Mary Aalgaard: Thinkology

Last week, my friend Guy Kelm and I taught a writing class for kids, ages 8-12, called Kids and the Art of Writing. One of our favorite activities of the week was to visit the Q Gallery, an art gallery in the same building, featuring local artists. As the saying goes, “Art inspires Art,” and the kids came up with some beautiful pairings for some of the pieces.

Guy Kelm and a student, studying the visual artwork, using Thinkology to process the piece.
For the kids, this is a day camp experience where they get to concentrate on their writing for two hours every day, get feedback and encouragement from teachers and other writers, and let that creative energy flow.
We grown-ups don’t often get those camp experiences. Sometimes, we pay good money to attend writer’s workshops, conferences, or spend a week at a secluded writing retreat. Most of the time, we have to scrape and claw for an extra minute to do anything of the creative bend. So, how do we keep our creative stories growing without having a lovely camp? We can use Thinkology.
Yes, folks, we can use this grand philosophy right her in river city! (Are you getting flashbacks to the musical The Music Man?) In the musical, Professor Harold Hill swoops in to milk out a little money from the towns folks in the guise of forming a local band for kids. After the uniforms and instruments arrive, the grown-ups are waiting for the sound of “76 Trombones” and all the rest of the instruments. They get a lot of air, and a few squeeks. Professor Hill says something like, “You have to start out with Thinkology.” You need time to think it through, to hear the music before you begin to play, then, when the moment is right, you will have the sound you desire.
He wasn’t all full of air. I find myself using Thinkology while I do the dishes, take walks, drive the kids to their activities, wait to pick them up again, even sitting in church (don’t tell my pastor). We need think time as well as writing time. This is also comforting news to busy moms like me! We can use that think time to imagine, jot notes, listen, and then when we have that spare minute, the story is ready to appear on the page.
After a morning of watching and listening to the kids create, I would drive home (sometimes humming Professor Hill’s la da da de da de da and wiggling my finger like a conductor) I had visions of the next play that I’m writing, visions I’ve been waiting for, and soon, I’ll be on my retreat week where kitchen and laundry duties don’t exist, and I’ll let the words flow.
Go. Create. Inspire!

 I use a lot of Thinkology while riding on the back of the bike on rides with The Biker Chef!

Mary Aalgaard is a freelance writer and blogger. Her words stretch across the globe through her blogs on, which include Play off the Page, inspiration and entertainment reviews; Ride off the Page, a travelog about riding adventures on a Harley-Davidson with The Biker Chef; and Dine off the Page, for chef’s tips, recipes, and restaurant reviews. Mary is also a playwright. Her original drama Coffee Shop Confessions was performed in coffee shops around the Brainerd, MN area in 2012. She works with both children and adults to create original dramas, and is offering theatre classes for kids where they write their own plays and create the set. Contact her at Mary(AT)playoffthepage(DOT)com

Thanks so much for stopping by, Mary! 

Anyone else who wants to be featured on my blog? Please see here for details. 

Where are your favorite places to use Thinkology? 

Update Day!

Wow. I can’t believe it’s the last Friday of June. As far as my blog hop goes, this is half-way through the year, baby!

For those of you who missed the previous times, me and Beth Fred host a blog hop for people with insane or insanely important goals. Every last Friday of the month, we update on how we’re getting along. Want to join? You’re more than welcome. Click here for more details and the linky list. 
So, since it’s June, I decided to review my goals. But because I was incredibly optimistic last year, the list was long and I decided to post the review on my other blog so I can focus on the blog hop here. Go ahead and read it. You’ll probably find that your goal failures don’t quite look as depressing as mine. 
Anyway, doing the review was good because it made me realize again that sometimes, life sucks. Sometimes, we don’t achieve what we set out to do. Sometimes, just finishing some portion of the things we wanted is still good enough. 

A lot of people have commented on previous posts that I should change my goals, and I basically have. However I will still be using my old list (as seen on the review) for my goal review at year end. Why? Because if I do something for most of those things on the list, I’m still going to be one proud writer. Because ANYTHING I manage to do writing/editing/publishing wise will bring me closer to my big goal.
In the interests of that, this is what I’ve achieved (in no particular order): 
Started a book on writing craft on Wattpad and got 500 reads without marketing in less than two weeks. (and it’s damned good, if I say so myself.) In case you’re wondering, I’m not putting it on my timeline since it’s really just something I do to get my writing juices going.
Wrote a total of 13k words in rough drafting. (Hoping to get another 5k done by the end of the month.) 
Fully revised The Heir’s Choice and sent it to crit partners. 
Goals for July: 

I’ve shifted some things around on my timeline because my priorities changed. Most of it isn’t really important right now, except for the fact that I now have to draft Wo6C3 again. (See the previous post for an explanation why.) 
Good thing, then, that Camp NaNo is in July. And Camp NaNo is what my goals will center around. 
1) To gather a month’s worth of writing prompts to get going every day. (Planning to do this over the weekend.) 
2) To edit my two War of Six Crowns books. Book 1 is obviously pretty much done. After all, it was published already. That said, in editing book 2, I noticed some things I should have mentioned in book 1, which is why editing both is on the plan. 
For those of you who don’t know, Camp NaNo has a provision where you can convert editing hours into words. 1 hour = 1000 words, 30 minutes = 500 words and so on. I’m going to use it, since I will need to edit and draft in July. 
3) To draft 75000 words, including editing. By my calculation, it means that I’ll actually be writing about 50k new words. My priority will be Wo6C3 and the mystery project (MP), but I’ll be trying to work on some of my other in progress drafts as well. And… those writing prompts I mentioned. 
4) Reading my drafts in progress. I have five projects in progress except for MP and Wo6C3. Four of them, I haven’t touched since November last year. So this weekend I’ll be re-reading to catch myself back up. 
How are you doing on your goals? Anyone else doing Camp NaNo? I’m iceangel, if you want to buddy up. 🙂

Back to the drawing board…

If you’ve been reading some of my more recent posts, you’ll know I’ve been shifting information from later books in my War of Six Crowns series to the second book. Not info dumping, mind you. Just… enough to make things more interesting all round. 

Okay before I get into that, I should explain to the readers who recently joined. Once upon a time I wrote a book called Doorways. While querying and submitting Doorways, I contemplated (and possibly should have followed through on) self publishing it. As a result, I wrote the sequel while Doorways was out being queried, since I saw value in having the sequel ready to edit after publishing the first book. 
However, the publisher I sold Doorways to insisted I split the book in two, effectively turning a four book series into a five book one. Doorways became The Vanished Knight and The Heir’s Choice. 

But. (And now we’re all on the same frequency)
Splitting Doorways means adding information and changing focus and all sorts of things to its two halves in order to make them books that could stand alone. 
Which has put a bit of a wrinkle in my plan. I like TVK and THC like they are now. And honestly, I think they’re much stronger books than Doorways was. What I didn’t expect was that I’d go to the sequel to THC with the view to rewriting it, and discovering that I’d have to draft it again from scratch. 
Again… let me explain. I always write two drafts to a story. The rough draft, where I form the foundation of what the story again, and the rewrite, where I take what I’d learned in the draft, form a plan, and write the story around the plan a second time. (Main reason being that all my roughs are hand written. So I always have to rewrite in order to get the story onto the computer in order to edit.) 
What all this means is that basically, nothing that I’d written in the sequel (let’s call it Wo6C3 because it has no name yet) can be used in the rewrite, because none of the major things originating in TVK and THC are being addressed. Which means I’ve had to put three months of rough drafting into my publishing plan for Wo6C3 when I thought the rough draft was done. 
Which, if you know what my plan for the next five years looks like… is just annoying. Oh well… a writer has to do what a writer has to do. And sometimes, I just can’t plan for these things. 
So… at this moment, drafting Wo6C3 will be my priority for Camp NaNo. (All while editing THC.)
Anyone else find that editing one story makes the sequel you wrote obsolete? 

Terry W. Ervin on Five Strategies for Self-Editing

Editing, especially self-editing, is an important component in the writing process. Realizing there are different layers of editing, ranging from structural concerns down to catching typos, effective strategies are important to a novel’s potential success.
One of the banes of an author self-editing is failing to catch what would be easily identified in the work of another writer. The author’s mind knows what was intended. The character voices and narrative are playing out in the author’s head, masking mistakes. Below are five methods an author might employ to overcome this, especially as a manuscript nears the end of the editing process.

Time Between Edits. 

Time away from a manuscript, hopefully working on another project, allows an author to return with fresh eyes and a mindset more attuned to catch errors at all levels. The distance of time, be it several weeks or months, offers a better perspective. 

Reading Orally. 

An author reading their work out loud, while slower than reading silently, will enable the catching of errors, especially missing words or dialogue that just doesn’t sound right. The author may not need to vocalize. Often just moving the mouth and engaging the voice box is enough. 

Changing Font. 

Many authors have a favorite font to write and even edit in. Switching fonts is a trick that makes the manuscript appear a bit foreign and new. It also resets the end of lines at the margins where mistakes are often overlooked as the eye shifts down to the next line. 

Using Text Speak Programs. 

Again, this is a time-consuming process, but the programs are free and improving. While they lack inflection and occasionally mangle pronunciation, it’s like having someone read a novel back to the author. It may even be more effective than reading orally in catching missing words, switched tense or subject/verb agreement, or dialogue that is somehow off. 

Print out the Manuscript. 

Probably the last step, and a costly one in paper and ink. This tactic steps up the changing of font, as it adds a new medium, even a tactile sense that alters the reading experience and engages the critical eye from a new angle. It’s more like ‘reading a book’ old school. 
Yes, having someone else edit and proof a manuscript is invaluable. And the better prepared the manuscript is ahead of time, the better the end product, as the editor won’t be distracted by what the author could’ve addressed.

Terry W. Ervin II is an English teacher who enjoys writing fantasy and science fiction. 

His First Civilization’s Legacy Series includes FLANK HAWK, BLOOD SWORD and SOUL FORGE, his newest release from Gryphonwood Press. Terry’s debut science fiction novel RELIC TECH is the first in the Crax War Chronicles and his short stories have appeared in over a dozen anthologies and magazines. The genres range from SF and mystery to horror and inspirational. GENRE SHOTGUN is a collection containing all of his previously published short stories.

To contact Terry or learn more about his writing endeavors, visit his website or his blog, Up Around the Corner

Soul Forge: 

Young Enchantress Thereese lays stricken and silent, her vital essence sapped by the Shard Staff, edging ever closer toward death. Supreme Enchantress Thulease refuses to allow her daughter to fade beyond recovery.

To that end, Enchantress Thulease recruits Mercenary Flank Hawk to accompany her as she seeks the legendary Sleeping Sage, and confronts the secretive Svartálfar, known only for their magical prowess and for their menacing cruelty. 
But first, the mercenary and enchantress, and their stalwart company, must survive brutal beasts and ruthless nomads roaming the Southern Continent’s harsh desert. Then, the untamed wilds of the Northern Mountains must be traversed in a final bid to reach their ultimate goal—the Soul Forge.
Even if Flank Hawk and Thulease reach the mythical forge in time, can its magic revive the ailing young enchantress, the one whose life is somehow tied to the Kingdom of Keesee’s ultimate fate?

Mark Murata on Using Excel in Writing

Hey all! Welcome to another Monday Feature. Today, Mark Murata is visiting to show us how he uses Excel in writing. 

If anyone else wants to sign up for a guest post feature, please click here for more information. 
And now, let’s see what Mark has to say. 

Excel in Writing

Get the pun in this entry’s title? For the first time, I’m using an Excel workbook as part of my writing. In my mashup of The War of the Worlds, I have the cylinders from Mars landing near different cities around the world, not just London, so their invasion has to advance consistently on each day. 

I also have three groups of characters in three locations. Their actions have to be coordinated, so I need to track who is doing what on each day. 
I’ll also have to track the positions of Mars and Venus, as well as phases of the moon. J.R.R. Tolkien once remarked something to the effect that he could not have Aragorn look up one night and see a full moon, then have Gimli look up a couple nights later and also see a full moon. He kept charts on phases of the moon, and also the speed of Gandalf’s horse Shadowfax.

Learn from the greatest.

Anyone else use Excel when you’re writing? 

Thoughts on editing The Heir’s Choice

As some of you may know, I’m busy editing The Heir’s Choice at the moment. I haven’t really said much about how I’m doing, but let me just say this:

Editing a sequel is hard. 

Especially because the sequel and the first book were two halves (literally) of the same book. See originally, I had this awesome 107k word book that I had to split.

And the approximate split was as follows:

The Vanished Knight: 65k words.
The Heir’s Choice: 65k words.

“Hey wait!” you might exclaim. (It’s all very dramatic in my brain, I promise you.) “That doesn’t add up!”

No. Because in order to make TVK into a book on its own, I’ve had to add about 15k words to the first half of the original book. Which is great.

Except for the bit where every single one of those changes has to be worked into THC. Which is most of what its extra 15k words consists of.

And then I’m not even getting into the real challenge.

As you might know, I’m going to re-publish TVK and publish THC at the same time. There is a very very good reason for this, but I’m not going to go into it. First, I want to see if my plan works.

But if it does work, most of the people reading THC will be doing so immediately after finishing TVK.

So what’s the challenge? (Aside from marketing.)

If I assume that my plan will work, no one will want constant reminders of what happened in TVK. If my plan doesn’t work, everyone will want a TON of reminders. Which leaves me with the unique challenge of striking the right balance between too much information and not enough.

While making sure that all the main strings I left hanging at the end of TVK gets picked up in THC.


Except…. TVK has a lot of strings.

How are you doing? What are you doing at the moment?

C.M. Keller on Writing Time Travel Stories

Hey all! We have another guest here today. C.M. Keller is here as part of her newest book release. So before I hand things over to her, I thought I’d share a bit more information on Screwing Up Alexandria:

Time traveling has never brought Mark Montgomery anything but grief. And then, things get worse.

When Mark comes home from Babylon with a coded tablet, he never dreams someone would be willing to kill to get it. But they are. So Mark and Miranda kidnap an ancient cryptographer named Nin and take her to the Library of Alexandria to decipher it.

The search for the truth of the tablet takes all of them to the most dangerous time on earth. And when Nin ends up on an altar surrounded by blood-thirsty crowds, only Mark can save her. But he’s blind.

Sounds awesome, right?

And now, I’m handing over to Connie to tell us a bit more about writing time travel stories.

As a writer of historical and time travel fiction, one of the greatest ironies I’ve discovered is that as radically different as other times and cultures are, people aren’t that different than we are.

The trick to writing time travel is to remember that while the character’s hopes, desires, and problems are similar to ours, they must be shaped by the time they are set in. The culture of the time period must become a character and drives the narrative. In other words, what happens to the characters in Alexandria should be so defined by the time and place that the plot could never unfold like it does anywhere else.

When I pick a time period, I research the culture and history, immersing myself in the significant people, places, foods, etc. I use small details like food, drink, clothing, and superstitions to convey a sense of the exotic and add verisimilitude.

However, the places, people, and culture must propel the plot. For example, in Screwing Up Babylon, I needed a chase scene, and I knew it had to take place in the Hanging Gardens. So I envisioned myself as Mark trapped in the gardens and wondered, How can I escape? The answer was easy—by way of a man-made river that watered the garden. I ended up with a very authentic “waterslide” adventure inside Babylon’s Hanging Gardens.

One of the great things setting the novels in Babylon, British Middle Ages, Alexandria, Mongolia, etc., is that it helps to keep a series fresh. There are always new characters and experiences, so creative options are endless.

The hardest thing about time travel fiction is the language barrier. There is no way to give your characters facility in various languages. My main character Mark, who is seventeen when the series starts, does not/cannot know ancient Greek, Akkadian, Sumerian, etc. So, I’ve had to find ways to allow him to communicate and establish relationships with other characters without knowing the languages.

One way I did this was through the use of other time travelers, people with more language abilities. But I wanted to be very careful with this and not use it as a deus-ex-machina answer to Mark’s problem. So I gave the other time travelers their own agendas, and they are at least as unhelpful as they are helpful, which made them wonderful to write. (I have a soft spot for tough, witty characters.) Another way I dealt with the language problem was by realizing it wasn’t really a problem. The places where Mark travels are not backwaters. These cities are cosmopolitan, cultural crossroads. It wouldn’t be unusual for people without a common language to encounter each other. So I spent a lot of time figuring out how to communicate without words.

A reader once commented that it wasn’t until after she finished the book that she realized that Mark had never once spoken directly to the Babylonians. So I guess it worked.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, comments, questions, or ideas.

Thanks, Misha, for this opportunity to talk about time travel writing!

About MeC. M. Keller is an award-winning novelist and the author of the SCREWING UP TIME series. She loves old movies and poison rings. In her spare time, she searches for that elusive unicorn horn. She’s currently hard at work on her next YA novel, the fourth book in Mark and Miranda’s story.

Thanks so much for stopping by, Connie! 

A Letter from Far Far Away

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I join you today from Misha’s tavern. She has very kindly dedicated her Mondays to writers, authors and compedium compilers such as myself and for that I would like to extend my thanks.

Firstly, please allow me to introduce myself. I’m Far Far Away, and I have been finding out about the comings and goings of my world. I wrote to all the inhabitants asking them to keep me up to date with their daily lives and I was amused by the responses I got. I am now releasing these letters every Monday and Friday at my tavern.

As a thank you to Misha for publishing this letter, I have some exclusive information for her readers about one of the characters that wrote to me: Huntsman.

The first tale of my compendium is entitled The Apple Princess and it is Huntsman’s letter that kicks off the tale. He features heavily throughout the story as we follow his progress as an employee of the Queen.

He comes from one of the oldest families in the kingdoms and is descended from a long line of men that were gifted in using tools. His brother is a lumberjack known as Axeman, and his father worked down in the mines until the dwarven “uprising” (which we more commonly call the “downfalling”, due to the mines being underground). Very little is known about the female members of his family, although it is generally accepted that they were just as skilled as the men when it came to wielding weapons. Frankly, and I say this quietly in case they are reading, they all sound like a bunch of nutters.

Like the rest of his family, Huntsman has a fetish for medieval fashion and is never seen without a blade. Unlike the rest of his family, he does not perform civic duties as a farmer, miner or lumberjack, but instead has self-declared himself as a killer and is often found stalking game in the forests around the kingdom.

At heart though, Huntsman is a sap. He chose work under the Queen as he figured it would please his proud family heritage while allowing himself to get close to the girl he has become enamoured with – Princess Snow. While he has no qualms in slaughtering innocent animals, he has found himself on the wrong side of the Queen on more than one occasion where he refuses to carry out her dirty work in the proper manner. It appears that under his brutish exterior he may have a heart after all.

I hope you enjoyed this brief character background. If you would like to find out more, please drop by my tavern.


Far Far Away.

You can read more about Tales from Far Far Away at his tavern.

Interview with Annalisa Crawford

Hey all! Today I have the pleasure of welcoming Annalisa Crawford to my blog. She’s here for an interview as part of her book release.

Welcome to the Five Year Project, Annalisa. Why don’t we kick this off with you introducing yourself to the readers? 

Thanks for having me over today, Misha. Well, I’m a pretty normal woman, two kids, dog, cat, Hubby. I live in a beautiful part of the world, sunny-ish Cornwall in the south west of England… and weird things keep popping into my head that I just have to write down. I always know when friends have finished reading my books, because they have a wary look in their eye!

Hahaha yes people do look at us differently when they see stuff that comes from our heads. Speaking of which, tell us a bit more about your new book.

It’s a collection of three novellas, linked by being set in the same town. The bridge and the pub are significant, for different reasons, in each of the stories:
Ella’s Story – Ella has had the same dream, predicting her own death, since she was a child. When other elements of the dream start to become real, she thinks she’s on a downward spiral towards the end.
The Traveller –  Sally meets Murray on a hot, sticky summer evening and is immediately captivated. She tries not to fall in love – nothing good happens when you meet strangers in pubs – but she can’t help it; even though the past is catching up with them both.
Our Beautiful Child – Rona discovers she can communicate with ghosts when a sham psychic arrives at the pub. Once she can hear them, the spirits all want to share their story with her. And a thousand years’ worth of tragedy is too much for anyone to handle.

Sounds awesome! What inspired you to write these three stories and to link them?

The first two were stand alone stories, but they both featured a pub, and they were both (very) loosely located in my home town. So, the connection flowed quite naturally. I knew I wanted a third story, but it took me a bit longer to find the right characters and plot.

I had the opening scene of The Traveller in my head, and originally I thought it would just be a 2000 word short piece – it just kept on growing. Ella’s Story was an experiment in writing a stream-of-consciousness story – but it was rubbish, so I went back and wrote it in my usual style. Our Beautiful Child was inspired by a song – every time I heard it, I had this strange feeling in my stomach, I knew a story was there, but I couldn’t quite reach it.

I also have songs like that. They always inspire me to write. Do you write to music? If so, what sort of music do you enjoy writing to?

I go in phases with music. At the moment I’m revising some short stories, and watching TV. But I like rock music to write longer stories too – I like words and good strong drums. I type faster when there’s a good beat.

Once I’m really into a novel, there will be one CD that I just keep on repeat because it will get me into the right mood straight away. That CD changes with every project.

I’m the same. I actually make playlists for every book I write, though. What do you enjoy most about the entire process? 

I love revising. I like seeing my initial ideas developing, and getting that goosebump feeling when I can see it all falling exactly into place.

I also love revising! So glad to see someone else does too. What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned about writing and publishing so far? 

One thing that took me by surprise was how much marketing I would have to do. It really doesn’t come naturally, and everyone else seems to do it so much better than me. I’m at a disadvantage because I love to be unique, and a lot of marketing is about following tried and tested methods. To me, those methods mean my book vanishes into a swamp of lots of other books. 

I know what you mean there. Although I tend to be very good at marketing, I’ve yet to find a method that sets my books apart. Last question: Where can people find you and your new book on the internet? 

At the moment, the book isn’t on my publisher’s website (but it will be soon). 

You can find me and mention of Our Beautiful Child in the following places:

Add to Goodreads 
It’s available for sale at Amazon

Thank you so much for having me here today, Misha. It’s been a lot of fun.

Thanks for stopping by Annalisa! 

Anyone else think her new cover looks awesome? What’s your favorite stage of the writing process?

Getting back into the groove.

Sorry for disappearing yesterday. I came down with a bad cold yesterday, which means I slept through most of it.

Luckily I feel lots better, so now I’m back.

Speaking of “back”, I can safely say I’m getting back into my writing and editing groove. Yesterday I officially finished my revisions to The Heir’s Choice and started sending it out for critique. (Note: done while “dying” of a cold.)

I also edited a short story that’s going into an anthology before turning in for the night.

Which means, ladies and gentlemen, that I’ll be able to draft again! The last time I actually wrote something was back in very early February, and even then, it was only two thousand (I think) words.

So I’m way past overdue. The only thing is that I’ll have to reread my old work in order to pick up all the story strings again. Which isn’t always THE best thing to do when I’ve just come off editing.

That said, I’ll just have to suppress the inner editor and get it done. I really do have too much to do and too little time for me to bend to my IE’s whims.

But as I type this, I’m getting a feeling of what I want to do above all, and right now, I want to start rewriting the sequel to The Heir’s Choice. I had it scheduled for the last three months of the year, but hey, I’ve got momentum right now. I can always do rough drafts later…

Or even at the same time.

What are you working on at the moment?