Stories Go Mything, Part Two

Last week, I shared my notes and ideas from a panel I sat through at ConDor Con in San Diego, CA. The panel was titled Using Mythology as a Basis for Fiction and was given by Stephen Provost. This week, I will wrap up my observations and notes. For the first part, click here. Continue reading


I did it! by Cayenne Michaels

I actually did it!

And I think it’s taken me almost up to now to realize it.

A couple of weeks ago I packed up my whole house. Well, technically the brick building is still standing, but I stashed all our belongings into the spare guest room and basement. Then I jumped on a plane to move halfway across the world. To study literature. Continue reading

The Writing Reference Books I Keep on My Desk by Matt Mansfield

Writing Reference Books I Keep on My Desk

I’m a complete glutton for writing reference books. Even when I’m not writing, I love flipping through the pages to see what catches my eye either for fun or as inspiration.

I suspect that many writers share the same habit – after all, writing starts with words, phrases, and world building, all of which abound in the pages of these books. And, with the number of new writing reference books being published each month, I suspect that publishers are well aware of this habit as well.

While my collection continues to grow, most rest on the bookshelf in the corner, waiting for when I need to dip in. The small number that sit on my desk however, are my favorites, my most-used and most-loved writing reference books and I’d like to share them with you.

Continue reading

Hidden treasures by Cayenne Michaels

Let’s talk about inspiration.

Namibrand 1

Where does it come from? Is it stored inside of us and stirred awake when we encounter something in our everyday life that brings out this hidden treasure we never knew we carried?

Or, is it handed to us, as a gift, by someone or something that has you or me are the perfect person to see its true potential?

Elizabeth Gilbert says:

The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them.

Have you found any yet? Please…share them with us in the comments field. As writers I think we all know how to appreciate them. We know how precious these discoveries are. Continue reading

Who Invented Sex? reblogged from A Novel Approach by DL Hungerford

This simple question was thrown out in a joking manner by my husband. My silly answer was that amoebas probably thought about it and wished they had the equipment to do it. So I decided that would be a fun topic to cover in this blog. There’s a multi-part documentary called The History of Sex from 1999, but I want to look beyond humans. I doubt we primates invented the act, or are the only creatures who do it just for fun sometimes. Continue reading

Jungle fever

I have been on my first ever research trip for a work of fiction. Officially it was called a holiday, otherwise my Other Half and travel companion might have objected, but our travel route was, to large extent, determined by my story and what I needed to know about the eastern part of Sabah, Malaysian Borneo.

Here’s the thing. My female main character works on the Andaman Coast of Thailand. I know the area fairly well. Her love interest, Nick, is a wildlife photographer and he’s supposed to be somewhere else. The long distance and time apart is a strain in their relationship. I needed him out of the way for long periods of time, but perhaps not on the other side of the globe. So I checked the map, considered where I could put him. Which places did I know well enough to be able to add convincing sensory details to my story? Continue reading

On Medieval Speech Patterns and How Much is Too Much

Medieval language

I’ve been reading an interesting book lately on the fourteenth century and learning a huge amount – the kind of details you cannot find on the ‘net. So, since I am in the middle of my historical romance, I thought to apply some of what I’ve learned. Well, good, you might be thinking, that’s exactly what you’re supposed to do. Except.

Now I have my characters saying things like:

“Sire, God give you good day.” Or

“Dame, good day give you our Lord.”

Not just this, but I learned that when meeting a superior, they would kneel on one knee, including the ladies. So I had my fmc kneeling to my mmc, which is totally not right for her character in this story, especially since they have known each other for years. The more I wrote like this (trying to be realistic) the more I lost my characters. I lost my mmc, Egon, and he’s a vital character. Once I realised what was happening, I stopped writing, succoured myself with chocolate (for those who read my Lent blog post, ahem, forget I mentioned the word ‘chocolate’) and ranted at myself for a bit.

I’ve been trying to increase my attention to details, real historical ones that bring the prose alive (that’s the intention, anyway), and forgetting one extremely important detail. Too much salt obliterates the flavour. Over-salting the prose overwhelms the reader. I’m not talking about general historical details to do with weather or clothes; I’m talking about realistic speech patterns, manners and behaviour that might come across as alien to the casual reader. Either I need to reduce these details, or I need to completely re-write my ms.

Having been thinking about this for a few days, and trying to write another chapter, I’ve decided to include those details which currently feel natural for the characters, then when I edit, to add in a few more here and there. Build it up, so to speak, until I feel the speech has attained a natural balance. The problem with this is that it’s all so subjective and you can’t please everybody. I’ve decided I’ll please myself, since if I’m happy, the writing flows much easier. I think that is key. If I force the dialogue it will be unnatural. I need to familiarise myself with all of these tidbits that I’ve learned and incorporate them as and when I can do it in a way that feels totally natural.

Am I alone in getting bogged down with these details to the detriment of character and plot?

The good thing is – I find the more I write, the more I research, the more I learn, the better my first drafts are. Just, why does this whole process take so looooong:D Now I’m very glad I haven’t published my first historical. I would cringe deeply at the errors. It will be edited. Sometime…

A lion’s tooth – using own experiences in writing

I was going to write about writing fiction in a second language, like English is for me. But sometime during the day that plan disintegrated and I decided to rather focus on how I feed own experiences into my writing instead.

One of my main male characters wears a lion tooth attached to a leather band around his neck. It’s a bit out of character for him, he’s not the jewelry/accessory kind of guy, but it’s there, as a reminder of where he came from and how Africa has shaped him. The tooth is from Djimba, a lioness he encountered when he was a novice wildlife photographer, struggling to get assignments and make ends meet.

I’m writing this blog post in a scorching car parked at a waterhole in Etosha National Park, one of the largest and most well known parks in Southern Africa. The glaring midday light forces me to squint to see the words on the screen. Now and then dust devils swirl up white dust and gust it into the car. It gets stuck in the hair and makes the camera equipment squeak in protest. The bottled drinking water could be used for making tea. Continue reading

Research and Writing

Verisimilitude – Noun. Definition: The appearance or semblance or truth; likelihood; probability.  A word writer often throws around when we want to sound smart or writerly.

As writers our imagination takes us to many places, ideas flood our heads like a tsunami.  Some are good, some are so-so and some are downright MEH!

The Scale premise came pretty easy to me. It was personal and hit way too close to home. I lived it and I know many women who have as well. As I outlined Need You Now (Book 2 of the Martha’s Way Series) I wanted to get away from Minka and Jason and write about a different kind of heroine and hero with their own struggles and strengths. I tossed around many plots, but one kept sticking. Only, I knew nothing about drugs, addiction, child abuse, and murder.

So I did what every writer who wants to write a story that feels real with something unfamiliar to me.  I researched.

Thank goodness for Google, my mother who is a nurse, my mother in law, a retired psychiatric nurse, my lawyer cousin, and my family members who carry a badge. I asked questions and they answered, from gunshot wounds, treating addicts, and the law. They all helped me understand all the little details I needed to capture for my story to be believable and accurate. I took notes. A notebook full.

I admit at one point after reading so much on Google and going through images of drug paraphernalia, addicts, gunshot wounds, dead bodies, I walked away and hurled. It became too much, too consuming. So much so that I contemplated about changing the premise of the book. But my mind had already gone there. I was committed.

So I wrote a novel about things that are foreign to me. In turn I became acquainted with circumstances and a lifestyle that were once unknown. The pain, tragedy, despair, and hopelessness that come with the life we are sometime thrust into or the path we choose to travel.  The ramification from the choices we make and the downright spiral.

Fear not, Need You Now is still a love story. Just like The Scale there’s lots of passion, love and the eventual HEA. But it’s Lily and Adam’s journey. It’s dark and intense, just like Adam and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

As writers, just because we are writing a fiction, do we have the right to make up whatever we want? The answer is absolutely yes. It’s our imagination. We create a fictional world to entertain, to engage. I just choose to write realistic fiction and oh boy that requires a lot of research.

Research is a word that fills many creative writers with dread. But I don’t want people reading my story to roll their eyes and say “that would never happen,” therefore, I did my due diligence.

There are plenty of ways to research your novel including the following:

  • Using the internet (obviously the quickest and most painless way)
  • Visiting the library (ah, check you out…the old school approach)
  • Traveling to locations where your story will take place (a bold move. Hell make a vacation out of it.)
  • Interviewing people who know about the things you are writing about (As I was writing a particular scene, I texted my cousin with some legal questions. He responded: Now I know you’ve gone nuts.)

Happy Writing!

Mika Jolie