Wednesday, December 11, 2013

What Doctor Who Taught Me About Writing

A few weeks ago, I saw the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary show. Twice, actually. Once on television and then again with my daughter at the movies. I enjoyed both viewings, but after the second, I began thinking about how the movie worked. Especially in its use of foreshadowing.

Foreshadowing is when the writer gives the reader (or viewer) some sort of clue or hint about something that will occur later in the story. There are many reasons to foreshadow, one of which is to deepen the story, but foreshadowing can also be an important tool for the writer. It allows the writer to deliver necessary information to the reader without revealing the importance of that information too soon in the story.


For example, about halfway through the Doctor Who movie, when the Doctors needed to escape the Tower of London—yes, I said Doctors. The eleventh and tenth Doctors were both in the show, along with the “war” Doctor from 400 years in the past. (Hey come on, they’re Timelords.  They're allowed to do that kind of stuff.) Anyway, when they needed to escape from the Tower, they came up with a plan to program a horrendously complicated subroutine into the war doctor’s sonic screwdriver so that 400 years later, the current doctor’s sonic screwdriver would have the completed calculations for their escape. Turns out they never got around to using those calculations, since Clara showed up to rescue them at that point, but no matter—the scene had already served its real purpose. The idea of using sonic screwdrivers in this way had been planted into our minds, so when the same technique was used to solve the big problem later during the final climatic scene, no time was wasted having to explain the concept, so the scene moved along quickly.

 The use of foreshadowing to prepare the reader for solutions the MC will use later on is common. In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, for example, Rowling needed a time traveling device to solve a story problem she’d created, so she invented a pendant capable of carrying Harry back in time. Of course, having this item suddenly appear right when Harry needed it would have seemed contrived, so Rowling introduced the pendant to us early and gave it its own subplot. Then when Harry needed the pendant to solve the big problem at the end, its presence seemed perfectly natural. 


In the Doctor Who movie, a similar technique was used when the Doctor was shown (at the beginning of the movie) a special 3D painting described as Timelord art. Turns out that painting (and the concept behind its technology) was necessary to solve two big problems later on in the story, but for the audience to accept its use as a legitimate solution, we needed to be introduced to the concept of Timelord art early on. And simply sticking the painting into the same room as the Doctor wasn’t enough. There had to be a reason for its existence or the viewers would have been suspicious. So the writers came up with a subplot for the painting (which I won’t go into here), giving a valid reason for its existence and preparing us for its use in the final scene. And everything was done so smoothly, it never occurred to me that the painting had been a plant from the start—a fact I was able to appreciate during my second viewing.

If writing has done anything for me, it’s made me better at spotting foreshadowing during movies. Much to the annoyance of my wife.

What about you? Do you spot foreshadowing in movies more easily these days?

Friday, December 6, 2013

Friday Links -- Volume 12

We're approaching the end of the year, and to be honest, it can't come quickly enough.  Why? Because it means I'll have more time for writing.  :)

The night class I teach will be finished in about a week and a half, and as of two days ago, I'm officially done with my daughter's FTC robotics competition.  The actual competition isn't until tomorrow, but there's been too much politicking and backstabbing going on within the team for my taste, so my daughter and I have decided we've had enough and have pulled out of the team.  Hopefully her joy of working on robots will return with time.

I also have a special link for you today.  The Insecure Writers Support Group now has a website and everyone should go on over there and check it out.  There's even a contest that will last until the 16th of December, so be sure to sign up.  I'm starting a rumor that the founder of IWSG, Alex Cavanaugh, will embarrass himself publicly as one of the prizes.  :)

Here are today's links.  And as always, have a great weekend!


Getting to the Core of Character Motivation

When Bad Things Happen to Good Books

The Red Roadmaster

Most Common Writing Mistakes: Weak Character Voice

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Dream Destination BlogHop - Day 1

Today is the first day of the Dream Destination Bloghop hosted by Lexa Cain and Julie Flanders. And as part of that bloghop, I get to tell you my dream destination.

Britain. Anywhere in the country, really, but I'd love to visit Cumbria.  I'd prefer a location near one (or more) of these:

Castle Bodiam - Courtesy Misterzee

Castles are the coolest things. Can't get enough of them. I’ve been to several in Britain and would love to see more. Perhaps one day.

Anyway, be sure to visit either Lexa Cain or Julie Flanders between December 5th-8th and enter the rafflecopter. Lots of prizes!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Insecure Writer and Being a Slow Writer

Today is December's contribution to Alex Cavanaugh's Insecure Writers Support Group.

Why am I an Insecure Writer this month?

Because slow writers like me are fighting an uphill battle.

I’ve posted before about being a slow writer, and when that slowness is coupled with a busy schedule, progress on my WIP often drops to a snail’s pace. And this year has been particularly vexing in that regard. (The details will be the topic of a future post.)  Nevertheless, I've come to accept being a slow writer.  It's who I am. Of course, I still fantasize that one day I’ll be a fast writer, but I’m not holding my breath.

But in these heady days of publishing—especially self-publishing—everything I read suggests an author needs to be prolific to be successful. Book promotions, for instance, are often a waste of time unless the author has several books available for purchase. Several books? Yikes! At the rate I’m going, I’ll be retired before I finish three books.

 Hmmm. The time I’m spending on this post is already making me antsy. I think perhaps I should wrap up this post and get back to my story.

What about you guys? Does not having a lot of published books worry you? Do you feel pressured to finish books as quickly as you can?

Friday, November 15, 2013

Friday Links -- Volume Ten

So how's Nano going for everybody? We're now halfway through the month, so everyone should be over 25,000 words by now, right? I wish all of you NaNo participants good luck. I'm still mucking about with the so-called story I did last November, so I declined to enter. It’s nice being able to get some sleep during November.

Yesterday, I was privileged to be the recipient of many good soakings, thanks to Soak-a-Bloke day (hosted by Christina Rains). It's part of the Realms Faire, details of which can be found over at M. Pax’s blog.

In other news, Janice Hardy is offering a three chapter critique over at the Crits For Water Auction.

Okay, on to the Friday Links.  Have a great weekend!

Why I Choose a Digital Publisher Instead of Self-Publishing

9 Ways To Undermine Your Characters’ Best Laid Plans

Common Problems With Beginnings

Advice I Wish I’d Been Given When I Started … Part 3

Twitter: Are You Taking the Lazy Way Out?

Thursday, November 14, 2013

How Have Your Book Buying Habits Changed?

Has the way you make book buying decisions changed in the past few years? It certainly has for me. And I don’t mean the fact that I can buy e-books for less money than print books. I’m taking about how I've had to change the way I make my book buying decisions.

Back before Amazon came along, I would walk into a bookstore, head directly to the shelves holding my desired genre (usually fantasy), and peruse the books. I’d check out titles and authors, and if I was intrigued, I’d read the back cover copy to see if the premise was interesting.  If so, I’d open the book.

Somewhere roughly in the middle.

You see, I’d learned at any early age that the opening chapter of a book was usually a poor way of judging a book. Back then, most books started slowly, with the MC doing something rather mundane, like thinking about the weather or something similarly uninspiring, and it would be a while before the story got around to anything interesting. There might be a prologue, or lots of backstory (which I don’t mind all that much myself, as long as it’s entertaining), but those things didn't give the reader a good handle on how the author was going to tell the story, which is what I wanted to know before I bought a book.

So I’d open the book somewhere in the middle and look for things like the percentage of dialogue. Too little and it might be a tough read, but too much and it might be a sign of a weak plot. Did the author spend too much time harping on the character’s feelings or did he/she get on with the story? Was the prose too purple for my tastes?

Now everything has changed. I don’t have as much time to visit bookstores these days, despite the warm  fuzzy feeling I get whenever I’m inside one, so I spend much of my book searching time on Amazon. And Amazon’s previewer only allows me to see the beginning chapters, which means I’m often forced to make a buying decision based on the part of the book that happens long before the story-worthy problem (as Larry Brooks puts it) is revealed. How much different will the writing be once the story gets going? Did the author spend all their energy on that first chapter and leave a sagging middle? The whole process leaves me feeling rather anxious. I will admit, though, that the lower price of e-books does help mitigate the risk of choosing wrongly.

This new paradigm has also changed how I write. When I first began writing fiction, I never paid much attention to those people who said that your first chapter is the most important chapter. I grew up in a time when first chapters weren't all that exciting. But now, with the Amazon previewer, I’ll agree that the first chapter is pretty darn important. Not only does it have to demonstrate your writing style, but it also has to convince the reader that your character is worth following for the next twenty chapters and that the excitement is only just beginning. A rather tall order.

 So how has the Amazon previewer changed the way you buy books?

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Insecure Writer and a Lack of Quality Mind Wandering Time

Today is November's contribution to Alex Cavanaugh's Insecure Writers Support Group.

Why am I an Insecure Writer this month?

Because of the worry that my source of ideas may be running out..

The past several months have been pretty busy, especially October, which is my excuse for not having posted here the last couple of weeks. I suspect laziness played some part too, but that’s another story. And the little time I had left was spent critting. This lack of time didn’t bother me too much. I knew as soon as things lightened up and I had a chance to sit down in front of a computer again, I’d jump back into posting and critting and writing again as if I’d never been away.

What really worried me was my lack of quality time for generating new ideas. Turns out my best ideas come to me when I’m in the shower, or driving to and from work, or taking walks by myself—basically the times when my mind can free-associate. It’s the part of writing I’ve always enjoyed the most. Just allowing my mind to wander and letting those ideas come pouring in. Getting them down on paper is the hard part.

But as I’ve learned these past couple of months, these ideas only come when my mind can wander around guilt-free. If there’s something else I know I should be thinking about, like the next day’s lecture for the chemistry class I teach, or the homework I should be grading, or the next meeting of robotics class I’m coaching, or projects I should be doing at home—the ideas just don’t come. When I know there are other things I should be thinking about, concentrating on my story is hard. And it had been such a long time since I’d had any new good ideas, I worried that maybe the ideas weren’t going to come anymore.

Fortunately, I've discovered this will not be a problem. My plate is still pretty full, but I’ve been able to work up a schedule that allows me to fulfill all my obligations and still leaves me with a few hours of guilt-free mind wandering time. And the ideas are beginning to return. Thank goodness!

 Finally, an Insecure Writer’s post that ends on a happy note.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Fractured Legacy Release Day

Can Kaylyn figure out how to stop a spirit that has been looking for her since she was a child?

Available October 22

Fractured Legacy by Skye Callahan

Fractured Legacy Kaylyn Anderson's fascination with abandoned places and dark creatures kindled her work as a paranormal investigator. But when dreams begin to distort reality, she questions what is real and pulls away from everyone she trusts. The opportunity to investigate the Teague Hotel--a long-abandoned landmark that has always piqued her curiosity--provides a chance to redeem herself. Unraveling the hotel's secrets won't be easy, but Kaylyn soon finds herself the target of a dark entity that has been trapped in the building for decades. If Kaylyn stands any chance of defeating the spirit, she'll have to accept that her fears are real and convince fellow investigators that she hasn't lost her mind. Buy your copy on Amazon Read the first 3 chapters on Wattpad Follow along with the Release Tour for interviews, excerpts, reviews, and a chance to win a signed paperback (US), bookmarks and Fractured Legacy swag in the Rafflecopter giveaway.

About the Author: Skye Callahan

Skye Callahan was born and raised in Ohio and has seen enough unbelievable stuff to feed a lifetime of paranormal stories. When not writing or working at the dayjob, she hangs out with her ethnomusicologist husband and pet ferrets, reads, and takes long walks through the cemetery. Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Blog

Friday, October 11, 2013

Friday Links and Backworlds Announcement

It's Friday again, with a whole bunch of writing links for your reading pleasure.

Do You Read Self-Published Books Differently?
Query Detox, Part 2
The ABCs of Self-Publishing
Let the Characters Tell the Story
Reinventing Your Story: Part 1: Why Reinvent?
Reinventing Your Story: Part 2: Types of Reinventing
Reinventing Your Book: Part 3: Type of Story

But wait, there's more!

I'm also happy to announce the release of Beyond The Edge, the fourth book in the Backworlds series penned by M. Pax.  What are the Backworlds, you ask?  I'll let the author tell you herself.

ChemistKen: Why are the planets your main characters live on called the Backworlds?

M. Pax:  As humanity expanded from Earth, at first the genetic modifications were minor. In my future, we terraform ourselves instead of planets. The first worlds settled were more Earth-like and closer to home. To expand further, those enhanced humans created descendants with more modifications to take advantage of less ideal habitats. They became the Foreworlds and the Backworlds. Earth is so far back in history, most think it’s a myth.

Interesting concept. So be sure to check out Beyond the Edge.  BTW, The Backworlds, the first book in the series, is available for free!  Grab it now!

That's it for this week.  Have a great weekend.  I certainly will. Tomorrow's my birthday!

Some truths are better left unfound.

For two years Craze’s dear friend, Lepsi, has been missing. The murmurings of a haunted spaceship might be a message and may mean his old pal isn’t dead. The possibility spurs Craze and Captain Talos to travel to uncharted worlds, searching. Out there, in an unfamiliar region of the galaxy beyond the Backworlds, they stumble upon a terrible truth.

Meanwhile, Rainly remains on Pardeep Station as acting planetlord, dealing with the discovery of her lover’s dark and brutal past. Alone and questioning her judgment, her introspection unlocks more than heartache. Latent protocols in her cybernetics activate, forcing her to face a sinister secret of her own.

In the far future, humanity settles the stars, bioengineering its descendents to survive in a harsh universe. This is the fourth book in the science fiction series, The Backworlds. A space opera adventure.

Amazon / AmazonUK / Nook / Smashwords / Kobo / Other Outlets

About the author:

M. Pax-- Inspiring the words she writes, she spends her summers as a star guide at Pine Mountain Observatory in stunning Central Oregon where she lives with the Husband Unit and two demanding cats. She writes science fiction and fantasy mostly. You can find out more by visiting her at:

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Showing and Telling -- ARGGGGGGGHHHHH!

I’ve been thinking about showing vs. telling a lot this week, mostly due to a pairof blog posts by Janice Hardy  and Jami Gold. Janice wrote a nice post describing the differences between telling and showing, including several “before” and “after” versions of the same passage. Good information, and I suggest you stop by and read it. However, some of the “before” passages, the ones with more telling, sounded pretty darn good to me.  And it would never have occurred to me that they required fixing. Was I clueless or what? After some back and forth comments, we agreed that the "before" versions weren’t all that bad. Janice was just demonstrating how to make the wording even better.

Still, I wonder if I’m ever going to grasp the concept of showing in any meaningful way. I understand the basics – don’t tell us character emotions, show us through their actions. Don’t tell us their motivations, let us figure it out based on what you have the character do. I get that. But anything more subtle than that? Forget about it. I can’t see it. And even when someone else points out my sentences are telling, I’m often at a loss as to how to fix it – at least without turning my sentences into a wallowing, stinking mess.


I suspect part of my problem stems from my personality. I’ve always been a “just the facts, ma’am” kind of guy. Tell the reader what’s happening and get on with the story already. And to be honest, I find books that have a fair amount of telling to be much more readable. Too much showing often leaves me with the impression the writer is either trying to pad his word count or trying to avoid telling me what’s going on—like a politician giving a speech—hinting at what’s happening instead of coming right out and telling us in plain speech.

Maybe that’s why I’m not published yet. Well, that and the fact that I haven’t finished my book.

What we need are some good books dedicated to the art of showing.

P.S. My 3 month old silver Ford Focus was side-swiped this morning by a driver pulling out of a fast food parking lot without looking. I am sad. (Hmmm… I guess that’s telling, isn’t it?)

Friday, October 4, 2013

Friday Links -- Volume Seven

Not much to say this week, other than the fact that I spent most of it trying to figure out social media.  Oh well, I'll get it eventually.  At least I've made some small progress on my story.

Anyway, here are the writing links.  One of these days I'll get around to adding non-writing links.

Enjoy the weekend!

Misdirection: Why We Have to Fool Our Readers

Inside Inner Conflict 4 Tips to Solve 99% of Your Writing Problems

My Type (of Character)

Why You Should Be Blogging Your Origin Story

How to use Pinterest to Promote Your Book

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Insecure Writer and Social Media

Today is October's contribution to Alex Cavanaugh's Insecure Writers Support Group.

Why am I an Insecure Writer this month?

Because of social media.  (Shivers).

It's no secret I'm not very savvy when it comes to social media.  I've always been a bit of an introvert, and I've never been very comfortable with the idea of sending out updates on the status of my life or my current thoughts. I've toyed around with Twitter, but most of my tweets are direct messages (DMs) to people I know. One big barrier is the fact that I can't connect with either Twitter or Facebook at work.  And after I come home, eat dinner, and take care of family responsibilities, I only have about an hour or two to spend on social media and writing.  And every minute I spend on Twitter is one less minute I could be writing.  Besides, I feel silly retweeting something that happened eight hours ago.

I guess you could say I spend more time and energy avoiding social media than I do using it.

My lack of social media kung fu was brought home to me last week during Melissa Maygrove's Follow Fest.  I made many new social media connections during the blogfest, but if I don't get onto Twitter soon, I'm not going to be interacting with any of them.

So here's my current status on the various social media sites:

Facebook:  Haven't updated it for years, although I do occasionally post on blogs of friends and family. Haven't decided if I going to stick with a profile page or create a fan page once I'm published.  But if I don't start posting on Facebook regularly, what difference does it make?

Twitter:  It's been so long since I've even checked on Twitter that I only just discovered my version of TweetDeck is so old it won't even run.  And there doesn't appear to be an updated version for Linux, which is what I run on that particular computer.  What do you guys say?  Should I put Windows back on my computer or should I look into Hootsuite?

Pinterest:  Finally followed a few other people's boards this week.  Haven't uploaded any new pictures in half a year.

Google+:  Didn't even remember I had set up an account until a few people asked to connect with me. Embarrassing!

Goodreads:  I've had an account for over a year, but--no surprise--haven't done anything with it.  Not even sure what my password is.  Bad writer!  Bad, bad writer!

Amazon Author Page:  Almost makes me glad I'm not published, so that I don't have to worry about starting one up... yet.

ISWG: At least I've been diligent here, slowly working my way down to number 60 on the ISWG list.  My goal is to make it to 50!

Sigh...  It looks to be a long road ahead for social media and me.

The co-hosts this month are Julie Luek, Rachna Chabria, Beverly Fox, and Ilima Todd!  Be sure to stop by their blogs and say hello.

BTW.  Good luck to Alex with his new book, CassaStorm.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Friday Links - Volume Six

Not as many links this week. I was too busy following Melissa Maygrove's Follow Fest and making new friends.

I joined the bloghop in order to force myself to focus more on social media, but I quickly discovered I was in worse shape than I thought. It had been so long since I used Tweetdeck, for example, that when I tried to fire it up, I was informed that my version was so out of date a new version needed to be installed. Yikes! And I'm still re-familarizing myself with how Facebook operates these days. Talk about ignoring social media.

Anyway, I'll start picking up the pieces of my social media life and you can have fun with these links. Enjoy the weekend!

Why is it so hard to find an agent?

Open Up! Writing the Opening Scene

What Do Your Characters Falsely Believe?

How One Successful Indie Author Marketed His Work Up the Bestseller Lists

Monday, September 23, 2013

Follow Fest BlogHop

Today marks the first day of the Follow Fest Bloghop - a hop dedicated to developing social media  connections among writers.  It's the brainchild of Melissa Maygrove, who realized she (and many other writers) need to take our social media connections a bit more seriously.  And that includes me -- big time.  So I'm using this opportunity to make my blog more social media friendly over this coming week.  In fact, I added a twitter Follow Me button this weekend!

The hop is all week, so if you're interested in joining the hop, go to Melissa's blog for information on how to join.

Here's a little information about me

Name: Ken Rahmoeller (aka. ChemistKen)

Fiction or nonfiction?  Fiction

What genres do you write? MG and YA paranormal fantasy

Are you published? No.  I'm presently working on a MG fantasy about a freshman boy in high school who discovers an underground city of wizards.

Do you do anything in addition to writing?
 I've done some line editing on a part time basis.  I also teach an evening class in chemistry at a local college.  (No, not Hogwarts.  At least not yet.  I'm expecting my invitation to teach potions to arrive any day now.)

Where can people connect with you?
Right now, this blog is probably the best way to connect with me.  I've had both a Facebook page and a Twitter account for years, but I tend to be bad about keeping up with them.  That's something I hope to change in the near future.



Is there anything else you’d like us to know?
I'm a member of the SCBWI (Society of Childrens Book Writers and Illustrators.  I'm in two critique groups, but I'm looking for both CPs and beta readers who enjoy fantasy with a whimsical flair.  I also enjoy beta reading and critting for others.

Thanks for stopping by my blog.  I'd love it if you followed me.  I'm looking forward to hearing all about you.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Friday Links - Volume Five

It's Friday again (thank goodness), so time for more links.  The first link is a special one.  Melissa Maygrove is hosting a blogfest dedicated to increasing writers' awareness of social media. It runs all next week, and I've signed up for Monday. The link takes you to a post that not only explains how to join the blogfest, but also has lots of information on how to add social media buttons (and other widgets) to your website.  So by Monday morning, you should find my website much more media savvy.

Enjoy the weekend!

Suspense Versus Action

Why Do Libraries Have That Smell? a very short article in Popular Science

Pricing for Launch: Book 1 in a New Series, Go High or Low?

Formatting: The Easy Ways 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Even Engineers Understand Piracy

I came across a Dilbert cartoon today that I thought would be appreciated by the writers among us. I can't post the comic directly because of copyright restrictions, but the following link will take you right to the strip.  I'll wait here while you read it.

Dilbert and Piracy comic

At some point, all writers have to deal with the question of whether or not to add DRM to their ebooks. As I have yet to finish my first book, I don't have to worry about piracy... yet.

But one day I will. I promise.

Someone who does have to worry about such things is Alex Cavanaugh, founder of the Insecure Writers Support Group.  His third book, CassaStorm, has just been released.  Those of you into science fiction should hop on over to your favorite bookstore and check it out.  Congratulations, Alex.

CassaStorm by Alex J. Cavanaugh
Science Fiction - Space Opera/Adventure
Print ISBN 9781939844002
E-book ISBN 9781939844019

A storm gathers across the galaxy…

Commanding the Cassan base on Tgren, Byron thought he’d put the days of battle behind him. As a galaxy-wide war encroaches upon the desert planet, Byron’s ideal life is threatened and he’s caught between the Tgrens and the Cassans.

After enemy ships attack the desert planet, Byron discovers another battle within his own family. The declaration of war between all ten races triggers nightmares in his son, threatening to destroy the boy’s mind.

Meanwhile the ancient alien ship is transmitting a code that might signal the end of all life in the galaxy. And the mysterious probe that almost destroyed Tgren twenty years ago could return. As his world begins to crumble, Byron suspects a connection. The storm is about to break, and Byron is caught in the middle…

Friday, September 13, 2013

Friday Links - Volume 4

This week was dedicated to recovering from last week and preparing my lectures for my chemistry class.  So despite having several ideas for blog posts, I didn't have time to write them this week.

At least I make a little progress on my story.

Here are the links.  Enjoy the weekend!

Make Readers Appreciate The Wait

How To Start Your Novel

Five Misconceptions About Your Story's Normal World

How to Write a Tagline for Your Book (And Why You Need To)

How Searchable are Your Book’s Title and Subtitle? 

A Cautionary Tale: 3 Writing Rules that Can Derail Your Story

Friday, September 6, 2013

Friday Links - Volume 3

It's been one busy week around here.  Came back from a five day trip to Missouri.  Helped co-host Alex Cavanaugh's Insecure Writers Support Group bloghop.  Survived the first night of a college chemistry course I'm teaching this fall.  Whew!

Who knows, maybe I'll actually get around to working on my story this weekend.  No promises, though.  Anyway, here are this week's writing links.  Enjoy the weekend!

How to Make Your Readers’ Heads Explode

Your Editor is Your Friend (Really)

Telling Yourself the Story

Avoiding Hesitation

Social Media Tip of the Century

4 Big Pitfalls in Story Openings

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Insecure Writer and Co-Hosting the Insecure Writers Support Group

Today is September's contribution to Alex Cavanaugh's Insecure Writers Support Group.

Why am I an Insecure Writer this month?

Because of the awesome responsibility of being one of the co-hosts for this month’s Insecure Writers Support Group.

For those of you new to this group, the IWSG was created by Alex Cavanaugh as an outlet for writers to express their insecurities to other writers, almost all of whom have their own anxieties. It’s an incredibly supportive group, so if you’re an insecure writer, click on the link above and join up. We meet the first Wednesday of every month.

The other co-hosts this month are SL Hennessy, Michelle Wallace, and Joylene Nowell Butler! Be sure to stop by their blogs and say hello.

Again, many thanks to Alex, both for creating this bloghop and for inviting me aboard.

Three Steps To Finding The Beginning Of Our Story

I have a special treat for my readers today.  I recently won a contest over at Jami Gold's blog, and for my prize, opted to have Jami do a guest post.  If you don't already follow her blog, you should.  It's chock full of useful information on the craft of writing.  I've also taken her course on building a WordPress blog (something I plan on doing in the near future) and was happy with the experience.

So without further ado, here's Jami.

Three Steps to Finding the Beginning of Our Story
Thanks for inviting me over, Ken! I’m excited to be here for your win in my Blogiversary contest and grateful for the opportunity to share some (hopefully) useful information with your readers. *smile*
Shortly after Ken’s win, he posted about a problem he was having with the story he’d started during last year’s NaNoWriMo. He was stuck on the first chapter and couldn’t come up with a beginning he liked.
Like Ken, I’ve also struggled with story openings. We have to accomplish so much at the beginning of stories it can be difficult to cram all the must-do’s into those first pages. It doesn’t help if we can’t think of the right place to start the story or what we want the beginning to accomplish.
Let’s see if we can break down the steps to figuring out our story opening…

Step One: Discover Where Our Story Should Start
Unless we’re pantsing our story (writing by the seat of our pants) with almost nothing in mind, we’re usually going to have an idea about our story’s premise (“It’s about a man who has to save his wife from kidnappers.”). Our premise usually contains clues about the ending of our story. In our example, the man will save his wife from kidnappers (unless we’re writing a tragedy).
Stories are about change, so once we know something about how the story ends, we know what kind of contrast to set up at the beginning. We can think about that ending and brainstorm ideas about what sort of beginning would show the change we want for our theme.
If we want a story about not taking things for granted, we might show a beginning where the couple snipes at each other for nitpicky things. If we want a story about finding our inner strength, we might show a beginning where a mean boss bullies the man at work.
We can start our story thousands of ways. To narrow down our choices, we need to figure out the big picture of what we want to accomplish: What impression do we want the reader to have from our beginning?

Step Two: Discover When Our Story Should Start
Those examples above give us a concept for our beginning, but we need to decide how that scene ties into the rest of the story. A story opening with a bullying boss will fall flat if it goes on and on and is followed by ho-hum grocery shopping on the way home from work.
Instead, we want that beginning scene to occur just before something happens to the protagonist that forces a change or decision. Many stories will end the first chapter on an Inciting Incident. Inciting Incidents can be a hook or twist to start setting up the main conflict, or they might act as a bridging conflict to keep readers interested until the main story conflict begins.
Our goal at this step is to tie our beginning scene into the rest of the story. Maybe our bullied protagonist is deep into a high-pressure work deadline the boss gave him when the kidnappers call with their demands. Or maybe our sniping protagonist is at the grocery store when his wife’s cell number displays (“Yes, I remembered the milk, Deanna! I’m not stupid.”), and he discovers it’s not his wife on the other end of the line.
Once we know the opening scene and how it ties into the rest of the story, we’ll typically have anywhere from the first tenth to the first quarter of our story planned. Now we just have to write it. *smile*

Step Three: Discover How Our Story Should Start
We know the concept of the opening scene, the impression we want readers to have, and the story direction for the opening. With all that in mind, we’ll draft those first pages.
Our draft doesn’t have to be perfect. It won’t be perfect.
We don’t have to come up with the perfect first line now. We just have to get our opening scenes close enough that we can move forward with the rest of the story. The way to get close is by focusing on the conflict.
Beginnings aren’t about setting up the character and their situation. Beginnings are about setting up elements of the story’s conflicts. Readers will learn about the character and their situation along the way.
Show a choice the character makes that demonstrates how they’re sabotaging themselves from reaching their potential. Or show a problem the character has to deal with that gives readers the impression we want about some of the character’s traits. Or show a problem that gives readers hints about the main conflict. The point is to show conflict.
Too often we skip right to this last step and obsess over the “perfect” first line. But if we’re focused only on the first page, we might lose sight of what impression we want the reader to take away from our beginning.
(Note: Blogger extraordinaire Janice Hardy has some great posts on this topic as well: where to start your novel and what to do with that first page.)
This “going from the big picture to the specific” method forces us to know our goal before putting our fingers to keyboard. Or worst-case scenario, we could use this method during revisions to come up with a new beginning that won’t lead readers astray. *smile*
If you’d like more insight into how pantsers can use this method to prevent tangents and pointless scenes, check out my upcoming workshop on how to plan our story just enough. Ken’s readers can use Promo Code “gopants” to save $10 on registration.

Have you had problems with a story beginning? What step do you have the most trouble with? Do you have other suggestions on how to figure out the right beginning?

About Jami
After her potion to become as smart as Hermione went horribly awry, Jami Gold moved to Arizona and decided to become a writer, where she could put her talent for making up stuff to good use. Fortunately, her muse, an arrogant male who delights in causing her to sound as insane as possible, rewards her with unique and rich story ideas.
Fueled by chocolate, she writes paranormal romance and urban fantasy tales that range from dark to humorous, but one thing remains the same: Normal need not apply. Just ask her family—and zombie cat.
Find Jami at her blog, Twitter, Google+, Facebook, Pinterest, and Goodreads.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Fridays Links

Last year, at least for a while, I used Fridays to post interesting links I'd come across during the week. Occasionally they dealt with writing, but usually they had more to do with science and entertainment--anything I thought you guys might enjoy.. After a couple of months, I decided I spent too much time searching for suitable links, so I stopped.  

Today, I've revived the tradition of Friday Links.  Let's see if it works out any better this time.

Here are this week's links -- all of them dedicated to writing.  Enjoy.

Making The Leap

Seven Question to Ask Before Self-Publishing

TheBookDesigner: Why Your Blog’s About Page Is Completely Wrong

Magical Words: On the relationship between plot and character

Pub Life: Authors' Advice on Self-Publishing

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Plot or Character? -- Or Is It Voice?

It’s the age old question. Which is more important? Character or plot? As far as I can tell, it depends on who you talk to.

For me, it’s all about the plot. Hands down. I’m not belittling the importance of having a great character, but in my opinion, it’s nearly impossible to have a great character without a great plot, or at least a good one. It’s the character’s struggle against the plot that makes us care about him in the first place. No matter how sympathetic you’ve made your character, no matter how many habits and peculiarities you lovingly lavished on your MC—unless those traits somehow interact with the plot in an interesting way, no one will care about them. You may think having your MC be afraid of snakes is funny, but if the plot doesn’t give him a compelling reason to fight his way through snakes, no one will even remember that phobia.

Think about Harry Potter. A kid who lost his parents when he was a baby. Someone we can sympathize with, no doubt. But other than that, he’s pretty much a generic nice guy, with about as flat a character arc as it’s possible to have in a fantasy adventure. (I’m just talking the first book here – not the series.) Yet we all love Harry. Why? Because of all the things that happened to him as a consequence of the plot.

But that’s not the real point of this post. Today I’m wondering where “voice” fits in alongside plot and character on the importance scale. Ever since I received my Kindle, I've been blasting my way through lots of books—mostly fantasy. And to be honest, many of the stories have the same basic plot. Oh, certain details may be different, but the plot is roughly the same. The middle school kid, teenager, vampire, mage, demon hunter, angel, etc, has to save the world by facing and defeating the bad guy. The names change, along with the rules of the world, but they’re all pretty similar. Nothing wrong with that, of course. The classic hero’s journey has been around a long time. It’s the world-building and other little details that make the stories different.

Still, as I peruse book descriptions on Amazon or back cover blurbs at the local bookstore, they all sound about the same. And the only way I can decide which to buy is by reading the first chapter and getting a feel for the author’s voice. Because the exact same story can be told by two different authors, and I can end up loving one of them and being bored to tears by the other. Does the author spend too much or too little time on descriptions and internal thoughts? Do the words flow like a hot knife through butter? Does the author have a sense of humor? These are the things that make or break a book for me these days.

There are plenty of books out there with good plots and good characters, but with all the competition these days, it may just be “voice” that wins out in the end.

So how do you go about making your voice unique?

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Insecure Writer and Marketing

Today is August's contribution to Alex Cavanaugh's Insecure Writers Support Group.

Why am I an Insecure Writer this month?


Since I’m still working on my first book, I have yet to enter the world of marketing. But I’ve read (and bookmarked) so many articles on the subject, I’m becoming a little intimidated by the whole process. So intimidated, in fact, I almost want to leave my book unfinished, just so I don’t have to face the marketing bit.

 Some authors claim Twitter and Facebook are great ways to market your books. Others say it hasn’t helped them at all. Goodreads is supposedly a good place to begin, but who knows if that will change in a week or two. Giving books away for free on Amazon to jump start purchases doesn’t sound like it works all that well anymore, at least according to some recent articles. What does seem to work (at least so far) is offering your first book for free so that happy readers can buy more of your other books.

And that tactic is what leaves me with an empty feeling in the pit of my stomach. Because the advice I’ve come across most often is that there's no point in marketing your books until you’ve got several of them available for purchase. You’ll get the most bang for your buck if the reader who enjoys one of your books can buy more of your books immediately. Otherwise, they may forget about you by the time your next book comes out.

And for a slow writer like me, that’s a daunting hurdle. I mean, how many years will it be before I get to that point? It already feels as though it’s taking a lifetime to finish my first book. How many times will I have to be reincarnated before I have three books available for purchase? Books may not even exist by that point in time!

Okay, maybe I'm overreacting a little.

So I ask you, fellow insecure writers, how do you plan on marketing your books?

Friday, July 26, 2013

The Value in Being a Critiquer

As I mentioned in my previous post, I’ve run into a bit of a stone wall with regards to my new MG fantasy. So this week I dedicated myself to going back and working on my fan fiction story. Since it’s in the revision stage, I get to utilize a different part of my brain, which lets the creative side get some much needed rest.

One of the things I’ve noticed is that the quality of my chapters varies significantly. The first several chapters flow nicely (finally!), but later chapters aren’t as smooth as I remember them being. I suppose this should make me sad (and it does), but not as much as I would have expected. Though I’m disappointed these chapters need more work, I’m pleased my inner editor’s eye is getting better at spotting problems. Paragraphs that seemed fine six months ago now seem weak and flabby.

So why is my inner editor improving? I suspect it’s because of all the critiquing I’ve been doing lately. Searching for bloated paragraphs and inconsistent logic in someone else’s work makes it easier to spot the same problems in your own work. After I've dinged an author for using an awkward sentence structure several times in a chapter, I can't help but spot the same problem in my chapters.  So my advice is to never stop critiquing. And remember, no matter how great your inner editor becomes, you still need to let someone else critique your own work. You’re too close to your own story to see all the problems. Besides, by letting someone else critique your story, you’re helping their inner editor grow too. It’s a win-win situation.

Hmmmm… Will my inner editor ever stop getting better or am I doomed to forever return to my previous chapters and discover they need more work?  Scary thought.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Why Can't I Just Move On?

I’d planned on posting on another subject today, but the hell with it—I’m going to whine about my own writing woes. It’ll make me feel better. :)

As you may know, I’ve been concentrating on my own original story (not the fan fiction) for the last several months—a story I started writing for last year’s NaNoWriMo. I felt pretty good about it at the time and I managed to write over 25k words before deciding the plot needed some revamping. Unfortunately, although I’ve dedicated myself to this story for the last several months, the writing has gone absolutely nowhere.

What’s the problem? I’m stuck on the first chapter, and have been for the last two months. I’ve approached it from several different angles, but as of today I still haven’t come up with a beginning I’m comfortable with. And it’s driving me bonkers.

I’m sure many of you would argue there’s no point in spending all this time on the first chapter, since I’ll probably end up rewriting it after I finish the first draft anyway. And I would agree with you, except that I’m finding it impossible to move on without some sort of closure. I can’t explain why my mind works this way, but I have to know how the first chapter ends before I can concentrate on the second chapter. Believe me, I’ve tried. Argggh!

So everyday I try something new, waiting for that beginning I know is buried in there somewhere. I realize I’m going to solve this eventually. It’s just frustrating to watch the weeks go by with nothing to show for my time.


This month hasn’t been all bad news, however. My family and I just returned from a five day vacation in southern Ohio. It was a great time, and we took lots of pictures, although I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t write a single word during that time. I was just too busy. Or tired.

I also won a contest hosted by Jami Gold. If you aren’t reading her blog, you should. Her site is loaded with all sorts of great advice about writing.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The Insecure Writer and a Lack of Ideas

Today is July's contribution to Alex Cavanaugh's Insecure Writers Support Group.

Why am I an Insecure Writer this month?

Because of worries that good ideas aren’t coming as quickly as they once did.

Almost four years ago, back when I first began writing the fan fiction story that ultimately hooked me on writing, I had no lack of ideas. It seemed as if every time I daydreamed about my story—whether while driving to and from work, or during showers, or when falling asleep at night—another idea would pop into my head. So many ideas, in fact, that I have now have enough to write a trilogy. And it was this ability to generate ideas that convinced me I just might have what it takes to be an author.

But now that I’m working on my own story, with my own worlds, the ideas aren’t coming quite as quickly. It was easy for me to take the fully fleshed-out world described in the Harry Potter books and come up with new and entertaining twists. But now that I'm in the process of building the basic framework for my world, it’s a lot more work dreaming up all those fun ideas.

But I suppose that’s the way it is for all writers. Which is probably why so many writers write sequels. Once you have the basic framework down, it’s a lot easier to come up with new twists.

Question: Do you find writing a sequel to be easier or harder than the first book in a series?

BTW, I apologize for my lack of replies to your comments the last few posts.  Things have been pretty busy around here.  I promise to respond to all comments from now on.

Friday, June 21, 2013

What Don't You Want In Your Story?

I’ve been working on my MG fantasy this last month, and I’d like to say that everything is moving along swiftly—but then I’d be lying.. I’ve rewritten the first chapter several times already, and it's looking as though it's about to get another full rewrite. Unfortunately, my critique group is a rather impatient bunch and has been clamoring for something to tear apart, so I’ve jumped ahead to work on the third chapter. That’s not considered cheating, is it?

Although I’m still undecided about what will happen in the first chapter, I do have a short list of things that I want, and do not want, to occur in my story.

Stuff I Want List:

1. Magic. Not only am I fascinated by magic, but my quirky imagination and sense of humor tend to require some rewriting of the laws of physics for everything to work right (see Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy), and magic lets me get away with this. I doubt I’ll ever write a story that doesn’t have some kind of magical influence running through it.

2. Castles. Love ‘em. (What’s that? The blog title and masthead didn’t give it away?) Hogwarts was my favorite part of the Harry Potter stories, so I knew I’d have to put one in my story. A really big one, with lots of tunnels and secrets.

Stuff I Don’t Want List:

3. Obligatory Sibling Conflict. I’ve posted about this before. Too many of the MG books I’ve read lately begin with an argument between siblings for no apparent reason other than to give the reader an opening filled with (artificial) conflict. I’ve seen this so often I usually stop reading by the end of the first chapter.

4. Orphan syndrome. Is it possible to write a MG paranormal fantasy without the MC having lost one or both of his parents, usually requiring him to live with a clueless relative or at a boarding school? Apparently not, based on the books I’ve read. I’ve heard this trend is due to writers attempting to create sympathy for their characters, but I suspect it has more to do with writers not knowing what to do with real, live parents. Seriously. Most of these stories involve kids getting into trouble in ways that any self-respecting parent would have crushed immediately. In my story, I wanted the challenge of keeping my MC’s adventures hidden from his parents (at least for a while) to be part of the fun.

What sort of likes/dislikes do you have on your list?

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Insecure Writer And A Lack Of Time

Today is June's contribution to Alex Cavanaugh's Insecure Writers Support Group.

Why am I an Insecure Writer this month?

Time. Or the lack thereof.

I know a lack of time is a problem for all writers, at least the ones with day jobs, but it’s a topic that’s been on my mind quite a bit lately. Being a glacially slow writer has always made me sensitive to the passage of time, but these past few months have magnified the problem—in part because of all the time I’ve spent prepping the garden.

Still I wonder if I’m trying to do too many things. I meet with a local critique group once or twice a month—and may be about to join another group. I exchange critiques with my CPs as well as with an online group. I try to keep up with other writing blogs as well as post on mine. (Nothing makes me cringe more than seeing how much work Alex puts into his blog. He must have an army of clones or something.)

I haven’t gone to any writing conferences, but I have attended several online classes, including a session hosted by Jami Gold demonstrating how to set up a WordPress blog. (BTW, I still owe her a testimonial). And, of course, I’m working on my own stories.

Like I said before, I know time is a problem for all of us. But that doesn’t mean I can’t bitch about it on the first Wednesday of the month.

Yeah, I know it’s a short post, but I ran out of time.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Never Underestimate the Power of a Reader’s Imagination

I’m not a great writer. My prose will never win any awards. And I grudgingly accept the fact that a majority of writers (including unpublished ones) will always be able to construct snazzier sentences and snappier descriptions than I could ever hope to do in my lifetime. I’m not being pessimistic here—just realistic. I’ve spent much of my life avoiding the practice of writing, so I have no reason to expect myself to suddenly be able to write sentences with the same skill as people who’ve known they wanted to write ever since they could hold a pencil. Some people have a flair for words. Some of us don’t.

But that’s okay. My gift is dreaming up stories and plot twists and crazy characters, so if I have to hammer away at the words for an extraordinarily long time in order to keep the reader entertained, so be it. Still, I always worry if my words will be good enough to keep someone reading long enough for them to get hooked on the plot. Fortunately I’ve discovered it’s not always about the words.

I recently finished a (self-published) book that was, well … truly awful. I won’t mention the name, but the writing was simplistic and repetitive, the dialogue was embarrassingly bad, the characters were cardboard cutouts, and the story had no plot twists other than a few that were telegraphed so blatantly I was sure the author was attempting to trick me in some way. In other words, a book that even I could have written better.

And yet, during the final quarter of the book, when the protagonist and his party were breaking into the bad guy’s stronghold, I found myself surprisingly captivated. The sentences and descriptions were just as lackluster as the earlier parts of the book, but I didn’t notice (at least not much). I was right there with the MC through the whole scene, constantly worrying that the daring plan was about to fall apart.

I was shocked. How could I have gotten so caught up in such a poorly written scene? The answer is simple. Once you’re emotionally invested with the characters and/or the plot, it’s a lot easier to ignore simplistic writing. And what does this mean for me?  It means I have a chance to succeed as an author. Of course, I’m not suggesting that good writing isn’t important—if I have a choice, I’ll always choose the story that’s better written—but a great plot and interesting characters are just as important as the prose. And as long as I keep working on improving my writing skills, my chances of being published can only improve.

Has anyone else found themselves pleasantly surprised by a poorly written book?

Thursday, May 16, 2013

If You Want to Make Your Story Better, Read It To Someone

Sorry for the lack of posts, but I've spent so much time getting my garden ready for summer, I haven't had time to post -- even though I have plenty to post about.

One piece of advice you hear from agents and writers alike is that you should always read your work out loud to yourself. This gives your ear a chance to catch mistakes and pacing problems that your eyes might miss. Sound advice. But here’s a suggestion to make that advice even better.

Read the text out loud to someone else.

The previous sentence may have caused more than a few skipped heartbeats among the more bashful of writers out there. It’s hard enough handing your baby over to someone who’ll read it in silence. Trust me, I understand. But I cannot overstate the power of this technique.

Some critique groups operate by having everyone send in their submissions ahead of time, so that each member has a chance to critique the work prior to the meeting, saving the meeting for the actual discussions and arguments. My local critique group does things a bit differently. There are no pre-submissions. We show up and read our pages out loud. We often provide hard copies so that the group can read along and mark up the pages with comments as they wish, but many of the group members close their eyes and focus on their initial reactions to the words.

And one thing I’ve learned is that no matter how clever your words looked on paper, or sounded when you read them out loud to yourself, you’ll be stunned by their apparent lameness when you read them to someone else. The parts of your chapter that need work will stand out like spaghetti stains on a white shirt. Flabby passages will sear your eyeballs and make you wonder why you ever thought you could write. Most of the time, you’ll find far more problems with your work than your critique partners ever will.

Reading out loud also makes it easier for your partners to spot pacing problems. As readers, we’re used to skimming over sections of a story that don’t hold our attention—even if we’re not always aware we’re doing it. But when we listen to a story, scenes that drag stick out like a sore thumb. Try listening to a book on tape sometime and you’ll see what I mean.

I remember listening to a chapter at my critique group a few months ago that had a slow beginning. When I read back over the hard copy to mark the offending pages, I was shocked to discover that the boring section was only two paragraphs long. It had only seemed liked two pages when I was listening.

So if you really want your words to shine, force yourself to read them to someone else. You might be embarrassed, but you’ll be glad you did.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Insecure Writer and Deciding Whether to Self-Publish

Today is May's contribution to Alex Cavanaugh's Insecure Writers Support Group.

Why am I an Insecure Writer this month?

Because I don’t know which route I’m going to take—traditional or self-publishing.

Now it might seem I’m jumping the gun here a bit, especially when you consider I’ve only recently begun working on my first potentially publishable manuscript. Even if my productivity were to suddenly skyrocket, it will be at least a year before the story is polished enough for publication. And by that time, the publishing world may have changed so much that any decisions I make now might be irrelevant.

So why worry about it now? Because I’m wrestling with a few questions about my story—questions whose answers may depend upon the route I take to publication. .I know what my story is about and I know the setting (magic, castles, humorous characters, etc.), but I still haven’t decided on the age of the main character. Right now, he’s fourteen, making it an upper MG story, which means I need to write with an upper MG style. I have no problem with that, but I can also envision the story with an older MC, one who has recently graduated from college. In that case, the style would be different—something like Harry Potter meets The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. (If you haven’t read either one of these series, you should.) As it stands right now, I haven’t decided which style plays more to my strengths, or which style would be more interesting to potential readers.

Now I could just let these things sort themselves out as I write, but I worry that the correct choice may ultimately depend upon the method I choose for publication. Most of the self-published books I find on Amazon involve older characters*, whereas most of the MG stories are traditionally published. From what I understand, libraries and parents are less inclined to buy self-published MG books, unless from an established author, since there are no assurances a self-published book wouldn’t be full of profanity or other topics unsuitable for MG readers. In other words, if I write the story with a MG MC, I better hope I find an agent and publisher. Then again, I've heard many adults enjoy reading MG books, so who knows?

Perhaps I’m getting the cart before the horse and should just write whatever version of the story most appeals to me and worry about the publishing route later. But that’s what being an Insecure Writer is all about, right?.

If anyone has any thoughts on the subject, I’d love to hear them.

*BTW, I’ve ignored YA in this analysis, since I suspect I’d be terrible at writing YA.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Sacrifices in Writing

I stopped by the KillZone the other day and read a post by James Scott Bell on self-publishing. And one of the things he discussed was how writers needed to treat writing like a sacrifice.

Be prepared to give some things up (TV is a jealous mistress, too) in order to find time to write.”

And that prompted me to compile a list of the things I’ve given up the past couple of years to pursue my dream of being a published writer.

Television. I used to watch a lot of TV. Now I watch one DVR’ed show a night, together with my wife.

Video games. I was addicted to them several years ago, but that was before being bitten by the writing bug. The only time I play these days is online with my brother on Saturday nights – although I have been known to sneak in a few minutes of Minecraft whenever I’m stuck in the middle of writing a scene. I used to tell my kids which video games were best. Now they tell me.

Sleep. I’m sure all writers sacrifice sleep for their art. Sometimes my only chance to write comes when everyone else is in bed. Unfortunately, I’ve discovered my muse is usually asleep then too.

The Internet. Visiting websites having nothing to do with writing doesn't happen much anymore.

Gardening. I used to plan each year’s flower garden beginning in February and keep tweaking the design until it was time to plant in May. Now I plant as little as possible as quickly as possible and hope everything turns out okay as the summer progresses.

Free time. By definition, free time means writing time, so it's no longer free.

So what about you?  What have you given up for writing?

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Sharing is Caring: The Liebster Award

Thanks to Cherie Colyer for nominating me for the Liebster award.  I'm honored!  But with great honor comes great responsibility, so here we go...

First, eleven things about me:

1. I have to wear SPF 100 or I'll burn in no time.
2. I’m a research chemist by day and part-time writer by night.
3. I love magic, old castles, and Britain. I especially love magic when it occurs within old castles in Britain.
4. I rarely watch television in real time, preferring to DVR them.
5. My memory for names and faces is abysmal. Rarely can I make it through a movie without having to ask my wife who’s who at least once.
6. Autumn is my favorite time of year. Hands down.
7. I’m the one responsible for getting my kids hooked on video games.
8. I would love to retire in Britain someday. The castles and history alone would make it worthwhile.
9. I've visited every state in the continental United States except for two.  Unfortunately, I don't remember which two they are.
10, Our family is about to get a new cat.
11. My longest run ever (I used to jog) was 9 miles.

Now my answers to the eleven questions posed by Cherie

1. What do you like best about blogging?  Meeting other writers
2. Mountains or ocean? Ocean, especially odd since I don’t swim.
3. Favorite authors? Clarke, Asimov, Sanderson
4. Are you an outliner or a panster? Outliner, although as soon as I begin writing, I keep coming up with ideas that require constant changes to the outline. Guess I’m a plotser.
5. Where do you find your inspiration? Movies and books.
6. What fictional world would you like to visit? The Harry Potter world, of course.
7. KFC or Popeye’s? KFC, Never tried Popeye’s
8. Are there any books you won’t read? Boring ones. Also books with too much showing.
9. Name three people (living or dead) you’d like to meet? Linus Pauling, J.K. Rowling,
10. Do you have any advice for fellow bloggers? Post on a regular schedule – unlike me – but don’t let it interfere with your writing.
11. Is this your first Liebster award? No 

Here are the bloggers I would liked to nominate for this award.

Your new questions:
1. How long have you been blogging?
2. How many people in your family?
3. What was your favorite book?
4. Harry Potter or Twilight?
5. Where do you find your inspiration?
6. What fictional world would you like to visit?
7. Hanburger or cheeseburger
8. Cat or dog?
9. Do you believe in magic?
10. What advice would you give new writers?
11. Is this your first Liebster award?

The Liebster Rules:
1. The Liebster Award is given to bloggers by bloggers.
2. Each blogger should post 11 facts about himself / herself.
3. Each blogger should answer the 11 questions that are asked by the nominating blogger.
4. Choose 11 new bloggers to nominate for the Award and link to them in the post.
5. Create 11 new questions for your nominees.
6. Go back to their pages and tell them they've been nominated.
7. No tag backs

If you'd like to participate, feel free to snag the questions and begin your own round of the Liebster Awards!