Posts Tagged ‘writing blog’

The Story Behind The Curse Giver

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014

Dear Readers.

I’ve been getting a lot of questions from you regarding how I came up with the original concept for The Curse Giver. In an effort to answer these questions, I’d like to share this essay that I wrote for The Curse Giver‘s release.




So, you’ve been wondering: How on earth did I come up with the concept for The Curse Giver?

The Curse Giver was an accident, a professional indiscretion, if you will, conceived during one of my little escapades, and born out of unchecked passion. Yep, I might as well come clean. Even the most disciplined writer can be unfaithful to her projects, and no matter how thoroughly taken one is with one’s current novel, the danger for a tangent is always there when venturing into the world of research.

So there I was, researching one book, working hard to finalize the Stonewiser series, when I came across this insidious little idea that kept disrupting my train of thought.

Now, to understand the story behind The Curse Giver, you must understand me and my writing habits. I’m not easily distracted. When I’m writing a novel, my brain goes into hyper mode. I’m disciplined, motivated and focused to the point of obsession, which is why The Curse Giver was such a surprise to me.

The subject of curses has always fascinated me, not only because curses are such a vital part of magic and fantasy, but also because they are so prevalent to the human experience. To be honest, I had always been intrigued by the subject, but didn’t delve into it, until one very late night—or was it very early morning?—when the wind rattled my window as a coastal storm blew in from the sea.

The clay tablets that popped up on my screen dated from 600 BC and were part of the library of Nineveh, also known as the library of Ashurbanipal, the oldest surviving library of cuneiform tablets. This is the same collection that gave us the famous Gilgamesh epic. Visually, the tablets weren’t much to look at, chicken scratches on clay. But the translated words had an impact on me.

May all these [gods] curse him with a curse that cannot be relieved, terrible and merciless, as long as he lives, may they let his name, his seed, be carried off from the land, may they put his flesh in a dog’s mouth.”

I know, hardly an inspiration for most. Me? I immediately thought of the man who had been thus cursed, of the pain and hardship such curse would bring upon him and his people, of the character that eventually became Bren, Lord of Laonia in The Curse Giver.

From there on, the curses flowed before my eyes, mysterious ones from ancient civilizations in Egypt, India and the Far East; thin lead tablets dating from the Greco-Roman world, judicial prayers, secret invocations, warnings and love spells that streamed into my consciousness. I knew I should get back to my original research, and yet I was smitten with the subject.

There were curses quoted from the Bible, medieval curses, real and forgeries, Viking, Celtic, Germanic, Visigoth, Mayan, Incan, Hopi, you name it. There were ancient curses but also modern curses, some associated with Santeria, voodoo and the 21 Divisions, religions that are common in the Dominican Republic where I grew up.

Who would cast these curses and why? What kind of creature could be capable of such powers? What would motivate a person to curse another one? As I explored these questions, a character profile began to emerge in my mind, someone whose understanding of good and evil was very different from my own.

Sorting through the research, I could see that some curses had practical applications to make sure people did what they were told. They served as alternate forms of law enforcement in lawless societies. Some were obviously malicious. They were meant to frighten and intimidate. Some were more like venting or wishful thinking. It turns out that mankind has been casting curses since the beginning of time and will probably continue for as long as we have the imagination and faith to do so.

A new question formed in my mind. Once cursed, what could a person do to defend himself? A third character emerged from this question, Lusielle, a common remedy mixer, a healer of hearts and bodies, someone who didn’t realize the scope of her own power until it began to transform her life.

Eventually, I wrestled myself out of the trance. I had a book to write and a series to complete. I had deadlines. But my little detour had made an impact. The concepts were at work in my subconscious, coalescing into a new novel, fashioning these powerful characters who demanded their own story. My encounter with curses had been but a slight detour from my research plan, a tiny deviation, an indiscretion to my schedule, but the seed had been planted and The Curse Giver thrived, even if I didn’t know it yet.

The Curse Giver from Amazon

American English and British English, and Learning to Write Both

Thursday, May 15th, 2014

A guest Post


Stephanie Osborm

Stephanie Osborn Author Picture

Hi Folks,

I’m delighted to welcome my Twilight Times Books  colleague, Stephanie Osborn, to my blog. Stephanie is celebrating the release of the fifth book in her stellar Sherlock Holmes Displaced Detective series. Today she talks about the challenges of writing a British character in the context of an American novel.




I’m sure you’ve all seen it.

We in America would say, “I don’t recognize this caller ID on my cellphone; I thought this app specialized in emphasizing identification. Could you wake me up at seven in the morning? Everything has been taken care of, but I have to run over and see Mom before the announcement is publicly known.”

But a Brit would say the same thing like this: “I don’t recognise this caller ID on my mobile; I thought this app specialised in emphasising identification. Would you knock me up at seven in the morning? It’s all sorted, but I have to pop over and see me Mum before the announcement is publically known.”

It’s the difference between the American version of English, and the British version of the same language. Sometimes people who travel back and forth between the two countries — the US and the UK — have been known to remark, “We speak the same language, but we don’t.”

And the difference encompasses terminology, slang, and even spelling.

Did you know that J.K. Rowling was made to change the name of the very first book in the Harry Potter series before it could be published in the USA? The original title, the title you’ll find on bookstore shelves in London, is Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. But publishers felt that Americans might not recognize the alchemical reference, and so it was changed to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. And you may, or may not, be familiar with the use of “trainers” to mean athletic shoes, or “jumper” to refer to a pullover sweater. Cell phones are “mobiles” and refrigerators, regardless of brand, are “Frigidaires.” (I suppose this is analogous to our referring to all disposable facial tissues as “Kleenex” and cotton swabs as “Q-Tips.”)

Americans may call it a plow, but Britons call it a plough — that was even a major clue that Holmes found in one of the original adventures, denoting the suspect wasn’t British as he claimed. There is, it seems, and has been for something like a century and a half at the least, a tendency for Americans to eliminate so-called silent letters and spell more phonetically than our British counterparts. But at least Sir Arthur Conan Doyle only had to write in one version thereof.

When I started writing the Displaced Detective series, which has been described as, “Sherlock Holmes meets The X-Files,” I made a deliberate decision: If the speaker was American, dialogue (and later, thoughts and even scenes from that character’s point of view) would be written in American English. If the speaker (thinker, observer) was from the United Kingdom, dialogue etc. would be written in British English. This has held true right down to the book currently being released, A Case of Spontaneous Combustion, book 5 in the series (with at least 3 more in work, and more in the planning stages).

The series itself traces the exploits of Sherlock Holmes — or one version of Holmes, at least — when he is inadvertently yanked from an alternate reality in which he exists in Victorian Europe, into modern, 21st Century America. Because in his particular alternate reality, he and Professor Moriarty were BOTH supposed to die at Reichenbach, if he is returned, he must die. So he wisely opts to stay put and come up to speed on the modern world. Working with Dr. Skye Chadwick, her continuum’s equivalent to Holmes and the Chief Scientist of Project Tesseract (the program responsible for his accidental transition), Holmes ends up being asked to investigate unusual and occasionally outré situations.

In his latest foray, after an entire English village is wiped out in an apparent case of mass spontaneous combustion, London contacts The Holmes Agency to investigate. Holmes goes undercover to find a terror ring. In Colorado, Skye battles raging wildfires and mustangs, believing Holmes has abandoned her. Holmes must discover what caused the horror in Stonegrange and try to stop the terrorists before they unleash their bizarre weapon again, all the while wondering if he still has a home in Colorado.

And the cast of characters includes an American FBI agent, several members of the US military, two entire units of MI-5, and more. All of whom have to be rendered in their appropriate version of English.

Simple, you say? Just set Word to use the British English dictionary.

Right. Except then Skye, Agent Smith, Colonel Jones, and the other Americans would then be speaking Brit.

“So set both dictionaries operational,” you suggest.

Great idea. I’d love to. But Word doesn’t have that option — the two dictionaries would conflict. And even if it could use both, how would it know whether an American or an Englishman were speaking? More, one of those characters — Holmes himself — actually uses a somewhat archaic form of British English, in that he is a man of the Victorian era, and speaks in such fashion. So I am really using three different forms of English.

Well, the end result is simply that I have to make sure I read back through the manuscript very carefully, looking for places where either I’ve slipped up, or autocorrect replaced the British with the American equivalent (which it does every chance it gets). I’m also pleased that my publisher has assigned me a regular editor who is quite familiar with the British version of English, to include the euphemisms, exclamations, and general slang. She’s been amazingly helpful, and I do my best to stay up to speed on the latest version of slang in both the US and the UK.

So what has been the response?

Well, I’ve had one or two Amazon reviews refer to “misspellings,” and there’s one venerated author (of whom I like to refer as one of the “Grand Old Men of Science Fiction”) who is currently reading the first couple of books in the series and is amazed that I even attempted to pull such a thing off, let alone that I’m doing it.

But other than that, it’s rather strange; not one reader has volunteered the observation that I am writing in two different forms of the English language. Yet the sense among fans of the series is that I have captured Doyle’s tone and style, despite the fact that I do not use a first-person Watson narrative, despite the fact that we see what Holmes is thinking, at least to a point.

I believe the reason is because, subconsciously, readers are picking up on the fact that Holmes speaks, thinks, and observes in proper, Victorian, British English. And even when referring to more modern conveniences, maintains a solid British presence. Consistently. Throughout.

And that’s precisely what I intended, from the very beginning.

I love it when a plan comes together.

DDSpontaneous Combustion


About Stephanie Osborn:

Stephanie Osborn, the Interstellar Woman of Mystery, is a veteran of more than 20 years in the civilian space program, with graduate and undergraduate degrees in four sciences: astronomy, physics, chemistry and mathematics, and she is “fluent” in several more, including geology and anatomy.

She has authored, co-authored, or contributed to more than 20 books, including the celebrated science-fiction mystery, Burnout: The mystery of Space Shuttle STS-281. She is the co-author of the “Cresperian Saga” book series, and currently writes the critically acclaimed “Displaced Detective” series, described as “Sherlock Holmes meets The X-Files.”

In addition to her writing, the Interstellar Woman of Mystery now happily “pays it forward,” teaching math and science through numerous media including radio, podcasting and public speaking, as well as working with SIGMA, the science-fiction think tank.


Off to Japan: My Writer’s Packing List

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014


Dora Machado

Japan Rail Passes

If everything goes as planned, by this time you read this, I’ll be on a plane to Japan. Even though I’ve been to Asia Minor before, this will be my first trip to Asia proper. I’m so excited!

For this trip, I’ve had to make zero planning effort. That’s because I’m teaming up with one of my all-time favorite traveling companions, travel blogger Mariana Marshall of, with whom I walked the last 100 kilometers of the Camino of Santiago de Compostela. She is also my daughter.

The advantages of tagging along with a travel blogger can’t be understated. My traveling companion carefully researched and selected the itinerary and made all of the traveling arrangements, transportation and lodging reservations. I just get to come along for the ride!

We’ll be spending some time in Tokyo and then traveling on to explore Kyoto and its environs. We’ve got a very long list, but I’m looking forward to staying at a traditional Japanese guest house (ryokan), exploring the natural hot springs (onsens), and riding Japan’s fabulous bullet trains.

Packing for Japan in the winter had me asking a lot of questions, but travel bloggers are Girl Scouts at heart, and mine found this awesome packing list from a fellow blogger:

My writer’s packing list must, of course, include my computer, tablet and cell phone. We don’t speak the language, so we’ve uploaded some interesting apps that might help if all else fails. I’ll let you know how that goes.

Technology is a wonderful convenience, but I’ve learned that, when traveling, it isn’t always reliable. So in addition, I’m bringing a good, small, old-fashioned notebook to jot down my thoughts and observations, a few good pens, and my camera, all indispensable tools that will work with or without an Internet connection, and that are suitable to all environments.

But the most important elements for a successful trip are stowed not in my suitcase, but rather in my mind. They include flexibility, openness and imagination. Flexibility is key when traveling, the ability to roll with the punches, accept, adapt and adjust to the changes intrinsic to the traveling experience. From airports to hotels, from technology to people, traveling exposes us to new situations that test our comfort levels and push our boundaries.

An open mind is also vital to the traveling experience. It allows us to see the world for what it is, not for what we think it should be. It also teaches us to value the differences that make each place unique and each culture extraordinary.

And finally, I bring along my number-one writing tool, my imagination, to take in the sights, sounds, smells and tastes that I’ve never experienced before, to relish the emotions of the journey, to collect the odd, the common and the spectacular, to understand and process the experience of being human. For a gal into world building, the traveling experience is a rich trove indeed.

So, wish me luck.

Sayonara, kids!

Japan bound

Colorado Is For Writers

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014

Hello Everybody,

I just got back from beautiful Colorado. Here’s a post I wrote about my writing experience in the Rocky Mountains.



Copper Mountain, top of Union Peak, December 26 2013

Colorado has to be one of my favorite places in the world. The views of the Rocky Mountains are breathtaking. The people are friendly, fit and youthful, no matter their age. Nature indulges, facilitating so many of the activities for which the State is known, skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, biking, hiking, fly-fishing, rafting and . . .  writing?

Yes, writing.

It’s easy to find inspiration among these mountains. It’s easy to keep the mind focused when surrounded by such stunning vistas. I find myself energized by the folks who tackled the slopes with the same energy and enthusiasm I feel when I tackle a story. It goes against the principles of oxygen deprivation, but I find that the mind flows effortlessly at ten thousand feet, especially after a few hours of skiing or snowshoeing, and a little nap.


We’ve had some epic snow dumps so far this year and the snow has been delicious. Those of us who frequent Copper Mountain, Colorado, on a regular basis, couldn’t be happier. I heard a few people complaining about the cold weather this year, but I’m not one of them. When the going gets tough on the mountain, when the wind picks up and you can’t see the chair lift in front of you, I head indoors. The way I see it, it’s time for some serious writing.

I’ve produced some of my best writing in Colorado. These mountains have inspired thousands of words out of me. I’m always grateful for the opportunity to come out to Colorado and share in the state of mind that makes it such a great destination for outdoor enthusiasts and, yes, for writers too.

Copper Mountain, Dec 26 2013

Murder By 4 is in the spotlight!

Wednesday, December 4th, 2013

I hope you guys had a wonderful Thanksgiving. Remember that I told you a few weeks ago that I was writing for an award-winning blog called Murder By 4? Well, what do you know? Murder By 4 is on a coveted list of Writer’s Digest Online Resources!

Here’s the link for the 2013 Yearbook for NOVEL WRITING:

We are here, in this section!

And look at us, a respectable number 10!

I’m so proud of Aaron Lazar, Kim Smith and all of us at MB4. Congrats guys! If you are a writer, or if you are interested in writing, come over to MB4. I think you’ll find lots of helpful information by writers for writers.

Have a wonderful day!


Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013

Thanksgiving always makes me feel lucky. Even if I have a tendency to stress over the stuffing, the seating arrangements and the lumps in the gravy, I love this fantastic holiday. It encompasses all of my favorites: family, friends, food and fun.  Every year, before we sit at the table, our family gives thanks for the blessings in our lives. So I thought we should do the same here, from my writer’s point of view.

In the spirit of the holiday and beginning with the obvious, I’m grateful for:

My family and friends, who support me and my writing with love, patience, grace and enthusiasm. Without them, even writing loses its meaning.

The craft of writing–gift, blessing, curse and obsession.  I’m thankful for every word, sentence, paragraph and chapter; for every story, novel and series; for every idea, image and dream; for the pure joy of writing.

My writer friends, whose flames light my way and brighten my nights.

The editors who help me become a better writer and who care enough to point out the obvious as well as the obscure.

The publishers who invest in our work and the talented teams that bring our books to market, including the cover artists, book designers, proof readers, line editors, support staff and everybody who contributes to the creation of something as unique and special as a book. Thank you for being part of our stories.

Those who help us promote our work: agents, public relations specialists and especially all those fantastic bloggers and reviewers who showcase our books.

Finally, I’m especially thankful for my readers, for their encouragement, enthusiasm and praise. They are the reason why authors like me keep writing.

Have a wonderful holiday!


Thanksgiving turkey

There’s No Place Like Home

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013

The holidays are upon us and my guest blogger today is the talented author of The Coal Elf, Maria DeVivo.

The Coal Elf is about Ember Skye, a teenage Coal Elf with a big ashy chip on her shoulder. Having been torn away from a carefree life and forced into a world of dirt and darkness has started to get the best of her. And being the only girl-elf working as a coal miner at the North Pole doesn’t help much either. She wants to go home and yet she can’t.

When a mysterious illness threatens to decimate elves both Above and Underground, Ember is thrust into a journey that will see her confront the literal and figurative demons of her past and lead her to the head of the North Pole himself.  Yes! Santa is real. But this isn’t your childhood Christmas tale.

The Coal Elf is an original, dark and evocative tale with a different take on Christmas. Scroll to the bottom for a peek at this unique story and help us drive it up to the top of Amazon’s charts by buying The Coal Elf at a special holiday price of only $2.99!

And now find out why There’s No Place Like Home during the holidays.



There’s No Place Like Home


Maria DeVivo

Maria De Vivo

What’s the old saying?  “Home is where the heart is.”  It must be true because one of the prevalent themes in story-telling is the concept of Home – Having one, being a part of one, rejecting one, leaving one, desperately trying to find your way back to one.

Humans have an innate honing device that draws us to a nostalgic place of comfort and love. Some of the most influential stories of our time use HOME as a central theme.  After having experienced the wonder and glory of Oz, Dorothy said there was no place like it.  Her journey brought her to the realization that her black and white world of farm animals and twisters was really where she belonged.  Thrust onto an island while the war-torn world around them has no idea of their whereabouts, the children in The Lord of the Flies are in constant pursuit of returning home while in the process, create a home. And more recently, Katniss Everdeen initially strives to win The Hunger Games to go where?  Back Home.

In The Coal Elf, Ember Skye deals with this notion of Home from the moment she is called to her Life Job.  When she is sent to the Mines, her memories of her life Aboveground grip her so tightly that she is almost blinded by nostalgia.  The entire novel follows her path of dealing with those memories, confronting certain realities, and altering her own perceptions as to where she belongs, where she fits in, where she’s meant to be.

So what is HOME?  What defines it?  For me, it’s an unseen structure made up of memories.    Spring birds singing in the morning as I waited for the school bus.  Running outside on a cool summer night to flag down the ice cream truck.  Standing on tree stumps in my backyard as dead leaves fell from the autumn trees.  The smell of my father’s work boots in the hallway.  Cuddling with my sister on Christmas Eve.  Coming home from school and being so angry with my mother for cleaning up my room.  My uncle’s voice booming as he and my mother sang Kenny Rogers’s songs.  My concept of Home expands far beyond the actual dwelling itself, and now I’m making a Home for my daughter, hopefully helping to build those memories of love and comfort she will seek refuge in her future.


About Maria DeVivo

Maria DeVivo is a New York native who has had a lifelong love affair with “the pen.”  A graduate of St. John’s University, she has a passion for all things mystical and mythological.  She has taught 7th grade Language Arts since 2000, and in 2010, designed the curriculum for an academic elective course entitled Folklore, where she was able to share her passion and knowledge on concentrated topics such as folktales and mythology with her students.

Having grown up in a large Irish/Italian family (where Maria is the oldest child, and of course, the wisest) the mystery and wonder surrounding the holidays were a main staple of her upbringing.  At the age of seven, when her mother finally admitted “the truth” to her, she has become somewhat of a “Santa-phile”, an obsession that has rooted its way into every fiber of her being.  Maria is one of those people who cries when Santa makes His grand appearance at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.  Coupled with an obsession for all things dark and demented, her debut novel, The Coal Elf, was born.

Maria now lives in Florida with her husband, Joe, and daughter, Morgan.  When not teaching or writing or running around after her daughter, she enjoys drinking iced coffee, watching horror movies, and playing video games.

Connect with DeVivo:




Ember Skye is a fed up teenage Coal Elf with a big ashy chip on her shoulder. Having been torn away from a carefree life and forced into a world of dirt and darkness has started to get the best of her. And being the only girl-elf working as a coal miner at the North Pole doesn’t help much either!

Then there’s Sturd: a power-hungry, twisted elf with a checkered past and a serious grudge against Ember. Slowly but surely, his maniacal tendencies are revealed, leaving Ember with the sacred “Naughty List” literally in her lap.

When a mysterious illness threatens to decimate elves both Above and Underground, Ember is thrust into a journey that will see her confront the literal and figurative demons of her past and lead her to the head of the North Pole himself.

Yes! Santa is real. But this isn’t your childhood Christmas tale!

coal elf pic for vid



“…A story with plenty of twists and turns, the reader is drawn into a world of dust and darkness with tension so strong it can be felt throughout. You will hold your breath at the challenges Ember must face and be pulled along as the plot thickens.” ~ Anne K. Edwards, author of The Last to Fall

“The teenage protagonist of Maria DeVivo’s debut novel, The Coal Elf, published by Twilight Times Books, November 2012, got screwed by “the Boss” of the North Pole. Imagine having your wonderful life and future destroyed when, instead of receiving the job assignment to make toys or bake cookies for a living, you were thrust into a gloomy, underground life of mining coal for the children on the naughty list. Ember Skye stole my heart from the first page as DeVivo describes her life as a Coal Elf and sets up the conflict and her epic battle with the antagonist, Sturd, a despicable, nasty elf who embodies evil.

Throw this conflict, these and a handful of other memorable characters into an incredibly creative North Pole setting, and you have a story that I could not put down. What I particularly enjoyed was DeVivo’s portrayal and extension of Christmas with her creation of a detailed fantasy world where we learn how the North Pole might actually work. This awesome setting is expertly woven into the story so that I was transported into this amazing world as I read.

Do yourself a favor and read The Coal Elf–I highly recommend it. This is one of those books that should be made into a movie (Tim Burton are you listening?). Great characters, engaging plot, believable dialog, wonderful setting and, above all, writing that compelled me to keep turning the pages (that’s what we all really want as readers, right?).” ~Daniel Springer, author of the award-winning The Wilco Project.

Don’t forget! The Coal Elf is now available at a special holiday price of only $2.99!

Writing for writers

Wednesday, November 6th, 2013

Hi Folks!

I felt right at home the first time I visited a blog for writers called Murder By Four. It was like, “Honey, I’m home!” An instant sense of connection enveloped me as I read through this wonderful blog. I loved the way in which authors Aaron, Kim, Marta and S.W. approached the writing life—with wisdom, dedication and joy. I relished the discussions, the guest bloggers who found a platform here, and the clever readers’ comments. I was smitten. I had stumbled into a community of open arms willing to embrace my writer self. is an award-winning blog for writers by writers. It has been selected by Writer’s Digest Magazine as one of the Best Websites for Writers several years in a row. So I was thrilled when my friend and fellow Twilight Times Books author Aaron Lazar asked me if I would join Murder By 4. I love to hang out with my writer friends. We all benefit when we share information, promotion tips, support, thoughts, questions, aspirations and inspiration. Thank you Aaron for inviting me to join MB4!

My goal is to support MB4’s tradition of building community as we learn and grow together. In my posts, I plan to share whatever helpful tidbits I’ve picked up during my writer’s journey. I also plan to ask a lot of questions to other writers, publishers, editors, cover designers, publicists—anyone who works to support writers and promote writing, books and publishing. While I will continue to post all of my author news here, all about my books, reviews, interviews, and upcoming events, I’ll also be on MB4 every Wednesday talking about one of my favorite subjects—writing.

Stop by to check out the wealth of writer wisdom over at MB4, including my Wednesday posts, which today features my interview the irrepressible Barry Eva, the host of the popular radio show A Chat and a Book.

So if you love books and if you love to write, come on over to We’d love to see you there.


Murder by Four

The Power of Repetition: A Guest Blog by Scott Eder

Monday, October 14th, 2013

I’m delighted to introduce my friend and Twilight Times Books fellow author, Scott Eder, whose first contemporary fantasy novel, Knight of Flame, was just released to great praise and excellent reviews. In his blog today, Scott shares his search for an irresistible first chapter. So it’s only fitting that we should begin with a gift from this talented author, the first five chapters of Knight of Flames, free, right here, at your fingertips:




The Power of Repetition


Scott Eder

I’m always looking for ways to take my writing to the next level. Classes, books, podcasts, conversations… the list goes on. As a perpetual student, I’m learning and practicing every single day. But some lessons are tougher than others and require multiple strikes of the hammer to drive a single point home. In my case, the single point I struggled with was grabbing the reader right out of the gate. It’s a simple concept, really. A story needs to grab the reader’s interest as soon as possible, and refuse to let him go. Compelling characters, barbed hooks, unique conflicts, scintillating writing, and a crisp, unique voice combine to clamp onto the reader’s imagination, tightening his interest with each turn of the page.

Easy, right? You’d think so, but it took listening to a panel of agents and editors at DragonCon for the meaning to really sink in.

When I first started writing, I thought I had time, story time that is. I opened at a soft, descriptive pace that gently introduced the reader to my setting and characters. After that, I stirred in the conflict, ratcheting up the stress and intensity, until eventually achieving resolution. I thought this approach meshed with the fantasy genre. I needed time for world building, and to introduce the uniqueness of my characters, right? So why didn’t I get any interest from the agents and editors I queried? The form rejection letters didn’t help, didn’t tell me what I needed to fix.

I realized that I was missing some critical piece to the story-telling puzzle, and made the decision to seek professional help. (Hehe. I felt a little crazy at this point.) After taking several classes where the instructors helped me understand that I needed to get to the conflict sooner, that I needed to hook the reader up front, I thought I had it. Instead of getting to the action within the first few chapters, I streamlined my writing, introduced setting, characters and conflict in a more compelling way by the end of chapter one.

Woohoo! With my newfound skills, I’d break into the biz in no time. My stories rocked. Or so I thought. But the growing collection of form rejections told a different story. If one of those editors or agents would take a minute and give me something, a hint, a bit of advice, anything to clue me in as to what was missing, I’d have a chance to fix it. Nope. Just a thanks for playing, and have a nice day.

Crap. Now what?

One of the things David Farland mentioned in his class was that you could meet editors and agents at certain conventions. I checked the Interwebs and found DragonCon. I’d heard about this fabled event, but never attended. Once I found several editors and agents on the guest list, I booked my travel plans.

DragonCon has an excellent writer’s track. Panels conducted by authors, publishers, agents, and editors, with topics ranging from writing basics to more advanced publishing concerns, run all day, every day. One of the most heavily attended is the combined editors and agents panel. I got there early, but by the time it started, it was standing room only. It turned out to be more of a question and answer session, than a formalized presentation, which was fine, because I had a lot of the same questions other aspiring writers in the throng dared to ask. And then it happened. The crowd disappeared, the lights dimmed, and the panelists turned to face me, metaphorically anyway. Their comments hit me hard.

One agent said, “Look, you need to draw me in right away. Like on the first page. With all the submissions I get, I don’t have time to read pages and pages, waiting for something interesting to happen.”

An editor chimed in. “Yeah. I’m rooting for you, but unless you hook me within the first page or two with something, and it doesn’t have to be your primary conflict, but something to make me keep reading, you’re done.”

“Hell, you need to grab me in the first paragraph or two,” said the agent at the far end of the table. “I’ll give you a little more time if you have a nifty voice, but not much.”

I blinked a few times as the import of their words sunk in. The first page or two? Hmm…The chatter continued, but I zoned out, churning over how make my first few pages addictive. I wanted the reader turning the pages of my book as if he’d just popped the top on a fresh can of Pringles.

After several iterations, and an enthusiastic thumbs-up from my critique group, I sent it back out. This time, it sold!

And all it took were several books, a few teachers, and one panel at a convention to make it stick. Never stop learning. Make it a part of your writing process to seek out new techniques and information. You never know which one will make the difference between rejection and acceptance.

Have fun,


Against the Shadow, burns a noble light.


Knight Of Flame

Fire. The most chaotic of the primal elements. When wielded properly by the Knight of Flame, it burns like the sun. Otherwise, it slowly consumes the Knight, burning away his control, driving him towards dark deeds.

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“In Knight of Flame Scott re-imagines traditional fantasy and forges something new from old metal–a fast-paced thriller that delivers a healthy dose of wonder. As enjoyable as it is engrossing.” – David Farland, International Best-Selling Author of The Runelords

Knight of Flame is available today for only $2.99!

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About the Author

Since he was a kid, Scott wanted to be an author. Through the years, fantastic tales of nobility and strife, honor and chaos dominated his thoughts. After twenty years mired in the corporate machine, he broke free to bring those stories to life.

Scott lives with his wife and two children on the west coast of Florida.


Twitter: @Scotteder



My Interview with Karen Swart

Wednesday, October 9th, 2013

Hi Folks,

Here’s my brand new interview with South African paranormal and urban fantasy author, Karen Swart, where she asked me all kinds of interesting questions, including whether my books had a hidden message. You know what? I had to think about that one.




Hi Dora! Did you always wanted to be a writer?

Hi Karen. Yes! I’ve wanted to be a writers since as far back as I can remember.

When did you first consider yourself a “writer”?

Good question! I think I only began to call myself a writer after my first book, Stonewiser: The Heart of the Stone, was published.

How long did it take to get your first book published?

About a year from beginning to end. It felt like a century!

Do you do another job except for writing?

Not anymore! These days I’m lucky enough to write full time and I’m enjoying every minute of it.

What is the name of your latest book, and if you had to summarize it in fewer than 20 words what would you say?

My latest book is called The Curse Giver. Twenty words, eh? Why, let’s give the old logline a try: An innocent healer condemned to death must ally with the cursed lord pledged to kill her to defeat the curse giver who has already conjured their ends.

Who is your publisher?

I’m a very lucky gal. The Curse Giver was published by Twilight Times Books, an independent publisher based out of Kingsport, Tennessee, that specializes in publishingcritically acclaimed literary, mystery and SF/F books. A dynamic, top-of-the-line, quality-oriented publisher, TTB has more than 140 titles in the 2013 Spring Catalogue and is the home of a talented and friendly bunch of authors who have enriched my publishing experience. Check out TTB at

How long does it usually take you to write a book, from the original idea to finishing writing it?

It takes me about four months, give or take a little. Keep in mind that the time invested is not always consecutive when you are working on a novel. Sometimes I’ll advance one project and then shift to another novel, before going back to complete the first one.

What can we expect from you in the future? More books of the same genre? Books of a different genre?

You can expect more stories from me in the future, more dark fantasy romance, a dark contemporary fantasy with a Latin twist, and more about the world of The Curse Giver in its companion novel, The Soul Chaser.

What genre would you place your books into?

The Curse Giver falls into the fantasy genre and fits well in the subcategories of epic fantasy, dark fantasy, fantasy romance and romantic fantasy.

What made you decide to write that genre of book?

I’ve always been intrigued by the fantasy genre. I love the genre’s creative freedom, the opportunity to rethink, redesign and reinterpret the human experience, the creative challenges that that arise from world building, and the mysteries that magic brings to the human equation. I grew up in the Dominican Republic and my life always felt kind of magical in many ways. I’ve always straddled different worlds. Fantasy is a perfect fit for me.

Do you have a favorite character from your books? And why are they your favorite?

I do. I think it’s a tossup between the main characters, Bren and Lusielle. I’ve always been a sucker for the underdog, the reluctant hero and the tortured soul. In The Curse Giver, Bren, Lord of Laonia, is all of those. He’s got the makings of a hero, but his circumstances make him an outcast and a villain in his own mind. He is weary, bitter and troubled, but he’s also dutiful and determined, and he will not betray his people. As the story begins, he rescues Lusielle from the pyre, but only because he’s hunting a birthmark she bears. To defeat the curse that has obliterated his family and is killing him, he has to murder the woman who bears the birthmark in the foulest possible way. But as he escapes with his prey in tow, she is not what he expected. He faces yet another dismal choice: Can he murder the only woman capable of healing more than his body, his soul?

Lusielle is also one of my favorite characters in The Curse Giver, but for a totally different reason. When the story begins, she’s been betrayed by her greedy husband and condemned to die for a crime she didn’t commit. After years of abuse and slavery, the false accusations destroy her bleak but orderly world. As she flees with the bitter lord who has rescued her, she finds herself in an impossible situation: If she’s going to survive, she must help the mysterious lord who is determined to kill her to defeat the curse giver who has already conjured their ends. What I like most about Lusielle is that she has to change; she has to muster the courage to free herself from her tragic past and find the strength within to thrive in a world she doesn’t understand.

How long have you been writing? And who or what inspired you to write?

I’ve been writing for publication for about seven years now. I’m inspired to write by many people and many experiences, but ultimately, I write because I can’t stop writing. I swear. I’ve tried. I just can’t. My mind is powered by this story generator that keeps on going and won’t quit.

Do you have a certain routine you have for writing? Do you listen to music, sit in a certain chair…?

I’m one of those people who prefer to write in silence. I guess my mind is way too noisy as it is! I have a writing studio in my home, a cozy little room that opens up to a veranda that overlooks a beautiful, spring-fed river. It’s quiet and peaceful, and it’s my favorite place to write. I like to sit on my favorite chair, a Scandinavian ergonomic design that offers excellent support for the long hours of writing.

Do you choose a title first, or write the book, then choose the title?

I usually discover the title of my novels at the very moment when I write it for the first time into the story. It can happen early on, during the opening paragraph or late in the process. It’s really neat. It’s always a “wow” moment.

Are there any hidden messages or morals contained in your books? (Morals such as those in Aesop’s Fables: “The moral of this story is..”)

I don’t strive to preach any kind of morality in my stories, but I do write a lot about conflicting situations, injustice, opposing beliefs, and the meaning of concepts such as truth, faith and prejudice. Sometimes, the storyline leaves me and my readers thinking about things. For example, in The Curse Giver we join with the characters as they discover how reason, knowledge and awareness are the main components of our personal sense of strength. We don’t have to be magical to be strong. We just have to believe in ourselves.

Which format of book do you prefer, e-book, hardback, or paperback?

I’m partial to the indestructible, beach-proof, throw-it-in-your-bag, good old-fashioned paperback. I love the feel of a book between my hands. But I will confess—albeit reluctantly—that my latest e-reader has been growing on me. The idea that I can carry ALL of my favorite books around in my purse is irresistible.

Do you think books transfer to movies well? Which is your favorite/worst book-to-movie transfer?

I think that books and movies are two different and distinct media. I usually approach them with different expectations. What makes a book great is not the same thing that will work for a movie. The translation is particularly challenging for science fiction and fantasy. There are an awful lot of great SF/F books that have been made into terrible movies. I used to say that I never wanted to see my books made into movies. That is, until I watched George R. Martin’s Game of Thrones on HBO. It might be time to rethink the old prejudices. . . .

Your favorite food is?

Cake. I know. Not a good one. I like carrots too. Does that help?

Your favorite singer/group is?

That would be a long list!

Your favorite color is?


Remember to check out today’s spotlight to find out more about Dora and The Curse Giver.