Saturday, October 28, 2017

How to Outline Your Novel in a Day


The story of my NaNo success always seems to look like this:

Once upon a time, there was a little girl who signed up for Camp NaNoWriMo. Though she knew that it was fast-approaching, she also forgot (probably because she wanted to avoid doing an outline).
You see, this little girl was a plantser, meaning that she loved to pants, but she needed to plot. And so, when the first day of NaNo arrived, she ran around screaming and calmly ignored the task that lay before her.
"I'm outlining," she told her friends, when they inquired after her delay (in truth, she thought she was outlining; she still worked hard at school and Life™, and outlined once or twice a week).
Eventually, the month ended, and the little girl had yet to write a single word of her NaNo project. And so she ran around screaming and calmly ignored what had transpired. 

Sound familiar? I AM TOTALLY THAT LITTLE GIRL, BTW. If you've ever been that little girl (or boy), too -- or MAYBE YOU'RE THAT CHILD RIGHT NOW??? -- then congratulations! Because, despite the fact that Life™ (school, acting, church, volunteer work, and a new job) has commanded I refrain from NaNo this year, I have developed a sure-fire plan for preparing for NaNo last-minute (think outlining). All you need is one full day to yourself: no school, no work, no chores, no distractions. And the best part? You can be done before teatime.

(A quick note, before I get to the good stuff πŸ˜‰: this post was inspired by Jill Williamson, who shared her outlining process at #RealmMakers2017. The card labels and whatnot were entirely her advice! πŸ˜πŸ’œ)


You need:
  • One full-ish day of freedom
  • Fourteen to eighteen 5x8 index cards
  • One pencil/pen
  • One eraser / vial of white-out
  • Your sources of inspiration; maps, Pinterest boards, blog posts, playlists... whatever makes you happy 😁
  • This blog post πŸ˜‰


Label your cards as follows:
  1. Beginning
  2. Inciting Incident
  3. Second Thoughts
  4. Act I Climax
  5. Obstacle A
  6. Obstacle B
  7. Midpoint Twist
  8. Obstacle C
  9. Disaster
  10. Crisis
  11. Act II Climax
  12. Act III Climax
  13. DΓ©nouement (Wrap-Up)
  14. End

Note that, by the time you get around to writing what actually happens on your cards, you may need to re-number them.


Trust me. You'll need it.*

*And no, this does not count as teatime.


Now that you're armed with warm tea and your fourteen cards, start identifying. You already have at least a slight idea of where your novel is going, right? Because it's totally okay to label your cards out-of-order! And it's totally okay to take a five-minute break to brew some more tea and come back, too. πŸ˜‰


Refueling can be counted as a lunch break, as taking a walk, as grooming your cat... but try to avoid using the internet unless it counts as research / help outlining. You're in the zone, and we don't want you to fall out of it. πŸ’œ


Now that all your key scenes' roles are identified, do one last read-through. Everything makes sense, right? Though it may be hard, the flow and current make sense?


You're finished, you've revised, you're excited... now all you need to do is write that novel! So, this deserves celebration. Treat yourself to ice cream. Now that it's teatime, have some more tea! Re-watch Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban. Just chill, and get some sleep, too. πŸ’•

Thank you so much for reading, my sweet Dragons! Just so you know, I'm totally rooting for you this NaNoWriMo. 😊

Since I totally missed posting this last weekend, I think I'll be back tomorrow with my October Highlights (better late than never, right?). I'm still trying to get the hang of reincorporating blogging into my it's-not-summer-anymore lifestyle. 😎

What's your #NaNo2017 project, Dragons? Any new blog posts of yours that you'd like to share with me?


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Friday, October 27, 2017

OCTOBER // Blog Tour, Interview, Sneak Peek, & Giveaway


Today, I'm absolutely ecstatic to be featuring author J. Grace Pennington on the blog, sharing her book October! October (properly titled, given its release month; don't you think? πŸ˜‰) releases tomorrow, and I've got an interview, excerpt, and giveaway to share with y'all! But first...


For Emily Baxter, life is simple. Her world is made up completely of school, church, and the community in the small farming town she calls home. All that changes one fateful Sunday, when a new girl shows up at Pleasanton Baptist -- a girl unlike anyone Emily has ever seen. A girl with long red hair, crystal green eyes, and style and posture like royalty.

A girl named October.

The months that follow are filled with magic -- the magic of ordinary things, of finding pictures in the stars, of imagination and a new sense of beauty. But as time goes by, Emily begins to sense that her enchanting new friend may have secrets that could break the spell. Is October really all she seems to be?


Hi, J. Grace! Welcome to the blog; I'm so very excited to have you here! Would you mind introducing yourself? Favorite holidays, fairytales, fandoms...?

Hello! Thank you for having me.

Let's see... I'm twenty-seven years old, and I live in Texas in a one-bedroom second story apartment with my husband and lots and lots of plush pandas. Twenty of them, to be exact. My favorite holiday is far and away Christmas -- clichΓ©, I know, but I can't help it. It's the best time of year. Favorite fairytales would probably be Beauty and the Beast and Rumpelstiltskin (I'm a sucker for the Beauty and the Beast story archetype in general) and my fandoms are many: Pixar, Star Trek, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Doctor Who, Pirates of the Caribbean, Myst, etc. Other facts -- I eat too much Chick-fil-a, enjoy knitting and crochet, and can't ride a bike.

What was the first spark of inspiration for October? How did you know that this was a story you needed to write?

I started writing it about five years ago. I was thinking about some things that were going on in my life and the lives of others that I knew, things that I was dealing with, and I began theorizing what it would be like to weave these people and topics into a story -- a fictional story based on real people and real issues. The idea took hold, and it came together from there. I wanted to tell a story that was real, in a way that nothing else I'd written was. Something that people could read and see truth in.

Are you a plotter or a pantser? (Or a planster? πŸ˜‰) Do you have an outlining process? If so, how would you describe it?

I would say planster! I do have an outlining process -- when I start a new book I divide it into twelve parts and base each part loosely off the One Year Adventure Novel curriculum outline. Then I write a very basic summary of each part, then I make up the details and fill in the blanks as I go along. October was a little different, because I started it with certain scenes in my head, so I wrote a bunch of scenes and then later strung them together. But I still eventually went over it and used the same twelve-part structure to guide me in pulling it into a full story.

You indie publish, right? What does your publishing process typically look like?

Correct! After I finish the first draft, I usually get a few people to read it and give me feedback, then I do a complete rewrite -- chuck some things, add others, rearrange sections, polish prose. After that I do a few more runthroughs, then I pay someone to edit it. After that I tweak it a bit more and send it off to my formatter. Meanwhile, I hire a cover designer -- or in this case, I got my sister to do it, because she's terribly talented and her skills were perfect for what the book needed. When all the files are ready I upload the files to Kindle Direct Publishing and CreateSpace and prepare the release!

Thank you so much for your time, J. Grace! Last question, before you go: what advice do you have for young and currently unpublished authors?

The main advice I always have for aspiring authors is to just keep writing. I know it sounds obvious, but so many writers don't carry their stories to completion simply because they give up somewhere along the way. Writing is hard. Publishing is harder. It takes hard work and dedication, and no matter how many formulas or ideas you have or how inspired you are, the vast majority of your career is going to be sitting in a chair putting one word after another even though you feel unmotivated and generally convinced that you're going to fail. When that happens -- put one word after another anyway. You can edit anything but a blank page, so just write. Write until you have something you're excited to share with the rest of the world.

Thank you for having me!

Thank you for the interview, J. Grace! πŸ’œ


The first time I saw October Blake, I was sitting in the front right pew of the Pleasanton First Baptist church, where we always sat, watching as people filed into the sanctuary. The rich organ tones of 'Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus resonated through the chamber under the magic of Ms. Hendrix's wrinkled fingers. Soft chatter and friendly greetings mingled with the tune. Stained-glass windows cast rainbows across the scene.

October fit the setting better than anyone I had seen enter. She didn't walk in, she glided, moving over the gray carpet with a grace that held the eye. Her thick red hair was piled up on her head like something out of an Anne of Green Gables movie, her skin almost porcelain, her eyes a pale, crystal green visible from across the sanctuary. A ruffled cream blouse left her arms bare, and a floor-length green skirt swished as she slipped down the aisle.

I watched -- stared is a better word -- as she found her way to the third pew from the front center. She laid a hand on the back of it, then turned to look at the people behind her. I hadn't noticed until then that Mr. and Mrs. Rivers were there, shuffling to adjoining seats. She didn't seem to belong to them. But then, she didn't seem to belong to anything about Pleasanton. Pleasanton consisted of farms, fields, and stores reluctant to move into the twenty-first century, with a little brick high school and long, hot summers. This girl seemed more fitted to lilac and lace and the smell of old books with long, beautiful words in them.


J. Grace Pennington has been telling stories since she could talk and writing them down since age five. Now she lives in the great state of Texas, where she writes as much as adult life permits. When she's not writing she enjoys reading good books, having adventures with her husband, and looking up at the stars.


J. Grace is giving away a paperback copy of October! You can enter using the form below. This giveaway ends tomorrow, October twenty-eighth. The winner will be announced October twenty-ninth, on tour coordinator Faith Blum's blog.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Thank you so much for chatting with me, J. Grace!

Dragons, don't forget to swing by Amazon, where you can pre-order either (or both!) an ebook and/or a paperback copy.

What's your favorite holiday? Do you outline, or write as you go?


Blog tour images provided
by Faith Blum.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

6 Steps for Luring Your Readers Into Emotional Investment

Hey-hey, Dragons! I promised a new post and now HERE IT IS. I actually managed to do it during the same week as the PSAT and a college info night, so BE PROUD OF MMEEEE. (JK, it's okay to not be proud... I'll just heap a load of dishonor onto you, your family, and your cow -- no biggie. 😜)

Today, we're talkin' emotional investment.

Have you ever cracked open a book to find the characters so dull and boring? Maybe clichΓ©, too? Perhaps the writing's fantastic, -- maybe even the best you've ever read -- but you just don't care?

Now, have you ever opened a book to find that you do care? Like, a lot? Have you ever found yourself so obsessed with such a book that you daydream over it in class? At work? On the way to the grocery store? This is called emotional investment. And congratulations, my friend, because whether you want to be this invested or not... you are, now.

You can have a fantastic world. You can have a brilliant writing voice. But ultimately, what will draw your readers in the most is your characters.


What does your character want? Why do they want it? Solid -- even changing -- motivations allow your readers to relate to the character. We're all on a quest for something; find our what your character's "something" is.


Everyone has morals. True, they might not align with the traditional sense of right and wrong, but they make us human. Morals give us reason -- for our actions, our choices, our worldview.

Not only that, but morals provide a boundary, a line your character simply refuses to cross. So what happens when he does overstep his boundary?


So your character oversteps his moral boundary, out of ambition to achieve his goal, which (ideally) would leave your character with the consequences of his actions, thus raising the stakes.

I once heard an interview on The Very Serious Writing Show with K.M. Weiland, author of DreamlanderBehold the Dawn, and A Man Called Outlaw, along with several books on writing. In this interview, K.M. discussed how consequences are rarely dealt with in fiction, but how they provide such a massive impact on your plot, your characters, and your world.

In the very beginning of Downton Abbey (don't worry, folks, this is spoiler-free! πŸ˜‰), Mary makes a huge mistake, which leads to direct consequences within the same episode... but throughout all six seasons, more consequences (yep, from that one mistake!) continue to haunt her.


Consequences lead to grief. Wanna raise the stakes a bit more? Then give your characters even more reasons to grieve. No, it doesn't need to be death or cancer or lost love, but those are certainly options you can go for! πŸ™‚

If you're are going for death, cancer, or lost love (anything majorly weaving in other characters), be sure to take the same measures with these new characters as you are with your old ones. Give them motivations, give them morals, give them flaws. The more human your characters seem, the more beloved they'll become to your readers. πŸ’œ


It can be the darkest tale in the world, but I still believe that there should be a little bit of laughter hidden within it. Humor gives your characters -- and your readers! -- a break from the sorrow, a break from the grief, a break from the consequences. Go ahead and give your characters all the grief in the world, but be sure to give them a little bit of humor, too. πŸ˜Š


I'm a firm believer that hope should be in every story.* Hope gives your characters reason to go on, pushing, shoving, striving to reach their goal. And if your readers are enduring a difficult time in their lives, and they're living through your characters... then that hope might be just what they needed, too. 🌟

*Did you know that there's a whole community centered around the idea of hope in YA literature? It's called #rebelliouswriting, and you can check it out here.

Thank you so much for reading, my sweet Dragons! Is there anything you think I missed? Any ideas you'd like to contribute?


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recovered from Pixabay.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

HEIRS OF TIRRAGYL // Blog Tour & Guest Post


So I totally missed writing last Saturday's post (I've really not been great at keeping up with my blogging schedule, lately, have I?), and I deeply apologize! School™ (yaay) has been quite the emotional taxation time-snatcher as of late, but Lord willing, I'll work on loading my cargo back onto the railroad this weekend. πŸ˜‰

Today, we're celebrating Heirs of Tirragyl -- Joan Campbell's new release, and the second book in The Poison Tree Path Chronicles! You can learn more about book one, Chains of Gwyndorr, on Goodreads. πŸ™‚ Now, about book two...

Love live the queen...?
Since birth, Nyla has shared everything with her twin brother -- royal tutors, the right to the throne of Tirragyl... even their soul. Many believe it wholly belongs to Alexor and should be returned to him regardless of the sacrifice -- Nyla's death. However, her future isn't the only one in question.
A threat looms over the kingdom. The influential Lord Lucian intends to seize the Grotto, an underworld settlement known for harboring fugitives. And if legend is to be believed, it is also the hiding place of the most powerful of objects, the Guardian Rock. As Nyla fights for her life, she realizes she's not only a soul heir but also the sole hope for the kingdom's survival.


Joan Campbell is notoriously bad at finishing things but, ever since she found the key to the portal, she's been escaping into worlds far more intriguing than her own. In her word-spun worlds, magic can be harnessed, kings and queens rule supreme and ancient books contain coveted secrets. Her characters face division, danger, their own fallible natures and -- ultimately -- grace. While her husband and two daughters have learned to fend for themselves, a hungry whine or meow inevitably breaks the spell and brings Joan back to her everyday life in Johannesburg, South Africa. Here Joan wields a tennis racket instead of a longbow and trains writers instead of warriors, knowing full well that the pen is mightier than the sword. Chains of Gwyndorr was a gold medallist in the 2017 Illumination Book Awards.


Now, 'tis time to pass the mic o'er to Joan! πŸ˜ƒ

"I jump into the river and see where it takes me."
This is my answer when people ask me how I write a book.
Usually their blank stares tell me I haven't enlightened them at all.
Writers understand, of course. They've even coined a term for it. We are "the pantsers" as opposed to "the plotters". We are the ones who "fly by the seat of our pants" and only have the bare bones of a story when we begin to write, making up the rest as we go along.
A little like life itself, I might add.
I don't like the word "pantser". It makes me feel like a jester or imposter. I much prefer the imagery of floating down a beautiful river, staring around in wonder, never sure what delightful -- or dangerous, or magical -- surprise awaits me at the next river bend.
The idea for a story begins to ferment in my mind long before I sit down to write. With The Poison Tree Path Chronicles trilogy, I knew only that I wanted to tell a story that would capture a journey from deception to truth, from loneliness to belonging, from shame to worth. As this theme grew in my mind, a character began to emerge -- Shara. Over time I gained a sense of her, where she lived, the situation she found herself in and where I would ultimately taker her. Everything in-between was a mystery but with those elements in place, I had just enough to go on.
I jumped into the river and let Shara's journey begin.
Initially the river made me nervous. Chains of Gwyndorr was my first novel and this "river floating" didn't feel like "the correct way" to write a book. I didn't trust the process. So I sat down and tried to write a more detailed plot. But for me it felt... contrived. It wasn't true to myself or the characters (who are in complete control in "river-floating"). Detailed plotting also took away the element of surprise -- the very thing that keeps me writing.
By my second book, Heirs of Tirragyl, I had begun not only to trust the process but to enjoy it, and I think that comes across in the story.
So much of our individual growth as writers is learning to trust ourselves. In this, social media -- with its wonderful wealth of teaching and information -- can sometimes be detrimental. We read an article that says most bestseller writers get their writing done in the morning. Our creative juices only start to flow late in the afternoon so we instantly feel like we’re doing something wrong. We watch all our writer buddies tackle NaNoWriMo and suddenly our five-hundred-words-three-times-a-week writing schedule (the way I wrote most of my trilogy) makes us feel like a failure.
Here's the thing. If you are crafting your words slowly but beautifully, steadily pouring yourself into your characters and their story, fifteen-hundred words a week amounts to nearly a full length novel in a year. So trust yourself. Whether you plot or pants. Write fast and furious or slow and steady. In the morning or at midnight.
Just write until you figure out what works for you.
This gift that we have as writers is a magical thing. It's meant to bring us as much joy as it does our readers. Let's not miss out on the wonder and delight of weaving together stories that only we can tell.
And let's do it our way!
Thank you so much for sharing these lovely words of wisdom, Joan! πŸ’œ


Care to dive into a glorious, new world of fantasy? Enter the giveaway for a chance to win an ebook copy of Heirs of Tirragyl! (Open internationally.)



A huge thanks to Joan for taking the time to write up a guest post for us! πŸ’•

Dragons, have you read any of the books in The Poison Tree Path Chronicles? Do you have any writing tips to share?

Lord willing, I'll be back with a new post on Saturday!

Tally ho, m'dears!


Blog tour images
provided by Laura A. Grace.

Monday, October 2, 2017

ONCE UPON A PRINCESS // Blog Tour, Interview, & Giveaway


Today, we're going to be discussing princesses. And the tale of Sleeping Beauty. And overall, THE EPICNESS OF IT ALL. Today, I'm proud to be sharing about C.S. Johnson's Once Upon a Princess saga!


"I have better things to do."

"Like what?" Rose asked. "Waste your life on a fool's journey, under a silly girl's orders?"

"I have never considered saving your life to be the same as wasting mine, Rosary." He came and stood in front of her, the ease of his presence replaced by an unusual heat rather than familiar warmth. Rose had never before been bothered by the six inches he stood taller than her, but all of a sudden the shadow of his strength imposed itself on her. 

The cursed beauty of the moonlight revealed the clarity and sharpness of his eyes as she gazed up at him. "What if you did waste your life though? What if?"

"If I have wasted my life, I have wasted it on you. Willingly."

For four years, Princess Aurora of Rhone -- Rose to her friends -- has searched the world for a way to break the curse placed on her by Magdalina, the wicked ruler of the fairies at war with her kingdom. Under the curse, Rose is doomed to die on her eighteenth birthday after pricking her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel. And time is running out.

On the eve of her seventeenth birthday, Rose makes the journey home with her friends -- Theo, a priest with a penchant for revenge; Mary, a young and talented fairy; and Ethan and Sophia, siblings with a troubled past -- as pressure from her father, King Stefanos, leaves her with two equally unsatisfying options: abdicate the throne, or get married.

Enjoy this novella series, a retelling of Sleeping Beauty, with new characters, new plot twists, and plenty of action and adventure. Perfect for teen and young adult readers of historical fantasy.

Hello, C.S.! Welcome to the blog! I'm so excited to talk with you, today! First off, would you mind introducing yourself? Hobbies, dream vacation, coffee or tea…?
Hi everyone! I'm a non-clichΓ© YA author who writes mostly fairy tales, fantasy, and sci-fi. I like to write and daydream and make up uncomfortable moral quandaries for people, so being a writer really seems to work with me. My dream vacation shifts, but it's always overseas with my family somewhere, whether we end up in a castle looking through history or a lodge heading out to go troll hunting. I drink coffee (not really coffee, but lattes and mocha) and tea (mostly green tea). I have two kiddos and a good husband and we try to either all drive each other crazy or we try not to drive each other crazy. 
What are some of the first things you take into consideration when writing a fairytale retelling?
I like to start with character. More often than not, my stories are more concerned with character than plot, even though they have a good mix of both. I like to think about character motivations. For Beauty's Curse and the subsequent saga, I wanted to do a retelling of Sleeping Beauty that forced the princess to make the choice to prick her finger on the spinning wheel or not. If she did it, why would she do it? And if she didn't, how would that change her?
When reading a book, which element is the most important to you? Worldbuilding? Characters? Writing voice?
I like characters, but voice matters the most when I read. I’ve read a lot of books with characters I didn't really like, but if the voice is good, I can make it through. Worldbuilding matters, too, of course, but I've found that the best worldbuilding happens as I experience the character. 
What would your ideal day of writing look like?
Coffee shop, unlimited funds, and the ability to focus for hours on end! 
Thank you so much for your time, C.S.! Last question, before you go: what message do you want your readers to ultimately take away from Once Upon a Princess?
There are several along the way, but I think it's safe to say I want my readers to know that their choices matter. Their choices matter, and the motivations and reasons behind them matter, and their choices can make all the difference -- for good or bad as much as for good and bad -- in the end. 


C. S. Johnson is the author of several young adult novels, including sci-fi and fantasy adventures such as the Starlight Chronicles series, the Once Upon a Princess saga, and the Divine Space Pirates trilogy. With a gift for sarcasm and an apologetic heart, she currently lives in Atlanta with her family. Find out more at


Love reading fairytales? Enter to the world of C.S. Johnson's Once Upon A Princess Saga by entering to win a paperback of Beauty's Curse, the entire saga in ebook format, four specially designed t-shirts of a quote from the series, and two handy mugs for your favorite drink.



*hugs C.S.* Thanks so much for chatting with me, girl! 😸

Dragons, you can snag book one of the Once Upon a Princess saga, Beauty's Curse, free on kindle!

Have you read any books by C.S. Johnson? What's your favorite fairytale?


Blog tour images provided
by Laura A. Grace.