Thursday, May 31, 2012

Why typing "The End" isn't the end of it.

It's not the real cover, of course, just the picture I had in mind while writing my novel. But I thought I'd post it to celebrate typing those magical words "The End!" Yes, it's finished, except it's not.

I'm sharpening my editor's pencil now, or my finger-ends as they tap against the keys. One of my protagonist is threatening to sharpen other things and complains over my shoulder.

"How dare you make me out to be a wimp," says Tom. "I'm not some shy retiring Englishman like Eric. I've got style."

My feeble defense makes me the real wimp I suppose. "I just wrote what you said"

But Tom complains I only ever talked to him when he was down. Which is true. He only ever noticed me when he was down. Still, I promise I'll work on fixing his scenes if he'll just let me know what to change.

"Why should I?" He storms away, throwing words over his shoulder. "You're the writer. You get it right."

"Come on Tom. Be fair."

As if he would. He tells me to go talk to Anne. Honestly! I can't imagine how she puts up with him.

Anyway, I'm reading and writing and fixing and the end is not the end but I'm still having fun. Besides, Anne's really good company to talk with on the green. As English and as ex-pat as me, she always knows just what to say. I imagine I'm back in Cambridge again and the sound of running water is river not rain.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Just let me finish another chapter, please...

My Mum used to joke when I was a kid that I'd stand at the pearly gates begging, "Just let me finish another chapter please." Hopefully those gates are still a long way off, but I've almost finished the novel, and I've just finished reading last week's books before starting on this week's. Just let me finish another chapter first, then I'll brew some coffee and make dinner.

As usual, the blue links should take you to my gather reviews, and the coffee ratings should take you to the nearest coffee shop.

Oxford Messed Up, by  Andrea Kayne Kaufman, tells the story of two messed-up individuals, one English, one American, studying music and poetry at Oxford. Their private dorms share a bathroom, but messy Henry doesn't share Gloria's OCD eagerness to clean. The depiction of OCD is haunting, the dialog's hilarious, the story's beautifully real and the characters both find hope in this thoroughly enjoyable novel. Drink a 4-star elegant complex coffee while you read.

More messy relationships characterize Mike Arsuaga's Children of Subspecies, third in the author's series of future history novels where the real-world's problems are augmented with the "outing" of vampire and lycan communities. The future history is scary and thought-provoking, the exploration of "difference" even more so, and the pleasing moral and religious ambiguities of the previous novels continue to thread through the tale. Sex, religion and politics are none of them taboo. Complex story-telling to enjoy with a 4-star complex coffee.

Meanwhile, in Douglas E. Richards' Wired, a present day discovery by a super-intelligent young woman might herald the end of the world. Wounded ex-Special Ops investigator David Desh chases after her, struggling to untangle the threads and learn who the good and bad guys are. Fast action, intriguing ethics, best enjoyed with 5-star dark intense coffee.

Back in the everyday world of small-town America, Finding Our Way Home by Charlene Anne Baumbich pairs a ballet dancer broken by accident with a teen who seems intent on breaking faith with her promising future. Both find their way home with the help of a snowglobe and some gentle hints of faith. Enjoy with a 3-star well-balanced coffee.

The Best Kept Secret in Normandy by Liz R. Newman is a short sweet tale set in France where an American tourist learns the secret to self-esteem. Nicely told, this short tale is best enjoyed with a 1-star light crisp coffee.

Moving to Iraq, Love and Liberty by Lee-Ann Graff Vinson strikes a nice balance between sensual sex scenes and the terrors of torture and war with male and female protagonists nicely exploring both sides of the issue of women in combat. Military obedience is well-balanced with wise questions, making this an intriguing, but dark tale. Enjoy with dark 5-star coffee.

Going back in time to the 1960s, the Lost Testament by Brian Thompson gives a powerfully evocative description of racial tensions in the American South, but the secret religious testament discovered by the protagonist is oddly underplayed and the large cast of characters might leave readers disconcerted, though they do all come together in the end. Enjoy several cups of 5-star intense coffee as you read.

And finally, Sarah Butland's Brain Tales move into differently dark and curious realms. Quirky with an odd approach to word choice and logic, but some truly intriguing insights, these dark tales are best enjoyed with 5-star dark coffee.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Free books and a shortage of free time

75,500 words... How can it take so long to write the final scenes of my novel? I think I'll blame the weather, the weeding, the grass-cutting, the pine-needles walked into the house requiring much vacuuming, etc... But I really must try to finish it this weekend.

Meanwhile, here are two great free books from Amazon.

Hearts Restored sounds like another fascinating historical novel from Knox Robinson: What can a young man of fifteen do when he is told by his mother that  the three cousins he is about to meet all want to marry him? Daniel  Wilson Horden has arrived in London with his parents from their home in Northumberland on the very day of King Charles II's triumphant return to his capital. Receiving his own personal wave from the king, Daniel longs only to serve him, but first he must keep at bay the threat of marriage. His two French cousins are adamant in their pursuit of him, but Daniel  is intrigued by his English cousin, Eunice, whose Puritan father snatches her away from the reunion celebrations. Unaware that his  gallant attempt to save her has endeared him to her, Daniel only just  escapes the marriage trap which his younger French cousin lays for him  and is sent off to study at Cambridge University. Once she returns to  her father's home, Eunice is condemned to a life of austerity. Heart-sick, she is assured by her grandmother that Daniel will come for her when he graduates from university. But, unaware of his cousin's feelings for him, Daniel goes off to join the navy only to find that fighting in the king's service is not as glorious as he had imagined. While the navy suffers at sea, London passes through plague and fire. Will Eunice survive the hardship? And will Daniel return to fulfil the promise in his eyes on that fateful day in London?

Plus there's the wonderful Literally Dead, also from Knox Robinson. Click here for my review of Literally Dead. In the midst of the Great Depression, one man must do battle against corruption with nothing but his wits and a host of great literary figures… Amos Jansen is merely a clerk. He is not a crime fighter, the next  great
writer, or a man of privilege. He is the humble employee of a  Chicago literary society. That is, until he is arrested for murder. The scapegoat of a perfidious lieutenant, Jansen stands wrongly accused while his idols rally around him. Literary personalities the likes of Ernest Hemingway, Carl Sandburg, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Nelson Algren, and H.L. Mencken, as well as civil liberties war-horse Clarence Darrow, join Amos in his search for the real murderer of both the society's vice-chairman and his own father. Will the pen prove mightier than the sword? Will mercenary police, politicians and money-barons meet with justice? Or will Jansen fail to solve the mystery and wind up literally dead?

And for 99cents, there's the first of the Christian-themed G-6 superhero series, the Unwanted by Daniel Carter. Click here for my review of the Unwanted. Born out of vengeance, five discarded children must fight to keep their family safe from the homicidal geneticist who created them. Millions of lives stand in the balance as sacrifices are made. One family will never be the same as heroes rise and fall in The Unwanted Book 1 of The G-6 Chronicles.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Travelling the world for free?

Ah, I wish I could travel the world for free... or maybe not. I'd love to take a trip back to England sometime this summer, if we can manage to plan something that works. But reading How to Travel the World for Free by Michael Wigge, has convinced me I'd rather pay than try to travel free. I've reviewed How to Travel the World for Free here

but I didn't include any pictures, so here, for anyone wishing to see how free world-travelling might look, are just a few...

Eating flowers looks kind of odd, but I assure it's not the oddest thing this author ate on his travels...

Antarctic penguins look great--his aim was to reach the end of the world, otherwise known as Antarctica. I would certainly like to get there somehow, but I'd rather be a tourist than a guide.

Wigge is a well-known media personality in Germany—a journalist, award-winning documentarian, comedian and world traveler. Wigge traveled 25,000 miles from Europe to Antarctica--without any money--which he documented and turned into the upcoming travel series "How to Travel the World For Free" which starts airing on PBS this month (perhaps in your city?) and on local channels in over 70 markets across the US running through May and June. His accompanying book contains his colorful tales and tips on dashing across the world by his coattails.

From hosting a street pillow fight in San Francisco (which paid for a flight to Costa Rica), to earning money as a "Human Sofa", Wigge's creativity and chutzpah seem limitless. One plan saw him become "The Hill Helper" in California: The extreme slopes of hilly San Francisco equaled weary tourists, so Wigge strapped on a sign proclaiming that he would push individuals up the hill, all for one dollar. Tired travelers leaned all their weight into his hands as he marched them up a hill.

By the end of the day, he earned enough to buy groceries.

Says Wigge: "Everything is possible without money. I made my dream come true."

As for me, I'm dreaming my novel still and hoping it might soon come true.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

And so, to book reviews...

There's a good book going free on Amazon kindle today and tomorrow--Jackie Gamber's Redheart (read my review of Redheart, and its sequel Sela at these links)--so head on over there if my reviews have enticed you.

Meanwhile, here are some more book reviews... (Don't forget, the coffee recommendations are for style, not value, and the blue links take you to longer reviews on Gather.)

How to travel the world for free, by Michael Wigge, will be released as a TV series soon and is definitely interesting, though there's no way I'll be planning to follow in the author's footsteps. With a lot of determination and a serious willingness to beg steal or borrow en route, he makes it from Berlin to Antarctica--the end of the world--and writes a great journal filled with characters, social commentary and great scenery. Enjoy this one with 5-star intense cup of coffee--the trip gets pretty intense sometimes.

Snare, by Deborah Ledford, is a police procedural detective mystery with music, style and character. When a Native American pop singer finally decides to reveal herself to her public, Detective Steven Hawk is assigned to protect her. And when somebody tries to kill her then runs away, Hawk wants to know who both the killer and the secret savior might be. Enjoy this elegant complex tale with a 4-star elegant complex coffee.

Libby Fischer Hellman's A Bitter Veil offers fascinating insights into Iran at the time of the revolution, as a young American student falls for and marries the son of rich Iranian friends of the Shah. The story's told with vivid detail and quiet sympathy--truly enthralling, and best enjoyed with 5-star bold dark coffee as the falling night is definitely intense. 

Dave Riggler's Stories, by Brian Hartman, invite the reader into the world of a man in a wheelchair. I was given one of these stories free to review. It's called Tuesday and it gives an intriguingly different point of view on a famous Tuesday one September. The things that jump into our minds when a building's on fire might be different if running downstairs has never been a possibility. The stories are fairly light, stream-of-consciousness, and vividly real. Enjoy with 2-star easy-drinking coffee.

Finally, Brian Thompson's The Revelation Gate is a Biblicaly themed fantasy with references from all over the Bible hidden in the situations faced by a wealth of characters. Wars, slavery, torture and rebellion all point to the fulfillment of a strange prophecy, but who will win? It's written in with a heavily mythical drumbeat, best enjoyed with a 5-star bold dark coffee.

And so, to writing... 72,000 words and counting.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Breathless, rained on, and writing

I plan to finish the novel this week. I really do. And if it rains I won't have to do yardwork so maybe I'll even succeed. It's up to 70,000 words now and taking the weekend off has told me a) which two sections need more work, and b) how the story's meant to end. Sounds good to me. My fingers are itching to type.

Meanwhile I've been reading, but I'm going to wait till tomorrow for those coffee and book reviews--I need to write! Instead, here's some information about a new book I plan to read soon, called Suffocate. It's the first in S.R. Johannes' new Young Adult Breathless series, and today--May 21st, is its release date!

Suffocate is a 15,000 word young adult thriller that combines the dystopic and science fiction genres.
“For centuries, the world outside the Biome has been unlivable. Today, marks the first time anyone will attempt to leave the suffocating ecosphere. Eria is not worried because her scientist father has successfully tested the new Bio-Suit many times. It's a celebratory day until something goes horribly wrong. In the midst of tragedy, Eria uncovers a deep conspiracy that affects the very air she breathes. 

If those responsible find out what she knows, they won't stop hunting her until she takes her last breath.”

The 2nd novella in the series, CHOKE, is scheduled for Fall 2012. The 3rd, EXHALE, is scheduled for Winter 2013.

You can purchase Suffocate for only 99 cents at

S.R. Johannes is author of the Amazon Bestseller Untraceable and a current nominee of the Georgia Author of the Year in the Young Adult category. After earning an MBA and working in corporate america, S.R. Johannes traded in her expensive suits, high heels, and corporate lingo for a family, flip-flops, and her love of writing. She lives in Atlanta Georgia with her goldendoodle Charley (notice he is listed first :), her British-accented husband, and the huge imaginations of their little prince and princess, which she hopes- someday- will change the world.  You can find her hanging out online and visit her at

Friday, May 18, 2012

Meet an economical author

Last month I received an email from Kersten Kelly, author of Economics, a Simple Twist on Normalcy. I guess I don't usually read non-fiction books, but you've got to admit, the title's catchy, and the author had taken the trouble to find out a few things about me, so she thought my site might be a relevant place to visit on her blog tour. (Click here for my review of Economics, a Simple Twist on Normalcy.)

Of course, I did math, not economics, at college, and I have to admit a certain lack of interest in high finance. But Kersten's book's not about the esoteric details of pension schemes and the national debt. It doesn't explain the difference between macro and micro-economics. And, while it includes a few matrices and graphs, it eschews the rigorous analysis and accurate problem statements of math and probability. Instead, the author uses casual conversation to suggest how economics might relate to everyday life, from coupon-cutting to the Cold War, to the rising price of gas.

Today I'm pleased to welcome the author to my blog, so I'll hand this post over to you now Kersten and invite you to tell us more about yourself and your book.

When I first started writing as a kid, I never dreamed that I would be able to compose an entire book and actually publish it. The process seemed overwhelming and a massive undertaking, as it most definitely was. I began the writing process, and I found that I was writing little excerpts about economics that really interested me. Usually, I would encounter something in my life and think how economics played a large role in it. The majority of the time, these things seemed like they were unconnected to the naked eye. In particular, my interest in economics blossomed during my college years when I actually started studying it for my degree. 

I love economics, and I majored in it during my undergraduate work at Indiana University. As a student, many of the examples in my textbooks were irrelevant and made the subject one that many students did not enjoy. I wanted to change the negative connotations associated with the topic. I wanted to make it something that people understood and relished learning about. I want to shed light on economics as a topic for the average reader. I want them to realize that economics is not just graphs, charts, and theories. It can be applicable in almost any situation. The theories that I explain in the book are developed with multiple examples that readers can relate to. Purchasing gasoline is one of them, and education is another. It is amazing how economic theory can help to explain both.

I liked the ability to argue my opinions, compile them in a written publication, and have readers be able to communicate with me via my website and through reviews. There has been nothing more rewarding than working for a year to create a publication that people can pick up and read. I like the idea that someone else can read what I wrote and discuss it with others. I wanted people to be able to learn from what I wrote, so I took the chance and created the book.

The book is a unique compilation of examples of pop culture, history, social media, business, sports, and education all explained through an economic lens. It uses current market trends and examples that can be applicable and enjoyable for anyone. It is written in a narrative non-fiction format so it flows easily and does not read similarly to a textbook. Economics is part of daily life, and this book challenges readers to question how and why people make decisions by adding a simple twist on normalcy.

Find out more about Kersten’s book at her website:
Or meet the author on

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Under the weather

I read about a friend who's feeling under the weather. So sad, with the weather being so bright and summer-like at last. Of course, all that sunshine after all that rain has encouraged all those weeds. So now my yard has me working "under the weather," depriving me of time to read and write.

Still, Love on a Transfer grew to 69,000 words today, and the chapters still bouncing around in my brain will surely find their way to the computer soon. (Hey, it might rain again!) Plus I've almost read two books in the last two days, so maybe I'll only be two book reviews behind schedule by the end of the week. I'll try anyway.

Meanwhile, I'll rest my fingers awhile--the blisters are stinging from pulling out those weeds, leaving my hands feeling sorely under the weather.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Killing time and angels

The novel's up to 67,000 words now and growing fast, scenes building into larger scenes while shadows fill out the spaces lying between . I'm enjoying writing it anyway, and reading the parts I've finished, and dreaming of more...

Meanwhile other people's books add themselves to my to-read list. How can I resist something called Angelkiller or a tagline that reads "Why do bad things happen to good people? Simple. In the ancient war between the Angels of Light and Darkness, the Dark won." And it's free on Amazon, today and tomorrow! Follow the blue link for your US kindle copy.

Then there are the books I've just finished reading, so grab a coffee and read on:

Death in a Wine Dark Sea, by Lisa King is a mystery set in California with great characters, from wine reporter turned investigator, Jean Applequist, to secretive geek Zeppo, to a colorful gay rights campaigner to mysterious Vietnam vet. With so many people hiding so many secrets, it's hard to imagine how Jean will ever work out what happened to her friend's husband, but this thoroughly modern femme fatale Miss Marple will work it all out. Enjoy her nose for trouble and wine with a 4-star elegant, complex cup of coffee.

Back in the Game by Charles Hodefer takes readers far from the big city to small-town America with big-business pig-farming, school busses, and a wealth of other people's shoes to be filled by Stanley Mercer as he tries to rebuild his life. No field of dreams, this, but a pleasingly humorous, introspective, thought-provoking slice of life where real worth hides where you stop earnestly looking for it. Enjoy this one with a 3-star smooth full-flavored coffee.

Traveling further afield, Anne Patchett's State of Wonder echoes Conrad's Heart of Darkness but is set in the modern world of big-business pharmaceuticals, women scientists, Amazonian drug research, and side-effects. a 4-star elegant complex coffee would go well with this book.

After the Fog, by Kathleen Shoop, stays firmly in America but takes readers to the not-so-distant past, when mills poured out their poison into the fogs of Donora, PA, and a weather inversion killed 20 innocent victims. The story's made personal in the tale of Rose, a nurse who tries to improve the lot of the locals while a doctor begs management to close the mill, workers insist a little fog won't hurt as long as we're paid, and families care for multiple generations under one roof. A stunning insight into the past and a thought-provoking look at the background to environmental hazard, this is one to read with a 5-star dark intense coffee.

Finally, Claire Collins' Images of Betrayal is a modern mystery-romance with betrayals and contrasts aplenty. Rejected by her mother and deserted by her father, Ty earns the rent as a waitress and hopes there'll be enough money for food. Sheila mothers her. Photographer Walker offers hope. And high-schooler David dotes on her. When disaster strikes, Ty has to choose who to trust in a world that seems determined to betray her. Enjoy this mysterious coming-of-age adventure with a 3-star full-flavored coffee.

Monday, May 14, 2012

66,000 words, loving that transfer

I've started connecting part one of Love on a Transfer to part two. It's 66,000 words now, with several chapters still waiting to be written. And I like it! I guess I'm hoping lots of other people might like it too, but that's all in the future. For now, it's nice to see it coming together and feel like it's going to work. I shall switch off my computer in a moment and go wander around the green, talk to Tom who's going to tell me how he felt when Ellen went back to England with Eric, and how feeling so guilty about his behavior changed his character. Poor Tom. Even non-perfectionists get hooked up on wishing they were perfect once in a while.

This isn't the cover, but it's the picture I carry around in my mind. Love on a Transfer--Cambridge to Salt Lake City and back, with thanks to Willow Moon Publishing!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

24,000 words, 103 puzzles, 2 short stories and 3 novels

Want a fun free book? I just got Steven Shrewsbury's Overkill free on a kindle deal--available today and tomorrow. I keep reading about how good it is, sword and sorcery and so on, so I'm really looking forward to it.

Not that there's much time for reading at the moment. The sun came out, so yesterday I spent hours cutting the grass while my characters chattered over the sound of the lawnmower. American Tom's really down on himself. English Anne's feeling left out and lonely. And the wedding's tomorrow. Must get typing...

Meanwhile I spent spare moments between tasks enjoying 103 puzzle quizzes from Grabarchuk. I'm not sure why, but these puzzles appealed even more than previous sets--perhaps practice makes practiced? Anyway, a mild crisp 1-star coffee will go well as you work your way through this book--highly recommended for those times when your kindle's ready but you've got too much to do.

The Reaper's Game, by John Grover is a classic gruesome horror story, short, fierce, and pleasingly intriguing, perfect for a busy day and best enjoyed with an intense dark 5-star coffee. By contrast, Jason Baldwin-Stephen's Empty Shells is a masterful contemporary tale which fits story and character arc into a very quick lunchtime read. The common man is content to ignore nature but finds himself slowly drawn in. Then the claws of bureaucracy meet nature's red teeth. A thoroughly satisfying short story, best enjoyed with a well-balanced 3-star coffee.

Jamais Vu, by Monique O'Connor James is a novel that had me glued to the kindle from start to finish. A young woman rushing towards the light after an accident finds herself sent back and unsure of her mission. Is she meant to save lives or learn the secret to saving her own life? And can she really change what she's only seen in dreams. Haunting, evocative, and written with a consistent sense of immediacy, this is one to enjoy with a 4-star elegant, complex coffee.

The teens in Natasha Larry's Unnatural Law have more predictable mysterious powers, blending X-Men with paranormal fiction and leading to a fascinating take on evolution. There's a lot of coincidence in the tale, but maybe later volumes will give more direction. Meanwhile it's an exciting story of scary powers combined with teen hormones and strange protectors. Enjoy this one with a 2-star lively coffee.

My final book from the last few days is M.R. Mathias' The Confliction, which brings this branch of his Dragoneers saga to a close (and gently teases the door to the next branch). Nicely edited, fast-flowing, with great characters and a thoroughly exciting final battle, this intense novel is one to enjoy with some 5-star intense coffee, and it's a great continuation of the tale.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

20,000 words and Getting a Round Tuit

Tom, from Love on a Transfer, has finally arrived in Cambridge. Taking a walk around town he finds the mysterious Round Church and buys a postcard with a picture of a Round Tuit. Now he has no excuse to put off getting on with his life. But the girl of his dreams is due to get married here in just a few days. His head's spinning round.

Meanwhile my book review list includes a book set in the other place!  I'm due to read Andrea Kaufman's Oxford Messed Up pretty soon, and I just heard it was just awarded the Best Adult Fiction E-Book Gold Medal in the “IPPY” Awards--awards that reward those who exhibit the courage, innovation, and creativity to bring about change in the world of publishing, or so I'm told. Plus it's only 99cents on Amazon kindle at the moment (, so if you want an e-visit to the other place, now's the time to buy your copy!

This week's reading included two short ebooks by A.F. Stewart, Existence and Even the Paranormal play Sports. Both short stories are filled with surprises, in the author's characteristic style, with spare and vividly real narration, and thoroughly intriguing concepts that will keep you pondering long after you've read them. Enjoy with 2-star lively easy-drinking coffee.

Upsetting the Tides, by David Englund is a considerably longer read. The internal and external dialog make me think of those TV shows with inept male leads dashing from crisis to crisis. The world might be about to end, but what the protagonist really wants is to keep his new toy and find out whether the girl likes him. It's a mild crisp read, best enjoyed with a 1-star mild crisp coffee.

My other short book was Mary Manners' Wounded Faith which I've reviewed for Nights and Weekends. I'll let you know when the review gets posted there. Another short story, this one's a truly uplifting gentle romance with its view of forgiveness and the strength to move on. Drink a well-balanced 3-star coffee with this one.

And finally, Linda Nance's I will not give up... not today... life is a journey is a fascinating blend of memoir, essays on the road to publishing something worthwhile, and spiritual musings. While I don't read many memoirs, Linda's story of perseverance and protection has a lot to offer, and her bravery in going back to college to hone her writing skills is to be seriously commended. A surprisingly rich, elegant and complex book, this one should be read with a 4-star rich, complex coffee.

And I should go back to writing. The wedding's coming up!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Ignite your Muse, with Danika Dinsmore

I'm delighted to welcome Danika Dinsmore, author of Brigitta of the White Forest and the Ruins of Noe, to my blog today as part of her Lightning Book Promotions tour. I thoroughly enjoyed both of these books and I'm really pleased to get to know the author better through this post. Danika Dinsmore has created an amazingly detailed White Forest, peopled with faeries full of history, character, emotion and common sense. The novels stand alone and fit together perfectly, and the world itself unfolds very naturally as tales are told.

You can find out more about the world of the White Forest and its curious faeries by following these links...

Book Trailer:
AND... Guess what! You could even get a free copy of The Ruins of Noe TODAY (Friday) at

or look for it any other day at  and

But first, why not read and learn more about how the author--a wonderful teacher as well as a thoroughly enjoyable writer--ignites her muse. Over to you Danika...

Igniting your muse

Oftentimes people think that they have to form an idea in their head before getting it down on the page. In my workshops I teach idea generation on the page. I think it’s not only more productive; it’s more surprising. 

Writing generates writing. 

This may sound simplistic, but it’s surprisingly magical and it tickles me every time I teach. For instance, I just taught my Imaginary World workshop a few days ago. When the adult students sat down, they had no idea what they were going to write about. This group in particular did not have a lot of experience writing speculative fiction. That’s why they were there. 

After some initial discussion, I took them through a series of writing exercises. Within 2 hours all had at least one inspiring story idea that included a protagonist, a setting, a conflict, and some basic scenes. All brand new ideas generated during the class. All worthy of becoming fully-fledged novels.
That’s the magical part to me, that from the ethers comes this unexpected idea. It takes hold, takes shape, and suddenly it’s tangible and real.

Timed Writing Works!

I prefer timed exercises, but I know these can be a challenge when you’re by yourself, especially if this idea is new to you. If you don’t have a writers group, try it on your own with 5 minutes and work your way up to 7 or 10 minutes. 

HAND WRITE your timed exercises. This is important. Also important is to keep writing without stopping, without crossing out, without editing. Just keep your pen moving no matter what. Even if the little editor in your head says what you’re writing is really stupid. Ignore that guy.
I keep a different lined notebook for timed exercises for each novel I’m working on. This gives me more room to brainstorm outside the box. I go back later and read what I wrote, highlighting and making notes on the juicy stuff.

How do I do it?

One of the simplest exercises I use (at any time during the story creation process) is called “What if?” I often pair this with “What happens when . . .” I have been using this technique, for screenwriting as well as novel writing, for over 15 years. It works.
It’s what we call a “listing exercise” – which just means that each idea/though starts with the same words. 


Say you’re at the very early stages of your story. You know it’s a light Sci Fi. You know a woman broke up with her husband and she’s travelling to another planet where memory erasing is legal. She wants him out of her head. For good. 

But say that’s ALL you know and you want to know more. Start with a “What happens when . . .” and follow it up with a list: what if . . . what if . . . what if . . .

Do this for a MINIMUM of 5 minutes. Keep going if you’re on a roll. If one of the What If’s suddenly takes off on its own inspired direction, go with it. When that idea runs out, START OVER with another What if . . .
Keep writing, keep your pen moving, even if the next thing you write is “What if I can’t think of anything more to write about? What if the universe explodes? What if my cat feels neglected?” Whatever. Keep going.

Here’s a sample from one of my own exercises:

What if she got to the first moon and ran into her ex?
What if her ex got his memory erased first and she likes the new him and doesn’t tell him he’s her ex husband?
What if she goes to the wrong planet?
What if her ship is abducted by aliens?
What if her ex is some space commander and he rescues her? What if she falls in love with him all over again because of this?
What if on each moon she learns something about her ex which makes her not want to get her memory erased at the end?
What if the memory erasing goes wrong, only erases half of her memories of her ex and it’s just the bad stuff OR she mixes him up with someone else, like an Intergalactic terrorist?
What if the memory erasing takes time, she gets it done, then falls in love with him again, only to have her memory of him slowly disappear over time until he is a stranger.
What if she gets stranded on the first moon and finds herself in some outback station living with 3 disgruntled divorcees? 

I love the thought-process here. Some lines are related, some are out of the blue, most probably won’t be used. From here, though, I can select my favorite idea, set my timer for 7 minutes, and start again:  What happens when the aliens abduct her? What if . . .

Go ahead, try it, and see where it take you. 

Danika Dinsmore writes and teaches speculative fiction with a focus on children’s literature. She blogs about the writing life and posts “weekend workout” exercises every Friday at

Thank you Danika. I'm going to make a note of this exercise and use it at our writers' group next time we're looking for a writing prompt. It will be fun to see what we come up with. I think I'd pick the "each moon she learns something" version, but I wonder where it would go... What a neat idea!

18,000 words and horror too !

Love on a Transfer Part II is now 18,000 words long, and no, it hasn't morphed into a horror story, though navigating the vagaries of British English vs American English might give poor Tom some horror stories to tell when he gets back home. I'm trusting my writing won't be horrible either, and I'm still in awe that Willow Moon have trusted me to complete the story this way.

There's no horror in the romance novella I reviewed recently for Nights and Weekends either, but you can find my review of Lullaby in Lone Creek in today's edition, and my review of Lost in Lone Creek in the archives. I'm reading another Mary Manners novella now and hope to send my next review to them soon.

However, I have read three horror novels this week, hence the headline for this post. If horror's what takes your fancy, grab some 5-star strong dark coffee and browse my reviews on

Wickflicker, by Teric Darken, was Monday's book. In the style of old-fashioned Christian horror, it tells the first-person account of a college freshman tempted by sex, drugs and alcohol, and eager to make his own way in the world beyond his father's shadow. In the shadows of a dark and haunted basement he's offered the chance to pass his hand through flickering flame and take the coin but he refuses while his friend accepts. Will Caleb escape? Will Gat be damned? There's a really neat sting in the tail...

I read Vampire Pond, by Peter Joseph Swanson, on Tuesday. A dark and muddy tale with the author's trademark narrative dialog and twisted humor, this one blends myths from around the world with hilarious misunderstandings and, once you get to the midpoint of the novel, some delightfully scary scenes, all set in a damp soggy village of ancient Britain.

And yesterday, Wednesday, I read N.J. Burns' Moment of Kairos. This one was heading fast for a rare 5-star review from me till it suddenly ended with an epilogue and the promise of a sequel. No!!!!! The author weaves four fascinating stories of critical moments together with a well-timed, untold fifth, and the pages fly by under that constant quest to see how it fits together. There's futuristic apocalypse, present-day horror, middle-ages secret rites and ancient precognition--a truly fascinating read; I just wish it didn't end so abruptly.

Which leaves me wondering, given how many books I review turn out to parts of series, what is it makes some of them work so much better than others? I didn't mind part 6 of Harry Potter feeling incomplete, but that's probably because I already trusted the author and knew part 7 would be good. I don't mind that the Harry Dresden novels are becoming more geared towards the larger, incomplete, story arc, but again, I've already become hooked and I trust the author. Danika Dinsmore's Brigitta of the White Forest was just part 1 of a series, but the story finished, even if it's part of a greater whole. And J.A. Clement's On Dark Shores 2 was much more satisfying than On Dark Shores 1 because there was more of a sense of completion to the change in her main character.

Maybe I'm just too slow to trust the authors. I need to know not just that they write well, but also that they're going to complete the project. Otherwise an incomplete story arc leaves me wondering and wary. Perhaps I'll have to bear this in mind when I go back to writing Hemlock--still only two books and two halves into the set, still in search of a willing publisher and reading willing to give me their trust.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

16,000 and counting

That heading should be 16,000 words and writing, but housework calls, yardwork's soggy, and the cupboard's getting awfully bare. I checked the bottom of my page in Word and it's counted to 16,000, which sounds pretty good. Tom has finally realized what day it is--ah, the trouble with jet lag--and now he's planning how to get to his friend's house in time for the wedding. Anne has at least become a voice on the telephone instead of just an email address. And love awaits... Love on a Transfer, ion fact. Part II keeps moving along.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

14,000 words and editing

I know, I know. I should be writing more words. But when that editing itch gets me, I just have to reread and revise what I've got. The weekend's 13,000 are now a little more polished, and they've grown a bit too. Tom's about to get back online and work out what day it is--strange how the sense of time goes awry when traveling abroad. And Anne's going crazy wondering why Tom hasn't been in touch yet. Given a little more time and words, I'm hoping they might meet soon.

In other news, there's a book called the Brotherhood of Dwarves free on Amazon kindle today and tomorrow. It's billed as YA Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, and General Fantasy--I plan to give it a try though it may take a while to get around to reading it.

Now back to those words and Anne's urgent emails to Tom...