Rowling

I have seen this so many times, where people talk about their work, share it with others and in the process squeeze the life out of it!

You’re not supposed to talk ‘about it’, you’re supposed to ‘write it’! By sharing it too early you’re allowing others to steal your books power and energy, and your passion to write it. It dissipates all the energy surrounding it. Give it only one outlet through your fingers. You want it bursting forth birthing on the page. Not giving it out to the world whilst it’s not even a newborn, so that people can prod and poke. “Eww, I don’t like its eyes, it’s legs are too short, I think it’d look better with blonde hair.” What are you doing? STOP, this is your precious little baby, its fragile and needs to be protected. Wait until it becomes strong, when you ‘know’ your story, then you can open the door to respectful criticism, until then don’t let anyone else steel your baby and run with it.

2) Space to grow

The secret place

This is also your time to get to know your little sacred baby, to coddle and coax it into existence. You’re dealing with something ethereal here, gossamer like an angels wing, so hold it delicately. Don’t show it to anyone until you know what that thing in you cupped protective hands is. There will come a day when it’s ready to fly out into the world and defend itself, until then you get to decide.

Here is the key to writing fearless, to writing with wild abandon. You write the truth that is whispered in your ear and nothing but the truth. You leave nothing off the page. You do not judge it, that comes after, right now this is a safe place. A place to pour blood, guts, sweat and tears onto the page. Hold back nothing, let everything out, knowing that this secret is safe with you. You are the gatekeeper of your work, when it comes time to review your work you decide what stays and what goes. But remember, if you are in your first draft, you’re a million miles away from showing your work, if you’re protecting it. So kick back, enjoy the journey and dive in, there is nothing more exciting than the thrill of letting it all out, there will come a time later when you judge, but now is not that time.

3) Let it see the light of day

Ship it!

Finally, and don’t let this scare you, but there will come a day when you have to decide if you want this work to enter the world. If and when you decide it’s time, then and only then, you must share your work. The No. 1 success factor is shipping, in other words getting it out the door, even if it’s imperfect. The chances of being published are a million times higher than the person with the near perfect manuscript sitting in their drawer, tweaking it to death, afraid to ever let it see the light of day.

sk lamont Fearless Writing - How I Write with Wild AbandonSo cherish your work whilst it’s all yours in the secret place, decide if you want it to leave the nest, then you can sit back and see if your baby can fly.

Until that day relax, you’re not there yet.

Enjoy this special secret time, one day it will be gone.

 

What are your thoughts? These thoughts, skills and techniques are my own, they are what work for me. So if you have strategies that work great for you, then awesome! Why don’t you share them in the comments box below, along with any other ideas or suggestions, or anything else you would like to share, I’d love to hear from you!

What are your thoughts?

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Confessions of a Pantser – Write 2,000 Words a Day Fast

sk lamont writing in the storm

Writing in the Storm – How I get my Story Moving Again

Writing in the StormI love writing in the storm, only being able to see a few feet in front of me at a time, as the story takes shape behind the veil, capturing it as quickly as I can type, as it comes to me through the clouds.

This is the way I like to write, I have tried planning my stories out, but it just does not work for me.

Nothing thrills me more than setting off into the wilderness grasping an idea in one hand and a hope and a prayer in the other. I can consistently kick out two thousand words, six days a week, with little to no problems. I like to give my imagination a rest day, at the end of the week, after an intense week of writing.

It is an exciting thrill ride, where given the right conditions, showing up consistently, on time everyday, it pays off.

“Inspiration exists, but has to find you working” ~ Pablo Picasso

But it is not a path for the faint of heart, many perils lie along the way, self doubt, the ridicule of others, crazy ideas that make no sense. But I believe if I show up consistently my ideas will come and they usually do, as the story reveals itself to me.

Sometimes as the self-doubt starts gnawing on my creative edge, usually around the 10k-20k mark, where I think, where is this story going, why am I writing it? I take an hour or two or just even twenty minutes to throw a quick premise down. To quell that inner doubter. I do it in the evening to separate it from my regular writing times. But it helps crystallize things in my own head, so that I can get moving again.

Here is my formula:

First I ask myself five fast questions –

  • What is this story about?
  • What does my protagonist want?
  • What do I want to resonate with my readers?
  • What’s the point of this story?
  • Do I care about this story, what lies at it’s heart?

I grab a note pad and pen and go as fast as I can, I brainstorm the answers.

This is not a linear list, it’s just to get my brain thinking about my story, from a global view, like pantsing my draft, I pants my premise too. Knowing that thinking too much, at least for me, might scare the magic away, so I hold it loosely.

Then for about 10-20 minutes I try to nail my story to the page, in one or two sentences.

Here’s a formula for building a logline-
* a logline was once used in the movie industry to sell a movie to a studio, it is a great way to condense and crystallize your story.

It’s the one or two sentence summary of your story that not only conveys your premise, but also gives the reader emotional insight into the story as a whole.

Here’s an example from Star Wars:

Restless farm boy (situation) Luke Skywalker (protagonist) wants nothing more than to leave home and become a starfighter pilot, so he can live up to his mysterious father (objective). But when his aunt and uncle are murdered (disaster) after purchasing renegade droids, Luke must free the droids’ beautiful owner and discover a way to stop (conflict) the evil Empire (opponent) and its apocalyptic Death Star.

I take the example above and slot my story in, moving around the elements that I need to. Once my logline is nailed down, this becomes my guiding star that helps direct my story. Now I said helps, because if a better idea decides to show up with something unexpected that I love, I stay flexible to new possibilities. The truth is, for me at least, the bones of the story are already there, I’m just clearing off the dirt so I can see the shape better.

Then I file away my premise, as I hand it over to my unconscious mind to continue solidifying what my story is about.

Writing in the StormThis is like throwing creative rocket fuel on my story and away we go again. Normally I don’t hit too many bumps in the road, usually only once or twice, once near the start and occasionally once near the end. I’ll share my tips and strategies on how I get past the final bump in a couple of weeks, as I approach the finish line on my current work.

Finally I put my head down once more to write, the path way opens before me and I see the sunshine peeking through the trees, whispering softly, let us go, your adventure lies this way.

These thoughts, skills and techniques are my own, they are what work for me. So if you have strategies that work great for you, then awesome! Why don’t you share them in the comments box below, along with any other ideas or suggestions, or anything else you would like to share, I’d love to hear from you!

What works for you?

Follow me on twitter @sk_lamont

 


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Confessions of a Pantser – Write 2,000 Words a Day Fast

 

sk lamont Pantser - Write 2,000 Words a Day Fast

Confessions of a Pantser – Write 2,000 Words a Day Fast

Today sees the beginning of NaNoWriMo, which stands for National Novel Writing Month. I have seen a lot of articles flying around the internet lately about how to win. So I thought I would throw in my two cents. These principles can easily apply to any time of the year, so if you missed November, no worries, don your pantser t-shirt and dive in.

As you can see from the title, I write 2,000 words a day consistently, usually within a two hour window and have completed four NaNo* style first drafts this year alone. The word counts range between 54k to 64k. I usually take a week or two inbetween novels, to recharge my imagination before setting out on my next adventure. I have gone back to back on projects, but to be honest, I think it burns me out. A rest in between novels works well for me. Before beginning NaNo this month, I decided to take a break to do some serious edits on one of said novels. I am very excited about where that manuscript stands and I am ready to plunge deep back into river of writing every day, where my heart beats faster and I hold my breath in anticipation of what lies around the next bend.

*NaNo style equates to 50,000 words in 30 days.

Coaching Backgound

Coming from a coaching background, I have developed many strategies over the years to help people install successful habits and achieve their goals. Now being a fiction writer myself, I apply these strategies to my own writing and have found them to be highly successful.

On a side note:

I am not here to argue what is better, pantsing or plotting, you do what works for you! I know many people that are a combination of both. So you choose the path that works best. To be honest part of me loves the idea of plotting and sitting down and strategically planning out my novel. I am a bit OCD so I would have thought that plotting would have been perfect for me, but I have tried potting several times and my imagination and passion shrivel up in front of my eyes and when I try such techniques the story stops dead in it’s tracks. So I have found for me, that the story flows more freely from my fingers when I fly by the seat of my pants. Not always and not perfectly, but that is why I have set strategies in place to get the creative juicing flowing again when the story decides to slow.

If you’re reading this article, then I am guessing you are looking for tips and strategies on how to pump out those elusive words as fast a your fingers will type.

So with no further ado, here are my top tips for kicking some word crunching butt!

Time to get serious

It’s Do or Die time – Make a Decision

The truth is if you want to get serious about your writing and writing 2,000 words a day is pretty serious commitment, then you have to make a decision to put your writing at the top of your list of priorities, or at least very close to the top.

If it’s not taking one of those top spots, then anyone of a number of things in your day will come along and hijack your writing time – 9 times out of 10 – because if you’re not taking your writing seriously then why should anyone else.

Get consistent

Consistency is the key, carve out the best time of the day for you to write and stick with it. Sure, things are going to come along and try to rob you of that time, but the first step on the ladder to your success, is making that commitment. Make your writing time sacred, it comes first, then you rearrange the rest of your life to make time for the other priorities in your life. You must choose to allocate time to what is most important to you in life, it’s the only way to get results and move forward on your dreams and goals.

Be flexible

Now we all know as soon as you make a decision to commit to something, all hell breaks loose, it’s Murphy’s law, so don’t get mad, life happens and stuff is going to get in the way. There’s a great article here about how to commit to your writing and stay open and flexible too.

Set some writing goals.

Write down what work you want to produce and by what day. For instance, my goal for 2015 is to produce six 1st draft novels and have one completed manuscript ready to begin querying come January. Set a daily word count and cast it in stone. Commit to how many words you will write everyday. Or at least on the days  you have set aside for writing. For instance, I like to take one rest day a week, that’s what works for me. If I have committed to 2,000 words a day, on my writing days, then I hold my feet to the fire, no matter how painful till I get those words out. 9 times out of 10 I hit the mark, occasionally something overwhelming happens and I may have to miss for that day, it’s okay, be gentle with yourself, as long as you’re hitting you word goals consistently, you are making progress.

Write Fast

Don’t think, write

I know this sounds crazy but it’s true, your imagination and intuition already know the story you want to write. The only thing that stops the words from getting on the page is your thinking mind, analyzing everything, questioning everything. You are a storyteller that is why you are drawn to writing. So the stories are already lying dormant within you somewhere, your job is to tickle them awake and get them into the world, without that sneaky inner editor trying to strangle the life out of them.

The first word that shows up is right

Nearly a hundred percent of the time, the word that shows up first, is the right word, so throw that sucker on the page, doesn’t matter if you want to tweak it, tweak it later. Throw it on the paper. Let’s get going.

Never look at a blank page

It’s like looking into the abyss and it will swallow you whole, as soon as you sit down, WRITE, let nothing stop you or get in your way, just write. If you feel stuck, the first thing that pops in your head, throw it on the page and you’re off. I use visual cues a lot to get me going. The first thing I see, a bird flies past my window, my character sees it and boom, I use that as a trigger to jump straight back into the story and were off running again. Write and write fast, doesn’t matter what comes out, just go, go, go! Remember you’re wearing your big red t-shirt that says ‘I’m a total pantser’ on it, this is what living the life of a pantser looks like, so rock on!

Also sometimes reading the last paragraph can help, but if you do, do it fast and move on, no fixing!

Write as fast as you can, faster than your inner editor, out run him!

The secret to writing fast, is writing faster than you can think, then you don’t have time to sit around and mull over the words, for instance, deciding on the color of a character’s shirt. Take the first idea that pops in your head, boom, throw it down on the page. If you feel yourself slowing down, try chanting a little, run run run as fast as you can, you can’t catch me I’m the ginger bread man 🙂 !

Believe it or not you will be able to read your own mess when you come back to it, so punctuation forget it, periods who needs them, add it later, you’re going to be editing this sucker till you want to kill yourself anyway, so there is pleeeenty of time to fix those suckers later. In fact you’ll probably enjoy those simple fixes as a light reprieve from the madness you spewed out on the page on your first go around, so get going. Write now, edit later.

Time yourself

I personally love to time myself and try to kick my own butt by out doing my own word counts. In my opinion sprinting is a lot of fun, especially if you’re highly competitive, this works for me. It’s not for the faint of heart, so be warned 😉

Write like no ones watching

This is your time, your special covert, ‘I’m never showing these words to another being on the planet time. This is my story and further down the line, I get to decide if I want anyone else to take a peek.’ So write with wild abandon and with tears streaming down your face if need be and put all that wild crazy stuff down on the page. Then later you can decide what and if you want to share it with the world.

To quote Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft  “Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open.”

Capture those Distraction Monkeys and put ’em in a cage

Distraction capture device

Write down distractions, anything that needs researching put it on a piece of paper, those little distraction monkeys are going to come and steal your precious time and end up stealing your story. Put those distractions on a piece of paper or in your phone, (or other electronic device, if you can trust yourself to resist facebook and the myriad of other time sucking sites available online). Jot it down and keep going, relax that piece of paper ain’t going anywhere, so you can come back to it later. If I know I need to expand an idea, I usually write something like ‘come back to later’, or ‘research’ in my draft, if I’m going to need more information to complete that scene.

Same with those sneaky brilliant ideas that always seem to show up, at just the wrong moment. Believe me, those little distraction monkeys are in the background rubbing their grubby little hands together, it’s just another sneaky ploy! Capture ideas briefly in a note book and move on!

Eliminate all distractions – turn off the internet! I have five children ages two through fifteen and I homeschool, so being distracted is a full-time occupation for me, but if it’s important enough and you have made it a priority, then you’ll find away.

Take a Break

Get up and move

Feel stuck, slowing down, get up and move, I usually get up every twenty-five minutes and move for five minutes whether it’s stretching or dancing or whatever the heck I want to do, I get up and move move move, then I jump back in the hot seat and get my fingers flying again.

Music is your friend and inspiration

Now I’m the sort of person that likes to write in utter silence, I even write on my iPad because the sound of my own typing can drive me crazy. So I do not write with music blasting in my head, though I know some people do and love it. Usually the only thing I hear are children trying to kill each other in another room somewhere in the house, so I get up and have a good scream at them, then sit back down and get to work.

But if I’m feeling really sludgy or bogged down, or I’m getting ready to write a completely epic scene, I get up and I crank that music. I love to dance so I let the music infuse me and take me anywhere it wants to go. I am deep in my imagination and let the music guide me and show me scenes. I have had whole epic scenes play out in my head during times like this, where moments before I had felt completely stuck and unsure of where to go next. So do not under estimate the power of music, it is phenomenal weapon to kick some serious scene writing butt.

Eat a quick snack, or have a tea or coffee

I usually have something ready to go, or something that takes under five minutes to fetch and consume.

Get in the Zone

Pray

Finally I pray, right before I write, I know that may seem weird to some, but I don’t truly think I’m all the clever. Sometimes these crazy stories just show up out of the ether, I do not take responsibility for them, which actually takes the pressure off, whether they’re good or bad. I step back, bow my head and let someone greater than little old me, take the reins. I’m not here to tell you what to believe, I’m just sharing what works for me.

There is a great Ted talk here about taking the spotlight off you, I thought it was very helpful.

Just Write

And lastly if I had one piece of advice to give to my fellow would-be pantsers it would be this… Just Begin… there is wisdom in this… you want to write don’t you, so write!

A Great Adventure Awaits You.

These thoughts, skills and techniques are my own, they are what work for me. So if you have strategies that work great for you, then awesome! Why don’t you share them in the comments box below, along with any other ideas or suggestions, or anything else you would like to share, I’d love to hear from you!

What works for you?

Follow me on twitter @sk_lamont

 


You might also like:

Why I Write