Friday, March 30, 2018

The Fantasy Writing Retreat

 My fantasy workplace, you ask? Why, I've given it no thought. No thought at all!
Yeah, okay. I'm lying. Hawaii. There would be a compound of several tiny houses near the beach. I'd live in one and the others would be dedicated to other writers on retreat. Authors who'd come in would agree to offer one class to the other writers some time during the week. Could be on anything. Craft. Marketing. Social Media. Why Vampires are Hotter than Werewolves or vice versa.  
 There'd be hikes. Sailing. Scuba. Snorkeling. Surfing. Zip lining. Yoga. Spa services. You know. Whether you wanted to relax or whether you wanted to get out and try something so you could write about it - we'd find a way. Put up a climbing wall so you can learn to rappel? Totally. Shush. I'm building a fantasy here. I'll worry about insurance premiums later. 
It would be intended to get you closer to your muse and your own internal knowing. Because how can you not be happy and content when you're inside a stand of bamboo towering over your head, listening to the ocean breeze clatter the grove like living wind chimes?
I have the spot all picked out and most of the tiny houses (with desks and wifi) built in my head. Now all I need is a mega lotto win.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

The Design of a Workspace

I do not have an idealized writing space.  At all.  I mean, I don't have a space-- I have two rolling bags that serve as my rolling-office.  Now, I do have mobility, and that can be great.  I can work anywhere.  Coffee shop.  Book store.  Back of the car.  Right now I'm on the walking desk in the bedroom, which is the most "permanent" workspace I have.  But I share the walking desk with my wife-- because we both need it and enjoy it.  And it's less than ideal.

For one, it's in the bedroom, which isn't great working energy if you can avoid it.  I mean, like I said, I can work anywhere and do, but if you are going to craft an ideal space, it's a space that is explicitly for working.  The space serves that purpose alone. 

So, what would that look like?

First is the desk.  It needs to be large enough to have the laptop and a couple notebooks spread out.  I need to be able to work on the computer and work by hand on it, sometimes back and forth at the same time.  Also, good legroom underneath.  I've learned the hard way that that is critical. 

Next, the chair needs to be right.  I've had a lot of bad chairs.  Good back support for long hours sitting in it.

Third, a separate chair for reading.  That's a comfy, lounging chair.  Or maybe a small couch.

One wall is windows with good natural light.  One wall is bookshelves.  One wall is white boards, corkboards, maps- a space to plan out the work in a large format. 

Enough floor space to pace around, lay out notecards on the floor.

And a door that stays shut when I'm working. 

That's what would be ideal for me.

For now-- work wherever.  Work however.  The work is what matters, not the space. 

But the space would be nice.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Life goals: writing retreat in a castle

Last year at the RWA national convention in Orlando, I overheard some writers talking -- was it in a speech? Or was I just that creepy lurker in the lobby unintentionally overhearing everyone else’s conversations?! I really don’t recall -- about a retreat they’d been on together. They pooled funds from, like, ten writers and rented a castle in Ireland for three weeks.

A castle.

In Ireland.

For three weeks.

Also? It was haunted.

So whether I heard it legit, spied it, or made it up, none of that really matters because...

A castle.

In Ireland.

For three weeks.

With a ghost.

(And also he was probably a hot, angsty, Victorian ghost. Hush, you, this is my happy place!)

This is now filed in my brain under Life Goals. Who’s in?

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Dreaming of Islands for A Reclusive Writer

A dream is a wish your heart makes when you're supposed to be writing...

Oh, wait, that's not how the song goes. But since today's topic is "dream environment for writing," that song is totally my earworm. I give it you, dear readers, because I'm generous like that.

So, you all know writers find all sorts of wonderful, weird, and wholly impractical websites as we're researching our scenes. Some of them we keep pinned in case we ever become as rich as those writer-characters on TV (I'm lookin' at you, Rick Castle).

Behold the glory and wonder that is Private Islands, Inc--Real Estate Listings of Islands for Sale.

My default search is the Islands of Ireland. This week, there's a place called Mermaid Isle. Mermaid Isle. Oh, come on, if that doesn't scream, "Fantasy Writers, come hither," I don't know what does.

See, while most people are looking for sun, warmth, beaches, and cabana boys, I'm after stormy days, surging seas, and total isolation.

I R a Recluse.

With grocery places delivering by drone and empty guest rooms to lay in the booze, the necessities are addressed. As long as the house stays warm and dry, I...I could be there tomorrow. Heck, judging the photos, it even comes with its own pet seal.

Or maybe it's a selkie.   

Monday, March 26, 2018

Where better to write?

Jeffe wants the Mediterranean.

Me? A nice big house on a cliffside, overlooking the sea.

New England is fine for that. Ireland or old England would work pretty darned well.

Mostly I just love the ocean and the roar of the waves, the rhythmic crash of water against rocks.

I feel at peace there. 

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Welcome to My Mediterranean Villa

I often joke that in my old age, I shall be writing from the balcony of my Mediterranean Villa. Grace Draven plans to live with me (we figure our husbands will be gone by then - sorry, guys!) and we'll have several very handsome young men with medical training to look after us.

Why the Mediterranean instead of the Caribbean, you may ask? Many of you know that's my favorite place.

No hurricanes. Better medical care. A girl has to plan this stuff.

That's our topic this week: If you could not write in your customary spot, what’s your dream writing environment?

What about you all - dream writing spot? Dream retirement spot?

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Best Bet Mini Reviews


The subject this week is reviews, with a subtitle drawn from some children’s rhyme I never even heard of and which sounded unpleasant and disrespectful  to reviewers.

A review is that reader’s experience with the book. They bought the book (or agreed to accept an ARC) so they're entitled to their opinion.

I wrote my book, I told the story I wanted to tell, obviously I was content with it or I wouldn’t have pushed the ‘publish button’ on the ebook seller sites. I've moved on to my next book.

I appreciate people taking the time and energy to write reviews. I think in many cases the reviews can be helpful to other readers in deciding whether to try a book. They may love or hate some trope the first reviewer loved or hated. They may want to see what the 5 stars or the 1 star is all about. They may want to suss out if there’s a cliffhanger or a trigger. (I never write cliffhangers!!! Hopefully I don’t do triggers either.) Some reviews may be for a product totally unrelated to my book which somehow ended up attached to my book through the mysteries of ebook seller platforms. Some authors have been unfortunate in that a troll or an author who views everyone else as a rival has sent out his/her legions of fans to leave terrible reviews on their books.

I think the vast majority of reviewers - and especially the devoted book bloggers! - try very hard to give their honest opinion and feedback.

I don’t spend much if any time pondering reviews.

I don’t review books either except for one specific exception. Well ok, two.

When I wrote for the old Heroes & Heartbreakers blog, they wanted me to identify a few “Best Bet” scifi romances every month and write mini reviews. That was the ‘price’ of me being on their platform and spreading the scifi romance word. Fair enough, their platform, their rules! I transferred this ‘best bet’ activity to the Love in Panels blog when editor Suzanne Krohn from H&H decided to continue writing a romance-based blog after MacMillan shut down the old H&H.

I only talk about books which I personally enjoyed and can recommend. I review three from each month’s flood of new SFR releases, which I report on a factual basis weekly on my own blog. Here’s a sample report of New Releases New Releases in #SciFi and #Fantasy Romance for Wednesday March 21 .

I try to change the Best Bet titles up monthly, not to focus on just one series or author, and include a couple of well-known SFR authors (because many of the best release new books monthly these days, or so it seems) and hopefully a newcomer or author with fewer titles, whose book took and held my attention. I don’t give stars or any other rating.  I do a blend of plot hilite recaps, using snips of dialog or description I really liked, and remarks about what I enjoyed most. Maybe it was the feisty heroine, the use of an unusual setting, the hero’s determination or an unexpected plot twist that stood out (I don’t do spoilers). On rare occasions if something in the book bugged me enough, I might mention it. One title that I totally enjoyed last year had the hero calling the PhD heroine ‘honey’ and ‘sweetheart’ from the moment they met. Yeah, don’t EVER try condescending endearments with me. So I mentioned that but stressed how much I’d enjoyed the rest of the book.

Some authors who do wonderful worldbuilding, great characters and twisty plots are just too steamy for me, so I might mention that in one of these mini review ‘best bet’ columns. I like a certain amount of hot times in a book but there are readers who go for many more scenes of this type than I do, so I figure my statement won’t hurt the book’s chances.

Obviously in a best bets column I’m not going to discuss books I didn’t like. No one but me (and Amazon) will ever know how many I might have sampled that month to find the ones I do feature.

Another reason I don’t do any other type of review is that I read a book as an author. I can’t help but see pieces of the writer’s craft peeking through. I contemplate what I would have done with plot twists. I nod and say, oh yes, I see your foreshadowing. I see how you’re going to use those seven brothers the hero has to set up the series.

It doesn’t keep me from enjoying a good book! But I’m using a double lens if you will, and I’m not going to write a review.

The only other time I do a review is if there’s something special and I just really really want to talk about it. I’m doing one of those next week on Anne Bishop’s Lake Silence but that’s a rare thing for me, less than once a year.

I did do a revisit to Andre Norton’s Witch World series once for my own blog.

And that’s a wrap on this topic!


Friday, March 23, 2018

The Ultimate Positive Review


This book is one of 6-8 finalists out of a field of hundreds of books. The RITA, again, is the highest award honor bestowed upon romance novels by the romance industry. Finalists are the books our peers pick up and say, "OMG, this is amazing!" There are few reviews better than that. So CONGRATS, again, to Vivien. And you, yes, you! Here's where you pick up this book to see what all the fuss is about AND to leave your own impression of the story on whatever venue lights your fire. :D

PS: The actual RITA awards ceremony takes place at the Romance Writers of America National Conference in July. You have until then to read WANTED & WIRED so you can root for it to win along with the rest of us!

Thursday, March 22, 2018

The Power of the Review

Reviews are a critical part of a novelist's life.  We get them, we obsess over them, and we need them. 

I mean, I read every one that I see.  Every one.  Even the ones that hurt-- and oh lord, do some of them hurt.  But I see that as a necessary thing.  The hurtful, rip-the-bandaid-off aspect of the bad reviews are part of the process.  It's part of understanding that you're never going to please everyone.

Remember: even the great classics, even your most favorite, beloved books have 1-star reviews on Amazon. 

But I want to talk to the readers out there: remember that reviews are YOUR tool.  If you have a book you love, a writer you adore, then the best thing you can do is get on Amazon, Goodreads and anywhere else you can go and SCREAM IT TO THE HILLTOPS that you love that book.  You will make that writer's day.

So go do that.  It can be for one of mine, if you're so inclined, or someone else.  There are plenty of worthy writers who need a bit of your love.  So go give some, because it doesn't cost you anything.  Love is a self-replenishing commodity, spread it around.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Review for fun! For information! For love.

When Amazon was new and I was unpublished, I used to read a lot of reviews. They were informative and well-thought-out and helped me pick my next readable. I trusted them, and they rarely steered me wrong.

Nowadays, Amazon's algorithms for visibility have made reviews into a commodity, and since I have a couple of books out with my name on the covers, I abstain from reading reviews.

Not reviews of my books because neither my ego nor my self-loathing are developed enough to take that hit directly.

Not reviews of my friends' books because I get all angry and defensive and chupacabra, and it's on someone else's behalf, which makes the fury feel righteous.

Not reviews of books that are doing really well in my genre because all my attempts to replicate the success of those books have ended in manuscripts sacrificed to the dark gods of Why Even.

Not reviews of books that are clearly not selling well because, dude, someone put effort into typing all those words and then made the (foolish?) decision to go ahead and share the resultant opus. With everyone. For money. That's... kind of precious. Definitely brave. I don't want reviews to spoil that for me.

Nope, instead of putting my eyeballs on book reviews, I have a couple of super-kind friends who screen them for me. They cut and paste the reviews of my books that I'm allowed to read, send them to me, and then I print them out and frame them and ... well, they make me happy. Intensely, tearfully, gratefully happy.

Now, this isn't a foolproof system, so if you've reviewed a book of mine favorably and I haven't sent you chocolates or gifs of people hugging, feel free to message me. You really want this gif-storm. If you've reviewed unfavorably, I don't know about it but I will tell you this:


Seriously. Regardless of whether you loved my work or hated it or meh'd it, you took the time to read, to leave your thoughts out there for someone else who just wants advice on picking his or her next readable. I've been that person and would be still. You make that person's world better. So, thank you from prepublished-me.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Reviews? Yes, Please!

Image result for reviewsReviews. We need them. We love them. Okay, we might not love the one-star reviews, but if the book moved a reader to the point they felt compelled to warn the public that our advertised 350-gallon tank only holds 35 gallons, then...well, hopefully, potential readers will have their expectations appropriately set.

For the record, my books don't hold 350 or 35 gallons. 3.5 ounces, possibly, and that's only because I use matte covers instead glossy. Glossy isn't as absorbent.

(FWIW, don't leave your print proof in the wine-glass spill zone.)

In all seriousness, I love getting reviews. I'd like to get more. I very much appreciate everyone who leaves a review. I really, really appreciate those who leave reviews encouraging others to buy the book (especially the non-spoilery reviews). What? That confession should surprise no one. Good reviews make me feel good. Less-than-awesome reviews, I skim to see if there's anything useful in them, then move along. I go back and re-read the good ones on days when my confidence falters.

As the author, I am not the target audience for a review.
I am a beneficiary.

A book review isn't written for me. It's written for other readers who presumably like the genre. Doesn't mean I don't read the reviews (let's be honest, it's not like I have hundreds of them; though, that would be cool). It absolutely means I don't respond to them because it's not my sandbox.

Let me say it again, I appreciate reviewers 
for taking the time to leave a thoughtful review.

Reviews are important to sales. For consumers, they're tied with price in third place as a deciding factor for purchasing. Cover and back copy/blurb are the first two. In a digital market where there are millions of books available and new ones constantly being released, the options are overwhelming to a consumer. The more choices, the higher the expectation (and, potentially, the lower the satisfaction). Reviewers are critical to helping buyers overcome Paradox [Paralysis] of Choice effect.

So when it comes to reviews, I'll take 'em. The good, the bad, the meh.

For all you who leave reviews, thank you!

Monday, March 19, 2018


So, reviews count on in as much as people read them and can be influenced by them. They are, much as with fiction, only as good as the writer in question. A bad review that says nothing doesn't help much, unless there is an overwhelming level of enthusiasm.

That said, I have no time for a proper review of reviews this week Deadlines!

So here's a slightly older article on the importance of emotions in fiction.

Have a great week!

So, let’s see: You’ve listened to me rant on about reviews, characters, pacing, setting, dialogue, body language, the time it takes a story to come out from idea to publication and the lack of legitimate rules to follow. What’s next?
How about emotion? Not just the emotions of the characters, but also the emotions of the readers and the writers as well. Let’s be honest here, there isn’t a damned thing you can do about the state of mind of a reader who picks up your work, at least not on the surface.
When it comes to getting an emotional response from a reader, however, you better be able to get something or your story is screwed beyond all hopes of repair. Everything that I’ve rambled on about here, and that the other writers at Storyteller’s Unplugged have discussed, comes from experience. Right or wrong doesn’t even come into it. There is no right or wrong when it comes to writing. There’s just observation and experience. And the same simple fact is true when it comes to the process of putting the words down on paper and convincing people to read them.
But believe me, from my own experience, if you can’t get a person to empathize with the characters in your story, that person is not going to become a fan of your stuff.
Emotions are what make us who we are, and what differentiates us from the buildings nearby—well, okay, ONE of the things that separates us from the buildings.
What the hell does any of this have to do with writing? Well, if your characters are going to properly portray the illusion of life, they will need to actually display emotional depth. More importantly, they will have to react differently to situations. If every member of a military outfit could do as well as Uncle Sam wanted them to, the average war movie would be a great advertisement for joining the Armed Forces, but the movie itself would suck eggs. What fun is a good shoot ‘em up if an occasional soldier doesn’t freak out when he gets a Dear John letter from Betty Sue back in Montana? If Lou over there doesn’t spaz a few times when the bombs are falling, how can Sergeant Joe interact with him and remind him to be a man? Not the best examples, maybe, but I suspect you’re getting my point.
Only a handful of writers can make a story interesting when there isn’t emotional depth, and frankly, most of those particular scribes passed away back at the end of the Pulp Era. (Conan doesn’t cry, he just kicks ass, but he’s still fun.)
I’m not saying that every character needs to become a drama queen (or king, let’s not be sexist), I’m saying that even the ones who don’t like to let their emotions show still need to have them. Even if the sole emotion the bag guys feels is a constant state of pissed off, the writer has to reveal that in one way or another, or the person reading the story will get bored. 
There’s a balance in this as in all things. Like most of the subjects I’ve discussed, emotions can be overdone very easily. Mention the words “Vampire novel” to a lot of people and they roll their eyes, sick to death of the “angsty” vampires.  I tend to think that in most cases, monsters should be allowed to be monsters, but that’s just me. It doesn’t take too big a push to slide from sensitive he-man action hero to whiny little snot nosed brat.
Having said that, however, I will again repeat myself (because to me it bears repeating) and point out that a hero with out emotional flaws is most likely going to come across as have, at best, two dimensions.
Wait, did I say flaws? Yes I did. Nobody is perfect. Not only should the people you’re trying to create have emotions, they should probably have a few flaws. I don’t mean like kryptonite to Superman, I mean like occasionally getting upset about traffic. It’s just damned hard for most people to root for a good guy who never makes mistakes and never has issues to deal with. What the hell, I’ll keep with the superhero thing for a minute. Bruce Wayne is financially successful, good looking, and could just about pick and choose from the eligible ladies in Gotham City. Instead, he dresses up like a bat and goes around beating the criminal element into submission. Not only is this his driving ambition in life, it is also his number one flaw. The man is obsessed. His parents were murdered I front of him and he took it personally. The end result is Batman. Believe me, any good shrink would put his butt on some serious medications and ship him off to a special school for anger management. But it’s that obsession that makes him interesting.
Victor Frankenstein spent a little too much time dealing with death on a daily basis and became obsessed with life and the artificial creation of it. Something inside his head went ping and the next thing you know, he’s working on building a better human being. His flaw is what makes him extraordinary.
Every hero, every villain, every bit character in a novel should have emotions and flaws. Without them, they have as much depth as the four hundred extras in a Bruce Lee movie.
So what sort of emotional flaws can be used to your advantage? All of them.  Hatred is a powerful motivator. So are greed, love, paranoia, lust, longing, happiness, envy, depression…You get the idea. All of them are important in adding depth to a character. All of them are just plain important. That doesn’t mean you have to examine them to the point where they interfere with the flow of the story, but they should at least be mentioned in passing.
On a more localized level, I’ll point to a few books where the emotions of the characters made all of the difference in the world. Cujo by Stephen King would have just been a book about a dog with rabies if he hadn’t breathed emotional life into the characters. The son had a serious issue with the monster in his closet. The mother and father were dealing with a marriage that was falling to pieces and marital infidelity. The father was also dealing with a little problem at work that was bordering on costing him his entire career. Then, while you’re trying to handle the issues of a family that’s already splitting at the seams, along comes a 185 pound rabid dog to add to the stress. Without King’s exceedingly skillful hand painting in the added dimensions of the characters, the book would have been boring. Dear Lord, without the agony of the family falling apart, who would have cared about the little boy dying by inches in the summer heat while Cujo kept mother and child trapped a broken down car?  How much of the story would have been different if James Stewart didn’t have a fear of heights in Hitchcock’s Vertigo?
Once, long and ago, I co-wrote a novel with another fledgling writer. It was a learning experience and one of the first things I learned was that he and I would likely never write together again. The main reason for that was simply because, despite his truly beautiful prose, he couldn’t quite grasp a few of the intricacies of the human psyche. In one scene that he wrote a secondary character was raped. First, I didn’t see it as important to the story, but I could let that slide. But in the next scene, said character was just as happy and cheerful as could be and actually passing witty banter about the incident. Now, I don’t have any personal experience along those lines, but I’m betting those unfortunate enough to go through such trauma wouldn’t be wisecracking about it fifteen minutes later. My co-author’s response when I brought this up was “Well, I don’t figure it’s the first time it’s ever happened to her.” What? So the second time it’s just par for the course? I don’t think so. There were arguments and rewrites galore. Forget as a writer; as a reader, I simply couldn’t buy that scenario. For me the scene would have completely ruined the experience as a reader and I would have probably put the book down and never bothered with it again.
Just for kicks, here’s an exercise for fledgling writers: think of a scenario with mild trauma—a mugging, witnessing a crime, a fender bender—and then try to decide how five different people will react to it. If you want to take it to the next logical level, you can write down all five scenes and then wait a week or so and read them. See what similarities there are and what differences. What should shine through, if you’re doing your part as well as you’d like to, is how radically the scene is changed by the emotions and reactions of the characters. IF they all read the same except for the name and physical description, it’s time to seriously reassess your techniques.
In the horror field especially, we deal with traumas and phobias. If the characters react unemotionally (With exceptions, granted) or improperly, we’re not going to keep readers coming back for more.
In the fields of horror/science fiction/fantasy or just plain speculative fiction, writers are asking people to often take monumental leaps away from the norm. That’s all good and well, and a decent number of people are willing to take the trip with the writers, but only if the writers can help them along by making the characters at least a little believable. A little human. That first step is a doozy, and without the help of a little emotional empathy, it’s a step that can completely alienate the reader and anyone the reader discusses the book with.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Reviews Are for Readers - Or Are They?

Our topic this week at the SFF Seven is on our calendar as "Reviews - I'm rubber, you're glue."

Which gave me pause, I'll admit. The phrase comes from US playground taunts among children (do other countries have this one?) where the teased child will reply "I'm rubber, you're glue. What bounces off me, sticks to you." In other words saying that any insults hurled at us bounce off and stick to the the one flinging them.

So, I imagine whoever phrased this topic was thinking of how authors have to allow less-than-complimentary reviews of our books roll off of us. Which is true. But I disagree with putting it this way for a number of reasons.

  1. A review is of a book, not the author. It's different than teasing and taunting in that we are not the target, but rather something we produced. And put into the world for people to take part in. We're not quietly eating our brown-bag lunches (while reading a book) when Billy the Bully comes up and questions our worthiness to use up oxygen. While some reviews do go so far as to insult the author, those are unprofessional and not worth noticing.
  2. Even a terrible review isn't the same as an insult. Sure a bad review is painful, but that's on us. It's just not a personal attack. If someone wishes us harm, then it's reasonable to imagine the fair thing is for that harm to ricochet and instead the person inflicting it. That's not the intent of most reviewers. If it is, that's unprofessional, etc.
  3. Reviews are for readers, not for authors. We're not even the subject of the playground discussion. No more so than if we brought a fine ball from home (which we maybe painstaking decoupaged with Guardians of the Galaxy images), kicked it out there for everyone to play with while we retire with our bag lunch and book, and then the other kids weigh in on whether it's really good for dodgeball or not. It's really not about us.

The big EXCEPT here, is that in this Rate-and-Review-Every-Damn-Thing Economy, reviews have become critically important to sales. I really think Amazon (and other, similar, retail sites) have dug a pretty deep hole for us all. They want honestly reviewed products, so their customers get what will satisfy them, but then they want us to not care about reviews. Even though the number of reviews affects all aspects of a book's saleability, from whether customers even SEE it to obtaining highly sought advertising slots like in BookBub. 

So, sure, reviews are for readers. I read reviews all the time to see if I want to buy a book. But they've also become a key marketing tool for authors and publishers. Which moves the game off the playground and into the big leagues. 

Of course, for authors the answer is still to let them slide off. Leaving out the "sticks to you part." I included the cover here of THE SHIFT OF THE TIDE because I thought of different reviews I've gotten of this recent release. This book is a little different than the rest of the series, because the heroine is other - she's a shapeshifter and doesn't think like a person who can't shapeshift. Spending time in animal forms makes her wild in some ways. 

Some readers have loved it, exactly because Zynda is so different. Others rated it their least favorite of the series because she is so other. Some say it's their favorite.

Since I clearly accomplished what I set out to do - capture her otherness - I can't complain. There are other balls waiting for decoupage. 

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Motivation by Slogan

I have no favorite inspirational or motivational quote.

I read them, I may nod and say yup, but I don’t retain them, much less energize myself into any action based upon one.

Quotes, like poetry and jokes, go in one ear and out the other for me. I may appreciate them a lot while they’re passing through, but the next time I hear them, they’ll be brand new to me yet again. Just not my thing! Now book plots and movie plots and ancient Greek or Egyptian myths – those I can talk about in great detail, with quotes of dialog.

“Seventeen days.”

“None taken.”

“Nuke the whole site from orbit…”

Yeah, those are lodged firmly in my memory but not exactly motivational for writing.

I have two desk calendars of quotes and I start each day with taking a moment to reread yesterday’s and then to peruse today’s. One is a Mary Engelbreit calendar because I love her bright, colorful and whimsical drawings, especially the tea pots, and she definitely has some good sayings, like “Bloom where you’re planted.” (And maybe she didn’t invent that one – I have no idea but I associate it with her.) The other is photographs by Deborah Dewit, whose work I love. I keep one of her prints above my writing desk in fact. The quotes on this “Simplicity” calendar not so much – some of them are long and dry. Others are fine. Today’s was “Simplicity is the nature of great souls” from Anonymous. It pleases me to start the day with something to ponder briefly, plus the pick-me-up cheery moment of Engelbreit art.

We had quotes in my family - My mother's favorite was "In a hundred years it won't matter." My grandfather's ironic quote was "Pets are no trouble at all," usually said right after one of my grandmother's Boston terriers had destroyed something. I say "Count to twelve" when I get upset or anxious, because counting to ten is too short for me to really calm down.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day by the way! Did you like my hair and hat in the photo at the top? My family is Irish-American descent, so I definitely appreciate the wearing of the green.

I hope you find your pot of gold!

Author's own collection of shamrock-y items for St. Patrick's Day

Friday, March 16, 2018

Look to the Stars

Humanity and the world of science lost one of our brightest, sharpest minds. Professor Stephen Hawking made some of the most arcane concepts of physics accessible. So when I seek inspiration, this is where I turn.

"It matters that you don't just give up." Professor Stephen Hawking

PS: If you haven't checked out the Roddenberry FB page, do, and scroll to March 14, 2018. 100% worth it.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

My Favorite Line for Inspiration

Quick post here, as I'm pretty busy this week, but the question of the week over at SFF Seven is for favorite inspirational quote.  And mine is my perennial answer whenever this comes up, Jimmy Dugan's response from A League of Their Own when told that baseball "just got too hard".

"It's supposed to be hard.  If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it.  The hard is what makes it great."

That's a line I remind myself of whenever I need that push, whenever things feel too much of a challenge, too unsurmountable.  And with that, I push through.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Motivated by the positive

When I read the topic this week – writing quotes that are inspirational or motivational – at first all I could think about was that Steven Wright quote: “I’m writing a book. I've got the page numbers done.” Which, you know, isn’t extremely motivational. (Even it is so true.)

Then I thought about Dr Seuss. If Seuss isn’t a kick in the hiney, I don’t know who is. So I read through Oh the Places You’ll Go and … it was actually a bit of a downer. Every time he builds up to a “yeah, you rock, kid,” he follows on immediately with, “except, no. Just kidding.” I think the thing we’re supposed to take from the book, overall, is that life ain’t easy, but it’s worth it? Or something like that?

I’d like to be the sort of person who stubbornly, spectacularly defies criticism, is fueled by rejection, who gets knocked down but then gets up again, just like in that song (which may now be in your head for the rest of the day; sorry). But I’m not that person. Negative sucks the motivation right out of me and leaves me a pile of donut-eating who-even-cares.

So, what does work?

I’ll be honest, I don’t have a wall-sticker over my desk that motivates me, and I’m not huge on personal goal-making and aiming for the bleachers and peppy stuff like that. What I do have is a file folder with a bunch of emails and screenshots in it. In those files are comments from contest judges, critique partners, agents and editors who rejected my work kindly and had nice things to say, agents and editors who didn’t reject and also had nice things to say, professional reviewers and all their pretty stars, readers who were entertained enough to tell me about it … basically, a bright, blooming collage of positivity.

This is my go-to treasure box when my self-confidence gets low. I can pull out these priceless words, read them, and think, hey, maybe I don’t suck. Maybe this adventure is worth it. Maybe someone, someday will want to read this steaming pile of work-in-progress. That person might even like it. Might even like it so much that they sit down and type out a note to me, letting me know the pile isn’t quite so steamy. Or at least the in-a-good-way kind of steamy.

I guess that’s it for me, then. The good. I celebrate all the good, even several times, because once is never enough. Every nice word, I tuck it safe in my file folder of happiness, and it motivates me for days, weeks, years, always.

In other words, if you’ve taken the time to send an email or to leave a review or to contact me at all, Thank You. You have no idea what your gift has meant to me.

p.s. - This has nothing to do with the topic, but a super cool thing happened yesterday and I am celebrating -- BECAUSE WE MUST CELEBRATE ALL THE THINGS: my debut book, Wanted and Wired, was released as an audiobook. The narrator, Johanna Parker, performed the Sookie Stackhouse books and is so amazingly talented. I've grabbed a copy and can't wait to see what Ms Parker has done with the interpretation.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Release Day: The Snows of Windroven by @JeffeKennedy

Jeffe is breaking free...of an anthology and releasing her story The Snows of Windroven as a standalone. Told in the world of the Twelve Kingdoms, it takes place between Tears of the Rose and The Edge of the Blade.

A new power is at work in the Twelve Kingdoms, unbalancing the fragile peace. For the High Queen and her sisters, it might mean a new alliance—or the end of the love of a lifetime…

As a howling blizzard batters the mountain keep of Windroven, Ami, Queen of Avonlidgh, and her unofficial consort Ash face their own storm. Their passion saved them from despair, but Ash knows a scarred, jumpy ex-convict isn’t the companion his queen needs. He’s been bracing himself for the end since their liaison began. When it finally comes, the shattering of his heart is almost a relief.

With a man haunted by nightmares and silent as stone, Ami knows only that Ash’s wounds are his own to hide or reveal. She can’t command trust. But just as they are moving apart, a vicious attack confines them together, snowbound and isolated with an ancient force awakening within Windroven itself. If they truly mean to break their bond, Ami and Ash must first burn through a midwinter that will test every instinct—and bring temptation all too near…

BUY IT NOW: Amazon |   Kobo   |   Smashwords

Monday, March 12, 2018

Favorite Motivational Post

It's simple, really: You can cut it a hundred different ways, but at the end of the day it comes down to this simple statement. JUST DO IT!

That's all. If you have a dream, follow it If you have a story to tell, tell it. Sit down, write. Repeat as necessary until the job is done. Then, when the first draft is finished, move on to another project for a few weeks, go back to that first project and edit.


Fresh eyes. You can't see the mistakes you're making until you  have a chance to clear your mental palette of all the colors and phrases you've been painting with. You have to gain a little distance. In a crush you can always have someone else edit, but I think it's better on the first pass if you do it yourself.

here are four variations of the same theme. None of them created by me but all of them using my likeness. According to some people I am very motivational. I have no idea why.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Is Fear Holding You Back in Your Writing?

Today is the very last day to catch the AMID THE WINTER SNOW anthology. After today it goes off sale and the stories will only be available as stand-alones.

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is Our Favorite Motivational/Inspirational Quote.

Mine is so beloved that I have it hanging over my desk. Let me all-cap it for you.


Any time I hesitate while writing, I look at that. And, liberated, I plow forward.

Now, sometimes when I talk about this, people tell me they aren't afraid of anything, certainly not in their writing. Which is fabulous, I guess.

(Really, I don't believe them.)

It's human nature to be afraid. Fear is a protective instinct that kept us from being munched by tigers back in the day and keeps us in the clear with the IRS now. Being afraid of the right things is healthy.

And I'm not talking about gibbering terror. I mean things like being nervous about walking down that skeezy looking dark alley or hesitating over a funky-smelling leftover from the fridge. Those things are warnings to think twice.

The problem is that we become conditioned to hesitate over social gaffes, too. After all, on an instinctual level, being outcast from the herd means the wolves can get us. In the age of social media, we worry about reactions from other people from sneering reviews to mass outrage.

Some of that is important. We need to observe our own biases and review what our privilege leads us to unthinkingly do and say. But that's for a later stage of the work - for review and thoughtful revision.

Before that, we owe it to ourselves and our creative process to disengage from caution and hesitation, to write what comes out. To write what is in us and wants to be spoken.

Write with courage and boldness, always.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

The Single Minded Author


Our topic this week is whether we write in other media than our current one, which for me is fiction novels.

(Do blog posts count? I write a TON of those, for various platforms.)

I have to say that the action/adventure/romance novel is my natural habitat as a writer and the only thing I have any burning desire to write.

I wrote one poem, an epic fantasy, in iambic pentameter, for a college English class. I’m not a poet in any way, shape or form.

I wrote one speech and gave it twice in high school.

I wrote three plays in high school, two of which were performed once each. My principle memory of the experiences is that they ran wayyyyy short of the desired time slots, much to everyone's surprise. I have no idea why. I’m not a playwright! All three of these cases were the infamous  scenario - “we need a senior day play” or “we need a Christmas pageant” and hey, she likes to write, she can do it. Uh, no. Not so well.

I wrote articles and columns for the high school newspaper.

In the day job at JPL I wrote copious amounts of nonfiction. I wrote contracts, purchase orders, procurement justifications, official letters, draft policies and procedures, employee evaluations, change management plans, strategic plans, Non Disclosure Agreements, audit plans, audit findings, responses to audits, summaries of meetings, class materials, Powerpoint decks galore, memoranda to the file…probably thousands of documents and millions of words over the years. Because we actually worked for Caltech, on a NASA contract, the standards were exacting and the expectations high. All the subject matter was discreet, business sensitive, confidential, so nope, can’t share any juicy anecdotes or details. Sorry!

It was the job, I did it, I’m very good at writing a cogent nonfiction document if I say so myself, but it sure isn’t my passion.

I can't draw, dance, sculpt, knit, compose music...trying to be exhaustive here...

So, the shorter answer would be no, I don’t write – or create - in any media or format other than novels of fiction. I only hit the 'flow' state when I'm immersed in one of my scifi or paranormal worlds, telling the story at hand.


Friday, March 9, 2018

Story Telling Alternative History

"Like to a friar bold Robin Hood
disguised himself one day,
with beads, gown, hood and crucifix
he passed upon the way."

Ah! Well met, traveler! Welcome ye to Camlann. We be Bawdry and Bliss, mynstrels come at Lord Geoffry's gracious invitation to these jousts and festivities.  Why Bawdry and Bliss say you? For we sing each in near equal measure - ballads of courtly love and fine deeds - as well as tales clever maidens pitting their wits against the lecherous - all for your enjoyment and edification.

I wish I had the photos that are currently buried in the storage unit so I could prove that not so long ago, I lived a life as a medieval minstrel in an English village circa 1374. And though I was born a noble woman, and the sumptuary laws of the land required I dress as such, the lead minstrel, Roger of Glastonbury, had accepted my kinsmans' charge to escort me to Lord Geoffry's court where I would take my place as a companion to his own young wife. Though it was not at all proper for me to do something as common as perform with a group of minstrels, when Roger discovered I'd learned all the songs and could even carry a tune, I often sang  in places where no word would ever reach my father's court, even though, I wore the petticoats, fine silken coat and rich velvet surcoat of my station. When we arrived at Camlann, Lord Geoffry's lady was so pleased by the music, no fuss was made over the potential ruin of my virtue and reputation. A willing knight with a musical bent petitioned Lord Geoffry for my hand and in the midst of late summer festivals, we were wed. Roger of Glastonbury settled in Camlann and became hosteler of the Bors Hede Inne. Thomas and Michela vanished into the countryside, still singing, though they do return to Camlann come the feast days. And we do once again sing of Robin Hood's Golden Prize.

So there you go. Though it wasn't writing, per se, working at Camlann Medieval Village was keeping oral history. For that was a minstrel's main purpose during medieval times when precious few people could read or write. The songs, ballads, morality tales and recitations of brave and noble deeds were the libraries of the day. And for me, when I auditioned for the living history village outside of Seattle, getting hired into the cast sent me on a multiyear journey into making history live. I really *shouldn't* have been in a noble woman's clothes, but Roger (really the name of the man who runs the educational society that is Camlann) was short cast members and needed me to act as one of the noble ladies during the fights. We simply didn't have time for a costume change before I had to be on stage with Bawdry and Bliss to sing. So we concocted an elaborate story explaining it and worked it for years. 

The difference was that while I could make up whatever stories I wanted as an actor in the village, when we sang, we were performing other peoples' stories. It was still story telling. My noble woman's story took on enough of a life of its own that I even started writing it down at one point. Don't know that it will ever see the light of day. Mostly because I learned useless stuff like 'ye, thee, and thou' are singular - only referring to one person, while 'you' was plural - only referring to groups of people. Those rules are still in my head and I'd write that way. Plenty of critique partners have informed me that no one wants to have to read that. So maybe my noble minstrel will just stay in 1374.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Different Mediums of Writing: I Once Was A Playwright

So, my bio says "playwright" evening though I've not done much playwriting of late.  And most of my plays have been short ones, which is funny, because I don't think I'm very good at short stories, but I can do short plays pretty well.

For a long while, I regularly participated in the "Out of Ink" project, where we would receive a set of three "ingredients" for a play on Friday evening, and by Sunday afternoon we were supposed to have written a ten-minute play based on those ingredients, and then eight were chosen for a workshop production. Here's a smattering of my favorites from those plays.

2000:  Last Train Out of Illinois  My first year with Scriptworks, the rules involved boots, a character directly addressing the audience, and someone performing an “aria”.  I had, at the time, had the vague idea of a Tom Waitsish Musical called “Last Train Out of Illinois”, but all I had was Atmosphere and an Ending. Which is just fine for a ten-minute piece.
2003: Danger Girl’s Night Off  The rules dictated 1. something involving superheroes and 2. a seduction, so I immediately thought of a grown-up sidekick who just wanted to have a date night.  This was a lot of fun. 
2007: Hourglass  I’m really pleased with this one.  The rules involved 1. A physical transformation on stage, 2. a secret and 3. a piece of music connecting to a memory.  This may have been, for me, the most synergous set of rules.  The discovery of an old hourglass reminds an old woman of the true paternity of her child.  Hannah Kenah did really lovely work on stage going from 107 to 20.
2008: Ten Minutes Ago   The play goes backwards!  That was the rule that had to define this one.  The idea I was struck with here was having an innocuous instigation (a woman answering her door) lead to events that had disastrous consequences (her husband and a stranger dead in her living room), and then show it Consequences-Events-Instigation.  This one was challenging to stage, but enjoyable.
2010: Entropy  “Time is Running Out”, “Use the Beginning and End of Finnegan’s Wake” and “A Ceremony of Forgetting”.  How does this NOT say “two people stuck in a time loop”?  OK, it does to me, because I’m a sci-fi geek.
2011: Slept the Whole Way Again, the rules sent me to an SF place: the play needed to span 3000 years and have 300 characters.  So a cryosleep ship that missed its target and kept everyone in stasis for 3000 years made perfect sense to me.
2013: The Observer Effect This grew out a strange idea of someone being labeled "history's greatest monster" due to a mistake-- and ultimately not even their own mistake.  It's deeply silly. 

So, here's the thing-- if you're in a play-producing mood?  You got a need or hankering to put on a ten-minute play?  Especially in a science-fictional venue, as most of these are sci-fi plays?  HAVE AT 'EM.  Seriously, you want to produce them, go for it. They're silly, they're fun, and they tend to be production-cost light.  Only rule I have is: let me know. That's it. 

I do kind of miss playwriting.  Someday I'll do another one, or pull out one of the ones I wrote and never produced and give it another polishing pass.  But right now, I've got enough things on my plate.  Back down to the word mines.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

"You're grammar sux" and other universal writing truths

Mostly these days, I novel and social media (and make up verbs). In the past I have short-storied,
fanficc’d, blogged, edited/rewritten, developed technical manuals, produced academic books and papers, and taken the occasional stab at corporate marketingspeak. I’ve worked in APA, AP, Chicago, MLA, Microsoft, and a bunch of house styles. Across all these different kinds of written communication, here’s some stuff I’ve learned:
  • There are reasons everyone except AP-style aficionados are devoted to serial commas. (Sorry, journalism students, the serial comma really does make things clearer.)
  • The ability to create a compelling novel does not translate into a similar talent for composing back-cover copy, aka “blurbs.” That is a totally different kind of writing, and most of us novelists have no clue what we’re doing in marketingland.
  • An English degree does not confer magical ability to use a semicolon. Probably best you don’t.
  •  People who don’t know what a dangling participle is aren’t stupid. Sometimes they’re the brightest minds in their field, and they deserve respect. (And possibly a gentle suggestion for fixing the dangle.)
  • Technical styles often restrict sentences to 20 to 30 words max. Even for novelists, it isn’t a bad idea to count words in a sentence that seems long. If you catch one with more than 35 words, it’s probably confusing to readers, no matter what you’re writing.
  • I thought I was good at telling a story through dialogue. Then I took a screenwriting class. Whoa. Just because you can do one does not mean you can necessarily do the other. (See item on back-cover copy above.)
  • Microsoft Word and other grammar/spelling checkers do not fix usage errors. Or, to quote The Princess Bride: “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” (Phenomenon also known as, Editors Are Our Friends.)
  • If you write a thing and the reader understands the point you were trying to make and reacts in a way you wanted, you win. Full stop. End discussion. 

This list could go on forever, hyperbolically, but I’ll cut it off now. Any universal-to-all-media writing bits you’ve picked up and want to vent discuss?

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Release Day: Lady Henterman's Wardrobe by Marshall Ryan Maresca

Today, we're celebrating our Thursday blogger's latest release in the fantastical world of Maradaine! Marshall brings us back to the Holver Alley Crew and their urban Robin Hood exploits. If you haven't visited the world of Maradaine, start with the Thorn of Dentonhill and be prepared to binge.


The neighborhood of North Seleth has suffered--and not just the Holver Alley Fire. Poverty and marginalization are forcing people out of the neighborhood, and violence on the streets is getting worse. Only the Rynax brothers--Asti and Verci--and their Holver Alley Crew are fighting for the common people. They've taken care of the people who actually burned down Holver Alley, but they're still looking for the moneyed interests behind the fire.

The trail of breadcrumbs leads the crew to Lord Henterman, and they plan to infiltrate the noble's house on the other side of the city. While the crew tries to penetrate the heart of the house, the worst elements of North Seleth seem to be uniting under a mysterious new leader. With the crew's attention divided, Asti discovers that the secrets behind the fire, including ones from his past, might be found in Lady Henterman's wardrobe.

BUY IT NOW:   Amazon   |   B&N   |   BAM!   |   IndieBound

If you like a book, leave a review!

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Writing in Different Mediums: Try, Try, Try Again

Today at the SFF Seven we have a guest post from Kelly Robson - please welcome her!


This week’s topic is writing in different mediums, and it’s a bit of a stumper. I don’t think of myself as writing in different mediums. I write science fiction, fantasy, and horror short stories -- those are my jam, man.

But I’ve been writing blog posts since 2002, back in the grand old days of LiveJournal. Those old LJ entries were a terrific way of finding a voice. I produced more than three hundred thousand words there over the years -- informal, personal, and chatty. In 2007, I started a wine blog, which magically turned into a four-year dream gig as a wine columnist for Canada’s largest women’s magazine. Currently, I write three or four pieces a year on the writing life for the Another Word column at Clarkesworld. Those articles always take on a personal tone, and I love writing them.

So those are my two modes: Short, fairly serious fiction and chatty non-fiction. Both modes go much smoother if I’m clear about what I want to say -- by which I mean my intent, not necessarily the little details. A lot of the inspiration happens between the lines.

Within fiction, I’ve written as short at 4,800 words, and as long as 40,000 (my novella Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach hits on March 13, and it’s just about a hundred words shy of 40,000). So far, I haven’t managed to write a short-short or flash piece. I’ve been trying for a few months to put together a story in less than a thousand words, and it’s been murder.

Writing short is much harder than writing long. Flash is absolutely a foreign medium, and as far as I can tell, the skills that allow me to write a short story don’t apply to flash. After about five attempts, I haven’t even gotten close to a coherent story but I’ll keep trying.

Kelly Robson is an award-winning short fiction writer. In 2017, she was a finalist for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. Her novella “Waters of Versailles” won the 2016 Aurora Award and was a finalist for both the Nebula and World Fantasy Awards. She has also been a finalist for the Theodore Sturgeon Award and Sunburst Award. Her most recent major publication is Gods, Monsters and the Lucky Peach, a highly anticipated time travel adventure. After 22 years in Vancouver, she and her wife, fellow SF writer A.M. Dellamonica, now live in downtown Toronto.