Q&A with Elizabeth Holland

Check out this Q&A I did with author Elizabeth Holland:

Author Q&A with Andrew McDowell

Many thanks for this opportunity, Elizabeth!

Happy Holidays, everyone! Wishing you all a Happy New Year, especially after a year like this. Today is the day of the Winter Solstice, which is the origin of many winter holidays. As the light and warmth of the sun will return, may the new year bring new light and warmth for all of us! I am certainly hoping 2021 brings changes and progress both career-wise and in writing.

And don’t forget: books (and book reviews) make great gifts! My Amazon author page was updated to include more anthologies from past and present, including As the World Burns, which came out last month.

Five Years of Blogging

This month will mark this website’s 5th anniversary (twelve days from today, to be exact)! I’d already done a post looking back after two years, but five years is one of those major milestones that several people mark. So here’s a summary of what this website has seen and went through in five years.

I started out knowing nothing other than I had to set one up in advance, as many friends had advised me so. I looked at other indie authors’ sites to see what I should do, made some choices of my own, and took advice from others about what to include and how to improve it. Over these five years, the website has gone through a facelift as well as a change in domain name. I learned a lot as I went along.

This post is my 60th. I started out discussing personal insights and aspects in the craft of writing, and have since expanded to marketing and sharing books in my inscribed collection as a means to promote other authors. I’ve made guest appearances on many other authors’ blogs too, the majority of which were interviews about me and my work. All can be found on my site’s blog page.

When I started this site, I had two publications in poetry and creative nonfiction, respectively. The latter prompted me to create a Facebook Author page (two months prior to the website). Because of this website, I set up accounts on Twitter and Tumblr, and found new ways to be active on YouTube and Goodreads. And now I have an Amazon Author page!

This website has witnessed more publications in poetry, short stories, and the biggest of all, my novel Mystical Greenwood (which was also a finalist for an award). The Nightmare Whispers anthology series came out a week ago, and Fae Dreams, also from Fae Corps Inc, yesterday. More are in the works, and/or are awaiting publication. Here’s a teaser in an old open mic reading I did at the MWA in Annapolis of some short stories:

This website has been used to promote my work as well as many events that I’ve participated in, in-person as well as virtual. I have acquired followers and readers from all over the globe!

The top ten places from which I’ve had views as of now:

  1. United States
  2. United Kingdom
  3. India
  4. Canada
  5. Australia
  6. China
  7. Brazil
  8. South Africa
  9. Ireland
  10. Philippines

Last month, in fact, had more views than any other month before it, and the day with the most views (as of this moment) when my last post came out.

It has been quite a journey so far. Who can say where I’ll be in ten years? All I know is that I must keep pressing on, learning and experimenting.

Merry Writer Podcast

Many thanks to my fellow authors and bloggers Rachel Poli and Ari Meghlen for featuring me on the Merry Writer Podcast! If you haven’t yet, listen as I discuss with Rachel how I came to be a writer:

The episode is on Podbean too.

Be sure to subscribe to the podcast to listen to their other episodes!

And be sure to keep an eye out on my poetry and short story pages for upcoming links to the anthologies Fae Dreams and Nightmare Whispers: Madness Echoes from Fae Corps Inc! They’re due to come out at the end of the month! Some links are already available for preorder!

Interesting to note that some of my work that will appear in those anthologies are tied with earlier days of writing. “Crossing the Estuary” was originally a high school creative writing assignment I’d thought lost but rediscovered. “Candlelight” was an assignment in college where we had to write a poem in the style of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven,” following specific guidelines (yesterday was the anniversary of Poe’s death). I recall I actually started writing it on Halloween!

An Author’s Experience of Marketing during COVID

During the COVID-19 crisis, a number of marketing opportunities opened up for me. I’ve already shared a few of them in previous posts, but here are others.

Here is a guest post that I did for author C. A. Campbell, in which I discuss how online marketing took on a greater role during the stay-at-home order, especially with Twitter and certain hashtags:

An Author’s Experience of Marketing during COVID

Many thanks to C. A. Campbell for the opportunity to speak about it!

As I mentioned in my guest post for Campbell, I appeared Live on Twitter as part of a virtual book tour sponsored by Our Own Write, which had been set up in response to the fact that several writers’ conferences had to be cancelled due to the crisis, including, in my case, the Maryland Writers’ Conference.

In the tour, I read an excerpt from Mystical Greenwood and answered questions. My broadcast got cut off in the middle due to technical issues, and I had another issue with the camera, which is why a good part of it is “black,” but at least I didn’t get cut off during the reading part.

Part I:

Part II:

Still, I enjoyed the experience very much.

Go check them out if you have a book that you want to promote at their future events! I highly recommend them.

Finally, though this was in the works beforehand, I did a short interview with the British-based Chat and Spin Radio. I appear 25 minutes in:

Chat & Spin April 11 Part 3B

Overall, yes, marketing changed quite a bit because of COVID19 and staying home. But, as I said in my guest post for Campbell, it’s all about pressing on.

Behind the Book: Mystical Greenwood by Andrew McDowell

Check out this interview I did with my friend and fellow author Ally Aldridge as part of her “Behind the Book” series, in which I discuss my novel Mystical Greenwood. Many thanks, Ally, for this opportunity!

via Behind the Book: Mystical Greenwood by Andrew McDowell

Verse: Rhyme or Free?

Anyone who has watched Dead Poets Society remembers the viewpoint Robin Williams’s character John Keating gave regarding poetry, and how it cannot be measured. It was a very touching scene, and so I thought I’d talk about my own experiences with poetry, this being National Poetry Month.

I first began writing poetry when I was a teenager. Back then, one could say I was rather rigid. I didn’t experiment a whole lot, typically using a simple rhyme scheme, unless of course if I was writing a sonnet. I would write sonnets because I was (and still am) a huge fan of Shakespeare. I had even recited Sonnet #XVIII (Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?) at a Poetry Out Loud contest in high school, in which I won third place. But then again, I was rigid there too, because I’d only written sonnets in the Shakespearean format. In a way, looking back, perhaps I was afraid of breaking into new ground.

My rigidness continued for a while at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, where I was introduced at a poetry club reading by the club leader as a more traditional poet compared to other members. The professor of an advanced poetry workshop class later made the observation that I liked to express a theme or idea at the end of each of my poems. However, it was through both that class and another poetry class at St. Mary’s that I began to break free and experiment with poetry.

I discovered new different forms that I had to write in as part of my assignments in those classes. More importantly, over the years I’ve broken free of form alone and began to not worry about syllables and rhymes. I’ve realized how poetry provides a way to really experiment with words and phrases, more so perhaps than fiction. I continued to express themes in my poetry, but also turned to showing and portraying emotions and feelings.

Among the blogs I follow are poets who use their sites to share their work, which is amazingly diverse and wonderfully done. I myself read three poems during an open mic at the Annapolis Chapter of the MWA:

Here’s another reading I did online for The And I Thought Ladies:

And another at the Annapolis MWA:

Poetry expresses what’s in the heart and mind. For any poet, and every writer, their work evolves over time, and through experimentation, gets better.

Resources
  1. Community of Literary Magazines and Presses Directory.
  2. Brewer, Robert Lee. List of 86 Poetic Forms for Poets.
  3. Guildford, Chuck. Stanza Breaks.
  4. Hess, Gary R. 55 Types of Poetry Forms.

Love is in the Words

Romance has long been considered an important component of literature and drama. It draws them in, including me. People love to praise those who make huge sacrifices for love. Readers like to see it blossom and endure amid great trials and hardships, to see it conquer all. Unfortunately, sometimes fans can get so obsessed with notions of romance that they can lose their hold of reality.

Modern adaptations of classic stories alter characters for the sake of romance. Helen of Troy has been portrayed as falling genuinely in love with Paris rather than being under a spell, as she was originally in The Iliad. In some adaptations of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Ichabod and Katrina are in love, with Ichabod as a noble hero, whereas in the original story his motives are anything but honorable, and it’s implied Katrina, who was rather vane, merely used him to make Brom Bones jealous. Even villains like Dracula, who originally had no qualms over their actions, have become “humanized” and anti-heroic via romance. Romance appeals to people.

Within fandoms and fanfiction, I’ve seen “shippers” when there’s a love triangle and even with characters who either didn’t end up together or weren’t in love. Margaret Mitchell was hounded by Gone with the Wind fans wanting to know if Rhett and Scarlett reunited. She never gave them a definitive answer, because that wasn’t the point of the story. It’s been suggested some (but not all) fans don’t care about reason, wanting a romantic ending no matter how much it defies logic.

So is there a danger when writers incorporate romance into stories? Yes. There have been articles and books discussing how reading romance novels can be dangerous for one’s physical and psychological health, because in searching for love in real life, readers may aspire to an idealized image found only in fiction. Some try to play it out, thinking it’ll end like in stories. The result is grave disappointment, because in real life nothing is perfect. In Sense and Sensibility, the romantic Marianne falls for the handsome, dashing Willoughby and wears her heart on her sleeve. When he leaves her and marries for money (after being disinherited for abandoning another girl he got pregnant), Marianne wallows in grief, to the point where she endangers her health and nearly dies.

So what can writers do? Recognize the power stories have to shape readers’ views on love. Perhaps aim to show love isn’t perfect, with fights and disagreements, but still satisfy readers. Marianne finds love in Colonel Brandon and gets a happy ending, but she matures and sees the error of her past conduct. Another thing to bear in mind is that sometimes relationships don’t work out. Seldom is a first love everlasting, especially with teenagers. At other times, there isn’t a happy ending but hope for a better future.

I don’t dismiss the power and importance of romance. It’s needed in some (but not all) stories. But writers and readers alike need to understand genuine romance is gradual, with ups and downs. As Shakespeare says, “The course of true love never did run smooth.” And as I learned in church, love is an umbrella term used for many situations that aren’t identical. Furthermore, what may appear to be love isn’t necessarily love. They say love is blind; so is obsession. Love not built on a solid foundation of friendship, mutual trust, and respect, is the easiest—and fastest—to crumble.

Resolutions

It’s a new year! I’ve always found it remarkable how time flies, especially when we’re not really paying attention to it. It’s only when we’re constantly noting it that everything is going extremely slow. But more importantly, reflecting on times past helps one see just how far one’s come, and to prepare for the future, which I think everyone can agree is on people’s minds right now, with the notion of New Year’s Resolutions. Ever since I took my writing seriously, there have been resolutions related to writing every year.

I started my website over four years ago. There’s been a lot of trial and error in building and designing my website, and those of you who’ve been loyal followers, thank you for your support. Thanks also to those who have read and reviewed Mystical Greenwood. Over this time, I’ve been fixing a number of grammatical errors, but as frustrating as it has been, I’ve learned from them—not only new things about language that have helped make me a better writer, but that no one and nothing will ever be truly perfect—not even writers and their work. I’ve come to accept that, and people have for the most part been understanding and kind. The majority of reviewers so far have enjoyed it and written favorably about it. Plus, the book was a finalist in a contest!

This past year I didn’t plan that many public appearances and book signings. I made a few, but not throughout the entire year, and the year before some didn’t draw large crowds due to a lack of planning. But others did. Perhaps my most successful was my discussion on the importance of names. This year I know I’m going to have to do more of them in order to spread the word and get more readers and reviews. To start off, in a few weeks I’ll be signing copies of Mystical Greenwood at an indoor yard sale at Nichols-Bethel United Methodist Church. I’ll giving my aforementioned discussion on names once again at the end of February, this time for the Baltimore chapter of the MWA. I also hope that I will be able to sign and sell copies of my book at the 2020 Maryland Writers’ Conference at the end of March!

And of course there are online appearances—I have in the past couple of years made several guest appearances on other blogs and a podcast, and I’m always looking for more opportunities. Anyone who would like for me to be a guest speaker or blogger can always reach me via this site’s Contact page. Perhaps most importantly, I need to place some serious focus on future works, especially the sequel to Mystical Greenwood. A number of reviewers have expressed their interest in finding out what happens in the next book, so I have to get on that so they will not be waiting forever! Here’s hoping for a good year with good memories and prolific writing!

Beta Readers, Critique Groups

Beta readers help polish writers’ work in preparation for submitting to publishers. Sometimes they work with one another one-on-one. Sometimes they form critique groups, where members share their work and receive critical but constructive feedback from everyone. What makes them helpful and essential is they aren’t necessarily in the publishing profession. They are people whom writers can trust with their earliest, roughest drafts. They are in effect the first step to sharing work with the world.

Some say it’s not a good idea to share drafts with family. Well, family is the first source of encouragement and support, and sometimes there are relatives that can offer constructive feedback. Nevertheless, it’s important to interact with and receive feedback from people who aren’t family, but who are passionate about writing and/or are seeking publication. Sometimes they’re already published, and can offer insights into the process. They will provide more critical and constructive feedback, which is necessary for growth as a writer.

I’m sorry to say that critique groups don’t always last forever. For different reasons, members leave (usually for personal reasons, which is completely understandable). What’s important is whether the groups and members have something to teach you and make you stronger. I’ve have been in quite a few critique groups since I joined the Maryland Writers’ Association, and even started one of my own. I have found it to be an extremely beneficial and motivating atmosphere.

Good beta readers not only state what they don’t like, but explain why and offer suggestions as to how to improve it. They are fair and respect the submitting writer’s feelings. Writers don’t always have to agree with beta readers’ suggestions, but listening to and appreciating them will benefit them. Those who only say they don’t like a writer’s work—if they put the writer down in their work and/or as a person—they aren’t worth staying with. And they are out there, unfortunately. I’ve encountered such people. But in such cases, the best thing was to move on, learning from those experiences and my mistakes what it means to be a good beta reader.

Writers must remain respectful of beta readers. They too have feelings, dreams, and opinions. They build one another up, which is how they all move forward. It’s best to move on when things don’t work out, especially if you receive negative feedback instead of constructive feedback. If someone doesn’t help, or isn’t willing to give you a second chance when attempting to make amends, don’t stay with them. Find people who will.

Further Reading
  1. Meghlen, Ari. Why you need to have Beta Readers.

Guest Appearance at Shortprose!

Check out my latest guest appearance, where I discuss the origins of what first inspired me to become a writer! Many thanks to my friend Gabriela, who blogs at shortprose.blog, for this wonderful opportunity!

via Meet a young author: Andrew McDowell #guest post