Sunday, October 13, 2013

Sharpening My Tools: A Month of Nonfiction

Sharpening My Tools: A Month of Nonfiction

Are you taking the bold leap and participating in NaNoWriMo in November? I am, and I plan to succeed. To that end, I’m spending the month of October preparing. Yes, I’m doing the expected character GMC’s, outlining plots and pinpointing turning points. But I’m also prying open my mind to the possibility of quality writing by reading some nonfiction.

First on my reading list is Rosaline Wiseman’s MASTERMINDS AND WINGMEN. You may be familiar with Ms. Wiseman’s very popular QUEEN BEES AND WANNABES,  focusing on teenage girl power and the groups they inhabit. MASTERMINDS presents the same information from a male perspective. Whether you’re the mother of sons, or a writer whose books are inhabited by male characters, this book is an invaluable resource. As with QUEEN BEES, Ms. Wiseman identifies the standard groups in Boy World, the positions in those groups, and the power in those positions. My son is 28, but I’m seeing him differently, hopefully more completely, by reading this. I know my characters will gain depth.

But characters aren’t the only means of conveying a story. Setting, if used skillfully, can add a very rich voice. Lucky for me, Mary Buckham’s third installment in her WRITING ACTIVE SETTING series, ANCHORING ACTION AS A CHARACTER AND MORE, has just been released.
I first encountered Mary through an online class she taught. Her classes and books are impressively full of useful information. She backs up each concept presented with loads of easy to recognize examples from popular fiction so that absorbing her teaching is almost osmotic. Revisiting book 2, EMOTION, CONFLICT AND BACK STORY and delving into book 3 are a perfect fit for my Nano goal of Great Quality, Less Editing. (Book 1, CHARACTERIZATION AND SENSORY DETAIL won’t be released to Nookies like myself until November.)

I contacted Mary this week, and whether it’s her bottle of bourbon I’m holding hostage or the fact that she’s just so nice, this crazy busy woman agreed to an interview.

First, thanks, Mary, for joining us. I’m a huge fan (Can you see my Fan Girl hands?) of your books and your teaching. Then there’s that sense of humor . . .
Have you always been a teacher? What motivated you to start teaching writers?

Thank you Lisa for having me here and how cool that I get the fan girl wave. My ego is expanding! I don’t have a background in teaching and still don’t consider myself as a teacher. I started sharing what I’d learned by trial and error about the craft of writing about the time my third fiction book was due to be released. At that time online courses were still relatively rare and I thought sharing what I knew and was learning myself was a win-win option. Others might benefit and I could connect with writers and readers from all over the world.  They say to learn, teach, and boy have I found that true!

I've taken online writer's classes through Writers' Univ. ( In what capacity are you associated with WU? Founder? Professor? Athletic Director?

LOL! Some days it feels like Athletic Director, especially with the major changes Yahoo Groups have instigated recently. Sort of like wrestling crocodiles when you’re trying to teach a class but spending more of your time making sure participants can participate with all the technical “improvements” creating roadblocks to participation. Actually I’m a co-founder with the amazing Laurie Schnebly Campbell. We wanted to offer a venue that was not one genre specific but offered craft courses for writers of all genres.

 You had great success with your book, BREAK INTO FICTION: 11 STEPS TO BUILDING A STORY THAT SELLS. Now you are focusing on active setting. What was the spark that inspired this series?

The WRITING ACTIVE SETTING series books came out of my teaching around the US and Canada, reading lots and lots of pre-published manuscripts and listening to writers speak about craft elements that they struggled with on a consistent basis.  Too many writers think of Setting as a static element in their stories instead of a powerful dynamic that can really take their writing to a new level. So first I researched how Setting was used effectively by published authors in a wide variety of genres from literary, YA, Fantasy, Historicals and more. Then I taught courses on the subject for several years to see if my concepts, once explained, helped other writers. I was blown away by the changes I saw when writers understood the ways Setting could be used. Creating the books, and making them affordable, was a logical next step.

Will there be a fourth book?

Not at this time. There will be a paper version that will combine all three e-versions and enhanced with additional material. I’m aiming to have that out in early 2014. Then I’m looking to take some of my other teaching material and create books out of them. Right now I’m debating between SEX ON THE PAGE: Understanding and Writing Sexual Tension for all genres (including YA) or PACING. One or the other will be released in 2014.

Hmmm, I’ve taken those classes and loved them both. Do you have to pick just one?

Since I’m focusing so much on my fiction (released 4 novels, two novellas and two more novels coming just this year) it’s a matter of making sure there’s time to do everything. Great news is that I’ll look at releasing whichever non-fiction book I don’t write next year in 2015.

Mary, you also write fiction. You’ve got the INVISIBLE RECRUIT Urban Fantasy series, but aren’t you working on a YA series?

Yes! It’s so much fun, too! TIME TRAP is the first book in the Red Moon Series and was released earlier this year. The second in the series, TIME RETURN will be coming later this year. It’s a cross-genre YA novel with elements of Sci Fi/Fantasy, Adventure and Romance. Best part is I get to work with NYT author Dianna Love in the creation of the series which will be four books all together. Check it out at

If you are interested in more information, you can find Mary at: The local pub! Oh, you mean online. Here I am: (my Urban Fantasy series) (the YA series)

Thank you Lisa for inviting me to share. All the best with NaNoWriMo!


Kurt Hampe said...


Good luck with the Nano. Hope your settings come to life for you.

Lisa Tapp said...

Thanks Kurt. I just want to NaNo effort to be the most productive possible.

Kristin Lenz said...

Lisa, Good luck - I'm sure your NaNo preparations will pay off. Congrats to Mary on her success and for sharing what's she's learned.

Lisa Tapp said...

Thanks, Kristin.

Mary Buckham said...

Hi Kristen! Thanks for swinging by and leaving a comment and for your kind words. I love the fact that with Indie publishing more writers can get access to a lot more affordable craft books. Now all we have to do is find more time to absorb them :-)

Mary Buckham said...

Lisa ~ thanks you for interviewing me and sharing your strategy in making NANOWRIMO as productive a month as possible. I'll be cheering you on!

Laurie said...

What a fun interview! Gotta love what you can learn from Mary Buckham!

Ginger Calem said...

You can never go wrong with Mary Buckham! Never!! Good luck on Nanowrimo! Sounds like you're well prepared!

Lisa Tapp said...

Thanks for stopping by Laurie and Ginger. And you too, Mary. I'm half way through Book 3 and keep finding myself saying "Oh, yeah."

Heather Smith Meloche said...

I've taken a couple courses with Mary. She's a great teacher and really knows the biz and how to motivate writers. Thanks for the interview!