Tag Archives: narrative

The Write Time: Feeding your Writing Needs Over the Holidays

Welcome to the 2015 Holiday Season … and Launch Day!TWT_WebCov

Today is the release of the second edition of The Write Time: 366 Exercises to Fulfill Your Writing Life, published by Open Books Press out of Bloomington, IN. Since it initially released, it has been used as a teaching tool in dozens of high schools and colleges. Of equal importance, it sits on the shelves of writers ranging from multiple book authors to those writing for fun. Now, we’ve brought in 20 new exercises, as well as fresh photos and a new foreword, to go with the other 346 exercises in the book.

For me, the beauty of this book is its diversity and variety. Since I was young, I’ve kept journals, with the specific intent of writing about something different every day. I believe that diverse writing, along with good reading, observation and life experience, builds our voices and fluency as writers faster than anything. When my book or editing clients say, “You can write about anything! How do you do that?” my answer is the same: “By many years of writing about different things and experimenting daily.”

That is why I created The Write Time — to present a sweeping approach to writing about the subjects that interest you, and trying new forms in the process. Between that, the stories embedded within the exercises, motivational and creativity quotes from authors and brilliant minds, and listings of 125 dynamic writing websites, I’m confident in stating that The Write Time goes well beyond typical writing prompts and exercise books. In fact, you won’t find another that offers such a rich experience.2015-12-01 06.23.33 2015-12-01 06.24.09

For The Write Time, I cobbled together writing exercises developed from the past 15 years of teaching at conferences, high schools, retreats and colleges, gave them stories, and brought them together. Every genre and type of writing is covered, from fiction to essay, songwriting to poetry, fantasy to literary narrative non-fiction. Whether you journal, write poetry or songs, novels or essays, short stories or major papers, The Write Time will be a valuable asset.

The other thing — you’ll never have writer’s block again. All you need to do is open the book to the date, or any random page, and it won’t take long for your words to flow. “It serves as a invocation to come sit at the shore of new creativity, take up your ink-cup, drink plentifully, and be refreshed by the waters of a new day, all intentionally assembled by a fellow writer, reader and lover of literature,” wrote Andres Torres, advanced placement teacher at Minooka (IL) Community High School, in the Foreword.

The Write Time is available through all bookstores, Amazon.com, online booksellers, and on the Open Books site. Or, if you’d like an autographed copy for a holiday gift for yourself, or writers among family and friends, contact me and we’ll get one to you.

Finally, to whet your taste buds, the exercise for December 1:

All complete stories arrive at resolution. We entered the story with characters departing from an opening situation. We followed them as they made their way through the world you created for them, enjoying the motives, conflicts, twists, surprises, realizations, discoveries, complications and sub-plots along the way.

Now, we’re ready for resolution. How will your story end?

Write the ending to your story — no matter where you are right now. The resolution can lead to either a predictable, surprising, or twist ending; your call. Whatever the case, make the ending solid and convincing. Refine it over and over. Then, use it as a compass to guide you through the rest of the story.

(Please let us know how you like The Write Time by reviewing it on Amazon and Goodreads).

 

 

 

 

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Kevin Hines: How a Suicide Attempt Led to Global Speaking & A Compelling Memoir

Most of us experience transformational moments when everything changes, we find and pursue another direction, and our old ways feel like an existence someone else led.IMG_9597

Few, if any, of these transformations can match the one that brought Kevin Hines to his current station in life. Hines, author of the fabulous memoir Cracked, Not Broken, never intended to live “two lives”, but because he has, the world is benefitting from this dynamic self-help speaker and author. His book, published by Rowman-Littlefield’s Taylor Trade imprint, is now in its 20th printing, less than two years after its July 2013 release.

Hines can summarize the book’s narrative premise in one sentence: “I jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge — and survived.” When Hines was 19, the darker side of his bi-polar mind “told me that the only way the pain would go away was if I jumped,” Hines recalled in 2013, “so I did. Then, halfway down, I suddenly felt I had a greater purpose in my life, and I needed to survive.”Unknown

It takes four seconds to fall into San Francisco Bay’s hard, chilly waters at a speed reaching 80 mph on impact. During his final two or three seconds, Hines twisted his body to minimize impact. Still, he was seriously injured, and had trouble staying afloat.

Enter a sea lion. Really. The animal sensed Hines’ distress, swam under him, and lifted him above the surface until a Coast Guard cutter arrived. If you’re counting, that’s three miracles in roughly a minute.

Almost fifteen years after his jump, Hines has turned his experience into a highly successful suicide prevention and self-esteem message, which he delivers with presentations, talks, and signings around the world (watch this video). How many authors can say they’ve been on the road with their book for two solid years, in more than twenty different countries?Unknown-1

“It’s been a great response,” Hines said. “I’m selling 85 to 90 percent of the books I bring to major events where I speak. And the book has only a 2 percent return rate from bookstores.”

If you’ve had books on store shelves, or have spoken with books to sell in the back, you know these are phenomenal numbers. Cracked,  Not Broken is also reaching far beyond bookstores. A psychiatric unit on the East Coast provides books to all inpatients, who use them daily to understand and work with their mental afflictions. Most recently, he spent two weeks in Australia, speaking to groups ranging from high schoolers, young miners, and crisis intervention teams, to hostage negotiators at the International Police Officers Conference. That’s variety, as well as a lesson in author-driven book marketing.

“The input I’ve gotten from people who come to my events has been great, and it’s had a lot of variety,” Hines said. “A man from Ft. Hood came up to me at a signing and said, ‘I gave this book to my military group, 30 young men and women, and they credited it with saving lives.”

But that’s not the best story. That belongs to initiative his wife, Margaret, took. “I walked into a bookstore in Dublin, Ireland, and my wife said, ‘See if they’ll carry your book.’ I got the assistant manager, who asked if it had an ISBN number. I said ‘yes’, although at the time, I had no idea. She called it up and ordered 50 copies,” Hines said.IMG_9602

Cracked, Not Broken is remarkable for Hines’ honesty and insight into his transformation. He continues to live with his illness while funneling his energy into a most noble, challenging cause — showing people their lives have a purpose. This, to me, makes the book. Too many transformational memoirs are black-and-white: someone has major trouble, then a crisis or an epiphany; afterwards, everything is perfect. Hines takes us deep inside the real inner world of recovery and transformation. It is a constant struggle to hold up one’s head sometimes, but by staying strong and finding a sense of purpose, living one day at a time (or one minute, sometimes), and helping others, that struggle can transform into a great work — and a happiness and fulfillment not known before.

“What people like is that Cracked, Not Broken is very specific, and it helped me bring up things that happened in my past,” Hines said. “It’s my perspective. As I wrote it, it helped me grow and become a better person.

“I had a lot of people who came forward and helped me. They were always pushing me to dig deeper and bring it out. I did three rewrites, and then when it came out, readers picked it up and couldn’t put it down. This book also seems to be passed along from one person to another, a lot.”

Hines provided three key tips for people with suicidal ideation, attempters, and their families, friends and colleagues:

Today is not tomorrow. “Because you feel suicidal today doesn’t mean you will when you’re 30, 40, or 50,” he said. “Get past the feeling you’re all alone and no one understands you. Don’t do what I did — ask for help.”

Self-Awareness

Ask yourself, “Am I having thoughts about ending my life?”

I’ve worked with and have known several thousand authors, and without question, this man has presented one of the most incredible stories. I also had the pleasure of working with Hines on his earlier drafts. He and I have a publisher in common, Taylor Trade (Rowman-Littlefield), which also published When We Were The Boys, which I co-authored with Stevie Salas. We also have the same literary agent, Dana Newman.

Hines plans to write several more books, all of which he’s roughly outlined. He’s now coming out of the blocks with his next book, which he hopes will be published in 2016.IMG_9600

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15 Common Points Between Writing & Running Marathons

(Part 1 of a two-blog series)

Just finished watching the Ironman 70.3 in Oceanside, with the athletes running the last of those 70.3 miles right by the house. Now, gearing up for this weekend’s Carlsbad 5000, the world’s fastest 5K road race. And, in two weeks, the marathon world turns its focus to Boston for the Boston Marathon – which I plan to run for the fourth time in 2014.

Running_01Speaking of marathons, authors often compare writing books to running marathons. The usual line: “Writing a book is not a wind sprint, but a marathon.” They often don’t really think about why that is (except that writing a book usually takes a long time, along with all the mental energy you can muster). I speak about this when teaching workshops. Readers and writers alike can gain great insight into how your favorite stories come together, and how the author got there, by drawing comparisons to the most celebrated of all long-distance races.

Since I’ve run eight marathons, along with writing ten books and ghostwriting seven others, thought I’d share 15 points in common between marathons and the writing process. Lace up your shoes, boot up the computer, and toe the starting line. Away we go…

Enter the race well prepared: Marathoners know better than to enter a race ill prepared. If they are not prepared, they will become very intimate with agony. Most marathoners train for 12 to 16 weeks, and work out every nuance of the race in their minds before lining up. Same with writing. Make sure your research, thoughts and rough outlines are in place before firing the starting gun for Chapter 1. Let the material mentally percolate for weeks, even months. Play out the scenes or sequences in your mind. Move them around. Sketch them out. Then write. The better prepared going in, the better the finished result – and the happier the reader.

Read the Race: All races are different. The courses, competitors, dynamics and conditions change from race to race. So does the way you feel, what you think is possible, and how you will run the race. Likewise, all stories are different. They require different approaches, paces and characters. That goes for subjects, too, especially when writing non-fiction books and interviewing. When interviewing people, read their faces and expressions, and listen for what is not said as much as what is said. Go into every article, book or story knowing it will be unique – and read it as it unfolds.

Vary your pace: A lot of people thinking racing marathons is a matter of finding a pace and sticking with it for all 26.2 miles –  or bob at skywalker-lores until fatigue and sore muscles slow you down. Not so. Good racers change their pace several times, pushing hills, speeding up for a half-mile in the middle, surging at the end, or even throwing in a 100-meter pick-up just to change the stride. It helps – a lot. Likewise, good writers vary their pace within a book, switching from fast-dramatic-action sequences to slower-thoughtful-contemplative scenes. They do it within dialogue, as well as the way they write sentences. Changes in pace reflect real life. Vary your pace.

Enjoy the process: About 10 years ago, during an arduous 20-mile run in the desert mountains above Tucson, ultramarathon star Pam Reed told me something: “It’s going to hurt, you know it’s going to hurt, so just relax and enjoy the process.” Likewise, whether writing or reading, enjoy it! Writing is very hard work, but what could be a better vocation than sharing stories and subjects with a reading audience? And communicating directly with them through the written (or electronic) page? Feel the creative buzz. Write from a place of love – love of process. No matter how tough the work, try to enjoy every moment. Trust me: readers will notice, and beg for more.

Make tight, well-angled turns: Road races often feature a lot of curves and turns – sometimes, hairpin turns on out-and-back courses. Good racers know to stay clear of the inside on hairpin turns, to swing a bit wide, lean into the turn, and then find a direct line to the next straight section. So it is with writing transitions from one scene to another. Make your transitions lean and mean. Lean into them, using the momentum of the prior scene. Write tightly, carrying us into the next scene, but don’t write them abruptly unless that is part of the dramatic tension of the story. Learn the art of the turn. Write transitions, metaphors and similes that connect – instantly. My all-time favorite comes from the late Los Angeles Times sports columnist extraordinaire Jim Murray, describing a picky home plate umpire: “He had a strike zone the size of Hitler’s heart.” That’s the art of a well-run turn.

Pick your way through the crowd: Good racers know how to anticipate traffic on the course, and pick their way through runners without breaking stride.  Likewise, as an author, you will have a crowded field of other writers in your genre. Distinguish your work by content and voice, identify the crux of every scene among the myriad thoughts pouring through your mind, and run to the exact sentences and words to best capture your scene. And do so without breaking form.

Make your move: Commit yourself fully: At some point in every race, runners make their move to ensure the best finish. They pick up the pace, tap into their inner reserves, and lay themselves out. These surges are beautiful to behold. And readers love it as well. When you commit to a character action or a line of argument or discussion in a non-fiction book, commit fully. Give it everything you’ve got, the fruits of all the hard research, interviewing, deep thinking and planning. Write every sentence as though it were your last. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you need to “save it up for a knockout punch.” Be like Ernest Hemingway: pour your blood, sweat and collective life experience into every sentence you write. Commit fully.

READ PART 2 of “15 Common Points Between Writing & Running Marathons”

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Catching Up on Stories, Legacies, and Interviews

Catching up on a lot of good writing news while getting ready to head to San Diego for the Southern California Writers Conference – always a great weekend of fun, frivolity, and connection with other authors, editors, agents and publishers.

Last week, author Martha Halda and I were interviewed on Jennifer Hillman’s Abstract Illusions Radio TCW_r2_ecover-loresshow. Each of us talked with Jennifer for about an hour on this wonderful Internet radio show that merges creativity, expression and spiritual topics. I discussed my newest books, The Champion’s Way that I co-wrote with Dr. Steve Victorson, and my novel, Voices, that will be out later in 2013. I also talked about the writing process, and how vital it is to submit well-edited manuscripts, whether you have a publishing contract or are self-publishing. I will be addressing this topic directly at the Southern California Writers Conference.

"A Taste of Eternity" author Martha Halda

“A Taste of Eternity” author Martha Halda

Martha spoke about her memoir, A Taste of Eternity, concerning her near-death experiences and how she has repurposed her life to align more closely to what she experienced, and to share those  with others. She’s currently shopping the book to publishers, and is receiving a ton of comments and reaction to her work. Since I am helping her with the book and editing it, I’ll give you some inside information right now: It is a fabulous read, with a lot of content you haven’t seen in any other near-death memoirs. Let me put it this way: Any middle-aged woman who jumps off 50-foot cliffs into the chilly Himalayan snowmelt waters in the Ganges River to celebrate her birthday is going to be writing from a place of fearlessness. That’s what makes A Taste of Eternity so special.

I’ll be interviewed on all matters writing April 26 on The Write Now! cable television show in icon-spring2011Orange County, which is co-hosted by my partner in all things poetry, The Hummingbird Review publisher Charles Redner. Really looking forward to it. Speaking of The Hummingbird Review, we’re building the Spring 2013 issue right now, with a distinct theme: the relationship of Hollywood and literature. We have great essays and poems from some familiar names, as well as distinct new voices. Will share a preview on all the goodies very soon in this blog.

• • •

376462_204666292995418_1130802602_nNow to switch gears for some very cool music-related news: Stevie Salas, who grew up surfing in my hometown of Carlsbad, Calif. and is considered a guitar legend in most parts of the world, recently received one of the greatest honors you can imagine. He was named the contemporary music advisor to the Smithsonian Institution. To give you some perspective, the poetry consultant is Billy Collins, who formerly served as the Poet Laureate of the United States – a position appointed by the President.

Years ago, Stevie played with This Kids, a great North San Diego County cover band. Then he moved to LA and, after some tough times, he made it – big-time. About 20 years ago, he played guitar on major world tours by Rod Stewart and Mick Jagger, among others. He has since recorded more than 20 albums, sessioned on countless others, created the Rockstar Solos mobile app that is selling off the charts, and created and served as executive producer for Arbor Live, which airs in prime time every Friday night in Canada.

Stevie Salas exhibit in the Smithsonian Institution

Stevie Salas exhibit in the Smithsonian Institution

I don’t know of many musicians with bigger contact lists, either. Stevie keeps talking about his “six degrees of separation” from every noteworthy musician of the last 30 years, but when he starts talking about it, you realize there are really only one or two degrees.

We’ll have another announcement concerning Stevie very soon. It’s going to be a good one, and it has to do with a book!

• • •

Cover Placed_Proofing6The technology/innovation/creative business magazine that I edit, The Legacy Series Magazine, made a huge splash at Macworld/iWorld in San Francisco last weekend. In addition to thousands of magazines being given away, the magazine booth was among the most crowded at the massive show.

What a labor of love, this magazine: to talk with the top innovators, movers and shakers on a variety of very current topics. Among many other topics, we focus a lot on social media and publishing, as well as the devices, apps and other technology that support it. One of my personal thrills was to interview former high school classmate David Warthen, who co-founded the AskJeeves search engine (which later became Ask.com) that revolutionized search.

But the best news of all concerns the magazine’s expansion. In 2013, The Legacy Series Magazine is moving to a quarterly digital format, with the final issue of the year, a larger-sized issue, releasing on newsstands nationally as a print magazine as well. Will keep you posted.

• • •

"Home Free Adventures" author Lynne Martin and her husband, novelist Tim Martin

“Home Free Adventures” author Lynne Martin and her husband, novelist Tim Martin

Finally, a very happy bon voyage to Lynne and Tim Martin as they sail on the Atlantic this week to begin Year 3 of their Home Free experience. During their three-month interlude in California, Lynne sold her travel narrative, Home Free Adventures, to Sourcebooks. She’s about halfway through the draft manuscript now. As her editor, I can assure you that this fun-filled book is loaded with incredible insight that takes more than simply being a tourist to acquire. The hook is that Lynne and Tim live in each area they stop (Buenos Aires, Paris, Istanbul, Italy, Ireland, etc.) for one to three months at a time, becoming residents, not tourists. The book zips along with plenty of spice, compliments of Lynne’s keen sense of humor, love of people, and love of food.

There is a backstory to this book. Five months ago, the idea didn’t even exist. A meeting in a Paris cafe with a Wall Street Journal contributor started an amazing ball rolling. Whereas some of us might have said, “Someone else probably already thought of this,” Lynne jumped on it and went from zero book writing experience to a deal — quickly. Goes to show what happens when you believe in your ideas so fully that you pour yourself into them. And then, put together an outline that can connect with large numbers of readers (and acquisition editors), and share a compelling story with plenty of personality and good information, to which readers can relate.

That will be the common mantra next week at the Southern California Writers Conference. Which is a good place to sign off, for now …

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