Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year!

As 2015 opens up, I decided not to make a whole lot of resolutions that I would stare at on a list and probably not finish. I like making lists when I have a job to get done, but not wish lists that I know I won't complete. Instead, I chose to use this thought, Be Inspired, as my motto for the year.

Allowing myself to be inspired frees my creativity and gives me freedom to try new things. I know that as the new year opens I'm refreshed to push forward and finish my stories I've been working on and start new ones as they come to me.

An example of being inspired came to me when I received a large pair of hoop earrings that I thought I'd never wear. But I decided to try them on. When I did, I felt as if I'd accomplished a new look and was excited about it. With this new feeling, I'm sitting here writing this blog post while I'm inspired to continue on this new year. Sometimes change causes inspiration. Now I'm ready to write.

I hope each one of you becomes inspired this new year and finds your own path throughout the year. If it's writing or painting, may you be inspired! Have a Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Christmas Blessings


Here in Southern Oregon it's cloudy and rainy with no hint of snow for Christmas. But I'm filled with joy as I enter this holiday season because I was able to make most of my gifts even though my eyes are still blurry from my eye surgery.

To me, Christmas isn't all about gifts however. It's about giving something of yourself to others and sharing your life with family and friends. My eight year old granddaughter shows me the enthusiasm for the holidays that I hope to hold in my own heart. Her excitement over a cup of hot chocolate as we gather close together helps me remember my younger days when my zest for the holidays was at its peak.

It was one New Years Eve when my sister and I were in high school and our family life was turbulent. She and I decided to drive over the hill to Pasadena and stake out a place on the sidewalk so we could see the New Year's Day Rose Parade. We were absolutely thrilled with our adventure. The one thing that never crossed our minds was that our parents didn't know where we were. Since they were out for New Years, we figured we could stay out also. But when they finally found out from the lady staying with us that we flew the coop, they were frantic. We happened to call home in the wee hours of the morning and received a terse instruction to please come home. So, we missed the Rose Parade, but I came away from this adventure with the realization of how much my parents cared for me.

Now, since my parents have passed on, I take time to remember them, not only during the holidays, but when I visit with my sister and brother. This Christmas, I'm sending all my friends and family a special blessing, that you would hold your relationships close and remember to tell them that they are loved.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all my family and friends!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Are You A Good Writer?

To be a good writer, one needs to know why they write.

I heard this today and decided to look at my own writing - why I put pen to paper. Was I driven to create stories or was it purely pleasure? After perusing my stories, I decided that my love of writing was the reason I continued to write.

I don't believe I have to write a thousand words a day to be a good writer. When I need to stop and reassess my goals, I stop. What a wonderful thing it is to weave a story together. I can feel the excitement of the story as it becomes real and alive. As a writer, I shape the story from my own feelings and thoughts. I believe this personalization of a story is what makes me a good writer.

How about you? What makes you a good writer?

Monday, November 17, 2014

How To Test A Story Idea

There are four basic questions to ask yourself when you have a story idea to develop, or whether you should let it remain in your notebook to mature a while longer.

1. Is it your story to tell? Is this something I really care about, something I partly understand, something that seems to want to be worked out?

2. Is it too personal for readers to become involved with? Can I work with this idea in a caring but uncompromising way to make it meaningful to someone else?

3. Is it going somewhere? Can I dramatize this in a series of scenes with a minimum of explanation? Does it have a plot or can I create a plot for it?

4. What's at stake? Is there something quite specific and vital at stake - not just to me, but to one or more of the characters involved?

If you test your ideas against these four criteria, a lot will be tossed out, or saved in your notebook for later. Don't let that upset you. There are a lot more where that came from and some will pass the test with bells ringing and flags flying. All you need is one good idea to create a solid story that keeps you writing productively for quite some time. Good luck!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Insecure Writer's Support Group

This is the first Wednesday of the month and time for the Insecure Writer's Support Group, hosted by Alex J. Cavanaugh. This is a blog hop and you can visit other members by clicking HERE.

Today I'm out of commission because of surgery, so I'm writing this before Wednesday and posting it so everyone can read it.

I've been feeling very insecure lately, because I've been working on two story ideas and hoping to develop one of them into a full novel. Unfortunately, I got stuck on both ideas, even though I outlined both ideas and started a chapter outline on one of them. I didn't want to end up going in two directions at once, but I like fantasy, however this is the weakest story. My first person story is stronger, but I don't have the confidence to invest the time to finish an entire novel. I'm not sure it will stand on its own.

I know this sounds wishy-washy and like I'm whining, but this is the time in a story's development that either shows that it will shine or it will flop. So far, neither shine out enough for me to continue, so wish me luck as I let them sit and work on something else in the meantime. What are you working on?

Monday, October 27, 2014

Dreams and Creative Ideas

I never gave too much thought to how my dreams might affect my writing until I found myself stuck for a plot idea in a new fantasy novel I've been outlining. I tried for days to come up with the right idea, by drawing, charting out my thoughts and basically tearing my hair out. Finally, about a week ago, I fell asleep frustrated, deciding to give up on the story. But then, I woke up early in the morning after having the most vivid dream about how my protagonist would proceed through the story. I crawled out of bed and began writing. I only wished I'd had some writing materials beside the bed because I had to go all the way to my desk and I could feel my dream fading fast.

Have you used a dream in any of your stories? I now believe that our creative ideas don't always stop when we sleep. Our sub-conscious mind continues to work for us even when we sleep. When we dream, our ideas filter from our mind and become our dreams. The trick for me was to remember the dream in detail so I could create a plot line from it. I don't keep a dream diary as some people do, but I am going to have something beside my bed so I can write down my dreams when I wake up. I think the more often I do this, the better I'll become at getting the details. How about you?

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I'm having cataract surgery during the months of November and December, so I'm not sure how well I'll be able to see to type and read. But I'll try to keep my blog going, especially for Insecure Writer's Support Group. Things have been slow because of my eyes, but after the surgery they should be much better. See you next week!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Plots and Sub-plots in First Person

I recently read an excellent article about sub-plots written by Anna from Shout with Emaginette. I'll share with you the sentence that stuck with me (slightly paraphrased):

If the plot is a section of fence, the sub-plots are the vines that grow upon it. The more vines, the more color and the more intertwined action.

I mulled that over for a couple of days, since one of my current projects is in first person. I came to the conclusion that in order to create those vines it would have to be through the eyes of the main character and how she/he perceived other characters and events. Her/his ideas, thoughts and feelings would have to react with other characters to create sub-plots around those characters.

Since in first person we only know what our protagonist knows, it seems the challenge would be to make sure the vines intertwined enough to create action so the story doesn't bog down. I decided to make one of my sub-plots around a secondary character who has an agenda to hurt the protagonist. In order to create suspense, I wrote him as being sullen and then openly hostile, but without any direct threats towards the protagonist. Also, the protagonist can overhear his plans as he talks to someone else.

It is fun and a challenge to work in first person. I'm hoping that all the vines intertwine and make an exciting story for my readers. If nothing else, it will be an educational experience for me. One that I haven't had since I was in my last writing class in college.

How do you create your sub-plots? Are they created around different characters? How do you relate them back to your protagonist?

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Dragons of Mar: A Trilogy With A New Name

The Dragons of Mar...

Is a trilogy I wrote during this past year but now has a new name. Because of issues beyond my control I made some changes to this series.

The story is the same as before, so if you have a copy downloaded, it won't be necessary to re-download another copy.

 The Dragons of Mar is about the dragons, and their riders, who go on a quest to stop a sorcerer that has usurped the throne of Mar. Each story tells a little more of the tale about Mar.

These three books are available on Amazon and Smashwords as ebooks. I hope you enjoy all three!

Call of the Dragon, Book 1

The Puzzle Box, Book 2

Dragon's Fury, Book 3


Now get a free copy of Call of the Dragon, Book 1 during the next 30 days!

Use coupon number: CL49X at Smashwords for your free ebook. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

IWSG One Year Anniversary

October 1st is the Insecure Writer's Support Group's website's one year anniversary! Happy Anniversary! As always, it is hosted by Alex J. Cavanaugh. This month, his co-hosts are:
Fundy Blue http://selkiegrey4.blogspot.com/
To go to the website and visit other members of the IWSG, click HERE.

I wanted to give you ten tips on e-book publishing today. These tips were gleaned after publishing six e-books at Amazon and Smashwords. They are not in any particular order, but all are important tips to make a successful publication.

Tip 1: Always keep a backup file. Before preparing your manuscript for publication, set aside that file. If you make mistakes on a copy and accidentally erase the copy, you still have your backup or original file.

Tip 2: Never use more than four consecutive paragraph returns (hard returns by hitting ENTER). On a small screen device, this creates blank pages.

Tip 3: Don't use tabs or space bars to create first line paragraph indents. Instead, code your paragraph style at the top of the page under "paragraph."

Tip 4: Don't use fancy non-standard fonts, colored fonts, compressed or expanded fonts. And, in most cases, drop caps don't work either. Think of the different size tablets that your reader will be using and keep it simple.

Tip 5: The e-book doesn't come out the same as a printed book, where you can set the page. It will change with the different size readers and the page will be different on each one. Also, no page numbers.

Tip 6: Use font size 11 or 12, or 14 at maximum. Consider the different size readers.

Tip 7: Microsoft Word gives the most predictable results and works well when converting your book.

Tip 8: Make sure your book is edited before publication. So many times a good book can be spoiled by poor editing or none at all.

Tip 9: If you aren't a graphic artist, consider hiring someone to do your book cover for you. The cover is the first thing that a reader sees of an e-book.

Tip 10: Activate Word's show/hide before you start formatting. This is the backwards "p". When clicked, it exposes your paragraph returns, extra spaces, tabs, or strange formatting.

These ten tips are a few things I've discovered that will help make a cleaner, more well-formatted book. Also, both Amazon and Smashwords have books to help you format specifically for them and the last time I looked, they were still free. Good luck with your newest publication and I hope these suggestions have helped.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Writing In First Person

Have you ever written in first person? I'm talking about a fiction novel, not a memoir or an essay. I've been experimenting with this style of writing with a new story I've been outlining. The question is, will it be expansive enough to develop all the characters in the story?

By writing in first person, my characters must all interact with the protagonist. They must become well-rounded and viable by what happens between them and this character. Would this get boring after so many chapters of first person?

In order to create tension between the characters, the plot will have to be paced so that new elements are introduced at intervals close enough to keep the reader's interest. What's my story about? All I can say right now is that a young woman is trapped by her own mistakes and she must prove to others that she is a sane, level-headed individual who can pick up the pieces of her life and move on. It won't be so easy because there are those around her who would like to see her fail. Can she retrieve her life from what seems like the bottom of the abyss?

My working title is A Walk Through Hell.  Not only am I writing it in first person, but this is a different genre for me. I've stepped away from fantasy to write in contemporary fiction. If you have any suggestions or comments, please feel free to leave them below.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Dragon's Fury Is Now Available!

I'm pleased to announce that Dragon's Fury, Book 3, Dragon Stone Trilogy is now available as an e-book at Smashwords. It will also be available at Amazon in the next few days. To get your copy of this Young Adult fantasy adventure at Smashwords, click HERE.

If you prefer to get your copy at Amazon, click HERE.



Dragon’s Fury
Darius is wanted by the King, a rogue sorcerer who has usurped the throne. Escaping arrest, he’s given a dragon stone and a dragon egg to guard. Not knowing what the dragon stone is, he tosses it in the bottom of his satchel and takes the egg to the desert, where the desert dwellers, the Zandir, place him under their protection. The dragon hatches and becomes a loyal friend and fierce protector to Darius. The Great One, Zandir’s voice of the gods, gives them a mission to save the kingdom of Mar. He reveals the well-kept secret that there is one left alive of the true King’s line. The young Queen of Mar has been in hiding with the Zandir but is unaware of her identity. The false King refuses to go quietly and is exposed as an evil sorcerer that has been traveling through the timelines, taking what he will. A mighty battle ensues, with dragon fire breaking the chain of magic and attacking the evil King. Who will win and who will escape from the growing forces of magic? 

Enjoy reading the final adventure as the dragon's journey comes to an end. If you haven't read the first two books of the Dragon Stone Trilogy, they are:
  • Call of the Dragon, Book 1
  • The Puzzle Box, Book 2
These books are also available at Smashwords and Amazon.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

New Beginnings - Insecure Writer's Support Group

The first Wednesday of the month is for the Insecure Writer's Support Group, hosted by Alex J. Cavanaugh. This is a blog hop and if you'd like to be included, or would like to find other members, click HERE.

I titled this New Beginnings because right now I'm in the process of deciding what I'm going to write about next. After spending the last two years writing about dragons I'd like to switch gears and write about something else. I've been researching a couple of different ideas, but at the moment I don't have the courage to talk about them. The ideas are still too flimsy, like eggs getting ready to hatch. Perhaps I need to see a crack in the egg and the living being pop out as it materializes into a true identity.

To me, this is the hardest part of writing a story. Starting an outline and sketching out the idea. How do you start your story? Do you outline? Or have scraps of papers with notes on them? I take a fresh notebook and start writing ideas down. Scenes as they come to me and parts of dialogue. But some of it I never use if it doesn't fit in the final story.

This next story will have more than one layer to it. I plan on making a secondary plot that won't be revealed until near the end. Perhaps I'll create another race of characters and make up a whole new world for them to live in. So, on with the plot! Same old, same old? A new twist on the same plot? This is hard for me until I get the story down, but it will tie in with the new world and new creatures. Sounds like fun, doesn't it?

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Jefferson Smith: The 5 Most Common Writing Mistakes That Break Reader Immersion

Jefferson Smith has an article out about his study on Reader Immersion. He cites the 5 most common writing mistakes that cause readers to lose focus and stop reading. Actually, in the article, he cites many more reasons that he has found while reading an e-book a day for forty minutes. So far, he's read 50 books and will continue his study so he can make another such analysis after reading 100 books.

The first 5 most common errors are:
  1. Weak mechanics: Spelling, grammar, etc.
  2. Implausible character behaviors: When a character does something contrary to his/her established traits or in violation of basic human nature.
  3. Echoing: When words or sentence structure repeat frequently in a way that calls attention to the pattern.
  4. Illogical world features: Aspects of the world building that do not bear scrutiny.
  5. Conspicuous exposition: Presentation of backstory in inappropriate places, or in dense passages, or for insufficient story reasons.
I must include in this small commentary that Mr. Smith did his study while reading only fantasy and science fiction, which are his primary genres as an author. I found his article to be challenging and as a writer with a book recently finished, I will be examining the entire text for mistakes.

If you want to read Jefferson Smith's entire article, click HERE.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Dragon's Fury is Finished!

I'm happy to announce that Dragon's Fury, Book 3, Dragon Stone Trilogy is finally completed and is being edited for the final time. I'm expecting this book to be out the first part of September on Smashwords and Amazon in ebook form.

This particular book was a challenge for me to finish and I had to revise the ending several times. Hopefully, the ending I created will be satisfying to all my readers.



Dragon’s Fury
Darius, the seventh son of the King’s new acolyte, is wanted by the King who has usurped the throne. Escaping arrest, he’s given a dragon stone and a dragon egg to guard. Taking the egg to the desert, where the Zandir place him under their protection, the dragon hatches and becomes a loyal friend and fierce protector. The Great One, Zandir’s voice of the gods, gives them a mission to save the kingdom of Mar and reveals the well-kept secret that there is one left alive of the true King’s line. The Queen of Mar has been in hiding with the Zandir. But the false King refuses to go quietly and is exposed as an evil sorcerer that has been traveling through the timelines, taking what he will. Who will win and who will escape from the growing forces of magic? A mighty battle ensues, with dragon fire breaking the chain of magic and attacking the evil King.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Tamora Pierce

For those of you who are not familiar with Tamora Pierce I'd like to introduce you to a staple in young adult literature. Her writings are about the challenges of growing up in different worlds, but can pertain to any young person on the planet. Although I'm not a young person anymore, I've been enjoying her work and find her writing style to be straightforward, magical and heartwarming. She deals with all kinds of situations in her books and doesn't shy away from the difficult areas like death, loss and loneliness.

I've been devouring her books lately and keep finding more in her listing. I've just finished reading Trickster's Choice and Trickster's Queen, two books about a young lady who gets kidnapped by pirates and sold into slavery in a land ripe with civil unrest. The books share her growth as a person as she finds herself changing from a wayward girl with no goals into a strong young woman leading the civil rebellion. Woven into this is magic, war and a god who is a trickster. It is excellent reading for any age.

I'm currently reading The Circle of Magic, Tris's Book. This is the second in a set of four: Sandry's Book, Tris's Book, Daja's Book and Briar's Book. It is about four young people from different backgrounds who find themselves thrown together at Winding Circle Temple, only to discover the different magic hidden inside each one. Since I haven't finished the books I'm not sure of the ending yet. One thing I've discovered about Tamora Pierce's writing is that it isn't predictable. There's always a twist or turn to keep the reader surprised and guessing at what comes next. If you like Young Adult literature, I highly recommend Tamora Pierce to you.

Have you read any good books lately? Are there any you want to recommend?



Tuesday, August 5, 2014

In the Midst of Summer - IWSG

This is the first Wednesday of the month and time for the Insecure Writers' Support Group hosted by Alex J. Cavanaugh. To visit the website and other members click HERE.

I live in Southern Oregon, a place that usually has fair weather and except for a few days in the summer and winter, I enjoy reasonable weather. That's usually true except for the last few weeks. We've been experiencing a heat wave, with blasting hot heat in the triple digits. In fact, this July has gone on record as the hottest month in the history of Jackson County.

I added this blurb because while I've been sweating it out this summer with the heat, I've also been sweating it out with the last few pages of my novel Dragon's Fury. As the weather starts to cool, I am nearing the end of a story that has lasted through three books.

I want to apologize for not posting here on my blog these last two weeks. I found that as I struggled with my story, I couldn't even write on my blog without whining, so I decided to take a break from senseless writing until I had something to say. So now I'm nearing the end of my book and my thoughts are starting to stir again on something besides dragons and magicians. I have learned that when I tackle a project like a trilogy, the constancy throughout all three stories needs to remain intact. I strayed during my second book but was able to return to the basic story in the final book. This error is a hard lesson but has taught me to plan all three books out first.

I hope that all of you have a wonder August with good weather to add to your enjoyment. Remember, plan ahead. It'll save you a lot of headaches later. :-)



Sunday, July 13, 2014

To Kill or Not To Kill?

I'm just now finishing the last installment of the Dragon Stone Trilogy, Dragon's Fury and I find myself in a predicament with the antagonist who has been continually causing havoc throughout all three books. It was suggested to me that it would be too easy to just kill him off and I should consider other options for his demise.

One suggestion was to make him a servant to those whom he had caused the most trouble to. But that seemed a little trite and not the most effective way to show his punishment. Would he feel remorse because he had to serve his enemies? I doubt it. He needs to experience fear, which was something he never did feel all through the trilogy. Being arrogant and hateful, he never expected to lose.

Perhaps it will end in a face down with the dragons who are crying out for revenge. They desire that he face the Crown of Mar and stand before the Queen to receive his sentence. But would it be a cop out to have him escape? After three installments, I think everyone is ready to see him get his due.

To find out what happens to the evil sorcerer in Dragon's Fury, you'll have to wait until September 1st when it will be available on Smashwords and Amazon. Be prepared for a twist in his fate and not just a straight execution.



Dragon’s Fury

Somewhere in another timeline, Sebastian escaped from Kai, a magnificent dragon whose lifetime spans longer than most. Now Kai is trapped in the Valley of the Dragons after Sebastian set his magical barrier on top of its mountains. Kai roars fire and thrashes his wings against Sebastian’s devious spell. The seers proclaim that another young dragon and its rider will soon come to break the spell and release Kai from his imprisonment. He will finally be free! But Kai will not rest until Sebastian pays for his treacherous crimes against the entire kingdom. And so he waits until the day of reckoning; the day Sebastian will stand before the Crown of Mar.


Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Insecure Writer's Support Group

Today is the first Wednesday of the month which means the Insecure Writer's Support Group convenes. Our host is Alex J. Cavanaugh (along with a few others) and the main web page can be found HERE.

I want to talk about something close to my heart right now. It's remembering to tell those around you that you care about them. Saying those fleeting thoughts of kindness may make all the difference in the world to a person who is feeling down or insecure.

On a personal note, my daughter Heather is in the hospital, in ICU and has been there for six days. Although she is finally getting better, there was a couple of days when she was critical and we didn't know which way she would go. I thought of all those things I wanted to say to her. How her life could be enriched with those words. Would I get the chance? Fortunately, I will. But it took this kind of disaster to make me remember that we must voice our feelings to family and friends.

I hope you are remembering to tell your friends that they are cared about and are special. If you haven't done so today, pick out someone and remember to encourage them.



Saturday, June 7, 2014

Attitudes and Positive Affirmations

Attitudes make all the difference in the world. I've been exploring my own attitude about being a writer and how it affects my work. I've discovered that the poorer the attitude, the harder it is to write a good story. Lately, I've discovered a definite lack of positive affirmations to build me up and give me the courage to write. I constantly question my writing skills.

Am I really writing on a level that portrays what I'm trying to say?

Am I good enough to put my work out to the public?

I see other writers that are able to say their work is good. Why am I afraid to do this? Sometimes I lack confidence in myself and will find myself running self-criticism in my head. This is called your inner critic. An example of this is when I recently won third place in a writing contest. My reaction was: What? Did only three people enter?

I've been told that all writers go through periods of self-doubt and lack of confidence. With this in mind, I can lean on the fact that all writers have been through what I've experienced. Therefore, I've decided to give myself an exercise and attack the inner critic with a barrage of positive self-talk.

  1. I am an aspiring writer, climbing up the ladder and learning as I go.
  2. I can only be who I am and the more I write the better I will become.
  3. As my urge to write increases, my desire for more knowledge expands with it. This will make each story more in exciting and appealing.
  4. I am not alone, even though as a writer I write alone. My friends and colleagues support me with their critiques and friendship.
  5. I am a good writer. Each stage of growth proves that I grow and become better all the time.
Even as I write these positive affirmations I feel my inner being becoming stronger and lighter. The heavy burden of intense criticism is peeling away like the layers of an onion. What's left is the honest critiques that we give ourselves as writers.

If you are suffering from an inner critic that is hammering at you, try writing some "love notes" to yourself and see what happens! 

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Insecure Writer's Support Group

I've been away from my blog for more time than usual as I finish up the last few chapters of my final novel in my Dragon Stone Trilogy and I re-write and edit a short story for a book. I apologize to my readers, since it is you who are left hanging.

I've been at a loss for what to post the last couple of weeks. My mind has been wavering on wondering why I should continue to post and what is it I could possibly have to say. Today I will tell you I'm feeling overwhelmed by edits and re-writes that make me wonder if my work is up to par. Perhaps all writers go through this stage while trying to get a manuscript published, and I shouldn't get too worried about it.

Whatever the reason, I can't wait to come up for air so I can take a breather. I'm swamped with chopping adverbs and re-arranging sentences to make the best presentation. Now, even when I'm writing a single paragraph of a letter, I find myself doing re-writes.

Do I feel insecure today? Absolutely! But the famous saying, this too shall pass, is hanging on my lips as I struggle onward.

Coming soon: Dragon's Fury (Dragon Stone Trilogy, Book 3)
 
Darius, the seventh son of the King’s new acolyte, is wanted by the King. Escaping arrest, he’s given a dragon stone and a dragon egg to guard until the egg hatches. Taking the egg to the desert, where the Zandir place him under their protection, the dragon hatches and becomes a loyal friend and fierce protector. The Great One, Zandir’s voice of the gods, gives them a mission to save the kingdom of Mar and reveals the well-kept secret that there is one left alive of the true King’s line. The Queen of Mar has been in hiding with the Zandir. But the false King refuses to go quietly and is exposed as an evil sorcerer that has been traveling through the timelines, taking what he will.