Wednesday, May 1, 2019

The End of the Affair (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.

(If you're interested in more information about the group, signing up, and/or a complete list of participants, please click on the above link.)

This month's awesome co-hosts are Lee Lowery, Juneta Key, Yvonne Ventresca, and T. Powell Coltrin.

This month's (optional) question asks, "What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?"

But I'm going to skip that so I can talk ramble (because there is no plan for this post. It is a straight-up ramble) about something I can't seem to get out of my head.

Let's talk ramble about endings. Specifically, endings to series.

So, maybe you haven't heard of it, but there's this little show out in the world called Game of Thrones (Don't worry—this will be a SPOILER-FREE post.) A few hours before the final season premiere aired, I saw a tweet that asked, "On a scale from 1 to LOST, how disappointing will the end of Game of Thrones be?"

Which seems to suggest that the writer of that tweet is expecting to be disappointed.

And ever since then, I have been filled with Deep Thoughts.

It seems unfair to assume that the end of a show will be disappointing before we've even seen it. I mean, sure, it absolutely could be disappointing. But isn't there a chance it won't be disappointing? Which is not to suggest that every viewer in the world will feel the same way about the ending—that sort of thing doesn't happen, I know—and a lot of times, an ending is disappointing (see: How I Met Your Mother) so maybe a disappointing ending is inevitable.

But what's a writer to do? Is it possible, do you think, to create a satisfying ending for a series, or is it some kind of mission impossible situation that we're all just doomed to fail? Because we don't determine what makes an ending disappointing. That power rests in the hands of the readers/viewers. And maybe Game of Thrones will be disappointing because there's no way for it to live up to readers/viewers' expectations.

One of my current WIPs is the third book in my fantasy series (NOTE: THIS IS NOT ME SUGGESTING IN ANY WAY, SHAPE, OR FORM THAT MY BOOKS ARE AT ALL COMPARABLE TO ASOIAF. BECAUSE THEY ARE NOT). It's not meant to be the true end of a series because my current plan is to eventually write books 4-6, but Book Three is meant to be an ending (meaning, not of the cliffhanger variety) just in case I never actually get around to writing the other three. Which knowing me and how long it takes me to write anything could very well happen.

But that's not the point. Not that I really have a point because I don't. I only have a ramble.

Anyway, I was visiting with one of my beta readers over the weekend and she brought up how scared she is to read Book Three because she's afraid she'll be super mad at me (or at least author me) when she's done. A couple of other readers have expressed their desire for happy endings for certain characters. So, are they going to be mad if those characters don't get happy endings?

Here's the thing (or, at least a thing)—I'm going to write this story the way it demands to be written, regardless of what my readers have told me they want or don't want. If characters need to die, they're going to die. If characters find a way to a happy ending, I'll...well, I'll be super surprised, but if that ends up being best for the story, then absolutely. Live happily ever after, character. More power to you.

Whatever happens, it seems the odds that I'm going to write an ending that disappoints my readers (or at least some of them) are pretty damn good. And I'm okay with that. At least I think I am. In a million years when I've actually published this book, I may find out otherwise, but for the moment, I think I'm okay with that. I suspect I may even delight in it a little bit because I am a terrible person.

But who knows. I don't. All I know is that I can't stop thinking about writing endings, and this post is very long, so here comes the part where I turn things over to you, o writers who are far wiser than I am.

What do you think? What series (either TV or books, or movies—dealer's choice) have you found to be satisfying or disappointing? Have you written the ending of a series? How did it go? Also, how is it May already?

Thanks for stopping by and suffering through my rambling. I'll try to do better next time.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Writemare on Elm Street, Part Two + May Goals

Hi, everyone.

Despite my best intentions, I have not been a very prolific blogger—or anything else, for that matter—lately. I've been distracted by Game of ThronesAvengers: Endgame, and life in general. This week, I'm back in Maine on my second official unofficial writer's retreat and I have one goal in mind:


I am embarrassingly far behind where I had hoped to be at this point in the year. So far behind that it may be too late to really do anything about it. But that doesn't mean I can't try to salvage whatever I can. Right?

So with that in mind, here are my goals for the merry month of May:

1. Complete edits on the Terrible Romance Novel

Yeah. This project could be going better. I have been dragging my feet on the edits thus far, just because I keep cringing at how...not good the beginning of this book is. The problem is when I was writing it, I wasn't sure what exactly I was writing. Now that I have the ending working out and know better what this story is supposed to be, I need to go back and make the start of it all fall in line with the rest. Which is taking far longer than I planned. Which I think means I'm right on schedule.

What it all means is that there's still time to enter my super exciting giveaway...

2. Stop working on Full Circle long enough to complete edits on the Terrible Romance Novel

I suspect my sudden interest in working on Book Three in my fantasy series can be mainly attributed to that whole aforementioned feet-dragging thing. There have been some exciting (to me, anyway) developments in this WIP, and I certainly want to work on this story. It's just not supposed to be my main focus right now.

3. Walk at least three miles a day, or 93 total miles for the month

My attempt to avoid becoming part of the couch. I've done all right with this goal thus far this year—I'm actually ahead for the time being. Here's hoping I can keep it going for at least another month.

That's gonna do it for me today. For some reason, I am crazy tired. I'll be back on Wednesday for IWSG Day. Unless I forget.

Happy Monday, all!

Monday, April 15, 2019

Wind Surfing on Lake Garda + A Giveaway

Hello, all!

Today on My Pet Blog, we're turning things over to Chelsea Ballard, one of the amazing authors contributing to the upcoming Masquerade: Oddly Suited anthology.

Take it away, Chelsea!


Hiya! I’m Chelsea Marie Ballard, the author of the short story ‘Remedy’ from the young adult, romance anthology Masquerade: Oddly Suited.

This is my first time writing a guest post, so go easy on me. This is my first time experiencing all the author things. The first contest I ever entered. The first short story I ever wrote.

See, I’m a pantster. I don’t plot my stories out. No outlines (except a rough one in my head) and the characters make the rules. And then when I get the chance, usually when my kiddos are sleeping, I write it down. 

So, I don’t have much advice, besides the old ‘butt in chair’ schtick. Which leaves the classic ‘what inspired you to write the story’ post. 

Sorry not sorry.

And boy, oh boy, do I have a cool story for you. Or least I think it’s cool, you probably think it is time consuming and possibly boring. But you should stick with it, if not for my insecurity’s sake, for the poor blogger who agreed to host my ramblings. 

You know when you open your windows computer (sorry mac people!) and you have the sign in screen with some dope picture from around the world? One day I saw this sweet picture of someone wind surfing on Lake Garda in Italy.

Wait! Wind surfing! On a lake?! 


Of course, I clicked on the tell me more or whatever button and got put right into Bing. But I didn’t even care because guys, this lake is so cool! It’s the largest lake in Italy and because of the difference in altitude temperatures, it can carry its own wind currents.

Also, the climate is weirdly mild, resulting in citrus trees, which are extremely rare at that latitude. There is even a type of salmon only found in Lake Garda. The population of the fish was declining so some scientists tried to take the salmon to other lakes. But the fish wouldn’t flourish in other lakes! Lake Garda or bust, I guess. 

I didn’t even get to the islands yet. One of them has an old monastery on it from 1220!

At this point, if you’re not a science geek like me, you’re probably snoozing. Wipe that drool from your face and keep reading! This lake boggled my mind. So much so that I envisioned two lovers escaping a mansion, tumbling down the hill and crossing the lake to freedom. Because Lake Garda had everything it needed to survive (fruit, fish, and wind power) it fit perfectly into this idea of a dystopia where there were protected areas where rich people lived and the dangerous, wild, unprotected lands.

I already had Remy and Rudy simmering in my imagination so plopping them into this world was easy. I just added in a pinch of forbidden love and a smidge of on the nose bird puns and boom! ‘Remedy’.

Well, there’s more to it than that, but you’ll have to read it to find out. Thanks for sticking with me for this long and I hope you enjoy my story about young love against all odds. 

And Lake Garda. Always, Lake Garda.


About Remedy

Born with privilege in the Protected Lands means money, power, and ease. For Remy, it means
forever being apart from Rudy. On the night of the Masquerade Ball, Remy must choose
between duty and heart. Which will prove stronger?

About The Author
A student of all things, Chelsea has turned her passion for flowery prose, angsty television, and biology toward her writing. She enjoys rare vines, quirky people, and a good love/hate story. This gold-ranking gamer lives in Bucks County, PA with her family, anxious dog, and fat cat.

About the Anthology

Title: Masquerade: Oddly Suited
Release date: April 30th, 2019
Publisher: Dancing Lemur Press
Genres: Young Adult Fiction: Romance – General / Paranormal / Contemporary
Print ISBN: 9781939844644
EBook ISBN: 9781939844651

Find love at the ball…

Can a fake dating game show lead to love? Will a missing key free a clock-bound prince? Can a softball pitcher and a baseball catcher work together? Is there a vampire living in Paradise, Newfoundland? What’s more important—a virtual Traveler or a virtual date to the ball?

Ten authors explore young love in all its facets, from heartbreak to budding passion. Featuring the talents of L.G. Keltner, Jennifer Lane, C.D. Gallant-King, Elizabeth Mueller, Angela Brown, Myles Christensen, Deborah Solice, Carrie-Anne Brownian, Anstice Brown, and Chelsea Marie Ballard.

Hand-picked by a panel of agents and authors, these ten tales will mystify and surprise even as they touch your heart. Don your mask and join the party…


The authors of Masquerade: Oddly Suited are giving away a $50 Amazon gift card to one winner. To enter, please complete the Rafflecopter below. The giveaway is open internationally from 12:00 am GMT 17th March to 12:00am GMT 6th May.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Writemare on Elm Street + A Game

This week, I am in Maine on an unofficial writing retreat. I'm actually here for other reasons, but as those other reasons offered me the opportunity to keep working, I've decided to consider it a writer's retreat. My sister-in-law nicknamed this experience "Writemare on Elm Street" because she's a million times more clever than I am.

My main project this week is the editing/revision of the Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Bad Romance novel. You may have seen this picture on other forms of social media earlier in the week, but in case you missed it, here it is:

I haven't made it very far into the manuscript yet, but I can tell you that I am not a fan of how this story starts. Chapter Two will likely need a complete overhaul and rewrite. I hope it gets better. I mean, I know I've been calling it the terrible romance novel for a good long while now, but I don't want it to be a bad story.

My critique partners seem to have high hopes for it. They even liked the ending. So...maybe there's hope for this story yet?

Anyway, that brings me to the game portion of this post. It is my habit to go though a manuscript with a red pen and blue highlighter to better mark everything that I feel needs work. Occasionally, I go through multiple pens and multiple highlighters. And by 'occasionally', I, of course, mean every damn time. Second Nature, for example, required three pens and two highlighters.

So here's the game: How many pens and highlighters will this manuscript require? Post your guess in the comments below. Whoever's the closest without going over (Yes, we play by The Price Is Right rules...) will win a copy of the terrible romance novel when it's released (either ebook or paperback. Winner's choice. Unless that winner is outside of the U.S. Then it'll be an ebook because I can't afford international shipping.). If multiple people guess the winning combination, they will be entered into a drawing to determine the winner.

All right, so that's going to do it for me today...and for a while. I'm having visitors next week, so I won't be blogging at all. Which means I'll miss April's IWSG.

And the start of the A to Z Challenge. For all of you who are A to Z-ing this year, I salute you.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Happy Birthday, Buffy

Before I jump into today's post, I just wanted to thank everyone for their feedback and thoughts on my IWSG post last week. Thank you for offering me much-needed perspective and guidance. The group and I are now working to resolve issues because, as it turns out, I wasn't alone in my concerns. So thank you.

All right. On with the post!

Yesterday was the 22nd anniversary of the premiere of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which has the distinction of being one of my all-time favorite shows. (Did I mention that I recently won second place in a Buffy trivia contest? Because I am embarrassingly proud of that achievement.)

The Twitter handle @whedonesque asked their followers for their favorite moment.

Which, come on. I can't pick just one. I don't know a Buffy fan who can.

So today's post will be dedicated to some of my all-time favorite moments and quotes from the series.  It will certainly not be a complete list because that would seriously go on forever, and I'm assuming you have better things to do with your life than endlessly peruse Buffy gifs. (Of course, you may be thinking that I should have better things to do with my life than endless peruse Buffy gifs...and you would be right. But I'm doing this anyway.)

Listed in whatever order I came across them on Giphy.

From Season One's Never Kill A Boy On The First Date. Not a great episode by any means, but I've always liked this line.

From Season Three's Lovers Walk. A funny moment in a pretty awesome episode.

From Season Four's The Freshmen. I spent many an hour (not a joke) trying to perfect this move. I was/continue to be unsuccessful.

From Season Seven's Showtime. Just an awesome line.

From Season Six's Tabula Rasa. This episode runs the emotional gauntlet, which I highly appreciate. This particular moment always makes me laugh.

From Season Two's Becoming, Part Two.  Like I wasn't going to pick a sword fight. But, really, this was just another highlight in an entire episode of highlights.

From Season Three's Helpless. Another awesome episode filled with awesome lines. I do appreciate good dialogue.

Season Six's Once More With Feeling. How could the musical not make this list?

Season Five's Family. I love the scene depicted above just so very much.

Season Four's Hush. Ironically, the one episode to receive an Emmy nomination for writing. What do you think, Buffy fans? One of scariest episodes ever?

Season Five's The Body. Saddest episode ever? I still cry every time I watch it.

Season Three's The Prom. I'm a sucker for this episode. I get teary-eyed when Buffy receives her award. And maybe when she dances with Angel, too. Because I believe in characters having the occasional happy long as I'm not the one writing them.

All right. That's going to do it for me.

Are you a Buffy fan? What's your favorite moment (or moments, if like me, you can't choose just one...)

Happy Monday, everyone. Hope you have a great week.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Quandary (An IWSG Post)

Hey, everyone.

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 you're already familiar with the IWSG, but if you're new and/or interested in more information and/or a complete list of participants, please click on the above link.

This month's awesome co-hosts are Fundy Blue, Beverly Stowe McClure, Erika Beebe, and Lisa Buie-Collard.

This month's (optional) question asks, "Whose perspective do you like to write from best, the hero or the villain? Why?"

But I'm going to skip that question because I have a quandary I'd like to run past y'all instead.

This quandary is really the reason why I'm posting so late because last night, when I sat down to write my post, I was, quite frankly, too damn irritated to do anything other than sit there and silently fume.

So I have, at last, decided to present my problem to the group to receive some outside opinions/perspective. Unless I ultimately decide to write half a post, then delete it because sometimes that happens, too.

Okay, so here's the thing. I have been a member of a small critique group for a couple of years now. There were three of us to start, and we got along really well and I think we worked together really well. Like, if some aspect of my story wasn't working for someone, we would talk about it and brainstorm possible solutions. Which I found to be incredibly useful because I joined the critique group in the first place in an effort to improve my writing. I think there was a lot of trust in that original group. I trusted them with my work, to be honest about their feelings on my work, and that if someone said, "This scene didn't work for me", we would work together to come up with possible solutions that would take all of us into account. Like, the other two wouldn't just impose their will on my story. They'd raise their concerns, I'd raise my concerns, and we'd work together to find a happy compromise.

I don't know if I'm explaining that last part correctly. It may become clearer as we go on. Or I could make it worse. I guess we'll find out...

Anyway, fast forward a little bit to when one member of our trio moved away and we subsequently invited two new writers to join us—both of whom I had met in other local writers groups and who had expressed interest in being members of a regular critique group.

Except one of these two doesn't really come across to me as being interested in critique. Or discussion about a critique. On either side of a critique, too.

If a group member raises a concern they have with her story, she shuts it down immediately with statement along the lines of "No, you're wrong. That's not a problem."

To which I always want to respond, "But it may be a problem because one of your critique partners whose opinion you have deliberate sought out is telling you that it's a problem."

I know she doesn't have to make any change to her story that she does not want to make. That we're just making suggestions that she is free to use or ignore as she sees fit. I really don't care what she does with her story, but it leaves me feeling befuddled that she doesn't seem open to anything any of us say. When she's defensive, bordering on combative, it's like, why are you here if you're not interested in criticism?

Then there's the other side of the criticism coin. At our last meeting, she raised a concern she had with my story. It was a perfectly valid concern; I could see exactly what she was saying and agreed with her. And I told her so. Then I went on to say that the scene was written as such because I honestly didn't know how else to write it without losing the two really important things in that scene I really didn't want to lose.

Now, in the original group, that would be followed by a brainstorming session where we bounced ideas off one another in an effort to come up with possible solutions. This time, however, it was met with more defensive/combative behavior on her part, which was probably met by some combative behavior on my part because I was interpreting her side as saying, "I'm right, you're wrong, and there's no need to discuss this any further."

And I went home incredibly frustrated because this group that used to be so helpful and fun is instead becoming more and more work with less and less reward. I still have a problem scene and no plan in place to fix it.

But I don't know what to do about it. I don't know if there's anything I can do about it. I may be the only person who thinks there's a problem. I may be the person everyone thinks is the problem. Maybe my fellow CPs go home after a meeting and complain about that pain-in-the-ass MJ who's always so defensive and weird about everything.

If I am the only one with a problem or the actual problem, then it feels like the solution is to walk away from the group because if I'm not getting anything useful out of it, what's the point? I would be sad to leave the group because, until recently, it was useful and, you know, my group, but there's already more than enough stress in my life. Do I need to deliberately add to it?

Is it all right to approach the other two members of the group to ask for their opinions to establish if I am the problem or if it's a group-wide thing? If so, how do I do it without them pointing at me and saying, "You're only saying that because she said something bad about your story."

Which is totally NOT the case. I go to that group hoping people will say bad things about my story because I can't improve it otherwise. But if that's not coming across, then that needs to be fixed, too.

So yeah. I don't know what to do, and I don't know if I've explained things well enough that anyone out there can offer some insight. (And if that insight is 'you're insane, MJ', that's cool. And valid.) This is just how I'm viewing this situation and what I'm feeling about it, which may or may not be valid, but it is what it is, and now I need to figure out what to do about it.

Questions? Comments? Concerns?

Thanks for listening. You've been a great audience.

Monday, March 4, 2019

New Month, New Goals

Happy March, everyone!

As you've likely divined from the title of today's post, I'll be talking about goals.

February Recap

1. Complete the first draft of the terrible, horrible, no-good, bad romance novel.

As you may have seen on various forms of social media, I actually did this. It's a pretty terrible ending, if I do say so myself, which is perhaps fitting for a terrible romance novel, and there are a few scenes in desperate need of an overhaul, but those are all problems for the second draft. The first draft is done and currently sitting in a drawer in hopes that I shall have fresher eyes when I go back to work on it.

2. Read four books.

Yeah. I only managed to do this because of Sherlock graphic novels. But if Goodreads counts it, then so can I. Right?

3. Walk at least three miles every day, or a total of 84 miles for the entire month.

I was sick for a good chunk of the past month, so I fell short on the three-miles-a-day goal, but I did manage to log 97 miles overall.

March Goals

1. Complete first round of edits/revisions of the Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Bad Romance novel.

This will definitely be a stretch goal because I'm not even planning to look at this manuscript for at least another week, probably two. But regardless of when I do start, I would like it to be done this month. I'm super far behind the schedule I had set, and if possible, I'd like to make up a little time. We'll see how it goes. It is, of course, more important that these be done right than fast.

2. Do NOT work on the Terrible Romance Sequel.

You may have seen this on social media as well, but apparently, I'm now writing a sequel to the terrible, horrible, no-good, bad romance novel (Working title: Terrible Romance Sequel). I even stayed up all night one night writing a scene for it, even though I know absolutely nothing about the characters or their situation (different main characters, same universe). I had thought idly about maybe someday writing a sequel, but I hadn't planned on it being now. I have three other WIPs that require attention. The Terrible Romance Sequel will just have to wait its turn. Maybe it can be a NaNoWriMo project if I get enough other stuff done. (Because that'll happen.)

3. Read a freakin' book!

Seriously, what's wrong with me? I used to read multiple books a week, and now I'm struggling to read a single book each month. It's weird. I don't like it. That's why the goal this month is to read just one book. Any book. I'll find myself a nice children's book that's 90% pictures and read that. Or another graphic novels. Just something to break the non-reading cycle in which I'm currently stuck.

4. Walk at least three miles every day, or a total of 93 miles for the month.

This is the one goal I've consistently hit this year. Here's hoping I can keep it up.

5. Buy a couch.

Yeah. So, my couch broke last month (and totally not because some so-called adult was jumping on it during a football game...) and I have yet to replace it because the other half of the couch is...okay (translation: incredibly uncomfortable, but technically not broken), and I am incredibly lazy. But we're expecting company at the end of the month and that company may want to sit somewhere other than the floor or in a beach chair.  So my mission is to buy a new unbroken couch before they arrive.

Live footage of me couch shopping?

That's gonna do it for me today. What's on your agenda this month?