Murder Boards, Fictional Landscapes and other Writing Tips

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Like most writers, I’m an obsessive note taker and list maker. I jot down story ideas, random lines of dialogue that I pick up when I’m eavesdropping in coffee shops, and good advice when I hear it.

I cleaned out my handbag this morning and unearthed a wad of post-its and shreds of scrap paper covered with snippets of information I wanted to remember to share with you all. There’s probably enough fodder for six weeks of blog posts here, but I’m just not that organized, or reliable when it comes to this blog. So, in typical fashion, I’m just going to jot down the most important stuff before it gets lost in the creative fray that is my life:

  • First up, award-winning fantasy author Kameron Hurley has a great blog post on plotting over at BRSBKBLOG today – she explains how she uses a “murder board” to help her plot complex story arcs. If I were you, I’d check it out:

Murder Boards

  • Next, I’ve got some writing advice that I picked up a week or so ago at a talk given by the illustrious Jayne Castle (aka Jayne Ann Krentz). Jayne’s writing career spans decades, and she easily makes the short list of authors who have successfuly sustained themselves over the long haul in the publishing business. Every time I hear her speak, I learn something important. Here are a couple of gems I got from her presentation:

1) The key to recognizing your unique writing “voice” is in understanding that your own core values and world view are underpinning everything you write.

2) Writers should never underestimate the value of a fictional landscape to readers – this refers mostly to genre fiction, and a fictional landscape is essentially another way of thinking about setting (geography, culture and time period). The point is to remember that readers choose genre fiction based on their affinity for a particular fictional landscape, and getting it right matters more to them than you realize.

3) Jayne also talked about knowing your “core story” as a writer. She was referring to a realization she had when she was analyzing her own writing style and goals. Jayne writes in three separate genres under three separate pseudonyms, but everything she writes is based on one core story concept – the marriage of convenience: two people who are forced to bond in order to survive. When she realized that this basic concept was at the root of all of her story ideas, she realized she could write in any genre – as long as she was true to the fictional landscape of that genre. I’m still ruminating on this, but it definitely struck home.

  •   Last on my list is the Edmonds Literary Walk, coming up on Saturday, September 13th. I’ll be participating in the roving discussion on writing as part of a panel presentation that takes place at the second stop on the tour – 10:30 am at The Edmonds Conference Center in downtown Edmonds, WA. The event is free. Here’s a link for more information: Chapter by Chapter: An Edmonds Literary Walk 

Well, that wraps up my list. Hope you found something useful in the crumpled remains of my daily musings!

 

Seeking Fame & Fortune, Author? Be careful what you wish for…

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Before I got my first book contract, I supported myself as a marketing consultant and personal publicist to some minor celebrities. That experience taught me a few important things about what it means to become a public person – a few things all authors should take into consideration.

Recently an uber-successful thriller author (who shall remain nameless for the purposes of this blog post) took to his/her FB fan page to chastise his/her fans for wasting his/her valuable time with questions like “what is the reading order for series x?”. Later comments and posts to responses from fans who were offended by his/her rebuffs spiraled out of control, until his/her publisher asked him/her to remove them. This he/she followed up with yet another public post about how said publisher made him/her remove the posts, and how he/she had no regrets about his/her behavior, adding that he/she should have the right to set his/her own boundaries when it came to public interaction.

Well, here’s the thing. If you are going to invite the public to support you – literally, and figuratively – you are going to have to accept some hard truths. And the biggest truth of all is that once you accept that public support, you owe that public an unending debt.

That’s not to say you can’t draw boundaries around your personal life. You absolutely should – but those boundaries absolutely cannot encompass anything having to do with your books or your writing endeavors. If your fans ask you questions about your work (and this goes for all entertainment professionals, everywhere), no matter how trivial or inane they may seem to you, you owe them an answer. You also owe them your gratitude, the continued expression of your art, your personal time, and most of all, your grace.

Fantasy is a Full Time Job ~ and other writing insights at WritingBelle

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Best-selling author and busy book blogger Summer Lane invited me over to chat on her site. We talk a bit about writing and publishing, and how it all worked out for me. Click the banner and check out our conversation and read my advice to aspiring authors:

 

Writing Belle Interview Snip

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Chrome-Assed Bitch Club – We Want YOU!

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Last week’s blog post (see “An Elegant Epitaph: She Was a Chrome-assed Bitch”) inspired a lot of conversation in my author circles about the role and importance of older female characters in SFF – not just as protagonists, but also antagonists and supporting characters. The older female is too often relegated to the ranks of “sage advisor”, who, while often found in a position of power, is static – implying that she is past her prime or has no more need for growth. There seems to be a prevailing idea that once women have attained maturity (i.e. midlife) they are no longer adventurous – physically, emotionally, philosophically, sexually. In some cases the opinion is that these women are no longer interested, and in some cases the opinion is that these women are no longer capable. Neither could be further from the truth, and yet it seems readers (and book reviewers) have a hard time embracing a mature woman on a journey of any kind.

So, of a spark and a roar, a new author / reader discussion group was born. Teresa Frohock and I have opened up a little salon on the interwebs to explore some of the aforementioned issues and celebrate some of the truly remarkable characters and storylines that feature the Chrome-assed Bitches of SFF. There’s some great conversation happening, and a fabulous reading list. Come and check us out!

Chrome-assed Bitches FB Group

Life doesn’t end at 40. In many ways, it’s just getting started. The problem is that mature women are too often devalued, if only as a result of a mistaken perception. We are strong. We are powerful. And we are not to be effed with.

What woman of a certain age hasn’t secretly invoked Kathy Bates’ infamous line in Fried Green Tomatoes: “Face it, girls. I’m older, and I’ve got more insurance.” And on that note, I leave you with the rallying cry of older women everywhere.

TOWANDA!!

An Elegant Epitaph: “She Was A Chrome-assed Bitch.”

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When I set out to write my debut novel, THE WELL OF TEARS, I took some pretty big risks. I hybridized the genre, I layered multiple story lines using many characters with unpronounceable names, and perhaps riskiest of all, I chose a mature female protagonist.

Alwen is a 40-something wife and mother who is also a skilled sorceress and wise leader who is heir to a powerful magical legacy. She is smart. She is strong. She is resilient. She is masterful. And she is a far superior version of herself at 40 than she was at 20. Life has honed her into the “chrome-assed bitch” she needs to be to outsmart a more powerful and far more diabolical mage and destroy the demon horde sent to obliterate her people.

The older the woman, the more dangerous she becomes. Older women didn’t need weapons to take the world down; they changed the course of history with a whisper. A word in the right ear brought down kings and queens, or maneuvered their kin into power. Chrome-assed bitches don’t need guns or swords, they have their brains.

I pulled the above quote from a recent article by Teresa Frohock, author of MISERERE: An Autumn Tale, which was one of my favorite reads of 2012. This quote kind of says it all. Teresa’s stunning debut dark fantasy novel features both a protagonist and an antagonist who are chrome-assed bitches in their 40s. These women have not only fought their way to respect and authority, but they have also acquired the mental discipline, social savvy and emotional seasoning it takes to survive and succeed along the way. With age comes experience.

I’m still surprised by the reviewers who disdain my choice of a mature heroine – calling her “old” and “unrelatable”. Without exception these reviewers are 20-something young women, who I suspect are still finding themselves and lack the foresight to envision the chrome-assed bitches they might yet become. That makes me a little sad.

Here’s the link to Teresa’s article on the blog A Dribble of Ink (edited by Aidan Moher). Teresa’a post includes a list of remarkable women in history worthy of the “chrome-assed bitch” epitaph. Check it out:

Women Made of Chrome by Teresa Frohock (Features on A Dribble of Ink)

So what do you think? Is an over 40 heroine unappealing to you? If so, why?

Zombies, and Knights, and Zombies, and Swordplay, and Zombies…

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One of my favorite reads of 2013 was a little known serial novel called THE SCOURGE – which is the first of a series of historical fantasy/horror novels by my author friend Roberto Rodriguez Calas.

In THE SCOURGE, a mysterious plague has descended upon 14th century England, ravaging the country and trapping the souls of the afflicted in eternal madness. Sir Edward of Bodiam has been separated from his wife, and with two of his knights, sets out to find her. The knights encounter unspeakable horror, violence, and sorrow on their quest, but nothing on heaven or earth can keep Edward from the woman he loves.

THE SCOURGE is a clever, witty twist on some familiar themes like honor, nobility, and true love – with characters you can’t help but love. The quest continues in Roberto’s next book, THE SCOURGE: EMACULUM.

Today I’ll be hanging out on Facebook with a bunch of seriously cool authors and readers, in celebration of Roberto’s new release. There will be zombies, and swordplay, and zombies, and prizes, and zombies, and knights in shining armor, and zombies…

The fun starts at 5:00 pm EST / 2:00 pm PST. Click the image below to be taken to the event page. Hope to see you there!

Scourge Lauch Party 8.5.14

Looking for a little Escape? Check Out This Awesome Summer Fantasy & Sci-Fi Reads Deal

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Summer days are here again – even in the Pacific Northwest! I’ll be writing whenever I can, from a patio lounge chair when the weather allows. But what have you got planned? A couple of weeks at some tropical resort? A mountain lake retreat? A back woods camping adventure? Bumming on the beach? Lounging around the house? Visiting family? Whatever your plans, be sure to load up your e-reader and pack it along!

Amazon has an amazing SciFi & Fantasy Summer Reads Deal going on right now – all kinds of interesting books for $1.99 until August 9th, including mine!! If you haven’t already read the Dream Stewards books, now is the time to give them a try! Both THE WELL OF TEARS and THE KEYS TO THE REALMS are on sale.

Already read and loved them? Maybe tell a friend, or leave an honest review on the book’s page at Amazon.com. It really helps us authors out – we really do want to know what you think! Just click the image above to buy or comment.

And, if you’re looking for something else, even something that isn’t Sci-Fi and Fantasy, there are lots of other great deals. Just click the image below to check them all out. I found a few new titles for my own TBR list. Now all I need is the margarita pitcher and a 48 hour day!

Stephen King’s Top 20 Rules for Writers

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robertatrahan:

Today has been one of artistic reflection for me, so it seems appropriate to share this very helpful reprint of writing advice given my Stephen King that was posted on the blog Literary Liasons by author Mindy Halleck:

Originally posted on Literary Liaisons:

Love or hate his work, Stephen King, author of horror classics like The Shining and its 2013 sequel Doctor Sleep is one heck of a prolific and diverse author.

Over 350 million copies of King’s books have sold worldwide. That’s extraordinary. And though I don’t read his really scary stuff – keeps me awake at night – his works like Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile have been unforgettable reads.  I often wonder, how does he do it? King’s manual On Writing exposes how relentlessly dedicated he is to his craft. Though he says he doesn’t always stick to his own rules, trying to follow them is a worthwhile goal.

To begin with he says the best writers hook their readers with voice, not just action.

Below is a reprint (from Open Culture) of an article/interview with Stephen King regarding his 20 rules for writing. A must read;

stephen-king-writing-tips1. First write for…

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The Keys to the Realms: Epic Exclusive Excerpt Featured in APEX Magazine!

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I am proud and honored to share that an exclusive excerpt from THE KEYS TO THE REALMS (Dream Stewards #2) is featured in the latest edition of the Hugo-nominated speculative fiction publication APEX Magazine.

The magazine features original fiction and poetry for lovers of SciFi, Fantasy and Horror. The excerpts are available to subscribers / purchasers only ($2.99). You can take a peek (and get your copy) on the Apex website.

Apex Magazine – Issue #62

 

“When I’m Not Writing” – guest feature at Tynga’s Reviews

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Tynga's Reviews

You’ve always wanted to know, right?

The crack Team over at Tynga’s Reviews were kind enough to host me on their weekly feature about the things we writers do when we’re not writing.

Click the banner to visit the article, and then spend some time checking out this fabulous paranormal/UF/YA fantasy book blog:

When I'm Not Writing Banner

 

 

 

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