Archive for April, 2016

That’s right everyone, today is a big day! With the release of Book Two coming in June, I thought I would start hyping it up a little bit more. Without further ado; the cover of Darkness Falling: Shadow of the Seeker.

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If you haven’t read Book One you may be curious as to why that cover has a modern skyscraper while this one has a sword. You’re just going to have to read it to find out! If you have read Book One, then you’re probably thinking “Eep! I know that sword!”

Unlike my first cover, which the original design was by Allix Styers, this cover is my own design and even my own photograph! I found the font at 1001 Fonts by Vic Fieger and you can find it here if you like it.

Now for the synopsis of Shadow of the Seeker:

Captured by the crown prince Kei Xander Kei’Oren and Petor Garinsith, Brosen and Treve are returned to Sa’Toret-Ekar to stand trial for their crimes. Xander continues to struggle under the influence of the Seeker, determined to wrest it back from Garinsith and his Mutilators. At the same time, the Resistance has mobilized and is racing to rescue Brosen before it is too late.

Across the Empire the Darkness looms ever nearer to an unsuspecting populace. The world-wide blizzard continues unabated, and a resurgence of the Sena plague begins bringing about unexpected results for the infected. No one is prepared for the transformations that are about to begin.

Some desire power. Other struggle for freedom. All will be swallowed by the Darkness.

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The anticipated release date of Darkness Falling: Shadow of the Seeker is June 18, 2016. Keep me motivated by leaving a comment.

Thank you for reading. I’ll see you Monday to kick around Fear the Walking Dead.

 

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As usual this post contains spoilers from Fear the Walking Dead season 2 Episode 3. If you haven’t seen the episode please come back later.

This is not a recap but a discussion of how we can learn from the successes and failures of storytelling from popular media and improve our own writing.

I’m going to begin today by saying this episode is by far the best in the series. Once again, it is the teens that set things in motion. Even Strand, as shady and suspicious as he is, could leave us all dead in the water with his desire to remain isolated.

At this point Nick is my favorite character with Chris and Alisha tying for second. Sure, staying safe is what we would all desire in a situation such as the zombie apocalypse. That isn’t why we watch this show. Kids doing dumb things, like walking up to a zombie while covered in blood, is far more fun than watching Travis and Madison argue.

A lot happened in last night’s episode, but I want to focus on character intentions, which go hand in hand with motivation and core beliefs. To set a character in motion, we first need to know why and their plan.

Core Beliefs: Important values and beliefs that guide a characters

Motivation: what a character desires.

Intentions: The plans a character makes to meet their motivational or belief core goals.

Motivation and intention can also cause conflict, either when two characters are at odds or a character is forced situations that go against their core beliefs. We get to see this in action a couple of times this episode. Core beliefs are very important to your character, because it will dictate their behavior. Putting them in situations where they have to choose between their core beliefs and survival are great for causing conflict.

We started off with the Abigail sucking a zombie into the engine. This forces our survivors to anchor while Travis attempts to fix the problem. We all know it’s also because with Strand on board we need reasons to force the boat to stop. (At least this one is plausible.)

Let’s look at the different motivation and intention combinations of the evening.

First we have Alisha who at her core wants to be helpful. This drives her motivation to go to shore and her intention to find supplies.

Next we have Salazar. He has two motivations. The first is to take control of the Abigail away from Strand, who is not trustworthy. The second is to protect Ofelia who is out of antibiotics. For the first motivation he reveals the Mexico destination to Madison, his intention is to win her to his side. For the second motivation he offers to escort the teens ashore with the intention of finding antibiotics.

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Hopefully the Abigail is well stocked with Fabreze.

Madison’s core is to keep the teens safe and help others. Her every move is dictated by these two motivations. These core motivations come into conflict when she confronts Strand about Mexico and he reveals he has a safe place in Mexico. In order to keep her kids safe, she will have to keep Strand happy. In order to keep Strand happy, she can’t help others. This has already been true, but now she has a solid reason not to argue when he tosses newcomers overboard.

One of the most important things about intentions is that they will not always work out in a character’s favor, and this drove the action of the episode. Finding supplies in the wreck was not an easy task. Much of the luggage was destroyed by fire or water. Although Salazar found some medication, he didn’t find antibiotics. Salazar’s plan to increase Madison’s suspicions about Strand was also a failure, because to meet her motivation her intentions have shifted.

All of these motivations and intentions are building toward a greater conflict. Following this dynamic, you can create deeper characters who act for a reason rather than doing things merely to move the story forward. They present consequences, both positive and negative.

The highlight of this episode, of course, is when Salazar encounters Charlie from Flight 462. We met Charlie, Jake (who is severely burned,) and some others at the beginning of the episode. The others are gone, and only Charlie and Jake remain. What happened to them in between is a mystery.

Now we come to the next set of motion/intention. Arriving back at the ship, Strand once again is unwelcoming of newcomers Charlie and Jake. He doesn’t want them on the boat. This time, Madison flounders because she is caught between her core beliefs and her desire to keep Strand happy. Instead of doing so grudgingly as we saw in the past two episodes, this time her motivation and reasoning is clear.

Strand has one motivation, which is to get where he’s going with as little “dead weight” as possible. His intention is to ensure the other survivors do not hinder this plan. For a minute as I watched him struggle I thought he might crack. I thought he might feel guilty. If he did feel guilty, he ended it by cutting Charlie and Jake free from being towed, leaving them to die.

Hopefully they return in future episodes, and Charlie’s speech about this being the hardest day will bring about consequences to our survivors.

Other Notes

My favorite scene was when Nick was drenched in zombie juice and “communicated” momentarily with a walker.

Chris’ character development will hopefully take an interesting turn now that he’s suffered the trauma of a mercy killing.

Will Ofelia die of infection and become a zombie?

Hopefully the next episode will continue the trend of action and conflict. Thanks for reading and if you have anything to add, please feel free in the comments.

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Today’s topic is pretty straight forward and maybe seems unnecessary to discuss, and I got the idea by reading Jette Harris’s blog on noob mistakes writers make. (Thanks, Jette!) Honestly, I don’t know of any writers who are not readers. I do believe they are out there, though. What may be less obvious is that although reading makes us better writers, different types of reading helps us grow in many areas.

Reading to Learn

As a writer it is important to research different things for your writing. Part of this is because no one knows everything. Another part is because you don’t want to be completely ignorant when writing about a topic. It’s easy to lose audience members who know the truth about their topics of expertise if you do not put in the proper research.

Not only is researching topics for your stories a good idea, but reading about writing to learn your craft is also important. You’re already reading this blog, so good job! I also read to learn about writing. All of us always can make room to learn and grow in our craft, whether we write as a hobby or are best selling authors.

Never stop learning and your writing will get better and better.

Read to Understand

You should always be reading books in your preferred genre. Learning the voice and cadence from those who were published before you is an important tool in your growth process. As a young writer it’s easy to mimic the voices of your favorites because you admire their work. As you learn you’ll begin to understand and develop your own voice.

Another key to reading your preferred genre is figuring out where you can push new boundaries with your own stories. Instead of following the same map and path of others, you can forge ahead on your own to bring new ideas and topics with confidence.

Read to Push Your Limits

While reading within your preferred genre is important, reading outside your genre is just as important. Mystery, romance, horror, suspense, science fiction, fantasy; they all offer different perspectives on the human condition. You will broaden your ability to craft stories if you can think from different points of view.

It may not always be easy, but doing what makes us uncomfortable is what helps us becoming stronger.

Read to Practice

This is what will help you grow as an editor, which is very important to the writing process. In order to recognize and understand mistakes, it’s really important to read imperfect works other than your own. Learning to critique constructively will improve your ability to look objectively at your own work.

It can be easier to find mistakes in others and not in ourselves, but that is why practice is necessary. The imperfect works could be in helping a friend with a rough draft, proofreading your child’s homework, or even picking up imperfect books for free. Not only does this give you the chance to learn to pick out errors, but also how to give feedback in a helpful manner. (Think of it as good karma.)

Do you have any other reasons why reading improves your writing? Let me know in the comments. Thank you for reading!

Also by way of announcement, I’m working of Part 3 of the Soul Wave short story! There will also be a cover reveal soon for Book Two.

Warning: This book contains explicit sexual content and is not intended for readers under the age of 18. This book also contains a lot of curse words. If either of those things do not appeal to you, this book is not for you.

This review, however; doesn’t contain those things. It is also an unbiased and unsolicited review.

Tales by Rails by Jewel E. Leonard is the story of Rhea (pronounced Ray) soon after settling a divorce from her much talked about but never seen ex-husband Mark. After many years in a loveless marriage, she is out on her own and decides to take a train trip from her home in California to Chicago on a whim. She meets a handsome man whom she refers to as Surfer Boy and they have whirlwind relationship during the train ride.

In general, a book classified as erotica is a book that I would pass by on the shelves. What drove me to purchase this book is that I follow the author on Twitter and she plays along in weekly games where authors share lines from their works in progress. She also likes to say she only writes fluff. Upon observing her lines from works in progress, I came to the conclusion that she doesn’t give herself enough credit. I decided to take a risk and read this novella and was pleased to discover I was right.

Despite the explicit material, this book doesn’t read like a romance. Rhea has suffered quite a bit emotionally and is carrying a lot of baggage. Her time with Surfer Boy is not just steamy encounters, (in fact, those do not start until later in the story.) They have deep, meaningful conversation and share very touching moments with each other. This book is more the fiction of two people who need to heal and happen to meet by fate, and then spend some time steaming up the windows.

The Positives

  • Character Development
  • Excellent Pacing
  • Realistic Storytelling and Setting
  • Excellent writing and formatting

Okay, so it’s kind of funny to say this book is completely plausible but it’s actually true. One reason romance  is often a genre I usually avoid is because of the unrealistic nature of “romance.” It’s hard for me to hold my suspension of disbelief in most cases. It’s not that I never read or watch romance, because I do, but just like this book those romances need to be about more than bosoms heaving, hair blowing back in the wind, and heavy sighs.

The way the characters are developed is what makes this story believable. Rhea could be any woman who has just left a bad marriage. She struggles with her identity now that she’s on her own. This is a real issue that women face. In the process of running away she meets Surfer Boy. She calls him this because she doesn’t want to form an attachment. She’s trying to find herself before a new relationship, even though she admits the marriage was dead long before the divorce papers were signed.

Surfer Boy is not what she expects. Although he’s described as very attractive, he isn’t the impossible Fabio. He’s had his fair share of troubles and behaves like a normal guy, not the impossible dreamboat. Although Rhea tries to cast him as the mysterious man on the train, he really doesn’t fit that mold. He’s too real to be mysterious, and this is a good thing.

Leonard is very blunt and straightforward in her writing. Her characters bare all; body and soul, and you actually care about what will happen to both Rhea and Surfer Boy. By the end you feel like you’re leaving behind two friends who just happen to share too much information about their relationship.

The book is also well written. There were no problems with grammar, structure or formatting.

My Notes

I have two reasons I gave this only four stars. Both are more opinions and do not reflect the writing. First, the story is too short. Maybe that’s normal for the genre. I have nothing to compare it to as this is my first book in this genre. I would have preferred it to be longer and find out what happens next. Although the book ends in a good place, it only feels like half a story.

I know it’s a novella. I know a second book is in the works. I would have just preferred the story to have been a full novel instead.

My other note is with Rhea’s name, although not the name itself but the pronunciation. My book is full of names that are unusual. My theory is, even if the reader is saying the name wrong at least they will say it wrong consistently.

I was pronouncing Rhea as “REE-uh” because I used to know someone with that name. Well, at the very end of the story it’s revealed that her name is pronounced Ray, and Rhea hates it when people say it the other way, the way I was using. It made me feel bad, because as I said these people feel realistic. My note, therefore; is this should have come near the beginning somewhere. It’s a little thing, and my own personal thing and basically more of a nitpick.

I give this book four stars!

Four Star

If you would like to read this book you can find it on Amazon. You can also follow Jewel E. Leonard on Twitter @JewelELeonard  or on her blog.

This post will contain spoilers of Fear the Walking Dead season 2 episode 2.
If you haven’t seen the episode please come back later.

As always, this is not an episode recap but a discussion about the successes and failures of Fear the Walking Dead and how we can improve our writing by learning from them.

Last week for the premier I was pretty disappointed. Perhaps my disappointment would have been less if The Walking Dead season finale hadn’t also been utterly disappointing. I chose to give it another episode to see what happens next. I’m happy to say the second episode was much better and they actually did something that I thought should be done, go ashore despite the risks. (I know I can’t take credit, because episodes are filmed in advance, but it still feels vindicating.)

It’s Probably Pirates

After seeing a light on an island, the gang of survivors decide to dock the Abigail. This doesn’t really make sense to me, as Strand has been against making contact with anyone, but suddenly going ashore to an inhabited island with strangers is okay. “Information” doesn’t seem like something he cares about. Partly, I think he did it to use the island to hide their boat from the mysterious ship following their trail. The radar can only pick up mass, so hiding a smaller mass against a bigger mass is a good idea.

If you think like an antagonist, however; this doesn’t work at all. After being followed for a long distance by a ship that is faster (which was pointed out last episode,) the Abigail wouldn’t just disappear off the radar. If you were a pirate wouldn’t you want to find out why the smaller ship docked on an island? There could be supplies, something everyone needs desperately, especially because all of the coast was torched.

I’ll theorize that maybe the bigger ship isn’t pirates; it could be more survivors. It could be the downed flight 462 (highly doubtful but with this show you never know.) Whether good or bad, everyone needs supplies. It’s still early in the apocalypse, there is plenty of room for overly trusting survivors.

This red flag is brought to you by the question “Why did Strand allow them to go ashore?” The answer for this episode is “because we need to get them off of the boat somehow.” Not the best answer, but at least we get off the yacht.

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“We need to go ashore. We have to empty the toilets.”

They’re Creepy and They’re Kooky

This episode did a good job of building the tension with the ranger station family. From the top of the show we think two little tykes are about to become walker snacks. At the very end we watch as the Abigail leaves two brothers behind, having to face down what remains of their once loving mother. All of it is tinged with the sorrow that should come with the end of the world.

My favorite moments in this episode were the subtle foreshadowing of what was coming. First the kids making a gift of shells for the walkers. Next, we have the mom flickering the light in hopes of getting help for her children because she “doesn’t see a future” for them on the island. There’s the eerie red dots on the action figure’s heads, and Henry telling Nick about “power pills” to prevent him from having to get shot. Willa singing ring around the rosy and Alicia telling her the flowers didn’t heal the victims of the plague. Oh yes, so many juicy little bits.

Foreshadowing is not always easy to pull off. You don’t want to give away too much or be obvious. Subtle hints that make the audience question motives help drive home the reality once the truth is revealed. Travis did a good job holding up the confusion of why a mother would send her children away from a seemingly safe place into unsure waters? Clearly she doesn’t think they will be going to Walker University to get a degree in brain eating.

A Defensible Position

I think the saddest thing is that the island could have a made a good base. I know that Fear the Walking Dead wants to keep the survivors moving to avoid being too similar to The Walking Dead. That’s fine. There was a lot of potential in that island. It just needed more fortification. Of course, the dead bodies washing up on shore would eventually make it uninhabitable if you can’t dispose of them.

Then again, maybe walkers make good fertilizer. Did Rick already cover this at the Prison? I can’t remember.

Like I said last week, I don’t watch The Talking Dead, but I usually catch the opening. Last night Chris Hardwick was saying how this episode proves living on an island isn’t safer. Once again, this felt like the writers trying to insult the fans and our theories, which I think is in really poor taste. Do they want us to stop watching? Because I’m sure they will be laughing really hard if the show is canceled due to poor ratings. This episode proves nothing other than why you should keep your dangerous medicines in childproof containers on a high self instead of on a dresser in a coconut shell candy dish (or whatever the heck that was.)

Bring out Your Dead

I wonder how long Travis will need before he learns that walkers are for head stomping? I think it would be hard to realize that “chores” now include pick-axing a former human in the brain. Travis needs some schooling and I have a feeling it’s not going to pretty when it happens. Until then, good for Chris in helping their hosts with the daily walker cleanup. Even if it is out of his anger and grief about his mom, it once more shows that the teens are adapting faster than the adults.

Power Pills

Nick is turning out to be a favorite character. He has problems, true, but he’s also pretty smart. Maybe that’s why he has problems. Besides, complex characters are far more interesting.

Despite his drug issues he does have a compassionate heart. Hopefully he grows during the series. Being a recovered addict who has helpful pharmaceutical insights gives him an important role to the survivors. I bet Madison never saw that coming. Also, I appreciated that everyone just quietly accepted that he was snooping without accusations. They know what he was looking for, no need to make a scene.

Wave Goodbye

This episode was nice in that it had a beginning, middle, and an end. It left us with questions, but in a good way. Did the older brother finish what his father intended? Or does he try to live it out with his brother in a house full of ghosts and memories? Will they be another Morgan in that the family will come across them again?

The characters were well defined despite the short time we spent with them. Watching the plan to rescue Willa and Henry fall apart was heart wrenching. In The Walking Dead we come across families who made similar plans as George, ensuring their children never lived the horror of the zombie apocalypse. In this episode we got to meet one of those families, and it made for the best episode yet of Fear the Walking Dead.

Other Thoughts

Strand has been shady from the start but now it seems we’re getting closer to learning the truth. Is he a pirate? Gun smuggler? Or worse?

I’m glad Salazar is along for the ride. Until the rest of the crew gets up to survivor speed his dark past is going to be useful.

I would like to see more from Ofelia. She played a major role in getting the survivors out of the quarantine and I hope she is equally important this season.

Perhaps next week we will get to find out what happened to flight 462.

Thank you for reading and if you have any thoughts please feel free to leave a comment.

 

 

I want to begin by saying this is an unsolicited and unbiased review.

From the very start I thought this book was going to be a private detective story; something a little old school set in modern times. I was completely wrong, but that doesn’t mean I was disappointed.

From the Desk of Buster Heywood follows the titular character and he is not a PI but an accountant with sever social anxiety. Buster has recently moved to the fictional town of Aviario, set in Connecticut, and works for the town government. Although he has only lived there for a approximately a year, he already feels responsible for the town and thus gets himself embroiled into dangerous situations for reasons he doesn’t fully understand.

First for the Positives

  • Excellent characterization and relationship building
  • Suspenseful and mysterious plot
  • Strong single character third person narrative
  • Excellent pacing

This story is wonderful because it feels realistic and plausible. D’Onofrio has done a beautiful job of crafting not only the town of Aviario but all of the characters who live there. Every new location feels like a place you could visit. Her attention to detail is in perfect balance with her narrative; giving just enough to allow your own imagination to fill in the blanks and not slow the flow of the story.

The best part about this book are the characters. Buster’s social anxiety is believable and realistic. The attempts he makes to find acceptance despite his disability only heighten the reality of living with anxiety. His slow growth toward conquering his fears is beautiful to watcher.

The villains are equally shady and sinister in their subtlety. There are no mustache twirling going on, only an underlying sense of dread occasionally punctured by red flags. I often found myself gritting my teeth as I watched Buster blindly his path due to his misguided loyalties. Although the antagonists are clearly shady, they are also people. Many times I wondered if I was the one misjudging them, which really says something for strong characterization.

Each character that Buster encounters on his journey is unique and well crafted. From his new friends and sister to the waiters he meets only briefly, the cast is well defined. They are characters that you care about, even when they are only in the story for a single scene.

The story itself follows a wide arc, at times leaving you wondering how deep he will delve into the darkness. Page after page you start to doubt that Buster will ever find his way back to light. From start to finish the narrative takes hold and pulls you along, only wanting you to keep going to find out what happens next.

Now for My Notes

Really, I don’t have any notes. The only thing I can mention is a few cases where it seemed the paragraph formatting didn’t take properly. There would be a strange break between sentences rather than the start of a new paragraph. It happened a few times but was not enough to take away from the overall pacing or understanding of the story.

My Overall Rating for this Book is 5 Stars! I’m also looking forward to the next book set in Aviario.

Five Star

If you’d like to read this book you can find it on Amazon.

You can also check out Angela D’Onofrio’s site for more information about her upcoming work.

The following post contains spoilers from Fear the Walking Dead on Sunday April 10,2016. If you haven’t seen this episode yet, come back later. You’ve been warned!

After the extremely frustrating season finale of The Walking Dead we’re flying back in time to where the madness all begins. Fear the Walking Dead takes place in California at the start of the zombie apocalypse. Today’s post isn’t a recap but more of a discussion on actions and missed opportunities in storytelling.

Season two begins shortly after season one ends, with our new band of survivors attempting to reach a yacht that’s out on the Pacific. I normally don’t watch Talking Dead, but I did catch the beginning last night. The show runner who was on last night (sorry, missed which one!) stated that they are testing the “I would just go out into the ocean” theory many fans have about escaping zombies. Fine, but it feels a little backhanded, like an angry kid saying “I’ll show you!” to his parents.

The episode starts out okay, if a bit disorienting. I didn’t feel the rush to the raft was as exciting as it could have been. Burning LA to the ground was the best part. I have nothing against LA, but I think there was a similar event in Atlanta. It was good to see something that was only previously described.

The propeller to the face guy was an eye roller for me. I’m all for gore, but these are fresh walkers, not the squishy rot bags we’ve come to know and love. Having grown up on a boat, all I could think was “that’s going to damage your outboard motor.” Of course it didn’t, oh well.

Now we’re on the boat, known as Abigail. Suddenly a show about zombies becomes a drama about people living on a yacht. The conflict between the characters about saving people didn’t really work for me. I believe Strand was acting on his character’s instincts and that part was believable. Madison, however; felt like she was only saying it because it’s the right thing to say. The only person I believed was conflicted was Alicia, because we actually got to see her struggle with this before reaching out via radio. (Show vs. tell, people!)

 

I also feel like not attempting to rescue people is a missed opportunity. I’m not saying they should have rescued them, but I’m saying attempting to rescue them could put our heroes in a situation where there is action. Even if they got close enough to discover they were too late, the people are being attacked by walkers and they drive away to leave them to their fate, it would have put a much darker twist on the story.

My biggest issue with Fear the Walking Dead is inaction and missed opportunities. During season one I wanted to see the zompocolyps happening. Instead, we were hanging out in quarantine. All of the conflict relied upon drama and mystery. If The Walking Dead never existed, that would have been suspenseful. Instead, it feels like repetition because the audience already knows the truth. We understand that the characters don’t know, and we want to see the world falling apart instead of trying to solve a puzzle.

Before we get outside the fence the transformation is already over. The riot in the streets is the closest we came to the true action, and the majority of that is experienced while trapped behind closed doors. It was a missed opportunity to really show the masses becoming the horde.

Now here we are again, floating away on a yacht and passing by opportunities for action and conflict.

“I see a zombie! No, wait, it’s just more water.”

 

As for last night, Chris’ grief was the most believable part of the drama. He also creates conflict through his actions. Nick plays hero and goes in after him.

The water isn’t safe. A capsized vessel was nearby, clearly attacked by people with guns. Finally the show is getting interesting, not because our characters did the right thing, but because they did something stupid. Characters making mistakes is important to storytelling. When Nick attempts to check if someone needs rescuing from the boat, he encounters the weirdest walker ever as it stops attacking to listen to Travis shouting. I hope they expand on this later.

Alicia also wins an award for making a mistake that will hopefully cause action. The Walking Dead has long given us living villains, and the slow revelation that the originally friendly voice on the line is actually not very friendly is a good sign (for us, not our heroes.)

A story about everyone being safe from the danger and playing it safe isn’t interesting. Floating zombies aren’t that scary or threatening. We already know they can’t climb. Unless people fall overboard a lot, zombies in the water are just that. Wave as you sail by, they will probably flail back.

My questions for this season:

how and when will the survivors of Flight 462 get brought into the mix. How will that work with the new no rescue policy?

Do the pirates wear eye patches?

Thanks for reading. If you’d like to share your thoughts, please leave me a comment!

 

 

Hey, everyone! I normally wouldn’t post twice in one day, but it’s National Unicorn Day! I never even knew that was a thing. One of my other projects outside of Darkness Falling is a fantasy comedy, the title of which is a secret. It’s far in the future but I thought I would share a scene of one of my favorite characters.

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A soft, golden glow filtered down through the trees and a warm breeze lifted Melysoni’s hair. The forest came alive with birdsong, but not the usual chatter. It sounded as if a symphony came alive in glorious harmony. Raising her head, she watched a shimmering white light trotting up the shallow creek and was overcome by the beauty as the unicorn came into focus. He slowing as he approached, nickering quietly when he stopped near where she knelt.

“I can’t believe you’re real,” she said, reaching a timid hand toward his nose.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” the unicorn danced away, tossing his head. “What do you think you’re doing?”

Melysoni froze, hand still raised and eyes wide in surprise. “I… was going to pet you.”

“Pet me? Pet me? What do I look like, a loyal hound?” He snorted, stepping farther away.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t…”

“Did you even wash your hands? You’re out here crawling around in the muck. Look at this coat,” he turned his head to indicate his glistening white flank. “Do you know how hard it is to stay this pristine? I don’t want your grubby hands rubbing all over my shine. Got it?”

Melysoni was speechless for a moment, but nodded to avoid angering the unicorn any farther. Her eyes traced up to his slender, yet extremely pointy, horn. Perhaps he wouldn’t run her through for fear of blood stains, but she didn’t want to take the chance.

“This is what I get for deciding to stop to drink beside a peasant. Can’t a guy want a little company while he sips without everyone getting up in his face?”

“I’m sorry,” Melysoni said again, beginning to feel annoyed. She turned away to resume filling her water skin.

“What’s a sylph like you doing way out here, anyway? Shouldn’t you be in a tree somewhere playing the harp?”

“I don’t play the harp. I was one of Zabnar’s warriors.”

“Oh. Ooooh. That’s why I was drawn to you. You’re probably in need of some type of soul healing or something. That’s the problem with being a creature of purity, I’m always drawn to helping the tainted. It’s a pain in the tail.”

Melysoni shrugged. “It’s fine, you don’t have to help me. I certainly didn’t ask for anything.”

“Doesn’t matter, it’s my job.” He nickered again, then stamped a foot. “I’m Gary.”

Melysoni frowned. “Gary? What kind of name is that for a unicorn?”

“It’s a damn fine name, that’s what it is.”

________________________________

I hope you enjoyed this super sneak peek! Happy National Unicorn Day!

At the end of your rough draft, you always secretly hope it’s perfect. There will be no typos, no run on sentences, and every last word will be pure genius. This is usually not the case and you have a seemingly daunting task editing.

Sign, Edition, Warning

Writer at work, wear safety gear.

One key to polishing a manuscript is cutting out excess words that are unnecessary to the story. Just like cutting scenes or characters, you should always be asking “will this make sense without ____?”

I will admit that I’m a rather wordy writer, but not the worst. These are some tips I try to follow to make cutting words easier.

Described and Dangerous

Adjectives are wonderful things for creating immersion. We want the reader to feel the silky texture of a blouse, taste the bitter sweetness of the lemonade, and see the beautiful cerulean of the sky. It’s so much fun to play with adjectives, but too many it can make
your readers feel like they’re trudging through mud.

The beautifully dark, succulent aroma of the chocolate cake baking in the big hot oven filled her soul with nostalgic longing.

It’s pretty, but full of unnecessary words. There’s a rule that you should only be using one to two adjectives per description. Readers are smart and know that the sky is blue. It’s not a terrible rule and I would say following it helps. There are exceptions, such as if
the sky in your world is actually green, or it’s an elf but he has three arms and six legs. (Enchanting accidents are the worst.) Even then, try to break it up into a paragraph rather than a single sentence.

The succulent aroma of baking chocolate cake filled her soul with nostalgic longing.

The revised sentence works because most people know what a baking cake smells like. Their own experiences fill in the blanks.

Find and Seek

Unnecessary words can take many forms. There are specific words I try to watch out for, but sometimes as writers we latch onto words we like. I’m guilty of this and try my best to remain aware. “Exactly” is one of my go-to words, especially in dialogue. “Realize” is another big one for me.

I realize I need to cut the number of times my characters realize things.

You can figure out which words you may be overusing by paying attention while you edit, but not always. Sometimes we’re blind and need another person to notice. If you don’t have another person, a strategy I use is when I the same word more than once on the same
page, I use the Find feature to see how often I use it.  You’ll be surprised what you learn this way.

 

Have/Had

I will never tell you to never use a word, but this combination often raises red flags with me. There are times when no other words will work. Have and had are two words that are really easy to overuse but are often avoidable.

One of the big issues with have/had is that they go together in the past tense.  You can have too many of them in the same sentence.

She would have had to have known what was coming to avoid it.

Yikes! If I read a sentence like this, I cringe. You can say this in other ways and cut words.

She would have avoided it if she knew it was coming.

You still use the word have, yes, but look how many excessive words were cut.

And Then

This is a word combination that I keep on my radar. It reminds me of that scene in that movie Dude, Where’s My Car? It was a silly movie, but little did you know one scene gave us writing advice.

This could be you. Scary, right?

Sequential events are expected in storytelling. They should be linked by action rather than made into a list. Sometimes lists are fine, but mostly they should be avoided.

The hero swung his sword and then cut off the Dark Lord’s arm, and then he cheered in triumph.

It’s not very exciting to describe your action this way. Egg, milk, butter, chop off Dark Lord’s arm, tea, yogurt.Not only will removing those words lower your word count, they will make the scene better as a whole.

The hero swung his sword, cutting of the Dark Lord’s arm. He cheered, triumphant.

Sure, now it’s two sentences but that’s okay.  It’s still fewer words than before and that’s your goal.

The

Now I’m sure you’re looking at me like I’m crazy. How can you possible use The less often? It’s one of the most used words in English. This isn’t about cutting so much as placement.

The sun rose on a clear morning. The man woke up, refreshed from a good night’s sleep. He went down stairs to eat breakfast. The coffee was already percolating in the pot. The mug he favored was clean in the dish washer and the day was looking good so far.

This is not a great scene to begin with, but it’s also made worse by being full of The sentences. Too many sentences in a row that begin with The (or any word like He or She) is boring. Starting too many paragraphs with The is also boring. Similar to And Then, it takes away from your action and pacing. That doesn’t mean you should never use The to start a sentence, just be careful.

It was a clear morning and the man awoke, refreshed. He went downstairs to find his coffee percolating and his favorite mug freshly washed. The day was looking good so far.

All Fun and Games Until Someone Loses an “I”

Recently on Twitter I’ve discovered One Line Games such as #2bitTues, #1lineWed, #FP, and #FictFri. These revolve around finding lines in your manuscript based on specific themes and tweeting them for others to read. It’s a lot of fun but also a great editing tool.

Twitter’s 140 character limit is excellent for helping you cut excess words. There’s a line you’re dying to share, but it’s too long. If you can chop out a few words  and it still makes sense, you know you had too many words.

You don’t need to have Twitter or even tweet your lines to play this game with yourself. If a sentence feels too long, it probably is and you should see if it works another way.

Cutting words as an important part of editing and I hope this post has made it feel a little easier. If you have tips you’d like to share, feel free to do so in the comments.

If you’d like to join any of those twitter games I mentioned, follow @AngDonofrio@RWAKissofDeath@FridayPhrases, and @Gracie_DeLunac on twitter!

As with all of my posts about The Walking Dead, this contains spoilers! If you haven’t seen the finale on 4/3/16, please come back later.

Again, this is not a recap of the show, but a discussion on how to become better writers by observing the successes and failures of what is deemed marketable mass media. Warning: This is a jumbo sized post. Feel free to read it in pieces!

Time for my 10 minute Super Villain Speech!

Last night’s episode is what I’m going to deem an epic fail. This is not because of the episode in itself so much as how it ties in with the entire season. Today I’m going to focus on character motivation, cliffhangers, and stories being told in three acts.

 

What’s My Motivation?

I’m going to come right out and say that The Ricktator was not acting like himself in the finale. Throughout the past two seasons we’ve watched Rick escalate from a downtrodden survivor to an egotistical maniac. Rick has been riding high with his inflated head across the zombpocolypse sky, and last night’s episode made absolutely no sense.

In particular, the very first confrontation was completely out of character for season six Rick. A handful of guys in the middle of the road, beating a man (who the hell was that anyway?) to death doesn’t seem to be enough to chase Rick and Company away. Maybe they were worried for Maggie’s safety in a fire fight? Maybe he was worried about Carl, Aaron and Eugene? Maybe, but I don’t buy it. As soon as this scene was over I looked at my husband and said, “That was pointless.”

This is a quick way to ruin a story. Your characters should act on what drives them to make decisions. Flipping the switch randomly only confuses your audience. It invents scenarios that wouldn’t happen, merely because you’re forcing them to happen.

I’m also going to point this out right here: the plot of the whole episode is given away by Mr. 70s Porn Dude. This is Rick’s biggest mistake. As they are getting back on the RV the dude says “There are a lot of ways to get where you’re going.” What does that line say to you? Does it happen to say: “They know where we’re going” because if it doesn’t, it should. Even if Rick didn’t hear that hint, one of the others should have. Aaron, Eugene, and Sasha are all very intelligent; hell even Abraham could have realized it with his highly trained soldier brain.

Necessity is the Mother of Inventive Storytelling

Denise is dead. We all remember when she died and how it was the stupidest death in the season, perhaps even the series, and was another episode that failed at storytelling. Her motivation to leave Alexandria wasn’t the issue; it was Daryl and Rosita that failed.

Even if they hadn’t just started a war with the Saviors, which they knew there were more of them out there, they already knew from Hill Top that taking your doctor out of town was a risky proposition. Skilled professionals need to stay in the relative safety of the town. End of story, there is no discussion.

There was absolutely no reason to allow Denise to risk her life other than to make sure Alexandria wouldn’t have a doctor. That was done on purpose by the writer’s to force the remaining crew out of town when Maggie needs medical help. I can just imagine the writer’s room where everyone is sitting around thinking “How do we get everyone outside the walls? Hmmmm……” and then the Jeopardy music starts to play.

This is one of the biggest sins of storytelling, forcing things to happen merely because you want them to happen that way regardless of whether it’s good or bad for the story as a whole.

Let’s look at a different scenario that causes just as much drama. Carol runs away. Everyone goes looking for her. Maggie starts having problems, but Denise is alive so Enid runs Maggie to the clinic. Rick comes back to discover Daryl, Rosita, Michonne (his new love interest and huge motivation), and Glenn are all missing and Maggie is in danger but shouldn’t be moved. Maggie is begging for Glenn, and not doing well, they are trying to stall on telling her he’s not back yet.

Things are looking grim. The Saviors send clues to Alexandria that they have the missing survivors, also making it obvious they know where Alexandria is, and that’s really bad. Rick, thinking he’s all that, decides to take a crew to rescue his people but also clear out the Saviors to keep Alexandria safe from attack. The team on the road may run into one of those roadblocks, which weren’t terrible in themselves, get  ambushed and end up where they were at the end, on their knees in the dark, minus Maggie.

Back at Alexandria, Denise is panicking because things are not going well. Maggie is close to death, and at the same time, there are hints that the Saviors might be outside the walls.

Now you’ve got everyone who is in danger of dying still in danger, but in a more logical sense. Instead of 80 minutes of driving around in circles, an actual story could be told. Rescuing your best crew and showing that you’re the man is true to character for Rick this season. Imagine if instead we find out who gets killed by Negan, you still have a cliffhanger. Is Maggie going to live or die, and if Glenn was the one who died, how will she recover from that? Are the Saviors going to attack or are they just trying to scare everyone? Is the captured crew going to need a rescue? Is Carol going to become a walker? There are so many good questions to bring people back for season 7.

Also, what if the last image of the episode was Morgan shooting that guy? That was the best part of the whole episode. He had a true motivation despite his mantra of peace: save Carol. That was way more shocking than Negan stepping up to bat. We already knew that was coming. Resolving Negan’s arc by showing his villainy by killing one of our anti-heroes would have been the proper resolution to his introductory arc.

Hanging by a Thread

As you all know, a story is a series of events that leads from conflict to resolution. Stories are often told in three acts in which first our protagonist is confronted with the antagonist. This first confrontation fails. The second act focuses on the changes our protagonist needs to make to face the antagonist again in the third act for a final showdown. This type of storytelling leaves your readers with a sense of fulfillment. It’s your job as the writer to make sure that journey happens in what feels like an organic and realistic manner. It doesn’t matter if you’re writing about telepathic vampire robots or how a kid from the streets became a high powered executive. The story needs to have logical situations and outcomes to be a good story.

The Walking Dead has been failing to do this on a regular basis. Even a single episode can be told in three acts. Much like any series; each episode can have its own break down where the entire season should be a larger arc that ends with some sort of resolution for the audience.

Instead, they have their own formula, and it’s becoming a weekly thing; 90% rambling fluff and 10% what the viewer has been waiting to see, usually ending on a cliffhanger. It’s rather infuriating. My husband commented that we should just watch the last 10 minutes of any episode. Half the time it doesn’t even matter what was going on because the episodes are all filler for the next cliffhanger.

I’m not against cliffhangers. I like a good suspenseful twist. The problem isn’t the cliffhanger. The problem is it’s the same cliffhanger from mid-season, only instead of worrying about Glenn we’re now worrying about everyone.  It’s repetitive. Sure, there’s the whole question of “how will they escape” but I don’t think that’s even an issue. Negan is going to let the survivors go once he’s made his example. He needs them alive. His motivation is for them to fear him so that they toil for food, bullets, blankets, etc. Negan is the feudal lord demanding his taxes. You can’t collect taxes from the dead.

Final Notes

Negan… I’m sorry he’s not that scary. He’s only terrifying because he has a huge squad of loyal whistling weirdos with guns. If he were all alone he would just be a guy with a bat.

What’s up with Eugene always getting captured off camera? Does Josh McDermitt have a “no roughing me up” clause in his contract or something? I mean, come on! After that big speech about taking one for the team, we don’t even get to see him try to fight back?

Carl trying to be a big man to Enid was rather hilarious. She’s eaten raw turtle guts, Carl, she can take care of herself.

Speaking of Enid, did anyone let her out of the closet or is she trapped in there for seven months?

The nod to the internet hate over Carl’s hat when he meets Negan was my favorite moment with the new villain.

Next week Fear The Walking Dead returns. I’ll be continuing to blog because as of the first season, I have a lot to say about that show as well. Thank you for reading this jumbo sized rant. Hopefully it’s given you some ideas on how to improve your storytelling by learning from the mistakes of others.