A Writer is Never Finished


One is never truly finished writing a story.

I’m not an expert on technique; my attention span does not allow me to study complicated books on style. My muse shies from the idea of outlining, flash cards don’t help me at all, and I follow the 7-point method very loosely.

The one thing I know for sure after all these years writing is that an author is never quite done. I’ve spent weeks pondering the meaning of imagination, how humans can take an idea—a goblet or a stream of water—and then write universes surrounding it.

You can play with object size and volume (you cannot contain the stream in the goblet; if you throw the goblet into the stream, it will disappear.) You can play with the history of the object (where does the stream come from? Did the goblet once belong to a king?) You can explore creatures that dwell in the water, gemstones on the side of the goblet, the craftsman who made the goblet.

A writer can do all this until there is a web of facts and lore. When it’s a character we’re dealing with, things become more complex, because—as the old cliché goes—each person is a universe. For those of us who write the story, we are never done and never want to be. However, there’s a contradiction, an instinct when we must find a place where imagining stops and story makes it onto paper.

Most writers have the desire to see our story bound as a book on someone’s shelf. This means we have to work out when to stop imagining the words, instead forming them with ink. It seems I’ve not figured that out yet.

I’ve been thinking of my ideas and characters, some of which you might know, wondering how they got where they are. Rereading my novels, I realized that even the secondary characters would have epic tales. Like most protagonists, they start out in a low place; I want to know how they got higher. I want to know how they succeeded.

Because I am the writer—because ideas are loud—I have been exploring the hows and whys of the universe I created. The answers are surfacing in the form of a new story. I’m not far into it and haven’t a clue whether I will finish, but writing from a new perspective has unlocked different parts of my imagination.

If you haven’t yet, I encourage you to think about your stories—your characters—their hobbies and their favorite objects. Delve into their histories and explore qualities you never thought were important. Petty things like this will help you get to know your universe.

Elizabeth Gilbert and Madeleine L’Engle wrote of writing as if it were a religion or magic. Storytelling helps us create things that, to us and our readers, are very real. A dedicated reader, when engrossed in a good story, will reach a point where they forget they are turning pages.

When you reach that depth, you have made magic.

Read Walking On Water by Madeleine L’Engle and Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. I know there are other books about storytelling, but again, I don’t spend much time reading technique.

Though I recommend these books, remember we only learn so much from the discoveries of others. An artist’s joy is in the complexity of our own ideas. Consider these great writers as guides to help you on your own journey.

Take time today to think on your own, exploring your worlds in a new way. I promise it will be worth the effort to bask in the eternity of a brainstorm.

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The Forest of Heldbreath


Imagine your mind is a forest. The edge of the forest is a place where you pause and get distracted–a place of heldbreath, of course.

Sometimes we wait at the edge of heldbreath for days, months, or years. I’ve been lurking there for several weeks, skillfully talking myself out of a very important task.

Should I start editing now? I asked myself, then laughed and shrugged it off, eager to examine the next tree.

Some writers enjoy edits more than they do writing. I have never been one of those writers; in my haste to move on and write other stories, I put off edits again and again…and again.

In the forest of heldbreath, it’s easy to pretend we aren’t procrastinating. This isn’t the first time I’ve been in that place; the only difference now is that I’m writing about it, giving this place a name and personality.

Heldbreath is procrastination.

I inched away from editing until it was a small place hidden by the trees. I know where it is! Somewhere in that general direction – between two oak trees – it might be that hollow, or perhaps the one after?

Two weeks ago I searched the forest of heldbreath, looking for the corner where my manuscript for The Autumn Prince was. I found myself surprised by the short length of the novel, and thought this couldn’t take long.

It would be quicker if I would keep walking and stop procrastinating.

It’s easy to get distracted while searching the forest of heldbreath; we can convince ourselves we are where we’re supposed to be, when it’s quite far. I want a decent, clean version of The Autumn Prince this summer; I will wander the forest heldbreath in circles until I make it.

Have you been to the forest of heldbreath? Of course you have, we’re both human! Let’s meet at the edge and talk about the goals we will meet someday.

Old Souls & Poetry


My WordPress has been dead since our arrival, but if you’re following me on Instagram, you’ll find I’ve developed new interest in the written word shared visually.

I’m going to keep my blog alive. It’s just taken a few weeks for me to wake up again, after our long flight back home. We spent almost three days in airports. That’s enough to keep you half-dead for a week.

In my pause and time of recovery, I’ve written several poems and found my Muse to be very generous. Being back in my room, with my books and all my things, I’ve reencountered the old soul I left behind–but she’s also grown up.

She’s grown up in the sense that she is stronger. She’s not as scared to speak. She doesn’t care about borders anymore, so her poems dance off the page–and are by no means in straight lines. She cares for those who love her, and when she has to, she chooses herself.

Sometimes, you just have to choose yourself.

I have a few short stories to share here in the future. If you want to read short fiction, I do have two pieces on Instagram–The Flight and The Meadow. There will be a story on there every Friday, so if my blog is dead, check Instagram.

I’ve grown a lot; I’m glad about it. I pray the words keep coming, because poetry is a new form of freedom.

Drained of Youth


These past six months, I’ve gotten older.

It’s a bizarre thing: colors seem darker, and smiles don’t come easily. So much has happened. It’s been a trip full of ups and downs; if I wrote a story about it, the reader would finish in a melancholy mood.

Does this mean it was a bad experience? No. It’s not a bad thing to see things with clarity. Hurt me with the truth, but do not shield me with a lie. I’ve always said I live by a policy of honesty: if I have to talk, I’m going to tell you how I feel, whether you like it or not.

Be careful encouraging me to opine.

Because of this policy, I didn’t know how to deal with liars. People I thought were genuine turned out to be faking with me. Please, don’t act like a friend when you really aren’t.

Since I’m a writer, I learned from this. It’s one reason why we write: to pour emotion into a tale readers can relate to. One thing I gained from this trip is emotion, the words for books with more depth.

Now I can write about heartbreak and feel it. I can describe disappointment. I know what it’s like to be stabbed in the back and see those I love cry. I even know what it’s like to live without water.

I know how to stick up for myself. I remember the day I stood up and said what needed to be heard. It was satisfying; I could tell by their reactions that someone had to tell them. My words were a long time coming.

Words are powerful.

Most of my stories so far have been hopeful, but we do need balance. In life, there is heartbreak and pain. This trip has put me through shadows, so I can write about darker emotions.

I have shed tears. I can write stories that shed tears.

Each experience made me stronger, made my future tales more powerful. I will be digging into sensitive parts of my memory.

Storytellers use our dark experiences to connect with readers. We see the positive side of suffering. We use our heartbreak to speak to those who read with broken souls. If this trip allowed me to one day help a person who’s hurting, I’m grateful for every tear.

I wouldn’t take back the memories. Everyone goes through times of suffering. I want my stories to mean something to you when, one day, you’re also hurting.

I leave this country with mixed feelings, a sore heart, and plenty of stories. I’m eager to share them. Reading got me through the darkness; one day, I hope my stories will help you get by, too.

Nothing in life is in vain, not even heartbreak.

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The Autumn Prince Returns


In October of 2015, I released a serial on my blog called The Autumn Prince.

It became more popular than I had anticipated; one reader called it the “highlight of her month,” and I am still humbled by that. The following year it was adapted into a short story for the Crows on Heartstrings anthology, where it shines among dozens of beautiful tales and drawings.

After the release of Crows on Heartstrings, different projects related to my Fallen Faery Tales series distracted me from The Autumn Prince. It managed to slip my mind for a long time, until now.

When the serial finished on Halloween of 2015, the story just wouldn’t get out of my head! I wrote it again as a novel that November because the characters and ideas were still so vivid.

A week ago, a friend encouraged me to find that draft and read it again. I couldn’t believe I had written it! I found myself wanting to know what happens next. So The Autumn Prince is back.

This April I’m working on edits for The Autumn Prince. My plan is to have it shine by the end of the year so I can query it in the winter. For this book, I am going to seek traditional publishing. The Autumn Prince has a different feel from Dissonance and Serenade; it wants to take the different road.

It wants to hit bookstore shelves. It wants to be your autumn read. For that, I need to work on it.

If you enjoyed The Autumn Prince when it was a serial on my blog, I hope you’ll like it all the more as a full-length novel. I’m surprised at how well I did adapting it into a book; it may have been a first draft, but it didn’t make me cringe!

I enjoyed reading it, and being the author, that’s saying something. I hope and pray you will enjoy it too.

Of Ghosts and Old Doorbells


The old doorbell had been silent for over twenty years. After this house was abandoned, people eventually stopped coming to visit, or even to try and sell things. It had been so long, in fact, that the ghosts started to assume it was too rusty to ever make another sound.

Three generations of ghosts dwelled in the old house; they drifted lazily up and down the stairs, reenacted balls in the parlor, had the same conversations that had echoed in the halls for hundreds of years. They spoke of wars long finished and weddings whose couples had long been buried together.

In the midst of this nostalgic echo, this perpetual sigh, the doorbell rang. It was really just an old bell situated somewhere by the front door; someone outside rang, and a string caused it to rattle. It wasn’t the loudest sound, and it hadn’t been touched with the greatest strength—the noise it made was indeed feeble—but when that doorbell rang, everything stopped.

The ladies dressed in ballgowns stopped their repetitive gossip to look at the door, wide-eyed. The butler, who had long run out of things to do, stopped mid-pace with his hands clasped behind his back. The scullery maid got to her feet, bouncing; an old greyhound who rested by the chilly fireplace lifted his head, whining.

“Visitors!” cried one of the ladies, fanning herself (in vain, because she could not produce any air with a ghost fan.) “I do miss playing the piano!”

“Stop it, Dinah,” said her companion with a deep, dramatic sigh; “you know as well as I that we cannot touch anything. Not even the door.”

Dinah played with a lock of her long blonde hair; it had come out of her elaborate knot, somehow, over the course of her years being dead. “Then who’s going to answer the door, Annie?”

Her companion, clearly the wiser of the two, shrugged with a regretful smile. “None of us can. We cannot touch anything.”

“But we should be polishing the silver,” said the butler, speaking for the first time in centuries. “Lighting candles. Dusting the curtains!”

“We can do nothing of the sort, Mr Brown.”

The dog whined, putting his head back on the ground, nose twitching as if struggling to hold back real tears.

The doorbell rang again, a bit more loudly this time. The ghosts stared at the bell as it rattled into silence, some hugging themselves, some breathing heavily, all knowing perfectly well that they could do nothing about it; they had no physical hands with which to open the door for them, no real voices with which to greet them or sing happy music.

“Then what did we get from any of this?” asked the maid sadly, sitting back down on the ground and crossing her legs as they listened to gravel crunch—their visitor was walking away, having realized no one was home to answer them.

Annie paused, gazing at the bell as she forced herself to think, really think, for the first time in a while. “It woke us up, Dinah. I think that’s good enough. It woke us up.”

With that, she took a step back and crossed to the other side of the room, where she lifted her chin and stood with her shoulders back.

“And I propose,” she continued, “a change. Shall we spend the next twenty years in this corner, rather than that one?”

Dinah watched Annie with a quaint frown. At last she shrugged, seeing as there was nothing for her to lose anyway; she crossed the room as well, while the baffled Mr Brown watched, himself reluctant to do anything differently from how it had been done a century ago. “I say,” she exclaimed, “it’s sunnier in this corner.”

The dog got up and crossed the room after her, where he sat down at her feet in the exact same position to listen. Annie smiled, taking Dinah’s fan and using it herself—it was her turn, after all.

“Now, then,” she said to her friend, as the other ghosts slowly began to shift position until the next person rang the doorbell, “tell me about your wedding plans.”

3 Reasons Why We Need Dreamers


It’s recently come to my attention that I am too much of a dreamer…and I don’t want to change.

These aren’t the sorts of dreams with a set goal at the end of the tunnel. When your chosen career is storytelling, it’s easy to forget the ‘rules’ and stand out even in your own crowd. For example, if you blog about books and are passionate about classics rather than trending novels, you aren’t going to review books like other readers.

You’re a dreamer. You’re different. You’re facing a challenge similar to mine.

I’ve been told multiple times to “wake up,” which implies there’s no place in the world for dreamers like me to splash some color here and there. I’m not growing out of this – I’ll always be a child at heart. And recently, I’ve decided to embrace it.

I’m not apologizing anymore for being a dreamer, and here are three reasons why you shouldn’t, either–three reasons why the world needs people who don’t conform to the standards of what is ‘right.’

We need dreamers because growing up can be toxic. It’s important to be more mature, of course, and learn to handle things in a manner befitting of your age–but when this proper behavior puts out the light of enchantment, the world becomes a dim place.

People want to be reminded of the freedom of childhood. Even when it seems you’re being mocked because you’re different, trust me, your fresh outlook on the world is helping someone now far more than you think.

We need dreamers to break the rules. Already in the world of blogging we see dreamers and creatives making a comeback, showing that it’s acceptable–if not necessary–to break the rules for success. And I might add that, with the Internet, we are free to be ourselves, unconventional though we may be.

We need dreamers to make art. Where language is a barrier, art will get the message across. A picture can mean the same thing to two people who have nothing in common–or it might mean something completely different! Without dreamers and the artists to create pieces that speak universally, what would our world look like?

Of course, not all dreamers are the same. Not everyone who makes art will be engrossed by tales of faeries, obsessed with glitter and small animals (like me, heh heh.) The point of this post is that it’s fine to be different, and you shouldn’t allow people to bring you down or prevent you from expressing yourself

You might be a more organized dreamer than I am. You might specialize in painting while I write novels. You might love pop music while I prefer indie–you might find enchantment in black and white, while lately I’m obsessed with pastels.

It’s okay. Be yourself.

This year I’m going to stop apologizing for being a little different, and I choose to be grateful for it instead. Embrace your unique personality and see how it affects your career and life.

If you’ve been put down for breaking the rules, I hope this year you’ll find the courage to accept who you are–unique and capable of true magic.

The Book Inspired by Peru


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It took a few weeks, but I was right: a new environment will inspire you with dozens of ideas. My idea for a book set in new territory has finally come to me!

When we first arrived in Peru back in December, I knew it would happen. Perhaps I would meet a person who wanted to be a character, or hear of a historical event that needed to be written, or describe a beautiful street.

Now I have a new book waiting its turn to be written. It’s still in the brainstorming stage, but it’s different from my other work, inspired by the sights, smells, and sounds of the busy Peruvian streets. I’ve been writing quick descriptions of every place I go so I can use them as reference when the time comes to write.

I don’t know yet if the story is going to be set in Lima or in a fictional place similar to it. I have a “filler” character name so I can build a backstory for the MC, but that name is likely to change. I don’t know much about the setting—what time of the year will it be? Winter or summer? How detailed do I want to be? Will I mix in Peruvian folklore to give it more personality?

This is the time for taking notes, character building, and seeing. Meanwhile, I’m finishing up the first draft of Allie’s third adventure (it’s currently at 44k, and it’s going to be the longest book in the series so far.) I also write short stories when I have the time, because I’m planning to put together an anthology (it’ll keep the plot bunnies happy.)

Back in December I decided 2017 would be a year for writing new material. Rather than scrambling to edit and publish new work, I’m going to spend the next twelve months practicing the craft, improving my prose and developing ideas. If something happens and I realize I have a manuscript ready later on, perhaps I’ll think of releasing it.

However, my fingers itch to increase the word count every day—I write 2,000 words before bedtime, and it may not seem like much at first, but look at my manuscript now! 44k!

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The book set in “Lima” is going to take some time. Since there is research involved, I don’t think I’ll be able to throw out 2,000 words every night—not if I want them to be good words. It’s fantasy, but not everything is going to be just made up. I want to stay as true as possible to my experiences and memories walking the streets myself.

I can’t even tell you what it’s going to be about yet—only that it is original and outside of my comfort zone. It’s going to be a challenge.

A visit to the Museum of Peruvian Literature doubled my motivation for this. I don’t have illusions of my work making it into this museum, but it helped me gain perspective. I will read Peruvian literature, study their folklore, pay attention to the people—I still have time.

I will work hard this year to produce a piece that’ll do justice to this wonderful adventure I’m living. I hope you will enjoy it!

Story: Prince of the Haystacks


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When the young prince first fled into the barn, he thought it too small and messy for someone of respectable breed to sleep in. Having grown accustomed to feather pillows and silk sheets, he struggled at first to adapt and sleep on the hay.

But he was fleeing an angry wizard’s curse, so it happened more quickly than he’d expected.

Now he gazed sleepily into a corner, remembering long nights spent in hiding from the bitter old man determined to bring about his ruin—all because of a necklace. In the back of his mind, he replayed the moment that amulet shattered when he threw it—he thought of the rage on the old wizard’s face—but he didn’t think of it for long, dousing the memory with a sip of wine.

By now, this place was more than a barn: he’d ordered servants to deliver his most important belongings, like books and comfortable pillows (his mattress wouldn’t fit through the window.) Now it didn’t look like a barn, but a large tree house where no one came to see him.

He gazed at his reflection on the surface of the goblet, wondering not for the first time how he ended up here—but he didn’t wonder long enough to stir his conscience, because at that moment, he heard the old wizard sneezing outside.

“Ha-ha!” cried the prince, delighted for the distraction. “Back again? I see you have yet to brew a cure for your allergies!”

He patted a nearby hay bale fondly. Who would have thought something so common would repel black magic?

Every night at this time, the wizard came to this barn in search of vengeance for his amulet. The prince used to think these appearances irritating, but now he looked forward to them; they broke the monotony of life in this tree house, and it wasn’t as if the wizard could hurt him.

“Oh!” cried the wizard, and sneezed again, loudly. “You—insolent boy! When I get to you, I’ll turn you into a—ah-choo!—a proper toad!”

He took another sip of wine, chuckling. “A rather handsome toad I’d be, don’t you think?” he asked his reflection. “I would be the brightest of all the toads.”

“You would be caged!” cried the wizard. “Caged and then poisoned—or sold to an aquarium—ah-choo!”

“Tell me,” the young man continued, “when are you going to stop coming? I’m sure your allergies are more than fits of sneezing. Perhaps your skin goes up in boils or your nose gets runny. Surely it’s not worth chasing me for one silly necklace.” Deep down, he wanted the wizard to give up so he could go back to his comfortable bedroom.

Ah-choo! Curse you and every word you say! Curse all your ambitions and dreams! When you step out of this barn, I will set every plague on you—”

The prince yawned, drowning out this familiar string of fruitless curses, and decided the barn was comfortable enough. He could always have more books delivered if he ran out. His mother made sure they sent him food and water, and of course wine. It was not yet cold enough for the situation to be too uncomfortable.

Outside, the wizard’s angry words continued; mixed with each curse was a poignant sneeze. Two sneezes, three, four—the prince counted them, thinking that if anyone ever asked, he would tell them he had always found haystacks the most comfortable place to sleep.

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!