Friday, September 12, 2014

Interviewing Graeme Ing

Hey all! Misha here. Remember me? Yep. I'm still around. Nope, the shoes haven't yet caused my demise. I am just incredibly busy at this time, since our first big shipment has arrived and we're unpacking it.

Still, I'm taking break from all that to host my Untethered Realms buddy Graeme Ing for an interview as part of his blog tour for his newest book.

Welcome to the Five Year Project, Graeme. First things first. Tell us a bit more about yourself.

Thank you for inviting me, Misha. Born in England, I've been living in San Diego in the U.S. for 18 years now, with my wife, Tamara, and six cats. I must say that the climate here is very agreeable. I'm a software engineering manager by day, but my passion is writing and exploring. Apart from traveling the world whenever I can, I'm an avid mountaineer (from my armchair!), and student of famous explorers. I dabble in astronomy, piloting, map making and navigation. It should come as no surprise then, that my favourite part of writing is creating exotic worlds and characters. Speculative-fiction is a real passion for me.

Another cat person! (I have five cats.) How did you get into writing originally?

I've been scribbling stories since before I was a teenager. I even typed screenplays on a manual typewriter. I blame my mother for introducing me to Tolkien and McCaffrey at an early age! Seems like being a storyteller was my destiny (said in my best Darth Vader voice). It's a shame that I never did anything with my writing until about eight years ago when I finally decided to pursue being a published author. I've got a lot of ground to make up. Thankfully I have hundreds of plot ideas.

Sounds a lot like me, growing up. What inspired you to write Necromancer?

Great question. For years I'd had this idea of a girl wanting to be a necromancer. At the same time, I'd developed this sarcastic character who believed he could defeat anything. His voice was so clear in my head, begging to be written. Since one of my favourite fantasy series are Fritz Leiber's Lankhmar books, I wanted to design a brooding metropolis that I could write lots of books about. Then, while finishing my first book, I had this idea for a secret society holding the city to ransom. All these pieces slotted together rapidly to become Necromancer, and if you read it then you'll see how. :) Many of my book ideas come to me in pieces like that. I plan to write more books in this city, some about the characters from Necromancer, and some about totally new characters.

I just love that aspect to writing fantasy, creating a setting that seems to come alive on its own. What's your favorite thing to focus on in world building?

I love a setting that comes alive! My favourite thing is to draw maps, be they of the Kingdom, the world or even just a city. That's me - I love maps. What I focus on though is culture. For "Necromancer" for example: Why was the city built here? What is the weather like? That determines the types of buildings they have. Who lives in it, what races? How are they governed? What are the exports and imports of the city? How do people travel? Horses, carts, flying creatures, magic? What do they eat and drink? Do they worship Gods? Every city has low-life and slum areas, so what are they like? What peculiar customs are there, like greeting someone? What laws? And so on. It's so much fun layering up all this in the context of the story(s) I want to tell. Then I have to resist dumping all this super information into the book, but instead dribble it in bit by bit, adding flavour to my characters and plot. You can see why I say that I "engineer" worlds. :)

That's definitely my focus as well when I do world building. History and culture. I can spend ages exploring my fantasy worlds through stories, but then, I'd probably end up boring my readers. ;-)

Now please do tell us what Necromancer is about and where people can find it!

Perhaps I can cheat and include the book's blurb?

A primeval fiend is loose in the ancient metropolis of Malkandrah, intent on burning it to a wasteland. The city's leaders stand idly by and the sorcerers that once protected the people are long gone.

Maldren, a young necromancer, is the only person brave enough to stand against the creature. Instead of help from the Masters of his Guild, he is given a new apprentice. Why now, and why a girl? As they unravel the clues to defeating the fiend, they discover a secret society holding the future of the city in its grip. After betrayals and attempts on his life, Maldren has reason to suspect everyone he thought a friend, even the girl.

His last hope lies in an alliance with a depraved and murderous ghost, but how can he trust it? Its sinister past is intertwined in the lives of everyone he holds dear.

Can only evil defeat evil?

It has a host of nasty creatures lurking in and below the streets of the city. Being a Necromancer certainly is a dangerous job! But it's not all grim - there's some romance in there too. It's out from August 23rd on all ebook formats and paperback. Just check your preferred online retailer.

Great! Let's finish up with something positive. What's the best piece of writing advice you have for new writers?

Write as often as you can, no matter how little, even 500 words a day. Don't listen to the naysayers, don't listen to the myriad of internal fears (all authors have them, you're not alone), and don't get dismayed by slow progress, other people's success or things like marketing. Just write. Write for yourself. Write what you like to read. You can do it. Just keep writing. Good luck, and tell me when your first book comes out!

Thanks so much Graeme! It's always a blast to chat with you. 

Graeme Ing engineers original fantasy worlds, both YA and adult, but hang around, and you’ll likely read tales of romance, sci-fi, paranormal, cyberpunk, steampunk or any blend of the above.

Born in England in 1965, Graeme moved to San Diego, California in 1996 and lives there still. His career as a software engineer and development manager spans 30 years, mostly in the computer games industry. He is also an armchair mountaineer, astronomer, mapmaker, pilot and general geek. He and his wife, Tamara, share their house with more cats than he can count.

You can find him at: 

Monday, September 8, 2014

M. Pax: Caffeine Free Takes Practice

Vincent van Gogh's Four Cut Sunflowers Painting
Four Cut Sunflowers by Vincent van Gogh.
In Memoriam: Tina Downey

Caffeine Free Takes Practice

Displaying bigstock-Close-Up-Fresh-Coffee-Bean-In--67713217bp.jpgAdding to the skill set as a writer takes a lot of practice, but it can be done.

I recently had to give up all caffeine — coffee, decaf, and tea, plus limit my chocolate. Ouch, that last one hurts.

At first it seemed impossible. I was so groggy in the morning. Ginger plus a lemon ginger, yeah double-barreled ginger, did a good job of raising my eyebrows every morning. Then I found a nice cocoa tea. It had a teensy bit of caffeine, but not enough to cause me problems.

After two months of caffeine free, I noticed something remarkable. I could drink any herbal tea in the morning. I don’t need it to wake up. The afternoon crash doesn’t happen anymore. I’m more awake without caffeine than I was with it.

Learning new writing skills works similarly. Conscious effort goes into it at the beginning. After time, it becomes more ingrained. I find some become part of my repertoire easier than others.

Some new skills work out great, some not so great. I noticed some rules, if I used them too much, took away my voice. So I eased up on those. I.e., writing without any form of the verb ‘to be’. It made me sound mechanical. Striking a balance improved my writing and retained my voice. So I chose balance.

Outlining extensively from the beginning doesn’t work for me. I did find a compromise, though. Why? I can write faster and keep the story on track better. Before I start, I write a tagline, a rough blurb, and each of the main characters’ arcs. Those bits are written on the page before chapter 1. If I can outline the next 2-3 chapters with quick sentences, it can also help me write faster and better. So I now incorporate these tools.

I find reading a really rich writer’s work helps me improve my writing too. It inspires me, and I’ll work to emulate what I like about his/her writing. It’s always good to stretch our writing muscles.

One bad habit I constantly have to keep my eye on: I’m a recovering that-aholic. Do you have a writing nemesis like ‘that’?

What would you like to improve? Being more organized from the start is still new for me. Character and emotions are something I always strive to keep upping the ante on.

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Rifters blurb:

The Gold Rush trickles to a fool’s quest and a string of stagecoach heists. In 1888, Earl Blacke decides to make a new start and become a better man. He escapes into the mountains, heading north. In the wilds of Oregon, a rift inside an ancient volcano opens and sends him into the future, into the present day. It also shaves forty years off his age, forty years to live over again and atone for what he’s done.

Starting over is hard to do. In current day New York, Daelin Long’s dream job at a publishing house goes the way of the dinosaurs her sister chases. With no money and nowhere else to go, Daelin accepts the librarian position in her sister’s dinky town in the middle of Oregon. Nestled inside ancient volcanic peaks, the town of Settler holds onto many secrets. Residents roam the streets with weirdly fashioned devices, and odd lights pulse in the night skies. People whisper of a phantom outlaw and start dying, murdered and missing their heads. On top of it all, Daelin’s sister is missing, and Daelin doesn’t know who to trust.

Earl knows more than he’s saying. He shares a notorious history with the phantom, one he’ll see remains buried. Keeping Daelin’s sister’s secrets is his only chance at redemption, and the only way to keep this world safe.

Displaying The Initiate bp.jpg

Try book one for free!

Download from: Amazon / AmazonUK / B&N / Smashwords /Googleplay / iTunes / Other

Take advantage of the preorder special on book 2, The Initiate. Only 99 cents via preorder from Amazon, iTunes, B&N, and Googleplay. Preorder

Author Bio

Displaying MPax1.jpg
M. Pax-- Fantasy, science fiction, and the weird beckons to her, and she blames Oregon, a source of endless inspiration. She docents at Pine Mountain Observatory in the summers, and one of her cats has a crush on Mr. Spock. You can find out more by visiting her website:

Friday, August 29, 2014

Update Day

Well. Short story is that I haven't done a single thing towards my writing/editing goals this month. Shoes are controlling my life! So much so that I'm literally stealing a few minutes just so I can post this update.

Still, this won't be going on.

First thing I want to do: Finish Critiquing Alex.
Second Thing: Finish edits to The Heir's Choice. 
Third Thing: Survive the next month on both edits and the shoes.

How did your August go?

Monday, August 25, 2014

C. Lee McKenzie on The Seven Don'ts of Storytelling

I’ve made long lists of “What Not To Do” that I use to help me when I’m writing/rewriting a manuscript. Some items are easy to track down and fix; others take some time and possibly a keen-eyed, critical reader. Here are seven DONT’S that I think are very important.

1. Don’t use twenty words when ten will do.

Poor writing is caused when writers don’t use effective sentence structures that have been proven to produce excellent prose.


Not using effective sentence structures produces poor writing.

A lot of that poor sentence structure (what readers often diagnose as “awkward” prose) is the use of passive voice. That means you’ve buried the subject of the sentence at the end, put the object in the subject position, and used the BE Verb + the past participle instead of a strong active verb. Arrrg! It works in academic prose (I think to impress) or legalese (I’m sure to confuse), but not in fiction.

2. Don’t make your reader guess who this story is going to be about and why s/he should care about them. Make those characters want or need something as soon as possible.

Make it clear that Hildegarde Pink is the MC and she wants to climb that mountain. Or that Dirk Brainwave is the hero and he’s on the way to rescue his true love.

Then drop the bomb. Hildegarde is crippled and can’t walk. Dirk’s in jail and there’s no way he’ll get out in time to save that girl.

3. Don’t focus on minor characters just get the backstory in, especially at the beginning of your book. The start should always be about forward movement.

4. Don’t write dialogue that doesn’t have a purpose. Dialogue should

• reveal something about the character(s)

• move the story forward

• create tension

5. Don’t start your story in humdrum places with humdrum situations. These I’ve listed have been so overused that unless you’re doing a parody of bad starts, avoid them:

• in front of a mirror

• waking from a dream

• dressing for a night out, school whatever

6. Don’t let your middle sag.

This is not personal. This is about writing, and this is a difficult part. Even if your characters are amazing and your plot stunning, you’ve got to keep the pacing up. If you’ve got a ticking clock, shorten the time, delay the hero. If you’ve got your quest underway and all is going smoothly, send in the super villain and mess things up.

7. Don’t fall into the “and then” trap.

“I glanced at the clock and my teacher scowled. Then I pretended to be doing the assignment. After that I turned in my paper and left.” We need to know what people do in the story, but not in this flat, linear, uncreative way. Besides, what did all of that glancing, scowling, turning in, and leaving do to reveal more about the character or create interest in the story?

I’m sure you all have your own checklist. What do you think is important to keep track of when you’re trying to decide what’s wrong with a story?”

C. Lee McKenzie is a native Californian who grew up in a lot of different places; then landed in the Santa Cruz Mountains where she lives with her family and miscellaneous pets. She writes most of the time, gardens and hikes and does yoga a lot, and then travels whenever she can. 

She takes on modern issues that today's teens face in their daily lives. Her first young adult novel, Sliding on the Edge, which dealt with cutting and suicide was published in 2009. Her second, titled The Princess of Las Pulgas, dealing with a family who loses everything and must rebuild their lives came out in 2010. Her short story,Premeditated Cat, appears in the anthology, The First Time, and her Into the Sea of Dew is part of a collection, Twoand Twenty Dark Tales. In 2012, her first middle grade novel, Alligators Overhead, came out. Double Negative is her third young adult novel.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Ian Bott on The Shifting Sands of Blogdom

When I entered the blogging world six years ago, first as a lurker and occasional commenter, then with a blog of my own, I was looking for information and advice. I lapped up posts on the writing craft. I devoured advice on querying and looking for agents and publishers. I followed endless numbers of blogs by big name agents, and then started hanging out with other writers.

The blogging world was alive with posts, comments, awards, tags, and blogfests. Then, maybe two or three years ago, I noticed things started changing. Once-vibrant well-known sites like Query Shark, The Public Query Slushpile, The Intern, and Flogging the Quill, are either dormant or very quiet. Many writers' blogs I follow that used to be hives of activity have either slowed or died.

I've seen a spate of posts recently about this topic, so I don't want to rehash old news. I'm looking for hope and positive thoughts in all of this and I'd love to hear your collective wisdom in the comments.

First off, I know my own relationship with blogging has changed over time.

As a blogger, I've always mixed in life and hobbies alongside writing-related topics. The latter has tailed off as I concluded that the world will survive without yet another post on the correct use of the apostrophe. 

As a blog reader, I barely touch blogs by industry professionals any longer. I will occasionally read posts on the craft of writing, but these days they have to be offering some new perspective to make me sit up and take notice.

But that's just me. One small drop in a very large pond. It doesn't explain the overall slowdown. Or is that slowdown just an illusion? Maybe it's just that the group of writers I connected with in the early days have moved on as a group. Maybe there are other hives of activity out there beyond my horizon, where people are beginning the cycle all over again. 

What do you think? Is the slowdown widespread, or just patchy? Or am I imagining it all?
Blogging remains my chosen social media outlet. I shudder at the thought of FaceBook and Twitter. But in order to keep blogging fresh and alive, people need to be posting things that other people want to read.


What attracts you to a blog? When you follow a blog, what enticed you return to it? What do you look for, and how has that changed over the years?

Ian Bott is a science fiction writer who successfully evaded the writing bug until it bit him, late in life, by means of a sneak stealth attack. As a software developer he rebelled against narcolepsy-inducing software specifications and resolved to write technical documents fit for ordinary human consumption. From there, it was a small step to speculative fiction.

He lives in beautiful British Columbia with his wife, two children, and a steadily expanding menagerie of pets.

Ghosts of Innocence is his first novel. See details on his website:

Or connect with Ian on his blog:

Saturday, August 9, 2014

A brief break from my hiatus

So... seems I just can't stay away from blogging. Yep. Officially, this blog is still on hiatus, but I'm sitting here on a Saturday night, writing this blog post.


Not sure. Really, that's what I am right now. Unsure. I've set everything aside temporarily in order to get my new business off the ground, and I feel like that's going well. And yet...

I'm coming to that point where everything feels out of whack. I know why. I'm a writer. Writers write. When they're not writing, they're thinking of what they're going to write. Except... my business hasn't afforded me that luxury since the middle of July.

And it's starting to make me feel crummy.

Yet, to me it's not currently just a matter of opening a notebook/document and writing and/or editing. No, because truthfully, I'm addicted to writing. Right now, I'm starting to go into withdrawals.

That's why I'm writing this. Because I know if I start working on some of my fiction, it's going to consume my thoughts and right now, my thoughts and creativity have to go into making my business work. Because this business will fund all my publishing plans if it works. So a short term sacrifice of writing time is worth it.

But at the same time, my muse seems to be singing a siren's song, calling me to work on something, anything that involves crafting a story.

At the same time, putting my thoughts and feelings into words is so gratifying that I can't help wanting to do more and more of it. Which is making me realize that I have to find a way to get some writing or editing time into my schedule.

But how to do it without completely burning myself out?

Monday, August 4, 2014

Shelley Sly on Writing With a Chronic Illness

Writing isn’t easy when you’re sick or in pain all the time. As someone who suffers from chronic migraines and fibromyalgia, I’ve had to find ways to remain productive even when I’m feeling sick for weeks at a time.

Some things that have worked for me:

1) Working While Resting

When I have a headache that feels like someone’s stabbing my eyes, or I’m leaning over a trash can about to vomit, I’m obviously not able to get anything done. But if I’m just feeling drowsy from medicine, or feeling too achy to move but not so sick that I’m about to pass out, I try to use my time wisely.

I keep a pencil and Post-Its by my bed, so while I’m resting, I can take notes on future story ideas or jot down ways to improve my current manuscript. If I can tolerate a bright screen, I’ll sometimes email myself story notes on my phone. If I’m too sick to write or email, sometimes I’ll just let my mind wander and see what kind of story ideas I come up with. (And with the migraine meds I take, sometimes I come up with really weird stuff!)

Resting and recovering is the absolute priority, but there’s no harm in doing a lot of thinking during that time.

2) Utilizing Waiting Time

While people with chronic illness frequently lose time in their day from feeling sick, they also lose time because of doctor appointments. I, personally, spend a ton of time in waiting rooms. But I bring a notebook with me and use this time to get writing done.

Now, I’m not the type to write by hand, so this means I prepare my notebook ahead of time with some information from my current WIP’s Word document. Usually just a few notes that tell me what just happened in that scene.

Other ways I’ve used waiting room time wisely include reading books on the craft of writing, reading other books in my genre, and bringing a printed out manuscript and going over it with a red pen. (I only did this once, and it was a time when I had to wait over an hour in a waiting room. It was fabulous.)

Being chronically ill can be a pain—literally—but I don’t let it take away too much of my writing time.

Thanks, Misha, for letting me share my experiences!

Shelley Sly lives in the Washington, D.C. area with her husband and their chocolate lab mix. Her debut middle grade novel, Wishing for Washington, is available on and You can find her at

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

This was supposed to be my goal update post, but...

Okay I have a bit of a confession to make. Yesterday when I said my weekend was "rough", I was in a big bad hurry, and I didn't really think through what "rough" actually meant to people who didn't know what I really meant. 

In reality, what's been going on is this, and in reality, it's freaking awesome. 

I'm in the process of starting a company importing shoes into my country, and I'm the only person in my country who's allowed to import those shoes. This little detail kicked in last Monday, and as a result, I've been putting in 18 hour work days Monday to Friday. 

Which means that last week, I only wrote Saturday and Sunday. And then, although I worked all day and busted my butt doing it, I was still behind on my goal. Hence the "rough. 18 hour work days in the week plus 18 hour writing sessions over the weekend. 

Well. I've realized that this is just nuts. So I wrote this post about it at Untethered Realms, and thought I'd let you all know what's going on. 

Basically, the 18 hour work days aren't permanent, but they're prevalent at the moment. However I'm hoping to normalize to my usual work schedule by the end of this month. Basically, I'm just pulling double time to get business plans and our business model nailed down. Once that's done, I'm solid. 

But until then, I won't really be blogging. I will post the guest posts I've scheduled, and if I have an arrangement with you for critting (I'm looking at you, Alex and any of my other existing CPs who have books that need to be critiqued), I have time for that. 

Blogging... not so much. 

I WILL be back at the end of the month, though. If only to say hi. 

But the thing is that I realized that as awesome as blogging is (and I truly do love it), this business I'm starting up will open SUCH wonderful doors that I can't gripe about blogging/writing time. Because in the long run, it will provide me with blogging/writing time AND money. 

Thanks all for understanding! X

Monday, July 28, 2014

Michelle Dennis Evans: Friendships Anonymous

Hello, my name is Michelle Dennis Evans and I have friendship challenges…

The topic of friendship has challenged me over and over throughout my life. So what does every writer do when they are challenged by a topic? Explore it through their characters.

While writing you can rewrite a scene to get it right, but in real life we only get one go at each scene, each moment, each conversation.

I am continually checking myself on how I treat friends. I don’t call enough, I don’t email, snail mail, communicate enough. I rely too heavily on social media. When I meet someone new, do I lean in and get to know who they are under the surface? How do I celebrate the friends who are in my life now? Could I celebrate them and honour them more?

One reason I stopped phoning people was because it became too hard while my kids were little, now I find my youngest is six and can cope with me closing a door while on the phone but I’m out of the habit. I home school so going out with a friend mid week just never really happens because I have my kids with me nearly twenty-four-seven. At times I avoid going out at night because that’s my writing time. Sometimes it seems like a casual meet up at the park of surface chatter is as good as it gets.

I see a new season coming. After spending nearly fourteen years breading, growing, educating and celebrating our delightful kiddies, I’m coming to a new stage of life. I’m ready to take friendships back and invest into them like I once did. But if for some reason that season doesn’t come quick enough, I’ll continue to explore friendship through my characters.

Where are you in the friendship cycle?

Friendship is one of the main themes in my YA Contemporary Spiralling books. In Spiralling Out of Control, Stephanie moves away from her best friend but continues to lean on her for support. In book two, Spiralling Out of the Shadow, we see the parallel story of Stephanie’s best friend, Tabbie and what it was like for her to be so loyal and relied up so heavily.

Set for paperback release July 19th

For you chance to win an kindle copy of either Spiralling Out of Control or Spiralling Out of the Shadow please leave a comment.

Ebooks of Spiralling Out of Control and Spiralling Out of the Shadow available now here-

Connect with Michelle here -

Thanks for visiting, Michelle! Anyone else want to do a guest post? Please click here for more info. In particular, I please please please need someone who'd like to post on Monday,  11 August? 

Thanks! How was your weekend? Mine was a bit rough, but more on that tomorrow. ;-)