Posts Tagged With: writing

Inspiration Comes From the Weirdest Places

One of the plot holes I’ve been trying to solve in Cerulean Bound revolves around a scene near the start of the book, when Eris and Varrin go to a place that has security-bots with facial scanners. It’s really awkward, because they’re supposed to be having a fun time, but at the same time you’re reading the scene and going “How are they so carefree, they could be identified at any moment!”

I was thinking about making them wear disguises, or something, but would that really fool the scanners? (In the Imminent Danger world, probably yes, lol.) Then inspiration struck!

So I’m sitting at my desk, noodling around on Facebook, when Mother announces she’s off to the post office to get the mail. This is more interesting than what I’m currently doing, so I get up and go see what’s happening. She’s in the bathroom in front of the mirror, using a concealer stick on her face.

“I should get one of those,” I say. “It’s a concealer stick, right?”

“Yes,” Mother says. “But be careful – if I put it all over my face, you won’t be able to see me! Hahaha.”

“Ha,” I agree, dubiously. “More like I won’t know who you are, because you’ll have concealed your identity.”

Our eyes both go wide.


So now I totally have a way to conceal their identities! I haven’t worked out all the details yet, but it’ll be some sort of black market cream that refracts light (OR SOMETHING) which messes with the security-bots’ facial scanners. That way they don’t have to wear elaborate disguises, and they don’t have to spend half the scene ducking and hiding every time a patrol rolls by. Woot!

In conclusion, inspiration strikes when you least expect it. That’s one of the things I find so fascinating about writing — how I can be stuck on a plot point for weeks, and then something totally mundane happens and all the pieces suddenly fall perfectly into place. It’s one of the best feelings in the world.

That’s all! Hope everyone’s having an awesome week.


Unrelated media of the day:

My brother introduced me to a band called Porter Robinson over the holidays. This my current jam.


Categories: Writing | Tags: , , | 7 Comments

Editing Fun #1

I’ve officially received edits back from my editor and alpha reader on Draft #2 of Cerulean Bound, so it’s time to start sharing some of the more ridiculous “edits” they’ve done.

In today’s showcase, I present to you the first and last pages of the manuscript my editor (/mother) returned to me yesterday.


Anyone have a guess on what the bread means?

Right before I sent Mom the manuscript, I reminded her of the “sandwich” approach to critiquing, which is to bookend all the “fix this” “fix that” with positive comments. I.e. the first piece of bread is positive crit, then you delve into all the stuff that needs changing (the meat of the sandwich), then end off with another piece of bread/positive crit.

Mother, bless her, took this literally. As you can see, she put actual pieces of bread into the manuscript. And, in her words, the bottom piece of bread has jam “to make it extra tasty.”

This week I will be going through her comments, as well as revisiting my alpha reader’s comments, to come up with a gameplan for fixing whatever’s broken in my book. I’ll start with big picture stuff (my alpha reader suggested adding a couple of scenes from Grashk’s perspective, which I really liked), and then deal with the nitty gritty details.

Hope everyone’s having a great week so far! Stay awesome 🙂

Categories: Writing | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Finished Cerulean Bound Draft #2


After noodling over the second draft for about three months, I finally got the darned thing done! I have my editor and alpha reader to thank for this: my editor, for reminding me that she has a ton of free time over the holidays to read it, so finish it already, and my alpha reader for promising to read it over this weekend if I could get it to him by noon today. Technically I got it to him at 12:15, but hopefully he’s willing to overlook the tardiness.

The first draft clocked in at 142,000 words, and I managed to get the second draft down to … drum roll … 110,000! There is still some chopping to be done, of course. I’d like to get it down into the 90,000 range, which is more reasonable for a quick-paced YA story, not to mention that forcing myself to get rid of ~15k words will make the story tighter and better. But I’m pretty proud of losing 30k words in one fell swoop. Hopefully I didn’t cut anything too important …

Anyway, draft 2 is off to my editor and alpha reader. I should hear back from my alpha reader by Monday (we’re doing lunch), but as for my editor … it could take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. It’s difficult to say with her. It’s the off-season in the B&B world, so hopefully she’ll have lots of time to devote to tearing the manuscript apart. Fingers crossed!

In unrelated news, I’m still at my dad’s house for the holidays, hanging out with him and my brother and generally “chillaxing” as the young’uns like to say. We play a lot of Civ 5, go on walks in the frigid outdoors, and occasionally watch movies (just saw Jumanji yesterday — hilarious). I’ll be heading back to Nova Scotia this upcoming Tuesday, which hopefully will not be buried under a mountain of snow when I arrive.

Happy New Year to everyone! My resolution is to write every day. So far I’ve managed it, but we’ll see how that shapes up once I get into the busy B&B summer months. Maybe I should try getting up early and writing before I head downstairs to cook breakfast and clean. Then again, I’m so not a morning person, so maybe not.

Until next time!


Unrelated media of the day:

Every time I listen to this song, I want to conquer a foreign country. Possibly I’ve been playing too much Civ 5.

Categories: My Works, Writing | Tags: , , , , , | 12 Comments

10k Words Cut from Cerulean Bound!

Editing on Cerulean Bound proceeds at … I want to say a “good clip,” but realistically it’s more a slow crawl. I had started November with the intention of getting the second draft done by mid-December (a.k.a. right now) but then I got laser eye surgery and things went a tad sideways.

Long story short, either the LASIK people didn’t do the surgery correctly, or my eyes are just being difficult, because my vision never got up to 20/20. It’s supposed to take a couple of days to clear up after the surgery, but by seven days out, I was still seeing blurry. The surgeon says I’ve “regressed,” which is supposedly something that usually happens around the 3 or 6 month mark, so I guess I’m just special. This means I’ll have to go for a touch-up surgery in the spring, and until then the world is ever-so-slightly out of focus. I can still drive, but the signs are blurry, and I have to make the text on my screen bigger so I can read it.

All this is to say that my editing plans got completely derailed by the surgery, and I couldn’t properly read (let alone edit) for a good two weeks after the surgery. Then my eyes had a bad reaction to the steroid drops (because of course they did) and that knocked off another week of productivity. By the time I got properly into editing, it was basically December.

But! Now I’m back home in Ontario for the holidays, so I have a good two hours every morning of (relative) peace and quiet to get my editing done. There are the occasional (read: frequent) interruptions from my father, who’s very excited that I’m home, but they’re brief so I can usually get back into the editing groove without too much trouble.

As of today, I have officially knocked 10k words off my whopping 142k first draft word count. Now, YA books are generally between 70k-100k words, so I still have a ways to go, but I’ve been able to streamline scenes and even delete a few extraneous characters, so I’m hopeful I’ll be able to get down into the 110k words zone by the end of this edit. That leaves 10k-15k for my editor to chop, which is fine, because my editor loves chopping. If editing doesn’t work out for her, she’d make an excellent lumberjack.

That’s all! Just wanted to check in and let my devoted fans (all six of them) know that I have not, in fact, forgotten about book 3. I’m hard at work, and am doing my best to get it ready for a Spring 2018 release. Stay tuned, and stay awesome!

Categories: Self Publishing, Writing | Tags: , , , , | 7 Comments

Cerulean Bound (Imminent Danger #3) Update!

Okay, before everyone gets crazy excited, no, I have not finished the first draft. That remains a work in progress. But I figured you guys deserved an update after many months of silence, so here it is:

Cerulean Bound has officially crested the 70k words mark!

Now, what does this mean for the book itself?

I am about halfway through the story at this point, which means the book is on track to be about 140k words long. That, of course, would be the word count for the first draft. After extensive editing and chopping and revising, that number will hopefully be down in the 90-100k words range. So there’s still a while to go before the book is ready for eyes other than mine to see it.

On the upside, 70k words in and going strong! B&B season is gradually coming to a close, and NaNoWriMo starts in a few days, so I’m hoping to bang out the rest of the first draft by early December. Then the editing begins.

My very tentative hope is to get the book out next year. I don’t think it’s realistic to expect it in the spring — probably more like the fall — but miracles can always happen, right?

So there’s the update! Happy Halloween to everyone, and if you’re going to attempt NaNo this year, happy writing!

Unrelated media of the day:

Categories: My Works, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Day in the Life of an Author / Innkeeper

6:30 AM — Wake up to the gentle chirping of cellphone alarm.

6:31 AM — Nope. Still too tired. Re-set the alarm for 7:00 AM, fall back asleep.

7:00 AM — Wake up to the gentle chirping of cellphone alarm.

7:01 AM — Fall back asleep.

7:10 AM — Wake up in a panic, remembering that I do, in fact, have to get up.

7:15 AM — Realize I’ve been lying in a daze in bed instead of getting up.

7:16 AM — Proceed to washroom and get into the shower.

7:26 AM — Realize I’ve spent the last 10 minutes contemplating my novel instead of shampooing my hair.

7:45 AM — Escape shower, look at cellphone clock, realize I should already be downstairs, panic.

8:01 AM — Stagger downstairs, fully dressed and more-or-less awake.

8:05 AM — Start making breakfast for our guests.

8:37 AM — Stomach starts to gurgle, scavenge random odds and ends from fruit salad bowl, toast crumbs, ham slices, etc.

9:02 AM — Halfway through cooking four different dishes, run a platter of jam and maple syrup out to the dining room because Mother forgot to bring them.

9:03 AM — Stay on my “I’m so competent I never forget things” high horse for an entire minute before I realize I forgot to make bacon.

9:07 AM — Hover over the stove, with the bacon pan on high heat, begging the goddamn bacon slice to cook faster.

9:33 AM — Get the last meal plated and sent out to dining room, immediately start cleaning kitchen.

10:00 AM — Check out time! No one is ready to leave yet.

10:07 AM — Hover around kitchen, putting random stuff away, stomach rumbling, waiting for guests to leave so I can eat.

10:33 AM — Eat breakfast!!!

10:55 AM — Start cleaning.

11:55 AM — Still cleaning.

12:55 PM — Still cleaning.

1:55 PM — Still cleaning.

2:55 PM — Still cleaning, Mother is starting to panic we won’t finish in time for check-in, take off earphones so I am able to hear her freaking out and respond accordingly.

3:47 PM — Finished cleaning!!! Told you we’d be done in time, Mother. Pffft. Why do you continuously doubt me?

3:51 PM — Crap, didn’t make cookies.

3:52 PM — Make cookies.

4:00 PM — Check-in time! No one is here.

4:37 PM — First guests arrive! Give them tour of the house, get breakfast order, show them to their room.

4:41 PM — Sneak back downstairs, flip open laptop, open up my novel file, and try to get a few words in before the next guests show up.

4:44 PM — Next guests arrive.

5:26 PM — Tour done, guests safely in rooms, return to laptop and try to write some … nope. New reservation came in. Deal with reservation.

5:32 PM — Writing time!

5:33 PM — More guests arrive.

6:01 PM — Okay, now it’s writing time!

6:04 PM — Last guests arrive.

6:27 PM — Seriously, do I finally get to wr–nope, it’s time to water the garden. Come on …

7:33 PM — Gardening done! Stomach’s starting to rumble, so that means it’s time for din–

7:34 PM — Realize the grocery store closes at 8 PM, and we need about a gazillion things to make breakfast tomorrow.

8:00 PM — Stagger back into house loaded with grocery bags, unpack groceries.

8:06 PM — Dinner time! And then maybe after that I can retire up to my room, sit down, and finally get some writing done …

8:37 PM — Iron napkins for breakfast.

8:43 PM — Set table for breakfast.

8:52 PM — Help Mother fold fitted sheets.

9:01 PM — Get ice and glasses for guests who want to drink rum and coke before bed.

9:07 PM — Go to turn lights out in parlour, get drawn into discussion with guests about their vacation plans for tomorrow.

9:28 PM — Grab laptop and phone and run upstairs before anyone can ask me to do anything else.

9:31 PM — Finally, writing time! Open up laptop, put fingers to keys … and am so tired I can barely string two words together.

9:35 PM — Watch an episode of whichever show I’m currently binge-watching.

10:30 PM — Resolve to actually get some writing done tomorrow, crawl into bed, pass out.


Doom and gloom aside, I actually am really enjoying running a bed and breakfast! It’s just a lot of work. So. Much. Work. And I never get any writing done. It’s driving me crazy. Hopefully once Mother and I get more comfortable with being innkeepers, we’ll have more free time and then I can actually get some work done on Cerulean Bound. Until then … onwards and upwards!


Unrelated media of the day:

Truly excellent stock photos …

Categories: Writing | Tags: , , , | 11 Comments

Writing When You Have a Terrible Memory

I have a terrible memory. Readers of my blog will not find this surprising, as it’s something I’ve mentioned many times before. Or have I? I can’t remember.


Right. So, I have a terrible memory. Which can make writing very difficult, as where other writers would be working on a scene and think, “Hmm, did I already mention this earlier? Yup, I did. Okay, moving on,” I go through the following thought process:

Did I already mention this earlier? Yup, I did. Or did I? I should probably check …

*Scrolls back through manuscript to appropriate section. Finds nothing.*

Okay, I’m good. So I can mention it here, and then … hang on. I definitely talked about this. I’m like 73% sure I did. Maybe it was in a different section?

*Starts at beginning of manuscript and starts scrolling. Halfway through Chapter 3, notices a typo.*

Dammit. How did I manage to misspell “the”? It’s three freaking letters! Hang on, I remember this scene being funny. Let me just read a bit … no, she wouldn’t say that, let’s change it … ha! Good one, Michelle. This bit should be longer though, to drive home the joke …

*Three hours later.*

What was I doing again?

As a result, writing tends to take a while.

This blog post was brought on by my valiant attempts to write the first draft of Cerulean Bound, in which I introduce the space rock band Hail Oblivion. The drummer is currently named both Flurgeluff and Snorgeluff, as I apparently changed his name halfway through and didn’t notice until I went back to double-check the spelling. In my defense, I got the second half of the name correct, and that’s really all that matters, right?


Wrong. I seem to be incapable of remembering characters’ names. I’m lucky I remember my own name half the time. Then again, I grew up with my father frequently referring to me as “Cocoa,” which was our dog’s name, so I suspect it’s genetic.

In conclusion, remembering things is hard.


Unrelated media of the day:




Categories: Writing | Tags: , | 13 Comments

Life Update (a.k.a. Where the Heck Have You Been, Michelle?)

You’ve probably noticed I haven’t been posting on this blog in a while. In order to explain my absence, I have created a list of possible explanations. The game is to figure out which of the four explanations is true. Ready, set, go!

  1. I was recently contracted by the US Army to develop a high-end, designer line of semi-automatic machine guns for the “Flying Duck” squadron, codename: Quack Smack Attack.
  2. I had a terrible automobile accident that resulted in my arm being completely severed from my body. Thanks to the stalwart efforts of Dr. Stark, I now have an Iron Man-style robot arm which allows me to fight crime as the masked crusader “Robot Arm Girl” (trademark pending).
  3. I had an existential crisis and fled to India for six months to find myself in the rough streets of Mumbai, where I teamed up with a young man desperately trying to save the girl of his dreams from local gangsters, and ended up competing on the Indian version of Who Wants to Be A Millionaire?
  4. I moved to Lunenburg, Nova Scotia to open a bed and breakfast with my mother.

If you guessed #4, you were right! If you guessed #1, #2, or #3, we need to have a serious talk about your grasp on reality.

Basically, my mother and her boyfriend decided to move to Lunenburg, Nova Scotia and open a bed and breakfast, and I’m going along to help out as the assistant innkeeper! We’ve just finished moving all our stuff into the house (not unpacking, though – HA, as if) and we are now in the process of getting ready for our June 1st opening date. The B&B is called the Atlantic Sojournif you’re curious to see what it looks like. Or I guess I could just show you a picture …


So that’s what’s been going on with me! I also wrote a short story for Kai Herbertz‘s Arcane Arts sci-fi/fantasy short story anthology, which should be coming out later this year. Oh, and I’ve of course been working on Imminent Danger #3 (Cerulean Bound) — I’m about a quarter of the way through it, which is a quarter more than I was before, so huzzah!

Thanks as always for reading, and stay awesome!


Unrelated media of the day:

Categories: Random | Tags: , , , | 29 Comments

Take Bad Reviews with a Dash of Salt

A few weeks back, I mentioned something called the “Immerse or Die” report — which is basically where this guy gets on his treadmill and starts reading a book. If he finds three glaring errors that pull him out of the story, he stops reading and marks the book as failed. If he makes it all the way to the end of his 40 minute treadmill run, the book passes. Simple enough, right?

I was a bit hesitant about sending in Imminent Danger, since A) harsh criticism makes me sad, and B) the reader is a 50 year old man, and thus not exactly my target audience. But then I thought “what the hell” and sent it in anyway.

Which was an … interesting decision. Spoiler alert: Imminent Danger did not survive the Immerse or Die report. You can read the report for yourself here.

So here’s where we get to the “take bad reviews with a dash of salt” part. Obviously, I was bummed out. In an ideal world, everyone would love my book. Not going to happen, of course, but it’s a nice dream. So I was feeling pretty down on myself as I started to read his review.

Then I finished reading the review, and I wasn’t down on myself anymore. In his review, he pinpoints three details in the first chapter that made him stop reading the book. Damn, right? Those must have been some pretty massive, glaring flaws. Except they’re not. Here are the earth-shattering problems he found:

  • fellow high school classmates” is redundant (as in, classmates implies “fellow”, so both words weren’t necessary)
  • high schools start at 9am, not 8am
  • Eris is facing the trees, and then gets dragged in backward (did she turn around at some point? it’s not stated)

Points #1 and #3 are actually really helpful, because he’s absolutely right, and those two things (redundant language and keeping track of where my characters are) are things I will look out for in future books/editing. Point #2, however, is just plain wrong. According to the US National Center for Education Statistics, the average high school start time is 8am. Here’s the link if you don’t believe me. But I digress.

Basically, he stopped reading the book because of A) a wording choice, and B) a mix-up in which direction Eris was facing. Which is fine. I, personally, tend to stop reading books due to larger issues, like the plot not making sense, or glaring spelling issues, or an unlikable main character … but hey, different people are different!

So, all in all, I’m content with my decision to submit Imminent Danger to the Immerse or Die Report. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right? Did his review frustrate me? Absolutely. Will I be reading his books, or visiting his site again? Definitely not. We obviously have completely opposite views on what makes a story good.

At the end of the day, the only thing you can really do when you get a bad review is read it thoroughly and:

  1. Pick out the legitimate criticisms and learn from them, and
  2. Ignore the rest

Now I just have to keep telling myself that!


Unrelated media of the day:

More excellent book dedications …

I Am, by Matthew Hubbard

The Land of Stories, by Chris Colfer

Categories: My Works, Self Publishing, Writing | Tags: , , , | 36 Comments

What’s the biggest thing you ever cut from a manuscript?

In honor of leap day, today’s theme is leaping. As in, leaping over awkward plot points to get to the heart of the story. During the editing process, writers cut all number of things: useless characters, random sub plots, flowery but unnecessary description, adverbs, etc. So, I put this question to you:

What’s the biggest thing you ever cut from a manuscript?

For Imminent Danger, the biggest thing I can remember is the “descent to Alpha Centauri Prime” scene. Originally, the galactic hub planet was surrounded by a minefield–the remnants of an old space battle. So ships had to line up to be guided through the mines. Varrin, being Varrin, decided to skip that whole tedious process and tackle the minefield himself, resulting in a 1000 word action sequence where Varrin pilots the Nonconformity down through the mines, and Eris and Miguri panic a lot.

When I sat down to chop 20k words off the story, that was one of the first scenes to go. It was fun, but ultimately didn’t need to be in there. Plus, as my brother pointed out, it kind of didn’t make sense that one of the biggest trade hubs in the galaxy was surrounded by mines that no one had bothered to clear out yet. So the action sequence was scrapped, and the descent to Alpha Centauri Prime was cut down to a paragraph.

For Chasing Nonconformity … hoo boy. With Imminent Danger, I did a lot of revising, but the basic structure of the book remained the same. But with the sequel, I pretty much re-wrote it from the ground up. So almost everything got cut and then rewritten–with the exception of Trystan, Sebara, and Fino’jin, who were in the story from day one.

So I can’t really pin down the biggest cut, but certainly one of the large ones was Bax. Bax was a shapeshifting bounty hunter who Fino’jin hired to help track down and capture Varrin. During the original climax of the book, Bax shapeshifted into a jsgarn (big angry monster) and nearly killed Sebara. She did eventually defeat him, although she then had to jump out of the low-flying spaceship they were in at the time (I don’t remember why) and then broke like half the bones in her body upon hitting the ground.

In the re-write, Eris and Varrin’s plotline completely changed, and Bax didn’t work with the new story so he was axed. I don’t regret that one at all–he was mildly interesting, but definitely not a stand-out character. I wrote him as sort of a “blank slate”, in that he didn’t exhibit much personality at all because he shifted forms so frequently that even he didn’t really know who he was. But there wasn’t enough room in the story to explore his character properly, so instead of trying to shoehorn him in, I just cut him.

So, all you writers out there, what’s the biggest cut you’ve ever made? Or the most memorable? Or the cut that absolutely destroyed you, because you loved that particular scene/character and hated yourself for having to leave them out?

Unrelated media of the day:

Categories: My Works, Writing | Tags: , , , | 16 Comments

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