Posts Tagged ‘experiment’

Where do your ideas come from? Five Ways to Stay Creative

People often ask me where my ideas come from. The short answer is everywhere. I am constantly bombarded with ideas from half heard phrases or stories in the news or silly things that I see. Once one lets the creativity flow, creativty doesn’t like to stop. However that doesn’t tell you how I got there. So here are Five Ways to Get and Stay Creative

1) Don’t be afraid to be a Beginner.
Adults often feel they need to be good at something immediately. When I went to a critique group, I’ve seen many first drafts of first books that suck. Sorry, but that’s the way it is. People get good at something with practice. To be a writer, you need to write. To be a painter, you need to paint. If your first attempts aren’t perfect, keep striving. You will get better.


I hike with my pups to stay in shape and to relieve stress.

2) Keep your eyes on the process.
Organization helps on a long project such as a novel, a comic book series, or a series of paintings. Having a list, or even a loose outline, of each step can really make the difference between continuing on when it stops being fun, and stopping.

3) Exercise.
Being creative can be painful at times. Creative people open themselves and their work to the world. We want to support each other, yet work in a highly competitive field. Most of us make very little money, but we love it so we do it anyway. So if you are stuck, take a walk. Take care of yourself.

4) Experiment.
If you are stuck, try something new! In my latest project, I wrote a scene by scene outline between draft 2 and 3. Why? Because I could see a few minor points were missing and I needed to find them. Guess what? It worked.

In The Light Side of the Moon, the book began going slow. I needed to mix it  up. I wrote this crazy scene with the protagonist—which I don’t want to talk about since the book is in editing now— but that change is in the manuscript I sent my publisher. Every project has had surprises. Embrace them.

Cover Illustration for First Contact which you can read on Wattpad. It was written as an experiment and trying out Wattled was an experiment too.

Cover Illustration for First Contact which you can read on Wattpad. This short story was written as an experiment and trying it out Wattled was an experiment too.

5) Surround yourself with creative people within your field.
Attend conferences, book store and library events. Join a writing group. Find people to support you with friendship. It’s also important to point out, writers have writer friends so we don’t drive our non-writer friends crazy.

If you can’t find folks in real life, then write a blog. Join Twitter. Join an online group.

 What do you do to stay creative?


The veil is growing thinner…and a poem

Dump: a word with many meanings. Today it’s referring to the fact that I’m down in the dumps…and about to dump on the readers of this blog.


Maybe i just need to build more lego structures, when Other Systems was first published I created this.

Honestly it’s been one of those weeks.  One would think I’d be used to the routine.  I try to stay upbeat and busy when I await feedback.  I am waiting for two manuscripts to be read. One is The Light Side of the Moon which is at 48Fourteen, the other is the few folks who are beta reading The Martlet.  I hate waiting. Waiting makes me irritable. Waiting on a rejection makes me feel worse. Little things annoy me.  I’m getting frustrated with conversations with people who aren’t even here.  I’m half-afraid to go to writing group because I can’t stop rambling. This week, I snapped at a friend over something stupid —and now I can’t remember if I apologized or not—I’m hoping I did or he just isn’t mad at me. The veil that covers my crazy grows thin.

Now I realize I can be a bit intense and high strung, but my hiking companion said, “You’re creeping towards level 10 neurosis.”  Thank Goodness, we’re really good friends and she is willing to put with me. This is the part of the job, I am not good at–dealing with the intense emotions.

Now I want everyone to know, my neurosis is not because of the work. I love the work.

It also doesn’t help that I am busy preparing for the autumn cluster of appearances and classes which is ratcheting up my intensity even more.

Each time I encourage another writer to keep going —often in public—and follow their dreams when my own nervous stomach/critical part of my brain is telling me to quit. That I am never going to be published again.  (Which is total BS, I know logically, but try to tell my stomach that!)

Of course, this feeling is the key to my next “project” I decided to create a small collection of poems and short stories. I don’t know if or when they will be published. They might honestly all suck. That’s not really the point. The point is to allow me to experiment. I decided to see what happened if I did not put any restrictions on my creativity for a few weeks.  I know not every idea I will have over the course of the experiment will be great, but I feel it’s important not to censor or ridicule myself. So far I have written ten poems, rewrote a short ghost story, and wrote a piece about vampiric aliens. Each one has illustrations.

So here is a short poem I wrote. It is the kindest and most gentle of the poems which is why I chose it to share.

Dangers Real and imaginary

She warns of dangers real and imaginary.

So I take pause before I jump in the icy water

Obscured with mineral dust.

Algae clutch to rocks and squirm under my bare feet,

My toes grow pink, Then my calves and hips

No further.

I could see minnows in the emerald abyss

Nibbling at mosquitos.


Yes this poem is about a swimming in alpine lakes and why certain people don’t swim in them.

PS Before anyone thinks I am moping about physically. Nope. I still exercise each day. My tummy & brain are moping, but I’m going hiking to Lake Valhalla today and yes I’m going swimming!  Which leads to the most important advice I can give: If anyone can stand your company, it’s important to stay busy with friends while manuscript waiting occurs.

Faminelands #3: Mareton’s Curse Update: it’s gone to press!


As you can see from the title Faminelands #3: Mareton’s Curse has gone to press. I got it back last Friday from the last beta reader who is also my grammar nazi. She said she found it impressive. I went through it again, so now it is on its way to Ka-Blam to be printed.

This has definitely been one of the harder titles for me to finish up. Specifically because there were subplots that had to be closed in this book. As my readers know I believe in believable characters, but my  writing is plot driven. When I read books, I need to have a satisfying ending, to be a satisfying read and I write that way as well…or at least try to.  I am very proud of the artwork in this book. I felt more than once I stretched my artistic ability.

As I said before it will be released on March 1st. You can pre-order it here. Maria and I will be shipping pre-orders on Feb 26th.


World Building: Food

A break from the adventure in Living Stone

In deference to Thanksgiving, I want to write about how food shows quite a bit about the culture and geography in your world. I have often spoken about how I write a detailed synopsis of someone’s day in my authors notes with a specific focus on breakfast and other meals.


Do they eat simple cuisine or rich fair? Why? Because what a person eats gives you socio-economic status or their rank in a family. What spices do they use? Are they readily available either because they are close by or due to ease of transportation. What is easy to grow in the region of their world? What is imported or exported? How available is sugar?

How is it cooked? On an open fire or in a stove? How is the stove fueled? Is the stove also the main heat source in the house? What tools are necessary in order to create such a dish? Perhaps the characters don’t cook–do they eat out at restaurants, have servants or family members to cook for them?

Finally consider what diseases do they suffer do to the lack of food? Or eating unhealthily?

All of my titles show food being consumed at least in the background. In Other Systems, the menu that Abby consumes is directly related to where she is in the Universe.

Da and Ma had made sure their children never went hungry, but growing up with them had brought a certain degree of monotony to the food. On Kipos, Abby felt a fear of constant scarcity due to her limited diet, but on the Revelation a stocked kitchen was available to her. The large, cold pantry was full of meats, fish, cheeses, eggs, dairy products, fruits, and vegetables. The dry pantry had oils, spices, sugar, cereals, and pastas. Whatever she used was added to the inventory, which was updated continuously. The list would be sent ahead the day before they landed on Kipos. When the computer recorded the jump in milk and juice consumption, she was worried, but Brian said both were cheaper and better for her than coffee. Mark added, “Especially because the Revelation has four coffee addicts aboard.”

How could she not feel safe?   (Excerpt from page 222-223)

In Faminelands and Lure, food is often a breaking moment between action sequences. In Out for Souls&Cookies, food is often in the background though in Book 3: Rosie does spits out a vegan dog with the complaint that poodles are carnivorous!

Now much of this might stay in author notes, but some of it might end up in the finished work.

Update on the Martlet

Sketch of Lady Mira

I think I might be freaking Dennis out– I am reading The Knife Man for research for the Martlet. If I have learned one thing throughout this process, it is how much medical science has discovered in the past two centuries. It’s actually amazing.

This is the 4th book about killing or stealing bodies that I have read this year. The crazy thing is, I didn’t have to do nearly this much research for Other Systems. Not even close. Apparently I can imagine what it might be like to be a scientist on a space mission, but imagining I am a surgeon of the assassins guild who plays with necromancy is really hard. For anyone following the project: it’s Kian’s chapters that I am having problems with–maybe I need to watch more CSI or something.

Mira, Eohan and Roark’s chapters have been complete for awhile. I also am still working on a endearment for Roark to whisper to Kian on occasion. The problem is that Kian more than any other character has had a whole bunch of bad things happen to him. There is quite a bit of names that simply won’t work. Also I wanted it to be special between them, something that neither Mira or Eohan would pick up.

And PS I do not really need suggestions. I am just letting people know where I am.

Character Creation: Part 1 Names

So this week I have begun working on my next novel-writing project. (I am also working on Faminelands #3 in the comics arena.) I have finished my outline and started the naming.

What is in a name? A good character names has meaning. A good name might denote rank and gender. In a pluralistic society, it defines the character in terms of nationality.

Now call me old-fashioned, but since I speak (American) English as my primary language–as do most of my readers–it is important to me to have names for my characters that the reader can easily say. Even in Faminelands where I might have gone into crazy elvish names, my protagonists are referred by their given nicknames: Lark (Meadowlark) and Orin (Orodherthin).

For my first novel, Other Systems the main character is Abigail even though it is set in 1000 years in the future. Why?

First off it’s easy to say.

Secondly it has a long history. Abigail has been around for millinea. From the Bible, Abigail is Nabal’s wife and becomes the third wife of King David. So it stands to reason, the name will be around in another 1000 years. It has fallen in and out of fashion of course and right now is on an upswing.

Thirdly, it fits the character. Abigail is a female born in Seattle which is no longer part of the United States but a city-state. I knew she was going to use her intelligence as her primary means of getting through life. She starts the novel at 17. She is a stargazer.

So how did I pick the name? At first I looked at names with the meaning of intelligence, “Akilah, Lassie, Monisha, and Parmena” came up. Akilah: I am not sure how to say, but phonetically it reads A Killa. Parmena sounds too close to Parmesan cheese, Lassie is the name of a dog, so out of my first list “Monisha” was the only name, but it didn’t fit with how I pictured the girl.

The girl’s father is Caucasian with ancestors from Scotland and her mother is Asian with ancestors from China. We also know that her father believes in a monotheism deity while her mother and maternal grandmother believe in an animal zodiac and ancestor worship. She is the first born out of five and well-loved by both her parents especially her father. She is a bit of a daddy’s girl.  According to, the meaning of Abigail is “Father’s joy” or “the Father is rejoicing.”  That’s how I picked the given name.

Then I chose the surnames. I wanted to use both maternal and paternal surnames in the naming structure. I decided that during this time period there was two naming systems. Most people who lived in communes have three names: a given name, a paternal family name and a maternal family name.

Once again I looked up specific nationality’s surnames and chose ones that would be easy to say. I decided on a Scottish name “Boyd” and a Chinese name “Lei.”  Thus this character became: Abigail Boyd Lei.

Now how does this character, her family and contemporaries refer to her? Pretty much everyone uses the nicknames: Abby or Ab.

How does her boss on Earth refer to her? Miss Boyd Lei. She refers to him by his surname as well.

Finally now that I have a lead character’s name generally I will not name another character with the same first initial. However, the second two most important characters in the novel are Harden and Helen. I used the double H’s purposefully. Harden’s name was chosen first and then his sister.

So anyway that’s how I pick my names, how does everyone else do it?

The pull of a new story. Or trying to hold back while I finish things up!

I stepped out of my life for four weeks and 3 days. As I have said before, it was like I was in fairyland–though I did have a cell phone and was able to call home. While in fairyland, I heard lots of amazing stories. (Other people call these mystic worlds: Iceland, Scotland, Ireland, England, and Wales.)

Everyone who discovered I was a writer had a tale or encouraged me to go to this place or that place. Of course, nearly every single place I explored had seen  battles or viking massacres, or some other bloodshed. There were plenty of ghost stories. I walked along a path carved out my giants. Pubs and Inns were named after heroes of old– one of my favorites being Gwenllian the Welsh Princess turn freedom fighter.

Of course, In the written novel world: I have at least one more edit of Other Systems. Maybe even more.

And in the graphic novel world: Famineland 3: Mareton’s Curse needs to be finished. Before I left for Fairyland, Maria told me to redraw some panels and I need to finish up some coloring.

However just like my feet were roaming, now my mind is off wandering. It is looking for the next story to tell. I know what my next graphic novel will be. Maria and I discussed it before I left…and my excitement for that project has not waned, but my next written novel is going to be something different from I have written before. When I try to sleep, my mind is beginning to whisper ideas. The ideas were getting loudest in Wales as I neared the end of my trip. It was shouting on the plane ride home.

Still, this is not the time to look at the shiny new projects when I have to finish the ones I am working on.

This is one of the most difficult parts of the process for me. This is why I have a queue system which Maria and I instated while working on Faminelands 1: The Carp’s Eye. At first, it was pretty informal.

It is a file cabinet drawer. Whenever I get a new idea I give myself a five minutes (which honestly ends up being closer to a half hour) to write out every point, maybe do a sketch. Then I put it into a folder and it goes into the file cabinet. Then I go back to my project that I am working on.

After I finish my project, I can go back to the file cabinet and choose the next project. Sometimes projects jump ahead of others. Some are never more than ideas. Some of the ideas are honestly stupid. Some are great or at least good.

Somedays I want to curse the queue, but it is the way I am able to finish books without getting sidetracked. And besides, if I ever forget the queue, I have a best friend who won’t hesitate to remind me.

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