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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

#AuthorToolboxBlogHop: Writing By Hand

Have you ever found yourself staring at a screen and your brain goes as blank as the word document you have pulled up? Whenever I find myself stuck in this position I run though my usual writer's block prompts. Which one works the best?

For me, it's pulling out my journal and writing by hand. But why is it so effective?
  1. Writing the old fashioned way sparks creativity in a way that no computer screen ever can.
  2. It's hard to erase handwriting. Erasing is tedious. I know you could just throw away the notebook but I find that keeping "bad" writing/ideas is a great way to learn. Also, sometimes something you thought was bad, never really was.
  3. I find it easier to write with wild abandon than to type that way. When I type I constantly try to edit as I go. When I am writing by hand I don't feel that need.
  4. When using a computer, especially now that every computer has an internet connection, I am constantly distracted. Email, social media, Reddit, even these blogs all distract me. Writing by hand allows for less distraction.
So, next time you're hit with some writer's block, try writing the old fashioned.

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

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Book Review: How to Hang a Witch

I have always had a love for everything Salem and witches. So, when I heard about "How to Hang a Witch" by Adriana Mather I couldn't wait to read it. Especially when I found out that Mather is related to Cotton Mather, a key member of the Salem Witch Trials.

The main protagonist, Samantha Mather, also related to Cotton Mather, and her stepmother move to Salem after her father ends up in the hospital. Her arrival in Salem means that all of the descendants of the Salem witch trials are together and brings about bad luck, pain, and even death. Sam is instantly an outcast and her only friends are the boy next door and a ghost. As the stakes get higher, Sam is determined to change the future by searching the past and with the help of her ghost friend, she discovers the truth about what happened during the witch trials.

"How to Hang a Witch" mixed the past with the present effortlessly while inserting the supernatural elements organically. Sam was relatable and so were her feelings about everything that was happening around her. I felt like her actions and reactions made sense. Mather truly locked in on what it feels like to be an outcast as a teenager. She also captured the beauty and creepiness of Salem and the witch trials.

I recommend "How to Hang a Witch" to anyone who loves stories about witches and Salem, but also to those who love reading about teenage angst and outcasts.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Book Review: Final Girls

Final Girls by Riley Sager is a smart take on the "final girl" trope that runs rampant in the horror/thriller genre and flips it on its head. Instead of witnessing the making of a final girl, we meet Quincey after she has "moved on" from the whole ordeal. She has become a baking blogger who refuses to do interviews, loathes the click-bait title of "final girl," and has a penchant for popping Xanax with grape soda. Everything was going fine until she discovers that another "final girl" has killed herself... 

To find out what happens you're going to have to read the book yourself, and I definitely recommend it. Riley Sager took a trope which can so easily turn into a cliche and either steered away from it or embraced it with smart commentary. The flashbacks were relevant and full with as much action as the present day scenes. The dialog is smart, consistent, and each character has their own distinct voice. Overall, Final Girls, is a well-written thriller that will become an endearing classic. If you love campy horror movies and smart thrillers, Final Girls is the book for you!

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.