Finding Inspiration at the Mall

I survived girls’ weekend! It was a great two days of watching romantic movies, shopping, and eating junk food. On Sunday, we ventured to the Traverse City Mall, which houses a beautiful carousel. I took the pictures you see here to use as inspiration for my Flying Ponies series.

I love seeing the carousel animals; they remind me of a lost time that America will never see again. I believe this carousel sports fiberglass animals rather than wood, but their beautiful colors and intricate designs also represent my own childhood memories of riding flying ponies around and around.

I think when you’re writing, it’s a good idea to find images related to the story that inspire you. I am a visual person; seeing actual carousels help me focus on writing about my fictional one. And, I enjoy learning about them, too. I hope to next year make it down to Sandusky, Ohio, to the Merry Go Round Museum, to visit their restored carousels.

What inspires you when you write? What images have you used for your stories?

Have a blessed night, and please enjoy the carousel pictures.

Girls’ Weekend!Or, Showing Off the Smash Book

I’m headed north this weekend with my daughter and mother-in-law to meet up with my two sister-in-laws and two nieces for a weekend of chick/superhero flicks, junk food, antiquing, used book and second-hand clothing stores. Let the party begin!

I’m also excited to show my oldest niece my smash book for my YA fantasy series. What’s a smash book? The easiest way to explain it is it’s a scrap book for your book. I have pictures of my castles, ruling families, assassins, soldiers, places, and other things pertinent to the series. It’s been a lot of fun, and a fair amount of work. That’s been good for me, though, because my muse needed a break after finishing the first novel in the Three Destinies trilogy and editing, for the fourth time, the first in the Flying Ponies duology.

But the coolest thing about showing off the smash book to my niece? She is already a huge fan of my books set in Pentallia, the world I created. She’s my first reader of my books and short stories, and she’s an aspiring writer as well. And let me tell you all – the girl’s got talent! Her superhero stories are terrific. I think Marvel should just hire her now. She’s always enthusiastic about my work, and it’s awesome having someone to talk writing with.

So while I’m happy to go larking about second-hand stores, searching for new treasures, I’m equally happy to share more of my world with my first, and biggest, fan.


Big Things Happening

Yesterday two big things happened: I got to see some concept cover art for my first novel, Lift, and this website is now officially my own domain. It is beyond exciting to know that my career as an indie writer is actually moving forward.

The cover art is gorgeous. It hasn’t been decided if it’s what we’re going to use, but just seeing it is amazing. It means that the novel is much closer to a reality, more than just a document on my computer. I will be finishing up my fourth round of edits in the next week, and barring any unforeseen problems, will be sending it to my publisher. 

As for the website, I have added a Flying Ponies page for that series, with the prequel to Lift added as sub pages. Whirl is the story of a young woman who meets a man with an extraordinary carousel.

There is also a Treasury page where I will be posting short stories set in the land of Pentallia. The stories will feature characters from my Pentallian Archives series. 

I feel blessed by both things that happened, and blessed to live where I do. This was the view off my front deck this morning as I let our two Dachshunds out. I hope you have a look around my site, and a wonderful day.

Always Onward

Today I finished rewriting the first novel in my YA high fantasy series. It was a bittersweet moment. These characters have become somewhat of an extended family for me. The first version was written over a three year period. This version took about ten months; in that time, I’ve gotten to know them really well. It was difficult to leave them on the page. But, as you know, there are other journeys to take.

My next journey takes me back to the Flying Ponies. I started the second book today, entitled Tilt. While it’s hard to leave the world of Pentallia, it will be an adventure to write about Charlotte, Black, Dreadful and Penumbra. I look forward to seeing how their story ends.

What do you do after you finish a story? Do you immediately jump into the next one, or do you give your muse time off? My muse took a month off after finishing the first Flying Ponies book. This time, I’m happy mine is ready to go again, without a dry spell. I have lots of stories to tell, particularly in Pentallia. 

So onward, fellow writers. Always be looking for the next story, the next journey. 

Blogging a Book

How many of you have heard of this concept? I am reading How to Blog a Book  by Nina Amir. It’s good so far, and interesting. But so far it seems to me like it’s basically like when I used to post fanfiction. Yes, I got sucked into that fan-driven whirlwind back around 2002. My account is still currently active on one of the biggest fan fiction websites. I haven’t decided if I want to remove it yet or not.

Blogging a book, as far as I can tell, is a great way to get people interested in your book. That’s how it is with fan fiction, too. Get readers hooked on your story, and watch them flock to it. And they sometimes leave reviews, too – although, depending on how you’re handling those fave characters, it might not be a favorable one. Still, it’s great interaction with the fans. So how much greater would it be if they were fans of your original work? 

That all being said, it’s a big project to post a story online, and to update it in a timely manner. I am currently rewriting the first story in my YA fantasy series, and have thought about blogging it. I have enough written that I could update once a week or even twice a week for a while, and see how it does. Meanwhile, I’m editing the first book in The Flying Ponies series, Lift.  Lots to do, and I have to wonder if blogging the first fantasy novel would be worth it. 

What do you think? Would you be willing to blog one of your books-in-progress? It could be an adventure!

Characters Know Best

Have you ever spent a lot of time plotting out a story, complete with a timeline and outline, only to have your characters hijack it? This happened with the first story in my YA fantasy series, set in my world of Pentallia. I spent months outlining, drawing up character sheets, and writing out scenes in a concise timeline, only to have my three main characters take my work and pitch in the garbage. 

That first story was written in first person POV, and frankly, it didn’t work, for me, the characters, or the first publisher I sent it to. I’m currently rewriting it, in third person, and without an outline. My characters don’t respect those. I’m also planning to go the indie author route, with help from Wicked Whale Publishing. 

But back to those characters who laughed at my huge binder of work. I still have it, but broke it down into multiple smaller notebooks and four Pinterest boards specific to their world. I refer to those things when my characters, my people, take me somewhere in their world I’m not quite familiar with. For the most part, I just try to keep up.

And you know what? Something amazing has happened along the way: my people actually know what they’re doing. This second version is so much better than the first. I have discovered I am not a first person POV writer. I have also realized that by letting my people go free to roam, they have it all worked out. Now that doesn’t mean it won’t need editing – it will. But it does mean that the story is much clearer, and the flow is right.

So where does this leave you? Do you have a huge binder filled with outlines and timelines your people won’t cooperate with? Why not try writing a chapter without referring to the binder (or notebook or Scrivener or whatever) and letting your characters do what they want? They might disappoint you. They might anger you. But, and this is why you should try it, they might surprise you. Mine did. They may wander on occasion, and I have to help them back to the task, but they seem to be getting it right. 

Maybe yours will, too. 

Adding to the Toolbox

I’m sure most of my fellow writers have heard of Scrivener, and probably quite a few of you use it. I had read about it in some of my self-publishing books, but decided to give it a try only after a fellow writer I admire told me how much she liked it. I thought that if I liked it too, I could add it to the author toolbox that Stephen King encourages us to build. 

I am using the free trial, and all the reviews on the software are right: there is a pretty hefty learning curve. But after using it today with my fantasy series, I must say I am a fan. I absolutely love the corkboard feature. I’m looking forward to using the name generator as well, when the time comes for that. Once you get the hang of it, the software is pretty easy to use.

I still like Word for working up chapters; in Scrivener instead of scenes, I’m using chapters as well. I like that Scrivener keeps everything for a story together; I might not have to utilize so many notebooks just for one story. Being able to have all your notes in one “binder” is also helpful, as my fantasy world of Pentallia is sprawling, with lots of people and places. 

If you’ve thought about trying Scrivener, but been on the fence, I encourage you to at least try the free thirty day trial. You might find it worth adding to your author toolbox, too.

Playing Favorites

We all have a favorite book, or many favorites, if you’re like me. And as writers, we also have favorite characters that we’ve created, whether it’s a hero or a villain (sometimes, they’re both). We often times don’t want to admit this, because we could be accused of playing the favorite game, but it is  true, isn’t it? 

Case in point: in my YA fantasy series I’m working on, there are two young men that I love writing equally well. One is a soldier, and one is an assassin. I would never tell them they are both favorites, because characters have egos just like writers. If you haven’t found this to be the case, just wait. There will be a character someday who demands a lot of your time. And somehow, he or she becomes a favorite. 

The problem with having a favorite, or favorites, is that sometimes you have to let them go for the betterment of your story, and you don’t want to. You know you should, that their death will raise the stakes, but you just can’t do it. Friends, you have to. If it makes your story that much richer, that much more riveting, do it. You will feel bad. You might even cry. But if it causes you that much pain, consider what it will do to your readers. I know, over the course of my fantasy series, I will lose some characters who have become very dear. But their death will enrich the stories, and it will be worth it.

So remember, when it’s time to say goodbye, to let them die, how much more amazing your story will be because of it. 

Show Your Nerve

I bet, at some point in our writing lives, we’ve all had someone say something like, “Really? A writer? You?” Even if said with good intentions, it can make us falter. We start to doubt. Are we really capable of becoming a writer? The answer is a resounding YES. 

Why? Because, my friends, you took the first step to becoming a writer by simply doing the hard part: writing. Anyone who has the guts to put down on page or screen the words that want, need, to come out, has the courage to keep doing it. 

I know this because I wrote fan fiction for years. Back in 1999 or so, I discovered Voltron fan fiction on the web, and around 2002, I finally got up the nerve to write my own and post it to a well-known fan fiction site. I got quite a few reviews; most of them were kind. I then started writing Gundam Wing stories, and found the readers there not so gentle. But I leaned. I took advice. I wrote better. And eventually, I started working on my own original work. Now, though I still get occasional requests for more fan fiction, I work solely on my original fiction.

We all get down about our writing. We have hard days when the words gum up and our characters stomp around upstairs and throw tantrums. But oh, remember a day when it all comes together? When you got that review that made you shout with excitement? That’s why we have to keep our nerve. We need to be brave. 

We need to persevere, because we are writers, and no one can tell our stories but us.