Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Review of Writing Active Setting by Mary Buckham

Writing the right amount of description to evoke a world  where characters live and breathe can be a bugaboo for writers.  Either we put too much setting in that has nothing to do with anything and the reader dozes off, puts the book down (heaven forbid), or skips to where the story is unfolding. There’s also the flip side of too much and that’s too little. This dilemma could lead the reader to develop the Goldilocks’s syndrome, only reading books that are just right. Heh. I wouldn’t blame them. Would you?

As a writer, I wanted to know how to write settings that would drop my readers smack in the middle of a world they’ve never been to and never want to leave. I was lucky to participate in a workshop taught by Mary Buckham about writing active settings.  She has a busy schedule now and doesn’t teach as often. By busy, I mean, she’s writing her own stories and being a USA bestselling and People’s Choice author.  Yay! She’s walking the walk.

Anyway, she has a new print and ebook of “Writing Active Setting – The Complete How-To Guide.”  It’s a lifesaver for beginning, as well as advanced writers.  This has all three of the Writing Active Setting books: Book 1 -  Characterization and Sensory Detail, Book 2 -  Emotion, Conflict and Back Story, Book 3 - Anchoring, Action, as a Character and More.  Plus Mary has added bonus material all on hooks.  What I personally love about this complete guide is everything is in one place.  The real winner of the books are the examples from a slew of well-known authors which Mary has deconstructed.  Each line is analyzed, so you understand what the author was going for.  But she doesn’t stop there, Mary writes a hypothetical first draft and a second draft that the author might have started with, so you can see the progression.  It makes it easy to grab hold of the concept and learn how these great authors write active settings. 

The following is from the book description of what you will learn:

* Discover the difference between Ordinary Setting that bogs down your story, and Active Setting that empowers your story.

* See how to spin boring descriptions into engaging prose.

* Learn to deepen the reader's experience of your story world through sensory details.

* Notice how changing characters' POV can change your setting.

* Explore ways to maximize the setting possibilities in your story.

* Learn to use Setting to quickly anchor the reader into the world of your story.

* Use Setting as movement through space effectively.

* Explore Setting in a series.

* Find Out the most common Setting pitfalls.

These books go straight to the point, putting theory in plain language, adding examples from authors in a variety of genres, and finishes each section with exercises designed to help you work with your Setting in a way that will excite you. . .and your readers!”                                                                   

USA Today Bestselling author Mary Buckham credits her years of international travel and curiosity about different cultures that resulted in creating high-concept urban fantasy and romantic suspense stories. Her newest Invisible Recruit series has been touted for the unique voice, high action and rich emotion. A prolific writer, Mary also co-authors the young adult sci-fi/fantasy Red Moon series with NYT bestseller Dianna Love.

Mary lives in Washington State with her husband and, when not crafting a new adventure, she travels the country researching settings and teaching other writers.   Please visit Mary's website for more information.


If you want to soar, I highly recommend “Writing Active Settings – The Complete How-To Guide.”   Do you have a way of writing settings that you can share?

Till next time,

E. W.



Friday, February 21, 2014

There is Always Time to Read

I started to believe I would never have time to read books again. There never seems to be enough time to sit down and read a book with everything going on. Yet, I manage to read the newspaper during my meals and I read FB posts on my phone before bedtime. I decided to use those times to read books again. And with that thought, I'm reading Thieftaker by D.B. Jackson currently. Even if it is just half an hour, I'm reading pages during that time. And because I love goodreads' widgets so much, here is my current reading list and to-read list.

Marilyn's bookshelf: currently-reading

0 of 5 stars
tagged: currently-reading

Marilyn's bookshelf: to-read

The Griffin Mage
0 of 5 stars
tagged: to-read
Dragon Keeper
0 of 5 stars
tagged: to-read
0 of 5 stars
tagged: to-read

If I enjoy the first book in each series, then I will continue to read all books in the series. Then I will continue on to the next book in my list. It's all planned for me. No thinking is needed. But what about you? Do you have a list, or do you decide on which book to read next when you are done reading a book? If you have any tips on fantasy books, please pass it along.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Where the light comes in....

Met a woman, a few weeks ago, who is revising her photography career.  In our chat, I happened on the concept of how photography happens.  How it is a matter of light. She is looking at photography as a healing practice, moving away from the emphasis on technology and on inner movement. 

She got me thinking of the nature of light and sight. And wondering what other perceptions might happen when you don't have sight, when you are surrounded by light but don't have the means to perceive it. The normal way.  I am still thinking about that.

Part of the conversation included someone asking if her photography was spiritual, used just the mind and body.  That got me thinking....

Then I remembered. I remembered reading a cool story that I did not understand most of. It's called "The Blind Geometer" by Kim Stanley Robinson.

I work with kids with special needs of all kinds.  Reading this story, when I did, helped expand my recognition of what is possible. Ask the parents of my kiddos and you might hear that echoed in how I treat their kids.  I expect them to be more than their disabilities. Not just to look past them, but to look through them to see what else might be possible.

For one, it was seeing through to the possibility of life in space. Confined to a wheel chair and held captive by gravity, how might he be perfect in the realm of no gravity.  He did inspire a flash fiction piece. I inspired him to read more, to engage math and science through reading: Rowling of course, then Crichton. He was heading to U.C.Davis when I saw him last. 

This is where and how the light comes in, by seeing with more than our eyes, and looking at more than what the light reveals.  Who have you seen inspired by what they have learned to see differently?  What writers have you seen influencing friends and family? Any recommendations?

Monday, February 17, 2014

An Urban Fantasy TV Poll

Spent most of last week stuck indoors due to what Hubs likes to call 'snowmageddon', the winter storm that dropped a heap of snow and ice here in the Carolinas. We love snow, so we were pretty happy about it, but severe weather is kind of rare here and driving becomes impossible. So it was the perfect time to curl up next to the fire and get caught up on some reading and TV.

One show I was excited to pick back up was Lost Girl since the third season was recently added to Netflix's streaming videos. I'm usually behind on most shows because we rely on just Hulu and Netflix (no cable for us), and we have to wait for certain programs to become available for viewing on either of those or the network website. I was so psyched about the new SyFy show, Bitten (based on one of my favorite urban fantasy series, Kelley Armstrong's Women of the Underworld) but that's another one like Lost Girl that I won't have the pleasure of seeing until a later release date. Note: the episodes are on the SyFy site, but you still need a cable subscriber code to watch - lame.

Anyway, I'm loving Lost Girl, and coincidentally I came across this poll of (current) urban fantasy shows on the Spoiler TV site which naturally included several that I watch. The results of that poll so far are a little surprising to me, especially that Lost Girl ranks number four (awesome!) as I didn't realize it was that well known or popular. It was great to see Sleepy Hollow near the top of the list as that's another one we both like, and it films in our neck of the woods too. I haven't seen Haven, but I'm somewhat shocked it made it in the poll over Warehouse 13 or Arrow, so maybe I need to check it out.

My top five would look like this:
1. Lost Girl
2. Sleepy Hollow
3. Walking Dead (I'm counting this one, deal with it)
4. Warehouse 13
5. Being Human

Of course, I'm hoping Bitten will make the cut, and that this version of Elena will be as fun and captivating as Lost Girl's Bo, but we'll have to see. Looking at the current line up also reminds me just how much I miss certain shows that have ended already - Buffy, Fringe and Dead Like Me come to mind.

So, do you agree with the Spoiler TV poll, or do you have your own order of UF TV greatness? (feel free to tell me how wrong I am, LOL) Let me know which show is your fave or if there are any new series in the works you're looking forward to - maybe something based on Neil Gaiman's American Gods for instance (total swoon).


Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Loving it all over again

I was listening to an essay by Tor's Jo Walton from her collection What Makes This Book So Great.  she writes about why she re-reads certain books and it got me thinking about the same thing.  Problem is, I don't really like to re-read books.  I get it the first time and move on.  Most of the time.

For example.  Did the obligatory re-reading of Lord of the Rings when the movie was about to come out.  It went ok.  Liked some of the parts that didn't end up in the movie.  Was not disappointed by the Treebeards, of course. Or the first appearance of Viggo-- I mean, Strider. Passed on The Hobbit, though.  I'm past my High Fantasy reading skills.  Read it for the first time when it came out and I don't think it will ever have the same feel for me again.  Well, except for the barrel escape scene.  I can do that again.  Maybe.

And that is it, the reason I revisit old stories.  There are moments in them that I remember and want to meet with again.  Rarely is it the writing.  Or the whole of the story.  And again, there are exceptions.  Asimov's cyborg detective remains an inspiration for how to blend genres and still manage to say something important.  Rowling is also someone I can listen to again (re-reading for those of us who prefer the audio versions).  It was several listenings before I stopped getting teary at Neville's meager ten points for Gryffyndor in the first book.  Or my cheering when the Weasley twins decide they have had enough school.  No, wait. When McGonagall tells Peeves it goes the other way.

I also recently went back into Zelazny's world of Amber and its Nine Princes.  I was a little disappointed. Why? Because it's a period piece.  It is more obviously written by a man than Asimov's books are, for example.

Are there more recent books or authors I'd be tempted to reread?  Yes. Now that I think about it, there are a few. Why?  Mostly because they have brought something new to my reading.  A new presentation of a trope is the usual reason.  How many ways are there to present fairies?  Or werewolves and zombies?

I am more likely to reread revisions.  What?  How many ways have we seen Red Riding Hood?  I can read more of those.  Or Sleeping Beauty?  Re-telling is the better term. Revealing elements of the world of he original story or connecting the past with the present in a new way.  That is what excites me.  Bringing the world into a different perspective.  Rowling does that.  Zelazny did that.  Asimov does that.  Even Tolkein did that.

So, what brings you back to old favorites?  How do you know your heart will still skip a beat when the story gets to THAT particular part?  Which covers show how comfortable you have become in your relationship?

Rituals and Writing

For most folks, practicing a ritual means to reap a certain result. Sometimes it seems superstitious, like basketball player, Michael Jordan wearing his North Carolina shorts underneath his Chicago Bulls shorts for every game. Sometimes it seems mystical, like Author, Steven Pressfield invoking the spirit of creativity by reciting Homer’s Invocation of the Muse.  Other times it seems unusual, strange even funny.  Hemingway pounded away on a typewriter standing up, while Capote wrote lying down and in longhand.  Some writers, like John Cheever and Victor Hugo found writing in their underwear or in the nude beneficial. Hmmmm.

In an article in the Scientific American titled "Why Rituals Work," it said, “Despite the absence of a direct causal connection between the ritual and the desired outcome, performing rituals with the intention of producing a certain result appears to be sufficient for that result to come true.” Basically, you could do anything as part of ritual, as long as you repeated the action each time you did it.

For me, I’ll go as far as writing in my pajamas but not my underwear. I will play a piece of music over and over again both for when I’m painting and when I’m writing a scene. It drives my hubby crazy, but it puts me into a kind of trance like state. Doesn’t happen all the time, but when it does, I love the results. 

Do you have a ritual that gets you going?

Till next time,




Monday, February 3, 2014

Writers Online Pitch Event and Musical Inspiration

As usual, I'm modding some really cool writing workshops this month on the Savvy Authors website, including a fascinating study of Alpha Babes with Pamela Jaye Smith that will surely produce some soon-to-be awesome heroines for any genre. Even more exciting is the month-long event Prepare, Pitch and Publish, which features several mini workshops, pitch practice with feedback from peers and instructors, and a chance to present your polished pitches to agents and editors. It's an amazing opportunity, so all you writers out there get on over to Savvy Authors and get your pitch on!

Personally, I'm expecting a very creative and productive February as I close in on the final chapters of my PNR project, Rising Fire, while also jumping into the planning stages for the urban fantasy I'll be writing during the March-April Editor's Blueprint event. I'm already having a Devics kind of week, and I suspect their albums will be my musical muse for the coming weeks - haunting and romantic. In case any of you aren't familiar with them, here's a video. Love them, love the song, love the video. Have a great month!

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