Monday, July 13, 2020

It's finally ready!

My book. Coming September, and I'm so excited!

Here's a copy of the blurb:
Once upon a time, a grieving sultan made an edict: he would marry a new bride every night and kill her the next morning, before she could betray him. 

Sutaita, daughter of the Sultan’s vizier, planned on a life of quiet study. But when she learns she and her sister must be the next two brides for the bloodthirsty Sultan Shahryar al’Mamun, Sutaita decides to change their fortune. Staying alive by telling stories every night, she must buy enough time to solve the mysteries surrounding the Sultan’s edict.

Shahryar has hidden a dark secret from all the history records. If discovered, it could cost him his empire and his life. But meeting Sutaita changes everything. Intrigued by the magic of her stories, he cannot find it in his heart to kill her, a heart he had hardened long ago against any sort of love. 

In this retelling of the Arabian Nights frame story, can Sutaita slip past the walls around the Sultan’s heart and soul? Or will she end up like so many brides before—with her head on a chopping block?

Like I said, so excited!

I know I have like, one reader, so this is just shouting into the wind, but I can't wait to hold it in my hands. 

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Author Interview!

I love reading, and I love sharing news of some of my favorite authors! Today I'm interviewing Kristy Perkins, author of Cast Me Aside, one of the stories in the Seeds of Lore anthology.

Steeped in tradition and universal truths, mythology and folklore are two sides of the same coin. In this collection, nine stories reshape such legends into new tales brimming with adventure and magic.

Deities don’t always have the answers: a mother goddess and her loyal queen bee search for a cure as the land withers around them; a war goddess chooses a mortal champion, but her gift of power comes at a price; and a grieving god travels to the underworld to rescue his best friend.

The trickery of fae is a legend of its own: a clever young man must outwit a wily leprechaun; a lost girl finds herself at the forest queen’s mercy when she stumbles upon a solstice celebration; and a rebellious girl must find her phone after a gnome steals it to punish her disobedience.

Even mortals can become myths in their own right: a determined prince rides out to discover who keeps stealing his father’s golden apples; a dissatisfied youth charged with keeping Excalibur safe fights against the tradition forced upon him; and a teenage boy has mere hours to prevent the end of the world after his father accidentally releases an Egyptian god.
Step into ancient worlds and new locales as you rediscover old truths.

Available for preorder now!

So Kristy, what inspired you to retell/write this legend?

I’ve loved Arthurian legend since I was a little girl. One of the first books I remember checking out from the library was a big book of stories about King Arthur, slipped in next to the fairy tales on the shelf. When the anthology theme was announced, it was the first place my mind went. Finding a particular legend I wanted to retell took a bit. I started with a list of the Knights of the Round Table on Wikipedia, and went through to see whose story I wanted to tell. Bedivere stood out because he was one of the few knights to survive to the end of Arthur’s life.

The title came from the words written on Excalibur. One side is supposed to say “Take me up” and the other side is “Cast me aside”, and I really liked the poetry of it.

I also love Arthurian legends! I can't wait to see your take on this.

What did you wish to accomplish with your retelling? What affect did you want to have on your reader?

I knew I didn’t want it to be sad! The original was about Bedivere giving Excalibur back to the Lady of the Lake at Arthur’s death. It’s a melancholy moment, because the glory of Arthur’s court is completely gone, and there’s only the smallest promise that someday the king will come back. I wanted to grab onto that hope, and bring the story closer to the moment of Arthur’s return. Ideally, I want the reader to come away from “Cast Me Aside” feeling a little lighter.

How is retelling/writing a legend different to other stories you have written? How is it related?

Writing a legend is a little different because there’s a little more research involved than most of my other stories. I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t missing any crucial details to the original story. The setting is modern day, so I didn’t have to worry about medieval details as much, but I think that put more emphasis on making sure to follow the structure of the legend a bit more. Or at least, I put more of an emphasis. I didn’t want to lose the feel of the legend.

For the writing process, it’s not terribly different from how I normally write. An idea pops up, I write out a quick summary sentence, outline, and then I write a first draft as fast as I can. I also usually end up adding a touch of humor, since I’m basically incapable of writing anything dark.

I know writing dark is challenging! But I think we can always use something to lift us up. 

Were there any difficulties in writing this piece? How did you overcome them?

Oomph. There were more than a few problems. Most of the trauma has been forced from my mind, but I remember a couple issues. One was the characters. The secondary characters were little more than cardboard cutouts for my initial drafts, and my main character Brandon had no clear direction. A lot of that first part was fixed by adding in more vivid details and fixing action. Brandon’s direction was saved when I figured out the theme for the story, which took a few tries because I always end up cycling through themes as I write my first draft.

So that was obnoxious, but the biggest difficulty I had was writing the ending. I think I had a different ending for every single draft I wrote. I kept shifting what point in the story I ended. I think I finally found the right spot, though! The Just-Us League was a huge help in figuring out the best possible ending.

The JL is such a great resource, they've helped me get my works into shape too! 

What draws you to retellings/legends?

Retellings are a little easier than completely original stories, I think, because you’re already starting from a set framework. You have a prompt, you pick the story you want to work with, and then that story comes with characters and plot points already built in. There’s loads of flexibility within that framework, and it makes it a lot easier to start.

I also like more fantastical stories, and most legends and myths have some kind of crazy magical element to them. Dragons, magic, I love all of it.

Where would a reader look if they wanted to know more about the legend you used?

I wish I could remember the name of that book I read as a kid! I know he featured at the end of that, but I have no idea where that book is now.

I’d say the best spot would be Wikipedia. Sir Bedivere’s not a terribly popular knight, so there aren’t a lot of books about him. At least, not that I was able to find in a hurry. He does show up in other Arthurian books, especially ones set at the end of Arthur’s life. So find a book about Arthur, and skip to the end. That’s where Bedivere’s story will be!

Is there a book or author who inspires you, your writing, or this story? Why did you choose this book or person?

This is so hard! I can’t really point to any single author as an inspiration. There are a few authors I really like, but some are old enough they’re more for enjoyment than influence (looking to JRR Tolkien). And there are lots of other stories that I’m really liking right now (Supernova by Marissa Meyer) but that’s superheroes and not much to do with a teenager throwing a sword in a lake. For this story, I probably got a fair amount from the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan. The stories are fun adventures about a teenager growing into his role, and I devoured that series when it first came out. So there’s got to be at least a little of that influencing “Cast Me Aside.”

If a reader wished to read more by you, where would they find your writing?

I haven’t gotten a novel published yet, but I’m working on it! I’ve written a bunch of other short stories for the other JL anthologies.
I also have a blog!

Are your other pieces similar to your legend?

All my stories have a little bit of humor, so that’s a familiar thread. And I think there’s always one character who’s just exasperated with the current state of affairs. They use that exasperation differently, but that tends to be a common thread in my work.

My other work can get a little bit more absurd than this one. One story is about a war with magical squirrels, another involves Rapunzel attacking a troll, and one of my personal favorites is Snow White’s evil queen being absolutely ridiculous. “Cast Me Aside” is a bit more poetic than a lot of my work, which was a fun stretch. I love reading beautiful descriptions, but I’m not as good at writing elegant prose so I usually go more for snappy.

Kristy Perkins is a nanny, and a writer every other spare minute. Ever since she could write legibly, she has created stories. They’ve gotten a little better since kindergarten, at least. She writes fantasy and sci-fi stories to satisfy the need for more dragons and spaceships in her life.

Short stories of Kristy’s can be found in other JL Anthologies. Check out Kristy’s blog at, or follow her on Twitter (@KristyEPerkins) or Pinterest (perkinswhatif).

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Plotting 101: Google Docs Review

Let's start our review of writing tools with the affordable and easy to use Google Docs!

Google Docs

Google Docs is a cloud-based word processor owned by Google. It's free for anyone with a Google account to use. Since it's cloud-based, you can access it anywhere you have internet (and you can configure it to be available without Internet, provided you already have the document downloaded and available offline).

What It's Good At

Google Docs is perfect for the writer on the go. If you have Internet access through a laptop, tablet, phone, or anything, you can open your Google Doc and work on your writing. While you can work on your document offline, configuring this is tricky, and you will eventually need a good Internet connection to get all your changes synced with the online version of the document. 
Google Docs does keep a revision history, so you can go back and re-open a previous version of a document, or see what changed. 
It also comes pretty pared down. This makes it load fast, and eliminates some of the overpowered parts of Scrivener and Word that can feel confusing to use if you're not as familiar with word processors. There are add-ons you can get for free that let you customize Google Docs as you like. 
Probably my favorite part is how easy it is to share the document. If I want a beta-readers' eyes on it, I can just share the document with them. 

Where It Falls Short

What's interesting with Google Docs is how the things that are great about it are also the things that are...not so great about it. 
For example, the cloud-based part of it is great or awful depending on your situation. And while you can work on things offline, figuring that out can be difficult for someone who isn't as familiar with the product or the interface. And if there's an unplanned Internet outage (A storm takes out my power, but hey, since I can't vacuum now I'll open my laptop and write until my battery dies...or not) you may not be able to do your writing. And while there are ways around this, when considering how it fits into the flow, it's both great and awful. It's great because I can open my document and do a little writing just about anywhere. It's terrible because I have to have an Internet connection to do my writing unless I really plan ahead. 
The pared-down part is really frustrating for me, personally. I use Word a lot with work, so I know all the features it has. And while many of them aren't necessary for drafting a novel, finding an add-on to add the functionality I want to Google Docs is annoying. Granted, once I get my add-ons sorted, that annoyance goes away (sort of). But the way you use the add-on is often different and can feel clunky depending on how well the developer integrated it into Google Docs. Sometimes they're buggy, and sometimes they don't work like you think they will based on the description. I mean, it's free, so I guess you get what you pay for?
And finally, the ease of sharing also means it's a lot easier for someone you don't want to see the document to see it. And while you can take steps to mitigate this, it's still riskier than having a hard copy on your hard drive. 

Renee's Rating

Overall, I give Google Docs 3.5 stars out of 5. It's a decent solution, and it's definitely affordable. The integration with other apps makes it easier to meld Google Docs with some basic plotting tools, like Sheets or Excel. For someone who values availability and ease over functionality and security, it's the perfect solution. 

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Plotting 101: It's All About the Tools

Ok, not gonna lie...I feel a little like this guy:
Tim the tool man - With The Right Tools Anything Is Possible

Seriously though, I am a serious plotter...and a plotter is only as good as her tools! There are SO MANY out there that as part of this #WIP series I wanted to go over some available tools and review them.

What's In a Tool? 

For those of you who just sit at the computer and start writing: bless you. I just can't do that. Call it my high-functioning (self-diagnosed) anxiety, but I kinda have to have a plan to start writing. So when I evaluate a tool for writing, I'm looking at it through the lens of a plotter. I've found there is no perfect tool that works for everything, but that as I write I bring together the best tools I find into some sort of weird amalgamation. 
So that means when I judge a tool, I look at two things: how well it does its job compared to other tools, and how well using it fits into my flow of writing. 

What makes a tool "Good"?

A tool is good if it's useful. But by useful, I don't mean it can do a job. I mean it makes the job easy and effortless. I don't have to repeatedly configure things, I can easily access and add or edit my writing, I can customize the dictionary to not constantly tell me my made-up names are misspelled, I can easily share or post my work for review, an audit trail or version history is kept so I can see what's changed and restore older versions, I can use the tool at all levels of my plotting...and so on. I am making a small assumption that most writers who plot have similar needs to me. \

What is a tool "fitting into the flow of writing"?

I'm sure we've all experienced this. You're trucking along, getting those words when...what should I call this character? Is that how weird is spelled? Or is it wierd? I need to describe this...what does this place/culture/character look like again? 
And just like that, you've stopped writing and are doing "research" on the web, or scouring notes for a reminder for something you're pretty sure you decided months ago...but can't find. 
If a tool minimizes or eliminates the need to stop writing and search for something, it fits into the flow of writing. It's like having all the information you need accessible in seconds so you can find the note or picture you wanted, get the info you need, and move on with the scene. 

So with that in mind, I've made a list of tools I plan to review. Don't see your favorite on the list? Comment with your tool, and I'll add it to the review schedule! 

Remember, comments on any #WIP post earn you chances to win a free copy of the Druid book when it's published! This counts!

Word Processors

Google Docs
Microsoft Word

Plotting Tools

Microsoft Excel/Google Sheets

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Character Creation: Lore and Established Characters

Working with Established Characters

Quick Update: I have to schedule these in advance (or they don't happen). So while you won't see this until May, I'm writing it early on (like, April 5th). Sorry to ruin that for you. But it means that I don't have a last name for Carrigan yet. 

I did want to look a little more at characterization, and I realized that I did talk about Morrigan, the patron goddess of our protagonist. And it got me to thinking:

What do we do when a character (or anything, for that matter) in our story comes from something in real life?

So this could include settings, pop culture references, or in my case, mythological figures. 
It's not easy, because these ideas can be very fixed and rigid in our culture or in our minds. There's only so much subverting of the idea we can do before it's no longer believable or accessible for our readers.
Luckily for me, Morrigan is not that well known--most Irish and Celtic mythology is eclipsed by the Norse, Greco-Roman, and Indian mythological figures. So I have a little bit of freedom to interpret her as I want. 

Things I looked at to establish her character:

I started with Myers-Briggs personality. What's great about this is how it lets me consider different aspects, and by thinking which one both makes sense for the myth as well as my interpretation, I can create an instant personality profile. You could use DISC theory, or (for my D&D fans) Good versus Evil and Lawful versus Chaotic. 
Or if you're a bit of an overachiever like me, you can use all of them. 
What's great is that they feed into each other--so no matter where you start, you can use great free resources to shape your character, working from the outside in or the inside out.
What's great about these resources is that they help explain things that already exist. So if you're working with a character in particular that already exists, you can make educated choices to pin said character down. 

Making Them Real

Just because your character already exists doesn't mean you can skimp on the prep work. Morrigan will have a tab in the character spreadsheet I shared last week, just as Carrigan will. 
You can, however, look through the lore that already exists, and keep what works for you (and dump the rest).

WIP Time

So I did promise you bits of worldbuilding: here it comes. I'll try to start giving these tidbits about once a month.
I usually start with worldbuilding. I gave you some character information first, because I think it helps you feel more invested in what I'm doing, whereas building a world is somewhat abstract. So if you remember the early post, where I wondered about druids in the world, and how to reimagine them in a modern setting, here's how I fleshed that out:

Idea 1: You are born a druid, not made one

So part of the premise here is that certain people are born-druids. It makes sense from a worldbuilding perspective if you consider a druid's abilities to be magical. Just as in many fantasies, magical abilities in my world are inherited. 
A druid would be someone with:
  • An eidetic memory (to memorize the oral lore and laws)
  • Innate connection to the world (to access the spiritual world at times other than Samhain,  inspire and lead people)
  • Healing touch (for when they give medical aid)
These are just a few, but I liked the idea that someone is born with an ability. It makes sense to me, and explains how one person can be so good at memorizing something, or singing, or learning languages, while other people aren't. 

Next Week

I'll have a fleshed out character sketch of Morrigan, with as many details as I can create. I'll also continue the worldbuilding ideas, and start to tie them together.

Comment to get a copy of this book for free!

As a reminder, frequently commenting on this series can earn you a free copy of this book once it's published. This week, tell me what parts of Irish mythology you want to know more about.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Character Creation

Character Creation

So last week, we looked a little at developing a character--kind of my spaghetti train of thought as I considered things for the character. 
Since I'm scheduling these posts in advance (that's the only way to make sure they happen) and I'm waiting on the comments to get a last name for my protagonist, I wanted to sidebar and look into character creation as a whole. 

There's a lot of resources out there...

Yep. Tons. And it makes sense because, as I said last week, the characters really do make or break the story. 
I come from a different place than a lot of writers, however, because I have a background in acting and theater. What has always been REALLY cool to me is how much overlap there is. The biggest difference is that for an actor the information is there for the character, they just interpret it, whereas for the writer, we have to come up with everything from scratch.

So I started compiling my resources.

Some of my favorite parts of acting class were the portions dedicated to character development. We got all sorts of sketches, worksheets, and other materials to help us develop our characters. My favorite was probably where we did a study--we picked a person who we wanted to base the character off of, and (sometimes covertly) studied how the person breathed, walked, moved, everything. It was really cool, and it definitely helps you get physically into the character. 
Anyways, I looked through all these notes, and compiled them with some other resources I found on the Internet to make a master spreadsheet. 
If you want to download your own copy, use this link.
It's so cool (yes, I am a nerd). You can expand or collapse categories as needed, and by the time you get all the information together, you have a fully fleshed character. 
I'm going to start working on that now, with the plan of sharing a few other characters while I wait for the winning post with an awesome last name for Carrigan. 

Comment below!

As with all these posts, commenting frequently can earn you a free copy of this book once it's out! If you're an author, you can share your favorite character building tools...and if you're a reader, share some of your favorite characters!

Thursday, April 18, 2019


Main Character

Nowadays, characters are what REALLY make a story. Let's face it, most stories have already been told. What makes them new, exciting, and different are the characters. And since our protagonist is the main character, we really need to like her. We should identify with her, want to be her, and root for her to win the whole time.

This is easier said than done.

Those of you who are writing friends know this. Our protagonist should be awesome...but not too awesome. Because no one likes someone who is perfect. So our character needs a flaw--and a real flaw, not the lame "I work too hard" answer we all give at interview when asked what our biggest weakness is. 
I actually started a spreadsheet just for capturing character traits, including weaknesses, and whatnot. I'll fill that out on my own, but for here, I want to try to capture some high level ideas, and brainstorm a little. 
To be honest, I can't wait to see what your comments are!

The details

So I've already decided to align the protagonist with Morrigan, the goddess of war. In fact, on the name Morrigan means War Goddess. Like most Irish myths, however, she wasn't a one-trick pony (no Ares here). She also cared about sovereignty, and would predict the death of warriors in battle. She appeared often as a crow (but we're going to use ravens, because then I can feel like Poe as I write). She was crafty to a fault, and with her ability to prophecy, she was very powerful indeed.
I like the idea of her as an outcast--she was instrumental in the death of Cuchulain, one of the greatest Irish mythological heroes. So if every druid has a "sponsor" deity among the Tuatha de Danann, the Morrigan's druid would meet with a lot of dislike, hostility, and opposition among the community. 
To me, this makes sense. The person who has to do what is right (protect sovereignty) even if it isn't popular, and who can see and predict the death of brave warriors in a martial society would certainly be...well, not the first picked for the dodge ball game, that's for certain. 

Now for the protagonist

So our protagonist should be sympathetic enough with the Morrigan that they connect, and it makes sense that the Morrigan would sponsor her. But I feel like there should also be some conflict--some pieces that don't connect, as that would make DRAMA (which we need) and help make things difficult for both characters to get what they want. 
The character should also be able to be a druid--meaning perfect memory, able to learn lots of language and memorize codes of law, sing, and just be very smart. 
I think the foil of having the Morrigan not care about death, but just about results as opposed to someone who is sensitive and cares a great deal about life would make for a difficult relationship--but would also make the character a perfect druid (they are, after all, usually pacifist). 
I also like the idea of Morrigan being very calculating, whereas the protagonist is more impulsive. 
But they should both be fighters at heart, who will not back down. 

And for the name:

I'm thinking Carrigan. It's nice that it's spelled like and rhymes with Morrigan, which will help link them together. It also means pointed, or spear, which highlights that she is more blunt, more direct, more impulsive than the calculating Morrigan. It also makes her Morrigan's spear, and an instrument of the goddess's mission to maintain sovereignty and balance. This will tie in well with where I think the plot is going. 

Don't forget to comment!

Tell me what you like, what you don't, what you want to see.
Also, I would LOVE some suggestions for a last name for Carrigan. It should be Welsh, Scottish, or Irish if possible. If I love your idea, you DEFINITELY get a free book, and a note in the acknowledgements!
If I don't pick yours, keep commenting--you'll get that free copy if you interact with enough blog posts!