Common Writing Mistakes: Speech Tags

Happy Friday, squiders! Today we’re going to continue on with our series on common writing mistakes. We’re still in our first section, which is basic grammar/bad writing issues.

Today, we’re going to discuss speech tags. Just to be absolutely clear, speech tags in and of themselves are not a bad thing. You need them in many cases so it’s clear to your reader who’s talking. The problem is that people tend to feel they need to be “creative” with their speech tags, which can lead to issues.

A speech tag is a word to indicate someone is talking, such as “said,” “asked,” or “replied.”

Issue #1: Improbability

The first rule of speech tags is that they have to be something you can do with your mouth. In most cases, you do not speak with your hands, your head, your body, etc. Some of this is a punctuation problem. For example, you do not need a speech tag if the speaking character immediately does another action, but the two sentences cannot be connected.

WRONG: “It’s this way,” he gestured to the right.
RIGHT: “It’s this way.” He gestured to the right.

The second rule of speech tags that it has to be a sound you can make while talking. People often use words like “laughed” or “snorted” as a speech tag. However, people cannot easily laugh and talk in the same breath. People laugh, then talk, or they talk, then laugh. They can try to talk while laughing, but that’s something else altogether.

Issue #2: Distracting Modifiers

This is somewhat related to the filler/crutch words we discussed last week. This is something a lot of beginning authors do before they’ve figured out how to better express what their characters are trying to say, either through a stronger speech tag, the dialogue itself, or by replacing the speech tag with an action. Often, these take the form of an adverb.

Here’s an example: “That’s terrible,” she said sadly.

It’s not the worst sentence known to man, but there are stronger ways to show that the character is sad. Her shoulders could droop. She might look like she’s going to cry. Her voice could be shaky or waver.

Another example: “I hate you!” he said loudly.

Here you could use a better speech tag, such as “yell” or “scream.” You could also have the character do something, such as stomp away or ball his hands into fists.

Issue #3: Too Much Variety

You occasionally come across writing advice that says something along the lines of “Don’t use boring ol’ ‘said’! Here’s 500 other words you can use instead!”

Noooooo. No. Don’t do this. This sort of advice seems to inspire people to use the strangest and “most creative” speech tags they can think of, and to make sure they never repeat one. That’s not the point of the advice. It actually ties into issue #2, where you’re using too many adverbs as modifiers. Sometimes it is better to have someone beg or imply or protest. It’s truer to what you’re trying to convey.

But it is not an excuse to have someone bellow and your next character gloat and the one after that respond and the one after that whisper. The point is not to use a word that may not properly describe what you want just because it’s creative and special. That’s distracting to your reader and obnoxious. The point is to make sure you’re being precise.

And in most cases, you should use said. Most people just say things in most situations. And the nice thing about said is that it disappears into the narrative, so all readers take from “Barney said” is that Barney is the one currently talking.

This advice is also trying to avoid the “Bob said, Julie said, Linda said” issue, which we’ll address in issue #4.

Issue #4: Talking Heads

Have you ever seen a conversation like this?

“Look, I’m not okay with this,” Linda said.
“Do you think I care?” said Bob.
“Well, you should,” Linda said.
“I don’t care either,” said Julie.
“You stay out of this,” Linda said.

Man, all those saids are a mess, aren’t they? Let’s see if this is any better.

“Look, I’m not okay with this,” Linda yelled.
“Do you think I care?” snorted Bob.
“Well, you should,” Linda sniffled.
“I don’t care either,” inserted Julie.
“You stay out of this,” Linda snarled.

It’s not. Unfortunately, that’s what too many people do with the advice from Issue #3, when the problem is actually that what you’ve got a classic example of talking heads.

Talking heads is when your characters are just standing around, apparently doing nothing but talking. It’s boring, and it’s unrealistic. People don’t stand around and do nothing while talking. They fidget. They take sips of their drinks. They move around.

“Look, I’m not okay with this.” Linda stood, her chair tipping.
“Do you think I care?” Bob didn’t bother to look up from the letter he was writing.
“Well, you should.” Linda stalked over to the window, folding her arms across her chest.
“I don’t care either,” said Julie, sitting up straighter.
“You stay out of this.” Linda looked away from the rain just long enough to glare at the younger woman.

That’s not an amazing example, but it’s getting better. It’s fine to have a couple lines of dialogue where the characters don’t do anything else, but beyond that it gets boring. It can also help to help internal thoughts or feelings mixed in, depending on what your point of view is.

Well, squiders, did I leave anything out? Other issues with speech tags that you’ve noticed?

Creative Endeavors and a Readalong?

Hey, squiders! I hope you’re having a good week! Mine hasn’t been excellent, but what can you do?

As you guys know, I’ve been working on some other creative endeavors recently aside from just writing. (I did get two short stories written at the end of October/beginning of November, so hooray!) The first is a musical review of Christmas songs from musicals and movies, and I also just finished up a drawing class at my local rec center.

The musical review has been…interesting. We have our last rehearsal tonight, where we’re learning a dance for the first time. And then there’s no rehearsal until tech week starts after Thanksgiving. I shall be very interested to see how that goes. Also, we haven’t run through the show in any way or form–I have no idea what order the songs go in. I’ll admit to being a bit anxious about that. I haven’t done a musical review before, but I have done plays and musicals, and the order is so important. Maybe, because there’s not a ton of flow, it doesn’t matter so much. Maybe we’ll just get a list of songs backstage so we can check where we are.

Who knows? Not me!

I’m singing tenor on most of the songs. There’s…five? guys in the show compared to about twenty women, so the balance was off. And I can sing tenor, though it does make my throat hurt after a while. So that’s ALSO been interesting, especially since I’ve forgotten how to read a tenor clef.

(Also, I’m singing harmony on “Welcome Christmas” from How the Grinch Stole Christmas, which is proving difficult since I’m so familiar with the melody, but as long as I get off on the right foot I’m okay. Ah, the struggles of not being a soprano.)

(Also, why do the sopranos always get the melodies?)

Have you done musical reviews, Squiders? Is it normal to be so disconnected?

My drawing class was an interesting experience. I enjoyed having two hours to myself every week to do nothing but draw. Not sure I learned anything, though. Here’s a picture of some trees I drew.

treeeees

I’d like to say I’ve been keeping up with the drawing, but I haven’t. But maybe I can institute drawing time with the small, mobile ones? They get crayons and construction paper. Well, the bigger one can have markers, but the smaller one draws on herself and my couch, so no markers for her.

I’ve been pondering doing another readalong, but perhaps instead of getting stuck in what might be a terrible series (here’s looking at you, Finnbranch trilogy) we could try doing a single book every now and then. I’ve just started Connie Willis’ Doomsday Book which might be a good one (big though–600 pages), though I do have some older scifi and fantasy that I picked up at MileHiCon.

What do you think, Squiders? Would reading a single book and then discussing it be something you’d be interested in?

We’ll talk common writing problems again on Thursday.

Common Writing Mistakes: Filler/Crutch Words

Let’s jump into our common writing mistakes series, squiders! We’re tackling grammatical and just plain bad writing mistakes first before we get into more complicated topics. And today, we’re going to look at filler and crutch words.

So we’re all on the same page, a filler word is a word that’s added into a sentence that isn’t actually adding anything to its meaning. People do this while talking as well as while writing, but these words are insidious because in most cases people don’t realize they’re doing it. A crutch word is very similar to a filler, in that it’s a word you fall back on because it’s familiar and easy.

Here are some common filler/crutch words:

  • very
  • honestly
  • actually
  • just
  • like
  • anyway

You may have a filler or crutch word you use more than others. Mine is “honestly.”

NOTE: A crutch word can be a word that is being useful, such as a verb like “smiled,” but it becomes a crutch word because it’s being overused.

Be aware that phrases can also be crutches. If you find you’re reusing the same phrase a bunch (“each and every,” “it might be hours, days, weeks,” etc.) you might be using it as a crutch as well.

There’s a couple of ways to check and see what your filler and crutch words are, such as picking a few pages of your manuscript and reading through them, circling suspicious words. Or, if you don’t trust yourself to catch them, you can ask a friend to read through, or use a feature such as Word’s AutoSummarize tool. (NOTE: Word’s AutoSummary tool has been removed from newer versions of Word.)

By knowing what your filler and crutch words tend to be, you can keep an eye out for them while writing or, if you find that’s not helping your flow, look for them specifically when revising and editing.

While fillers and crutches are related, fixing them works slightly different.

Remember that a filler word is a word that is not adding any meaning to a sentence. These are easier to catch in a revision phase than a writing one. When you’re revising and you come across a filler-type word (like just, very, really, etc.), look and see if the word is pulling any weight. In some cases, such as dialogue, these words can occasionally be left alone, because people do use fillers when they’re talking. Also look at adjectives and adverbs, which can be fillers as well. Is there a stronger word that can be used? (“hurried” instead of “walked quickly,” for example)

A crutch word is a word that you overuse. If you know what yours are going into writing, sometimes you can cure yourself of the habit just by being aware of it. You might create a new crutch word or words, however, so it’s good to check during revision. Whereas filler words can usually just be cut, crutch words are often providing some worth to the sentence, so you may need to do some rewriting.

WARNING: Don’t just go through with a thesaurus when switching out crutch words! While words may have a similar meaning, or, in some cases, you might find a better word than your original one, often times the words in the thesaurus won’t match your concept exactly. Rewriting to keep your concept clear is a better idea than just switching out a word when possible. A look is different than a gaze, etc.

What are your go-to filler and crutch words, squiders? Any more thoughts on how to catch what yours are and fix them?

Review: Entromancy by M.S. Farzan

Good morning, squiders! Today I’m bringing you Entromancy by M.S. Farzan, which is a fun mix of science fiction and fantasy.

BLURB

2076 is not a good year to be a special agent. A quarter of the world’s power runs on ceridium, a newly discovered element that has had the unintended consequence of spawning a new race of people, and several forms of magic that were once thought to have been forgotten. Eskander Aradowsi is an agent of NIGHT, a paramilitary force created to contain and control this new perceived threat, but he soon learns that not all within his organization is as it seems. A botched mission turns out to be the least of his troubles, when he unearths a plot that threatens the uneasy truce between the aurics and humans of San Francisco, and centers on a form of magic that toys with the very fabric of the universe: Entromancy.

 

EXCERPT

I turned into a tiny cul-de-sac, passing a hand over the cruiser’s console to turn off the engine.  I stepped off of the vehicle and unraveled my long coat, adjusting my lenses to see better in the dim light away from the main thoroughfare.  Moving casually but silently, I walked to the mouth of the alley and peered down the side street towards the storefront, a large corner location masquerading as a legalized Oxidium dispensary.  Unlike the larger buildings surrounding it, the shop was comprised of only two stories, with dark, nondescript windows facing out towards the intersection.

Reaching into a pocket, I opened a small packet and slipped a ceridium capsule into my hand.  I held it out in front of me and made several deft, practiced gestures, scanning the street around me to ensure that I wasn’t drawing any undue attention.  With a final pass of my hand, I crushed the capsule and tossed the contents over my head in a brief flash of blue.  I could feel my skin tingling slightly as the spell took effect, shrouding me in a gentle mist that would hide me from all but direct eye contact.

I quietly padded down the street towards the location’s opposing corner, filtering the different readings coming through my lenses and being recorded onto my digitab.  A handful of night porters were working a block away, loading furniture into a large truck.  Two street people slept under the cover of an awning, bundled even during the unusual heat.  Several parked cars lined the roadway, all but one appearing cold in the IR scan.  From my vantage, the storefront looked quiet and empty, as expected.

The timer on the upper corner of my lens display read 21:04:05, forty-one minutes before the place was set to blow.  Plenty of time.

 

REVIEW

I’m giving this a 4 out of 5.

I am in love with the worldbuilding on this one. Seriously, it’s amazing. It’s hard to write science fiction with fantasy races and have it make sense, but by jove, I have now seen it done. The book is almost worth it just for that aspect.

Luckily, it’s also good in other ways. The writing is good, the characterization is good, the plot is slightly predictable but still eminently readable, and, seriously, A+ on the worldbuilding. There are some infodumps throughout that could have been shortened or spread out better, and there is a FAIRLY MAJOR piece of information about the main character that’s not revealed til about halfway through that I’m a bit annoyed about, but overall, I really enjoyed reading this one.

I’d recommend picking this up if you like a good mix of science fiction and fantasy.

 

BIO

S. Farzan was born in London, UK and grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. He has a B.A. in Integrative Biology, M.A. in Religious Leadership for Social Change, and Ph.D. in Cultural and Historical Studies of Religions. He has written and worked for high-profile video game companies and editorial websites such as Electronic Arts, Perfect World Entertainment, and MMORPG.com, and has trained in and taught Japanese martial arts for over ten years. He also enjoys soccer, baseball, and games of all kinds.

( Buy the BookWebsite | Twitter )

 

The author will be awarding a $25 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Common Writing Mistakes Intro

Okay, squiders! We’re going to dive into the common writing mistakes series now on and off for the next month or so. I’m thinking the book will be divided into a couple of different sections: 1) a basic intro, 2) a discussion of common writing mistakes and how to spot them/fix them, and 3) general fixes that can be applied to a variety of writing wrongs and just to help improve it overall. I’m thinking we’ll do 1 and 2 here on the blog and leave 3 for the book.

I’ve got a variety of writing mistakes identified which basically fall into the following categories:

  1. Voice/point of view issues
  2. Pacing and structure issues
  3. Plot issues
  4. Grammar issues (just plain bad writing)

REMINDER: If you want me to touch on something, let me know!

So what makes something a “common” writing mistake? A lot of it comes from being a less experienced writer. Writing a book can be a hard thing to do, and there are a ton of things to remember, from what color that character’s eyes were on page 5 to what you named your fictional quaint seaside town, let alone where your major plot points need to be.

Some of it comes from being unfamiliar with your genre of choice. If you’re writing a mystery but aren’t used to the conventions of the genre, it can be easy to miss things.

But one way or another, a “common” writing mistake is one that probably most, if not all, writers will make at one point as they learn their craft. I’ve made most of these. But the good news is that you can learn what these mistakes look like, and you can learn how to stop making them, or at least how to fix them after you do.

We’ll dig in next Thursday, starting with grammar issues, since those are more universal across all forms of writing, and some of the other ones are more applicable to fiction specifically.

MileHiCon and Nanowrimo

I have survived the con! \o/ Barely. But I had a good time and made some new friends (yay!) and am now on a search for a refillable notebook cover. (Craig Griswold who was in the art show, on the off chance you read this, you have no online presence and I would like to buy things from you.)

(If you know of nice refillable notebook covers–i.e., a cover you can move from notebook to notebook that attaches to said notebook’s cover, kind of like a dust jacket for a notebook–in a larger size, such as composition book or steno book size, let me know. It seems like the perfect solution to my need to buy fancy notebooks but then my reticence to use said notebooks because they’re too fancy.)

I think the panels and limited signing/selling books time is a much better combination for me. I might have sold more books if I manned a table all weekend, but hey, maybe I wouldn’t have. I sold a decent amount for the time I did man a table, and any difference in sales is not worth being trapped at a table all convention. I got to see the costume contest for the first time ever.

The panels were mostly fun. The Trek one was the best, both because of the obvious love for the franchise by everyone on the panel and in the audience, and also because we actually discussed things back and forth on the panel. The audience was engaged and had great questions and comments. The Doctor Who one was the worst. It was a roundtable, which is basically just a big discussion between everyone present, but it was dominated by a small minority who wanted to talk about special effects and other background things while it was obvious some people just wanted to geek out over their favorite companions and whatnot. And the fangirling panel was fun, but we would all just go in a row to answer each question, and I wish we’d had more actual discussion.

It was a learning experience, though, and I’d definitely do it again.

There were a lot of questions from con attendees about Nanowrimo. It makes sense–the convention attracts a lot of amateur and beginning authors and it is almost November (I wrote Navember, haha)–but it still surprised me. So I figured I’d better do my obligatory Nano post for the year here.

I’m not doing Nano this year. I have not been terribly productive this year, at least not as productive as I’d planned to be, due to various stresses, and while November should be pretty chill (after next Wednesday, anyway) I know that the moment I commit to anything, something else will fall apart. So I’m out for the year, though I will probably do a smaller goal (somewhere between 10K and 20K) on my rewrite.

Doing Nano, squiders? Thoughts on MileHiCon if you went, or conventions in general?

Also, happy Halloween!

Getting Ready for MileHiCon

Killing two birds with one stone, Squiders. (I did not get my outlining done. I did, however, finally vacuum the basement. Nonfiction next week for sure, though.)

I’m so not stressed about the con this year, which feels lovely. I kind of feel like I should be, since, you know, public speaking and all, but I’m going to get to see friends and see all the cool con stuff and hopefully make new friends, so I’m mostly excited. (Though I have discovered that I am the only woman on a panel of men for the Trek panel, which could be fine, or could be terrible. Time will tell! The only other person on the Doctor Who panel doesn’t have a bio on the website, so they remain a mystery. I’m hoping they know what they’re doing though, because I don’t.)

Anyway! Things to be done before the convention:

  • PACK YOUR BUSINESS CARDS, KIT, WHY ARE YOU SO BAD AT THIS (seriously, I have hundreds and yet I always forget them)
  • Check books for signing/selling Saturday morning. I should be good to go because they’re still packed from the library local author showcase, but I might stick some anthologies in there too if I still have any floating around.
  • Likewise, pack credit card reader/money box (and probably go to bank and get change).
  • Figure out if I need permits for the signing/selling table and get them ready if necessary.
  • Find and read cliff notes version of the last season of Doctor Who so I can effectively pretend I know what I’m talking about tomorrow.
  • Pack bag:
    • Laptop or notebook for writing (the wifi has historically been spotty, so it basically depends on what I want to drag around with me)
    • Snacks
    • BUSINESS CARDS
    • Water bottle
    • Bookmarks? (I still have some from Shards floating around somewhere, though I think I’m out of the rest)
    • I feel like I’m forgetting something, so this spot is for when I remember later

I think that’s it. I hope that’s it. Squiders, if you see something I’m obviously forgetting, please let me know! Or if you have tips for being a panelist, I’d love to hear them!

Otherwise, I’ll see you guys next week!

MileHiCon, Next Nonfiction Topic, Et al.

Can you believe October is almost over, Squiders? I’m not ready! It seems like it just started, all full of promise and hope, but now the leaves have fallen off the trees and the gloom of winter is descending.

It’s MileHiCon this weekend. I’ve talked about it before, but for those of you who are new, it’s a literary-minded scifi/fantasy convention in Denver, Colorado. This will be my third year attending in an authorial capacity. In previous years I’ve run a table in the Authors’ Alley, which is where indie authors and small presses can set up shop for the weekend, sell books, talk to readers, etc.

In theory, the Authors’ Alley is a wonderful idea. In actuality, it varies based on where you are in the alley and how tired potential readers are by the time they get to you. My first year (2014) was pretty decent. Last year was miserable. And it didn’t help that I had to man my table by myself (I was running one for Turtleduck Press and the other authors couldn’t make it either time) and was essentially stuck there all weekend. TRAPPED.

(On the other hand, sometimes it can be somewhat beneficial. I’ve edited chapters, written short stories, drawn landsquid pictures for the blog, etc., all while trapped at my Authors’ Alley table.)

So this year, I’ve got a 2-hour slot at what they call the Authors’ Co-op table. Same thing as Authors’ Alley, where you can set up shop, sell books, do autographs, etc., but 1) it’s free and 2) it’s for a limited time period and then you’re freeeeeeeee, free, thank the Lord.

In addition to this, I have finally figured out how to get on panels. Last year, I think, oh, two weeks out from the convention, I emailed the panel coordinator and told her that if she still needed people, I was ready and available, and she very gently told me that I was several months too late and helped me so I didn’t mess up again this year.

I’m hoping the panel + limited table stuckage will result in a more enjoyable convention, and one that’s more beneficial to me as an author in both a networking and a marketing manner. I’ll let you know next week.

So, according to the poll, it looks like people want to do common writing problems as our next nonfiction topic. I hope to outline the book tomorrow but it may take me a few days to get everything in order since I need to figure out what the most common writing problems are (with a focus on fiction, since that is my specialty). If I get everything ready by Thursday we’ll start this week, but with the con looming I make no guarantees.

(If you have a problem you’d like to seen covered, let me know!)

My drawing class is going well, though it’s not quite what I wanted. I finished my project yet we still have one more week, so not sure what I’m going to do. Draw landsquid and alpaca, I suppose.

How are you, Squiders? Advice on being on a Doctor Who panel when I haven’t seen most of the last season and seemingly have no way to do so before the convention starts (I have been on the hold list for the library copy forever)?

The Chocolatier’s Wife/The Chocolatier’s Ghost

Happy Thursday, Squiders! (I’m actually writing this at the beginning of July, so this shall be my farthest scheduled post of all time, ahahaha–I hope everything works!) Today I’m pleased to be the final stop for the tour for The Chocolatier’s Wife and The Chocolatier’s Ghost, two fantasy mystery books by Cindy Lynn Speer.

BLURB:

The Chocolatier’s Wife: ROMANCE, MAGIC, MYSTERY…. AND CHOCOLATE

A truly original, spellbinding love story, featuring vivid characters in a highly realistic historical setting.

When Tasmin’s bethrothed, William, is accused of murder, she gathers her wind sprites and rushes to his home town to investigate. She doesn’t have a shred of doubt about his innocence. But as she settles in his chocolate shop, she finds more in store than she bargained for. Facing suspicious townsfolk, gossiping neighbors, and William’s own family, who all resent her kind – the sorcerer folk from the North — she must also learn to tell friend from foe, and fast. For the real killer is still on the loose – and he is intent on ruining William’s family at all cost.

The Chocolatier’s Ghost: Married to her soul mate, the chocolatier William, Tasmin should not have to worry about anything at all. But when her happily ever after is interrupted by the disappearance of the town’s wise woman, she rushes in to investigate. Faced with dangers, dead bodies, and more mysterious disappearances, Tasmin and William must act fast to save their town and themselves – especially when Tasmin starts to be haunted by a most unwelcome ghost from her past…literally.

The Chocolatier’s Ghost is an enchanting sequel to Cindy Lynn Speer’s bestselling romantic mystery, The Chocolatier’s Wife.

EXCERPT:

Time was, in the kingdom of Berengeny, that no one picked their spouses. No one courted—not officially, at any rate—and no one married in a moment’s foolish passion. It was the charge of the town Wise Woman, who would fill her spell bowl with clear, pure water; a little salt; and the essence of roses, and rosemary, and sage. Next, she would prick the finger of the newborn child and let his or her blood drip into the potion. If a face showed in the waters, then it was known that the best possible mate (they never said true love, for that was the stuff of foolish fancy) had been born, and the Wise Woman could then tell where the future spouse lived, and arrangements were made.

For the parents of William of the House of Almsley, this process would turn out to be less than pleasant.

The first year that the baby William’s finger was pricked and nothing showed, the Wise Woman said, “Fear not, a wife is often younger than the husband.”

The second, third, and even fifth year she said much the same.

But you see, since the spell was meant to choose the best match—not the true love—of the heart the blood in the bowl belonged to, this did not mean, as years passed, that the boy was special. It meant that he would be impossible to live with.

On his seventh birthday, it seemed everyone had quite forgotten all about visiting the Wise Woman until William, who knew this of long habit to be a major part of his day–along with cake, a new toy, and a new set of clothes–tugged on his mother’s skirt and asked when they were going. She stared at him a long moment, tea cup in hand, before sighing and calling for the carriage. She didn’t even bother to change into formal clothes this time, and the Wise Woman seemed surprised to see them at all. “Well, we might as well try while you’re here,” she said, her voice obviously doubtful.

William obediently held out the ring finger on his left hand and watched as the blood dripped into the bowl. “She has dark brown eyes,” William observed, “and some hair already.” He shrugged, and looked at the two women. “I suppose she’ll do. I’m just glad ‘tis over, and that I can go on with my life.”

“For you, perhaps,” his mother said, thinking of what she would now have to accomplish.

“Do not fret, mother, I shall write a letter to the little girl. Not that she can read it, anyway.” He petted his mother’s arm. He was a sweet boy, but he was always charging forward, never worrying about feelings.

The Wise Woman rolled out an elegantly painted silk map of the kingdom and all its regions, his mother smoothed the fabric across the table, and then the Wise Woman dipped a brass weight into the bowl. Henriette, William’s mother, placed her hands on William’s shoulders as the Wise Woman held the weight, suspended, over the map.

Henriette held her breath, waiting to see where it would land. Andrew, her younger son, had his intended living just down the street, which was quite convenient. At least they knew what they were getting into immediately.

The plumb-bob made huge circles around the map, spinning and spinning as the Wise Woman recited the words over and over. It stopped, stiffly pointing toward the North.

“Tarnia? Not possible, nor even probable. You must try again!”

For once, William’s mother wasn’t being stubbornly demanding. Tarnia, a place of cruel and wild magic, was the last place from whence one would wish a bride. They did not have Wise Women there, for anyone could perform spells. The Hags of the North ate their dead and sent the harsh winter wind to ravage the crops of the people of the South. Five hundred years ago, the North and the South had fought a bitter war over a cause no one could quite remember, only that it had been a brutal thing, and that many had died, and it led to the South losing most of its magic. Though the war was long over and the two supposedly united again, memory lingered. “I have cast it twice.” The Wise Woman chewed her lower lip, but therewas naught else she could do.

“Not Tarnia, please?” Henriette, usually a rather fierce and cold woman, begged.

“I am afraid so.” The Wise Woman began cleaning up; her shoulders set a little lower. “I am sorry.”

William, staring out the window at the children playing outside, couldn’t care less. What did it matter where anyone was from? She was a baby, and babies didn’t cause that much trouble.

“Only you, William,” his mother said, shaking her head. “Why can you not do anything normal?”

This was to be the tenor of most of their conversations throughout their lives.

BIO:

Cindy Lynn Speer has been writing since she was 13.  She has Blue Moon and Unbalanced published by Zumaya.  Her other works, including The Chocolatier’s Wife (recently out in an illustrated hardcover to celebrate its 10th anniversary) and the Chocolatier’s Ghost, as well as the short story anthology Wishes and Sorrows.  When she is not writing she is either practicing historical swordsmanship, sewing, or pretending she can garden.  She also loves road trips and seeing nature.  Her secret side hobby is to write really boring bios about herself.  You can find out more about her at www.cindylynnspeer.com, or look for her on Facebook (Cindy Lynn Speer) and Twitter (cindylynnspeer).

( Amazon Author Page )

GUEST POST:

As part of the tour, I’ve asked Cindy to put together a short post about where she gets her ideas. Take it away, Cindy!

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Where do ideas come from?

The most important thing is to feed your muse.  Ideas are everywhere, but they need time to develop…and you need to feed yourself so that ideas have things to grab onto and add to themselves.  You may have this image in your head of a slave, who is lead to his freedom by a shape shifter who takes the form of a peahen.  (I do, I play with this story a lot, off and on.)  My problem is that I have not read enough…what would life be like for a black man of the time in the North?  What would induce him to go back — the woman wants him to, to free her husband, who lives inside the plantation house in a gilded cage.  I need to read to get his voice in my head, watch movies, look at pictures.  Then I will be able to take a wonderful idea and turn it into a great story.

For me, ideas are a combination of cool things coming together and things I would like to read.  Worlds I want to travel, people I want to spend time with.  You cannot draw anything from an empty well, so you should read, guilt free, widely.  Does it take time from when you should be writing?  Yes.  But if you are having a hard time putting ideas to paper because when you look inside your head and there’s nothing there to pull from, then maybe this is what you need to do.  Read things outside of your genre.  Read nonfiction that could be related to things you would like to write.  Go to museums, online and off, and explore their collections.  Look at the photos, the paintings, and tell yourself stories.  Throw your favorite TV or Movie characters in weird situations while you are sitting at a red light or waiting at check out.

Tell yourself stories as often as you can.  It does not matter if you can write them down or not, just letting your mind doodle, resting yourself from the everyday cares will strengthen you and help a lot.

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Too Much Coincidence?

If you’re on Pinterest, squiders, you know that it will notify you when someone re-pins one of the pins from your boards. I recently got a notification about this pin, which I had honestly forgotten about.

crrreeepppyyy
Picture seen here

This is one of my own photos that I’ve pinned. It may be the only photo of my own that I’ve pinned. In Sept of 2013, we went on a New England/Canada cruise, and at some point ended up in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. I don’t quite remember how we got there–it was part of some shore excursion, maybe something having to do with maple syrup–but we were given an hour or so in which to wander the town.

I found myself drawn to a neat old white and red building on the top of a hill that just screamed that it was haunted. And when we got there, we discovered the cemetery. AND THEN we discovered that said building was a school, and that the hill was called…wait for it…Gallow’s Hill.

Playground/cemetery proximity

I mean, what are the odds? Who looks at a building next to a cemetery on a place called Gallow’s Hill and says, “Ah, yes, here is where I will put my school”? An elementary school, even.

This is a horror story waiting to happen, and I’m so pleased that that person re-pinned this pin because now I remember it, and I remember the pure glee of finding this place, and I remember the potential of this location.

But, seriously, squiders, what are the odds?

(I really love cemeteries and I am aware that’s weird, but gleeeeeeeeee.)

Books by Kit Campbell

City of Hope and Ruin cover
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Shards cover
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Hidden Worlds cover
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