Saturday, April 30, 2011

Z is for Zoology

Dear Zoology,

You are an important part of world-building. Whether we are writing in a fantasy world or the world we know, animals are an important part of it. We might have pets that are a part of the story, even mentioned only in passing. Even if there are no animals in the story, there's no way that animals don't have an impact. If we're writing a story on earth, maybe we hear owls at night or birds during the day, or see a mouse in the city or a stray cat, or pass by a barn or a pasture full of cows. Animals impact the world around us every day. If we're writing an alternate world or even on Earth, we have the freedom to create all sorts of animals that could help or hinder our characters.

Has anyone seen Avatar: The Last Airbender? (The original cartoon show, not "The Last Airbender" movie. The show is one of my favorite things ever, but I did not care for the movie. Sometime, I will do a blog post on everything I've learned about writing and storytelling from this cartoon.) The original show was full of hilarious and creative animals that were part of this world. Most of them were two animals blended together. Otter Seals, Platypus Bears, Boarcupines…I cannot even begin to describe how awesome and fun it was, and I bet the writers had a blast coming up with this stuff. That was a fantasy world setting. If you look at The Hunger Games series for another example, it took place on Earth, but in the future, and there were quite a few different animals around. They were often really scary, but they served an important purpose in the plot, too.

If you have a lack of animals in your world, it might be indication that something is wrong. No birds chirping? Where'd they all go? Were they ever there to begin with?

No matter what world you're writing in, it's good to keep in mind that animals can help make a better and more realistic story, too.

Someone With Animals in All Her Stories

*Are there any particular animals you've written/read that you really like or that intrigued you?

***HAPPY END OF THE A-Z CHALLENGE! I have met so many, many wonderful people through this challenge. Thanks to all of you who came along for the ride! It'll be interesting to see what everyone's blogs look like when they're not doing the A-Z challenge!  I hope all of you who participated had fun!***

Y is for Yawn

Dear Yawn,

You are something that we, as writers, should try to avoid making our readers do unless the reason they are yawning is because they're so engrossed in a book that they're up half the night reading it.  Yawning because they find the book boring--we want to avoid that as much as possible.

There is no magic solution to creating a non-boring book.  Everyone has different tastes.  What I find terribly exciting when I'm reading might be boring as all get out to someone else.  That's okay.  But if every single person reading your book is really bored, something needs to change.  There are many different ways to spice up a book a little--it depends on what you're writing, genre, characters, world, situation, etc..  What's "exciting" in an adventure story is going to be very different from what's "exciting" in a romance.

Here's hoping that most "yawns" from readers are ones of exhaustion from reading too long and not yawns of boredom.

A Writer

*As I mentioned, everyone's idea of exciting is different.  What kind of stories do you write, and do you have particular things you do if you feel like your writing is starting to drag?  Do you cut some things?  Do you throw in a twist and have something unexpected happen?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

X is for Xari Xari,

You are one of the three main heroines of my first published novel. You were originally slated to be the villain. I can just see you rolling your eyes and laughing at me for thinking that you could ever be the villain, when you turned out to be such a stout warrior for the other camp.

It's so weird to look back on the journey to everything you were and everything you've become. You, your friends, and your world have been a part of my life for so many years now that it seems so real in my head. Your story was born because my friend Faith and I wanted to write a novel together, and after so many years, it's as natural for me to write with her as it is to write by myself. This something I will always treasure, too.

Thank you for being so stubborn and making your path better than I had first imagined it.

One of Your Co-Authors

Available Now at Amazon and Other Online RetailersP.S.  You were also represented on the cover of my first book. That's something that's very special in my writing to publishing walk.

*Black and white artwork © Jacob Grant

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

W is for Wade

Dear Wade,

I am going to simply use you as as illustration for a metaphor today.  Writers know what it is to wade into a new story.  It has ups and downs and is full of crazy, beautiful, frustrating adventures, and as writers, we learn to traverse the waters of storytelling.

You are a cool word, and gave me the idea for these illustrations.

Someone Who Likes Metaphors








Tuesday, April 26, 2011

V is for Vale

Dear Vale,

I always liked the sound of you. I know you're another word for a valley (or "river valley"), but it's nice to have multiple words to describe the same or similar landscapes, and I am going to use you to make my point today, which is that the landscape in a story is such an important part of the tale.

Every story has a unique environment. Maybe somewhere on Earth, or an alternate Earth, or a fantasy world or planet.  Whether it's a place we know on Earth or a fantastical world, the setting has to feel real in the book, to us, our characters, and our readers.  Whatever your setting, it can aid or hinder your characters. Do they have a city as their playground? Mountains? Vales? Meadows, forests, volcanoes, deserts, rainforests, vast snowy plains? What is the weather like in your characters' environment? Do they live in the Old West in the United States?  Victorian England?  Ancient Rome?  Modern day Japan?  Do they live underground? In a floating city? On a spaceship? Do they have a lot of space or hardly any at all?

It's fun to explore the places your character lives or travels through a book, and it's important to the world-building and to deciding what your character is going to face.

A World-Builder

*Tell me about your landscapes! What kind of environment do you have your characters in? Do you find that it adds to the challenges or aids your characters along their journeys?

Monday, April 25, 2011

More Artwork

My friend Holly (the same friend who was the subject of my "M" post), made art for my latest novel. I've been working on this book for over a year, and I'm preparing to write the sequel.  It has been one of the most difficult books I've ever written, but so rewarding.

These are my two main characters, Alphonse (who was the subject of my "A" post) and Mairwyn. I cannot begin to express how much I love this.  Holly is so talented.  She has such a way of bringing her drawings to life and capturing all of my words about the characters into an amazing picture.


Art © Holly Robbins
Alphonse & Mairwyn © Laura Josephsen


I was coming to my blog to post new artwork from my friend Holly and I discovered I just hit 100 followers. :-o  *waves exuberantly to new followers*  I am so amazed and so thankful to all of you.  This was me when I realized I was at 100:


*throws a virtual party for all the followers*


(I will do another post to share the beautiful artwork. I just wanted to do one post to thank all of you.)

Sunday, April 24, 2011

U is for Underdog

Dear Underdog,

There is something very special about watching you come out on top in stories.  Sure, it can be fun to watch the Knight in Shining Armor win the day, but I have a soft spot for those tales where the unexpected hero has the moment of glory.  I love the characters who surprise me--the ones often underestimated as too weak to be useful, or too nervous or too bashful or any of a dozen other things.  There is something incredible about watching these characters walk into their greatest fear while still being terrified, about watching the bullied stand up to the bully, about the quiet, shy character finding a voice.

With appreciation,
A Fan

*Do you like the underdog characters?  If so, do you have a favorite that you have read/written?

Saturday, April 23, 2011

T is for Tagalongs

Dear Tagalongs,

You know who you are.  I have at least one of you in every book.  You're the characters who weren't really supposed to be there, the characters who latch onto the main cast and hitch a ride with them.  Sometimes you force my other characters to learn and grow.  Sometimes you're there to add support.  Sometimes you seem to be an annoyance to others until they realize you really do play a significant part.

There is a difference, I think, between you and the characters who show up unexpectedly.  The unexpected characters are the ones who jump out of nowhere and say, "Hi, I'm joining your story now!"  You, on the other hand, are the ones that say, "Hi, I'm a part of your story and now I am going to do this and you can't stop me, ha!"  Or, in the cases of some personalities, you may be the, "Hello, may I please join in on this adventure?" kind of people.

In any case, you always add a little something (or a big something) to my stories and I really enjoy seeing how you affect everything.


*Do you have "tagalong" characters?  Do you find them frustrating?  Helpful?  Annoying?  Fun?

Friday, April 22, 2011

S is for Switchfoot

Dear Switchfoot,

My friend Timbre introduced me to you right about my sixteenth birthday. She was like, "Laura, you've got to hear some of these songs!" The first one she played me was called Love is a Revolution.  Then she played Dare You to Move and it hit me straight in the heart.  I was going through a really rough spot in my life and this song was exactly what I needed to hear.  I went out and bought your Learning to Breathe album just so I would have this song and I listened to it countless times

A few years later, a lot of your songs were featured on the movie A Walk to Remember, and you made another album with a redone version of Dare You to Move, and suddenly everyone knew who you were and had heard this song everywhere, but this was the first version that I was introduced to:

It's been almost twelve years since I first heard this and it is still my favorite song. I've never gotten tired of it, even though I tend to listen to the newer version of it more than I listen to this one.

You also gave me other music that has spoken into my life or made an impact on me. Like Only Hope.  It was later covered by Mandy Moore, but I heard your version first and sometimes I'll just put it on repeat for a while.

Thank you for the music that has spoken to me and encouraged me for over a decade.

A Music Fan

*Is there a particular band/song that has impacted you?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

R is for Relentless, Resolute Writers

Dear Relentless, Resolute Writers,

You are amazing.

You juggle so many things in between your writing.  Maybe you have a day job and you moonlight as a writer by night.  Maybe you have a night job and work in a little bit of writing during the day.  Maybe you're so bogged down with homework that you have no idea how you're going to type out anything except your finals.  Maybe you're running your children back and forth to their extracurricular activities.  Maybe you have a huge, bustling family.  Maybe you live by yourself.

You all have one thing in common: you're writing a book.  Fiction, non-fiction, adult, YA, MG, children's, memoir, novel-length, novella, short-story, series.  You could be on your twentieth novel.  You could be on your first.  You could write a whole book in a month.  You could take three years to do it.

But no matter what you're juggling or where you are on your writing path, you're sticking with it.  Sometimes you're so tired and discouraged that it's all you can do to drag one foot in front of the other.  Sometimes you're on Cloud 9 because you just got the proofs back from your editor and you know you are so close to holding your book in your hands.  Sometimes you want to throw your manuscript against the wall because you just do not know why anyone would ever want to read it.  Sometimes you are elated and giddy when someone read and loved your story.

Writing is not easy.  It's a constant process of growing, changing, learning, developing.  Writing, editing, revising, more editing, rewriting, did I mention editing?, sending to beta readers/critique partners, writing summaries, researching publishers/agents, writing queries, sending queries, getting rejections, and waiting.

There is a lot of waiting in writing.

Still, here you are, plodding down your path, or perhaps running down it.  You are sticking with it no matter how hard it is because you have a story to tell.  Even though sometimes you might feel like quitting, you're not going to because you love writing, because you have a story, because you want to say something with your words, or because of many other personal reasons.

To all of you relentless, resolute writers: my hat is off to all of you, no matter what stage you're in.  I hope that you can hold onto the joy of writing in the frustrating moments, and that you can see the worth in your words in those times when doubt whispers to you.

This is your story and only you can tell it.  I wish an amazing, beautiful journey for you.

All the best,
A Fellow Writer

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Q is for Quests

Dear Quests,

There are many of you in my life.  Some small, some big, all playing a part in how I live, what I aim for, and what I do.

There is a common thread among any quest that I embark upon: I have amazing friends and family to walk beside me.  Every single person has their quests, but we walk with others and we cross paths with others.  We may never know how one encounter will affect the rest of our journey.

It's kind of the same when writing: I set my characters on a path and see where it takes them.  I see what kind of characters they meet along the way.  I don't know who or what I will meet in many of my life quests, but I do know I'm fortunate to have those who walk beside me.

A Wayfarer

*What quests are you currently embarking upon and how is the journey going for you?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Another Contest

Also: a non-P post.  Robin Weeks and Michelle Davidson Argyle are having a contest to win a digital copy of Michelle's book, Cinders. Check it out here and here.

Passing on the Award

(Conveniently, a double "P" post for today!)

Shannon Lawrence at The Warrior Muse and Melody Jackson at The Tales of Sirius the Dragon both presented me with this award (thank you!!):

Melody had some rules to accepting the award. They were as follows:

1. Link back to the person who gave you the award.
2. State seven things about yourself.
3. Award 15 recently discovered bloggers.
4. Contact the bloggers and let them know they've won.

Seven things about me:

1. I got married when I was eighteen. My husband and I had known each other for two and a half months when we married. We've now been married for over nine years.

2. I lived about half my life in Tennessee and only moved away about three years ago.

3. Avatar: The Last Airbender is one of my all-time favorite TV shows EVER and it's a cartoon. It had some of the most amazing, beautifully put together storytelling that I have ever seen.

4. I like socks. I can't stand being barefoot for very long and I'm not very fond of shoes. I do like my huge black winter boots because they're fun to clump around in, but only when I have to go out in the snow.

5. I love music. I write much better if I have music, and there are some songs that get listened to so much while I'm writing certain stories or characters that afterward, I can't listen to that song while writing anything else.

6. I enjoy many sci-fi shows. Star Trek: Voyager was my favorite Trek show. They used to play reruns every night during my junior/senior years of high school, so I caught up on reruns on a tiny TV I'd bought for my bedroom and watched the last season as it aired.

7. My favorite color is blue.

I know this award is going around, so some might already have this, but I'm passing this onto:

1. Robin Weeks

2. Becky Taylor Books

3. Rachel Morgan

4. Elizabeth Twist

5. Elouise Bates

6. Threadmaiden

7. Alexis Bass Writes

8. My First Book

9. Moody Writing

10. Laura Pauling

11. Karen Jones Gowen

12. Dawn Embers

13. Musings of Penniless Writer

14. NiaRaie

15. Rebecca Dupree

I have no rules about accepting this award. If you want to pass it on, lovely. If not, enjoy. :)

Monday, April 18, 2011

P is for Persephone

Dearest darling Persephone,

I am writing a letter to you under "P" because it is your name, even though I'm much more used to thinking of you as Sephie. I have other plans for "S." Or I did. As I type this letter, I can't remember what my original "S" plans were. Drat. I shall still save "S" because I have another idea anyway.  Perhaps it was even my original idea.

Annnnyway. You have been one of my favorite characters to write, and you weren't supposed to ever exist. A bunch of my friends were doing NaNoWriMo in 2009, and I was not going to do it. NaNo2008 had been exhausting. As in it-ate-my-brain exhausting. But Emma was so excited about doing it, and Kate had this huge story planned out, and Faith was writing her book, and suddenly it seemed all of my friends were jumping on the NaNo bandwagon. Then in October I mentioned the tentative possibility of joining in, but said that I didn't really have anything to write, and Faith said to me, "What if I gave you prompts? Like this!" She proceeded to throw five random prompts at me: sensei, some mushrooms, stack of paper, a spatula, and a duck.

From there, your story was born. It did, in fact, include a sensei, some mushrooms, a stack of paper, a spatula, and a duck, and many, many other things.

You were snarky and bold and very blunt. You made mistakes. You loved your family. You gave me ridiculously long chapter titles to go with the ridiculously long title of your book. You actually made me write something that was not fantasy, just a good ol' slice-of-life story. You surprised me in some awesome ways. Your whole family did, really.

I will always treasure your adventure and the things you showed me through it.  So thank you, dear Sephie, for your story. I'm looking forward to the time when I can share it with others.

The Author Whose Mind You Ate One November (And In Whose Mind You Have Remained Ever Since)

*I've found that sometimes characters who impact me the most are the ones that came out of nowhere. What about with you? Do you have a character who surprised you a lot or really impacted you in unexpected ways  when you wrote them?

**How are all of you A-Zers doing?  Does your brain feel like a giant puddle of jelly yet? I'd send everyone chocolate, but alas, I think the only way I could manage that would be if I owned a chocolate factory.  Which I do not.  So I will send virtual chocolate from my virtual chocolate factory.  *sends virtual chocolate to everyone*

Sunday, April 17, 2011

O is for Osculate

Dear Osculate,

You are a very fun word.  I discovered you recently while reading Jennifer Murdley's Toad by Bruce Coville to my kids.  I'd read it several times when I was little, but apparently never bothered to look up the definition of the word osculatory. One of the chapter titles was: Osculatory Experiments. For those of you who took Latin, you will undoubtedly know right away what this means.

Osculate - (verb) "to kiss"
osculated, osculating, osculation (noun), osculatory (adjective)

"Kiss" is one of those words that doesn't have a whole lot of synonyms, and I'm huge on synonyms.  I love finding a variety of words to use so that I'm not using the same word over and over again.

However, I don't think there will ever be a way that I'll be able to use you seriously, dear Osculate.  You may be fun, but you are awkward and clumsy.  Besides that, you remind me of two particular words mashed together and it doesn't paint a very pretty picture in my head.

Someone Who Likes Words

*For fun: What's the best/weirdest sentence you can think of to use "osculate" or a form of it?  I jotted several down in my personal journal after discovering the word, because it was fun and sounded so weird to me.  (I've mentioned I'm a giant nerd, right?) ;)

Saturday, April 16, 2011

N is for Names

Dear Names,

I have always had a fascination with you.  As a teenager, I studied names.  A lot.  I could tell you the origin and meaning of soooo many.  (N is also for Nerd, and yes, I am a giant one.)  When it came to naming my kids, my hubby and I picked ones that we loved, and yes, my children have names from Star Wars and Lord of the Rings, but they're names I adore with great meanings behind them. 

Character names are so important, too.  They're part of the characters' identities--sometimes the name helps define a character, and sometimes the character helps define the name.  When it comes to naming characters, I have three primary ways of going about it:

1. The character waltzes up and introduces himself/herself.  It doesn't matter what I think of the name; they are very insistent that this is them and I can just get over it.

2. I pour over baby name sites until the right name hits.  I oftentimes know what letter the name should start with, so I'll hunt through the E names until I find the right one, or whatever other letter it is.

3. Depending on the story/character, sometimes it's just "throw a name and see what sticks."

When a character is named, most of the time it doesn't change.  There have been a couple of exceptions to this.  For example, when I first began plotting out my current novel, Rising, I was sure my character was going to be Alphonso.  I was like, "Ooookay, that's the name you want, fine."  Then, as I started to get a glimpse of his personality, I realized that he was very different than I thought he was going to be, and that Alphonso was a little too much for him.  So he became Alphonse.  It suited him much better. Amazing what changing one letter can do. 

Sometimes, there are themes.  In my 2009 NaNo* novel, I had the family with six girls, and they all had names from Greek mythology.  In my 2010 NaNo novel, my character also had a name from Greek mythology.  Fortunately, it was just one girl this time.  It was a little different, though, because she was named after a male figure.  (I may have a thing for mythology, okay?)

*NaNo is short for NaNoWriMo AKA National Novel Writing Month. It happens every November. More things that start with N, woot!

Once, I named a character from a street sign.  Well, twice, but the second time was unintentional.  I had searched high and low for the right name for this character, finally found one on a baby name site that fit, and then realized it was the name of the street on my corner.  I should have just been looking at street signs instead of the baby name site and maybe I would have saved myself some time.

All in all, dear names, I really enjoy the process of finding the right one for the right character.

A Name Nerd

*How do you name your characters?  What do you think of names of characters you read?  If you're reading about a character with a name you hate or love, does that affect your thoughts on him/her?

Friday, April 15, 2011

M is for My Amazing, Talented Artist Friend

Dear Holly,

You. Are. Awesome.  I am in awe of your mad art skills and so grateful to you for doing the artwork. I love it and keep staring at it in a very giddy fashion. Thank you SO MUCH for sharing your talent and drawing this.


This is Anathriel Lelaine, a character from my book, Awakenings.


Art © Holly Robbins
Anathriel © Faith King and Laura Josephsen 

*I had not had an M post planned for today, and then Holly sent me this. *continues to stare*  I can't draw--seriously, stick figures are all I've got--and there's something amazing about seeing my characters on paper (or computers) and not just in my head.  Can you draw?  If so, do you draw your characters and does that help you write them?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

L is for Love Interests in Writing

Dear Love Interests in Writing,

I am a hopeless shipper.* I have ships in pretty much everything I write, and while I've read and loved stories without them, I admit that I prefer books that have them. I will also admit that I have trouble reading straight-up romances. (Not that there aren't AMAZING romance writers—I just prefer my romance as a side dish instead of the main course.)

*Just in case anyone is unfamiliar with the term, a shipper refers to someone who puts characters together romantically. A "ship" refers to a romantic pairing.

There seem to be a few ways that many people write you Love Interests, but it never gets old because every story and every character is unique. This means even if I already know that two characters will start out hating each other and come to love each other by the end, I'm not bored—I'm excited to see what their particular journey will look like.

My brain is completely mushified right now because I'm running on a few hours of sleep, a few cups of coffee, and a day of non-stop running around, so I know I'm not going to hit all of these, but here are a few of the ships I observe in many stories:









There are more, of course, and variants on all of these, depending on characters and situation. I've written variants on many of these ships, and there's always something interesting to explore. Sometimes characters surprise me.

And sometimes they get mad at me for ignoring them for three days when I have to edit another book for my publisher and they take revenge by announcing they'll be joining a band of nomads and eloping. *head desk*

At least you love interests make a writer's life interesting.

A Writer

*Tell me about your ships!  What do you think about love interests when reading/writing? Do you have a favorite type of romantic relationship in your books?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

K is for Knight in Shining Armor, AKA White Knight, AKA Immen Corper


Dear Knight Immen,

You are not a real knight, but this post was written with you in mind, so I'm addressing it to you specifically. You see, Faith and I started writing you over seven years ago. When we began to plot the Restoration series, you had several specific purposes in Book 1: Awakenings. What we quickly discovered, though, was that you seemed too stinking good. You were Mr. Nice Guy. You were He Who Could Do No Wrong.

You drove us crazy.

You weren't much better when we wrote Book 2: The Guardian Race, and by the time we wrote Book 3: The Lost Scribe, we despaired for you. What kind of character seems to have no flaws? You couldn't be that perfect. Yet, we found that most people who read you loved you a lot. Faith and I discussed the fact that people really do like the White Knights.  They are safe and comforting and who doesn't like to see the goodness shining through?  But when you're the writer and not the reader, it can be frustrating to encounter the White Knight.  Writers are looking for the flaws, for the things they can dig into and pull to the surface.  They're looking for the tension, the drive, and no matter how good a character seems, no normal character can be all white.

Then Faith and I began Book 4: Binding Ties. We talked extensively about you. And we realized: it's all a matter of perspective.

I wrote a post last month on developing characters and the importance of perspective. And boy, was this important to keep in mind for you. We realized that in the first books, you were seen through the perspective of people who saw you as the White Knight.  These were the people who saw you through rose-tinted glasses and who held you up as a hero.  But when we get to Book 4, we see you through the perspectives of people who are jaded by your actions, people who see you in a different light.

Faith and I rejoiced. We are still ridiculously excited about the prospect of showing your not-so-white side. This is the benefit of writing a series—we have time to drag characters through certain things, leave them to stew for a while, and then come back to them when we're ready to drag them through some more mud.  Bwahahahaha.

So, my frustrating Immen Corper, brace yourself, because you may honestly be a good guy and you may be doing what you think is right, but you also have issues and imperfections that will get dug up and thrown out there for all to see.

Positively gleeful,
One of Your Two Authors

*Do you have a character who seems a little too good when seen through one character's eyes, but when seen through another, you begin to uncover the dirt and imperfections?

Monday, April 11, 2011

J is for Jesus and Joe

Dear Jesus,

You are everything to me. I hope all I am and all I do can point back to you.

I love you.

"I'm lost without You here
Yes, I'm lost without You near me
I'm lost without You here
You knew my name when the world was made"

~The Economy of Mercy by Switchfoot

*I absolutely respect everyone's right to believe (or not believe) whatever they want to. Feel like sharing what you believe/don't believe? That would be awesome. Not comfortable sharing? That's cool, too. :)


Dear Joe,

You aren't really a character or a person, but more of an idea. See, there is a form of Joe in every novel I write. This has absolutely nothing to do with my last name being Josephsen. It all started when Faith and I began to co-write the Restoration series and we needed a name for a second antagonist. We got tired of trying to say "the second antagonist who does XYZ!" and so Faith temporarily dubbed the second antagonist "Joe." The name later changed, but the beginning of the name remained Jo.

Then, when I was writing my 2009 NaNo novel, Confessions from the Realm of the Underworld (Also Known as High School)—also known as "The Novel With the Insanely Long Title"—one of the main characters became Joey. After that, it became my tradition to insert a form of "Joe" in any novel I write. Thus far, I have an antagonist, a high school student, a child's toy, a housekeeper, and a little boy with various forms of "Joe" in their names.

So, ambiguous Joe who appears in some form or another in my books, I am not sure where you will pop up in whatever future books I write, but it will be fun to find out. ;)

A Weird Writer

*Do you have anything random or strange that ties your books together? Anything little tidbits or jokes that you might decide to put in more than one book?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

I is for Indigo

Dear Indigo,

You are what my son named the stuffed dragon I made him this past Christmas.  When asked what he wanted for Christmas, he drew a picture of a dragon, colored it, and wrote "indigo dragon with white spots."  Given that they don't generally make large stuffed indigo dragons with white spots (at least not to my knowledge), I decided to make you.  I actually made two dragons: a black one for my daughter, and then you for my son.

You took a very long time to make.  I had to sew the legs, wings, ridges, tail pieces, and every single spot on by hand.  I had procrastinated making you, so I spent Christmas Eve sewing white spots.  It was worth it, though, and my son still cuddles you to sleep every night.

Dragon pattern and sewing stuff.

Body parts.

First part of the body. Totally flat face. Reminds me of one of those aliens from Sesame Street.

Finished dragon. (Also, if it's not clear, these chairs are child-sized.)

Back of finished dragon.  (Also, on the far left is a tiny piece of the first patchwork quilt I ever made.)

Both kids' dragons together.

It was a great experience making you.

Someone Who Sometimes Sews

*I don't sew a lot, but it's one of my hobbies. What hobbies do you have?

Saturday, April 9, 2011

H is for Hope

Dear Hope,

You are what often comes after—and sometimes before or during—the grief and pain I put my characters through.

I can't say that every character has hope. I can't say that each of them believes that hoping for something is worthwhile. Some characters are so jaded by what they've experienced that when they put one foot in front of the other, it has much more to do with habit than with hope. Sometimes they are scared to believe or expect that life could really get better.

They still have to reach for something, though, that will keep them going. Maybe some of them will stumble on something that sparks that light again.

In the books I write, there is at least one character who has hope for better things to come, or a determination to conquer what needs to be conquered in hopes that they will succeed. And maybe these characters can have an influence on the ones who believe that it's better not to hope for anything so they won't be disappointed. Likewise, it's possible that the ones who believe that hope is a giant letdown could have a negative impact on those who already hope. It depends a lot on the characters, personalities, and situation. And it can be easy to lose sight of hope—even temporarily—when dropped into a situation that looks hopeless.

Because I am a "happy endings" sort of gal, and because of many reasons why I write, I like my books to point toward hope and peace and life. It doesn't mean everything is candy drops and cotton candy. Life is hard, and my characters come to know this very, very well. There are physical, psychological, and emotional upheavals. Without despair, no one would know what hope feels like.  But there's also that light at the end of the tunnel.

Thankful to have hope even when life is hard,

*What is your perspective on characters who have/don't have hope?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

G is for Grief

Dear Grief,

You are a necessary part of my writing. And I don't mean that I have to experience grief when I'm trying to write—though goodness knows, sometimes I want to tear my hair out or find a wall to bang my head on when writing some scenes.

It's just that I have found a common thread in many of my stories. At some point, chances are I have at least on character who grieves. Maybe they're grieving over something they did, over something they have to do, over something that happened to them. Maybe they're ignoring it because something so terrible occurred and they just can't deal with it. There are all sorts of other emotions that can come into play—anger, bitterness, frustration, loss—but you're still there.

The thing about it is that I, as the writer, have a very "joy comes in the morning" mentality. There are horrible things that happen to my characters. Disgusting things. Heartbreaking things. Some of my characters have it easier. Some of them walk through the darkest pits. The thing about this that allows me to write through their traumatic experiences is that I know there is a light on the other side.

I could write a story that was completely happy, but where would the conflict be? Why would anyone believe that these characters are happy if they never see what it's like when they're sad or in pain? You, Grief, can sometimes be very, very subtle. Maybe someone feels dull pain over something that might not be considered "huge." Other times, you are very raw and powerful and can totally make or break a character.

Life isn't clear-cut. Everyone wants happiness, but we all go through periods of heartache. I hope that in writing the dark things that happen in my characters' lives, it will make their victories and joyous occasions that much more powerful.

A Writer Who Puts Her Characters Through Much Grief

*Question: Do you think your story has to have some element that brings the characters through darkness, despair, grief, pain, or something of the like before they can come out of it?

F is for Fear

Not-so-dear Fear,

You come in many different forms and in many different places. You come as phobias and as thoughts. I know that when I have completely irrational—or rational—fears about things, I go to my faith and all the Bible verses I memorized about not being afraid, and that helps me. I know that there are many other ways that other people have of dealing with you.

But today, specifically, I'm going to talk about what happens when you try to wheedle into writing. I can't speak for every writer, but I know that a great majority of writers go experience periods where you wind through minds and hearts and make them question.

What if I can't write this?

What if my book isn't good enough?

What if most people hate it?

What if it's too boring?

What if it doesn't flow?

For me, everything seems to have increased because I'm published now, and in a way, this raises the bar.  This adds a new aspect of you.  Shouldn't everything I write be publishable?

What if I write this story and it's not publishable?

I'd go a step further and say that this branch of you, Fear, can expand to all sorts of arts, projects, and dreams. Is it overall a fear of failure that haunts people in this way? Sounds like it to me. It sure feels like it to me sometimes—those times when doubt creeps in, when I'm not sure it's good enough.

Here's the thing, though. It's okay to fail. It's okay if the first words aren't perfect, if the story isn't perfect. I learn through failure. I grow through failure. I fix what needs to be fixed, I have people who will help me—people who will be honest with me so that I can improve.

If I feel like I can't write something because I'm floundering, I will talk to my friends who tell me, "You can do this. Commit." If it's not good enough, I can try to make it better. If most people hate it, maybe it won't be published, but it was worth the journey. Each story is worth it, because I learn, I grow, I find and explore characters I might not have otherwise.

I will take criticism and learn from it. I will remember the joy that the words and characters and new worlds bring me—even if they also bring frustration at times. There's a balance of having confidence in what I write and having humility to know there is always room for improvement and growth.

I will write for many, many reasons, but I won't give up because of you. I can't let you worm into me and immobilize me because of what ifs.

Not being dragged down by you,

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

E is for Editor* and Edible

*Specifically, first all of the wonderful people who beta-read for me and edit my books and rip them to shreds before they ever go anywhere. Second, Ramona Tucker, Editorial Director and co-founder of my publishing company, who goes through them all again before they go to print and does SO much more.

Dear beta-readers/critiquers,

Thank you SO MUCH for all the time you spend reading my books. Thanks to those of you who read the first drafts, or the drafts-in-progress that are subject to change as I go, or the third or fifth drafts. Thank you for being honest with me and telling me what you think is working and what you think is crap. Thank you for ripping my books to pieces so that I can put them back together and make them better.

You are all awesome and I would not be able to write without you.



Dear Ramona,

You are incredible. You handle so much and work insanely long hours, and I have no idea how you do it all—but not only do you do it, you accomplish everything with such patience, grace, and kindness. Thank you for all of your hard work. Thank you for taking my books and helping me make them better. Thank you for your time, enthusiasm, and persistence, and for believing in my stories. You not only brought me through my first journey of publication, but you made it a beautiful one, and I look forward to the next journey.


**Question for others: Do you have people who help you along in your editing process? How do you edit?  I have a whole post somewhere on here about having a support system--do you have one as you write?  I'm always curious about how other people go about writing a book and whipping it into shape.


 Dear Wall-E Cake,

I will likely be eating you for breakfast (why yes, I am so very healthy), because it is my daughter's birthday and my kids get to have cake first on their birthdays. ;) You were a lot of fun to make, and even though your eyes turned out funky, my daughter is happy with you, so all is well.


Monday, April 4, 2011

D is for Dragons

Dear Dragons,

I have always had a fascination with mythology and mythological creatures, and you were no exception. There are so many different tales of dragons—some being evil, some being wonderful—and I've read countless of these stories.

I think you are awesome and full of potential for the imagination.

A Mythology Fan

*Question: Are you a fan of mythology or any particular mythological beasts? Why or why not?

Sunday, April 3, 2011

C is for C.S. Lewis and Cassiopeia C.S. Lewis,

My mom read chapters of The Chronicles of Narnia to me and my little sister every night before bed when I was growing up. I loved fantasy from the very beginning, and you brought me to this magical world over and over again. By the time I was nine or ten, I was reading them myself—over and over again.

I know that these books influenced me. I know that they still do influence me. As many books as I've read over the years, your Narnia books will always be the ones that built a framework for my abundant love of fantastical tales.

Thank you for that.

A Fan

Dear Cass,
I think out of the six sisters that were in my 2009 NaNo Novel, you got the short-end-of-the-name stick. Yes, you all had names from Greek mythology, but you probably had it the roughest as a little girl. Aside from the nasty nickname kids came up with, you also had to learn to spell Cassiopeia. I couldn't even write that out correctly for a while! I kept swapping E for I or mixing up vowels at the end.

I'm giving you a mention here today because you were the sister that I felt I knew the least when I wrote this novel.  (Which was still more than most characters when I start a book--it was crazy how fully-formed all of you guys were when you dropped into my head that October.)  But when I went back after NaNoWriMo to read everything I'd written, I was very surprised to find that there were several little things about you that were consistent throughout the book and that helped make you unique—things that I hadn't even realized I'd written. People might think that I'm crazy for not knowing exactly what I wrote, but perhaps those who have written a novel in a month will understand that sometimes when all of those words are coming out, you really don't remember.

And I have to tell you, it was an awesome experience to see everyone true to character and personality, but it was especially awesome with you, since you were the one I was most worried about.

Thanks for being you (and sorry about the awful childhood nickname),
The Rambling Writer

*Two questions for today:

1. Is there a particular author who has influenced you a great deal?

2. Is there anything you've ever written—no matter how small—that helped build your story/characters, and you didn't realize it was there until you were rereading it?

Friday, April 1, 2011

B is for Books

Dear Books,

Remember the time when I was a pre-teen and a teenager and I would check out dozens of books at a time from the library and read them all in a week? Remember the hours I spent with so many of you, disappearing to far-off places in my imagination?

People always say that reading books is necessary to be a good writer. There are many reasons for this, but I think an important aspect of it is that books spur our imaginations onward. When we read something beautiful or thought-provoking or painful, it helps us grow in our minds and imaginations.

You and I, dear books, have struggled with each other for a while now. This is my fault. It's not that I don't read—it's that it has become harder for me to read. I have been doing so much writing and editing, more writing and editing, and oh, did I mention writing and editing, that by the time I sit down with a book, I'm so firmly in editing mode that I have a hard time getting into the story. There have been some that have sucked me right in and held me captive until the end, but not nearly as many as there once were.

And this makes me sad. This is one of the reasons why I am giving my writing brain a break right now to take time to read books. Lots of books. Books of all kinds. To seek out the beauty of the words and to get pulled into amazing worlds. I even added a little gadget here so I can mark what I'm currently reading. I am excited to see what adventures I find in all of these pages.

A Reader

*Question of the day: What is/are your favorite book(s) and why?