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. ;-)

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Interview with M.J. Fifield

Hi all! Sorry for my very long absence! The good news is that that lucky break I've been hoping for seems to have come. But of course, that means that I'm putting in some long hours. (As in I've been putting in 18 hour days since Monday.)

But enough of that. Today, I'm welcoming MJ Fifield to my blog, so that we can talk a bit about writing, her new book and everything in between. 

Welcome to my blog, M.J. Why don't we start off with you telling the readers more about yourself?

Thank you for having me, Misha. I see we're starting with the tough questions...Let's see...I live in New Hampshire's Mount Washington Valley where I work in retail by day and write by night. I'm a semi-avid hiker and biker. I'm starting to become more of a runner, too. (Of course, I was so much NOT a runner before that any amount of running now would make me more of a runner.) I watch too much television and eat too much junk food. I'm also addicted to buying pens, spiral-bound notebooks, and books. So many books. Oh, and swords and daggers. I do have a lot of those, too. I'm also prone to rambling, but that's probably obvious right now, huh?

Ooh the swords and daggers sound fun, but I'm sure your notebooks interest our readers more. What do you write in them? 

I write story notes, notes about character or possible plot problem solutions—that kind of thing. Dialogue. Lots and lots of dialogue. There are a lot of full scenes, too, as just about every scene I create starts off handwritten in a notebook. I also jot down song lyrics that resonate with me and soundbites from shows that amuse me. And, of course, every notebook has a section devoted to sarcastic work-themed haiku.

Ah yes. I know from reading your blog that you're a plotter. How do you approach planning out your drafts?

I still consider myself to be relatively new at being a plotter. I have yet to plot out a novel from start to finish, and I'm curious to see what will happen when I do. Effigy wasn't plotted out at all ahead of time—probably what took me so long to get it to a point where I was happy with it. It wasn't until I was in Part Two of its sequel, Second Nature, that I really started to plan things out. And because I am a visual learner, I do it on my dining room walls (I have a very understanding significant other) with a combination of index cards and post-it notes. I scribble a one sentence synopsis of each scene (index card), or each proposed scene (post-it note), and stick it on the wall. I move them around like puzzle pieces, adding and subtracting as needed, until I find the order that feels correct. Then I start writing.

Sounds sensible. What inspired you to write Effigy?

When I was probably twelve (maybe thirteen) years old, my mother bought me a trio of books she found in our local bookstore. They were the first three books in a series called The Secret of the Unicorn Queen, about an ordinary teenage girl who's accidentally transported into a parallel universe filled with magic, swords, and women warriors riding unicorns. It was totally my thing. It still is my thing. Anyway, I loved the premise so much that, in high school, I decided to write my own story about an ordinary teenage girl who's accidentally transported into a parallel universe filled with magic, swords, and rebels riding unicorns. Many, many moons and many, many incarnations later,Effigy was born. Thanks, mom!

Speaking of Effigy. Want to tell us a bit more about it? Where will we be able to buy it?

Effigy is the first book in the Coileáin Chronicles, a fantasy series which ultimately will tell the story of the three Coileáin sisters and the role each will play in an epic struggle between good and evil. I set out to write a more character-driven fantasy because for me and the books I like to read, character is king. So in addition to the more traditional fantasy elements—magic, sword fights, unicorns (yes, there are unicorns in my novel. Some of them even talk.), etc.—there's also a good amount of human drama. Effigy's main character is a young woman named Haleine. She starts off leading this very charmed and happy life, but after one of those cruel twists of which fate is so often fond, she ends up on a much darker path that really leaves her raw by the end of things. And did I mention the sarcastic pegasus?

The novel will be available in both paperback and e-book form. It can be found on Amazon beginning July 22nd, and will eventually make its way to Smashwords, iTunes, and possibly a pair of local independent bookstores in the Mount Washington Valley.

Sounds awesome. What's your favorite part about Effigy? 

It's finished?

Seriously, though, I'm not sure this is the right way to answer this question, but it's true confession time: While I am immensely fond of this entire book—this labor of love over which I've been toiling for longer than I care to admit—there are a pair of scenes of which I am particularly proud. (Even though it is probably very uncool to admit such a thing.) They're emotionally raw (rawer?) scenes that are, I think, an example of me pushing outside of my comfort zone (a very small and cozy, if sarcastic, place) to write them the way they needed to exist for the benefit of the story. Whenever I receive feedback from a beta reader, I usually flip to these scenes first, always hoping to see a note like, "THIS IS THE MOST BRILLIANT THING I'VE EVER READ!" but ultimately just happy when I don't see something like "MAN, THAT WAS SUPER LAME!" scribbled in the margins.

But, also, I am legitimately thrilled that this book is finally finished. It's been a long time coming, after all.

Yeah I know exactly what you mean. There are some places that simply come from a deeper place in our hearts. 

Last question: What's the best piece of writing advice you ever received? 

Well, it probably isn't the most traditional writing advice ever, but there was an English poet named Philip Sidney who lived from 1554 to 1586. I came across him in high school, and one of his sonnets ended with the line "Fool," my Muse said to me, "look in thy heart and write."

And that really resonated with me and has stuck with me ever since. It just seems like a good writing philosophy to have.

As is "Never Give Up, Never Surrender!" from the late 90's movie Galaxy Quest. 

I apparently never do anything traditionally.

Hahaha awesome advice. Loved having you over, M.J. 

You can find M.J. here: 

Buy Effigy on Amazon

So ladies and gents, how did you get inspired to write what you're working on at the moment? And how are you doing? Who else thinks the Effigy cover is beautiful? 

Monday, July 21, 2014

Tyrean Martinson on Reading and Writing

Reading and writing walk hand in hand in every storyteller’s imagination. The art of story and the heart of story dwell within each of us; I think the love of “story” draws all of humanity together. A story lifts us out of our everyday existence or adds meaning and depth to our lives. As I write this, my brother-in-law who is unable to move from the neck down (MS) and my dad who has dealt with lifelong disabilities are swapping stories in the other room – stories of plane flights, fast cars, farm work, and animal antics. We all love to hear stories and tell stories. Reading and writing flow from that mutual love of story.

I grew up surrounded by stories. My grandmother told stories when I spent the night at her house. My mom read to me every night. My dad tells stories in every conversation. My first favorite books and movies expanded my horizons. I became an avid reader and started daydreaming alternative endings or further adventures for my favorite books. From there, writing became a way of getting those ideas and my own, new stories on the page so I could keep them close or share them.

As a writer and a reader, I find myself enjoying books more than once. I love to read. I love to write. Books hold countless treasures for me as a reader and as a writer. I love to study the way that a writer has structured their book in plot, pacing, character, and setting. It helps my writing to grow. Sometimes, I go back and take notes on a book, studying the structure and characterization. As Stephen King famously stated 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.”

Now, I know that some writers find King’s quote to be a stressful “command” statement that requires us to read massive amounts of books each year. I don’t think that’s what King meant. Even as a voracious reader, I try to slow down in my reading to let the words breathe, to study the structure and characterization, and to uncover the nuances of the words. I get more out of books that I re-read multiple times because I’m less concerned with “what happens next” and I’m reading for the enjoyment of each part of the story.

How do you read? Do you think it’s necessary to the act of writing or just a natural part of it? Are there other ways to be surrounded by the world of “story” that work just as well like verbal storytelling, listening to music, or watching movies?

And here’s one last quote:

“We live and breathe words. .... It was books that made me feel that perhaps I was not completely alone.” Cassandra Clare


Tyrean Martinson lives and writes near the waters of the Puget Sound (Washington State, USA) and daydreams daily. Currently, she is hard at work on a writing curriculum book and the last book in The Champion Trilogy. Her blog is:

Thanks all for stopping by! I'm still accepting guest posts, so if you want to see how to sign up, please click here