Friday, August 31, 2012

August is Awesome Because of Alex Cavanaugh

The time has come to wrap up this awesome August.  It's been a wonderful month and I am beyond satisfied.  I have introduced to you a total of twenty-seven awesome people this month. If you missed any of them, check the Interviews / Guests page and get acquainted.  You owe yourself nothing less!

My sincere thanks to each and every one of them!

And now... let the drum-roll commence...

I have the privilege of concluding this Awesome August by introducing an awesome Ninja!  (Yes, the capital N is indeed warranted.)  In fact, Super Ninja is less than an adequate description for Alex Cavanaugh.

I can't tell you how thrilled I was when he accepted my invitation.  I would normally feel a bit guilty about exposing the identity of a ninja, but the only true secret here is how Alex manages to do so much for so many.  

There exists more than one blogger who would be hard pressed to give a definition of "supportive" that didn't include his name.  He's just that awesome!

Successful Blogging
Alex J. Cavanaugh

Jeff graciously asked me to contribute to this month-long awesome feature and I’m here to talk about blogging. You’ve already read so many great tips from other guests this month. You know about turning off word verification, getting involved in blogfests, making it easy for others to follow you, short posts, etc. What more could I add?

I can’t add a lot. But maybe I can give you something new to think about.

What does it take to be a successful blogger?

A blog with a purpose – Your blog needs a focus. And it doesn’t matter what the focus. Don’t feel obligated to offer writing tips if you’re a writer. (Lord knows I don’t!) What topics excite you? What are your passions? Make those the focus of your blog and you will never run out of enthusiasm or material.

Followers – Without followers, we are just talking to ourselves. (Which is really weird if you think about it.) But you can’t gain followers just by following others. You need to engage. You need to follow and comment on the blogs of others. Go make some real friends.

Involvement – You can’t just follow a few people and expect everyone to show up to your party. (Unless you’re offering free food and drink of course.) You have to get involved. There are so many blogfests, challenges, campaigns, and other opportunities in which to meet other bloggers. Involvement means getting to know your fellow bloggers as well. Become part of this awesome community.

Support – Give your support to others. Be a positive force, not a negative one. Encourage your blogger buddies. When they achieve something great, cheer them on. Mention their accomplishment on your blog. Send out a Tweet on Twitter. You have to be willing to give to others if you hope to succeed.

Being genuine – You must be true to you and true to others. You need to be honest but with tact. You need to be transparent without sacrificing your privacy. You need to be positive but not sticky-sweet fake. You need to be consistent in all things. Be the light everyone wants to follow.

Everyone wants to know the secret to blogging success, but there isn’t one. Be a friend. Be a genuine friend. Be someone who is consistent and dependable. Be the person you’ve always aspired to be!

And if all else fails, free Hot Tamales are always an option. (Hey, works on me!)

About Alex J. Cavanaugh:

Alex J. Cavanaugh has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and works in web design and graphics. He is experienced in technical editing and worked with an adult literacy program for several years. A fan of all things science fiction, his interests range from books and movies to music and games. Online he is the Ninja Captain and founder of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. The author of Amazon Best Sellers, CassaStar and CassaFire, he lives in the Carolinas with his wife.

Connect with Alex at:
His Blog:
On Twitter:

Alex's Books:
CassaFire - Science fiction - space opera/adventure
Book Trailer - On YouTube

CassaStar was only the beginning…

The Vindicarn War is a distant memory and Byron’s days of piloting Cosbolt fighters are over. He has kept the promise he made to his fallen mentor and friend - to probe space on an exploration vessel. Shuttle work is dull, but it’s a free and solitary existence. The senior officer is content with his life aboard the Rennather.

The detection of alien ruins sends the exploration ship to the distant planet of Tgren. If their scientists can decipher the language, they can unlock the secrets of this device. Is it a key to the Tgren's civilization or a weapon of unimaginable power? Tensions mount as their new allies are suspicious of the Cassan's technology and strange mental abilities.

To complicate matters, the Tgrens are showing signs of mental powers themselves, the strongest of which belongs to a pilot named Athee, a woman whose skills rival Byron’s unique abilities. Forced to train her mind and further develop her flying aptitude, he finds his patience strained. Add a reluctant friendship with a young scientist, and he feels invaded on every level. All Byron wanted was his privacy…

CassaFire is the sequel to Cavanaugh’s first book, CassaStar, an Amazon Top Ten Best Seller:  It's available at Barnes and Noble, Amazon, Amazon Kindle, and B&N Nook

Book trailer - On YouTube

“…calls to mind the youthful focus of Robert Heinlein’s early military sf, as well as the excitement of space opera epitomized by the many Star Wars novels. Fast-paced military action and a youthful protagonist make this a good choice for both young adult and adult fans of space wars.” - Library Journal

CassaStar is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Amazon UK, Amazon Kindle, and B&N Nook

Thursday, August 30, 2012

August is Awesome Because of Angela Cothran

Have you met superwoman?  Some people call her Angie.  You may know her as Angela Cothran.  But everyone knows she's awesome!

She's been spotted darting through cyberspace, dropping little comments here and there, leaving behind a smile for the next visitor to wear.  If not, you might try the Live to Write blog.  She surfaces there rather regularly.

If you've yet to make her acquaintance, drop her a comment and say "Hi!"  Then you can tell all your friends that you met superwoman--otherwise known as the awesome Angela Cothran!

The Green Eyed Monster
Angie Cothran

First off I want to say a big thanks to Jeff for asking me to participate in August is Awesome. I’ve been MIA with my move and a big R&R, so I’ve been missing all my blogging buddies.

I thought a lot about what I wanted to write in this post, and I settled on something that has been on my mind lately--Jealousy.

This summer has been full of announcements by writers that an agent has snatched them up or they have signed a publishing contract. I read the posts then I read the comments, and while most people seem genuinely happy, sometimes there is an edge of, "Why them and not me?"

I have a good friend who recently found an agent. When she told me how she wrote her book in a few weeks and had a dozen full requests from contests without ever sending out one query, I wanted to shield her from a world that wouldn’t be happy for her speedy success. I even told her never to tell anyone about it.

I’m passionate about being happy for others. I have a few reasons why I believe when one of us succeeds we ALL succeed!

Cold querying works! In a time when who you know matters, the old fashioned way will still get you an agent. Great book + Solid Query = Offer of Representation.

Books still sell! If we were really all in a dying industry like so many people say, would agents still pick up books? No. Books will be here forever. Don’t let anyone tell you they won’t.

On the prowl. Agents are still avidly looking. Somewhere out there is an agent or publisher that will love your book. Don’t give up because they aren’t.

Karma Works. If all else fails, if you can send some sincere excitement to a friend you are sure to get it back :)

This is one of my favorite quotes on envy/jealousy:
"Envy is a mistake that just keeps on giving. Obviously we suffer a little when some misfortune befalls us, but envy requires us to suffer all good fortune that befalls everyone we know! What a bright prospect that is--downing another quart of pickle juice every time anyone around you has a happy moment."
 - Jeffery R. Holland

Hopefully that didn’t come off preachy :) Finding ways to be happy even when it is hard always makes us better people. Like I tell my kids, "Attitude is everything!"

About Angela Cothran:

Angela Cothran is awesome!
I am passionate about books and chocolate (usually in that order :) I came to love writing later in my life when I wondered, "Could I write a book?" It turns out I can. I'm currently querying my MS and if I can find an agent who is as crazy about it as me I will shower her/him with chocolate and super professional emails (of course!) I live in Orlando Florida with my hubby and three kids, who all give me more character material than I will ever be able to use.

Connect with Angela at:

Her Blog Live to Write

And on Facebook

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

August is Awesome Because of Anthony Rudzki

Tony is a writer I met in the Yahoo Fantasy Writing Group.  The man has exceptional taste in stories and a keen eye well suited for a constructive critique.

He's also a recent convert, having forsaken the fellowship of pantsers.  It's okay though, most of the pantser fellowship has forgiven him.  They wave to him occasionally from across the gulf of style.  He smiles and waves in return.  The kingdom is at peace.

His post should be required reading for pantsers.  (We all need a little structure.)  If you're a pantser and feel a sudden disturbance in the Force, it might just be your muse prodding you to try another approach.

Anthony Rudzki

The writing world seems to be broken up into the seat-of-your-pants writers, who start writing and let their imaginations take the story where it wants to go, and outliners, who want a clear, defined path from which to forge a story. Granted, there is plenty of writing style strata between these two extremes, but I'd like to tell you about my journey.

I used to be a Pantsers. There. I said it. I would start with an idea, sitting in front of the PC and start telling my story. I had no inkling as to where the story was headed and I, like most other seaters, believed that the character is somehow taking the story where THEY want it to go.

The Pantser's method is amazing when you think about it, and a testament to the human mind's ability to keep an abstract concept like a fiction story moving along and in some cases, make it interesting and enjoyable.

I could never understand the idea behind outlining. I mean, it was boring in elementary school, boring in high school, and I was sure it would be boring now. It seemed a waste of time to meticulously plot out the story, documenting twists and turns and adding additional detail as needed with a simple indention.

Just write the darn thing!

I thought.

Fast forward to NaNoWriMo 2011. Fifty thousand words in thirty days. A crazy time for crazy people. So, as an experiment, I decided to try outlining and see if it could help me reach my goal of a novel in thirty days. During the month of October, I creating an outline for a novel called "Quest", and revised it throughout the month.

So what happened? The best I've ever done writing long works, seat-of-my-pants, was seventeen thousand words total. With my experimental outline in place, I completed thirty-six thousand words before the "contest" expired.

I have abandoned my seat-of-my-pants ways for novels and am firmly in the outliner camp. I freely admit that I am glad that I have affixed the yoke of rigidness onto my shoulders and given up the carefree and lighthearted world of the Pantsers that I had formerly enjoyed.

So, what is the draw towards outlines? I've compiled some thoughts hoping to sway the Pantsers to come over to the dark side and experience the good life.

1) Overcoming the hesitation to start an outline

You have a great idea for a novel. Mentally, you've been over the basic plot, twisting it and wringing out some of the imaginative goodness that brings out the excitement to actually write it. Physically, your fingers are itching to get something down and the last thing on your mind is to start outlining. You don't want to be hamstrung with outlining when you just want to dive in and get the story started. Don't give in to the temptation! Switching over to an outliner's lifestyle is all about patience and planning ahead. Create your plot, follow your characters through your world and ensure that your climax is not only exciting, but ties up all of the loose ends that you have in your tale. As painful as you may think that it will be, it will payoff when your reviews aren't asking "what happened to so-and-so?" and "Blander lost the magic widget in chapter 2, how did it appear in chapter 9?"

2) Start from the obvious, simple points and move inward increasing in detail and complexity.

Do you remember outlining in school? No? You probably groaned back then the way you're groaning now. You don't have to feel that way. I outlined my current work in progress, Quest, by starting with three parts. Why three? Generally, novels have an intro where we learn about the world, the characters and what gives the characters their motivation. They have a middle section where the lions-share of the story occurs and where most of the tension in the story is revealed. Finally, there is the climax, where the story's conclusion is tied up in a neat red bow. In section one of the Quest outline, I included two headings called "Introduce the World" and "Characters". Subheadings for "Introduce the World" was "Fantasy Setting" and "Magic Exists". Subheadings for those gave additional detail of the fantasy world and explained how magic functioned. The key to outlining is to keep introducing subheadings with additional detail until all of your thoughts on that subject are captured.

3) Milestones and Waypoints

The heading for the middle section is simply called "Quest". This is where the vast majority of the story unfolds, and is the "adventuring" portion. To keep track of the goings on, I have a list of headings that are waypoints in the story. These are the locations, or the events themselves, where things happen. Doing it this way, I am able to follow the party's travels as they move along from point to point. I have a 20,000 foot level view of the novel and can literally talk the novel through each of my headings have one or more subheadings which add additional detail for that milestone. For example:

Griffin's Point
   Enter the Tavern
      Hade's Jewel
         Smokey, Crowded
         Matronly Hostess
      Meet Legan Hillcutter at the Bar
         Discuss the dagger

When my characters enter Griffin's Point, they go into a tavern called "Hade's Jewel". The place is smoky from the cooking fires and patrons smoking pipes. My group will make their way through the crowded room and find a table. A matronly hostess named Sarah will take their order and apologize for any delay due to the crowd. Kyle (the main character) will leave the table and go to the bar to expedite their drinks. This is where he meets Legan Hillcutter and after some writing wizardry, I get them talking about the dagger that Kyle has hanging on his belt.

Outlining is pretty cool, huh?

In closing, I understand that every writer has their own style of doing things and outlining your next novel may not appeal to you. However, keep an open mind and just give it a try. Pick a major project where you can really get a meaty story plot outlined, and see how spending the time up-front can sometimes make the actually storytelling easier. Traveling along when you know where the next waypoint is on the map can make the journey smoother and much more satisfying.


About Anthony Rudzki:

Anthony Rudzki is awesome!
Anthony Rudzki is married, father of two children and milkbone supplier for 3 beagles. Currently working on his first fantasy novel that is leaking red editors ink by the bucketful. When he is not writing, he is playing dungeon crawl video games, writing html/php/css code and generally finding excuses to continue to not write. He likes sunsets, puppies and walks along the beach.

Tony blogs as Writings From the Fruit Cellar

And tweets from @GroupOfFour

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

August is Awesome Because of Sarah Allen

I've been a follower of Sarah's blog now for quite some time.  (Of course, "quite some time" is in relation to how long I've been blogging.)  Still, hers is a blog worth following.

I've found this awesome individual interesting, complex, insightful and easy to relate with.  She often approaches things from a unique perspective and sees that which others seldom consider.

Her post today is no exception.  Just read below to find out what she learned from a television character!

So now, with all appropriate fanfare, I introduce to you the awesome Sarah Allen!

3 Writing Lessons from Dr. House
by Sarah Allen

He’s cranky. He’s manipulative. He’s a mean, bitingly sarcastic drug-addict with no discernible moral code.

So why do we love him so much? And what can our fascination with characters like Gregory House teach us about writing? Given the recent (and brilliant) show finale, I thought it would be fun to take a look. Even if you’re not as big a fan-girl as I am, Dr. Gregory House still has a lot to teach us.

1. The Super-Human factor: House is smarter than everyone around him. Sure he knows it and is frankly a jerk about it, but that doesn’t discount his incredible intelligence and wit that intrigues and fascinates us as much as his other characteristics might repel. He knows things and says things and does things that make us wish we were like him a little bit, that put us in awe.

Our characters don’t have to be jerks, but we do well to make them unique. Make them above the rest or different in some way. We want to know what it’s like to be in that position. It thrills us when characters do and say things that we would never dare do in real life.

2. The Humanness of the Super-Human factor: Yes House is a genius. He is also incredibly, incredibly human and vulnerable. He has a painful limp. He has a nearly inescapable addiction. He has an incredible affection and loyalty for his best friend. He has growing feelings for the beautiful boss that he doesn’t quite know what to do with. All these things make him relatable and shockingly and adorably vulnerable. My favorite moments in the show are when, despite House’s best efforts, these vulnerabilities show through the rough, scruffy exterior.

We love super-human characters, characters that do things we would never do. But we also want to know that they are like us and deal with the same painful things we deal with. When people as strong as these characters show this raw place, its cathartic and makes us feel like its okay for us to have the problems that we do. Though they are a bit super-human, these vulnerabilities make them seem even more human than the rest of us.

3. The Internal and External factor: One thing I love about the show House is that it tells both an external and internal story. We have the external story each episode with each patient and whether or not they are going to survive. Literally life and death stakes. Then we have the internal story, the team’s relationships with each other, House’s pain and addiction, his inability to maintain a close relationship with anyone. Emotional life and death stakes.

I honestly think that emotional life and death stakes are more important than literal ones. There should be an outside story, moving the characters through the plot, driving them towards an end goal. But what makes us actually care about this story and the characters is the internal, emotional story. We care about House because of his mix of super-human intelligence and incredibly human vulnerability, and we care about the outer medical story in-so-far as it relates to and changes Houses inner story. At least that’s how it is for me.

Anyway, I hope this gives you something to think about as you keep writing. If nothing else I got to picture Hugh Laurie’s face, and that’s good enough for me.

About Sarah Allen:

Sarah is a 23 year old uber-dork working on drafting her second novel and querying her first. She is a Jane Austen groupie, Peach Fresca addict and lover of jazz and post-grunge rock.

You can find out more at her blog:
From Sarah With Joy

Connect with Sarah on:

Facebook and


Monday, August 27, 2012

August is Awesome Because of Sara Abis

Sara Abis has a sense of humor that can sneak up behind you and grab you without warning, make you read something twice and ponder.  And who can look upon her online dating profile picture and not know she's one of a kind?

But then all awesome people are one of a kind.

And she's a lover of fantasy--which in and of itself is enough to make her awesome, mind you.

Give Sara a warm welcome and make her feel at home!

Writing on a Schedule, or a Calendar, or something.

I've recently had a few forays into the adventures of world of unemployment. And by recently, I mean that I was laid off back in July, July 17th to be exact. As of today I'm gainfully employed again, as long as I pass my background check. However, being employed has very little too do with this blog post. The adventures of unemployment do.

You see, I learned pretty quickly that if I'm super stressed about money, odds are, I'm not going to be able to write much of anything; look at my blog for the last month if you don't believe me (or just go look cause you love me and I'm a followers whore). Anyway, I was a bit too stressed worrying about things like paying rent and getting food to worry about writing for most of the month of August.

Yet on my adventures, going on interviews with pyramid schemes, trying to discover which of the companies that replied to me were real companies, fake companies, lying about what job they were hiring for did (Marketing does not equal door to door sales people) I did learn a few things.

Awesome and one of a kind
You see, I briefly entertained the idea of taking a job selling Aflac supplemental insurance. Now, I wasn't enthusiastic about this job, because it was 100% commission, with no real benefits (I would have been technically self employed), and I'm not a very good sales person. Anyway, I went on two interviews with these people where they mostly told me about how much money I could be making, and I didn't believe them, but they kept offering to send me to trainings and stuff that were free, so I figured hey why not, there's gonna be free food (remember me mentioning that I was worried about running out of money).

If you're wondering when this is going to relate to writing, stick with me, I'm getting there in a drunken rambling kinda way (even though I'm not currently drunk, maybe I should be).

The first and only training I went to began with a man who apparently is a millionaire (he owns race horses) walking into the room. This is an older gentleman, with graying whitish hair. Taller than I am by at least a foot and blue eyes, but none of that mattered because he was wearing a pink and white seersucker suit, with a lavender button down shirt, and a purple tie with pink paisleys on it. His suit was so impressive that actually it was the first thing I wrote down during the training. And I was taking notes, not because I needed to, but because I was trying to convince the other people that I was legitimately interested in this as a career move, so they would feed me. Free food continues to be one of the biggest motivators in my life choices. But anyway, back to the man in the pink suit.

He shared with us a story about someone who changed his life back when he was working as a professional bloodsucker (stock broker) and he was struggling, and this other, really successful man (I imagine he also wore pink suits) came over to his desk, picked up his calendar and asked him, when he was focusing on his #1 priority (which in this case was getting new clients). What he told pink suit guy, and what pink suit guy told us, was to make sure you schedule marketing time, then give yourself a grade at the end of the day of how well you did.

Well, even though I decided not to sell insurance (too many shark like people) I actually think this is a decent bit of advice. I'm notorious for not following a schedule. In fact I'm probably one of the most anti schedule people I know. However, as I'm getting ready to start a new job, I find myself trying to figure out what the best schedule would be. Should I wake up early in the morning and go to the gym by my office? Should I get a paid membership? Should I join the YMCA by my house? Would I go more if I joined the gym by work or at home? What days am I working at the dance studio? How will that affect things? But one thing I noticed. One thing I've found myself not planning, is when to write. And then the thought occurred to me. Would I write more if I actually scheduled a time to do it?

Odds are I probably would. And as soon as I asked myself that question, I wondered what would happen if I bought a week at a glance schedule, and actually graded myself on my writing. Would I get more done? Would I be more successful? Would writing start to feel like a chore, like laundry (although I don't schedule that)? Would I still enjoy it if it was scheduled?

The truth is, even if we aren't we are creatures of habit, routines develop. And now might be the perfect time to actually test what would happen if I decided to schedule writing time. If I decided to grade myself on how well I do. And see if I accomplish something.

Now I'm gonna fully acknowledge this is probably not the best guest post ever. I mean, ideally I'd have an answer for you, I'd have already tested writing on a schedule and told you how it went. But, I'm not that organized. I was originally planning on writing about which attracts more men, wearing heals in a bar, or reading a book. But I wasn't able to get a big enough of a test group to make an accurate assessment of that. But if you want to know how it goes, send me an email sometime in September, and I'll let you know.

What are your thoughts? Are heals or books more attractive to men? Do you schedule your writing? Should I write my blog posts drunk?

About Sara Abis:

Sara Abis is awesome!
Hello, My name is Sara Abis. Blank pages are my enemy, or perhaps nemesis, and caffeine/red bull/energy drinks are my best friend. Sugar comes in a close second.

My obsessions are reading, writing and knitting (not necessarily in that order) everything else I do is to insure that I can continue to feed my obsessions, much like a junkie, except more healthy with better teeth (although not by much).

My sense of humor is often dark, and sometimes twisted, I would apologize for it, but if I did it might imply that I need to change it, and I don't. I aim to entertain. So often I write things to make myself smile. If you're not entertained, take it up with upper management (that's me).

You can check me out on my blog Cutest Landing.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Sunday Surfing

Should You Eliminate "Was" From Your Writing? Why Sometimes "the Rules" are Wrong.

Nags Head, North Carolina at dusk 2012
5 Must Read Blogs for Indie Authors

Rejection pt1: Unpacking Criticism

How to End a Chapter

When to Add a Scene Break

PubMatch  (I haven't joined this site.  Anyone have experience here?)

The Quest for Story #3 (I'll probably link to this entire series once it's complete. #3 is on voice.)

4 Soul-Crushing Realities Indie Writers Must Learn to Face

It’s a Trap! Admiral Ackbar’s 6 Indie Author Traps to Avoid  (yeah, that makes two links to Sean.)

Five more awesome days of August remain!  Be sure you stop by and visit these awesome people!  All guests this month are linked under the Inteviews / Guests tab near the top of the page.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

August is Awesome Because of Liesel Hill

Today's awesome guest is so awesome she maintains two active blogs and manages to provide quality content on each.  It's been fun following her thoughts on villains recently.  And she has one book due to be released later this year and another one come fall of next year.

I love the insight Liesel has on a variety of topics, how she engages her blogs' readers and how actively she interacts with them.

Her post today poses questions regarding how much information about a character is too much.  She has an interesting perspective and viewpoint.  Be sure to leave her a comment and let her know your thoughts.

So, without further delay, I give to you the awesome Liesel Hill!

Characters: Is It All Relevant?
Liesel Hill

Some weeks ago, a member of my writer’s group said something important to me. (If you’re not a believer, writers groups: invaluable. Trust me! But that’s another post.) She was reading a chapter of the second installment of my Interchron series and she said to me (I’m paraphrasing), “There is a lot of tension in these scenes, but it seems to me that ALL the characters are pacing their nervousness off. Maybe have a few of them do something else. They wouldn’t all have the same nervous tick, would they?”

I grumbled a bit at first, but she was right. The argument could be made that people do tend to mimic one another, especially when they spend a good deal of time together (don’t try to argue; we all know it’s true!) but for fiction, we must make our characters unique. They must stand out from one another. (As in: Characterization 101!)

This led to me thinking a lot about my characters and if I was differentiating them from one another enough. Let’s talk about character charts. These are the worksheets that have (sometimes hundreds) of questions about your character. The idea is that if you can answer all these questions, you’ll know your character well enough to write them.

I know I’ll probably take some heat for saying this, but I’m not a fan of character charts. Of course I am all about knowing your characters, so I understand the concept, but to be honest, I just get bored with them. I mean come on! Is it direly important that we know that Luke Skywalker favored the color blue over brown? A fun factoid, maybe, but it’s not going to change his destiny, our emotions about the story, or the way he approaches his father. Will it make a huge difference if we understand that Harry Potter favors vanilla ice cream over chocolate? Again, it may be important if you ever go on a date with aforementioned boy wizard, but since most of us won’t...

Don’t get me wrong: I understand that mundane details can make our characters human, and I’m all for that. I’m just not a writer who goes into a lot of detail about the color shirt my hero is wearing or what kind of food my heroine prefers.

So what’s my point? In my opinion, the questions we should be asking are the deeper ones. Who is this character? Who or what made him that way? If someone stuck a gun in his face, how would he react? If he saw a large person beating up on a smaller person, would he do anything about it? If given the chance to cheat or in some way be dishonest to benefit himself, would he do it? How does he feel about the religious, political, and social climates of his world? If he could have one thing, what would it be?

These are the questions that will tell us who our characters really are.

Even JK Rowling had to answer these questions. We see the bigger issues in how Harry feels about the pure blood vs. mud-blood feud; in how unfairly house elves are treated; in how he deals with his best friend’s family being poor; and in what he saw in the mirror of Erised.

Of course every story is different. Using the same example, JK Rowling also used a lot of fun, mundane details in her narrative because they made for a colorful world, which is appropriate for the audience she was writing for.

If you’re writing YA, then high school popularity, how the character feels about school subjects, and who their first kiss was may be appropriate to the story. If, on the other hand, you’re writing adult crime drama, your readers don’t necessarily need to know these details about the tough-as-nails detective who’s trying to solve the case.

My point is that any and all characterization details you include in your story need to be relevant.

And what about describing them? Per my writer’s group critique, I’ve taken to describing my character’s reactions to every major emotion. For example, I was recently putting together a character sketch for a new high fantasy project. I wrote about two pages of stuff about one of my main characters, whose name is Wenlyn. For his major emotional reactions, I have this:
  • When angry, he clenches his teeth and growls.
  • When worried/scared, his eyes get wide and he stands perfectly still.
  • When happy, he smiles; when excessively happy, he jumps around in a stationary circle.
  • When sad, he clamps his eyes shut and turns away.
  • When feeling vulnerable/lonely/abandoned, he clutches people. (This is important because Wenlyn is an orphan with no past, no history, and no family to speak of.)
  • When jealous, he presses his lips together and gets color in his cheeks.

These were the major emotions I came up with that Wenlyn may have to deal with in his story. Now I’ll be able to describe his reactions in a distinctive way that sets him apart from his fellow characters.

I have found that describing reactions to specific emotions and asking the deep, hard questions are the best way to have full, round, effective characterizations. These characters will ring true to your readers and jump off the page into reality.

Thanks for reading! :D

About Liesel Hill:

Liesel K Hill is a novelist that writes across three different genres: fantasy, historical fiction, and crime drama. Her debut novel, a futuristic dystopian fantasy entitled Persistence of Vision, will be out later this year (release date pending). The first installment of her historical fiction trilogy, Kremlins, is slated for release fall 2013.

Check out her Musings on Fantasia  blog.
Follow her on Twitter @lkhillbooks and Facebook.

Friday, August 24, 2012

August is Awesome Because of Ken Rahmoeller

People are awesome for more reasons than I dare try to name here, but you can always count on awesome people to be awesome in their own unique way.  Ken Rahmoeller is no exception.

Ken is writing his first book with what I believe to be the healthiest approach I've seen.  He doesn't intend to rake in millions from it.  He intends to rake in something far more valuable: knowledge and wisdom.  

Ken goes into detail about what he's doing, how and why on his blog's About Ken and His Book page.  I believe that if he's not careful, he just might discover the formula for success!

's a chemist and can do more than stupify you with his awesome wand!  Give Ken a big, awesome welcome!

Peanut butter or chocolate?
Chocolate, of course.

Paper or plastic?
Plastic. It works better when I’m emptying the litter box.

Plot or character?

Which is more important to the success of a story? Opinions vary, but many experts will tell you the character is more important. I tend to disagree. I understand their point, especially in certain genres such as romance, but for me personally, it’s always been about the plot. If I have a choice between a story with a great plot and average characters or a story with an okay plot but really great characters, I’ll pick the one with the great plot every time.

Now I’m not denying the benefits of creating good, interesting characters. The reader is going to spend a lot of time with these people (or aliens, or animals, or whatever) and it can be a boring ride if you don’t care what happens to them. I’m just of the opinion that a great plot can help you fall in love with otherwise boring characters as you watch them struggle their way through the story.

But even if you’re one of those writers who think plot is more important, you still want to create great characters to go along with that fantastic plot you spent all that time creating. So what’s the trick to creating great characters? There’s no one perfect answer. Some writers fill out questionnaires describing their MC’s likes and dislikes. Others interview their MC. Still others work out huge backstories for each and every person in the story.

None of these methods work for me. They all require an intimate knowledge of my characters at the beginning of the story and I simply don’t have that knowledge until I’ve finished writing the story. I let my characters start out as blank slates and their traits evolve over the course of the book. Perhaps this is a consequence of being a first time writer, but I’ve found this technique works well for me and I’ll continue to use it until something better comes along.

When I began writing my story, my characters were startlingly bland. I knew one of them was going to be the bad guy and one was going to be a jerk and another was going to be supportive of the main character, but that was about it. But as the story progressed, I would often realize a particular subplot could be strengthened by having one of the characters behave in a certain way, so I simply gave that character the necessary trait(s) and ran with it. Not only did my subplot become stronger, but I’d also learn something new about one of my characters. Cool.

After repeating this process ad infinitum, I soon found my story populated with characters who were far more interesting than any I could have created on my own. Best of all, I was giving them the best kind of quirks – ones which have an effect on the plot. After all, if the quirks and traits you give your characters can be removed without affecting the story, you need better quirks and traits.

Of course, this method is not without its drawbacks. Creating characters in this manner often necessitated that I go back and revise earlier chapters. And I'm not sure how I would go about writing a sequel using this technique, since the characters will have already had their traits locked in beforehand, but that's the chance I'll take for now.

So what method do you use to create your characters?

I'd like to thank Jeff for allowing me to participate in his August is Awesome series.

About Ken Rahmoeller

Ken Rahmoeller is awesome!
I'm a chemist living in Detroit, Michigan who accidentally discovered he loved to write stories while fooling around with Harry Potter fan fiction. I enjoy castles, alchemy, and making stuff blow up for the amusement of my children (and myself).

Connect with Ken at:

His Blog: A Hogwarts Sabbatical

On Twitter: @ChemistKen

Thursday, August 23, 2012

August is Awesome Because of Terry W Ervin II

The last three weeks of August has been awesome, but the awesomeness continues with Terry.  One thing is for certain: Terry has an awesome supply of patience.  (You'll have to visit his website to find out why.)

Terry started his Up Around the Corner blog back in June of 2009 and has been going strong ever since.

There's depth to Terry's reservoir of insight when it comes to the craft of writing.  The post he so kindly provided today is a perfect example.  

Please give Terry an awesomely enthusiastic welcome!

Trust the Reader

One concern I have with writers who are working on their first novel is their lack of willingness to trust the reader. In my experience this mistrust manifests in three ways: Introductory prologues, controlling descriptions, and too many point of view characters.

My first point isn't that prologues are bad and should be avoided. Like every other literary technique or device, prologues have a proper use and place. However, when a writer justifies his historical prologue saying, "The readers need the cultural background and history to contextually understand what will happen later in the novel, and why," I am concerned. Or when a writer says, "If I don't introduce the readers to this event that's outside the main storyline, they won't understand what drives the characters, especially when they do ________," I think the writer is misjudging the cognitive ability of his readers.

If a writer isn't going to trust readers to pick up on clues provided through setting, plot events, character dialogue and actions all the way until something pivotal that happens on page 237, why would that same writer trust those same readers to remember a historical reference made on page 2 and apply it to an event on page 237?

The trick is to provide what readers need to know as the story progresses, and trust those readers to piece things together. Will every reader get it? Maybe not. But isn't it worth that, "Ahha" moment (or moments) when a reader pieces it together on his own? I believe the readers will think so.

My second concern is a writer that's too controlling of the reader in their descriptions. What I mean is a writer who describes a character all the way down to the number of gray whiskers in his stubbly beard. The writer wants the readers to see the characters exactly as the writer imagines them. Another example is a writer trying to describe a gruesome murder scene down to the exact angle or degree the rickety-handled, eight-inch, chipped, stainless steel, made in China meat cleaver hacks into the victim's shoulder as she (...) to how far, to the nearest quarter of an inch, the nineteen globular droplets of blood fly and land, and in what splatter pattern, after the cleaver is yanked out.

Maybe I'm exaggerating a bit--but not by much.

Trust the readers' imaginations. The writer should give his readers just enough description to stimulate their imagination. For example: As a female protagonist enters the classroom, she might note her assigned lab partner's piercing green eyes, a strong jaw, shoulders of a linebacker and his ratty, garage sale-rejected tweed jacket. Let the mind's eye of each reader fill in the rest. When they do, they'll better remember and relate to the characters. With the murder scene, the readers' imagination--what frightens them and how they envision it--will go farther than any series of words a writer might provide. Each reader will see, in their mind's eye, the cleaver and the blood splattering, if given enough to go on. Will each reader imagine the exact same thing? No. But it allows each reader to have some ownership of the story.

It's a delicate balance. How to get it right? A writer should read and study passages from his or her favorite authors. See how they did it, and why it worked. Then, modify what's learned to the individual writer's writing style and apply it to the current writing project.

My final concern is inserting too many POV characters into a novel. Sometimes multiple POV characters are necessary. But, if the reasons are so that readers can understand what's happening from a host of perspectives to get a well-rounded view, and readers needs to know the thoughts and motivations of every character important to the plot to understand actions taken, then the writer might consider rethinking his reasoning.

Trust the readers to pick up on character motivations and how that character views events compared to another character in the novel, without having to be explicitly shown. Consider that every reader--every human being--exists in a first person POV world. Most become adept at interpreting the thoughts and motivations of others, and looking at something from another's perspective without benefit of knowing their exact thoughts. So authors can count on readers to bring that ability to the table when reading a novel.

Yes, there are plenty of valid reasons to use omniscient POV or multiple third person limited POVs. I've read novels where there are a dozen or more POV characters. Harry Turtledove's World War Series would be an example. The reason to add POVs should not be a failure to reasonably trust that readers can figure out things like character motivation.

In the end, readers:
  • Actively engaged in a story, forming the characters, world and action in their mind's eye
  • Following characters and events, guessing and forming theories about why someone did something and what the other fellow might do next in response (and put it all together)...
will be satisfied readers.

Or, as a writer, that's how I see it.

About Terry W Ervin II:

Terry W. Ervin II is awesome!
Terry W. Ervin II is an English and science teacher who enjoys writing science fiction and fantasy. He is an editor for the speculative fiction magazine MindFlights and a guest contributor to Fiction Factor, an ezine for writers.

While Fiction Factor has published the majority of Terry's articles on writing, his short stories have appeared in over a dozen anthologies, magazines and ezines. The genres of his stories have ranged from science fiction and fantasy to horror and inspirational.

In late 2009 Gryphonwood Press published Terry's debut fantasy novel FLANK HAWK and recently released the second in the First Civilization's Legacy series, BLOOD SWORD.

To learn more about his writing endeavors or contact Terry, visit his:
Blog: Up Around the Corner
Unofficial Facebook Fan Page for the First Civilization's Legacy Series, Flankers

Flank Hawk Main Page, Book Trailer and Audiobook

Flank Hawk Sales Outlets:
Amazon UK
Barnes and Noble

Blood Sword Sales Outlets:
Amazon UK
Barnesand Noble

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

August is Awesome Because of Charlie Holmberg

I'm such a fan of awesome people, and Charlie Holmberg definitely qualifies as awesome.  I'm an avid fan of her "Link Blitz" posts every Friday.  (She always manages to find something fascinating for us.)

She spotlights "Someday Stars" every other Thursday, introducing her readers to those that she believes will be a bona fide star--someday.

I've always loved Charlie's upbeat blogging personality, her positive outlook toward life (wherever it may take her) and her genuine love of family.

Congratulate her on all those works she's finished and give her a great big welcome!


Step 1: Finish Your Manuscript

Before I dive into this, let me make it clear that I don’t have any writing credentials outside a few small-town story contests. Because of that, I don’t expect anyone to take my writing “advice” with any merit. However, one thing I can do is finish a book, and the first step to being published is, of course, having a complete manuscript.

I’ve wanted to be a writer since junior high, started focusing on it in high school, and began taking it seriously in my first year of college. I started my first book when I was 13, but I didn’t finish a [different] book until 19. If my memory is correct, the first book I finished was the eighth I had started (not including my dabbling in fanfiction, which we won’t get into!).

So what changed?

The thing that really got me focused was utilizing a daily word count. I fluctuated between a minimum of 500 and 1,000 words a day, every day. Sometimes it was really hard to get those words in when I wasn’t excited about the scene or didn’t know what would happen next, but I had to do those words, otherwise they would accumulate, because I refused to forgive a day’s word count unless absolutely necessary.

Charlie Holmberg's awesome blog

The next step was turning off my internal editor. We all have one: the mini version of us that, in the voice of our 11th grade English teacher, says, “That sounds weird,” or “You’ve already used that word!” The sooner you murder this editor and bury him six feet under (later to be resurrected as a blood-thirsty and immortal revisionist), the more words you will write. Stop thinking about it. Say it can’t be done? So did I. But if you try hard enough—if you remind yourself that revisions will come later, and they will be glorious—it can be done. I have the curse fortune of being an editor in my consciousness as well, and if I can shut my internal editor off, so can you. As is, I hand out drafts to my alpha readers without ever giving the manuscript a second glance. Once it’s written, it’s out of mind. (Outlines help.)

Lastly, you need to make time to write. Not find time to write, make it. The reason we always arrive at our son’s soccer practice on time or catch the latest episode of America’s Got Talent, despite our busy schedules, is because we make those things priorities. There comes a point where you have to ask yourself, How much do I want this? The more you want to write, the more time you will find to write. The more excited you are about you manuscript, the more time you will find the write. The more you ache for your story to be on a shelf at Barnes & Noble, the more time you will find to write.

I’ll use my sister and I as an example. Both of us love writing; both of us are writers. My sister is currently finishing her revisions of her first completed novel, which she started three years ago. I’m currently drafting my seventh.

So many? :-)
My sister, 2 ½ years my senior, has two kids with a third planned, and a brand new poodle. She is incredibly accomplished. She’s an Irish step dancer. She plays the cello, the piano, the tin whistle, the hammered dulcimer, and more. She’s fluent in Japanese. She runs the Girls’ Achievement Days for her church, which is virtually boy scouts for young ladies. She cooks all her family meals, sews all her daughters’ Halloween costumes, and maintains a rather seismic garden. She also has plans to learn how to shoot a gun.

Now look at me. I have a full-time job, and I write. Outside of that, my hobbies are limited to my learning to play the ukulele and the occasional brushing up on my neglected piano skills. I do enjoy cooking dinners when my husband isn’t scheduled for work. I used to bake a lot, but now only do on occasion. I used to play the flute and the French horn. I used to write music. I used to win awards for my compositions and played live shows. These are hobbies I pushed aside for the sake of writing, and while I am not nearly as well-rounded as my sister, outside of my husband and family, getting published is the most important thing on my map right now, and the highest and hardest goal I have set for myself.

So when it comes to time, if you want to write, write. If writing is a priority to you, make it a priority. No need to be a Nazi about it—life happens. Problems arise. Kids need mothering. The day job needs doing. I can’t recall which author said this, but one of the greatest pieces of advice I’ve ever heard in regards to finding time to write went something like, “Nothing needs your attention at four o’clock in the morning.”

Butt in chair + hands on keyboard = productivity.

Productivity = finish books.

Finished books = queries to agents and editors.

Queries, though long and tiresome, = published works.

Much luck to everyone on this writing journey, and thank you to Jeff for letting me leak brain all over his blog. Let’s get those manuscripts finished and show the publishing industry just what we’re made of!

Charlie Holmberg is awesome!
About Charlie Holmberg:

I’m a technical writer and editor from Salt Lake City, Utah, currently living in Moscow, Idaho. I play the ukulele, pretend to speak Japanese, and really want a dog.

Twitter: @cnholmberg