Saturday, July 30, 2011

1001 Sites To Distract Or Help You

I must admit that sometimes I spend too much time looking for who knows what on the internet. Hours later, I wonder where the time went. It’s fun but it is a distraction from actually writing. I thought I save you some time and share some sites with you. Okay, there aren’t 1001 sites. But, it may take you at least 1001 minutes to look at all of them.

SITE FOR READERS AND AUTHORS site to read free ebooks and place to hang your hat to gain a following site for readers and authors

WRITERS BLOCK/PERFECTIONISM/PROCRASTINATION Free ebook about procrastination, perfectionism and writers blocks

BUSINESS social media

VIDEOS ON WRITING videos on plotting Dan Wells on Story Structure Videos on writing character and plot Elizabeth Lyon, [author of Manuscript Makeover] on style and voice

An online therapy service for fictional characters. List of character traits myers-briggs personality 9 personality types psychology web site Decoding human behavior

BLOGS ON WRITING Portable-plotting board Writing theory – monomyth 4 parts Free downloads Narrative Elements/Literary devices Synopsis Word count for novels Conflict=Tension=Emotions



WRITING TOOLS A paste-in and check editor for adverbs, weak words, "said" replacements, passive voice and ending with prepositions. Another paste-in and check editor. This one checks "be" verbs, abstract nouns, etc.
Another paste-in and check text tool. This one gives you stats on readability, sentence length, etc. You can also analyze a website by pasting in the URL.
Another paste-in and check tool. This one counts the number of repeated words and gives you a most frequently used hit list. Paste and check editor. This one uses key words typically used by males and females and tells you whether you write like a guy or a gal. One look dictionary for emotions mood list drawing tool online Online stopwatch For Firefox: a tool to block the sites that stop you from writing Another tool to block out distractions

FOR THE SPIRIT James Allen Writer’s meditation “Rules” for Living and Writing Elizabeth Gilbert on Genius JKR benefits of failure Buddhist chanting

Do you collect links too? What’s your favorite?

Till next time,

Friday, July 29, 2011

LOTR Final Film and the Official Fan Club

The final film's epic battle to overtake Gondor is one of the best I've seen in a fantasy film. The battle at Helm's deep is tiny compared to it. I can't think of any other battle to compare it to. Everyone comes together to fight the armies of Mordor, even if they didn't arrive all at the same time. The extended version gives a satisfying long ending to the world. Though, it is a little long for my personal taste.

I'm not sure how many of you remember the Official Fan Club for the movie. It existed for the three years the films were shown in theaters. As a geek, I joined the fan club as a charter member. So I received the official movie magazine, discounts, and limited-edition collector's lithograph with a scene from the first movie. But the biggest incentive, for those who joined as a charter member, being listed in the DVD versions of the films' credits. Peter Jackson honored the fans that supported his vision in a lasting way.

I don't remember when I joined or where I have my lithograph now. I didn't purchase anything with my discount. I never wrote to the stars of the films, which I should have done. The only thing I cared about was the way the director gave back to his fans. My name in the credits listed with other fans from around the world in all three films.

I watched the last film until the very end to see my name. While I don't remember details, I do remember watching the films in the theater with my family and friends. I remember the inspiration to write a book just like it. Most importantly, I remember being part of the journey.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

What if? - Sparking Ideas

The great thing for me about speculative fictions is that the possibilities are endless. The limit is only where your mind tells you to stop. As a writer, I have far too many ideas that will never come to fruition, simply because I don’t have the time. If we started to have 40 hour days, then I could make a dent in the virtual stack of ideas, but until then I will continue to fight off the need to start an new project before finishing my current WIP.

Since it is yard sale season right now, I have been stopping here and there to see what useless treasures I can find. Usually there are a bunch of books in a box for a quarter or some crappy kids toys that some child wants way too much for, or a box of trinkets that are either broken or from the 90’s – not a great decade for collectibles in my opinion. But then there is the prize, a little cup that looks so old and beat up that you are surprised it was never thrown out. What if you purchase the cup because it would look great on your antique side table and it turns out to be the holy grail? There is a story just waiting to be told.

At another yard sale, you buy some cheap looking water gun because your nephew would like it. What if it turns out to be some intergalactic ray gun that runs on the fear of the people around it? What if the little old lady at the yard sale is a spy and has been waiting for the gun to pick its new owner. You, as the new owner are bound to fight the forces of evil and have to try to instil fear in all those around you despite your bubblegum pink toenail polish and Minnie Mouse t-shirt. Your girl next door dimples don’t help either.

The possibilities are endless, you just have to open your mind to them.

The Manual of Detection

The Manual of Detection
Jedediah Berry
The Penguin Press NY
278 pages
Released 2009
ISBN 978-1-59420-211-7

What would happen if Franz Kafka wrote The Maltese Falcon, or The Big Sleep? We might have a story about a fastidious clerk working in a monolithic detective agency who is unexpectedly promoted to detective. He might set out to find the detective he clerks for, which of course would plunge him into the world of colorful and dangerous characters from the cases his detective is notorious for solving. This is the story Jedediah Berry tells in The Manual of Detection, a deliciously written novel set in a nameless city. Charles Unwin, with his bicycle and umbrella, navigates the rain-soaked dreamscape, where sleepwalkers throttle the streets. Where femmes, fatale and otherwise, deepen the mystery. Where carnival mirrors reflect the true state of things.

The main character, Charles Unwin, is a clerk, situated in the middle of the Agency. He is the clerk of the "detective's detective", Travis A. Sivart. Unwin has been, for the last several mornings, going to the train station to wait for the woman in the plaid coat and gray cap. We follow Unwin in his determination to straighten out what appears to be a mistake: his promotion to detective.

I love Unwin. He is precise where I am messy, determined where I am lax. But he is not severe. My favorite bit of revelation was his desire to slide across the floor in his stockinged feet. I had an image of Tom Cruise for a moment, but in a jacket and tie and trilby, carrying an umbrella with his toast.

While the award-winning novel is Berry’s first, written for his MFA thesis at Amherst College, his body of short work has not gone unnoticed. Stories have appeared in collections as diverse as The Chicago Review, Fairy Tale Review, La Petite Zine and Conjunctions. He is also an editor at Small Beer Books, an independent publishing house that took him in as an intern early in his writing career.

Berry’s narration flows like the rain out of the fountains in the continuous downpour. Backstory reads like present action. Sivart speaks in first person, as a proper hard-boiled detective should. Descriptions and elephants repeat as mirrors of memory.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

I Break for Book Sales

I'm in bargain book heaven right about now. Amazon's Kindle store is having an e-book sale called the Big Deal. Hundreds of titles have been marked down to $3.99 or less and my Kindle is filling up fast.

There's some great speculative fiction in there, including a few of my faves: Mark Hodder's The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack, Nicole Peeler's Tempest Rising, Leanna Renee Hieber's The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker, and Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel's Scion. There's even the Quirk Classics series of re-invented stories on sale for .99c, which means I finally got my (digital) copy of Android Karenina.

I've really been stocking up on random non-fiction because I'm a research fiend who's interested in almost every subject out there. Here are a few gems I just could not pass up for the price:

From Girl To Goddess - The Hero's Journey re-examined from the female perspective.

How To Do It: Guides to Good Living for Renaissance Italians - For the 16th century Martha Stewart.

Archimedes to Hawking: Laws of Science and the Great Minds Behind Them - Biographical tour of physics laws. Yes, I am that geeky.

The Words You Should Know to Sound Smart - If there's one thing I love as much as books, it's words.

The other reason my wallet will soon be much lighter and my shelves more crowded is the unfortunate bankruptcy of Borders. My local store is expecting to close shop in eight to ten weeks and it looks like most locations are liquidating all merchandise till the end.

It's hard to be excited about the upcoming deals when I feel a bit like a vulture preparing to strip someone's bones. I worked for Borders for several years in my early twenties, and I can say from experience that they were a company that took care of its employees better than most retail chains. The training and experience I learned during my time with Borders was invaluable and I truly sympathize with its employees.

But the fact is that it's happening, and I plan to take multiple trips to Borders over the next few weeks and blowing my budget every time. One thing I can't have too many of is journals, so that's something I'll definitely be looking for.

What do you hunt for when it comes to book bargains? Any thoughts or reflections on the end of Borders? 

Monday, July 25, 2011

What makes a weapon magical?

Currently I’m taking a great workshop about writing fight scenes presented by Rayne Hall. The section about magical weapons was of particular interest to my fantasy writing. I enjoy creating detailed weaponry for my stories. I was glad to know I’d previously done a good job, but like to know what criteria to consider when crafting new ones.

She discussed what would make a magical weapon believable. Firstly, it cannot be invincible, no matter how much it is touted to be that way. A weapon that can kill without challenge is boring. Considering specifics, I’ve changed her points into my own after reflecting upon my best magical weaponry creations. I encourage you to take her online writing workshops. They are very worthwhile, and she is a seemingly untiring source of motivation.

* The weapon is made from a solid, natural material: stone, wood, or bone.
* It may contain a crystal, or a precious or semi-precious stone, because these are well known to store and enhance all sorts of mystical energies.
* It has an elongated shape, like a wand or a staff, so the magician may use it aggressively like a gun, pointing at a target to fire.
* It can be of any size, but are often tiny like a piece of jewelry, in order to be carried easily.
* There is often a religious connection to the weapon: aligned with a goddess, created by a god or monks, or blessed by holy men.
* It is ancient, passed through generations.
* It can only be bestowed as a gift, not purchased.
* The creation of the weapon involved a ritual or sacrifice. 

* It is best to power a magical weapon through the skill of concentration. The magician must be trained, learn, and practice his/her ability to focus, even in battle. Mistakes lead to interesting plot twists.
* Injuries inflicted by a magical weapon may be invisible, which can provide interesting challenges for healers.
* Magical weapons often act slowly, producing affects hours or days later, when it may be too late to seek help.
* The weapon may affect the target's mind rather than his/her body.
* Many magical weapons can work on one of the four elements (earth, air, fire, water), essential qualities by which nature operates. For example, drying the stream as the affected takes a drink.
* The weapon can hit hidden targets, moving through or around obstacles.

Interesting complications:
* After being ritually charged, the weapon works only for a specific period, for so many days or until a certain lunar stage.
* The weapon may only work in the hands of certain people. I love Rayne’s examples for this: initiates of the order, male virgins, or post-menopausal crones. This can create interesting situations—if it works only in the hands of a male virgin, the enemy may send a seductress. I need to try that idea!
* Possibly the weapon works only if the user can hold a mental image of the target's face.
* The weapon may work only if the user is in an altered state of consciousness, like a trance. Hard to use in battle or while traveling!

Some of my most interesting magical weapons are paired or grouped, so they operate differently when separated from the mates, and are strengthened in the presence of the others. I particularly love the wandlore in the Harry Potter series. Each wand is of a unique combination (wood, core composition, length, and flexibility) to match perfectly with the personality of the witch or wizard.

Tell me about some of your favorite magical weapons.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Fairy Tales Can Come True...

Do you believe? Or do you think fairy tales are only for the young at heart?

Fairy tales have a way of unraveling age-old struggles about living and dying. I love the way they have a knack of showing us about ourselves, the bad and the good. My favorite fairy tale growing up was the Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Anderson, the original not the Disney version, where the reward of love came with the giving of yourself. Fairy tales are a wonderful way to teach children about life, but it’s also a way to remind us that we can triumph over evil, even with the misguided illusions that we carry about our frailties and inadequacies. Simplistic? Perhaps, but why do we have to make life so complicated?

I want to share with you “Zero,” a stop motion short film that has won the “Best Short Film” at the Naples International Film Festival and many other awards. It was created by Australian husband and wife film-making team Christopher and Christine Keseloz. It’s a dark fairy tale about a world where people are born into a numerical class system. Born with a zero on his chest, the hero faces a life filled with discrimination and bullying. I’ll stop here. Put your feet up, sit back and enjoy.

Zero from Zealous Creative on Vimeo.

What did you think? What was your favorite fairy tale growing up and what did you learn from it?

Till the next time,

Friday, July 22, 2011

As much as I love The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers is my favorite of the two. Normally the second film is worse than the first but not in this case. The first film focused more on internal matters between the characters and the one ring. They come together to destroy Sauron's ring by taking it to Mordor. The one ring influences Boromir and he attempts to take it from Frodo. In the end, Frodo and Sam split from their companions to continue the journey.

While the second film focused on external matters around the characters after they separate. The battles are larger and include more sides. The fellowship is split into three groups. Frodo and Sam are the first group. Then we have Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli. And finally the last group is Merry and Pippin. Their goal remains the same but they each take a different path to complete it.

On the surface, the battles fought do not connect to one another because the reason behind them is not the same. One is for revenge, another to save lives, and the last to keep the evil at bay. But they do connect because of the Fellowship. They are still working together. Their separate actions bring everyone together to save Middle Earth in the last film.

Join me next week for the last battle in The Return of the King.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Zombie P.I.

Zombie Private Eye – Nekropolis

I came across this great Zombie urban fantasy book while doing some research. Nekropolis is the story of Matt Richter, who is a Zombie P.I. who has to help a half vampire to recover a legendary artifact that will save the realm of Nekropolis, the city of the Dead. I love the fabulous sense of humor of author, Tim Waggoner, which offsets the horror of the zombies and other creepy elements.

It is the first book in a trilogy, so I am looking forward to the other two. It is published by a fairly new small press – Angry Robot. If you look them up, they have some pretty interesting spec fiction.

Since I am doing some Zombie research, are there any other books people would recommend?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Seeing More Red

One of the pleasures of discovering an author is discovering their favorites and influences. This has definitely been the case with Manual of Detection author, Jedediah Berry (I love his name!). Evidence from his novel reveals the expected Kafka (read in school) and Raymond Chandler (The Big Sleep, especially the movie). Reading interviews and his blog reveal other pleasantly surprising influences. Fairy tales, magical realism, and Italo Calvino can be added to the list. He got to tour Edward Gorey's house and used that as inspiration for one of his short stories -- appearing in the anthology Cape Cod Noir (next on my reading list).

One name that showed up as influential was Angela Carter. I'd never heard the name before and was curious. Can you say "Red Riding Hood meets the Werewolf"? Angela Carter is a late-century British author known for her gothic- surreal-protofeminine-magical realist fiction. Okay, so I made that up. I needed a basket to put all of her in. I've ordered a collection of her short stories and will report back when I've read a few. Meanwhile, there is a movie made from one of her short stories : The Company of Wolves. Anyone seen it?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Ridiculous Monsters

I get a kick out of monsters with funny names, so I've compiled a sampling of silly creatures that make me snigger like a pre-schooler. Enjoy!

Bunyip: Actually refers to a class of scary beasties described by Native Australians as massive, shaggy howlers that inhabit swamps and billabongs.

Missipissy: Native Americans of the Great Lakes region called this serpent Master of the Fishes.

Imdugud: An eagle-headed demon from ancient Mesopotamia, this kindly monster brought the rain in times of need.

Pukis (not to be mistaken with the Irish Pooka): For some reason, this eastern European creature flies in the air as a dragon, but takes the form of a big cat on the ground. It brings good luck to a household, often to the detriment of others.

To Fu: A glorious, color-changing bird of Chinese legend.

Kelpy/Kelpie: This shape-shifting Scottish water monster was most often seen in the form of a gray or black horse and was considered a portent of death by drowning.

Agog-Magog: This monster of Armenian legend has a name very similar to the biblical Gog and Magog, as well as Brut and Gogmagog from Britain.

Colo-Colo: A Chilean vampire that sucks a person's saliva until they're dried up.

Boobrie: Heh. A giant bird of Scottish folklore, it devoured anything that went to the water's edge of the loch that it inhabited.

Neugle/Nuggle/Noggle: Another malicious Scottish water horse that lured its victims to drown in lochs and rivers.

Fearsome Critters: I have to end with this fun bunch of tall tales from early US lumberjacks. They sure knew how to name the things that went bump in the night. Here are just a few of the best: Kickle Snifter, Gumberoo, Pigwiggen, Mugwump, Squonk, Whirling Wimpus, Snoligoster, Flitterick, Treesqueak and Shmoo. Just awesome.

What scary beasties just make you want to giggle?

Monday, July 18, 2011

Life after Critique

Have you ever had a critique that made you want to crawl under the covers and not come back out?  I imagine most writers (including me) have experienced this.  What could be worse than that?

Imagine it being on televised for everyone in America and Canada to see.  Imagine being criticized for your work - your masterpiece in front of a room full of other aspiring writers.  I personally think that’s (a little) worse than the nasty words on the paper questioning every word or every character thought or character action.  At least we can read it in the privacy of our own home with whatever comfort aid is the most soothing (wine, stiff drink, chocolate and hanky in hand).

Well I don’t generally watch much television, but “Master Chef” has me addicted.  It’s not about aspiring writers (thank goodness as I would never have the guts to do it, would you?)  Instead it features home-taught cooks for the opportunity to be a chef in one of Chef Gordon Ramsay’s famous restaurants.  These are not trained chefs, they have regular jobs like engineer or architect or tattoo artist that enjoy cooking and have aspirations of becoming a career chef.

Ramsay and his “mean” team as I like to call them, torment and scrutinize each of the cooks’ assignments and well, they get down right personal.  Ramsay’s comment on one dish was that it was like someone had taken a skin graft of his butt and that was what he was trying to force down.  “Dreadful” was his mutterings as he walked away.

Each week I tune in, not only to see Ramsay and his team tear a strip off another cook, but to see the cooks’ reactions to it.  Some are devastated and buckle under the harsh words, while others come out fighting and even more determined to show Ramsay.  Those are the ones that I find inspiring. 

Despite all the negativity, there is a happily ever after - unfortunately not for everyone, but a possibility for the last survivors.  I’ve watched a few of Ramsay’s shows and the “critiques” never let up, not until the end when he finally has kind words for the two standing at the end.  The cook that manages not to crack under the pressure and remain strong and gets stronger gets the ultimate prize - their dream job.  Would you be able to battle it out and stick it out to get your dream writing job?

Next time you get some harsh words about your writing, think long and hard about it and then thank the person for helping you get that thick skin and another step closer to your dreams.

Happy writing!

R.J. :)

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Plotting and Style

Besides a good plot, great characters and yada, yada, yada, sometimes what we need to get on with the writing is a good laugh. Here's one for you:

Plot Device from Red Giant on Vimeo.

Till next time,

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Fellowship of the Ring

The beauty of Aragorn and Legolas the film before my very eyes in Blu-ray high definition in 1080p on a 50 plus inch widescreen TV cannot be described fully. The Fellowship of the Ring continues to leave me in awe after watching it so many times. And the most surprising part this view, it felt like I never watched this movie before.

The world emerges in the first scene and you are sucked in. Almost every scene is flawless in HD. There is at least one grainy image and lighting problems. I don't remember the film having blue tint to many scenes. The sound effect and music is perfect throughout the film. I didn't turn on the surround sound. The speakers on the TV did a wonderful job. I'm not a fan of surround sound because they tend to hurt my ears. I may try it in the future on my second viewing.

I recommend everyone watch the extended version of the film at least once. I remember watching the extended edition years ago and thinking why did they add the extra parts. Now I can understand and love the filmmakers for their insight to include the scenes in. The added scene flesh out other characters struggles for future scenes. The first film has 30 minutes added on and they are on the second half of the film. This edition spreads the movie over two Blu-rays. It stops the movie at the right moment, so you can continue to the next disc at another time.

Next week, I will watch The Two Towers and hopefully include more helpful information. The fangirl in me took over for this film.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

RWA Conference 2011

This was my first year attending the RWA conference and I was fortunate that it was in New York. I’ve attended RT twice, so I thought I knew what to expect – I was so wrong. 2,400 women (mostly), great workshops, good friends and the opportunity to meet and speak with some wonderful authors – it was fantastic!

I think the highlight of the conference for me was listening to Keynote speaker, Sherrilyn Kenyon. If you have never heard her story, it is one of overcoming extreme obstacles. After listening to her speak there is no excuse for not pushing through. If she can do it after having such a difficult background, I need to forget about any excuses I have made and get my butt in the chair.

I was really surprised that the weather in New York was so mild. It wasn’t hot. It wasn’t humid. It was quite bearable, which was wonderful. I made it to most of the signings, which was overwhelming. I still bear some of the bruises from being whacked with boxes full of books. Being skinny would have been a major advantage in the crowds. Oh well, I got up close and personal with many, many women.

There was a lot of talk about self- publishing because of the recent success of some authors. A few years ago, self-publishing was such a dirty word. Now, a lot of authors are considering self-publishing their backlist and even some new books! My, how times have changed.

Well, I had an absolute blast! I wish I could say that I will be going again next year, but that is totally up in the air. Money, day job, limited vacation time – how annoying. If I make it again, I will at least have a better idea of how to get the most out of the conference.


Wednesday, July 13, 2011


For those days when you think that being an artist of any sort is a waste of time. For when you think there is too much going on to spend time at the keyboard. For all those days when you wonder why you are doing this crazy thing that no cares about.

Someone, somewhere needs you to continue, to believe in yourself, to imagine something greater that what you see in front of you, around you, on the news.

The world is what you imagine and believe it to be.

There are no limits to what you can imagine, so the world is only limited by what you believe and how you choose to limit it.

Where you hold your attention creates the world you live in, the world around you.

The present moment is where you create. You can't write in the past or in the future. All of what you do as a writer happens in the present moment. Expand it. Breathe in it. Thrive in it. This is your moment. And this. And this.

The only true influence we have is love. It is where our happiness is. Love what you do, who you are, all that you see and do. In this moment. Compliment the ordinary. Notice a little bit of everything everyday.

No one has any power that you don't give them. Empower what matters, what makes you happy.

If it doesn't work, stop. In this moment, right now. It's not worth it. You have the right to more than that. Love is bigger than that.


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Something About Werewolves

It's turning into a werewolf kind of month for me, so I'm just going with it. I started with last week's steampunk werewolf tale, Dead Iron, then moved on to Gail Carriger's fourth Alexia Tarabotti novel, Heartless. The werewolves in the Parasol Protectorate series are some of my favorites right now, and in case you missed my fangirl squealing last month, I'm really excited about the forthcoming graphic novels. You can imagine my delight when new character sketches were posted last week on Ms. Carriger's blog, which include images of the surly but lovable Lord Maccon.

Weres and other sundry shifters are definitely making a good showing throughout genre fiction, but it still seems like they take a backseat to the prevalent vampire. A common scenario even before the Twilight craze hit was the heroine's dilemma of making her romantic choice between these two supernatural species. I haven’t personally spent a lot of time debating this issue, but it still surprises me a little that vampires often come out on top here. What’s up with that?

I have to say, the influx of female werewolves in the market has been an enjoyable turn for what has historically been a male-dominated figure. Kelley Armstrong’s Elena Michaels and Carrie Vaughn’s Kitty Norville are two of my favorite urban fantasy characters and it’s just great to see more women getting in touch with their wild side. Here’s hoping we see this trend grow because were-chicks kick ass.

In the meantime, today’s release of The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan will have to hold me over. From the looks of it, this dark tale will be a wonderfully terrifying addition to the genre. Check out the trailer:

Here's a few must-haves for werewolf fans:

Dog Soldiers - Described by the film’s makers as a soldier movie that happens to have werewolves, this one is the best showing scary weres have made in a long time, IMO.

Autobiography of a Werewolf Hunter - This graphic novels rocks and Sylvester James is totally awesome. That is all.

She-Wolf Website - A go-to for unique and informative perspectives. Hannah is also fun to stalk on Twitter.

Six Moon Summer  - An indie treat from April that will not disappoint.

So let’s here it - who’s your favorite werewolf? Any resources you’d like to share?

Monday, July 11, 2011

Does fantasy take you anywhere?

Since this is my first post on The Speculative Salon, I thought I should introduce myself.

I’m Marsha A. Moore and I write fantasy romance. I prefer high fantasy or epic fantasy, but will dabble in paranormal or urban fantasy once in a while. Many days I feel akin to a Reese’s bar, wondering whether I got fantasy in my romance or romance in my fantasy. The latter wins out most times, since I tend to use romance only as a device to show more dimensions of my characters, reaching a bit further inside them emotionally. I need to know why, in their hearts, my characters are driven to complete their fantasy quests.

Otherwise, I’m delighted to live in Tampa after escaping from Ohio two years ago. I aspire to be a beach bum and often take pencil and paper there for long afternoons of fun. My fantasy worlds are often inspired by nature around me while cycling, kayaking or at the beach, like in my mermaid series. Tears on a Tranquil Lake is currently available, Tortuga Treasure coming in January, and Teega’s Tallion in the works to end the collection. I confess to being a yoga addict, and that level of inner discovery, mysticism, or spirituality also influences the fantasy worlds of my books and stories. I’m drawing much from those aspects of my life in an epic tale beginning release late this fall, The Enchanted Bookstore.

I’m pleased to have a few days a month to ramble here about my views on fantasy. Since I talked a lot about me, today I have something shorttwo quotes about fantasy I find interesting.

Fantasy is an exercise bicycle for the mind. It might not take you anywhere, but it tones up the muscles that can.” ~Terry Pratchett

Fantasy mirrors desire. Imagination reshapes it.” ~Mason Cooley

Like I said, I do enjoy exercise, so activity to work my mind sounds pleasant. However, Pratchett’s statement could easily apply to working math problems…ugh, not at all the same to me. Mathematicians may argue that the end result produces a product of value, thus it takes you somewhere. According to Cooley, fantasy lets you imagine your desires; you travel to a world of your making, one you desire. 

Is an imaginary world a real destination?

What do you think…does fantasy take you anywhere? 

Art credit: Michael Giedrojc

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Interview with Award-winning author Mary Buckham - Part Two

This is part two of the interview with Mary Buckham, author of Break Into Fiction©. Let's get right to it.

Does every book have to open in a sensational way? And are YA books getting more and more sensational?

****I would not necessarily use the word sensational because that tends to sound a little extreme and does not seem appropriate for all genres and sub-genres of fiction. What’s ‘sensational’ in a light YA is not sensational in an edgy YA or a Thriller or Paranormal. But yes, every story needs to start engaging the reader right from the get go. I read a great comment the other day where someone said, “nobody judges a book on page 342”.

Here’s an exercise I have students in my Pacing workshop try. Next time you visit a book store, or library, or have some time to troll Amazon, read only the first line in books you’d normally NOT read. Stop after that first line and ask yourself would you buy that book based on that line? See how many books it takes you to find a published novel that engages you with that first line. That author knows how to engage or hook you.

IF you are still engaged by the end of the first page it’s most likely you will buy the book [if you are the average reader looking for a book to read – we as writers tend to choose books differently so we’re not the average reader]. That’s how editors/agents read our first pages. They read further IF they are not hooked to see if you started the story in the wrong place [a common occurrence because what we as writers need to discover about our character is not necessarily what the reader needs to discover in the opening of our story]. I hope this helps.

Sensational? Only if the genre calls for it. But then what’s sensational today quickly becomes the norm for tomorrow’s readers. So engage yes. Hook, yes. And the sooner the better. As for YA books getting more and more sensational again I’m not sure that’s the word I might pick to describe the growth and trend in YA writing.

What I have seen is an explosion in opportunity with a core reader base that has more and more choices available to them. When that happens the so-so stories, or the ones that sound like the last five books a reader has read, will be culled, and editors and agents are readers. As I travel around the U.S. and Canada to teach I’ve seen a huge shift in what writers are writing.

One of those shifts has been those writers who write YA. Five years ago maybe 10-15% of an audience wrote in that genre. Now? Easily 50-70% of a group. So the competition of new books into the hands of editors and agents means they can be pickier about what they will and won’t accept. What made it through the slush pile a few years ago might not even hit the radar today. It’s the nature of the business. So I would say the bar has risen for YAs as it has in Paranormals in the last few years.

Do you know how many of your students have “broken into fiction” or have been published?

**** I’m delighted to say quite a few! Each Break Into Fiction© workshop averages from 10 participants [if I’m teaching alone] to up to 20-22 [when Dianna and I taught together] and we’ve done probably a dozen events in total. Of those participants usually 3-5 per event were published authors [some with 20, 40 or 70 books to their name]. Those authors were looking for a more consistent way to create new work while juggling the demands of promoting their current novels. Some writers in each group were very new to writing and for them, as well as others, understanding the structure of story without having to write several books to get the basics, probably cut years off their learning curve.

What we’ve seen is that those participants in the earliest groups – which means they’ve had time to write their stories, submit them and get through the submission process – we’ve seen a good dozen folks not only get contracts but get multiple contracts – two and three book deals – which is so super cool. Others have landed agents because their novels are so much stronger.

Attending a Break Into Fiction© two-day plotting event is hard work. It’s very intense and you literally walk through your novel from beginning to end and back again – several times. Most writers are used to learning in much smaller chunks of time. An hour here, two hours there. A paragraph here, a page there. So the commitment and focus can be daunting. There’s never any guarantee with our writing. I wish there was, but I do believe that those students who have broken into fiction as a result of taking a Break Into Fiction© workshop did so because their story structures were taken to a new level. One that made them saleable.

Is there an age range for establishing a career in writing. What if a writer is in their 50’s or 60’s? What approach should they take?

*** I’d take the same approach as I would at any other age. Go for it! Don’t let age or the lack of age or any other issue give you an excuse to NOT create a career you want. But be prepared to know what it is you really want. Any ‘career’ takes energy and commitment. Not all writers want to make that kind of commitment but want to write for other reasons. For enjoyment. To get one specific story on the page. As a hobby. There’s nothing wrong with any of these reasons. But don’t kid yourself – at any age – that just because you’ve written a book means you’ll have a career. It may mean you have a publishable book.

The average length of time it takes to get published [in traditional print format] has increased over the last ten years from 7.2 years to nearly 12.8 years. This is an average from the time one starts writing with the goal of publication in mind. If you are a writer that might take 2-3 years to write one book or are working on the same book after 10 years you might find a career as a published author more challenging if you start mid-life. But just because something is a challenge is not a reason not to go for it.

Writing a publishable novel is not for wussies. It’s hard, hard work. So whatever age you might be – know yourself, know how hard you want to work and what you’re willing to do [study, make a home office, write when you don’t feel like writing, etc.] and what you’re willing to give up [watching favorite TV shows, family time, other interests in order to get pages written].

Will you have the templates from the book available for download on the internet?”

***No. That’s the short and long answer. They are available in e-format now but our contract with our publisher expressly forbids us from sending any templates out in electronic format. So even when we do teach the Break Into Fiction© plotting retreats and have students complete two of the templates before class begins, I mail out hard copies. Sorry!

You have an intuitive, direct and very craft oriented style of teaching. The intuitive and forthright nature is part of your make up, but how did you discover your approach to novel writing?

I guess the answer is I discovered my approach through trial and error. They say an expert is someone who’s made every mistake at least once and learned from it and boy that learning curve can seem steep at times. When I started writing I had five children under the age of ten at home. I had to learn how to write fast and write well at the same time. Thinking was at a premium, much less creating time to write. Teaching came later. I never set out to teach but I do like to share J if for no other reason than to make the journey toward publication and beyond easier for someone else.

There were some amazing people who helped me on my journey. Who talked with me or looked at my writing or just said “I believe in you” when I wanted to throw my hands up. I love learning and I love sharing that while I can. I believe Story is valuable to our survival as a species. Because I believe this I’m willing to share with others. Plus it’s fun . As for my approach to novel writing I’ve been willing to try lots of different approaches – plotting, pantsing, knowing lots, jumping in with little, starting at the beginning, starting at the end or the middle and I figure that even if the story didn’t work or didn’t go to print I learned something in the process. Don’t be afraid of the page. It’s malleable and can be changed if it’s not working. Be willing to make mistakes because that’s where we learn and have fun in the process.

I hope this helps. Thanks, Elizabeth, for the questions – they stretched the brain cells which is super cool!!

Happy writing to all ~~ Mary B

Thank you Mary for taking the time to go into such great detail. It's been very helpful. Savvy Authors will be running this interview on Monday, June 11 and Tuesday, June 12.

Till next time,


Mary Buckham is an award-winning romantic-suspense author and co-author of BREAK INTO FICTION™: 11 Steps to Building a Story That Sells who, before becoming published in book-length fiction was a freelance article writer, selling hundreds of articles to local, regional, and national publications. She was also an editor of a regional magazine. Mary co-founded an online educational resource for writers and is a sought-after speaker and writing craft teacher for both online and in live presentations throughout the United States and Canada. For more on Mary visit or

Thanks to Laurel Wilczek, Mary Lou Cassotto, Ree McDowell, Robin Yaklin, Alice, Shelley Souza for their questions.

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