Thursday, July 21, 2016

"A grieving teen believes her dead father is haunting her" --a tagline for my debut Never Gone, often raises this question: how could this topic possibly be Christian fiction?

Photo by http://morguefile.com/creative/whiterussian
What exactly is a ghost, after all? Do people have a consciousness separate from their bodily existence? If so, can it interact with embodied people? Can it do so when it wishes, or must it be summoned by the living? Is this entire mythos something created to explain demonic presences in our world?

In some circles, this latter view tends to dominate, though the Bible actually shows us an intermediate view: there is a consciousness separate from bodily existence, but it can only interact with embodied people through occult means because it exists in another realm or plane. See the story of Saul contacting Samuel's ghost via the mediation of the Witch of Endor in I Samuel 28. Trying to summon the dead is a bad idea, one that spells the end for Saul's reign.

In Never Gone, my protagonist Danielle has moments where she specifically fears she might have summoned her dead father, knowing that doing such a thing is very dangerous. But longing for a lost loved one does not make one a medium. Reaching across the divide between the living and dead isn't something people can do accidentally.

So what is going on with my ghost of Dani's dad, Graham Rhys Deane?

The idea of parental haunting is pretty old. Shakespeare uses it in Hamlet, for example. I also was inspired by the TV show Providence that aired from 1999-2002, in which a young woman moves home after her mother’s death, and often has long heart-to-heart talks and arguments with her mother’s ghost. The idea of a parental presence lingering to help a child fascinated me, especially when it’s unclear why it’s happening.

Is it possible that not every ghost appearance has a supernatural cause?

Generally, ghost lore in our culture is associated with bad deaths, with unfinished business. The question for me is whose unfinished business? The departed’s or the survivors’?

Dani is a fairly grounded Christian who knows enough “proof texts” (scripture quotes used to prove a particular point) to shut down her own natural emotions in the wake of a devastating loss. Her dad is bound for a happy eternity in heaven, she reasons, so she’s really not supposed to be upset.

This kind of warped stoicism that sometimes arises in my faith tradition concerns me. It’s bad theology to my mind, giving a false view of who God is and how he relates to humanity. In the face of it, a really hurting person can suffer deep internal fracturing. My story’s ghost is in some ways a manifestation of that inner state.

So how does Danielle cope with her ghost problem? I invite you to check out Never Gone to find out!

Never Gone
is on sale for just $1.99
now through July 31!



View the trailer HERE

What is your take on the ghost trope?
Thursday, July 21, 2016 Laurel Garver
"A grieving teen believes her dead father is haunting her" --a tagline for my debut Never Gone, often raises this question: how could this topic possibly be Christian fiction?

Photo by http://morguefile.com/creative/whiterussian
What exactly is a ghost, after all? Do people have a consciousness separate from their bodily existence? If so, can it interact with embodied people? Can it do so when it wishes, or must it be summoned by the living? Is this entire mythos something created to explain demonic presences in our world?

In some circles, this latter view tends to dominate, though the Bible actually shows us an intermediate view: there is a consciousness separate from bodily existence, but it can only interact with embodied people through occult means because it exists in another realm or plane. See the story of Saul contacting Samuel's ghost via the mediation of the Witch of Endor in I Samuel 28. Trying to summon the dead is a bad idea, one that spells the end for Saul's reign.

In Never Gone, my protagonist Danielle has moments where she specifically fears she might have summoned her dead father, knowing that doing such a thing is very dangerous. But longing for a lost loved one does not make one a medium. Reaching across the divide between the living and dead isn't something people can do accidentally.

So what is going on with my ghost of Dani's dad, Graham Rhys Deane?

The idea of parental haunting is pretty old. Shakespeare uses it in Hamlet, for example. I also was inspired by the TV show Providence that aired from 1999-2002, in which a young woman moves home after her mother’s death, and often has long heart-to-heart talks and arguments with her mother’s ghost. The idea of a parental presence lingering to help a child fascinated me, especially when it’s unclear why it’s happening.

Is it possible that not every ghost appearance has a supernatural cause?

Generally, ghost lore in our culture is associated with bad deaths, with unfinished business. The question for me is whose unfinished business? The departed’s or the survivors’?

Dani is a fairly grounded Christian who knows enough “proof texts” (scripture quotes used to prove a particular point) to shut down her own natural emotions in the wake of a devastating loss. Her dad is bound for a happy eternity in heaven, she reasons, so she’s really not supposed to be upset.

This kind of warped stoicism that sometimes arises in my faith tradition concerns me. It’s bad theology to my mind, giving a false view of who God is and how he relates to humanity. In the face of it, a really hurting person can suffer deep internal fracturing. My story’s ghost is in some ways a manifestation of that inner state.

So how does Danielle cope with her ghost problem? I invite you to check out Never Gone to find out!

Never Gone
is on sale for just $1.99
now through July 31!



View the trailer HERE

What is your take on the ghost trope?

Thursday, July 14, 2016

By guest author Elise Abram
visiting us from Canada (hence some variant spellings)

Modelling is not (as the title of a previous blog I wrote implied) actually stealing. It's more like borrowing. It happens all the time.
Look over a classic character's shoulder and learn!

Ray Bradbury did it. In the opening of his novel, Graveyard for Lunatics, Bradbury borrows Dickens's "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times" parallel structure. In the short story, "The Veldt", Bradbury names the children Peter and Wendy, an obvious nod to J.M. Barrie's characters of the same name.

Stephen King does it. In The Talisman, King recreates a scene from Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities. The original scene, focussing on peasants celebrating as they enjoy the spoils of an upturned cart of spirits, is twisted into something more gruesome in King's version. Instead of a celebration, King's scene focuses on the destruction caused by the ruined cart which kills a child and maims a horse. King repeats the process in Black House, The Talisman's sequel, which alludes to Dickens' Bleak House, in both theme, title, and within the story itself.

(Image credit: http://morguefile.com/creative/terryballard.)


Why model? 

 Modelling is a great way to test the waters to find your writing voice. It can also provide your readers with links to previous publications, famous authors and plots, and make a connection with universal themes.

[Laurel's note: if you struggle to come up with plots, this is an excellent way to learn story structure--studying another work, taking it apart, and rebuilding it with your own voice and subtle twists.]


Borrowing from the classics 

For example, if my character is a man-boy who refuses to grow up, I might call him Peter after Peter Pan. If I compose scenes that parallel Barrie's iconic story, I might take snippets of Barrie's words, or write parallel passages. I could give my Peter the same origin story as Pan, having him grow up an orphan after being found abandoned in his stroller, or first taken from his stroller and then abandoned. Readers will map their reading of Barrie's Peter onto my Peter, if the connection is made clear.

 If my character suffers a nervous breakdown, I might call her Dorothy, after Dorothy Gale, and make hallucinations a part of her downward spiral in which the people who are closest to her are not as they seem.

Or I could call her Alice, as in Wonderland, and have people around her embody the traits of the White Rabbit, the Mad Hatter, or the Queen of Hearts (as I do in my latest release, I Was, Am, Will Be Alice). Whenever my character feels herself spinning out of control, I could borrow from Baum's description of Dorothy in the throes of the twister, or Carroll's Alice as she falls into the rabbit hole, to describe what my character is feeling.

In conclusion 

Stephen King once said something to the effect that a good writer is aware of all of the writers who went before him. He further cautions that "if you don't have time to read, you don't have time to write." Then again, he also says that you shouldn't try to imitate another author's style or you'll come off sounding like a cheap imitation.

My point is that to be a good writer, you must read other successful authors in your genre, study their writing to figure out why they are successful, and then keep this at the back of your mind as you develop a style of your own style.


About the author


me
Elise Abram is high school teacher of English and computer studies, former archaeologist, editor, publisher, award winning author, avid reader of literary and science fiction, and student of the human condition. Everything she does, watches, reads and hears is fodder for her writing. She is passionate about writing and language, cooking, and ABC’s Once Upon A Time. In her spare time, she experiments with paleo cookery, knits badly, and writes. She also bakes. Most of the time it doesn’t burn. Her family doesn’t seem to mind.

Here's where you can learn more about Elise and her writing:

About I Was, Am, Will Be Alice 

Genre: YA Science Fiction (Time Travel)
Pages: 310
Release Date: 12 July 16  

Winner of the 2015 A Woman's Write Competition for fiction!

alice blue coverWhen Alice Carroll is in grade three she narrowly escapes losing her life in a school shooting. All she remembers is the woman comforting her in the moments before the gunshot, and that one second she was there, the next she wasn't.

It's bad enough coming to terms with surviving while others, including her favourite teacher, didn't, let alone dealing with the fact that she might wink out of existence at any time.

 Alice spends the next few years seeing specialists about her Post Traumatic Stress as a result of VD--Voldemort Day--but it's not until she has a nightmare about The Day That Shall Not Be Mentioned, disappears from her bed, is found by police, and taken home to meet her four-year-old self that she realizes she's been time travelling. 

Alice is unsure if her getting unstuck in time should be considered an ability or a liability, until she disappears right in front of her high school at dismissal time, the busiest time of day. Worried that someone may find out about her problem before long, Alice enlists her best friend (and maybe boyfriend), Pete, to help her try to control her shifting through time with limited success. She's just about ready to give up when the shooter is caught. Alice resolves to take control of her time travelling in order to go back to That Day, stop the shooting, and figure out the identity of the stranger who'd shielded Alice's body with her own.

Buy links: Amazon, Google Play, iTunes and Kobo.

If you were to go beyond alluding to other works and instead model one, which classic might you choose?

  a Rafflecopter giveaway
Thursday, July 14, 2016 Laurel Garver
By guest author Elise Abram
visiting us from Canada (hence some variant spellings)

Modelling is not (as the title of a previous blog I wrote implied) actually stealing. It's more like borrowing. It happens all the time.
Look over a classic character's shoulder and learn!

Ray Bradbury did it. In the opening of his novel, Graveyard for Lunatics, Bradbury borrows Dickens's "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times" parallel structure. In the short story, "The Veldt", Bradbury names the children Peter and Wendy, an obvious nod to J.M. Barrie's characters of the same name.

Stephen King does it. In The Talisman, King recreates a scene from Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities. The original scene, focussing on peasants celebrating as they enjoy the spoils of an upturned cart of spirits, is twisted into something more gruesome in King's version. Instead of a celebration, King's scene focuses on the destruction caused by the ruined cart which kills a child and maims a horse. King repeats the process in Black House, The Talisman's sequel, which alludes to Dickens' Bleak House, in both theme, title, and within the story itself.

(Image credit: http://morguefile.com/creative/terryballard.)


Why model? 

 Modelling is a great way to test the waters to find your writing voice. It can also provide your readers with links to previous publications, famous authors and plots, and make a connection with universal themes.

[Laurel's note: if you struggle to come up with plots, this is an excellent way to learn story structure--studying another work, taking it apart, and rebuilding it with your own voice and subtle twists.]


Borrowing from the classics 

For example, if my character is a man-boy who refuses to grow up, I might call him Peter after Peter Pan. If I compose scenes that parallel Barrie's iconic story, I might take snippets of Barrie's words, or write parallel passages. I could give my Peter the same origin story as Pan, having him grow up an orphan after being found abandoned in his stroller, or first taken from his stroller and then abandoned. Readers will map their reading of Barrie's Peter onto my Peter, if the connection is made clear.

 If my character suffers a nervous breakdown, I might call her Dorothy, after Dorothy Gale, and make hallucinations a part of her downward spiral in which the people who are closest to her are not as they seem.

Or I could call her Alice, as in Wonderland, and have people around her embody the traits of the White Rabbit, the Mad Hatter, or the Queen of Hearts (as I do in my latest release, I Was, Am, Will Be Alice). Whenever my character feels herself spinning out of control, I could borrow from Baum's description of Dorothy in the throes of the twister, or Carroll's Alice as she falls into the rabbit hole, to describe what my character is feeling.

In conclusion 

Stephen King once said something to the effect that a good writer is aware of all of the writers who went before him. He further cautions that "if you don't have time to read, you don't have time to write." Then again, he also says that you shouldn't try to imitate another author's style or you'll come off sounding like a cheap imitation.

My point is that to be a good writer, you must read other successful authors in your genre, study their writing to figure out why they are successful, and then keep this at the back of your mind as you develop a style of your own style.


About the author


me
Elise Abram is high school teacher of English and computer studies, former archaeologist, editor, publisher, award winning author, avid reader of literary and science fiction, and student of the human condition. Everything she does, watches, reads and hears is fodder for her writing. She is passionate about writing and language, cooking, and ABC’s Once Upon A Time. In her spare time, she experiments with paleo cookery, knits badly, and writes. She also bakes. Most of the time it doesn’t burn. Her family doesn’t seem to mind.

Here's where you can learn more about Elise and her writing:

About I Was, Am, Will Be Alice 

Genre: YA Science Fiction (Time Travel)
Pages: 310
Release Date: 12 July 16  

Winner of the 2015 A Woman's Write Competition for fiction!

alice blue coverWhen Alice Carroll is in grade three she narrowly escapes losing her life in a school shooting. All she remembers is the woman comforting her in the moments before the gunshot, and that one second she was there, the next she wasn't.

It's bad enough coming to terms with surviving while others, including her favourite teacher, didn't, let alone dealing with the fact that she might wink out of existence at any time.

 Alice spends the next few years seeing specialists about her Post Traumatic Stress as a result of VD--Voldemort Day--but it's not until she has a nightmare about The Day That Shall Not Be Mentioned, disappears from her bed, is found by police, and taken home to meet her four-year-old self that she realizes she's been time travelling. 

Alice is unsure if her getting unstuck in time should be considered an ability or a liability, until she disappears right in front of her high school at dismissal time, the busiest time of day. Worried that someone may find out about her problem before long, Alice enlists her best friend (and maybe boyfriend), Pete, to help her try to control her shifting through time with limited success. She's just about ready to give up when the shooter is caught. Alice resolves to take control of her time travelling in order to go back to That Day, stop the shooting, and figure out the identity of the stranger who'd shielded Alice's body with her own.

Buy links: Amazon, Google Play, iTunes and Kobo.

If you were to go beyond alluding to other works and instead model one, which classic might you choose?

  a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, July 02, 2016

image credit: ranbud at morguefile.com
with guest author Faith Blum

If you have read any mail order bride stories, you've probably noticed that even though the bride and groom never met each other, they are both genuinely good people. It's a rare story that has a scam or a truly bad person either write or respond to the mail order bride advertisement. Faith Blum took that rare theme and wrote three novellas about five young ladies duped into becoming mail order brides only to find out the men they were supposed to marry weren't what they had appeared in the letters. The first of those novellas just released on June 26th and Faith is here today to share a little about it.

Author Interview


What do you enjoy most about writing historical fiction?

I love learning and teaching little bits of history while writing historical fiction. For instance, in this novella, I learned that back then, even if you were married to someone, you rarely (if ever) called them by their first name when you were in public. BUT, that was different out west where they didn't always follow the rules. Thus the term The Wild West.

What special challenges have you faced writing about the Old West?

Since I like to write realistic fiction, I try to write it as it likely was back then rather than what it has been romanticized to be. That is quite challenging at times.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors interested in writing historical fiction?

Make sure you write according to the time period. It's difficult, but any words or phrases that are more modern will be noticed by someone and could get you a bad review. And yes, I am speaking from experience.

What inspired this story?

My novel, The Solid Rock, had five mail order brides in it who went through a rather challenging time. But in the novel, they were minor characters and I couldn't spend a lot of time on them. So, I wrote three novellas about them instead.

What message do you hope your readers will get out of this book?

God desires to have a close walk with you, all you have to do is let Him in.


About the Book

Just a Closer Walk_FrontI am weak, but Thou art strong/Jesus, keep me from all wrong/I’ll be satisfied as long/As I walk, let me walk close to Thee.
Katie and Joanna meet on a train headed to Cheyenne, Wyoming. They start talking and find out they are both headed there to become mail order brides. They quickly become good friends. When they get on a stagecoach with three other young women, Katie becomes suspicious. What is going to happen to them? Or is it really possible that nothing untoward is happening?

Saturday, July 02, 2016 Laurel Garver
image credit: ranbud at morguefile.com
with guest author Faith Blum

If you have read any mail order bride stories, you've probably noticed that even though the bride and groom never met each other, they are both genuinely good people. It's a rare story that has a scam or a truly bad person either write or respond to the mail order bride advertisement. Faith Blum took that rare theme and wrote three novellas about five young ladies duped into becoming mail order brides only to find out the men they were supposed to marry weren't what they had appeared in the letters. The first of those novellas just released on June 26th and Faith is here today to share a little about it.

Author Interview


What do you enjoy most about writing historical fiction?

I love learning and teaching little bits of history while writing historical fiction. For instance, in this novella, I learned that back then, even if you were married to someone, you rarely (if ever) called them by their first name when you were in public. BUT, that was different out west where they didn't always follow the rules. Thus the term The Wild West.

What special challenges have you faced writing about the Old West?

Since I like to write realistic fiction, I try to write it as it likely was back then rather than what it has been romanticized to be. That is quite challenging at times.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors interested in writing historical fiction?

Make sure you write according to the time period. It's difficult, but any words or phrases that are more modern will be noticed by someone and could get you a bad review. And yes, I am speaking from experience.

What inspired this story?

My novel, The Solid Rock, had five mail order brides in it who went through a rather challenging time. But in the novel, they were minor characters and I couldn't spend a lot of time on them. So, I wrote three novellas about them instead.

What message do you hope your readers will get out of this book?

God desires to have a close walk with you, all you have to do is let Him in.


About the Book

Just a Closer Walk_FrontI am weak, but Thou art strong/Jesus, keep me from all wrong/I’ll be satisfied as long/As I walk, let me walk close to Thee.
Katie and Joanna meet on a train headed to Cheyenne, Wyoming. They start talking and find out they are both headed there to become mail order brides. They quickly become good friends. When they get on a stagecoach with three other young women, Katie becomes suspicious. What is going to happen to them? Or is it really possible that nothing untoward is happening?

Thursday, June 30, 2016

by guest author Tyrean Martinson 

“Shadow Girl” - Photo Credit: Anna Martinson


1.      The character pops into my head, usually after I’ve asked myself a “what if” question about something:
·         What if the victim of bullying is bullied by shunning because of something dangerous he did as a child? (“Seedling”)
·         What if a young swordswoman becomes the unexpected recipient of a blade of power that others think should belong to them? (original prompt for Champion in the Darkness)
·         What if a reluctant young bride has woven protection for herself into her traditional bridal gown? (Current WIP)

2.      The “what if” question creates spin-off questions for me:
·         What did the bullying victim do to be shunned? What if he wanted to change?
·         What if the swordswoman’s country was attacked before she received the blade of power?
·         Why is the bride reluctant? What if she’s being “sold” into a polygamous marriage? What if her wedding party is attacked by bandits?

3.      I start to create character profiles. I don’t worry about getting everything down, but I want to know these areas:
·         Name
·         Family “status” and who their family members are, if that’s important to the story
·         His/her place in their society
·         His/her strengths and at least one weakness
·         His/her heart’s desire in the scope of the story
·         I work on the physical attributes next, but this one stumps me sometimes because my descriptions seemed to start sounding alike from character to character.
As I write the story, I add to the character profiles.

4.      I pick images for my character. I look for:
·         Facial features that stand out
·         Outfits that my character would wear
·         Weapons they might or might not carry - briefcase, backpack, musical instrument or sword?
·         Vehicle they might drive/fly/own/want

“Sunbeam” Photo Credit: Tyrean Martinson



·         General images that might capture how the character sees the world

“Through the Fence” - Photo Credit: Tyrean Martinson

For all of these, I use pinterest and take some of my own photos. I know I’m not great at physical descriptions, so this step has huge importance for me, and I often create collages that I print out and stick to my wall above my desk.

5.      If I’m struggling with a character, I write “out of book” scenes that take me back to his/her childhood, or take me to a scene that would never actually happen in the book. I ask myself more questions along the way:
·         Why does this character hate the color orange? Did that come from a childhood incident of some kind? What other ways did that incident change this character?
·         OR What would a sword-wielding fantasy heroine do if she landed in the local McDonald’s or Starbucks with her best friend? What if she landed there with her enemy? What would she do there and why?

Other variations on how I create and develop characters:
1.      I find a picture first and start asking questions about the person in the image.
2.      I watch a few movies in the same genre and listen for dialogue pacing. (This is an area I hope to expand on in the next year or so since I struggle with creating dialogue.)
  
Tyrean Martinson
Blog    Facebook


Latest Book: Flicker: A Collection of Short Stories and Poetry is an exploration of many characters and their views of the world. 

How do you create and develop characters?
Thursday, June 30, 2016 Laurel Garver
by guest author Tyrean Martinson 

“Shadow Girl” - Photo Credit: Anna Martinson


1.      The character pops into my head, usually after I’ve asked myself a “what if” question about something:
·         What if the victim of bullying is bullied by shunning because of something dangerous he did as a child? (“Seedling”)
·         What if a young swordswoman becomes the unexpected recipient of a blade of power that others think should belong to them? (original prompt for Champion in the Darkness)
·         What if a reluctant young bride has woven protection for herself into her traditional bridal gown? (Current WIP)

2.      The “what if” question creates spin-off questions for me:
·         What did the bullying victim do to be shunned? What if he wanted to change?
·         What if the swordswoman’s country was attacked before she received the blade of power?
·         Why is the bride reluctant? What if she’s being “sold” into a polygamous marriage? What if her wedding party is attacked by bandits?

3.      I start to create character profiles. I don’t worry about getting everything down, but I want to know these areas:
·         Name
·         Family “status” and who their family members are, if that’s important to the story
·         His/her place in their society
·         His/her strengths and at least one weakness
·         His/her heart’s desire in the scope of the story
·         I work on the physical attributes next, but this one stumps me sometimes because my descriptions seemed to start sounding alike from character to character.
As I write the story, I add to the character profiles.

4.      I pick images for my character. I look for:
·         Facial features that stand out
·         Outfits that my character would wear
·         Weapons they might or might not carry - briefcase, backpack, musical instrument or sword?
·         Vehicle they might drive/fly/own/want

“Sunbeam” Photo Credit: Tyrean Martinson



·         General images that might capture how the character sees the world

“Through the Fence” - Photo Credit: Tyrean Martinson

For all of these, I use pinterest and take some of my own photos. I know I’m not great at physical descriptions, so this step has huge importance for me, and I often create collages that I print out and stick to my wall above my desk.

5.      If I’m struggling with a character, I write “out of book” scenes that take me back to his/her childhood, or take me to a scene that would never actually happen in the book. I ask myself more questions along the way:
·         Why does this character hate the color orange? Did that come from a childhood incident of some kind? What other ways did that incident change this character?
·         OR What would a sword-wielding fantasy heroine do if she landed in the local McDonald’s or Starbucks with her best friend? What if she landed there with her enemy? What would she do there and why?

Other variations on how I create and develop characters:
1.      I find a picture first and start asking questions about the person in the image.
2.      I watch a few movies in the same genre and listen for dialogue pacing. (This is an area I hope to expand on in the next year or so since I struggle with creating dialogue.)
  
Tyrean Martinson
Blog    Facebook


Latest Book: Flicker: A Collection of Short Stories and Poetry is an exploration of many characters and their views of the world. 

How do you create and develop characters?

Friday, June 24, 2016

Image credit: earl53 at morguefile.com
Years ago I picked up a gem at a used bookstore, Georgia Heard's Writing Toward Home. The title spoke to my identity crisis of the moment: My parents had retired to Florida, overwhelming me with a sense "you can't ever go home again." Heard's pithy and poetic chapters on developing a creative life are worth savoring. In a chapter entitled "Where does poetry hide?" she includes this poem:

Valentine for Ernest Mann
by Naomi Shihab Nye

You can't order a poem like you order a taco.
Walk up to a counter, say "I'll take two"
and expect it to be handed to you
on a shiny plate.

Still, I like your spirit.
Anyone who says, "Here's my address,
write me a poem," deserves something in reply.
So I'll tell you a secret instead:
poems hide. In the bottoms of our shoes,
they are sleeping. They are the shadows
drifting across ceilings the moment
before we wake up. What we have to do
is live in a way that lets us find them....
(Qtd. in Heard, Georgia. Writing Toward Home. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 1995. p. 10.)

I found tremendous encouragement in Heard's commentary on it. She says, "We don't necessarily need to change our lives around to be writers or to be writing more. We must change the way we look at our lives. By looking at the small, everyday circumstances and happenings, we find ideas to fill volumes."

Where have you found poetic or fictional material hiding in the everyday? Have you ever had a change in perspective--how you look at your life--that opened up a well of ideas for you?
Friday, June 24, 2016 Laurel Garver
Image credit: earl53 at morguefile.com
Years ago I picked up a gem at a used bookstore, Georgia Heard's Writing Toward Home. The title spoke to my identity crisis of the moment: My parents had retired to Florida, overwhelming me with a sense "you can't ever go home again." Heard's pithy and poetic chapters on developing a creative life are worth savoring. In a chapter entitled "Where does poetry hide?" she includes this poem:

Valentine for Ernest Mann
by Naomi Shihab Nye

You can't order a poem like you order a taco.
Walk up to a counter, say "I'll take two"
and expect it to be handed to you
on a shiny plate.

Still, I like your spirit.
Anyone who says, "Here's my address,
write me a poem," deserves something in reply.
So I'll tell you a secret instead:
poems hide. In the bottoms of our shoes,
they are sleeping. They are the shadows
drifting across ceilings the moment
before we wake up. What we have to do
is live in a way that lets us find them....
(Qtd. in Heard, Georgia. Writing Toward Home. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 1995. p. 10.)

I found tremendous encouragement in Heard's commentary on it. She says, "We don't necessarily need to change our lives around to be writers or to be writing more. We must change the way we look at our lives. By looking at the small, everyday circumstances and happenings, we find ideas to fill volumes."

Where have you found poetic or fictional material hiding in the everyday? Have you ever had a change in perspective--how you look at your life--that opened up a well of ideas for you?

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Seasonal prompts can be helpful in your routine, to get you paying attention to your immediate environment and the sensory experiences you can collect. It can also get you thinking about story potential in everyday events. Consider how to spin theses prompts for different genres or milieus. For example, try "the hottest day I've experienced" as memoir, as dystopian fiction, as magical realism, as SciFi, or as middle grade humor.

Photo by http://morguefile.com/creative/pippalou
I know summer has arrived when...

My idea of a perfect summer day is...

Smells I associate with summer.

Summer foods I have been craving for months.

How my protagonist's neighborhood changes in summer.

A homesick kid at sleepaway camp misses….

Someone added a mysterious chemical to the neighborhood pool, causing….

My worst family vacation disaster.

A homicidal maniac uses an ice cream truck to lure out victims.

What my protagonist likes most and least about summer.

Your best friend / worst enemy gets pushed into a pool at a fancy party.

Instead of selling ice cream, the roving musical truck in this neighborhood offers _____.

The hottest day I’ve ever experienced.

The boys’ and girls’ summer camps go to war.

A flea market purchase turns out to have magical powers.

While backpacking through Europe, a group of friends accidentally kills one of their own

A child and his/her cousin are stuck at a remote cabin for the summer with their grandparents and discover….

A tiger gets loose at the local county fair.

My favorite summer supper.

My protagonist’s idea of a wonderful summer vacation.

A horseback riding trail takes a group of riders magically back in time.

An unlikely ensemble takes shelter in a minimart during a hurricane.

Scientists discover what fireflies are actually communicating through their blinking bodies.

A new swimwear trend nobody could have predicted.

My best summer vacation memory.

A pie-eating contest goes horribly wrong.

The summer all the beaches were empty because….

How my protagonist would feel about going to a public pool in a swimsuit.

Two polar-opposite families are double-booked for a beach house rental and decide to share it.

The song of the cicada is actually a secret message

How three ingenious Girl Scouts saved the cook-out.

An inventor creates an ingenious new way to cool off in the summer.

Which of these appeals most to you?
Thursday, June 16, 2016 Laurel Garver
Seasonal prompts can be helpful in your routine, to get you paying attention to your immediate environment and the sensory experiences you can collect. It can also get you thinking about story potential in everyday events. Consider how to spin theses prompts for different genres or milieus. For example, try "the hottest day I've experienced" as memoir, as dystopian fiction, as magical realism, as SciFi, or as middle grade humor.

Photo by http://morguefile.com/creative/pippalou
I know summer has arrived when...

My idea of a perfect summer day is...

Smells I associate with summer.

Summer foods I have been craving for months.

How my protagonist's neighborhood changes in summer.

A homesick kid at sleepaway camp misses….

Someone added a mysterious chemical to the neighborhood pool, causing….

My worst family vacation disaster.

A homicidal maniac uses an ice cream truck to lure out victims.

What my protagonist likes most and least about summer.

Your best friend / worst enemy gets pushed into a pool at a fancy party.

Instead of selling ice cream, the roving musical truck in this neighborhood offers _____.

The hottest day I’ve ever experienced.

The boys’ and girls’ summer camps go to war.

A flea market purchase turns out to have magical powers.

While backpacking through Europe, a group of friends accidentally kills one of their own

A child and his/her cousin are stuck at a remote cabin for the summer with their grandparents and discover….

A tiger gets loose at the local county fair.

My favorite summer supper.

My protagonist’s idea of a wonderful summer vacation.

A horseback riding trail takes a group of riders magically back in time.

An unlikely ensemble takes shelter in a minimart during a hurricane.

Scientists discover what fireflies are actually communicating through their blinking bodies.

A new swimwear trend nobody could have predicted.

My best summer vacation memory.

A pie-eating contest goes horribly wrong.

The summer all the beaches were empty because….

How my protagonist would feel about going to a public pool in a swimsuit.

Two polar-opposite families are double-booked for a beach house rental and decide to share it.

The song of the cicada is actually a secret message

How three ingenious Girl Scouts saved the cook-out.

An inventor creates an ingenious new way to cool off in the summer.

Which of these appeals most to you?

Thursday, June 09, 2016

Months ago, I wrote a post about mapping interior spaces for your fiction. I'd fully intended to post next about building fictional outdoor environments, then realized I don't know anything about this topic! So I was delighted to discover a mapmaker offering her services to the author collective I participate in. And I'm even more delighted that she's willing to come here to share her tips on beginning to develop a map for your imagined world. Take it away, Angie....

By guest author Angie Grigaliunas

mapping helps you visualize your created world.
As a visual person, I’ve always been interested in maps. I created maps for most of the stories I started, and I worked for hours in Paint tweaking every little detail. As I’ve grown in both my writing and map-making, I decided to branch out and start helping others with their maps. I am by no means an expert, and I still have a lot to learn, but here are some tips to help you create a visual of your world.

One of the best parts for me in either writing or map-making is creating a new world. I can decide everything about it. It can also be daunting – trying to figure out landscapes, mountains, coastlines – especially when you don’t know where to start.

I personally always start with a land mass or continent. For the shape of this, check out actual countries and continents. Take note of how rugged or smooth the coastlines are and if there are islands. Drawing inspiration from real life creates a natural realism. Another great thing to try is searching for pictures of rust and using that shape as inspiration. Erosion works a similar way in both rust and land. You can also do this with a country, but country boarders are often affected by things other than natural causes (politics, for instance).

A basic land mass

Next, I place mountains. Most simply, mountains form where two tectonic plates move against each other (so it may be a good idea to figure out where those plates are in your world and create mountains along those lines). They’re not random, and islands will typically follow this same line. Mountains can cause rainshadows (a dry area on the leeward side of the mountain), so if you want deserts, decide which direction the weather in your world comes from and put your desert on the protected side of your mountains.

Mountain placement is based on tectonic plates lying beneath them.

After mountains, I start adding water. Some things to keep in mind here:

~Water flows toward the lowest point, away from mountains

~Rivers connect; they typically do not divide (unless there is a man-made reason, for instance)

~Lakes/ponds can have numerous rivers feeding them, but they can’t have more than one outgoing stream (as there is only one lowest point)

Rivers, flowing downhill from the mountains to the sea.

After that, I add forests and start deciding where I want my cities to be.

Forests spring up once you have water sources

People build where they have access to key resources.


For me, as an artist, it helps if someone has something drawn out – to the best of their abilities – with details such as mountains, lakes, rivers, cities, etc. That way I can more or less copy their world and put my touches on it instead of creating it from scratch and hoping it matches their vision. So if you’re planning to have someone make a map for you, do your best to draw something out. (It can also help you learn about your world! Win-win!)

When creating a map of your world, keep your people groups/races in mind. This gets into more world-building stuff, but if most of your people are nomads, for instance, you likely wouldn’t have any big metropolitan type area. Or if your nation is a big farming nation, there likely won’t be a ton of mountains – it’ll be flatter land, more field-like.

The best advice I can give is to research geography and study maps! Look at real countries and note how the mountains cut across the land, how the rivers flow, how the coastline changes.

For further research, check out Brandon Sanderson’s World Building Geography lecture series

If you have any questions or would like to solicit my map-making services, you can contact me at my facebook site, Your World Designed.


Angie Grigaliunas is a fantasy writer (mature content and themes) and blogger. She loves Jesus, the woods, and the stars, and has always wanted to be a superhero with a secret identity. She lives in Ohio with her dear husband, their puppy, and their crazy cats. You can follow her on Twitter at @Angie_ZeWriter.




How might mapping your fictional world help you better understand it? Any questions for Angie?
Thursday, June 09, 2016 Laurel Garver
Months ago, I wrote a post about mapping interior spaces for your fiction. I'd fully intended to post next about building fictional outdoor environments, then realized I don't know anything about this topic! So I was delighted to discover a mapmaker offering her services to the author collective I participate in. And I'm even more delighted that she's willing to come here to share her tips on beginning to develop a map for your imagined world. Take it away, Angie....

By guest author Angie Grigaliunas

mapping helps you visualize your created world.
As a visual person, I’ve always been interested in maps. I created maps for most of the stories I started, and I worked for hours in Paint tweaking every little detail. As I’ve grown in both my writing and map-making, I decided to branch out and start helping others with their maps. I am by no means an expert, and I still have a lot to learn, but here are some tips to help you create a visual of your world.

One of the best parts for me in either writing or map-making is creating a new world. I can decide everything about it. It can also be daunting – trying to figure out landscapes, mountains, coastlines – especially when you don’t know where to start.

I personally always start with a land mass or continent. For the shape of this, check out actual countries and continents. Take note of how rugged or smooth the coastlines are and if there are islands. Drawing inspiration from real life creates a natural realism. Another great thing to try is searching for pictures of rust and using that shape as inspiration. Erosion works a similar way in both rust and land. You can also do this with a country, but country boarders are often affected by things other than natural causes (politics, for instance).

A basic land mass

Next, I place mountains. Most simply, mountains form where two tectonic plates move against each other (so it may be a good idea to figure out where those plates are in your world and create mountains along those lines). They’re not random, and islands will typically follow this same line. Mountains can cause rainshadows (a dry area on the leeward side of the mountain), so if you want deserts, decide which direction the weather in your world comes from and put your desert on the protected side of your mountains.

Mountain placement is based on tectonic plates lying beneath them.

After mountains, I start adding water. Some things to keep in mind here:

~Water flows toward the lowest point, away from mountains

~Rivers connect; they typically do not divide (unless there is a man-made reason, for instance)

~Lakes/ponds can have numerous rivers feeding them, but they can’t have more than one outgoing stream (as there is only one lowest point)

Rivers, flowing downhill from the mountains to the sea.

After that, I add forests and start deciding where I want my cities to be.

Forests spring up once you have water sources

People build where they have access to key resources.


For me, as an artist, it helps if someone has something drawn out – to the best of their abilities – with details such as mountains, lakes, rivers, cities, etc. That way I can more or less copy their world and put my touches on it instead of creating it from scratch and hoping it matches their vision. So if you’re planning to have someone make a map for you, do your best to draw something out. (It can also help you learn about your world! Win-win!)

When creating a map of your world, keep your people groups/races in mind. This gets into more world-building stuff, but if most of your people are nomads, for instance, you likely wouldn’t have any big metropolitan type area. Or if your nation is a big farming nation, there likely won’t be a ton of mountains – it’ll be flatter land, more field-like.

The best advice I can give is to research geography and study maps! Look at real countries and note how the mountains cut across the land, how the rivers flow, how the coastline changes.

For further research, check out Brandon Sanderson’s World Building Geography lecture series

If you have any questions or would like to solicit my map-making services, you can contact me at my facebook site, Your World Designed.


Angie Grigaliunas is a fantasy writer (mature content and themes) and blogger. She loves Jesus, the woods, and the stars, and has always wanted to be a superhero with a secret identity. She lives in Ohio with her dear husband, their puppy, and their crazy cats. You can follow her on Twitter at @Angie_ZeWriter.




How might mapping your fictional world help you better understand it? Any questions for Angie?