Friday, August 31, 2012

Link Blitz

Still looking for a job, but I did get a smidgen of freelance work this week, so that was nice! Crossing my fingers for interviews with two separate libraries--wish me luck!

In the meantime, I'm trying to make FOLLOWED BY FROST as crisp as I can before submitting. Gotta go rag on some beta readers. ;)

Writer's Potpourri:

Great Characters--The Beating Heart of Great Fiction

August Characters: Secondary Characters

Finding Your Novel's Theme and Your Universal Theme

How to Write a Great Book Title

The Truth about Dead Genres

The Power of THEME

Other Babble:

Yet Another Avengers Deleted Scene Paints a Bleak Picture

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Someday Stars: Meet L. S. Taylor

What’s your name, and where are you from?
L.S. Taylor, but you can call me Laura. *grin* I'm from various parts of Vancouver, Canada.

And the Internet. Can't forget that.

How long have you been writing?
My whole life. I told stories from the time I was handed a journal to write-in. Then someone let me try a word processor. I still wonder if they realize exactly what they started...

What genre(s) do you write?
My main work is fantasy, and my heartsongs are YA fantasy. But I also have other stuff on the go, and oddly enough my first publication, a contest win, was a science fiction piece. So I also dabble (read: want to write) in romance, and most recently, urban fantasy. Because there are so many stories that I *need* to get out of my head.

What’s your current WIP? Can you tell us about it?
At this moment in time, I've got two major projects on the go. The first is my nearly-ready WIP, the YA fantasy I'll be shopping around to agents very soon, that's just getting a few more (mostly) cosmetic touches. Here's the pitch:

When Janni was five, she was just Ilyra, princess of Nem—until her power-hungry uncle came at her with a hunting knife. Raised in secret by a loyal landmaiden, she’s discovered she has powers of her own, both as a wind-speaker and a devotee to the Land. Now seventeen, she wants nothing more than to be a landmaiden herself, a healer and lay-priestess serving her village. Unfortunately, even getting what she wants has dangers. Since custom dictates that she travel for a year, helping people in need, that means risking her biggest secret. When she crosses paths with a fugitive nobleman seeking to end her uncle's unlawful reign, she must choose between the quiet life she's crafted and the country that needs her.

The other project is one I've had in the back of my mind for a *long* time. In short, it's an urban fantasy set in Boca Raton, Florida. The story of how it came to be is a bit of a doozy, though, and since I'm still writing the first draft, I don't want to share too much about it just yet. Sekrit projects are sekrit, even when they hide in plain sight. And if that's not cryptic enough for you, well, let's just say the best place to hide a needle isn't in a haystack, it's in a pile of other needles.

What’s your current day job? How does it help or hinder your writing?
My job is awesome, if sometimes a challenge. I work for a service that provides alternate-format textbooks to print-impaired students. It's empowering and I love being able to help those who can't use regular print be able to read. I've said before that it is a job that involves many, many words that are not writing, which itself can be a challenge, but at the end of the day, it is so very worth it. Besides, I take my breaks together and get to spend an hour writing, too.

Who is your favorite author?
That one's hard to pin down. I used to have just one, and I could answer in a heartbeat. Growing up, I was strongly influenced by Robin McKinley, Tamora Pierce, Anne McCaffrey, and David Eddings. Nowadays, being able to interact with authors and more frequently of late, meet and get to know them in person, I really can't say. I love too many to count. 

Favorite book?
The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley.

What other hobbies or activities do you do outside of writing?
*Sigh* I used to be able to say I studied swordplay, but I had to put that on hold for a number of reasons. I love the outdoors (hiking especially, but also jumping off cliffs into glacier-fed rivers), and I think there is something fundamentally vital about connecting with nature and disconnecting from the digital world. It helps me recharge, and when I forget that truth is really when things get bad.

What is something unique about yourself?
Dangit, I used to say sword class... or the fact that I'm a total geek. 

Really, I can't say how unique it is per se, but something that stands out is how vital community is to me as a writer. Whether it's the camaraderie that can be found through Twitter hashtags like #wipmadness (and my other regular writing thread, #fntwp); or the amazing discussions that can come out of the comment sections of blogs (it's no secret that my favourite is Magical Words); or the wonderful people I meet through NaNoWriMo write-ins (the Vancouver section has a group that meets year-round called "The Other Eleven Months”); they all matter. Writing is a solitary, intensely personal act, but that doesn't mean we have to walk the path alone.

Do you have a blog, Twitter, and/or Web site we can link to?
Sure! I'm always happy to meet and chat with others.

Twitter: @ls_taylor

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Writers' Conferences in the Pacific Northwest

Now that I live in the Pacific Northwest, my list of writers' conference has to completely change. I'm not incredibly familiar with what goes on up here, but I've been able to glean a handful from the Internet/Twitter:

Pacific Northwest Writers Association Conference, July 25-28, 2013. Seattle, WA.

Willamette Writers Conference, August 2-4, 2013. Portland, OR.

Write on the Sound Writers' Conference, ?? 2013, Edmonds, WA.

The Port Townsend Writers' Conference, July 7-14 and July 14-21, 2013. Port Townsend, WA.

AWP Conference, February 26-March 1, 2014. Washington State University.

Sun Valley Writers' Conference, ??? 2013, Sun Valley, ID.

Have any of you been to these conferences? What did you think? Any good ones in the area that I'm missing?

Monday, August 27, 2012

Surprising Your Reader

Pamela Redmond Satran recently wrote an article for September issue of The Writer entitled "How to Take Your Fiction to the Next Level". (A very good article, I recommend reading it.)

One part of the article stood out to me: a section titled, "Surprise them, and then surprise them again." Here are the key points Satran covered:

  • Use more twists and turns. When her editor asked for this and Pamela pointed out the big finale of her book, the editor said, "Yeah, that's great, but you need five or 10 more of those." They don't all have to floor the readers, just surprise them.
  • Surprises come in a range of flavors. Characters can do unexpected things, someone can die, "a storm can hit and cancel the Christmas dinner." Don't hesitate to think outside the box.
  • Make the surprise plausible. So long as the surprise feels integral with the story instead of the author pulling something out of a bag of tricks, it will work.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Link Blitz

I can't remember the last time I got to sleep in every day of the week, and for three weeks!

Yep, still on the unemployment wagon, but at least I can see what it feels like to be a full-time author during my empty days. And hey, I got my FBF revisions done in a week, so that's something! Waiting back on beta readers for that one, and excited to query. Very excited, actually. I feel really good about this one.

Started outlining book seven, or what will hopefully be book seven. I feel like "gods" are starting to be overdone in fantasy, but hopefully my spin will be a little different. :)

Writer's Potpourri:

Six Reasons Why Everything in Publishing Takes So Long

How to Have Success Finding a Literary Agent

Character Worksheet Part 1: Is Your Character Novel-worthy?

Writing Excuses 7.33: Authentic Emotion

5 Tips for Writing Historical Fiction

23 Websites That Make Your Writing Stronger

Other Babble:

Photographer Caleb Charland Wires Apple Trees, Fruit Baskets and Stacked Coins to Create Alternative Batteries

Why the Blank Do We Cuss?

And, because I have a slight, unhealthy obsession with the Korean pop group KARA, you have to watch their newest single:

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Guest Post over at Strands of Pattern: Finishing Your Manuscript

Today I had the fortunate opportunity to guest post over on Jeff Hargett's blog, Strands of Pattern, concerning setting writing goals and finishing projects. Jeff is also my next Someday Stars highlight, so please hop over and give him some love!

Guest post: Step 1: Finish Your Manuscript

Monday, August 20, 2012

Calibre for Converting Docs to eBooks

So once upon a time my awesome and very talented sister finished her YA fantasy set in Japan and asked me to alpha read it for her. I, of course, readily agreed, and emailed her Word doc to my Kindle address so I could pull it up and have at it.

Then I discovered that the University of Idaho apparently doesn't have the type of Internet friendly to Kindles, so no easy .MOBI doc for me. :/ (This also means I'll have to go to the local Jack in the Box or something to actually purchase any books in the future. Bummer.)

I don't like reading books off the computer, so I set out to do what I had never done before--convert a document to .MOBI in a way that actually required effort.

After some Googling, I discovered Calibre, which you can download for free (and which most of you probably already know about). Figuring out how to use it was another question. I'm pretty sure Calibre doesn't like Word files (or at least it didn't like mine), but it will work for PDFs, as seen in the YouTube video below (though I did mine in RTF and found it formatted much better).

Muchos helpful, mckennaEDU. Gracias. (The video might look grayed out at first, but it recovers quickly.)

SO, if any of you ever have a similar situation, which I'm betting you won't, and you decide to peruse this blog for the answer instead of Google, there you have it. The hard way to get a Kindle-compatible document.


Thursday, August 16, 2012

Someday Stars: Meet Jeff Hargett

What’s your name, and where are you from?
My name is Jeff Hargett. I am California born, but North Carolina raised. So yeah, I’ve got the southern-boy accent.

How long have you been writing?
I started writing while in school, mostly lyrics and poetry, but it wasn’t until I returned to school a decade later that a professor swore a novel tarried inside me begging to be written. She convinced me to set it free. Spurred by her encouragement, I did. I’m forever in her debt.

What genre(s) do you write?
While my short stories can be almost anything, all novel-length work I’ve done has been epic fantasy. People say to write what you know. I modified that to suit me. I write what I love instead. Besides, I have as much first-hand knowledge about magic and dragons as anyone else, right?

What’s your current WIP? Can you tell us about it?
I’m currently writing an epic fantasy series called Strands of Pattern. I’ll be starting book one’s revisions soon. I’ve begun plotting book two and have outlined and started drafting a pseudo-prequel that I’m dedicating to my oldest grandson. He loves dragons.

What’s your current day job? How does it help or hinder your writing?
By day (and sometimes by night and weekend) I’m a Lead Application Developer at a Fortune 500 insurance company. I’ve worked in information technology for decades and the tech changes as rapidly now as it did thirty years ago. Today’s chosen solution is tomorrow’s target for an upgrade.

From a hindrance perspective, my job often places huge demands on my time. It helps by keeping both the analytical, logic-focused side of my brain active as well as my creative side. Writing software can be quite a creative endeavor too.

Who is your favorite author?
I’d call my favorite a tie between J. R. R. Tolkien and Robert Jordan. They ignited my imagination. I’m a big fan of Terry Goodkind, Brandon Sanderson, Orson Scott Card, Melanie Rawn and Robin Hobb, too.

Favorite book?
This too is a tie. It’s between “Fellowship of the Ring” by J. R. R. Tolkien and “The Great Hunt” by Robert Jordan. But there are so many so worthy of that top slot.

What other hobbies or activities do you do outside of writing?
You mean I can do things other than work and write? Actually, I’m creature of habit. So what I lack in variety I make up for in intensity. I’m a lover of astronomy, strategy games, painting (although my talent is virtually non-existent), and, of course, reading. I’m longing for the next sci-fi or fantasy series to come along so that I can enjoy my “so big even Grandpa can see” television again.

Most of my enjoyment, however, comes from family. All those people that say being a grandparent is fabulous? They’re right!

What is something unique about yourself?
Besides my fingerprints? I’m a creature of contradiction, good with my toes and prefer breakfast or Italian for all three meals.

Do you have a blog, Twitter, and/or Web site we can link to?
Twitter: @JeffreySHargett
Facebook: (Coming soon)

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

WANA Commons: Stress-free Images

I know I'm not the only one who got scared stiff by Roni Loren's post on how she got sued for using a copyrighted image on her blog. And if you haven't read it yet, I highly recommend clicking on that link, because her story is very real. I hardly dare tread Google Images anymore without panicking that something similar might happen to me.


Courtesy of thesparechangekitchen,
from MyWANA Commons
Now, some of you should know Kristen Lamb, and if you don't follow her blog, I highly recommend you do, because she's a smart ice-cream cake (I figure that's a decent step above a cookie).

Why is she so smart? One reason is because she started WANA Commons, a place where all of us can post images and take images without worrying about a nasty lawyer hunting us down with a sniper rifle. (You can read more details about WANA Commons here.)

So go check it out, and don't hesitate to contribute! (You can also party with the WANA-peeps via this Twitter hashtag, #MyWANA.)

Monday, August 13, 2012

When the Viewpoint Character is Not the Protagonist

Photo Credit
Even if you don't write in the fantastical genres, Orson Scott Card's How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy is an excellent writing book for writers of all stages. It was the first book on writing I ever read, and the one I refer to the most.

Card offers three guidelines for choosing a viewpoint character who isn't the protagonist, such as in The Great Gatsby or Wild Seed:

  1. The viewpoint character must be present at the main events.
  2. The viewpoint character must be actively involved in those events, not always a chance witness (such as Watson from Sherlock Holmes).
  3. The viewpoint character must have a personal stake in the outcome, even though the outcome depends on the main character's choices.
Card also has a book entitled Character and Viewpoint, which dives deeper into this topic.

What about you? Have you even written something where the viewpoint character and the protagonist were separate? I never have, but it's a challenge worth considering!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Case of the Crazies

No Link Blitz today, though I officially have Internet as of this morning! The new apartment is about 1/3 of the way unpacked, and there are boxes everywhere!

I apologize profusely for not keeping up with blogs; hopefully I'll be back on my digital feet next week. (And hopefully I'll find more jobs to apply for... being unemployed is throwing off my mental clock.)

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Off to Moscow

Today I am MOVING.

At 6:00 AM.

I slept on the floor last night because my bed is in a U-haul. And I kept worrying the U-haul would be stolen.

Where I'm going:

Courtesy of
Going through Oregon so there will be less hills.

I am officially UNEMPLOYED. (Which is a little freaky.)

I'm even changing time zones. Hello Pacific Standard!

My husband will be studying Experimental Psychology (sounds creepy, eh?) for the next two years. He'd better be making bank after this! ;) If he weren't so darn good-looking I might not have agreed to go with him.

Now, to commemorate this post with a text from my younger sister:


Bring me back a souvenir.

Oh wait, I already have a sack of potatoes.


Monday, August 6, 2012


Today is my second wedding anniversary. :) So excited!

(Though I wish I had done my hair differently...)

Can I just say I got an AWESOME gift for Husband, but it didn't arrive in time? ;_; Break my heart!! And I refuse to wrap a picture--this is the sort of gift that needs to be there in person. Sigh. Good thing I put my parents' address on the package so they can ship it to Moscow when it arrives... sometime in the next month.

Did I mention it's my anniversary?

How can you not LOVE this sexy piece of man-meat?

Happy anniversary babe! I LOVE YOU KAJILLIONS. <3

Friday, August 3, 2012


This book is RAD, and it's only $4.99 on Kindle. 

The neat thing about the Kindle version is that you can click on the related emotions and it will take you to the page, instead of having to flip through to find it.

I am SO excited for FBF revisions just so I can use this! Wednesday I showed it to a bunch of people in Marketing, none of which were nearly as excited about the book as I was. :)

Writer's Potpourri:

4 Ways to Improve Plot/Climax in Your Writing

5 Book Promotion Tactics That Really Work!

WANA Common--Beutiful Blog Images without the Worry (This is GREAT)

The Writersdiet Test (Is your prose fit of flabby? Really nifty)

Other Babble:

How to Turn an Old Book into a Clock

Earth Glow

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Someday Stars: Meet Chad Ballard

What’s your name, and where are you from?
My name is Chad Ballard and I'm from Germantown Hills, Illinois!

How long have you been writing?
I've always loved to plot story ideas and create characters, ever since I was really little. I started really thinking that I wanted to write in junior high, though, and continued from there. I took my first creative writing class during my junior year of high school and have taken a few more, now that I'm in college. I've done a lot of forum-based writing for a while now, bouncing around fantasy, sci-fi, and historical. The last year or so, though, is when I really started to write a lot, and got my current WIP started.

What genre(s) do you write?
So far I've stuck mainly with medieval fantasy and sci-fi. I love the possibilities that present themselves when writing in both genres, especially the world-building aspects. Since the story isn't set in, say, Chicago or New York, I get to create every aspect of the world. 

What’s your current WIP? Can you tell us about it?
I'm actually working on my first WIP right now. It's a fantasy novel, set in a world that I created, called Revaren. The eleven nations that make up Revaren are all based on a real-world nation. I don't have a final title for it yet, but I've been bouncing ideas around in my head for a while.

The thing that I want to accomplish most with this WIP is making a successful time lapse. The main character starts off the novel at 15 years old, and I would like for him to be in his early- to mid-twenties by the end. Pacing has always been a problem for me, so this is hopefully going to be a good experience.

As far as the story goes, the novel starts off with a betrayal of pretty epic proportions. From there, Callan (the main character), starts off on the path of revenge and to save his own backside. He'll run across magic, monsters, politics, and he'll discover that nothing is what it seems and people are more than plain good and evil. Shades of gray abound.

What’s your current day job? How does it help or hinder your writing?
I have two of them, actually. In the mornings and during the school year, I work at a camp for kids whose parents aren't home during the day, or are still working when they get out of school. On any given day, we'll have between 50 and 70 kids to watch. Some days we take them to the local water part, or we take them to play basketball or kickball. Heck, sometimes we just hang around and play video games.

Most nights, I work at the local newspaper, on the sports desk. I normally take phone calls and fill out box scores for summer baseball games. The hours are long, though (normally 4:00 PM to midnight), and I get a lot of reading done while I'm there. I write some, if I'm lucky.

Usually, both jobs only hinder my writing, if only for the fact that I'm working 50-58 hour weeks right now. The will to write is there, but finding time to put fingers to keyboard is really difficult. When I do have time to write at the paper, though, I get a whole lot done. I'm isolated, there aren't many distractions, and it's quiet. My small cubicle has quickly become my favorite place to write.

Who is your favorite author?
I bounce around a lot, depending on what I'm in the mood to read. But, if I had to list, J.K. Rowling, George R. R. Martin, Jim Butcher, and Christie Golden are all really awesome.

Favorite book?
The Harry Potter series was always my favorite growing up, and I credit them with getting me into writing. But, like my favorite authors, my favorite book changes depending on my mood. Holes, Hatchet, Harry Potter, A Song of Ice and Fire... all of them are amazing. At the moment, I'm working through Jim Butcher's Codex Alera, and they're really, really good. Go read them. Now.

What other hobbies or activities do you do outside of writing?
 I'm a huge sports buff, so I watch a lot of baseball (go Cubs!), football (Rams), Basketball (Bulls) and hockey (Blackhawks). My Xbox and I also have an unhealthy relationship. I love RPGs (KotOR I and II) and just about any sports game ever made (NBA 2k12 at the moment).

What is something unique about yourself?
I have a pretty severe panic disorder. I'm working on getting it sorted out, but it makes writing difficult. If I find myself not liking a particular sentence or segment, I get down on myself and have issues soldiering through it. It also makes it hard to take criticism (even the constructive kind), from people that I know well. 

Do you have a blog, Twitter, and/or Web site we can link to?
I just got a Twitter, and I'm looking for followers! Hopefully I have something interesting to say. My account is @chadtastic92.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Men's Synchronized Diving: London 2012

Does this not AMAZE anyone else?

Not just the fact that they can dive like that, but that they can do it at the SAME TIME?

Not to mention they look awesome in speedos....

The U.S.A. got the bronze medal in men's synchronized diving. China got gold, but I was really impressed with Mexico. They did super challenging dives and went home with the silver. (Unfortunately I couldn't find footage of them!)

Are you guys watching the Olympics? What are your favorite sports?