A-Z Series: I Week

G (1)“You’ve got to get obsessed and stay obsessed.”
John Irving

Word of the Week: Inscient. Someone who has little or no knowledge of a situation can be described as inscient. Again referencing one of my works-in-progress, one of my characters is thought to be inscient of a grievous crime, and he goes to great lengths to keep it that way.

Tip of the Week: Imagination. It doesn’t exactly matter to me whether you are a fiction writer pounding out your best-seller, a non-fiction writer whose mission is to tell the truth of [enter historical event here], or a memoirist writing of all your fantastic life experiences. You’re a writer, therefore you are using your imagination, to some degree, to write your ideas down in such a way that people want to flip the page. I remember a lively debate once where a very artsy friend of mine was adamant that our imaginations are limitless, and another friend was equally as staunch in their position that our imaginations, while vast, are limited.

I don’t know about that, but I do know that sometimes my imagination gets stuck. I try to envision my fictitious worlds and my characters but for the life of me all I can think of is my rent and power bill, the groceries I don’t feel like going to get, and the email I forgot to respond to at work.

Aila, this sounds a lot like writer’s block, you say. Fine. Shut up. It isn’t easy coming up with something that starts with i.

Here are three tips for reviving a dead imagination:

1.| Play Minecraft, specifically in Creative Mode. It is your world to do with as you’d like. Build or destroy a city. Craft your very own underwater castle built of glass and watch the sea creatures from your bedroom. Set the world on fire and watch it burn one block at a time. Create a story for Pixelated You.

2.| Scroll your various social media pages and look for an interesting photograph. DO NOT READ THE CAPTION. Make up your own scenario for what is going on in the picture. Be as straightforward or as complex as you’d like.

3.| Watch a movie and imagine how the prose would read if it were a book. Critique the dialogue. Write your own internal dialogue for the climactic scenes.

Resource of the Week: I am going to preface this by saying I have not currently used the services from this company, but I will be very shortly and I will write a complete review at that time of my experience. IngramSpark is a print-on-demand company who offers a wide range of services to their customers and, from my research so far, offers an exceptionally professional end-product. 

Spotlight of the Week: 

Paul’s [Website] [Email]

Paul Ikin is an indie author from Melbourne, Australia. His debut novel The Other Side of Eve was self published in 2015 and is growing in popularity. Sort out by those that like dark fairytales, the strange and the magical. As a working illustrator & designer he crafted TOSoE from cover to cover, drew over 80 chapter illustrations and the surreal fantasy map of Mare-Marie; A project that took over six years. An avid traveler, Ikin wrote half of TOSoE while overseas living in Berlin. He is currently writing the prequel to TOSoE, while staying home to nurture his 7 month old son, Vincent.


1.) I am thoroughly enjoying The Other Side of Eve! When did you know you really had something special there? Was it after building a particular character? The world? A specific section of the book?

I’m so glad to hear you’re enjoying The Other Side of Eve.
The first draft will always be very special to me. It’s the raw, fluid, chaotic version, which took me years to write, when TOSoE was in my every thought day and night-it’s all I talked about. The main protagonists Eve & Belleny moved me to move them; they were on such different journeys, but each magical, connected and very special.

2.) I will admit I was initially mesmerized by the illustrations in TOSOE. Do you tend to illustrate your existing stories, or write stories for your existing illustrations? Where does the inspiration come from?

Thank you. I tend to illustrate for my existing stories. I feel I need to write about them first, to conjure the characters up in my minds eye and feel them, know them, shape them with words. Then drawing them comes easily, and I usually draw them first go. When I try writing about a character I had drawn first, there is little emotional connection, I feel lost, ‘Who are you?’. My characters know exactly who they are.

3.) What has been the biggest surprise since you decided to write with the intent of publication? What has been your biggest obstacle, and do you have any advice for other writers to help deal with that problem?

As an indie author I self published- what was I thinking! It was a very steep learning curve that continues to climb. I don’t recommend it unless you are committed to hours of learning about the hundreds of things a publishing house does, then attempt to do everyone’s job yourself.The biggest obstacle was getting TOSoE seen amongst the millions of other books. I gave up. Now I let the reader find Eve.

What helped, besides the kind reviews, was a simple website. It’s one good way to promote your book, you as a writer, and give the readers an insight into your world. All without having to speak a word, good news for most writers I know who would rather type than talk. I built my site on WordPress for free. They take time, but start small and build on it. In a year they become a beast in their own.

I also recommend getting an editor or two. I’ve been through a few after many mistakes were missed. I enjoy the process and getting a fresh set of eyes over my work, it can do it wonders. I made the mistake by publishing too early, don’t jump the gun, make sure your book is super tight before pressing publish. The revised version of The Other Side of Eve is now available and all ebooks are updated automatically.

Also for indie authors I recommend using both Createspace & Ingram Spark combined. Ingram Spark make beautiful hardcovers that Createspace don’t provide. They are high quality and you’ll be proud to see your beautiful story wrapped in cloth and a tight book jacket; A proud version to have in your own personal library.

4.) If you could have dinner with any author in history, who would it be, why, and what would you hope to take away from the experience?

I would like to have dinner with Clive Barker. I am fond of his horror writings, notably turned into movies such as Hellraiser & Nightbreed, but his fantasy novels are what inspire me, these are the books that started me on my own writing journey; Imajica, Abarat, Cabal, The Geat and Secret Show, Weaveworld, to name a few of my favorites. He is also a great illustrator of his characters, seen in many of his books.
Some of his influences are also mine, such as H.P. Lovecraft. Edgar Allan Poe, Ray Bradbury.

I would hope to get an insight into his writing practice, as I know mine is quite intense.

5.) What’s a little-known fact about you? Explain or elaborate. (Special talents, non-writing hobbies, etc.)

In my 20’s I ran a collectable toy shop specializing in 80’s toys. It was a bit like staring in a geeky movie and a lot of fun. As a writer I’m highly inspired by 80’s culture, cartoons and movies. It helps as an author & illustrator to get submerged in it at all times. Now I’m a new dad I look forward to watching entire series of cartoons all over again with my son. Good times ahead.

*I* am so glad you joined me again this week! Have a fantastic Monday and HAPPY WRITING! Or sad, morose writing… if that’s your thing. 😉


A-Z Series: Week H

G.png“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”
-Ernest Hemingway

Word of the Week: Hellkite. A hellkite is someone who is extremely cruel. Think Hitler and Stalin. This is one of those words, while rare, someone is likely to understand its meaning without having to search for a dictionary as long as it is used in the proper context.

Tip(s) of the Week: Homonyms. Just in case there is anyone out there who doesn’t know what homonyms are, they are words that sound the same but are spelled differently and have different meanings, and they can also be words that are spelled the same, sound the same, but still have different meanings. Nine times out of ten, it’s the first kind that trip us up.

Do you ever scroll through your Twitter or Facebook feeds and see sentences like: “I don’t know witch I hate worse…” or “It doesn’t matter weather you believe it…” If you don’t see these things, you’re in the minority. The problem is we rely so heavily on our gadgetry to find our mistakes, we often don’t pay it attention if we change one word out for the other. Most of the time our various word processors will find these and call them to our attention. But that isn’t always the case. Pay attention to these kinds of errors when you’re proofing your own work and if you’re beta reading for someone else and you notice them.

Hangups. I felt compelled to write a little something about writing hangups. Specifically the lack of desire to finish a project. It is super easy to get distracted by the myriad of things life constantly throws at us. Unless you have an agent or publisher beating down your door and pressing you to meet deadlines, it is more likely that your writing takes place between meal times with your family, grocery shopping, doctor appointments and getting your tires rotated. It is easy to push back what isn’t a necessity–and I am not suggesting you let your kids starve in order to finish that chapter you’ve been hung up on. But, I just want to encourage you to find the time. Write on your phone while you’re waiting on the doctor or for your mechanic. Ask your spouse or your teenage kid (trust me, this is a skill too few know and they really should learn!) to cook dinner once or twice a week just to give you a little extra time to polish up your prose. You have a story to tell, and quite frankly, I want to read it.

Resource of the Week: HyperGrammar. Are you ready for this? The University of Ottawa offers this free [non-credit] grammar course online! Perhaps it has been a while since you were in school and really had to know this stuff, but now that you want to be a professional writer, you want to brush up… but scrounging up the time to write is hard enough on its own, and there is no way you can make it down to your local college for continuing education classes. Fear not! U of Ottawa has you covered. The page currently says it is under construction and advises that some elements may be missing, but I’ve clicked through it and I believe if this is something you’d like to pursue to better your writing, it is well worth checking out!

Now, HyperGrammar doesn’t have a video on YouTube, so instead I am sharing another grammar video that I find pretty stinking hilarious and educational. You’ll probably laugh but you most definitely will not literally explode from laughing. Watch it, you’ll get it.

Spotlight of the Week: I did ask someone to participate as this week’s spotlight, but once they declined I didn’t have the opportunity to seek out a replacement. Which sucks. So I’m going to just put out an open invitation to anyone who is reading this, if you’re interested in being interviewed for this section of my weekly posts, please feel free to send me a message on Twitter. There are some weeks that are already filled up, but if you’re interested, I will keep a running list and will happily interview you at a later time.

Thanks for stopping in! I hope you all have a fantastic week and, as always, happy writing!


A-Z Series: Week G

G“A story has no beginning or end: arbitrarily one chooses that moment of
experience from which to look back or from which to look ahead.”
Graham Greene

Word of the Week: Grandisonant means something sounds pompous. Someone might talk with a grandisonant vocabulary (which one could argue the word grandisonant in itself matches its definition!) or perhaps it might describe the music in a restaurant.

Tip of the Week: Genres! I suppose it goes without saying, but I’ll say it again anyway: There are differing opinions on what I’m going to say about genres—but that’s not going to stop me.

If you’re writing as a hobby, then genre may not matter to you as much. You get an idea, you write until your writer’s heart is contented and make no apologies for it. But, if you’re writing with the intention of selling your work, then your genre is probably very important to you. This is how your readers are going to find you initially. As much as I would love to think there are hordes of people out there just itching to search Amazon for my book, that is just not how it works. People will search for their favorite genre and hopefully, if I’m very lucky (and I’ve done a decent job of marketing), they will find me someday.

I hear you. “But, Aila… my book’s got love in it, it’s a romance novel, right?”

Maybe. Maybe not. My book Sex, Love & Technicalities has a very romantic story in it, but that’s not really the point of the novel. It’s about a woman who is facing turning thirty and realizing she’s not very happy in her life and at the same time her restaurant burns down, someone has died, and her past is coming back to complicate things even further. There are a couple of subplots, like dealing with family health issues and a stifling mother/daughter relationship. Sure, my main character falls in love and has a love life… but I wouldn’t call it a romance novel. It’s women’s fiction.

So don’t take the time to write an entire novel just to slap on the first genre tag that comes to mind. Are you writing a fantasy novel? or are you writing a post-apocalyptic steampunk fantasy novel? Is it sci-fi, or perhaps historical science fiction?

Click here to read up on the astounding number of literary genres.

Resource of the Week: Grammar Girl. I don’t know of a single writer who isn’t in need of help with their grammar, at least occasionally. Have you checked out Grammar Girl? If you’re looking for help from someone with stellar references, this woman has plenty. Her advice is easy to read and comprehend… and she’s just simply fun! I wanted to share a video from her YouTube collection, and I chose this one specifically. Why? Because in SL&T my main character gets annoyed at the whole “espresso” vs. “expresso” pronunciation debate, also the video was posted on my birthday which apparently happens to be National Coffee Day, and that just makes me very happy.

Catch her on Twitter, too!

Spotlight of the Week: Lo-arna Green!

Lo-arna is an Australian author who believes in happily ever after (most of the time) and some of the time participates in reality.

|Twitter| |Website|  |Facebook|

Lo-arna was very generous and answered our questions for today. If you don’t already know her, she’s a delight!

1.) In which genre do you predominately write? What interests you in it particularly?

Mainly romance. I like to add extra flavours in though so it’s not just that same old formula. My first novel had mystery as an added element and the second went into Domestic Violence and the effects of abuse.

2.) What is your biggest motivator?

I spend a lot of time procrastinating but when that idea begins to burn up, nothing gets in my way.

3.) What has been your biggest challenge in the entire writing process and what advice would you give others to make it easier for them?

Quite honestly, exposure. I am a needle in a haystack. Come find me people, hello! *waves frantically* Advice? Write from the heart, don’t give up and just be fully aware your writing won’t be for everyone, but for some, it will make them cry, laugh and they may take away something from your writing and apply it to their own lives.

4.) Would you rather have dinner with Shakespeare, Hemingway, Twain or Asimov? What would you say to them?

Shakespeare. I don’t know what I would say though. I would struggle to form words. Maybe I could write something down on post-it notes.

5.) What’s a little-known fact about you? Explain or elaborate. (Special talents, non-writing hobbies, etc.)

I know when people are lying and it is super awkward.

As always, thank you for stopping by! See you next week, writers!


A-Z Series: Week F

F“If a story is in you, it must come out.”
-William Faulkner

Word of the Week: 
Feckless. Someone who is feckless is weak, helpless and feeble. Maybe they’re feckless due to old age, an accident, or perhaps they’re just scared of everything. Literature has been brimming with feckless characters throughout history, some stay that way, but others grow into powerful characters through the circumstances their writers put them through.

Tip of the Week: Fight scenes. You’ve been building tension between your protagonist and your antagonist for umpteen chapters. Everything has been beautifully building up to the moment when they finally meet to throw punches, cross blades, have an old-fashioned shootout at the saloon, or a battle for the ages amongst the stars—I don’t know, it’s your story.

Now that the moment is here, you lay it all out meticulously. You do not want the reader to miss a single sidestep, you want them to know exactly the way in which The Light Prince grips his sword.

Don’t. Just don’t. Your reader does not need to know, nor do they care, that your antagonist took three and a half steps to the right and then stumbled two feet backwards when the four-foot blade of your protagonist struck his shield which weighed 17.25 pounds. That minutia might matter to you, it might help you visualize the fight in your head – but what matters to your reader is the emotion in the scene.

Let your reader feel the bitter torment in the pit of The Light Prince’s stomach as he plunges his sword, the one his father bequeathed to him, into his brother’s, The Dark Prince, chest.

Sure, you can let the saloon tables and chairs fly as our hero cowboy has had enough of the crooked Sheriff’s dirty tricks. Demolish the place. Let us see our hero’s anger and fury, but perhaps we don’t need to know that he tossed twelve chairs and three tables – just chairs and tables. Let your reader create much of the scene for themselves.

Most importantly, the side effect of not focusing on the smallest physical details of the fight is that you’ll be more likely to use the fight or action scene as a way to further the plot. The crooked Sheriff, in a fit of rage, shouts out a secret that will help our cowboy save the town… the Dark Prince admits he’s actually a girl and the Light Prince’s sister with her dying breath… you get the idea. This will have a much bigger impact if your reader hasn’t just sludged through paragraph after paragraph of useless directions and units of measurement.

Through the powers of the internet and YouTube, I am going to employ Jenna Moreci to tell you even more about fight scenes. Be forewarned, if foul language offends you, don’t watch.

I love her vlog.

Resource of the Week: FirstWriter. [Also find them on Twitter here.] This website has pretty much one goal: Turning writers into authors. You can find countless resources here from agent listings to writing competitions to editorial services. Need to learn about copyrighting and why that is important essential to you as a writer? FirstWriter explains it.  Having all of this information in one place is quite handy.

Spotlight of the Week: Some of you know her as perhaps the most powerful chipmunk on the planet Earth. This week I am pleased to introduce you to—as if you don’t already know her—Rebecca Frohling! She’s a writer, actress, and a mother who knows and understands the importance of caffeine!

1.| In what genre do you write?

About the only consistency to my work is the format it takes: plays and short stories. I can’t seem to break from that, as of yet. As to the plots and such, I tend to follow whatever idea happens to strike; definitely not the sort to plot things out, I like discovering the story as I go. That said, an awfully large amount of my works end up having a twist or two- I do like to take the audience by surprise, or at least make the attempt.

2.) Of all the characters you have created, which would you most like to spend the day with? Why them and what would be on the itinerary?

Ooh, tough one. I don’t want my characters to feel slighted! But, put to the wall, my shortlist would be:

a. Zoe Grackowski- 11 y.o. special effects artist, enthusiastic and optimistic

b. Heaven Ravenscroft- lead singer for the Undead Hillbillies, the number one industrial goth bluegrass band in the county, also enthusiastic, optimistic, and rather spacey

c. Declan Patterson- unemployed actor (but I repeat myself) TOTALLY not addicted to pills, ditto the enthusiasm and optimism (I love characters like these)

d. Bev Swenson- Senior Aunt who dispenses wisdom and highly outlandish stories about her life

e. Conrad Belvidere- antisocial inventor; not much of a conversationalist, but I just loooove him so much!

3.) What is your biggest source of frustration with the whole writing process, and do you have tips for other writers to overcome it?

Biggest source of frustration for me, being a stay-at-home mom of three, is getting time to have a coherent thought, let alone write! Can’t help others with that much, I’m afraid. I have read that many have problems with writer’s block. I don’t; because I generally have around 30 (not a typo) projects going simultaneously. If one’s not working, I just switch to another. It keeps those mind wheels going.

4.) If you could have dinner with any author in history, who would it be, why, and what would you hope to take away from the experience?

Oh gosh, another difficult choice! I’m going to go with non-fiction writer Margaret Visser. Her anthropological or sociological or what-have-you works on the origins and history of everyday items/rituals are brilliantly absorbing. Every paragraph holds so much information. The woman wrote a whole book on why we say thank you! And it was fascinating!

5.) What’s a little-known fact about you? Explain or elaborate. (Special talents, non-writing hobbies, etc.)

How about my story of rubbing elbows with fame? 😃  I have a degree in film- not unusual or even unknown in itself, and I didn’t use it for much. But I did get to intern, right out of college, for one weekend on the filming of a children’s video. It starred a very young pre-known Mandy Moore (didn’t meet her, they filmed her scenes before I got there), and Butch Patrick of The Munsters fame. Lovely man, very professional, said the basement where we were working was “just like Grandpa’s” lab or shop or whatever (I haven’t really watched the show). Also, Luke Halprin (of the show Flipper) was the cinematographer. I was too shy at the time to talk to either of them, but at least I have a story to tell!

Thank you so much for stopping in for Week F! Gee, I sure hope to see you next week!


20 Things About Me

20 Things About Me
“Stop trying to be less of who you are. Let this time in your life cut you open and

drain all of the things that are holding you back.”
-Jennifer Elisabeth

I was just tagged by the beautiful and talented Mollie (you can find her amazing blog here) to list twenty facts ab0ut myself. I am not going to include my various British obsessions or anything that has to do with my current writing endeavors. I’ll do my best to be interesting!

1.| I’m allergic to bacon. Okay, so technically I am allergic to sodium nitrate, but if I tell that to pretty much anyone, they have no idea what I’m talking about so I tend to just list a few things like bacon, ham, pepperoni, etc. Then I’m met with lots of pity. Then I’m always asked if I am a vegetarian. I only shell out the dough for nitrate-free varieties on occasion because that sh*t’s expensive. (Extra bit: I nearly died from a hotdog when I was in kindergarten.)

2.| I used to speak competitively. From giving speeches to extemporaneous speaking. I once went to a speech competition and had little more than fumes in my gas tank and not a dime to my name and won enough money to get me through to my next paycheck.

3.| I was in The World Trade Center exactly six months before 9/11/2001 and said to a friend it would “be really bad if there were an earthquake or something” that took the building down.

4.| I was once sent to the principal’s office for doing drugs in class. The drug? Tums. Could’ve been Rolaids, but I’m pretty sure it was Tums. The principal laughed.

5.| I don’t like pizza. I know, let the hating begin. And I don’t like chicken wings, either.

6.| I love antique furniture. I have three large pieces that are family heirlooms from early to mid-1800’s, and I am not looking forward to the day they fall apart.

7.| I have planned a Disney World vacation almost every year since I entered adulthood because my parents could never afford to take me… and apparently I am repeating their tradition, because I have still never been.

8.| I stole a pack of chewing gum when I was about four years old. I asked my mom if she wanted a piece when we got in the car… so obviously I was caught. The store manager didn’t have the heart to be mad and against my mother’s wishes, he bought it for me.

9.| When I was 17, I was accidentally an arsonist. A friend of mine had claimed an old barn on her dad’s property as her own and was showing it to me and a few others, and we lit candles and missed one when we were putting them out. That sucker went down to the ground, and try as they might to prove it was drug related – it really wasn’t.

10.| I like my dark chocolate around 72-78%. I like my white chocolate not to exist.

11.| I used to ride horses all the time until a horrific accident with yellow jackets. I was stung countless times including on my eye, which swelled to the size of a tennis ball and required heavy rounds of steroids. I would love to ride again.

12.| I’m from The South, but I rarely ever drink sweet tea (I prefer mine hot), and I can’t remember the last time I had fried chicken.

13.| I once hired someone who had typed “I am Batman.” on the bottom of their resume.

14.| I can play the French horn and the trumpet.

15.| As a teenager I wrote three poems that were published in two different volumes of poetry. They were written during a particularly dark time in my life – and not the typical dark times of a teenager – and I’ve never been able to replicate the feeling that went into them, so poetry is not something I write often anymore. Unfortunately, I cannot disclose the poems, as they were published under my real name.

16.| I’m one of, if not the, last in my group of friends who doesn’t have children.

17.| I used to be on a jump rope squad called “The Ropesters.”

18.| When I was about 10, I was sure I wanted to be a journalist. I went to a summer camp held by a newspaper and loved every minute of it.

19.| I love gardening and growing food. I hope to have my own hobby farm or homestead some day.

20.| I was the envy of all the girls my 8th-grade year because I met Bryan Datillo and had a picture of him kissing my cheek.

Crikey! Coming up with twenty things was more challenging than I expected. Thanks for stopping by and please check out my A-Z Series!


A-Z Series: E Week

E.png“Without ambition one starts nothing. Without work one finishes nothing.
The prize will not be sent to you. You have to win it.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

Word of the Week: 
Emprise. If you send your characters into new, interesting lands and have them face fantastic creatures – both friend and foe – perhaps they must cross mystic rivers and converse with soothsayers… you’ve just sent them on an emprise, or adventurous undertaking.

Tip of the Week: 
Editing! Some people absolutely love the editing process even more than they do the writing process. Can you imagine?! For most people, however, ‘edit’ would be a four-letter word, even if it didn’t have four letters if you know what I mean. Whether you love or hate the editing process, though, one thing is certain: it is mandatory.

I can pretty much guarantee if you spend five minutes browsing the samples of self-published books on Amazon, you’ll be able to find one or two where the editing process was obviously skipped. Even some best sellers published by highly credible publishing houses still seem lacking in the editing department; it seems no one is immune. So what do we do? What should the editing process look like?

It’s different for pretty much every author. You have to find what works for you, and there is a lot of advice floating around out there, and in here, that will not work for you. Here are three steps I take while editing that you may find useful to you. [Beta Readers are a vital step, but they’ve already been mentioned. You can read more about my editing process here.]

         • Let it be. When you’re done with your draft, set it aside for a week, two weeks, or even a month if you need it. You’ve spent your days and nights with this baby and you aren’t yet ready to see its faults. You need to reset and come back with fresh eyes. This is hard, but can work wonders.

            • Print it out. I get sick of looking at a computer screen. When someone first told me to print out a chapter or two and see what a difference it would make on how many mistakes I could find, I scoffed. I didn’t think it would be significant, and to top it off, I figured it a waste of time and resources. After all, once I found a mistake and was editing on the screen, I could just fix it and forget it, right? Turns out, this really works well for me. I see so much more on paper than I do on screen. Plus, it makes my third tip much easier.

            • Read it aloud. Yes, I mentioned this last week when I talked about dialogue. Some people will only do this for their dialogue because reading an entire novel aloud is  somewhat daunting and requires lots of hydration. I suggest settling in with a bottle of water and doing it anyway because you will hear errors your eyes will never see. Not only will you find grammatical errors but sometimes things just really sound weird even when they’re grammatically correct.

Resource of the Week: 
During B Week, I talked about a mind-mapping site that could help you organize your thoughts and ideas. This week, I bring you Evernote! Need to make to-do lists on something other than a scrap of paper you’ll lose faster than it took you to find? Evernote has you covered. See something while browsing the web that motivates you, or is a vital piece of research? Evernote has your back on that. Want to create a library of images of inspiration sources for your stories or characters? Yep, Evernote is going to do all of that and more and tie it up in a nice, neat package that you can access from anywhere. Want to collaborate? You see where I’m going with this, right? Evernote is such an amazing organizational tool you’ll feel like you’ve hired an assistant.

Spotlight of the Week:  
It didn’t take me long to decide who I wanted to interview for E-week. I knew it would sort of be breaking the rules because his last name maybe-probably-didn’t-surely-wouldn’t start with an E, but I’d always thought of him as somewhat enigmatic and someone people would love to know more of. If you don’t follow Entrebat on Twitter, you are missing out! [Facebook] [Google+] [Blog] Without further adieu, I am pleased to introduce you to Gary Weller!

EntrebatGary E. Weller is a Role-playing Game enthusiast, recreational traveler, and lover of all things geeky from Tucson, Arizona. Between regular office work, life in the desert southwest, doting on his two cats, and wife, he writes poetry, flash fiction, short stories, and other musings at his blog which he affectionately calls, ‘The Repository.’

1.) What inspired you to write? What genres come easily for you and which ones are most difficult?

I’ve always wanted to write. I’ve been making up stories since I was little. I think I was fascinated by my mother’s typewriter and the sheer presence of it. I don’t remember the model, but I remember smelling the ink and the machine oil. I remember the weight and bulk of it. Mostly I remember the sound of the keys and the mechanical levers moving to press out my words onto white paper.

The genres that come easiest for me are Sci-Fi and Fantasy. I grew up reading them. I always wanted to rush into those other worlds in order to escape my mundane existence. Southern New Mexico and West Texas held no sway in comparison to where Piers Anthony or Poul Anderson could take me.

Comedy is difficult for me to get right. It is a beast of its own making with up’s, down’s, and a timing that I sometimes just cannot comprehend. While I appreciate what comedy writers can do, I often fail at replication of their talents. Often it comes off as middle-aged cantankerousness when I try to be funny in prose.

2.) What does your editing process look like? Do you have any tips?

My editing process consists of holding myself at bay to hit the ‘launch’ button. My truly successful stories have been written over a week’s time and then left to stew. When I come back to read it, I can find the flow much better than when it was fresh.

Barring that, reading the piece aloud certainly helps. Odd uses of wording come out rather easily when translating the words into sound. Dialogue that sounds off can be noticed as well.

3.) Do you have a preference on when or where you write?

I like to write early in the morning, when the world seems to be sleeping. It’s just me and the words then. We commune over a cup of coffee and begin our work into something magical. It doesn’t matter what I’m writing because it is the right time to do so. It is the release of energy that comes from the universe through me to the page.

4.) Would you rather have breakfast with Poe, Whitman, Bronte or Melville? What would be your first question to them?

I think I would identify more with Poe. He has a melancholy that relates to me. The morass of dankness that surrounds his stories is on par for what I see around the world if I let my mind go into that mode. I can sense the wickedness and insanity that seems to hide under the furniture along with the motes of dust.

The question, I wouldn’t know where to begin with a question. I’d almost be afraid of the answer I might receive. He lived in a hard time and suffered ill consequences. I can’t help but wonder if he saw any light at all.

5.) What’s a little-known fact about you? Explain or elaborate. (Special talents, non-writing hobbies, etc.)

I attended 13 different schools during my 12 years of public education. Yes, my mother moved around a lot. I have no clue as to the whys and wherefores of the various jaunts. I never bothered to ask. It has put wanderlust in me though. I’ve been in Southern Arizona for close to 20 years and I’m itching to go on a major walkabout.

Thank you for joining me for E-Week! I hope you’re enjoying this series as much as I am and will return for a Fun and Fabulous time next week!


A-Z Series: Week D

D“Good writing is supposed to evoke sensation in the reader—not the fact that
it is raining, but the feeling of being rained upon.”
– E.L. Doctorow

Word of the Week: Debellate. This word means to conquer through battle. Just to switch things up I will plead the fifth on whether this word makes an appearance in a work of mine, fantasy or otherwise. 🙂 While this one may be a bit of a head-scratcher, I think varying your word choice is preferable to always overusing the simplest terms.

Tip of the Week: 
Dialogue! Most writers, especially fledgling ones, have looked at countless tips and videos on how to write realistic, flowy dialogue. Why is it, then, that there are still so many stories and books being published with alarmingly unnatural dialogue? It probably stumps you equally as it does me. Here are three solid ways of improving your dialogue:

• Listen. Don’t be creepy about it, but when you’re in a public place – I find restaurants to be the best for this – listen to the mechanics of conversations going on around you. Does the couple at the next table use their partner’s name with each sentence? Probably not. Do they always wait for their partner to finish their sentences before they start talking, or do they occasionally interrupt them? Are there pauses while one or both collect their thoughts? Mimic these conversational mannerisms!

• Speak and Think. I am not suggesting you check out of important conversations to analyze the way you speak and how your own thoughts interject themselves quietly into your conversations—but you can ask someone to carry on a conversation with you with the purpose of paying attention to these things. (Yes, I have done this.) This may not feel natural at first, but it is natural to have unexpressed thoughts during a conversation. Explore that, and see if this might fit into some of your dialogue.

• Read Aloud. This isn’t exactly the same as the above point. After you have written your passages of dialogue simply read it aloud. You will hear mistakes your eye will never see. You can do this alone or employ friends or family to read a part for you. Personally, I have read my entire novel from beginning to end this way for this reason, but at the very least I suggest you do this for dialogue.

Resource of the Week:
Recently I took a poll on Twitter, fairly certain how the results would play out, and I was correct:

Enter Dropbox! Wouldn’t you agree it is counterintuitive to spend your precious time and energy outlining, researching, writing, proofing, editing, rewriting and rewriting and rewri…you get the idea… only to find your computer has malfunctioned in the way computers do from time to time and a portion or, egads, your entire novel has just vanished? There are many ways to back up your files – but I use Dropbox. It’s easy to use and allows you to access your work from pretty much everywhere. It’s a two-for-one: get peace of mind and the ability to work whenever, wherever. Are you collaborating with someone? Dropbox is absolutely perfect for that.

Here is where I would normally have the Spotlight of the Week, but I got really busy and sort of forgot to ask anyone to let me interview them. Oops. [Let the Bad Blogger Flagellation begin.] So instead, let’s have a D Week special:

My Dos and Don’ts of building an audience for emerging writers:

Do reach out. You are unknown at this point, and people need to get to know you. This doesn’t mean that you have to have a blog, or a vlog, or Snapchat with hundreds of strangers… sure you can have those things, but do what is natural for you. For instance, Facebook is wildly popular but it isn’t my favorite social media platform, therefore, I do not use it. I may at some point, but right now I feel balancing Twitter and my blog while trying to produce a novel is more than sufficient. Pick what works for you and use them well.

Don’t try to be everything to everyone. Imagine it like this: You are browsing Twitter and see an account with a massive following, you scroll through their material and see they’re that popular because they post really funny tweets. Humor works! But, their brand of humor is vastly different from your own, so should you try to force the funny? Worse yet, should you steal their tweet ideas? NO! You’re a writer—plagiarism is a sin punishable by eternity in the twelfth circle of hell. (That’s the one where there is no coffee, tea, or alcohol, keyboards have no keys and Chumbawumba’s Tubthumping is playing on repeat, but in a minor key.) Be you. Phoniness is easy to sniff out, and people are not drawn to that.

Do support other writers! You want people to support you, so you must support them. Consider buying an indie book instead of the one by [insert best-seller here]. And REVIEW THEIR BOOKS. Not just on Amazon, but on platforms such as GoodReads. Follow blogs. Interact. If you ask someone to proof something for you, be kind and return the favor. Join discussions, answer questions, ask questions: the writing community is vast and wonderful. Be a part of it.

Don’t constantly push your new book. This touches on another point: don’t scam with automated DMs on Twitter. People hate those. Seriously, it is safe to say the writing community is excited when someone publishes their first novel. (Or second, or third, or eighth…) But don’t let that be all you ever put out there. Yes, you must sell… but if that is all you try to do, people will be turned off and much less likely to purchase anything from you.

Do take this seriously. Being a writer isn’t physically demanding, but it requires effort. Don’t query your first draft and then bash the profession when agents aren’t banging down your door. Don’t upload your first draft to Amazon and complain when you get bad reviews or poor sales. That is horribly unprofessional and the people you want to take you seriously will not give you the time of day.

That’s it for this week, thanks for stopping in. Come back next week for a D-lightful time! 


A-Z Series: Week C

C“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”
– Anton Chekhov

Word of the Week: 
Consistory means a solemn gathering or tribunal. So far, all of my words of the week have been popping up from the fantasy novel I’ve got on the backburner, and this one is no exception. In this story, my protagonist doesn’t have long to adapt to her new surroundings before she’s carted off to a consistory of elders. I am a fan of using words that might be just ever so slightly out of the reader’s comfort zone, but can be deduced easily based on context. However, if your story reads as if you consulted a thesaurus for every third word, people will think you’re as brainless as you are pretentious and likely not find your work enjoyable.

Tip of the Week: 
Character building! Have you ever read a story of any length and felt that while the premise of the story had promise, one or more of the characters felt about as lively as last week’s lettuce? (There’s that alliteration thing!) I think sometimes writers get so wrapped up in the idea of their stories and how to get the plot from point A to point E by way of point D, that they forget to devote ample time to developing their characters.

Readers do not fall in love with plots. They fall in love with characters.

There are a million suggestions out there on how to write exciting characters that your readers will relate to and root for—or, in the case of villains, loathe in the most beautiful way possible. Which is proof it takes a lot of thought and planning to craft a memorable heroine or a villain people will love to hate. I have written and rewritten an entire post dedicated to this very topic a dozen times and I have created some visual aides, but here are my top three suggestions for designing your characters:

        1.| Know their story. It is true that you shouldn’t include massive quantities of backstory in your story. It muddies up what you’re trying to accomplish and can ruin your chances of getting your readers invested in the right parts of your work. But as the author, you should know your character’s backstory. Their history has shaped them into the characters that they are, and it will be easier to understand what makes them tick if, well, you understand what makes them tick. It doesn’t have to be spelled out for your reader, but they will be far more likely to read as well-rounded if you know.

               2.| Give them hell. We have the best of intentions with our characters. Okay, that’s a lie, we do really horrible things to them on occasion. Writers can be pretty sadistic, which can come in handy if you have a really stubborn character who just doesn’t want to be developed any further. In SLT, I had to pluck one of my characters straight from the story and write her a little short story and it was brutal. I really put her through a gauntlet of tragedy just to break her down so she had to rise up and shine. It forced me to really think about how she would react in the worst of times. You can tell a lot about a person or character when it’s time to put up or shut up.

               3.| Myers-Briggs. This may seem like overkill, especially if you took a Myers-Briggs test for each of your characters. It can be kind of fun to do for your protagonist and your antagonist, though. Of course, you can always just look up the textbook definitions for each of the personality types and assign them to your cast of characters. This can be an amazing guide when you’re trying to decide how Voknar: The Prince of Annihilation might react when _(insert crazy circumstance here)_.

What are your favorite tips for character building? Share in the comments!

Resource of the Week: 
Perhaps my favorite website outside of WordPress and Twitter is CANVA! I literally spend hours and hours per week on this site creating images to use on, well, WordPress and Twitter. You can even make some amazing cover designs for your work! Using the free services from Canva is so powerful, you’ll think you’ve paid for it. (They do have a paid subscription service, which I currently do not utilize, but the added features are brilliant and I highly recommend taking advantage of the free trial!) Their database of stock photos is astonishing, and if you can’t find a free image that suits your desires, their paid images are a flat fee of $1 each, so it is crazy budget-friendly and takes out all the guesswork. Or, you can always upload your own images. Are you a novice at design? That’s ok. They have a series of tutorials that will help guide you into making images you can be proud to share. Even if you aren’t a novice, I thoroughly suggest going through the tutorials and the Canva Blog; it can only make you better.

twitpicOk, ladies and gents, I told you I was interviewing one of Australia’s most eligible bachelors, so without further adieu, please allow me to introduce the amazing, indelible Tarquin Carlin! [Check out his blog here!]

A bipedal carbon based lifeform from the planet earth that transforms feelings into stories through the medium of symbolic glyphs. TARQUIN CARLIN is a semi-nomadic writer from the east coast of Australia. He is also a musician and painter, but has not convinced anyone to call him a Renaissance Man yet. When not writing he cares for three small humans and some cats. He enjoys long walks on the beach and staring bleakly into the void.

1.| In which genre do you predominately write? What interests you in it particularly?

Most of what I write is somewhere between Literary & Modern Contemporary Fiction. I usually refer to myself as a LitFic writer for ease of use. The thing that draws me toward writing in that style is that I enjoy getting deep into my character’s heads and using their innermost thoughts and feelings as story fodder. Most of my protagonists deal a lot with internal issues rather than traditional antagonists.

2.| Are you a plotter or a pantser? What does your process look like?

I definitely fall into the Pantser category as far as general writerly stereotypes go, but I am actually more of a plotter than I seem to be. I barely write much down at all when I am planning a story, but I will have spent a great deal of time developing it in my head before any of it gets put down. Externally what my process looks like is mostly just me staring into space or singing along to loud music when I’m driving alone in the car.

But, inside my head is a different story. Each story starts with the seed of an idea. Usually something very small, often just a mood or a feeling. Which will then lead me toward a character. If you then think of the inside of my mind as a conceptual three dimensional space, that seed idea spins around inside the space in my mind building up gravitational pull and sucking down a whole heap of random bits and pieces. Faces, places, plotlines, dialogue, all kinds of little ideas or thoughts I’ve had or things I’ve seen. The ones that work with what I’m thinking about get drawn to it until I have this coalescing ball of story idea in my head. Then at some point I sit down to write and try to spool it out of my mind and onto the page as a coherent narrative.

…and that’s why I’m a LitFic writer.

3.| Do you prefer character building or world building? How do you go about doing it?

That’s a hard question to answer, because they go hand in hand. I think character building wins out in the end because while I enjoy world building, it’s putting characters into those worlds that excites me. Worlds are interesting, but in the end they are set dressing for your characters to exist in and tell their stories.

As to how I go about it, I tend to develop them together. Often with a character it will just begin with a name, a mood a general idea and it gets fleshed out from there. As the character starts to grow so does the world they exist in as I start to think about their life and what is happening.

4.| Would you rather have dinner with Emerson, Doyle, Dickens or Woolf? What would you say to them?

Dickens and I’d talk to him about social reform.

5.| What’s a little known fact about you? Explain or elaborate. (Special talents, non-writing hobbies, etc.)

When I was younger I was a member of a performance troupe of fire twirlers and I was the fire breather.

Thanks for stopping in to check out C Week! I hope you’ll join me again next week, topics will include dialogue and my favorite way to protect and preserve my work! “C” you next week for a D-lightful time!

(If you haven’t, please check out Weeks A & B, and subscribe!)


A-Z Series: Week B

“You never have to change anything you got up in the middle of the night to write.”

Saul Bellow

Word of the Week: Bletcherous means to have an ugly design. I love this word because the very spelling conjures thoughts and images so ugly that the word itself is quite fantastic. It is one of those words when read, even by someone who doesn’t know the actual definition, it will work.

Tip of the Week: Beta Readers! Many of us use them, but are we getting the most out of the experience? It’s easy, well… maybe not emotionally, to hand off a piece of work to someone and expect them to know exactly what we’re looking for from them. But unless you’re fairly specific, they may have no clue how to help you best – and that’s what they want to do! Do you want them to look for grammatical errors? Spelling errors? Do you just want them to really focus on what they think of a particular character? The story as a whole? Look for plot holes? In recent months, I have been asked to beta read for several people and only a few have been specific in what they really need from me, so in the event someone hasn’t been specific, I usually ask. That said, if you ask someone to beta read for you and you specify you’re really interested in how the story flows and not to worry about spelling/grammar, and they send you their thoughts but they’ve also pointed out a few errors that jumped out at them, that’s no reason to be upset. This may mean the error was so egregious that it took them out of the story – pay attention to that! You’ve asked this person to beta read for you for a reason and hopefully that’s because you trust them and value their input.

Resource of the Week: Have you heard of bubbl.us? This online mind-mapping machine is a fantastic tool for organizing your thoughts! It’s simple, easy to use and quite fun. There are paid subscription services, but there’s also a free service. You can try out a paid subscription with a free trial, and there aren’t any contracts to sign.

John BrhelSpotlight of the Week:  I am honored to introduce you to John Brhel this week, who was kind enough to answer this week’s questions. Be sure to follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr.

John Brhel is a fiction writer and a co-founder of Cemetery Gates Media [Facebook] [Tumblr], a horror/fantasy publisher based in Binghamton, N.Y. His first book, a short story collection titled Tales From Valleyview Cemetery, was published in 2015. His next book, tentatively titled Marvelry’s Curiosity Shop, will be released in June 2016. When John’s not writing, he works as a communications manager at Binghamton University, writes music, plays games, and reads short stories and books. He lives in Vestal, N.Y. with his wife, daughter, and their two furry friends.

  • In which genre do you predominately write? What interests you in it particularly?

I write mostly genre fiction – fantasy, horror, sci-fi, etc. I like stories about everyday people that end up in weird situations. Fun little “what ifs” have always intrigued me, whether that involves ghosts, vanishing hitchhikers, or evil robots. I mean, a story about a bitter husband and wife becomes so much more interesting when you throw in a demon or a masked killer, doesn’t it?

  • What is your biggest motivator?

My biggest motivator in writing is to be part of something that has brought me joy my entire life – fiction. Books and short stories have entertained me and fueled my imagination for decades, and I want to tell my own stories, to add my own twisted tales to the mix, to be like my heroes (Poe, Matheson, Serling). And heck, it feels good to see my name in print, too.

  • What has been your biggest challenge in the entire writing process and what advice would you give others to make it easier for them?

My biggest challenge has been finding the time to write between work, taking care of my kid, being a husband, etc. For me, I’ve had to sacrifice some “hobby” time (video games, movies) to get writing done. The funny thing is, I’m actually more productive now than when I had more free time, since I’m better at budgeting my time.

I’d tell others to not to wait around for that perfect writing moment to come, but just do it – write on the bus, brainstorm in the shower, use your time wisely.

  • Would you rather have dinner with Shakespeare, Hemingway, Twain or Asimov? What would you say to them?

Shakespeare is the master, but I think Twain would be a hoot to have dinner with. I’d probably ask him to tell me some stories.

  • What’s a little-known fact about you? Explain or elaborate. (Special talents, non-writing hobbies, etc.)

I played in bands for years, but I suppose that’s not “little-known.” Well, I make a really good rice pudding. I’m a pretty decent dancer. I enjoy the Bee Gees. Anything else?

That’s it for B Week! Thank you for tuning in. I will “C” you next week when I will be interviewing quite possibly one of Australia’s most sought after bachelors – so don’t miss it!


A-Z Series: A Week

AFantasy is hardly an escape from reality. It’s a way of understanding it.
– Lloyd Alexander

Welcome, welcome, welcome! Over the next twenty-six weeks, I endeavor to introduce you to different aspects of the writing process, tips, and quick interviews with amazing writers and other industry professionals using the glorious alphabet to guide me. So let’s get to it, shall we?

Word of the Week: Abdominous. In the fantasy novel I’m writing, my main character meets a man with a large, bulging, abdominous belly. He’s abnormally agile for such a large man.

Tip of The Week: 
Alliteration can be a powerful tool when used wisely, and it isn’t just for poetry! (For those who are drawing a blank on alliteration, it is when two or more words begin with the same letter or sound.) A suave writer can use alliteration to draw focus to something of importance without the reader noticing. We craft emotion with words, so when using this tool, be mindful of the feelings the mechanics of the word can garner. Consonants often sound hard and bold, while vowels often sound soft and romanticized. Perhaps most importantly, avoid overusing alliteration. Two or three words can be effective, but more than that can make your writing read like a tongue twister and trip your reader up, taking their focus away from your story.

Weekly Resource Spotlight

Please allow me to introduce to you…. AntagonistsAnonymous! (First, don’t you adore the alliteration?) This is a fairly new webcast group dedicated to helping writers in all stages of the writing process with their path to success. The group was dreamt up by Brittany Pettegrow, @ScribalReverie, who carves out time from her super busy schedule to host a live chat on Wednesday nights (8pm EST) and Saturday mornings (8am EST). Join her and her guest hosts for lots of fun and useful insights and information. If you can’t join in live, the chats are posted on YouTube for later viewing – but don’t hang on to all that wisdom for yourself! Subscribe, like and share their page across all your favorite social media platforms!

Weekly Q&A

Securing an interview for this week proved slightly problematic. Enter: #AskAila! My Twitter followers are amazing and graciously provided me with some fantastic questions!

@Alex_Micati  asks: What should I give my muse, as a gift for all these great ideas it gave me?

I thought of some silly answers for this question: a gift certificate for a manicure, a round-trip ticket to Bali, a stationary set… but, then I really pondered it for a minute. I don’t know my muse very well, other than she is elusive and sometimes vindictive. However, when my muse does play nice and gives me an idea worth penning, she has done her part and it is time for me to do mine. So, I think the best gift you can give your muse for the great ideas you’re granted is to do them justice. Work hard and make some magic with your words.

@ThomasJast asks: At what point do you stop editing your manuscript and move on?

I don’t know if there is just one answer to this question. I don’t think you should “move on” until you’re either ready to self-publish, submit queries to agents/publishers or, unfortunately, scrap a project.

However, I do think you should step back or walk away from your manuscript if you’ve edited so much that you’re unable to focus on your words. At that point, I give it to someone else to read or let it sit. Coming back to it with a fresh pair of eyes is more valuable than one might think. Word choice is important, of course, but if you’re quibbling over every single word and descriptor, then by all means, let your creativity breathe for a bit.

@Entrebat asks: What is your favorite genre to write, and why?

Disclaimer: I’m not terribly good with genres. I get an idea, and if I fall in love with it, I generally become obsessed. I suppose it’s safe to say what I’ve been writing can be classified as Women’s Fiction – which is definitely a different beast than Romance. I enjoy putting strong female characters through their paces.

@bevandeviere asks: Once you’ve finished your WIP, how long should you let it sit before sending it to betas?

Oh, I don’t even wait to finish something before I start sending it out. Maybe I’m breaking some rule, but I sort of want to know well ahead of time if people are going to be interested in the characters and story. I’d rather someone tell me in the first few chapters that a character feels flat and needs sprucing up rather than finish the whole manuscript and find out I need a major overhaul at the end. I try to send a few chapters at a time so I can get a sense of whether they feel they’ll be emersed in the story, and I love when they beg for more.

That’s it for #AskAila, but it was really quite fun, so I may make it a more regular blog feature. Do you have any questions, writing or otherwise, you’d like me to answer in the future? If so, talk to me in the comments! Thanks for stopping in; I hope to see you next week.