Category Archives: thinking process

NaNoWriMo from 11/1 and my Dad

Okay, so yesterday wasn’t too good for writing. I only got 979 words in. However I was also an emotional mess.

Over and over again yesterday I kept thinking about my father. I kept remembering how I found him slumped over in his chair, tongue protruding and eyes closed. I remember the football game was on the TV and his portable fire was on as well. He was comfortable when he tried to kill himself.

As I was on the phone with 911 he started drooling and i knew I had found him right after he fell unconscious.

The EMTs came and it was then I realized it wasn’t a stroke, but a suicide attempt. I didn’t find the empty pill bottle until I left the hospital that night.

We live about 6 minutes from the closest hospital. Dad stopped breathing on the way there.

When the doctors checked his blood work they told me he had the highest Tylenol level they had ever seen. Yes, Tylenol. by the way, don’t do that. it will kill you slowly. Very slowly. The problem for my dad was that he took the PM variant in a large enough dose that the diphenhydramine stopped his breathing.

I was so angry.

Even more so when I found out that he had been asking people for a gun. My brother, two of my neighbors. And no one told me. I didn’t realize he was that ready to kill himself.

It took me a long time to get over being angry, and sometimes I still get angry.

He killed himself on my watch, even though I blocked his actual attempt. Guilt is bad. And comes back to haunt you at the most inopportune times.

Like when you are trying to write for NaNoWriMo.

Thanks for letting me spill my guts.




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Where have I been? What have I been doing?

Well, life has a tendency to get in my way, and, unfortunately, the blog is the first thing that gets slighted.

I have been working quite a bit at Babies R Us and may be in line for a promotion.

I have been writing, and rewriting, and editing.

INFECTED us getting rewritten from the beginning now that I know a bit more about writing than I used to. This time it is in 1st person past. I have chapter 1 fully outlined in my new formula of writing and it should be written by Wed night.

PROPHECY is also getting a do-over, switching to past tense. Seven full chapters are completed.

A QUESTION OF CHANGE is in the researching part of writing as I learn more about zoology and a specific park that is near me. Although under a different name, Maymont Park in Richmond, VA is the setting in the novel, with some small modifications.

WHITE DARKNESS also known by the name RAFTER MONSTER is still in the brain storming stage.

June 1st begins the Speculative Fiction Marathon where INFECTED and PROPHECY will be undergoing critiques. For 12 weeks, one chapter a week will be critiqued by other spec-fic members. It is a thrilling and exhausting time.

I am also a contributing blogger for dragons and aliens and wraiths oh my a blog for speculative fiction authors, by speculative fiction authors. My first post is live.

After Marathon I will be publishing serials from authors I know. A chapter a week is the goal right now. Hopefully my fellow spec-fic members come through like they said they would! Thanks for already having segments done TJ!

So I will be better on letting you guys know where everything stands in the future. At least things are getting back under control.




Filed under Agent Query Connect, author, crazy, crit, critique, critiquing, story, thinking process, work in progress, writing process

How to Beat Writer’s Block

Due to crazy holiday work schedules, this Monday post is coming out on Thursday. So be it.

I get it, you get it, every great writer gets it too: The dreaded WRITER’S BLOCK.

There are times in a WIP when you sit back and say to yourself “What happens next?” and you come up blank.

No ideas flow, the well of creativity is dry.

Great, now what?

There a few, somewhat well-known tricks that can help you get through this.

First let’s go through the types of writer’s blocks.

1) The “I don’t know where this is going” block — Okay, this one used to happen to me all the time when I was writing. I’d get to a point where every word was pulling my hair out. Sitting there, looking at a blank page, with my mind as blank, waiting for something to come.

This is a simple (mind you, simple, not easy) solution. It usually means you have lost your way in the story. Time to go back a bit and see what the problem is so you can fix it. Often you have just lost a small thread of the plot. It happens. Just fix it up and change your more recent writing to reflect that. Remember you have a million words of crap in you, this is a way to get some of them out.

2) The “I don’t want to write” block —

This can be a hard one to overcome. Think about why you write, what you want your work to say about you, then write it. Sometimes I do think like a *shudder* synopsis, just not a formal. I make a sort of book report on my story, telling about the beginning, the middle, and the end. This can help you find your way, once again.

The other way to deal with this is to write free-form. Just write, write badly if you have to. It’s okay, I give you permission. Get some of those crap words out of your head.

3) The “My story is crap” block —

Forget it, just keep going. You don’t have to get it right the first time, so write some filler you can edit out later.

OR start at another place in the WIP, something that excites you. You may find your passion for writing returning.

These are just a few types, there are as many as there are writers. The real key is to never give up, never stop writing, Take a break, sure but don’t stop.


Enter my Flash Fiction Contest . I have decided to give prizes in multiple genres if I get enough entries. You can submit more than one story. Your friends can submit as well. In fact, TELL EVERYONE! Make me eat my words that I want this to be big!




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Pillars of Writing

Okay, so today I want to talk about what makes a good novel, especially a thriller novel.

To begin with, it would help to define what a thriller novel can be.

A Thriller is a moral tale. Yep, you heard me right, a moral tale. Despite the negativity that is often applied to such a term, a moral tale is not a bad thing. The moral does not have to beat you over the head like the last 15 minutes of Happy Feet. It can be far more subtle than that. A good morality story teaches you about morals without you even being aware of it at the time. Let me give you an example. Who here hasn’t read a Harry Potter book? Okay, so most everyone has. Think about it for a minute. All the Harry Potter books urge people to follow in Harry’s (and Hermione’s and Ron’s and Dumbledore’s) footsteps by standing up for what is right and good. Yes, it is a morality tale. And a damn fine one at that. Did you even realize you were getting a message when you read it? I didn’t.

Okay, so a thriller is a moral tale. Great. Now, what kind of books can be thrillers? Well mysteries, horrors, paranormals, science fiction, fantasy. All of these can be counted under the thriller definition I am using here. The most important thing is that it is a moral tale, that’s it.

Now, on to the pillars. (I am using the term pillars because it is the term James N. Frey uses in his How to Write a Damn Good….  series. I recommend How to Write a Damn Good Thriller to anyone writing in a genre listed above.

All of these Pillars help to make a cohesive novel that is interesting and even fun to read. Remember you don’t want to hit people over the head with morality though. This is not Happy Feet. (Yes, i keep using that example, mainly because I loved the movie until the last 15 minutes, where it irritated me, a proud conservationist. if you haven’t seen it, I suggest you just skip over the end when it gets really preachy.)

Okay, without anymore ado, The Pillars.

1.) High Stakes– This is important, though the definition of high stakes can differ. It does not have to be the life and death of all humanity to be high stakes (though it can be). It could just as easily be the survival of a child, the savior of an immortal soul, or something else that is important. In all this is a pretty straight forward pillar. Don’t think about it too hard.

2.) Unity of Opposites– Okay, this sounds complex. It  isn’t. Of course, neither is novel-writing. Hard, definitely, but not complex. Unity of opposites, with everything else stripped away, is basically the reason your hero can’t just pick up and leave. That’s it. What is keeping your hero from saying, “The heck with it!” and getting out of Dodge? it can be morality, or even physically being stuck somewhere. Just make sure the reader isn’t asking why he doesn’t just leave.

3.) Seemingly Impossible Odds– The hero may not make it against the odds, and definitely for a period of time the reader doesn’t think he can. Usually, however, the hero does eventually overcome the odds. Usually, not always.

4.) Moral Struggle– Easy enough. There is a good side and a bad side. Your hero is on the good side. Think Luke Skywalker in Star Wars. The movies would have been completely different if told from Darth Vader’s point of view. (Notice I said Vader, not Anakin).

5.) Ticking Clock– There has to be a deadline for the hero’s actions. This is über important for the thriller to have a sense of urgency. I mean if there is no deadline, there is no reason for the hero to try to solve the problem and defeat the villain.

6.) Menace– Simply put, your hero and other sympathetic characters are in danger through most of the story.

7.) Thriller-type Characters– Your characters, hero and villain alike, must be clever and resourceful as well as larger than life. Think about Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker again. Although both are believable characters (in the Star Wars universe) they are both bigger than life, and incredibly clever. Same with Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort (yes, I said his name).

Incorporating all these Pillars into your novel will make it stronger and a far more interesting read. If you leave even one out, you run the risk of losing your readers, and we all know that is not a good thing.

Remember a thriller can be just about any type of novel, not just a murder-mystery or a zombie book.

Good luck, good writing!



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Character Journals

… and we’re back!

Okay, so I have been reading quite a bit recently about writing books. I know I mentioned in an earlier post how a writer should always keep learning and that books on the craft are a great way to do so.

Well here is one of the best ideas I have learned.

Sounds crazy. Well maybe not to you, but it did to me.

Write a journal entry for each of your major characters.

Crazy right? Actually, no.

A lot of authors get discouraged at their inability to find an agent or a publisher (if they are going the direct to publish route). They have no idea why their book(s) fail to engage someone else.

Has this happened to you? Don’t despair. I may have the reason right here, and if not in this post hopefully in one of the ones coming up in this series.

Many, many, many times, a writer makes their characters (especially their antagonist) too one-dimensional.

Makes sense if you think about it, though. I mean, the bad guy is supposed to be really bad, right?

Well yes, and no.

Agents and readers want an antagonist who is bad/evil/manipulative/etc, but he/she/it has to also be well-rounded. In other words, the character needs to live and breathe, have flesh.

Yikes! How?

The journal. It has helped me get deeper into my characters’ heads than anything else.

For instance, my bad guy is pretty bad. He wants to do a blood sacrifice on a child. He is evil, manipulative, larger than life.

He also had a very messed up life before the thing which changed him into a thing. (that is as specific as I am going with that, so deal with it!) 🙂

I had no idea before I wrote his journal that he had a wife who killed herself after their daughter died, or that he was blamed for a number of things out of his control, or that the reason he went to the place that changed him was to get spiritual guidance to take back with him to his people.

Wow. I really didn’t know my antagonist at all!

The journal helps.

One thing that I do is to use a different font for each character. I go through Microsoft’s fonts in Word and find the one that looks like the character’s writing. Then I just write away (*grin*) in that character’s perspective about his or her life up until the moment the story takes place. I suppose you could do it for the whole story too, but that is enough for me to know my character and understand what motivates him.

Will you put this journal in your story? No.

Will you use everything you learned about your character in the story (i.e. that his wife died)? probably not.

This is a tool for you, as the writer, to get to know your characters. Afterward you can see how they would react to certain situations because you know their deeper motivations.

So, what are you waiting for? Write those journals!




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Interview with Jennifer Merritt

Here is another wonderful author who was so kind as to let me interview her! Thanks Jennifer!

1)   What genre(s) do you write? And why?

I write science fiction romance. I love books that take place in our

world with one difference. It’s easier to believe the fantastical if

everything else is familiar. I like fast, fun, quirky stories, and I

write what I like to read. I also work as a freelance journalist for an

agriculture newspaper. Playing with aliens is a nice foil to the cows

and chickens. Although when you look at the world it isn’t hard to

imagine that the aliens are already here. All you have to do is spend

some time watching the sloths at the zoo to believe.


2) Tell us about your latest project. This is your chance to crow about being published, agented, or winning a contest.

My current work in progress, Electric Impulses, is about woman named

Stella Morgan. When Stella gets upset she emits electrical pulses

strong enough to fry small appliances. She hasn’t had a working coffee

maker in years. Stella has to choose between her yummy neighbor and her

ruggedly handsome boss only one of whom is human. At the same time

she’s dodging unwanted advances from a race of particularly nasty

aliens. She’ll be lucky to avoid alien abduction and a broken heart.

I’m hoping the book and its sequel will be available in the fall.


3)   Other than writing, how do you like to spend your time?

I love to read, paint and throw pottery ( the malleable clay kind not

the shattered plate kind.) I also like to garden, but given the current

weed infestation I’m embarrassed to mention it.


4)   Do you have any tattoo’s, if so where? If not, do you want any?

Boy howdy, I wish I did. I would be so much cooler with a tattoo. I

flirted with the idea a couple of decades ago, but I’m too scared of


5)   What is the last book you read? Did you like it?

Smokin’ Seventeen by Janet Evanovich I love Stephanie, Morelli and Ranger, and Grandma Mazur and Lulu make me laugh out loud. I enjoyed the book, but without giving too much away, the sex scenes were disappointing.

6)   What is your advice to those who want to be authors? (I know, it’s a crummy one, but needs to be asked)

Write a lot and never ever stop reading. I think the best writers are readers, too.


7)Tell us one thing no one knows about you.

I really like to go to the movies by myself.


I am a freelance writer and the often harried mother of three young boys. I live in southwest Virginia with a smattering of animals who have me well-trained.  I blog at and tweet at @jenwmerritt

Awesome huh? Yeah, she’s great, thanks again Jennifer



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Interview with Calista Taylor @calistataylor

Here is an interview with the talented and beautiful Calista Taylor. She has been very encouraging and helpful to me while I have been the process of trying to get my writing career started. Thanks Cali!

1)    What genre(s) do you write? And why?

 I tend to write steampunk or paranormal romances, most often set in the past or an alternative world, but with a mystery or adventure thrown in for good measure.

2)    Tell us about your latest project. This is your chance to crow about being published, agented, or winning a contest.

 I just started querying a paranormal take on Jack the Ripper, and I’m attempting to wrap up a steampunk clothing craft book which has a publication date of spring 2012.

3)    Other than writing, how do you like to spend your time?

 I try to write any chance I get, but if I’m not writing or working on the craft book, then I’m either reading or cooking.

 4)    Do you have any tattoo’s, if so where? If not, do you want any?

 Amazingly enough, no tattoo’s. It just hasn’t happened yet.

5)    What is the last book you read? Did you like it?

 I’m currently reading Sara Donati’s series, so I just finished Fire Along the Sky.  It was very good.  She does a great job of capturing the period, and her characters feel very real.

6)    What is your advice to those who want to be authors? (I know, it’s a crummy one, but needs to be asked)

 Just keep writing and reading.  It’s the only way to get better at it.

7)    Tell us one thing no one knows about you

 I can’t say that no one knows this about me, but I love storms.  When they say we’re going to get a blizzard, I get giddy. Love thunderstorms too.   But I can’t stand hot weather. I cringe at the thought of sunny and 85.

Calista Taylor is an agented author of steampunk/gaslight romance and non-fiction, with a steampunk clothing craft book due out in May 2012.  When not running things over with a sewing machine or lacing herself into a corset, Calista can be found tapping away on her laptop, tormenting her characters, and riddling the streets of Victorian London with dead bodies and heaving bosoms.  She’s also a creative cook who can’t follow recipes, a versatile crafter, and a happy geek.  For more on Calista, check out her website, Calista Taylor (, her blog, A Steampunk Reverie  ( or follow her on Twitter  (



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