Review: Wild Ozark Nature Journal: Autumn 2015

27834067Today I wanted to post a review for a newly released book, written and illustrated by one of my oldest and dearest blogging friends, Madison Woods. Madison and I were both fairly active on each others’ blogs ages ago, before one of the times when I vanished for a while. I’ve always admired her writing and continuous commitment to the things she loves though. Check out her blog here and her Goodreads here. You can find her book Wild Ozark Nature Journal: Autumn 2015 here.


Wild Ozark Nature Journal: Autumn 2015

5 stars

I’ve kept journals most of my life, though usually in the form of dream journals, a typical teenager’s diary or a log of my writing and projects as a freelancer. It had been a while since I contemplated a nature journal. Like some of the other reviewers I’ve seen have said, this beautifully illustrated short book is an inspiration to reconnect with the natural world.

Although Ms. Woods downplays her artistic abilities in the first pages, I found her draws to be charming and colorful. The fact that they’re not perfect gives the feel of “no pressure, draw what you can and don’t be too hard on yourself” which is its own kind of encouragement. My favorite drawing is the sycamore leaf from 9-23-15.

There’s something soothing about reading through the pages. Although I read this on a tablet, I appreciated the hand-written interior as well as the drawings. Each one has character, and coupled with each entry, created a space of calm and contemplation that I enjoyed being in.

If you decide to check out Madison’s book, let her or me know! Authors love feedback. :D

Words Every Fantasy Writer Should Know

19080ce3a9de8fa775c4798fcdf38f0bHubby and I started playing Pathfinder once a week shortly after we lost Eevee. I think it was the only thing our friends knew to do to keep us from completely retreating into ourselves and it worked well, all things considered. We’ve gotten to the point where there are four campaigns going and each one involves different members of our larger friend circle, and we play at least twice a week. Last weekend, we added a single module to that list…and I DM’d.

Despite having created several characters and grasping the basics from a player side, I knew going into DM’ing that I was really lacking the know-how to guide a party through the story. The only thing I had going for me was my ability to roleplay all the NPCs and make the material fairly animated and interesting. It helped that my three players are all long-time Pathfinder players and two of them are the DMs for all of our other in-progress campaigns. Anyway, I read through the first chapter of my module, loved the story, got started… and totally fell in love with being the dungeon master.

Since then I’ve spent a fair amount of time trying to learn the finer points of playing god in a pre-constructed story, and I was surprised to realize that I don’t know a lot of the terms. Not just Pathfinder specific terms, either, but general, real world and fiction-writing-applicable words. So I’m going to start a list! These are words taken from the GameMastery Guide (page 55) that I didn’t know. Someone please tell me that at least a few of these words are new to you too. Continue reading

Why Every Writer Should Write Microfiction

880407114a47afbcd534263797277b39One of my personal favorite types of stories to write is microfiction. Not only are the little buggers challenging to construct, an excellent substitute for free writing and decent stress relief, they’re also lots of fun, especially when several writers are working off the same prompt. Despite not having a universally established word count, you’ve probably tried your hand at microfiction at least once. But if you’re anything like me, you tend to forget these short shorts exist. It’s kind of a hazard of writing fantasy. When we sit down to tell a story, we’re having to build everything from the ground up, to explain not only our characters and what’s happening but their environment and sometimes its history too, and that simply takes a longer story.

Today I want to make a case for not only keeping the art of microfiction in your repertoire, but also utilizing it frequently. First though, because there isn’t a well established way to identify the word count associated with each name (which includes flash fiction, sudden fiction, postcard fiction and short short stories), here’s how I break it down:

Microfiction – less than one typed page in Times New Roman 12 point font

100 word shorts – literally 100 words or less, not including the title

Short shorts – two pages or less, in the same formatting as microfiction

Short story – anything over a short short, but smaller than a novella (which is usually between 17,000 and 40,000 words) Continue reading

WorldBuilding: Writing Brilliant Mythology

A depiction of Diana, the Roman goddess of the hunt, the moon and childbirth

A depiction of Diana, the Roman goddess of the hunt, the moon and childbirth

Mythology as we know it has a couple of different components. Primarily, mythology conjures scenes gods and goddesses in resplendent elegance or fierce battle. Every society to have ever existed has acknowledged powers greater than themselves: things like light and dark, flood and drought and the changing of the seasons. It’s easy for us today to see how placing these things within spirits that resembled human beings was a way to make sense of a chaotic and often dangerous world and to make someone or something other than ourselves accountable for life’s difficulties and blessings.

The second part of mythology is the stories of human or semi-divine heroes: men and women who went to the extremes of human existence and thereby highlighted the peaks of what we are likely to experience in our own lives. Things such as sadness at illness, grief in the face of death, love and all of its many strings and the need to fight for our own space in the larger world are all taken to almost super-human ends to demonstrate hope and courage. Continue reading

How to Write Grieving Characters

Putting grief into words is futile. And trying to do so would bankrupt the vocabulary of all languages. -Mark Twain

20150922_085247Grief is a heavy and relatively ever-present part of life. Just as surely as we are born, we have to die too. While it’s true you and I, by virtue of sitting here, are still alive, we’ve all had to say goodbye to someone, and regardless of how deeply felt that loss might have been, grief changes who we are on a fundamental level. It makes us question our existence, how we function on a daily basis and what we really want for the short time left to us.

Characters dealing with a recent loss is not generally something you read in the scope of fiction, where there’s a plot to get about. And it stands to reason; it’s hard to write about things for which our languages all fall short, and that much intense emotion tends to overtake the other plot elements. Don’t get me wrong: getting grief to play along with the other plot elements can be done, it just takes a lot of finesse and careful respect.

Here are seven things to keep in mind when creating a character in grief:

Don’t create grief lightly – It’s like creating a character death – it can’t just be a plot point, and it has to be earned through the storytelling. A character who has recently experienced a loss is going to have grief at the forefront, and it’s probably going to be unwieldy to work with because of how poisoning and unreasonable it can be. If you need a loss to play more subtly into the character, consider putting some time between your story’s present and the death. Continue reading

Unfinished Nursery

20150813_125542Her nursery is unfinished. It’s been this way for quite a while.  I can’t bring myself to change it because it is supposed to be so different now. And if I cannot have what it was supposed to be, I don’t want it to be anything else.

Her nursery is bare. The hardwood floor is unadorned by the nursery rug I wanted, and the walls are only painted one color. The wall shelves were never bought, the books we wanted to read her are still only on our wish list. Her clothes are hanging and folded, most unwashed and tags still on. The receipts are in a box, kept in case we needed to return anything, and I think now I should throw them away. I chose a rocking chair. The baby registry is still open.

My child’s crib is empty. It’s there, in one corner. There are no sheets or pads. The mattress is still in plastic wrap. The dolls I made for her are there, collecting dust and cat hair. Her empty baby book lies there too: Here was a baby who should have lived.

My child’s grave seems lonely, and when I visit I wonder how many people try to pry their dead loved ones from their resting, to hold them just one more time. I sit at her grave the same way I sit in her nursery. I think and I remember. I grieve and I wish.

Her nursery is my silent hell. It echoes with the crying of an infant only I can hear. It screams at me to fill it with love and light and laughter, telling me of how I have failed. Someday, I think, things will be different, even though now I am so broken that I do not wish to be put back together. Someday, I might have a living child. But for right now, her nursery is unfinished.

WorldBuilding: Crafting Magic

“He will hear my call a mile away. He will whistle my favorite song. He can ride a pony backwards, he can flip pancakes in the air, he will be marvelously kind and his favorite shape will be a star. And he’ll have one green eye and one blue.”

“I thought you never wanted to fall in love.”

“That’s the point. The guy I dreamed up doesn’t exist. And if he doesn’t exist, I’ll never die of a broken heart.”

-excerpt from Practical Magic (1998)

20150701_142420Fantasy is virtually synonymous with magic, all the way from fireball wielding sorcerers to dragons to simple elemental manipulations. It is in our epic tales, slaying wicked villains, enabling bold heroes, creating social divides and protective wards alike. Given how varied in trait and definition “magic” can be, you’d be hard pressed to find a fantasy story that doesn’t touch on the mystical stuff, even if only to say that it used to be a prevalent force.

Writing magic is a lot like writing dragons – it tantalizes and entrances and stalwart fantasy readers love a good magically-enabled tale. And like writing dragons, it’s incredibly easy to mess up. Magic is not and should not be this… um, well… magical solution to everything that goes wrong in your plotline. It shouldn’t be an all powerful thing with no rules, no limitations and no price tags. It’s like everything else you write into your stories; it needs ground rules. They’re just ground rules you can write for yourself.

Consider these when you begin writing a magic-based story:

Continue reading