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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Book Review: Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell


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I have spent two weeks with my nose in this book.

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell is a thousand pages long, but its spell extends beyond the pages. Its charm is bolder than its eye-catching cover; this book provides complete immersion in a story I wished would last longer.

It tells of the movement to restore English magic. It’s full of clever political strife, well-written battles, pesky faeries and beautiful forests. Faeries favor the least likely people; those with power and authority often lose faster.

With her magical style, Susanna Clarke takes historical fiction and gives it new depth. She takes England and enchants it with a new system, dynamic characters, and plot twists that creep up to the very end.

If you want a good work of escapism, I recommend this book. It will take some of your time, but I promise you’ll be glad you gave it.

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.

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!

Book Review: Wendy Darling – Stars by Colleen Oakes


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I am fascinated by retellings of classic novels! Some stories are so beloved that they capture imaginations for years, never losing their magic. Often these retellings can be shallow and unoriginal, but Wendy Darling: Stars did not disappoint.

It’s the story of Peter Pan told from Wendy’s point of view, and though it’s been a few years since I read the original book, this version was lovely to read. I enjoyed the care placed in each relationship. Conflicts were added to make characters realistic and believable; even though they’ve been written before, they were pleasantly original here.

No one was perfect in this book. Wendy’s brothers all had flaws, and even her father, though overall kind, still valued the family reputation over her happiness. He won’t approve of Wendy’s relationship with a young bookseller named Booth, and that disagreement creates a chasm between them, one we could feel—because they’d gotten along well before that. There is a scene where she and Mr. Darling are looking at the sky, looking for the second star to the right, and it was so cute that I was sad when they fell apart.

Peter Pan in this novel is more human than in other retellings. His crush on Wendy makes him more than a boy who won’t grow up; here he’s a young man afraid to face reality. There were scenes where he was kind to Wendy, and others where he lost his mind. There were times when he was considerate of others, and dark moments when he thought little about killing. Like Wendy, he’s older and makes decisions that are fitting for his age.

I also liked that the book was well-written. The author put thought into plot and location, and the writing was poetic. This novel took me through the streets of London; I flew in the skies of Neverland, swam with dark mermaids, and stole from pirates.

This book is ideal for people who loved Peter Pan. It made me sad for Wendy and Booth, made me curious about Peter, and took me to a world where lost people never grow up. I can’t wait to read the next one.

Excerpt: A Hundred Pages


These days I really have been procrastinating edits by writing short stories. I’m not sure what I’ll do with them all, but some I am really happy with; I will be sharing excerpts. I don’t know how long all of them will be, and most will probably be serialized. Briony’s story is still in progress, but I already know the exciting direction in which her story will go!


Few things were lovelier than rainy mornings. Briony knew her friends would disagree, but she looked forward to sleeping in while hearing raindrops thumping on the roof, curled up under thick blankets after dreamless sleep.

However, rainy mornings were better on weekends. One look at the clock shattered the magic of the moment; Mom added to the effect when she knocked at the door and called, “Did you stay up late again?”

Briony groaned and glanced at the book on her bedside table. “It was just a hundred pages,” she shouted back, forcing herself into a sitting position. “I promise.”

“That’s what I said all the time.” Mom opened the door and peered at her. She did not look upset, but amused. “I guess I can’t scold you. Just get ready now.”

“I will,” Briony said, smiling sheepishly. “Sorry.”

“Oh, Bry.” Mom heaved a sigh of mock frustration. “Life has a funny way of repeating itself.” She closed the door with a soft smile.

The cold air outside finally caught up to her. Shivering, Briony wrapped herself in one of the blankets and took a moment to ponder how just a hundred pages had somehow turned into two hundred. She ought to have saved the last chapters of her book for the weekend.

It had been such a good book, though. She’d rushed through her math homework in order to start reading again—a first, since she was an avid hater of math.

But Mom said that as long as she got homework done, she would be left to read all she wanted in peace. Briony was fortunate to have a mother who understood her weakness for a good story. Many of the books she read had been inherited from her mother’s childhood library.

3 Reasons I Want to Read Slowly


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A while back, I was obsessed with learning to speed-read. I tried all these iPhone apps that supposedly help you read faster. I timed myself whenever I opened a book. I gave up on those weird apps almost at once, but over time did learn to speed-read.

Though I’m not the fastest reader I know, I surprise people with how quickly I can finish a book. In many ways, it is a useful skill. However, sometimes I have to slow down and enjoy the novel I’m reading, word-by-word.

It’s an exercise of patience, but when I’m reading a good book, it’s not too hard. Sometimes you love a book so much, you don’t want it to end.

We’re not all the same, and things might be different for you, but here are my motivators for learning the art of reading slowly:

1, I want to remember more. One of my favorite things about reading is when I can remember a story long after finishing it. If I can’t do that, I don’t feel that I’ve gotten all I could from the book.

2. Magic survives into reality. Everyone knows that crash that comes after closing a good book, the shock when all the magic is gone and we are back in real life. When I speed-read a novel, the crash comes faster. If I take the time to better experience the adventure, it isn’t so hard–magic follows me.

3. It improves my writing. When I read slowly, I’m able to pick up tricks the author used. I learn new words, get swept away in description, and put away plot bunnies to work on later. My writing is improved in ways I don’t realize until I work on my own projects again.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t speed-read; we’re all different when we write stories, as well as when we read them. In the end, there is no right or wrong way to enjoy a book. As long as it takes you to another world, the rest is just preference.

How fast do you read? Do you enjoy a story more when you read quickly, or take your time? Maybe you do both—let me know in the comments!

Book Review: Me Before You by Jojo Moyes


Much has been said about Me Before You. While some people loved it, others disliked the premise enough to boycott the book. I tried reading with a neutral mind, but that didn’t save me from the heartbreaking conclusion.

It felt like a punch to the gut, even though the whole time I suspected how the story would end. This book was written to engage readers, making us feel like we know the characters, and that alone is art.

I haven’t seen the movie yet, but friends have told me it’s just as powerful. Hopefully soon I can watch it, too.

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Me Before You follows a young woman named Louisa Clark. After losing her job at a cafe, she finds work caring for a paraplegic man named Will Traynor. He had an accident which left him unable to move from the neck down.

It’s the story of Louisa’s quest to show Will there’s reason for him to live. I thought it a very good story.

Articles have been written about this book. It continues to spark debate, proving books do matter, even fiction. They stir conversation for months, prompting us to examine life and discern right from wrong.

Philosophy aside, what did I like about this book?

  • It showed that love takes many forms. The affection between Will and Louisa was refreshingly honest. With physical interaction limited, they were forced to bond in deeper ways.
  • Louisa isn’t perfect, but her faults make her likeable. She isn’t the smartest sister in the family and doesn’t have much ambition—which makes it more powerful when she sets out to convince Will he has a purpose.
  • Jojo Moyes uses opposites to make the plot stronger. For example, Louisa’s life is dull because she chooses not to take risks; Will’s life is dull because he cannot take risks. Lou’s boyfriend Patrick is a professional runner, but shows little affection for her. Will can’t move, but in several scenes he demonstrates more love.

This book is one of the most powerful I’ve read, because of the mixed feelings it placed in my heart. It made me think and see life differently.

As for the controversy, I don’t understand it.

Storytellers don’t tell people how to live their lives. They find situations that deserve recognition, packing truth into paperback books. The truth can be interpreted in many different ways.

Often it’s difficult to accept, but that’s not the storyteller’s fault.

Me Before You was worth the read. It made me rethink many things I had taken for granted. I didn’t realize how deeply the book affected me until the day after I finished it, when I had a dream I was wheelchair-bound.

I promise you won’t forget this story, whether you like it or not.

Book Review: The Bookseller by Cynthia Swanson


The Bookseller follows a woman named Kitty who lives in Denver, where she runs a bookstore with her best friend, Frieda. In 1962 it’s not usual for her to be unmarried at the age of thirty-eight, but she tells herself she’s content. Having gone through a failed courtship and several dates that led nowhere, she’s come to terms with life at home with her cat.

Things aren’t as stable as she’d like them to be. The bookstore is losing business as customers flock to big shopping centers in town. She and Frieda are struggling to pay the rent, contemplating the idea of moving to a location that’ll attract more business.

In the midst of this uncertainty, Kitty begins to have strange dreams. Each night when she drifts off, she finds herself in an alternate universe where everything is different.

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Kitty’s married with children in this universe. Her husband, Lars, is a man she spoke to once in the waking world, on the phone; they never met, but in the dream they are married. They have started a family; he built a lovely house for her and the children.

In this dream universe, Kitty is wealthy and has plenty of friends. She has a closet of elegant clothing, even a maid. The world she visits in her sleep is full of contradictions to her real life; it’s like the flip side of a coin.

As the dreams become more vivid, readers are left wondering which of the two universes is actually a dream? It becomes hard to decide. Cynthia Swanson has done a good job of taking two outcomes and making both of them plausible.

The Bookseller addresses the timeless question “What if?” We’ve all wondered how our lives could be different if we made that choice differently, or took the left road instead of the right. How would the universe change if we embraced a different hobby? How would it change the future, how would it change us?

This novel drew me in with its poignant writing and powerful scenes, making me question my own life. As the story progressed and fog cleared, I marveled at Swanson’s genius: She took a concept difficult to pull off, writing each reality with grace and elegance. Both of them have their pros and cons. Neither is complete.

But life is never truly complete. This truth doesn’t escape the pages of books. The Bookseller is wonderful because it makes us ponder our own choices, compelling us to ask “What if?” the way we did when we were children.

Life might look better in an alternate universe, but we’d find ourselves missing things we don’t notice now. The Bookseller helps us appreciate what we have, not envying others’ lives or wishing away our truths.

Like Kitty does in both realities, we’ll wake up and realize these little things are gone. But they only seemed little when we took them for granted, because they will leave great voids.

The Bookseller is a beautiful piece of literary fiction, one I can rate five stars without thinking twice. Give it a try and let it change your perspective on life.

Book Review: Under the Trees by Ashley Maker


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Desperate to prevent an abusive arranged marriage, Princess Araya flees to a neighboring kingdom, only to land at the mercy of the impulsive Crown Prince Thoredmund, who provides refuge in a secluded forest and teaches her survival skills. Her surprise at the unexpected hold the prince has on her heart mirrors his shock at falling for the one girl he can’t have.
As the young couple’s feelings for each other grow, the fragile alliance between the two kingdoms threatens to break apart. With a vengeful duke and an enraged king fast on their trail, Thor and Araya must decide how much they’re willing to risk for love.
Even if staying together means starting a war.

A beautiful fantasy romance, Into the Trees follows Princess Araya’s flight from home in search of freedom.

Araya is escaping an arranged marriage which looms over her like a shadow. Crossing into a neighboring kingdom, what is her luck? She runs into that kingdom’s prince, who has an impulse for helping people in need; hearing her story, Prince Thor swears to get her to freedom—and loses his heart to her on the way.

It’s a quick and charming escape for those who love fantasy worlds, written at a pace to reflect Araya’s urgency. Betrothed to a disgusting man, she would rather abandon her life of luxury and her title than marry him.

However, it’s not that easy. Having been raised a princess, she doesn’t know the first thing about living as a commoner; she can’t start a fire or figure out how people greet each other in a different kingdom.

Small details such as these make incredible worldbuilding. More books ought to pay attention to customs, otherwise cultures sound unrealistically similar. When at times the book got too fast-paced, Maker’s worldbuilding made up for it; she put satisfying thought into the realm she created.

I loved the scenes in the forest! I could almost smell the nature and trees—the river, moisture, flowers. This forest sometimes had more life than the characters wandering it.

Most of this tale takes place in the forest, where great love and panic unfold. Could these trees whisper about what they saw after the story ended? I wouldn’t be surprised, for the environment teemed with magic.

I felt the resolution was rather abrupt, but the ending satisfied me as a reader. Under the Trees is a tale where beauty and magic are balanced with corruption; there’s a charming prince as well as dark characters quick to abuse their power.

Araya wants to escape a grim fate; she’s willing to leave her comfort zone for it. The story sweeps you into her journey, so you experience both giddy love and foreboding fear. I finished this book satisfied that everyone had gotten the ending they deserved.

If only there were more books like this–focusing on the beauty of love in a lively setting, like that place under the trees.