Monday, October 29, 2012

New Kindle Edition of Dragon Kind!

Announcing... Dragon Kind is now available for Kindle through If you have been waiting for this edition, it is finally here!

Dragon Kind

When Marsilynda Weston’s grandfather dies, he leaves her a magic sword that sends her through a time portal, on a quest to kill a dragon. Plus, he requests that his associate, Richard Carnes, become her protector. But what happens next is a total surprise when the dragons turn out to be her friends and the nearby king and his knights her enemies. Will Marsilynda accept Richard, who she thinks will foul up her quest? Will she return with Richard through the time portal or will she stay with the dragons and fight their enemies?

You can get your copy of Dragon Kind HERE.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

It was a dark and stormy night...

Have you had trouble with that first sentence? Do you want to set the scene without becoming cliche? I've struggled over that first line time and time again, but have found a few ideas to help me get through that "dark and stormy night".

Certain important parts need to be included in your first paragraph. Your character, conflict, specific use of details and credibility should be included. What you choose for your first line can come out of these, but needs to be an eye opener so your reader will want to continue reading.

Character: Your opening should give the reader a person to focus on. In short stories, the person will appear almost immediately and become an integral part of the story. In a novel, the main character may take a little longer to appear, but someone interesting should be on hand for the reader to focus on.

Conflict: The point to remember about conflict is that something isn't going as it is expected to go. Your readers should suspect that as soon as the first few paragraphs. But calling for conflict doesn't mean that the first sentence has to have a body hurtling past a sixth story window (but then again, maybe it will?). In some stories, there may be overt conflict with man against man, or man against nature, etc. In other stories, however, it will be on a smaller scale; family strife, romantic misunderstandings, economic gain or loss. The conflict may be so subtle that it exists solely inside the skull of one character. No matter what kind of conflict there is, it should be hinted at in the beginning, even if it won't be developed until later.

Specific Use of Details: Effective beginnings make use of specific details. These may be details of speech, setting, characters' thoughts - anything relevant. The right details gain you three advantages.
  • Details anchor your story in concrete reality.
  • Details set your opening apart from hundreds of others similar to it.
  • Details convince the reader you know what you're talking about.
Credibility: Even the most accurate and interesting details will be undermined if your prose lacks credibility. Here, there are two kinds of credibility discussed in writing. One is that of whether or not you can handle the language you are writing in. Are you in control of your words, sentences, and paragraphs. The other kind is whether or not your characters are credible. Do they appear to be what you present them to be. For example, a character is a ninety pound weakling, but you have him bending steel. Unless this is science fiction, where he's gotten hold of some kryptonite, this character isn't very credible. He isn't real. Make your characters believable.

With all these in mind, we get back to our first sentence. We have to make our character credible, through the specific use of details and conflict. Can you write a sentence? Maybe even a paragraph? This will blossom into the beginning of a new story and perhaps a new novel. Good luck with your next new sentence. It won't be a dark and story night...

Monday, October 22, 2012


Creating characters that are believable and capricious all at the same time can require a lot of work. I've started a character journal in order to have my characters available when I need them. I add to their personalities as I think of things and have them on 3x5 cards in a file. I found a list of things to help me round out my characters and I'd like to share it with you.

  1. Be aware of the four methods of direct character presentation: appearance, speech, action, and thought. The indirect methods are: authorial interpretation and presentation by another character. In other words, introducing the character by the author or another person.
  2. Reveal the character's conflicts by presenting attributes in at least one of these methods that contrast with attributes you present with the others.
  3. Focus sharply on how the character looks, on what he or she wears and owns, and on how he or she moves.
  4. Examine the character's speech to make sure that it does more than convey information. Does it characterize, accomplish exposition, and reveal emotion, intent or change? Does it advance the conflict through "no" dialogue? Speak it aloud: Does it "say"?
  5. Build action by making your characters discover and decide. Make sure that what happens is action and not mere movement, that is, that is contains the possibility for human change.
  6. Use your journal to explore and build ideas for characters.
  7. Know the details of your character's life: what he or she does during every part of the day, thinks about, remembers, wants, likes and dislikes, eats, says, means.
  8. Know all the influences that go into making your character's type: age, gender, race, nationality, marital status, region, education, religion, profession.
  9. Know what your character wants, both generally out of life, and specifically in the context of the story. Keeping that desire in mind, "think backward" with the character to decide what he or she would do in any situation presented.
  10. Identify, heighten, and dramatize consistent inconsistencies. What does your character want that is at odds with whatever else he or she wants? What patterns of thought and behavior work against the primary goal?
  11. If the character is based on a real model, including yourself, make a dramatic external alteration. Keep the character fresh.
  12. If the character is imaginary or alien to you, identify a mental or emotional point of contact.
Characters are the life of our stories and without a fully fleshed out character the story will remain flat and lifeless. We can even re-create characters that we have used in the past by adding to them and turning them into a new generation of life. Good luck on your characterizations. I hope this sparks a fire in your mind.

Twelve points from: "Writing Fiction" by Janet Burroway

Friday, October 19, 2012

Excerpt from: The Chameleon Effect #10

Chavez works for The Agency and has been assigned to rescue Kira Rostropovich and return her to Vega Minor, where she resides with her parents. After being in prison and being 'bought' by Chavez in an auction, Kira is not happy about being searched by Chavez. But he finds a tracking device on her right before a mercenary, Captain Maddeson, finds them and demands that Kira be turned over to him. Chavez immediately makes a sudden jump across the galaxy, much to Kira's surprise! Kira continues to have nightmares and is haunted by the fact that her life is in danger. She demands to go back to Prison Planet 452, but Chavez has someone to add to his crew complement first.
Kira's dream keeps coming back. Is it a warning? All she knows is that her destiny lies intertwined with the prison planet. Will Chavez understand? It is six hours away from rendezvousing with Dr. Winters, who will attempt to help Kira with her problems. But Captain Maddeson is on an intercept course to capture them and return them to the warden. Will they escape? Dr. Winters has diagnosed Kira with the Chameleon Effect and in an attempt to halt its progress, he will use Chavez's DNA.

Kira’s hearing was improving rapidly since being injected with the transposons. She was silently listening to Dr. Winters and Chavez from beyond the sliding doors to the bridge and decided her only chance of survival was to get to Planet 452. Kira would not be locked up on a ship in the middle of space. She’d had enough of being in prison! She didn’t understand all they were talking about, but as she looked at the back of her hands, she could see the tan mottling around her forearms and wrists. It was spreading fast! Kira could also feel something happening to her on the inside. Her awareness of things around her was heightened and each item or event was becoming a piece of her knowledge. It was as if her brain was working like a computer and identifying each new thing and how it related to her. Was this the Chameleon Effect at work? If it was, then she was far more advanced than Dr. Winters suspected. She was identifying and categorizing as she went. Kira realized that she had to protect herself from what others might do to her. She didn’t want to be anyone’s lab rat.

 Right now her only option, aside from staying on the ship, was to take Dr. Winters’ shuttle and make a run for it. She wasn’t sure where she was in space, but anywhere would be better than being cooped up here, waiting to die! Then she had a thought; she would visit Chavez on the bridge and get a look at the star maps. They were individual computer chips plugged in and displayed on a computer screen. Chavez always kept the computer linked to the original maps as he traveled.  Kira packed a few supplies into a shoulder sack, hid it in her quarters and headed for the bridge. When she arrived, Chavez and Dr. Winters were still deep in conversation, which halted abruptly when she passed through the double doors. She knew they were still talking about her, but it didn’t matter now. Wandering over to the map station, she was startled to see that all his original maps had been put away and the computer was organizing their mission.

“What happened to all your maps?” she blurted out, unrestrained. This was unacceptable! She needed those computer chips with the maps!

Both Chavez and Dr. Winters stared at her, but Chavez said, “Are you unhappy because of a little housecleaning? Dr. Winters is entering those new sectors into the computer for me. A tedious job which I have ignored.”

“But it gives me something to do on this journey.” Dr. Winters added, smiling.

Kira didn’t answer, but spotted what she needed on the computer readout. A map of the current sector was open and a blip showing their location flashed onscreen. She grinned as her own mind instantly made a copy of the sector.

“What’s so funny, Kira?”

Chavez had noticed her half-smile. Damn! Now she needed to make up something. “I’m just thinking how easy it would be to get lost without these maps.”

“And that’s funny?” Chavez said. He lifted an eyebrow and tilted his head as he stared hard at Kira.

Kira turned toward the double doors and gave Chavez a withering look. “Absolutely!” Then she was gone off the bridge with a sigh of relief. That man always made her feel disoriented and as if he could see right through her. For all their snapping and fighting, she found herself thinking that she would miss his company.

But right now she had another thought that was first and foremost to her. I need to find the shuttle. She didn’t know her way around the ship, but it was small enough that with her one prior exploration, she could sneak to the tail of the ship and find its docking port with veritable ease. All the way there, however, she was hearing Chavez’s voice in her head. Haven’t I tried to protect you? But Kira shook her head vigorously.

“No! You aren’t protecting me when you take me away from the only thing that will save me!” she shouted back at her thoughts. Kira knew that Planet 452 held the key to her release. She fought with her blank memory, trying to remember the tiniest thing about herself. Chavez had told her she had been programmed to return, but if that was so, why was she adapting to her surroundings out in space? She had been through the computer data files and had all the history of the quadrant. She could remember everything in the encyclopedia, but not one detail about who she had been before she woke up in prison.

Dismissing the disturbing thoughts, she began to run through the ship’s halls, anxious to be gone. She stayed away from the floor with the engine room, knowing that the computer would betray her to Chavez.  Finally, on the lowest level, a door slid open and there, in the cargo bay, sat Dr. Winters’ shuttle.

“Thank you Dr. Winters!”

Kira smiled as she approached the ship. Thinking of all that needed to be done to launch the shuttle, she started to panic. But she had very little time before she got caught, so shaking off her feelings of fear, she forged ahead. Kira pressed her hand onto the shuttle’s computer readout and a sudden influx of information flew into her mind. She suddenly knew how to do this and in what order. It was simplistic! All she had to do was follow the steps in her brain. And she had to hurry!

Kira didn’t question how this information was transferred to her, or why. Her hands were shaking as she felt a thin webbing form between her fingers, while the mottling continued to change faster than before. Catching a glimpse of her reflection in the computer screen, she could see the mottling next to her eyes. It had changed the shape of her eyes. They were pulled up and out, so instead of being round, they were oval. She blinked with two sets of eyelids closing and saw that her iris color was now a shimmery blue-green.

Kira locked the shuttle door, depressurized the cargo bay and opened the outer doors into space. Step by step she released the interior drag lines, adjusted for pitch and yaw while she taxied out, then, when she was clear of the outer doors and the ship’s tail, she fired the engines and disappeared into the stars.

To be continued...

Friday, October 12, 2012

New News!

I've been keeping a journal again. It's not as nice as this one, that was created by my artist sister Loretta Stephenson (Art By Retta). But it's for my class and I am required to do four pages a week.

What I've discovered about my journal is, I'm writing down a plethora of ideas that normally get lost because I don't have pen and paper handy.
Last year when school was out, I was happy to end my journal, but I found that during the summer I was going through it and gleaning out the notes and ideas that I'd thought about but didn't have time to do anything with. Now that I'm in the same situation with barely any time to write at leisure, my journal is always handy so I can jot down those thoughts that same important enough to keep. Actually, sometimes, they may not seem important now, but later will be the crux of a story.

News Flash- I have some good news! Right now I'm pouring over a contract sent to me from an editor. It's for a romance story that will go in an anthology of medical romance. I'm excited about this sudden development, but am taking it slow. I have until November to return the story, complete and polished. Believe me, to me that seems like a long time compared to the way things have been flying around my house.

I'm happy to announce that it will be published next year and I'll let any of you romance readers know when it is available. In the meantime, I'm continuing to work on my sci-fi/fantasy novel The MacKenzie Chronicles. It will be available next year also.

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Controversy Over Adverbs

So here I am back in a writing class and I turn in my paper, which has very few adverbs for the entire piece, and the teachers announces that adverbs are our enemies. Well, she didn't actually say that they were something to loose sleep over, her main idea was that adverbs muddy up the clean water and cause clear writing to become hazy.

I always enjoyed saying how the cat bounced playfully onto the bed and dug its claws deep into my skin. But just like a cat's claw, that playful bounce becomes a prick into my writing skin as the red editing pen comes out to dash away the playful part of the bounce. My question is, if you want to be concise and say it was a playful bounce, why go around the block three times by saying: The cat was in a playful mood and jumped up on the bed. Blah, blah, blah, etc. Do you get what I'm saying? Using an adverb, I eliminated the need for extra sentences and got my meaning across in a direct manner.

Perhaps brevity isn't what my teacher is looking for. Of course, I never said I was an expert on grammar. Ask my sister, Loretta (Art By Retta), and she will tell you how poor my grammar was when I first attempted to share my stories. If anyone could be an editor in my family, it would be her. But it seems to me that adverbs were created for a reason in the English language, and it couldn't be to just cut them out of everything. I suppose I'll have to persevere and do my own research on the subject. After all, I seem to remember at least a few prominent authors who were willing to risk the editor's slice and have faithfully added a few adverbs.

We must learn the rules before we can break them. And we can offer up a resounding hooray for any adverbs that slip through the editor's pen.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Does Your Pencil Have An Eraser?

With the beginning of the school year, I've come to find out that I have a ga-zillion things going on and I'm running this way and that trying to keep up with myself. What I've learned is that I have to learn how to prioritize my activities. And, I have to learn how to say that one word that is all too difficult to say to people when I'm overloaded: no, thanks.

Actually, saying no isn't hard, it's the feeling that I need to justify myself when I need to rest or take some time to let my batteries charge, so I have something to write about. Have you ever been in that situation? If you haven't, I'm envious of your ability to plan your schedule so well that you flow like a rolling river on a lazy summer afternoon. Right now, I'm a raging tsunami getting ready to hit inland, with no way to stop except to hit a mountain wall.

But before you say whoa there! Let's remember the schedule I decided to start keeping before school started. I was going to keep everything ship shape and prioritize my activities. What actually happened was everything hit me like the proverbial ton of bricks, all at the same time. Then, I had to make my lists and check off those things that were the least important. I had to say no. At first it hurt to hear the pleading and whining, but after I said I'm sorry, but I don't have the time for this, it got easier.

Now, with the ga-zillion things slowly ebbing down to a minor uproar, I'm breathing easier as I watch my to-do list get checked off, one by one. And with everything taken care of, I can actually enjoy learning something new and sharing my writing with other students.We can all take time to learn a new thing each day. All we have to do is pencil it in on the calender. But make sure your pencil has an eraser, just in case of emergencies!