Creating an atmosphere to write

Music, ambience, views, nature, books… what helps set the scene for you to pen your next great story?

I go through moods with how I like my environment while writing. I see so many of those playlists on the internet, sometimes I feel like I’m missing something, because while I like to have music playing in the background at times, I don’t associate particular songs to a scene in a storyline.

So I have different modes when I write. At times I like complete silence. Which is fine when your home by yourself, but when you’re not, I need to pull out those noise cancelling headphones to get some work done before I succumb to the urge to bludgeon someone with a heavy blunt instrument.

Other moments I love having an ‘80’s playlist in the background. Something about sense memory of a more innocent time when I was growing up helps to free up my inspiration. Like I’m shedding the stresses of adult life and going back to a time when anything was possible. Music from this time period is like that old oversized cardigan, it’s familiar, you know all the lyrics, and you could listen to the soundtrack and never get tired of the melody. Can’t say my housemate particularly love the retro playlist on repeat, but hey, it’s not about them… and I can always listen to it on my headphones. No harm, no foul, let me dwell in my happy place unencumbered.

I also have moments where I love some easy listening or playing Andrea Kirwan in the background. Her voice melts away my headache and puts me in the mood to write a more intimate, emotional scene. Great for love scenes or creating angst. I’m a mood reader and a mood writer. I don’t have to craft a story sequentially, I can jump forward and backward in the storyline and pen a scene if I have a particular feeling I need to currently capture… yes I’m a plantser! (A combination of a plotter and a pantser for those of you who have not heard that term before.)

Visit Andrea’s website at http://www.andreakirwin.com

Dance music: those feverish times when my fingers are flying over the keyboard, like a coffee fuelled writing sprint. The volume is not too loud to pierce the bubble of extreme concentration as I channel from some other creative dimension. This is particularly useful in action scenes, or when my fingers on the keyboard cannot keep up with my overactive brain. While it feels productive and fantastic in the moment, often when I re-read the days work, some of it is embarrassingly discordant… like and actual monkey took over and was banging at the keyboard.

Ambient noise. Rainforest. Café, office, library… Public places also makes me productive. Something about needing to block out your surroundings to write. And the other layer of people watching you sitting there at a laptop makes me want to look like I’m a productive member of society. Knowing you are being watched is a great motivator, or being surrounded by other productive people make you want to pull your socks up and get to work.

But no matter where I’m working, I need a clean and clear workspace. If I’m writing with paper and pen, I need a bright and light area, whether indoor lighting or plenty of sunlight. There are also moments where I like to sneak down to the computer at night time and write in the darkness. It feels sneaky, intimate, like you’re undertaking subterfuge.

I also love a view of nature. Whether I’m sitting on my balcony overlooking the coast line. Seeing the rolling hills meet the sand and a stretch of white-capped waves rolling in from the horizon. Or down in the sunroom amongst rainforest trees, colourful parrots singing a tune, and a natural spring that brings a serenity with its waterlilies and ducks.

I don’t think I could work in the same place every day forever. It would feel stale after a time. The creative beast needs to be fed with sensations, sights, sounds, and stimulated with verse. Reading helps, conversations, observation, even daydreaming. It is the best way for me to stave off writer’s block… well I don’t necessarily get writer’s block because I switch up my environment, habits, what I’m working on so much that it never gets boring. That, and having a routine (whether I follow it or not) are great guides to keep the prose flowing.

And don’t forget to cut yourself a break. Good writing does not explode from you immediately. Writing is a process of inspiration and creativity, reviewing and editing, fine-tuning, and outside feedback. A solo endeavour, but a group experience. Writer, Reader, Reviewer…

There is no set structure for how to write, just many avenues you can try out for yourself and see what works. You’ll find your groove, fall out of it, and find inspiration again. The key is to never give up and never stop trying different methods. I routinely spring clean my office and re-arrange the furniture, pictures, colour scheme, it give the space a different feel and when I sit down to write it feels fresh and new – with no mistakes – and somehow leave me invigorated and ready to tackle the next challenges.

What are your tips for creating an ambience fit for writing? I’d love to get a writing group together, but living remotely, it’s not necessarily an option. Online doesn’t feel the same. Escaping to the university library is the next best thing. I even went and did a few weeks work at an empty desk in a friends office and it really helped get me out of a low productive moment. There’s always a way…

© Casey Carlisle 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘If There’s No Tomorrow’ by Jennifer L. Armentrout

A cautionary tale for teen love.

If There's No Tomorrow Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, Romance

No. of pages: 384

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Lacey Barnes has dreamed of being an actress for as long as she can remember. So when she gets the opportunity to star in a movie alongside one of Hollywood’s hottest actors, she doesn’t hesitate to accept the part.

But Lacey quickly learns that life in the spotlight isn’t as picture perfect as she imagined. She’s having trouble bonding with her costars, her father has hired the definition of a choir boy, Donavan Lake, to tutor her, and somewhere along the way she’s lost her acting mojo. And just when it seems like things couldn’t get any worse, it looks like someone on set is deliberately trying to sabotage her.

As Lacey’s world spins out of control, it feels like the only person she can count on—whether it’s helping her try to unravel the mystery of who is out to get her or snap her out of her acting funk—is Donavan. But what she doesn’t count on is this straight-laced boy becoming another distraction.

With her entire future riding on this movie, Lacey knows she can’t afford to get sidetracked by a crush. But for the first time in her life Lacey wonders if it’s true that the best stories really do happen when you go off script.

Page border 2020 by Casey Carlisle

I didn’t mind this contemporary, it’s a slow burn romance with a heavy dose of survivor’s guilt. Compared to many other reads from JLA, where there is a lot of action, angst, or paranormal, ‘If There’s No Tomorrow’ is more realistic fiction, and with a teen protagonist facing some heavy issues, it did not feel as gripping as I’m used to. But this is a great story. A precautionary tale that I feel is important for the demographic of this novel.

I did go in to this with no prior knowledge, I skipped reading the blurb, because Jennifer L. Armentrout is one of my auto-buy authors and I love her angsty, escapist tomes. So I was expecting just that – some drama filled teen romance of some description. And ‘If There’s No Tomorrow’ is that… and more. Protagonist Lena is navigating decisions for graduating high school, telling her crush about her feelings, keeping together her girl squad, and then, bam! Underage drinking, driving while intoxicated, death. I was not expecting any of the latter. But I have to hand it to JLA, she really landed an experience of loss, grief, and survivor’s guilt. Even the situation of a father’s role in taking responsibility for their child. I related to this a lot. It was quite a sobering read. Though, in hindsight, I did not get the gut-wrenching feels, the man-cry sobs, or the tummy butterflies of yearning I wanted. This was somewhat vanilla. And I can understand why; there are some very heavy topics discussed here, but in effect ‘If There’s No Tomorrow’ is a love story. Bogging down the narrative with the more realism-laden issues would take the narrative in a completely different and depressing direction and move well away from JLA’s typical fare. This is meant to be a love story – I get it.

If There's No Tomorrow Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Lena was a fun protagonist, she loves volleyball, parties, hanging with her girls, and reading. So there was a lot to connect to. Thank goodness she wasn’t some snarky waif that we get a lot in YA, though she was a little of that plain jane stereotype.

The love interest, a jock, boy next door type, again felt a little stereotyped and typical for this genre, but I enjoyed how he is depicted as a man and not some idiot teen boy with impulse control issues.

I predicted the ending when it came to the love story – come on its expected and obvious, that’s why I picked up the book. But the other stuff around the accident and the aftermath was a complete surprise. Though if I had read the blurb, it’s all right there. So I’m not spoiling the book. I probably wouldn’t have picked this up if I had read the Goodreads description to be honest, but it was a great read nonetheless. But I probably would have rated it lower because it gives the entire story away.

Jennifer L. Armentrout’s writing style is effortless, and lends to a quick read, though I would have liked some more atmosphere built and less inner lamenting to build a stronger emotional connection. Symbolism always works better than someone having a whine.

I’d only recommend this for tried and true fans of JLA, or for young teens (as a precautionary tale). I think romance lovers and contemporaryphiles not familiar with Jennifer’s catalogue may find it a little bland. In fact as I check other reviews I can see this reflected in reader’s reactions. I appreciated ‘If There’s No Tomorrow’ for what it is and am glad to add it to my collection.

Overall feeling: not what I was expecting…

If There's No Tomorrow Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

If There's No Tomorrow Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

Critique Casey 2020 by Casey Carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The importance of scheduling your writing time.

The importance of scheduling your writing time Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle

You want to finally write that novel? Here’s a great tip that has never failed me. I’ve spoken to many aspiring authors and published authors, and inevitably the discussion comes around to how do you write? The getting-stuff-done part, not the process.

Basically it has come down to a very simple rule for me (and nearly everyone I canvased for this article) – you need to make a dedicated window of time each day/week for your writing. I did this while I was working full-time, and when I started writing from home full-time.

The importance of scheduling your writing time Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleI have a rule of absolutely no interruptions for me to get in the zone and write. Even if the words aren’t flowing so well, I have a number of techniques to coax the prose. So writer’s block isn’t a thing for me. I have many tools to keep me writing, and multiple projects to jump to if needed. The biggest hurdle is having time to write.

No running chores, no telephone conversations, no social media, just a comfortable place to sit and get the ideas formed into sentences and on to the page.

At the moment I dedicate the minimum of an hour a day. I set a timer. And beware my demon snarling wrath if you impede on my creative time.

Usually I will write longer than this self-imposed minimum, but I found setting the bar too high stresses me out, leaves me feeling like I’m falling behind. It also allows me to plan my day, whether I have appointments, chores, or other life stuff to do; knowing I get at least an hour of dedicated writing time puts my anxiety in a box, buried deep in a dark hole, never to raise its bothersome head again.

Now this 1 hour minimum takes many forms in its delivery: I could be in my office, completely quiet; I could be in my pj’s lounging on the couch, the dog asleep on me feet; I could be at the library, noise-cancelling earbuds in playing chill-out tunes; maybe at the University library feeling studious amongst all those people filling their brains with knowledge; or even at a café where I can indulge in the atmosphere and the occasional pastry. Heck, I’ve even written on a blanket in the rainforest to the soundtrack of birds chirping, or under the shade of palm trees at the beach. Whatever is working for me at the time. I need to mix it up so I don’t feel complacent or stale. And as long as I get in a minimum of an hour a day to write.

The importance of scheduling your writing time Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Depending on your process, and your situation, you’ll have to adapt this concept to work for you. I know authors who write 10 hours a day in silence (in a stylishly converted shed); some 4-5 hours in a bustling coffee shop; I know a mom who has 1 hour of quiet time from her four children, locks herself away in the attic/office to get stuff done while her husband takes his turn of the child-rearing business. Heck, when I was working in the city and had an hours commute either way, I’d write while listening to music – that meant 2 hours a day to scribble out a narrative. Score!

Work out a reasonable goal for you, be it daily or weekly, and stick to it. Maybe you only write for a few hours on the weekend? You might feel the flow just before bed and spend some time before calling it a day?

It’s all about commitment and perseverance because writing a novel is a big, long-term project. There’s writing the thing, re-writing the thing, editing the thing, maybe doing all those things several times over, and getting the thing published. So creating a regular habit around your writing can only assist you tremendously in your journey.

Get to it fellow scribes.

 

Do you have any writing rituals that help keep you on track and motivated? I’d love to hear what tricks and tips you use.

UPPERCASE lowercase 2020 by Casey Carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘Fame, Fate, and the First Kiss’ by Kasie West

Acting, school and boys – typical teen stuff. But sabotage – yikes!

Fame, Fate, and the First Kiss Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, Romance

No. of pages: 384

goodreads banner by Casey Carlisle

Lacey Barnes has dreamed of being an actress for as long as she can remember. So when she gets the opportunity to star in a movie alongside one of Hollywood’s hottest actors, she doesn’t hesitate to accept the part.

But Lacey quickly learns that life in the spotlight isn’t as picture perfect as she imagined. She’s having trouble bonding with her costars, her father has hired the definition of a choir boy, Donavan Lake, to tutor her, and somewhere along the way she’s lost her acting mojo. And just when it seems like things couldn’t get any worse, it looks like someone on set is deliberately trying to sabotage her.

As Lacey’s world spins out of control, it feels like the only person she can count on—whether it’s helping her try to unravel the mystery of who is out to get her or snap her out of her acting funk—is Donavan. But what she doesn’t count on is this straight-laced boy becoming another distraction.

With her entire future riding on this movie, Lacey knows she can’t afford to get sidetracked by a crush. But for the first time in her life Lacey wonders if it’s true that the best stories really do happen when you go off script.

Page border 2020 by Casey Carlisle

It looks like Kasie West is back on her winning formula. Another enjoyable escapist romance with ‘Fame, Fate, and the First Kiss.’

Set in the same universe as ‘Love, Life, and the List’ we follow protagonist Lacey, and aspiring teen actor in her first big movie role as a zombie. Only she has a helicopter/hover father and schoolwork to contend with as well as her acting job. Enter the cute tutor Lacey’s father hires to ensure she at least gets a passing grade, because, you know this whole acting thing may just be a whim no matter how serious, and how long Lacey has taken on being an actor. Tutor Donavan is straight-laced and all business. The business of learning. Only adding to Lacey’s daily pressures. Then little things start to go wrong on set… nothing like piling on the stress.

Again this is a cute contemporary, a quick read, as West has established as her brand. It didn’t quite have the quirky field of characters as her earlier works, but ‘Fame, Fate and then First Kiss’ still managed to captivate my attention and keep me engaged until the end. Lacey is cute and sassy but with a mostly level head. I almost wanted her to be a bit more headstrong to create some more tension. Or at least something so she wasn’t so… vanilla. So to with her love interest Donavan. He was very much a perfect wish-fulfilment type of guy. I’m used to a bit more character from West’s leading men.

Fame, Fate, and the First Kiss Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Contrasting that we have some of Lacey’s co-stars who are very sure of themselves (or very full of themselves) which added some colour to the mix.

I did love the small mystery plot line as well; it helped keep the pace and tension right to the end, rather than this being an angst-fest. So a slightly different tone to West’s usual fare, but a welcome change. Though, please bring back those interesting characters…

There is not necessarily a lot of character development, rather more of a burgeoning understanding and better lines of communication being established. So while the plot is mostly predictable (small mystery aside) and because of the ‘vanilla’ characters and less angsty storyline, the pay-off wasn’t as great as I was hoping. Though still entertaining and definitely a step in the right direction after a lull in late 2018 to early 2019.

I liked the connection to Abby  and Cooper and am looking forward to the final book set in this universe ‘Moment of Truth’ to be released in March 2020.

A solid entry into my guilty pleasure collection, though I wanted a bit more complexity of plot and a dash more interest in the cast. Recommend to lovers of teen YA romances, it was a pleasant way to wile an afternoon on the lounge with a hot cup of tea.

Overall feeling: *sips tea*

Fame, Fate, and the First Kiss Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Fame, Fate, and the First Kiss Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

Critique Casey 2020 by Casey Carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.