Monday, June 30, 2014

Grammarians Shmammarians

Since I had so much fun with the last grammar post and had such a large response from all of you, I've decided to write another one!

This one is comprised of the four incorrect pronunciations that annoyed me the most over the past few days, and their proper pronunciations.

1. For all intensive purposes

What does that even mean? Your purposes are intense? *confused look*

The intended phrase here is, "for all intents and purposes."

See how much more sense this makes? It's not that you have intense purpose, it's that there are intents that go with your purposes.

2. Death nail

Okay, this one I can understand. It's an often mispronounced archaic term, "death knell."

See, a death knell is the bell that rings to warn someone of their oncoming death.But it's also very similar to the "nail in the coffin", with which "death nail" often gets mashed.

Here's how you tell them apart:

The final nail in a coffin is something that puts something to death. Say, the final topic of conversation is concluded, which will now end Bob's relationship with Sarah (sorry if there are any Bob's and Sarah's out there).

The death knell is the bell that will toll a moment before Sarah steps back onstage to kill Bob, for the thing he said that put the final nail in the coffin.

There is no death nail, unless you're killing someone with a nail, which I don't recommend.

Again, my apologies to Bob's and Sarah's.

3. Alterior motive

Again, I completely understand how this happened.

See, the problem here is the word "alternate" with which people sometimes mix this phrase. Its intended wording is "ulterior motive." An ulterior motive is one that cannot be seen, one that's below the surface of what's seen.

It's not a motive alternate to the one you're thinking it is, which is what would make alterior proper (and also make it an actual word, which it isn't).

I think that's fairly straightforward.

5. Ec Cetera

Lastly, and most understandable of all, the failure of pronouncing et cetera correctly.

The problem here is mostly a dialectual one. There are very many dialects where the sound "et" changes to "ec."

But here's a very simple way to remember it:

Et cetera is always abbreviated to etc. Notice how there's a T in there? ;-) The abbreviation is just et plus the c from cetera.

Easy, no?

Please do not judge me by my odd choices here. They're literally the ones that I heard this past week.


{Rani D}

Friday, June 27, 2014

Monsters in the Attic

As you know (if you've been reading lately), today we're starting a new Friday series. I haven't titled it, because, well, I don't know what to call it. But here's what we're going to be doing:

Every Friday, I'm going to post a meme, like the one below. The memes will contain quotes about writing, or that have something to do with writing. The following blog will be my thoughts on that quote, what I believe it means, and how right or wrong I find it to be.

So far, I have a mass of these quote-memes saved up, and I think it'll be a lot of fun to go over them.

If you find any you'd like my thoughts on, feel free to send them my way!

A non-writing writer is a monster courting insanity. - Franz Kafka

This is actually one of my favorite quotes, because I think the whole thing is as true as it gets. How do I know this? Well, because when I'm not writing, everyone around me suffers.

Usually, I...

  • Get a little crazy
  • Am short tempered
  • Don't want to do anything, ever
  • Can't speak in full sentences
  • Forget to use descriptors 
  • Spend more time with the dogs than I do with the people
  • Cry for no apparent reason
  • Mope
  • Watch far too much girly television
  • Have nothing to say in a conversation I would usually enjoy
  • Stop reading
  • Stop saying "huzzah" and "indeed" (my two favorite words)
  • Say "huzzah" or "indeed" FAR more than usual, because I don't know what else to say...

Yeah. I'd say that's pretty close to insanity, for me. (And those are only the early symptoms!)

And in all honesty, it's seemed pretty similar for the others writers I know who've occasionally gone on hiatus. It takes a while to adjust to normality, and usually it's not a fun process.

The moral of the story is...

If you're a writer, you need to be writing. 
The day you stop is the day you start courting disaster. 

What do you think of the new series? It seems like a lot of fun to me! I'll still do writing tips and answer any/all of your questions about writing, but I'll probably move them to Mondays and Wednesdays for now. So feel free to send me more ideas, because I want to write the things that you want to read.

It's kinda what I do for a living. ;-)


Wednesday, June 25, 2014


The secret to choosing tense is to always choose past tense.

No, I'm kidding. I have a personal preference for past tense, because present tense is near impossible to maintain, but if you feel it suits your story, by all means, use present tense.

Choosing tense, especially when you just start out, can be a little tricky. I started in present, too, before I realized how fond I am of past...

There are two things you'll need to know and consider before you choose present tense:

  • Present tense is not believable in creative nonfiction. It makes you sound like you're making it up as you go. A lot of people (even college professors) will speak contrary to this, but in my research I've found this statement to be true. 
  • Present tense is not trusted by my generation. This is also one of those things that's easily contested, but in my research I've found that most people in my generation greatly dislike this tense. So if you're writing for us, use past.

Of course, there are a few other things you should know in order to make your decision...

  • In present tense, you will not be able to allow for passage of time (because doing so breaks tense). A lot of writers break this rule, but doing so makes it very difficult for readers to follow, so I don't suggest it.
  • In past tense, you're technically allowed to occasionally shift into present (i.e. He lifted his cup to his lips, taking a swig of the cool liquid - yes, that broke tense, and yes, that's allowed). 
  • Breaking tense in present tense is always frowned upon. I think that's because it's so difficult to hold, and for some reason people like to nitpick that which is tricky. 
  • If you're writing in present tense, you're in the minority. 
  • If you're writing in past, then, you're in the majority. 

Realistically, I can't tell you which tense to choose. Usually, the characters themselves will tell you. Start writing in one, and if it doesn't flow, switch it. That's the best advice I can give you here.

But whatever you do, don't choose your tense because it's what you're comfortable with.

Choose the tense that best suits the story, the one that will be easier for your characters to thrive in, and the better for your audience's understanding (see what I just did there?).

Above all:

Remember, you're not just writing for you anymore.


Monday, June 23, 2014

University Style

Yay! Someone asked me to write on a topic, so I'm writing on it today:

How to maintain your own style while writing in high school or university

Let me preface this by saying that I hate outlining. I really do. I don't outline anything, because it limits my creative capacity. When I was at university, I literally never wrote the outline unless it needed to be turned in (and when it needed to be turned in, I wrote the outline after I finished the paper).

Now onto the meat of the matter.

Maintaining style is something every writer wants to do. It's what we strive for in all of our work, because it's what sets us apart from everyone else.


Style isn't what most professors are looking for (sadly, because this should be taught more in schools). Most teachers and professors simply want to know that you know how to write, and they want you to prove it.

They're not looking for style. Many of them, in fact, will dock points for style (I've had this happen to me, and ended up taking it to the head of the English department at UNM to get my grade revised. Oy.)

But none of this means that you shouldn't allow for your own style and word preferences to sink into whatever it is that you write.

My suggestion is this:
  1. Talk to your teacher/professor before you start writing. Make sure they're okay with you taking creative liberties before you go taking them. No matter how much you think you are, you are not entitled to do whatever you want in your classes. Trust me. 
  2. Follow the advice they give you. Whether that be to put in as much of yourself as you can or to make your paper as boring and plain jane as every other paper in the class. Do as the teacher commands.
If you have good teachers who want your creative capacity to grow, they'll allow you to take your creative liberties. Then and only then are you allowed to put yourself into your paper. 

I know, it seems counter intuitive. That's because it is.

I digress.

Once you have the okay from your teacher, feel free to start writing in your own voice. Use the dreaded pronouns sooner than everyone else, start sentences with "and" and end them with "is".

But don't take your freedom too far.

Essentially, there is no tried and true way to maintain your own style when you're writing these kinds of papers. But there are things that you'll need to keep in mind, while you're letting those juices flow:

  1. No comma splices. That's a creative liberty no professor will stand by. 
  2. No fragments, unless they're titles of segments. 
  3. No one to two sentence paragraphs. 
  4. Essentially, follow what your teacher/professor wants for your paper. 
One of my favorite papers I ever wrote was called "On the Observation Deck of the Starship Communication."

It was my favorite because my professor allowed me to do whatever I wanted to do with it, as long as I got all of the information out on the paper.

The assignment was to watch people, to view how they communicate with their behaviors, gestures, and movement, and write a research paper on what I thought all of that meant. So I wrote it like I was the Communications Officer on a Starship, and these were my findings.

The paper got extra points for creativity.

Wow this blog is long. My apologies, I'm almost done. Look, here, I'm closing:

In truth, there is no way to make sure you go into your papers, unless your professor allows it. A lot of them don't want to know about their students, they just want to get the information and go.

But those that do allow creativity should be getting the most fascinating papers of their lives, because we should be writing them like we're in Star Trek, and the world is our final frontier.


Saturday, June 21, 2014

The Difference

After reviewing everything that I have in our "So you want to be a writer" series, I've decided that this is going to be the last one for a while.

I haven't decided what I think we should talk about next, but I'm considering doing something a little more fun, and a little less stressful on my part.

Let me know if you have any suggestions! Until then, the final installment of our current series...

#11.      Editors are realists, writers are idealists 

 It's true. Yeah, I know, I say that in every single one of these posts, but that doesn't make it any less true.

See, writers and editors are two completely different types of people (you can, like me, learn to do both: but only after you've had enough experience and have come to learn the principles of editing and how they apply to every story).

Editors are realists. They see everything you have on the page, and they'll tell it to you like they see it. This is both a good thing and a bad thing. Good, because it helps the work to grow. Bad, because it hurts like no other when the writer reads what the editor has to say.

As I've said many a time before, editors will shred your work. It's just what they do.

They're not trying to be mean. In fact, they're trying to help you. A lot of the time, they're right. You should listen to them.


Ahh yes, there is a but. Aren't you glad?

You should never take what an editor says entirely seriously until you've had the time to clear your head and look everything over like a calm and rational person.

See, editors are good. They know what makes a good story, and they know how to take your story there. But. They don't know your story as well as you know it.

So look at what they have to say, and think very seriously about the big changes before you go along with it.

Some editors don't realize that the weird things we leave in our stories are things that help to build our characters, and that's okay, because that's not what their paid to do.

I'm so looking forward to starting a new Friday series with you guys! Like I said, let me know if you have anything you'd like me to discuss in a new series. If you can't think of anything, I have a few ideas on the horizon.


{Ar Dee}

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The View of Pointing

Today I thought we'd be constructive. Not that we aren't constructive generally. But you know what I mean. ;-)

I thought long and hard about what topic I wanted to talk about, and I finally ended with this:

How to appropriately choose what POV your story wants to be in


Using four different scenarios, and assuming you've created your central character before the actual writing has begun, I've outlined a simple way to decide what your point of view "should" be.This isn't an exact science though, so don't feel like you simply must follow my suggestions.

Scenario 1


Let's say that you've chosen your main character, and while you've been thinking through your story you've realized that you're probably going to need to know what this character is thinking a lot of the time.

For instance, maybe they're shy and don't like to talk much. That will get annoying to write and read in Third Person. trust me.

In this case, you're probably going to want to write in First Person. (Sometimes it won't work out quite right for the whole story, but that's what Scenario 4 is here for.)

Scenario 3 (yes, I know, the last one I did was 1)


 If, in your process of thinkering about all the things you want to do with your story, and all the characters that you're going to create, you realize that you have a lot of subplots that will need a lot of attention, you should likely stick with Third Person.

But as you know, there are many different forms of Third Person. I'm only going to talk about two.

Third Person Omniscient is a pain in the butt and I rarely ever tell anyone to try it, especially first time writers, but sometimes it's exactly what the story needs. Sometimes no one is opening up and the reader just really needs to know what everyone is thinking all the time. That's what this is for.

Third Person Semi-Omniscient is where you're only getting fully into one character's head within any given scene. This one is the easiest to work with. You also get to keep little secrets from your readers, because the characters don't have to reveal everything in the way they think. Usually, this is your safest option when you're choosing omnisciency, but like I said, sometimes the other is a wonderful thing.

Scenario 2 (you'll get it in a second...)


If you find yourself preparing to write a story in which you already know that your main character is very detached and unreliable, and is someone with whom you'll need to get inside their head, and you're incredibly brave, try Second Person (get it? get it? Point 2, Second Person?).

Second Person is essentially First Person. So you'll be looking for the same kind of character as you would for a First narrative, but you'll want to add a few dimensions like unreliability.

It's tricky to work with, because you have to balance realism and not making your reader uncomfortable, but it's definitely worth a try. A few of my favorite short stories are written in Second.

The Famed Scenario 4! 


 If you find yourself with multiple characters will multiple needs, this scenario is for you:

Mixed POV.

I know a lot of writers shy away from it, but it can actually be a very useful tool in the writing process. (For example, every book in my Druid series is Mixed POV, with one central character in First and the rest in Semi-Omniscient Third)

The key in doing this is that it can only be done if Third is a part of your combination (I don't recommend going for all three POV's in one story, as this can bog down your reader and make things difficult to understand and remember)

See, Third is the easiest to read, for a lot of people. We can figure things out and understand exactly what's going on a lot of the time. But we also enjoy reading things in First, and it's an interesting take when there's something in Second.

So if you have mixed needs, I say, mix! And don't be afraid to have your First/Second Person character appear in a Third Person scene. It will help to ground them every now and again, so the reader doesn't lose their grasp along the way.

I've had to deal with every single POV in my writing career already, and I'll tell you right now that choosing one can be a pain in the butt when you don't quite know where to start.

That being the case, I hope this was helpful. If you have any specific questions, don't be shy: drop me a comment or send me a message. I'll either get back to you or I'll write a whole blog to answer your question, I promise



Monday, June 16, 2014

In a Time Lapse

It occurred to me very recently that I'm almost done writing two separate novels. 

I only have six chapters left of each, which means it shouldn't take me more than a month and a half to finish them both.

As you all know, I write 4,000-5,000 words per day, six days a week. That means I write three chapters per week (two in one novel, one in the nother).

According to my estimations, I have approximately six chapters left in each novel.

That means I should only have four weeks before I've finished them both!

This called for a very special blog.

Some of you have asked questions about how I get myself into the right frame of mind for the things that I write. (And yes, I've told you this before, but in a different way)

It's all in the music. 

Lately, the soundtrack to both of my novels has been comprised of Ludovico Einaudi's "In a Time Lapse".

(speaking of which, you've no idea how long it took me to find that. I heard it in Schwartzberg's "Moving Art" and fell in love, but I swear this album was hiding)

The music in this album has everything that I've been looking for. Some is soft and sweet, some gentle and moving, some thrilling, some eerie, others erratic, and still others so repetitive that writing in the point of view of the antagonist becomes simpler than ever before.

In short: I highly recommend it. And I'll even get you an Amazon link:

In a Time Lapse (CD)


I'm sure some of you would like to know what novels I'm close to completing. So, I'll tell you.

The first is called Mynidd: The People of the Hills, and is a part of the Druid series (of which Coetir is a part). It is, technically, the fourth in the series, but I'm unsure as to when exactly it will be publically released. If you're all very nice to me, maybe I'll send you an excerpt. ;-)

The second is tentatively titled Daemon, though I'm also toying with calling it The Spirit Within. It's my first dual-timeline story, half of it taking place in modern day LA and the other half taking place far into the past. All I'm saying is that it's creepier than anything I've written before, and that I'm excited to see how it turns out.

Excited yet?



Friday, June 13, 2014


Recently I’ve spent a lot of time talking to new writers who don’t understand how I can find the time to write 4,000-5,000 words a day while keeping everything else going at the same time.

Oddly enough, it coincided with today’s post.

#10.      You have to find your own way to make writing fun, to make it worthwhile, or it will eat you

The thing with writing is that it’s tedious. It sometimes gets old fast. And it takes up a lot of your time. So if you already have a job, yeah, it’s going to be difficult to find the time to do it—and a lot of the time, you’re probably not going to want to.

That’s where point #10 comes in.

If you don’t keep it fun (for you, the writer), then you may as well give up. Your writing not only needs to be something that you enjoy, but it needs to be something that you think could really turn into something one day.

(Yes, I know, we all have to write boring scenes from time to time that we’d rather not include but need to be there to move the story forward—those are beside the point)

Without the fun aspect, writing is no different from any other job. It becomes mundane and commonplace, something that you could easily give up on in your life.

If this is how you feel about writing, you have two options:

  • Give up completely
  • Spice it up and get yourself back in the game

Now I’ve only had one other real job in my lifetime, and I hated it. I don’t use that term loosely, so you’ll know how much I didn’t like working there.

After that, I knew that all I wanted to do was write. But even then, some days it gets old and tedious and I don’t want to do it.

It’s on days like that, days where all I want to do is sit and watch TV, that I remind myself of this:

Without having fun, without finding something in my work that thoroughly interests me, I might as well be back at my old job, doing something I hated.

And that’s never been what writing is to me, nor should it be to you, if it's what you really want to do. 

Writing is work. It's a business. But nobody ever said that business can't be fun. 


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

My advice to you.

Something happened to me recently.

I had an idea, in the middle of the night. I woke up, I thought through the idea, and I knew that it was beautiful and perfect, and matched with the very place I wanted my story to go.

And then I fell asleep.

(If only it were possible to backup my thoughts as often as I backup my writing...)

If you're a writer, I'm sure you've had this happen too. Usually, I'm more on the ball about things like this. When I get an idea, I at least think of some funny way that I'll be able to remember it. But this time I did no such thing.

I. Have. No. Clue. What. My. Idea. Was.

Honestly, it's the most annoying feeling I've ever felt in my life. It's like the words are on the tip of my tongue, but they just won't come out to play.

So my advice to you is this:

When you have an idea, as soon as you've come up with the idea, write it down.

Even if all you do is write a three word note to yourself in a draft message on your phone, write it down. I know you all have your phones on you all the time (so do I, by the way).

It's not that difficult, and it saves a lot of stress in the long run.

But it all starts by remembering to write it down.

Don't get stuck where I am. Do as I say, not as I do. ;-)


Monday, June 9, 2014

One For Fun!

In trying to decide what to write today, I asked my friend. She jokingly replied, "I could care less."

And then I got an idea.

Here I'll examine "I could care less", "supposedly", and "past/passed" and see how well we all know our English.

(I'm no pro blogger, but that's hilarious!)

"I could care less."

"I couldn't care less."

Which one is correct?

People can be very opinionated about this particular phrase, and in all honesty, I'm no different. I have a specific way that I think it should be said, and oddly enough, I couldn't find a meme that agreed with me!

See, most people who are adamant about one of these are adamant that the correct version is "I could care less."

However, with the way I use this phrase, that's just not right.

See, if I could care less, that would mean that I care enough that there is possibility of less caring, should something change.

But if I couldn't care less, then there is no possible way that any less caring could come from me, therefore meaning that I do not care at all about the subject at hand.

Yes, I realize how convoluted that sounds. But that's the way I roll. ;-)




Which way do you pronounce it?

 The answer to this one is deceptively simple, and yet SO many people get it wrong. It's a pet peeve of mine.

Supposeb is not a word. Supposed, on the other hand is.

It's just that simple. Supposedly. ;-)

One More!

This one will actually be something helpful:

Passed or Past?

"The time past."

"I drove past the house."

Which one of those is wrong? (I almost want to not tell you and see how many of you actually know...)

This is one of my most hated word pairs, because I used to get it wrong almost half of the time. For a while there, I just put in whichever word and in the editing process I would ctrl+F every single past and passed and make sure they were right.


But I know it now!

Time is past, and can pass, but one can never pass time like a dish of gravy.

Past can be a adjective, noun, preposition, or adverb, but never a verb (for you people who really know your parts of speech).

Passed, on the other hand, is simply the past tense of the verb "to pass."

Sounds easy, right?

Yeah, it's not. I know. :-(

Okay, that was TONS of fun to write, and I'll have to start doing those more often...


Friday, June 6, 2014

Agent (0)

Since I had a request last week, I bumped this up in the rotation and added a little aside at the bottom.

#9.      Agents are mandatory if you want a big name publisher

(I keep having gun pictures... But in case you didn't know, this is Agent Zero from X-Men Origins)

Why, you ask? Well it’s because the editors at those houses know agents, and they know which agents they can trust. So if you have one of those agents, it’s more likely that you’ll get noticed by that house.

Want an easy way to find agents? Check the acknowledgements page of some of your favorite books. There will be some agents in there, trust me.

However, most houses don’t require that you have an agent.

I feel like I just contradicted myself.

Yes, you need an agent. But no, you also don’t need one. Ahh! It depends.

See, big houses have big editors that listen to big agents who rarely work with little authors. Small houses tend to have young editors and few agents and are generally more open to working with budding authors.

Essentially, you have a big decision to make, and it needs to be made before you submit your work to any house.

Do you want a big house, or do you want a small one?

Personally, I’d say aim for the bottom or the middle. If you have an agent and you’ve been edited and your work is in the best state you think it will ever be in, shoot directly for the middle.

If you don’t have an agent, you may still choose to aim here if your work has been exceptionally edited. Send it in with a letter from your editor.
(After you’ve worked with some of the medium-sized houses, remember: agents frequent the doorsteps of those who’ve published and succeeded with these houses, and have helped to get them into bigger houses.)

If your work hasn’t been edited and you don’t have an agent, aim low. The smallest houses are more willing to work with those who haven’t even been edited, and they’ll help you get your work ready so you can move up the ladder when the time comes.

And most of the time they won't even blame you for leaving. They'll just be happy that you wanted to work with them, and that they were able to work with you.

I really hope that helps, because I feel like I may have just confused all of you. 

If you're still confused, drop me a comment and I'll do another blog and attempt to simplify! 


P.S. The promised aside... 

How to get an agent

You have two main options here: 

1. Send letters to agents, along with samples of your work (you WILL) want to be edited first
2. Do everything in your power to get selected for publication by a small/medium size house, and sell sell sell once the book hits the shelves 

Why these two options? 

Because they're the only two that really work. 

I'll do a full sized blog on that at some point, don't worry.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Underwhelmed (and puns)

As promised, this week we're talking about under-description, and how to write your wrongs. Yes, I did that for the pun of it. That too.

The trouble with under-description is that it leaves your readers wanting more, and generally leaves them confused about what's going on and where things are taking place. Generally, it's easier to adjust for this in the editing process. (But then again, isn't it always?)

But that's not what we're here to talk about, is it?

As a rule, I try to keep these in mind:

  • Describe enough that you, the writer, can clearly see what's going on
  • Describe in a way that you can minimize it as the story goes on
  • If you're unsure, add more!

So here's a little exercise for you, to make sure you're doing it right:

  • Write yourself a few paragraphs, where two characters are talking in one of the character's bedrooms.
  • Read it.
  • Set it down for a few hours.
  • Read it again.

Noticing any areas where you can't clearly see what's going on? Add more details to those areas.

Yes, I know, this is editing. But if you do it enough times, you'll begin to understand where your weakpoints are, and what areas you need to add more description to.

Essentially, the easiest way to remedy this situation is through the act of editing.
I'm sorry, but there's really no better way.

I believe in you!


P.S. If you still need help, drop a comment or send me a message, and I'll see what I can do.

Monday, June 2, 2014

New Release

Today seems like a good day for some big news, doesn't it?

Well, I thought so.

Consider it official.

Coetir: The People of the Wood is set to be published!

Yes, you heard right. And no, it's not going to be self-published this time. It will be formally released through RAD Writing in January of 2015!

What does this mean for you?

Well, it means if you want to buy my book, you'll have a bit fewer options. Because I'm signing with a New Mexico based publishing house, sales will be primarily in this area. Books will be available in bookstores in the Albuquerque and Santa Fe regions, primarily, though we're trying to push it into more bookstores near you.

However, you WILL still be able to order it online. RAD Writing is setting up a special place on their website where you'll be able to buy the book, and it will also be available through Amazon. I'm trying to keep things as easy for you guys as I can, while going a completely different route than before.

In other news...

RAD Writing is also helping me set up some book signings in Albuquerque and the surrounding area over the next few months for Telekinetic, so if you want your book signed or you'd like to meet me in person, you'll have your chance!

And, RAD Writing has hired me to help them out with their new literary and art magazine! The submissions window for the magazine opens in September, and I'm counting on all of you writers to submit!

I can't wait to meet some of you in person, and to release this new book! There are some great opportunities on  the horizon, and I can't even describe how thrilled I am to take on even a few of them.

Don't worry, I'll still keep the blog going. *wink*

Happy Monday!