Unlock the Muse – January 29, 2019

This month has been about refreshing our writing. I’ve been trying to get myself back into novel mode since NaNoWriMo ended on November 30. I printed out my NaNo manuscript which is more notes than novel, and started reading through it in order to get myself back into the right frame of mind. I haven’t spent as much time with it as I’d like, but it’s progress.

draft pic

It’s not much, but it’s mine. I did this. Now, I get to make it better.

Here’s your writing prompt for this week:

Write a letter to the postal carrier explaining that you want only contracts and acceptance letters, no more rejections. Give it to him or her and laugh about it together.

It’s week five, and I don’t have anything planned for this section today. Here’s hoping January has been good to you and your writing. Next month, I plan to move forward with renewed energy on my novel. What are your goals for February?

Happy writing!

Valor’s Choice, by Tanya Huff: A Review

For the 2018 Reading Challenge prompt #27, a book set on another planet, I chose to read Valor’s Choice, by Tanya Huff. Tanya Huff is another writer I came across when I was researching women writers from various genres, times and places. I used to have a rather snobbish attitude toward science fiction and refused to read it, sure that I would not like it in the least. I’ve since decided a more open-minded approach is much better.

Valor’s Choice is the first in a series of military science fiction novels centered around the main character, Torin Kerr. Torin is a Staff Sergeant in the Confederation marines – a group of planets joined together by treaty. She has just returned from a particularly devastating planetfall, in which her platoon suffered many casualties. Before their well-deserved shore leave is over, however, Torin is ordered to assemble as many of her team as possible and report for a new mission immediately. This mission is supposed to be an easy, diplomatic mission. But it turns out far different than what anyone expected.

Huff has created an impressive variety of alien civilizations, each with their own distinctive biological and cultural attributes. I loved the interactions between the characters. There is a realistic feel to the military language and action which drives this story. I really enjoyed this book, and I look forward to reading the rest of the series.

A Wizard of Earthsea, by Ursula K. LeGuin: A Review

For a book by a local author on the 2018 Reading Challenge, I chose to read A Wizard of Earthsea, by Ursula K. LeGuin. I chose to interpret this prompt a bit loosely and found an author whose book I already wanted to read who lived in a city not far from my hometown. Someone from the same state is close enough to be “local,” don’t you think?

This book is the first in LeGuin’s popular Earthsea Cycle fantasy series. It tells the story of Ged, also known as Sparrowhawk. Ged has an innate ability with magic and goes on to become a powerful wizard in the island realm of Earthsea. LeGuin takes the reader on a perilous adventure all over this island realm, as Ged seeks to out run and ultimately defeat an evil he himself loosed on his world.

LeGuin writes in a beautifully descriptive style. She is a wonderful storyteller, drawing the reader in with interestingly flawed characters who inhabit a rich and amazing world. I enjoyed this book very much, and I’m looking forward to the rest of the series. I already have book two lined up to read this year.

Unlock the Muse – January 22, 2019

It’s been one of those days – okay, months – where I struggle to find the energy and will to write. Writing consistently has become a battle. It could be related to stress at work, or busyness at home with the family. The desire to write is there, buried rather deeply at the moment, but I can’t quite seem to summon the motivation to actually do the work.

And writing is work. It’s not simply a creative whim to be indulged when the mood strikes. Although, I suppose it could be that for some. But for the professional writer, sometimes motivation must be manufactured. Don’t wait to be “in the mood” for writing. Write yourself into it.

Here’s your writing prompt for this week:

Write a scene in a short story or poem using variations of one color to create a specific mood. For example, using the words “blue,” “periwinkle,” “aqua,” and “sky,” create a cool, clean feeling.

What mood are you trying to set in your novel, story or poem? What color best suits that mood? Or, think about how certain colors make you feel. Now, recreate that in your scene.

It’s week four and so it is time to play. Here is a roll of the dice to help you write yourself into the mood! Use one, or use them all to get started. Add some color for fun!


Happy writing!

Fantastic February – Fantasy Reading Challenge

Thanks to Kathy over at Books & Munches, for hosting this mini reading challenge! The plan is to read anything fantasy or paranormal while working to whittle away at the TBR. Good news for me, my TBR is full of fantasy fiction!

I’m currently working my way through Tad Williams’s Shadowmarch series. I’m on book three at the moment, hoping to finish it soon. More than likely, book four, Shadowheart, will carry over into February.

I’ve also been reading the Realm of the Elderlings series, by Robin Hobb, along with a Goodreads group I’m part of. I’ve fallen behind the rest of the group, but I’m still working my way through the books. I’ve fallen hard for Robin Hobb, and I have no doubt I’ll keep reading no matter how far behind I get. I’ve just started the second trilogy, The Liveship Traders, so I expect I’ll still be reading Ship of Magic in February. Hopefully, I’ll manage to move on to Mad Ship before the month ends.

I will also continue reading Eragon, by Christopher Paolini. I’m reading this with my youngest son who is completely in love with dragons right now. It’s possible I’ve encouraged this obsession just a little.

Some other fantasy books I am super excited about, though I may not get to them in February, are:

Bloodwitch, by Susan Dennard (due for release February 12!)
Children of Blood and Bone, by Tomi Adeyemi

If I need a break from the massive series books above, I can pick up one of these for a bit instead.

Hooray for fantasy fiction!

Dragonflight, by Anne McCaffrey: A Review

For a book with an animal in the title – prompt #26 on the 2018 Reading Challenge – I chose to read Dragonflight, by Anne McCaffrey. I have been a fan of fantasy fiction for a really long time, yet somehow I’ve never read a book by Anne McCaffrey. I decided it was beyond time I read the work of this master of the genre.

In Dragonflight, McCaffrey first introduced readers to the world of Pern. A world where dragons are real and magical occurrences are possible. It’s the story of Lessa, the disenfranchised heir of her mountain realm. She has worked against the usurpers for years and when dragon riders arrive at her home, she sees an opportunity to reclaim what is rightfully hers. It turns out, however, that Lessa is destined for far more than ruling over a single region. She is chosen by the dragon riders for the chance to become a dragon rider herself – to ride a queen.

In this book, the dragon riders of Pern are in crisis. All but one of the dragon weyrs have been empty for centuries and the numbers within the remaining one are dwindling. It falls to Lessa and F’lar, the weyrleader, find a way to save Pern.

First published in 1968, the relationships between men and women and the roles each play in their society feels antiquated, and more than a little skewed toward male dominance. Despite her seemingly important role as rider of the queen dragon, a weyrwoman’s role in the every day functions of the weyr is limited to looking after the weyrleader, who is always a man. In fact, except for the rare queen, all dragon riders are male.

Despite all that, I enjoyed the book. I love McCaffrey’s creative mix of fantasy and science fiction elements. I’m looking forward to finishing the series.

Unlock the Muse – January 15, 2019

This week I began reading the book There There, by Tommy Orange. This book is receiving a lot of attention, and I can understand why. It is very well written. This is a book I may need to reread at some point – after I’ve read it simply for the sake of reading a good book – and dissect it to see just what makes it so good.

Writers read. It’s part of the job description. Reading helps us strengthen our own craft. Reading fosters empathy and a greater understanding of the human nature – which is what we’re writing about, after all. Reading can also refresh your mind and spirit. When you’re own writing stalls, immerse yourself in the words of someone else for awhile.

Your writing prompt for this week is:

If you had to compare yourself to the elements (earth, wind, fire, and water), which would you be? Write about why you chose the one you did.

Think about the properties of each of these four elements. Which one do you most relate to? Try this exercise with your main character(s) and see which one they would choose for themselves.

Because I enjoyed the vocabulary sessions, I’ve decided to keep this bit from the old Unlock the Muse posts. So, I will take a look at this month’s theme word: Refresh.


Give new strength or energy to; reinvigorate.

Synonyms: reinvigorate, revitalize, revive, restore, brace, fortify, strengthen, enliven, stimulate, freshen, energize, exhilarate, reanimate, resuscitate, revivify, rejuvenate, regenerate, renew.

According to etymonline, the word refresh derives from the 14c Old French word refreschier, meaning to refresh or renew. To break it down further, the word comes from the prefix re-, meaning “again” and fresche, which means “fresh.” Therefore, to refresh means to “make fresh again.”

Happy writing!

Go and find new strength or energy for your writing!

Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte: A Review

Wuthering Heights, by Emily Brontë is one of those books that hits nearly all the “must read” lists. I figured I needed to read it. Someday. Well, “someday” came in 2018 when I was determined to read books by women authors and I needed a book about a villain or anti-hero for the 2018 Reading Challenge.

I’ll be honest. I dreaded this book. But it turned out, I enjoyed it far more than I expected. Brontë’s writing is excellent and compelling. I was drawn into the story in spite of myself. I’m glad I finally read this book.

Primarily the tragic story of Catherine and Heathcliff, I’m not sure this book includes a single redeemable character. Catherine could perhaps be excused to some extent given the demands of her society on young women. Heathcliff however, and nearly any man associated with him, is truly despicable. But it is this very disagreeableness that makes the story so compelling.

Bronte wrote this book in a style that I’ve seen before in other novels of her time. The narrator is relating the story as it was told to him, a retelling of a recollection. So the reader is a step removed from the action at all times, hearing everything at least second-hand rather than witnessing events as they unfold. Personally, I don’t care for this style.

Even so, I enjoyed this book in the end. It had it’s moments where I was ready to toss it aside, but overall, it is a great book, well deserving of its status as a classic.

The Queue, by Basma Abdel Aziz: A Review

Prompt #46 on the 2018 Reading Challenge was to read an allegory. Since I had the goal to read books written by women, I had some difficulty in finding a book that qualified. The usual suspects – The Chronicles of Narnia or Animal Farm – weren’t going to work for me. So I did some searching and found The Queue, by Basma Abdel Aziz on a list of books claiming to be allegories. I had previously run across this author when I was searching for women authors from all over the world.

The Queue primarily tells the story of Yehya who must get permission from The Gate for a critical medical procedure. The Gate is the symbol for the authoritarian government where Yehya lives. The line of people waiting outside for one reason or another grows and grows, yet The Gate never opens.

Abdel Aziz presents Yehya’s story through various side characters, each with their own connections to Yehya. Some, like Amani and Nagy, have a close, personal relationship with Yehya. They are outside the Queue, trying to help Yehya get what he needs. Other characters have a rather tenuous connection to Yehya. They are seeking their own help from the Queue, or they are trying to avoid entanglement with the Queue. But through all of them, this story is drawn to its inevitable conclusion.

Yehya would never admit that he was just a single, powerless man in a society where rules and restrictions were stronger than everything else, stronger than the ruler himself, stronger than the Booth and even the Gate.

This book presents a terrifyingly real look at how a totalitarian government can and will manipulate its citizens through fear, force, greed, even promises (though these last are usually left dangling and unfulfilled). And how such a government is capable of rearranging the truth to its own benefit.

Unlock the Muse – January 8, 2019

This morning as I drove to work, the sunrise lit the sky with gorgeous pink and yellow light. A smattering of winter-darkened clouds crossed the pale blue backdrop. It was a beautiful morning, refreshing after a weekend of rain and high winds. 

Like the weather, your writing will have seasons of storms and volatility followed by calm and colorful sunrises. Our goal as writers should be to learn how to flow through these seasons and make the most of the unique opportunities each one presents.

This week’s writing prompt is:

Why do you think writing can be so difficult? Try to articulate the complexity that make the process of writing a hard one.

Writing is difficult sometimes. Whether it’s finding the time, the will or the words, sometimes the struggle is real. Write about this struggle in a journal entry, or a letter to a favorite relative. Don’t allow yourself to get whiny (or maybe just a little bit), but try to seriously examine the reasons behind the struggle. Now, turn your musings into a poem, an essay or a short story.

Just a little reminder…

refresh quote

Happy writing!

What are your greatest writing struggles? How do you refresh your muse?