December IWSG: Holiday Writing and Book Shenanigans

Many thanks to the IWSG founder Alex J. Cavanaugh and the team of IWSG volunteers, as well as the IWSG blog hop team for December: Joylene Nowell Butler, Chemist Ken, Natalie Aguirre, Nancy Gideon, and Cathrina Constantine!

HOLIDAYS and WRITING

Holidays are the best time for me to read and to write stories that bring me joy. It would be nice if every aspect of writing filled me with joy, but some parts are simply hard work. 

Sometimes, a book or story will seem to dead end into a cheerless, dark corner by the trash leftover from Halloween, but it’s often that I need to shed more light on the story, or I need to lighten up my mood with something fun or silly or just odd. I’ve written a number of short stories that fit into those categories, and some of them have been stories I’ve written around the holiday season. 

Then, there are the “serious” stories that seem to beg to be written in December, when the sky grows dim. Even as I long for light, some years I turn to history and faith, and find myself poking at an old historical fiction story or reworking a poem long forgotten. 

For me, it all depends on the year and what else it has brought into my life.

This year, I plan on vacationing from writing other than in my journal from December 22-27th, and I think having a planned timed off is good for renewing the energy I need to write. 

December 26th-January 1st are my prime reading days for the entire year, based on a childhood tradition. I asked for books on my tenth Christmas, received fifteen of them, and read half before I started school again in January. While I don’t often read quite that many books every year in that week, I spend at least two days reading to my heart’s content.

How do you write and read over the holiday season?

Dark Blade: Forged is completed as a Kindle Vella serialization. The first three episodes are free (this is a Kindle Vella rule), and the whole novel is finished. I will be turning it into a regular Ebook, paperback, and Audiobook in 2023.

Dark Blade: Tempered (Dark Blade, Vol. 2) is my newest Kindle Vella project, with the first free episode out today! I have a more-detailed-than-usual plot outline for the series to keep the serialization driving forward. 

On an “off writing” day, I spent some time playing with my book covers again (they are mostly the same, but Dark Blade: Tempered is new) at Canva and attempting to create a new banner for The World of Aramtir. This is what I have so far, but I hope to create some “marketing” materials for the series as I get into the new year.

Pre-orders are definitely happening at Amazon for 25 Impossible Tales of Survivors, Flawed Heroes, and Annoyed Villains It was fun to put together, and using some great feedback from some beta readers, I’ve taken out one of the darker stories and added in a happier one. 
Due to some family wedding plans in the spring (one of my daughters), I have moved the release date up to January! If you are interested in becoming an ARC reader for a free copy, check out my Booksprout Campaign.

If you are headed into a serious time of coziness without doing much online for the rest of the year, I hope you have a very Merry Christmas, a Happy Holiday Season, and a wonderful New Year!

Also, if you’re interested, I’m at two events over the next month:

The online 2023 Youtube Kickoff Blitz – more details coming soon.

Plus, I’m teaching a continuing education class at the Gig Harbor Campus of Tacoma Community College and registration is live now!

DOUBLE UP POST: ADVENT REFLECTION AND A BOOK REVIEW

Why the double up post? Well, I have to admit, it’s only Monday, and already the week is moving and grooving. 🙂

ADVENT REFLECTION

My faith is the foundation of my life. As I noted in my first post for Advent, this does not mean my faith is perfect, or that I am either. I rely on God’s grace and peace to help me stand firm in faith

For the second week and candle of Advent, the theme can be hope or faith.

Yesterday at church, my pastor asked us to consider what the opposite of faith is.

I think we often think the opposite of faith is doubt, but he discussed how he thinks the opposite of faith is fear.

And I agree.

Like courage, faith is not the absence of fear, but it is about having faith in God despite fearful circumstances or struggles we can’t seem to win on our own.

Faith isn’t a guarantee that God will lift us out of those circumstances, but it is a focus on how God is with us in every moment of our lives; the easy and the hard, the good and the bad.

God is with us always. That’s what faith is about.

Faith is not a get rich quick scheme, or even a get perfect quick scheme – it’s a living relationship with God that includes trusting God to be with us every moment of every day, and that having faith in Him is worthwhile even when we can’t see/feel/touch how He’s working with us

Faith is a trust that the promised land is coming, even if we aren’t there yet, and won’t be in our lifetime on Earth.

Faith is trust in Immanuel – God with us.

SECOND PART OF THE POST: A REVIEW OF A WRITING BUSINESS BOOK

 

Review of PAPER HEARTS, VOL. 1: SOME WRITING ADVICE BY BETH REVIS

Paper Hearts, Vol 1: Some Writing Advice by Beth Revis (science fiction author) starts out with encouragement, sprinkles encouragement throughout the pages, and ends with encouragement. The writing style is easy to read, and the chapters vary between light, short chapters and dense, information-packed chapters that had me taking notes. At first, I wasn’t sure about the super short chapters, but I grew to find them as meaningful as the densely packed writing advice chapters.

One of the chapters I love is Chapter Four, which consists of three sentences and ends with this: “There is no one way to write a novel.”

It took a year for me to read this book because I was savoring the encouragement, taking notes on all of the information she has included on character arcs, plot development, dialogue, and more, and enjoying it as a non-fiction read I know I will reread. While I believe she wrote this for new to newer writers, I think it’s a great read for writers of all experience levels.

This book is fun, a kick in the pants, and an encouragement wrapped up with information any writer needs to learn or be reminded of for their writing craft and ongoing writing career health.

The blurb from Amazon:

Bird by Bird meets Save the Cat in this new writing advice book by NY Times bestselling author Beth Revis. With more than 100000 reads on Wattpad, this newly expanded and rewritten edition features 350 pages of content, including charts and a detailed appendix.
~~~
Fight the blank page.

When it comes to writing, there’s no wrong way to get words on paper. But it’s not always easy to make the ink flow. Paper Hearts: Some Writing Advice won’t make writing any simpler, but it may help spark your imagination and get your hands back on the keyboard.

Practical Advice Meets Real Experience.

At Amazon.

What’s your favorite writing craft book?

Interested in my writing life? Sign up for my newsletter. I just sent one out last week, so you can see a sample.

I have two upcoming events, if you are interrested!

  1. The 2023 New Year’s Youtube Kickoff Blitz – more details coming soon!
  2. Writing Short Stories Weekly, a class with Tacoma Community College’s Continuing Education program at the Gig Harbor Campus. Registration is live!

Speculative Fiction Fridays, Current Series: The Phoenix

PHOENIX CHARACTERISTICS


The phoenix is a mythical bird that emerges from its ashes to renew itself.

Over the centuries, phoenixes have been said to have varying life cycles, from as long as 1500 years to as short as a single day, depending on the story. Some legends say it dies in a show of flames, others say it dies and decomposes before being born again in flames.

The phoenix is associated with the sun, regeneration, fire, and new birth, and has been used as a symbol for many cultures and many belief systems.

The phoenix is depicted as a slender-necked bird, similar in size to a large eagle, although some stories depict phoenixes as large as an ostrich or as small as a rooster. They are often depicted with either a halo around their heads, seven rays around their heads, or a crest of feathers on its head. The phoenix was always believed to be colorful and vibrant but became associated with specific colors over time. Some legends state it had peacock-like feathers. Some believed it was red and yellow in coloration, some believed purples. Some believed it had red legs and yellow eyes, while others said the eyes were blue like sapphires. Some said it had rose-colored talons.

Next week on Friday, I’ll be discussing the origins of the phoenix as a fantastical and mythological bird. Over the course of December, I’ll focus on the phoenix, but in January, I’ll be focused on the griffin/gryphon with some quotes from my fantasy books set in the World of Aramatir.

What are some of your favorite creatures from fantasy worlds? Please drop a comment and let me know. I’ll be working on covering a variety of fantasy creatures over the next several months on Fridays.

Also, I have two upcoming events I would like to invite you to, although two of them are definitely “local” to where I live.

WRITING SHORT STORIES WEEKLY is a continuing education class at Tacoma Community College’s Gig Harbor Campus. Registration is happening now!

The 2023 New Year’s Kickoff Blitz with several authors online. More information coming soon.

Word and Story Hunter, a New Series of Posts on Writing

Word of the Week: Yen

A yen is a strong desire, urge, or craving for something.

I have a yen to discover the right word the first time I write a draft of my work, but the reality is I often find a beautiful word that fits and then reuse it multiple times in a page of my rough draft writing. It’s kind of embarrassing when I’m caught, so I must hunt for the right synonyms or even rewrite complete sentences to keep my writing from falling into unplanned repetition.

This hunt led me to stary wryly calling myself a Word Hunter. I used it on my name badge at Realm Makers 2022 and guess what? People asked me about it. When I tried to explain that I used it as a way of reminding myself of my need to hunt out new words for my writing, they seemed surprised. I suppose the phrase could imply I have a robust vocabulary. I have a decent reading vocabulary, but when it comes to writing or speaking, I have a tendency to stick to words I can pronounce easily.

This experience led me to think about the phrase, but I didn’t want to strike it from my name badge. I had a yen to be worthy of it. I started thinking about what it means to hunt for something, to forage into the underbrush, and stalk the wily prey of wild words, and I decided it did fit, not only with individual words, but with the way I write stories.

Often, I am minding my own business, walking along, when a story startles out of the underbrush like a wild rabbit, but then, it goes still, frozen and staring at me in shock, trying to figure out if it should flee or stay.

So, I gaze at the story sideways, writing quietly through the ramifications of different plot angles and hoping it doesn’t race away before I can at least capture its likeness in a picture.

And so, this is the beginning of my Word and Story Hunter Series of posts, where I will do my best to capture the phrases, words, ideas, and momentary enjoyments of my writing hunt. Each post will be short. Each might be a wee bit random, as ideas leap through my mind.

Next Wednesday is the Insecure Writer’s Support Group Day, but the rest of the Wednesdays in December will be dedicated to jumping jots about being a Word and Story Hunter.

NEW Reviews of Writing Books, a Series

I love to read. I have loved reading for most of my life.

As a writer, I read genre books, poetry, and non-fiction, specifically writing craft books, writing encouragement books, writing prompt books, books that inform my writing, and writing business books. This last year, I embarked on a writing business and writing marketing book binge. I read seven books on writing which focused on the business of writing and marketing, Plus, I’m currently finishing up two more books on the business of writing and marketing.

I decided it’s time to start reviewing some of these books and recommending the ones I love to my fellow writers.

The first one I’m reviewing is one I’ve reviewed before, but I wanted to highlight it once again at the start of this series, since it was the first book on the writing business that I read this year.

The Business of Writing Short Stories: Writing, Submitting, Publishing, and Marketing by Shannon Lawrence (horror writer by night) is the definitive work on the business of writing short stories.

This book has everything you need, from non-nonsense tips on writing short stories, publishing short stories, and marketing short stories. It is jammed full of information, and I recommend it for anyone who wants to write short stories successfully.

I have been writing short stories for over three decades and I wish someone had given me this book back in college, or ten years ago when I started trying to make a business of writing. I highly recommend it as a book for any student of writing, any writer who wants to make a go of it, and anyone who needs a little help going in the right direction with the business side of writing short stories.

Truly an excellent book and a must for any writer’s shelf.

Official book blurb:

Whether you’re looking to add short stories to your repertoire as a solo pursuit or in addition to novel writing, The Business of Short Stories covers every aspect from writing to marketing. Learn the dynamics of short story writing, where to focus your editing efforts, how and where to submit, how to handle acceptances and rejections, what to do with reprints, and how to market yourself and your stories online and in person. The information in The Business of Short Stories has been distilled from over a decade of short story publishing experience so you don’t have to learn the hard way. You’ll find information on submission formatting, cover letters, querying a collection, sending proposals to writing events, how to create a website, SEO, social media, and so much more. This is an invaluable resource for short story writers.

At Amazon

NEW Advent Series

My faith is foundational in my life and work, all of my writing and all that I do.

Yes, sometimes, I fall short. Often times, actually. I know God has called me to love Him and to love others like He loves each of us, like Jesus loves us.

I fall way short of that. We all do.

Does this mean I’m a hypocrite?

Never on purpose, but I can see where it would seem so. But I also believe that there aren’t many people who aren’t hypocrites, whether our worldview is based on faith or not.

Does this mean my faith is meaningless?

Far from it!

My faith is my foundation. My foundation is in Christ Jesus, Immanuel.

When life is dark, when I’ve fallen (again), Jesus is my light and my path.

So, here, once a week for Advent, I’ll be taking a moment to share a scripture verse that highlights that foundation.

“The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.” John 1:9

This verse is found in the beginning of the book of John, who is discussing how John the Baptist (not the same John as the one who wrote the gospel) prepares the way for Jesus, and then he begins to discuss who Jesus is – the Word of God made flesh, the true Word that gives light. Jesus is the light of the world, our hope and our salvation.

As I celebrate Advent (advent means “coming”) of Christ, I celebrate with candles, lighting up the darkness. This week’s candle represents hope.

This series will continue every Sunday afternoon in Advent. Between those posts, I’ll have some other short posts about writing books, writing, and phoenixes.

GIVING THANKS

Giving thanks invites reflection, rest, humor, and courage into our lives. 

In the autumn, I fall into a reflective season of writing each year. Even as I participate in National Novel Writing Month, I find myself reflecting on my writing: what I write, how I write, why I write. I rejoice over the writing that has gone well (both in success and in personal meaning) and consider the writing that didn’t go well (either not successful, unfinished, or simply hard to write). 

I give thanks for those who want to read my writing. 

It kind of amazes me that people like both the wildness and the repetition in my writing themes. And, I feel honored and thankful to have been able to write and to speak and to share. 

I find rest in giving thanks because it is an action and thought process that starts in reflection and moves to giving everything away, a letting go of what has been in gratitude for all that has been a part of my life.

Humor comes into the act of thanks giving when I let go enough to laugh a little, to find the ludicrous in those moments that I can’t say are really “horrible” moments, but certainly aren’t great ones. 

For instance, I am thankful for the moment after I fell on the ice last week while visiting Spokane, Washington (the colder, dryer, more inland part of the state). Okay, maybe not the searing pain in my knees, hands, and back moment, but the moment after that, when I realized, with some embarrassment, that I was swearing a blue streak and I had scared a huge guy experiencing homelessness – he came out from behind a car, wrapped in layers of clothes and a sleeping bag and edged away from me as I flailed on the ground trying to get up.

Maybe that doesn’t sound funny, and I do feel badly that I scared him, but honestly, it made me laugh at that moment and still does. Who knew I was so frightening when I allowed my old natural childhood tongue to come flying out of my mouth? Who knew a short, overweight woman flailing on the ground could scare away a tall, big guy standing on his feet in a parking lot?

For those who don’t know, I actively try not to swear much in my regular life, but when you start your life with those words in your mouth and brain, they don’t just go away easily. I didn’t even know which words were swear words until I was in elementary school, and there were a few I didn’t recognize as bad words until I was in my 40s, and after I had used them in a message at church…. Oh, yes, there’s a story there, but best saved for another day.

The pictures below are a combination of photos taken over ten days: the top four are from Spokane, Washington, the bottom left is something I took on the day I came home and is from the boat launch area about a mile from my house, and the bottom right is from The Refuge, a place I went for a church leadership retreat. (It was a busy ten days.)

.Courage is invited into our lives when we give thanks, because when we reflect on our lives, we can choose to let go of all that has come before, and choose to step into the moment right now, and into the next moment, with an understanding that all of the experiences past, present, and future, are but fleeing moments in a lifetime where we can give thanks and have courage, and live as best as we can – giving grace to ourselves and others, giving thanks for life itself. 

Because I love God and have been growing deeper in love with God over my life, I give thanks to God for my life, for my writing, for the awesome family members and friends who encourage me. I give thanks to God for being God, for Jesus as my Savior, and for the Holy Spirit breathing life and peace into my soul.

When I say Happy Thanksgiving, I hope you have a nice holiday, but I also hope you have time to give thanks and invite reflection, humor, and courage into your life.

IWSG November: Do You NaNoWriMo?

Insecure Writer’s Support Group

A database resource site and support group for writers and authors. Featuring weekly guests and tips, a monthly blogfest gathering, a Facebook group, a book club, and thousands of links – all to benefit writers! #IWSG

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Reedsy Discount / Past Issues

November 2’s optional question – November is National Novel Writing Month. Have you ever participated? If not, why not?

The awesome co-hosts for the November 2 posting of the IWSG are Diedre Knight, Douglas Thomas Greening, Nick Wilford, and Diane Burton! Many thanks to founder Alex J. Cavanaugh!

You ready?

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!

Do You NANOWRIMO?

First, what is it and when did it start?

According to their website:

“National Novel Writing Month began in 1999 as a daunting but straightforward challenge: to write 50,000 words of a novel during the thirty days of November.”

If you haven’t done it before, it might sound slightly unhinged.

If you have done it before, you know that it is slightly unhinged.

However, the writers who run NaNoWriMo.org provide motivational messages from well-known authors, some cool gadgetry and graphs on their website to track word counts each day and throughout the month, forums to join in online, meetups in person, and a general way to have fun while taking part in the challenge of getting 50,000 words on the page in 30 days. 

If you’ve ever read Stephen King’s book On Writing, you know he would own the challenge easily with his 3000 words a day word count, so it’s not like this challenge actually rocks the world book of records for writing, but it is a challenge. 

Many authors hate it. Many authors love it. Some have been there and done that. Some go back every year. Some prefer to write on weekends, or write at a slower pace overall. Some prefer to keep their own word count guides or hit different marks – 100 words a day, or 500, and not the 1667 or so necessary to make the 50,000 in one month.

But the question wasn’t, what the heck do I know about NaNoWriMo, it was: Have I participated? And why or why not?

So, finally, my answer:

Yes.

Because it actually brings me joy when I don’t overstress about it.

I know that may sound like a weird answer. Some authors see the challenge as an ultimate stress-monster, and I have felt that way, a few times. Those were the years I didn’t finish. 

Last year, however, I noticed a writing friend called her project “Potluck” and she wrote on her blog about doing more than one project at once, and writing the word count as she saw fit. 

I wanted to reach across the webspace and hug her, or cheer, or at least raise a frosty glass of butterbeer in her direction. 

While some authors hate project-jumping, I hate working on one project for an entire month. I love project-jumping from week to week, or three-day to three-day increments. I love writing every day, as long as it’s not on the same project day in and day out. 

So, while I am in revision with one project and the proof stage with another project, I’m also drafting three different projects, joyfully, happily, contentedly. So, I’m participating in NaNoWriMo this year as a NaNo Rebel and I’m anticipating a win. 🙂

Unless something crazy in life happens, because sometimes… life has been crazy. So, given a lack of extra-crazy, I’ll be NaNoWriMo-ing this year. 

What about you? Do You NaNoWriMo?



As I mentioned, I do have a few projects coming to a finish this year, two of which are:

25 Impossible Tales of Survivors, Flawed Heroes, and Annoyed Villains (coming out in 2023). If you’re interested in being an ebook ARC reader, please let me know in the comments. It’s also available for pre-order: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0BGT65CMF:

Dark Blade: Forged, the Kindle Vella novel, will reach an endpoint by the end of 2022, with an ebook and a paperback coming in late 2023. Book 2 of the Dark Blade series will begin appearing on KV next year.

If you would like to give this a read in the KV format, you can start with the first three episodes for free: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B094HGN6F8

And yes, Rayatana 3 is in the works, but since it’s actually linked to a different series (yep, that plan was in place all along), I had to make sure everything was lining up properly. I’ll share some news about it in early 2023, but not before then.

NEW AND UPCOMING EVENTS AND APPEARANCES!

WRITE IN THE HARBOR

Class: Four Sentence Stories and Exercises to Boost Creativity

Dates: November 4th and 5th in Gig Harbor, WA

BBQ2U AUTHOR TABLE

Gig Harbor December 5-11th

Including the Greater Gig Harbor Book Flood on December 6th, from 4-7pm

Does Rest Have a Place in Fiction Novels?

Fiction novels take characters on a breakneck pace through trial and fire, through trouble and time-crunched plots where every second matters.

Given the fast-paced nature of most YA, adventure, and speculative fiction, one might think rest has no place in those novels, but I believe it does.

Rest plays an important role in fast-paced, adventure-filled fiction.

I love The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien which contains mini adventures rolled into the larger adventure of the quest. In every novel, characters usually go on some kind of journey internally (emotionally/mentally) and sometimes, externally (physical adventures), and in every novel, there are “rest” points where characters have time to reflect on their circumstances before moving onward in their journey.

These rest points are key moments in any fast-paced, adventure-filled fiction. The rest moments in novels give characters time to reflect on the adventures they’ve had, how they have changed, and if they are prepared (or not) for what is coming next.

The Hobbit includes some rest points for the party of adventurers, and oddly, not all of them are nice places. They rest with the elves, with Beorn, and with the Wood-elves who imprison them.

Now, wait, you might be thinking that the prison isn’t a restful place, but yet, it is. They spend time there. The dwarves heal from their spider bites. Bilbo has time to make a plan for their escape and make it happen.

Rest in a fast-paced novel doesn’t have to happen in an idyllic glade or at an elven feast, it could be in prison, or under the foreboding shadows of dark trees. The only key requirement of rest in a novel is that it be a moment during which the characters reflect on events.

Rest gives the characters time to consider their internal struggles and is often when the most important internal story arc takes place.

Bilbo takes a beat in the tunnel before he enters Smaug’s lair in the mountain. This important rest beat helps him discover the courage he needs to move forward, and this courage is based on the adventures he’s already had at that point in the novel. While you can argue that the interior monologue in The Hobbit is pretty sparse, I still think this reflection is embedded in the scene.

Since I went on vacation a few weeks ago and rediscovered how much I need rest so I can reflect on my life and find renewal, I’ve been seeing this need everywhere – in life and in fiction.

If you write breakneck, fast-paced novels, how do you build in reflection and rest for your characters, so they have the strength to go on?