Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Always Look On The Bright Side of Life (an IWSG Post)

It's the first Wednesday of the month, which means it's time for another action-packed installment of the Insecure Writer's Support Group!

(I'm assuming that anyone coming to this blog is well-versed in the IWSG by now, but if you're new, please click on the above link for more information and/or a complete list of participants...)

This month's awesome co-hosts are...Tonja Drecker, Beverly Stowe McClure, Nicki Elson, and Tyrean Martinson!

This month's (optional) question asks, "How would you describe your future writer self, your life, and what it looks and feels like if you were living the dream? Or if you are already there, what does it look and feel like? What would you change or improve?"

I'm going to kind of answer this question, but kind of not, and then I'm probably going to ramble for a little while because I'm me and that's what I do.

I've spent most of the year in a pretty deep funk from which I have not yet managed to escape.

Which means that me living the author dream these days is pretty much me wanting to pull an Emily Dickinson or a JD Salinger-type thing and move to an isolated cottage on an island off the coast of Maine where I would live with a pack of Irish Wolfhounds with whom I would take long, moody walks along the shore and never publish another book ever again.

(See: funk)

But as I am incredibly lazy, I probably won't do that. At this point, I wonder if I can find my way out of the funk, but as the options are I either will or won't, I don't really need to talk about it. Instead, I am going to focus on what I did manage to accomplish this year. It's not a very long list, but that's okay.

—I finished the Terrible Romance Novel and sent it out to three beta readers, one of which was my brilliant and lovely goddaughter because she begged to be allowed to read it first, and there is nothing I wouldn't do for her. Including writing and finishing a terrible romance novel. Well, she loved it and sent me the sweetest, funniest text messages about the story while reading the story. Which means, even if I don't do anything else with this project, it was well worth the effort. I love that kid. Even if she now wants me to write a sequel.

—I participated in and won NaNoWriMo this year. I crossed the finish line a whopping five days early and barely dragged myself over it before succumbing to the flu, but I still managed a win. Sure, I didn't accomplish what I had hoped to accomplish with this particular WIP at the start of November, and sure, my characters spent an inordinate amount of time talking about goats for some reason, and sure, most of those 50,000 words will likely end up in the deleted scene file before long, but it's cool. A couple of interesting scenes came out of it, with some interesting and unexpected character interactions, which will perhaps beget other interesting scenes/character interactions sometime in the near future. And maybe goats will turn out to be super vital. I doubt it, but it could happen.

—My brother who always has done a much better job of promoting my work than I ever will (again, see: funk, and general awkwardness), recommended my fantasy series, The Coileáin Chronicles, to a co-worker of his who not only read them but liked them enough to actually be interested in reading the third book in the series. She's not the only one, either. There's, like, three people (none of whom are related to me) who want to read it. And while that feels like a lot of pressure (again, see: funk and general awkwardness), I really do appreciate their interest. Those are not short books, and I am grateful for anyone willing and able to make the time commitment to reading them.

—I somehow ended up running four separate writers groups in my area. (Yeah. Four. I don't know how it happened, either.) And even though I run these groups (meaning weird, ramble-y, ultra-awkward and funk-prone me spends a fair amount of time standing front of people and talking out loud to them about various things), people keep showing up for the meetings. (Yeah. I don't understand it, either.) So I am celebrating the fact that I haven't (yet, anyway) killed the groups.

And on that note, that's gonna do it for me today.

What are you celebrating this year?

As this will likely be my last post for 2019, let me take this opportunity to say Happy Holidays, everyone. Whatever you choose to celebrate, I hope it's a good one.

See y'all next year!

Friday, November 15, 2019

Sleigh Rides and Barbie Vans

Hi, everyone!

Today, I am emerging from the NaNoWriMo caves to celebrate Elaine Kaye's latest release, Sleigh Ride. (Possibly funny side note: for some reason, auto-correct keeps changing 'sleigh' to 'slight.' Apparently, auto-correct isn't quite ready to celebrate the holidays.)

To celebrate, Elaine asked participants to share a favorite holiday memory. I've decided to share with you the very first one to pop into my head. So, I don't know if it's exactly a favorite, but it's apparently the most memorable.

All right, so many, many moons ago, I was very much into Barbie. As was my older sister. I don't recall how old my younger sister was at the time of this tale, but I'm sure she was at least a little bit into Barbie as well, if for no other reason than we were.

On this fateful Christmas morning, we went out to the living room to see what Santa had brought us, and there it was...the most amazing Barbie accessory ever created—the Barbie motor home. (The Star Traveler, for the purists out there.)

I was so excited. At last, my Barbies could travel in style to exotic places such as other rooms in the house. This baby was fully loaded with decals up the wazoo, and one of those super cool bench seat things that transformed into a bed—just like in a real motor home—and a rooftop deck thing, complete with lounge chair and a thing I think was maybe supposed to be a grill or something.

This was a super sweet ride, and I couldn't wait to start my adventures.

And then the hammer fell.

Santa had not brought the Barbie Star Traveler motor home for me.

He had brought it for my older sister.

Leaving me to utter the now-classic (in my family) line, "But...I want the Barbie van."

I did not get Barbie van. If I remember correctly, Santa brought me the Barbie Dream swimming pool. When I attempted to make lemonade out of lemons and said that at least I could put water in the pool and have real pool parties with my Barbies, my mother (rightfully) had to inform me that would not be happening.

Despite the double disappointment, they still managed to take this picture of me not looking quite so much like the petulant child I was sure I was being that day:

I love my family. (I really do. That's not sarcasm or anything. I know it can be hard to tell on this blog what may or may not be sarcasm, so just know I'm being incredibly sincere there.)

Now, let's talk about Sleigh Ride (which is so super cute, y'all. I can't even.)...

On Christmas Eve, Gregory and Sammy get a special visitor—Santa Claus! Santa brings them on a once-in-a-lifetime adventure around the world and to the North Pole. Bundle up and come along for the ride!

General Age Range: Kids 4-8 (story picture book)

Find it online at:


Get Pea Soup Disaster now!

About the Author

Elaine Kaye is the author of A Gregory Green Adventure Series. She created Gregory Green after her son, who loved her homemade pea soup.

Kaye has worked as a library assistant and teacher's assistance in elementary schools. She currently lives in Florida, but has called Michigan; Honolulu, Hawaii; and Okinawa, Japan home.

Website | Goodreads | Amazon | Instagram | Facebook

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Have You Googled Her Yet? (An IWSG Post)

Hello, all!

It's the first Wednesday of the month (I think) which means (I think) it's time for another action-packed installment of the Insecure Writer's Support Group!

As usual, I am assuming that if you're reading this post, you're already familiar with the IWSG, but if you're new and/or looking for more information and/or a complete list of participants, please click on the above link.

This month's awesome co-hosts are Sadira Stone, Patricia Josephine, Lisa Buie-Collard, Erika Beebe, and C. Lee McKenzie.

This month's (optional) question asks, "What's the strangest thing you've ever googled in researching a story?"

(Possibly interesting side note: one of the earliest known uses of 'google' as a verb was in a season seven episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, a line that acts as the title of today's post because that's just the kind of nerd I am.) 

Welp, considering I'm a fantasy author who throughly enjoys torturing characters, I've googled some pretty strange things in my lifetime. Strange and disturbing enough that I'm sure to be on some government watchlist somewhere called something like, "Googles a lot of weird shit, but claims to be a writer, so it might be kind of okay, but someone to keep an eye on just in case."

But the funniest thing I think I've ever had to google for a story was that time I had to research "what do people do on dates" for my terrible romance novel because I honestly had no freaking clue.

(Yet somehow, my significant other and I recently celebrated our 23rd anniversary together. Sure, that celebration looked like the two of us sitting on our couch, eating take-out, and watching reruns of Happy Endings (a truly hysterical sitcom canceled way before its time), but we're both super socially awkward introverts, so yeah. It was pretty much always going to look like that. Hence the googling of the date ideas...)

If you were curious, my characters ended up going to a bar to listen to a local rock band perform. Thanks, Google!

All right. That's it for me today. Hope everyone's having a great November. If you're participating in NaNoWriMo, I hope you're kicking some word-count ass.

Thanks for stopping by—see y'all in December.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Just Keep Writing (An IWSG Post)

Hello, all!

It's the first Wednesday of the month, which means it's time for another action-packed installment of the Insecure Writer's Support Group!

(Assuming you're all familiar with this by now, but in case you're new, please click on the above link for more information as well as a complete list of participants...)

This month's awesome co-hosts are: Ronel Janse van Vuuren, Mary Aalgaard, Madeline Mora-Summonte, and Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor.

This month's (optional) question asks, "It's been said that the benefits of becoming a writer who does not read is that all your ideas are new and original. Everything you do is an extension of yourself, instead of a mixture of you and another author. On the other hand, how can you expect other people to want your writing, if you don't enjoy reading? What are your thoughts?"

I had every intention of skipping this question, but let me just say I believe writers should read. Not just in the genre in which they write, but multiple genres. As well as non-fiction and poetry and any other damn book they come across that piques their interest. Not reading doesn't seem like a guarantee that your ideas will be new and original so much as it means you'll be unaware of it if they're not.

But that's my opinion. We welcome yours.

Anyway, I've spent a not-insignificant amount of time this year questioning whether I have any business being in this business.

Not writing, per say. Writing is just something I've done ever since I learned to hold a writing utensil and construct complete sentences. I can't seem to not write.

Take yesterday, for example. Yesterday, I decided to play hooky from work (translation: writing and thinking deep thoughts about whether I have any business being in this business) to go play in Harry Potter World, one of the few not-terrible things about this godforsaken swamp state in which I currently reside. But what did I do when I got there?

Went to the Hogs Head Tavern, ordered myself a Hogs Head Tea (translation: the HP World's version of a Long Island Iced Tea), sat at a table, and wrote eight freaking pages for a current WIP (Book Three of my fantasy series, if you're curious).

Because I am truly terrible at not writing. (And playing hooky, apparently.)

Yet, I constantly feel like I don't belong in the writing/publishing community. Which, granted, is not a new feeling. I've pretty much always felt like that, no matter where I am or what I'm doing.

But the writing/publishing part of it seems like it's getting worse. I don't know what it is about this year, but I just can't seem to shake it or, at the very least, contain it for short periods of time. It's only a problem because writing/publishing is supposed to be my career or whatever. I'm not entirely sure what to do about it. Maybe there's nothing I can do about it. Maybe I'll just always be like this because, as I have stated in previous posts, I am entirely comprised of complexes and Dr. Pepper.

The only thing I know to do is just keep writing. (Cue the Dory memes!) Construct one sentence, then work on the next. Finish one scene, then start on the next.

Maybe I'll figure out the rest along the way.

Until then, I'll...

Thanks for stopping by today. If my current pattern holds, I will very likely disappear off the face of the blogosphere until next month's IWSG post, so I hope y'all have a wonderful month and a very happy Halloween and Thanksgiving (if you're Canadian. Or just wish you were.)

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

The Curious Case of Chapter 36 (An IWSG Post)

It's the first Wednesday of the month, which means it's time for another action-packed installment of the Insecure Writer's Support Group...

(I'm assuming if you're here, you're already well-versed in the IWSG, but if you're interested in additional information or just looking for a complete list of participants, please click on the above link.)

This month's awesome co-hosts are: Renee Scattergood, Sadira Stone, Jacqui Murray, Tamara Narayan, and LG Keltner.

This month's (optional) question asks, "Has your writing ever taken you by surprise? For example, a positive or belated response to a submission you'd forgotten about, or an ending you never saw coming?"

I think it's been well established on this blog that I have some serious plotter qualities. If you were to see my office, you'd think I was single handedly keeping the Post-it Note industry alive because they're all over the walls (and occasionally the trim and doors and the floors and pretty much anything else that'll hold still long enough) creating a visual representation of the story I'm trying to tell.

I like having that plan. I like having that road map. It's helpful to be able to see that if my characters do A, that'll lead to B, which leads to C, and so on and so forth. I think it makes my writing life slightly simpler.

However, even with all the plotting and planning, there are still things I don't know will happen in the book, and they occasionally surprise the ever-living hell out of me when they come to light. In the third book of my fantasy series, for example, there's a character I knew was doing to die. I've known this death has been coming since the first book, but I didn't know how it would happen. Last November, I discovered how it would happen (may sound like an odd word choice, but it really was a discovery) and I was pretty devastated by it. (Not, you know, devastated enough to, you know, not kill that character in that way because it really is pretty perfect for the story, but still...I feel bad.)

I am truly awful to my characters.

Which is why I shouldn't be surprised when, every now and then, my characters look at my carefully laid-out storyboards, at all my hard work, and say, "Hey, that's a nice story map you got there. It'd be a shame if someone were to come along and...mess it up."

And then they blow that storyboard to smithereens.

The last scene in Chapter 36 of Second Nature is a prime example. I knew down to the last period how that scene was supposed to go. I had written it in a notebook—exactly the way I wanted it to play out—and all I had to do was type it into the main manuscript file-thing. Easy, right?


It all started with one little change to a line of dialogue. It just came out as I was typing, and there it was, on the monitor. No big deal, so I shrugged and carried on. Soon, another line of dialogue changed, then another and another. And a few more, and before I knew it, I was caught in some kind of story avalanche that just swept me away.

By the time I reached the end of that scene and typed that final period, I literally sat back in my desk chair and said...

But I knew it was right. Even though I hadn't planned on it, even though it wasn't on a storyboard, I knew that's what had to happen. Sure, that change meant I had to go back and rewrite not-insignificant chunks of the rest of the book, and quite a few chapters in Effigy, too, but it was the right thing to do for the series. The series, I believe, is stronger for it.

I have a love/hate relationship with those moments where the characters take over the asylum or whatever. I hate them because look at my pretty, pretty storyboards and all the work I did to create them! But I love those moments because they almost always lead me to a better story.

And that's what it's all about.

(I apologize if you now have the Hokey Pokey stuck in your head.)

Your turn. Has your writing ever taken you by surprise?

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Pieces of Me (an IWSG Post)

Hello, all!

It's the first Wednesday of the month, which means it's time for another action-packed installment of the Insecure Writers Support Group.

(I'm assuming by now that anyone coming here is well-versed in the IWSG, but in the event that you're new, or would like more information or a complete list of participants, please click on the above link.)

This month's co-hosts are: Erika Beebe, Natalie Aguirre, Jennifer Lane, Lisa Buie-Collard, Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor, and some weirdo who calls herself M.J. Fifield.

This month's (optional) question asks, "What personal traits have you written into your characters?"

The answer is...all of them, apparently.

I am a sarcasm-based lifeform. Therefore, my characters all naturally have sarcastic tendencies built into their DNA. Some may be more sarcastic and surly than others (I'm looking at you, Cate...) but yeah. Sarcasm exists in all of them to some extent.

Nia, the main character of my terrible, horrible, no-good, bad romance novel, and Cate, Second Nature's lead, seem to be the worst offenders. They have inspired many an exchange in my critique group that goes a little something like this:

Them: I love that your character does *insert surly, sarcastic action here*. That's such a you thing to do.

Me: But it's not me.

Them: Oh, it's you. 

Which makes me feel bad for Nia and Cate because I am a complete mess. I'm an OCD-ridden, anxiety-prone, control freak who's entirely comprised of inferiority complexes and Dr. Pepper. I really didn't mean for them to be like that, too. 

So if it's true (which I suspect it is), it wasn't done intentionally (beyond the sarcasm, anyway), and all I can do is hope that it at least makes for interesting reading.

And maybe not let any of my critique partners read any sex scenes I might write. That just might be a little too weird. Even for me.

I was looking for a good gif to use here and this came up in the
search results. Don't know what it has to do with anything, but
it made me laugh, so I decided to go with it.

And on that note, I'm outta here. Thanks for stopping by today. I'll try to do better the next time. 

P.S...Happy Belated Canada Day to all my Canadian friends!

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

World Building With Tara Tyler

Happy Wednesday, everyone!

Today, I'm turning My Pet Blog's keys over to awesome author Tara Tyler, who will be talking about world building as well as her brand new release!

Take it away, Tara!


Thank you for having me over, MJ!

Ever daydream about being somewhere else? A sunny, secluded beach with the sounds of the surf gently washing onto the shore at your feet, a salty sea breeze blowing through your hair, the warm sun tanning your skin to a deep blue...

Wait, blue? That's right, blue. You're in another world. Now, wake up. You have to get back to work! JK, finish reading my post first =)

Were you able to imagine that scene? Did the fact that you were blue change how it looked and felt?That's one of the parts of

Fantasy World-Building

Disclaimer: Most of the work you put into Fantasy World-Building is backstory that no one will know except you. The important pieces should be revealed as the story goes along--never told in a big chunk all at once (that is "telling") But building the world is severely important. Just like a skyscraper: no one sees the foundation, but the building would fall down without it! Got it? Good.

Step One: The physical. These questions can help you solidify the beginnings of your world.
  • How big is your world? A planet? A solar system? or just a village? or even a closet?
  • What does it look like? Plants/Desert? Light/Dark? Colorful/Bland? Air/Water? 
  • Who lives there? And what do they look like?
If you want to make things easier on yourself, you can choose a setting that "builds itself" - one you don't have to describe in too much detail. A reader can imagine what an underground tunnel city looks like, you just fill in details of the characters' specifics and lives. 

Emax lives with his grandmother and works at a library in an underground city. Even though his eyes take up most of his face like the other Undeez, he has to wear glasses to read, which makes him well-respected and distinguished.

Step Two: The hierarchy. Who's in charge and why? What are the rules & consequences? Magic is usually involved in fantasy, so that has to be defined, with limitations (no one is invincible or it won't be a good story) Most importantly, why are you telling the MC's story? What makes her/him special?

The library is an amazing labyrinth of knowledge. Only the most educatable are allowed to work there. It's Emax's responsibility to bestow the information in the library to the rest of the Undeez in their weekly congregations. Though he is highly respected, he feels his life is being wasted with these dullards, and that's why he started digging. Up.

Step Three: Language. I respect anyone who can develop a new language that needs translation--that is intense and takes a ton of time and effort--not for me. BUT! You must have special words for things. Modern things we have that they might use need new names. You wouldn't say: a phone, a computer, a toilet, a baseball bat, etc. You'd use unique-to-your-world things like: a vine-line, a pulse-wave decoder, going to the hole, and a whacker stick... plus whatever special items that only your world has. Words are ultra-important to making your world real. You also need to come up with:
  • slang terms
  • hand gestures/body language
  • magic terms and uses
  • habits and rituals
His wrist vibrates, making Emax fumble the high stack of books he was carrying. From under the pile, he glances at the glowing clepsydrator and taps it off. He's going to be late. Again.

Step Four: Incorporate your world into your story. Sounds easy enough. Don't bring up the past, don't tell how things work, don't explain the magic. You have to weave the backstory and details into the story. It's a normal day, and this is what happens... slip your special words, backstory info, and magic pieces in as you go!

After divulging a very important lesson at the congregation, Emax sighs. The brainless Undeez laugh as if it's the funniest joke ever told, when in reality it's a historical catastrophe where their ancestors were destroyed by the Great Flood.

On his way home, he walks past the Sludge Room and feels a tingle making his hair stand on end. He wonders if it's a sign, reminding him of his dreams of another disaster that have been haunting his sleep. He's afraid to tell anyone about his portends, even his grandmother. If the Grays find out, they'll lock him in a zap station to share his foretelling dreams with the rest of the clan's minds and he'll be trapped until it comes true. He quickens his pace to work on his digging. He must to find a way out!

That was fun! Hope you enjoyed my little demo.

Knowing your new world inside and out will also help you answer curious questions from readers--like J.K. Rowling gets bombarded with all the time. That could be you!

Side note: MJ's Coilean Chronicles are a fabulous perfection of fantasy world-building. I'm reading SECOND NATURE right now and loving every fantastic, dramatic minute of it!

Thanks again, MJ, for letting me come over and babble. And especially for all your support and help with my WINDY HOLLOW release! I had fun writing this post with a story-on-the-fly example.

In Beast World, fantasy creatures can barely get along with each other, nevermind admitting humans might exist. It's the young beasts who have the courage to take charge and open the adults' minds!

Beast World MG Fantasy Series, book #3
by Tara Tyler
Available NOW!

This summer, Gabe and his friends fly over the Great Sea for the wedding of the century: a dragon prince and a beautiful harpy. But Gabe can't relax on this vacation. Besides competing in rigorous wedding events, he overhears the nearby human village WINDY HOLLOW is in danger from an evil human scientist and a vengeful were-ogre experimenting on beasts. Gabe and his friends risk crossing the mountains to help, despite several warnings. 

Maybe he's going too far this time, but he's in too deep to quit. It's do or die, hopefully not die!

Tara Tyler has had a hand in everything from waitressing to rocket engineering. After moving all over the US, she now writes and teaches math in Ohio with her husband and one boy left in the nest. She has two series, Pop Travel (sci-fi detective thrillers) and Beast World (fantasy adventures), plus her UnPrincess novella series where the maidens save themselves. She's a commended blogger, contributed to several anthologies, and to fit in all these projects, she economizes her time, aka the Lazy Housewife—someday she might write a book on that... Make every day an adventure!

twitter: @taratylertalks
Instagram: taratylertalks
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