Tag Archive | novels

Write that novel #4: Characters

It’s time to create characters for your story. Characters bring your story to life. They are who the reader wants to read about. Pick up any newspaper – what catches your eye first? It’s usually a story about a person. Yes, there may be a fire or a flood or something else horrific happening, but it is the people the journalists write the story about. They focus on the people and how they are affected. This is what you need to do.

But how to make your characters come to life. Your reader needs to sympathize with your characters. They need to care about them – whether the emotion is love or hate, the reader needs to feel something for your characters. You have to do more than just give them a name and gender. In order to really understand your characters, and thus present them better on the page, you have to get to know the intimate details of your characters.

When you create a new character, you have the chance to make him or her however you want. What you want, though, is a well-rounded character, not a cardboard cutout. As children, most of us played with dolls. Whether they were GI Joe’s®, Barbie’s®, or even Cabbage Patch Kids®, each type had one thing in common – their size, shape and clothing. If you had a nurse’s outfit for your fashion doll and your best friend also got the nurse, you had identical outfits. The office outfit consisted of a dark suit, white blouse and briefcase. For GI Joe®, well, olive drab is still olive drab. Unless you were creative with a needle and thread, your doll looked the same as everyone else’s.

Is that the way your characters look? Do your heroine’s all have long, luxurious hair that falls in natural waves to their hips? Are the women all tall, athletic with enough curves to keep it interesting, fair skin and exotic eyes? What about your heroes? Are they all tall, dark and handsome?

I once judged a writing contest in which, of every one of the seven manuscripts I read, the heroine was tall with reddish hair and green eyes. Oh, there were subtle differences between the seven, but not enough to make them unique. After the third red-haired, green-eyed siren, I started looking for something – anything – that would make the character different. If this sounds like your characters, then you need to get out your needle and thread. It’s time to do some creating.

Stereotyping characters is something many writers do without even thinking about it. Not all people of oriental descent are small of stature with eyes that tilt up at the corners. Some of them are quite tall and have eyes that tilt downward. People of African descent aren’t just “black” or of basketball player size. The colors run the entire spectrum from palest coffee to deepest ebony and some of them are actually a bit on the short side. And not all Germans are Nazi madmen or jolly rotund women toting pots of coffee and serving strudel.

Even identical twins have something that allows their parents to tell one from the other. It may be a subtle mannerism such as the way one tilts her head a little further to the right than the other, or a physical attribute such as the number of freckles. The trick is to find the trait and identify the person with it.

The same is true for your characters. If you have an office worker, instead of putting her (or him) in the same dark suit/white blouse as all the other workers, why not give her a bit of flare? Give her a brightly patterned scarf to go with that suit or put him in a pink shirt. And give her a reason for this. If you’re going to break the pattern, you should have a good reason. If it’s a character quirk, it has to be consistent with the rest of her life. You can’t have her being conservative in all aspects of her life and then suddenly wearing that bright yellow scarf for no reason at all.

Instead of long flowing hair, why not a short, perky cut that stands on end when she runs her hand through it in frustration – as she often does. Or make one eye green and one eye brown. I actually know a young woman with eyes like this. I asked her one time why she didn’t wear contacts to even the colors out and she said it gives people an interesting way to start conversations. She was in sales and did quite well. She used her quirk to her advantage.

Make your hero somewhat on the short side. It gives him something to overcome and still come out the hero. While this won’t work for all fiction, it may work for some. If he has to be tall and muscular, what about making him blonde with gray eyes? Or even a redhead? In all my reading, I’ve never seen a redheaded hero. Granted, men with red hair are unusual – but it could work. Why not try something different?

So what makes a quirk and what is just an annoying mannerism? Go to any public place and sit down for a while with your notebook and watch the people. A mall is a good place to do this. Pick out a couple of people and watch them (without being obvious). How do they walk? Is her head up like she owns the world or down like she’s afraid to face anyone? Is his stride long and powerful or a short shuffle? How do they carry their packages? How do they move in relationship to other people? Does she make people move aside for her or does she move to the wall to get out of the way? Does anybody stand out in the crowd? Why?

Now, pick out one or two of the people that really got your attention and give them a background. Who are they? What do they do? Why are they acting the way they are? What are their other physical attributes? Do these add or detract from their personality? Take a good look at the people around you. No two people are alike and neither should your characters be.

For each scene, decide how you’re going to refer to your characters at the beginning of the scene and be consistent with it. If your character is Mary Doe, you can refer to her as Mary, Mary Doe, Ms/Miss/Mrs. Doe or some other name, but it must be consistent throughout the scene.

Let’s talk about names. Names are important. There are lots of places online where you can gather names for your characters, both first and last. What you need to remember when picking out names is: 1. Do not name multiple characters with similar sounding names or names that start with the same letter. 2. Pick names that are consistent with the era you are writing. 3. Pick names that are either appropriate for the character or, if you’re writing irony, something so different as to be a part of the character. To explain: Ethel and Walter were perfectly acceptable names in 1910. Today, not so much. Madison is a popular name for a girl today, but two hundred years ago? No. So if you are writing a historical, check the names for that era. Also, watch for stereotypes that cling to names. You can spend hours figuring out names for your characters and have fun with it.

If you’re having trouble with the names, maybe you need to visualize them and get to know more about your characters. Look at magazines and images online to get a picture of your character. Once you know what s/he looks like, you might be able to work better.

One way I like to find out about my characters is to “interview” them. Yes, you read that right. I “interview” them. To do this, I pull up a list of questions and answer them as my character would. You can also do this with a friend – having them pretend to be the character. This can be fun and give you different insights into the development of your character. The questions can be broken down into subsets: physical, emotional, history, ethics and so on. The following are some questions you can answer. As you go through them, you may come up with more. You don’t need to answer all of them, but the more you do, the better you will know your character. Remember, this doesn’t need to be done for all the characters, just the main one(s). Secondary characters should just have the basics.


Character’s Full Name:

Reason or meaning of name:

Nickname:                                    Reason for nickname:




How old does s/he appear?

Eye Color:

Glasses or contacts:

Hair Color:

Natural or dyed:




Type of body/build:

Skin tone:

Skin type:

Shape of face:

Distinguishing Marks:

Predominant feature:

Looks like:

Is s/he healthy?

If not, why not:



Character’s favorite color:

Character’s least favorite color:


Favorite Music:

Least favorite Music:






Daredevil or cautious?

Same when alone?

Favorite clothing:                                Why?

Least favorite clothing:                          Why?

What does s/he like to wear in public?

In private?

Does s/he wear any jewelry? What kind?

Other clothing accessories:

Kind of Car(s):

Where does character live?

Where does character want to live?

Most prized possession:                           Why?




Smokes:                                           What?

When and how much?

Drinks:                                           What?

When and how much?


How does character spend a rainy day?

Spending habits (frugal, spendthrift, etc):       Why?

What does s/he do too much of?

Too little of?




Type of childhood:

First memory:

Most important childhood event that still affects him/her:








Relationship with her:


Relationship with him:


How many?                                    Birth order:

Relationship with each:

Children of siblings:

Extended family?

Close?                                       Why or why not?

How does character relate to others?

How is s/he perceived by…





How does character view hero/heroine?

First impression:                            Why?

What happens to change this perception?

What do family/friends like most about character?

What do family/friends like least about character?



Most at ease when:

Ill at ease when:



How s/he feels about self:

Past failure s/he would be embarrassed to have people know about:      Why?

If granted one wish, what would it be?      Why?

Greatest source of strength in character’s personality (whether s/he sees it as such or not):

Greatest source of weakness in character’s personality (whether s/he sees it as such or not:

Character’s soft spot:

Is this soft spot obvious to others?

If not, how does character hide it?

Biggest vulnerability:



Optimist or pessimist:                            Why?

Introvert or extrovert:                           Why?

Drives and motivations:


Extremely skilled at:

Extremely unskilled at:

Good characteristics:

Character flaws:



Biggest regret:

Minor regrets:

Biggest accomplishment:

Minor accomplishments:

Character’s darkest secret:

Does anyone else know?

If yes, did character tell them?

If no, how did they find out?



One word s/he would use to describe self:

One paragraph description of how s/he would describe self:

What does s/he consider best physical characteristic?

What does s/he consider worst physical characteristic?

Are these realistic assessments?      If not, why not?

How s/he thinks others perceive him/her:

What four things would s/he most like to change about self?       Why?

If change #1 was made, would character be as happy as s/he thinks?      If not, why not?




Person character secretly admires:       Why?

Person character was most influenced by:      Why?

Most important person in character’s life before story starts:     Why?

How does character spend the week before the story starts?

Immediate goals:

Long range goals:

How does character plan to accomplish these goals?

How will other characters be affected?

How does character react in a crisis:

How does character face problems:

Kinds of problems character usually runs into:

How character reacts to NEW problems:

How character reacts to change:



Write Your Novel #3: What Do I Write?

What do I write?

You may be one of those lucky people who can sit down and just start writing and the words just flow – but there’s no adhesion. It’s just a bunch of words that have nothing behind them. Your characters don’t interact with each other, your timeline is all over the place, you have no clue what you’re writing about. You are stymied.

You can keep writing and hope something eventually comes out of all this, or you can come at it from a journalist’s perspective. Ask the questions that start with: who, what, where, when, how:

  •  WHO is my story about?
  • WHAT is my story about?
  • WHERE does my story take place?
  • WHEN does the story take place?
  • WHY should readers (i.e. editors and agents) read this story?
  • HOW is this story different from, and the same as, others in ‘my’ genre?

Let’s look at these a little more in depth. The first, WHO, refers to the characters. The people who populate your story. For right now, since we are at the very beginning of the story, just make notes on your main characters. There should be no more than two (three for a romance) – the protagonist(s), also known as the hero and/or heroine, and the antagonist or villain. Keep in mind that in some stories, the villain may not necessarily be a person. In some stories, the setting becomes the villain. These are usually ones where the hero is fighting something fierce like a storm or his/her environment. You can also jot down ideas for secondary characters. We’ll go into more depth on creating characters next week. For now, just write down some ideas.

WHAT is my story about? I’m going to throw out a scary word here – theme. Before you run screaming into a dark corner, let me explain. Theme is nothing more than what your story is about. Most themes are very basic – love, security, happiness, and so on. There are three main types of theme out of which all the minor ones grow: physical, mental, spiritual.

Physical themes include things like money, health, home, warmth…anything that gives physical comfort. Survival stories often revolve around this. Mental themes are emotional – happiness, love, companionship. Most romances are in this category. Vengeance also lies in this theme. The last one is spiritual – this is a little more esoteric, answering the questions like “what is the purpose of life?” “Why are we here?” and so on. These are often more literary stories, where the main character is trying to figure out a deeper meaning for his or her life.

So, when someone asks you what your story is about…Do you mumble something like: Well, it’s about this girl who runs away from home and gets caught in a storm and ends up in a strange place with weird people and…

“The Wizard of Oz” is about security, home, love, and acceptance. “There’s no place like home” is the perfect line to explain the theme of the story.

Think about what you want your story to be about and jot that down.

Before I go any further here, let me advise you to have a file folder or notebook or something useful that you can use to make notes and keep them all in one place (remember in the first lesson when I talked about organization?). You’re going to be glad you had this all set up.

Okay, back to our journalistic questions. WHERE and WHEN are similar in concept in that they both deal with setting. Whether you set the story in a real place or made up one, you’re going to need to make notes on where it takes place. What is unique about this place? What does it look like? We’ll do a lesson about world building later, but for now, just make notes on the location of your story. This can be as broad as just the name of a city or state, or as specific as an address. The “when” of the story is not just about year, but also season and time of day. You’ll need notes on these later for your timeline.

WHY should readers read your story? What makes your story unique? Different? Why should someone shell out their hard earned money for your book as opposed to someone else’s? Why are you the perfect person to write this story? Though you don’t really need this to write your story, it will become helpful later on when you do submissions or promos. HOW is similar to this and something you need to think about. HOW is your story similar to others in the genre and how is it different? These are important questions to answer, again for the purpose of submission and/or promos.

So here is your homework for the week:

Read a book.

  1. Look at the journalist’s questions and answer them as well as you can. This will be the basis of your story.
  2. Go for a walk, or if it’s too cold, go to a mall and study your surroundings and the people. Make notes of anything unusual or interesting that you might be able to use to enhance your story.


Writing a Novel #2 : Choosing a Genre

What do I write?

You’ve got your space all set up, or you know where you’re going to go to write. You’ve got your supplies. You sit down and you look at the blank page…and you blank. What do you write?

This is the first big challenge. A lot of people claim they want to write, but when it comes to actually doing the work, they back off. They don’t have a clue where to start or what to write. The blank page, whether paper or a computer screen, can be intimidating.

One of the first things you need to figure out is what genre you want to write in. There several major genres and dozens of subgenres to choose from. Let’s start with some of the main ones (Note: since I’m talking novels, I’m talking strictly fiction here)(second note: this is by no means a comprehensive list):

  •  Adventure (aka Action-Adventure) – these are stories where the main character does something risky in order to obtain something. Examples include Indiana Jones, Die Hard, Jackie Chan
  • Comedy – something inane, lighthearted, witty, designed to make the reader chuckle. Examples: Marx Brothers, Lucille Ball, Jackie Chan (an example of a combination of two or more genres)
  • Fantasy – contains magic and/or supernatural beings/devices. It is magic based and not technology based. Dragons, sword and sorcery, witches, etc. Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, etc. (C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, J.K. Rowling)
  • Horror – a story meant to shock or scare the reader. Anything by Stephen King fits this genre, but the father of all is Edgar Allen Poe. Also check out Mary Shelley, Dean Koontz, Anne Rice.
  • Mystery – focuses on a problem, usually a murder, to be solved. Includes many subgenres like true crime, crime and cozies. Agatha Christie books, James Patterson, Mary Higgins Clark, Perry Mason, Carl Hiaason, Elmore Leonard – all good mystery writers.
  • Romance – a story about the relationship between two main characters. Though romances run the gamut of subgenres (romantic suspense(mystery), futuristic romance, paranormal(fantasy), sweet, snarky, etc.) the main focus of the story is the development of the relationship and not the underlying genre. Norah Roberts, Susan Wiggs, Katie MacAllister, Kathleen Woodiwiss, Beatrice Small and more.
  • Science fiction – uses technology. If there is no science, there can be no science fiction. You might have a dragon – but you’d better have a plausible, science-based reason for it being in your world. It can include apocalyptic, post-apocalyptic, dystopian, alternate history, alternate universes, aliens, genetics, plagues, military, social science fiction (concerned less with technology and more with society – think 1984), space opera, cyber-punk, steampunk and more. Examples: Star Wars, Avatar, Wild Wild West, Star Trek, Firefly
  • Thriller – usually something that involves spies, espionage, dark crimes, disasters, etc. where there is a constant sense of impending doom or physical threats. Silence of the Lambs can fit this as well as any Tom Clancy book, Ludlum’s Bourne series, etc.
  • Western – any story set in the American west, usually involves ranches, cowboys and girls. Authors include Zane Grey, Louis Lamour.
  • Literary (also known to some as “Women’s Fiction” – though I might argue with this) – usually have strong female protagonists (heroines) overcoming personal issues. Not always with a happy ever after ending. Authors include Fannie Flagg, Nicholas Sparks, Anne Rivers Siddons, and more.

Each of these can be combined with each other or with other sub-genres to make dozens of different types of stories.

For instance, in mystery, you can have cozy mystery (think Murder She Wrote) where there is a body (or two, but rarely more), an amateur detective (someone who is not a cop/detective/etc.), and a mystery to be solved. There is rarely gore or violence. They are light, quick reads. On the other hand, a straight crime mystery usually has a professional detective or cop as a lead character, the possibility of multiple bodies, violence, gore. They are edgier and darker than a cozy. Both of these can be set in contemporary times, but they can also be combined with science fiction for a futuristic mystery, or placed in a past century for a historical mystery. Or they can be westerns, or psychological, or urban…you get the idea.

Action/adventure can be science fiction in nature (Terminator movies). Urban fantasy takes place in the here and now. You can pick any one or combination of them to write what you want – just be forewarned that not all sub-genres will sell well so if you want to write something marketable, keep this in mind.

Most writers tend to write in the genre which they read the most in. And you’d better be reading! So what do you love? What kinds of books take up the most space on your shelves (or in your electronic reading device)? That will probably be the genre you are most comfortable writing in.

Homework for this week:

Decide on a genre and make notes on what is needed for that particular area.

Writing Your Book – Getting Started

As part of my New Year’s resolution to do more writing, I am going to post weekly (I hope!) tips on writing your own book. These are tips and ideas I’ve gleaned over the years from workshops, books, and conferences and I’m going to condense them here for you. So, get out your pencils and let this be the year you finish the darned book!

The first thing a writer needs is something to write, and something to write with. The second part of this is easy – pen or pencil, paper, or a computer or word processor. If nothing else, a crayon and napkin. Or a stick and dirt. Seriously, though, I suggest something a little more permanent (like the pen/pencil/paper or computer). The main thing is to use something that works for you. I tend to waffle between handwriting and computer writing. Yes, computer writing is much faster (at least for me), but I tend to be more focused when I hand write. Then I’m not distracted by the internet (I’ll just check my email before I start) or games (just one more game of solitaire), or anything else. It’s just me and the paper. Find what works for you. Also, keep a small notebook and pen with you at all times (or your iPad/iPhone/etc.) on which to jot notes when the idea strikes. Do not rely on your memory. Memory can be fallible. And keep one by your bedside at night (along with a tiny flashlight) in case you get an idea in the middle of the night.

So you have your writing implements, the next question is where do you write? The answer is, anywhere that works for you. I know writers who have fancy offices with all the trappings who spend eight hours a day there. They have desks, computers, printers, shelves for books, reference works…. I also know writers who have a comfortable chair in a corner of the living room where they write while surrounded by kids, television, and the chaos of daily life. Others sit in the midst of a coffee shop, library, or other spot. Like choosing what to write with, you need to find the place that works for you. A spot that says “Here is where I’m going to write.” It doesn’t matter if it’s a corner of the dining room table that you have to clear off for meals. When you are there, you are writing.

Which brings me to the next topic – storage. I can see the raised eyebrows now. What does storage have to do with writing? Actually, a lot. And better to get it set up and organized at the beginning than try to figure it all out later. No matter what you are writing, you are probably going to have to do some research. Or just need a place to put all those pages you write out or print out. There are any number of handy types of storage available. However, I don’t recommend shoe boxes (unless you have extremely large feet!). You want something that will hold your pages flat. An expandable file will work for this, or a plastic bin of some sort. Make sure it is large enough to hold your pages as well as any research you do. While you’re at it, get another file for notes and ideas – things on weather, settings, people, anything that will spark an idea. Set it up with sections for setting, characters, plot ideas, and any other categories you think appropriate.You can also keep these in separate files on the computer. For things you find in other places, scan and save, or download similar pictures/pieces (do so legally!) and store in your online files. One advantage of this is that it takes up a lot less space, but be sure to always back up!!!

Your homework for the first week is to get yourself organized and ready to write. You will need:

1. Something to write with

2. A place to write

3. Organization files


Guest Blogger: Megan Hart

My guest this week is Megan Hart, best selling author – and good friend. She will be discussing her newest book, All Fall Down, among other things.


In the midst of a chaotic midnight assembly, Sunshine is forced out into the darkness. Holding a scrap of paper scrawled with a stranger’s name and address, Sunny grasps the hands of her three small children and begins her escape.

Liesel Albright has dreamed of starting a family. She never bargained on inheriting one already in progress…or one so deeply damaged. When nineteen-year-old Sunshine appears on the Albright’s doorstep claiming Liesel’s husband Chris is her father, all they can think to offer is temporary shelter. The next day, they’re stunned by the news that the Family of Superior Bliss, led by a charismatic zealot, has committed mass suicide. Sunny and her children haven’t just left the compound–they’ve been left behind.

Now, instead of a baby of her own, Liesel must play mother to the four survivors while Chris retreats into guilt and denial. For Sunny, however, a lifetime of teachings is not easily unlearned. No matter how hard she tries to forget, an ominous catechism echoes in her mind, urging her to finish what the Family started.


  1. What genre do you write in? Why?

    I write in many different genres, including spicy romance, historical fantasy, young adult horror and           mainstream literary fiction. Why? Because…I…can? Or because I am an overflowing cauldron of ideas? Or because I’m crazy! Your choice.

 2. Please tell us about your latest book.

 All Fall Down is the story of a young woman raised in a cult by her mother, who forces her to leave and seek shelter with her biological father. Sunshine takes her three kids and flees to her father’s house, where he and his wife take them in — but are they all really ready to become a family?

 3. What can we expect from you in the future?

 More mainstream fiction. More horror. More romance. More of everything I’m doing and maybe some new stuff, too!

 4. How do we find out about you and your books (URLs, blog, etc.)





 5. What motivated you to start writing?

 I’ve been writing stories for as long as I can, which is since kindergarten. I decided when I was twelve it was what I wanted to be when I grew up.

 6. What kind of research do you do?

 It depends on the story. For All Fall Down, I read a lot about cults and their methods. For the short horror serial I’m writing, I researched natural disasters. If I don’t know something and can’t reasonably make it up, I try to make sure I’m accurate.

 7. Do you have a set schedule for writing or do you just go with the flow?

 I mostly write Monday – Friday from about 9 am to 3 or 4 pm. I work on other things in the evenings, editing or research or promotion. If I’m in between writing drafts, I’ll edit during the day, etc. So I do have a set schedule, but the content of what I’m doing is fluid.

 8. Who, if anyone, has influenced your writing?

 Stephen King, absolutely, as a kid.

 9. Have you always wanted to be a writer?


 10. What is the most rewarding thing about being a writer?

 The letters  that say “I loved your book.” The ones that say “you’re my favorite author” are amazing. But the ones that say “your book taught me something about myself” — those are precious.

 11. Among your own books, have you a favorite book?  Favorite hero or heroine?

 Tempted. Alex Kennedy. He’s also a fan favorite. But I love and hate all my books. Love all the characters.

 12. Are there any words of encouragement for unpublished writers?

 Keep working. Learn your craft. Pay attention. Don’t try to skip ahead of the line — put in the time. Make sure you’re really putting your absolute best work out there.

 13. Where can we buy your books?

 Everywhere books are sold, I hope!

 14. Now for something fun (Please pick a few of the questions below to answer – do not feel that you have to answer all.):

Chocolate or vanilla? chocolate

Favorite color? purple

Favorite TV show?  Supernatural

All time favorite actor?  Keanu Reeves

 Actress?    Kate Winslet

All time favorite book?   Hmm. That’s a tough one. I usually say The Stand, but I also love Imajica by Clive Barker, Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey, Swan Song and A Boy’s Life by Robert R. McCammon…so many favorites…

Favorite Movie? The Matrix, The Wizard of Oz

What makes you laugh out loud? I’m blessed in that many things make me laugh out loud.

If you could go anywhere in the universe where would that be? To sleep.

 What do you like to do in your “down” time?  Play the Sims 3. Watch movies. Read. Sleep.


Just one more chapter…

I’m reading a book by an author I love – wait, let me amend that – I love her books, her…not so much. I have met her. She comes off as a snob and I’ve seen her snub fans in person, including young teens who really don’t need that kind of attitude from an idol. And no, I won’t tell you her name – not setting myself up for a lawsuit. But while I may not personally like her, I do like her writing. And like many others of my favorites, I find myself putting off things that need done just to read one more chapter.

One more chapter and I’ll go take care of the dishes. One more chapter and I’ll make dinner. One more chapter and I’ll get to my own writing. Just one more chapter…

That’s the kind of book I want to find more of. Ones that draw you in and won’t let you go. Even now, I’m sitting here with the book next to me, about a hundred pages left to read, and all I want to do is finish it. And yes, it wouldn’t take me that long to read a hundred pages, but I have things that have to be done. Things I’ve been putting off just to read one more chapter. And no, it’s not the dishes or dinner – I can put those off. I’m leading a writing workshop on Saturday morning on editing and I need to get my notes together for the class. And I do have an actual job that I occasionally go to – one where I earn a paycheck. Things I need to do.

But just one more chapter…


Wow. I surprised myself.

I did not have a great day today. I won’t go into details, let’s just say it was a frustrating day. On top of the frustrations, I wasn’t able to get any writing done (except this blog). So I feel behind on things I should be getting done. Plus I looked over a couple of my contracts and realized there were a couple of problems I need to discuss with one of my publishers, so that topped off my day.

In light of the contract issues, I sat down to look at some of my stories that I had finished and in progress…and I surprised myself. If you look at my websites, you will see that I have four books and three short stories published under this name, and four more under another name. Okay, eight stories or books – not bad considering that most people who write will never be published. But then I looked at the other stuff I have sitting around. In addition to what I have out, and what my publishers are sitting on (four more stories), I have twelve more finished novels that just need me to work on them (edit), eleven more that are nearly done, twenty-five short stories (almost all are science fiction in nature), and another thirty-eight stories that are at least started, but just sitting there waiting for me to do something with them.

You don’t have to do the math, I did. I have a total of one-hundred-one stories either published or waiting for me to do something with them. And I’m sure there a a few ideas sitting around somewhere that I don’t have in my computer.


Now I’m certain that very few of them will ever go any further than they are right now, and several will probably be combined to form a single story, but still, I surprised myself. I didn’t realize I had that many. It feels pretty good. It shows me that I am a productive writer, even when I don’t feel like I am.

So on days like this when I’m feeling low about the writing, I’ll pull out that list, take a look at it, and know that I can get the stories out and that if I run into a block, all I have to do is pull up one of those works in progress and work on it.

I think I’d better go pull up a file and get some writing done. 🙂

Addendum: I kept counting (don’t ask – it was something I just felt I had to do), anyway, in addition to the above, so far this year alone, I’ve done 50 reviews for three different sites, critiqued twelve stories/novels for friends, relatives, and crit partners, done a half-dozen articles for newsletters, and blogged (I didn’t bother to count these) for this and other sites. That’s in addition to past articles for newspapers and magazines (I was a newspaper reporter for two years), more reviews than I can remember (did this for almost fifteen years), and copy-edited almost fifty full-length books (fiction and non-fiction) for private clients.

And yet, most professional writer’s groups don’t consider me a published writer because I’m not actively pursuing a career in writing. Interesting, huh? 🙂

Under the Covers

How much does the cover of a book draw you? At the small bookstore where I work, we front out books that have interesting (to us) covers. When I’m looking for a book, I know certain covers draw me in while others make me skip right over the book. That’s a shame, I realize, because I may be missing a perfectly good read. However, when I see badly drawn cartoonish covers or ones that were obviously photoshopped with someone of less than adequate ability, I tend to think the book may be of lower quality as well.

And yet, I have read really good books that had horrible covers. I’ve also read horrible books that had really good covers. What should matter is the writing – and it does. Once I’ve picked up that book, I read the blurb, the tag lines, and, maybe a page or two before deciding if I want it, but it is the cover that draws me first.

So what about you? Do you pick up a book based on the cover?


Our official Grand Opening celebration kicks off October 27th at The Haunt! Please join us to meet some of our authors, staff, and learn how you can win a Sony e-reader, as well as other prizes!

Though my new book, Crystal Keys : The Emerald Key, isn’t out yet, I’ll be offering previews of this urban fantasy. Come take a look at what we have to offer.

CAPTIVA PRESS is a great place to find exciting new books.