Wednesday, October 26, 2011



No? All right, not that kind of plotting then. So when I do I mean when I use the word? I mean structure, brainstorming, preparing the guide to get from point A to point B. I kind of touched on this before with my Brainstorming post, but the way I see it, there's a difference between initial ideas, and structure once you get started.

After that first word, even (sometimes especially) with a whole lot of ideas in mind, it's very easy to to get sidetracked and end up in the middle of nowhere without any idea how to get back to the main road. And on that note, I'm going to try to stop with the metaphors.

There are hundreds of different ways to structure a good outline. Just like with the brainstorming, some people don't bother with them at all, but I would be completely lost. Sometimes it consists of a few loose notes, sometimes a very rigid and specific point form list, it all depends on my state of mind on any given day.

There are days when my brain works only to outline. I have no creative insight, but I'm able to see the story progress in a linear way. I take advantage of those days. It takes me back to the days of essay writing in university where I would do all of my research, prepare all of my supporting quotations, jot down ideas for all opening and concluding sentences and make a list of questions I want answered. After that, it's just a game of fill in the blanks.

I also find it gets more intense the further into the story I get. On days when I hit the Wall (you remember that wonderful moment, right? The one where you want to bang your head against something hard), I turn to my outlines like a life raft (and there I go with my similes. Apologies.) my final chapters are usually plotted out scene for scene with the occasional bit of dialogue thrown in to make it just shy of an actual draft.

If you can't tell, I'm currently going through one of these phases at the moment. I have at least five pages of notes in my journal, full of questions I don't know the answer to and need to mull over, dialogue snippets, new character introductions, and a series of plot points I need to hit. If you feel like you're adrift on a sea of indecision and incoherence (more similes!) I highly recommend you take the time to pause, assess, and jot notes before moving on. It may be the difference between a strong novel and this rambling blog post.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Book Release: The Dash

As you may know, I've been following the development of C.J. Duarte's debut novel The Dash for some time now. Well, today is the BIG DAY. Head over to his website to reach various links where you can order!

And definitely expect a review up by yours truly as soon as I finish it.

Congrats to the author on this big achievement!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Commenting Tips and an Invitation!

I know some people have been having trouble posting comments here, and I apologise for any frustration! I don't know if this will help, but if you don't have a Google account, try using the name/url profile selection. Try adding that profile before writing your comment, and then once you submit, the security word should pop up. I know with some people it's a one-shot sign up, and the next time you're good to go - with others, you need to keep doing it. But I hope that works for those of you that want to leave me a message.


It's Halloween! You know what that means? Ghost story time!!
Check out the Flash Fiction contest on author Devin O'Branagan's forum, take a read-through, and be sure to VOTE! This month's prompt: No one believed the curse was real......

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


There are many types of vampires on the market right now. Young and sexy, young and...sparkly, young and terrifying, old and terrifying, but how about: old and responsible? Old and financially savvy? They may not exactly fill a niche market, but guess what? These vampires deserve our attention and respect as well.
"Why?" you may ask. "What does he have to offer me?"
And to you I reply: "Because there may be more to them then what appears on the surface."

Adrian, over two thousand years old, was not a young man when he was turned, so when I arrived to meet with him, it was to find a man who appears to be in his 60s, with grey hair and a neatly trimmed beard. Blue eyes twinkle in a subtly lined face. His suit is classic, brown tweed, complete with elbow patches and a silver pocket watch hanging from his waistcoat.

He leans over to kiss my hand in greeting and invites me to a brown leather wing-back chair in front of a large mahogany desk. A wall of windows overlooking a flawless lake in Switzerland is the offered view behind him, but my attention never strays from the vampire in the chair across from me.

A French serving girl he calls Jeanne brings in a tray of tea and biscuits for one. He thanks her and she leaves with a smile.

"Can I just start by asking what it's like to be a vampire?" I begin. "We've all read the stories, seen the movies. but here you are able to give me a real answer."

"You've read the stories, you've seen the movies. What else is there to know?" Adrian's voice is smooth as butter, a low rumble that's almost a purr. I need to give my head a shake and focus on his words before I get lost in the spell of it. "Ms. Walsh, being a vampire is like nothing you could imagine. You get to experience so much, have time to accomplish everything you've ever dreamed. And it can be dreadfully dull. It would be unbearable if it weren't for the lovely people who come to ask me questions from time to time."

I giggle and my cheeks turn red. "I've met with everyone else over the last couple of weeks. I hope you don't feel too left out or ignored."

Adrian grinned, an interesting smile that kept his elongated canines cleverly hidden. "Not at all, my dear. It's perfectly understandable you would start with the key players in Katerina's intrigue."

"I think you're underestimating yourself. From what I hear you're Katerina's oldest ally and friend. How did you two meet?"

Adrian taps his finger against his top lip. "That was a long time ago. I'm afraid our sorceress had got herself into quite a dangerous situation. A girl like Katerina, it's best to help her when you're able, to stay on her good side. Not that I begrudge helping her. When one has accumulated as much wealth as myself, it's best when one can put it to good use."

"Are you as well off as this beautiful home suggests?"

Another smile. "I've been fortunate."

"Is it true that you act as Katerina's accountant, as well?"

"I manage accounts for a number of people. I have an interest in stock trends and watching the figures climb. Playing with them is a relaxing way to pass the time."

I glance around the large office. Floor to ceiling bookshelves line the wall to my left, and to my right a great fireplace, dark tonight with the mild temperature.

"How else do you pass your time. What would you consider 'Adrian time'?"

He chuckles. "My dear, after you've been around as long as I have, it becomes a matter of finding chores to keep you busy, not how to relax."

"There must be someone else to keep you company when Katerina is away?"

"Very few with her conversational skills," Adrian answers.

I smile. "What about Barret? I've had the pleasure of speaking--well, sitting in the same room with him. Most of what I know is guess-work though. He's in your employ, can you tell me anything about him?"

"He can be challenging," the vampire agrees. "But he's a loyal man, and most competent as my head of security."

I sigh. "All right, I have to ask. Are there many other vampires? If so, what fictional type are they most like?"

"I could as soon do that as summarize humankind in one person. It cannot be done."

I sense a wrap-up of our conversation and stand up. "Thank you for meeting with me," I say. He smiles broadly - that small flash of teeth - and bids me a good night. Jeanne returns to lead me to the front door. It's not until I walk out of the office and into a lovely foyer that I realise Adrian hadn't answered one of my questions.

Adrian is a very private man, but despite the ruthless and dangerous nature you can sense beneath the gentleman-y veneer, he will always try to make a guest feel welcome in his home. His servants think highly of him, and Barret has been with him for years, which leads me to believe he keeps his vampirism safely tucked away when not needed. But I still wouldn't try to get him angry.

And so ends my character profiles for Playing with Fire. With luck and good fortune you'll be able to read more about the people and their story one day!

Still to come: Katerina will be returning to the spotlight, but this time I won't be shining the light!

Previous Profiles:

Rhys Byrne
"Sally Wagner" 

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Q&A with Muffy Morrigan

I've been looking forward to this Q&A for a while now, and I thank Muffy for her patience! Muffy Morrigan is the author of the Custodes Noctis series, which so far consists of The Legacy and The Hunt. She is a fascinating person. with a great sense of humour, a wonderful imagination, and is friends with a Giant Spider who lives in her office. I hope you enjoy reading her answers to my questions as much as I did!

Muffy Morrigan - The Legacy, The Hunt

Unlike the subjects of my last two inquisitions *cough* er, interviews, I don't actually know too much about you. Since I managed to get you to agree to answer any questions I want (mwhahaha), shall we start there?

1. What is your writing history? What point was it that you picked up a pen and realised people would have to wrestle it out of your hand to get you to stop?

My writing history? I first figured out I could tell stories long before I picked up a pen, I know that, or at least my parents and grandparents have told me that! I do know that I was six when I “penned” my first novel, carefully copying out several copies on lined paper and going door to door selling them to the neighbors for ten cents. I was in my teens when I finished my first actual novel, a science fiction adventure, although I had written many short stories by then. I had the chance to attend an amazing writer's workshop when I was sixteen with some of the major science fiction writers in the country—luckily many of them live in the Northwest. In college I took writing-heavy majors including history and so churned out a lot of words. I knew my academic dreams were nothing but dreams when I was labeled (at an academic conference) as colorful and flamboyant. Oh well. After that, I set off to write—news mostly and covered the gauntlet in the news world from obituaries and news briefs to reporting and finally to the height of reviews and a weekly column. Um, that was a really long answer, sorry...

2. You have two books out currently, and I believe it was with two different publishers? What was the process like for you?

Nerve-wracking! It always is, no matter how sure you are of yourself, there is always that little tick of doubt that is there the whole time. I love working with a good editor, though. They help tighten the writing so much!

3. I noticed a big change of writing style between The Legacy and The Hunt. Do you accredit it to something? Were there things you were watching out for?

It does show doesn't it? The Legacy was a novel I had been poking at for many years, haul it out poke, put it back, and over the years my style has altered. I think The Hunt is much tighter. I am tempted to go back in and rewrite The Legacy, believe me. I can see where I want it to change! It's hard...

4. Do you have a favourite story/novel that you've written so far?

Hmm, that's hard. My favorite novel that is all the way written is The Hunt, although The Berserkers (book three) is shaping up really well. I do have a couple of favorite stories I've written for fanfic, Apocalypse Now! I think is one of my all time favorites.

5. Tell us about your characters. I refuse to accept a short answer on this one ;-) You have so many intriguing characters that I would love to know more about them and what makes them tick.

Okay, I won't answer short! My characters in general are the Custodes Noctis a group of people who fight “the darkness that even the night fears”. Founded back in antiquity they deal with all the things that can throw the world out of balance. Each “Keeper” has personal Gifts as well as sharing a bond with their brother,

Specifically: Galen Emrys, the elder brother of my main characters. He is Gifted with healing. Unlike many Keepers in the past, Galen has more power and is more like the Keepers that fought back in the days when “darkness” walked the earth more frequently. He owns the Emrys Apothecary and had a PhD. He also plays guitar in a local band The Urban Werewolves

Rob Emrys: the younger brother. He is Gifted with the Sight. Rob is also a gifted linguist and researcher. He is more steeped in the Traditions of the Custodes Noctis than Galen and regularly cites the Sagas to prove his point.

Flash Lynch: Galen's best friend and bassist/vocalist for The Urban Werewolves. He started out as a minor character, but he has quite a following and I have to admit, he has really pushed his way to the front of the stories. He will play an even larger roll in The Berserkers.

Parry and Bobby Emrys: Galen and Rob's Father and Uncle. They're technically dead, but deceased Keepers can be called to serve by a living Keeper, and once they were called, they decided to “hang around” a bit.

Other Characters that are regulars are Rhiannon Ross: Galen met her when he was eighteen, her daughter had been killed by the Old One of the Legacy (though they didn't realize that at the time) and after that she became a killer of things that took children. I see her as hunting demonic forces that specifically target children, although she is always willing to join a fight.

Mike Silva: An ER doc and close friend of Galen

Greg Alexander: Kinda of a mystery, but he will play a bigger roll in the next book.

Stephan Blake: A Fae, he helped create the Hunt, and is currently living under the radar as a monk.

6. Time for the difficult question (although I think I might be able to guess the answer): do you have a favourite written character?
Of my own? Probably Galen or Rob, but maybe Tristan (upcoming project)

Another author? That's easy Elizabeth Peter's Ramses Emerson. I'd marry him if I could.

7. You've developped a good reputation for yourself with your fanfiction, a subject which you discussed very well on your blog post. Do you want to add anything to that? Where do you develop your ideas for characters who have already existed for seven years?

Well this will sound a little crazy, but they tend to tell me “hey, this would make a great story.” My Current fanfic “The Hunting of A Snark, with apologies to Lewis Carroll” has been brewing for a long time and suddenly it was ready. Other times the story just pops out whole, like with Apocalypse Now! Or my two most recent one shots. They just happen.

8. Do you have any other projects in the works?

I actually have two, one is still nebulous, but the other is in the writing stage. It's a fantasy/sci fi crossover called The Sail Weaver and I am very, very excited about it. The character Tristan I mentioned above is part of that story. I almost can't wait to get to that one. As soon as the novella and the Berserkers are finished... Oh! There will be a Custodes Noctis Novella out this month!

9. Finally, in one sentence - what advice would you give to all the aspiring writers out there?

I can do it in one word. Write. That sounds trite, but I don't mean it that way. Writing is like music, and you have to practice every day to move forward. I have pages of things that will never see the light of day that I have written just to write. I set challenges for myself and write. Maybe I do have a sentence: Write from your heart, write for yourself and make sure what you write is what you love.


I'm going to review both of the Custodes Noctis books together, which I feel I can do safely because Muffy fit them together so seamlessly.

The Legacy begins the tale of Galen and Rob Emrys, Keepers who have been prevented from doing their duty because of an attempt on the younger brother's life that has forced the older into hiding. Five years later, events are set into motion that make it imperative the brothers reunite to stop an old god from returning to our world. The Hunt picks up shortly after as the brothers must face the consequences of having denied their role as Keepers while they were separated. Long considered a punishment for Keepers who turn their backs on their duty, the Hunt attempts to claim the brothers, but when millenia old evil try to break through the Between World, Rob and Galen have no choice but to use the Hunt to their advantage.

A simple summary for two novels full of fascinating complexities and a whole spectrum of great characters. In a world that beautifully blends a magical world with our reality, the Custodes Noctis series focuses on the importance of strong partnership, family bonds, and how annoying our friends can be when they go against what we've asked them to do only to get themselves in trouble and as a result end up saving our lives (Flash, I'm looking at you!)

What I really enjoyed about these novels? How well-developped the legends are; how Rob's insatiable desire for knowledge and research, and the sources he quotes, actually seem possible in our mundane world. It's easy to believe that Galen's apothecary shop is right down the corner, that discussing ancient sacrificial rituals really is coffee shop talk among friends. I was sucked into a world similar to mine in every detail, but full of the magic I wish really existed -- and I believed for a time that it did. Isn't that the ultimate sign of a fantastic story?

I am very much waiting for both the novella and the next installment, The Berserkers, to add to my shelves. If they're anything like what I've read so far, it'll be worth the read.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Rhys Byrne

As far as character interviews go, I can now boast a delightful one. I am currently sitting in a comfortable cottage-like farmhouse in Killarney, Ireland with Rhys Byrne, the son of Katerina's housekeeper, Maera. She's in the kitchen cleaning up after an incredible meal and although she's allowing Rhys and I to chat in private, I can hear her rich voice humming a song through the door. Rhys and I are set up by the fireplace, after-dinner tea set up on the table between us, a warm fire crackling and popping in front of us. The fire isn't only for warmth and comfort in the damp autumn evening; it's also the subject of Rhys's sketch as he lazily runs a pencil over his sketchbook to take in the dancing flames. A mop of blond hair falls over green eyes as he stretches out his long legs.

Me: You're a pretty good artist. 

Rhys: [clears throat] This? This is just a doodle, really. I like watching for stories in the fire, seeing what comes up. It's fun practice when I don't have anything else to work on. 

Me: Is that want you wanted to do? Be an artist?

Rhys: [shrugs] I enjoy it, but I don't think so. I really like computers, networking, that sort of thing.

Me: Do you have any experience with computers?

Rhys: I've taken a course or two, but most of what I know has been self taught. Kat only just agreed to get a computer a few years ago, so it's not something I grew up with. She still refuses to go near the damn thing, but it gives me the chance to play with it.

Me: I'm sure your familiarity with computers helps her out a lot.

Rhys: [laughs] I'm sure it does! Do you have any idea how long it took her to find people before? Ah well, she is who she is. I've known her since I was five years old, so I've just learned to accept it. I'd like to go to university and get a degree in computer technology or something. Adrian, an old friend of Kat's, he's offered to pay for it. It's just a matter of finding the time.

Me: What keeps you so busy?

Rhys: Mam for one. She doesn't like the thought of my going anywhere, even to school. To be honest, though, what keeps me here is that I like helping Kat. As great as university would be, I think I'd get more out of helping her do what she does. Mam'd kill me to hear me say it, though.

Me: You're able to give Katerina information in other ways as well, are you not? I hear you have quite a talent.
Rhys: My Sight, you mean? I'd hardly call it a talent. I can't do anything with it. Kind of hits me over the head like a bag of wool from time to time is all. But it's true it's been useful in the past. One day I'd like to find someone that can help me develop it, so it's more than just random visions. 

Me: So where do you see yourself in the future? [Rhys laughs] No pun intended, but you seem to have a lot of prospects. What do you want to do?

Rhys: I want to learn how to fight. There are some crazy things out there in the world and Kat could use the support. That's what I'd like to do, in one way or another.

[The sound of a pot crashing to the floor interrupts the conversation and Rhys's face turns a deep red. He clears his throat, shifts again in his chair, and that line of conversation is done.]

Rhys is about as close to a puppy as a human being can get. He's eager, he's loyal, and he tends to jump around with too much energy when he sees people heading for the door. Maera worries for him, and with good reason, but he's tougher than he seems and can usually hold his own. Of all my characters, I look forward to getting to know Rhys the most - even if he can't, I see some great things in his future!

Other profiles:

"Sally Wagner"

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

"Sally Wagner"

For today's character profile, I'm introducing a bubbly and fun woman who also knows how to explore the darker side of magic. Due to her relationship with Katerina, she has requested that her name not be posted here so out of respect for her--

Sally: Yeah it's because I'm a snitch.

Me: Ah, Sally, welcome.

Sally: My name isn't Sally. Trust me, I wish it were.

Me: No, you asked that...

Sally: Oh, right. Really? You went with Sally?

Me: Anyway. Thank you very much for volunteering to answer a few questions. Shall we get started? Why don't you start by telling me a little about yourself?

Sally: Big question. Do you have a couple of hours? I grew up in Queens with my hippie parents and an older sister. I went to school at--

Me: How about just what you're up to these days?

Sally: Well, I'm twenty-six years old, single (you're real cute by the way) and I run a very successful occult shop. I'm not one to brag, but  I mean very successful. Spread the word, it's located--

Me: Sorry to interrupt, but you did emphasise the importance of keeping your head down. Can you tell us why that is?

Sally: Like I said, I'm a snitch. I like that word, ya know? It makes me sound like a character in a gangster film.

Me: Is that who you snitch for? The mob?

Sally: Gods no! What do you take me for, an idiot? I work for Kat.

Me: How do you know Katerina?

Sally: Fun story! Mind if I smoke? [she lights a cigarette and inhales deeply] She tried to kill me once. Yeah, it was a few years ago, I got mixed up with the really nasty crowd, and even though she, ya know, executed everyone else, she let me live in exchange for being her ear in the underground. I still have a lot of contacts that don't really want to be noticed. Especially by Kat.

Me: She has a reputation in those groups, does she?

Sally: You don't get her mad, no siree. She will destroy you. Literally.

Me: So what did crowd did you run with that turned her attention onto you? You must feel pretty lucky to have got on her good side?

Sally: Good side? Honey, Kat doesn't have a good side. I just lucked out and ran into her on a less violent day. As for what I did...probably best if I don't mention it. Don't want to summon the wrath of our dear sorceress.

Me: Thank you so much for meeting with me, Sally. I can't wait to see you in action in Playing with Fire.

Sally: Oh you'll see me all right. I'll be the one in the red silk nightie [she winks]

"Sally Wagner" is an off-the-wall character to write. An artificial blonde who definitely knows how to have fun, she's very high-energy and full to the brim with bad habits. Conversations I have with her always cheer me up and if I'd let her, this Q&A could have become an 18-parter.

I can't wait for you to meet her, but until then please keep this quiet. We don't want her getting into trouble.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Setting (Revisited)

My earlier ramble/rant about the setting in my own story made me realise that it's a good premise for a post in general: The Importance of Setting.

Broadly speaking: it's not important. The microcosmic world of Golding's Lord of the Flies is a perfect example. A reflection of society as a whole, the same themes could have been shared in a cut-throat office building or a generic overlook of a whole community. While I'm choosing to set my "past" segments in the late 12th century, I should be able to write the same conversation between the same characters in any time, place, or galaxy, and still have their relationship develop along a similar path.

Consistency, however, is crucial. Unless your character gets abducted from 12th century England into outer-space, the setting should be predictable. Fictional world or otherwise, once you make the rules, you have to stick by them. For more on this particular subject, please read the wise words of author Muffy Morrigan on World Building.

Moving from the general to the specific, the same rules hold true. Setting the scene is important, but you shouldn't include anything that isn't relevant. If you try to include too many details about, for example, the room your character is in, then you take away from the description as a whole. The reader will get lost in the colour of the divan with the purple upholstery and gold fringes. Unless it's a commentary on the host's interesting taste, then specific, intricate details aren't necessary.

In a lot of cases, readers prefer to develop ideas for themselves about what a particular scene might look like. I try to allow them the courtesy of doing that, by pointing out the general lay of the land, or what's important for the scene. Sometimes it's nice to go a little overboard and describe a whole room, and you know what? Go for it. It's fun to know what's in a writer's head. It's just important to remember that we're not living in early the 19th century with Dickens getting paid by the word, leading to 35 volume serials that enter into the minutest details about the various blend of colours in the tertiary character's wallpaper choice.

Everything in moderation.

Greetings October! And Detail Overload.

And we've moved into yet another month. Not only a change of season, but a lot to look forward to! Not least, of course, is Halloween. Love to hear if anyone has any crazy costume ideas going on! Me? Not sure yet, although I've always wanted to go as Sally from Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas. Anyone have a patched dress they could lend me?

So I've hit an interesting point in my writing. It's a challenge I've come across in the past and have usually been able to work around it by, well, making things up, but that's not going to work this time around. As I describe on my Daughter of Time page, the story is split between the present day and the past.

The present is all fine and dandy thanks to the wonderful tool that is the interwebs. It lets me know flight schedules, and shows me houses in certain areas that I use to describe some of my settings. It cannot, however, show me what life was like 800 years ago. Therein lies my difficulty.

I tend to get distracted by historical details that really don't impact my story. I am not a writer of historical fiction. I admire those that can manage it, but the near impossibility of getting correct all the little details is pressure I don't want to deal with at this point in my writing career. While there are some facts I'm doing a lot of research into, a few specifically chosen events, for the most part I'm aiming for the "feel" of time.

The images on Google's street views does not include what France would have looked like in 1203 and, alas, as good as medieval architecture was, there aren't many structures that still date that far back aside from the breathtakingly impressive Churches. So what's a girl to do?

Edit: Would like to send a big thank you to writer Fran Terminiello for her vast medieval knowledge and help