A Writer’s How-To: Memorable Settings

I find the easiest way to create a memorable setting is to make it unique. If your story is set in the mountains, give the mountains a cool name with some weird creatures living in it. If the story is set in space, make the spaceship feel like home and add some quirks to it. (After all, we all have that ONE FREAKING FLOORBOARD that creeks like some horror story bad guy is coming to kill you in the middle of the night.) If your story is a romance, make the setting cozy by adding in something that means the world to the main character or something that brings up some unfinished memories.

If you give the setting something specific, something unique to itself, some defining character, readers will remember it better. (It’s the same with making memorable characters!)

Three of my favorite settings are, in no particular order: Hogwarts, because of the ghosts and the moving staircase and trick doors; Serenity, because even though it fell apart ALL THE TIME it became a home and sanctuary to the crew; the Arenas in the first and second Hunger Games books, because it seriously messed with the tributes in unique and challenging ways.

Why do I like them most? They all offered something unexpected and added dimensions to the story, as well as pushed the story along. Doing so with your settings will help your readers remember them!

Readers: what are your favorite settings and why?
Writers: what are some ways you make your settings believable?

Happy Friday, and until next time!
Warm regards,
Kellie

If you want to write a book, here are five actual tips. (Don’t quit!)

Okay, my fellow writers, we all know that Beast article sucked. Maybe it was trying to be a tough-love kind of motivation. (Yes, it takes dedication.) Maybe it was trying to relate a truth about writing. (Yes, it can be hard.) Maybe the author was just having a terrible time as a writer and wanted to ostracize the community he desperately wanted to become a part of. (Side-eyes the article again.)

Regardless, the article was poorly written, the author comes across as a villain, AND the “tip” he gives (write everyday) while good for some people, simply can’t work for others. The author’s idea of “if you want to write a book, write everyday or quit” is a terrible mindset to have. To that end, here are five tips if you want to write a book:

1.) Read. Read so many books, inside your genre and out, whenever you can spare the time. Why? It’s important to see what’s been done in the literary world, it’s a way to build your repertoire of words (sounds weird, but seriously, reading helps you build your vocabulary), and it’s also a great space to gain inspiration.

2.) Read your work out loud. Yes, this also seems weird and maybe don’t do this in a coffee shop or other public place, but reading the scenes out loud will allow you to figure out the sticky spots, the weird transitions, the too-long sentences. It can help with pacing, too.

3.) Consider having a Post-it note on your computer (or somewhere you can dig it up easily) with an inspiring quote from your favorite author or from your favorite book. It’s something you can look at when times are rough, or when that one scene just isn’t working, or when you can’t think of how to make this one MC amazing. For me, I have this quote from Patrick Rothfuss when he guest starred on Critical Role as Ker saved on my desktop: “There are many things that move through fire and find themselves much better for it afterward.” 

4.) Try not to edit your first draft while you’re writing. It’s hard, I know. I also want to go back and fix things, but if you do that, you’ll literally never be done with the first draft. Give yourself permission to have that first draft be shit. Write whatever the hell you want. There’s always the second and third drafts to pull it into the shape you want it to be in.

5.) And finally, my last tip is a tip of the hat toward the Beast article. If you want to write a book, write. Simply write. You can write everyday. You can write once every week. You can write for a marathon weekend or a marathon month. But if you want to write a book, all you have to do is write. Write when it’s best for you.

BONUS TIP: And please, for the love of all the writing gods and goddesses and muses in this world and beyond, please don’t give up. Your story is worth telling.

I hope you have a lovely weekend.
Warm regards,
Kellie

Inspiration: Where Do Stories Come From?

Stories. Where do they come from? What is that one spark that makes you traverse the long, windy road that is a completed story, whether it’s a poem, flash fiction, short fiction, or series of novels? That idea has to come from somewhere, right? It’s a question that authors get all the time during interviews and to be completely honest, that one “aha” moment can come from anything, anywhere, anytime.

Sometimes it’s a location that jogs the creativity. Or that couple walking down the street hand-in-hand. Sometimes it’s as simple as a sense-memory from your childhood or a dream or another book. Sometimes you have a really great one-liner that you just can’t stop thinking about. Sometimes—like in the case for Suzanne Collins—it came come from simply flipping through TV channels. Sometimes—like in the case for J.K. Rowling—a fully fleshed character walks into your mind like they’ve been there for years.

So, really, that spark of inspiration can come from anything, anywhere, anytime, and that’s the excitement of being a writer. You never know when an idea will smack you across the face and demand you pay attention. It can be the littlest of things that makes your creativity churn.

Case in point, here’s where the spark for the entire Cicatrix Duology came from. I had a short story due for my undergraduate writing club and for the life of me I couldn’t figure out what to write about. Completely stumped. Then, these three simple lines popped into my head:

“We have come to collect you, Mia.” Her left hand twitched. “We have come.”

That’s it. Not the scifi aspect. Not the plotline. Not even Mia herself. Just those three little lines. But those were enough to spiral my creativity into overdrive and start asking questions. Who wanted her? What’s with her left hand? How long had she been running? Why was she running? After that, the scifi aspect clicked into place, then the scar, then the character, then…well…everything else.

So here’s a little tip: Pay Attention. Write those things down. Even if you can’t get to the idea right now, put it in a ToWrite folder and save it for later. You never know when you’ll want to come back to it.

If you’d like to read the Cicatrix Duology, you can get Finding Hekate here and the (newly published!!) Losing Hold here.

Until next time!
Warm regards,
Kellie

Losing Hold Cover Reveal!

Hey everyone! I’ll be hosting a live Facebook Event this Friday to reveal the cover of Losing Hold! I’m pretty psyched about the artwork—spoiler alert: it’s gorgeous—and in order to celebrate I decided to do something a little different and try a live Facebook Event!

What does that mean?
Well, Friday between 7-8pm (PST) I’ll be on my Facebook Event page posting things like what Losing Hold is about and the inspiration for the story, hosting a Q&A session with giveaways (that’s right, free stuff!), and of course, revealing the cover! Basically it’ll be a chance to ask me some questions and be entered to win one of the four giveaways prizes! Speaking of…

What are the Giveaway Prizes?
I’m going to give away two signed copies of Finding Hekate and two 30-page edits from Edit Revise Perfect. I’ll be picking four participants from Q&A at random to win the prizes, so be sure to ask a question to enter!

Here are the specifics one more time!
Friday, February 24th
7-8pm (PST)
On this Cover Reveal Facebook Event Page (be sure to select “Going” to get the notifications!)

I hope to see you there! *waves*
Warm regards,
Kellie

Fantasy Inspiration (A Song You May Find Familiar)

Inspiration can come from anywhere, as we all know, and I’m inspired by a lot of things when I’m walking around or just going my daily business. (Like trees and people and flowers and conversations. You know, the usual.)  I scribble things down in a notepad or the Notes section in my iPhone and go about the rest of my day, thanking myself for jotting down the gem to use later on because I KNOW I won’t remember it.

But when it comes to actually sitting down and writing the story? Well, that’s a bit different. I tend to gravitate towards certain things…okay, one certain thing…

And it’s probably because my current WIP is a fantasy and this is a fantasy-based song (obviously) and lets just admit that I love the LOTR soundtrack, but honestly, it’s so much easier to write when I have this on in the background. I dunno why, it just is. So I go with it.

What kinds of songs do you listen to while writing?

I hope you’re having a lovely Sunday night!
Warm regards,
Kellie

Ten Writing Tips

Writing can sometimes be hard. Here are some of my favorite writing tips to make it easier:

1)  Give yourself treats for writing something. (I know, I know, it’s like kindergarten all over again. Do something good? Get a little gold star on the corner of your paper!) But sometimes motivation is hard to come by and little treats (like a new pen, a new notebook, a new character sheet, or let’s face it, that new show you’ve been dying to watch) can make it easier to actually sit your butt down and write.

2) You don’t have to write linearly. Some writers swear by writing linearly; they write out a huge outline and just plow on through it. And that does work for some authors, but certainly not for all of them. Feel free to skip around. If you’re stuck on a particular scene or chapter, leave that and go to a different section. You might find that writing out an entirely different scene helps you finish the sticky one.

3) J.K. Rowling once said, “Sometimes you have to get your writing done in spare moments here and there.” We tend to think writers spend all day writing their lovely prose and intense characters, but honestly, we all have other things to do like juggling full-time work, friends, and chores. Find spare moments to write, even if it’s just ten or fifteen minute pockets throughout the day to write down a character trait, an idea for a specific scene, or that specific scene itself.

4) Always carry a spare notebook. No, seriously, always have another one somewhere because when you lose your trusted red notebook that says Keep Calm and Carry On you’ll be super upset. (I know this from experience.)

5) Don’t shy away from painful scenes. Emotional, psychological, physical. Any of kind pain. They can be a bear to write, but they can be vastly important to growing a character. I had some scenes in Finding Hekate that were really hard to write, especially the flashbacks, but I knew it would deepen her story.

6) Have a dedicated writing time or place. When you’re there, block everything else out and write. This is your craft and like any other artist, you need time to do your work.

7) Look around you for inspiration. Seriously, see that random person drinking coffee? They could be your next character. Remember that one guy who always sits in the corner of the library? Use that mindset to create a mysterious background. Those flowers you saw on the way to work? Craft a new flora in your world. Inspiration is everywhere. Dialogue, setting, plots, and characters are all around you, so if you’re stuck in some anti-writing mud, look around and listen.

8) Set a goal for yourself. Even if it’s just 200 words per day, set it and keep it. Even if they’re a crappy 200 words. Even if you won’t use them, write them anyway. Once you start writing regularly, like any habit, you’ll want to continue writing.

9) Neil Gaiman once said, “The main rule of writing is that if you do it with enough assurance and confidence, you’re allowed to do whatever you like. So write your story as it needs to be written. Write it honestly, and tell it as best you can. I’m not sure that there are any other rules. Not ones that matter.” It’s true! Write your story the best way you can, in whatever form you can, on whatever subject matter you can. It’s your story, no one can tell it better than you.

10) Stop using little words such as very, really, just, and that. They’re useless modifiers that bulk out your word count when you don’t need them to. Here’s an example of how you can remove “very” from a sentence. Instead of writing “She ran very quickly to Sarah’s side.” write “She rushed to Sarah’s side.” Doing so will tighten your work.

What are some of your favorite writing tips? I’d love to know in the comments!

I hope you’re having a lovely Friday! Stay safe out there.
Warm regards,
Kellie

#IndieAuthorDay

Today is #IndieAuthorDay. It’s a day where publishing professionals (writers, agents, librarians, etc.) gather together and celebrate independent authors. It’s a day where folks talk about the hardships and successes of being an independent author. It’s a day that shines a light on them and their community, while also celebrating local libraries in North America.

And it’s a day that I didn’t hear about until today.

Granted it’s brand new (today was the inaugural launch) and I’ve admittedly been entrenched in following the political pulse of the nation this past week instead of the writing pulse (which is a fault of my own).

But I’m a bit sad that I didn’t hear about it until today.

I would’ve wanted to join in on this celebration and conversation. And I did, a little bit. While I missed the local event here at the Portland library, I was able to catch the presentations on YouTube and retweet some key messages from others. And there’s always next year! (On that note: Mark Oct. 8th on your writing calendar, guys, because its something we should all celebrate!)

It seems like a great idea, though, and with all the other stuff happening in the world right now (and not just political stuff, but also Hurricane Matthew and various amazing cons that I’m currently not at), I’m happy to have heard about it at all. It appears like the inaugural event was a success, too, which is awesome, and I’m quite glad it was trending on Twitter so I can take part in it, in my own small way. (Social media connectivity, FTW!)

Good luck, indie authors, and keep on writing!
Warm regards,
Kellie

A New Box of Books!

Hello everyone!

Last week I got a box of books of Finding Hekate fresh off the press! I’m pretty excited about it because 1) three of them went to Another Read Through, a local bookstore here in Portland, so that means I have books in TWO BOOKSTORES and that’s pretty badass, and 2) it means I can do some more giveaways! I’ve been brainstorming this week about things that I could do and thus far I’ve come up with this (keep in mind: these are still pretty new):

Doing a Twitter Hashtag Event (3 books)

  • In order to share the love of science fiction books, where people share their favorite science fiction books and I’ll pick the top three at random that Saturday?
  • Possible (mostly unused) hashtags
    • #FavoriteSciFiStory (?)
    • #SciFiStorytellers (?)

Goodreads Giveaway or create an event on Goodreads? (1 book)

  • Research how the heck to do this…

Donate one to the Queer Resource Center (PSU) and the In Other Words Feminist Society (2 books)

  • just because 🙂

Join together with a bunch of other authors to do a giveaway to support others and make it more of an event? (1 book each…or more?)

  • Science fiction only? A #ShootToTheStars Giveaway!
  • super easy way to enter – just put in your email address into a Google form?
    • Then I’d link it to the other authors?
  • Who would I ask to join?
  • How do I start doing this?

Do something for National Coming Out Day (Oct. 11)? (1 book)

  • Something simple?

So…yeah, as you can see, I’m still in the hashing-things-down stage of this. I’m going to reach out to some authors to see the kinds of giveaways and such they’ve tried. What worked and what didn’t. It’s been a fun process! I’m probably not going to giveaway all of them but doing a few of these ideas might increase my overall readership and fanbase. 🙂

Fellow creatives: What have you done-giveaway wise-that’s worked in the past?

I hope you’re having a lovely day!
Warm regards,
Kellie

#WIPJoy

 

One of the great things about social media is the chance to communicate and connect with people across the globe. Another great thing about social media are the hashtags, because it allows you to pair down all the posts and really see what people are talking about concerning a specific subject. It allows you to join in a conversation more easily.

A hashtag I’m particularly enjoying this month is #WIPjoy. Started by fellow scifi/fantasy author Bethany A Jennings, #WIPjoy is a month-long celebration of your current work in progress (WIP). The writers follow a specific set of guidelines for their daily posts (including #WIPjoy and usually the specific day, example: #WIPjoy D22) specifically about their writing and then can look at what other authors are doing for theirs. Here are the guidelines this year:

screen-shot-2016-09-07-at-2-05-55-pm

It’s a great hashtag to join in and look through because it connects you to other writers online, it allows you to really dig into your current work in progress, and you can see all the cool things other writers are doing. Plus, it’s fun! It’s a celebration of writing, how can it not be fun, right?

It’s especially good for me since I needed a boost this month to think about my current work, a five-book fantasy series I’m tentatively called The Broken Chronicles. My folks are visiting and we’ve been doing a ton of adventuring in this state of mine, so I haven’t been able to work on my novel very much. This #WIPjoy allows me to keep my mind on it, if only for a short time of the day.

It’s been a lot of fun. If you’re participating, shoot me your Twitter handle and I’ll send you some love! If you’re not participating (or don’t use Twitter), what work in progress would you talk about if you were?

I hope you have a lovely day!
Warm regards,
Kellie

Flight Anthology Pubbed Today!

front-coverHello everyone!

Guess what? The 2016 Queer Sci Fi Flash Fiction anthology Flight is here, and I have a story in it! My scifi piece is entitled “A Sub Mechanic’s Panic.” It’s surrounded by some other amazing stories; I’m so happy to be included!

Here’s a bit about the competition:

A 300-word story should be easy, right? Many of our entrants say it’s the hardest thing they’ve ever written.

Queer Sci Fi’s Annual Flash Fiction Contest challenges authors to write a complete LGBTQ speculative fiction micro-story on a specific theme. “Flight” leaves much for the authors to interpret—winged creatures, flight and space vehicles, or fleeing from dire circumstances.

Some astonishing stories were submitted—from horrific, bloodcurdling pieces to sweet, contemplative ones—and all LGBTQ speculative fiction. The stories in this anthology include AI’s and angels, winged lions, and wayward aliens. Smart, snappy slice of life pieces written for entertainment or for social commentary. Join us for brief and often surprising trips into 110 speculative fiction authors’ minds.

Other important details and links:

The book is available in eBook form (4.99), and will soon be available in paperback with b/w illustrations inside (12.99) and in a special collector’s edition with color illustrations (24.99).
Publisher (info only, no buy link yet)
Amazon
ARe
Kobo
Goodreads
Goodreads Series Page
Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, and Apple: Coming soon

If you like speculative fiction in the LGBT sphere, check out this anthology! I said it earlier but I’ll say it again, there are some amazing stories in this book, and I’m so happy to be among them.

(Also, writing a 300-word story is tough; fellow writers, you should try it sometime.)

I hope you’re having a lovely Wednesday!
Warm regards,
Kellie