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Showing posts from October, 2015

National Novel Writing Month and More

The most frightening thing about October is how fast time flies. It's almost November again, and time for another National Novel Writing Month . Here's an even scarier thought: I've participated for ten years and haven't finished one book I've started over there. How about you? But it really doesn't matter, because that ten years represents a portion of the 10,000 hours of writing practice I've put in for the past decade. More than that really, when you consider all my various jobs in the publishing industry, off and on over the decades. There are many people and tools I'm thankful for. I still remember the generosity of authors I met in person and over the phone so many years ago. Like the woman who told me to get a copy of The Writers Market . That changed my writing life for all time.  Then there's the hour I spent on the phone with Kathleen Burdick-Hague, while her husband, Michael Hague , signed at a Tattered Cover book eve

Personal Ghosts as Conflict

The inspiration for my young adult series was, "What if real people inspired the Greek Gods? What would their world look like? Who were they?" I created a world in which fair-haired Titans invaded the Greek Island of Helios (based on Rhodes) and built a stronghold called Mt. Olympus. In order to earn a seat on the ruling council of Mt. Olympus, the younger generation must undergo a survival exercise on a remote, unpopulated island. I decided the test would last four weeks and each week would follow a different character's point of view, a sort of POV relay race. When I finished the first draft of the first book in the  Mythikas Island series, I knew something was missing. It had life threatening danger on a self-destructing island, a ticking clock, plenty of antagonism, and deepset interpersonal conflict. But the story didn't really come alive until I introduced the internal conflict layer. The Greek myths are full of rich material. I developed a backstory by

How to Put a Ghost In Your Book

Whether or not you write paranormals, you still have the opportunity to include a ghost or two in your book. Here are some obvious and not-so-obvious ways: Physical Description - Ghostly pallor - A way to describe when a character turns pale or looks sick. Conflict Resolution -  When a character is presented with a quandary, is there a ghost of a chance to rise above it? Is there a light, however dim, at the end of the tunnel? An Unpleasant Event - Is your character dogged by a ghost from the past? Does the memory cause guilt, despair or sadness? In The Company of Loved Ones - Perhaps your character has lost a dear one, yet the warmth of that relationship continues after that person has departed. Your character may even talk to or think about that cherished one as if that person were still alive. Play Pretend - Portray a ghost as an actual character. It can be friendly or mean-spirited, depending on the tone of your book. Halloween - When all else fails, have your character

How to Build a Planet

Image by Brenda Clarke , via Flickr Building other worlds, and entire planets, is one of the perks of being a SFF writer. I’m often asked, incredulously, how I even start with the worldbuilding process. My response: With a little bit of magic and a little bit of science. First Concepts In Madison Lane and the Wand of Rasputin I began with the idea of a contemporary teenager (armed with an iPhone!) landing in a Renaissance-era-like world. When one of the plot twists turned out to involve quantum physics, I decided what I had here was Earth’s twin planet separated at “birth” but still quantum-entangled with Earth. I named it “Ground”. Time and Relative Location in Space (a.k.a. Cosmology) Even though Madison Lane involves time travel, I decided that the sequences taking place on Ground would be occurring in contemporary time. Except that Ground is not as technologically advanced as Earth. Why? The answers to that question led me on a rabbit trail of worldbuilding. Let’s

Ghoulies and ghosties...

Photo by Andreas Dantz , via Flickr I wrote a “woo-woo” story long before I ever heard the term--perhaps before it existed? My Regency editor at Walker Books asked for a short story for a Halloween anthology. My tale, “Superstition,”* features a young man who sneers at ghosts and is dared to go to Stonehenge at midnight on Halloween. His friends dress up in sheets to scare him, but before they arrive on the scene, he has experienced the “real” ghosts of Druids performing a terrifying ritual. My only other fictional ghost was in The Actress and the Rake . I set strict rules for him. Every time he made himself visible, passed through a wall, or in some way affected the physical world, he lost energy, until in the end he faded away. He was able to appear to only one other character, his lawyer. His purpose in death--so to speak--was to thwart his granddaughter and his godson, not, as you might expect, by keeping them apart but by throwing them together so that they failed to obs

Dream Chaser: Of Monsters and Me

I was different from most kids growing up. When they ran to get inside before darkness settled, I wanted to stay out longer. I wanted to see the moon, watch the bats do their aerial dances in its beams. I wanted to walk through the woods and see the glowing eyes staring back from just beyond the shadows. I wasn’t worried about monsters. So many associate darkness with evil, hatred, and depression. For me, it’s just the opposite. For me, the reality was that the real terrors happened in daylight and the darkness was (and still is) my sanctuary. In the dark I find peace, a comforting silence. The world settles down, the hustle and bustle slows. Lights dim, the sun falls, and everything takes on a sense of calm. The air cools, becomes crisp, and I take a deep breath and relax. I guess it comes back to that word ‘monster’. I suppose we all have our own ideas of what a monster is and everyone is haunted by something. My path to success has been one of many celebrations, but it hasn’t

Is Your Manuscript a Monster?

Writers! Did you know that each of your beloved manuscripts has the capability of evolving into monsters? It’s true. Here’s a list to help you identify which monster(s) are lurking near you right now. Be still. Can you hear their breathing? 10. The Vampire . This is the manuscript which refuses to die. It has merit - one might even say it has teeth. It prefers to be written at night. Don’t eat steak while you’re working on this manuscript.  9. The Good Witch . This manuscript allows you to ‘go home’. It deals with familiar subject matter and may contain recipes for cookies. However, it does tend to talk in riddles and can send you down roads leading to lions, tigers, and bears.  8. The Bad Witch . This manuscript is often tied with the Good Witch manuscript. It could be the sequel or the same plot, but told from the POV of a different character. This manuscript can fly (which is good) but it also likes to be in control. Don’t drink water while you’re working on this one.  7

3 Reasons to Write What Scares You

Fear often freezes us, keeps us from breaking free and stepping into new spaces and opportunities. Have a fear of heights? You avoid traveling long distances, and you definitely avoid bridges and planes. Have a fear of public speaking? You avoid sharing your ideas and thoughts, which means you also avoid the possibility of achieving success through bringing your ideas and thoughts to fruition. Have a fear of writing what scares you? You avoid writing in those spaces that might enable you to learn about yourself as a person and as a writer and growing from that new knowledge. What does "write what scares you" even mean? It could mean writing about those things that have brought pain into your life . Perhaps you have experienced a difficult divorce, and the main character in your latest WIP is experiencing the same thing. Having to balance your creativity and writing with your emotions can be problematic. It could mean writing about those things that don’t direct

Do You Believe in Psychics?

I have no idea what made me choose a psychic for a main character―a woman who, by touch, can see into another world. It started when she was six years old and found a missing neighbor’s child by picking up the boy’s stuffed animal. At that time, no one knew she had “the gift.” Her wily, con-man father turned her into a phenomenon and then an entertainment act. I’m not a particular believer in the occult or in psychic phenomena, but I have a friend who has visited many psychics and swears that they could not have known what they told her during her sessions. One even insisted she had three children. She has two, but the psychic wouldn’t back down. Then my friend thought of the miscarriage she had between her two children. Another told her she’d be going to Florence in the near future. Three months later, she did. In a rather creepy experience, my friend sought out a medium after her daughter died. She wanted to see if she could make contact. Here’s what she wrote me—I paraphrased

Time Out for a Little Fun

I love it when other people are funnier than I am, and I can share their humor. The following one-liners are borrowed - with permission - from Kristen Lamb's blog .   Kristen posts regularly with writing and marketing advice, and her sharp sense of humor makes her blog so much fun to read. Do check it out after you've read all the posts here and commented on every one. Okay, maybe just read mine.   You Might Be a Writer If… You’ve learned that regular people are cute, and no longer get offended with this conversation. Regular Person: What do you do? Writer: I’m a writer. Regular Person: No, I mean, what’s your real job? You’ve come to understand that writers are a lot like unicorns. Everyone knows about them, they’ve simply never seen a REAL ONE. You Might Be a Writer If… The NSA, CIA and FBI no longer bother with you. Likely, they know you by name and now outsource to the creepy ice cream truck to just make a few passes and check to make sure you’re still

Ancestral Roots

This time of year is when many cultures celebrate holidays such as Halloween, Dia de los Muertos, or Samhain. The last harvest has been gathered. The days grow dark and the nights grow long. It is the earth’s time to rest in darkness. This is a time of trust: we believe that the light will come again. We trust that death is part of life, just another turn of the wheel. This is the time to remember the past by telling, reading, or writing the stories of our ancestors. I usually throw a party for family and friends around this time. The party has four main features, all of which honor the dark, the past, and the dead. The first thing we do is go on a mushroom walk. We ramble through a wooded place and keep our eyes on the ground. At first we see few, if any, mushrooms, because they are shy creatures. Then suddenly we’ll spot them, showing up in an amazing variety of shapes and colors, growing under fallen leaves and on rotten logs, bringing color and life to death. When we see t