Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Farewell, Online Writing Workshop

It's with regret that I let my membership in the Online Writing Workshop for Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror expire this week. I joined over ten years ago and wrote nearly a thousand reviews. I've met a lot of good writers, read a lot of interesting stories, and used the workshop to revise many stories, including "A Reptile at the Reunion," Lyon's Legacy, Twinned Universes, and the short stories I've self-published. So why am I giving up the workshop?

Lack of time is the main issue. I've always had to fit critting in with my day job, writing, and daily life, and when Alex came along, of course he took priority over the workshop. But I've been so busy that I haven't had a chance to critique anything on the workshop since last summer or so. Critiquing even a single chapter can be time-intensive when you're a nit-picker. (I will go through and point out every typo and misplaced comma.) But even if I manage to override my anal-compulsive proof-reading, I still have to read the chapter or short story, go through and make line comments, and sum up strengths and weaknesses.

Another factor is the nature of the workshop itself. You can't post an entire novel at once; you're limited to 7,500 words for each submission. You're also only able to put up three chapters at a time. It can take months to post a novel. Even if you form partnerships with other members who will read your entire work, this slow pacing makes it difficult to review the novel as a whole. I do think I've learned a lot by intensive line critting, but I feel I need to focus now on overall plotting.

What do I plan to do going forward? I'll e-mail some of my contacts and see if they want to continue exchanging stories outside of the group. I think I can still manage to perform crits if I can upload a manuscript to my Kindle and read it there. I can take notes as I read and then type them up for the author. I will also see if I can use Facebook to find more crit partners. Feedback is always important no matter where you are in your writing career.

How do you find crit partners? Do you prefer to crit a chapter at a time or an entire book, and why?

Monday, February 24, 2014

Blog Ring of Power: Trisha Wooldridge

Today on the Blog Ring of Power we're featuring Trisha Wooldridge, the president of Broad Universe. You can find the other parts of the interview at these links: About You -- The Writing Life -- The Creative Process -- Words of Wisdom. For now, let's learn about her current work, The Kelpie.

Tell us about your new book and when it is out? Where can people purchase it?

The Kelpie is my first novel and it just came out this past December! :) Here are the details for purchasing your very own copy of my "dear" child-eating faery horse story!

The Kelpie is available through all online and brick & mortar bookstores, big box or your favorite independent store. 

About the Book:
The Kelpie on Amazon
The Kelpie at Barnes & Noble
ISBN: 978-1-937053-78-9
ISBN (ebook): 978-1-937053-79-6
Appropriate for ages 11 and up
Price: $7.95

Is there anything new, unusual, or interesting about your book? How is it different from other books on the same subject?

Well, there aren't that many books about kelpies to start off with.  I've seen a few... but not many, and none for a "middle grade" audience. The kelpie is a Scottish myth about a fey water horse that captures children with its sticky fur, drags them into lochs or other bodies of water, and then eats them.  There's a myth about a magickal bridle to capture them, too.

In addition to that particular myth, I also play with a different definition of what faerie are and where they come from...but that gets figured out near the end of the book and ends up being important later. ;) So I'll leave it at that.

What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?

My absolute favorite section is when Heather and her best friend Joe--Prince Joseph, third in line to the British Crown--are sneaking in Heather's room and trying to put together a plan with how to "deal" with this kelpie...and then Abigail, one of the castle's ghosts, interrupts them.  And Heather, while brave on many things, is absolutely terrified of ghosts.  The chemistry between Heather and Joe is one of my favorite parts of the whole book, and they're quite funny to read aloud!

Did you learn anything from writing this book and what was it?

I learned an AWFUL lot about British politics, royalty, and etiquette.  I also learned a lot about British international relationships since I always pictured Joe and his mother of Middle Eastern descent, so I had to research to see if and how that was possible--this is where my writers' groups helped a lot and I truly appreciate it! Being American, and also wanting to be sensitive that royals are human beings like any of us and not wanting to be insulting, required me to do a whole lot of research and learn a lot about the British, English, and Scottish cultures.

Tell us about your book’s cover – where did the design come from and what was the design process like?

As I mentioned earlier, it was a truly wonderful experience. The background of the cover is an actual photo I took of ruins by a loch in Scotland. Vic tinted it all green and added the hint of the MacArthur tartan.  And then she absolutely captured all my characters' looks.  When I told her that it meant a lot to me for Joe to be clearly of Middle Eastern descent and not white-washed, she was very happy to work on that for me.

When she said she couldn't do future covers, I was very sad.  She was wonderful to work with. Then, in the fall, when I was thinking about how I could still have all the books in the MacArthur series look the same, one of my friends, Kendra Saunders, introduced us to her sister.  Kate Kaynak, head of Spencer Hill Press, invited Slake to take a stab at her version of my existing cover--and I loved that, too!!  And she was just starting out as an artist and would be happy to work on future books, so it did all work out very well.  I love both versions of my cover!

T. J. Wooldridge is a professional writing geek who adores research into myth, folklore, legend, and the English language. Before delving full-time into wordsmithing, she has been a tutor, a teacher, an educational course designer, a video game proofreader, a financial customer service representative, a wine salesperson, a food reviewer, an editing consultant, a retail sales manager, and a nanny. While infrequent, there are times she does occasionally not research, write, or help others write. During those rare moments, she enjoys the following activities: spending time with her Husband-of-Awesome, a silly tabby cat, and two Giant Baby Bunnies in their Massachusetts home hidden in a pocket of woods in the middle of suburbia, reading, riding her horse in the nearby country stables and trails (not very well), reading Tarot (very well), drawing (also not very well), making jewelry (pretty well), making lists, and adding parenthetical commentary during random conversations. She also enjoys dressing up as fey creatures, zombies, or other such nonsense at science fiction, fantasy, and horror conventions.


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I can't honestly say I was joking when I suggested to my best friend, Joe – Prince Joseph, eldest son of England's Crown Prince – that we could probably find something the police had missed in regards to the missing children.  After all, eleven and twelve year olds like us did that all the time on the telly and in the books we read…

    When Heather and Joe decide to be Sleuthy MacSleuths on the property abutting the castle Heather's family lives in, neither expected to discover the real reason children were going missing:

    A Kelpie.  A child-eating faerie horse had moved into the loch "next door."

    The two barely escape with their lives, but they aren't safe. Caught in a storm of faerie power, Heather, Joe, and Heather's whole family are pulled into a maze of talking cats, ghostly secrets, and powerful magick.

    With another child taken, time is running out to make things right.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Leah Frederick -- Audiobooks and Giveaway! (Plus Star Wars Post)

Do you like audiobooks? Do you like Amazon gift cards? If you said yes to both, then you'll want to enter a contest being run by Leah Frederick, the narrator of the Lyon's Legacy audiobook. There are three easy steps to entering this contest:

1. Download one of Leah's audiobooks through You can find a list of her books here. (If you already have the eBook of Lyon's Legacy, you can get the audiobook through Amazon at a steep discount. However, I'm not sure if you can still leave a review on if you buy the audio version on Amazon.)

2. Post your review of the audiobook on anytime between now and March 15th.

3. Send Leah a link to your review either through her website or through Facebook.

The winner will be drawn on March 16. Each review counts as one entry, so you can review all of Leah's books for more entries.

Please help Leah out, and good luck to all!

P.S. I have a post up at Indie Writers Monthly about the next Star Wars movie. Don't forget to check it out.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Blog Ring of Power: George Sirois

Today on the Blog Ring of Power, we're hosting George Sirois. You can find the other four parts of his interview at these links:

For now, let's learn about George's creative process.

Do you have a specific writing style? – This is where my editor and I work really well together. I’m constantly focused on telling the story, keeping everything moving, and my editor wants me to take a few moments to look around and describe the scenery. If it weren’t for her, I would barely have much of a description of the planet that Excelsior calls home, Denab IV. So I don’t really dwell too much on describing every little detail, just enough so that the reader has an understanding of where we are and then pushing forward.

How do you deal with writer’s block? – Music is a big help. When I listen to various film scores, I’ll get ideas for new scenes that will motivate me enough to sit down at the desk and write. And the best way to get motivated to sit down for me is to go out and take a long walk with my headphones in my ears. More often than not, the big connection that needed to be made will come to me while I’m at least 10 minutes away from home and I have to turn around and get home before I forget my “eureka” moment.

Are you a “plotter” or a “pantser” (do you plan/outline the story ahead of time or write “by the seat of your pants”)? – A bit of both. In most cases, I know how my story starts and how the story ends. I normally figure out how to get from the beginning to the end as I go. But for the first of two “Excelsior” sequels, I put together a very extensive outline, which was needed since this story’s going to be much more complex than the first one was.

Do you use critique partners or beta readers? Why or why not? – Yes. Beta readers have been absolutely irreplaceable when it comes to spotting errors that I’ve missed. It’s so much better to spot the errors and fix them than to miss them and only see those mistakes glaring at you in the book’s published form.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging to write? – Colors seem to be a problem with me. I have a bit of a color deficiency that keeps me from telling certain colors from each other (not a full-on color blindness, just enough to be annoying to me), and so it’s hard for me to describe characters’ clothing, especially if I want their shirts and pants to match. Not everyone in the world wears either black pants or blue jeans.

George Sirois self-published his first novel “From Parts Unknown” in November of 2002, which he is re-working as a five-part eBook serial and paperback release. When he self-published his Young Adult/Science-Fiction novel “Excelsior” in July of 2010, it was named “Top Pick” by Night Owl Reviews and a quarter-finalist in the 2011 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest. George’s writing has also been seen on and as a featured columnist. After living in New York City for most of his life, George and his wife and their two dogs now happily call St. Louis, MO their home. In his spare time, George is an avid cinephile, a collector of film scores, a lifelong fan of the New York Giants, and enjoys West Coast Swing dancing.

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Created by high school senior Matthew Peters, Excelsior – savior of faraway planet Denab IV – is becoming an Internet sensation as the main character of a popular online comic strip. But before Matthew can enjoy his burgeoning success, a beautiful older woman arrives at his school and tells him that not only is she from the planet Denab IV, but that Excelsior's lifeforce lives within him.
Now, with Excelsior's old enemies regaining strength, Matthew realizes he is the key to Earth's survival and Denab IV's salvation, and he has an opportunity that he never thought possible, to become his greatest creation. . .

Is your book in print, ebook or both? Both

Friday, February 14, 2014

Science of the Week, 2/14/14

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone!

Here are some of the most interesting science news articles I read this week:

Urban bees using plastic to build hives

An extinction in the blink of an eye 

Herding robots

Nanoparticles treat muscular dystrophy in mice

Nanomotors move inside cells

Nuclear fusion achieved in experiment

Discovery opens up new areas of microbiology, evolutionary biology

The article below seems to be bad news for me, Lyon's Legacy, and Twinned Universes. However, the wormhole I use in these two books connects two separate universes, not two times in the same universe. Since time progresses at the same rate in the connected universes, there is no going back and forth multiple times to the same instant, so you don't get multiple measurements of the same particle. Therefore, my understanding is that the type of time travel outlined in my books should still be permitted by quantum mechanics. I'm glad that the next books in the series will be dealing with other issues, though.

Time travel via wormhole breaks the rules of quantum mechanics 

I hope if you have someone special in your life, you get to spend a wonderful evening with him/her, Enjoy your weekend, and I'll see you Monday.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

What Do You Want Your Indie Life to Look Like?

I regret to report that this will be my last blog post for Indie Life, as it's being incorporated into the Insecure Writers' Support Group. While it can be reassuring to discuss writing doubts and fears with other writers, I personally prefer to blog from a position of strength (as Ronald Reagan would say). At this point, I'm not planning on participating in that meme. If you are, I wish you all the best and hope you still stop by to visit. Perhaps later on I may join IWSG if my wants/needs change.

At this point, I'm still a long way from living a 100% indie life. But why do I seek it so determinedly? Because this is what I want from life:

1. A chance to live my life according to what I feel gives it its meaning.

2. A chance to control my time, my working environment, and my projects.

3. A chance to do something that will help others.

4. A chance to connect with others, especially with those who are "in my tree."

5. A chance to keep learning and developing, both as an author and as a person.

Whatever you want out of your indie life, I hope you find it. And if someone, say in traditional publishing, tells you that going indie is wrong, igore them and listen to Billy Joel instead:

P.S. I have a short story up today on Indie Writers Monthly if you'd like to stop by.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Blog Ring of Power: T.E. Ridener

Today on the Blog Ring of Power we have T.E. Ridener. My part of the interview deals with The Creative Life; you can find the other parts of the interview at the links below:

About You
The Creative Process
About Your Current Work
Words of Wisdom

What has been the most surprising reaction to something you’ve written?

I think that’s a close toss-up between a woman who read Blood Betrayal and her simple reply was “holy sh**”, and then my friend in Maine reading The Rochester Reaping and threatening my life on the phone afterwards.  Either way, I take great joy in some of the responses I get after someone finishes a book.  I’m all about the element of surprise (please read that in Count Olaf’s voice).  Just remember that for future reference.

What is the strongest criticism you’ve ever received as an author? The best compliment?

I had a really, really unpleasant review on my short story Blood Betrayal: Lilith.  I mean, this girl just gave me pure hell over my writing and the story as a whole.  I think, had she read Blood Betrayal beforehand, she might’ve been a wee bit nicer, but you never know.  You just never know what’s going on when people post reviews.  They could just be having a bad day, or your book is simply not their cup of tea.  I suppose she needed A LOT of sugar or something, because I don’t think there was any pleasing her.  I took it with a grain of salt and moved on.
As for the best compliment, I think my favorite compliment (I get it a lot) is when people tell me that my characters are relatable.  I enjoy that.  I like that I create characters people can get close to, or feel like they’ve known them for a long time.  I actually take a lot of pride in having the ability to do that.

Other than your family, what has been your greatest source of support?

Hands down, my facebook friends.  Yes, I am talking about the people who like my author page, but I don’t see them as a number.  I like to learn names and locations, and I love talking to them.  These people (800 and counting), have become one of the greatest support systems a person could ask for.  I have 5 or so that beta read for me, and their encouragement is so priceless.  I adore each and every single person who takes the time out of their day to tell me how much they enjoy my stories.  My family has always been amazing and without a doubt will continue to be, but I am often overwhelmed by the love I receive through facebook.  You guys rock!

How do you deal with rejection and/or negative reviews?

The first time I got a bad review, I cried. I bawled like a little baby.  I curled up in my bed and sobbed loudly for an entire evening, and I even considered giving up on writing right then and there.  “Somebody didn’t like my story?” “What?! No! That’s not allowed!”  “Oh my god, I must be the worst writer in existence.”
Yes, this all happened.  This is based on a true story.  This was the first review I ever received in which I was told I had absolutely zero talent and I should not quit my day job.  It was rather mean and nasty now that I think about it.  She didn’t even try to point out where I could make improvement, so it makes me wonder.  However, once the tears stopped flowing and my breathing regulated, I showed the review to my dad and stepmom.
My stepmom’s words still ring clear as a bell in my head from time to time.  “Did you write that book?”  “Yes.”  “Did you enjoy writing it?”  “Yes.”  “Do other people enjoy reading it?”  “Yes.”  “Does it have special meaning to you?”  “Yes.”  “Then what that review says shouldn’t matter.  You won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, and that’s okay.”
So..I have learned over the years that; 1. One must develop tough skin. 2. You most certainly will not be everyone’s cup of tea.
You just have to let the negativity roll off your back like water on a duck, or something like that.  Take a step back, take a deep breath, and smile. 

What is your writing process? Do you follow a regular routine? Do you use pen and paper or computer? Work at home or at the library/Starbucks, etc.

My writing process usually involves the mood striking me and me sitting down to type it out.  I don’t have a ‘regular routine’, but I have found that I am most productive between the hours of 6am and 2pm, though this can vary.  I prefer to use my computer, but you can find me with a pen and paper in hand if I’m out somewhere.  I do most of my work at home, unless I’m out and about for a doctor’s appointment or something like that.

T.E. Ridener resides in the small community of Gray, Kentucky with her equally eccentric yet amazingly interesting family. Miss Ridener has written a handful of novels as well as various short stories during her career as a writer. When she is not writing, she enjoys listening to nearly every genre of music, watching movies, and spending time with her niece and nephew. Her greatest accomplishment to date has been The Blood Betrayal Series, with characters she dreamed up while she was still a teenager. She believes that the Blood Betrayal Series will go far one day, despite the overrating of vampires in the past few years. According to her, vampires will -never- go out of style even if their fashion choices do!

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From the moment we are born, we accept that a day will come when our lives must end.
That is not the case for 23 year old Ren Croswell.

Ren died a few short months before his 24th birthday and he’s been stuck in the Colgrove cemetery for the past five years. He’s made some friends and it’s not all that bad, but there is one thing that won’t settle in his restless soul; he isn’t supposed to be dead.

23 year old Hannah Benoit moved to Colgrove, Kentucky in hopes of escaping her past. One can only handle being ‘the girl who sees ghosts’ for so long. This new town will give her a clean slate and a fresh start, but nothing can prepare her for what she’s about to find.

On Halloween, the one day of the year when Ren can walk among the living, everything will change. Death promised him it would be different this year, but there’s no possible way Ren could’ve known the true reason for his sudden and mistaken demise. Hannah will discover that her blessing of a curse was given to her for a reason, and they will both find what they’ve been looking for this entire time; the truth, and each other.

You won’t see it coming.


Transition is a New Adult Fantasy novella that will accompany a future series from T.E. Ridener, currently untitled. If you are under 18, please be aware there is strong language in this novella from time to time, and sexual situations are implied.

Amazon Ebook for now. Print will come later.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Genes, Generations, and Bloodlines in Speculative Fiction

Last week, I read 12.21.12: The Vessel. One of its main characters was directly descended from Cleopatra. This plot development made me wonder how many genes someone would really share with a direct ancestor so many generations back. Cleopatra died in 30 B.C., over 2030 years ago. The typical length of a human generation is between 20-25 years; let's split the difference and call it 22.5 years. That gives me about 90 generations between Cleopatra and someone born today. Humans have about 20,000 genes that code for proteins (there are plenty of important regulatory sites as well, but for now, let's keep things simple.) If we assume half of the genes are lost each generation, then we can create a table like this:

Generation #     Number of Genes
0 (starting)           20,000
1                         10,000
2                         5,000
3                         2,500
4                         1,250
5                         625
6                         313 (rounded up)
7                         157 (rounded up)
8                         79  (rounded up)
9                         40 (rounded up)
10                       20
11                       10
12                       5
13                       2.5
14                       1.25
15                       0.625

So, obviously, after ninety generations, you would share much less than a single gene with an ancestor that far back. However, this is assuming no inbreeding. In practice, the number of ancestors would double with each generation you go back (two parents, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents), so you quickly reach a point where the number of direct ancestors exceeds the world population of people alive at that time. So we're all 50th cousins or something like that. I'm not sure how to apply that to our hypothetical descendant of Cleopatra. He or she would have a bit more in common with Cleopatra than this example suggests due to inbreeding, but I doubt it would be a significant amount. Perhaps Cleopatra has more descendants alive today than we realize--hundreds or thousands. Of course, one of my recent science links reported that Europeans have between 1-4% Neanderthal DNA, and this DNA might affect some of our traits today.

So, if you're writing a fantasy with a family who passes a magical trait down their bloodline, you might want to consider how many generations it will be before that trait gets washed out--or what the family will do to keep it strong. Maybe everyone will have to marry their cousins, or maybe anyone with a random mutation for this trait will be brought into the bloodline. Better yet, use a science fiction setting and bring in genetic engineering. That could cause all sorts of interesting plot developments!

Am I the only one who is nerdy enough to figure these things out? Do you think about these things when you read or write? If you have a Google account, you can comment below.

Edit to add: Two thingsI didn't discuss in my original post but should have are mitochondrial DNA and the Y chromosome. Mitochrondria are believed to be ancient bacteria that were assimilated into eukaryotic cells to serve as a site of energy generation. They still have their own DNA, and they are passed down exclusively by the mother. The Y chromosome carries a sex-determining region that makes men male. Both mitochondrial DNA and the Y chromosome are passed down without being combined with other DNA, so they could pass relatively unchanged (except for random mutations) through the generations as long as you have descendants of the right sex. Something else to think about when you're designing your magical family....

Monday, February 03, 2014

Blog Ring of Power: Kelsey Jordan

This week, we're trying something a little different on the Blog Ring of Power. Instead of spreading the interview over five days, we're posting all five parts on the same day (Mondays). We hope this will make it easier for readers to read the entire interview. You can find the other parts of the interview at these links:

About You
The Writing Life
The Creative Process

Words of Wisdom

This week, Kelsey Jordan is here to talk about her current work, The Lycan Hunter.

Tell us about your new book and when it is out? Where can people purchase it? 

The Lycan Hunter is currently available on all major devices through most major retailers (iTunes, Kobo, Amazon, B&N and Smashwords). You can also find a print version through Createspace.

Is there anything new, unusual, or interesting about your book? How is it different from other books on the same subject? 

In my world the term Lycan is used for god-created shifters. There are six different Lycan forms, each having their own technical names. In The Lycan Hunter we meet Kyran and his pack, who are Talas or wolf form Lycans. I also created a religion for the inhabitants of my world (ceremonies and all that jazz), which the gods will attend at their whim.

What was the hardest part of writing this book?

Writing the book was relatively easy. It was deciding which avenue to publish that killed me.

What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why? 

Chapter 25 was the best for me. I loved being able to see Alexis really in action. I wanted readers to see that she wasn’t an inept Hunter.

Did you learn anything from writing this book and what was it? 

The best thing I took from this book was to be honest. Being honest with myself, my characters and my world, but most importantly my story. I had to be willing to step back, set my ego aside and hack my work apart to make it better. If I couldn’t be honest with myself then I’d do everything I tried to create a huge disservice.

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in this book?

I’d change some details I mentioned. Though they are minor, it bugs me.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp? 

Love may not conquer all, but it will make the trip through hell a hell of a lot easier.

Tell us about your book’s cover – where did the design come from and what was the design process like? 

First let me say that I designed my own cover. I had three images I wanted to come out. I wanted you to be able to get some idea of what was going on with just a glance. As far as design, the concept took me roughly two hours to nail down and another week to finalize. I’m not a graphic artist by any stretch of the imagination, but I knew what I wanted and learned enough to make it come to life.

Like everyone, Kelsey has her share of vices. They typically center around sinful frappes made with Blue Bell Coffee ice cream, late nights hanging out with her demanding muse, spending an embarrassing amount of time reading, and napping.
When she isn't indulging in her love of books, music, late nights with her muse, and delicious, but fattening frappes, she is spending time with her hubby and daughter.

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Kyran of the Blue Ridge Pack has spent most of his life searching for an end to the Forever War. Finding a Hunter among their greatly diminished ranks who was willing to forgo their "shoot first" mentality was harder than it seemed. Then fate—or the gods—gifted him with Alexis James, a petite Hunter with a nasty habit for killing his kind and a need for his surgical skills.
Alexis only has two wishes in life: make it through her next assignment, or die a relatively quick death. With a heart hardened by miserable circumstances and painful memories, her view of kindness and common decency was marred by scars of swift retribution. So when the blue-eyed Lycan saw fit to save her life, she wondered: At what cost?
After eight thousand years of war, the end is becoming a reality, but is the possibility of peace worth Kyran's soul and possibly Alexis' life?


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