Monday, September 30, 2013


The folks at MegaCon 2014 have assigned us the spot for the Disenchanted & Co. booth, which will be #81. It's the first booth you'll see as you enter through what I believe is the south Main Entrance, but here's the booth marked on the floorplan map so you can find it:

The booth will feature my signed books, jewelry, artworks, my 1K cards project on display, and other fun items related to my work for purchase, as well as some giveaway and reader events on each day of the con (these are still in the planning stages, but I'll have more details as the date draws closer and we finalize things.) Alaires (aka my kid), my cover artist for My Lord Mayhem, Forget-Me-Knot and the steampunk chibis I've been giving away here and on the writing blog, will also be exhibiting her own art with original works and prints available for purchase. She's also planning to do some live drawings on commission at the con, and since her work is terrific and her rates are quite reasonable I think she'll be in high demand.

Sales for Her Ladyship have been good, and I appreciate everyone who has taken the time to help me spread the word. That said, sales could be better, and at this point the numbers will decide whether or not the Disenchanted & Co. series continues. I've done what I can, and so have the wonderful folks at PocketStar, so now the fate of the series is really in your hands. If you enjoy the books and would like me to keep writing Kit's adventures, please let other readers know about the series. You may think that one person can't make a difference, but you can, as honest reader-to-reader recommendations are still the best advertising in the world.

An update on the hidden embroidery I found inside two quilted pillowcovers I bought last Spring: I successfully (and carefully) recovered both panels, which I'm now making into totes. Here's the first panel, which I framed in velvet-flocked faux chocolate leather:

After I embellish the tote (still working out how I want to do that) I'll post another pic so you can see the finished project.

Finally, about the holiday collaborative project I mentioned at the beginning of September -- I sorted through everything I have for the e-book, and it's already a huge pile of stuff, so size is going to be an issue. Also, time is also becoming a factor; we're already into October and I don't want to distract anyone planning to participate in NaNoWriMo. What I've decided to do this year is just put together what content I have and release it for free as my holiday gift to you. If all goes well with the series, maybe next year we can get together a little earlier and do a group book.

That's all the news for now, but if you have any questions you'd like me to answer, please post them in comments.

Saturday, September 28, 2013


Next week on Disenchanted & Co.:

On Monday I'll have some updates on various projects, including where to find the Disenchanted & Co. booth at MegaCon 2014.

Next Wednesday we'll look at objects as story inspiration, and how you can skew, reinvent and otherwise incorporate the ephemera you love as unique features of your universe.

For some fun on Friday we'll hold the very first giveaway in October for the release of His Lordship Possessed, and I think those of you who are interested in more tales of Toriana might want to stop by.

Until then, have a fabulous weekend.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Character Sketching

As promised, here's another peek inside Her Ladyship's sketchbook:

This was the first sketch I drew of Tom Doyle, Kit's former childhood friend and now chief inspector at Rumsen Main, New Scotland Yard. I think I got Tom's hair and eyes as I see him in my head, but everything else could use some retouching and refining.

I generally don't show anyone my sketches of my characters because I'm not particularly skilled at drawing people, and often my efforts fall short of what I imagine my characters to look like. The reason I'm posting this one is to show you that if that happens, it's okay. For one thing, you can always do another sketch. Also, character visualization tends to be a process, not an instant transfer from your brain to paper (unless you're a gifted artist, and then we all hate you.)

Even when the results turn out not so great, you can still discover things about your character from your failed sketches. This drawing helped me figure out a lot about Tommy; the way he wears his hair, that uncompromising/steely look in his eyes, and the way the self-discipline he learned during his time in the navy shows in his appearance. Sketching Tom helped me discover how precise he is, how often he doesn't allow himself to smile, and a couple dozen other things.

If you want to sketch your characters but you're limited on artistic talent like me, I wrote a post over on the writing blog here on how to use existing images of people and transfer paper to create sketching outlines that may help.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Mapping Your Fiction

When I was a kid I was forever burying things in the backyard and drawing treasure maps to them. I never got tired of playing pirate, and thanks to the ancient Egyptians, National Geographic's articles on archaeological digs, plus all the divers and expeditions endlessly scouring the waters around South Florida for sunken Spanish wrecks, I always had plenty of inspiration for my map-making, too.

Mapping your fiction can be as much fun as making those treasure maps from childhood, and provide valuable insight into your world. You can also map anything, from the floorplan of a single room to an entire planet; there are no rules or boundaries in fictional cartography. Nor do you have to be a professional-level map-maker, and if you can't draw there are plenty of sites online where you can generate maps to print out.

Before we get to the how, let's talk about the two primary types of fiction maps: 1) real-world and 2) imagined world. If you want to map a location that already exists in the real world, your work will be very minimal. Do a map-image search for your location (i.e. map of downtown San Francisco) and print out the one that provides the info you need (street names, landmarks, topography etc.) When I needed to put together a mockup of Toriana for the promotional video, I simply used a silhouette of the U.S. and marked three cities whose names were different in my alternate universe:

This seems like a ridiculously simple map, which it is, but my point in making it was to show readers real-world references to three of the locations most often mentioned in the story. In a case like this, the simpler the map, the better.

The maps I draw as references for myself I most often put on graph paper, like this one:

This is the floorplan of a warehouse from my novel Nightborn, which I drew before I wrote the scene so I could work out the rather complicated choreography of the action that takes place in it. Once I knew where everything was, and how each of my characters would move through the location, it was a very simple scene to write. Mapping out a floorplan can be very valuable that way, as it gives you a real sense of the fictional surroundings your characters must deal with and/or use during any scene.

If your world is invented, you also have to create a map from scratch, which is a bit more work than using a real-world location. You're basically starting with a blank page, but in your mind there exists a concept of your location. The trick is to translate your vision onto paper, like this:

This is a map I drew of my fantasy world of Ravelin. It's nothing fancy, but it gave me the chance to work out where all the cultures and species exist. Because Ravelin's inahbitants are at roughly a medieval-level stage of evolution, their cultures are still fairly isolated from each other, although they're beginning to explore beyond the boundaries of their own lands. Before I could write those stories I needed to map out where everyone originates, name their homelands and work out their cultures (and drawing the map gave me insights into why certain species are more isolated than others, what might bring them together, etc.)

I followed no particular method to making the Ravelin map; I simply drew shapes interesting to me, applied Pangea-like logic (if the world was once all one continent, how would it have split apart over the millenia?) and let the actual shapes of the different continents and islands inspire the names I gave them. I used an Earth-like climate for my world, so the hottest areas of my world are in Tokara, at the center, while the coldest at the north and south ends. I even came up with two cultures descended from ancient outcasts -- political exiles and criminals -- whose societies evolved from their dark origins and the demands of their unpleasant environments.

If you've never mapped anything the prospect of drawing your fictional world can be intimidating, which is why it's best to keep a kid's mindset, and have fun with it. You don't have to show your maps to anyone, either; they can be strictly for your benefit (and your eyes only.)

Map-Making Resources (freeware caution: always scan downloads of free software for bugs before you put them in your hard drive.)

AutoRealm is "a Free GNU mapping software (a "cartographer") that can design maps of castles, cities, dungeons and more. AutoREALM is generally used by Role-playing Game practicants who enjoy doing their own maps. But it could fits the needs of other people. If you are a Role-Playing gamer or else, you are cordially invited to join the AutoREALM community: fellows gathered around a free hobbyist map tool. Originally made by Andrew Gryc (say "grits"), AutoREALM is now Open Source, creating a unique opportunity for the RPG world to mix graphics and computer programming" (OS: Microsoft Windows 95/98/ME/NT/2000/XP; Runs under Wine on Linux systems)

Fracplanet is an "interactive application to generate and view random fractal planets and terrain with oceans, mountains, icecaps and rivers, then export them to POV-Ray format or Blender. Written in C++ using Qt and OpenGL" (OS: unspecified)

Online Fractal Map Generator

Another Online Planet Generator

Google maps with Street View are invaluable to helping map real-world locations, and also allow you to take a visual tour of most any place on the planet.

Sweet Home 3D is "a free interior design application that helps you place your furniture on a house 2D plan, with a 3D preview" (OS: Windows, Mac OS X 10.4 to 10.6, Linux and Solaris)

Monday, September 23, 2013

Winner & New Cover Art

The winner of the Steampunking Anne Stuart giveaway is:

Nikki, who wrote A little evening purse made of beads or a silk shawl with a velvet border

Nikki, when you have a chance please send your full name and ship-to address to so I can get your books and goodies out to you. My thanks to Anne Stuart for the lovely interview and to everyone for joining in.

In a few weeks I'll be posting a new Disenchanted & Co. free e-book, Forget-Me-Knot, which will continue the story of Laurana Walsh and Percival Fenwick from My Lord Mayhem. In the meantime, here's the first look at the cover art, courtesy of Alaires, aka my kid (and if you want to see a larger version, click on the cover):

Sunday, September 22, 2013

That New Feature

On Friday I completely forgot to unveil my new feature here at the blog: Her Ladyship's Cookbook now has her own page here. On it I'll keep an archive of all the recipes I post on Disenchanted & Co., with links to the original posts and a photo of each dish.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Winner & Forthcoming

The correct solution for the Monthly Mystery was ENCHANTED, which everyone guessed correctly, so by random draw the winner is:

Heather Lynne

Heather, when you have a chance please e-mail so I can arrange to send your surprise to you. Thanks to everyone for joining in.

Next week on Disenchanted & Co.:

On Monday I'll announce the winner of the Steampunking Anne Stuart giveaway. If you haven't yet entered that one the deadline is midnight EST on Sunday, September 22nd, so you still have time to take a chance; see giveaway post for more details.

For our Wednesday world-building session we'll be taking a look at the art of cartography, and how making maps can help you find your way around your universe.

To wrap up the week on Friday I'll give you another peek inside Her Ladyship's Sketchbook.

Until then, have a terrific weekend.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Chilly Weather Scones

With the cooler temps of Fall arriving I thought the next recipe I'd share should be one to go well with seasonal dishes. My Chilly Weather Scones combine American and British cooking ideas, so everyone on both sides of the pond should enjoy them. They've also got a nice texture, and just enough tingly heat to warm you up.

I also tweaked the recipe from one I found in a Cooking Light magazine a few years back, so it's got lots of healthy ingredients.

Lynn's Chilly Weather Scones

2 cups all purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons chilled butter, chopped into small pieces

1/3 cup crumbled or minced turkey bacon

3/4 cup light or fat-free sour cream

1/2 cup reduced fat cheddar cheese, shredded

1 tablespoon water

1 tablespoon (about 2) chipolte chiles, finely chopped or minced (I use the kind canned in adobo sauce)

1 large egg

extra flour for hands and board

Cooking spray

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. In a mixing bowl whisk together flour, baking powder and salt; cut in chopped butter pieces with a masher or pastry blender and mix until it resembles coarse meal. Add turkey bacon, sour cream, cheddar shreds, water, chipotle chiles and egg. Stir until all ingredients are blended into a dough.

Flour your hands, roll half the dough into a ball, and place on a lightly-floured board. Pat down your dough ball into a 6" circle. Cut circle into six wedges and transfer with a spatula to a cookie sheet sprayed with your cooking spray. Place the wedges about 1" apart on the sheet. Roll the second half of the dough into a ball and do the same as before.

Bake your scones for twenty minutes or until light gold-brown on top. Serve with your favorite winter soup, stew or salad.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Steampunking Anne Stuart

There are very few writers I consider grandmasters; that sort of storyteller is one who spends a lifetime working at and developing their art. They must also be uniquely gifted, an unwavering lover of the words, and on top of all that a steadfast survivor who never gives up, no matter how tough things get. At the very top of my short list of grandmasters is author Anne Stuart.

The winner of multiple major publishing honors including several RITAs and a much-deserved Lifetime Achievement Award, Anne Stuart has been writing books for close to forty years now. Her bibliography of novels and series in multiple genres is vast and dazzling, including some of the most provocative and talked-about books in romance. She's daring and unapologetic and completely brilliant with characterizations; all together she delivers stories that are genuine, original and simply unforgettable.

Her latest release, Never Kiss a Rake, is the first novel in her Scandal at the House of Russell series. It's set in 1869 London, so it's full of Victorian-era fun, and I enjoyed it so much I bought a boxful of extra copies to hand out to friends. Anne also kindly agreed to be our September author to interview, so let's ask her some questions:

You've just received a round trip time ticket that allows you to jump back through time to spend one day anywhere in the world during any period in history. Where would you like to go, and what would you like to do while you're there?

Well, that one’s not easy. I’m trying to think of something really happy, and I’m going to sound a bit like a fanatic, but I think I’d like to be there when Christ was born. A) I love babies. B) this was an event that changed the world, in good and bad ways, so it must have been really really magical. Plus, if it happened at night, which presumably it did, it wouldn’t be too hot in the desert.

Failing that, I probably would want to see some magnificent live performance. Not Shakespeare in his own time period – you had to stand for the performance and everyone would be smelly. Maybe Alan Rickman in “Les Liaisons Dangereuse” or maybe the first night of “My Fair Lady.” However, if I could go back and change history then I’d kill Hitler with a suicide bomb (probably the only way to get away with it) or some other crazy-ass monster. Of course, then I wouldn’t need my return ticket.

A package mailed during the late 19th century just arrived on your doorstep, and it contains something you've always wanted that dates from the Victorian era. What's in the package?

Hmmm. I have things that date from the Victorian era, because my grandmother dated from then (everyone has babies when they’re old in my family). I can think of a dozen things – ornate jet jewelry, steamer trunks, heavy silver, brass. Love brass – a brass spyglass would make me happy.

We've hired a steampunk inventor who can make any one gadget, appliance or machine you'd like. What should we tell him to get to work on for you?

Well, that’s tricky. My obvious suggestion would be the perfect steampunk outfit. My second choice would be a fully functional android that looks like this:

If you could cast a magic spell to bring two of your characters to life, which pair would you choose, and why these two?

I’m torn. I’d like one of my historical heroes and heroines because they’re just so naughty, but in the end I’d go for Killian and Isobel in ICE STORM, because they went through so much, for so many years, and managed to carve a happy life out of everything. In fact, that’s true for almost all of the ICE characters, so anyone would do. Otherwise I’d take a wicked Rohan and his true love because their wickedness is vastly amusing. They’re not nearly as bad as they think they are.

After living in a cave in Tibet for forty years I really need something wonderful to read, and the first place I'm going to visit is the Anne Stuart book shop. Which of your novels should I buy first?

Depends whether you want light or dark. I’d say go for BLACK ICE. I’d recommend NIGHTFALL, the book that’s so good it cures cancer, but it’s really really dark, and it takes a little while to get past it. If you want a light, fun historical with a wicked hero go for THE DEVIL’S WALTZ or NEVER KISS A RAKE.

Thank you so much, Anne, for letting us steampunk you. To celebrate the release of Never Kiss a Rake and all that is the marvelous Anne Stuart, I've put together this giveaway:

The giveaway consists of:

A trade paperback copy of Anne Stuart's Never Kiss a Rake and paperback copies of her House of Rohan novels Breathless, Reckless, Ruthless and Shameless

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

MochiMochi by Anna Hrachovec

The Secret Me guided journal by Rachel Kempster and Meg Leder

4,000 Years of Uppity Women by Vicki Leon

How to be an Explorer of the World by Keri Smith

The Gimble Traveler

A Smart Person Knows What to Say blank journal

The Fall 2013 issue of Victorian Home magazine

A nifty Spy Pen

A Keep Calm and Carry On notepad

A handquilted tote made by Yours Truly

A print of a chibi version of Bryony Russell, the heroine of Never Kiss a Rake, being drawn by my kid in the giveaway pic (and this deserves a close-up):

If you'd like to win the entire pile, in comments to this post name something you've always wanted from the Victorian era by midnight EST on Sunday, September 22, 2013. I'll draw one name at random from everyone who participates and send the winner all the giveaway books and goodies. This giveaway is open to everyone on the planet so please join in.

(steampunk guy image credit: Mad-makeup)

Monday, September 16, 2013

Monthly Mystery

For the September edition of the monthly mystery I have a word square puzzle for you to solve. There are several different types of word squares, some of which evolved over time into acrostic poetry and even crossword puzzles; the one you're going to wrestle with is a single word made up of the letters you see in the following grid:

Some hints:

It's a nine-letter word (obviously).

It starts with the E in the lower left-hand side of the grid.

All of the letters in the word are connected either horizontally or vertically with the next letter in the word.

List your solution to the word square puzzle in comments to this post by midnight EST on Friday, September 20th, 2013. I'll draw one name at random from everyone who guesses the correct solution and send the winner a surprise (and no, I won't tell you what it is, but my surprises are good ones.) This contest is open to everyone on the planet, so please join in.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Winner & Forthcoming

The winner of Her Ladyship's Hat Box giveaway is:

Jane, who advises Never date a guy whose eyelashes are longer and curler than yours.

Jane, when you have a chance please send your full name and ship-to address to so I can get your book out to you. Thanks to everyone for joining in.

Next week on Disenchanted & Co.:

Start your week with the September edition of our monthly mystery, and take a chance at winning an equally mysterious prize.

For Wednesday's world-building session we'll be steampunking a master storyteller who has been building worlds for more than forty years, and whose amazing books have inspired countless other writers (like me) to push the boundaries.

Finally on Friday I'll have a new recipe to add to Her Ladyship's cookbook, and a new addition to the blog to unveil.

Until then, have a great weekend.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Her Ladyship's Hat Box

Let's open up Her Ladyship's Hat Box and see what's inside for today's giveaway:

Just as I suspected, it's a brand-new trade paperback copy of Never Kiss a Rake, the first novel in author Anne Stuart's new historical romantic suspense series (Her Ladyship was just telling me that she loved it so much she bought extra copies to hand out to her friends.)

If you'd like to win the book, in comments to this post finish this sentence with your own favorite romantic advice: Never________ (example: Never Date a Guy Who Wears More Jewelry Than You) by midnight EST tonight, September 13th, 2013. I'll draw one name at random from everyone who participates and send the winner the unsigned copy of Never Kiss a Rake by Anne Stuart. This giveaway is open to everyone on the planet, so please join in.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Weaving Worlds

During our World-Building Q&A Nightsmusic asked:

I have a lot of trouble incorporating my paranormal story into a 'real world' setting meaning, I have werewolves in Regency/Victorian England (it's on the cusp) and am working on a contemporary as well, but I find myself either losing track of the paranormal in the midst of the real world setting or vice-versa. So how do I keep things balanced without losing my story?

Whenever you use a real-world setting for an otherworldly story you will have to consider how to weave the two together in a logical fashion. Many authors have secret worlds hidden within real worlds where their stories play out (underground cities that no one on the surface realizes exist is a popular option) but I think with some pre-planning and creative application of your various elements you can meld both into one world.

At the very core of your story there should be an explanation as to why no one in your real world knows about your paranormal elements (in the Darkyn series, everything I built in their world was designed to hide them in plain sight. So I worked out first how vampires would be able to exist in our world without being exposed, which led to the development of the two warring societies, the different jardins disguised as real-world businesses and homes, the mortal tresori sworn to protect their immortal masters, the various powers that allowed the Darkyn to operate under the radar or erase memories of anything that would expose them, etc.)

If you don't care to have your paranormal elements hidden, then you have to tweak the real world to accept that the paranormal is normal. For this alternate reality is the best approach; you present basically the same real world with one or a few significant differences that allow for the existence of the paranormal. With the Disenchanted & Co. books I changed one event in history -- who won the War of Independence -- and redeveloped America to remain part of the British Empire, which gave me the room to build in another direction and develop an alternative 19th century society that accepts magic as part of everyday life. If you don't want to reinvent history, then simply have an event that reveals the paranormal as part of your world and build on that. Charlaine Harris did it in her Southern Vampire series by the invention of synthetic blood, which allowed her vampires to come out of the closet and become part of a real-world society (and the struggle for acceptance of that on both the mortal and immortal sides of the equation basically fueled the plot for all the novels in the series.)

Everything in your story (the characters, settings, plot, etc.) should also have some strong tie to your paranormal elements. They don't have to be paranormal themselves but they do have to be involved in some way with those elements. Fourth, one of the "normal" characters in the Toriana books, starts out as Kit's stalker and eventually becomes her ally. From Fourth's point of view, Kit is simply a lady who works in his office building. He admires her, and even when he stops pursuing her that admiration doesn't evaporate. From that point Fourth is regularly involved in Kit's life, but always in the capacity of a Victorian gentlemen who likes her and believes that, like all the women in his time, she needs his protection. No matter how fantastic Kit's situation is, Fourth will always behave like a regular guy -- and in that sense, he represents the normal world (which in turn provides a wonderful foil for all the abnormal things that happen to Kit.)

Look at the hub of your story as well -- does it in some way show the melding of both worlds? Let's say you want to write about werewolves in Victorian England. Your two primary elements -- the paranormal werewolves and the normal Victorian England -- need a strong connection so they interweave. One possible hub could be that the werewolves need to take mortal mates before their kind die out altogether, and have to obtain them via the traditional avenues available in Victorian English society. Your wolves could have their own ton, hold balls, go on hunts, hold duels, etc. just as the mortals do, but with obvious paranormal spins. There would also be ample room for clashes between the normal and paranormal societies (i.e. I won't allow my daughter to marry a beast in gent's clothing!), new alliances (the Queen decides to grant titles to members of the pack who serve in the armed forces, which persuades the existing nobility to incorporate them into society) or even conspiracies (someone assassinates the Prime Minister and makes it look like a werewolf attack.)

Weeding out elements that don't serve the story is important, too. You may have characters or settings that are important to illustrating your period, but if they have absolutely nothing to do with your paranormal elements they'll distract the reader and/or get in your way. So look at whatever you introduce into the story not as to how it informs the reader, but in how it relates to your paranormal theme. It's wonderful to show the Queen knighting someone, but if he's not a werewolf or a werewolf-hater, or in some other way connected to the werewolves, he's not important to your story.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Upcoming at MegaCon

As I've mentioned in the newsletter, Disenchanted & Co. will have a booth at MegaCon 2014, featuring my signed books along with some of my other creations. We're still waiting on the convention folks to give us a booth assignment, but the space has been guaranteed, so we're now locked in.

To give you a sneak preview, here are some pics of what I'm working on for the booth:

Steampunk earrings:

Crazy quilted tote:


Story artifacts (this is my current big project, which I'm hoping to turn into a cashsafe):

My 2012 1K cards project will also be on display at the booth (and not like this):

I may sell some of the cards to help out with my daughter's college tuition; I don't know for sure on that because I'm still dithering over what to do with the entire project. I do promise to quit waffling and make a decision on it soon.

Speaking of my kid, she will also exhibiting her original art at the booth:

Of course I can't expect everyone to make the trip to Orlando for the con, so after the print books release I'll definitely have some pre-con swag bag giveaways here at the blog. There will also be ongoing updates in the newsletter from now until MegaCon rolls around, so if you want more details, sign up over there on the sidebar.

Saturday, September 7, 2013


Next week on Disenchanted & Co.:

On Monday I'll be sharing some photos and insider info on the work I'm doing for the Disenchanted & Co. booth at MegaCon 2014.

This Wednesday I'll answer another question from our World-building Q&A.

On Friday we'll have a look inside Her Ladyship's Hat Box, which has been rattling mysteriously again, and I'll be giving away whatever we find inside.

Until then, have a wonderful weekend.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Her Ladyship's Holiday

At present I'm working on my projects for the winter holidays, and since it will be the first for Disenchanted & Co. I have some neat surprises in store for all of you. One of these involves some unusual Victoriana I've been collecting and scanning all year, which I'll be converting into a free e-book and posting online. I also thought it might be fun if we could collaborate on something like a group project or a writing challenge.

A group project would be something that everyone who visits the blog would be welcome to contribute to, like a collection of our favorite recipes, crafts and/or personal traditions during the holidays. For something like this I'd be happy to collect your submissions, combine them with my own and turn it into a free e-book to distribute online.

For a writing challenge, we could pick a suitable topic (holiday memories, seasonal-themed fiction, etc.) decide on a deadline and then write our own pieces to be posted online. Once our pieces go live, I would then put up a central links list for everyone who participates to send my readers to your sites.

Whatever we might decide to do, my two stipulations are that the contributed content be original (no copyrighted material involved) and that it remain 100% free and accessible by anyone. Naturally everyone who contributes would retain all rights and resale options to their own portion of the project, with the understanding that the entire project itself will always remain free in any form.

Would you be interested in working with me on something like this, and if so, what would be your preference? If you have another, specific idea, what would you like to do? Let me know in comments.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Listing Your World

One of the most effective tools in my world-building process is the keyword list. My keywords are generally nouns or adjectives that define my story in significant ways. When I need to build or invent something in my universe, I'll often make lists of these keywords and study them, take them apart, recombine them and/or use them as prompts.

This kind of wordplay isn't much different from the classic shrink's trick of word association, in which a subject is provided with a prompt word and makes an immediate response with another, which illustrates subconscious correlations that better illustrate the subject's emotional processes. For example, if I prompt you with the word dark, you might come back with an association like light, night, black, knight, or even chocolate (I wonder if that means you're hungry.)

We'll set aside the psych stuff and look at keyword listing as to how it aids a storyteller with forming creative connections, inspiring new directions and defining and deepening knowledge of one's fictional world. To create a keyword list, you need a pen, notepad and your brain. A thesaurus can also be helpful (as long as you don't enslave your imagination to it or become sucked in by the lures of obscure synonyms.) When I work on keyword lists I try to find a quiet spot where I won't be interrupted, because for me this exercise requires some intense focus and thought. Once I've found my corner of solitude, I'll head up my list with a goal word: title, character, setting, or whatever I'm trying to work out and define better for myself.

Let's start with a title keyword list. All of our stories need titles, and often coming up with an original title that fits the world and attracts attention and sounds intriguing can involve weeks if not months of frustration. This is because writers tend to focus on the end result instead of working toward it with keywords. For your story title, you're going to make a list of all the words you can think of that describe not the entire story, but different pieces of it -- those are your keywords. To give you a working example, here is one of my title keyword lists:


I put these together while working on retitling the duology split of Disenchanted & Co. for the e-book releases. From these I reworked the words and create seven possible titles for my editor:

A Lady Cursed
A Nuisance of Curses
Enchanting Kit
Her Ladyship's Curse
Her Ladyship's Secret
Stroke of Dark
Stroke of Night

And once we decided on Her Ladyship's Curse for Part 1, it was even easier to put together this short list for Part 2:

His Lordship Possessed
His Lordship Bespelled
His Lordship Enchanted

Keyword lists can also help you sort out and decide on virtually any story element, from a character name to setting description. The process is the same as the one I used to find my titles; you simply apply it to whatever part of the story you want to tinker on. Quite often when we're writing a story we're too immersed in the world and distracted by the momentum of the events unfolding on the page to pull back and focus on a single aspect that needs work. Writing a word list is much easier than writing story, so it can eliminate a lot of tension and dread. Once the pressure is off and you're relaxed, playing with your keywords can give you a different perspective on your story building materials or even result in some new ideas to fix existing problems.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Journal Complete

This is an update on my watercolored journal project, which turned out so well I wanted to do something special with the cover. To begin with, once I finished painting the pages I let it sit open to dry thoroughly for about a week; this is an important step because any lingering dampness can cause your painted pages to stick together. If there is some residual stickiness, you can try lightly rubbing the surface of the culprit pages with a piece of wax paper.

After a week I applied two coats of white gesso to the outside cover, which neutralized the cover color but didn't prevent the embossed title and byline from showing through, as you can see here. My original intention was to then paint the cover as I had the interior pages, but I didn't want those words showing through the final application of paint. I probably could have applied a couple more coats of gesso to see if that would have helped but given that the outside of a journal is the part that is most often handled I was concerned about cracking and flaking. For this reason I opted to apply paper on top of the gesso first.

The paper I chose is a printed, rolled tissue from Tim Holtz's idea-ology line of products; I liked the dictionary imprints and the look of the paper. It also had a faintly waxy feel to it that I thought might work well as a subtle resist for the watercolors.

The paper was a good choice; it's very thin and flexible and adhered like a dream (and I used a washable-type glue stick which would allow me to get it off fairly easily if I didn't like the results.) I let the journal dry again for 48 hours before I painted the recovered cover with watercolors.

The waxiness of the paper did provide some initial resist for the watercolor, but after a second coat the paint blended well and soaked into the paper (and some of my edges curled up, thanks to the washable glue I'd used, so I had to glue those back down.) The transparency of my watercolors also allowed most of the words printed on the paper to show through, which was a nice effect.

As a final touch I used an awl to punch two holes in the front cover, and added this antique keyplate with two brads:

Now I can begin writing my journal, and I'll probably use a collage approach to adding to the pages. I'll also try some semi-transparent papers like vellum, so that the colors of the pages show through whatever I write on them. Once I have it filled I'll show you how the pages turned out in a future post.

This was a fun experiment, and while it wasn't especially fast I think anyone could make their own watercolored journal for less than five dollars, especially if you shop for your supplies at a dollar store. Some other options for altering the covers could be sewing or gluing fabric, canvas or brown paper to the outside, or using a premade elastic-edged school book cover, which can simply be slipped over the original cover.