Since birth, it seems, I’ve been caught up in doing the important things in life. When I was in school, it was all about taking the right AP and honors classes and doing the right extra curricular activities so I could get into whatever college I wanted. In college, I blew off a lot of steam and wrote an analysis of geek culture and worked on the website for a very cool comic site back in the late 90s.


Totally me if I ever wore suits. Which I didn’t.

Fast forward to early adulthood. It’s kind of a blur of babies and careers and “What do I add to the sum total of humanity?” The last five years or so featured fewer babies, more “Dude, this isn’t what I signed up for, but you do what you have to do.” More cannot fail responsibility and important stuff.

Over the last year, I’ve done some major taking-stock. And I’ve realized something: these stories I write are just as important as that book on securing web apps I wrote a few years ago. This weekend reminded me of this in a big way. Last week was insane. Bad insomnia, struggling to finish the additions to Daughter of Oreveille, the kids are hitting mid-summer boredom, and I’m ready to hop a plane to somewhere magical. Stressy week, and the weekend wasn’t much better. Yesterday, I finally hit the end of my rope and told the family they were on their own for a couple of hours. I picked up a nice, meaningless romance novel and POOF! two hours later, I was feeling almost rational again.

Every so often, setting aside important stuff to indulge in brain fluff is a Good Thing. It recharges our mental and emotional batteries. Everybody tells writers to back their characters into impossible situations, then throw rocks at them for a while until they’re desperate, because the reader gets to vicariously experience the drama and crisis, and gets a sense of catharsis when it resolves. I’m questioning that bit of writerly dogma today. I’ve set down several very good books over the last couple of months because they just got too stressy. Too intense. Too screwed up. I get a healthy dose of that in real life, thanks. I don’t need my novels adding to it!

What about you? Do you like your stories intense, or are you a fan of brain fluff every now and then?

You always know a writer when you see one – they’re the quiet ones, antisocial, sitting in a corner, watching . . .

I realized this morning that I haven’t posted much here since the Hydra Publications blog hop last month. Bad blogger – no cookie! But you know how it is with those writer types . . . when they’re quiet, you know they’re up to something. So I thought I’d share a little of what I’ve been working on for the past few weeks:

  • The first module in my series for Hydra Games is getting ready for its big play test debut on Saturday! Which reminds me, I still need to write up that NPC . . .
  • Outlining the next two modules in the series.
  • Preliminary outlining for a novel set in the Andronia world of Hydra Games.
  • Character sketches are finished for my modern fairy tale novel. You’ve already met two of them! I’m finishing up the magic system and starting on refining the plot next week. This thing is getting interesting – and a little dark.

Unfortunately, time is running short – as always! Stay tuned . . . I’m posting another short flash fiction installment tomorrow. A little fun to get the weekend started 🙂

R.S. Hunter

It’s the final day of the Hydra Publications blog hop! Today R.S. Hunter joins me. Today, I asked the fundamental question all fantasy and sci fi authors must answer: Series or standalone novel?

Want to know more about R.S. Hunter? Check out his website or look him up on Twitter.

Series vs Standalones

For the most part, I’m a series kind of guy. I read the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Harry Potter, all the Dresden Files books, George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. Hell, I even read about 30 of the Animorph books in elementary school before I gave up on them. But lately, I’ve wondered: where have all the standalones gone? Why is nobody writing them?

First let’s use a slightly specialized version of the definition of a series (as opposed to some other formats). For most readers, a series is a collection of books with an overarching storyline that needs to be read in chronological order. However, this is more of a spectrum rather than a cut and dry definition. Several series out there tend to be more episodic in nature, where the book’s plot wraps up at the end, but there are still lingering issues or series-wide threads that remain unresolved. And of course, you can have a purely episodic series (an oxymoron) where each installment is entirely self-contained; only the characters carry over between books.

In my opinion, Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files books tend to be a little more episodic. Harry will usually encounter some “Big Bad” that he will end up defeating by the end of the book. However, the series isn’t 100% episodic because there will still be plot elements that continue from one book to the next, i.e. his new gig as the Winter Knight.

On the other hand, Martin’s series is almost completely serialized. Yes there are smaller plot points that get wrapped up by the end of each volume, but the overall storyline continues in an unbroken arc throughout. I think that particular aspect of the series is what has helped it make the transition from books to television.

So where are the standalones in fantasy? Some definitely exist, but it all depends on the certain subgenre. You’d be hard pressed to find a standalone epic fantasy novel, as that particular format is almost tailor-made to be serialized.

Why then does it seem that all new big fantasy books end up being “Book One of Such and Such Series?” I think one of the biggest reasons is that it makes good business sense for the bigger publishers to focus on putting out series after series. They already only publish what they feel are highly salable manuscripts, so why not try to get as many readers hooked over a long period of time as possible? Having multiple books out in the same series can turn that series into a brand name. See Harry Potter, Twlight, or any of the hundreds of other examples out there.

So do all writers start writing with a series in mind? Some do, I’m sure. I can only speak from personal experience though. I outlined and wrote The Exile’s Violin purely as a standalone novel. Since it was my first one, I wasn’t comfortable with my abilities enough to try and create a multi-volume thing. Do I regret writing it as a standalone? Absolutely not!

Life’s funny sometimes. Even though I wrote the novel as a standalone, about six months after I finished it, I had an itch to continue writing stories with the characters Jacquie Renairre and Clay Baneport. I wasn’t ready to leave the world I’d created behind. That’s where Terraviathan was born. Both books are written in standalone fashion, but the second features the same main characters, and takes place after the first one. So even though I’d started out avoiding the specter of a series, somehow I’m now in the middle of one!

What about everyone else? Do you enjoy reading single novels or parts in a series? Why?

The Exile's Violin

On the fourth day of the Hydra blog hop, Rachel Hunter joins me. Rachel is the author or Empyreal Fate, available on and directly from Hydra Publications.

Hello Rachel, and thanks for joining me today! I understand that in addition to writing, you are also a full-time student studying psychology. How does your major influence your writing process? Do you find yourself psychoanalyzing your characters?

How now, Tricia? Tis a pleasure to join you today! You’ve a lovely site, and I’m thrilled to be here~

You are correct in that I am not only an author – but a full-time student as well. However, I have recently changed my major to focus on the Nursing side of things, though Psychology absolutely fascinates me and always will. (The brain is intriguing, is it not?) As to your question, I find that I do indeed psychoanalyze my characters, as I do with many of the figures I meet in “real life”. (Don’t worry, I spare judgement. I merely observe.) Characters have motivations and goals, as does anybody you meet on the street or in your work or school environment. They have personalities, desires, dreams, and – yes – their own lives. So in order to create believability in my stories, I must create believability in my characters: I must make them fully alive – to the reader and to myself. I must understand them. And to understand them, I must delve inside their mind and determine how they work: what drives them, compels them. Nobody will read a story in which the characters are two-dimensional, lead extraordinarily perfect lives, or do things so unbelievable as to go against their personality-type or do something that didn’t seem ‘quite right’. Well – there are exceptions to everything, I suppose; we all have our preferences. But to create a character, one must create a person: a true, living being. I notice little inconsistencies in action and thought, and unless they serve a purpose or ‘fit in’ with the character, my attention ebbs. Besides, psychoanalyzing is an adventure in and of itself! Who doesn’t like to gauge the psyche or create intricate patterns of hormonal webs? It’s a thing of beauty. It’s creation.

Your recent novel, Empyreal Fate, is at its core, a story of forbidden love. Most classic fantasy stories have some element of romance, but it’s rarely the central plot thread. Do you find that readers love the prominence of the romance in your book, or are they unsettled by it? 

So far, I’ve heard only positive comments about the romance aspect. In fact, with the romance genre having such a large following as it does, I find that most people are taken in by it and show further interest. Of course, I can’t read everyone’s mind, but it seems to be a positive element to Empyreal Fate that attracts readers (as well as the ‘epic fantasy’ component as well). However, I must warm you: an unsettling event does occur in the story. This I have heard mixed things about; some say it was cleverly done and moved the tale; others were indeed unsettled. It’s all a matter of preference. (Just an ‘FYI’ in case you decide to check it out.)

You’re a very young author. At a stage when many of us are still trying to figure out what we want to do when we grow up, you’re already building a successful career. Where do you see yourself in five years? 

Now this allows for all sorts of whimsical and awe-inspiring answers! I could be leaping atop the moon or hovering over Saturn; I could be dancing with the glorious fishes of the sea; I could have the glistening waters of an ocean all to myself, chanting a merry tune as I write on parchment with pens of rainbow ink…. Ah! This question invites the imagination, of which anything is possible. But if we are to return to Earth for but a moment, I would say that in five years, I will be a Registered Nurse and an author of at least another novel or two – or three. And in my book, it’s one of the more satisfying results. From there, who knows? I’m only getting my feet wet, after all. 😉

What is one thing you would love to accomplish before your 30th birthday?

Besides the obvious writing and educational goals, I hope to be able to travel abroad in the near future. Where, you may ask? Anywhere. Everywhere. The psychology of cultures is ours to observe.

I’ll keep this interview short, I know you have a lot going on! Is there anything else you’d like to share?

Well, for those of you who don’t know me, I am an author, poet, student, and jedi knight. I’ve survived the clutches of anorexia (written about in my short story, Perfect Nothing), and although I tend toward the perfectionistic side of things, I am oft times spontaneous and downright random. As an avid delver of the psyche, I often question the mysteries of this world, the meaning of life, the reason for being… I ponder why we are, why we wonder, and why we cease to be. I ask myself who I am. I look into my inner being and mesh with its many forms, for there are many.

Colors. Swirling colors and haphazard rays of thought. All revolve within a central orb that comprises our soul. This life source is what holds us; it makes us. It contains us and protects. It is a womb from which we may never part – no matter how hard we resist. This orb is within every one of us, though no two are akin. That is the beauty of it. Diversity separates us.

And I… what can I do? I can influence the world – me. I can move mountains, embrace fate, and inspire the earth. But who… who am I?

I am Rachel.

I. Am. Me.

Thanks again for joining me, Rachel

*tips hat* The pleasure is mine~

More about Empyreal Fate: Empyreal Fate

Empyreal Fate: Elves and men – on the brink of war. Love. Betrayal. Lies. Greed. An ancient evil. A dark past. Will true love conquer? Will Fate..?

Filled to the brim with forbidden love, an ancient evil, and a nation in disrepair, Empyreal Fate is a tale of riveting bravery and mortal corruption.

The land of Llathala lingers on the brink of war between men and elves, a dark history surrounding each race. Stirred by tensions of the land, a shadow of the past reemerges, taking precedence in reality and consuming the very soul of mans’ mortal weakness. Darrion, the son of a poor laborer, is ensnared in a hostile world, forced to choose between loyalty to his king or the counsel of the elves. Yet Fate has other plans in store, tying his course to Amarya, an elven royalblood of mysterious quality and unsurpassable beauty. But this forbidden connection incites betrayal from members of their own kin, marking them as traitors to the crown. In a land torn asunder, only Fate’s decree can allow such love to coexist with an ancient enmity.

Behold: A Llathalan Annal: Empyreal Fate – Part One.

So I have one question for you… Do you believe in Fate? *Second question*…. Do you dare?

Love Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me cover

We’re in Day Two of the Hydra Publications blog hop, and today I’m hosting Lyndi Alexander, author of Love Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me. Lyndi was kind enough to let me peek behind her curtain and discover one of the inspirations that kept her going as she wrote this story:

The Music Behind the Story

Twisted every way
What answer can I give?
Am I to risk my life
To win a chance to live….

(lyrics from Phantom of the Opera, Andrew Lloyd Webber)

I often listen to music when I write, and one of the main pieces of music I listened to in the days when I wrote Love Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me was Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera. I’d just discovered the wonderful words and sweeping melodies a few years before, and it seemed apropos for a ‘damsel in distress’ kind of story.

Although, just like Christine in the musical, Sara Woods is stronger than she believes herself to be. She, like Christine, makes the choice to put herself out there to save others even though she may not survive. And like Christine, she finds her own sacrifice may have been wasted.

Sara comes to Ralston, Ohio, after a betrayal and divorce that have nearly broken her spirit. Working as a newspaper reporter, she investigates a string of young women’s deaths that seem, at first, to be totally unrelated. Her work unearths some long-time small town secrets that open the door to danger for Sara and several of her friends. She is in a unique position to stop what’s been happening, if she’s willing. And if she chooses her allies wisely. Unfortunately, not everything –or everyone—is what it seems.

What does become clear when evil conspires against everything she’s trying to protect, is that she had better be prepared to save herself, because she surely cannot count on anyone else.

More about Love Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me:

Running away isn’t necessarily the answer.

In her mad rush to escape a failed marriage, Sara Woods takes the first job available and lands in the middle of a mystery. Her first assignment as a news reporter for the Ralston Courier is the investigation of a string of deaths, all young women, all her age.

She becomes a patient at the Goldstone Clinic, a local mecca of healing, to deal with chronic pain from her past. But all is not as it seems at the Goldstone, its doctors and nurses are all the picture of perfect beauty and health. Patients at the clinic first seem to get better, then they deteriorate. Sara enlists the help of Dr. Rick Paulsen, who teaches her how to access her internal power, skills she never knew she had, revealing secrets from her past. Police officer Brendon Zale also takes an interest in Sara, but he acts like a stalker, watching her every move, and he won’t leave her alone.

As she digs deeper into the story, and more young women die without explanation, she tries to choose allies wisely, but not till the last confrontation does she discover the identity of her true enemy.

By then, it’s too late.

Sneak Peek:

Rick sat in the heavy tall-backed brown leather chair behind the desk. He studied me, and I studied him. Finally I asked, “How long have you worked here in the emergency room?”

           “Nearly five years,” he answered, an underlying amusement making me wonder how deeply he was reading my attraction to him. “Yes, I find emergency medicine extremely satisfying. Yes, I enjoy the adrenaline rush of trauma cases, but it’s hard not to take patient deaths personally. No, I wouldn’t prefer another specialty. Yes, there’s an increase in strange things during full moons.”

             I stopped writing about halfway through his speech, realizing he had anticipated my next questions. “You must have done one of these interviews before.”

            “Three, maybe. Or five. Since TV has inspired people to find out all about emergency room hotties and our raunchy sex lives in the drug and linen closets? Yes, definitely the flavor of the week.”

            In spite of my determination to be professionally distant, I laughed at his self-deprecating humor. Good for him. “I hadn’t even gotten to that yet.”

            “I can wait if you like.” He picked up a pen and fidgeted with it. “I’m sure your angle is different than the last fellow who was here. He was more interested in blood and guts.”

            There it was. My opening handed to me on a plate. “Actually, I have a blood and guts kind of question for you.” I leaned forward even more and looked him in the eye, calling it brown, green, hazel or any color but blue. “About Lily Kimball.”
He pulled back, his smile fading. “What about her?”

            I could see questions in his eyes. Was I here to accuse him? To crucify him in some way? I spoke up quickly to get past his fears. “I was at the scene this morning. I’ve been trying all day to find out something about her, anything, any reason why she would have been out there in the cold.”

            His fingers tightened on the pen he was holding until they were red. “Tell me what you saw.”

            “She was so thin,” I said. “Pale, except for damage from the frostbite. She wasn’t wearing any winter clothing, just a jersey and jeans. She didn’t look like she’d been hurt, stabbed, bruised in any way. Just…limp.”

            Rick hadn’t moved while I spoke. His gaze had become more intent, like a microscope focusing in on a specimen for examination. “Which way was she walking?”
I closed my eyes a moment, orienting myself to the road. “She was on the west side of Route 24. If I had to guess I’d say she was heading for the Declan Highway.”

            He paused, silent, contemplating.

            “Was she your patient?”
My pen hovered over the pad as his stricken silence continued. I wished I could read him as easily as he seemed to read me. I’d shared more, perhaps, than I should, but all that information would be public record on file at the police department. Whether they chose to do more with it than shelve it away depended on outside information. Like whether Rick Paulsen had contributed in any way to Lily’s solitary winter death march.

Lyndi, thank you for joining me today! You can find out more about Lyndi Alexander on her blog at Love Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me is available at

Today I’m sharing my top 10 writing tools, the essentials without which I simply couldn’t do whatever it is that I do:

10 – Coffee. Don’t expect me to be coherent, let alone creative, at 5am without coffee. Ain’t gonna happen.

9 – Quiet. I don’t work well in loud, busy environments. I need quiet to think.

8 – Notebook. I’m really picky about my notebooks. Different stories require different notebooks. This is where I create the first draft, with all the mistakes and crazy risks that sometimes turn out to be wonderful.

7 – Pencils. The mechanical kind that don’t need sharpened in the middle of a pivotal scene.

6 – Laptop. As I type that first handwritten draft, I edit, expand, and polish. I work all over the place, so I have to be able to take my work with me.

5 – Printer stocked with paper and ink. Sometimes it’s easier to edit on paper.

4 – More coffee.

3 – Distractions. Sometimes I have to come up for air. My favorites: Facebook, Google Talk, and Dragonvale!

2 – Novels. Lots of them.

1 – Time. I never have enough of it to keep up with my growing story idea file!

What are your essential tools?


I know I’ve been quiet, and have sadly neglected my flash fiction story over the past couple of weeks. I’ve been completely swamped preparing my first role playing game module for Hydra Games (I can’t wait to tell you all about it!).

But even the best projects need some time on the back burner, so we cut loose a bit last weekend. Unfortunately, the grocery store trip didn’t happen, and the liquor cabinet is getting pretty empty, so….we improvised.

According to That’s the Spirit, a Tom Collins is a social drink, to be enjoyed with an “air of sophisticated nonchalance.” Nice! The classic recipe involves lemon juice, sugar, gin, and club soda. We had gin and the scary blue Kool Aid lemonade the kids wouldn’t even touch.

The Mr. Collins

Anyone care to hazard a guess as to the name “The Mr. Collins?” 🙂

I’ve been saying “just let me finish this chapter” since I was a kid. This morning, I’m saying it again – because I’m right in the middle of the good part of my curent work in progress, and my writing time is just about up. Maddening! But at least I know I’ll get this story finished tomorrow, if I don’t sneak in some extra writing time later today.

And no, I’m not going to post an excerpt. Not until I go back over and make some major edits! On the first draft, I just power through the story, getting the main events down. Then I’ll print it out and let it sit for a few days before I come back and read through it from start to finish, making notes to myself in the margins. Then I’ll break it back out into scenes and fix each of them individually, adding transitions and polishing the whole thing up.

I’m not going to have the first draft finished by the time I have to transition from wildly creative writer to just plain wild as the day begins. But that’s ok, it just gives me something to look forward to!