Wednesday, May 30, 2012

On Character (Writing the Breakout Novel)

Spent some time last night reading through Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass (which I recommend!), namely the section on character. It's really insightful, so I thought I'd share a few juicy tidbits:

On Character Sympathy
"I would like to suggest that there are two character qualities that leave a deeper, more lasting and powerful impression of a character than any other: forgiveness and self-sacrifice." (p. 121-122)

On Character Dimension
"A character viewed from different angles is automatically a richer creation." (p. 127)

On Villains
"Don't you find the most interesting villains are the ones whose motives we can understand? The ones who are made evil by circumstances, rather than the ones who simply are born bad? Depth of character in your opposition will make your writing more richly textured." (p. 130)

Monday, May 28, 2012

Nurt on DeviantArt OPEN for Commissions

(Hi everyone! My dear friend Sara, who does all my character commissions, is trying to raise a little extra money for school. She has lots of talent and amazing prices, so please take a look!)

Hello to you, lovely and desirable reader of Charlie's blog! 
I am scraping together the funds to help pay for my tuition this semester and could greatly use your help!

Everyone loves a distressed damsel, am I right?

 Here's what I'm offering to entice your Generosity Glands:

For $10

2 chibis, full-body, full-colour with some background/prop



Full-colour Waist-Up of ONE character


(For an additional $5 I will mail you the signed high-quality print of your commission!)

For $20

5 full-body, full-colour chibis with some props


2 full-colour Waist/Hip-Up characters
--can be interacting or posing together if you like.


(Another commission she did for me)


2 full-colour Portraits with background



1 full-body, full-colour character with atmospheric/design background


(For an additional $5 I will mail you the signed high-quality print of your commission!)

If you are interested in something more akin to a Book cover, email me and we can negotiate.

I will take orders through my deviantart gallery ( or email (nurtalien [at] Payment though Paypal, please.

Please specify through the payment or in a note your request and include any references/descriptions you have of the characters.

Don't be embarrassed if you think your request is weird! I am up for anything. >w< (It's true, she is!)

Sara also does custom jewelry through

:heart: Thank you so much! :heart:

Friday, May 25, 2012

Link Blitz

Three-day weekend! Three-day weekend! Three-day weekend!

(And let's not forget to remember our fallen soldiers...)

Spent last night eating at Buffalo Wild Wings and watching my husband battle to the death in a Shaq Fu tournament. Probably one of the most ridiculous video games ever created.

This weekend I will hopefully look into moving trucks and see if I can't do this Moscow thing as cheaply as possible...

Writer's Potpourri:

What Will Make an Agent Gong Your Pages

How Do You Write Popular Blog Posts?

Pricing Books and eBooks (I'm not a Joe Konrath fan, but this might be useful)

First Query, Last Query (an interesting read)

Promoting vs. Marketing a Book--The Promotion Stages--Pre-publishing--Part 1

Damn Yankees, and Other Ways Self-publishing Holds Itself Back

May Conferences: The Verbal Pitch

re: Cursed by a Crappy Query Letter

Other Babble:

Rejection Letters: The Publishers Who Got It Embarrassingly Wrong

14 Photographs That Shatter Your Image of Famous People

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Someday Stars: Meet Laura Christensen

What’s your name, and where are you from?

My name is Laura Christensen, (I also write as L.A.Christensen), and I've spent my life in California, Kansas, Utah, France, and Armenia.

How long have you been writing?

The earliest writing-memory I have is from first or second grade when my teacher had us write and illustrate our own stories in class. However, I wrote my first "book" in sixth grade. It was a grand total of 26 pages I called Dragonkin, and it was a highly derivative mashup of Anne McCaffrey's Pern series and Skysong's The City of Shar (which no longer exists). Thereafter, I taught my sister to read with a series of books I wrote and illustrated for her about a girl who goes about having adventures wearing ballet point-shoes. Yeah, don't ask.

What genre(s) do you write?

I write fantasy, science fiction, and historical fiction—and lots of genre-benders. Science fantasy in particular calls to me, though I've found it really hard to sell. I'm also a literary translator, and I've translated several plays from 1600s French playwrights: one fantasy and the rest are "contemporary/pop culture" humor. I prefer translating fantasy, as translating ancient satire into a context we understand is ridiculously hard, so I think I will stick to that! 

What’s your current WIP? Can you tell us about it?

It all started when I was reading last year's Hugo nominations. One of the stories made a passing reference to my chronic illness—Chronic Fatigue Syndrome—and made a snide comment about it resulting from not eating enough fruits and vegetables. Anyone who knows me knows that I love my fruits and veggies and that CFS does NOT resemble scurvy. (As much as any of us would love to be a modern-day pirate...) CFS is triggered either by a virus that then disrupts the body to the point where it forgets how to reboot/recover OR by traumatic stress, sort of like PTSD. Yeah, big difference. So I decided to channel my offense into writing the illness correctly.

Also, I have had a lot of problems explaining to friends and family what CFS actually is, what limitations it puts on me, and what it's like from the inside. One day my therapist challenged me to write a fiction story about it, since writing is the strongest communication tool I have left in my toolbox. I decided to take her up on her challenge. The problem was, how do you write about a character (not me) coping with an illness and still make it interesting?

Thus, Queen of the Eight Banners was born. Inspired by 17th Century Manchurian history, (right when the barbarian-Manchus from the north conquered "civilized" China), it's about a young queen who loses her husband in the very battle that conquers their ancestral enemies. Due to all the stresses that bring her to this moment, she falls ill in the very climax where she gains control of not just her own peoples but the newly-conquered Gui. So the story is about her fighting against her brother-in-law who aims to usurp her new authority and destroy the peace she's created—and fighting within herself, learning that she can indeed accomplish everything she's set out to accomplish, even in the face of insurmountable odds.

What’s your current day job? How does it help or hinder your writing?

Simply put, I'm unemployed. My chronic illness is my full-time job. I'm able to do roughly the same amount of "work" as what I used to squeeze in on the side between going to school full-time and having two jobs back in my healthy days. These days, if I write for more than an hour a day, I get very sick and the rest of my day I'm pretty much useless mush.

That being said, writing daily keeps me going, mentally and emotionally, health-wise. Though I am no longer able to tally up my self-worth based off of how many things I can accomplish in a given day, week, or month (which is a blessing, I've found), creating something personal daily and crawling towards my goals still brings me great satisfaction and stability.

Time—and the expectations of arbitrary deadlines—has gradually lost meaning to me. Now it's more about the journey, more about the present, the moment, and of being who and where I am.

Who is your favorite author?

This has changed a lot over the years. I used to claim Anne McCaffrey as my favorite, but now I'd have to say Diana Wynne Jones. I'm a late-comer to her fandom. She was one of the favorite authors of my best friend who passed away almost four years ago, and I regret not reading more of her books when my friend was still alive. In any case, the audiobook version of Howl's Moving Castle has single-handedly saved me from many long nights of terrible darkness. Dramatically put? Maybe, but true. I also love her keen insight into human nature, and her ability to make me love her cast of imperfect people without ever being annoyed with them. A feat I wish I could do on my own. If you haven't read her autobiography, I suggest you do so, as well. (

My favorite indie author would have to be Lindsay Buroker, though. Her The Emperor's Edge series is a set of humorous mysteries set in an era of steam. She has a knack for taking dark subjects and shining a light into them, so she's yet another life-saver for me.

Favorite book?

That would have to be Keturah and Lord Death by Martine Leavitt. I'm a sucker for its gorgeous prose, but also I love how personal and intimate the story is. It's about a small town girl who tries first to save herself from death (Sheherezade-style), and then to bring happiness to her friends while trying to save her town from plague. It was a breath of fresh air amidst all the epic fantasy I was reading at the time. The end of the world is not imminent, and so on. It's also just as amazing on a second read. Unfortunately, it's now out of print, so you would have to buy it used or hazard the imperfect formatting in an electronic edition.

What other hobbies or activities do you do outside of writing?

When I was healthy I loved to dance, and I've performed as a ballerina in roles such as the evil witch in Snow White & Rose Red. That was a blast. I also enjoyed martial arts and basketball. These days I'm much more sedentary. I draw and paint on occasion, and I've picked up freestyle embroidery again. I've also discovered how much I enjoy watching Korean dramas. Apparently I'm in love with Japanese animation, Chinese films, and Korean TV. Who'dathunk? (Oh, yes. Was that an admission to being an 80s fan?) 

What is something unique about yourself?

I'm a language nut.

It all started in elementary school when I took Spanish classes before I could properly read or write in English. I dropped those once I realized that I should probably learn English first. Go figure. Then I picked up French and Latin in junior high. I've won two gold medals in Latin competitions and perfect scores on both AP tests, but I dropped Latin once I realized it would condemn me to becoming a teacher or dusty professor for the rest of my life.

I decided then that I should study Mandarin Chinese since I knew it would propel me into being sought by businesses and I knew I could use the language absolutely everywhere I went. (I landed up being right, having used more Chinese in Paris than I did French). I studied Chinese for two years at university until I realized that I could never compete with all the return missionaries crowding my class. Also, I had 4-5 hours of Chinese homework every day and most days had to wake at 5 AM to get it done. Also, copying all those tiny characters made my carpal tunnel worse. So I decided to drop Chinese, or as I put it then, To Die and Go to France. So I did. I spent a school year working in small town France teaching English in two junior highs, returned home and switched my major to French which had been my minor up till that point. Apparently everyone else saw that coming before I did.

Then, when thinking about what I should do post-graduation to pursue my career in translation, I got the impression I should serve a mission instead. Like Jonah, I resisted. Thankfully, it did not take being swallowed by a giant fish to convince me I really could do it. I got called to Armenia, where besides learning Armenian and some Russian, I taught English and French on the side.

Yeah, language nut.

Do you have a blog, Twitter, and/or Web site we can link to?

I have a shiny new Web site now. So shiny there's nothing really there yet at However, it does link back to my writing blog at And I'm on Twitter at @titetraductrice, which is French for lil' translator. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

I Used to be a Musician

So around the time I started writing, I also got into composing. My mother stuck me in piano lessons when I was five and told me I couldn't quit until I was 16. When I didn't want to practice, she would put me in the corner until I did. I was bound sooner or later to start goofing off on the keys.

I vaguely remember the first song I wrote, though I don't think I recall enough to re-master it (a big problems with my music-writing is that I seldom actually wrote anything down). I was about 13 and, since this was during my wild anime fanfiction days, I wrote it for a Rurouni Kenshin character I had made up in me head. Later I fell in love with this song, which inspired the only piece of music I ever got public recognition for. (I won the state Reflections contest, ha, but didn't go onto nationals. I entered that contest two more times and never placed again.)

I loved writing songs. My friend had compiled this huge novel with all of us as characters, and I wrote a theme song for every one of them. Some were good, some were probably not so good. I played the piano constantly, and 80 percent of my repertoire consisted of original pieces. I even considered majoring in musical composition when I went to college, but I knew being forced to learn music theory would make me hate it, and really, I wanted to be an author, despite having never finished a book (becoming an English major got me a scholarship too, so no complaints on my end).

I wrote music throughout college, and despite my lack of vocal talent, I branched out into lyrical pieces. I worked closely with a singer-friend of mine (a relationship that didn't end well) and performed a few places. After that I joined a rock band and performed at a few more (that also didn't end well, but those are other stories).

I still did music with my close friend Jessica, who was also the bassist for said rock band, but I've fallen away from it in the last couple of years (I rarely even practiced the piano after I got hitched, but I'm remedying that). It doesn't bother me much, I'm just focused on other things now (like WRITING! And that sexy man I live with).

BUT, Jessica will be coming home from Japan (she teaches English there) about the same time I move to Moscow, and her hometown is only about two hours away. We have plans to get together and record some covers just for the sake of fun. I've got the piano pieces done for Love Me Dead and I'm in Here, and I'm working on a slow acoustic version of Mister by Kara (Jessica will be singing the Japanese lyrics, not the Korean ones).

If we decide to post these online, I'll be sure to let you know so you can see our mediocre skillz. :)

Monday, May 21, 2012

Methods of Outlining

Alternate Title: Why Pantsers Suck (KIDDING, kidding, you guys are great. And we all know that comment is directed toward Nathan Major anyway...)

So I've been thinking a lot more about the mechanics of writing lately because Ink Pageant has a contest I want to win, and the more I talk about writing, the greater the odds of of Weronika Janczuk reading my crap. (Confession: I'm not entirely sure how to pronounce her name. All the more reason for me to win so I can ask her.) /prattle

So, I'm an outliner, and since I'm currently outlining by next book, I've been thinking about outlines. At David Farland's Million Dollar Outlines workshop, I was fascinated by all the different ways people outline!

One of my favorite methods came from a gal named Amy. She had a hard time visualizing her story, having never written a novel before. What she did was clear a chunk of wall, draw out her plot diagram, and stick Post-it notes over that guideline of what each characters did, and what each conflict would be.

I stole this photo.
I think this is smart, especially because you can change the note color depending on character or subplot.

If I ever really struggle with a book, I may just do this. But being a "portable" writer, I can't take a wall with me.


David Farland mentioned an interesting way to outline in the workshop: by what states/transformation your character goes through. His example:

Child -> Man -> Warrior -> Outcast -> God

I like that a lot, since I think it makes you focus on both your character and his/her plot line first and foremost. (Not just "Oh, a thunderstorm of daisies would be so cool, so I'm going to shove my protagonist onto this island somehow so I can write about it." [A flaw I admit readily to having.])

Dave has also recommended color-coding your outlines, assigning each character a font color. I did this with THE RAIMOS and found it useful (don't let the fact that I dumped that book after 80,000 words deter you), because it lets you see where you may have dropped a character, who may not be getting enough screen time, and who is interacting with whom.


What I do is what I imagine most outliners do in some shape or form: I use a Word doc (I understand if you need to take a moment for this enlightenment to settle in). I am terrified of forgetting any ideas, so I try to write them down as soon as I can (which is also why I carry around pencils and mini notebooks. Cue me at a red light hastily scribbling down the conversation that should happen in Act II scene 8).

I abuse the hard return in this case, writing down the main events as I see them and hitting "enter" until half a page+ is between that and my next idea, so I can fill it in later. Some places I get really detailed ("The character then says..."), and other scenes I "pants," in a sense. ("And then somehow THIS happens and characters ends up over here.")

Then slowly, surely, I fill everything out. Ideas I have no timeline for go in a bullet list at the top of the page* for me to sort through later. The whole process usually takes about one or two months.

Now that I'm done talking typing, you may find these links more helpful than my blather:

How to Write a Novel: The Snowflake Method

Novel Outlining 101

Brainstorming the End and Working Backwards

Outlining Your Script or Story

*I'm getting a little carried away with THE SONG OF SAGRIN, AKA book 6--the outline is 20 pages and counting because I decided to be detailed. I'm really hoping the book doesn't end up being too long...

Friday, May 18, 2012

Link Blitz

The to-do list keeps growing and I have a lot of KSL shopping ahead of me (washer/dryer, microwave cart, couch, and if I can find one of those Japanese standing screens...). Meanwhile I need to find time to get that shiny passport and apply (and apply, and apply) for jobs!

But, on the writing side of things, I've finally started my prose revisions for CITY OF TEETH. AKA the last (and longest) set of revisions for the book. Once those are done, I can start pestering agents again. (I have a feeling some of them will have two queries from me for two different books at the same time...) My pitch is almost done, but I feel like it's not quite perfect yet. So yes, if you're willing to give it a gander, shoot me an email (CNHolmberg (at) gmail (dot) com)!

Writer's Potpourri:

#TheWritersVoice: Building Your Twitter Pitch

May Conferences: Prep Work

Thinking the Wrong Things about Ebook Pricing

The 13 Most Common Errors on a Novel's First Page

How to Sell Your Manuscript Without an Agent

Why I Won't Read Your Book

Other Babble:

Dante's Circles of Hell, Redesigned in LEGO Form

Building the USS Enterprise

George Lucas Does Something Likable for a Change: Revenge on Rich Neighbors

How to Wake up a Kid (I think they're speaking Swedish):

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Formatting a Manuscript

There's a section in the May/June edition of Writer's Digest on how to format your manuscript, and I was surprised (and embarrassed) at some of the guidelines! Brian A. Klems, the editor discussing manuscript formatting, pulls his information from Formatting & Submitting Your Manuscript, a book by Writer's Digest that, more embarrassingly, I own.

So, what are the rules of thumb?

  1. Use a title page.
  2. Begin numbering with the first page of the text of the book, usually the introduction, prologue, or chapter 1 (don't number the title page).
  3. On each page insert a header that includes your name, the title of your novel in all caps, and the page number.
  4. Start each new chapter on its own page, one-third of the way down the page.
  5. The chapter number and chapter title should be should be in all caps, separated by an em dash. For example: CHAPTER 1--THE BODY.
  6. Begin the body of the chapter four to six lines below the chapter title.
  7. Indent five spaces for each new paragraph.
  8. Double-space all text.
  9. Use standard font (such as Times New Roman, Arial, or Courier), 12-point type.
The ones in bold were the ones new to me!

Brian notes that guidelines may change for each agent or market, so hopefully I'm not as dense as this article makes me out to be!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Utah Renaissance Faire

Saturday Husband and I went to the local Renaissance Faire. Last year we dressed as "dirty peasants," meaning we cut some holes in a couple of burlap sacks and off we went. This year we upgraded to middle-class peasants. :D

Funny thing, we went to the church at the Faire and, lo and behold, a big picture of us from the year before was framed and posted right outside the gate! I thought that was so cool.

Husband and I standing by our year-old photo at the Ren Faire.

Last year we did the hand fasting ceremony. A year and a day later, if your love is still strong (and if the knot of the ribbon they tie is still intact) you can get married. So this year we got "married." (Mind that we were already hitched at the time of the hand fasting! Though I found out the two people who run the mobile church are actually ordained ministers.)

Only sunburned a little, so that's a plus!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Link Blitz

Spent the first half of the week in Moscow, ID, with the goal of finding an apartment and getting to know the campus a little better.

The administration building looks like a castle!
May I just point out that no one in Moscow knows what a dishwasher is? XD

We did find an apartment, though, so I am happy with that! We looked at several places and decided to go with an on-campus option. (And let's face it, Moscow is small enough that everything is more or less "on campus.") We took a tour of the psychology building courtesy of one of Husband's professors (it's in the same building at the health center, which I thought was strange), and strolled around the rest of campus on our own. The drive to Moscow is not an easy one, but the town is rather pretty. Overall, a decent (if slightly stressful) visit. We did get pulled over once since the narrow streets are, apparently, all 25 MPH, but the cop was nice and didn't give us a ticket. ;)

Onto the blitz!

Writer's Potpourri:

Top 10 Writers' Conferences Don'ts

Outlining a Novel: Writing Tips

Fridays with Agent Kristin: Episode 7 - What is a Plot Catalyst?

Are You Ready to Become a Successful Ebook Author? Here's How.

What to Do and Not to Do During the Query Process

Why Plot Cliches are a Good Thing

Before Fingers Touch Keyboard: My 6 Pre-writing Steps

Other Babble:

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Someday Stars: Meet Lora Rose Rivera

What’s your name, and where are you from?
Lora Rose Rivera (the middle name is my grandmother's). I was born in Camden, New Jersey, but was raised and spent most of my life in Daytona Beach, FL. Living there isn't nearly as cool as visiting (or Spring Breaking), btw. 

How long have you been writing?
 All my life. My aunt who lived in Miami would send me these snail mail coupons: "One 100-word story about your weekend entitles you to your Beanie Baby of choice, to be redeemed by the end of the month." Are you kidding?? Sign me up STAT! I'll tell you all about my lame weekend :D  

What genre(s) do you write?
I write Middle Grade and YA fantasy and sci-fi. Also, adult literary fiction.
What’s your current WIP? Can you tell us about it?
My WIP's being all persnickety with me, genre-wise, but I'll do my best. So it's YA urban fantasy (that reads more like a literary sword & sorcery) with a splash of Gothic ghosties… Um. Yeah. 

What’s your current day job? How does it help or hinder your writing?
I'm thrilled my day job is with Aviva Children's Services in Tucson, Arizona, where I write Life Books for kids in foster care. Life Books are scrapbook biographies, telling a child's story from the beginning to their present circumstance, and involve a lot of research and compassion.

I do expend a lot of creative energy writing these books that could otherwise be injected into my writing. On the other hand, the process is personally fulfilling and is also stimulating, creatively and intellectually… I think it's a great trade-off.  

Who is your favorite author?
I adore Orson Scott Card, Ursula K. Le Guin, Neil Gaiman, Brandon Sanderson, C. S. Lewis (childhood fave), J. K. Rowling, Michael Ondaatje, Erin Bow, Barbara Kingsolver…

Favorite book? 
I don't have one. Just can't.

What other hobbies or activities do you do outside of writing? 
Love eating! Hehe. But seriously, trying new locally-owned, eclectic restaurants; baking/cooking awesome new recipes, especially muffins and cupcakes :) Also, hiking, running. I love meeting new people.

What is something unique about yourself?
I have an Orion's belt of freckles on my right leg. The freckles are only off by 1 degree—I know: I printed a protractor and checked! 
Do you have a blog, Twitter, and/or Web site we can link to?
Find me on:

Friday, May 4, 2012

Link Blitz

Husband graduates today! (Actually, by the time this posts, I'll probably be watching him walk.) Congrats honey!

I got my first issue of Writer's Digest this week! My husband got a year's subscription for my birthday. I was quite happy.

In other news, I will be taking a very brief hiatus from this blog until Thursday, when the next Someday Stars post goes up (and it's a good one!). I'm heading to Idaho to find an apartment (and maybe a job?), so my Internet access and time may be limited. Your hearts are all broken, I know. But it's only a few days. There, there.

Writer's Potpourri:

10 Tips to Help You Keep Your Head While Vlogging

16 Tips to Keep Your Motivation Strong

Brand Sanderson Lesson: Sympathetic Characters

Elitist Book Reviews (Really good review site for fantasy titles)

What I Wish I Had Known Before Pitching to an Agent

What is a Minor Character: Understanding the Minor Character's Role

10 Things Writers Shouldn't Say in a DM

Other Babble:

Astronomers Find New Planet Capable of Supporting Life

Parents' Shock as Quiet English Teacher Turns out to Be Racy Erotica Author Judy Mays

And one of the coolest music videos you will ever see (same guys who did the treadmills):

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

A Crown of Swords

Well, I said I was a slow reader, but apparently I can read rather fast. I'm pretty sure I've read the first seven The Wheel of Time books in about two months. (And those are NOT small books.) I am determined to read Sprunk's Shadow's Master before picking up TWoT #8 if only to maintain my sanity.

I gave A Crown of Swords 4.5 stars. Would have been five, but I really didn't like how Robert Jordan handled the Nynaeve/Lan relationship,* which, let's face it, is the best part of the book in my eyes (Yeah, I'm female, so this is to be expected). I posted a review here, but it contains spoilers, so be warned.

Meanwhile, I absolutely LOVE the ebook cover for the book. Way better than the original.

*Honestly, it make me want to write a book with Lan- and Nynaeve-based characters where I indirectly write the end of A Crown of Swords the way I wanted it to be...