Please welcome the inspiring, Ksenia Anske!

So I’m playing catch-up, as you all know. This is the first of three new blog posts for the Touchstone Thursdays! Yes, I know today isn’t Thursday, but Ksenia has been waiting VERY patiently for me to get internet and post this. So, without further ado, I would like to invite you to discover, Ksenia Anske.

Ksenia Anske

Ksenia was born in Moscow, Russia, and came to US in 1998 not knowing English, having studied architecture and not dreaming that one day she’d be writing. SIREN SUICIDES, an urban fantasy set in Seattle, is her 1st novel. She lives in Seattle with her boyfriend and their combined 4 kids in a house on top of the hill that they like to call The Loony Bin.

Before quitting her career in 2012 to write full time, an entrepreneur and social media marketer by trade, Ksenia helped clients establish their social media presence via her consultancy Plumagram and ran her own start-up for 5 years, Lilipip, a company that created animated explanation videos. Ksenia’s been named one of the 100 Top Women in Seattle TechGeek of the Week of Seattle PI, and judged UW CIE Business Plan Competition.

So let’s start with something easy. What is your favorite color and why?

Um, blue. Why? I don’t know. I think my grandmother liked making me dresses from my dad’s old shirts, and they were all blue, light blue, and I loved them.

Oh! That’s cool. So, just curious, Do you have any odd, strange, unusual or outright bizarre habits? Please note, with this blogger, bizarre is a stamp of approval, not reproach.

Hmm, I guess I do. When I get stuck writing a particular scene, I often lie on my bed so that my head is hanging down or do a hand stand, getting the blood flowing to my brain, and then within a minute I would get unstuck!

I’m going to have to try that, especially for the novella I just started. So you mentioned your grandmother. Can I ask where you’re from and if you still live there?

I’m from Moscow, Russia. I live in Seattle, WA now.

WOW! That’s a journey. There must be a great story there. I’d love to hear it sometime. Speaking of stories and journeys, can you tell us about your stories and your journey as a writer?

I haven’t published my novels yet! I only self-published BLUE SPARROW, a little book of my tweets, and have yet to see the results. It happened a few weeks ago.

I’m writing ROSEHEAD, my 2nd novel, and it’s a mystery fantasy about a 12 year old girl who goes to a family reunion and finds out that her grandfather, a famous gardener, kills women and feeds them to his roses, in the rose garden.

That’s an intriguing story. I’m curious to see how it pans out. So knowing that, I’m interested in knowing, are you a pantser or a plotter?

Both? I don’t know. I just sit a write. But I have plotted SIREN SUICIDES, my 1st novel, very thoroughly. So I guess ROSEHEAD is different in that regard, a bit of an experiment.

Nice! So one of those more, time will tell sort of deals. You’re definitely on your way though! So, curveball time. Who is your favorite author?

Oy, this is tricky question to ask! Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, Chuck Palahniuk, Haruki Murakami are favorites, and Lewis Carroll, of course.

Ha! So all the best huh? I definitely can see the influences of Stephen King, J.K. Rowling and Lewis Carroll in your writing from what I’ve read on your website. So, which of them inspired you to start writing? If none of them, what/who inspired you to start writing? Were your roots such as where you’re from or your family what inspired you to write?

I sort of started writing in my head when I was little, without actually writing it down, because my childhood was pretty grim and my stories were my escape. When I was a teenager, I started writing a diary. My father is a writer, and seeing him write, I suppose, made it feel natural for me as well.

Whoa. That’s amazing and inspiring! On that note, how long have you been writing?

Full time? Only since May of last year!

When did you first consider yourself a writer? If you don’t remember that, when was the first time you introduced yourself as a writer and to whom?

I think it happened last year. Until then, I didn’t think of my writing as REAL WRITING.

What is the hardest part about writing for you?

Believing in myself, believing in myself enough to actually starting to write. I battle anxiety every day, afraid that what I’m writing is not very good and nobody will ever want to read it.

Do you have a favorite character from a book or book series? If so, who, what, when, where and why?

Tricky question again! Alice from Alice in Wonderland, of course! Why? Because I saw myself in her, my curiosity getting the better of me and making me go places where I shouldn’t go, hoping to discover fantastical things. And I love Roland, The Gunslinger from The Dark Tower series by Stephen King.

How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?

I’ve written a trilogy, SIREN SUICIDES, it’s not published yet, coming out in July, and am in the middle of writing my 2nd novel, ROSEHEAD. I don’t know, I like them both! They are very different.

Do you have anything that your readers would be shocked to know about?

I’m afraid of the dark, like a little girl. If I’m at home alone in the house and I have to sleep alone, I would go into every room, turn on every single light and open every door, and then crawl into bed and tremble there. Well, it’s not as bad as it used to be, but still. That’s why I’m afraid to travel, I’m afraid to sleep alone in hotel rooms in the dark!

How do you keep your writing different from all the other novels in your genre(s)?

I don’t make an effort to keep it different, I just write the way I write, for therapy, for the joy of writing, and it seems to be coming out as mine, or so people told me.

Lastly, what advice would you give a new writer just starting out?

Write every single day. Don’t listen to anyone who tells you otherwise, who tells you that you can’t write, can’t make a career out of it. Despite everything, keep writing, for the pure joy of writing, of being a kid while you write, and then one day you will find yourself writing a masterpiece.

Thanks once again, Ksenia for being a guest on my blog! I look forward to seeing great things from you!

All of her books are available for free as downloads, forever. Here is the link: http://www.kseniaanske.com/books/

Here are all of her links:

http://www.kseniaanske.com/

http://www.amazon.com/Ksenia-Anske/e/B00D3CSVTO

http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7111759.Ksenia_Anske

https://twitter.com/kseniaanske

https://www.facebook.com/ksenia.anske

https://plus.google.com/109572538028745590669/posts

http://pinterest.com/kseniaanske/

http://instagram.com/kseniaanske/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/kseniaanske/

http://www.youtube.com/user/kseniaanske

Meet the wonderful, Jo-Anna Walker!

Today in the first of my Touchstone Thursday interviews, I’m pleased to introduce you to the wonderful, Jo-Anna Walker!

This is the wonderful, Jo-Anna Walker!

This is the wonderful, Jo-Anna Walker!

Jo-Anna is from a small city in Ontario, Canada— born and raised. She just started taking up writing in 2013 and loves it! She absolutely loves her characters and cannot wait to share their stories with the world. She’s currently working at a call center which allows her the time to write. She also crochets as a hobby and if it wasn’t for the 9-5 job, she wouldn’t get half the projects done that she’s been lucky to finish.
Jo-Anna is going to be self-publishing her books—first one comes out this summer!

Without further ado, let’s get to that interview!

First off, thanks for coming! I’m pleased to have you here today. Let’s start with something easy. What’s your favorite color? Why is it your favorite color?

Hmm….my favorite color. I don’t think I have just one. I do have favorite colors for different clothing items though. Like sweaters, I love beige and grey. Tank tops, white. Jeans, blue (any shade)…and so on. Lol! I’m easy to please really. But if I had to choose one, I’ll say white.

What’s your favorite food?

 Chocolate chip cookies. *drool*

Haha! I understand that one—I’m eating some right now…for breakfast. Yes, I am eating them with milk. And speaking of drinks, what’s your favorite drink (alcoholic or otherwise)?

 Alcoholic drink – beer & non-alcoholic drink – water

Do you have any odd, strange, unusual or outright bizarre habits? Please note, with this blogger, bizarre is a stamp of approval, not reproach. Haha!

Now you got me thinking…um…well I don’t know if it’s a habit or OCD but whenever I lock the door before going to bed, I check it like 10 billion times. Maybe I’m a tad paranoid. Lol! Also, when I grab the paper towel out of the towel dispenser thingy at work, I have to grab 3 sheets. Apparently my hands are really huge. They’re not by the way.

Hah! Okay Jo-Anna, we believe you. So, where are you from? Do you still live there?

 I am from London, Ontario in Canada and yes, I still live there.

 Oh, a Canuck! I had an ex that was Canadian. He was very into the zodiac. Do you believe in zodiac signs and horoscopes? Either way, what’s your sign?

 Not really but I like to read my horoscope every so often just for fun. I’m a Virgo.

 Okay, so you don’t start thinking this is a dating profile, let’s move onto the writing questions. (PS: I do the blind dates blog on Wacky Wednesdays… Just kidding!) Has the zodiac influenced your writing at all? Hey, it is writing related!

 Hmm…not really. If it has, I haven’t noticed. Lol!

 How has your journey in publishing been? Anything you would or wouldn’t do again?

 Unfortunately I’m not published as of yet but I’ll be self-publishing. I’m looking at a release date of August 1st, 2013.

You’ll get there. Trust me, you don’t come this far and give up. I haven’t and I’ve been trying to get published for 12 years now! (I was ten why I thought you could query a publisher with an idea and two chapters… Scholastic was kind in their rejection.)What are you working on right now? Can you tell us about it?

 I’m working on the second book to my Shattered series and I’m working on a New Adult serial. I just got the cover for the first part. I’m very excited to share these stories with everyone.

 They sound great! So, I’m curious, are you a pantser or a plotter?

 I’m new to the writing world but I’m learning very quickly that I’m definitely a pantser. I’ve tried the whole plotting thing but my characters keep changing their mind and want to do things their way so I decided to let them have it and just go with the flow.

Your characters talk to you?! YAY! Now you KNOW you’re a writer. All of my mentors have told me that their characters talk to them—mine talk to me as well! I think that’s when you’re really a writer. Haha. So, who is your favorite author?

 It depends on the genre but I’d say my all-time favorite who I’ve traveled 9 hours to see, is JR Ward. I just LOVE her!

 Is she author who inspired you to start writing? If not, what/who inspired you to start writing? Were your roots such as where you’re from or your family what inspired you to write?

 Well I’d say two people inspired me. Last year my aunt told me I should write a story since I love reading so much. I didn’t agree at the time but then I started thinking about it and eventually these people showed up in my head and wanted me to write about them. As I got through their story, more people showed up and that’s how I got the idea for my serial. Now I have an excuse for all of these voices in my head. Lol! My other inspiration is my bestie who is an author as well. She’s getting ready to release the first book to her crime romance series. She’s been very supportive through my journey and without her, I probably would have given up already.

I know that feeling! If not for my critique partners and readers, I might have given up a while ago too. On that though, just how long have you been writing?

 I just started actually writing this year so I’m very new and still learning the ropes but I’m having fun.

 When did you first consider yourself a writer? If you don’t remember that, when was the first time you introduced yourself as a writer and to whom?

 I don’t remember when I first considered myself a writer. I tried keeping my writing thing a secret but that didn’t last very long. I was and still am very excited about this new adventure and I can’t wait to see where it takes me.

 See, you were meant to be on my blog. Voyager of Worlds is just the place for people embarking on adventures! What is the hardest part about writing for you?

 Details. I can see everything in my head like a movie but getting it on paper, is difficult for me.

 Try getting in there and feeling your scenes out as I described in this week’s Touchdown Tuesday blog. It helps. Your characters will love it too! Do you have a favorite character from your books? If so, who, what, when, where and why?

 Lol! Well…I have a character who likes to think he’s my favorite but I really don’t know. My book isn’t published yet so I can’t give too much away but lets just say, Sebastian Chelios in Break Me (Shattered #1) is totally swoon worthy.

 Ooh! We’ll discuss him next time. *wink* How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?

 I’ve written one book and two serial novelettes. Working on the second book and third novelette now. Almost done those, which is very exciting for me.

Woot! You’re almost done. Do you have anything that your readers would be shocked to know about?

 Shocked? Hmm…not really. I’m an open book really. Not shy anymore like I used to be. Since being with my hubby, he’s helped me open up and come into my own so if you ask me a question, I’ll be honest in my answer. But lets see…I love pigs. They’re my favorite animal. That’s not really a shockworthy answer. Oh! But I do love dressing up for Halloween and shocking others. The creepier the costume the better! Just wait until you see my costume for this coming Halloween.

Oh cool! Halloween is my *FAVORITE* holiday. Curtailing off holy-days, how has religion influenced your writing? If your novel is set in a fantasy world are there multiple religions there or just one? Is it pagan or monotheistic? If your novel is set in the real world is there a point where a character in your latest or newest novel reaches out for help from a deity?

 This is a very good question. My stories are set in the real world but there isn’t really a character who reaches out to a deity except for Jesse in my serial. She asks God why certain things have happened to her. It’s heartbreaking and it would happen in real life, that’s why I implemented it.

That’s a great idea! It’ll also resonate with a ton of people. Now, I have to know, how do you keep your writing different from all the other novels in your genre(s)?

 I just write what I see in my head. So far it’s been different but you’ll find that a lot of stories have some similarities. It happens. Even as a reader, I’ve noticed that but it’s never too big that it makes it unenjoyable (is that a word?). That’s probably not a really good answer but that’s the best I could come up with.  

Haha! You’re a hoot. So, Jo-Anna, do you write under any other names or in any other genres besides the novel you’re working on?

 Nope, just under Jo-Anna Walker as of right now. I’m playing around with a story that might require a pen name but who knows if this story will even see the light of day.

 Lastly, what advice would you give a new writer just starting out?

 Well, as a new writer myself, I don’t know what advice to give yet (ask me again in a couple of years) but if I had to give an answer, I’d say, just write. Write what you feel, see and worry about fixing the mistakes later. Just write. And don’t hold back when it comes to your characters. Even if what they do upsets you or makes you cringe in disgust…just write.

And now a sneak peek at what’s up next for Jo-Anna! Here’s the cover of her first novel and its blurb!

Break Me small - Jo-Anna Walker_Dakota_Shain_Byrd

Running is always easier.

Tori McLeod moved to the big city to get away from her mother—and her past. Her new routine is destroyed when she meets a mysterious stranger who won’t take no for an answer. Sebastian intrigues her, but his eyes hold secrets she would rather avoid.

Sebastian Chelios, a hard-as-nails enforcer, is a new-in-town loner. He has to have her. Control her. Possess her. But he can’t—won’t—lose control, even though Tori’s innocence fascinates him. The last thing he’s going to do is love her, even after he gets her in his bed.

Losing control is dangerous, especially when someone from Sebastian’s past covets Tori, putting more than just her heart in danger.

Can Sebastian protect Tori from Jose’s sadistic obsession? If he gets his hands on her, will she make it out in one piece?

*Shivers* Gooseflesh just raised on my skin. Sounds like a great read, huh? Thanks for stopping by Jo-Anna and being my guinea pig!

If you’d like to connect with Jo-Anna, you can find her on these websites.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jo-Anna-Walker-Author/393756564065584

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7061953.Jo_Anna_Walker

Twitter: https://twitter.com/joannawlkr

Blog: http://joannawlkr.blogspot.ca/

As a reminder, I am offering to critique the first ten pages of your work. Make sure to leave a comment though! Everybody who leaves a comment will get their names put into a hat at the end of the month. The more posts you comment on, the more times your name will be put into the hat!

“Show, don’t tell” is WRONG!

You make me feel…

We’ve all heard the saying, “Show, don’t tell.” Whether an agent said it to you in a rejection, an editor wrote it in caps and red ink all over your manuscript or a critique partner was kind enough to use this adage, we have all heard it. Many of us, me included, have been subjected to the confusion of what this actually means. Today folks, you’re going to get not only great tips on how to make sure you’re showing, but examples of ways to do it better and FINALLY an explanation that is impossible to misunderstand.

I thought I was showing?

The Confused by Kylamay

The Confused by Kylamay

When I first heard this term, I thought, “Okay, so this means I have to show everything the characters see!” In a way, that’s correct, but it’s more than that. I struggled with this term for ten years before I joined RWA and went to a meeting at what is now my home chapter of NTRWA. Back in November when the City of Bones teaser trailer came out, I sent out an email and started a conversation that led to my becoming critique partners with the wonderful, Clover Autry. In her very first critique of the first fifteen pages of my novel, she told me how to show.

The following are some of her comments on writing my writing and explaining how to show.

You asked about how to “show” instead of “tell.” Instead of having your character state that he feels like, just do it. Let us readers right up in there and experience everything he feels as he feels it.

Don’t tell me wings tore out of his back and leave it at that. Have him feel the knobby tips explode through his skin from the back of his shoulder blades and the feathers unfurl shadowing his head. Let him feel the broken pieces of his bone in his arm scrape against each other and reknit. These are new experiences for him that readers want to experience too. Let us feel his shock as Anubis’s fur lifts in tufts, and his skin sizzles and smells awful before turning to ash. You have a lot of great images going on, let your readers up close and personal and experience them with you. Go for it. Embellish to your heart’s content.

And the one sentence that stuck with me the most:
They should say, “feel, don’t tell, IMHO.”

When she explained it that way, the ideology behind “show, don’t tell” clicked for me. It helped that she rewrote a paragraph of my novel too.  I think to see the original and the rewrite will help you understand how to employ this technique. Now, one thing you’ll learn as you write to feel aka “show” is that the technique uses more words. That is okay though. Onto the rewrite. The original is in italics and Clover’s  comments are in bold.

My temperature was intense, I felt as if I were about to start convulsing from an ever-rising internal heat. My heart beat too fast in my chest. The pressure all this was creating in my head was too much. Unable to do much else, I screamed out and felt an inferno ignite within me.
Within seconds, my sweat began to steam, before my skin ignited in flames. My skin wasn’t harmed, but my scrubs were. Anubis yelped, and leapt away from me. I quickly tried to fling the burning garments off me, while holding my broken arm as still as possible. I’d cast fire before, but never like this. The fire I’d cast before was barely harmful; this could set the entire state on fire.

(I’m going to rework the above paragraph just to show you how to move from “telling” what’s happening, to “feeling” it. I’m sure once you get what I’m changing, it will become second nature to you cuz I can tell your writing is that good already. Also, a lot of times, this description/telling mode comes out in the first draft as you are just trying to get the story down on paper, and then a writer will change it from telling to showing on the second or third pass. Don’t take this rewrite as criticism cuz it’s not. I just know from my own experience that when someone shows me what to do with my own words, and I can see how I was “telling”, I learn better.)

The temperature grew intense. I thought at first it was the air, but it was me, internal heat burned through my veins, my organs were boiling. My heart beat raced—too fast. Pressure thrummed in my head, squeezing against my skull. Too much, too goddamned much. I couldn’t move, I couldn’t fight Anubis. Helpless, a scream poured out as an inferno ignited within me. The sweat coating my body began to steam, so hot, so hot . . . and my skin ignited in flames. My scrubs burned away, leaving spots of unblemished skin beneath.

And yes, I do now get this technique. IT DOES WORK AND YOU CAN DO IT TOO!

Try this exercise.

Pick up the scene you just wrote. Go back over it. Do you utilize every sense in that scene? Don’t scoff and think, “It’s in the dark, so I can’t use every sense!” Oh how wrong you would be. We have limited vision in the dark, but our other sense are heightened then. Think of what something smells like, how the texture  of paint on the walls feels under your skin in the dark. What do you taste? Notice how your hearing is stronger—did you hear that creak in the floorboard? Honestly, make a checklist of the senses and check them off on each scene. Make use feel as if this novel is happening to us!

Now, once you’ve done that, read over the scene again. Did you use words that helped add to the emotion of the scene? Did you quicken the pace? Was there enough tension?

Check out this section I created the other day. I was reading over my ms and found this area, a perfect place to “feel, not tell” and by extension, show emotion. This is another thing that agents and editors want when they say, “show, don’t tell.” Again, theoriginal is in italics and rewrite is in bold.

 Truthfully, I’d knocked on Nicky’s door to see if she had heard my screams. I’d been plagued the past six weeks by nightmares. I didn’t want anybody to know that I was having them because they freaked me out. Not only that, but the nightmares seemed to be getting worse. They felt so real too, like echoes of something important I had forgotten.

 I’d knocked on Nicky’s door to see if she had heard my screams. Now in my room, I slid down the back of my door. Tears flowed down my face. I held a hand to my mouth to muffle the chocking gasps escaping me.

I’d been plagued the past six weeks by nightmares and I didn’t want anybody to know that they had become worse. Fear griped me in its clammy hand when I awoke, heartbeat throbbing the beat of racehorse hooves. My breath caught in my throat and I choked on the remnants of the ghosted images. The nightmares exuded echoes of something important. The experiences rang with the realness of memories.

So, as you can see, this technique works and can make your writing better. I challenge you to make your writing, “Feel, not tell.” I know you can do it.

Make sure to come for the second of my Touchstone Thursdays, Revealing Literary Gold the first time where I am interviewing an author. My guest this Thursday is, Jo-Anna Walker! And next time on Touchdown Tuesdays, Discovering Literary Techniques, I will expand on ,“Feel, don’t tell,” with a list of words that “tell” and how to rewrite them to “feel.” I’ll also have a downloadable file that expands upon this.

To show how much I appreciate all of you, I am offering to critique the first ten pages of your work. Make sure to leave a comment though! Everybody who leaves a comment will get their names put into a hat at the end of the month. The more posts you comment on, the more times your name will be put into the hat!

Reaching for the Stars

footprints-on-the-moon_Dakota_Shain_Byrd“Don’t tell me the sky is the limit when there are footprints on the moon.”

Everybody has always dreamed of being something more than they were at birth. There is the aspiration to fly in the skies, voyage to the deepest fathoms of the seas, and discover countries and peoples unknown. Even more though, people have always wanted to walk among the stars.

I’m definitely one of those people who wishes to walk among the stars. The night sky has always fascinated me. How can it not? I mean just look at it!Arizona_Night_Sky_Dakota_Shain_Byrd

The night is a beautiful and powerful thing. It evokes a sense of wonder, awe and surrealism. And as beautiful as the night sky is, I have never been able to capture its beauty in my writing.  Lord knows that I have tried to as well! It is something that evades me. It’s a challenge for which I reach. Likewise, I am constantly reaching and pushing my writing, trying to get published.

Yes, I am one of the immeasurable multitude that wants to acheive this goal,  just as I’m sure many of you reading this are. Sure, I could go the self-publishing route. No offence to those who have taken that route, but it doesn’t seem like much of a challenge to me. For me, I need a more intense challenge. Certainly there are challenges self-publishing presents, but if I’m going to push myself to get published, challenge myself, then I’m gonna go all the way to the top! I’m aiming for one of the Big Six publishing houses.

I’ve had many nay-sayers, just as we all have. I’ve had people who outright told me to give up on my dream to become published and I nearly did, more than once–a topic for another time. I kept on though. I’m keeping on. I’m doing what I can to help promote myself and gain credentials, such as my internship with The Dallas Voice. Additionally, I recently was accepted to the Lambda Literary Writers Retreat for Emerging LGBT Voices.  So, I’m still working towards those stars. I’ll keep reaching for them. You should do the same.

After all, the sky is only the beginning since there are footprints on the moon.