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Reality, Fantasy and Writing Through Chaos

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2020 has brought with it an unusual dilemma for contemporary fiction writers. What are the odds of selling a novel set in the pandemic? The timeline for a manuscript to travel from final draft to bookstore shelf is often years. Given the rate of social, political and scientific change these days, the world will likely be a very different place by the time any story written now finds its way to readers.
And then, how will readers want to remember 2020? As an inflection point? As a nightmare? Will they want, instead, to escape to freer times of decades or centuries past, or into worlds born in the imaginations of fantasy writers? Glassy-eyed from "Zoom school" and lonely from quarantine, what will it even mean to be a reader in 2021?I find myself facing this conundrum in my writing day job as well. How does one strike the right balance between acknowledging our current unique reality and offering a respite, some advice or even a laugh?  For me, right now, it comes down to my gu…

Your Guide Today: Stephen King

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If you haven't read King's ON WRITING, treat yourself to a copy this year. Even if your TBR pile is already too high, I give you this useful nugget of King-ly wisdom.

Perhaps my favorite quote right now...

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Zadie Smith is one smart lady. Read some of her thoughts on fighting the algorithm and (short) storytelling. Better, still, take a minute to trick yourself into getting some of your own words on the page today.

Wordy Celebration #2: On My Wish List

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As we hit the midpoint of January, I'm celebrating the joy of ANTICIPATION. Here's a list of soon-to-be-released titles (and one recently published book), that I cannot wait to READ.

In the YA category, we have... a rom-com charmer from an author who began writing as a teen on Wattpad: The Upside of Falling by Alex Light; Sherri L. Smith's The Blossom and the Firefly, a powerful WWII romance between two Japanese teens; Lucky Caller, Emma Mills' witty contemporary debut featuring a radio broadcasting class; and The Kingdom of Back, a new historical fantasy by the unstoppable Marie Lu.



Heading over to the "grown-up" aisle, I am beyond excited for the new Emily St. John Mandel, whose Station Eleven remains on many of my top-ten lists: The Glass Hotel, coming in March. And, for those familiar with my epic carpool-Audible addiction, my next two "listens" in the queue are The Library Book by The Orchid Thief author Susan Orlean (this one actually pubbed i…

Be the Dragon

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When it comes to creative writing, metaphors can make magic. Even though I know and use metaphors with regularity, sometimes it helps me ground myself with a nice refresher definition and some sweet examples, like the ones at Grammarly. In fact, one of my favorite go-to's for fortifying my poetry muscle is Paul Fussell's dry, green tome Poetic Meter & Poetic Form. Shaped poetry is something I'll never likely write, but reading Fussell's chapter about it often points me to a new idea for free verse. Sometimes, you just gotta write a few haikus and maybe an unpublishable sonnet and... you get it.

Today, I leave you with this quippy call-and-response by Dragonquest author Anne McCaffrey and, this advice to your writer self:  BE THE DRAGON.

T.G.I... FICTION!

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This isn't my best foray into Canva quote designs but I love the sentiment and I hope you do, too. You made it to Friday. Maybe it wasn't pretty. Maybe you didn't log 1,000 words a day. But did you do the laundry, feed the family, help out a friend, get the day job done? Did you read a great book or article? Were you able to squeeze out a few paragraphs of your own here or there? Are you, regardless of character count, still dreaming?

Then count yourself a winner.  Boat or no boat, TODAY. YOU. ROCK!

The First Monday in January

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The great, compelling and prolific speculative fiction writer Lois McMaster Bujold penned these choice words. And, as we go back to work, school or whatever reality awaits us today, let's hold on to this truth and put our own fresh words on the page... even if the day job is long and the grocery line is longer. Hold tight and keep dreaming.

PS: Not that any of us need another giant time-suck in our lives but Canva is an incredibly quick, fun, Insta-friendly way to jazz up your favorite quotations.

Stay True to Yourself

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For the first installment of this month's promised "Wordy Celebrations," may I point you to the wonderful writings of Barbara Dee.



Barbara stopped by my blog way back in 2016 to celebrate the publication of her middle grade novel, TRUTH OR DARE, and has gone on to publish many more amazing, award-winning books. At the time, she was also kind enough to speak to the challenge of balancing career with craft. You can read her thoughts here.

My short interview with Barbara was part of a series I titled "Mid-Career Mondays" but, as it turns out, Barbara was only warming up. She's got a new book in the works, to be published in 2021 by Simon & Schuster -- and you can keep up with her other book-tastic adventures on Twitter.

Cheers to inspiring stories like this one and stay tuned for Pithy Quotation #2, coming soon!

Happy New Year

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We’ve arrived. Yes, it’s 2020, where everything should be perfectly clear. Our new decade looks likely to begin with a year of bad 20/20 vision puns. We’re “out with the old” which, in 2020, means post-holiday clearance sales and trendy weight loss plans. And why yes, I am a cynic. Funny you should ask.
But now, in all seriousness, I lay my judgmental snarkitude, general pessimism and anti-romantic nature aside to make a contribution to my writer friends this January:
A month of pithy quotations  and wordy celebrations
Above is PITHY QUOTATION #1. It's partly cliche and partly good advice. Have a manuscript that's been languishing for (okay, let's just admit it) years in a state of partial completion? DO NOT open that document today. Start a fresh file, a fresh page. I don't mean you have to let go of all of your characters or your plot or your theme. Just, for TODAY, make a NEW contribution to your work. Don't rely on what you've written, review and line edit stuf…

So, What Have You Been Reading This Fall?

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Okay, team, truth is I have an EPIC commute. Between my Seattle office, my son's middle school and my off-a-windy-road home, I spend a minimum of three hours in my car every day. What's a girl to do? It's a seven-letter answer: AUDIBLE! It's my solace, my salvation and a ton of listening fun. Beyond some terrific books, I enjoy the artistry of the readers and some impressive production values. Here's a short-list of recent LISTENS plus a few old-school paper titles I've recently enjoyed.

And, a quick note: There's an obvious genre bent to what I am reading. If you think it points to the nature of my next novel, you may be right. Then again... ;)






SADIE by Courtney Summers - A unique NPR podcast type format, a wonderfully twisty mystery and, of course, Summers' gorgeous writing.

MURDER BY THE BOOK by Claire Harman - A compelling, well-researched account of an actual murder case in Victorian England with insights into early forensic science. FIVE DARK FATES b…

Free FIRST PAGES Writing Workshop at KCLS Woodinville

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SATURDAY,  APRIL 13, 2019, 10:30 AM - 12:30 PM Woodinville Library, 17105 Avondale Road NE, Woodinville, WA
First Pages Interactive Workshop Are your first 250 words ready for a professional review? Are you stuck and looking for some help identifying the best start for your story? Bring the first page of your work-in-progress for this friendly, progress-focused interactive workshop led by author Holly Cupala and yours truly -- and leave with a stronger, better opening page! This workshop will be  POSITIVE, ANONYMOUS (for submitting writers) and CONSTRUCTIVE. Please consider taking advantage of this exciting FREE opportunity which is usually only available within expensive writing retreats and conferences. BE BRAVE!
Here's WHAT TO BRING: ONE (1) copy of the FIRST PAGE of your work-in-progress, formatted as follows:Text should be double-spaced12 point, legible font such as Times New Roman or CourierDO NOT PUT NAME, TITLE or other information on the pagePicture book texts are fine, simp…

Let's Begin 2019 Without Resolutions -- or Reservations

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Here's to a year without excuses. Write the words, hit the gym, take the class, say YES to your dreams. When you feel weary, walk. When you feel despair, write. Surprise yourself...and stop apologizing. If you find yourself too withdrawn from the world in pursuit of your writing dreams, take a breath and try again. Reach out to your friends, cherish and support them. It's all right to ask for help. Those who truly understand will still be there, will understand. Will dream with you.
Here's to a year of forgiving yourself for the undone laundry and the sub-par suppers. Model for your family a person in motion, a force of will. Creativity matters. Ironing does not.
Don't just admire the view -- write about it: A winter's promise, bright and blue. A blank white page, inspired, new. A gift awaits in words from you.

When Your Book is on One of Those Lists...

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It's weird, you know, when you see your book on one of these library "issues" lists. It's cool, of course, to know that someone actually has a hard copy on a shelf somewhere. But there's always a part of me that wonders two things: (1) Is my book really just about an "issue" - because, when I wrote it, I was thinking about siblings and families and music and high school and growing up you know? and (2) If there are teens who face these issues in their lives, is my book doing them good?


Which brings me to the larger question: Are the books in which we most clearly see ourselves the ones that inspire, guide, speak to us most deeply? Could my book be balm to the soul of a person trying to understand the meaning of loneliness - the differences between need and love? When you think of the stories the touched your heart growing up, were they stories about the "you" that existed, the "you" of your most secret dreams, or a "you" as…
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