January 31, 2011

a typical night of dungeons & dragons

This blog is partially about gaming and dungeoneering, so I feel justified in having a post dedicated to the best game of all time, Dungeons & Dragons. In a few of my posts around here, I’ve mentioned the game, compared it to writing, and tried ever so inconspicuously to get you to start playing.

I've been on both sides of table now, and I can tell you that I probably enjoy being the Dungeon Master (DM) just as much as I love playing. They are two different beasts. As a player, the challenge is in the combat and skill encounters. You're trying to overcome the obstacles that the DM throws at you, all the while getting rich and famous. As the DM, the challenge is in entertaining and challenging the players. It's a dynamic experience. If the DM pits the players against monsters that are too high level or too low level, the players won't have as much fun. If the DM doesn't reward them sufficiently or rewards them unequally, the players can become frustrated with their efforts. If there appears to be no bigger picture, the players may wonder why they are playing in the first place.

You can see how DMing is easily comparable to writing.

January 28, 2011

review: tiger's curse

Tiger’s Curse by Colleen Houck

Passion. Fate. Loyalty.

Would you risk it all to change your destiny?

The last thing Kelsey Hayes thought she’d be doing this summer was trying to break a 300-year-old Indian curse. With a mysterious white tiger named Ren. Halfway around the world. But that’s exactly what happened. Face-to-face with dark forces, spellbinding magic, and mystical worlds where nothing is what it seems, Kelsey risks everything to piece together an ancient prophecy that could break the curse forever.

January 27, 2011

blogging for dummies

Kristen Lamb has an excellent series going on right now, all about blogging, that she updates every Wednesday. She knows her stuff, and I've learned a lot about social media from her blog.

Here are the links to that series. I'll try to keep it updated as she continues posting.

Part 1 - Meet the Bright Idea Fairy, then Shoot Her
Part 2 - Don’t Feed the Trolls
Part 3 - Tearing Up the SEO in 2011
Part 4 - The Future is Now
Part 5 - The Counterintuitive Nature of Social Media Influence
Part 6 - Maintaining Your Sanity and Your Blog
Part 7 - Fashion Faux Pas
Part 8 - Connecting with the Readers 
Part 9 - Selling Our Blog to the Readers

Update: Kristen started a new series!

Part 1 - Blogging and Maintaining Our Sanity
Part 2 - The New Fast Food of Writing 
Part 3 - Go Hard or Go Home 
Part 4 - More Blogging Cowbell

Kristen has many excellent posts on social media. She's definitely worth a read!

January 26, 2011

beta readers are the bomb-diggity

I'm surprised I haven't devoted a topic to this yet...

Get a second opinion.

If you've been reading my blog for a while, you know how much stock I put in beta-readers... a lot. Everyone knows that your novel or your short story is your baby, the infantile, literary copy of yourself. Sending it out into the world to be viewed by the literary hawks (or sharks) that drive the industry is a daunting and scary task.

January 25, 2011

author interview: darby karchut

Today, I welcome the lovely Darby Karchut whose debut novel Griffin Rising comes out June 15th, 2011 from Twilight Times Books. She’s also granted me an ARC of said novel, so I hope to have a review up for you in the coming months.

For centuries, rumors have abounded of a lowly caste of supernatural beings known as the Terrae Angeli. Armed with the power to control Earth, Fire, Wind and Water, these warriors secretly serve as guardians for mortals in danger.
But for one young angel-in-training, Griffin, life is hell as a cruel master makes his apprenticeship a nightmare. On the verge of failing, a new mentor, Basil, enters his life and changes it forever. It is their father-and-son relationship, sometimes turbulent, often hilarious, always affectionate, that sings through the story like a pure note.

Masquerading as the average teen next door, Griffin struggles to learn his trade, navigate the ups and downs of modern life among humans (including falling in love with the girl next door), and prepare for the ancient trial-by-combat every apprentice must pass at sixteen or be forced to become mortal.

January 24, 2011

writing motifs

Inspired by the lovely Anassa over at Specnology, I've stolen her blog post on writing motifs and made it my own.

A writing motif is an idea, theme, object, or person that recurrently appears in one's writing. After looking through most of my writing, both new and old stories, I've found my motifs (in no particular order):
  1. Princes. I'm a sucker for fairy tales, so it's no wonder that most of my stories have a princely character. My first novels had the clich├ęd, mysterious boy who turned out to be the unacknowledged heir to a kingdom. I'll admit: I still fancy this sort of prince. My current work in progress has two princes. I don't know what it is about princes that I find so appealing, but I can promise you that I'll almost always write about them.

January 21, 2011

fantasy research

I don’t know how or if the rest of you research things for your novel, but I probably spend a good third of the time spent writing a draft doing research. You may think that fiction doesn’t require much research, especially fantasy.

Non-fiction obviously calls for research in whatever topic the novel will cover. Some contemporary fiction necessitates research into current technologies, locations, etc. Historical fiction obviously requires research into time periods, historical technology, and notable figures. Science fiction may require in-depth study of a certain scientific principle or a projected technology.

Fantasy seems to be the one the genre that is free of constraints. Everything is made up, right? To an extent, but even the most bizarre fantasies have a grounding in reality. By taking the facts of reality and weaving them into a fantasy, you can make the world seem more real, even if the world you create could never actually exist.

January 20, 2011

snow day

Today, we're going to take a break from your usual programming, and in lieu of a somewhat educational, writerly type post, this will be somewhat personal. Read on at your own risk.

Even though I'm grown, and I no longer get the satisfaction of no school on snow days, I still have to fight the urge to go build a snowman. I want to make snow ice-cream, build an igloo, and just go outside and play. Unfortunately, I am at home by myself, and my dog hates snow.

January 19, 2011

document organization

[I feel like one of these days I'm going to skip a number and someone is going to freak out.]

Today's wisdom relates to technical things.

I'm not sure what word processor or other method of writing you use to transcribe your novel to digital/physical media, but I have a few ideas for document organization.

For those of you that use software like Scrivener, good for you. This article is pretty much useless for you.

For the rest of us...

Headings/Tabs are a writer's best friend.

January 18, 2011

tragic flaw

Traditionally, tragic heroes may possess many admirable qualities, but among them is one tragic flaw that puts them at odds with their destiny, their companions, or the powers that be. Ultimately, it leads to their destruction.

Most often, this tragic flaw is the hero's pride or arrogance - the hero's hubris. Tragic heroes are nearly superhuman, but they have a big ego. They ignore warnings or defy the moral code, thinking they are above the laws of gods and men. This arrogance brings the wrath of retribution upon the hero, and he dies inadvertently by his own hand.

January 17, 2011

blog award and linkage

BookGeek over at Reading Under the Influence honored me with a blog award this weekend!

As the rules require, seven facts about me:

I have an obsession with constantly changing my hair, from cut to color... right now it's similar to Quorra's hair from Tron: Legacy

If I could live anywhere in the world, I would move to New Zealand.

I have a nerdy creative disposition to the point where I create physical items that would be found in the world of my novels or of my D&D campaigns. I have a bag of wooden, handmade runes to attest to that.

January 14, 2011

story development

It’s Friday! Yay for the weekend!

Looking forward to Sunday, when I get to do a bit of epic D&D time. I’ve been working on building a story for my first campaign, and it’s coming along splendidly.

It got me thinking of how different writers approach their work.

Usually, I’m a pantser. When I first start a story, I just sit down and write it. I work out the plot kinks after the first draft. When it comes to D&D however, I plot more. I have to. I need to have at least a rough idea of what the players are going to face, where they might go, and who they’ll meet. With D&D, it’s more about the world-building at first. When I started working on this campaign, I thought of the characters first, the ones that the players will meet. I thought of the locations and brainstormed who the big baddie might be. For some reason, it felt flat. I didn’t understand why, because that’s how I work on stories. I create the characters and then the locations. It wasn’t working for me this time.

January 13, 2011

guest post: fledgling - the birth of a memoir

by Nancy Hinchliff

MARCH 2010: "I have started to formulate in my mind an approach to writing a memoir, but haven’t come up with anything concrete yet. I’ve been running a bed and breakfast for 16 years and want the memoir to be about my life there. I do not want it to be focused on my family, but rather on the interactions between me and my guests, employees, and colleagues. At this point, I don't know how to start..."

I wrote the above almost a year ago, when I made the decision to put all my stories and blogs posts about my years as an Innkeeper into memoir form. I had never written a memoir before and had no idea where how to start. But, like most of my new experiences in life, I just jumped right in. I started gathering information and talking to every writer I knew about memoir and what they thought it was. There was a lot of controversy and many were not able to give me a definitive answer. So I went to the dictionaries, online and off. I started formulating definitions and writing about them on my blogs, my writer’s sites, and all my social networking sites. I got a lot of feedback.

January 12, 2011

spell check is awesome

I'm cheating today and stealing some wisdom from a fellow blogger...

How Spell Check CAN Be Helpful When Proofreading

by Jo Hart

As a writer I tend to ignore spell check most of the time, after all it doesn’t pick up homophones like there/their/they’re and it will pick up any names or words it doesn’t recognise (quite annoying for a fantasy writer like me). However, spell check can be helpful, especially when it comes to that final proofread...

Read her list of how Spell Check can work for you over at The Graceful Doe's blog.

And if that isn't enough reading for you today, check out my post over at Nancy Hinchliff's blog, Writing for Young Adults and Children: How to Reach Your Target Audience.

January 11, 2011

character arc

I've been writing stories for a long time. I've suffered the dreaded critique sessions where others reveal my weak, flat characters, loose plot lines, and shoddy world-building... all to my utter embarrassment. I was at the point in my writing where I believed what I had written was golden. Everything. My pen flowed with golden genius. To have my words ripped apart like that, stepped on, mangled, ravaged, and defecated, was a hard blow to my self-esteem. Every time I got a bad critique, it made me want to quit writing. But I couldn't.... My critique group was actually a classroom. I would have to turn in another story in three weeks or my grade would suffer. I couldn't drop the class because I would have lost my scholarship for dropping too many hours.

I had only one path ahead of me... keep writing, and write better. By the end of the semester, I had one compliment to my writing: "You have an excellent grasp of pacing." To this day, I use that advice as a talisman against my doubts. Over the next few years, I wrote a lot. I wrote better. I came to the point where my short fiction had strong characters, solid plots, and seamless world-building, as well as phenomenal pacing. The problem? I didn't want to write short stories for the rest of my life. I wanted to write novels. And as most of you know, novels are a whole different monster.

January 10, 2011

establishing what is at stake

Through the course of working as a literary journal editor, I've noticed a trend in the stories that I reject. They do a poor job of establishing the stakes of the story, and I ask myself why is the story being told in the first place? Why do I care what happens?

For readers and viewers to be involved in the adventure, to care about the hero, they have to know near the beginning exactly what is at stake. What does the hero stand to gain or lose in the adventure? What will be the consequences for him if he succeeds, if he fails?

January 7, 2011

enjoying the scenery

As those of you that follow me on Twitter know, I’ve been catching up on The Adventures of Merlin. I absolutely love this show… the dynamic between the characters, the hilarity of the situations, and the ever present tone of underlying evil. I just love it.

My husband would hate it.

Not because of the characters, or the dialogue, or the low budget special effects, but because he already knows the ending. **Spoiler Alert** Arthur becomes King of Camelot, establishes the Knights of the Round Table, Lady in the Lake, Excalibur, Mordred, yada-yada-yada… The End. That’s how he sees a lot of stories. Any historical novel or movie that comes out, he wonders why anyone would read or watch it. They already know what happens.

January 5, 2011

branch out with your writing

Today's wisdom comes from my personal experience as a writer, as do many of my Wednesday Wisdom posts.

Open your mind.

It's true that I write fantasy and fantasy only, but that wasn't always the case. I used to write plenty of other things, but since then, I've come to a nice agreement with the genre table that I can't write anything but fantasy. Not won't write anything but fantasy, but can't

It seems silly, I'll admit. But, Brooke, surely you can write something other than fantasy. Just take out all the magic, put the protagonists in high school, and voila! not fantasy. Not true, at least not for me. 

So why is my wisdom for you today Open your mind? I'll tell you. 

January 4, 2011

backstory and exposition

I’m juggling a few topics today… and I’ve decided to hit you guys with the info-dump post because, well, it’s the most important one in my opinion. It’s the place most writers fail, especially when writing fantasy. I sometimes suffer from it in first drafts, but lately, I’ve gotten much better.

By definition, backstory is all the relevant information about a character’s history and background – what got them to the situation at the beginning of the story. Exposition is the art of gracefully revealing the backstory and any other pertinent information about the plot: the hero’s social class, upbringing, habits, experiences, and the prevailing social conditions and opposing forces that may affect the hero. Exposition is everything the audience needs to know to understand the hero and the story.

Backstory and exposition are among the hardest writing skills to master.

January 3, 2011

winner announcement and other things

Why are grapefruits so difficult to eat? I’m trying to be healthy 2011; stop making it so hard!

I have several things to talk about today, first of which, announcing the contest winners! My next contest will probably run around the spring equinox, since I’m a fan of seasonal celebrations.

It came down to a difficult battle courtesy of random.org, but the winner is…