Seeking Inspiration at the Beginning


Four years ago, I sat at the dining room table in my grandmother’s house. It was a cold, humid day in Lima, Peru.

I could not stop thinking about the ocean; it’s only a short drive from her house, and 80% of my inspiration that year came from seeing the crashing waves. Thinking of the ocean, I began to write the first real draft of what would later become Dissonance—I say real because there were other drafts with the same characters.

The characters had different names and played different parts, but they were the same. It’s difficult to explain, but those characters evolved into what they are now in the published works.

I rewrote that first draft of Dissonance—then called Crashing Melodies—so the storyline also changed, like a child growing up. The location shifted into place until Serenade, my fictional seaside kingdom, looked and felt just right.

When I got home, I edited and published Dissonance. Then I wrote and published the second part of that series, called Serenade.

 

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I’m back at my grandmother’s house, four years and two books after that foggy winter day!

 

It’s fitting that I should be in Peru to write the third book (perhaps even more.) Two chapters of it were written at home, but I’m certain that when I see the ocean this story will thrive, like it did the first time.

Getaways help with writing.

Have you ever found inspiration for a story by leaving your comfort zone? I would love to hear what happened!

Writing: The Learning Process


Too many writers talk and act as if writing were slow torture. As New York sports writer Red Smith once observed, “Writing is easy. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.” If you want to write, here’s a secret: the writer’s struggle is overrated, a con game, a cognitive distortion, a self-fulfilling prophecy, the best excuse for not writing.
From Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer

You’re never done growing as a writer. I realized this when I saw the differences reading my novels, Dissonance and Serenade. Only a year after Dissonance’s release—a year of obsessive practice and reading—my skill had improved.

Serenade surprised me. I often found myself staring at a sentence and thinking, “Did I write that?” Time and practice will help you grow, and you will find it worth the effort.

Dissonance and Serenade each have different qualities that make them special. I love Dissonance because:

  • It was the first book I finished. I’d written stories in the past, but something about them didn’t feel complete, even as first drafts.
  • When I released Dissonance, I was doing more than putting a story out for an audience. I was proving I could overcome my own insecurity by giving my work a chance. It was the first time I walked past fear, following a dream.
  • It has heavy backstory. I have three bound copies of previous drafts; each could stand on its own, trailing off into a different adventure. Same story, different breath…same dream, different night.

I am proud of Serenade because:

  • When I wrote it, I was able to plan where each scene would go, meaning I had a clearer path. Unlike with Dissonance, there won’t be three bound versions of Serenade; I’d found a manner of plotting that worked for me. Instead of same dream, different night, this book is one vivid dream.
  • Reading Serenade showed me that my hobby was so much more than a hobby. For a long time, writing has been something I did because I enjoyed it, but my work was read only by my closest friends. Serenade opened my eyes to the fact that, with time and hard work, my audience will grow.
  • This second completed work on my shelf is a reminder that, just like Allie has a long story waiting to be told, my own journey has just begun.

I’m excited that there’s room for improvement in my writing. I’m eager to learn what my weaknesses are, then work until I surprise myself with more growth. This homework is exciting, rewarding, and fun.

So where do I start? With the basics, of course.

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I found the book Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer at a yard sale, and it’s been sitting on my shelf for well over a year. Today I decided to page through it; to my delight, I found there are exercises.

I will never be finished learning to write, so may as well enjoy the lessons. If Dissonance and Serenade were the first two “chapters” of my journey, I’m gearing up to embark on the third.

What books do you believe are most helpful when it comes to improving as a writer? Do you delight in constructive criticism, or does it sound overwhelming? (If so, don’t worry–you have reason to be overwhelmed!)

Story: The Fisherman’s Boat


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It was one of the last warm days before fall kicked in with all its chill. School had just ended for the day, and two children walked through the woods, a sister and her younger brother.

To the boy, this was a new route home. However, his sister had been here before; she was taking him to see an old fishing boat left by the man who had lived nearby. For some reason, it had been abandoned in the woods when the man passed away.

As they approached the fishing boat, something about the clearing felt wrong to the girl, who stopped with a small frown. The first thing she noticed was how exposed the boat was. In the past it was protected from the weather by a plastic sheet. The sheet had vanished, allowing leaves to fall inside and create a carpet of brown. Not only that, but the ground was littered with garbage and names had been scratched on the outside.

“How dare they treat it so awfully,” whispered the girl, feeling her heart break.

She gathered wrappers from inside the boat, tossing them into the bushes. The fisherman’s boat ought to be respected, not treated like a big trash bin. She wondered if his family still lived nearby; she could tell them to take better care of their heirloom.

This clearing in the woods had been her haven. Now she could not bring herself to feel the magic she once did; it was as if something had been stolen from her. Even if she came daily to clean the boat, it wouldn’t be the same.

For some reason, she thought everything would be as she remembered it—this clearing hallowed as if the fisherman’s spirit still lurked. Clearly, the dead were powerless to protect their own items once found by the living.

No good mystery could remain pure for long.

“Why are you so sad?” her brother asked, taking a step closer.

The girl couldn’t bring herself reply. Her disappointment made it worse: she had promised her brother a journey to the prettiest part of the forest, but now it felt as though she’d failed him. Instead of speaking, she picked unhappily at some grass with a cold hand.

He spoke again, voice high with childish wonder: “It’s full of leaves, like a chest of gold!”

“It shouldn’t be full of leaves,” she mumbled. “It should be covered with a sheet.”

“But then how would the fisherman’s ghost get inside?”

She frowned and stopped picking at the grass; he continued breathlessly, as if this were the most wonderful discovery in history.

“Look! There are names on the side. Can we write ours, too?”

“But that’s vandalism.”

He pouted. “Please? I want to let the fisherman know I was here!”

It was with astonishment that she took a pin from one of her braids and handed it over. She watched her brother carve his name onto the side of the boat. When he stopped, he said, “When he returns tonight, the fisherman will know he had a visitor.”

His words were so pure, so innocent and glad—and suddenly she felt excitement once more in her cold, young heart. Perhaps there was still magic, if one knew how to look…even on the surface of a moldy old boat.

“Move over,” she said, sitting next to him. “I’m going to write my name.”

The Late Serenade Announcement


My second book, Serenade, has been available on Kindle for a few weeks now, but I didn’t want to write a blog post about it until you could get it on paperback. Now it’s all set up (get your paper copy here!) and I can finally gush about it.

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This is the second book following Allie’s adventures–the second of many books, because I’m not good at coming up with endings. I keep coming up with subplots and different ways to expand on world-building. I’ve been working on Serenade all year; it’s so strange to be holding it as a paper book! It finally feels real.

I had a lot of help from friends and family (hi, Mom!!) Special thanks go to Kristia S. for the lovely cover. Thanks also to my editors, Alex and Sarah. Then there are all the beta readers–some of which even read the book twice–including Syd, Rae, Faith, Phil, Alex (she has been such a great help!) Jennifer and Chris. Briana has also been a great encouragement. I wasn’t able to mention everyone in this blog post, but know I could not have done this alone. You’ve all been very patient with me; I am blessed to have so much support for this journey.

Here’s what the story is about:

Months after her narrow escape from death, Allie feels incomplete. She is weakened by Dissonance, a music-based illness which drains her strength every day; she struggles to feel useful, living a quiet life with her family in their Florida apartment.

As faery tales begin to fall, an unexpected death drives them back to Serenade, a kingdom where many see them as traitors. Facing new responsibilities, Allie must prove she has the strength to be a Muse and finally beat her Dissonance for good.

Read it on your Kindle by purchasing it here! And remember, each time you buy a book, you help me fund my coffee obsession. :D I’m already working on book three! (And a couple more.)

I hope you’ve had a good year, and when you read Serenade, I hope you enjoy it!

-Mariella

Cover Reveal: Clara and Claire by Lindsey Richardson


I am so happy to participate in the cover reveal for an epic book I was able to beta read this year! Isn’t the cover gorgeous? Visit the author here!

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Title: Clara and Claire
Author: Lindsey Richardson
Release date: December 2016 **actual date TBA soon!
Cover designer: Alivia Anders of White Rabbit Book Design
Blurb:
Betrayal wears many masks. Sometimes… familiar ones.
On the night of her 20th birthday, Clara Nasso witnesses an illegal act of magic.
The following morning, two lives are changed forever.
When Claire Kanelos, daughter of the head counselor, disappears from the island of Ninomay, Clara is kidnapped and taken there by a council member. Her unmistakable resemblance to the missing woman, and the disturbing facts that come to light, convince Clara to stay and play the role of Claire –at first, for one night only, and then indefinitely.
Though Clara grew up hearing stories about the rich and powerful mages that filled Ninomay, all she finds there are liars and mysteries. And Ezra, the only person who can see through her disguise. He promises to help her return home, but how can Clara leave when secrets are unraveled every day and a killer might walk freely?
When she might be the key to Claire’s survival?
About the Author:
Lindsey Richardson is a fantasy author who lives in Texas with her husband and three cats.
Born and raised in Maryland, Lindsey has always adored reading and writing. At twelve years old she discovered her love for magical stories and wrote her first novel.
By the age of eighteen Old Line Publishing expressed their interest in Lindsey’s novel, Cursed With Power. Lindsey has been both traditionally published and self published.
Since 2010 she has worked on the Magicians series. The complete list of books in the series are as follows: Cursed With Power, Shadows and Embers, Thicker Than Blood, and Bloodline Inheritance. The series follows the lives of five Dark magicians, fighting for survival.
With the series complete, Lindsey works on future projects. Her upcoming release, Clara and Claire, will be releasing in December 2016.
Lindsey Richardson also writes under the name Lindsey R. Sablowski.
Follow her books and learn more at her website: www.authorlindsey.com

 

A Dreary, Abandoned Place


Drip. Drip. Tea trickles over the side of an overturned saucer, but no one is around to right it or wipe the wooden floor.

The front door of this old house has been left wide open, pictures on the wall knocked over to show signs of a struggle. A stray cat wandered in not long after the residence was vacated and sits curled up by the window, enjoying warmth from the winter air.

Outside, it’s started to snow in flurries. A layer of ice dusts the entrance to the house. Aside from the cat, nothing from outside has noticed the absence of people. That tea is cold by now, but continues to drip; it make a noise that mesmerizes the feline visitor.

As you can see, this place is empty. It’s unlikely that anyone will come back, since this house was built miles from town. Somehow, it still has the feel of having been inhabited very recently.

There’s no point staying, but we can speculate: there will be unattended phone calls for weeks, perhaps months. More animals will take up residence in the tidy bedrooms as nature reclaims this corner of the woods.

For now, the saucer drips its cold contents onto the floor.

Drip. Drip. Drip.

Into the Enchanted Forest


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You’ve lost yourself in a daydream again.

The paths of your wondering have led to the greenest forest you’ve ever seen – even colors appear bolder in this place. There is a breeze but it’s not unpleasant; branches are thick, yet you don’t fear what you will find here.

You’ve been walking for quite a while before you notice them – little lights in the bushes. They’re like fireflies, hiding when you squint to get a better look. Though fleeting, they’re impossible to ignore once you’ve spotted them, much like magic or love.

You ponder: is this what it would be like if the stars tumbled down to float among trees? They may be closer, but they’re no easier to touch. Instinct whispers that they will vanish if you try disturbing them.

Not wanting to scare off the magic, you continue on your way. Flashing a little smile, you wander deeper into this enchanted forest, planning to get lost in more daydreams from now on.

Am I Lost?


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Am I lost? the young girl wondered, peering up a tree. She clutched at her teddy bear, frowning with confusion; what she knew in her mind contradicted how she felt in her heart. If she was lost, then she preferred it this way.

The forest felt like home.

She’d been wandering for hours among ancient trees, stopping occasionally to pick a flower from the ground. In her head, she knew she ought to be afraid, but her heart basked in the open space around her.

Mother always told her not to venture into the trees, lest she lose her way. That advice had been spoken ominously, as if something awful would happen in the midst of the green. Perhaps her mother had been wrong; it was lovely here, and she felt safer than she had by the hearth at home.

Perhaps the forest was home.

The breeze sounded familiar, like a voice she’d heard long ago. If she stopped, she could almost hear a song of welcome. Leaning against the tree, she closed her eyes and breathed in perfect rhythm with the wind.

If the forest was home, then she had been lost on those nights she sat by the hearth. Had the trees been calling her each time she dreamed of going to the woods? Was Mother trying to keep her lost by telling her not to return?

She did not want to leave this peace behind. The forest felt like home.

Smiling, she hugged the bear to her chest, watching a bird flit from branch to branch. She realized that she was not lost, for she felt no fear as she breathed in the fresh air. Rays of sun warmed her face, surrounding her with warmth.

No, she was not lost. It was quite the opposite: at last, she’d been found.

On Mermaid Tales & Short Stories


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I may have completed edits for Serenade (which I still expect to release sometime in October,) but that doesn’t mean I’ve stepped away from these characters and their adventures.

It has been a fun week of world-building and character profiling. My personal copy of Dissonance is currently full of sticky notes! They were placed to mark facts I would like to expand on in future books. The first book focused more on characters than setting, leaving plenty of room for creativity in future installments.

In the process of taking notes for backstory and character personalities, I accidentally worked out a rough outline for Book 3. I have always wanted to write a world involving mermaids, and can finally get to that when I work on Allie’s next adventure. With the help of some friends, I have worked out some of mermaid culture, and it’s more complex than I had anticipated.

It would seem backstory is a lot easier to work on than a blurb for Serenade. I will try to have it ready this weekend, though; in the past I have been very good at procrastinating, but want to change that. There will never be a blurb if I don’t sit to type it up.

Another habit I’ve been working on is writing a little every day; a lot of that random fiction has been shared on this blog. It’s a way to control plot bunnies and make sure my Muse doesn’t get bored. Short stories are an interesting new form of writing; I look forward to practicing and getting better. I’ve been reading collections of short stories, starting with a book of Mark Twain’s work, and for Halloween I’m going to try Lovecraft.

How have your stories been treating you? Do you have a specific method for world-building? Do you work on detailed character profiles?

I would love to hear your advice!

The Melody of Moving On


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In the past, the ocean’s cry had never filled my heart with sorrow; everything had changed. My heart felt heavy as I approached the lighthouse one last time. Without her hand to hold, the place was bleak, haunted by years of shared laughter.

Our favorite spot at the cliff’s edge had seen good memories, all of which were spoiled the day she fell. This lighthouse was the place where I failed to save her. The blame was heavy on my shoulders; drinks didn’t help and time didn’t heal, so I’d come back for closure.

The air was chilly, fitting for a late September night. I ignored the cold biting my skin, breathing deeply. I heard the waves but didn’t see them, in the same way I sometimes heard her voice knowing she wasn’t with me.

My love no longer breathed, but she lurked in my heaviest memories.

I closed my eyes and let the phantom of her laughter fill my mind, not numbing it with vice or distraction. Her laughter, the singsong way she used to say I love you—and later, her scream as she fell.

It was time to stop running from these sounds.

The full force of her loss hit me in waves colder than the ocean. She was everywhere and nowhere. The sea echoed her poetic words, immortalizing songs she would sing and the way she whispered my name.

It hurt, but I didn’t run. I sat on the cold ground, heart aching as each memory pierced it like the thorns of a rose. Then, finally, numbness crept over me. It might not have been peace, but my agony drifted off in the breeze.

Standing, I walked away from this cursed place, turning my back on a red rose I had left on the ground. The rose was not closure, and wouldn’t change the past. Still, it was my last gift to her—a gift, an apology, and a good-bye.