Southern Festival of Books: What to Do

currently playing on my laptop: Bang Bang by Green Day

This weekend my hometown hosts the Southern Festival of Books, a wonderfully jam-packed flurry of things readers, writers, and fans MUST attend!

Here is what you’ll probably enjoy the most:

  1. Rock Star Panels and TalksIn the past, I’ve MC’d a panel, but this year I can relax and enjoy the show. IF SOMEONE WILL JUST MAKE ME A TIME TURNER. Seriously, I tried to create a schedule for myself so I could see YA fantasy and historical authors CJ Redwine, Roshani Chokshi, Sharon Cameron, Shannon Messenger, Nicole Castroman, Kerri Maniscalco, Lauren Oliver, Kendare Blake, Megan Shepherd, Martina Boone, Maria Dahvana Headley, Victoria Schwab, Maggie Stiefvater, and so many more. The authors will chat on the topic listed in the SoFest schedule  in sometimes very small and intimate group settings. (depends on location and timing) You can pick up tips on worldbuilding, POV, character arcs, and marketing. Readers can learn how their faves went about crafting that awesome story they love. It is very, very fun.
  2. Signings From Authors Who Aren’t Even Touring Right Now (bring a book to the panel they’re on and most times they’ll stick around to sign or direct you to when and where they will sign!)
  3. Food Trucks (ginger lemonade and the grilled cheeserie, anyone? Super nomming happening)
  4. Honky Tonk Nashville Fun Times (Nashville is a great place to grab a drink, dance a bit, or listen to live music!)


So yeah. You need to boot scoot (couldn’t resist; deal with it) on down to Nashville and experience the SoFest! 


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#amrevising: My Favorite Techniques

now playing on my laptop: Kill v. Maim by Grimes

Are you revising? Me too! 


Yeah so it can be tough. Verra (use Jamie Fraser voice) tough, sassenach.

Here are some of my favorite ways to get to the root of my characters and my story.

  1. Rewrite a chapter or three in a different point of view to SEE more.

*if you write in 1st, change it to 3rd

*if it’s from her POV, put it in his and so forth

*write the same scene from totally outside character

2. Read, then type out a page from your favorite book in the genre you’re writing in. Next, write a scene of yours below it. Compare and get to work.

3. When rereading your first draft, pause before each chapter and jot down what should happen next—what you’re expecting. Compare your note to what you wrote and it’s pretty easy to see if you were just indulging yourself on pretty things or you jumped to an odd place.

4. Remember that your first draft is just you discovering your story. Stop clinging to it like Rose near the iceburg. Let it go, Elsa-style. Okay, I’ll stop. Sorry.

Now shed that sloth persona, find your inner Kiki determination, and get to work!


Good luck!



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Worldbuilding: Create a Historical Background

currently playing on my laptop: Cruel World by Phantogram

Recently, Tehlor Kinney (@tehlorkay) tweeted about the importance of worldbuilding with careful consideration to the background on such cultural topics as food, clothing, and so forth. It was a great thread and you should definitely check it out.

Last week, I posted a pdf to help you shape your fantasy worldWorldbuilding Info Sheet I’d like to go deeper now. Wikipedia has a bad rep for being unreliable because anyone can jot anything into the entries, but it is a format we all know and so I’m going to use it. Take a look at this lil screenshot.

Screen Shot 2016-08-21 at 12.04.16 PM

(Stop fretting about how many things I have open, you control freaks.)

This is Algeria’s page. Some fifth graders I taught this week studied this country during an Olympics project. We had fascinating discussions on the majority versus individuals within a culture. Very fun stuff. So, Algeria. Do you see the ancient Roman ruins? The street and the arch? The theatre? I love imagining modern Algerians speaking Berber and walking these ruins from another culture entirely. This is complicated. This is layered. This is a real place and a real people with a real culture. Some of those modern Algerians would be speaking Arabic, others French. Do they know much about their ancestors, many of whom (if the entry is accurate) exported cereals or were some of the world’s most famous scholars? I’m not sure. I only know one person from Algeria.

But remember, you aren’t writing a history paper when you worldbuild for fantasy. You are crafting your own place with its unique history of conquerors and scholars and saints and ruins and languages. You don’t have to follow history. You do have to think about the timeline and the people though. Here are a few questions to ask yourself.

  1. Why would a people identify with one of the many groups that have inhabited their homeland and not with another?
  2. Why do they speak the language they do? Does it have to do with religion? Or politics? Or both?
  3. How are they with religion? Tolerant? Not so much? What happened in their history to make them this way?
  4. What foods, clothing, colors do they embrace or consider taboo and what happened to make this so?
  5. Are there ruins in the area? Are they from a people who have descendants in the country or did they die off or leave? Do the modern inhabitants use the ruins? Is there any tourism tied to these ruins?
  6. Has the way your fantasy people make money changed? Why and what does the place look like since the change?
  7. What about actual money—coins and the like? Do they show some of the area’s history like Lincoln on an American penny or what have you?

Everything about a culture has a backstory. The details don’t have to be in your story, but you as the author needs to know them so your world works like the real world in most ways. So it’s authentic and respectful to the cultures that inspire you. If you alter something in an existing culture, know why it’s different and address that, even if it doesn’t end up on the page.

I wish you luck and hope to see your world come to life in an authentic way someday soon!

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Worldbuilding Info Sheet for Writers

currently playing on my laptop: Unsteady by X Ambassadors

Happy Sunday, all!! I made something for you!

When you sketch out a new setting for a fantasy novel, you may want to get the nitty gritties down on paper. These can always change according to what you want to do in the story, but I find it really helps to flesh the setting out so motivations and attitudes ring true for your characters.

Below you’ll find a nice little pdf of the sheet I like to use to get started. It’s a fun activity you can use with your crit group or just on your own. Let me know what you would add and why!

Worldbuilding Info Sheet 

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Recharge Your Love of Life

currently playing on my laptop: Valar Morghulis by Ramin Djawadi

My purpose today is to reenergize, inspire, and fill you up with loads of cool and beautiful things. Whether you write, draw, paint, design, play music, sing, or scribble next to a toddler, you need a recharge now and again. I’m here for you.

First, I’ll give you some hauntingly gorgeous places.






Now, I’ll share the books I go to time and again to recharge. With either setting that calms or characters that make me laugh, these books comfort this reader. I’d love to hear your comfort reads if you want to share in the comments!

Perelandra by C.S. Lewis   The setting is so creative and peaceful. I can’t get enough.

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins    It’s a happy ending and I love journeying into it every time.

Everything by Tolkien   The world is a dream and I don’t want to wake up.

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness   The smartypants vibe makes me so happy. Plus, romance galore and magggiiiiicccc.

Any number of books by Sarah Addison Allen   Thoughtful and bursting with magic, her stories are hot chocolate to the soul.

Okay, that’s all for now. I have two darling little kids tugging on my arm and a husband who wants to hang out. They too are sometimes what I need to fill my energy tank. Sometimes they are the opposite.🙂 Please share your recharging ideas!


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Writing Tips: Action Scenes, Part IV

It’s Saturday! Time for some writing tips! Today I go over some basic stick fighting (escrima Filipino stick fighting) that you may want to use in your next action scene. I hope you enjoy it!

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Writing Action Scenes, Part III

So yeah, I made this and forgot to post it here. Alas, I am human.😉 This video goes over how trained folks move versus untrained. Take a look if you want to make your characters believable with regards to how they walk around, what their early training might look like, and the kind of coordination to expect after much practice. I hope it helps you!

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