Better With Age: Maturing as a Writer

Aging is a gradual process. It’s not something you really notice until something changes. As a kid, you’ll pull on a pair of pants you wore last week, and they’re suddenly too short. As an adult, you realize it’s becoming harder and harder to make out the text on a page unless you find that perfect focal point. (No, I do not need bifocals. That’s what old people wear.) But it’s not just our physical bodies that change. As I’ve mentioned several times before, I have another series that I’ve been writing since I was in my teens. It currently stands at ten novels and lots of partials stories. One of these days, I would love to get this series off my shelf and out into the world, but it’ll take some work. The other day, I decided to start the process by creating the working file and importing some of the original book one. I couldn’t help reading it as I did, and oh my goodness, was it bad! It was so…childish. The immaturity of this first book really surprised me. I expected to find poor examples of the craft: bad grammar, passive voice, etc. (And I did.) But I thought the story itself would hold up to a certain extent. In my mind, it was still the great tale I wrote when I was in my late teens/early twenties. Now I still dig the premise, the basic plot, and the characters, but the execution…ugh. I’m so glad I didn’t publish anything back then. I had to mature as a writer. Now that’s not to say that there aren’t some incredible young writers out there. Young folks who can tell a story in a mature, insightful fashion. Me? Nope. I didn’t have the skill back then. There’s some debate as to whether I have it now. I still get an occasional reviewer who calls my characters juvenile. And since my characters are me (read my last post on write what you know), does that mean I’m young at heart? 😛 This whole experience got me thinking. (Yeah, scary I know.) What is mature writing? Why do my characters from twenty years ago act...

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Write What You Know: My Take

Write what you know. If you’ve been writing for any amount of time, you’ve probably stumbled upon this phrase. But what does it really mean? That can vary from author to author, but here’s my take on it… When I first heard write what you know, I was intimidated. What the heck did I know? My life was rather mundane. I didn’t have a tormented childhood to draw from. I hadn’t survived a life-threatening illness, got lost in the desert, or had to fend off a pack of zombies (except on the Xbox). Not that anyone would wish for tragedy, but it seemed that I was always hearing about writers who had these incredible life experiences that inspired their writing. Me, not so much. To take this argument one step further, I write fantasy. What do I know about magic? I’ve never experienced it, so how can I truly know anything about it. Ironically, it was the fantasy aspect that helped me figure it out. A writer friend challenged me to write what I know, but with a fantasy twist. I decided to give it a try. I would write about my dull life and throw in some magic. I started with my career. I’m a chemist, so my character should be…an alchemist. If you’ve read my books, you know what happened next. Yep, Addie was born. And because this was in response to that prompt, I wrote it in first person and set it in my everyday world. Up until this point, I had been writing in third person in a secondary world fantasy setting. I wrote the opening chapter with no real idea what the story was about. It was just a fun exercise that was little more than a character sketch. When I went back and read it later, I was stunned. It didn’t suck. For the first time in my life, I wanted to share something I had written. Add a couple of years, an online workshop, and a big dollop of courage, and I was ready to send The Final Formula out into the world. In the process, Addie taught me what write what you know really meant. I might not have experienced the adventures that she...

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The Sound of Inspiration

Today I thought I’d chat about something that, for me at least, is very important to the writing process, but one that readers never see—or hear, in this case. That something is…   Nothing gets me in that special place where the characters come alive better than listening to my favorite tunes. If I’m stuck or need to get that next scene rolling, I pop in my earbuds and let the music take me somewhere else. I don’t typically write with music playing. I prefer quiet for that. But if I’m in a noisy environment, I will let my tunes drown out the distractions. Most of the time, music serves as a catalyst to get the creative juices flowing. I can use it in a controlled manner, or just let it take me where it will. For example, if a scene is giving me trouble, I will put on a song that gives me the feel I’m trying to capture, then force myself to imagine that particular scene. It doesn’t work every time, and sometimes it helps to change songs, but eventually the block will break free and the story movie will start rolling in my mind. Other times, I let the music take me to a new place in the story I haven’t yet imagined. In this case, I’ll choose a song at random, zone out, and let it take me where it will. I choose songs more for the feel it gives me rather than the actual lyrics. That’s not to say that the lyrics don’t influence me. Some remind me of a certain scene in a story, or a particular character. But I don’t get hung up on what the song is saying. Often, I’m so caught up in my imaginary world that I don’t even hear the words anymore. It’s just the pure feel the song inspires that carries me forward. Now you’re probably curious about what type of music serves as the soundtrack to my Final Formula series—or maybe you’ve figured that out already. Obviously, it’s not happy songs, sung in a major key about flowers and sunshine. I like it dark. I’ve always been a metal head—much to...

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Character Interview: Rowan

Back in June, I decided to interview some of the characters from my Final Formula series. Fans voted, both here and on my Facebook page, and selected Ian, closely followed by Rowan. With the voting so close, I decided to interview both characters. I did one interview last month and today I’ll do the other.  If you missed it, you can read Ian’s interview here. Today I’ll be interviewing Rowan, Fire Element and leader of the New Magic community—though some say, he leads the whole magical community. But there are a few necromancers who would disagree with that. 😉 Now for the man of the hour: His Grace, the Lord of Flames.   Becca: Thanks for stopping in, Rowan. I know you’re a busy guy. Rowan: (straightens in his chair) It was no trouble. And I should clarify that I’m only responsible for New Magic, though I try to maintain a good working relationship with Old Magic. Lately, that’s become difficult. Becca: So we’ve seen. Perhaps things will get better. Rowan: I suspect you will ensure that it doesn’t. Becca: It’s nothing personal, but there is no story without conflict. Rowan: (sighs) Becca: (clears throat) Back to the interview. I asked the fans for questions and they came up with quite a list. (waves a sheet of paper) Unlike some I’ve interviewed, I don’t guess I need to remind you that we expect honest answers? Rowan: Naturally. I won’t deceive you. Becca: Thanks, Rowan. We’ll start with the most popular question. Several people asked if you’ve ever been tempted to use your magic for vengeance or convenience. For example, if someone cut you off in traffic, or if you wanted to roast your own marshmallows. Rowan: (laughs) The marshmallow roasting would be difficult. I don’t technically wield fire. I elevate the temperature of an object to the point of ionization, momentarily creating a plasma. Typically there is nothing left, unless the process is interrupted and ionization doesn’t occur, then the high temperature might cause a fire. As for vengeance… Yes, I’ve been tempted. So far, I haven’t acted on it. Becca: I suspect I can guess the source of your temptation, which leads to...

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The Final Formula Collection

Now Available! The Final Formula Collection is an ebook bundle containing the first three titles in the series: The Final Formula, The Element of Death, and The Blood Alchemist.  As an added bonus, this bundle also includes two brand new short stories. The Lich’s Lab takes place between the last chapter of The Final Formula and the epilogue. The story is told from Addie’s point of view and shows how she and Ian came to their working agreement. A Christmas Formula is set a week or so after The Blood Alchemist.  In this one, Era and Cora tell the story of their first Christmas with Addie.     You can pick up a copy at: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Smashwords | Apple   Why a bundle? I’ve put this collection together as a way to attract new readers with a bundled deal, plus it gives me another title to advertise.  With a series, it doesn’t make sense to advertise any book except the first one, and I can only throw that book out there so many times before folks get tired of seeing it.  That said, I don’t like to ask fans to re-buy books they already own just to get the new short stories.  So, I’ve made the short stories available to newsletter subscribers.  The sign up form is in the side bar on the right.  As an added bonus, you’ll get an alternative POV scene from The Final Formula.  (For more information on newsletter sign up, check out my post here.)   Now for a little teaser…   The Lich’s Lab Chapter 1 I stood on the threshold and peered into the mausoleum, wishing I had a flashlight. The multiple holes in the ancient roof let in surprisingly little sunlight. I had hoped that coming here in the middle of the day would be different, but the small room was just as creepy as it had been after dark. The rare bright beam of sunlight only made the shadows deeper by contrast. I remained where I was, letting my eyes adjust until I was certain that all the dark corners were empty. I returned the rusted bolt to the hasp...

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