Writer Wednesday – Barbara Ehrentreu

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1. Who are you?
My name is Barbara Ehrentreu. I write under Barbara Ehrentreu.

2.What type of stuff do you write?
I write YA and poetry.

3. What do you want to pimp now?
My second novel, After, is going to be in print in September. After is a story about the struggles Lauren Walstein, a fifteen-year-old girl, has to go through when her father suddenly has a heart attack and undergoes bypass surgery. In one phone call her life changes completely. Lauren is a character with whom most teens will relate. Her best friend since kindergarten, Joey, is going out with her enemy and they have grown apart. Before the phone call all she thought about was getting a scholarship for softball, and the Mets. Suddenly she must deal with both her father’s illness and being in school. The demands on her from both ends complicate the story. In the middle of all this, she finds she is developing feelings for her best friend that are more than friendly. Is he feeling the same or is he just comforting her? In addition there is Joey’s mean girl friend Amber, who doesn’t appreciate Lauren being in the picture. Will Lauren’s father recover? How will Lauren cope with her new feelings for Joey?

Also I am working on the sequel to If I Could Be Like Jennifer Taylor called “Jennifer’s Story”. Jennifer Taylor, the girl who bullied Carolyn Samuels in the first book is getting ready for a very big meet that will decide her fate. Will she be training for the Olympics or will she have missed her chance? As the day gets closer for the meet she finds she is reverting back to her old eating disorder and that her parents are creating problems for her as well. Her father is running for mayor and her mother is drinking. Having to navigate these issues is making Jennifer crazy. She does have her good friend Carolyn and Brad her boyfriend to help her through it. However, Jennifer is still worried she might not get on the training team. Also, Maura, Jennifer’s oldest friend, has a new boyfriend who seems to be paying way too much attention to Jennifer. Will he cause a problem in her relationship with Brad?This is still a WIP, but I hope to submit it soon.

4. What is your favorite book?
When I was younger it was Alice in Wonderland. Then I loved Rebecca by Daphne de Maurier. Now my favorite books are by Dennis Lehane and Jim Butcher. I loved The Given Day by Dennis Lehane and The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher. But it’s hard, because I am constantly reading such good books from my author friends.

5. What other hats do you wear besides the writer hat?
In addition to writing I am also a tutor. I am a retired Reading Specialist so I work with students who have difficulty in school due to reading problems. I am also a mother with two adult daughters.

6. What links can we find you at?
Find me on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BarbaraEhrentreu

Twitter: @Barbehr

My blog: http://barbaraehrentreu.blogspot.com

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The best writing advice I can give to newbies

When I was first starting out I only knew I loved to write and the opportunity came for me when I was stuck in a hotel between places to live. My entire family consisting of two daughters and my husband, all adults, were squeezed into a two bedroom hotel room for a month and a half while we waited for our new place to be vacated. So every night I would tap on my computer and I finished writing an entire novel in that time. I revised it and had other people read it and then I thought it was ready to send to publishers. I got constant rejections and I gave up. It was a children’s fantasy and no one wanted it. Then I wrote another novel, this time it was YA and sent it to my critique group and they gave me excellent criticism. Then I had beta readers read it and they liked it. So I thought, great, this was ready to send out. I went to several SCBWI conferences and the editors gave us permission to send to them. So I started doing that and was met with rejection by every big 5 publisher. I put my novel away. I thought it would never get published, but a friend of mine was starting up a new publishing company. So I pitched it and she wanted it. This was such a long shot I thought I would never get it published. But I persevered and it did get published. First as an ebook and then in print.

My advice to anyone who is a newbie is to keep on trying. Take those rejections and save them and keep trying. Attend as many conferences as you can both physical and online. Online writing conferences are good places to meet all kinds of people. There are editors and publishers mixing with authors and writers. Physical conferences are good places to meet people too. Everyone mingles and you can meet editors and publishers across the table from you. Make the most of every opportunity to learn more about your craft. Workshops are excellent to take so you can hone your skills. Gather as many friends on Facebook and Twitter as you can and definitely start a blog if you don’t have one. Another great idea is to join writing groups both physically and online. All of this will help you to be a better writer and will immerse you in the world of writing and publishing. The last piece of advice I would give is again to keep on keeping on. Don’t give up if you feel your work is good. You are the one who is selling your work to other people. So tell people about your work whenever you can. Also if you can’t get it published the traditional way there is always self publishing these days for little or no money. If you want people to read your work you need to put it out there.

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Writer Wednesday – Benjamin Cheah

1. Who are you? (A name would be good here…preferably the one you write under)
Benjamin Cheah, indie writer, blogger and freelancer. Someday I will become a full-time writer.

2. What type of stuff do you write? (Besides shopping lists)
I write about the impact of disruptive technologies and ideas on people, how conflict between people and groups would evolve, and how society and individuals adapt. In my fiction I strive for high-intensity action sequences, plausible futuristic technologies, realistic tactics and strategies, and characters driven by personal codes and visions of tomorrow. My stories also tend to blend science fiction and fantasy tropes to varying degrees, with a strong bias towards hard science fiction, military and law enforcement, and spirituality.

3. What do you want to pimp right now? (May it be your newest, your work-in-progress, your favorite or even your first)
Keepers of the Flame, my first novel, which is the second entry in the American Heirs series. Set in a North America recovering from a global collapse, the Republic of Cascadia is attempting to restore civilization in the Pacific Northwest. However, at the edges of Cascadia’s Green Zone, the Sons of America are plotting to foment a revolution and restore the old United States. On the East Coast, a new American empire rises, and prepares to march west. And as the conflict heats up, in the digital infrastructure that underpins Cascadia, a machine god is born.

The full American Heirs saga is conceptualized as three core novels supplemented by three novellas. The novels cover the major events of the series, while the novellas focus on a single character. The first novella, American Sons, was published last year, and the second novella (the third entry) should be ready by the end of Q1 2015.

I’ve also sold a short story to Castalia House for its anthology Riding the Red Horse. Titled ‘War Crimes’, it tells the story of a shell-shocked solder who stands accused of massacring alien civilians and a journalist who wants to find the truth. You can find the anthology here.

4. What is your favorite book? (Okay, or two or three or… I know how writers are as readers.)
I don’t have favourite books so much as favourite writers, specifically those who inform my writing. Currently, the most important writers are:

Jim Butcher. His Dresden Files and Codex Alera series inspired my earliest stories. They still inform my writing, through their combination of high-octane action and characterisation.

Larry Correia. Guns, magic, B-movie monsters, fleshed-out characters, authentic action scenes, incredible worldbuilding, and he just keeps getting better. His Grimnoir series was also fairly similar to a story idea I had in my head – but much, much, better, so much so I had to revise it.

Barry Eisler. His flagship character, John Rain, is a Japanese-American hitman who lives in the shadows but yearns to get out of the life, a ronin looking for a cause but disappointed by what he found, someone with a foot in the East and West but fully belonging to neither. His characterisation is incredible, and so is his unflinching portrayal of counterterrorism and modern-day espionage. The realistic martial arts and well-researched technologies help.

Marcus Wynne. Former shooter turned writer, his stories capture the mindset of top-tier operators and how they see the world around them. Also, his Depossessionist series resembled another idea I had – but much better.

Tom Kratman. His Legion del Cid and M Day series are masterworks of military fiction. Not merely content with portraying modern war at the tactical level, they delve into politics, economics, impact of technology, strategy and philosophy. He even wrote a thinly-disguised handbook on training women for warfare. His works set the standards for my big war novels and series, such as Keepers of the Flame.

John C. Wright. Just about everything he writes is pure genius. His writing harkens to the Golden Age of science fiction and the pulp era, with fantastic technology and mind-boggling scales, characters who are true to their beliefs and products of their times, and his stories always point towards better and brighter tomorrows, albeit won through blood and fire.

5. What other hats do you wear besides the writer hat?
Professionally I write articles for lifestyle magazine Eastie Brekkie and website Mothership.sg, and work for local NGO the Pwee Foundation as a staff writer. I’m also available to take up writing and/or editing assignments. In between stories I write the script, churn out design documents, and hash out mechanics for my indie RPG project.

In other words…I don’t.

6. What link can we find you at? (One or two please; don’t go overboard here!)
I blog at www.benjamincheah.wordpress.com, while my professional writing page is at www.benjamincheah.com.

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Advice For New Writers

Figure out what kind of writer are you: why you write, and who you write for. This will inform the skills you need to develop.

If you’re a hobbyist, you write for fun and to pass time. The most useful skill to develop is perseverance. To finish the story, even if it feels bad or wrong or when it stops being fun. Finish the story, then work on the next one. The only reason to give up a story is to burn it up and write something better from the ashes.

If you’re writing for a community, you’re writing to entertain people. First, learn the above. Then, develop the craft and art of writing. The former are the tools of trade that build the story: plotting, characterisation, spelling, punctuation, grammar, and so on. The latter is derived from the former; how you wield the tools of the craft defines you, and makes you stand out among everybody else in the community. And keep in mind, how you feel about your story doesn’t matter; if your audience is not entertained, you’re likely doing something wrong.

If you’re writing stories for a publisher, you’re working. First learn the above. Then keep in mind that you are writing for your client, the publisher, and your audience. Sometimes your client and audience are one and the same, or else they have similar tastes. More realistically, both the writer and publisher will have different ideas over what the audience wants. You’ll need to work with your client to serve your audience, and that means reworking your story as needed and standing firm where you must, so that the both of you deliver the best story possible.

If you’re writing as a career, you’re a small business owner. Build upon the lessons of the above three stages of writing. Then, while perfecting your craft, study the industry. The industry is changing, and to make a career out of it you need to stay abreast of affairs and figure out how to best promote and sell your works. If you’re a self-publisher, you need to think like a publisher too, and study the ways of formatting, editing, cover and interior design, marketing communications, accounting, management and other business skills.

Notice that each step of the way builds upon the last, but at heart is the determination to write a good story and to keep on writing. Writing is no more and no less a skilled trade as any other; if you aspire to master writing, you must first master yourself.

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