I Simply Remember My Favorite Things

I simply remember my favorite things, and then I don’t feel so bad. Yes, that is a line from The Sound of Music.

Here are a few of my favorite things. Or at least a few of my favorite books. 😉 (I’ll include some other things too, just for fun.)

The Cat of Bubastes by GA Henty. The tale of a captive in ancient Egypt, and his master’s son who accidentally kills a cat, which is punishable by death. Historical fiction with tons of cultural details.

Escape from the Island of Aquarius by Frank Peretti. I gotta admit, I wish I had more of Peretti’s writing, as much as I enjoy his children’s series. Plenty of adventure and Bible verses to go around.

The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien. An old favorite. Tolkien’s hobbits are just too relatable to pass up. Plus, they have furry feet. What’s not to love?

Crescent Tides by J Aaron Gruben. A new favorite! Historical Fic meets SciFi? Yes, please! (You can read my review of it here.)

Dorian the Daring by Yours Truly. Am I allowed to have one of my own creations as a favorite? Sorry, but I just get all excited when I read it, even though I know what happens next. Crazy, huh?

The Gammage Cup by Carol Kendall. A wonderful tale of ordinary people doing extraordinary things to save their village, even though the villagers exiled them. Plus, there are cute rhymes that get stuck in your head.

Okay, now for the other favorite things.

Ripe mangos. Yum! Messy, but divine.

Goats. Gotta love them goats! As long as they stay on the inside of the fence…

Cheese. Cheese comes from milk, milk comes from goats, which is another reason I love goats.

Swords. Epic duels, anyone?

Chocolate. If you don’t like chocolate, that leaves more for me.

Enliven your writing with Verbs

During my homeschooling days, I used to listen to a grammar memory song. One of the lyrics is permanently stuck in my head so that it plays every time I hear the word “verb.” It goes like this “I’m a verb, verb, verb, I’m an action word, so put me where the action is ‘cause I’m an action word.”

I know, kind of cheezy, but helpful to middle schoolers trying to remember the parts of speech; or in this case, the parts of writing.

Why are verbs so important? Simply put, the right verb can transform a mediocre sentence into a marvelous sentence. (Example: Instead of the word “transform,” I could have used its less inspiring cousin “change,” but that would have been… less inspiring. See how easy this is?)

Here’s a quick comparison of how this works in the writing world.

  1. She walked up to him and said “Where have you been?”
  2. She stomped up to him and said “Where have you been?”
  3. She sidled up to him and said “Where have you been?”

Notice that I only changed one word, yet each sentence carries a different feel. Sentence one sounds bland. Sentence two gives us the impression that she (whoever she is) is angry with him (whoever he is). Sentence three tells us that she may be flirting with him.

All by altering a single verb. (See? I could have used the verb “changing” instead of “altering,” but that wouldn’t have been as punchy.)

Try it! I bet you’ll like it.

How to Write a Fight Scene

Epic fight scenes are one of those must-haves for a good portion of modern movies. The inspiring hero music and expertly choreographed stunt moves gets our hearts pounding, and we leave with the feeling that something truly heroic has taken place.

But how do we depict an epic fight scene in a book? We can’t rely on music to stir our feelings, and we can’t describe a ton of stunt moves because—let’s be honest—it would bog down the narrative.

Here are a few tricks I use to create an epic fight scene.

  1. Describe individual moves when needed, but only when needed. Remember that part about bogging down the narrative? We can’t get too caught up in the minutia if we’re going to create a sense of rapid occurance.
  2. Include point-of-view narrative. Just because it’s action doesn’t mean we can forget about the POV we’ve been following. Thoughts and feelings will help us get a sense of how the action is affecting our character.
  3. Include the character’s expectations. Does something happen exactly the way he/she thinks it will? Or does it take him completely off guard?
  4. Add key details that make an impression on your character. Not just physical motion, but also sound, color, or whatever other sensory details your character notices.

I just finished writing a multi page fight scene in my WIP Doctor and King. The main character, Gervaise, is fighting a lop-sided duel against two of the villains. Here is an excerpt—see how many of the above points you can identify.

Brute strength does not come much into play in a friendly match, but it can be a vital asset in a deadly duel. Clara was strong, for a woman, and fierce, but I could strike heavy when I wasn’t afraid of the result it might have. Even with the leverage she had with her sword, I found If I struck hard and true, I could beat down her guard. My gauntlets scraped across my own blade as I used the entire length to block and then shove Clara backward. She recovered herself, and I saw her dart a glance aside, breaking her focus on me. As I sprang forward, she retreated and circled back. She set her jaw, then renewed her fury, which I blocked with equal energy. Calvin was right: skill with heart was better than skill alone.

I cannot say which I heard first: Vannie’s cry of warning or the sudden command in my soul—move! Either way, I understood both at once, and whirled away from the combat. I barely avoided being stabbed by a dagger with black etching on the blade—I saw it as it whisked past my chest. Carl bared his teeth in a snarl of rage as he struck past me. Treachery!

What are your favorite epic fights? Tell me in the comments.

P.S. Need a FREE short story to enjoy? It doesn’t have any duels, but it is epic. Click here to read The Sea Near The Moon.

Crescent Tides: a must read.

I just finished reading an amazing, wonderful book! These days I don’t have a lot of reading time, but I’ve been making time to read and review books on interviews and reviews. Last month I picked Crescent Tides by J. Aaron Gruben. And boy was I glad I did!

Let me ‘splain to you how the book goes. A stressed out Veterinarian and his friends accidentally stumble upon (and activate) a time machine created by a fanatic terrorist. The terrorist’s purpose? To go back in time and change the historical battle of Lepanto in order to create a modern Islamic state governed by his own family. The Veterinarian and his friends become trapped in the medieval era, fighting in a war between Christendom and the Ottoman Empire that wasn’t supposed to be influenced by machine guns and grenades. Can they undo history gone wrong? And will they ever return to their proper century?

Intrigued yet? I sure was! Crescent Tides is a masterful blend of Historical Fiction and Sci-Fi, with beautiful historical details, peppy dialogue, and an enlightening contrast between the modern era and the medieval.

I don’t say this often, but I’m saying it now: This book made my top ten favorite books ever list. I certainly count it a must read.


Opposite gender POV? Here are 3 tips.

From a young age, most of my favorite books (with the exception of the Nancy Drew series) featured male main characters. Treasure Island, Run For Your Life, and The Horse and His Boy were titles more likely to pique my interest than the Honey Bunch series. I suppose I fell in love with the idea of adventurous chivalry, which is more suited for a male character than a female. Fast forward a few years to when I began writing. How was I supposed to portray the point of view of a guy? Was I doing it right? Did it sound silly?

I can’t say I got it all right at the beginning. I remember one particular instance where my beta-readers/editors told me a letter from Jausten (a chivalrous knight dude from my novel Royalty in Disguise) sounded like it had been written by a girl. In the end I scrapped the idea of the letter and moved on.

For my next novel, Dorian the Daring, I took on almost the entire plot from a male point of view. It was a learning experience, and I had to re-write several parts as I dug deeper into the mindset of the opposite gender, but in the end I emerged with the approval of several male beta-readers, and with a few words of advice for those seeking to write from the viewpoint of the opposite gender.

  1. Study them. Whether you are studying guys or girls, there are plenty of “test subjects.” Talk to them and get their opinions on a broad range of ideas.
  2. Do your research. Read books written by guys about guys, or by girls about girls, whichever the case may be. Pay attention to stereotypes—they may not be completely accurate but they can give you a feel for the typical outlook of a gender.
  3. Dig deep. You have to do this with any character you portray, but especially so when learning to write from the viewpoint of the opposite gender. Put yourself in the character’s position and “search your feelings.”

So there you have it: three tips on how to write from the opposite gender’s POV.

Doctor and King, first paragraphs

I decided to share the opening few paragraphs from my work-in-progress, Doctor and King. Enjoy!

I wasn’t a very imposing king, as far as kings go. To begin with, I was not tall, or especially handsome, or any sort of regal. I was not especially short, I might add — but I was enough shorter than average that only a nice set of high-heeled boots would give me the illusion of average height. And I wasn’t about to stoop to that level. Or raise to that level — whichever suits you. I wasn’t particularly buff looking either. Actually I was quite strong (I could bend a hundred-pound bow without straining, and could throw a man bigger than me to the wrestling mat with ease) but I looked more like a walking barrel than the sort of fellow you see parading down the streets with his shirt off. Not that I was fat, mind you. That is, I did carry a tiny bit of extra weight, but not much at all, you understand.

And besides not looking very imposing, there was this problem of age. I was twenty years old, and still under co-regency until I was twenty one. My mother was the co-regent. Yes, I confess she was; and that gave me the horrible stigma of being the biggest mama’s boy in the entire world. What a thing for a king to have to live down! Not that I blame her. My father set her up as co-regent before his death, and I am grateful indeed that I could always trust her. It was certainly a blessing to not have to fear that my co-regent might have other designs on me than keeping my kingdom safe. But the thing was, you see, that I seem to have inherited my lack of ruling skill from her. So we made a pretty pair of co-regents, I can tell you! Ever since it began, when I was twelve, I was clumsy and forgetful in my ruling role, constantly in need of my many counselors, and my mother was flighty and anxious. And both of us were sadly naïve when it came to politics.

That is how things came to be in the state they were when I turned twenty. You see, my kingdom (which was known as Averon ) bordered the kingdom of Sharrilok, the junction being in the middle of a mountainous area. The border was somewhat vague, apparently, which no one bothered to explain to me until it was too late. No one was concerned about the vague border, however, until we opened an iron mine right beside it. Then — oh heavens above! — the fountains of the deep broke open. The people of Sharrilok insisted that the mine was on their land. To make a long story short, we went back and forth, and forth and back in messages and complaints and all sort of other tarnation with the other king. Then we had people from Sharrilok coming in and trying to work the mine with our people, and our folks of course were angry and drove them out, unfortunately killing a few in the process, and then of course they retaliated, and so on and so forth. So really, we were on the brink of war.


I was not too pleased. In fact, I was outraged. Here I was, just trying to be a decent king, and then politics, politics, politics happened, and now I was going to have to think of a solution if I didn’t want to go to war. Which I didn’t. Most of my political endeavors turned into a mess that had to be rescued by my counselors, and I knew war would not be any different

Why Happy Ending Are Important

I’ve mentioned before that I’m a sucker for happy endings. You probably are too, if you’re like most people. It’s ingrained in us—love wins, the hero overcomes, the bad guy is soundly trounced. Preferably after an epic battle. Why is this outcome so important to us?

Enter: The Master Story.

What is The Master Story? It is the basic blueprint for every Happy Ending story every made. The hero (or heroine) finds himself facing a devastating problem. Through many difficulties, misunderstandings, and confrontations, he (finally) faces off with his nemesis, appears to almost lose, then miraculously pulls off a stunning win!

Works every time. We love The Master Story because it conveys meaning. Our humanity craves meaning, thus, we are drawn to The Master Story.

I know what you are thinking. “What about Rogue One? That was a sad ending.”

Actually, I would make the argument that it was a happy ending. True, the main character dies at the end, but she accomplished exactly what she set out to do—she redeemed her father’s legacy and brought the war-torn galaxy an important gift: hope. Jyn Erso fulfills her goal and leaves us with the satisfied feeling of closure that accompanies a happy ending.

My verdict? The ending of Rogue One was happy. And that is an important thing.

Sorry this is late…

I kind of got behind on my posting this week, sad to say. I try to post on Wednesdays, but here it is Friday and I’m still scrounging for a good idea to share…

So I thought I’d answer some questions about my novel-in-progress, a.k.a, Doctor and King.

What is Doctor and King about?  It is a real-world re-imagining of the Sleeping Beauty story, told from the perspective of a young king with insecurity issues and a penchant for mixing healing tonics.

How close are you to finishing?  I’m about one inch away from finishing the first draft. I’m hoping to have it revised and edited and ready to release by the end of the year.

What is the hardest thing about writing this novel?  Probably one of the hardest things about writing Doctor and King is that I’m still getting used to writing in first person. Most of my work over the past ten years has been third person.

What do you like most about this novel?  Ha ha, I love that the main character is halfway based off my husband. That really makes it kind of funny to write, because his personality is way different from mine. So it really stretches my mind, trying to think from his perspective.

If you have a question you’d like answered, whether about Doctor and King, or about writing in general (I love helping out young writers!) feel free to send me a message.



Honestly, for the past year or so, I’ve been down in the dumps about writing. It is tough, as a young mom, to find time to write, to find time to market, and go to book signings… Especially when you have an adorable ball of cuteness tugging on your pant leg every time you sit down to write. Another contributor to my discouragement is that my publishing company went out of business–due to fraud. Eeep!

But things have been slowly looking up. I’ve actually almost finished a manuscript this year! (Doctor and King is the name of it… In case you were curious.) I’ve been able to connect with a few other authors online–it is great to have a support group. My husband is also a great support; he keeps telling me that things will get better. *cue wonderful husband applause*

My biggest wahoo moment that has really encouraged me happened this month. I actually sold a short story to Splickety magazine! (A story about a rooster, if you want to know.)

I know, not much to brag about. But it is super encouraging to me that a magazine actually thought my work good enough to publish.

And with that, I’ll wind this up…

What about you? What has encouraged you lately?

Pencil or Keyboard?

One of those matters of personal taste: pencil or keyboard? Each has pros and cons, and whether you carry a notebook into coffee shops and occasionally peek over the top of it at the other coffee-goers, or whether you sit down and let your fingers glide effortlessly (or not so effortlessly) across the keys makes little difference in the end.

Still, it is fun to hear how other writers prefer to write.

Personally, I would love to try a typewriter one day, just to say I did. Currently, however, I vacillate between pencil and keyboard. I love writing in a notebook, because it is easy to carry around, and I feel more creative with a pencil in hand. Plus, when I type it out, it makes it super easy to make a first revision without having to cut, copy, paste, delete, etc.

The keyboard, however, seems to be more productive in terms of word count. Most likely because I can’t seem to resist revising on the go…

So my current writing method is to write in my notebook most of the time, then when I get involved in a Word War (facebook writer friends) I pull out Microsoft Word with its handy dandy automatic word count.

What about you? How do you like to do your writing?