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Tuesday, August 15, 2017


Hey everyone,

I apologize, this month I will not be participating in the hop. My schedule is insane and I would prefer to be able to give adequate time to a post. But I will be commenting on your blogs and sharing them on my social media.

Thank you for understanding and I hope you all enjoy the blog hop. Next month I will be back and hopefully I will have some amazing advice to share about the joys of writing.

To continue hopping through other great blogs in the monthly #AuthorToolboxBlogHop or to join, click here.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Said is NOT Dead (#AuthorToolboxBlogHop)

"All that I ask is that you do as well as you can, and remember that, while to write adverbs is human, to write he said or she said is divine." - Stephen King

The purpose of a dialog tag (according to me) is to help a reader determine when someone is speaking and who is speaking. As a story goes along and the reader gets to know your characters, dialog tags become less important. Why? Because readers can be lazy and tend to skim over things that seem unimportant. 

So, for something that most readers tend to ignore, why have writers started avoiding "said" like the plague?

I am not 100% sure why, but I have a feeling it has to do with English teachers trying to enhance their students' vocabularies. If you do a simple Google search for "said is dead" 100s, if not 1000s, of worksheets pull up with "said" substitutes. Some of the substitutes make sense and others make for immature or clumsy writing.

Substitutes That Make Sense 
  • Yelled
  • Mumbled
  • Stammered
  • Pleaded
  • Responded
Substitutes That Confuse Me
  • Laughed
  • Grinned
  • Bawled
  • Faltered
  • Breathed
For me, the ones that make sense work because they indicated how the sentence is being said (though this could also be done with appropriate context clues in the dialog and scene.) The ones that confuse me just don't make sense. "Hello," he grinned makes ZERO sense. Why? Because grinning isn't speaking. "Hello," he said with a grin on his face/ while grinning, makes more sense. Whenever I read a story full of awkward ways to say said, I end up falling out of the story and wind up distracted.

I also find myself distracted when a writer uses too many adverbs after said/dialog tag. He yelled loudly (the fact that he is yelling should be enough to indicate that he was being loud.) She said sadly (again, context clues within the scene and dialog should alert the reader to how things are being said while also allowing the reader to use their imagination.)

So, when should you use something other than said? When it is organic, natural, and most importantly, when you're not using the other word just to avoid using said. 

To continue hopping through other great blogs in the monthly #AuthorToolboxBlogHop or to join, click here.

Sunday, July 16, 2017


Thank you Hoda for the Liebster nomination. Your blog is full of inspiration and amazing advice. I definitely recommend following her blog!!

The 11 questions from the nomination are:

  1. If you were stranded on an island, what three books would you want to have with you?: The Winter of Our Discontent by John Steinbeck, The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chobsky, and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by JK Rowling
  2. What’s your favourite food?: Popcorn
  3. You can have dinner with one person – dead or alive – who would you choose?: This is a hard one. Honestly, President Barack Obama. I have so much respect for him. He held his head high when so many tried to tear him down. I would love to have a beer with him and to talk to him.
  4. What’s your favourite travel destination and why?:  I love Table Rock Lake in Kimberling City, Missouri. It is a relaxing place that is far enough away from my home to be a get away but close enough for it to be a weekend trip. Table Rock Lake is a calm lake that is clean and family friendly. 
  5. If you could be best friends with any fictional character, who would it be?: Minerva McGonagall 
  6. Sweet or sour?: Sour
  7. Plotter or pantser?: Plotter with a hint of pantser.
  8. Give a tip for anyone struggling with writer’s block: Listen to music while taking a walk (make sure to take something to write down any ideas that come to you during the walk.)
  9. Give a tip for anyone thinking about starting a blog: Just do it. I promise it will be worth it. 
  10. What’s the best book you read in 2017?: The Black Witch by Laurie Forest
  11. What book are you most looking forward to reading in 2017?: One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus

Now I’m going to pay it forward by nominating other bloggers for the Liebster Award.

Liebster Award Rules and Nominees:
Rule 1: Thank the person who nominated you for the award.
Rule 2: Answer the 11 questions the person asked you.
Rule 3: Nominate 5-11 people (comment on their blog to let them know)
Rule 4: Ask the people you have nominated 11 questions.
Below are my nominees and my questions.


  1. What is your favorite word and why?
  2. Where is your favorite place to read/write?
  3. If your blog had a playlist what song would it have to include?
  4. What is the next book you plan on buying?
  5. What is your favorite quote?
  6. If you could hang out with one author (dead or alive) who would it be?
  7. What inspired you to start writing?
  8. What would you choose for your last meal?
  9. If one author could critique and comment your writing, who would it be?
  10. What do you most admire about yourself?
  11. Where can your readers find you on social media?

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Location is Everything: #AuthorToolboxBlogHop

Kansas City Skyline (Photo: Vanessa M Scott)

Whether your story takes place in a generic suburb in a "make believe" town or in a well known city like New York City, London or Cairo, you have to make it believable.

If you choose a real world location, I find it best to be a city or place you have actually been to. Why? Because researching a location via the internet, other books or movies is not a substitute for the real thing. I can always tell when a writer has written a story that takes place in NYC based solely on what they have seen in the movies or on television. The story typically lacks the small details that bring a location to life and tends to focus on places that locals tend to avoid like Time Square (unless they work near there) and other famous tourist spots. 

That is why I tend to write stories that take place in my hometown of Kansas City. Kansas City has a lot to offer when it came to range. There is downtown, midtown, and multiple suburbs, along with great hiking trails, scenic parks, and a river. The city offers unlimited possibilities for telling an authentic story for almost any plot.

As for a fictional location, you can get away with quite a bit more and if you want to attach it to the real world, all you have to do is mention that the nearest hospital/shopping center/concert venue is an hour or two away in Berlin/London/Portland. 

Why is location so important?

Your story's setting and location help determine many factors that will ultimately shape your plot. Take my chosen location of Kansas City for example, my characters won't ever take the subway/train to work and will most likely have their own car because Kansas City is too spread out to walk everywhere. Kansas City has all four seasons (though this is becoming less true each year, I really miss a full blown spring and autumn) so I have to make sure that when I write an outdoor scene in January that my characters are dressed appropriately. I should also take into consideration local slang and diction when writing dialog. Imagine reading a story that takes place in the UK but the dialog is completely American, it doesn't make sense. 

So, when choosing your story's location, make sure it is something you can make feel real. There is nothing more satisfying than a story that I can get completely lost in without being distracted by a setting that doesn't make sense for the story being told.

To continue hopping through other great blogs in the monthly #AuthorToolboxBlogHop or to join, click here.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Visual Writing Prompts

Here are some visual writing prompts... tell me their stories...
Photo by: Vanessa Scott

Photo by: Vanessa Scott

Photo by: Vanessa Scott

Photo by: Vanessa Scott

Photo by: Vanessa Scott

Photo by: Vanessa Scott

Photo by: Vanessa Scott

Photo by: Vanessa Scott









Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Voices of YA

Thank you Molly Looby and Raimey Gallant for tagging me!! And thank you Caitlin Lambert  for creating the Voices of YA tag!!

Here are the rules!
1 Thank the person who tagged you
2 Link to the original creator
3 Answer the ten questions

4 Tag at LEAST TWO other YA writers/bloggers


What draws you to YA?
YA feels limitless. It doesn’t have to fit into a certain box and can basically be about anything. 

Describe your writing process. Do you like outlines and structure, or seeing where the story takes you?
My writing process is not structured by any means. I don’t really do outlines. I do a lot of  writing my ideas out by hand in an actual notebook. When I write my ideas out, I let them flow and write whatever comes to mind. Later, when I am typing up my story on Scrivener, that is when I process my notes and make them make sense. 

How long have you been writing? Where are you in your journey?
I have been writing, according to my mother, since I came out of the womb. I only have one book published, The Best Mixtape I Have. It was self-published shortly after NaNoWriMo a few years ago. It is horrible and not at all edited. I do love the story line, but I wish I wouldn’t have rushed it. I just wanted to enjoy the free copies that I received from finishing NaNoWriMo. I am currently working on a book that I am definitely taking my time on and hopefully I won’t self-publish. 

What do you need to write? Coffee? Music?
I need my notebooks and music. Coffee is nice but isn’t a requirement. Music is a requirement, however. I have a special soundtrack that I listen to when I write. I’ll share a sample:

Contagious - The Night Riots 
The Night We Met - Lord Huron
Silvertongue  - Young the Giant
Do You Remember - Jarryd James

If you could offer one piece of advice to another writer (other than "don't give up"), what would it be?
Don’t ever let anyone tell you how it is for you. Whether it be a friend, an agent, a publisher, if making certain changes makes you feel uncomfortable or if you feel like you are destroying your story, do only what you feel best. Now, I am not saying that agents and editors don’t know when changes need to be made, but sometimes you have to go with your gut. You know your story and you know how it needs to be told.


What book still has you reeling from its plot twist? (*no spoilers please*)
I can’t really think of any…

What books are you most anticipating for this year?
It was The End of Oz by Danielle Paige, but I kind of already dug into that book and finished after a day. 

I am also looking forward to The Royal Bastards by Andrew Shvarts. Here is an official synopsis: In Bastards, we follow Tilla, an intrepid but surly cast-off of Lord Kent of the Western Province, who raised her as a baby but more or less shrugged her off once he discovered his trueborn children. But when a visiting princess chooses to sit with Tilla and other kingdom bastards at a royal dinner, everything starts to change. Especially when Tilla finds herself helping to safeguard the princess’s life as rebellion brews.

In your opinion, which YA book/series has the most unique premise?
I like the Dorothy Must Die series by Danielle Paige. I love the reimagining of The Wizard of Oz and how Paige mixes teen angst with a classic story.

What is your all-time favourite quote from YA lit (I know, I'm cruel)?
“So, this is my life. And I want you to know that I am both happy and sad and I'm still trying to figure out how that could be.” - The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Stephen Chbosky. 

What book do you most hope will have a movie adaption?
The Black Witch by Laurie Forest. The book is beautiful and I would love to see it played out.

Thanks again for my tag! I am tagging DJ Humphries and Amy Laurel!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Names Have Power - #AuthorToolboxBlogHop

"Names have power." - Rick Riordan, The Lightning Thief

You have to be careful when naming your characters. You have to consider the genre, the time period, and where the story takes place.

If you are writing a story about Mary, Queen of Scots (and your story isn't about time travel) who lived during the 1500s then I would stay away from names that have only recently became names. Even my name, Vanessa, would not be appropriate. Vanessa wasn't a thing until 1700s when Jonathan Swift invented it. 

You also have to think about where your story takes place. Some places, like the United States, gives you more leeway when picking names. But if your story takes place is small town in the Ukraine, you aren't likely to find a Nevaeh there, but maybe a Viktoria or a Sofia.

You should also be consistent with nicknames. If you have a character named Gregory who prefers to go by Greg, make sure he only goes by Gregory in formal encounters or only have one friend/family member who calls him by his full name. 

As a writer, I try to avoid using names that are too similar by both spelling and sound. Readers don't always fully read words. If you have characters names Laurie and Lauren, readers might confuse the two. Same goes with Tim and Tom. Also, have two characters with the same name, even if spelt differently can be awfully confusing. 

I would also be careful when naming based on ethnicity and looks alone. If you are going to name a character based on their heritage make sure you do some research. Do not be like E.L. James and be so lazy that you name the two characters go color in your book the same thing. In Fifty Shades of Grey, James named her characters of hispanic decent Jose Rodriguez, Jr. and Sr. It's lazy and rude. It would only work if there was a reason behind it, but as I recall, James never stated one.

When I name characters I tend to avoid names in the top 50 to 100. But if I love a name, I don't care if it's very popular though I rarely love popular names.  I also avoid names with heavy connotation. Beyonce will immediately make people think of the singer. Elvis, Madonna, Hitler, Kanye... those names can turn your characters into caricatures. 

So, where should you look for names for your characters? I keep a running list of names in my writing journals. I also look through phonebooks, baby books, yearbooks, and name generators. I write down my favorite names from my favorite television shows. 

What advice do you have for naming characters? Please share in the comments!!

To continue hopping through other great blogs in the monthly #AuthorToolboxBlogHop or to join, click here.