Thursday, June 30, 2011

Estate Your Business, My Post on Black Gate

A couple of weeks ago I was asked to write a post for Black Gate's website. I've got a fantasy story in the current issue of Black Gate. The topic of the post doesn't have anything to do with the story, though, it's all about how to organize a literary estate. Yes, planning for death, everyone's favorite topic. I was an attorney, though, who did estate planning, so it's a topic I know something about.

And while it may not brighten everyone's day to have me come here to the Cove with this topic, it's something every member of the Cove should be thinking about. All of us own copyrights, whether or not our work is published, and if we want our work to live on after us, we need to make sure it's handled in an organized manner. For that matter, all of us should have wills, no matter how youthful and healthy we are. Especially those of us who have children.

My post on Black Gate went live this Tuesday, and I recommend everyone hop on over and at least skim it, not because I'm just the best writer of posts ever and expect you to love it. In fact, I'll think you're a little weird if you love my post, but it's a topic that gets very little attention and on which people receive very little guidance. As a writer, choose to be in the know!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

What's a Pre BookLaunch Celebration?

Join me in Elizabeth Mueller's celebration the entire month of July for Darkspell’s release this fall!

The darkness sends his followers, the Watchers, to haunt Winter Sky, but Alex Stormhold battles to keep her safe from the prowling evil. Rather than being dragged into the dark's destruction, I will provide a way for you to protect yourselves.

These are the *talismans that you could win:

Nox Arcana's Shadow of the Raven for the FIRST WEEK

Canvas Wall Scroll Tapestry: 12"X 17" for the SECOND WEEK

Dragons Sculpture Bookends: 4"X5"X8" for the THIRD WEEK

My favorite: 13" tall. Dark Shadows Lamp for the FOURTH WEEK

Here's how to enter so you can avoid the Shadoweaver's clutches:

It is your charge to haunt the resident bloggers--listed below--that are hosting me as their guest for the week. Go here to answer the questions posted into the contact form every Saturday:


Each correct answer will equal one entry.
Every comment in the blogger's post will equal one entry.
Every follower on my blog will have 2 entries: a must to qualify for 2 entries: please let me know that you're following me!


I will announce the winner Sunday evening on my blog!

Do you see Mr. Ole Dark Shadows Lamp there? He likes to pretend that he's the venomous Shadoweaver who seeks Winter. Could it be because he looks so much like him?

I will enter every person who dares to display his blog button, just cut and paste the html code from my grab button on my blog's sidebar to your sidebar for a second chance at the lamp.

In order to qualify for the 2nd lamp, you MUST leave comment in this post with your blog address stating that you've posted the button to your sidebar to make it easier for the Watchers to seek it out.

In other words, I am giving  2 lamps away!

Enter my daring bloggers:

**July 1 Sue Roebuck

July 4 Charlene Wilson

July 5 S. B. Niccum

July 12 M. S. Hatch

July 13 Tristi Pinkston

July 14 Susan Gourley

July 18 Jo Schaffer

July 20 Melissa Kline

July 23 Lisa Turner

July 25 J. D. Brown

July 27 & 28 Anastasia V. Pergakis

July 29 Michele Bell

July 30 Rebecca Carlson

*this is all make-believe in the spirit of my debut novel, nothing has been placed under any kind of spells and the Shadoweaver lives within the boundaries of Darkspell.
** first official Contest Saturday starts July 9th!
♥ you don't need to have a blog in order to participate!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Seven Point Story Structure

Late Tuesday night on my way home to Hawaii, somewhere high over the Pacific Ocean, just as the battery on my laptop was about to die, I finished Draft Four. To celebrate the epic moment, I read a Diana Wynne Jones novel, ate a candy bar, and then played tic-tac-toe with the six-year-old Polynesian girl in the seat next to me.

The next day, when I had my feet on the ground again, all the flaws in my manuscript came round to haunt me. Four drafts and the story still wasn't right, and I couldn't see how to fix it.

After tearfully confessing to my husband that if I can't get this book to work I want to quit writing and take up a new hobby, he had me sit down and listen to this great lecture on story structure by author Dan Wells. I've included the first part here:

You should watch all five parts yourself, but here's what I got out of it:


-Sets up the situation
-Propels the character out of the initial situation
-Something bad happens that forces the character to action
-Character begins to take action
-Something really bad happens, it looks like all is lost
-The character figures out how to save the day
-A new state of being is reached that shows progress or change from the initial state

But that's not all! Really great stories have multiple story lines running at the same time, and each one can follow this structure. In the last part of this lecture, Dan Wells talks about mapping multiple story lines to check for pacing and how to build killer scenes by stacking up plot points.

I just had to try it! And when I did, I REALIZED WHAT WAS WRONG WITH MY STORY!

Oh, happy day!

I picked out the four most important story lines and wrote out each of the seven points, then charted them chronologically through the book. Turns out one of the story lines was MISSING A POINT! Now I finally know what to do with Chapter 8. But worst of all, I had another story line that didn't hit PINCH 2 until after the other three were RESOLVED! So any reader who didn't care about that particular story line would be feeling done with the book when there's still two chapters to go.

My solution? Integrate that story line so it isn't dangling out, tacked on the end. Stack up the plot points instead to make the ending really rock.

So now I have a plan for Draft Five. But in the interest of not burning my burrito (see Leisha's post), I'm going to take a month off for summer vacation.

Happy writing, everyone!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Burnout and Cooking, Oh and Smoke, too. Lots of it.

posted by Leisha

Tuesday turned out to be a pretty smokin' day--literally. As in the whole house filled with it, and we all still smell like a toxic campfire. Think of it as our new perfume. We're calling it Burnt Burrito. So sexy. Meowwwww! Want some?

So, how did we all end up burritofied? Let's just say Kid C decided he could cook. By himself. Without permission. Yes, be afraid. I'm still having nightmares. Shudder.

The first clue that something was amiss reached me as I worked in my office. A tendril of charring snaked into the room and coiled up my nose. The mom alarm in me spazamed, and I ran from the room to find the billowing burrito. Did you know that if you fricassee one of those they become weightless? Really. And they turn blacker than the heart of a demon. I know, I checked. Don't ask how, that is so another post.

I wanted to share a picture with you, but someone threw the burrito carcass in the trash, probably because of the smell, and I am not dumpster diving for a photo. Just know it looked something like this:

And did I mention the smell, because DANG!

I know you all are sitting there in your comfy chairs plugging your noses and wondering what this has to do with anything. When I stared down at the smoking remains of Kid C's impromptu lunch I saw myself. (Not literally. I'm way better looking than charcoaled burrito.) But figuratively, I saw myself all burned out, used up, and smelly from spending too much time writing and rewriting and then doing it all over again. And again. And again...and again. Does this sound familiar to any of you?

Now, writing really is like a burrito. It can be spicy and filling and so so good. But if you leave it on the burner for too long it dies, taking all the yumminess with it. Writing is like that. You need to find balance and time away from the fire. You need to take time to eat the darn thing and then eat something else. Something other than burrito. You need variety.

Yes, I'm saying you need time away from writing, or whatever it is you do. Not a lot. Not months or even days. But you need to shut the computer and live in the real world for part of every day or you will burnout or burn up. Either way it will be bad. And smelly.

And by taking the time to live, your burrito tastes even better when you get back to it.

Think of this as a warning for writers. Don't char your burrito.

Leisha Maw

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Illos, one of the perks of the job!

My story, Hostile Environment, should be out today, in the September issue of Analog. I got very lucky with the illustration, by Mark Evans. Check it out:

Whenver I can, I get my own copy of the art and frame it. That may seem a little self centered, but it helps me to have these things to look at on the days when I despair of the whole writing thing.

In this picture are my two teenage main characters, Mala and Jasraj, who live on Mars and should not be jumping that ATV. I love them because they're the kind of people who'll do it anyway. Oh, and there's some burning thermite in the story too. If you don't know what that looks like, click the video below. (Or even if you do, its still fun to watch!)

Getting in the Zone

Way back in those happy childhood hours of shooting baskets with my Dad, he told me that lots of basketball players had a special routine they went through before making a free-throw shot. Some would dribble a few times, and there was even was one who always dried his hands off on his socks. Whatever they chose to do, it was something to help them get in the zone. Something that said, "Time for a free-throw." Something to ease mind and body into the practiced pattern that would send the ball arcing through the air and swishing through the hoop.

To this day, when I shoot a free-throw, I bounce the ball three times, then sight the rim over the orange sphere in my hands before getting set to make the shot. I don't make it that often. Out of practice.

But what I do practice every day is my writing. And when I sit down to write I do better if I take a few minutes to get into the zone.

First, I sit at my desk and stare at my tack board for a while. I've usually got some part of an outline for my current project up there, plus maps and diagrams, a small prop or two, and motivational quotes like "When Revising, Add Awesome," and "Anticipation is the BEST PART! Make 'em wait," and "CHAPTER 8 NEEDS SERIOUS HELP!"

Then, I listen to a song. This is my favorite part. As I listen, I close my eyes and let my mind play through images from my story. I see the characters, I feel their emotions, I experience their world. And then when the song is over, I wake up and write.

So what do you do to get in the zone?

P.S. Here's the song:

Monday, June 20, 2011

Do Not Do This at Home - or Anywhere Else

Last week at the wifyr conference, I had the privilege of sitting at the feet of master teacher and author, Martine Leavitt – oh, all right, we sat in school desks – but I learned a million and one awesome writerly traits!

On day one, she asked a classmate to write these on the board:

Heart pounding
Throat constricting
Fists, teeth, stomach clenching
Widening eyes
All manner of breathing

Then she informed us: DO NOT USE THEM ANYMORE. Do not use variations, either.

To be honest, at that moment, I gulped and my heart pounded. My stomach may or may not have been clenching, but yup, I did the crazy breathing thing and my fingers were freezing. Why? Because I’m guilty. GUILTY. Guilty.

These words are now so cliché that every editor and agent in the country develops a brain tic when they read yet another one. If you don’t believe me, check out this recent blog by the fantabulous agent Mary Kole:

So what do we do with these *gasp* overused physical descriptions? In the words of Martine Leavitt, GET RID OF THEM. Just do it.

- And on the wise advice of Rebecca (see comment below), don't worry about this on your first draft. Hit it in the revision stage. -

You can only save one tear experience, either at the very beginning of your story, or at the very end of the climax. Otherwise the tears will mean nothing to the reader. Only use the above clichéd words if you can do it brilliantly - and just once in your entire manuscript.

Use your imagination to come up with alternate ways to show how your character is feeling. Read the best modern books to see how it’s being done.

I’d sigh, but that’s out. Instead I’m attacking my manuscript. Time to slash and burn, then use the other two thirds of my brain to recreate. This will be interesting . . .

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

You Are What You Write

The other day my daughter and I were talking about an author we've both read. We're not naming any names. She's very famous and totally brilliant, but devastatingly egotistical. You read the first line of one of her books and you can sense she thinks she's the divine goddess of fiction.

Eh, maybe she is. If I was her, I'd probably feel that way too.

But it got me thinking. The scariest thing about writing, and especially letting other people read what you write, is that you can't write a paragraph without revealing exactly what you are. Unless you're hiding yourself on purpose. And if you do that, your writing will be flat and dead.

If your writing is alive, the life in it comes from you, and is colored by everything that you are. When I write I pour in everything I think, everything I know, everything I've learned or felt or done, plus all my daydreams and nightmares. Everything counts, nothing is wasted.

And readers can see exactly who I am.

So in order to write the kind of books I want to write, I've got to be the kind of me that can write those kind of books. I want to write fun adventure stories full of action, mystery, and wonder. So I try to be a fun and active person who is always pushing new horizons and learning new things. Yes, I actually do work at this. It would be so easy for me to hide out in my room with my computer all day and play with my imaginary friends, but then what kind of adventures would we have? I have to get out and climb trees, fly kites, audition for musicals (even when I have no business doing so), bug my neighbors to teach me new ukulele strums, try making my own cheese, build sand sculptures on the beach, listen to lots of Irish fiddle music, spend an hour out on my balcony watching the stars, and go "spot hunting" with my five-year-old.

"Come with me, spot hunter." I said in my deepest voice as I handed my youngest son a cleaning cloth. I twisted the nozzle of my cleaning spray into the ON position. "We're going on a spot hunt."

We crept down the hall, peering right and left.

"THERE'S ONE!" I shot a black hand print with a stream of foaming spray. "GET IT!"

Grinning from ear to ear, my little boy scrubbed that spot right off the wall.

"Oh, my gosh!" one of my daughter's friends stood at the screen door. "Your mom is so fun."


The other day, for the first time in many months, I went around and read all my friends' blogs. And I loved it, because your wonderful words are all so YOU! Thanks for blogging, everyone, because every sentence lets me see the beauty, wisdom, humor, and joy in your hearts.

So what do you do to be the person who writes your kind of book?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Scrabbling Crazy

Ever since my book has been picked up by TreasureLine, I've been scrabbling crazy!

I started my blog June 20, 2009 and Facebook much later than that. I've recently taken on Twitter and LinkedIn. My Goodreads has been something I've been doing since my blog started. My website is fairly new thing as well. On top of that, I have about 8 other blogs I'm working on, but have slowed down on a few. Me thinks it's time to cut back.

But here's this:

I've been taking on some grand things that I haven't taken on before. For the month of July,
I've been setting up interviews like crazy for writers' characters. The 24th is a blogfest for Main Characters, hosting several giveaways for the blogfest as well as MC interviews.

I've also been working on a pre-book launch party for Darkspell this coming July. This basically consists of about 17 bloggers who are interviewing me or holding me as their guest. I'm still reviewing the questions I've answered to make sure I make sense--I'm not sure if I do anymore!

Then I need to keep up my appearances on all my social networks as well.

I'm going stir crazy! But I feel that this is my fate, this is what I need to do to get my name out there.

I'm keeping myself busy during the wait. The wait. You know, when the publisher's editor is making all the wrongs in the book into rights?

I know there are lots of blogs out there for aspiring authors--rightly so. But I would love to hear how it is for a bumbling, scrabbling debut author.

Any volunteers?


Can Alex save Winter from the darkness that hunts her?
YA Paranormal Romance, Darkspell coming fall of 2011!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Ahoy, Workshoppin' Dead Ahead!

Arr, I haven't posted in a while, so I figured I'd throw up a post to say Ahoy, me hearties!

I be eyeing a week-long writer's workshop called Write by the Lake, casting off on the morrow. It be held at Univ. of Wisconsin, Madison, and I'll be roomin' up with a writer matey I'm mighty fond of. I've been to conferences large and small, where I get all quakin' in my pirate boots about my scrawlins going before agent Mates and editor Captains, but this workshoppin' is different. Writers only aboard, jes workin' the craft. Me conference booty for the year is going to the perfectin' me craft, as I figured I've had my share of conferences and networking for a spell. And this pirate is ready to set sail and wrestle me some tales to bring back to port.

The hubs is keepin' the wee ones anchored whilst I'm away.

Wish me some pirate luck!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


When I'm driving down a long stretch of unfamiliar highway, I get nervous if it's been a while since I've seen a signpost. I like to know where I am and how far I have to go to get to my destination. I especially like to know that I'm still on the right road.

Readers need signposts too, to help them know where they are in a story. Last weekend I saw Kung Fu Panda 2, and about the time the Furious Five was storming the evil peacock's weapons factory, I realized I had no sense of what part of the story we were at. Were we still in the middle? Were we near the end? There had been a string of amusing fight scenes and run-ins with the bad-guy, but not enough sense of progress to orient me in the story.

So how do we put up signposts for our readers? One way is to use conventional plot structure. Cove contributor Sue Quinn made a marvelous series of posts for us demonstrating basic plot form by analyzing Hunger Games. You can review the first post here. When readers get to an inciting incident, or to the major turning point, they sense they're on a familiar road and they feel secure in knowing how far they have to go to get to their reward at the end, the final resolution of the story.

Besides signposts, as authors we can set up the right sort of scenery for each portion of a book. If the reader is getting a lot of new information about the setting or the characters, they feel like they're near the beginning. When plot threads are being tied up, they feel like it's near the end. If there's a steep rise in the tension, maybe we're approaching the climax. All this helps the reader know that the story is still on the right road.

So signposts are an important part of storytelling. But what I'd really love to have are some signposts to tell me where I am in my writing career. There's no mile markers on this road. No "Welcome to Fourth Manuscript: Publishing Contract 150 mi."

Wouldn't that be nice?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Pace Yourself

My daughter told me that at school in P.E. she got to exercise using a heart rate monitor.

"You strap it on your arm, and then you jog just fast enough to keep your heart at a certain rate. Fast enough to speed up your heart, but not so fast that you get tired. The great thing was, when I stayed at the right pace, I felt like I could go on forever."

What a concept! The next morning when I went for my jog on the beach I tried slowing down just a little bit. I didn't have a heart rate monitor, but I could tell when my body was comfortable with my jogging pace.

I went farther than I ever have before. All the way along Laie Bay and back without stopping.

And I thought, "Hey, I should apply this to my writing!"

Too often, I get so excited about my writing that I don't pace myself. I skip my morning jog so that I can have an extra half hour at the keyboard. I feel like I don't have time to practice music, to watch movies, to read other books, or even *gasp* to write blog posts.

Before I know it, I feel burned out and discouraged. But if I didn't let myself get in such a hurry, I bet I'd feel much better. If I found the right pace I bet I'd feel like I could go on forever.

So how do you pace yourself as a writer?