Wednesday, April 29, 2015

WTLI–Author Malla Duncan-Writing the Journey Within

MallaDuncan

I was very kindly invited by accomplished writer, LK Hunsaker, to guest post for “Write the Light in” – so thank you LK for the honor of being allowed to contribute here.

The question she raised was: what is the emotional effect that writing has had on my life. I believe that writing has a profoundly emotional effect on anyone who engages in it – whether you just enjoy letter writing, journal keeping, or simply like to clarify problems by writing them down – we create on paper the mood, the moment, the meaningfulness of our inner thoughts. We make our minds visible and intelligible through the act of describing our feelings on paper.

For me, writing is about discovering my own power. I say power and not talent because writing is fundamentally for everyone. We can all engage in its journey of discovery in our own private ways. Writing is the most individual imprint we can make on our daily experience; it is the closest, most intimate connection we can make between our world within and the world without.

My discovery of the power of writing (aged 7 when I penned my first poem) has driven me emotionally all my life: when I can write; what I can write; what will connect with the reader; what can I say that is fresh and different.

I can honestly say, that I have no idea what my life would have been like without writing – I cannot imagine a life where there is not something interesting going on in my head, or where there is only daily work in the week and empty spaces to fill at the weekend with general family and friends – and the same the next week and the week after that. While for some this is life – and a perfect life – for me it presents a quiet fear. What if I am wasting time on other things when I could be writing?

Emotionally, writing has made my life purposeful above all other things. It has been the subconscious force in all my life choices: to settle, to be quiet, to be alone and enjoy that aloneness, to continually organize my life with time for writing in between the daily busyness. Writing gave me my dream when there were both good and unhappy times. Writing has moved me from inner dwelling to an inner journey. It has developed my mind, my way of thinking, my insight and capacity for emotional intelligence. Without it, I believe, I would be half the person, half the intellect I have made myself.

I am a poor cook, a rotten gardener, a scrappy housekeeper. But I can write a credible thriller or two – and I sometimes wonder how well I might have excelled in these other areas had I not let my fascination for the written word supersede everything else. Writing has made me a dreamer, a bit of a loner, but definitely a happier, more positive person. I am driven by the passion of new ideas wrapped in the passions of imaginary people.

When I see unhappy people or discord in relationships, I want to reach out to those people and say, write! Start a journal, write what you feel, put your mind where you can see it and it will speak to you. Writing is a mirror of the mind, it shows us all the shadows and the light. Writing gives us the brushstrokes for the bigger picture.

Whether you write a journal, poetry or embark on the great journey of a novel, writing allows you a very individual key to personal freedom and power. It shows you the inner map of who you are – and astounding potential for new journeys.
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Malla Duncan writes psychological suspense thrillers, cozy mysteries, and children’s fantasy. She hales from South Africa. Visit her at malladuncanbooks.weebly.com.

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Monday, January 5, 2015

Words Are Powerful

MaryCassatt-ThePensiveReaderIt was 1996, 20 years ago next year, and I was living in a place I didn’t like. Okay, let’s be fully honest. I detested the place. It was the antithesis of everything I wanted in a place I had to live.

I couldn’t just move. My life then was Army. An Army spouse, subject to the whims of wherever they decided to send us.

At the time, my husband had been sent to Korea for a year, with only three weeks at home in between. I was an 18 hour drive away from my family. I knew two of my neighbors and talked with them at times, and my husband’s good friend was down a couple of streets, but due to protocol, he came into the house only when my husband was home. By all rights, I was on my own most of the time. With two young children. In a place I hated. Doing a seasonal job to help pay bills that caused anxiety attacks, along with family issues back home I couldn’t be there for.

Let’s just say that when you’re prone to depressive episodes, this is a situation you strongly want to avoid.

Back in high school, I started creating a story in my head based on a “okay, but what’s behind the scenes that we don’t hear” continually burning question in my mind. The characters became very real to me. I’d been writing or creating since I was able, so it was second nature already. I only wrote one scene of it, but a whole long, involved story had formed.

Then I gave all that stuff up for college, marriage, babies, and moving.

At some point, you have to return to who you truly are inside.

So, on a very low point on a day I finally got my rambunctious, stubborn 4-year-old to take a rare nap that I needed far more than he did, I knew something had to change. That one scene I’d written was long gone – disappeared somewhere along with a bunch of other starts and letters and such in my file box.

It came back to me that day. I could see the dock in that scene I’d written years ago. I could see the couple. I knew them inside-out already. I knew their story mattered, at least to me. So I wrote the scene again.

That simple act of writing on a piece of lined notebook paper with a well-sharpened pencil snapped me back to who I was.

I didn’t stop. I filled page after page with any spare moment I had. My fingers cramped. Then my wrist got sore. The pain started to creep from my wrist up my arm into my shoulder and I finally had to stop using it for some time while my wrist was in a brace to let it rest. So I learned to write again with my left hand, as I had to do once when the same thing happened during a 20 page term paper in high school, and I kept going.

A funny thing happened. That “I can’t take this anymore” depression lifted with each page. It was a badly written story since I had no actual novel writing instruction, but at the time, that didn’t matter. It was for me. It kept me sane through very long days and nights of wondering how I’d get through the next one, through not wanting to be out among the place where I was stuck for over five years. The place that took my social phobia and exasperated it to my wits’ ends.

The act of writing that story (and it could have been any story) returned my wits.

Writing is a powerful thing. It’s soul-searching. It’s problem-solving. It’s awareness-raising. Most of all, it’s healing.

I encourage everyone to write something regularly. If you want to burn it afterward, do that. If you want to share it or lock it in a fire safe, do that. If you want to put it in an elegant journal or plain lined or unlined notebook, do that. But write. Anything. Just start with a simple thought and let it go from there.

Today I thought I would … but…
I wonder why it is that …
… made me so angry today because …
I feel so guilty that …
What I love about this season is …


Just write it. And keep going.

You’ll be fully amazed at what you discover.


Sunday, May 18, 2014

Indie Review: Bluegrass State of Mind by Kathleeen Brooks

BluegrassStateofMind-KathleenBrooksI picked up Bluegrass State of Mind by Kathleen Brooks as a free read from Smashwords. The first of a new series, it looked like a fun escape into Kentucky and its cowboys. It was a fun escape and a fairly quick read. Part of that was from skimming through all of the designer fashion descriptions of which I’ve never had any interest. I wouldn’t know Prada from Versace and it’s one thing I’m not interested in learning.

There are several things that stand out to mark this as “needs better editing,” which I try not to say. However:

1) Keeneston, Kentucky had a tricky way of switching now and then to Keenesland, Kentucky. I had to wonder for a while if they were adjoining towns since the author jumped back and forth between the two, and then there were instances I thought they were IN Keeneston and she mentioned going “back to” Keeneston (or Keenesland, take your pick). I’m still confused on that point.

2) I’m sorry, but McKenna in no way came off as a NYC attorney who had worked with the big boys club and got as high as she did. She comes off as a little princess the whole town of Keeneston/Keenesland swarms over and adores instantly, for no reason I could ascertain. A woman who has had so much loss so early (with no explanation as to how she was raised afterward) and works her way up to a big NYC corporate law firm would be far tougher and far more intelligent than Kenna comes off.

3) One week of early teen acquaintance didn’t do it for me to believe her instant “in love” with Will and vice versa. They hardly spoke to each other before they were both hooked. I can’t buy it.

Yes, I’m a tough critic, but even in a quick, fun read, believability is a must. As far as typos, I’m pretty lenient with indie works because I know it’s hard to catch them all and even big pubs don’t. But this one needed a bit more time from the author before it was released, even as a free read. Some smoothing over of sentences would be nice, as well, to get rid of the choppiness. And the dialogue… Well, not much about it was very believable.

Overall, yes, it was a fun story, although cliché here and there, and a few hours of escape where men are still gentleman. I can imagine that’s highly appealing to many female readers, as is Will, the hero, who does of course turn out to be a hero of sorts.

If you’d like to check it out yourself, click on the book cover to go to the book download.


Saturday, May 17, 2014

Indie Review: 2 shorts by S. A. Williams

Angst-SAWilliams

Parable-SAWilliams

S. A. Williams works as a college administrator and these two short stories show his natural affinity for that age group.

In Angst, a young woman attending college away from home, a rather dysfunctional home, gets a phone call that disrupts her growing independence and makes her reevaluate her family. Part of growing up is seeing things from a different perspective and Laura finds this out quickly.

In Parable, another teenager on a precipice of life relies on a friend to help him notice his viewpoint and reevaluate his past experiences to balance them with his present.

Both stories are deep and emotional, very realistic, and well drawn. I’m not sure I would have used quite so much flashback in a short story format, but it works well enough. My must have in shorts are endings that end, so to speak, but still make you think and so don’t quite end. Something needs to change, to grow, to happen. Williams accomplishes this brilliantly in a small space. At times the writing could have been a bit smoother, but S. A. Williams is definitely an indie author to watch!

(Click on the covers to find the books.)

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Reviewer: LK Hunsaker

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Read An Ebook Week 2014 Images

We’re book and art lovers here at Elucidate, so as our contribution to Read An Ebook Week 2014,  we’ve created a few images to use in marketing your ebooks this week! Right click and save to your computer.

(All original art is from public files with artist name along the side. Please do not remove artist names and titles!)

ReadAnEbookWeek2014-Cassatt
Mary Cassatt – The Pensive Reader

ReadAnEbookWeek2014--Balthus
Balthus – Katia Reading

ReadAnEbookWeek2014--Sargent
John Singer Sargent – Man Reading

ReadAnEbookWeek2014--Sheri
Irene Sheri – Poetry Reading

Friday, January 31, 2014

Indie Review: Jazz by Cristian Mihai

Jazz-CristianMihai

Jazz is the story of Chris Sommers, a young man captivated by Amber, a girl of mysterious ambitions. In his quest to talk himself into telling her his feelings, he decides to shuck everything and jet over to Paris to find her.

I have mixed feelings about this coming-of-age/struggling artists in Paris short story. It’s reminiscent of the Fitzgerald-era jazz age authors with dark undertones that highlight the seedier side of life. The problem is: it’s too much imitation and not enough something new. I don’t get the whole thing with William and his family’s bankruptcy. It doesn’t feel developed enough to make me believe it and it never comes of anything after being such a big part of the beginning. The first half of the story jumps around too often and leaves the reader confused about just where they are. The plot never fully develops.

There’s also an issue with unnecessary over-description that made me start skimming and some that pulls the reader out of the story (“your eyes would dart…” in describing a painting instead of the MC describing it himself) as well as some staccato repetitive phrasing (He did this. He did that. He did the other. He did this…) and some grammar issues (“Me and Amber sat down…”).

On the other hand, Mihai has a certain voice that grabbed me and great imagery at times. I can easily see this young author developing into a nice writing talent.

Overall, I’d like to see Jazz developed into a full novel with a touch more work put into the technique. There’s much potential in this story and in this author.

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Find Jazz at Smashwords and other retailers
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*This book was purchased by reviewer. No compensation was given.

Reviewer: LK Hunsaker is the author of romantic women’s mainstream fiction as well as some straight literary ventures.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Indie Review: The Kiss Instructor by V.Anton

TheKissInstructor-VAnton

V. Anton’s debut YA novel, The Kiss Instructor, takes us inside the life of Alana Summer, a young ballet dancer dealing with a violent father and the mother she feels she should protect. Adin and Chris, both childhood friends, are always there for support, but Alana and Adin have mutual and unexpressed feelings for each other beyond friendship.

The main characters are  likeable but somewhat shallow, which makes them feel a bit cliché at times. I don’t tend to read YA so with that in mind, I also found too much repetitive description and thoughts which slowed the story, and too many choppy sentences that felt like the author isn’t quite comfortable with her craft yet. There were also too many POVs for a short novel and I think the prologue could have been removed and filtered into the story instead.

However, the second half of the book moves along better and pulled me in. I loved the imagery in the Puerto Rico setting which was missing in the first half of the book in New York. I especially enjoyed the unique character of Alana’s great aunt. Overall, The Kiss Instructor is a nice first effort and an entertaining read for a cold winter’s day.

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Find The Kiss Instructor on
Smashwords
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*This book was purchased for review. No compensation was given.


Reviewer:
LK Hunsaker is the author of romantic women’s mainstream fiction as well as some straight literary ventures.