Friday, July 6, 2012

Writing Prompt: Song Lyrics

I'm posting writing prompts once a week to help those with writer's block or those searching for new ideas. This week, we explore the musical realm.

This is a prompt that I've used before. Death Cab for Cutie's "Song for Kelly Huckaby" was the inspiration for my short story, Song for Megan Leclare, featured in Beyond Home. These lyrics inspired the short story about a young woman reminiscing about a road trip she took with an old boyfriend:

"Photographs of the best time you had, 
windows smugded by the speed.
Leaving home with our bags from Iron Street,
as morning turned into California,
And smoke trailed from the butt of my cigarette."
~Death Cab for Cutie, 'Song for Kelly Huckaby'

I've posted six more song lyrics below (a few of them from lesser known artists from the Pacific Northwest area!) and I think some of them could spur on some really awesome stories. Let me know if you come up with anything!

“I don’t need a bullet
‘cause I don’t have a gun.
I don’t need a gun
‘cause I’ve got too much love.
And I have got enough love
to save the world.
I have got enough hate
to start a war.”

~Tonya Gilmore, ‘Gun’


“I’ve started a new beginning
suspiciously like the old one.”

~Typhoon, ‘Starting Over (Bad Habits)’


“I’ve got my finger on the trigger,
but somehow you’re still alive.”
~Ezza Rose, ‘Trigger’
“‘Cause you and me have stood the test of time
and proved that we will make it out all right.”

~The Wedding, ‘Revelation’


“I want to change the world.
Instead I sleep.
I want to believe in more than you and me,
but all that I know is I'm breathing.
All I can do is keep breathing.”

~Ingrid Michaelson, ‘Keep Breathing’


“And I know it's easy to say,
but it's harder to feel this way.
And I miss you more than I should,
but I thought I could,
can't get my mind off of you.”

~Joshua Radin, ‘The Fear You Won’t Fall’


“Daddy's ghost behind you.
Sleeping dog beside you.
You're a poem of mystery.
You're the prayer inside me.”

~Iron & Wine, ‘Faded From the Winter’

Oh, and look up these artists if you haven't listened to them before. They're all awesome! Keep writing!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

How My Characters Celebrate Their Independence

How do my characters celebrate their independence on this holiday?

Well. . .in The Protectors series, there isn't a 4th of July since it's not set in America. Or on Earth. But there is Victory Day and it's pretty much the same thing.


From Promising Light: 

Victory Day was Grace’s favorite time of the year. The celebrations spread through the country of Haltar, and its capital Renaul filled with people. The city square was bustling with activity. Grace had to hold onto Jocelyn’s elbow as they weaved through the crowds.

Entertainers stood on every street corner, competing for attention. One man was juggling dozens of oranges, another was doing magic tricks, and a trio of children, probably siblings, were singing the customary songs of the holiday. The smells of exotic food hung in the air. Merchants yelled out, hawking their mirrors, dresses, weapons, fabrics, and more.

Beggars with dirt on their noses, their clothes only rags, moved from person to person as they searched for change. When Grace stopped to give them money, her friend Jocelyn rolled her eyes. She grabbed Grace’s hand and pulled her along. “You’re going to empty your purse if you’re not careful.”

Grace smiled at Jocelyn, squeezing her hand. She wanted to tell her all about what had happened between her and Dar, but she feared her friend wouldn’t understand. She’d be offended Grace didn’t tell her in the first place, of course, since they’d shared nearly everything with each other since they were four years old. Plus it would be hard to admit he’d left her so easily.

She also didn’t want to bring it all up again. It’d been two weeks, and this was her first real chance to distract herself from Dar’s departure. 


From Fire and Light: 

The fireworks lit up the sky, and the sparks showered down, lighting up the faces around him. Evan leaned towards Sierra and whispered, “Hey, do you want to see these from a better view?”

She looked at him with keen eyes. “Sure.”

He grabbed her hand and pulled her to her feet. “We’ll be right back,” he told his dad. He led her out of the crowd, her hand warm in his. He loved the little moments he could have with her like this. He was glad she’d decided to stay with them tonight instead of going back to the castle with Dar and his parents.

He took her to a small hill by the festival grounds, which was where they were setting the fireworks off. They had to sneak around a caravan of gypsies before they hiked up the hill. From the top, the fireworks seemed so much larger. Their vibrant colors filled the black sky. He sat down on the grass and patted the spot next to him for Sierra.

Grinning, she sat down. “This is great!”

He lay down, which made it seem like there was nothing in the world but the fireworks. He couldn’t see the festival grounds or anyone around him. Just the starry sky ignited with sparks and shapes.

She lay next to him, her shoulder pressing against his.

“So, how was your first Victory Day?” he asked.

“It was really fun. I had so much to eat, and Alastor bought me a new scarf. Oh, and the fire dancers were so amazing. Did you have fun?”

“I did.” He’d worked most of the day, but when his parents gave him breaks from the booth, he walked around with the others. He felt the necklace in his pocket. “I got you something.”


I love the 4th of July and as you can see, my love for the holiday has leaked through to Victory Day in The Protectors series! Have fun, everyone, and be safe :)

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Writing Prompt: Music

This blog features writing prompts twice a week for those stuck, those with writer's block, or those searching for new and creative ideas.

For this Tuesday's writing prompt, we're exploring music. I've chosen some instrumentals and embedded the video below. Push play and free write. Let the music carry the story and set the mood. Don't stop to edit or erase until the song is done.

Ljósið (previously known as Let Yourself Feel) from Esteban Diácono on Vimeo.
(the song is by Olafur Arnalds)

(La Dispute by Yann Tiersen)

(Dream is Collapsing by Hans Zimmer)

(Célébration à une Nouvelle Vie by Chaz Knapp)

(Exodus by Two Steps From Hell)

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Dialogue Exercise

This is another exercise from my fiction workshop class. The assignment was to start a story with dialogue, but it ended up being kind of self-contained.



“What on earth happened to you?”

“Nothing, Mom, I’m fine—”

“Bullshit. Whose blood is that?”

“Not mine.”

“That doesn’t answer my question. Here, let me do that.”


“You have to stop getting in fights, Alex. We’re going to get evicted.”

“It’s not me, it’s them—ow!”

“Oh, come on, it’s just a cut lip.”

“Shit, Mom.”

“Put this on your cheek. Tell me what happened this time.”



“Just people being dicks.”



“Your hair’s getting so long.”

“I guess.”

“You’re looking more like your dad every day.”


“Where are you going?”


“You’re actually doing it today?”

“Gotta balance the universe out or something, right?”

“I thought you didn’t believe that.”

“I do, but you know what, I was in the right. They started it. They always do.”

“Then why do you feel like you need to do your homework to balance it out?”

“Shit, I don’t know, because you’re pissed?”

“I’m not pissed, I’m just—”

“Disappointed, I know. I’m not living up to my potential, I know. You sound like those teachers in Grandma’s movies.”

“I’m not disappointed in you. I just don’t want you to end up like your dad.”

“I don’t even know him! God, you make problems out of nothing—”

“How can you say this is nothing? This is the third fight this month, Alex, and I’m worried about you.”

“I’m fine. They were calling you—forget it.”

“What? They were calling me what?”

“They were just being dicks, okay?”


“I’m going to go do my homework.”

“Okay. I love you.”

“Yeah, you, too.”

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Spark by Brigid Kemmerer

Spark by Brigid Kemmerer
ARC from Net Galley. Publication date: August 28th 2012.

Another addicting read from Brigid Kemmerer that adds to the nonstop action and romance of the Elementals. Compelling characters, an exciting plot, and intense romance. Yes, I loved this one just as much as the first! I was super lucky to get an ARC from the publisher -- thank you, Kensington!

So, Spark is a bit different from Storm, mostly because Gabriel and Layne are a lot different than Chris and Becca. But it's just as addicting!

The story was really neat. Fires are popping up all over town and Gabriel, being a Fire Elemental, is blamed for it when in actuality he's trying to help people escape. He's also trying to catch back up in math since his new substitute teacher caught on to him and Nick swapping places when a test came up. Tying it all together is girl in his class named Layne who is driving him crazy as he tries to figure her out. There is a lot of stuff going on, actually, but those are the big things.

I liked the chance we had to see into Gabriel's head. In Storm, he seems like kind of a hothead and in Spark, we see some of his motivation, some of what he's thinking and going through. I felt bad for him, but there were also times when I wanted to smack him upside the head. I think that's a sign of great characterization, when you can love and hate someone at the same time. Just like in real life.

Gabriel and Layne had really good chemistry. They were kind of all over the place, highs and lows, but their personalities made for a relationship like that. They're both kind of headstrong and stubborn and they were super cute together. I liked Layne and how she was different from Becca, being more reserved and having more secrets. I loved even the minor characters that Brigid Kemmerer introduces, especially Simon.

And the plot, like I said, was so addicting! Something new was always happening, whether it was something kind of character-driven like Gabriel and Layne getting to know each other, or something bigger and more intense, like another fire. I like how Kemmerer balances that all out, the characters and the action. She's one of my favorite new authors this year.

I'll be honest, I'm not that thrilled that the next book is about Hunter. I don't know, I can't get a read on that guy. I want to like him but he always seems to be looking out for himself. Maybe I'll like him more after Spirit. Which I still can't wait for, even if it is about Hunter.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Writing Prompt: 36 Minute Short Story

I'm back with another writing prompt idea for anyone stuck, anyone with writer's block, or anyone just looking for a new idea! This is something I heard about from the folks in my writing group. We randomly pulled cards from a few different decks (one deck was "setting", another "character") then from our four cards, wrote a short story in 36 minutes. 

Now, I'm not 100% sure how to do this random thing, so here's what we're going to do for the blog setup.

For your CHARACTER ADJECTIVE, choose a number from 1 to 5. 
For your CHARACTER NOUN, choose a number from 6 to 10. 
For your SETTING, choose a number from 11 to 15.
For your PROP, choose a number from 16 to 20. 
For your ACTION, choose a number from 21 to 25. 

I know it's kind of weird, but bear with me! And choose the numbers before you go on and see the lists. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A Day at the Beach in Barcelona

I'm taking a fiction workshop at my school this summer. I thought I'd post some of the exercises I'm doing. This is a one-page autobiography based on one event in my life.


The beach in Barcelona is beautiful. The deep blue water stretches out for miles on either side of us. To the left of us, a group of friends gathers on towels. They’re fully clothed, not here to swim but just to enjoy the sun. I’m wearing my bathing suit, but the water is colder than I expected and I can’t stay in it for long before I decide I’d rather lay in the sun with my book. Behind us, a couple plays badminton, both of them shirtless. We thought we’d avoided the nude beach, but even here, women sit around, shirtless, nonchalant.

For what has to be the tenth time, an Arab man passes by, saying, “Agua, cerveza, cold water, cold beer.” He has a rhythm to the words, and we try to avoid his eyes every time he walks by, trying to sell his goods. When we first got here, we declined him, but then Chris bought a beer from another man with a backpack selling drinks, so now he feels guilty. His beer sits open next to me, not in a paper bag like it would be back home.

Chris strums his ukulele, the twangy sound mixing with the crashing waves on the beach only a hundred feet away. His ukulele reminds me of Hawaii and its long, warm days and his visit, that week when I fell even more in love with him. It reminds me of the iPod he got for me when we first started dating and the Beirut songs I listened to as I jogged around the neighborhood, passing freshly manicured lawns and plumeria trees. I love that he picked the instrument up and brought it on our trip to Spain. I love traveling with him, seeing these new places and experiencing them with him. I know that in a couple months, we’ll be reflecting on all we did and saw and we’ll get that bug again to go somewhere. We’ll save up, eating top ramen for a couple months until we can travel to a new place and make more memories.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Writing Prompt: Fantasy Art

You are so lucky. I've decided to post prompts every Friday AND Tuesday. These writing prompts should help get your creative juices flowing and battle writer's block. Find new ideas or add to your existing stories!

This week, I've decided to feature some fantasy art. I have attributed the proper artist and I expect you to do the same if you repost this photo anywhere. This is their very hard work and they deserve to be credited for such talent! Click through for the listing on deviantart if you want to comment or support them.

Use these photos to spur on a story. Ask yourself: who is this person? What are they going through? How did they come to the point in the picture? What's happening?

CREDIT: Jessica at Enchanted Whispers

CREDIT: Lienwyn

CREDIT: burari

CREDIT: michalivan


Friday, June 22, 2012

Writing Prompt: Last Sentences

Hey, everyone! I know there are tons of writing prompts all over the internet, but sometimes we still need some creativity boosts. Writer's block can get in the way, we can be pressed for time or creativity. So here's the start of a regular feature on the blog where I'll post prompts to get your creative juices flowing!

This week, I thought it would be neat to do last sentences instead of first sentences. See if you can incorporate these last sentences into your next short story, novella, or even novel!

1. Things hadn’t changed at all.

2. Rebecca dropped the key into the river and watched as it disappeared in the rushing, frantic water.

3. Sometimes, she still wondered if he thought about her.

4. That was the last time he saw her.

5. I never made that mistake again.

6. We got lost.

7. We visited him in prison as often as we could until he died of a heart attack two years before his release date.

8. She whistled as she walked away from me forever.

9. He was too tall, anyway.

10. I could never fix the thermostat after that.

11. That concert was the best night of my life.

12. I almost picked up her crutch and bashed her across the skull with it, but somehow, I refrained.

13. The shock of electricity reminded me I was still alive, still vulnerable, still susceptible to hurt, even death.

14. He looked at her like she’d said something novel, like he’d never heard such a wonderful thing.

15. The scars never truly went away.

16. “Oh, sure, right after I invent the Internet.”

17. We decided to go to the 1920s in Paris.

18. Nothing could keep them apart, no matter how much they hated each other.

19. The stars were bright that night, almost blinding.

20. And finally, somehow, she fell asleep.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Navigating Ebook Publishers

As ebooks and ereaders become more and more popular, we're seeing a lot of new ebook publishers pop up. Ebook publishers are generally independent publishers (unconnected with "the Big Six") who deal primarily with ebooks, though some publishers will have a POD option for novels. In this day and age, how is an author to know that an ebook publisher is trustworthy? Try these handy tips if you found a new ebook publisher you're not sure about.

Look at the website
When you find an ebook publisher's website, ask yourself:
-- Is this website professional? If the website looks sloppy and has lots of errors, how will they treat your cover design or your editing?
-- Can I find all the information I need easily, or does it seem like they're hiding some things? Some information should be easily seen, and you shouldn't have to hunt it down.
-- Is this a website I would mind sending friends, family, and fans to? Your publisher should not embarrass you, you should be proud of them!
--This is an important one: Is the ebook publisher's website targeting readers or writers? If they're brand new, they may need to target writers in order to get submissions and build their catalog. But if they have been around for a while and have some books out, they should be marketing those books! A publisher is for readers, not writers. They shouldn't be trying to make money off of writers, for sure. If you're asked to pay anything, run the other way. That's vanity publishing, and if you truly want to follow that route, at least go with an established vanity publisher instead of someone brand new.

Look at the staff
There should be bios for the staff members somewhere on the website. You should know who you will be submitting your work to and who you'd be working with should they choose to publish your book. Check out:
-- Positions: how many editors do they have? What kind? Do they have any publicists or marketing associates? Do they hire a cover artists or do they go freelance?
-- Experience: what kind of experience does the staff have? Experience in publishing? In writing? Are they just authors who thought it would be fun to start a publisher?
-- Google those names if you feel like you don't have enough information about them. See if you can find them on social networks and see how they act in the public sphere. What kinds of books do they read? Are they authors themselves?

Look at the terms
It's rare that the publisher will have a contract online, but they should at least have something on their website about what formats they publish in (print or ebook, for example) and how royalties will be divided (how much the author earns and how much the publisher keeps). If this isn't available on the website, don't hesitate to e-mail someone and ask. I'd also ask why it wasn't available.

If you submit a book and you're offered a contract, comb through that thing with a fine-tooth comb! Here is an extremely condensed list of things to look for:
-- Rights. What rights/license are you granting the publisher and for how long? What is the geographic scope?
-- Copyright. Who will register it and when?
-- Manuscript delivery. When are you expected to deliver the manuscript? What editing do they provide?
-- Payment. Is there an advance? Royalties? How are these royalties calculated? For example, net and gross and cover are all different prices and thus will give you different royalties. How often are you paid royalties? Is the publisher required to send you accounting statements?
-- Publication itself. Look for a duty to publish, advertising/promotion, galleys, method of publication.
-- Termination. What are the terms for reversion of rights?

Ebook publishers should be willing to answer questions you have and possibly negotiate the contract. Do your research and know what you're signing because that is a legally binding document and if doesn't matter if "you didn't know", you signed it and you have to stick to it.

For more information, check out Writer Beware's post on contracts or this checklist written by attorney Lloyd J. Jassin (for publishers).

Look at any existing books in the catalog
Obviously, since there are new publishers all the time, some publishers don't have books released yet. But for those who do, find those books and be ruthlessly brutal and honest in regards to those books.
-- Genre: is the publisher accepting all books (and possibly spreading themselves too thin) or are they targeting a niche where they can be more effective?
-- Cover art: do these covers match up with other books in the genre? Does it look like they were made with paint or have they invested in the marketing package of their books?
-- Blurb and sample: are there errors? Do the blurbs and samples snag you? Have they carefully edited and proofread their work or do they throw books up in the hopes of making some money?
-- Distribution: are the books available on a variety of e-retailers, or only a few? Where will they distribute your book?
-- Reviews: search for reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, blogs. What do readers think of these books? Have any readers read these books?
-- Marketing: A simple Google search with the title and author will tell you how much marketing work the publisher has done. If only a couple of the results are for this book, reconsider what this publisher will be willing to do to publicize your book.

The important thing to remember is not to rush into something. This is your hard work and it should be presented in the best way possible. Take your time with publishers and make sure it's what you want.

Personally, I'm a content editor with a new ebook publisher called Entranced Publishing, and of course I fully endorse them. I believe Entranced is dedicated to producing quality books for readers and that they'll use honesty and professionalism in their dealings. Drop by the website if you want and see if we might be a good fit for your novel. Oh, and a small disclaimer: this post does not represent Entranced view's, only my own.

Here are some places to check up on publishers:
Absolute Write's Bewards, Recommendations & Background Checks
Preditors & Editors
Writer Beware