I have been very remiss in acknowledging the wonderful awards I’ve received during the course of the A-Z Challenge. So, I’m here tonight to make up for it.

First up is the I Survived the A to Z Blogging Challenge Award, courtesy of Elizabeth Mueller of the Author Elizabeth Mueller blog.

Next, I’ve twice proven that I’m a Science Fiction geek of the finest kind by twice answering the most questions correctly on the Friday Quiz over at Scifi Media. Test your skills every Friday. It’s super fun and you, too, can win a No Prize Award. :-)

I’ve also won the Versatile Blogger Award from Tara Tyler over at Tara Tyler Talks

And the Stylish Blogger Award from Murugi Angela Njehia at Her World

Both of these awards require that you
1. Link back to the awarder (which I’ve done above)
2. Share 7 things about yourself.
3. Award this to 10-15 newly discovered bloggers
4. Tell said bloggers they have an award waiting.

I’m going to cheat a little here and combine the two. I’m only listing my 7 things once and if you’re on my list here you may take your choice of which award you’d like – or both even! :-)

My Seven Things:
1. My dream is to live in a cabin in the woods, or even better on an island.
2. I am a night owl. My favourite job was working the night shift (11:30 p.m. to 7:30 a.m.) which gave me the excuse to sleep all day.
3. I can take the cold easier than I can take the heat – I guess that makes me a true Canadian. :-)
4. I’m a bookaholic; I have 14 bookcases and if I had any more room I’d have more.
5. The most pets I’ve had at any one time are: five cats, three rats, and a dog. And yes, they all got along fine.
6. I have an office supply fetish – I have more pens, note pads and paper than a normal person could use in a lifetime.
7. I love wind chimes and have them all over my house. It drives my family nuts. :-)
I’d like to mention here that I’m not trying to slight the friends who’ve been with me for a while, but because I received these awards during the challenge I thought it was only fair to pass them on to new friends I’ve discovered through the challenge.

Bish Denham who also has a Random Thoughts blog.
Jeffrey Pierce from Virtual Coffee
Ttofee at Ttofee for Your Thoughts
Holly Ruggiero at Holly Ruggiero's POV
Steven Chapman at Steven Chapman (writer)
Sarah Makela from Sarah Makela Blog
Rachel Harrie of Rach Writes . . .
JL Dodge of JL Dodge Writes
Rae from Life, Love, and the Pursuit of Publication
Catherine Ensley from Words World and Wings
Katie O’Sullivan at Katie O'Sullivan


A to Z Blogging Challenge – Day 26

Z is for Zoothapsis

Zoothapsis means premature burial. Like my word for the letter X, you may be wondering at my choice for Z. I propose that zoothapsis can stand for the premature burial of a book. (Yes, I know I’m really stretching it here but work with me people!) Haven’t we all, at one time or another, felt like giving up on our novels? To bury them deep in that desk drawer or trunk?

The sad fact is plenty of great novels go unfinished. The statistics are staggering: of those who start writing a novel, only about 3% will finish. And I hate to be the one to break the news to you, but it’s hard to sell a novel that isn’t complete, especially to a reader.

Writing a novel is hard, you already know that. It makes your fingers hurt. It makes your head hurt. Still, you persist until everything comes to a screeching halt, a halt that’s accompanied by thoughts such as:

Every time I sit down to work on my story, my mind goes blank.
My characters took the story in a new direction, and I don’t know what to do now.
I don’t feel like writing — the inspiration just isn’t there.
My writing feels stilted.
I’m just no good at this.

Here are a few reasons why that screeching halt happens — and what to do about it.

1. You haven’t started writing.
Whether it’s lined or unlined paper, a notebook, or a computer screen, a blank page is intimidating. There are many reasons for this fear. Fear of failure, of rejection, of ridicule. We feel we’re not good enough to write. We’re mentally unprepared for it.

The answer is very simple: Just write. Sit down, pull out your pen and paper, open your lap top, and just write. Write anything at all, even if it’s not your story. Engage in the simple act of getting words out of your head and into visible, tangible form. There. Your page is no longer blank. Now keep going.

2. You don’t know where it’s going.
In the beginning you had an awesome idea for how this book would go. But first the main character wandered off, then that quirky secondary character stopped talking and then there was a plot hole the size of the Grand Canyon to fill so you changed direction somewhere around the middle and now you’re nearing the end and it doesn’t make any sense at all.

Figure out where you want to go before you start. This is going to take some work, but you need to know where you’re going before you can decide how to get there. Sit back, plot it out, outline it, and take a close look at your story arc. You’ll figure out where you went wrong. And who knows? You might discover some side paths you overlooked before, and they might just lead you to something exciting.

3. You’ve forgotten the whys.
If you don’t know why your characters do what they do, then eventually they’ll (a) do nothing the story needs them to do, or (b) do nothing at all. You must know their motivations, and you must know these motivations on an intimate level.

To fix this you’ll need solid back stories for your characters. These back stories will probably never make it into the actual novel, but they’ll help you keep track of who your characters are and why what they do is important.

4. You’re not getting any feedback.
Maybe you’re not writing this story for others to read, you’re only writing it for yourself, so you don’t think you need any feedback. Unfortunately you’re wrong. Writers tend to have a blind spot when it comes to their own writing. We have a hard time seeing our work objectively.

This is where the beta reader comes in. A good beta reader will give you much needed feedback on your writing. They will point out flaws you may have missed and point you in the right direction when you get lost.

5. You’re waiting.
Inspiration may occasionally strike, like lightning, but it’s pretty rare. You can’t count on it and there’s no point waiting for it. If you do you’ll be waiting the rest of your life.

It’s BIC time (butt in chair). You need to make yourself sit down and write. If you want your novel to go anywhere you have to give it a push.


A to Z Blogging Challenge – Day 25

Y is for Yellowback

The yellowback was first published in Britain in the 1840s to compete with the ‘penny dreadful’. It was a cheap popular novel, usually of an inferior quality, and usually sensational in nature. The name derives from the fact that such books were published in yellow enamelled paper covers with an illustration in blue or green and black ink on the upper cover.

The standard yellowback cost two shillings, much cheaper than the 31/6d charged for the "three-deckers" (the typical three-volume Victorian novel) or the five shillings for the single volume editions. Typically, these were sold to travellers through W. H. Smith's Railway Bookstalls.

Routledges were one of the first publishers to begin marketing yellowbacks by starting their "Railway Library" in 1849. The series included 1,277 titles, published over 50 years. These consisted mainly of stereotyped reprints of fiction novels originally published as cloth editions. By the late 19th century, yellowbacks included sensational fiction, adventure stories, 'educational' manuals, handbooks, and cheap biographies.

Publishers were keen to tap the market for self-education and serious reading and as a result many of the yellowback titles were non-fiction. Hobby enthusiasts, devotees of parlour games, natural history amateurs and even debunkers of spiritualism, all found yellowbacks to their taste. Travel books, such as Innocents Abroad, and A Tramp Abroad by Mark Twain were also popular.

Under the British Copyright Law, there was no requirement to pay royalties to American or continental authors. Uncle Remus, by Joel Chandler Harris, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, by Victor Hugo, and even Uncle Tom’s Cabin, by Harriet Beecher Stowe became yellowbacks, as did many other popular titles.

The most typical yellowbacks were novels of romance and sensation. Their lurid covers promised enjoyable, escapist reading. As in every age there was a rich undergrowth of writers willing to provide material of this sort, often under a bewildering assortment of pseudonyms.

Mary Elizabeth Braddon, the "Queen of the circulating libraries", had fifty-seven of her works published as yellowbacks by 1899. Her name usually did not appear on the title-pages, rather the publishers used the epithet, "by the author of 'Lady Audley's secret'." This novel of adultery, published in 1862, was Mrs. Braddon's greatest success.

Although most of the titles were re-prints, many works, particularly the factual and the humorous items, were produced especially for this format. Apart from the textual and graphic interest in these books, they are a significant example of an important stage in publishing history. They marked a response by the publishers to the greater demand for cheap reading matter resulting from the increase in literacy during Queen Victoria's reign.

If you’d like see more about the yellowback, Emory University undertook a project to digitalize 1,200 yellowbacks which you are able to access HERE


A to Z Blogging Challenge – Day 24

X is for Xenolith

xen•o•lith n.
1. A rock fragment foreign to the igneous mass in which it occurs. Xenoliths usually become incorporated into a cooling magma body when pieces of the rock into which the magma was injected break off and fall into it.
2. A fragment of rock embedded in another kind of rock.

You may be wondering at my choice of subject for X, specifically, what do rocks have to do with writing? Well, the answer is nothing really. But look at the definition for the xenolith – it’s a fragment of rock embedded in another kind of rock. This can occur in writing as well. And can be used quite effectively.

With the serial I’m currently writing on my other blog I start each segment with a journal entry. In effect, I have a different style of writing embedded in another kind of writing.

In the Woodwife, by Terri Windling, we not only have excerpts from the title poem at the beginning of each chapter, we have letters to and from a dead man that not only convey information, but add to the air of mystery.

Anne McCaffrey starts each chapter of her novel Dragonsong, with a verse or two of poetry that represents the songs used in the story. Again, one style of writing embedded in another style. I’m sure you’ve seen other examples. Journal entries, excerpts from historical texts (both imaginary and real), poetry, musical scores, I’ve even known an author to start each chapter with a riddle.

These styles within a style are not just random occurrences. They have purpose. They convey information. They add to the tension when they give us clues about what may happen next. They convey a sense of time and place that carries the story forward. They add to the atmosphere the author is trying to create.

In my own case, I chose to open each chapter with a journal entry to include details important to the story. The actual beginning of the story takes place before my main characters are even born. Despite the fact that there’s a lot of important stuff that takes place during this time, it would have made for a bad beginning. So instead I chose to include the information pertinent to the plot in the form of a journal entry at the beginning of each chapter. This not only lets my readers know what happened in the past, but gets them wondering about what may happen in the future. At least I hope it does.

Then, of course you have novels such as Sheri S. Tepper’s the Family Tree or Charles de Lint’s the Little Country where the story within the story is so well done you don’t know which is the rock and which is the fragment. Now that’s a xenolith of the finest kind.


A to Z Blogging Challenge – Day 23

W is for Why Do Writers Write?

The reasons writers write are as many as the kinds of writing that exist. Some write for money and others write for the love of the artistic expression. Some writers become famous and some labour away endlessly with their work never seeing the light of day.

The various reasons writers write can be combined into a few general categories.

Writing to inform
Someone who enjoys writing and is experienced in a particular area of knowledge might decide to share that knowledge through writing. They realize they can teach and inform a larger audience by writing a book or a series of articles. Many professionals, such as doctors and professors might take this route.

Writing for self-discovery
Memoirs, testimonies and reflection pieces are all vehicles for taking a journey of self-discovery through writing. Baring your soul is a hot commodity these days. A book recounting the events in your life that taught you a lesson and resulted in a positive outcome might be emotionally beneficial to you as the writer. It also has the potential to be monetarily beneficial if it appeals to the public sector.

Writing for money
Freelance writers use their skill to earn income. They might have one area of expertise or write on numerous subjects. There is a wide range of markets for their work, and the market keeps expanding. A capable freelancer can actually make a living from his skill and talent.

Writing for your ego
It takes a healthy ego to put yourself “out there.” You’re opening yourself up to critique and, often, outright criticism. When a writer feels he has something to say, he is often compelled by an inner drive to do so. Sometimes a reader becomes a writer when he decides that he can do better than some of the mediocre writing he has read. And some individuals simply want to leave a legacy and choose writing as their way of making a difference or leaving an imprint on future generations.

Most writers will admit to having a combination of all these reasons. They want to share what’s on their mind, potentially teaching others or learning something in the process, hopefully be rewarded with money or recognition and, inadvertently or not, stroke their own ego in the process.

What makes you write?

For the reason I did it as a child; I can't not do it. I've all this stuff in my head and if I don't write and get it out they will take me away in a straitjacket. It gives me a sense of satisfaction; I get a high when I know I've written a great scene.
~ Barbara Taylor Bradford

I write because I must or the thoughts will die the imagination will wither, and the brain will freeze just as my fingers do on a cold winter’s morning before I wrap my hands around my first cup of steaming coffee.
~ Anne Skalitza

My head is full of stories and I love to tell them. I have a story in my head now about a woman who thought she was being invited in by the boss to discuss promotion but in fact she as being fired. And I want to tell how she recovered from it all. I am dying to write it.
~ Maeve Binchy

I write because I was born with the compulsion to, like singers have to sing, actors have to act and painters have to paint. I write fiction because it exercises my creativity; nonfiction because it exercises the learner in me.
~ Tammy Ruggles

Writing gives me an escape from the realities of life into a private world of my own creation.
~ James Spade

Try as I might to ignore it, I find myself drawn to the keyboard most days, if only to sketch an outline or flirt with an idea. Writing is a hobby, a love and a compulsion. It won’t be denied.
~ Debra Johanyak

I write because the paper doesn’t talk back. I also think it’s really fun to confuse members of my family and make them say things like, “No, really, what do you do for work?”
~ Jennifer Reynolds

I think Deborah Wheeler says it best:
I’m a writer because it’s something I love to do.
I’m a writer because my stories somehow find their way onto paper.
I’m a writer because there’s so much I want to say, I have to put it into words or I’ll bust.
I’m a writer because story ideas are always popping into my head.
I’m a writer because when I encounter life’s little adventures, I think, “This would make a great scene.”
I’m a writer because when I talk to other writers, I get ideas for new stories.
I’m a writer because I’m miserable when a story isn’t going well.
I’m a writer because when an idea grabs me, I lose track of time.
I’m a writer because my characters talk back to me.
I’m a writer because my stories and characters come to me in dreams.
I’m a writer because I want to scream when I have writer’s block.
I’m a writer because the laundry is undone, the dishes unwashed, the newspaper unread because I have to finish this chapter!


A to Z Blogging Challenge – Day 22

V is for Villains

Your hero and your villain need to be fairly equal in strength. If your hero is intelligent, make sure your villain is close enough of a match so that conflicts will not be easily resolved. Show that your villain is quite capable of winning the battle and make sure that it seems as though the outcome of your plot is uncertain. That uncertainty doubles your suspense and gives you the perfect opportunity to showcase your hero's qualities as well, thus creating a stronger protagonist just by displaying the comparisons.

A good villain must be credible, logical, and understandable. Your readers need to understand why the villain is doing what he does, and why he believes his actions are justified and rational, but you don’t want them to emphasize with the villain to the point where they’re cheering him on instead of the hero.

Villains don't always think of themselves as villains, but they definitely have an agenda that is in conflict with the hero's goals. Give your villain a back story to show what is motivating him or her to do the things that are in conflict with the hero.

The best villains are unconventional, unpredictable, and morally ambiguous. They are rebellious, individually motivated, intelligent, and capable. Evil characters who are evil for the sake of being a literary device are both predictable and flat - they lack a moral depth and present little challenge to the hero. All too often the villain ends up a one-dimensional, stereotype of evil.

Think about when you created your protagonist. You gave him thoughts and feelings and flaws, strengths and weaknesses and motivation. You took the time to get right inside his head to understand what made him tick. Your villain deserves the same consideration.

Remember that no one sees themselves as mean or evil or bitchy or insane or stupid. Your villain won't either. To him, his actions and his logic are perfectly justifiable. You need to show your readers this side of your villain's logic which will intensify your story's suspense factor. Show that your antagonist is quite capable of winning the battle and make sure that it seems as though the outcome of your plot is uncertain.

That uncertainty doubles your suspense again, and gives you the perfect opportunity to showcase your hero's qualities as well, thus creating a stronger protagonist just by displaying the comparisons. Your readers will be turning page after page to find out if your hero is actually good enough to overcome the monster you forced them to care about, in a twisted kind of way.

If you can actively portray your villain in his own point of view as being an intelligent, logical, complex creature with the capacity to be understanding and reasonable, who does what he does because his reasons are sound to him, then you are on your way to creating a pretty believable villain. But if you can also show your villain's complex, devious, misguided nature from your hero's point of view, you know you've created a truly memorable bad guy, and you will have strengthened your hero’s character and your plotline at the same time.


A to Z Blogging Challenge – Day 21

U is for Using the Senses

The senses are the most amazing tool available to a writer, yet they’re woefully underused. This is due mainly because of simple forgetfulness. We tend to overlook some of the senses when we describe scenes, but by including them, we can enrich our writing.


This sense is the one that provides most of the detail for our stories. What your character sees is what your reader sees, and if you fail to describe very much, your reader won’t fully appreciate what it is you are trying to describe. What does the character see? What’s in the background? What’s in the foreground? What surrounds them?

When writing about something using sight, drop your adjectives and describe it fully. Don’t say there was a large stone fireplace. Say the fireplace was made of fieldstone and had room enough for a pig to roast on a spit and room to spare. If a character receives flowers, don’t just describe them as pretty. Instead of saying the bouquet was of colourful wild flowers, say the bouquet was a symphony of colour, each blossom striking a wild note of summer.


Background noise can be instrumental in creating atmosphere and setting. You’re writing a thriller and your character is alone in the woods. What kinds of things will he hear? There should be birds chirping, leaves rustling in the breeze, maybe the lapping of water against the shore or the musical tinkling of a stream. But there could also be the sound of something snuffling in the underbrush or the snapping of a twig as something approaches.

What your character hears is important. How many sounds can you hear within your scene? What sounds can you conjure? Is there a distant foghorn? Perhaps a sound of car horns representing a traffic jam. Does the character hear the call of a bird, a barking dog? All these limitless sounds bring a sense of realism into the scene.


Touch is another neglected sense. Try touching a variety of things. What do you feel? Is it soft or hard, smooth or rough? How does it feel in your hand? If a character is touching something, don’t be afraid to describe it. Let your reader in on the action too.

You can embellish descriptions of this sense by the use of physical reactions to certain items: recoiling from the touch of something slimy, goosebumps rising after touching something cold, reassurance when touching something soft and warm. All these reactions add to the reader’s imagination while adding to the picture your words are painting.


By allowing the sense of smell to creep into your writing, you create a subtle sense of atmosphere and you add another layer to the overall descriptive passages for the reader to enjoy. We often smell something that reminds us of a familiar place or time. The smell of fresh bread may remind you of your grandmother’s kitchen. For me the smell of tangerines makes me think of Christmas, just as fresh cut grass makes me think of summer.

If you have a character walking along the seashore, you need to make the scene come alive by mentioning the tang of salt in the air, perhaps the faint odour of seaweed from the tide line or the pungent aroma of a fish rotting in the sand, maybe there’s even a whiff of smoke from a fire further along the beach.


This is probably the least used of all the senses in writing. When your characters are eating, include your reader in the experience. How does that wine taste on the tongue? Is that steak as good as it looks? How does the dessert taste? Eating can be a shared, sensual pastime. Simple details count. Next time you have a scene with characters eating; hint at what they taste, and how it might affect them.

There are also certain elements in the air which can define taste. What about salt in the air, or perhaps the acidity of burning rubber on the tongue? What about a passionate kiss? What does your character’s lips taste like? Are they sweet, bitter...fruity? Never neglect this sense, especially in romantic scenes.

Using your senses in your writing helps enhance the overall story you're trying to convey. It adds to the story and makes it more interesting. By incorporating a sense of sight, sound, touch, smell and taste into your writing, you will add depth to your narrative and you draw your reader into an enjoyable, fully rounded read.

It isn’t necessary to overload your writing with all the senses, however, but every once in awhile, let the reader in and let them enjoy key senses in a scene. Remind yourself of the effectiveness of using your senses by keeping this where you can see it:

What can I see?
What can I hear?
What can I taste?
What can I touch?
What can I smell?