Originally posted on Hugh’s Views & News : Thank you to Chuck Jackson, who blogs at ‘The Many Pieces of Chuck Jackson‘, for asking me a question about blogging after reading my blog post ‘Do You Have A Question About Blogging…’ Here’s Chuck’s question in full. When it comes to adding images and photos to…
Please make welcome Neil O’Donnell to my blog. Good morning Neil and welcome. Take a seat and tell us, your audience, what you want us to know about you and your books. Please introduce yourself to those reading this blog post.
I am an anthropologist, a certified professional career coach (CPCC) and a certified anger resolution therapist (CART) serving as an Academic and Career Counselor with twenty years of experience helping college students and professionals in managing their academics and navigating their career journey. I am also an award-winning writer with credits including novels, short stories, non-fiction, résumés, curriculum vitae and cover letters. My expertise is in helping clients from around the world secure employment suited to their career interests and personal strengths.
Has writing always been part of your life and when did you “know” that it was time to start writing your first book?
I started working on my first book when I was around 12; I was attempting to create my own choose-your-own-adventure book. I mapped out multiple actions and wrote text, but that fizzled as my brother introduced me to Dungeons & Dragons. A few years later, in 1986, I started writing text and designing characters and a fantastical world that year. I drew a map for the main continent – I still have that map. I finally produced the book in 2009, PEOPLE OF THE SWORD. It took me years in my teens and twenties to figure out a title, then I just used time after a surprise layoff to finish a good portion of the ultimate book.
In addition to fantasy, I write sci-fi and historical fiction. Most recently I added humor to my portfolio as I wrote a book about a pesky chipmunk, based on the chipmunk who lives under my deck. He’s not a “pet” yet he lets me pet him and my wife and I easily cave into giving him birdseed.
How difficult was it writing your first book?
Very difficult. A lot of naysayers weigh you down, particularly those who tutor or teach writing. I was fortunate that my college writing professors were amazing and supportive along with most of my pre-college English teachers. I’ve battled OCD my whole life, so that certainly played into distractions and obstacles. Losing my job as a museum curator a week before my wedding ultimately gave me the push and time I needed. I was not anticipating an end to the grant that funded my position, so when the director informed me that I would be out of a job in a month (last day was literally a week before the wedding), I was freaked out beyond belief. The book instantly became a motivator.
Have you ever wanted to give up and what stopped you?
I had written smaller stories, but after drawing the map in the 1980s, I knew I would eventually complete the first novel. To this day, I am motivated to write every day even if it’s just notes, a blog post or resumes for others.
Who is the most supportive of you and your dream to be a writer?
My wife, my parents and my siblings. My parents died before seeing the book completed. I feel fortunate that my Dad got to hear me read parts of the unfinished book. Yeah, he is not a fantasy fan. My parents encouraged us to read, and my wife is also a reader (she’s also a museum curator who writes a lot between exhibit scripts, articles, grants, etc.). As for my sisters and brother, they have always supported me in whatever I did. Thank you Moey, Sandi and Ned!
Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
If you like Fantasy – read books by David and Leigh Eddings. If you don’t like Fantasy, still read David Eddings’ work. Write every day if you can, even if it’s just to develop a character profile for a character you know will likely not exist beyond the day you write down the character’s description and bio. Also, don’t let naysayers get you down.
What is the best advice given to you (book or otherwise), and by whom?
Best writing advice was from David Eddings through his notes in his book, THE RIVAN CODEX. He was a brilliant writer, and he was hilarious. I love that he said “start with a map,” which I read in the Rivan Codex in the 1990s-2000s. I felt an amazing connection in that moment as I had started with a map in 1986. That said, his advice for writers was to write every day. I don’t write every day, but it’s damn near close. As for days I don’t write anything? I’m usually researching to make characters, landscapes and other components of my novels more realistic.
What is your target audience and what aspect of your writing do you feel targets that audience?
Adolescents and above. I like tackling heavy subject matter. My chipmunk book, DON’T CALL ME CHIP, was a fluke. I wanted my chipmunk to have an adventure. I also wrote a small book called HOPE IN A BOTTLE, which was about a priest stuck on a deserted island who puts messages of hope in plastic pop bottles that end up on shore. Most of the book covers the events surrounding those who find the bottles and the hope the messages bring. A younger audience might find that okay, but the older audiences is what I am writing for.
Did the cover evolve the same way, or did you work with someone to make it come together for you?
I evolved. I evolved from a writer constrained by the limits of the English language and the pessimism of doubters to a writer who realized that writers make and adapt language. Changes to languages generally occur at the hands of writers. So, the so called ‘rules’ of English, as messed up as they can be, became guidelines. I learned by my 30s that most authors BROKE rules because they wanted to write things a certain way. If readers don’t like what changes they made to the rules, most writers don’t care if someone is displeased with our alterations. We are driven to tell OUR tales – and any language cannot handle a complete tale with its often restrictive boundaries.
What are you working on now? Can we get a peek, an excerpt?
SLAVER’S BANE – a novel about a group of 7 goblins and one human huntress who are seeking to free friends and relatives snatched by slavers. It’s my take on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Just with goblins, all of who are highly intelligent, industrious in their own ways, and lawful good. I hate that goblins have always gotten a bad rap – I wanted to change that.
Any last words before we wrap things up?
If you read a book, please consider posting a review on Amazon. Especially for independent authors and authors like me who are with small publishers. Those reviews mean a great deal to our getting our work out there.
Yes, it does. I had a book stolen form me in the past.
IS YOUR BOOK PROTECTED BY AN OFFICIAL COPYRIGHT? These Library of Congress shelves hold paper copyright certificates bound into hardback volumes for the permanent archive.
on Front Edge Publishing:
Does My Book Need Copyright Protection?
Have you heard the old rumor that if you send yourself a copy of your manuscript using certified U.S mail that it automatically becomes protected by a U.S. copyright?
Before I reveal the answer to that question, let’s explore exactly what a copyright is and whether or not your manuscript or published book needs one.
Perhaps the most feared thing after a synopsis for writers is the query letter.
Mostly because it has so much riding on it. It’s your chance to make a good impression on an agent or publisher, and you only have a few paragraphs to do it.
You want your query to lead to a request for your manuscript; it needs to be strong, interesting, and not feature any of these don’ts.
Query Letter Don’ts
1. Don’t talk about yourselfmore than the project you’re pitching. The agent/publisher needs to know about your book first. You, second.
2. Don’t skimp on story hooks. A hook is called such for a reason; it hooks the reader and makes them want to read more. If your query doesn’t mention at least one hook, rewrite it so it does.
3. Don’t give away too much. Yes, this contradicts the last point, but even though…
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I recently came across Writing Explained, a grammar website that can be an invaluable resource for authors. This little gem is from one of their posts. If you enjoy learning about the English language’s intricacies, this is the perfect website for you!
So, what is the Difference Between Anymore and Any more?
The traditional (although now less common) spelling is as two separate words: any more. In the last 50 years or so, the single word anymore has increased in use and a distinction between the one-word and two-word spellings has emerged.
Any more as a Determiner
What does “any more” mean? When “any more” is used to mean an indefinite quantity of something or even the smallest amount, it is functioning as a determiner. For example,
- Do you want any more food?
- Is there any more pie left?
- I can’t eat any more food; I am completely stuffed.
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When we get a new idea, it feels like the whole world opens for us, and we can do anything. Some newer writers spring into the writing before they’re ready. It takes time to get that story down. And work. Yes, it starts with an idea but there’s work to dig into from that starting point. First, you want to let that idea simmer. It needs time to spark and give you more to layer on that story. Or, of course, non-fiction if you’re creating that. The concept is the same: you start with a nugget of info. Next, you have to learn to follow the trail.
To build a story:
- Write the scrap down.
- Let it simmer.
- Start with the character or setting. Should you build your world, then your character? That view varies. If you start with character, you could always decide what kind of world would they…
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Sometimes we sit at our desks to write and can’t think of anything to write about. We face the blank page. We sit there until blood pours from our foreheads, as one famous author was heard to say.
Making a list can be good. It makes you start noticing material for writing in your daily life, and your writing comes out of a relationship with your life in all its richness.
10 ideas for writing practice:
- Begin with “I don’t remember”. If you get stumped, just repeat the words “I don’t remember” on the page again and keep going.
- Tell about sound as it arises. Be aware of sounds from all directions as they arise: sounds near, sounds far, sounds in front, behind, to the side, above or below. Notice any spaces between sounds.
- Tell me about last evening. Dinner, sitting on the couch, preparing for bed. Be as…
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Most of my followers love to read and write books. Many choose to review books as well. For those reviewers, I have a question. What do you do when the book you are reading is so bad, so messed up, more than one tense in a single sentence, words completely used out of context, in many cases the wrong word such ‘waste’ versus ‘waist’, and more found in a book. Literally every paragraph is screwed up. What do you write as a review and why do write what you write, and how do you rate it star wise?
It seems to me that we bloggers get caught up in thinking about monetizing our blogs, or the design elements, or SEO; while the major focus of our time should be on our writing.
I’m often asked how I got over 136,000 readers for my blog, and the answer I offer folks might seem like there’s some trick that I do not want to share with them.
This is the answer. This is how you become successful as a blogger: create exceptional content, and the readers will come. Content is king, as they say, and that should be the focus of 90% of your efforts.
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Readers, this is a great post from a writer who shares her story of her family’s experiences of visits from departed family members. Take a moment to read this one, it’s good! From Elizabeth Martinez on Quora at Visits from Beyond