Thursday, March 30, 2017

Lessons From Lance Conrad, Author of the Prince Trilogy

Recently, in my Science Fiction Course, I had the opportunity to hear from the published fantasy author, Lance Conrad. He is the writer of the books: The Prince of CreationThe Prince of Nobility, The Prince of Loyalty, and The Weight of Swords. This week I would like to share some of the main points from his presentation with all of you that may or may not have had the opportunity to attend his book talk. You can click on the image bellow to link to his website.
  1. Lance believes he became an Author through hard dedicated work not through talent alone.  

He told us that one of the things he got asked about the most as an author was how it felt to finally see his books in print. I thought it was very interesting however that he talked about getting published is usually what young aspiring authors see as the ultimate achievement, but there's a lot more to being an author than just getting your book into print. Yes, publishing is a great accomplishment and an amazing milestone, I am not by any means here to look down upon that but, many new authors totally forget about the marketing side of being an author.
He said “Most of us authors are introverts, we are the ones back at a desk behind a computer writing. We don't like to be the ones actually talking about our books.”
To this I agree too oh so well, which brings me to the next important point from Lance’s Presentation. I had the opportunity to personally ask him this question myself.

2) I asked Lance what he did to promote his books and this is the answer I got:

As many of you know I have been looking for ways to better market my own book, so why not learn from someone who has done it right? Well, the answer I got was that Lance actually started out just about as naive into his dream as I am for mine. He started believe it or not selling his books door to door. You’re probably thinking at this point something like “what the heck was he thinking?”. When it came down to it though, he talked to us about what he learned from those miserable days with door to door selling and rejection letters from libraries and book stores. Lance had come to the conclusion that he was just too new. He did tell us that his days with door to door pitching of his book did help him with public speaking however and that through this he learned to really tell his story orally to the point of his book pitch becoming perfect and memorized.  

3) If you want your dreams to become reality you have to be persistent enough to pursue them.

I think this is probably the best thing I got out of Lance's book talk. Along these lines he talked about not being afraid to look stupid sometimes. The successful people are the ones who have enough perseverance to withstand the pear pressure. Think of Thomas Edison, if he would have given up then we wouldn’t have light bulbs. Likewise Lance also told us to “learn by doing, keep asking questions.” I thought it was interesting that he brought the whole curiosity of learning theme to the table, this is how our high school is trying to train students to think.
I was selected to be part of the student learning “experiment” as I will call it way back during my freshman year.  You know what? It changed my life. I realized that there was so much more to school than the grades. I often think that grades alone are a very poor way to measure success. Ask me how much information I actually have retained from all my years in school. It’s not as much as you would think. Why? Well, because I remember the information I have actually used over and over again. So, the big take away here is that some of us are meant to jump from thing to thing, until we find something that will forever feed our curiosity. For Lance Conrad this thing is writing books. It really inspired me, I feel like I fit his description well of the “job jumper” at the moment.

4) Characters are the most important element for your story.

Characters drive your story, they make the events in the story matter. Lance used the example of Harry Potter here, which I really liked so I’ll reiterate what he said. He talked about how Harry Potter was such an innocent character  and then JK Rowling kinda beat the crap out of him. However, it is all these hardships that Harry Potter faced that makes us as the readers connect to him.  
Lance told us this, “The hero can’t be perfect. Make your main character struggle, have doubts, and fear. Give them things they have to overcome in your story. Good characters have trails. They chose to still go on with all fate against them.”
I love this so much because it reminds me of the Hero’s Journey writing model. The whole point of the hero’s journey is to make an ordinary character a better person by putting them through extraordinary circumstances. It is in these circumstances that your character has to choose between becoming a hero or a selfish brat. This is why I also believe that literature itself makes us better people if we chose to learn from it. We may not have superpowers or dragons to ride but we all have something very powerful within us, our human nature. At some point in our lives all of us will make choices between the forces of good and evil, for better and for worse.  
Through my own writing journey with Shyelle - Rise of the Dragon Kingdoms my characters have grown as I have grown with them as the writer. Remember that. You as the writer must submit yourself to becoming a better person too. Many of the challenges Kristen faces as the main character in Shyelle are real things that I have faced for myself personally. My own hardships give me something fascinating to write about. Consider this, especially when you feel that you're losing a firm grip on your dreams.

5) A writer is only as good as his/her connections to his/her readers

It's one thing to be a writer, but it's a whole new world to be out there with your writing and to be successful at sharing it. Lance talked a lot about being proactive with your work as a writer. He said that you really have to just buckle down and talk to people because your book really won’t start to matter until it matters to your readers. You have to be willing to write and then to share. Best selling authors become best selling authors because they share what they have written and learned along the way.

The BEST Things You Can Do to Help Someone With Dyslexia!

Hello Fans and readers! This week I am very excited to do this post for you about a topic I am pretty passionate about. Dyslexia and reading disabilities! Specifically, what you can do to help someone who struggles with dyslexia. Even if you don’t know anyone with dyslexia this article will be very worth the read. I decided to write this article because my main character Kirsten in Shyelle - Rise of the Dragon Kingdoms is Dyslexic.
Some of you might have a dyslexia diagnosis and be asking now what? One out of every 10 Americans is dyslexic. It’s more common than you think. There are around 40 Million Adults in the United States alone that are estimated to have dyslexia. Sadly nearly half those Adults may not know that they have dyslexia. Today, I am going to give you the  BEST things you can do to help someone with dyslexia (written by a dyslexic herself). Also apologies in advance that this post will probably be fairly long.  
Number One: Know what Dyslexia Is
First off dyslexia is a neurological disorder that causes people to think better in three dimensions rather than two. It’s not just a made up thing that Percy Jacson has. This is one of the most important things to know if you want to help those who deal with dyslexia on an everyday basis. Understanding that dyslexia makes it difficult for your friend or loved one to read is the best place to start. This bit of knowledge is going to help you have compassion for dyslexia.
I am a reading challenged student myself and I understand how difficult it can be to express yourself through written expression without a keyboard and spell check. However, I am also a published author that has managed to compensate and utilize my tools to my advantage. Just like Kirsten, the main character in my novel Shyelle - Rise of the Dragon Kingdoms I struggled to read and often ended up with motion sickness because of the way that words would appear to move across the page.
One of the best resources out there for learning about dyslexia and other learning disabilities is the website This site was just launched within the last year or so but it has given my family and I some amazing resources. You can check out the dyslexia page here:
Number Two: Give the Gift of Reading and Knowledge : C Pen Reader Pen Review
This almost should be number one, when you give a dyslexic the gift of reading, you also empower them to be more independent in life. My parents and I recently found one of the most amazing breakthroughs in assistive technology, the C pen Reader Pen. We were thinking about getting one for collage but I really needed it and they decided to get me one for my 18th birthday! This device is seriously a lifesaver! It can scan over any typed text and read it into my headphones. It makes reading a book a lot more interactive for me than just following along with an audio book. I don’t have to worry about losing my place with an audio book anymore either which is a plus. Best of all is the fact that I can read ANY typed text with it. I had a big problem when it came to reading textbooks and assignments because there are no audio files for these. I can also use the pen even with my colored reading overlays on top of the text. I will say that if you try to read really small text (less than 11 point fount) with it that It can read some the words funny. I found this out while reading my scriptures with it that are in fairly small print. You have to scan over small print text slower for it to pick up the words correctly but it does work for what I need.
My other favorite feature that the C Pen Reader Pen has is that I can connect it via the USB charging cable that came with it to my school MacBook Air 11” laptop and scan text into a Google Docs or Word document for taking notes up to four times faster. My High School is one of the first in the country to have an integrated one student to one laptop program. We didn’t get the laptops until our grant passed last year but having a laptop for class is EXTREMELY helpful. We paid the insurance on it so that I can take the laptop to and from school everyday which is also really helpful as most of my class work is done through Canvas now. It is really nice to be able to type assignments rather than hand write them because I have spell check at my fingertips to help me out. A Lot of parents didn’t support the laptop program at first but from what I see most students have been able to excel learning with the help of this technology and refrain from using it to just play games on. I highly recommend getting a laptop if you are a dyslexic student in high school or college. Even a tablet and a keyboard can be very helpful to you.
The C Pen Reader Pen also has a dictionary function on it so I can easily look up a word I don’t know. It has a recording feature as well so that I can record class lectures and revisit them in case I missed anything for my notes or even send the audio file to a friend who is sick. Now granted you have to make sure your teacher is ok with you recording the lesson but my teachers are receptive of it. It’s futuristic design has even made my peers a little jealous. It's small enough to fit well into my hand and it’s super light unlike competing digital reading pens. It’s something that I am not ashamed of walking around school with! That right there is HUGE for a dyslexic. So many of us dyslexics already struggle to uphold positive self esteem so walking around with bulky and dorky equipment is the last thing we want to have happen.
Number Three: Be a Friend
This probably sounds really simple but it’s true. Us dyslexics, we really need good true friends who understand us. We want to live life and be social too but sometimes we have a hard time doing that. It’s vitally important for us to hear that it is worth it to work as hard as we have to just to get through a day at work or school. It’s a huge relief to have a friend to talk to.
Number Four: Don’t Judge a Dyslexic If They get Emotional
We might get emotional a lot, it’s part of the way our brains are wired to think. Frustration is something a dyslexic will face on a daily basis. Sometimes it can lead to us becoming overstimulated and therefore emotional. We are doing the best we can every day to live life so, don’t judge a dyslexic if they get emotional. I can tell you that yes, I have been emotional in front of my pears before. It’s pretty embarrassing. It can hurt when your peers are mean to you because of dyslexia. However, know that there are good things to come. Dyslexia does not have to define someone.

Character Development: The Sandbox Technique

The sandbox technique is one of my favorite new tools for character development that I read about a while back in a Writers Digest article called “Layered Revision” by Gabriela Pereira. In the article there are five layers of revision. The Narration or Point of View, Characters, Plot, Scenes and Cosmetics (Grammar, Punctuation, Spelling & Word Choice.This week’s post will be focusing on layer two, Character Development.
“When you test things out in the sandbox, you eliminate the risk of accidentally breaking anything in your manuscript.” - Gabriela Pereira
I love this concept, there have been countless times when I feel like I have screwed my manuscript trying to fix character issues. Luckily I kept back ups of my original draft, my second draft, my third draft and so on so that I could return to them. For any writer I highly recommend doing this. When your first draft is complete and you are ready to edit save a copy of the document under another name labeling it the draft number that it is, this will save you a lot of time and heartache when you feel like you mess up your manuscript. However, if you are really looking for a good way to develop your characters heres some tips based on the “Layered Revision” Article.
The sandbox technique is all about taking your established character and throwing them into a totally different situation that the character does not face in your story or novel. For example, I took my character Kirsten from Shyelle - Rise of the Dragon Kingdoms and put her in a school setting and wrote from her first person point of view. While doing this I realized that the story was much better told from her first person perspective rather than the third person omniscient perspective the novel was originally drafted in. There is more room for readers to connect to the story and feel like they are in it, fulfilling the ultimate goal of writers connecting with their audience.
“Characters give your story meaning. They make us care about the events in your story, making those events matter.” - Gabriela Pereira
In order to write an exceptional character it is also important to know what motivates that character. You may need to do some digging to find this but when you do find it your story will be exponentially more engaging for your audience. Many times I have found that the inspiration for what motivates my characters is reaching down and knowing what motivates myself. A well written novel has characters that stand for something that they passionately believe in! This is especially important for your protagonist as their belief system will be a driving force that will guide their behavior through the entire novel. It may even be beneficial to put yourself in the place of your protagonist in writing a sandbox mode draft. Your belief system as the author will help you to form the belief system and values of your protagonist.
We tackled the protagonist but what about writing an with an effective antagonist? As many of us writers know having an effective antagonist to tempt your protagonist away from their mission is just as important as your protagonist. The antagonist needs to have defined motives for why they do evil. People usually do not to just decide to be evil overnight. Maybe your antagonist uses anger to justify their actions, maybe it's greed, or maybe it is fear that drives them.  
Another really important thing to remember when writing with an antagonist is that most antagonists at some point where potential protagonists. Try writing the scene that your antagonist makes the defining decision to become the antagonist that they are now. This will help you to pinpoint your antagonist's motives. Keep working with your characters until you feel like you know them almost as well as yourself! Most important don't give up!

Learning to Conquer Your Own Hero’s Journey in the Writing Process

Drafting your story: The Call to Adventure
A draft is a merely a detailed brainstorm of your ideas. It’s supposed to be messy, disorganized and yes, even a bit awful. However, don’t let this discourage you from writing. There is hope for you. The drafting stage is your “Call to Adventure”, you have an amazing Idea and now it's time to do something with it! One of the most important attributes of a successful author is the ability to keep writing in the face of opposition. In other words when people tell you “your writing is trash” get up turn around and recycle that trash. If they Honestly tell you that “your writing is trash” then figure out how to learn from it. Maybe it is trash right now but it doesn't have to stay trash forever!
Refusal of the Call: The Rough Draft Blues & Writers Block:
If you have ever experienced writer's block you know that it is relentless. Every hero along the hero’s journey will at some point refuse their call to adventure. That’s where writers block and discouragement come in. The moment you believe you can’t be a writer is the moment you have set yourself up to fail. I am a firm believer that self doubt is the biggest enemy to our creativity. Now, at this point you may be saying something like this “What if it’s just the way I am? What if I suffer from anxiety or depression?”
First off, you're not alone if you are asking yourself these questions. In fact, I asked myself the same questions while I was drafting Shyelle - Rise of the Dragon Kingdoms. You may just need to Meet with a Mentor, which I will talk about more in the next section.
Sometimes this writer's block comes as a result of stress in your life, sometimes it comes from a lack of inspiration in your mental inspiration holding tank. The cure? Put away your story for a while and carry a notebook everywhere you go. I really do mean everywhere. Do yourself a HUGE favor and invest in a good durable notebook that is small enough to carry with you everywhere. This may be a physical notebook or an online “notebook” you keep on your phone in Google docs. Whatever is more convenient for you. Maybe you're a fairly decent artist too and you want a sketchbook so you can draw and write.
Like this Quote:
“Keep a Notebook. Travel with it, eat with it, sleep with it. Slap into it every stray thought that flutters up into your brain. Cheap paper is less perishable that gray matter, and  lead pencil markings endure longer than memory.”Jack London
Seriously though, write down everything in it! I recently discovered Frixion erasable ink pens and I’m obsessed! I can use my notebook over and over and over again. When it's full I scan it all into my Google Drive. When I first was diagnosed with A.D.H.D. my doctor told me to carry a notebook, I have found that it was also the missing tip I really needed at the time to improve my writing not just my ability to remember things in school. Even if you don’t have A.D.H.D you can still gain exponential benefits from carrying a notebook especially if you are a journal writer.
Journaling not only improves your mental health but it also improves your ability to focus on the important things, meaning more focus to your writing. Authors often write into their stories topics that they deal with in their everyday lives. Journaling will help you to remember these topics that you can insert and play with in your writing later on. If you are worried about pesky people getting into your private writing I do suggest using Google Docs or a Word document encrypted with a password. Print your document from time to time and keep it safe, you always want a back up weather it’s your journal or your Novel. You can trust me from experience on that one.
Meeting the Mentor: Authors Read and Learn from Others:
Think about someone who has positively impacted your life. This could be a teacher, a friend, a family member or a doctor. All heroes need a mentor or teacher along their hero’s journey. Those of us who were having self doubts may even need some professional help. There's no shame in that! The most important thing I have gained from my struggles through Learning Disabilities is that you have to suck it up and ask for help. You need to humble yourself enough to kick yourself over the head a little bit and go ask for the help you know you really need.
For the rest of you, congratulations you're reading this and you’ve found a Mentor in your writing process! Reading is one of the most powerful tools for an Author. I didn’t always believe this for myself, in fact for a long time I avoided reading. However, I have been able to find the right tools that allow reading to be less of a burden on me as an insecurity. I got a C pen Reader Pen for my birthday and oh my gosh it’s like where has this been years ago! So, even if reading isn’t your strong suit, you can find tools and adaptations that work for you. It’s ok to be different, just learn what works for you.
Crossing the Threshold: Committing to a Realistic Goal
A hero in the hero’s journey needs to cross the threshold in order to grow and continue their journey. Usually they must also overcome guardians of the threshold. This is where you must find what is holding you back from writing and work to overcome it. The best motivation for change is to set a realistic Goal. Let’s say that I want to be better at descriptive writing. I would set a goal to work on a descriptive writing exercise at least once a week. Then I have to evaluate how I’m doing. Even if you get off on your goal keep working towards it.
Tests, Allies, Enemies: Learning from Life
In the hero’s journey your protagonist needs to face challenges. They need to struggle. It’s what makes a book a bestseller. The same goes for us in our lives and in the writing process. Take what you learn from hard times and give that knowledge to your characters.
“Truth must always remain, yet it must always face opposition. Without such opposition there would be nothing worth fighting for and no need to conquer our fears.” - Shyelle - Rise of the Dragon Kingdoms
Ordeal, Death, and Rebirth: Editing Your Work
For many authors the Editing process is a big scary thing but it doesn’t have to be. At the same time I called the Editing process the “Ordeal, Death, and Rebirth” in the hero’s journey because it really is Death and Rebirth of your story. This is the phenix of your story. The point in which your character faces their biggest challenge that hits them at their weakest point. Editing is about keeping the good stuff and strengthening the weakest points.
Return Home With Reward:
Your final draft is being polished, your hero has learned from Their journey, have you learned from yours? What have you gained from the journey? Sometimes you will not receive recognition. It is the true writer that continues to write whether or not there is rewarded publicly.