About L. Marie

I am an aspiring writer of fantasy for kids and teens. This blog encompasses my thoughts on the writing life, movies, animation—whatever pops into my head (not always a good thing). I was a student at the Vermont College of Fine Arts and earned an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults. I have worked as an editor, a ghostwriter, a technical writer, a bulk foods stocker, a receptionist, and a babysitter. I brake for squirrels and geese.

Writing Emotion


Charles Yallowitz’s great tips on balancing humor and heavy topics (you can access it here:
https://legendsofwindemere.com/2022/01/24/2-post-of-2021-7-tips-to-balancing-the-humor-and-the-heavy/) got me to thinking about posting on the subject of writing emotion. Obviously, I’m not an expert. Yet as a freelance book editor, the emotional aspects of a story are what gain the most comments from me. That and perspective issues. Maybe that is the subject for another post. Anyway, take anything I say with a grain of salt.

Back in grad school days, I gave my advisor some pages of a manuscript for feedback. The note she provided was short and sweet: I hate it.

Lest you think she was unduly harsh, let me explain. I had written a scene I thought was beautiful and emotional. I dressed the prose in all of the figurative language I could—similes and metaphors galore. But the problem was that my goal was to prove to her that I could write well. A rookie mistake, as they say. I didn’t factor in a reader’s reaction—whether or not the scene would resonate with a reader’s emotion. It did, but in a negative way. My advisor added that she felt emotionally manipulated with all of the figurative language.

I was angry and hurt, because I didn’t understand her reaction. Understanding didn’t come until years later, when I was hired by some publishers to help authors revise their manuscripts before editing them. In regard to writing emotion, here are a couple issues I noticed (there are others, but this post is already very long):

An Overabundance of Tears. Many authors use tears to show emotion in a character. But tears often are a short-cut to emotional depth. They also have a cumulative effect. The more a character cries, the less effective those tears become. If a character bursts into tears at the drop of a hat every ten to twenty pages, usually by the second or third crying bout, I’m irritated, rather than moved with sadness on that character’s behalf. I have had some hard emotional blows but didn’t shed a tear. Yet I have had excruciating physical pain that caused me to shed them. Tears do not always equal real emotion,

Shallow Emotion. In many manuscripts a character has been dealt a harsh blow in one scene. I mean something that would take a person in real life multiple counseling sessions and months, or even years, to work through. Events like this take a toll on a person. Yet in the very next scene the character is mostly or even completely over what occurred in the previous scene. This lack of emotional carryover always raises a red flag within me. If the character is over the event so easily, the emotional depth seems questionable.

Now I totally understand that if your story takes place over a two-week period, you’re pressed for time. If you’re trying to get through a certain amount of plot points, maybe you just want to move on, even if it means a quick emotional reaction. Keep in mind also that I’m not talking about a two-hour movie where characters move about on the screen and you’re seeing snippets of their lives.

In The Emotional Craft of Fiction author/agent Donald Maass discusses the emotional turmoil many of us face through life’s difficult events. (Anyone alive during a pandemic can relate.) He writes

Let’s look at the emotions [these events] evoke, for these are strong feelings and the ones you’d like readers to feel as they read your fiction. . . . However, there’s a problem with that: Big emotions often fall flat on the page. (35)

Note that he mentions the emotions you want readers to feel. So what does he suggest?

Creating big feelings in readers requires laying a foundation on top of which readers build their own towering experience. . . . Details have the power of suggestion. Suggestion evokes feelings in readers, drawing them out rather than pounding them with emotional hammer blows. (36)

In other words, instead of having your character fall out on the floor in tears (which does nothing for me, to be honest) do something to help your reader connect to his or her own emotion.

Here’s a snippet from All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, a story taking place before and during WWII. A French young woman is one of the protagonists.

Marie-Laure hesitates at the window in her stocking feet, her bedroom behind her, seashells arranged along the top of the armoire, pebbles along the baseboards. Her cane stands in the corner; her big Braille novel waits facedown on the bed. The drone of the airplanes grows. (6)

 

All the Light We Cannot See I felt a mounting sense of dread as I read that paragraph, thinking about the oncoming Nazi occupation of France and what that could mean to a blind young woman. This kind of writing might look simple yet is difficult to achieve. It takes some restraint on the author’s part and trust that the reader is savvy enough to understand and connect without hand holding.

Writing scenes with emotional depth takes some bleeding on the page. Many of us don’t want to go there, because we don’t want to feel that emotion. But if we’re writing a scene with any sort of emotional authenticity, we can’t really escape going there.

Anthony Doerr. All the Light We Cannot See. New York: Scribner, 2014.

Donald Mass. The Emotional Craft of Fiction. Cincinnati, OH: Writer’s Digest Books, 2016.

Book covers from Goodreads. Crying man from clipground.com.

Creating a Moment

The other day, I watched a video of a pastor who talked about creating moments. He mentioned that people seldom remember things, but they remember the moments. Whether or not you agree with that or disagree, I can attest to the magic of moments.

I remember gathering with my brothers on the top bunk in their room for what we called our “weekly bed club,” to watch Saturday morning cartoons. I can’t help smiling as I remember being small enough to fit with two other people on a narrow bunk bed.

Moments.

I remember running in Grant Park in Chicago, so excited to watch Buckingham Fountain (below) change colors.

Moments.

I remember my English camp students in Wujiang, China, who were so excited to take me to a store where I could get the imported chocolate that I craved.

Moments.

And yes, while I recall getting an Easy Bake oven for Christmas or a $100 gift card to Amazon, like the pastor said, the moments hit me on a deeper level. Moments like taking my mother to see the late, great Lena Horne—a singer she admired for decades.

Moments.

The countless moments spent at the home of incredibly generous friends during my tenure on the grand jury. Their weekly dinner invitations were a balm after listening to harrowing, emotionally shattering testimony week after week for eighteen months.

Moments.

Do you remember things or moments? How do you create moments?

Let me create one now. I’m a little rusty at this, so here goes.

Charles Yallowitz. . . .

this is your moment . . .

. . . to receive

. . . a $50 Amazon card.

Buckingham fountain photo found somewhere on the internet. Charlie Brown kids from Giphy. Sign language for give found somewhere online. Lena Horne 1940s image from somewhere online.

Are You Hungry in 2022?

 

This is not a Snickers commercial, assessing your physical hunger level. (Actually, I could go for one of those, right about now.) Let me back up. I was thinking today of my own hunger level in regard to writing. From a young age, I wanted to write anything I could write: stories, novels, play scripts, movie scripts, poetry, graphic novels, essays. I attempted any and all forms of writing. But as I grew older and rejections happened, my hunger slackened. In other words, I played it safe.

But who was I hurting by doing that? Me. So in 2022, I’m tired of avoiding an activity just because of the fear that someone else might not like what results when I try it.

Maybe you feel the same in this dawning of a new year. So with that in mind, my new year’s giveaway is a $50 gift card to Amazon/Amazon UK or some other source that will inspire you in your goal to advance in your writing or illustration, your artistic endeavors in needlework, or your whatever is legal. Maybe you want to purchase a craft book to boost your skill. Or, if you’re like me, you want to buy a coffee table behind-the-scenes book featuring a movie you enjoyed because you’re fascinated by the process of the filmmakers. (The Art and Soul of Dune, anyone?) Or maybe you want to buy a book from a trusted source (like Bookshop.org) or some crafting supplies (Hello, Michaels or JOANN) to inspire you to greater heights.

   

Comment below to be entered in the drawing. Be sure to name the place where you would want to spend the money. I hope to post the winner sometime next week after my next deadline.

Happy New Year!

Christmas 2021

What child is this, who, laid to rest
On Mary’s lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet
While shepherds watch are keeping?

This, this is Christ the King
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing
Haste, haste to bring him laud
The babe, the son of Mary

Lyrics by William Chatterton Dix

Happy holidays to all. Though none of us thought we would still have to deal with wearing a mask, here we are. May you have joy and peace even in this.

Marian, Merry Christmas! I’m sending you Charles’s book, War of Nytefall: Eulogy. I am sorry it has taken so long to announce a winner!

 

Baby Jesus image from freeimages.com. Author photo and book cover courtesy of Charles Yallowitz.

Check This Out—War of Nytefall: Eulogy

On the eve of Clyde’s dream becoming reality, his life will be torn asunder.

Cover Art by Alison Hunt

As his dream of peace becomes a reality, Clyde faces his darkest challenge.

With the Dawn Fangs’ existence exposed, the time for negotiations has begun. Mortal rulers and the council of Nytefall gather to discuss terms, but chaos is already stirring. It does not take long for Clyde’s dream to become a nightmare as villages are slaughtered by a Dawn Fang who is rumored to be the newly crowned Vampire King. Bodies of friends and enemies pile up as this mysterious imposter reveals why mortals should fear Clyde. Will Clyde’s final adventure see his dream of peace fail before it is realized?

The truth is more horrifying than the Dawn Fangs ever imagined.

*****

Curiosity piqued? Check out this teaser!

The Truth?

Coming to the windmill, Magrus coats his body in a protective shell and carefully climbs to the top of the broken structure. Slowly turning in a circle, he scans the area to get a full sense of the remaining magic. He ignores the auras of the guards, who are sifting through the wreckage to find more bodies. Those who have been located have already been moved to the outskirts where they are being prepared for transport. Peering down the narrow road, he can see an oxen-driven cart is getting closer and sighs at how it will not be enough to collect all of the dead. Magrus considers warning the lieutenant, but he fears it will lead to a long conversation and waste more of his precious time. He turns to where the man is helping to prop up a wall, which has crushed a family of four. Shaking his head, the Zarian climbs down from his perch and uses his staff to help him navigate his way out of town. Nothing catches his interest, but he stops momentarily to send a few more lost souls to the afterlife.

“Let us see what really happened,” Magrus whispers as he reaches the woods.

Turning back to the village, the man plunges his staff into the earth and grips it tightly to prevent himself from falling over. His eyes develop a rainbow shimmer over the gold as he wavers on his feet. Fighting through the looming fatigue, the priest lets his magical vision change from what is in front of him to revealing phantoms of the past. Transparent buildings rise back into place and ghostly figures go about their lives even though he can still sense a little of what is truly there. Magrus scowls at the sight of a black-haired figure landing a few feet away, the puff of dirt revealing an illusion covering the small crater. Within seconds of appearing, the man rushes at the town and begins destroying everything in sight. Using only his fists and feet, he breaks houses and shatters people. The attacker’s speed is almost too much for the Zarian to follow, so he focuses on examining the phantasmal carnage for clues. He spots bite marks on several necks and sees the chickens were devoured in the blink of an eye. Torches and candles are knocked over to start the fires, which explode into an inferno connected to the illusionary plume of smoke. Magrus is not sure what caused the sudden blast since the attacker had been tearing the local blacksmith in half at the time. Deciding he has seen enough, the man freezes the vision before falling to his knees from the exertion. He is able to hold the image for another second before it disappears, but it still gives him a clear view of the rampaging figure.

“This cannot be shared,” Magrus says as he takes out a piece of paper. He mutters a spell to transfer the image of a black-haired man with a corn-shaped necklace from his brain to the parchment. “It would appear that Clyde of Nytefall is not as big a fan of peace as one would believe. Yet, I still see mysteries here. The fires grew without his influence and I see no reason why he would want this place discovered. I have many questions, Lady Zaria, so I cannot purify the Vampire King until I have answers. There has never been a man or monster who has escaped my thorough investigations. This one will be no different. I swear on my goddess’s crimson hair that Clyde and the Dawn Fangs will be judged. Then, if necessary, they will be punished.”

Click here for your copy of the Dawn Fangs’ final battle for
99 cents on Amazon!
Help spread the word by adding it to your Goodreads ‘To Read’ List!

*****

New to War of Nytefall?Grab all 8 Volumes for 99 cents each ($8 total)!

Cover Art by Alison Hunt

Interested in more Windemere? Then don’t forget to check out Charles E. Yallowitz’s first series: Legends of Windemere

Cover Art by Jason Pedersen

About the Author:

Charles Yallowitz was born and raised on Long Island, NY, but he has spent most of his life wandering his own imagination in a blissful haze. Occasionally, he would return from this world for the necessities such as food, showers, and Saturday morning cartoons. One day he returned from his imagination and decided he would share his stories with the world. After spending many years fiddling with his thoughts and notebooks, he decided that it was time to follow his dream of being a fantasy author. So, locked within the house with only pizza and seltzer to sustain him, Charles brings you tales from the world of Windemere. He looks forward to sharing all of his stories with you and drawing you into a world of magic.

Blog: www.legendsofwindemere.com
Twitter: @cyallowitz
Facebook: Charles Yallowitz
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/cyallowitz/

Enjoy Clyde’s final adventure by clicking here!

L. Marie here. I’m giving away a copy of War of Nytefall: Eulogy to a commenter. So to enter the drawing, please comment below!

Still Here


I’m sorry I haven’t posted in a while. I’ve heard people say that during the holidays, publishing slows down. Maybe that’s true on the manuscript reading end, though I can’t really verify that. But with the pandemic, some editorial jobs were cut, leaving existing personnel scrambling to find help with acquired manuscripts. That’s where freelancers like me come in. So my deadlines have been like a certain movie franchise—fast and furious.

Four projects are due in January. But I will try to keep posting more even as more holidays approach.

TTFN.

Here image from parkslopeciviccouncil.org.

I Didn’t Know I Needed Dune (2021)

I don’t know about you, but my soul is weary these days. I’ve struggled to write anything—especially a blog post (though freelance deadlines also played a part in that).

When a friend suggested a trip to the movie theater—first time in about nineteen months—to see Dune (2021), I jumped at the chance, having watched a reviewer give a glowing review of it. I’m not normally swayed by reviews. If I want to see a film, I’ll see it without watching any reviews beforehand. I watched a review this time, because I was afraid that Hollywood would mess this up. Gotta be honest. You see, I’ve read three of Frank Herbert’s Dune series and loved the 2000 miniseries adaptation of some of the books. So I was wary to say the least, as was the friend who invited me to go.

Have you seen the movie? This is not a review, but rather, a post about how a beautifully made film can assist in the restoration of a weary soul. Dune (2021) is the only film I’ve seen by the director—Denis Villeneuve (who also cowrote the screenplay). And though I majored in radio/TV/film 800 years ago, I didn’t learn much. (That major was short-lived anyway, lasting only a year.) So I can’t speak with any sort of authority on cinematography or any other aspects of filmmaking. You know how you can look at something and know it’s good, but you don’t understand all the ins and outs of what makes it so good? That’s how I felt while watching Dune.

I knew what I expected to see—an epic saga taking place on a desert planet. A reviewer called Dune (2021) a sandy Game of Thrones. Apt, but a little unfair, since the first Dune book debuted in 1965 and George RR Martin’s first book didn’t roll out until 1996. So maybe Game of Thrones is a stony Dune. But I understood why the reviewer said that, since most people might know Game of Thrones while knowing next to nothing about Dune except for a movie that some disliked.

Anyway, what captured my attention in the film the most were the seeming simplicity of the camera shots and the moments of silence. Characters often stood gazing at the scenery or walked together in silence. On screen, we might see one image highlighted—like a woman whose diaphanous train blows in the wind or a close up of the face of the main character (played by Timothée Chalamet, below).

Many films seem cluttered in comparison, with characters and objects crowded on the screen. You don’t know where to look first. But in this film, certain images arrest you as the camera pans.

Watching Dune reminded me of Seven Samurai and other foreign films with less dialogue. Moments would go by without the characters saying anything. That felt like ma space—a rest between intervals of action. .

In a day of constant chatter through text messaging and a never-ending stream of images on social media, I cherished the choice moments of silence and stillness. This is not to say that the film lacked action. I used the word epic for a reason. Lots of fight scenes ala Lawrence of Arabia. If you’ve seen that movie, you can picture what I mean.

Anyway, I needed it.

Photo of Chang Chen playing Dr. Wellington Yueh found at filmfed.com. Timothée Chalamet found at jacketscreator.com. And yes, you can purchase a coat like that. Dune movie poster found somewhere else that I forgot to notate.

So, This Happened

I’m not a mechanic. So if you are, you might shake your head at what I’m about to tell you. So, not long ago, I went out to start my car. When I did, it sounded like a garbage truck—a new development since the day before that. I called the mechanic I usually take the car to and asked if I could bring it, telling him I thought the muffler had gone bad.

He said, “Yeah, drop it off tomorrow.”

Now I don’t know about you, but I believe in prayer. Not saying you have to, just that I do. So after praying, I was certain I needed to drop that car off not the next day, but that day. So I texted a friend and arranged for a pick up at the auto shop. Not half an hour later, the mechanic called and said, “It’s not the muffler. Your catalytic converter was stolen.” (If you’re wondering what that is, click here to be taken to a Wikipedia article.)

He texted a photo.

That took a moment to register. He asked pertinent questions like, “When did you notice the change?” I explained that whatever happened had to have happened during the night, because the car was fine the previous day.

He advised me to make a police report. So I called them. An officer came out right away with the news that the previous night, catalytic converters were stolen out of several cars in the area. A group of thieves had been busy in this area. Why, you might ask? (Or you might not wonder. My dad and a friend said this is happening all over the country.) In Illinois we have the emissions test requirement. The deadline for the test is October 31.

My sister-in-law then texted an alert she received on more thefts in a nearby town. Here is part of that:

Sigh. So I had to file an insurance claim and am now in a rental car as I wait for my car to be fixed so that I can pass the emissions test.

Hope you have better news. If so, please share it.

Photos were given to L. Marie.

Does Fantasy Seem Less Fantastic These Days?

I recently overheard a conversation between these doughnuts that got me to thinking about the question posed in the title of this post.


“What’s that?” you say. “Doughnuts can’t talk. That’s unrealistic.” Herein lies the issue that some people seem to have with fantasy.

Let me back up. I had a conversation with an actual person about a fantasy novel we both read, the title of which I am withholding. We came to the conclusion that the fantasy elements seemed downplayed in favor of a social injustice message. This is not to say that social injustice is a bad theme. But when a book blurb touts that a book is “full of magic,” I expect something along the lines of the Harry Potter series, the Nevermoor series by Jessica Townsend, Charles Yallowitz’s books, or the Oz books. You know—dragons, flying cars, lunch pails growing on trees, huge cats, inventing gnomes, and fantastic hotels. But that’s not what I found. Instead, I found rich people indifferent to the plight of the poor and magical healings that weren’t called magical healings—just healings.

   Cover art by Jason Pedersen 

This is not the first book I’ve read where the fantasy elements seemed a little scarce. As I pondered that, I couldn’t help recalling what the son of a friend once told me: “If a story isn’t realistic (The Hurt Locker as opposed to The Lord of the Rings), it isn’t real to me.” I’ve heard similar sentiments from others, most of whom would never crack open a fantasy book. As if stories of imagined worlds are inferior somehow. But imagination has been the key to so many breakthroughs in our world. Ask any trailblazing inventor who dreamed of a new way of doing something.

“That’s for kids,” someone else said to me about fantasy stories. Yet the Harry Potter series, a fantasy series “for kids” in that person’s estimation, has sold the most copies of a fiction series worldwide than any other series. When each book in the series was released, I remember seeing more eager adults standing in line waiting to pick up their books than kids. But I digress.

This is not a knock against anyone who dislikes fantasy stories. It’s all a matter of preference, isn’t it? And for the record, I love many realistic stories too. This is just an observation from someone who never really grew up; who never really stopped loving fairy tales with dragons and knights and princesses.

You see, I read or watch movies to escape. I love diving into fantasy worlds and learning about the people and creatures who inhabit these worlds. I want to escape from the horrors of the current news stories. So I wouldn’t purposely search for a book because I need to know more about social injustice. You can call that burying my head in the sand all you want. I call it saving my sanity.

Just my two cents. Feel free to add yours in the comments below.

The Merchant of Nevra Coil photo courtesy of Charles Yallowitz. Deathly Hallows from Goodreads. Dragon from en.gtwallpaper.com. Other photos by L. Marie.

Do You Care What People Think?

See this penguin? (Yes, it is a penguin despite the coloring.)

I thought about using this penguin in a post with another topic. But the fact that I thought about using it prompted this post, because it shows I care what people think of me—whether you think I’m clever or creative. Though I don’t like that aspect of myself, I can’t deny the truth of it. Oh I know you’re way more mature than me and don’t care what other people think, so just bear with me even if you can’t relate to this post.

Penguin amigurumi pattern by LittleMagicHouse: https://www.etsy.com/shop/LittleMagicHouse?ref=simple-shop-header-name&listing_id=859475851

We live in a culture of likes/dislikes. I don’t have to tell you that. Social media is all about likes. YouTube algorithms and ad revenues are based on how many likes a video, and the channel overall, gets. You can’t even call your cable company about a service aberration (and I have done this multiple times) without being asked to fill out a survey about their service. Memo to cable providers: If I call about a service outage, that is not a good time to ask me to fill out a survey.

If you’ve written a book, you know all about the need for a certain number of good reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, and other outlets (like Kirkus). A bad review can be devastating, especially if the reviewer takes the time to tell you how terrible your book is and shames you for writing it.

Have you purchased a meal or anything else lately? More than likely you were asked to fill out a survey or to like and review the company on social media.

Caring what others might think is the main reason why we Botox, dye our hair, dress like people many years younger than us or cooler than us, say cutting things about the manuscripts of others in writing workshops, go through several photos before posting on social media, and sometimes outright lie. It’s what caused a woman ahead of me in line today at the grocery store to turn and say that she was sorry she couldn’t let me go ahead of her (her grocery order being much larger than mine) but she was in a hurry and couldn’t do so. It causes us to avoid saying no, even when we know we need to do so, out of fear of displeasing someone. This is not to say that we should avoid pleasing others. That’s part of loving others. It becomes problematic when we compromise who we are out of fear of what someone might think.

I’ve heard people say, “I don’t care what other people think.” And I want to believe them, since they state the fact so forcefully. But since they aren’t hermits living in a cave by themselves, and since they shower, my logical mind tells me they might have at least some concern for the opinions of others. This is not to say we shouldn’t put our best foot forward or that we should be uncivilized. But sometimes, at the back of my mind at least, I worry, What is so and so going to think?

So, I guess a better question for me to ask is, how much do you focus on what others might think? You don’t have to tell me. This post isn’t to shame anyone. I wrote it to ask the question of myself, because I’m tired of doing things out of fear of what someone else might think or say—an outcome that may or may not come to pass.

People pleaser image from AvenuesCounseling website. Other photo by L. Marie.