Thursday, March 29, 2018 | By: The Write Way Cafe

Smoke and Mirrors and Valuable Lessons by HL Carpenter

The Write Way Café welcomes HL Carpenter, a mother/daughter writing team who shares a few tips for improving writing productivity,  skill, and inspiration.
March 29 is Smoke and Mirrors Day...we think. Someone could be deceiving us, much the way the hero in our young adult novel, Walled In, is deceived when her father is accused of fraud. But we found out about Smoke and Mirrors Day on the internet, so it must be true, right? :)
Right. Well, one fact we're sure of here in Carpenter Country is that our author friends don't deceive us. Oh, yes, they write mysteries that take us down the garden path, away from the solution to the crime, and they happily sprinkle misdirection here, there, and everywhere in their stories. But in real life, we've learned valuable lessons from other authors.
Here are three.
Good habits. When a famous author was invited to speak at a class we attended, he mentioned that when he's writing, he doesn't stop. If his thoughts wander to his errands while he's in the middle of a scene, he puts a bracket at that point in his manuscript and inserts whatever is on his mind. Then he closes the bracket and continues with his day's writing. When the manuscript is complete, he does a search for these entries and saves them to another document to serve as a journal of his writing.
You might consider this a form of conscious flow. Whatever term you want to use, once we put his technique to work, our productivity increased. As a bonus, these "side" entries provide fodder for new story ideas.
Solid craft. After we've enjoyed reading the latest bestseller by a favorite author, we return to the beginning and reread the book. This time, we take a step back from the story and study the execution. For example, we examine the setup of the first paragraph and think about the ending and how the beginning and end tie together. We also study story arc, character development, and dialogue flow. Each book is a mini course in writing artistry.
Perseverance. J.K. Rowling's trek to publication after multiple rejections is a large part of her personal backstory. And after the success of her boy wizard series, she received a rejection from a publisher when she submitted a manuscript under a pseudonym. That manuscript later went on to be another bestseller. Even if we're never as famous as J.K. Rowling, we're inspired by her story and her persistence.
What have you learned from other authors? Let us know in the comments. In the meantime, happy Smoke and Mirrors Day...and happy reading and writing!
When her father is accused of fraud, seventeen year old Vandy Spencer discovers her entire life has been built on a heart-shattering deception.
Seventeen year old Vandy Spencer lives like a princess. Sheltered by her wealthy family, she happily makes plans to spend a fantasy before-college gap summer with her gorgeous boyfriend.
Then her dad is accused of a huge financial fraud. Vandy is thrust into a frenzy of media attention as accusations and innuendos pile up daily. The victims of her dad’s swindle vow revenge, and her dad flees.
As her perfect life disintegrates, Vandy retreats to a hermit-like existence in her childhood tree house and struggles to separate reality from lies. Was her perfect life truly so perfect? Did she ever really know her father?
When family secrets come to light, revealing an unimaginable betrayal, Vandy learns to appreciate the simple richness of sincerity and truth.
A branch cracked behind me and leaves rustled. I scrambled to my feet.
Stenny had come after me! He really did love me, enough to follow me, and…
Pete Hawthorn stepped out of the woods, holding a flashlight. The backglow lit his face, which was drawn into the frown he wore lately whenever he saw me, and his mouth turned down into a scowl. “Don’t you have any sense at all, Dandy-Vandy?”
I should have known Stenny wouldn’t traipse through the woods searching for me. Running through the dark wasn’t his style. He’d use his phone.
My own phone, tucked in the pocket of my shorts, burst into the first bars of Boyfriend. I ignored the noise and poked a finger at Pete’s chest. “Quit calling me that. Don’t you have better things to do than skulk around the woods in the dark? Like maybe going to work?”
“I took the night off.” He peered at me. “Why are you crying?”
“None of your business!” Then, as his words sank in, I asked, “Why’d you take the night off? Is Gus okay?”
“Gramps is the same as he always is.” Pete slid the button on the flashlight and the bulb dimmed. “I stayed home because we heard the news about your dad. We’re going to help, in whatever way we can.” His voice barely carried across the small space between us, the words and tone sincere.
“That means a lot. Thanks. Tell Gus thanks too.”
“Yeah.” Pete turned the flashlight on bright again and waved it in a searching arc. “Where’s the jerk-off? He leave you alone out here?”
My gratitude evaporated like dew off grass. I planted my hands on my hips as my phone played Boyfriend again. “Stenny’s not a jerk-off, and he’s probably at the tree house, where I left him.”
“How nice to know he’ll stay where you tell him to. At least you won’t need to put a leash on him when the two of you are wandering around France.” Pete narrowed his eyes. “The woods are really dark, Dandy-Vandy, in case you haven’t noticed. Do you have a flashlight? Or am I gonna have to walk you home?”
I didn’t need him to babysit me. I opened my mouth to say so, and then reconsidered as the sounds of the night surged around me. He was right. The darkness crackled with noises I hadn’t paid much attention to during my rush to get away from the hurt of Stenny’s doubt. The air seemed ominous too, full of a sickly-sweet odor, a combination of gasoline, motor oil, and damp dirt. The mix stunk the way I imagined zombies – or worse, vampires – would.
“Thanks, Pete. That’s a good idea.”
“I have them occasionally.” He gestured with the flashlight. “The path’s this way.”
We strode along single file without speaking. The dry leaves crackled beneath our feet and the occasional haunting cry of a bird shredded the air.
“Nightingale,” Pete said.
We reached the end of the path, coming out of the woods behind a row of bushes fencing Kingsway’s open lawn. A line of solar lights illuminated the back yard, glowing against the pool cabana and the house’s white walls beyond – big, ornate…and home.
I smiled despite my worries. “I love how pretty our house is at night.”
Pete shut the flashlight off. “I’ll send you pictures while you’re enjoying your European adventure with the jerk-off.”
I was turning to him when a man carrying a portable video camera dashed across the lawn. I gasped. “He’s headed for the house! I have to warn Dad.”

Walled In, a stand-alone young adult novel of approximately 70,000 words, is available as an ebook at Smashwords, and in ebook and paperback format at Amazon.
Smashwords       Amazon

Mother/daughter author duo HL Carpenter write family-friendly fiction from their studios in Carpenter Country, a magical place that, like their stories, is unreal but not untrue. When they’re not writing, they enjoy exploring the Land of What-If and practicing the fine art of Curiosity. Visit to enjoy gift reads and excerpts and to find out what’s happening in Carpenter Country.

Stay connected on PinterestLinkedinGoogle+, and their Amazon Author Page.


HiDee said...

Great suggestions! I enjoyed the excerpt as well. I try to absorb how authors bring their characters to life without the reader being aware they are doing it. Thanks for being with us today!

HL Carpenter said...

That's a great idea, HiDee! The trick is to not get caught up in the story again while you're studying the technique--a trick we have a hard time with! LOL!

Thanks to you and Lynn, for sharing your blog space with us today! We appreciate your support.

Unknown said...

Love your post! I can't wait to visit Carpenter County! Thank you for being on our blog.

Leigh Goff said...

Intriguing synopsis paired with a great excerpt! Thanks for sharing.

Sharon Ledwith said...

Great tips, ladies! I like to keep my favorite authors bestselling books around to dissect their craft so I can improve my writing. Cheers and keep on writing!

HL Carpenter said...

Thanks for the compliments, Leigh, and for stopping by!

HL Carpenter said...

Hey, Sharon! The technique seems to be working well for write great books!