Archive for April, 2011


P is for Purses, Satchels, and Bags

   Posted by: Faith    in Creating Coldcuts

A few years ago, I was reading an adventure/thriller book, and enjoying it immensely. Our Heroes were deep in the Amazon, had just retrieved the item they’d spent the entire book trying to locate & keep away from The Bad Guy, and were running for their lives, Important Item tucked safely inside a canvas bag. bridge

Our Heroes come to a bridge. Oh no! Bad Guy is on the other side. And his men are behind them (“headed off at the pass”, is a nice cliche for it…).

What to do? The item can’t fall into the hands of The Bad Guy, and surely he’ll kill them all, even if they try to make a deal.

In the midst of the action, Our Hero crosses the bridge, and as he fights off Goon #1, he tosses the bag further down the bridge (so it doesn’t impede his ability to fight)… and continues fighting and coming up with a plan.

Needless to say, the plan is a bit predictable: lure The Bad Guy onto the bridge, cut the ropes, find another way around. Day saved, yes?

The plan seems flawless. Our Heroes manage to execute the plan, with much drama and tension and near-death.

In the end, they manage to get safely to one side, while The Bad Guy plunges into the canyon below. Huffing and puffing, they congratulate each other on a successful adventure, sling the bag over a shoulder, and go on their way to complete the Expected Storyline Denouement.

But WAIT!!!

canvasbag What about the bag?!?

If the bag was on the middle of the bridge, and the heroes had to get back to the original side they started on—then lure The Bad Guy onto the bridge—and then cut the ropes, wouldn’t that mean the precious artifact would plunge into the gorge along with The Bad Guy?!

Yes. In fact, it does mean that.

At no point during the entire climactic scene did one of the heroes retrieve the bag before heading back to safety… y’know, the bag containing the very item they spent the entire book trying to find. The very item the book was titled for.

Moral of the story: If your character has a purse, a bag, a briefcase, a suitcase—any personal item that you’ve specified he/she carries regularly—you must know where this item is at all times.I'm not saying what book it was. But it MIGHT have had one of these involved. Perhaps. Heh.

Even running from the bad guys. Even during a car chase. Especially during one-on-one action scenes.

Otherwise, you’ll have the magic disappearing and reappearing bag, which—evidently—the editing team might not catch, resulting in a reader who’s disappointed and frustrated at the author’s carelessness… instead of turning that final page thinking “what a darn good adventure story!”


Do YOU know where your Hero/Heroine’s bag/purse/satchel is?


O is for Overcoming

   Posted by: Faith    in Rye Thoughts

Writing isn’t always fun. None of us will say that. But the difference between those who succeed and those who are left behind is that the people who succeed are the ones who never give up.OvercomingDiscouragement.Photo_

Whether it’s:

  • physical injury
  • mental illness
  • family issues
  • personal tragedy
  • world events
  • discouraging voices
  • mountains of rejections


…the writers who make it through to become authors are the ones who don’t let these things slow them down.

But it’s not easy, and it’s never that simple. One thing that I think makes an enormous difference in whether someone gives up on their dream or not? Having a large support network.

Much like writing bloggers. Doing challenges. Commenting and encouraging each other, even through (especially through) the rough patches.

When was the last time you left an encouraging word for someone ?

You never know when they might need it most.


N is for Nightmares

   Posted by: Faith    in Rye Thoughts

Do you have nightmares?

Ever tried to mine one for a story?

I have them nightly, and I often remember them for several hours after I wake up, though some stay with me for days (or months, or years).

The majority of my nightmares center around death or some kind of escape. It’s typical to have nightmares centered around my parrot—either him dying, or escaping, or getting lost, or some other horrible thing.Like this... but with more fire. And creepier.

Last week, I had a nightmare that seemed inspired by the most recent Prince of Persia game (which I haven’t played since last year), but went even beyond that, and not in a good way.

The first half of the dream is lost, I don’t remember it… but at some point in the dream, I did something to help someone—opened a box or something—and accidently unleashed an enormous, fire-covered demon.

Yeah, I’m not kidding.

In my dream/nightmare, the demon’s voice rumbled, threatening me with death and eternal torture, and I ran through corridors and hallways covered in pillars trying to escape. I could feel him getting closer and closer, but I didn’t want to look behind me. 

At one point, I came to a covered balcony (with more pillars around), and looked down. Two stories (or more) down below was a pool with water lilies, and my dream-self had this logic: If I dive into the pool and drown myself, I’ll be able to escape the fire demon and I’ll be free! But I won’t be dead, because surely the people in the pool will see that I’ve drowned and they’ll be able to revive me in time.”

Yep, my dream self was about to commit suicide with the intention of being revived by strangers. And I dove into that pool, lay face down in the water, and… heard the terrifying voice of the fire demon:

“You’ll never escape that way. I know what you’re doing, and go ahead! I’ll torture you forever in HELL.”

Soooo… I got out of the pool, and the rest of the dream/nightmare did that flash-forward quickly thing, where everything changes so fast that it’s hard to remember what happened once you wake up. I remember running as fast as I could, wherever I could, all around the world to try to escape.

I’d stop in doorways to try and catch my breath, but just when I thought I’d have a moment of rest, the growling and thudding of the demon would be right behind, and I’d have to run again.

Somewhere amidst the running, I woke up.

fireI’ll be honest—I was surprised after waking up  that I didn’t actually die in the dream, as it’s not unusual for that to happen. But the visual imagery of this one was so powerful that it stuck with me a week later.

Now I’m wondering whether I can harness that sense of primal fear and terror that I had in the dream, and use it in a story.

Have you ever done this? What was your most recent, terrifying nightmare?


M is for Monster

   Posted by: Faith    in Everything Else

Today I learned about a mythological creature I’d never heard of before… which shows you just how lacking I am in my knowledge of Norse mythology. Yikes. Time to pull out the ol’ world myth texts and have another look…! (What can I say, I tend to get stuck in the Ancient Near East or the Classical period…)


Midgard Serpent

MidgardSerpent The Midgard Serpent, or Jormundgandr, is one of the god Loki’s three children, who—and I’d be right ticked off about this too—good old Asgard ruler Odin grabbed by the tail and threw into the ocean around Midgard.

Due to this unexpected change of location, the serpent apparently grew so large that it encircled the world and was able to grab its own tail (sounding familiar now?). When he lets go of his tail, the world will end.

So if you go sailing, or take a cruise, and happen to spot a giant sea serpent in the middle of the ocean? DON’T PANIC.

Unless, of course, you see its mouth. Because that would suggest it has let go of its tail, and then we’re all in trouble.


Er… I should also mention that the Midgard Serpent is a character in Marvel’s Thor comic books too. Not that you needed to know, but you never know when useless pop culture trivia might come in handy… right?


Encountered any new and strange monsters in your research lately?


L is for ‘Like Clockwork’ (Book Review)

   Posted by: Faith    in Tasty Tomes

Like Clockwork

by Bonnie Dee

Steampunk / Romance

Release Date: December 2010


clockwork2 This novella from Carina Press sounded highly intriguing: A young woman named Victoria has pioneered work on automatons, originally intending for them to replace humans in dangerous jobs. However, society quickly latched on to her invention and started using automatons to replace humans in other positions as well, creating mass issues of unemployment.

Fearing social unrest and more potential deaths from disillusioned individuals like the notorious Slasher (who has been killing young women and removing their hearts), Victoria travels to a meeting of scientists and political leaders in order to plead her case: Restrict use of automatons before it’s too late.

Of course, she never makes it to the meeting. She’s kidnapped by an underground faction who are willing to do anything necessary to create the downfall and destruction of the automatons… but her kidnapper’s plan gets skewed when Victoria pledges her assistance to the cause.

Naturally, Victoria and her kidnapper Dash fall in love… and quickly, at that. It seems to just happen, without any real lead-in, and becomes a backdrop for the resolution of the Slasher plot, the automatons, and the underground’s unwillingness to resolve the problem peacefully.

It’s an interesting story, with interesting characters. The problem I found was that the story was too big for its format. Dee could have written a full-length novel with this plot, and been able to better explore the themes of automatons and humans being replaced by machines, social unrest, and so forth. In this short 31,000-word novella format, she’s forced to rush through the causes and consequences, leaving out crucial elements of character development and logical sequencing, resulting in a rushed story and a forced romance.

Naturally, the hero and the heroine defeat the odds and rise above the confines of polite society to be together. That’s fine, as unbelievable as the romance is because of its rushed nature, readers expect the main characters to be together at the end of a romance book.

What I didn’t expect, however, was the randomly tacked on, extremely graphic sex scene at the end of the book. Out of the blue, the main characters consummate their relationship and then the story ends. There’s no lead-in, and there’s no wrap-up. It felt like the author submitted the book, the editor said "okay, that’s good, but we need more heat", and the author tacked a sex scene on to the end because it was ‘required’. I’m not saying that’s what happened, it just read that way.

If you want a quick, entertaining steampunk novella, it’s not bad. It has its flaws, but it’s a decent story and will quench your steampunk thirst without demanding a commitment to a longer book or series.

I’d simply recommend that you stop reading before the final chapter — trust me, the story will make more sense and you’ll enjoy the book much better that way!

About the Author

CaptiveBrideFinal Bonnie Dee began telling stories as a child. Whenever there was a sleepover, she was the designated ghost tale teller, guaranteed to frighten and thrill with macabre tales. She still has a story printed on yellow legal paper in second grade about a ghost, a witch and a talking cat.

Writing childish stories for her own pleasure led to majoring in English at college. Like most English majors, she dreamed of writing a novel but didn’t have the necessary focus and follow-through at that time in her life. A husband, children and work occupied the next twenty years, and it was only in 2000 that she began writing again. Bonnie enjoys reading stories about people damaged by life who find healing with a like-minded soul. When she couldn’t find enough books to suit her taste, she began to write them.


K is for Kindergarten

   Posted by: Faith    in Fiction on Foccacia



In my efforts to catch up on the A to Z Challenge, here’s a little story post. I wrote this for a storypraxis prompt a few weeks ago, and it was chosen to appear in the bi-weekly storypraxis magazine. While I don’t particularly love it (not false modesty, just being honest!), maybe it’ll give you a smile today!



When Roger’s tenth-grade English teacher handed his essay back covered in red marks, Roger wasn’t all that concerned. It happened a lot. Probably because he wrote all his papers the night before they were due, loading himself up on Red Bull and Twizzlers and writing until he either fell asleep at the keyboard or the sun came up.

But when he turned to the final page where the grade should have been, no  bright red numbers popped off the page. Instead, one scrawled sentence stared back in thick, blood-red ink:



Roger glanced at his English teacher, who had her back turned while continuing to hand out papers to the other students. He shrugged, picked up his book bag, and walked out of the classroom. Down the stairs, out the front door, across this street and that, until he reached the entry to Saint Michael’s Elementary.

He strolled through the halls, peeking in the little windows on each door, until reaching a classroom that appeared to be full of exceedingly tiny children. He knocked, opened the door, and found himself facing a very startled young lady – and about thirty staring, miniature humans.

“Hello, I’m Roger,” he said, stepping into the classroom, “And my English teacher recommended I go back to Kindergarten. So here I am.”

The young woman stood, shaking her head. “I… I’m afraid that’s not possible. I’m going to have to ask you to leave, or I’ll call the office, and–”

Something tugged at Roger’s leg.

“Why did your teacher tell you to come to Kindergarten?” shrieked a curly-haired child, yanking on Roger’s pants. “Did you fail?

“Please, sir–” said the teacher.

“My writing is terrible,” he told the child.

“I can write real good! Teacher said!” the child said, continuing to express himself in a loud, exuberant voice. “Right teacher?”

The teacher opened her mouth, closed it again, and sighed before responding. “Yes, dear. You can.”

“You’re probably better at it than me,” Roger said, handing his paper to the child. “See all that red ink? That’s what I got wrong.”

“Can’t your English teacher help you?” the young woman asked, “Rather than sending you here to disturb my class?”

Roger shrugged. “You can call her if you want.” He dug his phone out of his back pocket, found the school’s phone listing, and handed the phone to her. “She really hates me.”

“It’s okay, Ms. Clare likes everyone!” said the tiny child. “She wants everyone to always do their best.”

A tiny hint of a smile formed at the corner of the young teacher’s mouth. “Well, that istrue.”

“Can he stay, Ms. Clare? His teacher said so, and you always say that teachers know best…”

Roger snorted, earning a sharp glance from Ms. Clare. She snatched Roger’s paper from her student, flipped to the back page, and read the comments. Her stern expression wavered, shifted, and melted into concern, before settling into something else entirely. She closed the paper and handed it back to Roger.

“Just for today, Roger. If anyone asks, we’ll say you’re a work-assignment student, all right? I’ll call your teacher at the end of the day and let her know you came. There are a few things I’d like to say to her, in fact.”

A cheer rose from the human attached to Roger’s leg, and Roger extended a hand to Ms. Clare. “Thank you.”

Ms. Clare nodded, and pointed to the carpet where the rest of the children sat, waiting. “Have a seat. I believe you have some learning to do.”


Ahh, kindergarten… those were the days. :)


J is for Juggling

   Posted by: Faith    in Everything Else

Some writers are one-story people. juggle

Other writers can’t seem to focus on one thing at a time.

And others deliberately have multiple things on the go:

  • novel(s)
  • short story / stories
  • edits / rewrites
  • queries
  • blogging
  • critique work

How do you figure out what to focus on?

Or are you a one-story kind of writer?

I’m still trying to figure out how to juggle everything… I tend to write one novel at a time, but work on multiple short stories (though finishing them, or having them actually work the first time around is another story!). And edits? Well, those seem to be rather perpetual at the moment…

(Yes, I know I’m behind on the challenge! But I’m determined to catch up, one way or another… though that involves juggling multiple blog posts along with everything else… heh… o_O )


I is for IMAX

   Posted by: Faith    in Everything Else

imax2What? IMAX? What does that have to do with writing?

Umm… it does, really. Honest. (Or maybe I had no idea what else to do for the letter ‘I’ and am coming up with a rather stretched metaphor for the sake of getting this post out of the way…)

Okay, so bear with me here. Remember the last time you saw a movie in IMAX? What was your reason for choosing to go out of your way (the case for most of us, I’ll bet) to see it on that screen instead of your local theatre screen?

I’m betting: BIG screen = EXCELLENT picture quality = BEST way to watch action scenes (Deathly Hallows Part 2, anyone?).

On a screen like that, you see the big picture even better than on a typical theatre screen. But at the same time, a giant screen allows you to see the details better than you otherwise could. You can notice the little things, the smaller touches the filmmaker inserted to make the story that much more realistic and immersive for the viewer.

I think we need to look at our manuscripts in a similar way, particularly during the editing process (see? told you I had a point…).

It’s super important to be able to see the big picture as clearly as possible: Theme, Tone, Voice, Overarching Character and Plot Development. Those things must pervade the entire story and jump out at the reader just like an amazing explosion on a Big Screen.

But at the same time, a Big Picture perspective on our manuscript also allows us to add those little touches that make the story even more exciting for the reader… details in the setting, the clothing, accurate & plausible action (ie. fight scenes or battle scenes in particular), correct description & technical elements of specialty interests (ie. how long a horse can actually gallop for, or the correct pay grade of a field  archaeologist).

imax1Those touches make the story that much richer, that much more exciting and believable for the reader. Without them—and without a clear Big Picture to contain the details in—you might as well be writing a standard theatre screen story. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

But I’m pretty sure you’d rather have it in IMAX. :)


H is for Hanging It Up

   Posted by: Faith    in Everything Else

How do you know when a story just isn’t working?hangers

You know those stories. The ones that came out of a moment of genius & inspiration, the ones that you sit down to work on and end up pounding out the first 5,000 words in one afternoon.

The ones that, when that afternoon ends, come to a screeching halt as you scramble to avoid hitting that sudden, looming brick wall.

You mull. You plot and replot. You try one direction, the another, one point of view, then another. You let it sit for three months, read it again—love it—and then realize you’re still as stuck as you were three months ago.

Is it time to let that story go?

How do you know when to hang it up and move on?


G is for Goals

   Posted by: Faith    in Rye Thoughts

“A goal without a deadline is just a dream.” 

– Gail Vaz-Oxlade


gail vaz-oxlade I adore Gail Vaz-Oxlade… she’s full of fantastic financial advice, seems to have a big heart, and above all else, is extremely practical. Here in Canada, she’s something of a national celebrity due to her many books on finance and her two television shows based around helping people get control of their money and their lives (and often saving marriages in the process).

She knows the value of deadline-setting when it comes to the goal-making process.

It’s something I’m not very good at.

But when I heart that quotation on her latest series, I realized: If I don’t set a definite goal for what I want to accomplish both in the short and long term, I’m not really striving for anything. I’m just hoping that the universe will swirl around and make things happen eventually. (And I don’t know about you, but I’d like the universe to stay how it is, thank you very much.)

That’s just a dream, an abstract hope, not a concrete, working-toward-it reality.


A-ZApril If you haven’t yet set a concrete goal for your dream, why not? What’s holding you back?

Fear? An uncertainty of how to reach that goal? Laziness?

Without a deadline for that goal, how do you expect to get there?


I’d take Gail’s advice, if I were you! I’m taking it right now—I’m taking steps toward my goal that I’d been avoiding until I realized the truth in what she said. Plus, she’s a tough cookie. Don’t make her come after you!