Category Archives: Support

If you vanished tomorrow, would anyone miss you?

Brighton People (c) Justin Eveleigh

A friend posted this on Facebook yesterday and I think this story scares me more than anything else I’ve read in a long time. Mostly because it could happen so easily to so many people.

On 25 January 2006, officials from a north London housing association repossessing a bedsit in Wood Green owing to rent arrears made a grim discovery. Lying on the sofa was the skeleton of a 38-year-old woman who had been dead for almost three years. In a corner of the room the television set was still on, tuned to BBC1, and a small pile of unopened Christmas presents lay on the floor. Washing up was heaped in the kitchen sink and a mountain of post lay behind the front door. Food in the refrigerator was marked with 2003 expiry dates. The dead woman’s body was so badly decomposed it could only be identified by comparing dental records with an old holiday photograph of her smiling. Her name was revealed to be Joyce Carol Vincent.

 Carol Morley, a filmmaker and London resident, found a short article about the strange circumstances surrounding Joyce’s death in a newspaper someone left on the tube. The article contained very little information and didn’t even include a photo of the woman, but the article stuck with Carol. She wanted to know more.

Now, years later, Carol has produced a documentary called Dreams of a Life about Joyce Carol Vincent. She spent years tracking down people who knew Joyce and interviewing them. She collected photographs and anecdotes and bound them together into a beautiful piece on the isolation still possible in a world that’s constantly connected.

THIS is what I mean when I recommend finding inspiration in the world around you. No matter how outlandish a fictional situation seems, chances are you can find a real life moment with even more impossible circumstances. Finding the spark that sends you on a quest for answers is only a matter of time. And having your eyes open wide enough to see it.

To read more about Carol’s quest to tell Joyce’s story, read this article. You can also watch the movie trailer here or play it below.

Imagination: The Best Part Is It’s Limitless

As medical and psychological science has advanced, our species has convinced ourselves that we understand our own bodies and the working of our own minds. This is a huge lie. We understand nothing. We have theories–some of which are almost plausible–but in the end that’s all they are. Theories. Creativity, inspiration, and imagination are just a few of the aspects of our thought processes that scientists study without ever understanding.

Take this story, for example. What do you see when you look at a pile of cardboard boxes? Cardboard boxes, right? Maybe the makings of a playhouse or a cheap sled. Do you see an arcade? Probably not. I wouldn’t either, but Caine did.

Caine is a little boy who lives in Southern California. He took empty boxes from his dad’s auto repair shop and built his own arcade complete with prize wall. For $1 you can get two turns. For $2 you get a Fun Pass with 500 turns. Most people buy the Fun Pass. One visitor to this inventive playland writes:

Caine dreamed of the day he would have lots of customers visit his arcade, and he spent months preparing everything, perfecting the game design, making displays for the prizes, designing elaborate security systems, and hand labeling paper-lunch-gift-bags. However, his dad’s autoparts store (located in an industrial part of East LA) gets almost zero foot traffic, so Caine’s chances of getting a customer were very small, and the few walk in customers that came through were always in too much of a hurry to get their auto part to play Caine’s Arcade. But Caine never gave up.

 I’m showing this off for a few reasons:

A) This kid is so adorable! And what a story! His determination and obvious intelligence has inspired a lot of people and earned him a college scholarship before he’s even left elementary school. The world needs more kids like Caine.

B) This is a perfect example of unexpected ideas taking hold and the amazing ways creativity can manifest itself. It also goes to show you that even ideas that seem improbable and outlandish can make for terrific stories. If you ever have one of those ideas for part of your story, hold onto it. Even if it doesn’t fit in the project you’re working on, it might work somewhere and be exactly what you need.

C) Caine had a dream and he went after it with everything he had. Not only did he reach his goal, he went further than he ever could have imagined. Everyone reaching for the dream of publication can learn from his example. All it takes is finding the right person at the right time to help make your dream come true.

D) Just because. 😉

One of Caine’s supporters made this video about his arcade. Watch it and if you have the extra money, donate to Caine’s college fund!

Caine’s Arcade from Nirvan Mullick on Vimeo.

Books: Introducing Transcendent

It’s here! And it’s absolutely stunning! No official release date yet, but as soon as I know, I’ll pass the information along. I’m so excited for all my friends! Good luck guys! Your gorgeous cover is definitely a great start to what I know will be a fabulous launch!


Readers: Question Everything

I’ve always know the value of a reader who asks questions, but for a few years I’ve been without one. A good reader will find all those plot holes you didn’t know were there. A good reader will question all your leaps of logic and force you to back them up. A good reader will wonder why and how and what and who and when. And then once you answer those questions, they’ll come up with new ones.

A friend of mine just read the short story versions of Sing and afterward emailed me a long list of questions, notes, and what she calls loves. Answering her questions not only helped her understand the story better, it helped me understand the story better. Someone from the outside who doesn’t have all the answers will think of questions that never even occurred to you. They’ll dig into the dark corners you forgot to dust and find that key you’ve been looking for. They’ll bring up ideas that solve problems you haven’t run into yet. And they can be a wonderful way to get an honest reaction to new plots, characters, and themes.

A good reader is a curious reader, and a curious reader is more precious than diamonds.

Writing: I’m On a Roll!

Seriously! I’m very pleased with myself. I’ve managed to keep up some of the momentum yesterday even though I spent most of the day at work and therefore away from my novel. I’m going to be working again all day today, unfortunately (that’s usually what happens when you have a 9-5 job), although I hope to meet up with some other NaNo-ers tonight and see what tips we can share. I think that, if nothing else, NaNo is a good networking tool for writers in a certain area to find each other and create a support system. I kind of like that.

Look to see the updated word count before I do go sleep tonight. 🙂

Writing: Staying Motivated

Sometimes, it’s not writers block and it’s not lack of time, it’s fatigue that stops people from writing. Nathan Bransford is an agent turned kidlit author who recently posted a great article on staying motivated. Possibly posted now to coincide with the beginning of NaNo, possibly not. Either way, it’s worth a read.

Awards: Is It Better To Win Or Be Falsely Nominated?

It’s already all over the internet, but more publicity is not a bad thing, especially in this case.

Visit the official site here.

Lauren Myracle was recently honored by the National Book Awards for her novel Shine, a story about a young sleuth who investigates a hate crime. Allowed to bask in the glory for only a few scant days, she was soon told that the announcement had been a mistake. The book they’d actually meant to nominate was Chime by Fanny Billingsley. Blamed on some sort of internal error (rumor has pinned it on either phone static or conspiracy), it still didn’t stop the foundation from asking the unbelievable: “I was asked to withdraw by the National Book Foundation to preserve the integrity of the award and the judges’ work,” she explained to the NY Times.

Um… Excuse me?

Talk about adding insult to injury! Is her book really so far below your standards that you can’t even leave her as a nominee, National Book Award judges? Yes, I’m talking to you. Do you not realize that this whole mess probably would have blown over and been forgotten if you had simply left Shine as a nominee?

Now, I have not read Shine (in fact, I honestly didn’t even know it existed before this), but I’ve added it to my to be read pile. In fact, I think not winning the award has done Shine more good than winning ever could have done. Not only will the book’s readership grow, but the National Book Awards has agreed to donate $5,000 (five times as much as she would have received as a winner) to the Matthew Sheppard Foundation, a not-for-profit aimed at “encouraging respect for human dignity and difference by raising awareness, opening dialogues, and promoting positive change.”

The recap? Lauren Myracle walks away from this fiasco with dignity, the respect of the literary world and the media, and $5,000 for a charity that obviously means a lot to her. The National Book Awards judges look like total jackasses, have spent five times the amount they usually do for this single prize, and ruined the “integrity” of their precious award.

Lauren 1 – National Book Award Jerks 0

Want to read more? Here are some blogs and news articles I’ve found about Shine‘s withdrawal:
Lauren Myracle tells it like it is on Huffington Post
Libba Bray (Pardon Libba’s French 😉 )
Julianna Baggott
TIME Entertainment
The Guardian
LA Times
NY Times

Want to donate to the Matthew Sheppard Foundation? Click here.

Books: Release Party Lani-Style

My good friend Lani Woodland celebrated the release of her second book in the Yara Silva trilogy this week with an incredible release party out in California. I wish I could have been there not only to support Lani’s books, but because she is an event planner extraordinaire! Her parties are always themed beautifully and so well organized with plenty of food and entertainment. Head over to her blog post and check out the pictures of what turned out to be an incredible event! 😀

Writing: Critique Groups

Some people are incredibly private when it comes to their writing. Even some of those who are on the path to publication (or have already been published) eschew showing anyone other than their paid editor their book before it is in printed, bound, saleable form. There are a variety of reasons for this, but the most common is fear. And of the most prevalent fears is the fear of a story being stolen.

I can’t say I am completely immune to this particular fear. I have shied away from putting my stories up in online critique groups and writing communities in response to stories about authors suddenly seeing their stories in print under someone else’s name. The problem is that no one I’ve spoken to can point out even one particular case of this happening. Where is the evidence?

Eventually, I got over my fears–part of that had to do with the fact that I actually joined a wonderful online critique group (Critique Circle, for anyone interested)–and recently I even created a group of my own.

But the point of this post isn’t fear, it’s why critique groups are incredibly awesome.

Have you ever worked on a math problem for a long time and gotten so turned around by the numbers that you can’t figure out where you went wrong? But then someone comes along and points out your mistake in two seconds? Sometimes that’s what a good critique can do.

You are God in your character’s universe. Both omnipotent and omniscient, sometimes it’s hard to realize that not everyone sees your world the way you do. By bringing in an outsider, you get a whole new set of questions you have to answer, different expectations to meet, and a different reader to satisfy. By bringing in several, you’re getting a sampling of your future audience and you learn ahead of time which points of the story some readers disagree on. By bringing in a critique group instead of a paid editor, you’re saving money. I know I’m totally broke. 😉

Besides, it’s fantastic to have someone to talk to about the characters, what’s working, and what they want to see.

So how do you go about forming a critique group? Here are some tips that may help.

  1. Keep it relatively small. If more than four or five writers are involved, individuals receive minimal attention.
  2. Find people whose work you find interesting. Critiquing a 500 page novel that you hate isn’t good for anyone, honestly.
  3. Work with people who will be honest but constructive. Vindictive or hurtful comments are not going to help you revise, they’ll just shatter your self-confidence.
  4. Lay out the ground rules early. How much time does each story get? How long do readers have to respond? How often will you meet? Will the meetings be in person, on the phone, or online? In what format do writers expect to receive their comments?
  5. Stick with it! You’ll only benefit if everyone in the group is willing to put in the time to make it work.

Do you think a critique group is for you? There are plenty of ways to meet writers interested in forming one. Online forums, conferences, flyers in college English departments, local writer’s clubs (check your local library), coffee shops, book stores. The possibilities are limitless. So, go! Find those who share your passion and help each other make it toward the finish line. I have a feeling you’ll be glad you did.

Writing: News and Newness

A friend of mine has recently decided to get serious about making the first steps on the path to publication. She’s previously dabbled in quite a few writing worlds, but none that offered “professional” publication. Since I firmly believe that writers at all levels can learn from writers at all levels, I’m going to link to her blog: The Chronicles of Emily Cross.

Writing is all about learning from mistakes, watching others make mistakes, taking those mistakes and creating a character who lives through them to show the rest of the world how to avoid those mistakes. 😉 Writing is about teaching, about learning, about living experiences and committing them to paper. Writing is a love affair and a broken heart. It’s a roller coaster and a sinking ship. It’s a ride in a hot air balloon and a freefall from five thousand feet. ALL AT THE SAME TIME.

Why am I saying all this? To encourage you to head over to Emily’s page and give her the encouragement she needs to make it through the gauntlet of publication in one piece. If you can’t do it for her, do it in the hopes that someone would return the favor if it was you walking this road.