Archive for 'inspiration'

Monday, June 4th, 2012 by Carrie Vaughn
Mining Dreams

Another question from Facebook:  Gregg Chamberlain asked about the “benefits and drawbacks of keeping a dream journal as a source of ideas?”

A deceptively simple question, because this topic actually comes up a lot.  Do writers dream about stories?  Do we get great ideas from dreams?  If dreaming is our subconscious mind talking to us, then it ought to be just full of strange and beautiful images, ideas, connections, and characters.

Alas, I’ve found it isn’t so.  I kept a dream journal for awhile when I was in college, but this was mostly to keep track of my intensely bizarre and detailed dreams for my own edification.  Because I do have intensely bizarre and detailed dreams, filled with medieval wars and alien invasions, magical powers and deep conspiracies.  But I’ve never knowingly based any of my writing on my dreams.  Because my dreams don’t make a whole of sense, and trying to make them make sense, enough to build a story out of them, isn’t a project I’m willing to take on.  I like writing about the world as I see it.

Dreams — even my long, detailed ones — are not narrative.  They’re chaotic, they jump around in space and time, characters change identities in the middle of them.  So while dreams may be a rich source of images or feelings, or snippets of ideas, they’re not actually a good source for stories.  An idea gleaned from a dream would have to be adjusted and manipulated until it was unrecognizable for it to make sense as a story.  And if that process works for you, that’s great.  But ideas aren’t stories, not by themselves.

So, that’s my answer, but I know other people have different experiences:  do you remember your dreams?  Do you write them down?  Do you mine them for stories?

Monday, April 30th, 2012 by Carrie Vaughn
Leveling Up

You ever played D&D?  Then you know about experience points and leveling up.  It’s actually a neat system for advancing characters through bigger and better adventures.  When characters complete adventures, the Dungeon Master grants experience points.  In the games I’ve played experience points are generated based on the difficulty of monsters defeated, problems solved, and the quality of roleplaying.  For example, when I played a bard, I’d get points for actually composing songs and poems about our adventures.  I’m sure I still have copies of those somewhere…

Anyway, when you reach a certain number of accumulated experience points, your character advances to the next level.  Skill points are higher, fighting ability increases, ability to resist damage increases, and so on.  Usually, after that, the bad guys and monsters your character encounters are tougher.  It’s like that old saying, what’s the reward for a job well done?  A harder job.  (Now that I think of it, this may not be a bad way to think about advancing a character through an ongoing series. . .  Hm, must ponder.)

Some of my writer friends talk about “leveling up” in the business, and I like the metaphor.  You accomplish a bunch of things, tick off a bunch of goals, and you’re feeling pretty good — then you find yourself encountering a whole new slew of monsters you’ve never seen before.  I’ve been feeling this lately.  Over the last couple of years, I’ve accomplished a ton of great stuff, and on the one hand I feel like I have superpowers.  But on the other hand, holy cow look at those new monsters…

*straps on armor and hefts +2 red pencil of copyediting*

Just for fun, here’s a tumblr of Women Fighters in Reasonable Armor.

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012 by Bob Mayer
A Writer’s Enemy: Feeling Like A Fraud

We get paid to invent stories.  How cool is that?  We invent something from just our imaginations.  Amazing.

So why are writers squirming masses of insecurity?

A lot of it is external:  little validation, an uncertain business, isolation, bears.

But deep inside almost ever writer is this feeling that what we do, what we produce, isn’t real.  That we are perpetuating a fraud on the world.  That we’re ‘fooling’ everyone.  We believe we got where we are via luck and contacts.

When I teach Write It Forward the #1 fear of writers is feeling like a fraud.  The word just keeps coming up, over and over.

How To Deal With Feeling Like A Fraud.

Writers aren’t the only creative people who experience these feelings of being a fraud or concerned the world will found out they are an imposter.

“I still think people will find out that I’m really not very talented. I’m not very good. It’s all been a big sham.” Michelle Pfeiffer

“Sometimes I wake up before going off to a shoot, and I think, I can’t do this; I’m a fraud. They’re going to fire me. I’m fat. I’m ugly . . .” Kate Winslet.

It’s important to realize everyone has doubts. What’s debilitating is if you feel like you are the only one. You’re not. Studies of people who are identified as feeling like frauds range in percentage, but the overall number is high. In fact, studies show that many of the most successful people feel it the most. The higher up the ladder one goes, the greater the fear is of ‘being found out’.  The higher the stakes become.  The more people are watching.  And, honestly, the more people who want to see you fail.  Thus those magazines at the checkout counters in supermarkets.  The headlines don’t scream:  Actress Has Great Day And Loves Husband.

Doubts can be good: they can inspire you to become better. If you combine your doubt with your passion, it can motivate you to great success. Studies have shown that women who score high in the area of feeling like a fraud tend to compete harder to compensate for their doubts. Interestingly, men who scored high on feeling like a fraud, tend to avoid areas where they feel vulnerable to avoid looking bad.

There is a thing called The Imposter Syndrome. It’s when you difficulty internalizing your accomplishments. All those things they’ve achieved: degrees, promotions, publication, best-seller lists, etc. are thrown out.  The more you agree with the following statements, the higher your Imposter Syndrome:

I can give the impression I am more competent than I really am.

I often compare myself to those around me and consider them more intelligent than I am.

I get discouraged if I’m not the ‘best’ in an endeavor.

I hate being evaluated by others.

If someone gives me praise for something I’ve accomplished, it makes me fear that I won’t live up to his or her expectations in the future.

I’ve achieved my current position via luck and/or being in the right place at the right time.

When I think back to the past, incidents where I made mistakes or failed come more readily to mind than times when I was successful.

When I finish a manuscript, I usually feel like I could have done so much better.

When someone complements me, I feel uncomfortable.

I’m afraid others will find out my lack of knowledge/expertise.

When I start a new manuscript, I’m afraid I won’t be able to finish it, even though I’ve already finished X number of manuscripts.

If I’ve been successful at something, I often doubt I can do it again successfully.

If my agent tells me I’m going to get an offer on a book, I don’t tell anyone until the contract is actually in hand.


Women who feel like imposters tend to seek favorable comparisons with their peers.

Men who feel like imposters tend to avoid comparisons with their peers. Often, they work hard so other people won’t think them incapable or dumb.  It’s called spinning your wheels faster even though you aren’t going anywhere.

People who feel like imposters are constantly judging their success against the achievements of others rather than viewing what they do as an end in itself. For writers, this can be very dangerous, because there will always be someone who is doing ‘it better’ or ‘is more successful’.  I’ve seen bestselling authors fall into this trap.

A technique to fight feeling like a fraud is to use a version of my Warrior Writer HALO concept on yourself. HALO stands for High Altitude Low Opening parachuting.  The technique is to start from way out, and work your way in with an open attitude to try to see things differently.  Most of us see thing from our inside out.  Reverse it.  When I approach a company or team where I know nothing about what they do, the HALO concept allows me to see what they’re doing very differently from the way they see it.

Basically, the HALO approach starts from way outside yourself, diving in until you can see things clearly. Step outside and view things as if you are a stranger to yourself.. Look at your resume. Look at what you’ve accomplished in life. Ask yourself what kind of person would have achieved these things? Could a fraud have done this? When I query a conference to teach or apply to lead workshops or do keynotes, I have to send my bio. Sometimes I stop and read it and ask myself: what would I think of this person, if I didn’t know them, but just read this?

Focus on positive feedback. However, don’t ignore constructive negative feedback. The key is not to let the negative overwhelm you. I don’t look at Amazon reviews or rankings any more. First, you have to realize that only a certain segment of the population posts reviews on Amazons. It’s not a true sample of the population. Also, the motives for posting reviews often have nothing to do with your book.

One way of dealing with ‘feeling like a fraud’ is to internalize more of your accomplishments via real, external symbols.  In the military, we always joked that everyone had a “Look At Where I’ve Been And What I’ve Done” wall in their home, covered with photos, plaques, flags, etc. Those walls serve a purpose, though. (In our A-Team room, we had to wire down all the knives, hatchets, edged weapons that were usually on the plaques because people might start using them after a few beers.)

I have all my published books in my office on the top of two bookcases, all lined up. The row is over three feet wide. I look at it sometimes to fight the feeling that I can’t write another book, that I can’t get published again.

I love this quote from a Python:

“Talent is less important in film-making than patience.  If you really want your films to say something that you hope is unique, then patience and stamina, thick skin and a kind of stupidity, a mule-like stupidity, is what you really need.”  Terry Gilliam


You’ve got to actively work on building that tough outer shell around your creative self. Have a bizarre belief in yourself even in the face of apparent reality.  You’re being bombarded  with negative messages about publishing.  It’s so hard.  The odds are against you.

You have to believe in yourself. If you’re unpublished, walk into the bookstores and don’t let all those published authors overwhelm you. Use them to motivate you. Tell yourself you belong there. I always look and say: “Hey, these people got published, why can’t I?”

List your accomplishments. They can range from a picture of your family, degrees achieved, awards won, whatever. Put them where you write. Use them to remind yourself that you are not a fraud. YOU ARE REAL.


Oh yes. FREE eBooks. We’ve got five books going free on Amazon starting today:

Atlantis Bermuda Triangle through Friday.

Area 51 Legend—just today and tomorrow.  This is a standalone book even though it was the last one published.  It’s actually a prequel to the story.

Bitter Moon Lane by international bestselling author Colin Falconer is free all week, ending Friday.

The Templar’s Seduction by bestselling romance author Mary Reed McCall through Thursday.

The Royal W.E. Unique Glimpses of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor by Victoria Martinzez through Friday.

Write It Forward!

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012 by Bob Mayer
My Writing Space

I’ve moved a lot, while I was in the Army and afterwards.  I wrote my first novel living in ChunChon, South Korea, as an unsponsored military dependent.  They would turn the power off every so often just for the heck of it, I guess.  I was writing on the original Mac.  512K, no hard drive, one floppy for the writing program, another floppy for the manuscript.  The largest file you could have was a long chapter, so a book was a list of chapter files.

From there I went to Ft Campbell.  My first book came out in 1991, and I was living in a one-room unheated apartment above a garage.  Still working on that original Mac, which frankly was the best computer I ever owned.

Then, Boulder CO where I worked in a variety of rooms, from one with a great view of the Rockies to a room in the basement with no window.

From Boulder, it was to Hilton Head, South Carolina.  I had a great office facing the Intracoastal Waterway.  I could see dolphins swim by.  Boats.  I’d take a break and walk out the deepwater dock, get in my kayak and paddle away.

Then, in the midst of grief, we moved to Whidbey Island, WA.  The first year was pretty grim and dark.  Well, all four years were dark.  Lots of writers there.  It seems it’s easier to stay inside and write when the dolphins aren’t calling.

Then, two months ago, after moving west in death, we moved east in new life as our grandson, Riley Karen Cavanaugh, was born.  He’s named after the protagonist in that first novel so many years ago in 1991.  We moved here to Chapel Hill, NC, with no idea where we were going to live.  We drove around for days looking at rentals until we found the house we’re in now.  It’s got a great built in office on the lowest level.  I can see trees forever down a hillside.  Once they leaf out, it will be all green.  However, I will be buying a simple desk this weekend and put it in a room on the other side of the bottom floor.  That will be my writing room with no internet.  This office with the Internet, the printers, the shelves, the files, etc will be my business office.  Because I have two jobs– writer and publisher.  I really need to separate the two.  I don’t believe you can write with the Internet on the same computer you’re using to write.

I get a lot of work done while traveling, but little creative writing.  I can edit really well on a plane or in an airport or a hotel room.

I think the key is not the space, it’s the attitude.  It’s focusing.

I write on a computer because the most important course I took in high school was typing.  However, I only use six fingers for some weird reason.  The rhythm of the keys is important to me.  My handwriting is awful as I write curved left, which means I smear whatever I’ve already written.

I do believe in printing out a manuscript every 50 pages or so and going through it on the page with my red pen.

I like quiet.  I occasionally listen to music, but not often.  I’m a morning person so I like to create in the morning and do the drudge work later in the day.

Oh yeah– today only, 8 February, my newest release, The Green Berets: Eternity Base, is FREE on Kindle.

I believe in being organized.  And there is a sense of alignment needed for the desk, the computer screen, the keyboard etc.

I go back to the point though– it’s not about the place, it’s about the focus.

Write It Forward

PS:  Hot off the presses next week will be The ShelfLess Book: The Complete Digital Author was just published.  It is all we learned at Who Dares Wins Publishing that allowed us to go from selling 347 eBooks in January 2011 to 100,000 in July.

It will be available on all platforms and I’ll re-announce it here.

Monday, November 7th, 2011 by Carrie Vaughn
Smattering of thoughts…

Happy Monday!  I hope you had a good weekend.  Me — I had a fun and busy weekend, which means my mind is full of lots of different thoughts.  Here are some of them:

I went to see the new movie In Time last weekend, mostly because it was written and directed by Andrew Niccol, who wrote and directed Gattaca, one of my favorite science fiction films of all time.  The new one’s pretty good but not great, but I was really struck by the “time is money” metaphor, made literal to very good effect throughout the film.  Cup of coffee?  That’ll cost four minutes of your life.  During the movie I kept thinking about the moment I quit working to write full time.  I was temping for $11 an hour when I got my first royalty check.  I realized that my time had become so much more valuable, and here I was selling it — selling my life — for eleven bucks and hour.  So I stopped, and never looked back.  There’s something to think about:  how much is your time worth, and how well are you spending it?

Fun news for the month:  it looks like Voices of Dragons and Discord’s Apple both earned out last period, which makes me very happy.  Earning out is always awesome because it means a royalty check is on the way.  In the case of these books, I’m feeling a great big boost of validation as well.  My experiment in branching out appears to be successful, so far.

On the importance of getting back to roots, or the core idea of your story:  I’m finishing up Kitty 11, hoping to have it turned into my editor by Thanksgiving.  A couple of weeks ago, I went out clubbing with friends for the first time in ages.  We found a great little place that plays retro 80’s/New Wave on Saturday nights.  I had a fantastic time, and it reminded me of how I came to write the first Kitty novel.  I’d written three short stories starring Kitty, and the idea that anchored the first novel really gelled for me when I was clubbing with friends, out on the dance floor, and completely inside Kitty’s head in that moment.  Remembering that — experiencing it again, in a way — gave me a much-needed boost as I head into finishing Kitty’s latest adventure.    (I even added a nightclub scene to the epilogue, because it ties up one of the subplots so nicely.)  So if in doubt:  go back to the roots.

And now some music to brighten your day. Thanks to an interview I heard last week (I think it was on NPR, but I can’t seem to find it in the archives), I learned about Fanny.  This was an all-girl rock band active in the early 70’s — the first all-girl band to release a record with a major label, in fact.  They had a couple of hits, toured the world, then broke up and sank out of sight, which I think is a shame, because their music is really good. They can *rock.*  Well, the sisters who fronted the band, June and Jean Millington, are still out there making music. Which I find hugely inspirational:  do your art, keep doing it.   No regrets, no excuses.

Monday, August 29th, 2011 by Carrie Vaughn
Recovery Mode

I’m back home from 12 days of traveling:  two conventions, two signings, and many late nights in the bar talking until my voice gave out.  I now have four days to get my voice back online before the next convention.  Then, I can take a break.  I think…

Anyway, I’d meant to post something last night and failed utterly.  So this morning, I’m going to make you all do the work for me by asking a couple of questions:

What are you working on now? (writing-wise)  What has surprised you about your current project?

I’ll start:  I’m working on Kitty 11 (along with a couple of other things, but this is the big one), and I’ve been surprised at how going back to some of my original source material (notes and inspirations for the very first book in the series) has helped me solve a couple of plot problems.

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011 by Sasha White

WINNER…..Suzan H your number was chosen by hte random number genrator, and you get to pick a book from the Genreality Bookstore on Amazon. Please use the CONTACT link on my website to email me your choice. You have until Monday Night to collect your prize or I’ll choose a new winner for Next Tuesday’s post.

I’m a big fan of using Quotes to get myself hyped up and focussing on the right things….I’ve posted them here before, and thought I’d do it again…so here are some more that I hope will inspire you to go after what you want out of your career, and out of your life.

Which ones speak to you? Tell me in the comments for a chance to win any book you want form the Genreality Bookstore on Amazon. Be sure to use the menu on the right side of the bookstore to see ALL the books available by clicking on each authors name.

“Everyone has talent. What is rare is the courage to follow the talent to the dark place where it leads.”
— Erica Jong, Author

“Don’t play for safety. It’s the most dangerous thing in the world.”
— Hugh Walpole, Writer

“I couldn’t wait for success, so I went ahead without it.”
— Jonathan Winters, Comedian

“A writer never has a vacation. For a writer life consists of either writing or thinking about writing.”
–Eugene Ionesco

“It only takes one person to change your life – you.”
–Ruth Casey