Monday, December 14, 2009

The Edit Monster

Why is it that what you wrote a month or even a few days ago and edited seemed fine (even brilliant) at the time. Yet, when you go back in to edit it looks moronic in review? Sometimes I write on hyperdrive, where what is going on in my head and my poor typing skills do not merge. If my brain could imprint on some software through telepathy would have brilliant work, but alas, am restrained to primitive type type type.
Plus, it is Monday. Wretched day, cruel day, heartless day. I wanted to stay in bed and watch Christmas movies (or Doctor Who)
I often wonder about my fellow writers from the past-the ones that had only quill or creaky mammoth typewriter with heavy keys, no delete button, no easy print. Just precious paper scrawled upon in the candlelight. They had it tough. I think I am babbling now. I have been editing and polishing so much my brain is soft from mental strain.
Alas, I will eat some chocolate and continue. I will finish book on a sugar rush.
More later.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Happy Saturnalia

Merry Wishes to all in this time of spiked eggnog and Christmas specials. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Solstice, Hanukkah, or Muharram this season, please have fun, eat drobba truffles, and pumpkin pie piled high with whipped cream.
Okay, now I am hungry.
While I am editing a frenzy with my editor Joe Dickerson of HD-Image, I do take time out to make merry and watch DVDS. Here is my partial list of favorite holiday specials.
1. Night of the Comet. Zombies, Christmas, and two valley girls that kick ass and appreciate automatic weapons. Now that's a holiday movie.
2. Die Hard. Bruce Willis-enough said.
3. A Charlie Brown Christmas. Even I can be traditional.
4. Any of the Lord of the Rings trilogy-there is snow somewhere, plus Aragorn.
Enjoy your own holiday treats and make merry. The diet does not start until January 1.
In the meantime, back to writing.
Happy Holidays & Lots of Fuzzy Warmth

Monday, November 23, 2009

10 Commandments For Novel Writing

Okay, the thing is, I am always in a better mood when I write. It does keep me sane in this loopy world. When I am there, it flows and things are good. Much of my flow comes from a good organization of my characters and world for my tales. As I have been putting together the goods for my next two novels, there are a some writing commandments I would like to share with my readers and hopeful writers, so that it may help you create worlds of your own.
1. Character Outlines: This includes name, age, basic physical points like hair and eye color, race, importance in story, relationships, and anything that would be important to your tale. A good character breakdown list is a good thing to work with.
2. Go with the impulse: A few of my favorite characters were not planned at all. They were meant to be very minor characters or not even in book at all, but they popped in head as I was writing and they basically came to life. Go with this-it is your inner muse giving you a boost.
3. World Planning: It can be easier than you think. I do not go overboard with my world creations for my novels but I am also very specific and use common sense. I decide number of continents and seas and oceans, races, what type of goods they export and crops, weather, how many moons or suns. I name the seas and continents and give a basic ruling structure and society. If you are planning a long term fantasy novel set upon a secondary world, you will need to be organized. I do not use technical engines to generate these-I just use practical approach and then have fun coming up with names.
4. Nothing is set in stone: Sometimes your story or character takes a different turn as you are writing and that is fine-there is usually a reason behind this so just go with it.
5. Is this a story you would want to read?: Frankly, you cannot get all twisted up about what is selling or "hot." Concern yourself with characters and story. I only write things that I would want to read. Do a story that moves you to create it and write it.
6. Characters: One of the greatest compliments my editor and publisher, Joe Dickerson of HD-Image, told me is how good I am with characterization. If you can bring great characters to life on paper, you are half-way there.
7. The First Page: That is the toughest thing. Even if I know how entire book plays out that first page is critical and usually makes me want to cry-why? Because that is the test page, the page that will determine whether or not that publisher or agent will turn to page 2. Starting is the toughest thing. Once that is done, it gets much better.
8. The Final Page: Also a killer-the final words or actions that happen in a story must satisfy, even if it is only end of book 2 and there is still a book 3 coming-you want to give a sense of completion but still leave them wanting more and be faithful to what you are doing.
9. Killing a Character: Make sure there is a damn good reason-a bad guy does need to pay, but that is not what I am talking about here. It is when you kill off characters that readers have invested an interest in and come to love, even if they might be minor. Too often I have been disappointed by a writer killing a character for momentary emotional wrench. If you have to kill a good character to make a point-it had better make a good one. The temporary fix to a plot is not only cheap to me, but it makes me mad. It must be integral to story.
10. Keep writing: Blow off the toady people that try to bring you down. Just focus on you and what you want to write-and just write.
These are my personal 10 commandments. If anyone has any suggestions for writing, please contact me. As a writer-we are always learning.
Verna Mckinnon

Monday, November 16, 2009

In mourning for a wonderful actor and inspiration Edward Woodward

This is a dreadful Monday. I learned this morning via phone call from my husband Rick that one of my favorite actors, Edward Woodward, has passed away.
Mr. Woodward's voice was the inspiration for one of my major characters in Familiar's Tale series, Belwyn the Owl, familiar to Cathal the sorcerer.
I know it may seem odd, but I imagine very specific voices for my characters in my "Familiar's Tale" series. Edward Woodward (who had been a fav long before I conceived of Belwyn the Owl) was a wonderful actor and someone I wished I could have met. The minute I put his voice to the character of Belwyn the owl, he was truly born. Those of you that have read my book Gate of Souls know who Belwyn is, and what a great character he is. I hope that pays the great actor some small tribute. Edward Woodward will be missed.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Focus, Focus, Focus!

As a writer, it is an important skill. You need to focus to get all the great imaginative stuff jumping about in your brain into print mode (be it paper, computers, whatever) and it is often so damn tough because you get distracted by the idiocy of the world. It is easy for writers to get lazy too-I have been working on 2 books and editing Tree of Bones for my second "Familiar's Tale" book. But my focus has been dreadful. I keep getting distracted by trivial things, the way Mellypip gets distracted by a drobba-chip cookie. I have much of book 3, Fires of Rapiveshta, running scenes in my head. As I try to write it I keep getting scrambled by which part of book to write. It is very annoying because I have the last half of the book worked out but the first half is still taunting me.
I have resolved to be made of tougher metal-because when I am focused and writing-I feel better. My mood is less glum. I am less cranky. I even stay on my diet better (though drobba is always a danger)
Focus is what makes for success too. In all things in life-if you have your goals and energies directed where they should be-into your art-you will eventually succeed.
Now, I must get back to writing Fires of Rapiveshta and my 'other new fantasy' novel (The Legend of Rose Greenleaf, The Dwarven Bardess of Rhulon- a working title only).
Focus people!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Chaos of Creativity

Being creative is not neat. It is not tidy. There is no linear circuit or smooth straight pass on the road to imagination.
It is messy-much like a teenager's room with the rumpled bed, hidden Twinkies, beloved stuffed animals, loud music, secret diaries with tiny keys and your favorite faded jeans rescued from mom's ironing board.
My writing room (which I share with my husband Rick, who is also a writer) is stuffed with piles of books and magazines, file cabinets, two computers, two printers, cork boards covered with writing charts, cards and colorful fantasy/science fiction prints. My desk is clogged with overstuffed notes and chapter drafts, little dragons and pewter figurines of sorceresses and stuffed animals. Stacks of Cd's teeter by the stereo to provide inspirational music for battle scenes.
But it is within this condensed madness that my mind flows clear. It is my imagination wellspring that draws out of stories I type out, even when my cat Duncan insists on helping me by flopping between keyboard and monitor to oversee my efforts. This is what makes me happy. I have a small green toy baby cthulhu propped up on my stack of folders, guarding my ideas and a stuffed toy sloth in honor of Buzzy hanging from the desk and an large stuffed owl that so reminded me of Belwyn, it sits above me on the desk shelf making sure I do not abuse my adjectives.
It is not crowded to me. It is my comfort zone. All writers need a comfort zone. You need to find out what your comfort zone is and dive in. Maybe some of you are very uncluttered and work only in pristine monastic conditions. Some of you are more crazy- like me. But we all need to find that creative space to achieve our goals-which is to write!
Write people! Because when you are a writer, that is the only thing that makes you happy in this world. Just find out where it works for you and dig in.
Baby cthulhus make great guardians by the way.
More later.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Chris Speakman's Review of Gate of Souls

Hello Familiar's Tale Friends!
Here is the link to Chris Speakman's review of Gate of Souls, A Familiar's Tale, Book One,

I will probably read it over and over, eating drobba until reality slaps me back to my writing.

Dragons and Critics

What a summer! My editing with my publisher, Joe Dickerson of HD-Image, has been moving along for release of Tree of Bones. I am also heavy into writing "Fires of Rapiveshta," the third entry into my Familiar's Tale series. Fires of Rapiveshta storyline involves the dragons of my world. In the prologue of Tree of Bones, you get some cool dragon action though. I have so many ideas buzzing in my characters outlines that I am dying to tell you, but I must keep things underwrap for now.
I did have a recent wonderful and unexpected review on my book Gate of Souls. Chris Speakman just reviewed by book and I am amazed how much she loved my book. Usually my publisher and friends sings my praises, which yes I love it, but when someone you do not know praises you, it is a special warm and fuzzy feeling. Much like Mellypip after eating a yummy drobba snack. Thank you Chris, and I promise you will not be disappointed in the coming books in my Familiar's Tale series. Will also send you Tree of Bones for review.
Back to reality and editing now. Sigh.
More to come later.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Edit, edit, edit....and yet more edits

I am in the heavy process of editing the second book in my "Familiar's Tale" series, entitled "Tree of Bones," with my publisher, Joe Dickerson. It is a fun time though, because we go back and forth with fun perspectives on the story and characters, as well as make suggestions and catching teeny but annoying typos.
Working with a small publisher has it pluses and minuses. The minus is trying to get into the bookstores, even small ones. Again, the market is tough for everyone now. I did score a big success with Barnes & Noble when they picked up Gate of Souls, A Familiar's Tale, Book One, and ordered a small but respectable number of copies for actual store placement. This was a wonderful example of the larger corporation wanting to support the smaller book publisher. This may seem like a small victory, but for small publishing houses and their diligent and struggling writers, it is a mammoth success worthy of champagne and chocolate.
But despite our topsy-turvy existence, the plus of writing for a small publishing house is the personal attention you get from your editor. At least it is for me. My publisher is very supportive and knows that things take time. They are open and do not try to change my vision of what I write. I love working with Joe when we edit. It is almost as much fun as writing the book (except for the chapters where I bang my head against a virtual wall when stuck on some literary trouble spot)
One point I would like to make, is the quality of small publishing houses is first rate. Gone are the days when substandard writing was the product of the independent publisher. Not just my own house, HD-Image, but many small independent houses are putting out great work, even though they too have tough times getting bookstore placement. They sell by whatever means necessary, and use a variety of formats. E-books and PDF format downloads for example. In this ever changing technical world, times are changing. I love the traditional book. Yes, I am an old-fashioned girl. I love book covers and the tactile feel of paper on my fingertips.
But I will sell my book by any means necessary too.
I recently sat on an interesting panel at Baycon 2009 in Santa Clara, where we talked about small publishing houses. Really marvelous novels and short stories are bring produced by the independent publisher and written by not only new struggling writers, but by many seasoned and well-published authors with great resumes with big publishers.
The point is-the work is a labor of love, whether it is through a major publisher or a tiny struggling publishing house using the tools of the web to survive in this ever changing publishing world. Small publishers are not just for lazy writers who submit stories that are good, but not good enough for their bigger publishers. That attitude is just wrong. You can no longer use that judgment. There is some wonderful stuff out there, and these authors just want to do what all good writers desire-tell a great story.
I believe that being a storyteller is important. That magic of storytelling-and the venue in which it is presented, will always be there. I think you just have to be creative about where you look.

Sunday, June 7, 2009


I was prepped to do a lavish blog about my participation at Baycon 2009 in Santa Clara at the end of May. I was exhausted and as I also have a day job along with my scribal vocation, I put off for another week. Then I received news that one of my favorite fantasy writers, David Eddings, died this week.

He was a wonderful storyteller. He will be missed.

Therefore, I dedicate this week to David Eddings' memory.

I will be back next week about me. Now I am in literary mourning.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Dark Tales of Obsydia

Also great news about a series of short stories I have done set in my world of A Familiar's Tale.
My first short story about Obsydia the Bloodstone Queen, called The Bloodstone Queen, was published in Aberrant Dreams webzine a few months back. I am happy to say there will be more short stories set during the Bloodstone Age in which the immortal Queen Obsydia ruled. I have always had a fascination for the dark fairy tale queens of old, and when I conceived of Obsydia, I wanted to create dark wicked beauty and power beyond imagination. A character of my own design in originality. I wanted unique and shadowy. I wanted a Queen of Shadows.
Obsydia, daughter of the dark god Ahridum and a mortal seer, born in a dark tower and woke 13 nights after her birth a fully grown woman. Her hair is literally shadow that curls around her death pale face of flawless beauty, silver moon eyes that see all, and lips red as blood. Red as blood is fairy tale speak, but it applies to Obsydia.
She will also play a significant part in my book series, A Familiar's Tale.
After all , in a world of heroes, there must be great evil to fight. Obsydia is that evil.
I wanted Obsydia to be the most primal of all wicked queens.
I will let you be the judge.

This is a darker time for my world in which evil had power and the heroes fought to being back the Light. The stories are set about a thousand years before the story in "Gate of Souls," though because of the magical rules of my world, you will meet some familiar characters that are in the Familiar's Tale series.
I hope you enjoy these tales.
Back to writing, after a drobba break.

A Successful Book Signing for "Gate of Souls"!

Greetings fans of all things Familiar!

So sorry that it's been a while since my last entry. I have been busy writing my third entry in my Familiar's Tale series, Fires of Rapiveshta, and editing the second, Tree of Bones.

I had a book signing recently at Borders Express bookstore at the Sun Valley Mall in Concord, CA. They are wonderful folks and so kind to let an unknown writer have a book signing, especially in these hard times. I was at first hesitant about a book signing, as I am not a well known writer (though I long to be princess of heroic fantasy tales) and this is my first published novel. But I am not shy either, and I managed to sell quite a few books in just a couple hours. I even surprised myself! I had such fun! And I sold many books! My husband, Rick, also took pictures which will be posted to site.

I must also thank the wonderful artists that created magnificent cover art-Henning Ludvigsen and Natascha Roeoesli-that attracted potential readers to my table. It is beautiful and the product of true artists. I also found that people are eager, even hungry, for a good new fantasy and my book attracted a variety of folks.

I also met some enthusiastic girls in their teens, desperate for a great female heroine to read about. My Runa (in Gate of Souls) is a very positive character and I know people will love her courage, humor, and strength. My book is aimed at fantasy readers of all ages, but I know this tale will appeal to girls desperate for a female heroine. I have my share of male heroes with characters like Darcus and Cathal, so this series will appeal to just about anyone who loves a good fantasy. And my wicked characters, such as Koll and Xabral, provide the danger and suspense. I also have new adversaries rising in my second book, Tree of Bones, but as I

am editing that book with my publisher, Joseph Dickerson, I must not say too much yet.

But now I feel confident that anywhere I go, whether it be a book signing or reading, I can soothe the bookseller's fears, as my book does sell quite well.

More blogging later. I promise not to be lazy. Really.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Book Signing Alert!

Hello all! I am having a book signing for Gate of Souls this Saturday, January 24, 2009, at the Borders Express bookstore at the Sun Valley Mall in Concord, CA between 12 and 2 pm.
Am excited.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The First Time...

Belated Happy New Year to all. Has been busy time. Physically, I am recovering from the holidays, though the scale turned ruthless upon my New Year's weigh-in; prepping for 2009's pristine diet and exercise regime. As a writer I must remain physically and mentally fit.
However, the ginger bread cookies and chocolates left their merciless mark on my thighs.
Cruel scale. Will have cocoa to feel better after the even crueler treadmill.

The good news is my artistic scales are better balanced. I went into my local Barnes & Noble to see if my book, Gate of Souls, was in yet. I have done this a couple times a week since I received the letter from B&N that they would carry my book in the stores. So when I finally saw it on the shelf, in the new over sized paperback shelf of the Science Fiction/Fantasy section, I was a bit dumbfounded. I stared at it like village idiot for a good deal of my lunch hour. I then took a picture of Gate of Souls on the shelf with my cell phone (technology is so nice, especially when it provides instant gratification) and called my husband. Also made a sale. A hapless couple wandering the aisle, came too close and I casually asked if they were looking for something new to read. I knew they read my genre when I saw some of the books in the gentleman's hand. He said yes. I held out my book and said "buy me."
They laughed. I did not expect them to really buy my book. However a few minutes later the wife came up to me and said she would love to buy my book and would I mind signing it. I said yes, of course. I will always sign for folks. It's only polite. So she bought Gate of Souls and I happily inscribed it. Was nice day, even though I had to go back to work.

But the first time seeing my book, Gate of Souls, in the bookstore is a great moment indeed.
More news very soon. Must get back to writing the new Familiar's Tale. Am on book three as my publisher has book two, Tree of Bones, in hand and we are in editing process. But I left one of my characters in the bit of a bind (litertally) and I think they want me to write the next chapter to resolve the situation.