Character Cosplay

Do you need more creativity in your life?  Then hang out with the ever amazing Madison Dusome!  She always has the best ideas.

A few weeks ago, she suggested that some of us on twitter do a character cosplay for Halloween, where we draw our characters dressing up as each other’s characters.  Having the crazy schedule that I do, I only spared myself the time to do two of them.  So, in lieu of this month’s comic, here they are!

My character:

Sylragorl (City of the Dead) He is an ice dragon, a bit stunted as far as dragons go, but still big enough to bite your average human in half.  He is a silvery pale blue, with sapphire eyes and seven headspikes.  Four legs, two wings, tail, this sort of dragon.  Sylragorl is desperate to be liked and will do stupid things for even the semblance of affection.  But if he decides he doesn’t like you, prepare to be disemboweled.  He has a self-deprecating sense of humor and can be pretty sarcastic.

Dressed as CM Schofeld‘s character:

Ruaridh Carver (Twyned Earth)  Five foot nothing, messy black hair, unhealthily thin human(ish). Always wearing very baggy black clothing, band hoodies, jeans with chains, black studded/spiky wrist accessories. Grumpy, easily scared, anti-social chain smoker.


My character:

Princess Aerinthe Darinsvale, although she prefers the nickname Snow White (Blood and Ebony)  A slender, pale girl with long dark hair and bright green eyes, Snow is fifteen years old, but with a much, much older soul.  She prefers rich/dark colors and heavy fabrics, and always wears a small glass-and-ebony bauble on a silver chain, containing a drop of blood and water. (For clothing style, think Anne Boelyn-ish, but with a tiara instead of the headgear.) As Aerinthe, she is a charming girl and a doting daughter.  As Snow White, changeling child of the Fey King, she is ruthless, manipulative, and sadistic.

Dressed as Madison Dusome‘s character:

Adrien (Half a Man)  Messy, long-ish blond hair, missing his left arm from the shoulder.  Clothes are of mixed medieval France/Morocco inspiration: fitted tunic, loose pants, beaten shoes.  His military “uniform” involves a black-and-yellow checkered sash that can basically be tied however you like; some pin it like a cape, some wear it like a scarf/hood, some wrap it across the back/around the shoulders.  There’s a “proper” way but most prefer to rebel ;D  He might be seen with (a) a longsword that’s too big for him (b) apothecary tools (c) books! (d) magical golden strings, which would be a hilarious/horrible thing to cosplay.

SWasAYou should take a minute to check out Mads’ and Cat’s blogs as well, where they will also be posting their own versions of character cosplay, as well as their thoughts on writing, the universe, and everything.  (I’ll put up links to the art itself as it gets posted.  Hopefully soon!  The suspense is killing me!)

(Madison’s first batch is up! Clicky!)

(Madison’s second batch is up! Hi-ya!)

Have a great week!  Next time you hear from me, it’ll be while I’m knee deep in another month of NaNoWriMo– see you then!

Sample Chapter Extravaganza!

Okay, not really an extravaganza.  Just one chapter.  But I thought it might be fun to post the first chapter of this month’s Camp NaNoWriMo project!  This is from Goddess Forsaken, the second book of the Star Daughter series.  (The first book, you may recall, is City of the Dead.  You can read the first chapter of that one over here!)

This baby is ugly and in desperate need of a lot more love than it’s gonna get during NaNo, but that’s what the schedule says, so that’s what you get.  Despite its being terrifyingly unedited- so judge gently- I hope you enjoy it.

Goddess Forsaken, Chapter One:

The smile stretched forever, spanning everything.

“Read with me, Entiln,” he said in a pleasant voice. “Let’s review.”

Months of pain and terror were cataloged in his skin, carved into flesh and bone in scars that would never heal. Jonathan’s fingers were on his neck, feeling his pulse, tracing the scarlet lines his knife had put there.

“Read with me.”

Enthiln shook his head, trying to flee, but Jonathan was everywhere. He was everything. He was God.


Pain tore through him and he screamed.


Nahldria startled upright, scrambling out of bed before she was even awake.

Enthiln! Enthiln was hurt.

She banged her shin against the stool and the pain brought her to full awareness.

She absently rubbed her shin as she stared around the dim room, confused and exhausted by months of interrupted sleep. Not home. But not there. And that had to be good enough for now.

Enthiln clawed at the wall, still trying to escape his dreams, and feet padded down the hall. Nahldria hurried to the door, tugging on her second-hand nightgown, its hem brushing her shins instead of her ankles. She stumbled into the hall, Enthiln’s struggles still loud in her ears, and then paused beside his door, frowning. It was already open.

Read more! –>


While I’m throwing links at you, here’s a bonus one!  For anyone interested, I was interviewed last week by Gwendolyn Kiste on her blog.  Go check it out!

A Year in Review

Back in February 2013, and at the gentle urging of my much beloved NaNoWriMo, I purchased my very own copy of The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published at just over ten dollars. With it came the right to a twenty minute session with the authors to discuss my pitch. I mark that moment as the first upping of my game.

Another such moment came when I signed up for Twitter, which I had been resisting for years, mostly for pride’s sake, and began connecting with a larger writing community. Almost immediately, I tumbled headlong into the loving arms of what would become my core cadre. These folks, most of whose names have appeared on this blog multiple times, began wheedling, cajoling, teasing, and threatening me into taking the next step. And I owe them endless thanks.

I finished a final draft (for reals this time) of my book, finally embracing the idea that eventually, a baby must grow up and go out in the world to seek its fortune. I set aside the red pen that had been semi-permanently affixed to my right hand and started writing the second book. Meanwhile, I secured and regaled a group of fantastic beta readers to tell me everything that was wrong with my book. Then I wrote a novella. And finished another novel. And another one.

But my focus didn’t stay fixed on just writing novels. I started a writing blog. (And here you are. Hello!) I filled it with all my wishes, tips, and crazy adventures in the literary world. Hopefully, readers were able to find something of value on here (and I’m always open to questions and suggestions). I wrote bunches of short stories and, full of terrified misgivings, even sold a few. I began entering writing competitions. I even went to a writing convention.

Then I queried agents. (Gasp.)

It’s been a pretty productive year, I think, as far as productivity goes for the struggling wanna-be author without a dollar to her name. I didn’t make much money or sell any books, but I covered a lot of ground in networking, writing, and learning about the publishing game. Maybe some day I’ll make enough money at this to buy a cheeseburger. And I’ll definitely consider that a win.

As far as the upcoming year goes, my writing plans are few and simple. I want to complete at least two more books. And I plan to keep querying agents until my book finds its one true love. That is all. But really, that involves a lot, probably everything I did this year and more. And I’m very excited to continue this amazing literary odyssey I’ve set out on. Who knows where I could end up?

So how about you? What are your plans for this new year in writing? Lemme know in the comments below! Happy New Year and welcome back!

PS- Back in December, I declared January Beta Appreciation Month. Go hug a beta reader. It’s good for you.

Back in the Saddle

For many of us, November is a special time when we throw even more of ourselves into writing than usual. The dishes stack up, the diet gets downright scary, the worried phone calls from well-meaning loved ones fill the voice mail, and our word counts soar. But it can’t last forever. Eventually, we have to come crawling out of the primordial ooze of the writing cave and fix a sandwich, kiss our mothers, and unclog the toilet. It’s a bittersweet time.

And in my case, a lazy time. I normally write around 2-2.5k words a day. During November, I write 3-4k a day, ofttimes more. During the first week of December, I typically write nothing at all. I convince my children anew that they know me, I shovel all the pizza boxes into the trash, but I don’t usually write a whole lot. But there comes a point when I have to get up, dust myself off, and get back in the saddle. Then I sit at my laptop and think, “So. I have this ugly little first draft. Now what do I do with it?”

I’ve experimented with different approaches over the years and have found many facets of myself lurking within the writing chunk of my brain. Here are the most common:

Become an Editing Fiend This was me this year. I finished writing The Book, the Crown, and the Sword and immediately went back to the start and began editing. Didn’t even pause for a fresh cup of tea. (That was the plan and the reason I finished a week early. I knew December was going to be MADNESS this year.) This is nice because everything is fresh in your head and it’s easier to remember exactly how you chose to spell that name or what color so-and-so’s eyes were. I have a tendency to take this route. It usually takes me a month or two to write a novel, but then I dive right back in for editing, with takes up to twice as long as the first writing did. (BCS was strange in that it took three weeks to write, and just shy of two weeks to edit. I hope this doesn’t indicate innate suckiness.)

Sound the Charge Sometimes, I’ve been so enamored with a character or a world that I ran headlong right into the next book. Kind of a “Darn the typos, full speed ahead” mentality. This often happened in my younger years while writing a series (or what would evolve into a series) and was kind of nice for flow and continuity. But overall, I found that a lot more problems were slipping through the cracks this way and that I would write stuff into the future strictly to justify it in the past, instead of just deleting it out of the past like it needed to be. Fluff abounded, in every form from a few words of purple prose to entire storylines that simply and definitely did not need to be there. This approach was much easier for the flow of getting words on the page, but I often ended up with WAY more work this way once I finally forced myself into editing.

Let It Ruminuate Put down that red pen. Yes, you. Put it down. Many people recommend this approach and I usually agree. It can be hard to see the flaws of something we look at every day. (Just ask my husband. He puts up with all kinds of garbage from me.) Sometimes we have to let our noveling brain rest and write a little poetry or a brace of short stories instead, or at least get outside of the story that has been our world for so long. I work almost exclusively on the Star Daughter series (City of the Dead, Goddess Forsaken, and more to come!) throughout the year, but every November, I force myself outside of that series. Sometimes it’s hard, and sometimes it’s a relief, but it’s always good for me. Having a break can give you a chance to recharge the batteries.

Lock the Door And sadly, I have had projects in the past that I’ve finished, stacked neatly, and never touched again. For one reason or another, I decided that those projects were not worth pursuing. Maybe they were just too clunky to make heads or tails of, maybe they were ugly beyond what I thought I could remedy, or maybe I just didn’t love them as much as I need to to take the next step. And I think that’s okay. Being a writer has few rewards. Often, the process itself is the only prize we’ll ever see. If the process isn’t rewarding anymore, switch over to one that is. If we force ourselves to keep on a project because we think we have to for some reason (It’s so marketable; it’s never been done before; I’ve invested so much already; etc), we run the risk of losing the one thing that makes our writing really, truly worthwhile: the love of it.

Does that mean those projects will never see the light of day again? Not necessarily. Does that mean they weren’t worth the effort I put into them? Not at all. Writers see the world in a special way. We want to touch and taste and read everything, to soak up as much experience as we can, and then make art with it. Many would claim that our medium is words. I would argue that it is experiences. Most people see something mundane, or even unique, and think, “Huh. Oh, well.” Writers see it and breathe, “There’s a story here.” We take those experiences and we craft new ones with them, ones that are surreal or solid, funny or sad, fact or fiction, but always in some way real. And if you look at it that way, no project, and no experience, is ever wasted time.

Now, I do not claim that these approaches are the only things to be done with a newborn manuscript. Just as each writer is different and each person is different, we deal with each manuscript differently. Do what you want. Pick one of the above or make up your own. But however you choose to proceed in this, the final month of 2013, do it with your head high. Your method isn’t nearly so important as your doing. So quit reading blog posts and get back to work. (Unless, of course, you feel the burning need to comment first. I can forgive this final diversion.)

NaNo Prep

This is the last Monday I have before November, which kicks off National Novel Writing Month. (If you aren’t doing this, you should. If you don’t know what this is, I don’t know you.) Paradoxically, NaNoWriMo is not the busiest month of the year for me. Really, my pace of writing isn’t much higher than it usually is, and it’s probably actually easier because there’s so much support and encouragement. The busiest month of the year is the month before NaNo. In particular, the week before NaNo is killer.

Different people approach NaNoWriMo preparation differently. Some like to compile playlists. Some like to outline. Some like to character sketch. Some like to stock the kitchen with ramen and Snickers bars. I dabble in most of those things. But my biggest time sink during NaNo prep often has little to nothing to do with my NaNo project.

This month I am preparing and sending out six short story submissions to various magazines across the internet. I like to do this so that all that nail-biting while I wait for responses gets sucked into the attention black hole of writing a new novel. Likewise, I’ve prepared a batch of five agents who I’ll be querying with City of the Dead. Also, I am planning, prepping, and writing (where appropriate) all the blog posts for next month so that I can concentrate on NaNo. The problem is that the month is nearly over and I still have much to do. And I’ll be spending two of the next four days in a local high school mentoring for the Young Writers Program (the youth oriented version of NaNoWriMo) during the precious, rare time that I usually spend on my writing career. (I regret nothing! I love spreading the writing love around, and this is exactly the sort of project I would have swooned for in high school.)

So you will of course understand if I more or less blow off a meaningful blog post this week. Sorry. I remind you all of the looming deadline for Apocafest (tomorrow! see this post for details) and encourage you to put up your best apocalypse scenario of 200 words or less. See you all next month!

What’s In A Name? (And Other World Building Concerns)

Somebody Googled ‘celedria name meaning’ or something like that. It made me squee. And now I am here to set the record straight. Nahldria/Celedria’s name means ‘Star Daughter’. ‘Cele’ was the word I originally had pegged to mean ‘star’, but it was changed to ‘nahl’ for a vaguely embarrassing reason. (Nahldria’s parents’ names were, at the time, Galandorn and Celedrail. Which, if you mix around a little bit, become more or less Galadriel and Celeborn. Look familiar? Yeah, that had to change.)

But how much does it really matter? As a writer, at what point am I officially wasting my time in making background information that will never ever make it into any books ever? Personally, I would argue… never.

Now, I allow, it will probably never come up that Nahldria’s favorite food is eggs, which really bothers her sister-in-law Ulanis, who had a bad egg experience as a small child and hates them. And it will probably never come up that a bazillion years ago, there were all kinds of evil mother in law jokes being made because ‘drail’, the word for mother, sounds a lot like ‘drae’, the word for an angry, haunting spirit which hasn’t been taken to dwell happily in the Sea of the Dead with all the other dead people because it was naughty and the God of Death wants it to go to time-out and think about what it’s done. It little matters what happened in the past, or what’s coming down the pipes (excluding, of course, the possibility of sequels and prequels). But I still think those things have value.

Pretty much every study ever has shown that the best way to learn a language is by immersion. (Yes, I made that up.) I believe the same holds true in the crafting of a story. In any tale ever told, there is more than is being said. The very details that can bog a story down are also those that make a world real. I find I am my best writer when I have immersed myself in the worlds I am writing, when I am just swimming in details. It’s neat to know who knew whom when they were growing up, and the goofy little spats they got into. And who knows when that may come up again? If I don’t know it happened, I can’t work with that. I don’t think it wasted effort to figure out the writing system that will never be in the books to go with the language that is little more than hinted at. Because, first off, it’s way fun. (Yes, I geek out about stuff like that. Yes, I read grammar books for fun. DON’T JUDGE ME.)

But more importantly, getting into the gritty details of the world my characters live in increases the clarity and uniqueness with which I can write about that world. It tweaks the way my characters interact, the way they speak, what they hold sacred and what they hold contemptible. If I know that my characters think that prime numbers are unlucky, it’s going to change the way they cluster in groups, the way they number their calendars, the way they draw up their floor plans for chapels. But if I don’t know that, at least in my own head, those little quirks of their cultures and their personalities, then I’m just going to end up chewing up and regurgitating what culture I do know: middle-class English-speaking American of European descent living in the northwest. And that’s boring.

There is a big difference between what the author knows and what the narrator says. If I added all the background information into City of the Dead that I have stored away on my computer, the book would be three times as long. Easy. But that would be boring, too. Just because I think it’s interesting to draw up descendency charts for the royal Houses, to pound out the histories of every noble House in the Homelands, to make a writing system based on simulated centuries of warping of ancient pictographs, to map out the social-political-theological-magical strings and knots in a world that doesn’t even exist, does not mean these elements add up to make a good story. There is a whole lot more that goes into a good story than tons of information. But having a well-thought-out setting sure helps.

It goes back to writing what we know. As writers, we’re told this over and over. Trying to write a historical fiction about the first and only female emperor of China is a little ridiculous if you know absolutely nothing about the Tang dynasty and its Imperial structure. If you are writing within a fictitious world, I think it’s well worth your time to get your facts straight, just as you would research any story set in the real world. If you don’t know your world, you can’t write it.

So does it matter that Nahldria’s older brother broke his arm once as a kid? No. And yes.

Welcome to… THE GUILD

Welp, I feel like I’ve crossed some kind of line this last week. I’m one step further along in my transformation from little Miss Jilly Bean to J.N. Marcotte. Not only have I joined a real live writer’s group, I’ve also now signed up for my first writer’s conference. And I’m stoked.

I have a critique partner, who is absolutely amazing, but I’ve never been in a writer’s group before. Unless we count a creative writing class I took in high school. (But let’s be honest here: my teacher was awesome, but the other students were just ridiculous. Seriously, who signs up for a class called Creative Writing when they neither are creative nor like writing? Answer: half that class. The teacher did what he could to not waste my time, and I absolutely love him to this day, but the whole thing was a bit of a joke.) I haven’t really done anything in this new group, The Alaska Writers Guild, besides sign up and pay my dues, but I look forward to participating in competitions and maybe even critique groups. (Just wish they didn’t meet on Sundays…)

But this all just reminds me of the fact that I don’t really know what to do with other writers. I mean, I’ve gotten a lot better. It used to be that, when I wanted to write, I would literally lock myself in a room with a computer or a notebook and only emerge when I was too tired or hungry to continue. (Not even joking. I hate when my husband reads over my shoulder, so I would lock him out.) Over time, I’ve gotten to where I can write if someone else is in the room (as long as they’re not beside or behind me). And I’ll share writing with others before it’s picture perfect. Twitter has really opened up my world because I can interact with others while I’m writing and it’s okay. Actually, it’s great. I work a lot better when I’ve got someone else wondering exactly how many words I wrote in the last half hour. (Saying I typed 913 words in a half hour is much more impressive than having to admit I wrote 27 in the last forty-five minutes. Those are both actual stats.) So I’ve gotten a lot more interactive in my work. A writing group can’t be TOO different from that… can it?

I’ve even less experience with writer’s conferences. I’ve never been to one in any way, shape, or form. I can’t quite say that I’ve never been to anything like one, because I’m not even really sure what they’re like. Maybe I have been, who knows? (Do you know? Please tell me if you do. I’ll blow adoring kisses in your general direction.) I just know that they’re things writers go to. I understand it’s mostly for networking purposes, but also to learn things in workshops. It’s all very esoteric. I’ve been told if I want to know the secrets, I must attend. So… I’m attending. In September. And I’m thrilled.

One of the little perks is that some writing guru is going to read through my query and the first fourteen pages of my manuscript, and then tell me everything that’s wrong with them. Well, maybe not everything, we only have twenty minutes, but I think this will be good for me. I’m taking deep breaths and telling myself it’s going to be great.

So, I’ll probably be turning these things in for the critique in the next day or two, but I’ve posted the current form of the query letter and would be delighted to have any feedback on it you may have. Please let me know if you hate it, love it, wish you could have back the one minute it took to read it, etc. (It probably looks pretty familiar to any of you nosing around the City of the Dead page. Sorry to bore you.)

In other news, it is the first day of Camp NaNoWriMo II, so… priorities and all. If you’ll excuse me, I gots a novel to rock out. Peace.

Productivity vs. A Life

… because it really seems like you can only have one or the other. Well, for the last week, I’ve chosen having productivity over having a life (which would also account for the unacceptable lateness of this post- apologies), and it seems to have paid off so far.

I’ve had two wonderful steps forward on my pitted path to publication! I had a short story accepted for publication later this year- I’m super excited. It’s my first publication outside of, like, elementary school newsletter sorts of things, and so I’m feeling pretty pleased with myself. I’ve gotten together a new batch of short stories to send out to another round of e-zines and the like. The second awesomeness is that I finished the most recent edition of my current work-in-progress, City of the Dead, a 122k-word NA epic fantasy. It’s been cleaned up and sent out to beta readers, and I’m trying really, really hard to not pester them every two minutes. These are exciting times for me- and I love my betas!

I’ve posted the first chapter in celebration. I’d love any feedback on it you might have. Thanks for reading!

City of the Dead
Chapter One:

Decades of careful training sent the arrow unerringly into the goblin’s left eye. It fell back with a short shriek and the others skittered back around the corner, scrambling over each other to get back behind cover.

“That was my last one,” Merith growled, letting the bow slide from his fingers to the ground.

“I am out, too,” his friend said, his voice choked with despair.

Merith glanced over at him, his eyes fierce. “We can still get out of this, Blackwood,” he insisted angrily.

Read More…