Guest Post: Christine Locke

Those Ah-Ha! Moments: Overcoming Block

by Christine Locke

Have you ever had one of those moments? I’ve struggled to finish my first series, not wanting to let it go. But I had an “ah-ha!” moment when I understood that the only way to truly own my first series was to let it end.

When I’m starting a new book, sometimes the cursor on the blank page can’t keep up with my typing speed. I like those days. At other times, though, odd problems present themselves. I wanted to finish the third book in The Legacy Series much earlier than I did, but I had another book demanding to be written. I’m sure part of the problem was that I didn’t want to say goodbye to my first series. I even flirted with saying that Out of Place was NOT the final book. The problem with was that if I was having trouble finishing book three, when would I ever finish book four? It was an odd several months, as I stared at the file for Out of Place, couldn’t get anywhere with it, and had to go work on the other novel that was calling me, compelling me, relentlessly demanding that I give it attention.

And then there was the ABNA project I blogged about last week—that was yet another distraction I had not expected.
So how did I finish Out of Place? First, I decided that I would tie up all the loose ends in book three and leave a path open for book four should anyone want that at a later date. Second, I set the task for Camp NaNoWriMo last year. And third, I had a friend read an early manuscript of the book, which is how I knew I made the right decision about the three-book series. In fact, I rewrote the ending based on her reading.

What helps me overcome a “block” situation, whether it’s a block on a project or writers’ block in general, is to GET WRITING. The best writers, and by best I suppose I really mean most successful, write all the time. I’m amazed at how prolific they are. And not everything that they write is “good.” They just keep writing–a lot.

If you read literature about creativity, you find that this is not something unique to creative writing. I’m reading Cracking Creativity, and the book deals extensively with how prolific the most successful creative people are, giving many examples. And Morgan Freeman examined a similar notion in his “Through the Wormhole” episode on luck, “Is Luck Real?” What appears to be good luck is actually statistically probable when you practice a great deal. And how many times have self-published authors shared that, ultimately, the secret to their success is not where they advertise or how many beta readers they had, but hitting a certain number of published books? Even the early, white-hot success stories of self-publishing, John Locke and Amanda Hocking, were extremely prolific rather than the recipients of great literary acclaim. I’ve also seen traditionally published authors mention the importance of a strong “backlist”–books that are already published that keep selling. You have to be prolific to have a backlist like that.

All of this makes sense. Have you ever “discovered” a new favorite author and purchased several of their older books because you liked the most recent one? Or, now that we have this fantastic thing called video streaming, do you find yourself adding an actress’ other movies because she was amazing in her latest? I do.

Creativity might have more to do with determination and discipline than luck or genetics or the blessings of a whimsical muse. If that’s true, overcoming “block,” success in writing, and even making a living at writing could be all about one’s ability to just WRITE. Given an adequate knowledge of story structure, grammar and punctuation, etc., this may truly be the case.

I can say that one of the most liberating experiences I am having in my early writing career is finishing old projects. Even if they end up in boxes under my bed, knowing that my early novels are no longer “unfinished” empowers my current projects. Soon, I will no longer be an “aspiring writer” with unfinished manuscripts lying around in tattered binders. My old stories, for better or worse, will be done. And the experience of completing them is priceless. I have a much better idea of how NOT to structure a novel. (Never again will I just sit down and expect the muse to take me where the story wants to go…that was a big waste of time!) Sometimes I even have an outline. In fact, for next month’s Camp NaNoWriMo, I have an honest-to-God story board.

I’ve learned to remember that bad writing can be fixed later. The important thing is to get the writing done. Get that ending scene in mind and chart a course. Then, Go! It’s not just the vital thing. It’s the only thing.

If I can move my fingers over my keyboard, I’m not blocked. If I can make an outline with colored pens, I’m not blocked. If I can count out flashcards and divide an “act” of my novel into scenes and arrange them on a board, I’m not blocked.
And if I’m not blocked, I can write.

I’m sharing this post on a blog for readers because I’m always interested to know what compels another writer to write. But I also know that many avid readers are writers—or at least, they will be someday. I’m sharing in the hopes that readers will find my own struggles instructive or informative in a way that is useful to them.out of place

As Charlie requested, I’m happy to share information for Out of Place. The manuscript is in the final stages of editing (my beta readers are trying out that new ending). You can check my blog for information on the release. And I do hope Charlie will be writing a review, so keep checking back here as well!

Out of Place

The story structure for Out of Place moves between 1988 and 2012 as a modern-day Carin Mallace seeks the help of her younger self. We will see Carin avenge her father’s death, uncover the sinister plot of yet another malicious Mallace, and watch Carin and Griffin get married on Christmas day. We learn all about the happily-ever-after for Carin’s mother, Amanda, and we learn that Griffin and Carin have a daughter, Christina. In 2012, Christina is 18 and falling in love. Out of Place wraps up loose ends for The Legacy Series while leaving the door open for future books in the series.

About the Author

7da9d3fa0efb0ad8956ee0.L._V396534113_SY470_Christine Locke was born in California and grew up in various locations around the United States as a Navy brat. She was the oldest of six children and today is mother and step-mother to seven. She attended Texas A&M University, receiving her Master of Arts degree in Comparative Literature in 1995.

Christine has worked as a writing instructor, a salesperson, and an award-winning retail manager and management trainer, among other things. Today, she co-ordinates makeovers for a local magazine. She and her husband, Mike, live with their children, two dogs, and two cats in Arkansas.

For years, Christine has been writing novels around her work and family life. Open Door is her first published novel.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Book Review: In Time

16282463Title: In Time
Author: Christine Locke
Release Date: December 2012
Length: 161 pages
Series?: The Legacy #2
Genre: YA Paranormal/Mystery
Format: e-book
Source: author

Find the book: Website | Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Synopsis

“Remember only this: magic must be used. Magic grows over time, and its time must not be wasted. Never forget that.” So warns Anna, the last witch of the Mallace family line.

Carin inherits Mallace Mansion only to learn her life there will not be what she expected. Magic grows, time slips, and Carin meets an enemy she never knew she had.

Carin’s isolation grows as Griffin pulls away and darkness draws near. Then, Carin learns a secret Anne Mallace never had time to tell her.

At Mallace Mansion, ghosts may haunt young Carin, but she’s learned to deal with them. To survive the Legacy, Carin finds she must make peace with her past. Trouble is, she’s not sure she can do it.

Review

This is the second installment of the Legacy Series. My review of the first book, Open Door, is available here.

I said the first book strung readers along and left us hanging. Well, Locke has done it again! Except this time, I had absolutely no idea where this mysterious  train of a book was headed.

Carin is now fully recognized as the heir to Mallace Mansion, and sees to its every need. Anne’s ghost is no longer the old, guiding light she was for Carin in the first book. Now she has reverted to a much younger image of herself, and is not quite the same as readers saw her in the first book.

This book largely follow’s Carin’s depression and reliving of her attack during the summer, which took place in the first book (Open Door). It was really hard for me to get through reading the first 30% or so of the book because it was all about Carin fearing her attack, having nightmares, thinking about her attack, being scared and sad, and using her anchor to Mallace Mansion as a crutch not to leave (even to go into town for needed items) even more.

I don’t know how I didn’t catch this in the first book, given how sinister it turned out to be with the unknowns of the Legacy and crazy Aunt Helen, but Mallace Mansion….Mallace…bad…evil…harm…Hmmmmm. Just a thought to keep in mind.

Carin’s mother Amanda has officially moved to town, taken up residence and is using her true name and identity: Amanda Mallace. She has bought a quaint little home and is no longer on the run from the Legacy.

Carin has her Protector, Griffin, as part of the fulfillment of the Legacy…until he tells her he is going to be away for a while, with little explanation or information.

Meanwhile, Carin has tutors come to the mansion to continue her education, and she finds two very unexpected house guests at Mallace Mansion. Anne recommends a certain journal to Carin to retrieve. Carin ignores Anne’s suggestion, and takes the journal of a notoriously infamous Legacy holder who was quite pessimistic and in my opinion just a downright prissy, dramatic brat. Reading Leticia’s journal starts to have funny effects on Carin’s thoughts about her relationships – and actually has a negative impact on her actions towards Griffin.

Carin’s first house guest is another Legacy holder – sent from another time, another country. This visitor has learned that Carin has fought the darkness – an evil thing that can take any form that has haunted Legacies – trying to control and destroy and create chaos. Carin has a few run-ins with the darkness. She has to find a way to save Mallace Mansion and its power from the darkness. She uses Anne and her new visitor as resources…as well as her second visitor, who has actually been a resident of Mallace Mansion since its inception. This resident, though, is not what she seems to be. Her motives are not pure, and she has a very ugly side that Carin soon sees.

I don’t feel that Carin had as much character growth in this installment as she did in the first, but readers do see more aspects of her life: her relationship with Griffin, her relationships with her mother, and new relationships with her new guests.

I enjoyed learning about the history of the Legacy in the first book, and more history was revealed in this book, but I will say that this book was a little harder to follow. I felt there was a jump somewhere in the storyline that was not a smooth transition. I felt like I was missing a chapter out of the book. 

About the Author

7da9d3fa0efb0ad8956ee0.L._V396534113_SY470_Christine Locke was born in California and grew up in various locations around the United States as a Navy brat. She was the oldest of six children and today is mother and step-mother to seven. She attended Texas A&M University, receiving her Master of Arts degree in Comparative Literature in 1995.

Christine has worked as a writing instructor, a salesperson, and an award-winning retail manager and management trainer, among other things. Today, she co-ordinates makeovers for a local magazine. She and her husband, Mike, live with their children, two dogs, and two cats in Arkansas.

For years, Christine has been writing novels around her work and family life. Open Door is her first published novel.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Book Review: Open Door

15743009Title: Open Door
Author: Christine Locke
Release Date: June 2012
Length: 147 pages
Series?: The Legacy #1
Genre: YA Paranormal/Mystery
Format: e-book
Source: author

Find the book: Website | Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Synopsis

Even the most eerie haunting is just a secret, living in a darkened room with open doors, more shunned than unknown. All around it know it well yet wish to live as if they did not. Children whisper, adults hush, and legends grow. Everyone grows up acquainted, everyone learns to hide, and nothing blasts through the hypocrisy like the entrance of an outsider—unless it is the arrival of two of them. 

Carin White, 16 and in need of a summer job, agrees to help Aunt Helen move into her inherited property, Mallace Estate. In the mansion’s sprawling attic, Carin finds a large scrapbook with a familiar photograph. The first step on a perilous journey through dark secrets, meandering passageways, hidden chambers and murderous intentions, Carin’s discovery unveils her personal destiny and its required sacrifices. Mid-way through the story, a terrifying event compels Carin to make choices about who she is and how she will allow her world to see her. 

This novel does not involve vampires, werewolves, or fallen angels; it is a story about magic. An ancient but contained force enlivens Mallace Mansion, so the gothic house is a character in the story. The mansion’s life requires food, so it does occasionally consume a visitor. But such activity is kept to a minimum when a powerful woman controls the Legacy. Is Carin strong enough? Read The Legacy Series and find out.

Review

I have never quite encountered a book like this. Locke leaves much to the imagination, and let’s face it: she strings along her readers! I had no idea where Carin was headed, or what lay ahead for her. Her book is as much a mystery as Carin’s life has been up to this point.

I couldn’t ever quite figure out how old Carin was from reading the novel, but I learned quickly that even though she was shipped off to work for her “aunt” for the summer at her aunt’s newly-inherited mansion and grounds, she strictly followed her mothers rules. Indeed, she shares a moment in her past as a young child when she was hungry and ate a candy bar in the hotel room she shared with her mom, for which she earned a stringent lashing and had to purchase the candy bar out of her pitiful piggy bank.

I immensely enjoyed Anne Mallace when she showed up, and things started falling into place. More of the picture was revealed, but Locke still kept  me on the hook. In the end, Carin is faced with a surprising foe. I was shocked; I never saw it coming.

I enjoyed reading about the history of the legacy, and all of the intricacies of it and Mallace Mansion. I also grew fond of Carin as the book progressed. She is a sweet, kind soul, but quickly shows she’s smart as a whip and doesn’t let others cow her or two-time her. She grew into a nice little character, in my opinion.

This is a rather quick read, and I recommend giving this mysterious Legacy a chance.

About the Author

7da9d3fa0efb0ad8956ee0.L._V396534113_SY470_Christine Locke was born in California and grew up in various locations around the United States as a Navy brat. She was the oldest of six children and today is mother and step-mother to seven. She attended Texas A&M University, receiving her Master of Arts degree in Comparative Literature in 1995.

Christine has worked as a writing instructor, a salesperson, and an award-winning retail manager and management trainer, among other things. Today, she co-ordinates makeovers for a local magazine. She and her husband, Mike, live with their children, two dogs, and two cats in Arkansas.

For years, Christine has been writing novels around her work and family life. Open Door is her first published novel.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Book Review: Stalking Sapphire

StalkingSapphire_cover
cover art

Stalking Sapphire by Mia Thompson (Diversion Books, 2013)

Genre: fiction, mystery, suspense, thriller, chick lit

Sapphire Dubois is not the typical Beverley Hills girl, but to all eyes she appears to be. She surrounds herself with people to fill her life and give her the look of the snobby, rich bitch. She detests having to date a douchebag, attending charity galas, going the the country club, seeing her mother’s infidelity and wearing $400 pajamas….OK, maybe not that last one.

It’s all a persona, because underneath it all Sapphire is an independent criminal detective. She operates on her own, does her research and leaves the bad guy (or girl, she doesn’t discriminate) in a bind and masks her voice as she calls the local police. She has solved six cases in the last two years that she’s been fighting crime, and semi-regularly visiting and confiding her side-work in a priest, Father O’Riley, at a Catholic church in San Diego.

Sapphire’s snobby friend, Chrissy, drags her to this charity event where she runs into newly promoted and transferred Detective Aston Ridder. He’s got a bum leg and got a demotion via promotion via transfer from downtown LA to picture-perfect Beverly Hills. He does his usual – takes Sapphire home, sleeps with her and then throws her out. Only, she gets the last laugh…

All the while, Sapphire keeps getting the feeling that someone is watching her – and then she knows for sure when a personal memento is stolen from her vehicle – parked right in front of the BHPD. And whoever it is wants Sapphire to pay – in blood.

Mystery Murder Man has Sapphire stumped, and he’s also sending her pieces of a missing girl. Sapphire’s onto Aston that he’s following/stalking her. It’s not clear to Detective Ridder, or even Sapphire, why Mystery Murder Man is sending Sapphire appendages of a certain middle-class girl, Shelly…until she shakes Aston, hotrods to San Diego, breaks into the McCormick house and discovers a brief entry in Shelly’s diary mentioning one Father O’Riley….

She’s also seeing her trainer show some feelings for her. She gets dumped by her boyfriend and she lashes out at Chrissy. Meanwhile, Aston’s having to fend off Sapphire’s mother, Vivienne, who uses men like tissues behind her elderly, disabled, nearly-vegetable husband that she overtly neglects. Talk about a viper! On top of it all, her friend and housekeeper Julia is engaged – which really shows the double sides of Sapphire.

For explicitly stating all she did in the beginning of the book about wanting to be different than all the other Beverly Hills rich women, she sure is acting like one of them with Julia. It’s strange to see such  jealously from a female character in this way, and especially cruel comments made directly to the reader about Julia’s choice…and then she blows up on him, insisting he’s the accomplice the first time she meets him! Needless to say, Sapphire is so bent on catching this serial killer that she’s not firing on all cylinders and is itching to capture him. Rushing leads to sloppiness.

The Mystery Murder Man is indeed only one person – and someone Sapphire knows! But the least-likely person she would suspect….

The book has a few light twists at the ending, but Sapphire showed some character development and is able to let Julia go, peacefully. She also confronts her mother about a question that’s been burning in her heart for her entire life – which was quite a surprise, as it never really came up at any time during the novel. Things are left unresolved between Sapphire and Aston, especially after her big announcement…and another crazy is on the loose – and he’s looking for Sapphire!