Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Once Upon a Time... linkup: Forgiveness

It's the 3rd Once Upon a Time... linkup!!! Last week I had my first linkers (don't know if that's a word, but you never know. ;). So here's a mighty THANK YOU to Cait and Mime over at Notebook Sisters.

Without further kerfuffle (itn't tha an awesome word!), welcome to the next linkup!

The prompt for today is: forgiveness.

This selection is from my new fantasy, The Last Scribe.
Here's a peek at the setting:
A deep, inky darkness.
Small flames in a dying campfire.
An unwanted revelation.
Word count: 471
Ó Pure Grace

“I am the last scribe. And I was running away.”
Mikailah’s face is immobile. It means nothing to her. Nothing at all. I am going to have to start, from the very beginning. Where is the beginning?
What should I do, Unseen?
Tell her who she is.
“Mikailah,” I begin, my voice wavering and timid. “There is a reason you and your family have been deep in the Woodland for so many years. It is not because they are forest people. It is because they have been hiding, waiting.”
“From what, Breem? Why?” she demands, her face going pale. Her hand is fiddling with that lock of hair, twisting, pulling, twirling.
“Because they are the kings…the kings of Messeran.”
She is so still, so quiet, I almost wonder if she didn’t hear me. Then her eyes flick to me, wide, so green, and terrified.
“You lie!” she hisses.
I shake my head. “I don’t. Maybe I wish I did. But it is the truth. They have waited for all these years for the right time. And the time is here. Now.”
She is trembling, her face a picture of rage. “Why did you not tell me before? Why wait all this time? You knew that I was a princess, of the line of kings, and you never said anything? Anything at all! Why? Why, Breem?”
She is on her feet, suddenly, voice lashing. I try to calm her. “Mikailah, sit. I didn’t know what to do. And I was running. I told you that. I was running away.”
“From what?” she snaps. “Me? Messeran? The Unseen?”
“Maybe from it all.” My voice is quiet. Very quiet and low. I can’t sort through it all in my head, not now, not so close to all that has happened. But I know I must have my say. “But it is true.”
“Prove what you have just said.”
I point at her. “You are my proof. Ask Kiar. The line of the kings is strong in your blood. I don’t need to ask any questions.”
“Why did Aligha say nothing, all these years, raising Mytharal and I? Why did she never tell us?”
“I am sure she had a reason.”
“Reason, my foot!” she spits. “I trusted her. I trusted you. And now I find out everything is just lies.”
“No.” I shake my head, trying to ignore the thread of pain worming itself inside me at her accusations. “Not everything.”
“Close enough. Is there anything else you want to tell me about myself?”
The sarcasm is thick in her tone. But there really is so much I still haven’t told her. How can I? Not now. Maybe after she has cooled off. After she has had time to think about it.
“Forgive me?”
“I…I can’t!”
“Please, don’t ask me. Leave me alone!”

Join the Once Upon a Time... linkup:

Post a selection from your current WIP no larger than 500 words to your blog.

If there is a prompt, make sure your section fits the requirements.

Add the Once Upon a Time... linkup button:

Connect your link using the linkup button on Wednesdays (they will always be held on Wednesdays)!

And voila, you are done! Don't forget to visit the other blogs and drop a line.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Guest Post by author Mary Ruth Pursselley

This week I contacted my dear friend Mary about doing the guest post on writers' quirks. She has done a fabulous job! I hope you all enjoy it!!!

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Writers – Weird and Loving It

Anyone who’s a writer knows it. Anyone who knows a writer knows it. The fact is, writers are weird.

I’m sorry to have to put it so bluntly, but it’s the truth. Our brains just aren’t wired like everyone else’s. It has to be that way—it’s what allows us to do what we do—but it can still get tiresome and even stressful from time to time, and a lot of writers struggle with it. “Why can’t we just be normal?” they moan.

Well, the fact is, if you were ‘normal’, you wouldn’t be a writer. That’s just the way the cookie crumbles, and there’s nothing we can do about it. So my advice is to enjoy the humor that comes in the wake of your weirdness. Learn to laugh about it.

I know, laughing at yourself isn’t always easy—we writers do have our egos, after all—but if you can learn to do it, I think you’ll find that the writing life just got even more fun. And there’s rarely a shortage of hilarious writer moments to laugh about.

Not convinced? Let me give you a few examples of weird but hilarious moments from my own writing life.

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My brother once walked into the living room to find me hanging onto the top of a doorframe with my right hand while waving a sword with my left. After a moment of staring, he asked “Do I want to know?”

I smiled sheepishly and responded: “Choreography. For a fight scene while the character is handcuffed to the ceiling.”

He shook his head and walked off. “Wow, you’re weird.”

Another time, as I was working on story ideas while sitting in the car next to my mother (who was driving), I was suddenly struck by the horrible realization that two main characters from two completely unrelated story ideas had the same name. Horrors! Without thinking I gasped and said “Oh no!”.

Mom, who was driving through an intersection at the moment, gasped and looked around frantically, no doubt anticipating something along the lines of a dump truck smashing us. When she realized no such thing was happening, she turned to me and demanded “What is it?!”

My memory chose that woefully late moment to remind me that the characters didn’t actually have the same name, just similar ones: Nyah and Nira.

Unfortunately, Mom didn’t really appreciate the gravity of my almost-disaster, and was rather put out with me. In all fairness, though, I probably deserved it that time.

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On yet another occasion, while still writing my first novel, one of my very favorite characters died. I was home alone when I wrote his death scene, which was fortunate because I bawled my eyes out and it would have been embarrassing to do so in front of my family. Scarcely had I managed to dry my tears and pull myself together (more or less) when my brother returned home and offered to help me make supper. We were in the kitchen listening to Christmas music, and one of the songs on the CD featured a solo on the Spanish guitar. During said solo, my brother took it upon himself to perform his impression of traditional Spanish dancing (both the male and female roles).

Still emotionally fragile from my earlier meltdown, and watching him spin around the kitchen in an imaginary sombrero while waving imaginary skirts over his head, I lost it completely. Within seconds I was totally disabled, collapsed in the kitchen floor and laughing too hard to move or even breathe. My brother finished his impersonation, then stood by staring at me calmly while I pulled myself to a sitting position… and burst into tears again. (Yeah, it was a rough day.)

Pinned ImageI haven’t said all this just to show off my own peculiar case of writerly weirdness. (Remember what I said about a writer’s ego? Well, I’ve got one too, and some of this stuff is still embarrassing to me.) I’ve said it in the hope that it might encourage other writers—particularly young or new-to-the-field writers—who might be finding it hard to be ‘the weird one’. I know it’s hard. It’s extremely hard sometimes. But our weirdness is just one side of a fantastic gift: the ability to create and convey stories that thrill and enchant other people.

And remember, you are not alone. You’re not the only one who gets mad at imaginary people. You’re not the only one who can’t get people and events you created to cooperate. You’re not the only one who listens to music and tries to make every song fit into a character’s perspective or a story’s plot. You’re not the only one who carries on multi-sided conversations out loud with yourself to make sure characters’ dialogue sounds natural. Whatever it is you do and are sure you’re the only one who does it, however quirky and crazy it is, believe me there are others who do it. Call it a shared bond, if you will.

And, since we’ve all got it, can’t get rid of it, and, deep down, wouldn’t want to get rid of it if we could, we might as well learn to laugh and have some fun with it.

So here’s to weirdness. Write on!

Mary is a homeschool graduate with several works published. She's a dyed-in-the-wool Ozarks hillbilly girl who lives on a ranch in the beautiful Ozark Mountains along with her family, a pack of dogs, a swarm of chickens, a lazy horse, and a herd of cows. She comes from a devout Christian family. Her faith in Jesus Christ is everything to her. She's been making up stories in her head for as long as she can remember, and writing them down since she learned how to hold a pencil. The early ones, written almost nightly, were usually embellished versions of whatever imagination game she and her Yorkie Terrier Ezmerelda had played that day. Oddly enough, she was thirteen before she realized that she was actually going to be a writer when she grew up. But since then her writing has come a long way (now with the help of a new Yorkie Terrier sidekick named Cricket). She blogs at The Writer's Lair.

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P.S. This week, the Once Upon a Time... linkup will be for: forgiveness.
Come back Wednesday and check out all the links and add your own!!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

On My Bookshelf: Mara, Daughter of the Nile

Mara is a proud and beautiful slave girl who yearns for freedom. In order to gain it, she finds herself playing the dangerous role of double spy for two arch enemies - each of whom supports a contender for the throne of Egypt.
Against her will, Mara finds herself falling in love with one her masters, the noble Sheftu, and she starts to believe in his plans of restoring Thutmose III to the throne. But, just when Mara is ready to offer Sheftu her help and her heart, her duplicity is discovered, and a battle ensues in which both Mara's life and the fate of Egypt are at stake.
 Author: Eloise Jarvis McGraw
Any Age
Setting: Ancient Egypt

"Look out for yourself my girl. Nobody else will."

My thoughts:

The first time I met Mara, my mother sat down in the living room, cracked open a well-worn copy with the haunted picture of a lonely maid on the front cover, and began reading the story aloud to me and my little brothers and sisters right before bed. I am sure it was a pretty picture, all five of us cuddled up in thick, warm comforters, mugs of hot chocolate cradled in our little hands, wide-eyed listeners to a story of a land far away.

I don't know how many books my parents read aloud to me as a child. They are too numerous to count.

But one thing I do know.

Mara stuck with me.

Mara is proud. She is strong. She is witty. She lives in a world that is cruel and ruthless. She knows nothing of kindness and sympathy. And she pretends she needs none of it.

The character of Mara is solid flesh and blood. Her tears, her struggles, her victories, are living and breathing inside you. Her spirited fire and wit sends you into peals of laughter and keep you on pins and needles to find out how she will finagle her way out of the next peril. Danger is real. Mara flirts with death.

The things is, she knows it, and laughs in its face.

I have read almost all of Eloise Jarvis McGraws young adult fiction and have come to one conclusion. She uses a link to the emotions of her readers that is at once invisible and powerful. Every desire in her characters is a fire-breathing dragon in your belly. Her writing leaves you sitting up late, a flashlight clutched in a sweaty palm, glued to the pages. It is a style that captures sudden and permanent interest.

Mara, Daughter of the Nile, is written in a way that will never die. Her vivid descriptions of the cities, palace, river, and whole of Egypt settle you deep into the place where your characters live. You see The Silver Beetle, the ship that carried Mara on the Nile, you see the labyrinth of palace Hatshepsut calls her court, you see the inn where the rebels meet. You can almost reach out and touch the rooms where Mara lives.

Historically, the books is flawlessly accurate, allowing for some storyline liberation's (there was no little blue-eyed interpreter that saved the throne of Thutmose III). The very fact that history is sketchy of just what did happen between Hatshepsut and Thutmose proves what a masterful storyteller McGraw is. The Black Land is as real to us as it is to Mara and those trapped in that hot summer month where rebellion takes its final step.

Mara is not a romance book. I am not particularly fond of too perfect young men and weepy, desperate girls. The romantic angle of this book is both unusual and intriguing. And the story does not focus on the emotions beginning to stir in the hearts of the characters, but rather on what is bringing them together.

The real heart and soul behind Mara is found tucked in golden lines scattered throughout the book. This is a book about deciding what is worth fighting for, living for, and dieing for.

Mara is a book you will always find on my bookshelf. It is one to leave deep and lasting marks on your heart.

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Friday, October 26, 2012

The Red Room ~ Write on Edge linkup


This week, Write on Edge did a prompt with this picture.

Rocky Horror Picture Show

Using your imagination, you are supposed to do a fictional piece telling the story behind it.

Title: The Red Room
Word count: 263
Ó Pure Grace

The wobble of the submarine disorients me. Noises explode around me as the engines kick into full throttle. Power rushes over the machinery. I feel unsteady ~ really, unready.
A hand touches my shoulder and I whip around. “What?” I shout explosively at the white-clad sailor.
“We ~ er ~ just wanted to notify you that all is in readiness and we await your signal.”
“Then await it!”
He nods and scurries out of my view, casting a puzzled look back at me. I hope he couldn’t see the sweat beaded on my forehead. I have never been given such an important assignment before. If I fail, I may as well surrender my sub to the enemy. There is no getting out if the enemy survives.
Mission: blow up the naval base. Objective: get out alive.
I close my eyes and see the Admiral in front of me, clapping me on the shoulder, congratulating me for securing the order, shaking my hand. Is that sincerity in his eyes? Or malicious fraud? Why would he pick me, untrained, untried, to carry out this mission. He hated my grandfather. He hated my father. He hated their success and heroism. What is to keep him from hating me?
Colors burn in my eyes, kaleidoscope across the room so I can’t distinguish anything, and, slowly, twist and fuse into one solid theme. Red. Red like blood.
The white tubes of the missiles gradually form out of the red haze, beckoning, silent, but clear. Determination settles over me. Let’s do this.
I give the signal.
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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Once Upon a Time... linkup: Trust

The day has come!!!! For the second Once Upon a Time... linkup. I am excited to see if anyone joins!

Today's linkup prompt is trust.

My selection comes from my finished WIP, In the Shadow, first book in The Endless Fire series.

The setting is Ancient Rome.
In a tavern.
With danger lurking around the corner.

Word count: 138
Ó Pure Grace

“Will he come?”
“Only time will tell.” Marcellus glanced around as he lowered himself to the seat opposite Calpurnius.
“Why aren’t you in disguise?” Calpurnius glanced at him suspiciously.
“I trust Lucan.”
“Trust!” Calpurnius scoffed. “A way to death.”
“You should not let yourself trust anything in this business. If you want the Empire, you must learn to trust no one.”
“Including you?”
Calpurnius smiled. “Of course.”
Marcellus laughed without humor. “Well, I choose to trust Lucan.”
“I hope this is wise,” Calpurnius glanced around uncomfortably. “What if someone recognizes you?”
Marcellus lifted a brow. “Since when has Marcellus Icilius become a regular guest at seedy taverns?”
Calpurnius shrugged. “You are not exactly dressed the part of a civilian of the streets. Someone may question your presence.”
“Then I will show him the edge of my sword.”

Join the Once Upon a Time... linkup:

Post a selection from your current WIP no larger than 500 words to your blog.

If there is a prompt, make sure your section fits the requirements.

Add the Once Upon a Time... linkup button:

Connect your link using the linkup button on Wednesdays (they will always be held on Wednesdays)!

And voila, you are done! Don't forget to visit the other blogs and drop a line.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Guest Post by author Jack Lewis Baillot

I asked Miss Jack over at However Improbable to do the second guest post here at Stories in the Mind! She has done an excellent job and I can't wait to share it with you all! Enjoy!!!

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First off I'd like to thank Grace for asking me to guest post. THANK YOU, GRACE!
Second, I hope you don't mind I call you Grace.
Third...John says hi.
Fourth, let's get down to defeat the Huns. Did they send me...oh, what? No Huns? That's sad.
Okay, serious now. Grace asked me to do a post on Developing New and Creative Ideas for Plots. I'm probably the last person in the world who should be attempting this. Why, you ask. You see, I don't come up with new plots. I plan something out and my characters change it half way through. However, I've learned a few tricks I will share with you.
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One. Let your characters tell the story the way they want. They will end up anyways and usually they have great ideas, but don't tell them this or they will get a big head.
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Two. READ. A lot. I'm not going to say read everything you can get your hands on because a lot of books out there aren't that great. But look for unusual books. Lemony Snicket is a good example. Look for things with new plots, things you've not seen before. (It is easy to find books with the simple plot of, “Girl is hiding from past. Meets boy hiding from past. Two don't like each other. They are forced to work together for some reason. They fall in love. The end.” If you want to stretch your imagination, you have to find stories without the typical plots. Movies help too, if you are a visual writer. Again, try and find something with unpredictable plots.
Three. Think outside the box. You want to write a story about a girl and a boy going on a quest. Well, that is done a lot. Even throwing in a dragon is very common now. So try something new.
I'm soddy at this without using examples. I've mentioned Lemony Snicket. He took a typical plot found in a lot of children's books. Orphans having to cope without their parents. But he put them in a world we are never really sure what it is like. Even the whole world is shrouded in mystery. Then he put in a villain who is evil and greedy and scary. Later he adds more mystery when the children realize that maybe their mum and dad weren't as perfect as they thought. And at the end, he adds a final twist with Count Olaf and Kit.
Even using a new setting helps. Another series I read which is a good example is the Larklight series, this series took another typical plot and added a new twist by setting.
The plot is basically a brother and a sister realizing the kingdom is in danger and it is up to them to save it, and along the way they met a dashing boy pirate who is running from a painful past. (Look in the book store, this plot is almost everywhere.) However, to make it new and interesting, the author took said brother and sister, moved them to space, set them in the Victorian Era, added some Aliens from Jupiter and Saturn, and put a floating house in the middle of it all – then he added new elements to the pirate which I cannot talk about without giving a lot away. Now his typical plot was new, exciting, and unlike anything else in the world.
Scot Westerfeld. He took a historical story and put a twist on it. WWI, the start of the war, the assassination of the Archduke of Austria. We know about this from school. However, he added in living airships, tank like things which moved by legs, not wheels. Even though he uses another typical plot idea, a girl disguised as a boy and a prince on the run, he added in so many new ideas that this typical plot isn't dull and boring.

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Basically, you can, you HAVE to use basic plot ideas. All plot ideas are pretty much the same. It is what you add into them which makes them new and creative. And for that you have to stretch your imagination.
So, think up the story you WANT to write. Don't worry if it sounds like all the new books coming out. Once you have the basic outline, think of ways you can make it different. (You've seen all the books out there. Go look online at teen books coming out. Most of them sound the same.) But, if you add in a dragon slayer who befriends a dragon – no, I'm not thinking How to Train your Dragon – and said dragon saves his life, and everyone sees, what is said dragon slayer to do? His reputation is ruined! Does he kill his new friend? Or does he swallow his pride and find a new profession? What if his pride is too big to swallow and he tells everyone he will slay the dragon for them all to see?
Or you could take a myth, or an event from history, and add your own twist to it. Look at the TV show Merlin.
What if a time traveler goes back in time and accidentally saves the life of a man who originally died?History is all messed up now, but to fix it, the man must make sure the fellow he saved dies...but they've become friends.
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So, I hope this gives you new ideas. But remember, if you have characters like me, don't become too attached to your ideas...because your evil characters will likely just change everything anyways.
Thank you again, Grace for the chance to guest post!

Jack Lewis Baillot is not impossible, just a bit unlikely. She is the author of Haphazardly Implausible, owns a pet hedgehog named John, and blogs over at However Improbable.
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Monday, October 22, 2012

Writing and Music

One of the things I have found in my years as a writer is music is essential. It arranges the mood, gives feeling and emotion, and drives farther into heart of what I am trying to say than words often can. There is a simple joy and sorrow bound up in the orchestral lines of music that spells out just what needs to be felt.

Music. It is not a way to view life, but a way to feel it.

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Most often, the music I am listening to sets the stage for what I am wanting to say. If I want to write a sad selection into my book, I bring up mournful, wailing melodies that can bring tears to your eyes without reference to anything. If I feel particularly funny and spunky and just want to get a good laugh out of my readers, I bring up the funky tunes and giggle away at their bright, bubbly sounds.

There are certain songs in my playlist that will be forever linked to scenes and lines in my books because of how they panned out. They just had the right character and theme just when I wanted it. And now, I can't hear them without thinking back to those parts of my book.

But no matter what I am writing, I listen to music. It matters. It adds something to the character to my writing I cannot even describe. But it is important.

Do you listen to music while you write? What kinds? Do you have favorite songs that just seem to spill out all you want to say?

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P.S. This Wednesday's Once Upon a Time... linkup will be on: trust. Come back Wednesday and add your link!

Do you like the new Once Upon a Time... linkup button? 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Plotline Struggles

 I have a nasty habit of just getting on my laptop, bringing up a random Microsoft page, and starting to haphazardly click away at my keyboard without a goal in sight.

The result has consistently been long-winded stories with no plotlines, little characterization, and pathetic dialogue. Things tend to drag out, end poorly, and any identity that accidentally escapes into my characters is inconsistent and repellent.

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But, that means things have been learned. Trial and error are a writer's best friend. By traveling the unbeaten road, I found out I still need a destination.
The next step is now figuring out how I am to plan my adventures. Things like to be sporadic for me, life included. Nothing ever does what its supposed to (unless I don't expect it to) and every character I have ever written has promptly turned to me, rolled their eyes, and then given me a ten-page lecture on who they actually are and how I must write it.
Some come with written bios.
But none of them ever told me how their story was to go. They never spilled out what they wanted to accomplish and how. Never tapped their fingers on a map and glanced at their watches when I was late at getting them to expedition corner.
I am horrible at seeing the big picture. The point, the purpose, the meaning, the clincher. Whatever you want to call it, I am horrible at plotting it into my own books until I have at least a hundred pages written out of characters scrambling randomly and most times madly in and out of bizarre circumstances and even stranger one-page visitors.
I can see it in other books. In fact, I get a kick out of predicting the purpose behind a book. I never read one without readying myself to do battle with the author's attempt to sneak the moral behind my back. But how am I to plan one myself, and make it ring true and feel real? I get stuck. Mentally. Sometime physically.
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So, my goal is to figure it out. This is my challenge and I mean to solve it. Maybe I need to literally write it all out in a 60 pointer outline. Or maybe I just need to talk to my characters more and actually listen to them instead of ranting about how they should be. Or maybe I just need to sit back, relax my itching fingers a moment, and don't type anything until I know where I am going.
What about you guys?
Do any of you struggle with this?
What do your plotlines look like?
Do you know where your story is going before you start writing?
How do you come up with the "moral" or "meaning" behind your book?
Does it come out at once?
Or do you wait until later to figure it out?
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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Once Upon a Time... linkup: Fear

The day has come...

I am super excited to see how this goes. I have never done a linkup before but always enjoy doing them on other friends blogs. So here we go....

The prompt for today is fear.

My section will come from my fantasy novel, The Last Scribe.

Word count: 344
Ó Pure Grace

Keep walking. Just walk. Think. Try to figure it out. Zealeth would have. He would have deciphered a way to escape by now. And he would have made sure the scroll, Mikailah, and the packs were with him. And that dagger now sitting in Grislun’s belt.
So what am I doing still following behind this green clad Sargonian warrior?
I choke on my fear and I know what I am doing. Letting it swallow me up, bit by bit, until there is nothing left. A cold wind cuts through me and my wet clothing, causing me to shiver again. My feet are icicles, my tunic stuck to me, and everything is so numb I can pinch myself and not feel it. I’m going to be sick if I don’t warm up. I don’t even realize how badly I’m shaking until Grislun laughs, as if reading my mind. "Weakling. You couldn't find the guts to run even if you wanted."
I clamp my teeth hard and bite into my tongue. Blood rushes all over inside my mouth, its bitter taste sliding down my throat and filling my nose. I ignore it. My heart is jagged, broken and I don’t know if it will ever go back to normal. It felt this way when Zealeth was killed. It felt like this when I left Aunt Deara. I don’t know where the pain comes from. I don’t know why I feel it. I didn’t love them. I can’t love. Nobody can. Nobody has loved for a long, long time. But the pain is still there.
I wipe my nose on my shoulder and try to stop shaking. I need my mind to work. It feels frozen, like everything around me. The ground crunches beneath my feet. I can make out at least seven men walking with us. They don’t appear to be stopping for the night.
It is now I do it. I give up. Everything inside me tells me it is over. And I haven’t even done anything. I never do.
So what is the point?

Join the Once Upon a Time... linkup:

Post a selection from your current WIP no larger than 500 words to your blog.

If there is a prompt, make sure your section fits the requirements.

Add the Once Upon a Time... linkup button:

Connect your link using the linkup button on Wednesdays (they will always be held on Wednesdays)!

And voila, you are done! Don't forget to visit the other blogs and drop a line.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Guest Post by author Cait Drews

I asked my good friend Cait to do a guest post for me yesterday. I wasn't sure if she would be able to scramble something up for me on such short notice, but, as always, she surprised and delighted me with this frabjous post. Enjoy!!!

Readers have a super sixth sense when it comes to characters. They can smell a fake a kilometre away.

As writers, one of the most important things we do is create characters. Serious characters. Lively characters. Annoying characters. Besides good plots (because, yes, good plots are kind of important too) characters are the most important thing to waltz through your story. I read Lemony Snicket’s books purely for his characters. And maybe his humour is pretty amusing too. But I digress.
When a new (and soon to be poorly abused) character graces my novels, they have a list of requirements to fulfil. First, they fill out a form promising they will not prosecute in court if their part in my novel goes seriously wrong. Second, they give me a rough idea of their looks, name, and brief back story. And third (most important too), they list their quirks.
quirk: (noun)
meaning an odd mannerism or peculiar habit

Quirks are very important. They define your characters. They make your characters real. And they’re kind of fun to write.
So knowing your characters need quirks is different to giving them out. How do you do it? Where do they fit in? What kind of quirks?

A good place for figuring out funky quirks is – you. And the people in your life.  

Does your father wipe his glasses when he’s thinking? Do you chew your index finger when you’re worried? Does your neighbour water his flowers at exactly eight o’clock every night? (Which leads you to wonder if there are bodies under the veranda…)

But when looking for different quirks, go far and wide. Don’t make the mistake of replicating everyone you personally know in your books. 

Your characters might be fast eaters. Their breath might smell like lemongrass. They might have an intense look in their eyes at all times. They might jump at the slightest movement. Or do they do rub their hands on their trousers when they’re anxious? Are their feet constantly moving? Is their hair always in their face?

Places to put quirks in your characters’ personalities:

In their dialogue
In their posture
In their facial expression
In their movements
In their clothing style

Some quirks to avoid (because they’re becoming cliché):

Biting bottom lip
Crooked smile
Impossibly hot looks
Running hand through hair
Laughter like tinkling bells

Quirks make characters real. A real character puts life into your novel. And that’s what we writers want, isn’t it?

Do your characters have quirks? Are they realistic and relatable? Tell me a few!

Between writing, eating pistachio nuts, and reading Lemony Snicket, Cait blogs at Notebook Sisters. Because research is too hard, she writes fantasy, a little on the darker side, and has finished six novels. Her favourite hobby is rewriting said six novels. She is 18 years old, a homeschool graduate, and chocolate devotee. If she’s not practising the cello, haunting the library or blogging about her frabjous adventures, you can find her at the computer, creating whole new worlds.

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Monday, October 15, 2012

Stories in the Mind's first linkup!!!

After some deliberation, I decided to host a linkup. I'm not sure if I'm entirely sane, but regardless, I am excited to see how this goes.

First, I had to learn how to use inlinkz.

Easier said than done. I think I traveled through almost every possible page on that sight before stumbling on the one that showed me what I was looking for (knowing a linkup is called a collection would have been helpful....).

But, the struggles are over, victory was had, and now I am hosting a linkup! Hurrah!

How to be a part:

This is going to be a chance for creative writer's (fantasy, fiction, historical, poets) to display portions of their work. The linkup is called "Once Upon a Time..."

All you have to do is post a selection from your current WIP no larger than 500 words to your blog.

If there is a prompt, make sure your section fits the requirements.

Add the Once Upon a Time... linkup button:


Connect your link using the linkup button on Wednesdays (they will always be held on Wednesdays)!

And voila, you are done! Don't forget to visit the other blogs and drop a line.

For this week, I am going to issue the prompt: fear.

Come back on Wednesday and enter your links!!!!


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

On My Bookshelf: The Twelve Trademarks of Great Literature

My father bought this book, The Twelve Trademarks of Great Literature, for me about six months ago at a conference. When I first saw it, I thought it was going to be another let-me-tell-you-what-is-a-good-book-and-what-is-not pamphlet that had been stretched and lengthened into as many pages as the publishers could manage. I just knew it would trip all over itself with redundant phrases and ideas and tell me a bunch of facts I already knew.

Because of that, I didn't open it for five months. When I did, I read the introduction, stuck a bookmark in it, stuck it under the twenty other books on my nightstand, and forgot all about it.

Two nights ago, I pulled it out of the stack and began flipping through it. After a minute, I was glued to the pages.

The Twelve Trademarks of Great Literature:
1. The dogma is the drama.
2. Maintains proportion and perspective.
3. Maintains the appropriate pace.
4. Demonstrates an economy of words.
5. Flows uninterruptedly.
6. Unfailingly chooses the mot juste.
7. Makes the reader sympathize with at least one character.
8. Rewards attentive re-reading.
9. Shows rather than tells.
10. Expresses the inexpressible.
11. Moves you.
12. Creates with a distinct voice.

When I first read this list, my jaw dropped. Not only is it 100% correct, but it leaves so much room for personal opinion, while stating irrefutable truth. The writing is very clear and speaks directly to the issues it brings up.

I am excited to finish this book now and can't wait to share what I learn!

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Saturday, October 6, 2012

Writer's Block


We all have those days. When we just can't write. Everything seems to be toppling over each other and the ideas get stuck in our head. We are so tied up mentally, we can't even think. Our mind is numb. Our heads hurt. All we want to do is just be done. For good.

Writing is my 6th sense.

I carry a piece of notebook paper and a pencil with me everywhere I go. In my purse. In my pocket. To work. To friend's houses. I can't escape it. I don't want to. It is a part of me, deep down.

And yet, the time comes when you stare at a page, filled with tiny, mixed up black letters, and nothing comes.

Where to go next, your mind races. Where to go next. Do we start a new adventure? Do we add a new character? Do we roll down a cliff? Do we sail on the sea?

Quest for storyline is one of my biggest challenges.

Writer's block is my biggest enemy.

And so I will offer my first bit of advice:

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All it takes is sitting down, setting your fingers against the keypad, and letting them fly. You don't have to know where you are going next. Just let the characters lead. Some of the best stories come from undeveloped idea's that flow out from the spur of the moment. Who knew the enemy would jump out just then? Who knew it was time to catapult that friend into a tree? Who knew sickness was so contagious to those made of paper and ink.

But this I do know:

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Set the mind to the task. Let it soar on the wings of imagination. Create, design, inspire, renew.... The world is at your fingertips. You just have to decide how to use it. Everything is story fabric, if we just learn to use it. Stitch it together in such a way, that no one will ever recognize the seam.

So I have found that often times, the way to erase writers block is by just writing.

It doesn't have to be where I am in the book. It doesn't have to be poetic or pretty. It can read like an obnoxious donkey for all I have to care. Just get it out. Let the words take shape. And they will find their way. It will come back.

Another method I use to conquer writers block is Pinterest. The inspiration and idea's I get from scrolling through the pages of pictures is overwhelming. Stories grow, spring to life, scream in my mind to be let loose. By one simple picture, my imagination is released and courses through my whole being.

A second and favorite way to conquer writers block is to pick up a beloved book and lose myself in its pages. Words, tantalizing, vivid, intense, spring from the page and help me to remember ideas and thoughts I had for my own book. There are several books to which I always go to when I find myself lost for what to write. All it takes to unlock the soul and spirit of the author deep down inside me is a well written book. It molds my creativity and carries all the mental blockage away.

One last thing: a friend of mine is hosting a first time ever book giveaway at her blog, The Writer's Lair. October 16th is Dictionary Day (hurrah! I LOVE the dictionary) and she is giving away Barbara Ann Kipfer's Flip Dictionary. In order to enter to win, all you must do is hop on over to her blog (the link is the one I put up here on Stories in the Mind) and "join" her blog and then follow the rules on the page. I can't wait to see who ends up with this splendid book!

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