Prism Book Alliance would like to thank J.A. Jaken for taking the time to talk with us today.
Title: Through the Last Door
Author: J.A. Jaken
Publisher: *Not Listed
Cover Artist: unknown
Genre/Sub-Genre: Action/Adventure, Apocalyptic/dystopian, Fantasy, Gay
When Kaori Sansa’s father dies, he is forced to return home to claim the throne as the rightful heir of the country of Kazure. In the aftermath of his father’s death, he learns that the country he loves is riddled with corruption, and is hovering on the brink of war. Will he be able to hold the kingdom together despite the odds that are stacked against it, and somehow unlock the buried powers of Shinja, the Sacred Beast of Kazure?
5 Things That Make Me a Better Writer:
This might seem like a no-brainer, but it’s the one that slips by me the most often. In order to get better at writing, I need to write. It takes practice to improve at this kind of craft. It’s a lot like martial arts (which I also enjoy), and that means I need to keep practicing even on those days when I don’t particularly feel like it. Even when I’m tired, even when my muses aren’t cooperating and I don’t really feel up to crafting a new story at that current time, I need to have the self-discipline to know that this is something that’s important to me, something I’ve decided is worth devoting my time and energy to.
I’ve made the mistake sometimes of letting my muses dictate just when and how I’m going to spend my time writing, when I’ve fallen into the “writer’s block” vortex of despair. Those are the days (and sometimes weeks) when I sit staring at the blinking cursor on the blank computer screen, and no words will come. It’s tempting then to just give up on writing and let it go, figuring that whatever spark of creativity I possess will come back on its own, at some point.
I’ve learned, however, that that is not a good way to deal with the problem. Even if I’m not writing an actual story, even if I am suffering from those mental blocks, I still need to force myself to write. Even when it’s tiring. Even when it’s painful. I’ve started keeping a spiral notebook to jot down bits of dialogue in, or scenery descriptions, or whatever else captures my eye. One day I was so desperate I ended up penciling in a physical description of the checkout girl I’d seen at the supermarket that morning because I couldn’t think of anything else to write, but you know what? It was writing, and I kept my resolution to string words together that day. Every little bit helps.
Reading is one of the best things you can do for yourself as a writer. Read everything you can get your hands on. Best of all, read the work of authors who have been doing this job for a long time and are better at it than you are. I’ve learned so much over the years just by drinking in the words of hundreds of different authors, I feel like I’ve mentored at the feet of the masters of the art. You can’t walk away from a book without taking a piece of it with you. The great storytellers do more than tell a story — they inspire us, they reach into our souls and create new worlds for us to inhabit. More than that, they motivate us to write, to create our own universes and our own characters.
If we pay attention to what we read, we can learn about important things like character, plot, and theme. Why did the author make the choices they did? How did he or she start the book and progress the plot? How was the theme of the book conveyed? On a smaller scale, why did the author choose the words that he or she used? A good writer pays close attention to words, all of their little twists and individual meanings, and the many effects they create when they’re mixed together. And then they incorporate what they learn into their own writing, and use it to develop their own personal style.
This one might seem strange, but it’s not something I started to take seriously until fairly recently. Getting out from behind my computer and seeing more of the world, meeting different kinds of people, seeing new places, making a conscious effort to broaden my horizons, has really deepened my perceptions both on a personal level and as a writer.
I’ve started studying foreign languages, which has opened me up to exposure to other cultures and meeting people from other countries, which has been an amazing and eye-opening experience I wouldn’t trade for anything. I’ve begun researching activities for certain stories and actually participating in them, finding groups that are active here in my home city to get involved in (medieval dance, sword-fighting, rescued animal care, BDSM dungeon parties). Making those connections, getting out and meeting people and having those experiences to draw on, has not only been personally enriching but has (I believe) deepened my writing as well.
As a writer, I’m the first to admit that I tend to spend hours in front of my computer when I get caught up in a writing frenzy. When the muses are firing, and the words are flowing, I can sit hunched over the keyboard for what feels like days without coming up for air. But the words tend to get stale after a while, and I’ve learned over time that I really do need to forcefully disconnect and unwind for a bit.
I like to run, which tends to clear my head when I need it to. Pop in the headphones, fire up the mp3 player, and just let the old grey matter flatline for a bit while I take a few laps around the block. I also like to practice martial arts — I’m a high-purple belt now (which is a little more than two thirds of the way to black at my dojang), so sometimes I’ll head upstairs to the playroom and run through a few forms to work up a sweat if it’s too hot outside to run. I also love horseback riding, although I don’t get to do that nearly as often as I like. I love nature hiking as well, but I do have to travel a bit to do that. It’s totally worth it, though.
Anything is good, though, if it gets me away from my computer and other technology and gets my muscles working and my blood flowing. I’ve found that not only do I feel better physically, but it really does seem to knock something free inside my brain and make my writing flow more easily as well.
5. Getting Over Myself
One of the best things I can do for myself as a writer is not take myself so seriously all the time. I get so caught up in finding the perfect word, in writing the perfect story, that a lot of the time I forget that writing is supposed to be fun. Of course that’s not a license to be lazy — if I don’t know the meaning of a word, or the correct spelling, I always take the time to stop what I’m doing and look it up. I still do my regular writing exercises. But at the same time, I need to put my perfectionist tendencies aside at times and remember that there’s a reason I do this, and it’s not because I plan to be the next Stephen King.
I write because I love words, because I love crafting stories, because I believe I have a story to tell and I’m excited to have the opportunity to share it. I need to remember to laugh at myself more and worry less. Because what it really comes down to is that as writers, we’re really all just storytellers, and as long as we’re sharing those stories we carry around in our heads and our hearts and our souls, then it really doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks about them. They’re our tales to tell, and if we can make someone else smile along the way during the course of that journey, then I would consider that a success by anyone’s definition.
Or at least by mine.
About the Author:
J.A. Jaken has been writing m/m fiction for more than ten years. She got her start in the profession writing slash fanfiction, where she has published numerous stories under the pen-name Rushlight. Over the years she has written short stories and novels in genres ranging from science fiction/fantasy to gothic horror to modern detective mysteries. Outside of writing, her interests include studying foreign languages, riding horses, practicing martial arts, and collecting medieval weaponry.
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.
Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,
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