Monday, October 28, 2019

Tanith Lee Tribute: Wonder and Imagination


The Wonder of Tanith lee

 The wonder of writing. The reason most of us stubborn authors stick to it is because we love the craft. It is an under appreciated craft.  Fantasy and science fiction, despite immense popularity, is also under appreciated. Without wonder and imagination, our lives would be bleak indeed.

One of the great treats for an author or reader alike is finding an author to cling to and reread over and over. One of those authors for me (among many I worship at the alter of literature) was Tanith Lee.

A long time ago, in a bookstore far away, I discovered Tanith Lee when I was browsing in a used bookstore in Omaha. It was the 90's and used bookstores were all the rage. Now they are hard to find. The comfort of bookstores has vanished in our culture. It is sad, though I know some are thriving, not enough. I love hard copies of books. The texture and feel of the book in my hand. The E book is fine, but it will never give me the joy of a worn beat up paperback with a great cover.

I came across all five of her Tales of the Flat Earth Series and the Birthgrave novel. I picked them up, curious, but not expecting much. Her writing changed that. I was hooked and could not get enough. What I loved about Tanith Lee was her vast imagination and strong use of female characters. Since then I've gathered up almost all of her novels and short stories, enjoying her rich variety of dark fantasy, epic fantasy, horror, science fiction, young adult, fairy tales, and more. Tanith Lee had no constrictions about being confined to in a certain genre. Her voice was vivid. I loved her books. As I was working and learning to become an author myself, it was wonderful to find an author who was a woman, who featured female heroines, and was respected by her peers. She won many awards, including the World Fantasy Award.

Sadly, Tanith Lee passed away in 2015. To be she is a foundation for which both fantasy authors and female writers of the future should aspire. I wish I had met her.  My hope is others continue to discover her works for their own enjoyment.

More later. Until then, read Tanith Lee!


Verna McKinnon

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Vision Quests

Dreams, Visions, & Wishes

A writer needs to dream. Stories spring from the imagination. It is the internal innocence which creates the tale and forms the author. When you strip away our dreams, you hurt the artists. One thing you must hold onto is your dreams, visions & wishes. Reject anyone who tries to take that away. Block the mean ones who try to put you down and belittle you. There is a huge difference between critiques and nasty jealousy.

Fortunately, most writers are supportive of each other. The ones who hold you back are not your friends. So create and live. It is a myth that artists must suffer. A well-fed and supported artist creates. That is my truth.

More the meantime, read more fantasy and imagine.


Verna McKinnon

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Novel Quest: Writing Goals & Lost Time

Writing is a process that's different for everyone. Objectives, goals, plans, outlines, and chapter revisions all take up time and most of my mental strength. I just realized I had not done a blog post in months. Am sorry, fellow fantasy fans. I will try to be better. I am writing a novel and planning two more. My brain is crowded with ideas so I must focus. Hence my absence from blogging.

I love creating novels and fresh new characters. So I become absorbed in the process. I am nerdy about it as I compile and organize the character sheets and fantasy world plans. It is my geek girl life. It is a solitary act, as all writing is. But I like it that way. when I come up for air, I realize I have neglected things like blogging. I become lost in writing goals and time speeds on.

So as a writer, you need to figure out what works for you. Organizing your time is essential. I enjoy blogging about my writing and my favorite genres of fantasy and science fiction, but my writing comes first. If you are a writer, or want to be, you will understand that and embrace that.

So, until next time, read more fantasy! I also am posting my previously published short stories in Curious Fictions. It's a great site where authors can list their published novels and also post their previously published short stories. Here is the link to my section:


Verna McKinnon

Monday, April 29, 2019

Novel Quest 7: Character deaths?

Okay, this is my own take. This will also be a short blog. We all have an opinion about character deaths. Sometimes a character death is needed. Sometimes they are a trope overused and tiresome.
I see it now in films and TV-let's kill this character and upset folks. Sometimes this is done in huge numbers. Isn't this great? Wow, look at all that violence and death. Sadly for me, it has become tiresome.

If death is the only way to drive your story or you are only interested in shock value, you are missing something. Stop and think. Death can have meaning for a story, but be careful how you do it and why. Give it meaning if you must, but do not rely on character death. It has become a cheap and easy tactic that has turned me off some shows and literature. Why should I invest in a story if everyone dies? 

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Novel Quest 6: To Outline or Not to Outline?

The Truth about Outlining Novels and the Pansters Revenge

Outlining a novel can be great, but if it is not your thing, don't sweat it. Some must outline each and every aspect of a novel. I am a little more fluid, though I am organized. A solid compendium and knowing where my characters are stories are going is my solid base.

I do a couple pages on what the story is and main characters. I work from there. There is no set rule. I generally have a firm grasp on word count and chapters. I tend to keep my novels between 95,000 and 100,000 words. I learned to hone the skill of writing 10 page chapters. This is just math, but it is crucial. You need a chapter to begin and end with interest. In the past, I used scene breaks, which works too. Often those scene changes can be set up in their own chapter, but it depends on length. A 10 page chapter framework helps you to figure out your characters challenges and threats to your hero/heroine. I have my character and world charts, with rich details on world and characters so fully developed, they write themselves. I have my tale...but I do not do a typical outline.

Keep in mind my process does not give me grief. My story is fully worked out on paper and in my head keeps it flowing. Some minor changes may occur, a shift in direction or character focus, but they always turn out to be for the better. Nothing is set in stone during the process.

I do know how each book I write will end. I know who survives, who doesn't. As an author, if you write regularly and work at it, will develop a process right for you. Go with that. And no, I do not write my the seat of my pants....I am not a panster (I read that in a blog on outlining).  It is a quaint term for authors who do not outline, but write by the seat of their pants. I know where I am going and what will happen. My process and creative flow are my own.

If you feel you need to officially outline your novel, do it! There are tons of guides online on how to do that. If not, develop a system for you that works.

Until then, write more fantasy!

Verna McKinnon

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Novel Quest #5: A Loss of Sanity & Cookie Madness

A Loss of Sanity & Cookie Madness

We need to review what it costs to write a book. Hence, my title for this entry to my novel quest series is A Loss of Sanity & Cookie Madness.

It has been a while since my last post, but as you must know, I'm often busy writing. Currently it is my new novel in progress, The Bastard Sorceress. I have also been promoting my new novel, The Bardess of Rhulon, on social media. Plus I have a day job, a patient husband, and two petulant cats. Needless to say, my time is spread thin. This is the life of a writer. Our current culture does not allow us to fall off the grid like Hemingway, live in a dump, drink coffee in a cafe, and type out a manuscript on an old typewriter. Life is not so simple. We are all poor of course, unless we are lucky enough to have an income from other sources which allows us a luxury to write whenever, wherever.
In reality, most of us do not.

So we must contend with the slings and arrows of everyday life as we work very hard in this complicated publishing industry, not only complete our novels, (which for me, is the easy part), but deal with the reality of submissions, rejections, agent hunting, tracking social media and promoting, and other frustrating aspects of this job.

So to appease my madness, I eat cookies and drink coffee. I push on and keep going. You must, because no one is going to do it for you. It is maddening. Being good, or even a great writer, is not enough in this business. There are so many other factors blockading success I cannot even list them. But you suck it up and deal. You keep going, because writing is what matters. My novels matter. And screw anyone who says anything different.

So be brave and write, and remember when you lose your mind, there are always chocolate chip cookies and lattes to ease the pain.

More to come. In the meantime, read more fantasy!


Verna McKinnon

Friday, January 18, 2019

Novel Quest #4 Plots! Oh, those nasty plots!

The Trouble With Plots

Hello fellow friends & writers. I have finally recovered from the holidays, so now back to work! My first post in 2019 is about plots.

Plots are a baseboard. A basic foundation to your story. The trouble with plots is there is a finite number of the plots in the universe. Maybe nine. Or less. Anyway, people twists themselves into a frenzy trying to come up with an original plot no one has heard of before.  I have one word of advice: RELAX.

Plots are simply a way to organize your story. It is the springboard from which your character's journey jumps off. It is how you can structure your novel. So relax. worry about creating exciting characters and dialogue. More to come in novel quest. So, keep writing and reading!


Verna McKinnon