Vicki Hinze's Blog, page 3
June 13, 2015
Mastering the Craft of Writing
By nature, writers are interested in many things. They’re observant, reasoning, seek motivations for actions and weigh reactions. Typically, they seek experiences because everything is story fodder. The deeper their creative well, the more assets are available to them to draw from—and that offers them more writing choices.
One of the most appealing things about writing to many writers is that they can explore a lot of different interests and then wrap stories around those interests to share with others.
Because of diverse interests and broad appeal, writers tend to bore easily. That makes writing extremely attractive because no matter how much a writer studies, how long they study, the fact is the writer will never master writing. It will always provide the writer with mental stimulation because there’s always something new and different to try, to explore, to learn.
Years ago, I decided to go back to college and get a master’s degree in creative writing. As I looked at the courses, I was both elated and dismayed. There wasn’t much available or required for the program that I hadn’t already independently studied. I met with my counselor and we evaluated. I challenged the maximum number of courses permitted and then continued, studying a lot of things that are now obsolete.
That might sound like a waste of time to some, but it was interesting. Stepping into the past and seeing how things had been done. Wonderful book fodder.
Learning, for writers, is typically a lifelong passion. Pulling in a lot of disparate information creates a plethora of possible scenarios. It makes the mind flexible, makes the writer think of putting odd or unusual things together and projecting what will happen. That, for the writer, is just plain fun.
It’s also why writers pursue learning their whole lives. After the master’s degree, I went back again and got a Ph.D. But I still haven’t stopped going to school. Conference workshops, online classes and discussions with writer’s groups keep the desire to learn fresh. This past weekend, I started James Patterson’s Masters Class.
Why, after working all week—over 50 hours—would I do that? Because it’s fun.
That’s the other thing about writers. They love writing or they’d be doing something else. There are far easier ways to earn a living. But if you love something, it doesn’t feel like work. It doesn’t seem like a must-do, it seems like a privilege. That’s passion.
And passion is the key to determining whether or not you’re a professional writer or a hobbyist, which is vital information to know when deciding your career path.
I’ve been writing something nearly my whole life. I started with political essays, moved into poetry and quickly moved through short stories and into novels. I couldn’t wait to put thoughts into form then, and all these decades later, I still can’t wait to get to my stories today. Passion, enthusiasm, a deep love for what you do can take you to places that sheer will cannot go.
So when you’re debating whether or not to write. Ask yourself how much you like to learn, to explore, to observe. If you naturally think motivations, goals, and conflicts; if you naturally are drawn to learning and trying new ways and approaches to doing things, and if you find yourself exploring things and seeing bits of good and bad in all sides, then you might just want to try your hand at writing.
Of course, you could take the short-cut and quit. Yes, quit writing. If you can do it, then it’s not the profession for you. That’s the fastest way to discover the bottom line. Writers can’t quit. When they’re not writing, they’re not content. It’s that simple. So quitting to see if they can quit is a direct path to discovering the truth.
And isn’t it a wonderful blessing to know that no matter how long or much you study, how long or much you invest in exploring and learning, you’ll never master writing? There is always something new to investigate. Writing is, indeed, a lifelong adventure!
Now some will be disappointed to hear that writing can’t be mastered. That shatters an illusion for some, and causes feelings of being overwhelmed in others. But for those of us who have had, or hope to have, a lifelong intimacy with writing, this disclosure doesn’t cause dismay. It’s a reason to celebrate.
© 2015, Vicki Hinze.
Hinze is the award-winning, USA Today bestselling author of nearly thirty novels in a variety of genres including, suspense, mystery, thriller, and romantic or faith-affirming thrillers. Her latest release is The Marked Bride, Shadow Watchers, Book 1. She holds a MFA in Creative Writing and a Ph.D. in Philosophy, Theocentric Business and Ethics. Hinze’s online community: Facebook. Books. Twitter. Contact.www.vickihinze.com.
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June 12, 2015
This message, I would say, is for my younger friends, but honestly, they’re pretty savvy. So instead, let’s tag this post as a reminder and a warning to us all, because we can’t afford to forget it. And I’ll confess right up front, as a Mom, I’m pretty ticked off at all the people trying to manipulate and mess with our kids. These users and abusers need to back off–and we need to insist that they back off–now.
I had to say that; I’ve been choking on it. On to the message…
People prey on those they see as vulnerable or weak. They use other people do to their dirty work. They abuse those who are genuinely seeking…something… and glamorize, lying through their teeth, if necessary, to make what they want done sound like the answer to everything a body wants. There are those who will say anything, do anything to anyone, to sucker them in and use them for their own purposes.
They have an agenda–and they need a willing body–any willing body–to step in and do things they can’t or won’t or are afraid to do themselves.
Teens are vulnerable. Actually, everyone is vulnerable–if the user taps into a person’s soft underbelly. And, honestly, exposing that soft underbelly is so easy these days. Visit half a dozen Facebook pages or Twitter feeds. You’ll see just how vulnerable people are making themselves.
So the user exploits that. Exploits you. Attempts to harness whatever you’re longing for just long enough to make it irresistible to you. Doesn’t matter if it’s wrong, if it’s bad for you. The user doesn’t care about any of that, and especially not about you. The user cares about one thing: getting you to do what s/he wants done. That’s it. By any and all necessary means.
Knowing that makes it vital that we all recall this truth and that when approached, we stop and ask ourselves the questions above: What does the other person have to lose? Who is going to do the dying for doing this something wrong?
That cuts through the clutter quickly, doesn’t it?
Remember: No one can use you without your consent. And anyone worth following would never lead you anywhere s/he isn’t willing to go her or himself. Don’t be fooled by empty words and attempts to mess with your head.
If it strikes you as wrong. If your gut says it’s wrong. It’s likely wrong. Trust your instincts. Protect yourself.
And don’t be suckered into doing things that, if you live, you’ll regret.
June 10, 2015
A thought to ponder as you move through your day today…
There are those in life who want to control others, feel a need to control others by manipulating them into behaving a certain way, doing a specific thing, taking a specific position on something that is of consequence to the person with the agenda.
But here’s the thing we need to remember. We choose what we embrace and what we reject. We decide. Others only influence us to the extent that we allow them to influence us.
Considering that these attempting to control us have their own agendas–which very often have nothing to do with us and everything to do with them–we should be judicious in whose lead we follow. Who we permit to influence us.
The thought is this: we all have a moral compass. We know the difference between right and wrong and what is acceptable behavior and what is not. We need only trust our own judgement and exercise our own common sense. We are not to be led by those unworthy to lead. We are capable and well able to decide who and what we believe without being nudged into adopting beliefs and behaviors that we know innately are wrong.
We need only exercise our own good judgment–and to refute and deny those who would manipulate us for their own purposes.
In the end, we choose. They can attempt, try to nudge, guide and manipulate. But they fail to tell us what to think unless we permit them to succeed.
It’s our choice.
June 1, 2015
CREATIVITY UNLEASHED: Mixing Up Methods
Call it spring fever. Call it getting bored with methodology. Or functioning on auto-pilot and not being fully engaged. Call it whatever you like, but when you do something—anything—repetitively the same way, with time, the method drains enthusiasm. It becomes routine. Same old same old.
In normal life, we can find that comfortable and consider that “sameness” a good thing. But when we’re involved in anything creative, that repetitiveness breeds apathy, and apathy leashes creativity.
So we have to do something to unleash creativity. We might like the results of our current method, but unless we infuse them with something that sparks a fresh burst of enthusiasm, we aren’t tapping into the full potential of our creativity. The proverbial muse is muzzled. When leashed, the creative process becomes mundane and ordinary, and that denies us access or entry to the creative realm where magic comes out to play.
Even if your current methods produce well, you still want to mix things up to keep the process fresh, giving creativity room to stretch its leg and run free. The smallest of changes can create huge results. Let me get into the practical and share a working-writer example.
Anyone who’s read my articles for any length of time knows I’ve had major eye challenges. That I typically work on four books at a time. That I can no longer read more than a few pages at a time on paper.
#1 Mix Up: I changed the way I read. Switching from paper to eBooks made a dramatic difference in my life. I can read a lot more at a time, read faster, and I don’t get whiteout (where the ink disappears and all I see is a white page) or jiggling letters (because my eye muscles lose control).
That was a miracle find for me. Yes, I do miss the feel of a book in my hands. But I’d rather hold an eReader and actually get to read than hold a book I can’t read. While hard at first, now I’m used to the eReader and I love how much more reading I can do. What changed? My attitude, mostly. Necessity drove me to switch. Gratitude holds me to stay switched. (And another perk: I can adjust the font so that on days when it’s tough, I can adjust the font instead of how much I can read.)
#2 Mix Up: Writing four books at a time. Bluntly put, I had to give up working on four books at a time. I’d done that my whole writing career, but the eyes made focusing a challenge and, for the first time, I had trouble working and switching from book to book. So now I focus on one book and keep an idea file on the others on my desktop. When something germane to one of the other books pops up, I drop a note into its file so the content isn’t lost. This was a pretty big adjustment, focusing on one story at a time, but by noting the other story tidbits, partial scenes, etc. as they come to me, I don’t lose the gems. They’re waiting for me when I switch to that book.
Another benefit of this mix up is that it eliminates that “new book syndrome.” You know the one I mean. When you finish a book and let go of known characters and plot and start with a fresh group. That mental shift from the familiar to the still fuzzy and new has a lot of writers stumbling until they settle into the new book and its cast and plot. Well, if you’ve got an idea file full of notes on the new book, that shift to a new project is more like coming back to those characters and that plot. A big adjustment is avoided, and you’re familiar. Why? Because all those ideas have your subconscious mind already working, pulling threads and fusing ideas into a cohesive whole. This is a huge perk.
#3 Mix Up: I don’t use the word problem often. Most problems are opportunities, even if they’re well disguised. But this next particular challenge, eye challenge, was a huge problem for me. When writing on the computer—which I have to do now because of the paper whiteout—I developed an additional whiteout challenge.
For most of my writing career, I’ve written between 25 and 50 pages per day. (A lot of it never reaches print, but I don’t edit as I write. I go with whatever comes.) So whether or not it reaches print is immaterial. That kind of page count is a pretty high production rate that allowed me to write a fair number of books per year. Well, after a bunch of the eye surgeries, and then some more, my production rate naturally shrank to half or less.
Last year, it shrank more. I could write 4 – 5 pages on the computer and then the letters would start jiggling. Not long after that, I’d get whiteout. Staring at the proverbial blank page on the computer screen (like on paper).
The jiggling was due to thickening eye muscles. (Read that repetitive back and forth across the page for years and the muscles thickening.) Thickened, the muscles don’t function as well. So they struggled to focus and that caused two things: jiggling letters and nausea.
The whiteout comes from intense focus and brightness.
A method mix up was required. But to what? Dimming the screen didn’t work. Dragon, or dictation, didn’t resolve the issue. I needed to alter something else.
I use Word for creating and discovered that I could change the background to blue and the text to white. I have to tell you, that threw me because it was visually different, and visually different seemed intrusive. I didn’t much like the intrusion, but I thought the reason was more personal bias than true challenge. The blue, for me, was just too bright, and I associate blue with depression and “feeling blue.” I absolutely hated that association, but it’s been incorporated in my mind for eons. Tough to change.
Needing an alternative, I dug around Word a bit and found publishing layout and templates and I changed the background of the page to a deep gray and the text to white. That immediately felt easier on my eyes and, being neutral, it didn’t intrude. I cannot tell you how excited I was by this.
I’ve used that new method—white on gray—for over 100 pages now. It’s hard to see the cursor (I haven’t yet figured out how to make it light so I can easily see it on the gray) but that aside, this mix up hasn’t been at all jarring. In fact, yesterday, for the first time in a very long time, I produced at a decent rate. Edited about 70 pages and wrote 24 new pages.
It’s been a very long time since I could write 24 pages in a day, and longer since I could do it without paying dearly for it.
The miracle is the method mix up worked. After doing all that editing and writing, my eyes didn’t hurt. On leaving the computer, I could focus and actually see.
That was such a mood lifter… I can’t begin to explain. But I can tell you this: I woke up this morning feeling fantastic and so eager to get back to the story. I couldn’t wait!
That is the true miracle. Being able to focus on the story and not on how much I could accomplish before I’d run out of eyes for the day.
Now maybe you don’t have eye challenges. Maybe you’re blessed with fantastic vision and eye strain isn’t a part of your life. Maybe it doesn’t dictate what you are capable of doing or not. Regardless, here are two tips I hope you’ll heed:
Take care of your eyes. Everyone in this business, sooner or later, suffers from eye strain. Maybe not the heavy-duty challenges I have (those are thyroid related, not eye related) but eye strain eventually gets to everyone in the industry. So …
At regular intervals during your day, stop working and focusing on close ups. Look out on distant objects. Get up and move away from the computer and look away. Do this frequently. Your eyes will thank you for it.
Use moistening drops. Refresh or Systane or a similar product. Use them throughout the day. Why? Because when we compute, we tend not to blink. Our eyes get dry. And dry eyes can cause more challenges than you can imagine. Keep them lubricated. If you don’t keep your eyes lubricated, you can bet you’ll come to regret it.
Mix up your methods. Try new things. Try new ways of doing things. Don’t ever get set on doing anything one way. There are two reasons that’s a bad idea:
You could miss a better way.
If your one way suddenly stops working or isn’t available to you, you’re stuck. You then have to first convince yourself that you’re capable of accomplishing what you want to accomplish another way, and then you have to make the attempt and the adjustments required to do it. That’s far more difficult than being open and flexible and trying new things all the time. You’re used to change. Your mind is open to it as normal, and that makes it and your creativity more flexible.
A side-story. I once had a writing friend who could not write except in longhand with a specific purple ink. The manufacturer quit making it. She had serious challenges in making the shift to a different purple. For her, this is was not a small thing. It was huge.
Another friend had to have a specific kind of notebook to write any first draft. That was fine until she couldn’t get the notebooks anymore. That notebook was again, significant to her, and that made it significant to her creativity. She shopped for months to find another kind of notebook that sparked that same creative sense in her. When she found it, she bought two cases, figuring that would be enough notebooks for the rest of her life.
We all have our quirks. Whether a specific purple ink or a certain kind of notebook, we need what we need. Not a thing wrong with that. But both of these cases make the benefits of expanding our needs to fit within a base with the broadest of perimeters.
Broad perimeters make for more choices. Narrow perimeters make for few choices and more challenges. Solution? Mix it up. Start that way and stay that way. Not just because you have to but because you want to unleash creativity and have as few impediments to it as possible.
Developing a method for doing things can be a benefit. It allows us to do mundane tasks that are repetitive without a lot of focus. There are things in our lives where that’s helpful and it frees our minds to wander and daydream while we’re doing them.
Unfortunately, that brings increased risks of injury and damage, too. But in some things, those risks are decidedly minor and we can afford to take them on.
Writing is not among that group of low-risk tasks. In it, our creative muse needs freedom and flexibility. Opting for set methods can be useful in providing that, but it can also impose limits on creativity that are not welcome and can anesthetize it.
When our creativity is limited—not focused or channeled, but limited—it backs us into corners and we’re stuck and must fight our way out of them. The writing suffers for it. The writer suffers for it.
So mix up your methods, knowing that, like me, you’ll need to give yourself time to adjust. New endeavors always require adjustments. But once you have, look out. You might just find your miracle.
That is what happens when creativity is unleashed!
May 30, 2015
The financial guru, Warren Buffet, once said, “Only when the tide goes out do you discover who’s been swimming naked.” That’s the core of Spiritual Poise.
It’s easy to be gracious and kind when others are being gracious and kind. It is when others are venting, being disrespectful, or attacking you or your beliefs that spiritual poise becomes difficult. At times, it’s seemingly impossible.
When the veneer is off and raw emotions are exposed—the character of the people is bare, like Buffet’s swimming naked—that we see the true character of the people with whom we’re interacting or observing.
I won’t sugarcoat my address of this situation. We’re in perilous times. Not just physically and emotionally, though both are true, but spiritually. We’re teetering on the edge of losing civility, pushed to that edge by people pushing their own private agendas who use vulnerabilities—real or perceived—to manipulate us. But they can only manipulate us to the extent that we allow ourselves to be manipulated. Unfortunately, we’ve already let them do so far too much. But all is not lost. This is a new day and with it comes a new opportunity to make wiser choices. I hope we will.
Let me give you a couple examples…
Yesterday was Memorial Day in the States. All over the nation, people paused to remember those who sacrificed for the good of the whole of us, for all Americans. A company I am well familiar with did a video of appreciation, an up close and personal encounter experienced by a man that was pertinent to the occasion, and promoted it on Twitter. Many retweeted it, finding merit in it. Respect. Honor. Dignity.
Before long, those who oppose the military began attacking the video and the company. Others defended it. One of the chief complaints was that the company had nothing to do with the military. That, I happen to know, was inaccurate information because I’ve done business with this company for nearly forty years. It is all about providing services to members of the military and their families and it always has been.
As the day progressed, the criticism of the company and the military grew stronger and stronger. More inaccuracies, more negativity, and less gratitude and remembrance on this, the day set aside for the purpose of appreciation and remembrance.
Many opted to ignore the detractors. Many attempted to educate them, offering accurate information sources. Many added opposing fuel to the fire. The entire situation became what some call a flame-war. I call it a self-indulgent mess made by those who are clueless about what goes into establishing and maintaining a republic where others have the right to say what they wish—even if they are uncivil, wrong, disrespectful and, yes, dishonorable in doing so.
That something meant to honor was twisted like this stayed on my mind the entire day and long into the night. Not just because it was in poor taste, though in my humble opinion the dispute was in poor taste, but because that kind of personal conduct shows an absence of civility and respect for what the day was truly about. To the extent that lack was condoned, it is therefore owned.
When society deemed this kind of disrespect unacceptable, people exercised better judgment and refrained from displaying this kind of disrespect. That’s worth thinking about. Reassessing. Are we a better or worse society for our absence of any restraint? Do we want to continue to be a better or worse society? Each of us should address and answer those questions.
Here’s another example. There was a news clip of a respected actor doing a commencement speech. In it, he dropped the F-bomb. The reaction? Laughter. While the sentiment expressed had merit, the delivery could have benefited from a little more work and a little less sensationalism.
While many in our society use the F-bomb so often that they don’t realize there are many among us who do not and who find it extremely offensive. There were children in that audience and students looking to this actor for inspiration. No doubt, the next time a five-year-old who was there drops the F-bomb, s/he will be punished… and wondering why no one is laughing like they did that day. Like it or not, we’re role models. That’s the way it is, and we need to be mindful of it. Again, there was merit in the message, but the delivery could have benefitted from a tad more work. Why? Because of the delivery, the message was lost. Let me explain…
A week ago on the news, there was stiff opposition to the word thug being used to describe, well, someone conducting themselves with text-book-description-accurate thuggish behavior. The outrage was deafening. But to the F-bomb being dropped in a public venue with small children present, there was… laughter.
Had that laughter been just by students, it would have been bad, but it actually was worse. It included professors and esteemed leaders from the school. That is tragic. You can be honest with graduates about the hardships before them without sacrificing dignity to do it. This commencement event was a significant occasion. One every student worked long and hard to achieve, full of symbolism and rites of passage. It, and they, deserved more respect.
One of the more unfortunate results is that this actor had some good things to say, but no one will hear them. All that plays over and again on the news is the clip of the F-bomb—bleeped. That’s predictable—sensationalism sells—but also sad because all of the worthy things uttered won’t be heard.
Spiritual poise isn’t about trying to be perfect. None of us are perfect. It’s about grasping the value of civility and dignity and respect. For others, for institutions, for situations and events, and for one’s self.
In difficult times, when you’re hanging on by your fingernails, maintaining or grabbing hold of poise isn’t easy. It’s incredibly difficult. But it is then when you gauge your spiritual poise. When it’s hard. When the tide’s out and you see who’s swimming naked—and it includes you.
Holding onto that poise takes respect and discipline, and that includes self-respect.
It’s easy to pop off some one-liner to dig at another person. It’s easy to snap back to someone being mean, nasty, or acting thuggish. It’s not easy to retain dignity and grace in those circumstances but that is when you most need it.
Because if you cut loose in those situations, they will be the very ones you later most regret. You’ll see yourself on video gone viral and be stunned, not recognize the person you appear to be as yourself. You’ll regret that snippy post, that less than reverent uploaded photo. You’ll regret not listening more and talking less. Not listening and hearing.
You’ll wish you’d known or remembered earlier that just because you have the right to exercise an opinion doesn’t mean you should voice it—particularly when you are uninformed on a topic and you’re just repeating words you’ve heard others say again and again. Wisdom teaches hard lessons, and one of the hardest lessons in relationships is to think for yourself. Another is that context matters.
Repetition does not signal truth. It only signals repetition. Shouting matches do not resolve issues. They just elevate tension so everyone’s fighting to speak and no one is listening. Mimicking what others say isn’t thinking for yourself, it’s forfeiting the privilege of thinking for yourself.
Civil discussions where ideas are exchanged and all people are respected, that’s productive. It’s constructive and often enlightening. And those things—productive and constructive, enlightened discussion, respect for all, dignity in personal conduct—are the keys at the core of spiritual poise.
May 29, 2015
May 28, 2015
May 25, 2015
May 16, 2015
Secrets to Writing the Thematic Novel Series
When writers write a series of related novels, they often opt to connect the books by characters, setting, or circumstance.
For example, my Seascape series is set in a Bed and Breakfast in Maine. All of the novels share that setting and the secondary characters are people at the inn and in the surrounding village. I did the same type of related novels in the Crossroads Crisis Center series, creating a two-prong connection in each of the related books using setting and characters (secondary characters, in both cases).
Many authors will use a single main character, supported by a cast of recurring secondary characters, to create a series. Think of Jack Reacher, Stephanie Plum. Or a series of recurring characters, like in my War Games series. It’s built around a team of special operations individuals. In the first book, I have one team member as the protagonist. The story is predominately told through her point of view, from her perspective, meaning everything else relates through the prism of her vision. But there is also a second team member who acts as friend and confidant, and that provides a vehicle for info-sharing by showing versus telling and gives the reader the opportunity to better know this secondary character. In the next book, that secondary character moves into the protagonist’s slot and a third team member takes the secondary confidant’s position. That sets up for the third book.
I used that method in War Games and in the Lost-Inc. series. While the rest of the team was there and played small roles, their roles remained minor. The lion’s share of ink went to the protagonist and the secondary character supported but remained firmly in the background. This didn’t overwhelm the reader with a large character cast and it let the reader know the secondary character and gain interest in her before her story was told. The caveat is to keep the focus on the protagonist. Never forget it is the protagonist’s story.
Those series connected the novels by characters—teams of operatives—by setting—the team’s Home Base of operations—and by circumstance—the team was assigned a mission to complete. Having all three connections provided the added benefits mentioned above, but also gave a broader scope to their goals, motivations, and conflicts. The obstacles were greater, the consequences of failure were greater.
Early on, I did the Lady series, which ended up being two books. Why? Because the types of stories required a large character cast. The first book was about three separate groups who did not interact. So it wasn’t logical that protagonist and her group would interact directly with the antagonist and his group to stop a third villainous group from destroying the world. That large cast, while fine for many novel types, did not work well for romantic suspense, where a great deal of the novel is focused on the development of the relationship between the heroine and hero and develops as they confront the obstacles in the external conflict. Had I written the story as a straight thriller, it would have been fine. I didn’t. So while it was well received, it was atypical and more difficult on reader expectation. I learned from that, and avoided it in future series.
Many series have been written that are about a single family, a single place, a single event. Some authors have built careers on these types of related novels. Brothers or sisters, or generations of a family.
Expanding beyond that, there are series that are related by geography. Remember the Wagons West series, where a story was written and titled chronicling the move to populate the west? Independence! was the first, if memory series. And near that time there came a similar series on the White Indian, and we followed those chronicles.
In both cases, there were recurring characters but the focus was on the move west, on the experiences of the Indian. Characters who had been protagonists appeared in later novels, which readers enjoyed. They got to see what happened in the next chapter of those characters’ lives. That’s always held appeal to writers and to readers. And that, what happens next, can be incorporated into many series regardless of what the author uses to connect the books.
A series can be related by an object. An amulet or other piece of jewelry. A wedding dress. A clock or painting or time machine. All have been used. The key to the series is to set the rules for the object and stay consistent. You might reveal untapped powers or abilities, but the previous rules established remain intact, or if they change, the reason is logical and plays out on the page. That’s playing fair with the reader.
In the thematic series, the books have a recurring theme. They don’t share the same characters, they might not even contain the same sub-genres, though they should share the same genre so reader expectations’ are met. In this type of series, the books are standalone books, meaning you can read any one book and have the whole story on those characters. The next book will be totally different: different characters, different setting, different circumstances. The theme is what is consistent.
You do want the same genre so the reader knows what type of book s/he is getting. All romance. All mystery. All fantasy. But you can delve into different subgenres, provided the theme remains the same.
For example, my Reunited Hearts series is a thematic series. Here are the books:
The Reunited Heart Series
Her Perfect Life, Mind Reader, Duplicity
The novels are diverse. They don’t share common characters, setting, or circumstance. They are standalone novels. What they do share is a common theme. Each is an atypical reunion story. Two people at odds or forced apart are reunited and love gets a second chance.
That’s their connection.
When you craft a thematic series, you do want to provide similarities for the reader. Things with which you feel the reader will bond.
In Reunited Hearts, you’ll find:
All contain suspense, mystery, and romance.
Two of the three contain a military element.
All three contain women-in-jeopardy.
All three have Alpha Male heroes
All three have strong women protagonists
All three have males with secret internal conflicts in addition to the shared external and internal conflicts—a layer that creates additional obstacles and complications for them
Two of the three men were in love with the heroines previously and never revealed it for noble reasons
All three women and men had misconceptions about their respective partners that led them to false conclusions which were clarified and rectified in their relationships this time around
All three are contemporary novels, all romantic suspense. One is on the women’s fiction end of romantic suspense, two are heavily in the romantic suspense sub-genre. One is about an empathy, adding a dash of psychic paranormal yet firmly grounded in relatable issues.
When written, all three pushed at the boundaries established for these novel types.
I’m sure there are other secondary connections between the books, but those listed are intentional repetitions. When writing thematically, often the author makes multiple connections or includes multiple recurring threads or sub-themes that are subconscious connections because of the way the author thinks. S/he isn’t really aware of them, but they appear on the page because they’re the natural outgrowth of the author’s perspective and view and even the way s/he approaches novel construction, obstacles, conflicts and resolutions.
It is that instinctive writing that permits an author to write a book early on and years later write another, and still later write another and yet all three contain a lot of thematic connections. For deeper insight, you can read more details on these three: overviews, first chapters, reviews, awards, etc. on their book pages: Her Perfect Life, Mind Reader, Duplicity.
Some other thematic series would be those in which all the novels are protector stories, stories about someone falsely accused, betrayed. Unlikely heroes, fallen heroes, mistaken identity—the list is endless.
When you do thematic series, the most important thing to remember is to be mindful of reader expectations and work to get those secondary connections in all the books so that you do your best to meet the readers’ expectations.
Give readers commonalities that run true book to book. Common threads that carry the same kinds of emotional reaction. Things to which all of the characters could relate.
No author wants to fail readers. We write to entertain! Including a strong, universal theme and relatable secondary connections gives the reader a vehicle so that s/he can enjoy the thematic series journey.
© 2015, Vicki Hinze
May 14, 2015
One who accepts loyalty without giving it rarely deserves it.
We used to hear a lot about loyalty. About how you repay kindness with kindness and forgive those who are unkind to you.
Depending on who did the telling you about it, (read that: informed you of what is and is not socially and morally acceptable in your behavior), you likely heard some version of unkind people are ignorant or uninformed (they don’t know any better/weren’t taught any better), or they’re unstable and can’t help themselves. You, you were told, to be the “bigger” person.
That absence of personal responsibility alone—giving people behaving badly a pass and not holding them accountable—could explain why we don’t hear much of that type of teaching anymore, though we haven’t lost our sense or our ability to discern and we still know that some people do behave badly because they are ignorant and uninformed. And the truth is, we do have people who are unstable, either mentally or chemically unbalanced as a result of their own actions or genetics or circumstances beyond their control. But—and it’s a big one—we also have a society that often interprets kindness as weakness.
Frankly, kindness being interpreted as weakness baffles me and it always has baffled me. Why?
Because it embodies the absence of logic. It reeks illogical. Think about it for a second. It takes far more self-discipline and self-control—far more strength—to be kind to those being unkind than it does to vent your temper and take them down a peg or two. It takes far more strength to lead by example, maintaining your dignity and striving to be fair, than it takes to verbally clean someone’s clock or to put them in their proverbial place.
Exercising reason and logic and compassion and not cutting your temper loose didn’t just get more difficult, it’s always been more difficult. And difficult situations, by their very nature of being difficult and engaging emotions, require more strength. So being kind in difficult situations requires not only strength, but a lot more strength from a person. More strength is the antithesis—the exact opposite—of weakness. See what I mean?
Then we have the others. Those who are manipulated, used, abused, and actually lied to in order for the manipulator/user/abuser/liar to achieve a specific desired result—their loyalty. They want your loyalty and will do or say what they must to get it.
Yet there’s a big difference it getting loyalty and keeping it. Let’s look closer at this.
On a broad scale, for example: Headlines and many news sources deliberately mislead us. They include only the portions of some news story or event that fits their personal preferences, their views, their narrative. They include in their reports only that which supports what they want us to think.
Often they fail to report or deliberately elect not to report situations, events, or developments that counter their views. Often they divert our attention and focus away from those opposing things that counter their views. Things they do not want us to see, hear, or notice because it will lead us to oppose what they have decided we should think.
They slant what they choose to report, and choose not to report the things that don’t lead us to conclude what they want us to conclude. That, of course, nixes journalism and “news” becomes their opinion. Facts are lost or buried.
The majority of our news sources now are opinion, nudging us to draw the conclusions they want us to draw. We, not having just the facts or all the facts, are the victims. So is the truth. They don’t see this as lying to us. We do see it as lying to us. And sooner or later, we discover the full facts or the story, and our loyalty to those we trusted to tell us the truth is shattered.
These types of tactics are not uncommon throughout society. They are by no means limited to news. Diversionary tactics, all manner of tactics to gain our loyalty, which requires our trust, are common. We see evidence of it in companies, in governments, in organizations. We see evidence of it at work and at home in our professional and personal interactions with other human beings. People in and without authority over us and our lives engage in these types of tactics all the time. Why?
To gain our loyalty and support and to encourage, entice us to side with them on something and to make us question our own judgment if we choose not to side with them. Tactics.
It’s important to remember that no one sees themselves as a bad person. They’ll rationalize, improvise, and distort to prove their point, to gain agreement, to avoid responsibility or blame. They’ll do these things to gain support, to redirect support, to guide others into thinking or believing that they are a good person, a wise person, or a person who is doing the right thing. Even if it’s the wrong thing, they’ll use these tactics to convince us that they’re doing the wrong thing for the right reason.
The human being in us knows we all crave approval and acceptance. We all want to be thought well of by others. We all want something. Some remain true to themselves and their principles and let the chips fall where they may. But some will do anything to anyone, anywhere by any means necessary to get what they want.
Their reasons are as varied as they are. Some want glory, fame, money; some want other things, or something specific. All want power over you and to control you, your thoughts and actions.
Controlling you is their ticket to not only get what they want but to continue to get what they want. They engage in tactics believing if they’re crafty enough, smart enough, ruthless enough, they’ll get what they want—before you know what hit you. Then, of course, you’ve ceded and it’s too late to change. Done is done, and some things can’t be undone.
Have you ever supported someone for something and then discovered that they’d only told you half the story? When you heard the whole story, your perspective and opinion totally changed? Have you ever supported someone who did something that totally changed how you felt about that person, or about something they had done?
Few haven’t had such an experience, and few remain unchanged after having such an experience.
Loyalty, like trust, is fragile.
We all know that once trust is broken, it’s never fully restored. We can forgive, we can’t forget. We can put the past behind us, but at the most inopportune times, doubt raises its head to niggle and nag at us, to plant questions in our minds. Are we being deceived, manipulated, played for fools again? We wonder.
The same thing happens with loyalty. We give our loyalty to someone, and provided they honor it and respect us, we keep our loyalty to them, believing that it has a good home. But if we discover our loyalty has been misused, that it holds no value to and isn’t respected by that person in whom we’ve placed it, it’s gone. We take back our loyalty and we often refuse to give it again. At least, not to that individual. And sometimes not at all.
Because that’s human nature, many feel justified in lying and deceiving to retain others’ loyalty. They’re not interested in how the loss impacts the person who is betrayed. They’re interested in not losing loyalty and what impact such a loss will have on them.
If they have to lie, cheat, steal or otherwise contrive to keep people loyal to them, then that’s what they’ll do. They’ll pay lip service. They’ll say what they think you want to hear. They’ll commit acts that oppose what they claim as personal principles to keep you and your loyalty safely in their camp.
But here’s the thing. The truth always comes out. Often not as quickly as we’d like. Often in ways that cause us pain and maybe even break our hearts. Some truths revealed shake us to our core, change us forever. Some truths shift our entire perspective and make us question if what we believed was true was ever true.
Oh, we get angry and upset. We might rage and confront. But deeper than that, we’re wounded, and wounds scar.
Some carry those scars as badges of honor. Lessons they’ll never forget or repeat. Some consider it all and deduce it’s the betrayer’s loss and go on with their lives, a little slower to align themselves and give another their loyalty in the future.
Some swear off loyalty and insist they’ll retain it for themselves forever. Never again will they trust, give their loyalty to another human being. What’s in it for me? becomes their mantra, and they exercise it with steadfast vigor consistently.
You see, loyalty contains a touch of love. It’s seated in the chambers of one’s heart. It allows us to see through kind and compassionate eyes the acts of the person we’re loyal to, and to excuse their infractions because we think we know their hearts. We insist we know what they meant, their intentions, not what they actually said or did—and sometimes we do. But not always.
So when someone we’re loyal to crosses us, disrespects us, shows a lack of appreciation and regard for the heart-given gift of our loyalty, we’re done. Apologies may come, explanations may come, justifications may come, but we can’t go back. Never again can we enjoy the innocence of total confidence or faith in someone who abused us and our loyalty. Our mind might want to do it, our intellect might tell us it’s smart and wise, but our heart just won’t let that happen.
It’s like being heartbroken for the first time. Before our heart is broken, we have no frame of reference for heartbreak. When it happens, we feel every last ache and piercing. We suffer the full brunt force of every single low and we question our actions on every word, every act, every move we’ve ever made.
Once heartbreak happens, we know it can happen. We know that our hearts can be broken again. So when they are broken again (by the same person or another, the same situation or another), we hurt but it isn’t with the same intensity as the first time. We’ve been down this heartbreak road before. We know what to expect. We know how heartbreak feels, and what it’s like to be heartbroken up close and personal.
Having our loyalty kicked to the curb like a piece of trash has the same sort of impact on us as heartbreak. We get the full-blown impact of that trauma once. But the second time it happens, we’re more prepared. We have insights and knowledge we gained from the first heartbreak, and while it hurts and makes us miserable, the second (or twenty-second) heartbreak just doesn’t have the same power it did the first time.
We’re cut. We bleed. But the cuts aren’t as deep.
Loyalty is an admirable trait. It’s a worthy trait. But it should be given judiciously. Cautiously. Sparingly. And only in circumstances and with people who have proven they will wear that power you give them lightly. Reverently, with respect and an awareness of its value to them and to you.
Because loyalty isn’t a one-way proposition. It’s a mutual proposition, given freely and accepted with responsibility. Loyalty should be earned. Treasured. Warranted. And all parties should acknowledge that the street upon which loyalty runs goes both ways, heart to heart.
One who accepts loyalty without giving it rarely deserves it.
And that’s worth remembering—in our stories, and in our lives.*
© 2015, Vicki HInze
The Reunited Hearts Series