Saturday, March 17, 2018

Worldbuilding Resources

It's been a year since my last blog post about Worldbuilding, so it's probably time to update some of the resources I use. At MarsCon 2018, I was on the "Resources for Speculative Fiction Writers" panel along with S.N. Arly, Naomi Kritzer, and Ozgur K. Sahin. S.N. Arly compiled all the websites we shared into several posts on her tumblr. Links cover not only worldbuilding, but clothing, names (actual as well as generated), science, and highlights from the panel discussion.

Rather than going over everything on the list, I'll just say, check it out and make a note of it (I've put a link to it on my own writing aids website) for later use. There are a number of valuable links there.

Societies, of course, also have their own sets of manners and fashion, both of which, again, are dependent upon elements such as technology, resources, religion, and environment.

Martha Wells has a writing guide page that has diversity suggestion links as well as basics on submitting and promotion.

For middle school and high school beginning writers, Jeffrey A. Carver has "Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy", a step by step website with examples on worldbuilding.

I've found Technovelgy useful not only as a place to check when certain technology appeared in science fiction (1898 for asteroid mining, btw), but also as a gathering spot for recent technology news and inspiration.

What resources have you found useful? Any links to add?

Monday, February 12, 2018

Originally posted:

Every Monday, MYSTERY OF CHARACTER FEATURING SHANNON MUIR focuses on the art and craft of writing, from Shannon’s perspective or that of guest authors.  To catch up on all posts, check out the MYSTERY OF CHARACTER FEATURING SHANNON MUIR portion of the website! 
This week welcomes a guest post from author Kim Baccellia.

Guest Post from the Author

As an educator, it’s been drilled into me to have schedules and goals. Even then, I’ve personally found that I need to have a plan whenever I start a new writing project. Otherwise, nothing gets done! Here’s some things that have worked for me.
  1. Write everyday

We’ve all heard this one.  That in order to be an author, you have to be willing to write every day.

Well, I have a confession. I don’t write on the weekends. I do write during the weekdays though. One of my author friends shared something that works for her. Carry a spare notebook with you. Whenever you have a spare moment, pull that notebook out and write. It doesn’t have to be much, but it’s something. You can use a notes app on your cell phone too.
Make a small goal. Maybe write an hour. Or more. Start small and build from there.

  1. Have a writing space

My husband works from home which means it can be really hard to concentrate and write. I ended up taking over the guest room and made it into my writing office. I also write at the coffee house. I take ear bubs and listen to a Playlist I created for my book and write.
My favorite coffee house has to be Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf which just happens to have the most amazing ice tea lattes.

  1. Mapping out story

I happen to be a Plotter. I use a story map to plot out my stories. In my writing office, I have this huge whiteboard. I got this one at Costco. I have different color markers which I use for each different POV.

  1. Read

I think it’s important to read. I never understood those writers who say they don’t read. I read books that help with setting. I read for inspiration.  I also read books outside my comfort zone. Right now I’m reading lots of romances and books that deal with WWII women resistance fighters.

  1. Early or late at night
Find a time that works best for you. When I was teaching full-time, I was able to write during my lunch break at the nearby Burger King. Now that I’m at home, I find that writing midmorning to early afternoon works best for me. I also am a morning person, so I tend to write better during that time. Someone else though might find that writing after work, or when the kids are in bed, works best for them.

  1. It’s okay to say ‘no’.
This one is huge. I try to not let someone guilt trip me into thinking that my writing time isn’t important. It’s okay to say ‘no’. Really, it is.

  1. Writer’s Block

This happens to the best of us! I totally believe in getting up and walking or doing some physical activity. For me, I power walk or go to a movie. Or to watch Netflix shows. It’s okay to take a break now and then. Some of my best writing came when I did this. And sometimes, I just write to get through it.

The big thing is to find out what works for you!

Check out my other guest posts and reviews this week over on:

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Watch Me Pull a Rabbit Out of My Hat

(a guest blog post by Kelly McCullough)

Magic, Madness, and Mischief is an attempt to mince my childhood fine, add in some magic and an actual plot, and serve the result up for your entertainment. This book isn't autobiographical, but it draws on my experiences in ways that none of my previous books ever have. I'm not sure what made me decide it would be a good idea to try to write a fast, funny, fantasy novel about growing up in a house with a parent with serious mental health issues and going to an Open School, but I'm glad that I did.

I think it started with the first line of one of my bios: Kelly McCullough was raised and educated by free range hippies. Over the years a lot of people have asked me about how that worked, and to some extent this book is my answer. It was weird. Really, really weird, and occasionally magical. I wanted to try to capture some of that with this story about the oh-so-subtly named, Kalvan Munroe. I gave Kalvan some things that I had; a mentally ill parent, a hippie school, a gift for getting into trouble, and a sharp tongue. I also gave him some things I didn't; a snarky magical hare for a sidekick, elemental powers, and very real enemies who would quite happily murder him.

The book kicks off with the start of a new school year and the first stirrings of Kalvan's fire magic. Not long after that he accidentally summons the world's most sarcastic fire hare and they head off for wild adventures like skipping class, hanging around with selkies, and nearly being devoured by giant anthropomorphic badgers. Figuring out which of those things I have the most experience with will be an exercise left to the reader. Hint, it's the badgers. Those things were the bane of my existence as a kid. But, you probably know how it is.

Okay, so maybe not, but, hopefully that gives you a bit of the flavor of the thing. It's a book about being an outsider and how to have a happy childhood in the face of challenges both mundane and esoteric. It's about learning how to be kind and strong even when you're angry and confused and loving your family even on the days you don't particularly like them.

All of which might come off as kind of heavy for a middle grade adventure novel, if my family motto weren't: that which doesn't kill us makes for the best jokes. Since family rule one is: don't die, that makes for lots of material. Rule two is: don't walk in front of the cannon. You probably won't need to worry about it for purposes of reading this book, but, if the opportunity comes up, it's still a good thing to remember.

To bring this essay to its somewhat surreal, but still terribly on-point ending, if you like Magic, find Madness interesting, and enjoy Mischief, this might just be the book you've been looking for. If none of that is true, you should still probably buy a copy and read it simply because it's a fast fun romp through a world a few degrees off from our own.

More information on Kelly and his work can be found at His books can be found at many bookstores and ordered pretty much anywhere. Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Uncle Hugo's (can usually get signed books), Indiebound.

Bio: Kelly McCullough was raised and educated by free-range hippies. Later he received a degree in theater and worked in improv. That combination was the perfect preparation for his current career as author and cat herder. He is the author of more than a dozen novels including School for Sidekicks and the adult fantasy series Webmage and Fallen Blade. His short fiction has appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies. His microfiction series DragonDiaries and Badnoir can be found on his webpage or by following him on Twitter or Facebook. He also does a fair bit of silly performance art which can be found at:

Friday, January 26, 2018

Author at a Career Fair

I've been asked to be the designated author at a Career Fair in February. Students wanted an author as one of the choices.

So, of course, I'm doing research beforehand. This Career Fair will only be two hours, so already I see I don't have to do the elaborate presentation that an all-day event would supposedly need. I checked with the person who contacted me if I could bring some of my books and awards as examples and got the okay on that.

So what else will I have? Not a banner - I still haven't invested in one because I'm still waiting on the re-releases of books with new covers. Books to display (both my own and how to write), check. Awards, check. Promo bookmarks for my books and short stories in case anyone wants one, check. Business cards in case they might have questions later and wish to contact me, check.

What else would I need? It sounds like students will be able to wander from table to table and ask questions, so I don't need to have a lengthy presentation. How to prepare for what questions might be asked during those two hours?

Before I retired from my day job as a university librarian, one of the classes I used to talk to about doing research was a Counselor Education class on, luckily, Career Education. I set up a website that the class could use to find out information about occupations. So I know some of the information that that class used to have to find. This Career Fair will be held at the Senior High School, so I'll probably get a mixture of very general questions and perhaps more specialized ones.

Basic questions students need to find out about an occupation: what do you do, what are the requirements, what's a normal salary, what's the job outlook. Answers can be found in the Occupational Outlook Handbook, though the entry for Writers and Authors has some interesting responses. So far I only know I'll have a table, so I'll have a printout of that entry I can refer to in case I get those basic questions.

As a small press author, I found the salary in the entry rather optimistic. But I'll also have a printout of Jim Hines' 2017 Writing Income blog post, so a more traditionally published author will be represented. And, since not everyone is J.K. Rowling or James Patterson, the importance of a day job needs to be mentioned. Though when I decided to be a writer at age 14, I was convinced I would only need a day job until I became an established writer. So I expect to be ignored about that. But it will be mentioned.

I'm published with a few small presses, so I can definitely talk about my experiences with those. I know a very little bit about self-publishing, as I have a couple of short stories published that way on Amazon Kindle.

For other questions, I have a handout of websites about writing science fiction and fantasy, lists of useful books, markets, and such that interested students can take. Some of the websites are listed on my Interests webpage under "Writing Aids".

Have you presented at a Career Fair? What types of questions did you get? What would you have liked to have known?

Friday, December 29, 2017

Getting the Word Out

Is there anything new in book promotion? What works for you lately?

It seems like so many different things are hyped as the one definite way for people to learn about a new book. Some of those are actually old, but have cycled around to become the hot new thing.

Book trailer videos - good if you have the skill, but if you don't... well... I looked at a few when the fad first started and knew right away I didn't have the skill level for any of it - art, audio, pacing.. What has been your opinion on this?

When my first book came out, reviews were what you had to focus on. At that time there were numerous book review sites, all looking for new books to review. Some of them are still out there, but finding them has become difficult. And if you can't find the sites, how many readers are actually following them? My old publisher and my new publisher were good at sending books out to their lists of reviewers, but they also want their authors to get reviews.

Places like Amazon and GoodReads are fussy about what reviews they accept. (are you friends with the author, did you buy the book from Amazon...)

Book Announcements
When I consider myself how I find out about new books, I realize how much I'm probably missing. I follow Shelf Awareness, though actually it turns up in my email, because I supported an independent bookstore which has since closed. Looking at their submission guidelines, they don't want ebooks or those without national distribution, so that limits them.

For science fiction books I check Locus. They have several review sections, but also a big section on "Books Received", which I actually pay more attention to than their reviews. I've had my books appear in the "Books Received" section as it's easy to send them a copy. I've noticed a slight bump in sales after an announcement there. There's also a remote possibility that a book they receive might be selected for a review.

And, of course, never forget to send a book announcement to your local paper, university newspages, Facebook Author page, or other such sources.

Book Listings
I recommend that authors set up their own author page on Author Central on Amazon. It helps readers find your books from various publishers and gives you an idea of how sales are doing through Amazon. B&N used to have author pages, but I can't find any links to them now.

GoodReads is another important place to have your author profile set up and your books listed. I'm lucky in that some of my publishers make sure new books are listed quickly. Unfortunately I also have a few publishers with multi-author publications that forget to have all the authors listed for a book, which makes it a bit difficult to add to the author profile. Make sure to check on your author profile so that any books written by an author with a similar name don't turn up there. There are helpful people at GoodReads who will correct the problem when you alert them (too many Kathryn Sullivans write books).

If you're a YA or children's book author, YA Books Central, is another spot to consider listing your books. They also review books. (And if you write reviews, you can sign up to be a reviewer).

I've been told that blogs are dwindling in popularity. I still follow several myself, and you're reading this here, so I guess you do, too. I still hear from authors setting up blog tours or asking for blogs willing to sponsor guest posts.

Jane Friedman recently wrote a very helpful blogging for writers, where she covered content, frequency, whether to have your own blog or share one with other authors (hello, YA Authors You Never Heard Of) and several other topics.

Newspapers and radio stations are still good for interviews, but podcasts like Writer Groupie are looking for people with stories to tell.

I've posted about awards before, but there's been news about a recent scam contest put on by a fake literary magazine. There are still good contests out there, like the EPIC eBook Awards, and an author should check sites like Writer Beware and evaluate before submitting.

Ongoing Promotion
Don't think that promotion is "one time and done". And yet you don't want to be "one of those" authors on Facebook whose constant refrain is "buy my book, buy my book, buy my book". Consider more subtle means of promotion, like swag on freebie tables at conventions, pens or bookmarks you can hand out. I even have a little sticker I put on the back of envelopes I mail. Not sure if any of the companies I pay bills to notice a sticker about my books, but it's there.

Fellow authors are also sometimes willing to give others a boost. John Scalzi often has a Christmas guide where one day is devoted to indie authors to list their books. File770 not only sometimes has announcements about new science fiction and fantasy books, but people posting in the comments (one of the few places where you want to read the comments) also recommend books.

I set up my Facebook Author page awhile back. Some authors set up separate pages for each book, which to me seems overkill. Having an author page separate from my own FB page though, allows me to talk about different things. I also have a Google Plus page, though I don't post there as often. I know other authors have a Tumblr page and Twitter accounts. Which do you feel works better for you?

What other means of getting the word out about your books works for you? What do you notice as a reader?

Wednesday, November 29, 2017


Hi, my name is Tiger and I'm in charge today. My mom turned the blog over to me. So I have a tail, um, a tale for you.

Some of you readers may have already met me.

If you haven't, I'm pleased to have new friends.

One of my favorite things to do is ride on the lawnmower, as long s it's sitting still. It sort of spooks me when the motor is running. It makes so much noise. When my brother, Mom's human son, cuts the engine, I hop aboard. Then Mom takes my picture. She does that a lot. I don't know why.

I also like to sit on top of the van and look at the world. Birds fly by. The wind blows leaves across the grass. A butterfly lights on a flower to eat its dinner. A cottontail rabbit runs across the field. 

But the most fun of all is climbing the giant mesquite and elm trees. From the high branches I can see the whole world.

Then the sun sets, and Mom makes me come inside the house. No fun. I want to chase the night creatures. But she tells me it's bedtime. I sometimes run from her, but she knows how to get my attention. She rattles the sack with treats inside. Oh, yummy. How can a guy resist?

And there is my tale for today.
What about you?
Do you like to mow the grass?
Do you like to climb trees?
Do you like to chase the night creatures?
What is your favorite thing to do?

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Friday Five

1. Had a great time Saturday with other Indie and small press pubbed authors! The librarian did a great job!

I had little swag bags filled with bookmarkers, a 'What Would Audrey Do' buttons, and a Blow Pop( Selena's favorite candy!). The swag bags were a hit. So were the new covers to the Goddesses series!

2. Been reading!

Love this collection of short stories that deal with the theme of teen love triangles.


Think YA meets Talented Mr. Ripley. Twists and turns throughout this novel with a very twisty ending.


Totally loved this story of a teen who blames himself for the tragic death of his three best friends after he texts them while they are driving. Mostly though this is a story of forgiving, not only what happened, but yourself. Highly recommend!


Satisfying twist on the whole premise of murdered teens getting revenge. Fast-paced ghostly tale of not only revenge, but redemption.

**Guilty Pleasure:

Plan on getting reading for Saturday's OCCRWA Birthday Bash! Love these events! I especially love the PJ parties that are held during the evening. Plus, I love being able to stay overnight at the hotel and work on my writing too. Double win!