Wednesday, December 30, 2015

2016 and goals

At the end of this week, we lose another year. Which means we're all going to make HUGE changes this next year, turn our evil (or just plan lazy) ways around, and somehow find world peace.


Folks seem to fall into two camps-the "I'm going to only eat tree bark, grass, and leaves until I lose this 10 pounds" (or for writers- "I'm going to write 10,000 words a day and finish 10- 380 page novels in 2016!"). And the "resolutions don't work" crowd.

I'm somewhere in between. I do think that goals are a good thing, without them (and sticking to them) I wouldn't have two books out, be closing in on book 3, and getting the cover made for book 4. And the start of a new year has power and promise. Beginnings are always a magic time.

But, I also think it's too easy to make all sorts of insane goals for yourself (or others- ummm, just don't do that. Please.). Then you fail and hate yourself. I had a friend who would start a diet, then when she went off it just a little, would go WAY off it for the rest of the day, because, well, that day was blown-right? Nothing I said convinced her otherwise.

I'm adopting a new mindset. A month at a time. A week at a time. A day at a time. I still haven't pounded out next month, but it will have a monthly goal for all the areas I chose to work on (no more than two at a time). Then be broken down by weekly goals. Then each morning, I'll take a few moments to relax, and think what I want to get done that day. 

No punishments, and if I don't get a specific things completed, I still stay on track with the idea as a whole. It's not an all or nothing approach, it's a every little bit helps approach. The more you stretch, the further you can go.  Right now stretch as far as you can to your side. Then come back and try it again. Most likely you'll go a tiny bit further that next time :).

What about you?  Goal setting? No goals?  Any motivation tips for folks staying on goals?

Have a wonderful and safe New Year!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The year in wrap up

So next week I want to talk about  plans, goals, dreams for 2016--but before that can happen, I really need to wrap up 2015. At least in my head.

This was an amazingly good year, and an amazingly sad one.

 I reached my dream of getting my books out into the wild in March.  I was hoping for the first three books to be able to come out this year, but yeah, full-time outside job...not sure what I was thinking. 

But, I did get The Glass Gargoyle and The Obsidian Chimera published. Never would have happened without a ton of amazing folks- those listed in the book, and the others not listed who were just there to help keep me going. Thank you.

Writing is hard. Very hard. Self-Publishing is also very hard. But holding those books in my hand, reading the reviews, having folks email me about how much they loved them and where the heck is book three?!  All of that makes all the hard work worth it. I love that other folks talk about my drunken faeries like I do.

I loved meeting folks at RT in May, and at the two book signings at the Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore in August and December. It was so exciting to have people want MY autograph on a book and that they wanted to read said book.

That part of 2015 was wonderful, scary, nerve-racking, and amazing.

The sad part was the loss of my mother in August. 

She was 84, and had always lived her life as she wanted it (a nurse called her "fiercely independent" after a bit of a pause). She never wanted to be in a home or have a care-giver and she did that. She didn't read fantasy (a serious mystery reader- and rapid one at that-she taught me to love books) but was very proud of my writing. She was the cheerleader I spoke to every morning on the phone before work. She was mom.

You never get over losing a loved one, you just incorporate that loss into your life. It's still very raw and close, but I am still writing and getting books out because that's what she wanted me to do. 

So right now, look back over your year, find the wonderful parts and the heart-breaking ones, and embrace them all. 

And go hug your loved ones and have a joyous Holiday!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Defining a series

The first thing many folks ask after finding out you wrote a book, is, “is it a series? Are there more books?” Now one might think that is a simple question, but it really isn't. Just what is a series?

  • Let’s start at the top with the -ology’s – trilogies, etc. These are most often found in Science Fiction and Fantasy and are really a single book, (granted a few thousand pages long in some cases) broken up into smaller chunks. The primary characters are the same, but each book not only has its own arc, but feeds into and develops the overarching arc for the series. All aiming toward that final big finale.

Readers need to read them in order unless they are the type of person who starts a book in the middle and hops around. From a writer’s standpoint, even a pantser needs to know the end game. It’s one thing to madly dash through an entire book making it up as you go, but you’ll never pull off a big series without knowing where you’re ending.

My Lost Ancients series was going to be two trilogies. But I realized the timeline from one to the other didn’t really have a gap, and the dividing of them into two trilogies was forced. Aka- they should be a single larger series. There could have been some fear in there too- three books, then “something else” is less scary than diving into a 6 book series right at the start of my publishing career (but I’m good with it now ;)).

  • The other, often very long book series is the shared world. These can live in the SF/F (think Dragonlance, etc). Multiple authors, different characters, same world. But you are far more likely to find a shared world series in Romance, with a single author, but something tying all the characters together. This could be a werewolf clan, vampire family, witches’ coven, siblings of a large family, or location based like a town. Something connects all the protagonists in each book, BUT for it to be Romance with a capital R, there is a HEA at the end of each book, and therefore a new couple in the next book (Urban Fantasy falls into the “ology” category as it usually doesn’t have a HEA at the end and the same couple continues on through all of the series.)

Readers can read these out of order, since each book is not really contingent on the previous one-BUT it often makes for a better experience if read in order.

  • Then we have the open ended series. These are very often found in Mystery (the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich is an example) but is also found sometimes in SF/F (The Myth series by Robert Asprin). These have the same primary characters, and while may end up with a big finale ending, they aren’t really aiming that direction. Each book is very inclusive, and again- it’s nice to read them in order, but probably not crucial.

So if you’re writing or reading a series, you should know what type of book you have going J. And, as a reader myself, PLEASE AUTHORS put which number the book is in a series on your cover! I know trad pubbed folks don’t always get a say in that, but if that option is there- take it! Saves a lot of pain for the reader (and the bookseller ;).

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

#IWSG: NaNo Failure

Happy Insecure Writer's Support Day! Writers from across the galaxy join on the first Wednesday of the month to shout our hopes, dreams, fears, and wishes into the void and support each other-join us!

Yup, another NaNo has come to a close, and I did not win. 

Now, to set this up (so you can appreciate the tragedy ;)), this was my seventh NaNo, and only second failure. The other failure was really more of a never-even-got-going one, not like this- a so-close-but-no-cigar- failure. I ended with 46,938 words. But that was on Sunday evening, after a 2,400 word day. Monday just didn’t happen, and I already knew it wasn’t going to be a finish year. Now, understand, per their site I have finished 302,044 words in my years doing NaNo (and waaaay more than that outside of it ;0)).

I am okay with this failure.

This was an emotionally hard month for me, and I sorta thought of aiming for just 30,000 words (yeah, the competitive NaNo spirit shot that idea down after day one ;)).
Plus I kept missing days for various reasons which ended up causing me to do super heavy sprints to try and catch up. My right arm’s chronic tendinitis decided to go all acute on me, and I popped something in my left wrist November 30th.

Because I didn’t pace myself, I didn’t “win” and I injured myself. SIGH.

BUT!  I still count this as a win for me and the book: 

1) I did a lot of words, many of which I’ll keep. I ended up with a very interesting plot twist that just keeps leading to more twists as I go- had I not been in, “just get something up there!” mode, I might not have jumped where I did.

2) I learned I can be okay with not winning ;). (Big step-LOL- although my constant losing in Words with Friends may have broken down the wall on this one).

3) On the way home yesterday, I was in story-head. You know when you’re reading a book, and you can’t wait to get back to where you left off?  I had that with MY book! Lemme tell ya, it was awesome to realize the story I couldn’t wait to dive back into wasn’t what I was reading, but what I was writing ;).

4) I had a fun time. NaNo for me is fun, racing with folks, meeting total strangers who are just as twisted as you are, the smack talk. I had a blast.

So, yes, I lost- but it was way worth it ;). I’ll be back next year!!

What about you? Did you NaNo this year? How was it? Have you hit whatever writing goals you had for this year?

Thursday, November 26, 2015


First off HAPPY THANKSGIVING to folks in the US! For the rest of you, HAPPY THURSDAY!!

Okay, since it's a holiday, I won't bore you with a long blog. (Not to mention, I am officially WAY behind on NaNo and will be needing words for that, so can't spend them all here. ;))

But I'd like to briefly talk about a topic near and dear to many of us on this day-bingeing.

But, before you start hiding that third piece of pie, I'm not talking about food bingeing. Rather book bingeing.

I have a very dear friend who will not read ANY book series until it's done (pretty sure he still has unread copies of Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series in his bookshelf). Now he has always been this way (at least as long as I've known him and that's well over 25 years) and he says it's because he doesn't want to get vested in a series, then have it never be completed. (And no, he has NOT read my books for that reason.)

But binge-reading just because is a past time for many. I have another dear friend who goes crazy when she finds a new-to-her author who has a backload of books in a series. I mean seriously CRAZY! She's also a power reader at times, so I think she figures 6-10 books is a "meal".

In  a way this also ties into the whole binge-watching folks do with TV. I personally can't do that beyond two eps at a time, but I will watch an ep a day for weeks to work through a beloved series. And I sort of do that with my favorite book series too. I'll just re-read the first book for nostalgia, then all of a sudden I'm pawing through my stacks looking for the rest of them. 

It's because we want the endorphin rush to continue. When you see a great movie, read an awesome book, eat a wonderful meal- you just want that feeling back- so you go for another, and another. Perhaps down the line their will be self-help books on how to get the "binge-" out of your life. But for now, it's part of our culture.

Luckily, books don't put on the pounds the way a box of chocolates or an entire pie will ;). And yes, having someone say they binge-read my books is a MAJOR goal of mine :).

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Wild Horses

Okay, I'm in the midst on NaNo brain right now, so stick with me, it will be short and sweet (Because these are words that could be in the NaNo project! ARGH!).

Nano has taken over my head and story. It happens every year, and every year I start yelling in my head, "WHAT are you doing?!" and "Come back here!"

Every year, once things settle down, and I finish the story and start editing, I realize that it's okay, and a lot of great stuff actually came out of the madness. But at the time?

It is seriously like a team of wild horses (probably being egged on by some faeries with waaaaay too much booze in their tiny bodies) has taken the book reins in their mouths and are running with it. We are banking off walls, flying over slow moving pedestrians, it's MADNESS!

This probably doesn't happen to plotters, even during nano, and it really only happens on this scale when I am writing this fast, but wow! Some of my recent writing sessions have felt like I'm hanging on for dear life and trying to get those crazy horses back in control--and am losing horribly.

So what about you, NaNo or not- ever have this feeling? When?

Good luck to us all!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

IWSG# I'm insecure, how about you?

Happy Insecure Writer's Support Group day!  Yup, once a month a bunch of writers all post our fears, hopes, dreams, screaming-mimi's-that-wake-you-up-in-the-middle-of the-night-that-cause-you-to-eat-things-you-will-regret-in-the-morning- that sort of thing.


So I thought about what to post today, and thought I'd keep it short and sweet- I'm freaked out and insecure.


Big time.

I LOVE writing (most of the time anyway ;)). I love jumping in and finding out what will happen to my characters, who they'll meet, what will blow up in their faces. I love having written. Reading a chapter and thinking, "Damn!  That was fun!"

It's all the other stuff that freaks me out.  Marketing, promo, blah,blah,blah. I'm on a lot of writing groups on Face Book including a few business oriented ones. One of them consistently freaks me out.

The guy behind it really seems to know what he's talking about, but when people are flinging around terms ROI, AMMY, etc- I run away screaming and pretty much figure my poor little drunken faeries are just going to go on being under-exposed.

Being Independent is great in many ways, exposure and marketing are not two of them.

So, on this Insecure Writer's day, I sit here being very insecure about my ability to get the word out about my books, without having a screaming fit and breakdown.

How about you? Love promo? Hate it? Want to shove it in a dark closet until it promises to be nice?


Happy IWSG day!!!

Monday, November 2, 2015

Win The Obsidian Chimera!!!

Okay folks, if you came here to the blogstead, you probably already saw the widget to go enter. But If you get my blog posts via email- you would have no idea!

Until November 9th- there is a giveaway being run on Goodreads to win a signed copy of The Obsidian Chimera!  Pretty much ALL countries are able to enter!

Tell your friends!

You can go find it on Goodreads, or here on the blog, just follow the magic widget.

Happy Monday!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

How to Write

See those words up there?  The title of today's blog?  Them's fighting words.

Sure they look innocent and unobtrusive. Writing: just a genteel past time. Creative people sitting in grand rooms with wood paneling and a roaring fire in the fireplace pondering life as they tear painfully crafted works of art out of the nothingness.

But how to actually do it is a battle not to be faced by the weak of heart. (And yeah, stop laughing, I don't know any author who would fit the above scenario either. ;))  Everywhere you turn there is someone telling you how to write. You MUST write everyday (good idea in my opinion, something I strive for and miss many times). You MUST plot out your book (nope, failing that one completely). You MUST do years of research and/or world-building before you jump in (again, I personally am an epic fail on that one.).The list goes on and on. 

The fact is that writing is different for each writer--and for many folks, different for each book. No one should ever tell anyone else what they MUST do to become a writer. Including me, if having a list of "must-do's" works for you--go for it :).

But I did title this post How to Write, didn't I? First, some credentials. I've been writing A LONG TIME. At the time I published The Glass Gargoyle, I had four other completed books (other series) and three non-finished (also different series) books.  For me I needed to take time to create the worlds I needed to create. So I did ;). The Lost Ancients Series is up and running and next year will see book three and four of that series, as well as the launch of the space opera- The Warrior Wench. I've also been published in really dull academic journals as a behavioral researcher.

What I'm getting at, is I have a lot of words under my belt, and I am still learning how to write. You never really stop learning, there are always new things to try.

But, if any of you are seriously trying to get started, here are some pointers (your mileage may vary, but here ya go ;)).

  • Grab all the information you can find. Books, magazines, TED talks, videos, blogs, whatever- be voracious about it. You'll find many people contradict each other on what to do (that whole fighting words thing) but take it all in and find what works for you.

  • Join other writers. See if there are local writing groups- RWA is awesome even if you don't write romance. See if there is a local chapter. See if your genre has any type of group that is there to help support the writing craft. As far as I know, fantasy/SF doesn't have such a thing. SFWA doesn't help new writers- BUT they do have a blog that's informative. 
  • Go to writing conferences! YES- they are expensive. YES- they can be scary. YES-you should go to them! Especially if you don't have access to a local writing group with speakers, you need to be around other folks who are as crazy as you (all writers are crazy, sorry to tell you).
  • Go into it for the right reasons. Really, the only wrong reason would be fame and money--because it ain't gonna happen. Writing is a very difficult, painful, thing that will suck up tons of time. If you aren't doing it because you love it, STOP NOW.
  • Don't stop. If you love it, don't give up. EVER.

Okay, that's what I've got right now. What are some of your favorite and least favorite words of writing advice?

Friday, October 23, 2015

NaNo season approaches!

Ah fall. The time of year when nights grow shorter, weather grows cooler (ok, not here in So.Cal…but in SOME places), and writers across the land think of what they will do for National Novel Writing Month- aka NaNoWriMo- aka NaNo.

For those of you who don’t know, NaNo is a month (November) when writers decide to announce to the cyberspace world their intention of completing 50,000 words in a new manuscript.

Now there are guidelines: It should be a new work and it should be a book. Not a collection of short stories- a book. Like they say if you think you’re writing a book, they will also. This year I’ll be a “NaNo rebel”- I’m going to be working on book three of my series (The Emerald Dragon) which is already at about 70,000 words. I’ll make an exact count when NaNo starts, so the only words I’ll be reporting in November are the new nano ones. (You can already see my lovely widget to the right of this post. ;))

There’s no cost, you just go to their site and sign up. Then you look for folks you know and add them to your “buddy” list so that you can egg each other on. There are local groups for most areas, so even if you don’t know someone- you can meet some like minded folks.

Why would thousands of people, for the most part semi-sane, choose to inflict 50,000 words upon themselves like that? Why do people run marathons? Climb mountains? To have the experience. NaNo is like Mt. Kilimanjaro for writers. And it’s a great learning tool. Most writers, even we seat of the pants type folks- have some inner censor going on when we write. Some little voice that makes us stop and question ourselves mid-chapter.

You can’t do that during NaNo. In pure self-defense you have to take that little voice, stick a gag in his mouth, and ship him off to Siberia. When you’re cranking out 50,000 words (page count of 170-200 pages depending on the writer) in one month- you are writing FAST. Some may be crap, some not. But you cannot slow down to edit or self-censor.

It also teaches you to write through any blocks that come your way. You just bowl right over them. So when you return to your more normal level of writing, you’re not the same person. You’re faster, leaner, and more stubborn.

My writing has morphed over the years- NaNo shows that I have done over 250,000 words with them. Have some of those words been crap? Heck yeah! But has it helped me along my writing path- YES!

So if you’re diving in this year, enjoy it for what it is, and buddy me-mandreas.

And most important- HAVE FUN!!!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

All about the layers

Let me start with a fairy tale. 

When a writer creates a book, they sit down and everything flows effortlessly from their fingers into a flawless, amazing, and detailed draft. Then it magically goes and becomes a book sitting face out in book stores everywhere, and, soon, a NYT bestseller.

Okay, once you all stop laughing/choking on your beverage of choice, I want to point out some folks do think it works that way. Even some WRITERS look at published books and think, “I can never be that good!  Look at the crappy draft I created!” (And yeah, I see some of you nodding out there ;)).

Most of us know that’s not the case. And while some of us definitely write cleaner first drafts than others, we all need lots of editing, beta reading, wailing and gnashing of teeth, booze, etc. to get us through to a decent copy.

But it's good it takes a number of trips through fairyland to create a good book. We need to realize our book needs layers.

A little tangent here, I have found I LOVE coloring. In coloring books. Kids’ books, those “adult meditation/stress books” whichever- I just find it very relaxing. 

And one of the things I love is the effect of layering colors over each other.  The depth and texture changes when different shades are used, especially when different shades are used unevenly. Maybe I'm a bit more angry when I used the red over the green, perhaps feeling whimsical as I put gold over a few spots. But those layers change the impact of the color. Instead of a purple bulkhead, I now have a rusty, beat-up, multi-colored and textured looking bulkhead.

The same is true with all the passes we do with our writing. Whether they are structured edits, catching-up on where we left off reading, or just a "oh dang, what did I say back there?" followup, each time we touch our work we add layers. Little nuances, spins that weren't there originally, not because they were bad, but because we didn't notice when we were building the bones of the thing that a little bit of gold could add highlight, or deep purple could bring forth some depth.

So go forth and be proud that your first, second, eighteenth draft doesn't look like a book on the shelf yet--you're still layering. And I can promise that the book you're admiring didn't look that way many layers ago either ;).

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

IWSG: That second book

Welcome one and all to October's Insecure Writer's Support Group blog!  Once a month writers from across the land gather and shout our fears, hopes, and joys into the great abyss of cyberspace- join us!

Now, onto today's blog!

I just released my second book EVER this past week-end. It's so new the print version isn't even out yet. Wanna see what it will look like?


Like I said, this is my second published book, yet I am more excited really than the first one. Which, when I think about it, is kind of weird.

I've been writing for many, many, MANY years. I have the first books of three other series completed and edited (my editing- they will still need more work and more eyes ;)). But the point is--I have a lot of words under my belt. And the entire time, the thought of how awesome it would be to get that first published book in my hands, hung around every single book I wrote.

Yet, I am more excited to have this second book in my hands than my first. 

Don't get me wrong, I was still excited when that first proof came in. But there were so many stressors going on around the book that I was more focused on, "what's the next step?" rather than how awesome everything was.

This time the stressors were different, and in some ways they made me realize I need to enjoy all aspects of the things I do. Including the madness involved with getting a book out.

Whatever it is, I am really looking forward to holding that second book in my hands. I'm scared for it, all the fears and worries on sending forth a new creative endeavor are floating around my head, but I'm also really really excited. 

For you published folks--which book got to you more? For you soon-to-be published folks- what do you think you'll feel when you first hold that new book?  

Monday, October 5, 2015

The Glass Gargoyle is on SALE! 99 cents!

Yup folks, Garbage Blossom, Leaf Grub, and Crusty Bucket went on a bender and knocked down the price for the Glass Gargoyle to less than a buck!

They have no concept of money, and just liked the look of the two nines together.

BUT that means for a few days- countdown is on the Amazon site- you can order the ebook copy of book one of The Lost Ancients for 99 cents. Buy a gift for a friend or two!

Spread the word- the faeries are too drunk to really fly around and do it for me right now ;).

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Keeping it real in fantasy

I recently saw a blog post about keeping archaeological facts straight in fantasy fiction. I had a few issues with the concept. First and foremost, they were talking about FANTASY, not historical, fiction.

FANTASY: noun, plural fantasies.
imagination, especially when extravagant and unrestrained.
the forming of mental images, especially wondrous or strange fancies; imaginative conceptualizing.
a mental image, especially when unreal or fantastic; vision:
a nightmare fantasy.
Psychology. an imagined or conjured up sequence fulfilling a psychological need; daydream.
a hallucination.
a supposition based on no solid foundation; visionary idea; illusion:
dreams of Utopias and similar fantasies.
caprice; whim.

Aka- made up shit.

One of the things mentioned in the aforementioned article, was that some people complained about potatoes in Lord of the Rings because they weren’t a food staple yet.

Think about that for a moment.

LOTR is a PURELY invented world. Yes, it borrows heavily from the British Isles, but it is a FICTIONAL world. How do these naysayers know when that world discovered potatoes? Just because the background was similar to ours, last time I checked there weren’t wizards, golems, trolls, ents, or any number of beings found in LOTR, in our world.

Yet, they were upset about potatoes being around.

Now, to be fair, the post wasn’t focused on the LOTR issue, that was simply a side comment, but it did deal with keeping anachronisms out of your fantasy fiction.

Again we are back to that logic diagram in our heads (we all carry those around, right?).

An anachronism is something out of time. If a world is INVENTED, then unless you are the creator of said world, no one can say you have created an anachronistic event. Unless you contradict something already established by YOU in that world.

An example was given of an author who had prisoners taking a donkey cart to their work site. The author of the article was stating how they should have put that they walked, since that would be how it would have been. Ummm, says who? If you are writing historical fiction, damn skippy you’d better get it right, down to the exact type of buttons they used. But for fantasy? As soon as you’ve introduced wizards, witches, vampires, centaurs, dragons, faeries, etc you are NO longer in this world. Therefore, the rules aren’t the same.

The author of a world of fantasy is creating that entire world. Yes, we steal (borrow ;)) from various times in history, and some are very close to historical truth with just a slight variation added. But they have still deviated from the historical truth.

If you, as the author, are telling me that your hero in 1833 used a snargleblaster to blow away a swamp monster that climbed out of the Thames, I can’t really argue that the boat the hero used wasn’t around then. The author has already hijacked the timeline with a snargleblaster, and the fact that a sentient two-story being has crawled out of the Thames and is snacking on passer-by. Reality has changed. A type of boat that wouldn’t have been around in OUR 1833, might have been designed in 1830 in a world with snargleblasters (not to mention swamp monsters who are not living in swamps at all).

Now, if in the above example, the author states that a snargleblaster can never be used near large bodies of water because a safety (to be built and added to the weapon in 1840) was missing which would cause the hero to explode—and the hero fails to explode—we have another issue completely. The author has betrayed their own established reality. 

So to all my other fantasy writers out there, I say let your wild ideas fly! There will still be troublesome naysayers, but just ask them where in YOUR world it was stated or implied that your culture advanced in the precise manner that “reality” did. (Just make sure you don’t contradict yourself ;)).

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

A few paragraphs about paragraphs

Paragraphs seem to be an issue in my world lately, at least I’ve run into a number of issues with friends and paragraphs, so that made me start thinking about them…hence….a blog ;).

First thing to keep in mind is that paragraphs are your friend.  They provide pleasing white space which allows the reader to take a breath and process your wonderful words of wisdom.

Second thing, they are not always constructed the same way for fiction, as they would be for an academic endeavor.

Third, like commas, many of the rules are optional. With the primary goals being ease of readability and maximum impact to move the story forward.

Even though many are open to interpretation, there are a few guidelines:

  • ·         You DO need them. Sorry, no way around this. Learn how to use them to enhance the reader’s experience.

  • ·         Don’t mix what one character says with what another character says in the same paragraph. This goes for action as well. 

  • One character=one paragraph, nuff said.

Bad Example: “Why didn’t you tell me you were flying the turnip to Mars today?” Stachia asked as she stormed around the mansion. “Because I knew you’d be mad,” said Kumquat. He peered around the corner at Turtledove. “I told him not to.” Turtledove said with a flip of her bright green hair.

Good Example: (Okay, good being relative ;))
“Why didn’t you tell me you were flying the turnip to Mars today?” Stachia asked as she stormed around the mansion.
“Because I knew you’d be mad,” said Kumquat. He peered around the corner at Turtledove.
“I told him not to.” Turtledove said with a flip of her bright green hair.
                        Which is easier to read and understand?

  • ·         Make sure the actions for one character stay with that character!  You never want to make the reader stop and try and guess who said what and who did what. If there is a bunch of back and forth- then yes, you will have a BUNCH of paragraph breaks. Don’t try to squish them together. Edit them down if need be. (Talking heads bad ;))

o   Bad Example:
§          Jane turned and walked away from the glowing ember of Troy. Benjamin followed along behind her, wiping down the cabinets of Troy as he did so. Turtledove wandered aimless behind them wondering what happened.

Hopefully, you wouldn’t be doing this type of writing, even broken up correctly. But yes, each action would need a separate paragraph (and you’d need an editor ;)).
  • If you start describing on thing (item, location, situation) and switch to another thing, you must start a new paragraph.

  • ·         If there is a gap in time-start a new paragraph (I usually have a space or break).

  • ·         Paragraphs can be used for humor (think the pause before a punchline) or dramatic impact (the pause before the “Oh shit!” moment). Setting a single line separate from the paragraph can make the reader mentally add an OMMPH to line.

o   Example: (not great, but it makes the point ;))

§        I made one more check of the house. I knew there was no one there. I’d checked every window and every door twice. The noises I was hearing were just the house settling. My husband was right, just because he wasn’t home, there was no reason for me to worry.

So then why was the backdoor wide op-?

Yes, that last line could fit logistically with the paragraph above it--but it makes more impact set apart.

  • ·         Like sentence length, paragraph length can speed up or slow down the pacing. Short paragraphs move fast (think action or a faster paced book) whereas longer paragraphs slow the reader, longer descriptive sections, a deliberate slowdown of action. But make sure, regardless of the type of scene that your paragraphs aren’t all the same length ;). variety is the spice of a good book.

 Paragraphs are far more than just something you were taught to use to separate the sections of your essays in school.  Have any favorite rules? Peeves?

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Care and feeding of the inner brat

Writers, like all folks with creative bents to their psyches, have to keep their inner child alive and well. But more than that. We need to keep our inner child stubborn, determined, and willing to do whatever it takes to get what we need. 

In short, our inner child needs to be a brat. 

Now, not a brat as in falling on the floor and throwing a foaming fit, but a brat as in hunkering down and not taking no for an answer. 

Plus, not only does the delightful little inner brat have to be stubborn as heck--
they have to be willing and able to follow flights of fancy wherever they may lead.

As kids, most all of us had amazing imaginations--both good and bad--a great imagination meant that we really COULD think of the monster from the movie we just saw coming to get us. But it also meant the entire world was ours. We could be a high powered princess one day, a horse the next, and the president of the galaxy the day after. Listen to little kids, the vast majority of their play is story telling. Sometimes very active story telling. Most of us don’t act out our tales, but the kids are story telling nonetheless.

Then somewhere we lose that.

The world comes down on us and says the things we make up aren’t real, could never happen, and are extremely silly besides. Most humans retire their story worlds at that point. But a few of us hang on to it. We write because these great, “What If’s” keep popping in our heads. We see a headline and think, “What if it didn’t go like that? What if it went like this?” Eventually, in an effort to quiet the voices, we start writing these ideas down.

Now some folks are fine with that. The story is out of them, they don’t need to go further and can now return to a somewhat normal life.

But for the rest of us, our inner child needs to get her war paint on. Have you ever seen a kid want something so badly they keep crying for it until they fall asleep exhausted? As writers we need to do that. Ok, not the crying part (well it’s ok after a horrible review, but then you have to move on), but the hanging on to something so tight we never let go.

We have to hold this need to hang on close to our hearts. We need to honor our inner brat and not tell it it’s stupid (such as the inner comments of “I suck”, “I can’t write”, “I’ll never be published”.) Like external children, those kind of comments can be very damaging.

And we need to build our resilience. If one story doesn’t work, do another. Re-write it. Re-envision it. Like the kid who keeps building towers in the kitchen until they get that damn cookie jar, we need to keep working until we hit our first goal. Then keep it up for each book afterwards.

We need to keep our inner brat hungry for the prize. Creative, stubborn, and willing to get whatever help it takes to get to our goal.

A friend once gave me a framed print that says it all:

“Never, Never give up”- Winston Churchill
“Never, Never grow up”- Dr. Seuss

Keep that inner brat alive and well ;).

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

#IWSG- Dealing with loss

Welcome to September's installment of the Insecure Writer's Support Group. A monthly gathering of writers shouting our hopes, dreams, and fears at the wind.

Please go here to find out more!

Today's blog is about dealing with loss and our characters. I have recently suffered a loss in my family and to be honest, I wasn't sure about blogging today.  But, blogging is sort of like journaling, and my own loss made me think about our characters and their losses.

Every single person on this planet will face loss differently. We all grieve differently, based on our own backgrounds, character, religious beliefs, and the specific situation. Our characters are "real" in that they need to react uniquely to fit them, not how the writer wants them to react (a formerly meek and dependent person suddenly becoming tough and fighting back for example). Or how society expects someone to react. Grief is unique for each character.

Grief is often used as a launching point for a story. The character's life changes drastically at a significant loss. The death of the character's mentor is a very well used trope and is a simple launching pad to propel the character forward.  It gets used too often, so if someone does want to use it, I'd suggest a twist. But many times death is used as the catalyst, but then forgotten.  The character musters on, forging the changes they need to, but there is no other reaction. Not much more from them, nor the people around them.

That's another issue- the people around them. Some people will identify too closely with the loss, and fade away--it's too close to their own fears, so they avoid the person completely. Others may respond completely inappropriately as they aren't sure what to say or do.

Building in grief and it's outcome can be a huge motivator for change in a story, but make sure it feels real. Now, this comes with the dialogue caveat-with dialogue it needs to feel real, but not BE real because it would bore the reader. Dealing with grief needs to feel real, but not BE real. But make sure it lingers in the character's changes, in reactions (or non-reactions) from those around them.

Grief and loss are also a reflection of a society. Our society, for example, really avoids talking about death. But other cultures see it as part of living. Use your character's loss to also show more about their world, their culture.

And remember, there is no wrong way to grieve.

Thursday, August 27, 2015


Okay, first off, you're all winners :).  But, since I did hold a contest, and that does mean some folks won prizes, I wanted to post them here :) (They're in last week's blog too ;)).

The rafflecopter randomizer has spoken!

Savannah S. won  a signed copy of The Glass Gargoyle AND a signed copy of The Obsidian Chimera, plus a few extra gifties!

Vanessa M. won a a $20 Harney & Sons Fine Teas gift card!

Britty B. won a $25 Bookshop Santa Cruz gift card! 

Also- four other folks entered on all of the topics- so if they'd like to email me, I would be happy to send them a little swag bag.

Nina F.

Tara P.

Shauna R.

Julie G.

email me at Marie @ marieandreas .com

Thank you all for entering, coming by the blog, and sharing with your friends!