Friday, May 15, 2009

Creation, Destruction, And Re-Creation.

~Sia McKye~

Ominous clouds boil up on the horizon and the winds begin to blow. In no time at all, the storm is all around you. Jagged forks of lightning flash against the charcoal skies, and thunder vibrates through your bones and shakes the house.
Storms can be an assault to the senses and even tricking them. You watch in morbid fascination as trees bow in the wind and buffet your house. Above the sound of the thunder you hear a loud crack and you watch in incomprehension as the massive top of a tree breaks off and blows by your window, like a mere tree branch. Your eyes can’t believe it or the shock of watching trees come down like matchsticks. Falling trees close by feel like an earthquake—especially when more than one falls in succession. The blankness of your mind quickly dissipates and you’re running for cover.

Watching the raw fury of nature is, by turns, exhilarating, and awe inspiring, and humbling. It’s also terrifying. It’s the essence of creation. Creation starts with elemental and raw materials and builds something. Sometimes that first involves destruction of the existing, forever changing the visible material and recreating it. Creation, annihilation, and re-creation.

That’s true whether you are doing something as simple as breaking eggs to make a cake. Melting sand to make glass, or dynamiting a granite wall to make a tunnel. When writing or taking a situation, personality trait, building a story, or using words to change the face of a political structure. Words have power. The right words can make things clear or obscure, build or destroy depending upon how you use them.

It’s not always easy to take the raw ideas of a world and make it viable. Creating people for those worlds from a mere thought is both exhilarating and scary. Have you used the raw materials properly so those characters live, breath, and react, in the landscape of your world? Or have created paper dolls; stiff, unresponsive, and cumbersomely move them around your world by telling it all. Is your world real enough, so that the reader feels like they opened a door and stepped into your world seeing the wonders and able to connect emotionally with the people you’ve created?

If you’ve done your job correctly, your readers react become connected to the characters. The reader has moments of fear, worry, and anger. Their hearts speed up trying to outsmart the villain, the heart melts when the hero gets the girl. They feel satisfied emotionally after reading and participating in your world or story.

There are times when you look at your created world and realize it’s not feasible or you look at the paper doll you’ve been moving around and see you need to revise, terminate, and recreate. Painful and frustrating—especially if you understand the world isn’t working as you saw it in your mind, or a character doesn’t fit or is reacting hokey.

Writing is a labor of love. The force of creation requires energy. As we wrestle with our world and characters, choosing the right words and scenes, we feel limp when we're finished. If we’ve done the job correctly we also feel ecstatic. Have you ever gone back and read something you’ve written and feel a sense of awe with how it all came together? That tingle that tells you you’ve done a great job? It’s exciting, it feels good and you’re flying high.

Then comes your critique partner or your editor. Trepidation and excitement reign. Putting the finished piece on display requires courage because in the stark flash of lightning, flaws become apparent. Critiquing is also a form of creation, destruction, and recreation. It breaks apart the raw materials and reshapes them. You watch in morbid fascination as chunks of your manuscript are ripped away.

If done correctly, something better is recreated. If done incorrectly, you feel buffeted by the harsh winds, torn, and broken. You’re looking for shelter from the storm.

What makes you run for cover? What makes you feel buffeted and torn? Critiques? Rejections? Revisions? Deadlines?

Conversely, what gives you the feeling of exhilaration and awe? Pull up chair and grab a cup of your choice and let's talk about it.


Sia McKye has spent over twenty years in marketing and promotion. She's written and published various articles on writing, marketing, and promotion. She's a Marketing Rep by profession and also writes fiction. Sia has completed a single title romance trilogy and is busy at work on a fun paranormal series.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Perfectionist and La Belle Vie

My guest today is Rebecca Ramsey, author of French By Heart, a slice of life book about her experiences living in France. She shares some thoughts on being a perfectionist and it's impact on her life and her love of writing.

I’m late, I’m late, for a very important date!

Sia, you were so kind to invite me for coffee, and here I am, showing up out of breath and behind schedule! To beg your forgiveness I’ve brought you a little bouquet of dandelions I snatched out of my yard and a box of Pims from my cupboard. It’s my favorite French cookie, sort of like a vanilla wafer topped with raspberry and dipped in chocolate. I hope you’re not allergic.

I write memoir, which means I’m an expert on embarrassing myself in public. Let me tell you, living in France was the perfect training. During my first days (years?) I stumbled through my life, speaking like a caveman. “What time bus come?” “Bill late. I sorry. No turn off water please.” I arrived in France as a perfectionist and left four years later, remarkably comfortable with my own slackness. This was just what my writing needed.

As a young girl I’d wanted desperately to write. I entered contests and won a few prizes, but could I make writing my life? It was too painful. I wrote marvelously in my mind, but something always happened on the way to the page. I’d psyche myself up with Simon and Garfunkel, (the records were old even then—I’m not that ancient) write a page or two, and throw myself on the floor in despair. My poor mother.

I decided to major in Biochemistry instead.

After graduation I spent my days in the lab, writing poetry in my mind. It was a sad little life. I’d jot out elegant descriptions of crystalline precipitates that no one would ever read, and I’d agonize over the mice I killed. Wasn’t there more to life? I finally quit to teach chemistry to high school students. We’d work on stoichiometry and titrate acids with bases, but I also made them write poetry and work on their observational skills. “But this isn’t English class!” the students would protest.
Thank goodness France saved us all.

In France I couldn’t be perfect, no matter how hard I tried, no matter how many hours I spent with Fabien, my handsome tutor. I had three kids to tend to, so I couldn’t hide in my house. The world would have to see me just as I was, an American idiot. And you know what? They didn’t care that I couldn’t speak perfectly! In fact, they seemed excited that I tried to speak at all. Old men would stop traffic for me and total strangers would offer me their help. They’d even invite me over for coffee and tell me how much I was improving!

Everywhere I turned in France, people were taking time to do what they loved. Why couldn’t I? My neighbor Alain spent his two hour lunch break playing his trumpet, Madame Charbonnier hid behind her hedges, reading stacks of trashy books, and Madame Fouriaux doted on a rose garden that filled my house with perfume. I started writing again, and this time I was kinder to myself. I put away my red pen and wrote page after page, never looking back. Okay, so that’s not true. I looked back a little. Old habits are hard to break. But now that I was more comfortable with my own mistakes, I let myself make them. I refused to quit.

I should admit to you that I had an unfair advantage, a little extra motivation in Madame Mallet, the strange old lady who spied on us from behind her lace curtain and called her nephew Le Spermatazoide, on account of the fact that he was conceived through artificial insemination. I’m telling you, anyone living across the street from Madame Mallet would have to write a book. My husband recently visited her on a business trip and told her about French by Heart. She looked at him coyly and said, “It’s about me, isn’t it?”

So friends, if you struggle with perfectionism, I wish you much humiliation! And your very own Madame Mallet!

After four years of la belle vie in Clermont-Ferrand, France, Rebecca Ramsey and her family are now settled back home in Greer, South Carolina. Between chauffeuring her children, observing her southern life, and keeping an eye out for French pastries, she writes every spare moment she can.
You can visit Rebbeca at her blog and website.
Rebecca's Blog: Wonders Never Cease, at
Rebecca's Website:

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Reading – a Waste of Time or A Good Investment?

Debut Author Sherrie Hansen is my guest Over Coffee today. She is the proprietor of Blue Belle Inn B&B and Tea House, Queen Anne Victorian, in St. Ansgar, Iowa. Like the heroine in her novel, Night & Day, is an avid quilter.

There are those that don’t see reading as a gift. They see it as a tool and one reserved for either school or work. Reading for pleasure? A waste of time—unless you’re a child or old. Once you leave childhood, reading is a luxury. Outside of school, your time better spent on the business of life and work. Sherrie talks about her rediscovering the love of reading and how it’s shaped her writing.

Some of my earliest memories are of bedtime stories being read to me, and I loved to read books from the time I learned how. When I was in grade school and junior high I had special library privileges – because I had to jump on the school bus as soon as school was out. I was dismissed from class 5 or 10 minutes early each day so I could go to the library and pick out a book, which I would then read that night and return the next morning. On Sundays, I would check out several books from the church library. I read at least one book a day.

When I was little, my parents thought it was nice that I liked to read so much. They were proud that I was such an avid reader. But I was raised on a farm where everyone was expected to pitch in and help, and as I got older, what was perceived as cute became an irritation, especially to my Dad, who thought I should be working instead of “wasting time” reading. I took to reading late at night, sometimes in my bed, with a flashlight, half hidden under the covers, so my parents wouldn’t see the light. There are photos of me sitting at a picnic table or in the back seat of the car when we were on family vacations, reading, when according to my Mom and Dad, I should have been doing things with my family – hiking, swimming – the things “normal” kids do. When I tried to read, my sisters and brothers teased me. My parents yelled at me. Reading became a sore spot.

I stubbornly ignored them and kept reading… and writing. A poetry class and then, a creative writing teacher, inspired and encouraged me to write, to express myself. I was a straight A student, fueled as much by what I learned from the books I read as what I was taught in class.

But somewhere about the time I was a junior in high school, I started to accept the message that was repeated over and over again – at worst, that reading was a waste of time, at best, that reading was something people only did when they were too old to work and had nothing better to do with their time. I stopped reading for pleasure. My school courses became more demanding and required more reading, and I was involved in several extracurricular activities – choir, yearbook editor, 4-H, youth group at church – that required my attention and took a lot of time.

This was even more true in college. What free time I did have was spent talking with friends in my dorm. I started working and dating. I wrote reams of poetry while I was at Wheaton, exulting in first loves and new experiences, questioning, learning, growing up. But I read only what I had to.

I married after two years at Wheaton and moved to Germany. I continued my studies and wrote avidly – this time in the form of term papers and hundreds of hand-written letters to my parents, in-laws, Grandmas, and friends. But I didn’t read. I earned money and I worked. I gave up the fight and listened to the inner voice in my head that said I was being lazy when I sat down to read a book… that I should be working… that I should be doing something worthwhile, productive… if nothing else, seeing the sights and experiencing Europe.

It didn’t help that books written in English weren’t that readily available in Germany. No e-books back in the 70’s! But more importantly, my life was in crisis. My marriage was a mess, and I made a series of bad choices in the years that followed… choices that I was ashamed of, felt guilty about, and couldn’t talk… or write… about. I lost hope, felt depressed, eventually got divorced. I neither read nor wrote during this period. How can a person read stories with a happy ending when you are so cynical that you don’t believe in them? Writing seemed pointless. It didn’t solve anything, help anything, change anything.

I acquired a sarcastic wit as I fought my way back to emotional health and rebuilt my tattered financial status. I worked countless hours opening a business and eventually found both happiness and success. But I never opened a book.
It’s ironic now to think back on that time period — the fact that each of the rooms at my Bed and Breakfast is named after a book attests to the fact that I still had a passion for reading. The rooms are named after books I’d read as a child, The Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder, The Secret Garden, and Sherwood Forest from Robin Hood. There are rooms from Sleeping Beauty, NeverNeverland A Wrinkle in Time, Heaven to Betsy, one of the Betsy – Tacy books by Maud Hart Lovelace… the books I’d loved as a child were the only books I knew, because I had stopped reading by the time I became an adult.

Then, a friend invited me to join her at Prince Edward Island for a week and a half. Her aunt and uncle owned a vacation house on the water, and had rented the one next door for us to stay. I arrived at the sleepy little island one summer day, and felt immediately at home. Plainly rural, yet beautifully scenic, it lives up to its Indian name, Abegweit, or land cradled by the waves.
I’d never been on a seaside vacation. My family camped, changing locations every night, seeing new sights every day, traveling hundreds of miles over the course of a week’s vacation. I was bored silly, or more accurately, fit to be tied, after 3 days.

My friend’s Aunt Doris was a reader. She handed me a book and told me to relax. I started Sandra Brown’s French Silk later that afternoon, sitting in an old lawn chair, overlooking the water. I had read six books by the time I left for home. She let me take another to read on the airplane. I had finished it by the time I reached New Jersey, and bought another at the airport to take me to Minneapolis. I haven’t stopped since.

I read everything Sandra Brown had ever written. I discovered Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Jill Marie Landis, Dorothy Garlock, LaVyrle Spencer, Nora Roberts, Elizabeth Lowell, Debbie Macomber, Janet Evanovich, Linda Lael Miller, Pamela Morsi, Julie Garwood, Jennifer Crusie and more, devouring their books one by one. Bookshelves once filled with baskets and knick-knacks were now crammed with books.

A year after I visited Prince Edward Island and started reading again, I was inspired to write my first novel. I spent hundreds of dollars to fly to Colorado, rent a car, and attend a writing workshop led by Madelaine L’Engle. My employees, parents, and brothers and sisters all seemed to think I was wasting my time. Would writing pay off? It didn’t seem likely that I would ever get paid for the hours and hours I was spending in front of the computer, typing away.

This time, I again refused to listen. I kept reading… and writing. In my first published book, “Night and Day”, recently released by Second Wind Publishing, Jensen Marie Christiansen finds pure magic on Prince Edward Island, the place where I rediscovered my love of reading. Is it any surprise I chose this very special island to be the setting of Jensen’s dream come true?

Although my family has learned to accept my passion for books and writing, the entrepreneurial side of me is still bothered on some level that I may never net more than one or two cents an hour for the time and energy I’ve spent writing my books. But I have learned to be proud of my voice. I have learned that dreams really do come true. I have learned that I must write… and read. With every book I read, I am far richer than I was before.
By day, Sherrie Hansen operates a Victorian Bed & Breakfast and Tea House, The Blue Belle Inn. By night, she enjoys writing novels, blogging, quilting, playing the piano, renovating old houses and traveling. Sherrie and her husband live in Northern Iowa.
Night & Day is available for order through the Second Wind Website in ebook and paperback forms. Paperbacks are also available from Amazon and in Kindle format as well.