Monday, July 29, 2013

Dragonwitch Guest Post

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A New Tale Is Added to this Christy Award-Winning Fantasy Saga!

Submissive to her father's will, Lady Leta of Aiven travels far to meet a prospective husband she neither knows nor loves--Lord Alistair, future king of the North Country.

But within the walls of Gaheris Castle, all is not right. Vicious night terrors plague Lord Alistair to the brink of insanity. Whispers rise from the family crypt. The reclusive castle Chronicler, Leta's tutor and friend, possesses a secret so dangerous it could cost his life and topple the North Country into civil war.

And far away in a hidden kingdom, a fire burns atop the Temple of the Sacred Flame. Acolytes and priestesses serve their goddess to the limits of their lives and deaths. No one is safe while the Dragonwitch searches for the sword that slew her twice...and for the one person who can wield it.

Author Anne Elisabeth Stengl

Anne Elisabeth Stengl makes her home in Raleigh, North Carolina, where she lives with her husband, Rohan, a passel of cats, and one long-suffering dog. When she's not writing, she enjoys Shakespeare, opera, and tea, and studies piano, painting, and pastry baking. She studied illustration at Grace College and English literature at Campbell University. She is the author of HEARTLESS, VEILED ROSE, MOONBLOOD, STARFLOWER and DRAGONWITCH. HEARTLESS and VEILED ROSE have each been honored with a Christy Award.

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Top Ten Writing Quirks

Okay, I don’t know that I am particularly quirky for a writer. In fact, I know many writers will share these little quirks and would, indeed, look upon them as normal aspects of the writing life. But, perhaps to non-writers these writerly habits might appear on the quirkish side, so here you go, in no particular order . . .
1. Cat in the lap, preferably two
Since I work with rescue kittens, we often have a collection of little fluffies in the house, making a two-cat-lap situation quite do-able. Currently, we have only my five adult cats, and none of them likes to share, so it’s one cat or nothing. But they serve as excellent anchors to keep me in the chair and writing. After all, one doesn’t like to disturb the cat!
2. Sitting cross-legged while I work
This probably ties into the cat-in-the-lap scenario, since it is difficult to fit two cats (or my big 16lb boy) in my skinny little lap without sitting cross-legged. And even when  I don’t have a cat, I often find myself assuming this position, whether I’m working with my laptop in my lap or sitting at my desk. (Just noticed that I’m doing it even now!) I just find it more comfortable . . . until my legs go to sleep.
3. Always wearing a sweater, no matter the weather
Despite growing up in the North Woods of Wisconsin, I am naturally a cold-blooded creature, and I can never quite get warm enough. So I always have my Writer’s Sweater on hand for a quick fix to that problem! I used to have this really ugly, old sweater that was affectionately known as “Yuck Sweater.” I used it throughout college, and it even has paint on it from art school days. Now I’ve moved on to a sweater of more attractive color, about five times too big for me. It’s very snuggly.
4. Writing openings by hand
I find beginnings particularly difficult to write. They intimidate me. So if I try to sit down and write them directly into my word processor, they usually come out really thin and insipid. Instead, I write all my beginnings by hand in a notebook. This keeps me loose and relaxed, knowing that I’m not trying to make it perfect right away. Often (though not always), the beginnings I pen by hand end up making it into the final draft of the novel!
5. Carrying a “brain”
This is another quirk carried over from college. I always have a beautiful journal with a magnetized front flap and a pocket in the back for important cards, and carry this instead of a purse. It’s more conveniently sized then a purse, and that way I will always, no matter the circumstance, have paper on hand should inspiration strike! I used to refer to it as my “Better-Than-A-Brain,” but my college friends shortened that to just “Brain,” and it stuck. So yeah. I carry a brain. Not a purse. People get used to it.

6. Won’t skip ahead
I feel if you come to a difficult scene in your novel, you shouldn’t skip ahead and write on a passage that’s more interesting or easy. I believe that each scene needs to be interesting to you as the writer so that it will be interesting to the reader. If a scene is giving me extra pain, I believe I need to figure out why, even if it means stalling in the manuscript for several days, even weeks. This way, when I get to the end, there are no holes in the draft, and each scene is interesting and carefully crafted to fit the rest of the book. If I skipped around . . . well, who knows what might happen?
Not everyone writes this way, nor do I think everyone should write this way. But it works better for me!
7. Writing dialogue-only scenes
Sometimes if I am particularly stuck on a scene, I will write it as a dialogue-only scene. No narrative, not even a “he said” or “she said” thrown in here and there. Just the dialogue. Often this helps me to find the core life of a scene without any distractions. Then I can go back and fill in narrative.
If I get a good idea for a scene that is several chapters ahead of where I am currently writing, I’ll plug dialogue-only bits into my outline. Again, I won’t skip ahead in the manuscript! But I’ll set the dialogue into the outline so that it’s there and ready to flesh out once I arrive at that scene.
8. Can’t write with hair down
I have quite long hair, and I really love it. It’s fun to style and curl and scrunch, and I always leave it down when I go out since I think it’s my best feature. But . . . I cannot concentrate if it’s down! When I am working on a manuscript, I have to tie it up out of my way, usually in a big knot on top of my head. This serves a twofold purpose: First, not bothering me while I work—second, it’s got a nice, curly wave to it when I pretty up at the end of  the day for my husband to come home!
9. NO MUSIC. Or basically anyone around
I cannot concentrate if music is playing. Sometimes, if I’m really in the zone, I can work through a little bit of light classical music turned way down . . . but only sometimes! This is why I don’t often end up “soundtracking” my novels as many novelists will. I don’t listen to music for inspiration, certainly not while writing! I also struggle to write if anyone is around. If I try to work on the weekends when my husband is home, he can be quiet as a mouse, and it’ll still sound to me as though he’s stomping around all elephant-like, clanging bells! So he usually goes out to work in the garden over a writing weekend, sweet man that he is.
So basically, I have to have it quiet and calm when I work. No classic writer-in-the-coffee-shop for this cookie!
10. Brainstorm out loud
When I get the first idea or two for a story, I usually don’t write anything out but just let it sit in the back of my brain for a few weeks or months. Then, when I’m starting to get ready to actually write it, I’ll first brainstorm out loud. I’ll call up my long-suffering mother and talk out the idea at her, figuring out answers to any questions she might ask. If she’s not available, my husband has learned to take on that role. They both say I, “Think with my mouth.” Heh. Yeah, kinda.
But, after I’ve talked out the idea, I’m ready to sit down and starting writing out all the various thoughts, putting them into logical, sequential order. And before you know it, a book is born!

So I suppose those are my Top Ten Writing quirks for you! What do you think: quirky or totally normal?

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  1. That cover sure got me and great post.

  2. This is a fun list! I'm right there with her on the sweaters and out loud brainstorming. Wish I could have cat writing buddies though!

  3. That cover & title scream: 'right up my alley' to me! Thanks for featuring it Brandi :) Oh and I love her quirky author facts, especially the one about writing with two cats on her lap ♥

  4. Oh, I have Heartless, the first in this series but I've never read it despite owning it for probably 2+ years. I very much like hearing about cat in the lap as I always enjoy having my cat around though he does not necessarily stay for long in my lap.


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