The blog of author Harper Alexander

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Writer’s Block: Conquered

With a new month around the corner, I’m pleased to say that I have beat my case of writer’s block, and will be all fresh for hammering out a September novella.  I’m very excited about this, and already have a 5,000 word head-start!  So, August was not a complete waste of time, after all.

My paranormal romance Dangel’s List has not been manifesting itself as I would like, and so I’ve decided to put that off even longer.  September’s book will instead consist of a detour/dip into…the Fae!  I’ve had a few ‘Faerie’ ideas pending for awhile, but the idea for September’s book is a new one, and it started working the instant I put the pen to the paper, so I’m going with it.  But, for my fairy purposes, I shall  be using my own term ‘Faya’, because I don’t like conforming to what’s already out there/been done.

This will be a little bit different for me, but I think it will be fun.  It’s also going to be the first time I’ve titled a book simply after the name of the main character, which I’ve kind of wanted to do for some time, but always came up with something way cooler instead.  And the title of September’s novella is…dun dun dun…



What Inspires Writers

A couple weekends ago, I had the chance to visit with a cousin that I have not seen in ages, and over dinner as we were talking about my writing he asked me what inspires me.  It was a serious question, the kind that seemed to be seeking some profound answer.

I found that I had no idea how to answer, at least when put on the spot.

After thinking about it, of course (for a few days), the answers did begin to come to me.  At the time I was able to identify ‘music’ and ‘reading other books’ as points for inspiration, but that is by no means any kind of exhaustive list of where we as writers get inspiration.  (Actually, my first answer was ‘everything’, but he wanted me to be more specific.  He said: “like what? Give me an example”, and that’s when the ‘music’ and ‘reading other books’ came out.)  But ‘everything’ is actually a very true answer.

For the sake of giving some specifics, though, (perhaps for the sake of knowing what you might turn to in order to cure a case of writers’ block), it seemed worthwhile to think more about his question and come up with a list.  Here are some of those things that I came up with, that inspire me:

Music.  This is a great way to give yourself a boost when you’re just ‘not feeling it’, because music stimulates all kinds of emotions.  But it also seems to just be generally inspiring, to the point of even creating pictures in my head, as if I can imagine a scene from a movie that a given song might go to.

Speaking of movies: movies themselves!  Same as ‘reading other books’ inspires me, movies do the same thing.  As my cousin put it to generalize my answer: “So, other people’s creativity.”  Yes.

Therefore, along those lines, we can add art itself to the list.  Browsing through fantasy art often really inspires me to get back into that type of world.  Like – how could I ever have wanted to leave?

I don’t know if anyone else shares this one, but along with reading other books, for me, comes the simple act of keeping a book next to me when I write.  I’ll pause writing every few minutes to pick up the book, look over the cover, ruffle through the pages – even smell them – and this simple act often gets me going again.  I’m not sure why this one works.  Perhaps it has something to do with reminding myself how awesome the finished product is going to be, how if I keep going I can be just like this other author, and my book can end up in someone else’s hands.

Pinterest.  Haha.  Yeah, aside from browsing fantasy art specifically, I often browse Pinterest for a random smattering of ideas, and there’s so much stuff out there that it often works.

Daydreaming.  This doesn’t work for me as often anymore, but I think that has something to do with life being more stressful these days.  However, there’s nothing like a good daydream.  This used to work especially well for me on long car rides.

People-watching.  If nothing else, it’s very interesting.

Any of the above two things combined.  Listening to music WHILE I browse fantasy art?  Whew!  Then I really get going.

I should probably also mention dreams.  This is not exactly a way to go about beating writer’s block, because you can’t just command yourself to have some awesome dream, but a lot of my inspiration does in fact come from dreams.  A number of my titles were born SOLELY from dreams.

What other forms of inspiration work for you guys?  Anything I haven’t mentioned here? (I may have left some out that I meant to put in, too…)

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Fun Stuff Kick-Off

I thought it might be about time to incorporate some fun stuff into my blog.  So far I’ve pretty much only talked about my own writing, and while I intend to incorporate a lot more in the ways of general ‘writing tips’ and such (stuff that could be useful to other people), I haven’t gotten around to starting that yet, and I’m in the mood for fun (and who doesn’t love to join in some fun!).  So.  I’m doing a poll today for something I’m curious about.  Please do weigh in with your opinion!

If you had to choose from the following, which popular fantasy series would you say you prefer?

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Favorite Authors

Since I’m currently taking a break from my own writing, I thought it would be fun to share a list of my favorite authors / authors who have inspired me.  They are:

Tamora Pierce. (She’s what got me into reading/writing fantasy, back when I was 11 or so.  I was totally addicted to her books for years, and will gladly read all of her new releases even now, simply because she has something that got me hooked, even though I’ve since moved on style-wise.)

Tanith Lee.  (Looking at her bibliography, you’ll quickly see she has a lot of unusual, rather obscure stuff.  If you’ve read any of it, you probably know it can get extremely dark/explicit.  However, I got to know Tanith Lee’s work through her Young Adult Fantasy endeavor known as the Claidi Journals.  This was around the same time as I was into Tamora Pierce, so I was excited to find another YA fantasy adventure and branch out slightly.  Imagine my disappointment when I loved the Claidi Journals, looked up Tanith Lee, and found that all the rest of her stuff was dark and mature and not at all like what I’d excitedly come to know her by.  Oh well.  But the Claidi Journals will always hold a huge special place in my heart.  They’re odd, but there’s something about them… I was hugely influenced by certain things about those books.)

Cornelia Funke.  (A German writer, who writes lots of different children’s fantasy stories that get translated into lots of languages.  I fell particularly in love with Inkheart. To be honest, I have not enjoyed any of her other work nearly as much, including Inkheart’s sequels, but Inkheart itself was wonderful.  Wonderful.  This is the book that opened my mind to the beauty of metaphors.  And the idea that modern fantasy could still be cool/beautiful.)

Patrick Rothfuss. (The Name of the Wind blew me away (no pun intended), even though to this day I can’t put my finger on why.  I’m on the next book in the series right now, and while I’m enjoying it equally as much, I still can’t say exactly why it’s so special.  Something about his storytelling, about the events that come about and fit together…  I just love it.  He’s a definite favorite.)

Dawn Cook.  (A little more obscure under this particular pen name, but in my opinion she is underappreciated.  The four books in her ‘Truth’ series are some of the most beloved on my shelf, and will be forever.  She writes a beautiful, beautiful story, with characters like I’ve never felt for before, and description that paints the most incredible picture.  These books make me ache.)

Sherwood Smith.  (I have only actually read her book ‘Crown Duel’, another YA fantasy, but it’s another all-time favorite.  One of those where the last half is way better than the first, but totally had me glued to the setting and inspired where creating my own settings was concerned.  Love the characters and the intrigue.)

Robin McKinley. (It’s been awhile since I’ve read her work, and I’d like to read more than I have, but ‘The Hero and the Crown‘ was a book that convinced me my journey into fantasy was definitely going to be a lifelong love affair.  While I don’t remember the book clearly, there are little bits that I can put my finger on inspiring me throughout my writing career.)

Kristen Britain. (I’m a horse-lover, so I bought her Green Rider series mainly to get a horse and fantasy fix at the same time, but she totally inspired me in the way she used a simple writing style but enough imagination in the setting and events themselves to make the reading experience magical and beautiful. Until then, I had not really thought such could be achieved.  I always thought simple writing would translate as just that, and always come across rather flat and boring, and that to make it beautiful you had to use prose and fancy words. Glad she’s shown me otherwise.)

Lauren DeStefano. (I have just read her debut novel, Wither, so she is the newest face on my list of favorite/inspiring authors.  As I’ve said, ‘modern’ stuff tends to rub me the wrong way, so I was pleasantly surprised – pleasantly blown away – when I read Wither.  The way she wrote totally enchanted me.  I loved the setting simply because she put so much character into everything, and for this reason she is an instant huge inspiration to me as I’m launching my ‘contemporary’ debut as an author. I will go back to this book (and eagerly devour future volumes) whenever I need inspiration on this front.)

While it’s debatable whether or not he’s a favorite, I’m going to go ahead and mention Neil Gaiman as well.  His book ‘Neverwhere’ really did something for me, and is one I also find inspiring in many indistinguishable ways.  I don’t know.  Something about it.  The ideas, the daring ‘different’ tone about it…  Love it.

A couple other books themselves I should mention:

The Book Thief.  (Not my typical genre, but the way the author writes is extraordinary.  I would have read this book just to savor his metaphor usage.  In the notes he writes regarding the book, I remember him saying something along the lines of believing that there should be a gem on every page.  I love that, and he accomplishes that splendidly.)

Ella Enchanted.  (Yes, a girly Cinderella story.  But quaint and charming and somehow so special. Another that has stuck with me, forever.)

I may have forgotten some, but this covers the basics.

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Taking a Breather

For the first time in my write-a-b00k-a-month project, I have decided to take a break this month.  At first I was unwilling to do so, but thanks to a bad case of writers’ block that simply wouldn’t budge and the fear that it could actually be more damaging than productive to force myself to spew out books and get burnt out in the process, I have decided to take a breather.  It will be worth taking one month off if it means I won’t end up more thoroughly burnt out in the future.

My hope is that this time will be equally productive in the realm of ideas – taking time to step back and let the ideas spill through my head without pressure, and develop, and morph, and twist and turn as they please, able to explore different angles without the pressure of writing down the first idea that’s ‘good’ or fits with the plot.  Allowing for exploration and development can only heighten the potential a given plot-line possesses.  My hope is that a month dedicated to letting ideas brew and stir will see them nice and pent-up by next month, ready to burst.

Until then, I’ll be a little quieter around these parts.  But I eagerly look forward to re-activating all my progress bars next month.  In the meantime, I’m toying with the idea of releasing a ‘special edition’ of one of my books this month in place of a completely new one, just to keep new releases flowing.  Happy writing to everyone else!