Saturday, December 21, 2013

Holiday Cheer & Dark Fantasy

Greetings Familiar Friends!

It is fully the holidays-which is also a little crazy.  As I indulge in rich snacks, am formulating literary darkness and chaos for my poor characters.  I am a little crazy too-from a literary perspective- as I am working on 3 novels right now-Fires of Rapiveshta, Bard Maiden of Rhulon (my heroic female dwarf!) and now a dark unicorn tale called Blood of the Unicorn.  What a merry tale of mayhem is brewing in my world of evil kings, dark gods, goblins, stoic warriors, murderous changelings, worried familiars, exasperated sorceresses, brave heroes & heroines, murder, and brutish trolls.    I have a busy holiday seasons ahead of me.  As I post ideas to my cork boards in study , as I have 4 of them above my desk one for each book and a general madness board, I will hope your holiday is more peaceful as I go a little mad with spiked eggnog and  story plots.  Have a lovely holiday!

Verna McKinnon

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Writing Resolutions & Mental Yoga

Greetings Familiar Friends,

Along with a recent promise from my publisher, Joe D, that we have the book cover in good hands for Tree of Bones (my 2nd novel in my Familiar's Tale series) and the end of the year looming, I am feeling hopeful about the coming New Year.  I admit I have been a bit lazy and unfocused in my writer's journey.  If you think about it, writing is a lot like yoga.  It is a practice in which perfection is never an issue.  It is about growth and becoming a better you.  Writers suffer a great deal from the pitfalls of the art-stress, rejection, delays, edit hell. 
But we continue despite this imperfection.  The more we write, the more we improve as writers.  It is a journey that never ends.  It is not a linear craft.  It is a craft of many changes and starts and stops.  But, if we are talented, we grow and improve as authors.  Your imagination and skill stretches and expands.  Yoga is much the same way (along with being a salvation after hours of sitting in front of a computer).  Yoga is journey and so is writing.  It is mental yoga.  It will always get better and you will get stronger and more flexible.

So I am determined that 2014 will be a better year on all levels.  Writing is at the top of that list.   I will do better with my writing.  So here is my author resolution.

1.  I will write-I will finish  my various novel and short story projects.
2.  I will not blame crappy week for being lazy.
3.  I will not procrastinate.
4.  I will find an agent.
5.  I will become a successful author.

I am stopping at 5 for my writing resolutions because 5 is suppose to be a lucky number for me.  I will have other resolutions for 2014-but this is my literary list of directives.  Have a fun and creative New Year. 

More later.

Verna McKinnon


Friday, November 29, 2013

Shaking Things Up?

Hello Familiar Friends,

I get very weary of hearing that phrase "shaking things up."  This happens in both books & TV, where they decide to kill off a character or break up a couple for example, because shaking thins up is supposed to create more good conflict or excitement.  But sadly this is never the outcome I usually experience. 
It is a cheaters way out.  An "I have no good ideas so I am going to kill off a character."  It is annoying and stupid.  I never feel a shake up.  I just feel pissed off and stop reading (JK Rowling-you killed Hedwig!) or stop watching (Family Guy is dead to me).
The point is, unless a characters death is meaningful or drives the story, death is a cheap tool.  There is also a very twisted point of view out there that is a character's story is done, they kill them rather than let them ride off into the sunset.  There are a number of TV shows I have just stopped watching because of this.  Death must mean something in a novel (or TV show or movie), else the emotional feed turns sour.  Yes, we can have our hearts broken over Romeo & Juliet, but their deaths were necessary to the story.  
You can create conflict and shake things up with good storytelling.  That is why, using a TV show as an example, Doctor Who rocks.  They have created more heartbreak and shaking things across the galaxy without killing off key characters.  They are lost in other Universes, are forced to lose their memories to save their lives-but they are not killed.    From a novel series, I love David Eddings.  His Belgariad and Mallorean series are often reread by me.  There are many characters but they are not a kill list.  He rarely kills off characters unless it is necessary to the story.  Sure, you always want to see the bad guy die-and they do- but the protagonists suffer so many trials and traumas, death is not needed.    I love George RR Martin, but his death counts are frightening.   I am sure he has a reason, but the journey there is rocky.    I often need a break from good ole' George.  And a shot of rum.
So do not cheat your readers (or audience).   

More later.

Verna McKinnon

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Where are the Slayers & Heroes?

Greetings Familiar Friends,

Yes, it is rant time.  I am miffed not only by the weak barely there fantasy and science fiction not only on TV & in the movies these days, but the premises & protagonists for  these vehicles.   Finding good shows is hard.  Finding a real hero is tough.  Strange for an era with a zillion cable channels.  Now I love witches and the best witch themed show to date was Charmed.   It showed good witches fighting evil and saving innocents  But the show is gone now and left to DVD watching.  I am not so sure about the other witch shows.  I loved Buffy-a vampire slayer who killed demons and saved the world in each season finale.  It was also the only vampire love story I could accept.  The brilliance of Joss Whedon structured the vampires in his world to be soulless, and inhabited by a demons.  Angel was cursed with a soul and that made a huge difference.  So it worked-and even so that romance had to end.  I forgive Buffy about Spike because she was clinically depressed at the time.    Another example is Xena, who had fallen into being evil, was redeemed by Hercules (another fun show) and fought for the good to achieve redemption.  Sometimes silly but a great show.

My point is there was a strong line between good & evil.  We had heroes fighting for the good and smacking evil good and hard.  Now we have vapid girls with too much eyeliner falling for vampires and making them the focus of the shows or films.  I miss the days of real science fiction and fantasy.  Babylon 5.  Crusade and Firefly (may they RIP).  Buffy.  Stargate SGI.  Stargate Atlantis.  Star Trek (take your pick of fav show).  Now we have Vampire Diaries & The Originals-let's make people that would serve us at brunch as the protagonists.  I do not want to root for vampire kings.  I want to root for the slayer that turns them into dust.  We have soft scifi that is barely there.  I do thank the TV gods for Once Upon a Time-achieving fantasy storytelling with contemporary flip on one side.  It is similar to what Stargate achieved with their Stargate tech find on contemporary earth, but thanks to the gate alien technology, we had them traveling around the universe and having epic space battles with evil aliens who want to enslave us.  Plus the show gave us one the greatest science fiction woman heroes ever-Amanda Tapping as Colonel Samantha Carter.  A real role model for women.  She was the best!  We have Canada and Britain to thank for the rare great science fiction/fantasy shows.  I thank the heavens for Doctor Who.  Not only is he great but the women characters rock as well.   And the new Orphan Black-wonderful.  A flawed women pushed into being a heroine (main character Sarah) and use of cloning to make an intriguing contemporary science fiction.  The actress is so brilliant-playing so many different versions of her clones she must feel like Sybil at the end of the day.  Lost Girl has an interesting heroine and they crafted the show carefully.  The careful detail on Fae and them not being demons, but an evolutionary race predating humans is important.  And I love Anna Silk's Bo.  She is truly out to do good and help humans, despite the chaos around her and the rules of the Light & Dark Fae (and her need to feed on sexual chi).  It is a tough balance but they make it work.       

Sadly, the good is too rare.  Much of what is out there now is weak and promotes the demon/vampire characters as acceptable focus.  There is a difference between flawed past and grey vs. dark and evil.   There is no real science fiction anymore.  Not really. The Tomorrow People is too silly to talk about-pretty teens with super powers.  Snore.  Under the Dome?  Blah.   Even SyFy's Defiance I have issues with.  Aliens came to settle on our world and whether they meant to or not, their technology destroyed the earth's ecosystem, and many of the animals died with it-and us as well.   Do not tell me their tech did not have ability to check if planet was already inhabited!   I cannot find them sympathetic.  But folks were excited to see some real science fiction again with aliens and some effort.  I cannot blame them.  I also miss Fringe.  Great characters-flawed but heroic.  But the show went as far as it could and ended well.  Falling Skies is good-but there is a depression with these shows rather than a heroic fight.  The original V had the heroic bravo that balanced the darkness.  You need to root for something along with people afraid.  Legend of the Seeker was great!  Real fantasy!  Great characters fighting for good in a secondary world.  Axed at end of season 2.  Sad now.

I guess for me there is not enough of a balance.  The good science fiction or fantasy shows are rare and often  axed too soon by greedy TV execs.  Yet they happily renew Honey Booboo .  And people wonder why I am miffed.

More later.

Verna McKinnon

Friday, November 8, 2013

Cold Fantasy

Greetings  Familiar Friends,

It is autumn and the leafs are falling and the nights have gone chilly.  Fall & Winter is a great time to write.   The cold brisk air, drinking hot coffee or cocoa, thoughts moving inward, staying inside more often.  It is ideal writing time.  Some people moan the loss of summer.  I do not.   My creative side wakes up.  My characters demand time and attention.  And summer will come back again.  Life  and its seasons revolve.      

I am working on my novels and hoping that 2014 will be a better year for me as an author.  I have hit a lot of bumps trying to get things done.  Well, more than bumps.  Monstrous giant obstructions barring my literary progress like that mysterious black monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey. 

But I will prevail.  I will not give up or give in.  Being Irish/Scottish, my stubborn streak is fully embedded in my DNA. 

So I will write.  That is all a writer can do.  It is what we do.  More later.

Verna McKinnon

Monday, October 28, 2013

Portents and Funky Dreams

Hello Friends,

I had strange dreams  this weekend.  I even dreamed about my characters involved in something (some battle or a conference-hard to tell which) but it is a misty shadow now.  Dreams may fade but they leave their mark.  It could be too much Halloween candy.  It is unsettling when my actual dreams are invaded by my characters, but I must take it to heart when that happens. 

They want my attention.

As I start another Monday and plan my week of writing my novels, I find myself pondering how to achieve more writing time.  What makes it difficult is the ever present threat of laziness on my part.  Once I do force myself to the laptop or writing pad, I can become immersed in the ritual of the chapter and characters.  It is wonderful when that happens.  I am like a Goddess unleashing her power of creation (but in a benevolent way).  A Wonder Woman of the Pen.  A Celtic storyteller.    But I must get there by sitting down and doing it!

I must admit, I am luckier than most writers, as my husband never expects me to cook dinner for him or even keep the house tidy.  But I do get lazy-watching a movie or spending too much time on Facebook or emailing a friend or long lost publisher.  Our tools for efficiency tend to make us inefficient.  We get lazy.  We wile away valuable time on nonsense.  We become complacent.  I must steel myself against the temptation of downloads and DVDs.  I must focus on my writing and become more prolific.  I want more things published than one novel and some short stories ( My second novel is done though), but I want more!  Think of the great writers of the past, content to use pen and quill or a clunky old typewriter!   Yet they did it-and they did not even have spellcheck! 

So I count my blessings and promise to create more.  I have 3 novels now I am working on (I must be a masochist) and they are all clamoring for my attention.  Sigh.  More later. 
Happy Halloween!

Verna McKinnon   

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Procrastination Curse

Hello  Familiar's Tale Friends & Writing Enthusiasts!

I confess I am guilty of procrastinating.  Actually doing the "writing your novel" process is a lot like being on a diet.  You will start tomorrow, next Monday, when the stressful week is over, write my blog, after I watch this episode of Buffy, when Hell provides chilled beverages...the list goes on.

Writers are the greatest procrastinators of all time.  It is strange because we love what we do.  It is a voluntary occupation and even a vocation.   Once in a college class, we watched a funny video about an author who was prepping to write his novel.  First the pencils were not sharpened, he had the wrong paper, the paint was old and he repainted the office!   A lot of effort to avoid what we love to do.
It is more frightening to realize the consequences.  Franz Kafka stated that, "A non-writing writer is monster courting insanity."  It is a bit grim, but the point is clear.  We are at mental risk when we do not fulfill our purpose.  An author has a lot of issues of course- fear and rejection, waiting for months to see if our work is accepted or rejected, publishing delays that border on insanity, and many other things that are draining on our mental health. 

Sometimes it is lack of time or laziness, of course, but we must make an effort.   I nudge (okay I nag) my husband Rick Hipps to finish his novel, a mere 4 chapters from completion.  I am guilty as well.  But I promise to do better.  More to come.

Verna McKinnon   

Friday, October 4, 2013

Nothing is set in stone..and even that crumbles

Greetings Friends,

I want to discuss the importance of fresh ideas and perspectives.  As I sit here consuming coffee, I think about how when writing fantasy and science fiction, sometimes people fall into traps of repeating same thing over and over in the lather, rinse, repeat fashion.  That is a shame because those folks need to play the"what if" game more often.  A Ray Bradbury favorite (we miss you Ray)

Example, for years I thought the use of animal familiars in fantasy fiction was rather limited and their idea and use was not expanded very often.  So I imagined a world where animals familiars play a more active role in the story and with their mages.  I even included a vast array of animals in the mix, rather than focusing on the usual cat familiar or owl (sorry Belwyn you are the best owl familiar ever).   My familiars are everything from owls to wolves to badgers, tiger hares,  and sloths and new creations like wampus and scorpion snakes.  Yes, a sloth for those that have not read my book.  A slow, sleepy sloth named Buzzy that spouts wisdom and sleeps in a special tree in his sorcerer's lab.
But it developed a whole new idea on relationships and family and the use of magic.

There are only so many plot devices in any genre, but it is always possible to twist things around and find an idea that creates a new type of story.  It is the characters that matter.  Battling dark vs light is a common thread in fantasy-but it is how you create your world and characters that can make it shine.

Doing a vampire tale-what is the vampire is not usual blood sucker?  What if the vampire feeds on life energy instead?  Writing a magical fantasy?  What if unicorns were evil?  These are simple examples of course, but you should as a writer expand and force yourself out of the comfort zone.   How can your warrior or wizard be special?  What can make your world different and how will that effect your characters or story?     

So expand your horizons and let your imagination roil with new ideas.  And coffee-not not forget the coffee.
More later.

Verna McKinnon

Friday, September 27, 2013

Why Reviewers Make me Crazy & Why I Love James Spader in "The Blacklist."

Okay, I am delving into the television world for a rant, but I watched The Blacklist with James Spader.  I have been an admirer of his for years-from the teen flicks where he was the arrogant rich boy to his nerdy role in Mannequin to the handsome unlikely hero academic, Daniel Jackson,  in the movie Stargate (one of the most underrated science fiction films of all time). 

James Spader is an incredible actor.  He will be one of those still standing when he is ancient and pudgy and a mass of wrinkles no amount of botox can remedy-because he was always more than a pretty face.   He can act.  Not all of Hollywood is a bastion of actors-many are cardboard images that will fade when their good looks have vanished.

But returning to my main point about reviews, is that the online reviews I am reading are often a bit stupid and even miss the whole point (not just for Blacklist but for many shows).  People need  a thesaurus.  They need to craft what they say.  They give wrong impressions.  A reviewer I read today asked "Did James Spader pulled of his version of Hannibal Lector?"   Let me explain why this is wrong, in my humble opinion. Yes-James Spader's character, Reddington, is a criminal mastermind and a monster wanted by the FBI and all that-but he is also "NOT A SERIAL KILLER WHO SNACKS ON PEOPLE."    He is a master criminal: there is a difference you know.  Apparently some people are not aware of this.  Comparing Reddington to Hannibal Lector makes no sense at all.  Are we so glutted by the serial killer fascination (which is creepy) that we compare all criminal masterminds to flesh eating cannibal serial killers?  That is ridiculous.   

If I had read the review title before watching, I might have discarded even checking out the show.  I am sick of focus on serial killers on television and in movies, making the focus about them and even making them heroes.  As much as I adore James Purefoy, I will never watch "The Following."  But fear not James Purefoy (are all the James' in the world such good actors?) I own Rome and Solomon Kane.

But, thankfully, James Spader's character is not a people eater.  He harks back to something more interesting than an serial killer.  He is a criminal mastermind.  A 'Moriarty' or 'Bond nemisis'.  He is complex.  He is quite sane.  He is intriguing.  He is quite scary.  His darkness makes him interesting without resorting to the typical serial killer mode that is so prevalent today.

Thank you for considering my opinion.   More later.  My characters are calling me back to writing.

Verna McKinnon


Friday, September 20, 2013

What a Writer Does

Hello Friends,

What does a writer do?  We create, explore, inform, reflect-the list is long.  The point is we write and we provide a creative and important chapter of our culture and even our species.  No matter what the medium-be it scrolls, hardbacks, walls, vellum, paperbacks, online, e-books, downloads, rocks-we will always be there and  matter.  What we do is important.   Our communication of life is important.  Our storytelling is important.  Do not let the current trends frighten you or let the morons diminish you-writers are important. 
The current changes in the publishing industry have people concerned and writers of all genres a little scared.  I say embrace the change and make it work for you.   There are possibilities.   E-books and online magazines that give writers a place.  The writing is the same it is just it's framework that is evolving.  If someone says you the writer is no longer relevant-then let them try to read anything or even watch anything without the benefit of us.  Someone has to write those scripts and songs and e-books they are downloading.  It is the writer.  Be it fiction or non-fiction.  The most important thing is that we keep writing.  Follow your own voice.  Keep writing.    
What does a writer do?  Everything that matters.

Monday, September 9, 2013

The Wild Forest and Coffee


I have had a great summer.  I made huge progress in my new novel, "The Bard Maiden of Rhulon," and though I did not finish it -I did a lot of good work.  I will finish it before year end.  My heroine, Rose Greenleaf, has a lot of adventures in this first book.    A whole new world for me to create.  Yum.  Speaking of yum I need more coffee.  The enchanted or cursed forests take a lot of energy.
I also love that I am finally on Kindle for my novel, Gate of Souls, A Familiar's tale Book One," and if any of my wonderful readers would mind posting some new reviews on Amazon for me that would be great.   My publisher also changed their name to Aberrant Dreams-which I like much better.  The art is still beautful.  I love it so. 
Also, my contact information has been updated to a new email address.  It is on my website info at   If any of my readers or agents or hungry publishers desire to contact me, for your convenience my new official writer email is

I hope your summer was also magical.  Now I must return to one of my magical worlds to give my characters some trouble. 

Verna McKinnon

Monday, August 19, 2013

Gate of Souls paperback on sale at Amazon!

Gate of Souls softback edition is on sale for $4.08 at Amazon!  That is almost as cheap as my kindle edition.  So this is a great time to check out the paperback if you have been wanting to.  Have  fun read while I go harass my publisher at Aberrant Dreams about when the release of book 2, Tree of Bones, is going to happen.  Enjoy what's left of summer with a great book while sipping ice tea.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

A fun Interview!

Greetings Friends,

Mandy Eve Barnett interviewed me this week and that interview can be read if you click on the link below.

It was fun and I do love the attention.  More next week.  Thanks Mandy!


Monday, August 5, 2013

My softback of Gate of Souls is on sale at Amazon

Hello Friends,

Yes, I am on a promo frenzy, but Amazon currently has my large softback edition of Gate of Souls on sale for $5.84.  The normal cost of my softback edition is usually $16.95, so I am quite a bargain.  The free promo for my Kindle editon is over, but my usual price of $3.99 is sweet.

On other notes, I would like to ask you wonderful folks that have read my novel to post a review on Amazon.  It is hard being a Indie novelist today.   For now, I am going back to writing Bard Maiden of Rhulon so I can offer more to my readers.  The next book in my Familiar's Tale series, Tree of Bones, is due out soon (my publisher of Aberrant Dreams assures me)  so take heart.   Have a great week and read something.  It does a mind good.

Verna McKinnon

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Gate of Souls is free today on Kindle!

Just a fun tidbit that my novel, Gate of Souls, is free on Kindle today!  So if you love heroic fantasy and strong characters, check it out.  Learn about my animal familiars and their mages fighting evil in a world where magic is not only real, but has bite!  A great read for all ages!

Friday, August 2, 2013

This Sunday-Gate of Souls novel free on Kindle!


Hello Familiar's Tale Fans!

I am free this Sunday on Kindle!
Exciting news-this Sunday my novel, Gate of Souls, will be free on Kindle this Sunday as a special promotion to celebrate my release on Kindle!  So if any of you wonderful folk were hesitating-or thinking about my novel as a gift on Kindle, this is the perfect time.  So go for it!  More news to come later.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Gate of Souls on Kindle! YEAH!

Hi  Friends,

I came up for air long enough to tell all of you that my first book of Familiar's Tale series, Gate of Souls, is finally on Kindle!  I am only 3.99-Here is the Amazon link:

Monday, July 15, 2013

Bards & Goblins

As I try to wake up this Monday morning, my thoughts are focused on the titles for my new novel.  I am thinking of changing title of first book to "The Bard Maiden of Rhulon."  This book has had a few working titles and this may just be one of them-but for some reason when I did a poll on a wonderful group called Fantasy Writers in my Facebook, I put in 3 possible titles-The Goblin Cabal, A Conspiracy of Goblins, and Bard Maiden of Rhulon.  The original top title, Goblin Cabal, only got 3 votes, and though Conspiracy of Goblins did better, the hands down winner is Bard Maiden of Rhulon.  So I am using that for now. It's cool since the bard maiden is the major character throughout this trilogy I am putting together.  Sometimes you need an outside source to get a perspective on basics in writing and Fantasy Writers Group provided me some new insight.   That is what these groups are for and they can help. 
Now I am going to drink more strong black tea with milk and sugar to revive brain so I can write about my bard.
More later.

Verna McKinnon 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Goblins are coming!

Hello Friends,

Updating you on the progress of my new novel quest-which I plan to finish a full solid draft by end of Summer.  So much for my tan.  Over the past week I was insane with mass editing the first 6 chapters of my new novel.  It was crazed.  In order to do good editing, you need to both read your product both in hard copy as well as on the computer.   Tedious but necessary.  I also read my chapters out loud for flow and rhythm.  I also make sure no one is around when I do this.  After huge quantities of coffee or tea, the beginning of my heroic fantasy novel is solid and read to continue on.  I also did an experiment to see what people thought of my current working titles for novel at the Fantasy Writers group on Facebook, of which I am a member.( I love those guys)  I got some interesting feedback and votes on my proposed titles.  You cannot please everybody but some good responses might guide you elsewhere. 

An interesting point someone made was my primary audience?  This was interesting because I want this to be heroic fantasy.  I do not do sparkly romantic vampires or bloody dark depressing fantasy or fluffy kids books.  I remember when fantasy and science fiction was aimed at everyone of all ages.  I think the problem with our current trends is we try to box in fantasy types into too many sub genres.  The teen fantasy section in some bookstores is a prime example of that-urban contemporary teen witches or vampires with tight outfits and cool tattoos.  I am not saying those are bad-I just do not write that type of fantasy.
I do write fantasy that involves an imaginative world with magic & adventure, strong good characters that are not boring, interesting evil characters with purpose,  humor, action, war, sharp dialogue, and fully developed cultures & societies set in a secondary world.  My main hero is female (actually there are 2 main female characters) but also some great strong male characters in the lead.  I also write with series in mind and this novel will be the first of 3.  A trilogy.  I love those.  I love epics and good fantasy epics are the best.  I write what I want to read. 
So let's talk about my lead character-Rose Greenleaf.  She is great and the central character of this series.  She is strong and an outcast among her own people.  I will refer to my novel as The Goblin Conspiracy for now.  It is only a working title but this summer it's all about Rose and those wicked goblins.   There is more but I am keeping that in shadows for now. 
Back to writing.  Chapter 7 and the Goblin King await my attention.  So I must leave you now as goblins are not very patient-especially hobgoblins!
More to come.

Verna McKinnon


Thursday, July 4, 2013

Writing the Novel, Part 1:Revision, Sanity, & Dust Bunnies

Greeting Friends,

The process of getting back on track with a novel (or short story) you are writing when you have been away from it for awhile may seem daunting.   But these pesky things can be overcome.  In the first of a series of blogs to help the writer survive the process of, well, writing, I offer my humble guide.
The literary challenge of penning a new novel is mammoth, but I am determined to finish it.  I have made these provisions.  These are my 7 rules to beginning a novel.
1.  Clean away dust bunnies.
2.  Prep my compendium for the novel (which is a sort of bible for my story with all the details for the world, characters, plot, etc.)  When you write fantasy it is essential.
3. Stock supplies of chocolate, tea, coffee, snacks, and favorite music to write with.
4. Buy aspirin-the convenient jumbo economy size.
5. Buy paper for printing. 
6. Buy flash drives to save literary files in case of catastrophe or zombie apocalypse.
7. Turn off the world when you write.

More to come later.   I must go be a literary genius.  Where's that chocolate???

Verna McKinnon

Friday, June 21, 2013

Novel Born

Greetings Friends,

As summer rolls in, I am about to start my most intense period of writing.  I am intent on finishing at least one solid draft of one novel-and maybe getting half way through another.  They are from different fantasy series so that should be interesting.  In the world of the novelist, it is a lonely place.  I often feel a lot like the wolf in this photo-all alone in the bleak forest.    After many volumes of notes and making various drafts on characters and your world (especially if it is a secondary world-my go to place for novels) there comes a time to get serious-and do it.   It means walking to my computer and actually writing.  It is a marvelous thing-to create the novel, give birth to new fantasy tales and characters.  It is also maddening.   The mind-set of a writer is not like most people.  We are strange lone wolves, set  apart and often misunderstood.  This is fine.  I do not mind being different. It makes me what I am.  A writer.  So I will try to blog throughout the summer, and between haunting my wonderful friend/publisher/editor Joe Dickerson for results on galley/cover art for Tree of Bones, (Are you there Joe?  Can you hear me?) I will be at my desk or in a coffee house somewhere in Seattle furiously working on my tales of magic and adventure.  It is what I love to do-even if my characters often vex me with problems and demands.  I am a novelist-and they are novel born.         

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Stop Wolf Hunts-On the subject of what is right


Dear Readers,

I normally do not let my personal beliefs color my writing blog, which is devoted to fantasy and science fiction.  But some things are too close to my heart and painful not to voice from time to time.
To any state allowing "wolf hunts" I beg you to stop this madness and ban wolf hunting.
To anyone who hunts wolves-in my personal opinion you are vile and soulless.
That also goes for anyone who hunts elephants, seals, whales, wolves-it is wrong.  They have the right to live. 
Yes, the worst monsters are human.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Weary Author

Am very tired.  Brain cells are shriveled.  Blogging an effort.  This is all I can manage.  See image below for symbolic image of how I feel....

Talk to you next week.  I am going to hide in a den of solitude.

Verna McKinnon

Wednesday, May 8, 2013


Okay, one of the things I love about "Once Upon a Time" is their handling of curses and their system of magic  It is pretty consistent.  That is very key in writing fantasy or science fiction-CONSISTENCY.
Sometimes magical rules evolve slowly -like the magic in Game of Thrones.  It is much more elusive and mysterious, but in a way they are being consistent.   Their magic is changing in their world, as is the world itself. 
But your magical or science fiction tech rules and how carefully you construct them are very important in writing these genres.  If you are not consistent with your rules and structure, you may be subject to the following annoyed scowl from publishers and critics-

Lesson done.  The sun is shining in Seattle, I intend to go enjoy it. 


Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Recycling Magic

There are so many old themes in fantasy & science fiction that are done over and over-King Arthur scenarios, monsters & bad guys that are dead but revive or come back (horror flicks are guilty of this to point of stupidity), Tolkien "inspired" tales, and vampire forbidden love.  The list goes on and on-I am just giving a few examples.  It does get a bit old.  But it is also encouraged for some reason, as though an original spark is something to be feared and therefore avoided.
The point is-let's be original sometimes.  You can put an original spin on a classic theme and make it work.  David Eddings mastered that with two of my favorite series -The Belargiad and the Mallorean.  When you break it down, the tale is very much like a King Arthur & the sword in the stone kind of thing.  But he made it better and more interesting.  He set it on a secondary world with new characters and races and made it wonderful and original.   Now I am not sure if that is what he actually had in mind, but theme is there-only better. 
An English Professor once told me there are only 9 original plot ideas in the universe and you need to work to make them fresh and innovative.  You have to figure out what makes your story or character special and gives that old worn out plot a sparkly shine.
It is easy to follow the current trends and do the same thing over and over, especially since everyone tells you that is what everyone wants.   The results of this are evident-all you have to do is look at the book shelves in teen/young adult fantasy aisle in any bookstore and you see the same thing over and over-vampire love stories and urban witches with cool tattoos.  This is what the literary world wants.
I say bulls*#%! .

you heard me
Current trends are just that-current.  The flavor of the moment.  They are not always the solid winners and will not always remain showcased.  If that were the case-so many books and movies would never have been successful.  Harry Potter would never have been a best selling series of books and movies,  No one wanted Star Wars or Star Trek when they were conceived-look at the impact those two franchises have had for decades!  Steampunk would not be gaining steam (yes-I punned) You must to stay true to your ideas- even if those around you tell you different.  Do not be a pod person.  Follow your own literary bliss.  How you develop the story and characters is up to you and that is what will make it original in its own right-and better.
That is the difference between a dull recycled story and a new adventure worthy of a good read or watch.   So mark it with your own imaginative flare and do it!   

Verna McKinnon


Friday, April 26, 2013

A Game of Genres (& rants!)

Okay, sometimes I get vexed with the Internet and the casual acceptance of things that are incorrect or presented badly.  Let me give you an example using a popular TV show right now-Game of Thrones.
Just today I was  reading in an entertainment section (will not say from whom or which site) that Games of Thrones is, and I quote,  a "wildly popular medieval television drama."
This statement curdles my good mood because the show and the books they are adapted from (the great George R.R. Martin) is not medieval!!!!  It is not even set on earth.  Medieval means set in our medieval era on earth-though I personally doubt the writer could define which centuries medieval actually covers.  Just because they use swords and wear long dresses they stamp that definition on Game of Thrones.  In my opinion they are wrong.  Is it similar to a medieval world-yes to a point.  But it is not earth and more importantly-IT IS FANTASY!!!!!
Yes, swallow that shameful word-Fantasy!  A fantasy show-and in a way since it is set on a secondary world (meaning earth-like but not earth) it is partially Science Fiction, the shameful sister of Fantasy!!!
I get frustrated because so many people try to diminish the genre of fantasy (and science fiction).  They try to make it unworthy of attention and not really good enough to be literature.  People have actually said to me that it is so badly written (of course these folks have never really even read science fiction or fantasy).  Isn't it odd they feel they have the right to judge it?
Games of Thrones is fantasy-dark and full of complex characters and politics-but it is still fantasy.
Like I said, I am not sure what George thinks-this is just my opinion.
But they still make me mad!  Since I am a lady will express my disdain without swearing but instead use this picture of a very angry owl for a visual representation of my anger.

Verna McKinnon

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

"Snow White: My Story" now available to read!

My short story, "Snow White: My Story," is now available to read on my website in the featured story section.   Have a wonderful read!  It has humor, horror, and some twists.  I have always loved fairy tales and Snow White has always been a favorite.  I took the original tale and answered some questions that always bugged me-why did her stepmother want her heart?  Why the hot iron slippers?  Who were the dwarf folk really?  Many who have only seen the Disney version of Snow White and most of the other film versions do not even know about the hot iron slippers that wicked stepmother was forced into as punishment.  Well, original tales are not rated and the reader was quickly taught that being wicked has a price.
That's the thing-the fairy tale heroines were always put through a lot of hardship, grief, and terror-but in the end their goodness was rewarded and the evil was defeated!  If only life were like that? 
And the heroines are not passive-though I think they have been edited down the years.  Well, enjoy my story and let me know what you think of it.  Let's talk about our favorite fairy tales on Facebook.

Verna McKinnon

Monday, April 22, 2013

The disturbing TV trend of serial killers

Happy Monday

One thing that has been vexing me of late is the focus on serial killers for TV.  I am not saying that these shows lack good writing and the actors are often superb (James Purefoy!) But I am sick of seeing serial killers be the heroic central characters of these shows.  I am not talking about grey characters like as Xena with a dark past but now want to do good type of characters.  I am talking evil sociopath shells who will make a coat of your skin main characters that are put up on a pedestal and revered weekly.  They win every week and what little good that is after them is stupid or weak.
Shows like Dexter and the Following are even more disturbing than vampire romances.  Vampire Diaries and True Blood are bad -they give glamour to someone who will make you a happy meal and somehow they try to make them sympathetic and lonely.  Does anyone have a stake and holy water kit?
But far worse are shows are like Dexter and the Following.   And Hannibal?  Really?  Really!!!  No amount of good scripting make these shows appetizing (yes I punned) They make my skin crawl.  And no matter how much I adore James Purefoy I will not watch them.
Where is the chosen one-the Buffy, Batman, Superman or Wonder Woman on television now?  Where is the heroic Julie and Mark of V movies and TV (original movies not redo).  Where are the heroes?   Why did Legend of the Seeker get cancelled?  Does anyone fight evil anymore?
This makes me sad and concerned.  Wicked in a story has a purpose.  But where is the opposing force of good and light?  Without that it is just twisted stories that make you want to take a disinfectant shower.  What they are doing now is not just wicked-it is sick and perverted with no redeeming qualities.      
Thank you for listening to my rant.  And James Purefoy- you deserve better.  You are also my first choice for Cathal the Sorcerer if my book is ever optioned for film.

Verna McKinnon

Monday, April 15, 2013

Trolls, Ogres and Monday Morning

Monday....I feel sensitive to sunlight like a troll, if you go my the mythology of Tolkien, and want to crawl into a dark hole and hibernate  Oddly, I have not had anything with alcohol this weekend and have eaten rather well (we will not discuss the chocolate cake on Friday night) but the creative mind is angry when you shut down and do not work like you promised.   
By work of course I mean my writing.  The composition of epics is time consuming.  I bow to any writer who has created and published multi-volume epic science fiction and fantasy masterpieces.  I have many of these literary giants on my book shelves.  They include George R.R. Martin, David Eddings, Tolkien, Glen Cook, Tanith Lee, Roger Zelazny, and Larry Niven-to name a few.  I want to be just like you when I grow up.
Procrastination with a dash of lazy is common among writers and it is easy to fall into that black hole.  The odd thing is that once I force myself to open my laptop, I can stay there in writing bliss for hours. I am not aware of the time slipping away as I am in my happy place creating magic and battle scenes with a favorite soundtrack blasting in the background.  Of course, when I am done I feel like a  bit like a creaky ogre-hunched over, twisty and stiff.  I have discovered yoga is a must for those of us that write.  Otherwise I would not be able to stand up straight. 
But I am happy.  A author is always happier when they write, even if they end up feeling like a cranky ogre.  It's a balance I think.  So next weekend I shall march into my writing haven and create some literary magic.  And do some yoga!  More later.

Verna McKinnon


Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Welcome New Followers & Old

A special big thank you to my new followers on my blog and website.   Also an equally big shout out to my stoic followers from before.  I hope to have a long and fun relationship with all of you as I walk the rocky road to literary success.  I also plan to whip up more support as I fight for the release of my latest novel and find an agent for my other book I am writing now (The Goblin Cabal, first of a 3 book series).  It has two female heroines in the lead-and they rock.  There will be demons and magic and bards.  Plus one cute Prince who is in dire need of rescue.  Need I say more?
I will also be posting a new short story soon to my blog that has been released from exclusivity!  it called Snow White: My Story,  and was published by the wonderful anthology Mystic Signals and edited by the brilliant Carol Hightshoe.  This story was in Mystic Signals, issue13, and released in April 2012.  It is still available for purchase on Amazon or through the publisher The Lorelei Signal.  See the cool cover below. 

 I love fairy tales and decided to write my own version of Snow White.  So many have made it too fluffy over the decades or were just plain weird, so  I included some of the older and darker elements from the original tale, plus added humor and some explanation as to why some things were done.   Why Snow White's heart?  Who were those wily Dwarfs really?  Fairy tales are dark tales of morality, where even though there is a happy ending, it holds many grim tests for the heroines.  I hope you will enjoy it.  I will blog as soon as it is posted for  reading on my website.  

Monday, April 8, 2013

My book on kindle and other rumors

Hail Friends,

It is April!  Sunshine.  Spring.  creative juices are flowing.  Energy is blooming and ideas churning as I write.  Spring cleaning also possessed me this weekend and I assaulted our writing room.  I reorganized bookcases and my desk.  No small task.  I purged junk and redid my hard copy files and stacks of insane creative writing notes and chapters.  Are dust bunnies dangerous?

On other notes-my publisher assures me that my book will be on kindle soon.  It will be nice to see Gate of Souls, A Familiar's Tale, book 1 on kindle and plus I will be really reasonably priced (rumor has it $1.99).    Who says you can't get great quality at a low price?  I am trying to get a firm date from him (Joe-are you there?) about when I can look on Amazon and see my novel on kindle.
Also my book cover for Tree of Bones (book 2 of A Familiar's Tale) is apparently forming into reality. 
Be creative and have fun.  And beware of dust bunnies.

Verna McKinnon

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Classic Reading

For those interested in exploring great science fiction & fantasy literature, a great deal of it is available for free or minimal cost online or on Kindle (my book should be on Kindle soon ).   Examples of truly imaginative writers to sample include-
 1.Ray Bradbury
2. Edgar Rice Burroughs
3. Jules Verne
4. Robert E. Howard
5. Isaac Asimov
6. Larry Niven (a sweetheart and great man I met at a convention in San Jose)
7. Ben Bova (met him @ Radcon convention in Washington.  He is fascinating and tells wonderful stories)

These are just a few of the many great writers from the classic time of the genre, though personally I hate the word "genre" anymore.  Good writing knows no genre!  Check them out & expand the mind.  Enjoy great story telling-these classic authors go back to the golden era  of science fiction and fantasy when imagination was key.  Enjoy feeding your brain.  Later!

Verna McKinnon

Friday, March 22, 2013

Literary Weekend

It's Friday!  So the weekend is ripe for opportunity and creativity.  This weekend I will work on my new book-The Goblin Cabal.    I have some fun and interesting characters.  It is heroic fantasy with a female heroine-well 2 heroines-as they become best friends and comrades.  They will find conspiracies and evil-including demons.  Am excited.  I want to cheer for my characters.  I am also tired of vampires and such being portrayed as good guys or sympathetic-nothing against vampires in the genre but they have taken up too much space and let's face it-they are vampires.  Slay them!  Where is Buffy when you need her?  I want some fantasy to return to its roots.  I want heroes!  I want complex story lines and interesting characters.  You cannot make someone who wants to eat you for dinner be a hero-no matter how hard you try.    

Thursday, March 21, 2013

A Fantasy Journey

I am busy writing first draft of a new book series (separate from my beloved Familiar's Tale series) and the first book's working title is "The Goblin Cabal," and the series (which at this point is a trilogy) is called "The Adventures of the Rose & Sparrow."  My heroine is very cool but am keeping her under wraps.   Am deep in writing those chapters and changing things with new ideas.  Do not worry I am still working on my "Familiar's Tale" books.  But I need to expand my many story ideas and actually get them down on paper-or keyboard.  That is what a writer does-they write.  I am also hunting for a good literary agent.   More coming.

Verna McKinnon