Worldbuild Wednesday

We’ve got law and order on the menu this week. Whether formally written, through a religious rule book, or an understood cultural moral code, most civilized societies will have some kind of rule system in place, including levels of responsibilities and consequences for violations.

When building the world of your story you must decide who is responsible for the law and order. Who or what decides and sets the rules? You must also decide who enforces the rules. This can be formal (i.e. police, courts, judges, prisons, etc.) or informal where the citizens police themselves and are subject to retaliation from those they wrong.

If your world covers more than one country, then you will need to be prepared to create a system for each, as well as considering the implications for any characters as they travel throughout your world.

You will need to decide how innocence or guilt is decided: Do the accused get to defend themselves? Is there a trial? If so, is it presided by a judge? Is it open to the public or conducted behind closed doors? Does a monarch decide guilt? A council? Perhaps the accused must endure a challenge or physical trial to prove innocence. Regardless of what you choose, you must decide whether the law and order in your world is fair for everyone or biased. Of course, I’m of the opinion that the more conflict there is, the better.

Be sure to consider how punishments are carried out. Do they focus on rehabilitation or forgiveness? Justice? Vengeance? None of the above? Do magical or paranormal beings need special punishments? Do different species have separate justice systems? What is the hierarchy of the police force? How does one move up the ranks? Who has the final say in the decisions?

Make a list and be specific about who sets the laws, the police force hierarchy, how trials are conducted, how punishments are carried out and for which crimes. You’ll be surprised to see just how deep law and order permeates within every aspect of society within your story’s world. (Source: 30 Days of Worldbuilding, 2nd Edition by A. Trevena)


Worldbuild Wednesday

This week’s focus in on government structures–the people in charge. The larger the population, the more infrastructure there is likely to be needed. Societies need to share resources and large populations will have more complex sanitation, healthcare, transport, and education systems. All the moving parts needs to run smoothly and in harmony. And just who will be responsible for this organization?

You can roughly organize your governments into four different structures: bands, tribes, chiefdoms, and states.

Bands are the smallest (100 or less) and the least formal. They are usually viewed as ruling by consensus and believe all people are equal.

Tribes are larger, but still informal. Skills and resources may be redistributed across the community. And while there may not be an overlord, there are usually leaders that oversee certain areas such as hunting, rituals, war, etc.

Chiefdoms will have a central authority over several communities. Taxes may be implemented (although not necessarily monetary), as well as laws and ranks. Certain ranks and families will be seen as having more value than others.

Finally, states are the largests and most centralized government structures. They will include many cultures, ethnicities, languages, and social classes. These could be ruled through a monarchy, dictatorship, oligarchy, or democracy.

If the government you have in mind in your world doesn’t fit neatly into one of these boxes, don’t fret. None do. There’s nothing “neat and tidy” about government. There can be a mix of these different forms in any government.

Keep in mind those that live on the fringe. Anytime you have a system of power and control, you will have a people group ready to push back. Asserting independence and individuality is a natural part of personhood.

Be sure to think about how your people came to power, how they maintain it, and what might happen if they lose it. Sometimes the person who is supposed to be in charge only APPEARS to be in charge and not necessarily the one making the decisions.

Of course, you can always go the unexpected route. Perhaps in your society, power is not given to the wealthy or intelligent or connected but the poor, the beautiful, the ugly, the magically skilled. Use these structures as a jumping off point. Cut and paste. Create your own government that fits YOUR world. But remember–government is like an umbrella. It covers several aspects of society and has lots of impact. (Source: 30 Days of Worldbuilding, 2nd Edition by A. Trevena)

Worldbuild Wednesday

This week we’re discussing sapient species. Are humans in your story’s world? Are they the ONLY sapient species present? You may have vampires, elves, aliens, but you may also have plants or even oceans and mountains.

If there is more than one sapient species, do they know about each other? Or does one species hide their existence? If so, why? If they know about each other, do they live in harmony? Are they enemies? Which species view themselves as the “good guys”? What happens when the species conflict with each other?

Where do these species live? Do they have wealth or are they in poverty? Does one depend on the other for survival? Who controls the resources? Which species is most adaptable? Which has dominion over the other(s)? Who was there first? Does one species wish to reclaim what the other took? What are they willing to do to get it back?

As you consider these questions, be sure to identify what position within society each species holds. Where are they located in your story’s world? And what is each species relationship with the other?

Source: 30 Days of Worldbuilding by A Trevena

Tuesday Tip

Today’s Tuesday Tip involves the dreaded synopsis. Before I had finished writing my first book, I believed a synopsis was something you did after the manuscript was complete. It was something to worry about LATER. I soon discovered that you can start your synopsis before you write a single word in your WIP. This is a great way to make sure you are hitting the right beats and can keep you on track with your plot.

Ask a writer for advice on pounding out a synopsis and you will undoubtedly get referred to Susan Dennard’s article on PubCrawl. Susan is a NYT bestselling fantasy writer who has written many articles on writing and the publishing industry. Her advice on writing a synopsis is chef’s kiss. Succinct, clear, and easy to follow, this article offers you a fill-in-the-blank formula with Star Wars as an example. Can’t get any better than that!

If you have never written a synopsis, this is the place to start.

Book Recommendations from 2021

Another crazy year has passed. In 2021, I finished and revised my second novel, Revenant, began the querying process, was selected to participate in Rogue Mentor, outlined and began drafting my third novel, and adopted our foster daughter.

So how many books did I read last year? It was a struggle. I had set a goal to have Revenant revised in time for Pitch Wars. That meant spending any extra time I could scape up was spent writing. Soooo many movies and shows to catch up with, but it was worth it. This also meant reading wasn’t as high of a priority as it had been in recent years. In 2021, I read thirty books.

All titles in bold are books I would recommend to others. It doesn’t mean I hated the other books, but those titles which have stuck with me throughout the year are the standouts I choose to feature. If you’re interested in seeing my ratings for each book, you can follow me on GoodReads

Monster of Elendhaven by Jennifer Giesbrecht

The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid

Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski

Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon

How Rory Thorne Destroyed the Multiverse by K. Eason

Sword of Destiny by Andrzej Sapkowski

Teen Angst Mix Tape Vol. 1

Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray

Before the Devil Breaks You by Libba Bray

The King of Crows by Libba Bray

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness

Wonderbook by Jeff VandeMeer

The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness

Voyager by Diana Gabaldon

Times’ Convert by Deborah Harkness

The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune

Legendborn by Tracy Deonn

Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon

The Sandman (audible) by Neil Gaiman

Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

The Curious Incident of Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon

The Witches Daughter by Paula Brackston

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne

The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee

Night by Elie Wiesel

Malfunction Junction

Book Recommendations from 2020

Whoah! What a year it has been! It started with the flu, followed by pneumonia, a little girl’s first birthday party, COVID, quarantine, and a whole lot of worry. But I’m happy to say this year is ending on a good note as we prepare to adopt our foster daughter in early 2021.

My goals this year are simple: finish my paranormal thriller draft and revise/edit said draft. That’s it. Sounds doable, right? I may even throw in a short story–we’ll see.

It must be the beginning-the-year-anew-syndrome that has me so optimistic, as being the mother of a child with special needs is at times challenging when you’re in four different therapies a week and still have two other children to homeschool and manage. But as we settle into our new “normal” I like to think I will make good use of what little time I have at the moment and reach each goal in the upcoming year to the best of my ability.

Speaking of goals–

As an overachiever the year before I was wise to lower my Goodreads Reaching Challenge this year from 60 (to which I read 73) to 20. It was a stressful year, to say the least.

Under promise. Over deliver. This year I read:

Actually, I just finished 37, but we’ll get to that later.

As always, let me know if you read any of these books this year or in the past. Do you agree with my assessment? Stay to the end to get a sneak peek into my 2021 TBR.

On with the show. All titles in bold are books I would recommend to others. It doesn’t mean I hated the other books, but those titles which have stuck with me throughout the year are the standouts I choose to feature.

The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

Maximum Ride by James Patterson

Beautiful Darkness by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

Frankly in Love by David Yoon

Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

The Curse Breaker by April Kelley Jones (Shout out to my incredible CP!)

Harlequin Valentine by Neil Gaiman

Story Genius by Lisa Cron (If you’re a fellow writer)

Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

The Ancestor by Danielle Trussoni

On the Come Up by Angie Thomas

Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

Never Have I Ever by Joshilyn Jackson

Bring Me Back by B.A. Paris

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

Basic Japanese Grammar (I mean, it is a book, right?)

A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson

The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

Ghost Story by Jim Butcher

Infinity by Sherrilyn Kenyon

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman

The Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich

Legend by Marie Lu

The View from the Cheap Seats by Neil Gaiman (Yes, yes, 1000 times yes–especially if you’re a writer)

Blood Elves by Andrzej Sapkowski

Red Rising by Pierce Brown

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Golden Son by Pierce Brown
Morning Star by Pierce Brown

So, that’s it! Let me know what you think! I haven’t set a reading goal for next year quite yet, but be sure to follow me on Goodreads, Twitter, and Instagram to keep up with my reading journey.

As promised, here is a quick look into a few selections lined up for the upcoming year:

Save the Cat! Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody

The Author’s Checklist by Elizabeth K. Kracht

Iron Gold and Dark Age by Pierce Brown

Angelology and Angelopolis by Danielle Trussoni

Outlander Series by Diana Gabaldon

More Tales of the Witcher series

And so many more…

Happy New Year!

Books Recommendations from 2019

At the beginning of 2019 I set a crazy Goodreads Reading Challenge Goal of sixty books. I made it. And then I read some more…

Actually, it’s 72, going on 73, so far. I have shared by recommendations for the last twelve days of Christmas over on my Twitter, and now I’m sharing them here with you. Let me know your thoughts if you too have read any of my selections from the year. Loved it? Hated it? Indifferent? And if you plan to read any of these, let me know which are on your TBR for 2020.

And now, without further ado:

The Secret History by Donna Tartt 👎

Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater 👍

Loaded, a novella by Joe Hill 👎

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green 👍

The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater 👍

Hazard of Time Travel by Joyce Carol Oates 👍

Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer 👎

One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus 👎

The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas 👍

Opal by Maggie Stiefvater 👍

Authority by Jeff VanderMeer 👍

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid 👍

Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk 👎

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab👍

Acceptance by Jeff VanderMeer👎

Anna Dressed in Blood👎

Borne by Jeff VanderMeer👍

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson👍

Internment by Samira Ahmed👍

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo👍

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds👍

You Bring the Distant Near by Mitali Perkins👍

Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero👎

We Are Okay by Nina LaCour👎

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater👍

The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick👎

Linger by Maggie Stiefvater👎

The ClockMaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton👎

The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon👍

Hunger by Roxane Gay👍👍👍

Sadie by Courtney Summers👍

The Neverending Story by Michael Ende👎

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng👍

Forever by Maggie Stiefvater👍

Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid👍

The Passage by Justin Cronin👎

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo👍

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor👍

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin👍

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate👍

The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton👎

Angelfall by Susan Ee👍

The Last Voyage of Poe Blythe by Ally Condie👎

Educated by Tara Westover👍

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn👍

The Obelisk Gate by N.K Jemison👎

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt👎

World After by Susan Ee👎

The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemison👎

To All the Boys I Loved Before by Jenny Han👎

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs👍

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware👎

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty👎

Circe by Madeline Miller👍

The Refrigerator Monologues by Catherynne M. Valente👎

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens👍

Enclave by Ann Aguirre👎

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah👍

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart👍

Recursion by Blake Crouch👍

The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson👍

Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy👍

Blood Kiss by J.R. Ward👎👎👎

The Subtle Knife by Phillip Pullman👍

Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman👍

House of Salt and Sorrow by Erin Craig👍

Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter👍

Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson👍

Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia👍

The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman👍

Lyra’s Oxford by Philip Pullman 👎

And last, but not least:

Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

I haven’t quite finished this one, but I will in the next few days and I can already tell you it has a thumbs up!

Be sure to follow me on Instagram or Goodreads to track next year’s reading selections. It won’t be quite so ambitious, but it will be a good one! Until then, have a happy New Year!

Writers, Please Write

This month, I did not keep to my regular #WritingwithRae schedule. I’m late. It’s okay though. I gave myself permission to not only be late, but to skip it altogether. This blog post is about why and how.

As #NaNoWriMo19  is winding down my Twitter and Instagram feeds have been inundated with writers struggling with time management, illness, imposter syndrome, and #momlife (or #dadlife). So to all the writers dealing with a busy lifestyle, to all the writers dealing with chronic pain, to all the writers navigating parenthood, I hear you. I’m with you.

I have come across some wonderful people in the writing community, both online and in person. Since our introduction, many have gone on to get agents and book deals. Indie authors have started, completed, and published multiple manuscripts. Several writers seeking traditional publication have drafted nearly half a dozen books in the last year or two.

Wanna know how many drafts I have completed? One. One manuscript. One draft. One quick and dirty revision. One.

I have not joined in during NaNoWriMo. I have not participated in a Twitter pitch contest. I have not started the query process. I haven’t begun beta reads. Despite hoping to have done any or all of these this fall.

What I have accomplished is keeping two little humans alive, healthy, stable, and educated. I have guided them in not only mathematics studies, but how to have respect for themselves and others. I have taught them how to diagram a sentence, as well as how life isn’t about them but what they can do for others. I have introduced them to Shakespeare and given them permission to dream big and be brave. If I succeed in nothing else, I take comfort in knowing I loved my children more than myself, that they know they are loved, and that they have learned to love others. Parenthood is by far the most difficult job on the planet at times. Perfection in this job is unattainable. I inevitably do it wrong on a regular basis. But it is the only job I have ever had where boredom did not become a factor. It’s the only job I have had where my skills have not plateaued. It’s the only job where money is not a factor. It’s the only job where I have pushed myself to be better every day. It’s the only job I have had with rewards to be cherished for what’s left of my life.

I have also cared for the least of these. I never imagined I would ever be involved in the foster system. I never imagined I had the strength for it. Foster parents are the only parents asked to love someone else’s child as their own, only to be asked to say goodbye through no fault of their own. It’s impossible for anyone who has not been a foster parent to truly understand what it’s like. I thought I knew, before I become one.

Our home has welcomed four foster children in the past three years—four children in crisis. We have provided a safe, stable, and loving environment to the children of strangers. These children have experienced grief, neglect, abuse, and drug exposure. They have lived through too much at such a young age, sometimes even before birth. The foster care system is broken and while reunification is ideal, in some cases, losing a foster child is devastating. We grieve. The grieving doesn’t end. But there are also celebrations: a toddler, so neglected he did not know what it was to brush his teeth or wash his hair, learning to trust parental figures; an eight-month old, who could not hold her head up when she arrived, learning to crawl while in your care; an infant coming off of drug exposure, who screamed throughout the night, settling into a routine and sleeping soundly; a newborn’s brain gaining the necessary cognitive and emotional connections gained through interaction and need fulfillment that she otherwise would not have acquired. If I never have a New York Times bestseller, I can take pride in these efforts. These accomplishments are as life changing, long lasting, and worthy as a publication with one of the Big Five.

Parenthood is difficult no matter what job you have, but sometimes I see writers feel guilty or frustrated for not having the time for writing because of children. Writers, please write, but know that in parenthood, it’s never enough. There are never enough hugs, or talks, or games. There is no quota or word count to hit before we can look at our child and say “that’s enough for today.” Give yourself permission to be a parent first and a writer second. The words can wait. Their childhood cannot.

Another hindrance for many writers is illness and pain. I have been dealing with a multitude of ailments for many years now. Some of these ailments include arthritis in my lower back, chronic migraine, and fibromyalgia. None of these things will ever go away. Ever. I will never know what it is like to “feel” normal again. Every single day of my life I feel pain. That has been a very difficult thing to come to terms with. More often than I should, I carry on as if nothing is wrong, but something is always wrong. I take measures to make things manageable, but more often than not, I barely scratch the surface. Just this morning, despite being on a monthly medication to combat it, I suffered a severe migraine that lasted twelve hours. Sometimes my body just will not go. And because outwardly there appears to be nothing wrong, it’s difficult for loved ones to understand and gauge how I am. This affects my ability to write on a regular basis. Brain fog prevents me from finding the words. Pain keeps me from sitting at my desk. Fatigue grabs hold even when conditions are ideal. I may lose battles with my body, but I can’t be concerned with battles when my strategy is about the war.

Writers, please write, but know your body needs your attention. I know your frustration. I know the guilt you feel. I know at times you may even sense depression lurking around the corner. Don’t let the timeline of other writers dictate yours. This is not a race. Do the best work you can when you can. Set reasonable goals, but forgive yourself if you don’t meet it. No one is disappointed in you. Take pride in what you accomplish, despite the setbacks. Your words are hard earned. Each sentence is a reason to take pride in yourself. Each page is a “wow” moment when your greatest hindrance is your own body.

  Finding time to write when you have more obligations on your plate than you can handle can be the tallest hurdle to jump over as a writer. Most of us have full time jobs, families, numerous activities and appointments, cooking and cleaning, and social commitments. Unless you’re a full time writer, time management is easy BECAUSE THERE IS NO TIME TO MANAGE. Ultimately writers must be intentional about carving out time to write, whether it’s early in the morning before the world wakes and makes its demands on you, or at night once the kids go to bed. Often it’s not about finding the time, but finding the amount of time we want. I would love to have eight hours a day to write, but in reality I’m thrilled to get two solid hours and ecstatic with anything beyond that.

Writers, please write, but don’t let writing be one more thing you have to get done that day. Let writing be a pleasure. Know that writing can take many forms other than getting words on a page. It’s reading a book. It’s thinking through your plot points. It’s having a conversation with a critique partner or friend. It’s attending a local writing group or conference. It’s research. It’s watching a movie for inspiration. You may not have time every day to bang out that word count on the laptop, but there are multiple ways to get “writing” done for the day. Don’t be so hard on yourself and don’t feel like an imposter when you can’t make it happen. We all have different paths. We all come into this “job” by different means. We all bring different skills, strengths, and strategies to storytelling. Don’t strive to be like other writers who seem to have the time to write all day. Your struggle is your own and in the end you will be rewarded by your perseverance and endeavors. Work with the time you have. Don’t forget to live while you’re at it. Some of the best stories come from real life.

So, no, I did not make #WritingwithRae happen the third weekend of this month. I had pain to cope with, children to school, appointments to attend, phone calls to make, and a baby to comfort. These things are priorities to me. But I also managed to finish three chapters of my new #WIP when my only goal for the month was to complete the outline. I critiqued six pieces from fellow writers and read three novels. I did a ton of research. I wrote this blog. Despite not having time. Despite living the #momlife. Despite being in pain. I do not dwell on what I haven’t achieved as a writer, but on my accomplishments. Each obstacle I overcome gives me strength to not give up. Each barrier I break through brings me encouragement to keep writing. I have stories to tell, and so do you.

Writers, please write.