Picture taken from PlusQuotes

My sister is having a birthday this month.Which got me thinking about birthdays in general.

When I am doing character development, I hardly ever give my characters a birthday, which is odd. So many things revolve around our birthdays like which year we start schooling, if our birthday parties were more outdoors like swimming or winter activities like skating. My sister almost always had her birthday out of school because of spring break, but I almost always had finals on my birthday because it is the last week in April. I have a friend whose birthday is two days after Christmas and she always felt like her family never celebrated her birthday. She always said people gave her whatever Christmas gift they didn’t want because it was free and easier than standing in the return line.

Anyway, on that thought, I’ve decided next set of characters I work on creating will have specific birth dates, not just a decade or year, but a specific date. I think that could create some interesting character traits.


Crawling out of the hole

I have been in a writing slump, but I am climbing out of the hole.

My in-real-life, writing guilt partner and I have drafted an outline together. Here’s the plan:

One week we will draft a planned scene.  We will each write the scene on our own. Then we post it to a shared cloud folder where the other person can read it.

At our weekly meeting, we discuss the scene. Weaknesses and strengths, the parts we like and weren’t fond of, and how we see our characters developing differently and how that may change what ultimately happens in the novel.

The second week, we make revisions and edit our scene and make sure we are both at a spot to continue toward the next scene from the outline.

Then at our meeting we discuss the revisions (if they were changes for the better or worse) and the goals for the next scene.

We have both drafted scene one at this point. We’ve discussed. I have made my revisions. Tomorrow at our meeting I’ll confirm if my guilt partner made his revisions. Then we will be on to writing chapter 2.

I’ll be interested to see how far this goes. I’d love to see the whole novel happen, but life happens.

Author Highlight: J.R. Creaden

I’m headed into the new year, and here’s another new author to follow.

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J.R. Creaden

I’d like to start with a question about you. What is your favorite movie and why?

I have a favorite movie in every genre, so I don’t know where to begin! My favorite science fiction movie is Serenity, because the characters are rich and well-spoken, and the world is complex and challenging. It isn’t only the film itself that I love, but the story behind the film as well—fans coming together to beg Firefly creators and actors to make the movie.
My all-time favorite children’s film is Disney’s Sword in the Stone. The music, the magic, the iconic voices—I watch it at least once a year with my family.

What are you currently working on and what is it about?

I’m currently working on a YA scifi series; the first book is A New Morse Code. It’s about time travel, the ethics of change, and the power of creativity. The story began on a storyboard I built with my children and grew from there. They wanted: robots, aliens, time travel, a space academy, weird planets, and amazing tech; basically, a cross between Dr. Who, Star Trek, and Harry Potter.

ANMC is set in the 31st century of Earth, a thousand years after space travel became common and humans have allied with other species. One time ship is stranded far from Earth in a region of “dead space”—where all life has long been extinct. The ship’s crew must revive the region to find their way home. I aim to please!

JR Book What goals do you have in mind for Contact Files after publishing?

I want to see this story on a screen so badly that I’ll watch anything that comes close to these ideas. Best case scenario for Contact Files would be its adoption by Star Trek franchise. Worst case is I pitch this locally in Atlanta and follow where that leads, even if it means hiring other writers to see the series through to its end faster. I have nine more books in this series, and I could see the first book alone becoming two seasons. What excites me about transforming the story for screen would be the inclusion of other parallel story lines, voices we don’t hear firsthand until late in the series.

Will you use a PR agency when you publish?

I’d have to, whatever route I go. I’m notorious for sticking my foot in my mouth or word vomiting at strangers. For now, my PR consists of my husband reading over my shoulder and saying, “Don’t send that. Seriously, just close the tab and walk away.”

Do you have any advice for other aspiring authors?

Never give in to brain worms. Brain worms might be your family’s opinion of artists, your high school lit teacher’s opinions on “what makes a good story,” or even your inner critic saying, “You’re not smart enough, dedicated enough, talented enough, ambitious enough to write this story.” Don’t let these critics stop you from doing anything you love, and, if you don’t love it, maybe you should stop. Yes, writing is competitive, and it may be foolhardy to expect your story to be a bestseller, but you can’t compete without finishing, and you can’t know you won’t be successful unless you’ve tried.




JR 3JR began her authorial career as a child disgruntled with song lyrics. After some early success with poetry and essays, she spent decades distracted by songwriting and academia until her story dreams became too interesting to keep to myself. A Major Shift, JR’s first novel (rife with first-time novelist problems to solve), may permanently be “under revision,” but her current YA scifi project will soon be ready for public consumption or vivisection. Her goal is to share stories that inspire readers to embrace cultural diversity, the promise of science, and the value of humor and imagination to build a future that’s more Star Trek and less 1984. When she’s not writing, JR enjoys exchanging “your mama” jokes with her children, floating in lakes, and slaying virtual dragons.

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Visit J.R. Creaden online at:

her website: Ever Forward With JR Creaden

Facebook: J.R. Creaden

Twitter: JessCreaden

A Challenge – The Naughty List

I am a part of a writing group. We have recently published an anthology of Fairy Tale retellings. One of the members of the group has issued a challenge.  I am taking it up.

Let’s see . . . for Corinne’s challenge:

From the world of Distilled home of Nikolay Marat von Krug, Nessa, and Seth:

#1 Which character would get wasted at a holiday party and end up humping the Christmas tree?

Seth, gang member and future leader, has never turned down a good drink and better is the possibility gaining favor with the gang.

It would be a bright coastal. The gang gathers on the rooftop of Red House. Three beer barrels stack up taller than Seth standing on a chair. Ray, the gang leader, fills his mug and pours one for Seth.

“Drink up. Enjoy yourself.” Ray grabs the house madame and kisses her, bending her back over his arm.

“That little boy can’t hold his drink,” Peter, Ray’s enforcer, jeers.

“Can too.” Seth drinks, pours another and drinks it too. Stumbling drunk across the roof top, he bumps into the christmas tree. “Muck-suckin’ Ray. Tossin’ his whore. He’s not one of us.” Seth grabs the tree and humps it. “Look at me, I’m Ray.”

#2 Which character deserves to get the crap beaten out of ‘em by the Krampus?

Seth again or Ray. In Distilled, Ness, Seth’s sister, helps Nik escape the gang. The gang captures Nessa during the escape and tortures her in attempt to draw out Nik. Seth walks away when he knew the gang was torturing his sister. He doesn’t try to save her. For that, he deserves the wrath of Krampus. Ray deserves it for ordering the torture.

#3 Which character is the Grinch this year?

Nik. People are icky. They are diseased and loud and need to stay away. Parties are loud and filled with people. Christmas is a holliday where they expect things. They want hugs and to touch. They expect gifts, but they never give anything in return. No, Nik doesn’t need them, so they can celebrate without him.

#4 Which character would try to get a little too friendly while sitting on Santa’s lap?

Nessa. She’d be singing Santa Baby and asking for a mansion. If Santa wanted a lap dance in exchange, well, that is easy enough.

#5 Who would your antagonist most like to tongue beneath the mistletoe?

Which antagonist? Vik would definitely hide in a back room with Rose, the daughter of his closest neighbor. Seth could care less about tonguing anyone. Ray would be cuddling up with Simone, mistress of the Red Room.

#6 Which character would accidentally tip the menorah and light the house on fire?

Nik. It would start with the first knock on his door, which would trigger his paranoia. No one should be knocking on his door. As his hand starts to shake, the magic that pools beneath his feet grows larger. As the boarding house grows louder with cheers and laughter, the magic turns black, his legs quake and he falls back against his trunk, knocking the candles onto the floor.

#7 Which character is most likely to bring magic brownies to a holiday party?

Nik. Alchemy is his thing, experimentation is his joy. Some sugar, some chocolate, some of his newest concoction. Maybe it will be sleepy-time brownies mixed with his sleeping potion anchor or hallucinogen laced brownies.

#8 Which character is most likely to ring in the new year naked? And why the hell are they naked in the first place?

Nessa. Because it is natural. Because she is beautiful. Because men are stupid for a naked woman. Because starting the new year with all five outfits clean feels like a fresh start. Because her mom is not there enough to know if she is naked or not. Because she can be.

#9 Which character is absolutely kidding themselves by insisting they belong on the nice list?

Vik. He’s not bad, not really. Sure, he is financing a hit on his little brother, but that’s their father’s fault. If daddy dearest had just let the estate pass naturally to the oldest son, there would be no reason to hunt the brat down. Generally, he’s a good man. He attends his estate and his job, protects his land and people, sends funds and servants to help the war effort. He is a pillar of the community. Of course, he’s on the nice list.

#10 Which characters would readers be most shocked to find on the naughty list?

No one. They all deserve to be on the naughty list. It’d be more shocking to find them on the nice list.

Author Highlight: Heather Hayden

My featured author this month is Heather Hayden, and her book Upgrade will be released soon.

Because I am excited about the upcoming book, let’s start with the questions.

Your current WIP is called Upgrade. Could you share a bit about it?

Upgrade is the sequel to Augment, a YA science fiction I published in March 2015. The sequel has been long coming, but I’m pleased with how it’s turned out—it’s currently in the last stages of revision. Upgrade continues the adventures of Viki, a teenage girl who loves to run, and her friend Halle, an AI who likes to use an avatar of a cat. Here’s the (still rough/in-progress) back cover blurb:

In this sequel to Augment, sixteen-year-old Viki’s uneventful summer ends when she and her AI friend Halle are contacted by a rogue AI called Talbot. A surprise visit from an old adversary soon casts suspicion on the rogue and its intentions, and Viki and Halle find themselves caught up in another investigation—this time, as the investigators.

Viki struggles to balance the investigation, homework, and her social life—the latter renewed by a blossoming friendship with a recent transfer student, Darnell. Meanwhile, Halle is torn between helping a fellow AI and stopping a potentially dangerous fugitive. Several cyborgs are missing from the military laboratory. Talbot denies having anything to do with the theft, but Halle isn’t sure whether to trust the other AI. After all, Talbot was developed to control the cyborgs.

As accusations fly, Halle and Viki search for the truth about Talbot—and in the process, uncover something surprising about Darnell. The truth could destroy Viki’s new friendship and place the entire world in grave danger.

For those who haven’t read Augment, could you tell us something about Viki and Halle? Why does Viki love running so much? Why does Halle choose a cat form, instead of something else?

When she was young, Viki was in a bad accident (it’s never explained exactly what) and she gets implants—two in her legs and one in her brain. It took years of physical therapy before she could run again, so being able to do so reminds her of all the freedom she has now.

Halle likes cats. It admires them for their independence and intelligence. (If Viki’s family was okay with it, the AI would probably adopt several, but unfortunately her mother is allergic to furry animals.) When it was inspired by game avatars to start using one for interacting with Viki, Halle chose the form of a cat. Its coat color does change, usually depending on Halle’s mood, and sometimes just for fun.

You’ve created an in-depth world with a very sophisticated AI. I like how Halle has her own human type personality yet stays detached such as not accepting a gender. Tell me about your process. How do you brainstorm story ideas?

Sometimes I’ll bounce ideas back and forth with my sister—she’s a great sounding board and we can frequently solve a lot of plot holes during a walk. Most of the time, though, an idea just comes to me and I sit down and write it. Inspiration can come from pretty much anywhere—a song, a conversation, a line in a book or movie. I just have to be sure to write the idea down before it flits away again.

So what happens if the idea comes in a dream or while you are driving? Do you wait until you get home and have a computer handy, do you pull out notebooks, do you dictate to your phone? How do you end up writing the ideas down?

Although we have a couple of typewriters floating around, I don’t use them frequently. They’re fun and look cool but you have to type everything up again afterwards! So 99.99% of my writing happens on my laptop, where I keep everything organized and have the internet on hand to look something up if need be (unless, of course, I’m somewhere without internet. Too bad the Cloud from the Augment series doesn’t exist!)

I do have Dragon Naturally Speaking, which I’ve used a few times, but dictation is frustrating when I have to remember to tell it punctuation and it keeps misunderstanding me. And I also write a bit longhand, usually when I don’t have access to a computer and need to get something down before I forget it. My wrists have issues and long periods of longhand make my right one hurt a lot, so I try to avoid that. Keyboards don’t seem to bother me, thankfully!

I personally like the feel of writing a story out longhand. There is something comforting about the motion of writing. When you do write longhand, what’s your favorite kind of pen or pencil to use?

I have a lovely blue ballpoint pen my grandfather made me, which is my current favorite. Someday I’d love to use a fountain pen, though, or even a quill pen, because they look stylish.


KODAK Digital Still Camera

Though a part-time editor by day, Heather Hayden’s not-so-secret identity is that of a writer—at night she pours heart and soul into science fiction and fantasy novels. In March 2015 she published her first novella, Augment, a YA science fiction story filled with excitement, danger, and the strength of friendship. She immediately began work on its sequel, Upgrade, which continues the adventures of Viki, a girl who loves to run, and her friend Halle, an AI. You can learn more about Heather and her stories through her blog and her Twitter, both of which consist of equal amounts of writerly things and random stuff she’s interested in.

Author Highlight: Jim Moran

This is the first in a series of author interviews that will be featured on my blog. These are authors I have the pleasure of workshopping with and who have their own works to present.

According to Jim, he is a random guy on the Internet who accidentally fell into this whole “writing” thing. He is terribly inexperienced in virtually every aspect of the writing endeavor, and is currently just making things up as he goes. What fun! He has a blog.

I’d add that he is a new author working on a epic space opera. I had the opportunity to ask him a few questions about his process and the industry in general.

Jim, for your own reading, do you prefer ebooks or traditional paper/hard back books?

I don’t really have a preference.

I certainly don’t fetishize paper books to the extent that some people are wont to do. But I do like a full bookshelf. And I like the permanence of traditional books. I also like the idea that, if I drop what I’m reading into the bathtub, I’ll only be out like six dollars.

On the other hand, ebooks are incredibly convenient. And easy on the storage! Once, when I moved across the country into a house with less storage, I ended up donating like eight boxes full of old books. It was a little heartbreaking, and something that didn’t need to happen if they’d all been on a little chip.

I also enjoy audio books, for those tasks that require physical effort but not a lot of mental effort. Like yard work, or the treadmill.

How long on average does it take you to write a book?

Heh. “Average” implies more than a single data point. And since I’m still neck-deep in my revision process for Book 1, I’m not sure I even have that single data point yet. I don’t think I’m the guy to offer insight on this particular question.

Do you proofread and edit your own books or do you get someone to do that for you?

Doesn’t everybody proofread their own stuff? Does anybody just knock out a first draft and then immediately fire it off to their agent or click “Upload Story” or whatever? Am I naïve to ask?

As for getting somebody else, my personal adventure started in a critique group, and they’ve done a good and thorough job with critiquing at both a high level (concepts, motivations, plot points, etc.) and a low level (spelling, grammar, word choice, etc.)

Is that the same thing? Something tells me that’s not the same thing. I haven’t hired out a professional editor or anything, if that’s the question. I don’t really intend to, as I’m not entirely sure what kind of value an editor would bring, beyond my critique group and my own revisions, that would justify the expense.

Perhaps I’m not as educated in this part of the process as I should be. And I’m certainly not perfect. So I guess I’m willing to be convinced otherwise.

What would you say are the main advantages and disadvantages of self-publishing against being published or the other way around?

Having yet to go through either process myself, I don’t really have any experience to draw on when answering this question, and I think noob conjecture probably won’t be very helpful. Given that, I think both methods are totally viable, and it’s fantastic to have such a wealth of options available.

What do you think of “trailers” for books, and will you create one for your own work?

Speaking as a member of the audience, I was never really one for book trailers. Perhaps it’s because my book buying decisions have never really been subject to marketing influence in general. At least, nothing noticeable, and certainly nothing so overt as a trailer. I generally just peruse a bookstore, read the backs of a few books, maybe select a random page and glance at the writing style. Every once in a while, I’ll read a book that somebody gives me, or I’ll buy a book that somebody recommends (and who’s taste in reading I know and trust.)

But I’ve never seen an ad for a book and thought “I’d better go buy that.” From what few book trailers I’ve seen, they just seem like louder, more colorful, and more obnoxious versions of the ads that I already ignore.

Perhaps I’m not part of the demographic that this kind of thing speaks to.

See more insights from Jim Moran on his blog, “An Executor’s Work.”