Wednesday, June 29, 2011

I've Surrendered

Writers are bookish people, right? We like the smell, look, and feel of the physical object. Print on pages. Texture of paper. Weight in hand. Yep, that's me. Book person.

And as a book person I was never going to get an e-book, right? Right! Just like I would never become a nurse. Or be caught within ten feet of a romance novel. Well, I bought a Kindle. I did it just the way I ended up doing the other two "nevers." I was sitting at work, reading a book, and I wanted to read one of my writing books. But it was at home. On my laptop. With all the other notes and research materials I needed for applying to the novel I am working on. And I was happy that I had left it at home. I've been carrying the laptop around for a few years and it's beginning to feel like a chore rather than a respite from work down-time.

I have Kindle for PC and I thought that was good enough. Suddenly it wasn't. So, I bought one.

And felt a weight lifted. I didn't know, when I bought it, how much other material I could load onto it. All my drafts, research notes, workshop notes, reference material... That whole potential pile of paper now fits into my pocket.

I took it, a notebook, and a reading book to coffee soon after I bought the Kindle and felt like I was on retreat. I am imagining all kinds of other occasions where I might take the work without the "work". Today, I'm taking a road trip, on the ferry, to San Francisco. It's just a day trip to return a couple of library books and do some visual research for the novel, get some atmosphere.

As of this writing I don't know exactly what I'll be taking with me. Besides the Kindle. I'll take a photo and add it later. Being able to relax while still getting something done on the novel, making notes for editing, sketching scenes, seems to be one of the better ideas I've had for a while. I thought the laptop was liberating when I finally got one. Nice to know I'm still able to move forward.

Do you Kindle? What do you put on yours?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

We Want Bartitsu!

Bartitsu is getting more and more attention these days as the signature steampunk fighting style. Part boxing, stick-fighting, and jujitsu, this gentleman's self-defense technique was immortalized by Arthur Conan Doyle as the skill that Holmes used to kill Moriarty.

Modern research is finally shining a light on the details of the forgotten art of Bartitsu and its creator, E.W. Barton-Wright. You can find several books online describing its history and the moves involved, but I'm most excited about a new video from Freelance Academy Press.

Check out the demo, and note the Abney Park soundtrack:

Something tells me we'll be seeing plenty of Bartitsu practitioners at steampunk (and other) events. I'd love to know if you've studied the technique, or know someone who has. Or just fill me in on what you'd consider a stylishly steampunk fighting move. Preferably something that involves deadly doilies.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Reading, A Valuable Tool for Writers

I’m sure we’ve all read an interview with a talented author and skimmed down to the bottom where she gives tips for aspiring authors. Advice from one of the best? Heck yeah, I’m taking it! But then, what you see is that writers should write, write, write and read, read, read. Hmm... Not what was necessarily expected. Writing, that’s an obvious one. The more you do it, the better you’ll get. But what about reading?

Reading is a good way to take in what other authors have done craft and story-wise and see what worked and what didn’t work for them. I’ve always enjoyed reading, but I didn’t give it much time. I had other things to do... like write, socialize, watch TV, etc!

Last year, I challenged myself to read more and stick to my goal. Happily, I did! At the beginning of the year, I found it was easier to read a book without looking too deeply at the writing craft, but as the year progressed, it was easier to see what the writer did well or not and how I could improve myself even more.

Basically, when you’re sitting there slaving away on honing your craft by writing your next book and reading a ton of writer’s reference books -- you are, right? -- give yourself permission to step back and go read. Aside from being fun, you might find your writing skill improving!

Stephen King said in his book On Writing, "If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that."

If you have been reading, do you think it’s helped? If you haven’t, what’s stopping you?

Sarah Mäkelä


Here’s the blurb for my newest release, Techno Crazed. I hope you enjoy it! If you’re interested the excerpt is available here.

Private Investigator Hannah Franklin's life is turned upside down after being contacted by a former employee of MAX Home Security, the leader in security services. But they're not just protecting people anymore. Hannah's informant claims to have proof that MAX has ordered the assassination of politicians who stood against the corporation.

When her informant is killed and an attempt is made on her life, Hannah has no choice but to contact a freelance hacker. Her only hope now lies in the hands of a man she never expected to welcome back into her life.

Ian Bradley has lost his girlfriend and his job, as well as having acquired a very annoying gnome. Now his ex, Hannah, is in danger, and she needs his help. Ian vows to protect Hannah with every resource available to him -- and as a technomage in a high-tech world, his resources are almost endless…

Techno Crazed is available now from Changeling Press! Buy Now

Saturday, June 25, 2011

J.K. Rowling and Pottermore

The buzz lately has been Pottermore. Where everything you want to know about the Harry Potter books can be found. A vertiable web encyclopedia. You'll be able to choose from over 33,000 wands and find out what house the Sorting Hat would put you in. Hmmm, which house will I be in? See new illustrations and find out secrets that JKRowlings has been holding on to the last 13 years. Here's JKR explaining the concept behind Pottermore.

If you haven't registered follow the owl and click on it.

Here is a link to an article in USA with more indepth details about Pottermore.

Till next time,


Friday, June 24, 2011

First Ingredient

The secret behind the Pottermore has been revealed. An online interactive of the books for all ages will be available this October and I can't wait to be sorted into a house and experience the world of Harry Potter with others. Rowling's series and success has inspired me to create a fantasy world loved by many.

I'm not sure if I ever want an official online interactive, but for readers to create their own there needs to be enough information for them. The author provides that information. If I can't see myself walking, touching, eating, or feeling the wind on my skin, how can anyone else? By living in my world for a few hours a day, then the chances of someone else being a part of my world is high.

Your first ingredient is your main character. Without him or her, the world will not come alive for readers. Would Rowling's books be different if Harry already knew of the wizardry world? Yes, it would. We see Harry learn about magic, we are learning as well and become involved in his world. His trials become our own and lead us to experience more of his new surroundings. If someone else became the main character, we would see the world in a different light.

I picture each of my scenes inside my head as I write. I become a part of my characters and view the world through their eyes. Act like them when you are writing scenes. By knowing your character then you will know how to move and breathe in their surroundings. It will then convey to the readers. You can also write journals in the voice of your characters. Keep Twitter accounts, Facebook fan pages, or any online journals to learn more.

There are plenty of more ways to get inside your characters' world. What do you use? Also, how many of you will be joining Pottermore?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

RWA - Here I Come!

Summer is finally here! Judging from the weather here lately, I don’t think anyone told Mother Nature. It has been raining in the great white north since Monday and yesterday, we had to turn our furnace on to get the chill out of the house – very sad indeed.

Friday starts the first day of a two week summer vacation for me. I drive for 17 hours with 3 beagles and my husband so I can visit family. The weather is usually way to hot for me in Southern Ontario, but maybe this year everything will even out.

In the middle of the vacation is the RWA conference in New York! This will be my first, so I am extra excited about it. Now the panic starts. Last night I realized that I have not even considered what to take with me. I’ve barely pulled out my summer clothes because of the recent crappy weather, and I’m just hoping they will be dressy enough. Don’t even get me started on shoes, because I don’t have anything suitable. I know this for a fact.

After my haircut after work, I will have to go through the very painful process of packing. It takes me hours. I learned this from my trip to Los Angeles this spring. It takes me forever to get organized and triple check my list- which as of right now is non-existent.

The whole purpose of this trip to RWA is learning about the industry, what is happening in the writing world and connecting with like minded writers. Of course, I also want to spend some time with friends.

I know I am really unprepared for the RWA conference, but I am hoping that some diligent list-making today will rectify that. I will take lots of pictures and blog about it when I get back in July. Hope to see a lot of your there. ~Stacie

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Brontes and Science Fiction

Imagine my surprise when I discovered this was not a joke? All the modern retellings and additions and updatings of the classics had left me skeptical. But here it is.
The Daily Telegraph reported on an exhibit of two previously unexhibited volumes of stories written by the Bronte sisters. You remember them? Charlotte? The co-author of the best-selling Jane Slayre? Her sister Emily and her vampire Heathcliff? Their sister Anne?

Evidently, the books are miniscule and written in even more miniscule writing, bound with thread. As a book-o-phile myself I truly appreciate the drive to create not only the text but the object as well. While the article publishes an all too brief excerpt from the book, I found an online source of poems, posted by the University of Pennsylvania. The poems, edited and polished for public consumption, were self-published under their pseudonyms of Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell.
For those not familiar with the Brontë sisters' poetry, it should be noted that many of their poems were written in the context of the shared worlds of Gondal and Angria. Other poems were personal and biographical. In selecting and editing their poems for publication, the Bronte sisters deleted and revised references to their imaginary countries. The versions of the poems that were printed, and their titles, differ considerably in some cases from the original manuscript forms.
Doing another search on the Brontes and science fiction, I found this link through iHeartClassics to the British Library's press release for the exhibit. This doesn't look "miniscule" to me. But then, I probably read it wrong.

The Telegraph article calls the stories "fan fiction" which I heartily approve of. Nice that we have a name to give to a practice that creates noteworthy authors. What they left out was that the women were also worldbuilders! They made maps! Who knew?

If I had known this about the Brontes I wouldn't have balked about reading all that Gothic nonsense in school (no offense!).

Who would you love to discover wrote in a different genre from the stuff we were forced to swallow? Ivanhoe, werewolf? Johnny Tremain, shapeshifter? George Washington, time traveler? I will leave Ben Franklin as he is, but Thomas Jefferson, vampire. That might be interesting.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

My Top 10 List of Steampunk Writing Music

More and more music is being labeled as or associated with steampunk these days. Some of it is pretty good, and some of it is not. But when I sit down to write steampunk, there are a few artists and albums that I go back to over and over for inspiration (most of them are not connected to the genre at all). The choice depends on the mood or pace of the particular scene I'm writing. Here's my list, in no particular order:

1.Tom Waits
2. Devics
3. City of Lost Children soundtrack (or other Angelo Badalamenti)
4. Apocalyptica
5. Sleigh Bells
6. Dropkick Murphys
7. Macross Plus soundtrack
8. Abney Park
9. Man Or Astro-Man?
10. Nick Cave

I've said it before, and I'll say it again, The Clockwork Cabaret is a great source for steampunk-inspired tunes. And here's a video from new-comers, Jarmean:

What music gets your writing juices flowing?

Monday, June 20, 2011

Fairy tales Can Come True...if You Just Believe

Life is hard.  Not just for the writer, but for everyone, including professional athletes.  Not all athletes follow a smooth path to their dream careers.  There are bumps in the road – both small and large, twists and turns that threaten to toss you off course and heart breaking setbacks.  We aspiring writers can learn from many of these that have struggled, only to finally reach their dreams after setbacks.  Have you ever considered that an athletes’ path to winning the holy grail similar to that of publication?

It’s not hard to see that I am a sports nut.  Sports and writing are my true passions.  And it’s not too often (actually never before) that I find myself misty eyed while watching a sporting event.  Last Wednesday night, I found myself reaching for the box of Kleenex as I watched Boston Bruins’ goaltender Tim Thomas accept not only the Conn Smythe Trophy for Most Valuable Player, but then hoist the Stanley Cup.

While 19-year-old Canuck Tyler Seguin held the Cup in his rookie season, a dream come true, Thomas’ career has not been an easy fairytale, but it does have a happy ending.   

After graduating from the University of Vermont’s hockey program, Thomas found himself in the minor leagues, bouncing between the International Hockey League (IHL), East Coast Hockey League and the Finnish Elite League for seven years.  Finally in 2002/2003, at the age of 28, Thomas received his big break with the Bruins, but returned to Boston’s farm team for two seasons and his fourth stint in the Finnish League.  In 2005, Thomas finally landed a permanent spot in the NHL, but the struggles continued through five years in the big leagues. 

When the Stanley Cup was passed to Thomas, it was a moment that marked the pinnacle to the Tim Thomas Story.  He was a star that had an unorthodox rising from college hockey to the minor leagues to European hockey to NHL star – Thomas kept rising.  And yet it could have all ended last year.

The oldest winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy didn’t have the best start to the season as he wasn’t even the Bruins’ starting goal when Boston opened training camp.  After struggling with inconsistency and a hip injury last season that resulted in summer surgery, he fought for the No. 1 spot with 23-year-old Tuukka Rask.  There were attempts by the Bruins to move Thomas in the summer, but no takers emerged for a 36-year-old with three years left on his contract.  Yet Thomas didn’t give up.  You can never count him out.  Instead of waiting for a trade or packing it in, Thomas worked harder.  He persevered through and made his fairytale ending come true.   When someone doubted him, it only fuelled his fire as he worked to prove the critics wrong.

I’ve been watching hockey my entire life, but I learned a valuable lesson that I will remember.  I’ve tacked a newspaper photograph of Thomas holding the Stanley Cup on my cork board just to inspire me that fairy tales can come true.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

How Urban is Your Fantasy?

We are pleased to welcome our guest blogger, Missy Jane. Don't forget to enter for a chance to win her fabulous blog tour prizes!

I’ve been a big fan of fantasy and science fiction since I learned to read. Horror is also a favorite, but I even prefer that to have a little fantasy feel to it. So when I started reading romance I naturally leaned more toward the urban fantasy and paranormal subgenres and quickly realized there is a very fine line between them. What really makes the difference between urban fantasy and paranormal? Whether it be straight fiction or romance the biggest difference is the setting. Some may argue that point but I think it’s more a matter of opinion. In mine, the setting is the most obvious. Urban fantasy tends to happen in modern times, with all of the modern conveniences we love. Paranormal settings can take place at any time, in any place or plane of existence the author wants to dream up. So, is there really a difference between fantasy and paranormal? I honestly don’t know.

I do know what I like to read though. I’ve gotten into the practice of not even reading the blurb before opening a book. Why not wait for the story to unfold without any expectations? Unfortunately, my opinion of the subgenres has been tainted by what I’ve already read. I don’t like to go into a book with expectations unless it’s part of a series. When it comes to what I write I also try not to categorize it too tightly. My first published book was, to me, an urban fantasy. In my opinion, it was just coincidence the two main characters have an underlying attraction that plays out. I didn’t consider it the main part of the storyline, but my publisher did. They put it out as paranormal romance and there it stands. I don’t mind one bit, especially if it exposes my work to new readers.

What do you think about the genres and subgenres of fiction, especially romance? Do you stick to a strict code of reading or not reading a book based on how it’s categorized? Have your tastes changed because of a specific book or author? Leave your comments below and you’ll be entered to win a prize pack in my Birthday Blog Tour. I’ll choose one winner tomorrow but all comments will be entered to win the grand prize on June 30th on my blog:

-Missy Jane
*Make reading a guilty pleasure…*

They Call Me Death by Missy Jane

Humans are no longer at the top of the food chain…

My name is Alexia Williams. In my world, North America is divided between north and south—but not the way it’s taught in the history books.

After losing my family to the shifters, I joined the Combined Human States Army. Now I find myself on the front lines, defending the wall between my species and theirs. My mission is simple: keep the animals on their side by whatever means necessary—and I’m good at it. I don’t talk to them. I don’t sympathize with them. I sure as hell don’t admire them…until one saves my life.

Andor isn’t like any shifter I’ve ever met. He’s a three-hundred-year-old golden eagle asking for help finding missing shifters who may be in my lands. I just have to decide between helping the animals or ignoring signs that my fellow humans aren’t what I thought they were. But how can I help a species I hate and fear? Even if Andor makes me feel alive again?

In the land of the shifters…they call me Death.

Read the prologue:

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Changing Face Of Your Characters

Are your characters confusing you? Have you noticed your characters have a mind of their own? You want them to go right, but they want to go left. They decided they want to grow their hair long, when you had envisioned them with short curly hair. Or something even more drastic like their deepest desire morphs in a totally different direction then what you had in mind. Are you losing control or are your characters taking on a life of their own?

I think the answers to those questions are yes. And yes! But, losing control is a good thing. Once you have a baseline, a structure or plan you want creativity to kick in. Big time! You can guide creativity but you can’t control it. Like your characters, your vision needs to breathe. So, if your characters are out dancing when you think they should be fighting aliens let them. Who knows, they may be dancing with the person who could bring an end to war or they may simply fall in love complicating and providing more conflict for your story. You gave birth to them, nourished them, and loved them now let them go. See what happens, you can always reel them back in.

Lt. Worf, of “The Next Generation”otherwise known as TNG changed physically and acquired more depth from season to season. From the simple one-dimension Klingon warrior with his argh, argh growl he grew into a loving father, a good friend, a diplomat and hottie, even Deanna Troi, the ship’s counselor fell in love with him.

Another side of Worf.

Are your characters giving you a hard time or are you giving them free rein?

Till next time,


Friday, June 17, 2011

Tales Franchise Love

Originally posted on my blog, I wanted to share with everyone at the Salon one of the reason why I started to write.

At 15 years-olds,I already experienced anime from Japan. Soon I turned my attention to Role playing games from Japan,known as RPGs to players. You play the game through the hero’s eyes by experiencing the unique world through the story and the actions of the characters. Most of the games are set in a new world with different rules from ours. It builds an urge inside to write a story just like these games I’m playing.

It started when I bought a Playstation 1 and Tales of Destiny game with the money I earn from my part-time job in high school. When I set the system up and popped the game in,this is what came across my TV screen.

Shell shocked by the visuals being displayed before my eyes,this started my love for RPGs and their stories. I read fantasy books but nothing can compare to seeing a fantasy world before your eyes. Then I realized,the game play lacked the same style as the opening film but it did not stop me from beating the game in about 32 hours. The game is a classic tale of a young man who,by mistake,gets involved in saving the world and falls in love with the heroine. The smile spreads across my face remembering the game. The storyline and characters still speaks to me and I want to replay the game now.

This one game created my love for all future Tales’games. With over 10 games to its line,I played every US release except for one. The series hasn’t lost the core elements I fell in love during the first game. The latest addition to the series is Tales of Xillia.

The storyline reflects a theme in my own novel. If evil does exist,then it comes from our hearts. I almost fainted when I read the subtitles. I’m praying the game will be release in the States after the release in Japan. Otherwise,I’m going to beat myself for not reading Japanese well enough to purchase an import. Until the announcement is made,I will enjoy Tales of Graces f game coming soon to the PS3.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

What Playoff Hockey Can Teach Us About Writing

I only watch playoff hockey. There is something about the urgency and do or die attitude that makes me watch what would otherwise be just another game.

The last game of the NHL playoffs was held last night in Vancouver – game seven of a best of seven series – so it was definitely do or die.

I rooted for the Vancouver Canucks, my husband for the Boston Bruins – he also only watches playoff hockey. The Bruins lost the first two games of the series, so it looked like Vancouver would have an fairly easy run for the Stanley Cup, but it wasn’t meant to be. The Bruins were the victors in the end. I lost the bet and I am relegated to do all the cleaning and cooking for the rest of the month – oh, wait! I already do that. LOL!

I envy the way the Bruins persevered – they kept going even though after the first two games they were behind. One would really have to wrap their hear around moving forward and not looking back in that situation.

I think the same thing applies to writing. What can we learn from our mistakes? How can we make our next attempt better? I am someone who tends to dwell on failures, even though I know it’s not good for me or my writing.

To be able to get past the mistakes, the setbacks, the disappointments is something that I strive for, that I want to be able to do without fail. My skin is getting thicker, but it still has some weak points. I want to be able to learn from my mistakes but look forward rather than back.

I look at my path to getting published like training for a marathon. I have to start walking before I run. There is a also a long road before I reach the finish line. In hockey, the teams have to play a lot of games before they can raise the Stanley Cup.

Eventually, I will get there, but I know it will take a lot of steps in the right direction.

Local Steampunk

OK, so at the last minute I decided to spend the day on Saturday morning, sitting outside, in real daylight, drinking coffee under the trees of my local cafe. Needing something to write on, I picked up the local arts and events paper that had--for some reason--lots of white space on the front page.

Inside, I discovered an insert for the Art Walk later that day, and when it fell open I saw a review for a show. Steampunk? In Sacramento? I think of us as being as far from the real world of creativity as politics is from real-life. I went, of course. Had to see what all the buzz was about.

I am SO glad I did. We may not be at the heart of the most innovative and creative, but we are near enough to creative centers to draw people to us.

I met Connie Ricca outside taking pictures of a couple of musicians. Her photographs, just inside the doors of the show, are fascinating once she's finished with them.

If I had known what I was getting into, I would have approached the show with a more reporterly intent. As it is, you gotta be satisfied with phone-captured snapshots.

Then, I discovered through a friend that 14 June is International Steampunk Day, celebrating the birthday of H. G. Wells. Good time to be a spec fic writer, I must say.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Writer Trivia

I picked up a bargain copy of The Ultimate Book of Useless Information recently and decided to share a few fun facts you all might find interesting:

Pulitzer Prize-winner William Faulkner once worked as a rum runner to make money because he couldn't find a publisher to publish his novels.

Charles Dickens penned in Puny Pete, Little Larry, and Small Sam before settling on Tiny Tim for his crippled child in A Christmas Carol (which he wrote in just six weeks).

Ernest Hemingway once admitted that he had revised the last page of A Farewell to Arms thirty-nine times.

Dreamt is the only English word that ends in the letters mt.

The word robot comes from the Czechoslovakian word robotovat, which means "to work very hard".

The longest sentence in literature was written by Victor Hugo in Les Miserables and came to a staggering 823 words.

In 1900, Americans voted their favorite book, after the Bible, as The Sears Roebuck Catalog.

Ian Fleming's favorite cocktail was Pink Gin and not a Vodka Martini.

There are twenty different kinds of kisses described in the erotic Indian text the Kama Sutra.

The slow-witted character named Moron in Moliere's play La Princesse d'Elide created a new word in the dictionary.

Happy writing!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Open House Follow Swap

Welcome to our Open House! Here's how it works: You follow us with Google Friends and then leave a comment below to let us know. Introduce yourselves and tell us about your blog. Include your URL and at least one (but likely more) Salon scout will follow you back on your site. Have a blast everyone!

Saturday, June 11, 2011


I often wonder what keeps me from getting from point A to point B. Let’s say I’m driving from the east coast to the west coast. The reason. I want to see how blue the ocean is there, to soak my feet in the warm salty water, to be transformed and renewed. To be as I once was, a mermaid.

So what happens on the journey across our vast country? Distractions. Doesn’t matter which highway I take something will call out my name. “Look at me!” it teases. And a dialogue between me and the other me takes place;

“It’s only this one time and you’ll never pass this road again.”

“If you stop, you’ll never see the blue ocean.”

“Humph. The ocean’s not going anywhere. What’s your rush?”

“Yes, but you’ll never join your family of mermaids.”

“Aww, you’re such a drag.”

Life is a constant battle between what you want and what you’ll settle for. Of course, at the time you don’t think you’re settling for anything. You convince yourself in any way you can that you made the right choice. Some label it as resistance, fear or excuses. Doesn’t matter what it’s called. End result, you didn’t get to point B. Your true destination. At least, that’s been my experience.

If I follow the voice that loves to ride the wind, it can be exciting while that moment lasts. But, if I choose the more difficult road and listen to that other voice that sits deep inside me, the one that touches the universe, I can create anything. That's the power of your heart song, it sings of your true purpose, your true destination. If you don’t feed the song in your heart it will die and a part of you will as well.

Here's a short mediation video by Tara Stiles Yoga you may find useful. Basically, see the distraction, say hi and bye and return to your breathing.

So, what’s your destination? Are you on it or distracted? What are your distractions? What is your method of keeping on track?

Till next time,


PS: On June 12th, we're hosting an Open House for bloggers to get connected and exchange follows. Stop by this Sunday to participate!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Summer Movies 2011: June -July Edition

Summer is here which translate in my head to summer movies. Below are the movies releasing in June and July, which spark my interest and if I plan on watching them based on the trailers.

Super 8

Release Date: Today

The best trailer from this movie and it still does not show the monster. That worries me because it is either going to be real good or real bad. I’ll wait for the reviews before I decide.

Watching?: Maybe

The Green Lantern

Release Date: June 17th

The first trailer didn’t spark my interest except for Reynolds’ abs. The second one is much better and gives me a better understanding of the film. Plus the background music is great.

Watching?: Yes

Transformers: Dark of the Moon

Release Date: July 1st

I disliked the second one and worried the third one would follow. But the trailer has given me hope my childhood hasn’t been ruined. There is no doubt I will be in the theater on opening day.

Watching?: Yes

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2

Release Date: July 15st

After watching the last 7 movies in the theater, I don’t have the heart to break the traditional on the last film. Kleenex is required when I watch the last battle of Harry Potter.

Watching?: Yes

Captain America: The First Avenger

Release Date: July 22st

I pushed off watching this trailer and I’m kicking myself right now. The movie looks great! Chris Evans is hot! What else can a girl ask for?

Watching?: Yes

Cowboys & Aliens

Release Date: July 29th

The title speaks to every geeky girl in the world. Add Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig, what girl wouldn’t see the movie without watching the trailer? The trailer only adds to this movie’s great title and cast. It’s an ‘I’m so there’ moment.

Watching?: Yes

That is the end of my summer movie list for June and July. At the end of July, I will add my reviews of the movies and include my list for August. Until then!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Fast Plotting

I’m going to be brief and let someone else have a say. I discovered the MIUSE workshop this summer and had the good fortune to take a plotting workshop. Since then, I’ve used the method for short stories, flash fiction and my currrent novel in planning it and again during the revision.

We received permission to share the infomation with the accompanying credit. Hope it helps you as well as it did me.

Meet in the Middle

There is an old Hollywood trick that makes first-stage plotting a snap and leaves plenty of room for later development, character intrusion, and twists. It’s so simple, it’s almost absurd, but you won’t think so after you’ve tried it a couple of times. Best of all, it’s a fantastic device for brainstorming. It all comes down to this: Simply decide where the story begins and ends, and let imagination and logic fill in the gaps.

Here it is -- the whole thing:
Number a piece of paper from one to fifteen. Write a one-line blurb of where the story begins next to number one. Then jump down to the bottom and write the ending next to number fifteen. Now go back to the top and write a blurb for what happens after the opening next to number two. Scoot down to number fourteen to write what happened just before the story ends. Continue bouncing up and down from the top of the page to the bottom and in a matter of minutes—voila! Modify this basic outline of the entire novel with additional sequences, subplots, and character PMA+A to bring the story to life.

Yup, that’s it. It’s called Meet-in-the-Middle, and it’s been used by scriptwriters for decades. It only creates a bare-bones structure, of course, but often it’s those missing middle points that cause Writer’s Block. The fifteen scenes created with Meet-in-the-Middle are the highlights, or major and secondary plot points of the story.

So let’s do one to see how it works. The example below is a quick boy-girl story mapped out in eight easy steps by my friend and I over breakfast one
morning. We just wanted to play with the technique. It took us about 12-13 minutes to put this together between mastication and coffee slurps. Note: for the record, my friend is ex-military/merc/cop. He writes “attack” poetry.

The story begins when boy meets girl. The boy is Bill; the girl is Sandy.
The story ends with Bill killing a murderer. Why? See note above.
1. Bill and Sandy meet.
15. Bill kills the murderer.

Back to the top. Bill and Sandy’s true-love-sailing-smoothly needs some kind of interference or there is no story. What better interference than an ex-lover showing up? Whether it is Bill’s ex-wife or an ex-girlfriend does not matter right now.
1. Bill and Sandy meet.
2. Bill’s ex shows up.
14. Bill finds Sandy being held/tortured by murderer.
15. Bill kills the murderer.

Back down here. There’s really no point in Bill killing a murderer unless that murderer is somehow impacting him personally. What would cause a nice, even-tempered guy like Bill to go after a murderer? Maybe he thinks the lout has hurt his girlfriend. Guess he has to find her there to know

Up here again. They’ve met; Bill’s ex has shown up. The only logical next step is for Bill and Sandy to get into a fight over the ex, eh? Welcome to Boy
loses Girl.
1. Bill and Sandy meet.
2. Bill’s ex shows up.
3. Sandy and Bill fight and break up.
13. The murderer tortures Sandy.
14. Bill finds Sandy being held/tortured by murderer.
15. Bill kills the murderer.

If Bill’s going to find Sandy with the murderer, the murderer must be taking his time rather simply killing her. Hence, a torture scene.

What’s a girl to do when she’s just broken up with her lover because his ex showed up unannounced? Probably go drown her sorrows at a local bar. She’s pretty vulnerable, so it wouldn’t occur to her that the guy she meets at the bar might want more than just a goodnight kiss.
1. Bill and Sandy meet.
2. Bill’s ex shows up.
3. Sandy and Bill fight and break up.
4. Sandy goes to a nightclub and meets the murderer.
12. Murderer kidnaps Sandy.
13. The murderer tortures Sandy.
14. Bill finds Sandy being held/tortured by murderer.
15. Bill kills the murderer.

If the murder is going to hold/torture Sandy, then he logically has to kidnap her first!

Bill loves Sandy, not his ex. Is he going to sit around and dilly-dally with an old girlfriend/lover/wife when his current heartthrob is out there somewhere, maybe meeting someone new? He is not! He’s going to go out and look for her.
1. Bill and Sandy meet.
2. Bill’s ex shows up.
3. Sandy and Bill fight and break up.
4. Sandy goes to a nightclub and meets the murderer.
5. Bill heads out to look for Sandy.
11. Bill’s ex sics the murderer on Sandy, and in return, he kills her.
12. Murderer kidnaps Sandy.
13. The murderer tortures Sandy.
14. Bill finds Sandy being held/tortured by murderer.
15. Bill kills the murderer.

Why did the murderer decide to pick Sandy out off all the girls in the bars and on the streets to kidnap and torture? Why Bill’s ex must have sic’d him

Why did the murderer decide to pick Sandy, out off all the girls in the bars and on the streets, to kidnap and torture? Why, Bill s ex must have sic d him on her. So naturally, he’d turn around and kill her. Hey, he’s a murderer, remember?

Bill has just walked out on his ex to go look for his current love. Is she going to take that? Absolutely not! If she didn’t care about him, why did she show
up again in the first place? She’s still got her charms, and he’s pretty vulnerable right now since Sandy walked out. All she’s got to do is follow him and seduce him the way she used to before they broke up.
1. Bill and Sandy meet.
2. Bill’s ex shows up.
3. Sandy and Bill fight and break up.
4. Sandy goes to a nightclub and meets the murderer.
5. Bill heads out to look for Sandy
6. Bill’s ex follows him and brings him home to bed.
10. Bill throws his ex out.
11. Bill’s ex sics the murderer on Sandy and in return, he kills her.
12. Murderer kidnaps Sandy.
13. The murderer tortures Sandy.
14. Bill finds Sandy being held/tortured by murderer.
15. Bill kills the murderer.

How would the ex sic the murderer on Sandy if Bill hadn’t told her to leave? He does, thereby setting the rest of the action in motion.

Sandy still loves Bill. She’s left the bar with the mur-derer, which is why Bill and the ex don’t find her, but she doesn’t go home with the guy, she gives
him a handshake and one of those “if only we’d met at another time” lines and goes home where, of course, the ex has bedded her honey-bunny.
1. Bill and Sandy meet.
2. Bill’s ex shows up.
3. Sandy and Bill fight and break up.
4. Sandy goes to a nightclub and meets the murderer.
5. Bill heads out to look for Sandy
6. Bill’s ex follows him and brings him home to bed.
7. After kissing the murderer goodnight, Sandy finds Bill in bed with his ex.
9. Bill tells his ex he loves Sandy; she threatens to make him sorry.
10. Bill throws his ex out.
11. Bill’s ex sics the murderer on Sandy and in return, he kills her
12. Murderer kidnaps Sandy.
13. The murderer tortures Sandy.
14. Bill finds Sandy being held/tortured by murderer.
15. Bill kills the murderer.

Before Bill throws his ex out, he’s got to realize he really loves Sandy, not her. And since she decides to be a creep and set Sandy up for the murderer, Bill probably tells her in such a way that she gets furious and vengeful. How would he know there’s a murderer running around out there?

The story has met in the middle. Right after Sandy finds Bill in bed with his ex and just before Bill tells the ex he loves Sandy, not her, Sandy has to
become vulnerable to the murderer. Ergo, she logically runs out of the house.
1. Bill and Sandy meet.
2. Bill’s ex shows up.
3. Sandy and Bill fight and break up.
4. Sandy goes to a nightclub and meets the murderer.
5. Bill heads out to look for Sandy
6. Bill’s ex follows him and brings him home to bed.
7. After kissing the murderer goodnight, Sandy finds Bill in bed with his ex.
8. Devastated by Bill’s infidelity, Sandy goes running out of the house.
9. Bill tells his ex he loves Sandy; she threatens to make him sorry.
10. Bill throws his ex out.
11. Bill’s ex sics the murderer on Sandy and in return, he kills her.
12. Murderer kidnaps Sandy.
13. The murderer tortures Sandy.
14. Bill finds Sandy being held/tortured by murderer.
15. Bill kills the murderer.

There it is: a complete plot foundation with plenty of room to impose character quirks and interaction, subplots, characterization, motivation, etc., etc., etc. Continue to map out the “What happens next?” in an outline or do a seat-of-the-pants with these 15 points as your backup. Either way, this is the spinal column of the story, so to speak, to which appendages, sinew, muscle, even toenails can be added; i.e., a basic story that can now be fleshed out into chapters.

Is that easy enough? ... Oh, I almost forgot one of the best aspects of MitM: it’s reusable. If everyone reading this post wrote a story using the 15 points above, every single manuscript would be different!

Your turn! ...

Claudia Suzanne
Ghostwriting Expert & Instructor

Excerpted from Before Copy Editing by Claudia Suzanne (WCPublishing, 2010)

That’s all there is to it. I’ve gone from the 15 steps to three act structure and filled out the framework from there. It’s somewhere between plotting and pantsing, as well. Oh, and it works for scenes as well as whole stories. Try it! Let us know how it works for you.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

How An Arch-Nemesis Was Made

When I began developing ideas for my new superhero story a few weeks ago, I had many of the key elements worked out right away. I knew everything about my hero - his past, his fears, his flaws and strengths. I also had plenty of challenges for him to overcome and enemies to defeat - corrupt police force, anarchists with time bombs, and a mysterious fiend ripping peoples heads off all over town. That's enough to keep any crime-fighter pretty busy for almost 400 pages.

But there was something missing. Isn't a superhero supposed to have an arch-nemesis? Even the ones that have a running mix of bad guys to fight usually have at least one villain that stands out from rest - the Joker, Green Goblin, Lex Luther. I wasn't sure if there were any solid rules on that sort of thing.

And I wasn't dealing with a standard hero either, because I write steampunk and this was a 19th century setting. He doesn't wear tights. Technically, he doesn't even have any real super powers; just a quick wit, lots of moxie and a slew of really neat gadgets to get him through. Kind of a cross between Teddy Roosevelt and Batman.

I needed to decide the issue fast, so I did what any other logical, intelligent person would do and I asked Twitter for help. The response was clear - a superhero should have an arch. And not just any arch. There are some very specific things to consider when inventing the perfect foil for a superhero, like how he reflects parts of the hero and his role in the hero's origin story.

All well and good, but what I really wanted to get into was how over-the-top I could make him or her. One of the best things about speculative fiction is that there are certain times when you can just go nuts, especially when it comes to evil geniuses. Of course, they need to be believable and relevant, but also I wanted someone with some flare. My mind was reeling with all the possibilities. I decided to use that old trick that writers sometimes use, and pick a real person/character as a base for my nemesis.

Instantly I knew that my inspiration would be Paul William’s dastardly character, Swan, from the movie The Phantom of the Paradise. The impish, Faustian villain with long blond hair and over-sized glasses was the perfect jumping off point for my Victorian arch-enemy. Obviously, my villain won’t have the same goals or personality as Swan, but visualizing the character helps bring him to life on the page. Too bad I can’t dress him in polyester as well because that would be truly scary.

I started thinking of other models I might use for future villains and have the beginnings of a pretty good rogues gallery: Groucho Marx, Lady Gaga, Pee-wee Herman, Dan Quayle, that chick from the Progressive Insurance commercials... it really is too easy these days.

Who makes your list of people who should be turned into super-villains?

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Big, the Bad, the Ugly Sagging Middles

One of the most common problems that aspiring writers run up against is the dreaded “sagging middle”. This happens when a strong beginning and a compelling ending are sabotaged with a slow, boring central section. The sagging middle is the mother of all writing problems. The middle is the sweet, tasty middle of the Oreo cookie. Without it, those chocolate cookies are just plain and boring chocolate cookies. Without a strong middle, you just have a plain, boring manuscript.

Sagging middles were my Achilles heel. I could always dream up an interesting action-packed beginning and an equally appealing ending with twists and turns, but the middle was always where I became trapped. After my first year of serious writing, I had four half-written manuscripts. Each of my failed attempts became halted around the same spot – the middle. After brainstorming, restructuring and rewriting the openings, I learned the vicious lesson that I couldn’t get through the middle.

I took a half-dozen online workshops on taking the “sag” out of the middle, I learned to look at my novel more objectively. One instructor had me pull out the half-written manuscripts from the box in the back of closet and analyse them one by one for the glaring errors. Each one had their own flashing alarm bells to diagnose my sagging middle.

The first mistake was a lack of tension. In the early days I hated inflicting pain, torture and tormenting my characters. I could imagine the worst thing that could ever happen to them, but I couldn’t do that to them – they were my babies. WRONG! Now, my poor characters suffer, and suffer some more. And just when you think it couldn’t get any worse – the real suffering begins.

My next mistake was that while my characters were busy, nothing was really happening. I didn’t have much of a plot, or at least a strong enough action to carry me through the story. The story wasn’t moving forward, it was stalled. Now I ensure that everything that happens, happens for a reason. Every single plot event plays into the overall plot.
I also did a lot of recapping and repetition. I worried that readers wouldn’t remember key scenes or actions so I’d repeat it, and then repeat it again. I was underestimating the intelligence of my readers. WRONG! Not only are readers super intelligent, but those extra words just stalled the plot and wasted those precious words that we all desperately need.

One of the most important things that I learned is keeping the action incremental. It is too easy to feel as if you need to tell the reader what’s going on and make your characters hurry up and deal with things, both emotionally and plot-wise. WRONG! By keeping actions and things more incrementally, it hooks the reader so that they will read to the end instead of putting the book down and never picking it back up. Effective pacing not only makes the reader start reading, but also keeps them reading until the final page.

There are so many aspects of writing to learn and master, but with many workshops and countless hours of learning, I’ve learned how to exercise my sagging middle.

What are your tips on avoiding the sagging middle? What areas of writing do you most struggle with? Beginning? Middle? Endings?

R.J. Garside

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Real Side of Fiction

Our guest blogger today is Theresa Meyers, author of the Harlequin Nocturne Sons of Midnight series. The newest installment, The Vampire Who Loved Me, is available now. Visit her website to find more steamy titles.

There are times when reality shifts slightly in favor of speculation. Fiction is one of those finite shifts when we can take readers and bend reality just enough that for a moment they are held in a willing suspension of disbelief—in other words one damn good story.

So how does a writer make it happen?

Well, I’ve always thought for every writer it was different, but the truth is the more you peel apart best-selling fiction and block-buster movies, the more you learn there are elements that drive an audience to believe. Let me share three I’ve found work for me.

For me, one of those elements a basis in reality. It’s not that the things in my fictional stories of vampires for Harlequin or steampunk for Zebra are honest-to-goodness real, but that they based in reality. They are close enough to the experiences of my readers to ensure they can identify with what happens between the pages as real.

Let me give you an example from my latest vampire book, The Vampire Who Loved Me, which just hit store shelves this month. In this mini-series I have vampires who are transformed from humans to vampires by means of a virus. Why a virus? Why not? Throughout our development, the top predator in any food chain has always been brought low by the microscopic power of virus and bacteria. No one can escape it. Heck, look at how much effort we put every year into coming up with the latest flu vaccine. So when I created my vampire world I came up with a virus, which in sufficient quantity will transition a human. If it’s in smaller quantities it can give a “cold”, a temporary change in state of the body where it experiences conditions it wouldn’t normally. For a flu virus you get things like a fever, aches or upset stomach. With the vampire virus it’s things like being stronger, healing faster and having amped up sensory input (so you can see farther, hear better, etc.)

By making it a virus, it also taps into a second element that pulls the reader more firmly into my make-believe world—shared experiences. We’ve seen what happens and how people panic when a new disease (HIV, AIDS, bird flu, swine flu) comes bursting over the news and thousands start falling ill. By taking that shared universal experience and coupling it with my fictional story, I can set up a situation where my readers can completely understand the panic that ensues and people’s reactions when they learn that vampirism is caused by a virus and that the virus has been accidentally released into the national blood supply.

A third element that works wonders is using sensory input to develop empathy. There’s a reason why my vampires can smell emotions. Research has shown that scent is one of the most powerful memory triggers our brains have. When I pick scents, I think about the reactions those scents create. We get a totally different set of reactions when we think about the scent of fresh baked cookies than we do about the odor of burning hair. By using those sensory reactions, I can pull readers again into a more full experience of the book. They get lost in the story because all these things are happening underneath the story itself.

Take a look at your stories. What elements can you pump up on a subtle level to pull readers in farther into experiencing the story? How can you modify your storyline to include things that tap into their universal experiences? Remember that the easiest emotions we go to are anger and fear (fight or flight). It’s natural and normal. But as writers you have to dig into deeper emotions and fascination triggers (check out the book by Sally Hogshead, Fascinate on the subject). Triggers like lust, mystique, vice, alarm, power, prestige and trust can be augmented by deep emotions like guilt, sorrow, pain, devotion, and hope. Don’t just do the basics.

In the end, writing fiction isn’t just about getting them to believe in the world you’ve created, it’s creating an experience that takes them so thoroughly into that world that they feel they’ve been there.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Short and Sweet

In researching automatons and robots for my steampunk story, I came across a little video that I thought was amazing. Thought I share it with you.

Ghost Illusion Automaton "A season in Hell" by Thomas Kuntz from Thomas Kuntz on Vimeo.

Till next time,

Friday, June 3, 2011

What is your book about?

When you tell someone you are writing a book, they say how great it is. The first thing they ask is what is your book about? When someone asks that question, do you know how to answer them? I normally stumbled over my words because I didn't know what I was talking about at all. Pulling the idea into sentences which someone else would understand proved to be difficult. In the end, I replied with a false claim of not knowing all the facts and the complex idea needed to be ironed out.

For a simple question, I answered in a terrible way. This is someone who may become a future reader of my book. They were going to remember me as someone who didn't know what I'm doing. Instead of being honest, I needed to make it sound grand and out of this world so they didn't keep asking more question. I stopped telling my family and friends I planned to write a book because I didn't want to answer that question.

The years passed I became more comfortable with my ideas and working out the storyline. A few weeks ago, my nieces asked the dreaded question and I explained my character's goal. I didn't have to think on what it is about or how to say it in way they would understand. They got it right away and told me they wanted to read my book.

It actually didn't hit me until I started to write this post how much I've grown as a writer. I can explain my novel to someone else and make it simple. I basically pitched my story. It was not a very good pitch and it missed part of the plot, yet I conveyed it to an 8 year old and a 10 year old who want to read my book now. I lost the fear for that question by working on my novel.

Do you fear or love to answer the question?

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Positive Self Talk for Writers

What I think about, I bring about.

As writer’s, we tend to live solitary lives, hours spent in front of the computer, blocking out the noise of family and pleas for attention. Some of us even barricade ourselves in a tiny room where nobody except us is allowed to enter. With out a support system, this solitary life is the perfect breeding ground for self-doubt and negative thinking.

My husband is tolerant, but not terribly enthusiastic about the writing gig. He figures that it’s just another hobby that will end up stuffed in the corner of dark closet like crocheting or making jewellery – something that I can do when I am bored. So I don’t have a cheering section at home rooting for me every day, telling me they know I can do it.

I do have a great on-line support system. My writing friends are always encouraging, telling me when I am great and leading me back to the path when I stray. But I’ve found, even with all that great support, I really do need to be my own cheering section.

Being positive is one of the hardest things for me as a writer. I will read a book and feel inadequate because my dialogue is not as good, my descriptions fall flat and my love scenes are comical rather than steamy. I read about friends and other authors who write 5,000 words a day when I can barely squeak out 1,000. My story is missing something, but damned if I know what it is.

Because I encounter all sorts of things I could be negative about, I make an effort to be positive. Is the sexy man with no shirt half dressed or half naked? A positive thinker would say half naked, don’t you think?

Believe me I am not trying to brainwash myself into believing something that isn’t true. But I do believe in the power of positive thinking. If you tell yourself something enough times it’s going to sink in eventually. I have positive affirmations around my desk at my day job, because I know I don’t want to be there forever and some days it’s a struggle to be there for eight hours a day, five days a week.

Try writing down in a journal five positive things about yourself everyday. I sometimes struggle with this too. If you can’t think of anything to write down, here is a link to some positive personality descriptions. Post those positive words that describe you best where you can see them every day.

I honestly believe in “What we think about, we bring about.” Don’t let negative self-talk steal your passion and motivation. Believe that one day soon you will finish the book you have been working on for months or years, that if you keep moving forward you will be published, that 100 words a day is better than none. The more positive your feelings towards your writing and your life, the more likely you will get to where you want to be.

Some positive self-talk that works for me: (I didn’t make all of these up myself, but I have adopted them)

My imagination has no limits, my creativity knows no bounds.
I have faith and courage -in myself and in my writing.
I will forward and never look back.
I am in control of my life and my future.
I am creating a positive, successful future.
I know that I will be a bestseller someday and I will take the steps to get there.
I am not afraid to try something new.
My determination and will are always stronger than the problems in my way.

It’s not just about repeating the statement over and over. Visualize it, believe it, live it.

Please share some of the positive statements that make you keep going.
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