Thursday Feature: Libby Heily

Hey everyone! Today I’d like to welcome Libby Heily to The Five Year Project. She’s here to tell us about where her newest main character, Grape, came from.

Take it away, Libby!

The Birth of Grape Merriweather

Welcome to Sortilege Falls is my second novel. My first, Tough Girl, was about an eleven-year-old who is bullied and starving and loses herself in an imaginary world to combat the misery of her life. I wanted to write something happy after that and WTSF is about as “happy” as my writing gets. The idea was to come up with a main character whose very name sounds like a smile, thus Grape Merriweather was born. Stories grow and writers hardly ever end up writing the book they intended. That is definitely true with WTSF. My “happy” story grew to encompass the themes of beauty worship, celebrity, as well as delving into the mysterious relationships between child stars and their parents.
But I tried to stay true to my original idea of Grape. She’s not without her troubles and woes. In the beginning of the novel, Grape is new at school and eager to impress. She spends over an hour the night before trying on outfits to find the perfect one. But she is ignored by students and teachers alike. Everyone is too caught up with the beyond gorgeous models to bother with one new student. The more time passes, the more Grape realizes that Sortilege Falls is not what it’s cracked up to be, and she’s going to find out why.
We discover this weird world along with Grape and I tried to stay true to her voice. It was very important to me that Grape wasn’t perfect, that she partially fell under the Models’ spell. She fights throughout the novel to make her own decisions and not bend to the Models’ will.
Hopefully, Grape comes across as a complex character. She stands up for herself and her friends but she also senses social pressure and makes awkward comments to try to fit in. She wants friends and to be liked. Don’t we all? But she won’t allow herself to be pushed around either.
But maybe explaining Grape isn’t best. Maybe I should let you meet her instead.  Below, we see Grape deal with a potential stalker.  It’s late at night and Grape has just watched as her brother, Brad, heads into the woods to take plants (Brad is huge into botany).  Graeson, the only kid at school who talked to her, surprises her in her back yard:

Grape screamed.

“Calm down,” the vamp kid from school said, his hands raised in the air like a victim. He had switched his purple shirt for a black one and slicked his curly hair back as well. “It’s cool. It’s just me,” he said and reached out to grab her shoulder.
Grape pushed him hard in the chest, making him stumble backward. “Don’t touch me. What are you doing here?”
He regained his balance and rubbed his chest where she’d shoved him. “I wanted to see where you lived. That really hurt.”
She slit her eyes at him. “I’m glad it hurt. It was supposed to.”
“That’s not very nice.”

Grape grabbed the lawn chair and held it above her head. “Are you a stalker?”
“No.”
“You’re sneaking around my house at night wearing all black.” She readied herself to swing the lawn chair. It was pretty light and wouldn’t do much damage so she decided to aim for a vulnerable spot—his face.
“No. I just thought… I don’t know. I thought you looked nice.”
“Do I look nice now?” She gave the chair a swing, missing his nose by inches. She hopped back a little and held the chair up high again. He got one warning shot, that was it. The next swing would break his nose.
“I’m sorry. I thought this would be romantic.” He reached into his baggy pants pocket and pulled out an iPod with a little set of speakers attached. “I was going to play a song for you.”
“Totally creepy!”

“No. Really, listen.”

He pressed play and an unholy mix of instruments blasted out in a tinny blare. He shut it off quickly. “Wrong song. One second.”
“Leave.”
He looked up at her with heartbreak in his eyes. “I just need one second.”
“Shoo! Go! Off with you!” She shoved the chair at his chest, driving him backward.
He gave her one last dejected look and walked around the corner of the house toward the street.

Grape rushed back into the house, chair in hand. She locked the door. If Brad didn’t have his key, then he’d just have to knock and risk alerting their mother to his late-night shenanigans. She was not leaving the door unlocked for that boy to break in and serenade her. 

Buy Links:
Are you a book reviewer?  You can find Welcome to Sortilege Falls on Netgalley.

Author Bio:

I was born during a blizzard. I’m told it was pretty cool but I have no memory of that time. I grew up in two tiny towns in Virginia and spent most of my twenties moving around the US. I’ve lived in Virginia, Florida, Missouri, and Washington. I’ve settled down, for now, in Raleigh, North Carolina.
I’m a writer and improviser. I studied acting in college but spent more time rewriting lines than memorizing them. My first play, Fourth Wall, was produced my junior year. Since then, I’ve written several full length plays, one acts, and screenplays. I started writing fiction in my late twenties. Now, I focus mainly on novels but still dabble in theater.
Fun facts about me: There are none. I’m sorry to disappoint you so soon. But, I do love to read, write, and run. My hubby is my favorite person on earth. Dogs are my second favorite. All dogs. I love orange juice, especially when it’s mixed with club soda. Carbonation is better than alcohol. Jaws is my favorite movie. Everything I’ve said so far is true.
Find Libby on the interwebs:

IWSG on Thought Experiments

Hey everyone! Today you won’t be able to find me on the bloggosphere, but I wanted to stop by to welcome the Insecure Writer’s Support Group
Also, thanks to everyone who’ve commented on yesterday’s post. You’re all awesome. 

Thought Experiments
Have you ever engaged in a thought experiment? 
Albert Einstein’s famous Theory of Special Relativity came to be in part because of a thought experiment he conducted when he was a young man.  He imagined what it would be like to chase a light beam.  That act of imagination was the beginning of a revolution in the way we understand our universe.  Imagination is one of the most powerful tools we have at our disposal.
The ten authors featured in the Insecure Writer’s Support Group anthology Parallels: Felix Was Here engaged in a thought experiment of sorts when they sat down to write their submissions.  The task was to write a speculative fiction story that uses an alternate timeline or parallel universe.  That means asking some interesting questions.  If you’re dealing with parallel universes, how does the parallel universe differ from our own?  If you’re dealing with alternate history, what historical event happened differently, and how did the world develop because of that change?
Any writer must harness the power of their imagination when writing their stories.  Though the thought experiments that helped make this anthology possible won’t revolutionize the world of science like Albert Einstein’s thought experiment did, these stories will hopefully entertain readers and make them think about how the world could be different.  That is also a valuable outcome, and one that most writers hope to inspire.
Imagination can change lives.  It can change the world.  If you’re interested in entertaining new possibilities, Parallels: Felix Was Here may have something to offer you.
*     *     *


Parallels: Felix Was Here
An Insecure Writer’s Support Group Anthology
Available Now!
Enter the realm of parallel universes!
What if the government tried to create the perfect utopia? Could a society linked to a supercomputer survive on its own? Do our reflections control secret lives on the other side of the mirror? Can one moment split a person’s world forever?
Exploring the fantastic, ten authors offer incredible visions and captivating tales of diverse reality. Featuring the talents of L. G. Keltner, Crystal Collier, Hart Johnson, Cherie Reich, Sandra Cox, Yolanda Renee, Melanie Schulz, Sylvia Ney, Michael Abayomi, and Tamara Narayan.
Hand-picked by a panel of agents and authors, these ten tales will expand your imagination and twist the tropes of science fiction. Step through the portal and enter another dimension!
Purchase Links:

Anyone else engage in thought experiments? What stories did they inspire? 

A to Z of Things Writers Should Know About Writing: Muse

Okay. Now I’m finally back. Obviously, I’m ridiculously behind, so I’m not really hoping to finish the A to Z Challenge in time.

Someone suggested that I just drop in on today’s letter, but the thing is… I just don’t want to do that. I was really enjoying writing these posts, so it just feels a bit off for me to skip like half the alphabet in an attempt to conform to some sort of arbitrary expectation.

Sorry if I’m sounding like I’m being all faux academic. Really, I’m not. I’m really just pulling words out of the ether as I’m writing this. And the post will go live as soon as I’m done. I know, I know. I wouldn’t even be in this pickle if I’d just scheduled posts ahead but… You know what? I like living on the edge even if I fall off every now and then.

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaanyway.

What I’m going to do is change the name a bit and call my posts for the A to Z Challenge (and Beyond) the A to Z of Things Writers Should Know About Writing and then I’m just going to keep going on my own time until the posts are done.

Maybe, when I’m done, I might decide to start another A to Z series, because I’m enjoying the mental acrobatics involved, but we’ll see. In the meantime:

Today, I’m at M, which in my mind stands for Muse.

No, not the band – although they’re EPIC.

I’m talking about the muse. Your muse. My muse. Different muses.

I used to write about mine (even in passing) much more than I do these days. Mostly, it’s because someone ALWAYS comments that “Muses don’t exist and you should just write”. And although this is sort of true, it’s a bit tiring to keep explaining that I’m not really all airy fairy in my approach to writing. (I think my recent monthly posts on my writing progress might have convinced people of this. But there you go.)

I suspect, from those “Muses don’t exist” comments that not all writers have the same experience as me. Or if they do, they’ve shoved their muse into some faraway corner of their imagination in an effort to simplify their writing process. Which is, of course, just as valid an approach to writing as mine.

This is still important for everyone to know, though, so even if you’re rolling your eyes, shush a moment longer and pay attention.

See, whatever you think, you as a writer need to make sure you have a healthy relationship with your writing. Your muse, if you will.

The way I look at it, my creativity in general and my writing creativity specifically comes from some place other than my writing thought. So I’m a very intuitive writer, I suppose, writing words down literally as they come to me. (Although the words do sometimes come faster than I can write them down.) There is, however, not much along the lines of conscious thought to my writing efforts. Especially when I’m drafting fiction.

So for me, the muse idea works, in the sense of it’s a psychological embodiment of my creative efforts. So to me, it’s not a question of muses existing or not. Mine (both of them) exist because I called them into existence the same way I call my characters into existence. (In fact, one of my muses is one of my characters in my fantasy series.)

However, you might prefer to call a muse your creativity, or your dedication to a story, or your desire to write a story down, or the million little moments of inspiration that go into creating a story. That’s exactly what a muse is.

I just call them my muses because it’s a bit catchier.

Now that I have that sorted, let me get to the important things you should know about muses.

1) Muses are very erratic creatures, so you can’t sit around waiting for them to inspire you to write.
2) Muses can (and will, if you let them) bury you under new ideas. In a sense, that’s their job. Your job is to finish ideas one at a time so you can actually call things done.

That’s pretty much it, really. Muses give you ideas, but they don’t give you the determination or dedication to your story that you’ll need to finish it. You will, however, find that if you show dedication and determination, your muse will be kinder to you.

Not always, mind you. But if you commit to finishing a story until that commitment is part of your process, your muse will give you the inspiration needed to know what you should be writing down.

But read this and absorb it:

Muses don’t make us want to write. 

That comes from our dedication to and love of our story. It took me a while to learn this, which is why I’m putting this bluntly. The sooner you learn this, the sooner you’ll become an efficient writer.

Do you believe in muses? What’s yours like? What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned about your creative process? 

A to Z Challenge: Ideas

Usually, the whole writing journey starts with a single idea. You’re probably going to get that new idea while you’re innocently reading a book or watching a movie. 
Maybe you already have the first beginnings of an idea forming in your mind. That stirring in your soul when you close the book. That thought about: This can’t be the end. What about so-and-so? What will happen to them if something or the other happens? 
And then, the next thing you know, you have an idea. Some people dismiss that idea and open a new book. Some of us, though, are consumed by that idea until we just want to write a few pages to get it out. 
But a few pages isn’t enough. So you write a few more. 
You fall in love with the idea. With the characters. With the sheer joy of exploring your newly created scenario. With the joy of pure creation. 
At this point, my friend, you’re screwed. 
The muse has you hooked, and she’s a cruel cruel mistress. You’ll be grumpy and agitated when you don’t write. And often wracked by fears and doubts as you do. And yet somehow, you’re still simply not happy unless you’re writing. 
And then, as you settle into the routine (you know, the way people who ride a roller coaster again and again eventually can sleep on it.), things become complicated. 
Because while you adore the story you’re working on, a new idea comes to you. 
Now suddenly you have a choice. Most new kids (me included when I was there) let my inspiration and ideas carry me from project to project. But the thing is, it’s a real risk that you’ll end up getting lost in your million new ideas. So lost that you won’t know which one to pick up and which one to let lie. 
That’s when the new kids start crying something along the line of: “Oh I just can’t finish projects!” 
Well… no. You haven’t taught yourself how to see anything through. Trust me on this: your muse is a terrible enabler. She will give you five new ideas for every single one you start. And five for each of those. And so on. 
It’s your job to say: “Thanks muse, but can we please finish this story first?” 
It’s always a choice you’re making, even if you don’t realize it yet. But if you ever want to get done, you need to commit to finishing one thing. Then the next. And the next. 
Or, you might be like me and you’ll learn how to actually work on seven projects at any given time and still finish all of them in a year. 
But that’s a skill I learned first by learning how to finish one book, and then two. So focus on that first. Focus on finishing your stories, or your ideas will remain ideas only. 
Where did your first idea strike you? How soon after that did the second idea hit? 

Interviewing Graeme Ing

Hey all! Misha here. Remember me? Yep. I’m still around. Nope, the shoes haven’t yet caused my demise. I am just incredibly busy at this time, since our first big shipment has arrived and we’re unpacking it.

Still, I’m taking break from all that to host my Untethered Realms buddy Graeme Ing for an interview as part of his blog tour for his newest book.

Welcome to the Five Year Project, Graeme. First things first. Tell us a bit more about yourself.


Thank you for inviting me, Misha. Born in England, I’ve been living in San Diego in the U.S. for 18 years now, with my wife, Tamara, and six cats. I must say that the climate here is very agreeable. I’m a software engineering manager by day, but my passion is writing and exploring. Apart from traveling the world whenever I can, I’m an avid mountaineer (from my armchair!), and student of famous explorers. I dabble in astronomy, piloting, map making and navigation. It should come as no surprise then, that my favourite part of writing is creating exotic worlds and characters. Speculative-fiction is a real passion for me.

Another cat person! (I have five cats.) How did you get into writing originally?


I’ve been scribbling stories since before I was a teenager. I even typed screenplays on a manual typewriter. I blame my mother for introducing me to Tolkien and McCaffrey at an early age! Seems like being a storyteller was my destiny (said in my best Darth Vader voice). It’s a shame that I never did anything with my writing until about eight years ago when I finally decided to pursue being a published author. I’ve got a lot of ground to make up. Thankfully I have hundreds of plot ideas.

Sounds a lot like me, growing up. What inspired you to write Necromancer?

Great question. For years I’d had this idea of a girl wanting to be a necromancer. At the same time, I’d developed this sarcastic character who believed he could defeat anything. His voice was so clear in my head, begging to be written. Since one of my favourite fantasy series are Fritz Leiber’s Lankhmar books, I wanted to design a brooding metropolis that I could write lots of books about. Then, while finishing my first book, I had this idea for a secret society holding the city to ransom. All these pieces slotted together rapidly to become Necromancer, and if you read it then you’ll see how. 🙂 Many of my book ideas come to me in pieces like that. I plan to write more books in this city, some about the characters from Necromancer, and some about totally new characters.

I just love that aspect to writing fantasy, creating a setting that seems to come alive on its own. What’s your favorite thing to focus on in world building?


I love a setting that comes alive! My favourite thing is to draw maps, be they of the Kingdom, the world or even just a city. That’s me – I love maps. What I focus on though is culture. For “Necromancer” for example: Why was the city built here? What is the weather like? That determines the types of buildings they have. Who lives in it, what races? How are they governed? What are the exports and imports of the city? How do people travel? Horses, carts, flying creatures, magic? What do they eat and drink? Do they worship Gods? Every city has low-life and slum areas, so what are they like? What peculiar customs are there, like greeting someone? What laws? And so on. It’s so much fun layering up all this in the context of the story(s) I want to tell. Then I have to resist dumping all this super information into the book, but instead dribble it in bit by bit, adding flavour to my characters and plot. You can see why I say that I “engineer” worlds. 🙂

That’s definitely my focus as well when I do world building. History and culture. I can spend ages exploring my fantasy worlds through stories, but then, I’d probably end up boring my readers. 😉

Now please do tell us what Necromancer is about and where people can find it!


Perhaps I can cheat and include the book’s blurb?

A primeval fiend is loose in the ancient metropolis of Malkandrah, intent on burning it to a wasteland. The city’s leaders stand idly by and the sorcerers that once protected the people are long gone.
Maldren, a young necromancer, is the only person brave enough to stand against the creature. Instead of help from the Masters of his Guild, he is given a new apprentice. Why now, and why a girl? As they unravel the clues to defeating the fiend, they discover a secret society holding the future of the city in its grip. After betrayals and attempts on his life, Maldren has reason to suspect everyone he thought a friend, even the girl.
His last hope lies in an alliance with a depraved and murderous ghost, but how can he trust it? Its sinister past is intertwined in the lives of everyone he holds dear.
Can only evil defeat evil?

It has a host of nasty creatures lurking in and below the streets of the city. Being a Necromancer certainly is a dangerous job! But it’s not all grim – there’s some romance in there too. It’s out from August 23rd on all ebook formats and paperback. Just check your preferred online retailer.

Great! Let’s finish up with something positive. What’s the best piece of writing advice you have for new writers?


Write as often as you can, no matter how little, even 500 words a day. Don’t listen to the naysayers, don’t listen to the myriad of internal fears (all authors have them, you’re not alone), and don’t get dismayed by slow progress, other people’s success or things like marketing. Just write. Write for yourself. Write what you like to read. You can do it. Just keep writing. Good luck, and tell me when your first book comes out!

Thanks so much Graeme! It’s always a blast to chat with you. 

Graeme Ing engineers original fantasy worlds, both YA and adult, but hang around, and you’ll likely read tales of romance, sci-fi, paranormal, cyberpunk, steampunk or any blend of the above.

Born in England in 1965, Graeme moved to San Diego, California in 1996 and lives there still. His career as a software engineer and development manager spans 30 years, mostly in the computer games industry. He is also an armchair mountaineer, astronomer, mapmaker, pilot and general geek. He and his wife, Tamara, share their house with more cats than he can count.


You can find him at: 

Interview with M.J. Fifield

Hi all! Sorry for my very long absence! The good news is that that lucky break I’ve been hoping for seems to have come. But of course, that means that I’m putting in some long hours. (As in I’ve been putting in 18 hour days since Monday.)


But enough of that. Today, I’m welcoming MJ Fifield to my blog, so that we can talk a bit about writing, her new book and everything in between. 


Welcome to my blog, M.J. Why don’t we start off with you telling the readers more about yourself?

Thank you for having me, Misha. I see we’re starting with the tough questions…Let’s see…I live in New Hampshire’s Mount Washington Valley where I work in retail by day and write by night. I’m a semi-avid hiker and biker. I’m starting to become more of a runner, too. (Of course, I was so much NOT a runner before that any amount of running now would make me more of a runner.) I watch too much television and eat too much junk food. I’m also addicted to buying pens, spiral-bound notebooks, and books. So many books. Oh, and swords and daggers. I do have a lot of those, too. I’m also prone to rambling, but that’s probably obvious right now, huh?

Ooh the swords and daggers sound fun, but I’m sure your notebooks interest our readers more. What do you write in them? 

I write story notes, notes about character or possible plot problem solutions—that kind of thing. Dialogue. Lots and lots of dialogue. There are a lot of full scenes, too, as just about every scene I create starts off handwritten in a notebook. I also jot down song lyrics that resonate with me and soundbites from shows that amuse me. And, of course, every notebook has a section devoted to sarcastic work-themed haiku.
Ah yes. I know from reading your blog that you’re a plotter. How do you approach planning out your drafts?

I still consider myself to be relatively new at being a plotter. I have yet to plot out a novel from start to finish, and I’m curious to see what will happen when I do. Effigy wasn’t plotted out at all ahead of time—probably what took me so long to get it to a point where I was happy with it. It wasn’t until I was in Part Two of its sequel, Second Nature, that I really started to plan things out. And because I am a visual learner, I do it on my dining room walls (I have a very understanding significant other) with a combination of index cards and post-it notes. I scribble a one sentence synopsis of each scene (index card), or each proposed scene (post-it note), and stick it on the wall. I move them around like puzzle pieces, adding and subtracting as needed, until I find the order that feels correct. Then I start writing.
Sounds sensible. What inspired you to write Effigy?

When I was probably twelve (maybe thirteen) years old, my mother bought me a trio of books she found in our local bookstore. They were the first three books in a series called The Secret of the Unicorn Queen, about an ordinary teenage girl who’s accidentally transported into a parallel universe filled with magic, swords, and women warriors riding unicorns. It was totally my thing. It still is my thing. Anyway, I loved the premise so much that, in high school, I decided to write my own story about an ordinary teenage girl who’s accidentally transported into a parallel universe filled with magic, swords, and rebels riding unicorns. Many, many moons and many, many incarnations later,Effigy was born. Thanks, mom!


Speaking of Effigy. Want to tell us a bit more about it? Where will we be able to buy it?

Effigy is the first book in the Coileáin Chronicles, a fantasy series which ultimately will tell the story of the three Coileáin sisters and the role each will play in an epic struggle between good and evil. I set out to write a more character-driven fantasy because for me and the books I like to read, character is king. So in addition to the more traditional fantasy elements—magic, sword fights, unicorns (yes, there are unicorns in my novel. Some of them even talk.), etc.—there’s also a good amount of human drama. Effigy’s main character is a young woman named Haleine. She starts off leading this very charmed and happy life, but after one of those cruel twists of which fate is so often fond, she ends up on a much darker path that really leaves her raw by the end of things. And did I mention the sarcastic pegasus?

The novel will be available in both paperback and e-book form. It can be found on Amazon beginning July 22nd, and will eventually make its way to Smashwords, iTunes, and possibly a pair of local independent bookstores in the Mount Washington Valley.
Sounds awesome. What’s your favorite part about Effigy? 

It’s finished?
Seriously, though, I’m not sure this is the right way to answer this question, but it’s true confession time: While I am immensely fond of this entire book—this labor of love over which I’ve been toiling for longer than I care to admit—there are a pair of scenes of which I am particularly proud. (Even though it is probably very uncool to admit such a thing.) They’re emotionally raw (rawer?) scenes that are, I think, an example of me pushing outside of my comfort zone (a very small and cozy, if sarcastic, place) to write them the way they needed to exist for the benefit of the story. Whenever I receive feedback from a beta reader, I usually flip to these scenes first, always hoping to see a note like, “THIS IS THE MOST BRILLIANT THING I’VE EVER READ!” but ultimately just happy when I don’t see something like “MAN, THAT WAS SUPER LAME!” scribbled in the margins.
But, also, I am legitimately thrilled that this book is finally finished. It’s been a long time coming, after all.
Yeah I know exactly what you mean. There are some places that simply come from a deeper place in our hearts. 

Last question: What’s the best piece of writing advice you ever received? 

Well, it probably isn’t the most traditional writing advice ever, but there was an English poet named Philip Sidney who lived from 1554 to 1586. I came across him in high school, and one of his sonnets ended with the line “Fool,” my Muse said to me, “look in thy heart and write.”
And that really resonated with me and has stuck with me ever since. It just seems like a good writing philosophy to have.
As is “Never Give Up, Never Surrender!” from the late 90’s movie Galaxy Quest. 
I apparently never do anything traditionally.
Hahaha awesome advice. Loved having you over, M.J. 

You can find M.J. here: 


Buy Effigy on Amazon

So ladies and gents, how did you get inspired to write what you’re working on at the moment? And how are you doing? Who else thinks the Effigy cover is beautiful?