Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Happy Birthday Giveaway!

It's July, so it's almost my birthday. I shouldn't mention that this year my big day is going to be overshadowed by a massive American holiday. But I'm bitter.

See? Rude.

Anyway, the happy day is next Sunday, July 5th. I won't bore you with the details of how old I am. (Do you want to know my weight and dress size while we're at  it? Gosh.) I will say that I'm NOT 40 yet, and I'm grateful.

It's been a whirlwind year with changes in everything from my profession life to my mental and physical health. Above all, I am happy to have survived. And it is a pleasure to celebrate my birthday week with all of you.

Since I have almost everything I want (unless you have a hot fireman handy), I'm pleased to give a gift to all of you. So... We're doing another giveaway!

This time prizes include:
Signed Copies of Becoming Beauty (2)
$10 Amazon Gift Cards (2)

I am limiting the Grand Prize(s) to US residents only, but anyone with a valid email address is eligible to win one of the Gift Cards as they will be delivered via email. (I'm sorry overseas friends, I will not mail a copy of my book to you if it costs more in postage than the book itself. But I still love you.)

Also, for those of you who would love your own signed copy of Becoming Beauty, I am also running a sale on the stock I have on hand. Books will be $10 for pick-up or $13 shipped within the US. (If my dears overseas friends would like a signed copy, shipping charges will vary according to your location.) Please leave me a comment or email me (click the handy-dandy buttons on the side bar or under the Contact tab) if you are interested.

Thanks and good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Author On Vacation

On the airport shuttle a couple asked if anyone was headed anywhere amazing. My exuberant “Baltimore!”earned me some funny looks and chuckles, not to mention ribbing from the driver later. But when I've been to Maryland in the past it's meant trips to DC to see fireworks, historical sites, and everything all over the Mall, or poking into itty bitty adorable shops in Frederick, exploring cool pastoral scenes, and doing lots of laughing with my best friend Misty Pulsipher and her family. I'll be honest, I really just come for her. This year was more low-key, but we had a wonderful time together.
Hamming it up with the hooligans. Girls are dorks. Own it. I know I do! I laughed way too much with these silly girls, which was just what I needed.
Kissing cows. (It's a country girl thing.) My bestie is super obsessed with cows. And she does the duck face. A lot. It may be an indication of an actual medical condition.
Wine and paint! Even though we don't drink, we did get a little punchy. But don't cheese and grapes feel elegant, even when they're served with sparkling cider?
And celebrating Misty's birthday. Yep. We're fabulous. The cake was amazing (because my many skills include cake whispering). Chocolate Dr Pepper cake with chocolate cream cheese frosting is pretty fantastic. 

We may not have seen amazing historical sites or done anything flashy on this trip, but isn't being with cool people the best part of vacationing? My brain is already forming a game plan for Book Two (gotta get that puppy submitted!) and images, scenes, and character sketches for Book Three. That's what a good vacation does--get the juices flowing!

There will definitely be more adventures this summer. I'll keep you posted! By the way, here's a look as last year's adventures in California:
Sun, Surf, and Solace: roadtripping it to California!
Unexpected Sweetness: getting lost at Golden Gate Park.
It's Playtime: my obsession with live theater takes center stage! 

Gotta play, people. What are you doing this summer? Leave me a comment and tell me about it!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Jo Schneider: Author, Ninja, Fangirl

Jo Ann Schneider is an accomplished writer with three books on the market and a whole lot more in the works. She writes primarily SciFi/Fantasy, does Shaolin Kempo (a.k.a. martial arts), and is crazy about Star Wars, Psych, Doctor Who, and anything Marvel. (Basically, we get on beautifully!) 

Her third book Fractured Memories, was published in May 2015:
Sixteen year old Wendy never knew the world before the Starvation. She’s learned to put her trust in her knives, and her confidence in her fighting ability. When the Skinnies attack her compound, she's the lone survivor. Injured and near death, Wendy is rescued and nursed back to health by mysterious strangers. Her saviors offer her a place among them, but trust has never been one of Wendy's strengths, and suspicion soon leads to evidence that these people might be the group who killed her family. The decision to get her revenge, and take the settlement down from the inside out is easy. Keeping her distance from those she must befriend in order to make it happen proves to be much more difficult.

To help launch Fractured Memories, I conducted an interview with Jo. As usual, her answers were entertaining and thoughtful.

Inspiration or perspiration? What drives you to write the next book?
Uh, both?  I finish one book and perhaps launch it out into the world, and I’m immediately driven to write something else. Part of me is like, “I’m pretty sure I can do better than that.” And another part of me is like, “This book is bound to be an international best-seller with a fandom that will rival Twilight. I’d better get going on the next one.”

Maybe I’m more about delusions.
I think we're all a bit delusional, Jo. Comes with the territory! Moving on...

Okay, Ms. Traveler, it’s all in the name of research, right? So, what locale would you best enjoy exploring next?
I hate this question. There are so many!!! I have an idea for a book about a Shaolin Monk, so I’d love to go back to the Shaolin temple in China. But that’s a ways off. 

Pretty much anywhere in Europe would be awesome. Japan. You can’t take twenty steps in England without running into something interesting. What I really need to do is figure out where the finale of the New Sight series is going to be and take a trip there.
Yeah...that could be ANYWHERE. Those are some well-traveled magic users. I guess we'll have to wait and see where they end up and hope you get to do some recon beforehand!

Alright, don't lie! We all know you love torturing your characters. What’s the worst thing you’ve done to a character? (And seriously, why do you gotta be so mean?)
Well, I feel like killing Wendy’s family and leaving her alone in the world with the Skinnies is pretty mean. Then I give her PTSD about the attack, then I shove her in with the people she thinks is responsible for the death of her family. That’s pretty mean.

I did make Agent Bunnynose be nice to a very obnoxious woman once. Also very mean of me.
Oy! That had to hurt. Very mean indeed! On to a sweeter topic:

What snack/beverage/goodie keeps your fingers tapping at the keyboard? (If you say water, we can’t be friends.)
Uh…well…cold water? I love it so much.

Don’t hate me, if there are snacks I’m eating and not writing. They’re like my shiny objects. But I am currently going through a phase where a Soda Stream Cola on ice and some Pretzel Thins keep me going when I’m falling asleep in my chair about 3 pm almost every day.
What is it about the afternoon? If I wasn't teaching kindergarten the majority of the year, I'd fall asleep at 2 pm every day! Shall we declare it a Writer Siesta? Let's start a union! Anyway...

What’s your biggest pet peeve about publishing a book? (Be honest, it’s marketing, isn’t it!)
I do hate marketing. Mostly because there isn’t a formula for it.It’s a little different for each market/genre and each author. I haven’t found what really gets me excited yet.

I’ll be honest, my biggest pet peeve about publishing a book is that not everyone thinks by book is a brilliant as I do. 
Sounds familiar. 

Writers are always making stupid mistakes. Oh, Writer Extraordinaire, what’s your best advice for bonehead writers like me? (And don’t just pick on me and say blocking…rude.)
Write down what you learn. Make your own folder of writing tools: character development, plot points, story structure, how to show and not tell, blocking, subtext…all of the things that have helped you make your story good. Gather them from other people as well as books you read and shows you watch. Keep them in a place you can easily browse through them.

I’ve read a lot of books on writing, and I’m sure I only remember about 1/8 of what was in there. Just last night my Sensei was going on and on about how the beginning of a movie showed everything the audience needed to know about the main character through the other characters reactions to simply hearing his name. I know about that tool, but haven’t used it yet. However,  the story I’m working on could actually benefit from that. Which means I need to type it up and toss it in my folder for later.

When you think you’re stuck, just open your folder and start flipping through. You’ll find something that will spark your story forward. 
Wow. I always learn things from you, Jo. Thanks for being my personal writing guru. You're amazing! Best of luck in your writing ventures!

Isn't she amazing? She's a wonderful person and a fabulous writer. There's nothing else to say except go check out her books! 

(YA Fiction/Humor)
(YA SciFi/Fantasy)
(YA Fiction/Distopian)

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Book Hangover

Book Hangover 
book hang-o-ver noun
a severe headache or other after effects caused by reading an excessively good book into the wee hours of the morning.
“I have the worst book hangover! But it was so worth it!”

This summer has been a bit of a challenge, but it has given me the opportunity to read more. (We call that research in the writing world. And it's my favorite kind!) There have been some decent books, and then there have been some of those that resulted in a book hangover like none other. Do I regret it? Nope. It's all the name of art, my friends!

They're all clean reads and they feature at least a spark of romance. In case you're looking for something fabulous to read, here's what I'd had my nose in lately:

Painting Kisses by Melanie Jacobson (YA Romance)
Lia Carswell is good at what she does. The popular waitress works hard and with her witty personality and good looks, she's something of an enigma to the male customers who vie for her attention. Lia keeps her distance, with one exception. Aidan's clever teasing draws Lia's attention, though Lia would never let their relationship get serious, especially since he's not the only one trying to catch her eye. Then her old New York artist life comes knocking. It would ensure financial security for her family, but Lia doesn't know if she wants that life anymore. When she undertakes one final project, she reawakens her heart and soul. And as she finds herself falling in love and needing an outlet more and more, she realizes her paintings might be her saving grace.
My review: 5 stars! This is my top summer read! Melanie is gifted at creating strong yet fragile heroines. The romance that blossoms throughout the story is complex and beautiful and keeps a girl reading far into the night. I adored it! Possibly my favorite aspect of Painting Kisses was seeing the world through Lia's artist's eyes. It was beautiful and amazing.

Forbidden, Kimberley Griffiths Little (YA Fiction)
In the unforgiving Mesopotamian desert where Jayden's tribe lives, betrothal celebrations abound, and tonight it is Jayden's turn to be honored. But while this union with Horeb, the son of her tribe's leader, will bring a life of riches and restore her family's position within the tribe, it will come at the price of Jayden's heart. Then a shadowy boy from the Southern Lands appears. Handsome and mysterious, Kadesh fills Jayden's heart with a passion she never knew possible. But with Horeb's increasingly violent threats haunting Jayden's every move, she knows she must find a way to escape—or die trying.
My review: 5 stars! A truly wonderful read. It's clear that Kimberley has done some amazing research and weaves it together with an enchanting story of her own making. Intrigue, romance, and tradition draw the reader in and yes, keep you reading well into the night!

Ignite, Sara B. Larson (YA Fiction)
Alexa continues to harbor a secret love for the newly crowned King Damian, yet she remains by his side as his guard and ever committed to helping him rebuild Antion and reclaim the hope of Antion's people. However, when a new threat to Damian and his kingdom emerges, and blame is cast on the once friendly nation of Blevon, Alexa knows things are not what they seem. Once again the fate of her country hangs in the balance. Will Alexa be able to protect her king and uncover the true enemy -- before it's too late?
My review: 5 stars! I absolutely loved Defy, the first book in the series as well as Ignite. Action/adventure and romance surrounding a truly fantastic main character makes for a great story. For more, read my posts Ignite and Tragically Flawed Or Not.

Victoria's Promise, Julie Wright (Christian Fiction)
A luxurious mansion. Thirty stunning bachelorettes. One very eligible bachelor. All of the ingredients are in place for a successful reality dating show, and behind the scenes, Tori Winters is set to pull the strings as assistant director of Vows. Despite her distaste for public exhibitions of love, Tori intends to give the public exactly what they want: scintillating footage of a bevvy of beauties vying for the attention of Christopher Caine. But Chris, a consummate Southern gentleman and the star of Vows, seems almost too good to be true—and soon, even Tori finds herself falling under his spell. With the support of her friends in the Newport Ladies Book Club, Tori must decide if she is willing to jeopardize all she’s worked for in order to embrace her own fairy-tale ending.
My review: 4 stars. I appreciated Julie's skill as a writer. And a behind-the-scenes story of reality TV? Well, that's bound to be interesting. Definitely a quick, breezy, romantic read. However, I didn't jive as well with this story as I did with the others. But it is part of a series of books all about the Newport Ladies Book Club, which I'd enjoy reading.

Sophia, Paula Kremser (Historical Fiction)
Small-town Sophia Spencer can't believe her luck when an unexpected inheritance sweeps her up into the glittering London social scene. With more invitations to balls, parties, and country drives than she can keep up with, Sophia is soon lost in the swirl of dresses and dances, friendships and flirtations. But her happiness comes to an abrupt halt the moment she's caught napping in a gentleman's bedroom—and forced into an engagement to protect her reputation! 
My review: 3.5 stars. Honestly, I had a bit of a hard time getting into this one. It had a lovely cover and the storyline was compelling (seriously, hand me anything Regency Romance/Clean Read and I'm all over it!) but the beginning didn't grab me. Fifty pages in and I was hooked! Sophia is a fun character with a mind of her own in a time when reputation meant the difference between life and death. According to society anyway.

Anything sound interesting? I've linked all the titles to Amazon, so you can easily check them out or purchase them if you're interested. Any hey, Becoming Beauty is also a sassy summer romance that has been known to result in the occasional book hangover. I really am enjoying my summer of reading and if I get my act together, there may even be another collection of amazing books coming your way!

In case none of these float your boat, here are some other books that I've reviewed: Miranda Hart, Letters To My Future Husband, Where Life Takes You, Persuaded, The Rent Collector, and Not My Type.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

May's Shorty Short Shorts

For May (National Short Story Writing Month), my delightful Writing Group did Micro Short Stories at 250 words (I'll admit that mine is closer to 300). It was probably one of most fun get-togethers ever, including dinner and shakes at Johnny Rockets and a trip to the theater to see Pitch Perfect 2. (That's right, we're professionals, people!) I presented the first three Micro Short Stories--a silly, snarky trio--in my last post May is For Micro Shorts. These are the remaining three, which include my submission.

Meg Zerkle
The text message simply said, Very clever.
I smiled. If only he knew.
I wondered what he’d found. The shirts with the sleeves sewn shut? Maybe the snake in his sock drawer? I was sure it wasn’t the mouse in his boots. He wouldn’t be amused by that one.
Can we talk?
Fat chance. But, I had to admit he was persistent.
I uncapped the Sharpie and picked up the first photo album. This was going to be fun. A moustache here, a beard there, and lots of large, black Xs. Those were my favorite. Even the pungent smell of the ink was pleasurable. I couldn’t stop smiling.
My phone rang a few times, but I ignored it. I was enjoying myself far too much to stop now.
It wasn’t what it looked like!
Ha! Just for a moment, I lost it and threw a handy vase at the wall. Luckily, my aim sucks and it sailed harmlessly through the doorway and bounced to a stop on my bed.  Deep breath. Anger isn’t productive. Revenge, now that was better.
I had 10 more albums to get through. Plenty of fun ahead. A giggle slipped out, and I covered my mouth with my hand. No, I just had to focus on the projects in front of me.
She’s just a friend! Don’t you think you’re overreacting a little?
Oooh! Nope! Breathe in. . . breathe out.
My boots! Why did it have to be my boots!
My dog howled in harmony with my maniacal laughter.

Sarah Boucher
One last breath. I closed my eyes, sucked it in, and held the taste of dried flowers and the tang of soap on my tongue. Tears pricked my eyes. The letter crinkled in my fist. I took another stabilizing breath. This time the flat smell of dust coated my mouth. I opened my eyes. Dust motes danced in the light from the nearest window, clung to the wide sill where I once read fairytales, and outlined the squares where mother’s cushions had sat.
Simple, clean, tidy. That’s how Mother had always kept her home. Sorrow rose at the back of my throat. I swallowed it back, but the flavor of tears hit my tongue just the same.
“Pardon me, miss.”
I swiped a hand across my eyes and pressed the letter to my chest. I turned to the boy. “Yes?”
“Everything is packed, miss.”
What little is left, you mean, I wanted to add. “Thank you. I’ll be right there.”
His shoes scuffed against the bare boards as he left.
Bare walls, bare floor. My throat tightened. I squeezed my eyes shut and made a wish. A wish for another family to furnish the home with love.
The scrape of footsteps sounded behind me.  The boy cleared his throat.
I looked him over. He was a waif of a boy with brown hair and plain clothes. None of this was his fault.
I pushed the words out. “Thank you, Johnny. I’m coming.”
I smoothed the wrinkles out of the letter before stowing it in the bodice of my dress. I reached for the bag at my feet, slung it over my shoulder, and stepped away from the life I had always known.

Shandra Burnett
Kim ran to the closet and began stuffing clothes into her backpack. A quick stop in the den for her passport and she was out the door. She almost forgot to lock it. Her brother, Jay, hated finding it unlocked. Of course, she wouldn't be there to hear his lecture. She smiled and almost laughed, but she would miss him. He would hate the way she was running without considering all possibilities and consequences. She saw this her chance to be like a new companion climbing into the TARDIS. Jay would see it as the last act before her mangled body was buried in the woods and “Missing” pictures started going out on milk cartons. Either way she couldn't hang out at home anymore. Just reading about adventures and dreaming about them wasn't enough. Not that anything was wrong with her life. Jay was great to live with and her job at the library gave her easy access to all the books she wanted. She’d been healthy and comfortably well off all her life, but nothing had ever happened. No love stories or heartbreaks. No crises with hard decisions to make. No fortifying leaps of faith. Just calm waters flowing steadily from day to night and back again. She wanted to wake up somewhere new. The sun was setting when she rounded the corner and saw his smiling face. He held the promised airline ticket. Kim took his hand and stepped forward into adventure that was bigger on the inside.

* * * 
As you can see, we excel at different aspects of the writing process. It makes us stronger as a group, especially when it comes to giving helpful feedback. If you're interested, all the ladies can be found on Facebook and half of us are on Twitter as well. Thanks for dropping in, friends!

FYI: Meg is an editor. How cool is that? Also, my submission is the beginning of Book Three (a.k.a. the Rumpelstiltskin retelling). What did you think? If you had your pick, which fairytale would you for me to rewrite?

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

May is for Micro Shorts

Remember the post There Are Weirdos For Everyone? That's my Writing Group! For May (National Short Story Writing Month) we did Micro Short Stories at (250 words-ish). It was a challenge, but the girls brought forth such a wealth of humor and brilliance as we chatted, swapped stories, and slurped shakes at Johnny Rockets that I thought you'd enjoy their stories too. (If you don't laugh at least once, you haven't been paying attention.)

Denise Tolley
“Sit down, Joe.” Grant Cooper, Allentown’s chief of police, pulled out a rolling desk chair and motioned toward it.
The younger officer who was standing at a stiff backed yet unofficial attention, staring with unfocused eyes out the precinct window, started at the sound of his name and turned his head toward Chief Cooper.
“I can’t sit, sir.” Joe’s words came out in a rough whisper. “If I sit, I might not be able to stand again.”
Joe turned back to the window and resumed his rigid stance.
Chief Cooper let out a frustrated sigh. He walked over to Joe and put a hand on his shoulder.
“Son, you can’t change things. Choices were made that will cause heartache for many good officers for a long time to come.” He gave Joe’s shoulder a squeeze. “C’mon. You can do this. Have a seat.”
Joe took in a deep breath, held it, and then released it slowly.  He turned again and walked with the chief back to the long table that was centered in the room. 
The other officers seated at the table watched him expectantly. Waiting. Waiting for the clock to start again. His throat became tight and dry, even as a single bead of anxious sweat trickled slowly down his hairline. The pressure immense.
Joe dug deep inside himself for the confidence he knew was there.  He could do this.
He sat in his chair and gave a look of encouragement to the others. A nod to the spirit of police competition everywhere.
A bell sounded.
The clock resumed ticking.
It began again.
Within moments Joe emerged victorious and clich├ęd.
Precinct Donut Eating Champion.

The sound sat somewhere between a thump and a slap. I sat in my chair and tried to ignore it. The glow from my computer screen should have enticed me to finish the project I was working on--either that or check Facebook--but the thlapping kept getting louder.
I coughed and shifted in my seat. This never ended well. Maybe if I kept my eyes forward and looked intent, I wouldn't get dragged into the drama.
Not that I would have a choice.
I grimaced, realizing the cough would draw their attention. They had ears like a mother of four, and the pouncing skills of a hyper kitten.
Thlap. Thlap. The sound slowed. Thlap. I held my breath. I was around the corner, maybe if I didn't move or make a sound, they wouldn't notice me.
“Pick one of the others,” I urged in my mind.
I didn't even dare click my mouse. They could probably hear the laser moving.
Silence reigned behind me. I could practically feel everyone trying to be invisible.
Someone sniffed..
Thlap, thlap, thlap...
I let out the breath I had been holding.
“Hey, Brad, can you help me with something?”
I almost came out of my seat. How had one of them snuck up on me? They all wore flip flops.
I looked down and found Celeste's feet sporting warrior sandals.
Time to install some mirrors. 

Cindy Green
Randall had only gone for a leisurely walk that evening. The purple setting sun filled the sky with a deep green that beckoned to him. Troubles would wait until he returned home. Finding what looked like a ball of bright white light peeking through the branches of a bush hadn’t been on his agenda. In fact, he had no agenda other than to stroll about the neighborhood, but it certainly piqued his curiosity. He moved for a closer look.
His one coherent thought as he found himself falling through the light, which turned out to be a tiny opening between realities, was, “Oh, dear. I think I left the stove on.”
Landing in the new reality was abrupt. Randall had little time to consider his new situation when he was buffeted by strange sights and squealing noises. He trembled at the sound and thought it best to lie still without blinking and hoped it would go away.
Panic filled his frame as a strange, giant creature grasped him by each end and lifted him into the air. Twisting and turning him, it seemed to be examining all sides. Squealing again, he was shaken up and down before being carried to a strange chamber where his torture began.
Forcing open his mouth, the creature squeezed itself into him, encasing his body around its own. The pain was excruciating, causing him to pass out. When he awoke, he discovered he was again being carried and wondered anew at the strange sights.  
A chill passed over Randall when he saw the others. They were trapped on shiny bars, held there by strange devices. Their eyes showed no hope. A sign read, “Micro shorts.”

* * * 
Including six shorts, even at micro mini length, was a little much for one post. The other three are located in the post May's Shorty Short Shorts.  Check them out. At least one will get you laughing! If you're interested, all of us can be found on Facebook and half of us are on Twitter as well.  I hope you enjoyed them! Leave me a comment and tell me what you thought. I'll pass it along to the girls!

FYI: Cindy and Denise are sisters. Can you imagine what the family reunions are like? I'm going with hysterical.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Breaking the Rules

There are sets of rules that govern everything from doing laundry to doing back flips. And until you learn the rules, you shouldn't even consider breaking them. It's only sort of like this:
One of my favorite stories regards Pablo Picasso, you know, the same Picasso who expressed some of the most intriguing perspectives through his artwork? He started with the basics. He studied the masters and developed his skill before experimenting with his own style. Granted, I think this is pretty customary for serious artists, but I have never forgotten his story.

At the LDS Storymakers conference this year, authors Julie Wright and J. Scott Savage outlined some of the basic rules of writing and how effective writers break them. Let me just say I wanted to utter a loud WAHOO! But I'm a lady, so I kept the wahooing to a minimum.

In my couple of years in the writing community, I've heard all of the following:

Show don't tell
Don't use flashbacks
Start with a BANG
Don't use adverbs, adjectives, and/or flowery language

And let's be honest, there are a ton of others. Some of them are legitimate and let's be honest, some are made up. The job of the writer is to learn the rationale behind the rule. For instance, writers are encouraged to show as much as possible to activate the reader's senses and encourage them to experience the story alongside the characters. Telling moves the story along, but doesn't engage the audience as fully.

Once you've learned the rules and the rationale behind them, there are really only a few things you need to worry about:

Spin your tale clearly & in the most engaging way possible
Develop a great plot, interesting characters, & use skillful storytelling to get the audience invested
Know the rules, use them well, but don't be married to them

All great authors break the rules in one way or another. If you write well, your own style will take center stage and no one will care if you use flashbacks or tell instead of show because you will do it to move the characters and their story forward. My favorite bit from Julie and Scott's presentation was this advice: Whatever literary device you use, make sure the payoff is worth it. Yes, my dears, there will always be critics who will ask for more or less from you. Unless they are saying something helpful, ignore them and keep on writing.

Need more Writing Tips? Try Verbosity (yep, I'm all over using large, colorful words...appropriately), The Good, The Bad, and the Meh (on dealing with reviews), Jot it Down, Dang it!, Wannabes Need Not Apply (own your writerhood!), and the best writerly advice ever: Butt. In. Chair.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

World Building for the Literary Challenged

That's right. I'm not afraid to call it that, probably because I fit into the category nicely.
Photo via Unsplash, by Mark Ashtoff
I'm the girl who will never get the gold medal for blocking. (And if I did, Jo Ann Schneider would promptly swoop in and karate chop it out of my hand. (Okay, maybe not. She loves me too much to resort to public humiliation.) But even Jo knows that I think things through before I sit down to a new project. After attending Sara B. Larson's workshop on World Building at LDS Storymakers, I've picked up a bit more on grounding my characters. Granted, I don't require the magic discussion other people do, but there were plenty of items we discussed that are useful in any world, fictional or real.

Don't overdo 
Sometimes authors go overboard with research and world building. Writers need to be thorough, but most of that information will have no place in their stories. It's for their eyes only. Can you imagine if JK Rowling included all the minute details of Quidditch in Harry Potter? (The hardcore Potterheads would have been stoked, but the rest of us wouldn't have made it through Year One.)

Know the basics
Consideration must be made for the customs and architecture of the world. Writers must think about how poverty and wealth affect their civilizations, the environment (rain forest vs. rural Utah) in which they live, how they dress, and what and how they celebrate. Clothes are always a breeze for me because I fall in love with beautiful clothing, shoes, and accessories of any era. Other things are more nebulous at the beginning of a project. Matching the time period with the correct type of housing is always a challenge for me. (It just gives me a reason to Google cool stuff, read more, and watch period movies. Do I look upset about that? Nope!)

Do the homework
Perhaps like me, other writers will find they are weaker in certain aspects of world building. (Please note that I have not touched on the subject of magic and the rules associated with governing it. And I won't. Definitely not my strong suit.) However, there is nothing wrong with reading more books from authors who are fabulous at world building, watching more quality movies, and Googling liberally. In my present story, I'm dealing with lords, ladies, earls, and dukes. You betcha I've been googling the correct usage, correct capitalization, and the correct way to address each of them. Never hurts!

Don't dump
The info dump is the absolute no-no of writing. The world must be revealed as it becomes pertinent to the story and natural to your characters. A big intro on the trade situation at the beginning of your novel will be just right way to get your audience snoozing. No one cares about backstory until they connect with the characters and are drawn in by the twists and turns of an awesome plot. Showcase them and let your world be what it is: the backdrop. Subtlety is the name of the game.

Get writing
Research is all well and good, but it needs to lead to something. Writers must invest the time to create a believable backdrop, but then it's time to get to work! I'd love to tour Europe to gather info for the world my stories are built around, but it's much more important to invest in my characters and storylines. After all, they're they ones who will keep me awake at night if I neglect them.Also, because I rely on other fabulous writers, I find that my writerly friends notice things that I miss. They ask questions and make suggestions that make the writing stronger. Also, I bring a lifetime of research from reading books and watching period movies that I am more than willing to share with them.

Anything I've missed? If you have any tips on World Building, feel free to leave me a comment. And if anyone would LOVE to do (or has already done) a post on magic and the rules that govern magic or any other aspect of World Building, I'd be glad to add a link! Thanks!