Marcy’s Books

How Far Would You Go to Be Accepted?

Misfits

Image Credit: Peter Sorensen (sxc.hu)

By Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

Sorry for the silence last week everyone. My husband ended up at the emergency room and was home sick for a few days. But I’m back this week to fulfill my promise!

Two weeks ago. I told you about my struggle to forgive the man who killed my best friend and how that influenced “A Purple Elephant,” one of the short stories in my ebook Frozen.

This week I wanted to talk about my inspiration for the other story, “The Replacements.”

I’ve heard that the best writers have had horrible childhoods or traumatic pasts. I think that’s untrue, a myth perpetuated by a small minority who talk openly about their tragic pasts and the sensitive nature of creatives that makes us more prone to addictions.

I had a happy childhood. In fact, I’d say that, overall, my life has been a good one.

That doesn’t mean I can’t write about tragedy, unbalanced characters, or the darker sides of life.

What it does mean is that I have to find something, some emotion, that I share with that character, no matter how small the connection. (If you’re a writer and want to see what I mean, check out my post on Three Steps to Creating Believable Character Emotions.)

With Natalie, the point of view character in “The Replacements,” that emotion was an overwhelming desire to be loved, accepted, and wanted. (You can read about my struggle with this in my posts My Life As A Three-Headed Chimera and Do You Ever Feel Like You Don’t Fit In?)

I chose a very different path from the one I gave to Natalie, but that was part of what I wanted to explore in this story—a different path. I wanted to take that deep-seated need to be loved and I wanted and put it in a situation where I could create a character who would take it to an extreme that I never would have. I wanted to explore how far a person might go to feel like she had a place to belong.

In “The Replacements,” Natalie is a prodigal daughter who ran away from home and cut off contact with her parents years before. As the story opens, she’s fresh out of an abusive relationship and she’s tired of living on the streets. The only thing she wants, the only thing that matters to her, is to be able to return home to her parents, to know they still want her and love her. 

Except when she arrives home, she finds out her parents have “replaced” her by having more children. In Natalie’s broken mind, the only way she can be welcomed home is by first getting rid of her replacements.

Frozen: Two Suspense Short StoriesHere are a few more details for you about Frozen.

Twisted sleepwalking.
A frozen goldfish in a plastic bag.
And a woman afraid she’s losing her grip on reality.
“A Purple Elephant” is a 2,900-word suspense short story about grief and betrayal.

In “The Replacements,” a prodigal returns home to find that her parents have started a new family, one with no room for her. This disturbing 3,600-word suspense short story is about the lengths to which we’ll go to feel like we’re wanted, and how we don’t always see things the way they really are.

Frozen is currently available at Amazon, Kobo, and Smashwords. More venues coming soon!

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Are You Struggling to Forgive?

Tips for ForgivenessBy Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

My book of two suspense short stories (called Frozen) is now available for purchase. Today and next Tuesday, I’m going to share with you some of my inspiration for the two stories inside.

I’ve told you the story before of the best friend I lost to a drunk driver when I was only 20.

What I haven’t talked about before is how much I hated the man who killed her. And how much I hated myself.

Amanda called me the Saturday before she died and asked if I wanted to tag along and keep her company while she took her car in for an oil change. I turned her down. It was less than a week post-9/11, and I wanted to stay home and watch the coverage on TV.

Once she died, I couldn’t forgive myself for not going. It wasn’t that I regretted not getting that last day with her (though I did regret it and I’d trade a lot to have it now). It was that the voice inside my head told me I was selfish because I’d put my own desire to watch TV ahead of her desire for companionship. I was a horrible friend.

I didn’t contribute to her accident, and I couldn’t count the hours we’d spent together over the years. My guilt and self-hatred was irrational.

But when we lose someone we love, our emotions aren’t always rational. In fact, they seldom are.

It took me years to work through my guilt and self-hatred.

When I wrote “A Purple Elephant,” one of the suspense short stories in Frozen, it was this dual hatred—for myself and for Amanda’s killer—and the need to forgive and move forward that I tapped in to.

I wanted to explore what would happen if a woman was responsible for the death of her only child and couldn’t forgive herself. What would that do to her mentally and emotionally? What would it do to her relationship with her husband?

And how far would someone go to punish the person they believed killed their child?

Forgiveness is a tricky thing, in part because we hold so many misconceptions about what it really means to forgive. I won’t tell you whether or not Candice and Gerry (the characters in “A Purple Elephant”) learned to forgive or not—no spoilers here! But I will tell you what helped me most to actually forgive the man who killed Amanda.

(You might ask, Why would you even try to forgive someone like that? Well, hating him didn’t change anything that had happened, and I found that hating someone was turning me into a person I didn’t want to be.)

To forgive, I had to figure out what forgiveness isn’t. I had to sort through the myths to find the truth.

Truth #1 – Forgiveness isn’t reconciliation.

Reconciliation has many meanings. When I say forgiveness isn’t reconciliation, I’m talking about when two people reconcile, make amends, and come to some sort of agreement or restore a relationship. They “mend fences.”

At his trial, the man who killed Amanda showed no remorse. Near the end, when given the chance to speak, Amanda’s mother asked him to look into “the face of a mother whose heart you broke by murdering my only child.” By refusing to look up, he also refused to admit any guilt or to try to make amends in any way.

For a long time, I didn’t even try to forgive him. How, I asked myself, could I possibly forgive someone who didn’t want to reconcile with those he’d harmed? The answer? I couldn’t.

A pervasive myth about forgiveness says that to forgive you must also reconcile with the person you’ve forgiven. But forgiveness isn’t based on restoring a broken relationship.  Forgiveness is something that we do internally, not something we need to do externally.

If someone has hurt you, you don’t need to continue a relationship with that person (or form a relationship with that person) in order to forgive them.

Truth #2 – Forgiveness isn’t condoning the harm that was done.

The more I learned about his history, the angrier I became. I was angry that he got into a car drunk that night, angry that his girlfriend gave him her car because his was impounded, and angry that the law doesn’t inflict harsher punishments on first- and second-time DUI offenders. Amanda’s death was his third drunk driving conviction.

I thought that I couldn’t even start to forgive until I was no longer angry. My mind had wrongly yoked forgiveness with condoning sin and excusing him for what had happened.

That was a false connection too. I could still feel that what he’d done was 100% wrong. I could be angry that he’d done it. Yet I could still forgive him for it.

Truth #3 – Forgiveness isn’t pardoning.

In the end, he went to jail for second-degree murder, the first conviction of its kind in Michigan. Relieved at the closure of having the trial over, I tried to figure out what life looked like now without Amanda. I even started to think that I’d forgiven him…until his appeal a year and a half later.

I prayed that his appeal would be denied, but felt guilty for it. If I’d truly forgiven him, shouldn’t I be alright with the possibility of his conviction being overturned? Didn’t forgiveness mean pardoning him?

Any good parent will tell you that isn’t true. Sometimes people still need to suffer the consequences of their actions even after they’ve been forgiven. If an offence against us broke a law, we can forgive while still insisting that the offender receive the full legal repercussions.

Truth #4 – Forgiveness isn’t forgetting.

Thankfully his conviction stood. Time passed, and the “forgive and forget” mantra haunted me. I couldn’t forget what had happened. Did that mean I would never be able to forgive?

When I researched this, I found that the Greek word for “remember” means “to call to mind.” Its opposite is not “to forget.” Instead of “forgetting” the wrongs done to us, what we should seek to do is stop dwelling on them. When we choose to forgive, we’re saying that we want to focus on the good things in our lives and to build from there. We’re not saying that we should or can ever forget what happened.

Have you struggled to forgive someone? Or to forgive yourself? What helped you most?

Frozen: Two Suspense Short StoriesHere are a few more details for you about Frozen.

Twisted sleepwalking.
A frozen goldfish in a plastic bag.
And a woman afraid she’s losing her grip on reality.
“A Purple Elephant” is a 2,900-word suspense short story about grief and betrayal.

In “The Replacements,” a prodigal returns home to find that her parents have started a new family, one with no room for her. This disturbing 3,600-word suspense short story is about the lengths to which we’ll go to feel like we’re wanted, and how we don’t always see things the way they really are.

Frozen is currently available at Amazon, Kobo, and Smashwords. More venues coming soon!

I’d love to have you sign up to receive my posts by email. All you need to do is enter your email address below and hit the “Follow” botton.

Enter your email address to follow this blog:

Image Credit: Laura Glover (via sxc.hu)

Techniques for Making Your Dialogue Shine

By Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

If November was NaNoWriMo, then I’m going to call December Dialogue Month. I have a bunch of dialogue-related goodies to tell you about.

The first full-length book in my Busy Writer’s Guide series is out.

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How do you properly format dialogue? How can you write dialogue unique to each of your characters? Is it okay to start a chapter with dialogue? Writers all agree that great dialogue helps make great fiction, but it’s not as easy to write as it looks.

In How to Write Dialogue: A Busy Writer’s Guide you’ll learn
– how to format your dialogue,
– how to add variety to your dialogue so it’s not always “on the nose,”
– when you should use dialogue and when you shouldn’t,
– how to convey information through dialogue without falling prey to As-You-Know-Bob Syndrome,
– how to write dialogue unique to each of your characters,
– how to add tension to your dialogue,
– whether it’s ever okay to start a chapter with dialogue,
– ways to handle contractions (or the lack thereof) in science fiction, fantasy, and historical fiction,
– tricks for handling dialect,
– and much more!

Each book in the Busy Writer’s Guides series is intended to give you enough theory so that you can understand why things work and why they don’t, but also enough examples to see how that theory looks in practice. In addition, they provide tips and exercises to help you take it to the pages of your own story with an editor’s-eye view.

If you have a NaNo story, the editing exercises at the end of each chapter will help you start to beat your story into shape.

You can pick up a copy at Amazon.com or on Smashwords.

But if you’d like a more personal touch, I’ll be teaching some of the concepts in my book in a 90-minute webinar called Say What? Techniques for Making Your Dialogue Shine ($45) on December 7th. (The webinar is recorded and sent to all registrants if you can’t attend live.) Everyone who signs up will receive an ebook copy of How to Write Dialogue: A Busy Writer’s Guide. Click here to find out more.

And that’s not all. My good friend Lisa Hall-Wilson and I are teaming up to offer a WANA International 2Fer. If you sign up for my dialogue class and her internal dialogue class (both held on December 7th), you’ll get $20 off.

If you’re interested in learning more, you can click here to read about the 2Fer, or you can check out the posts Lisa and I did on Kristen Lamb’s blog.

Do You Have As-You-Know-Bob Syndrome – How Writers Butcher Dialogue and How You Can Fix It by Marcy Kennedy

While You Were Sleeping – The Difference Between Internal Dialogue and Narration by Lisa Hall-Wilson

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How to Create Strong Female Characters

By Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

I’ve been hinting at it for months now, but the time has finally come. I’ve released the first book in my Busy Writer’s Guides series! And I’ve priced it at 99 cents.

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The misconceptions around what writers mean when we talk about strong female characters make them one of the most difficult character types to write well. Do we have to strip away all femininity to make a female character strong? How do we keep a strong female character likeable? If we’re writing historical fiction or science fiction or fantasy based on a historical culture, how far can we stray from the historical records when creating our female characters?

In Strong Female Characters: A Busy Writer’s Guide you’ll learn

  • what “strong female characters” means,
  • the keys to writing characters who don’t match stereotypical male or female qualities,
  • how to keep strong female characters likeable, and
  • what roles women actually played in history.

Each book in the Busy Writer’s Guide series is intended to give you enough theory so that you can understand why things work and why they don’t, but also enough examples to see how that theory looks in practice. In addition, they provide tips and exercises to help you take it to the pages of your own story with an editor’s-eye view. I call them an accelerated master’s class in a topic.

Strong Female Characters is a mini-book of approximately 4,000 words.

You can buy a copy at Amazon, Amazon.ca, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, or Smashwords. They’ll be available in more places soon 🙂

If you’d like to help me spread the word, I’d appreciate it if you’d share one of the tweets below or share this post on Facebook, Google+, or wherever you hang out.

3 tricks to keeping strong female characters likeable (Click to Tweet)

What do we mean by “strong female characters”? (Click to Tweet)

How to Create Strong Female Characters (Click to Tweet)

And remember to add your favorite writing hashtag when you tweet! (Suggestions: #amwriting #amediting #writetip #MyWANA)

I’d love to have you sign up to receive my posts by email. All you need to do is enter your email address below and hit the “Follow” botton.

Enter your email address to follow this blog:

And don’t forget that you can receive a free copy of my guide Everything You Always Wanting to Know about Hiring a Freelance Editor by signing up for my newsletter. <–Click right there. You know you want to 🙂

I’m Giving Away a Short Story

Purple Cover

Twisted sleepwalking.
A frozen goldfish in a plastic bag.
And a woman afraid she’s losing her grip on reality.

That’s a peek at “Purple,” the short story I’m giving away starting today as a thank you to anyone who signs up for my brand new newsletter (which I’ll tell you about in just a minute).

“Purple” is a suspense, not the fantasy you might have expected from me, but I’ve chosen to use it as my thank-you gift for one very important reason. I wanted to give you the best I had.

Even though I wrote “Purple” back in 2008, it’s still my favorite piece of work. It’s also the story that I won the Writer’s Digest Popular Fiction Competition with that year. Because I wanted to be certain I was giving you something I was proud of, it became the obvious choice. I won’t be making it available any other way.

So let’s get the obvious questions out of the way about the newsletter.

If I’m already subscribed to your blog, am I also subscribed to your newsletter?

You’re not. The newsletter and the blog are separate, and I would never violate your trust by signing you up for the newsletter without your permission. If you want to be on my newsletter list, you’ll need to sign up separately.

So what’s the difference between the blog and your newsletter? Why should I sign up for both?

Well, my blog is what you’re used to. I post two to three times a week on science fiction, fantasy, and writing. Everything remains the same for blog subscribers. You’ll continue to receive my blog posts as always. No extra action necessary.

My newsletter will only go out when I have news about new releases (in other words, novels, non-fiction books, and short stories—and you will be seeing all three from me this year if all goes as planned), upcoming courses I’m teaching for writers, exclusive discounts for newsletter subscribers, and freebies. I expect it’ll only go out about once a month. If you want the newsletter too, you need to sign up.

Along with my new newsletter, you may have noticed that things look a little different around here. I want to thank the talented Laird Sapir of Memphis McKay who has been working hard behind the scenes to design this new site for me. I’m very excited to finally be able to show it off. Please bear with me as I finish unpacking. But if you’d like to poke around a little, I have already updated my online courses and editing services pages.

So there you have it. I’d love it if you’d sign up for my newsletter by putting your email in the box below and then share this post. If you enjoy the story, let me know 🙂