Magical Words Link Roundup 12-1-2016

Romance is not all Fabio and bodice-rippers, according to Janet Walden-West.

Natania Barron says ‘Penny Dreadful’ is perfect for your 2016 hangover.

Introvert Doodles artist Marzi Wilson has created some spot-on comics that every book lover will understand.

Book lovers and shameless TV bingers can unite with this list of book recommendations inspired by some of the best shows on TV.

Barnes&Noble asks writers, “What is one of your favorite novels in which the characters sucked you into the story?”

If you’re looking for festive ways to show off your geek pride this holiday season, or inspiration for what to get a special nerd in your life, The Portalist has some suggestions.

It’s been a rough year for most of us, so if you need a little dose of happiness, here you go.


Magical Words Link Roundup 11-30-2016

Clockwork Cairo is accepting submissions through the end of this year.

Terry Gilliam’s classic dystopian satire Brazil has only gotten more relevant since it came out. (I love this movie, but right now I’m not sure I can bear to watch. mm)

Need a gift idea for the readers in your life? I like these!

And I also find these repurposed paintings completely adorable.

The very last question Don Maass asked us at the end of the Writer Unboxed UnConference earlier this month, was: How do you want your novel to change the world?

On Nov. 30, NASA’s Cassini mission will begin the ring-grazing final chapter of its career at Saturn, one that will end with the spacecraft’s terminal plunge into the gas giant’s unforgiving atmosphere.

The 10th Annual Roanoke Writer’s Conference will be held in January 2017 and there are still a few spots available.


Magical Words Link Roundup 11-29-2016

Speculative fiction is the literature of change and discovery. But every now and then, a book comes along that changes the rules of science fiction for everybody.

Rose Montague’s Fun With Chapter Titles!

J K Rowling just keeps being cooler and cooler.

Just because October’s gone doesn’t mean we don’t want a good scary read. Here are nine to try.

Wow, talk about being UNturned on

Whether it’s “heroes with hang ups” like the Fantastic Four, or the light and dark Casters in Beautiful Creatures, here are eight fantasy families The Portalist would love to join.

Future Martian colonists, NASA just found you a reservoir with about as much thirst-quenching potential as Lake Superior. Good to know, since we may need it soon.

Our own David B Coe is featured on Beauty in Ruins, talking about his evolution as an author.

And speaking of our own, y’all did hear about Trials? The new book of short stories set in Faith Hunter’s Rogue Mage world? It’s available now!

Quick-Tip Tuesday: Deadlines!

David B. Coe/ D.B. JacksonAs the year winds down, and I start considering all the work I need to get done in the next few weeks, my mind naturally turns to the topic of deadlines. Deadlines are one of the harsh realities of life as a professional writer. We are always working under one deadline or another; often we face several at once, some of them external, some of them self-imposed. I am looking at four looming deadlines right now, one that I established myself, one that is contractual, one for a short story that I promised to a friend [waves at Misty], and another for an anthology to which I’d like to submit another story.

Writing to deadline is something pros do. Ask any writer what he or she feels is a defining characteristic of a professional writer and s/he is bound to mention hitting deadlines. If we can’t hand in work on time, we’re not going to last long in this business.

So what are some secrets for successfully working under deadlines?

1. Treat all deadlines as immutable. No writer wants a reputation for missing deadlines or constantly asking editors for extensions. It makes us look bad. It suggests that we are not able to produce on demand, which is another element of being a professional. But more than that, we don’t want to get bogged down with a project that lingers and lingers, never getting done. This is why I treat my own self-imposed deadlines with the same respect I extend to deadlines imposed by others. When I work on a book that I’m writing on spec — by which I mean a book I’m going to finish and then try to sell to a publisher, as opposed to a book that’s already under contract — I set a deadline for the completion of that novel and I stick to it.

Why? A couple of reasons. First, I don’t want to get in the habit of letting deadlines slide. By treating all of my due dates with the same sense of finality I reinforce a good habit. And second, I set goals for each calendar year. Every deadline I miss makes it harder to meet the next goal on my list. It becomes a self-reinforcing pattern of failure and missed end-points.

2. Keep deadlines realistic. Do you ever watch Chopped on the Food Network? For those who aren’t familiar with the show, it’s a cooking competition in which contestants are given specific ingredients they have to use in a dish that they complete in a set amount of time. My wife and I love it. Invariably, an episode will crop up in which someone tries to make, say, risotto, in ten minutes, despite the fact that risotto ALWAYS takes longer to cook. Invariably, these people get chopped — in other words, they lose.

Writers sometimes do something similar by agreeing to, or giving themselves, unreasonable deadlines. If you write a thousand words a day, chances are you won’t be able to complete a 100,000 word novel in two months. The math doesn’t work. So don’t expect it of yourself, even if it’s a deadline no one but you will ever know about. Don’t set yourself up for failure.

“But,” you say, “what if an editor asks me to make that two month deadline?”

Be honest with her. Tell her that two months won’t work, but you can get it done in three, or three and a half. When it comes down to it, the editor is going to get the book at the same time no matter what. You can only write so fast. Faced with the choice between A) an honest assessment of your writing pace and a book handed in when she expects it, or B) a book promised on an unattainable schedule and then handed in a month late, just about every editor will choose A.

3. Set intermediate goals to keep yourself on pace. I find that it’s not enough for me to know that I have a deadline three months away. I can promise myself that I’ll finish my 100,000 word novel on time, but I need a measuring stick by which to keep track of my progress. And so I set word count goals along the way. I try to have X number of words written by the end of the first month, and X+Y finished at the end of month two.

As I’m making my schedule, I keep in mind that life happens. Each month I’m going to miss a day or two of work. This time of year holidays limit our productivity. Sometime in the summer I’ll be traveling with my family. Certain times of the year tend to be busier than others with conventions, family events, birthdays, etc. I need to consider all of these things.

In other words, when I set my intermediate goals, I keep in mind all the possible delays I might encounter. Again, my goals are to meet the deadline and to avoid setting myself up for failure. So I try to be as realistic with my intermediate measures as I am with the deadline itself.

Deadlines are a reality, but with some forethought, discipline, and honest planning, they shouldn’t be anything we can’t handle.

Keep writing!

Magical Words Link Roundup 11-28-2016

Barnes & Noble highlights five real disasters that writers have used to generate fantastical stories.

Mindy Mymudes talks about when a writer isn’t.

So you’ve been told you need to start a newsletter, but what do your readers want to hear from you? What might be interesting? What do you put in a newsletter at all? Here are a few suggestions.

To those who have said “wait and see” about the results of the election, Cat Rambo says she has seen enough events and phenomena to feel that she is sufficiently prepared to venture an opinion on the results of the election.

Adam-Troy Castro has a thought about awards.

You’d think authors would be happy with fast response times because it means they can submit their stories somewhere else. But it turns out some authors hate a quick no.

Four famous things that famous authors never said. Oops.

Fair winds, Ron Glass.

Crafting A Mystery with Nicole Givens Kurtz

“I really don’t know what I am going to do in terms of what a book is going to be about until I actually start writing it!” Robert B. Parker

This blog post is supposed to be about the craft of mystery writing, because, well, I’m a mystery writer—a futuristic one, but a writer none the less. When on panels at conventions and often at book signings, readers will ask me how to write a mystery. Very much like the legendary Robert B. Parker (author of the famous Spencer for Hire novel series), I often don’t know what I’m going to write about I actually start writing.

Say what?! No outline, Nicole? No preplanning? What kind of author are you?

I’m a mystery writer and as the mystery unfolds for my private inspector, Cybil Lewis, so it does for me. With Silenced: A Cybil Lewis Novel, I didn’t know the culprit or who had “done it,” until, well Cybil did. This type of approach had kept me from subconsciously dropping hints to the reader as I write. There’s nothing more frustrating for mystery lovers (at least for this mystery lover), than to be able to identify the villain or perpetrator before the investigator. It ruins everything.

Now that I’ve explained what I don’t do, allow me to detail what I actually do. Here are four steps I use to craft a mystery.

Step 1: Pick up inspiration from real life

I’m a proud voyeur. Any time I’m waiting (the doctor’s office, my son’s basketball game, a lull in book signings), I watch people interactions. The essence of mysteries are rooted in human nature. Take for example, this opening scene from my novel, Cozened: A Cybil Lewis Novel:
When I crossed the beam and cleared the gigantic regulator, I saw the massive amount of debris first. Scattered across the pavement was a spray of carnage, smeared human and paint, portions of fiberglass, and seared off fingers. Four to be precise. The nails still clean and manicured as they lay like lightly browned sausages in a heap next to one of the arms. The body, for it was hardly a person anymore, lay sprawled amongst the wreckage. People should not be hacked into pieces like minced onions.
It was unnatural.

As I was traveling to Phoenix many years ago, I inched passed an accident scene. The rubbernecking had mired the traffic, so I was able to get more than an eyeful of the debris, the carnage, and the rest my imagination filled in. That snippet of reality grew into that passage that ended up in my novel.

I keep a pocket notebook and as I observe the world around me, I chronicle those segments of reality that eventually become the grounding elements for my fiction.

Step 2: Verisimilitude

Because I write futuristic thrillers set in post-apocalyptic D.C., there must be some verisimilitude amongst the characters and violation (crime) for modern readers to be able to connect and lose themselves into the story. So, while in many ways, Cybil’s wauto (flying car) and pug (lasergun) are different, the motivations are as old and as real as human nature. Despite our greatest technological achievements, who we are as human beings remains ultimately the same (greed, hatred, love, jealousy, etc.).

Step 3: Outline!

Earlier I said I often don’t know where the story is going until I write the story. This subheading isn’t misleading. Once the story is underway, I keep a detailed timeline and outline of what takes place per chapter. This keeps my facts straight. It also helps that Cybil does the same. She keeps detailed notes on her p-drive.

Outlining and keeping a detailed timeline will help you craft a tight story. In addition, it also helps with your edits. You can remember what happened in what chapter and when. This will be a lifesaver!

Step 4: Have Fun!

Writing a mystery is fun. The turns, the twists, and the reveals are opportunities for fun for both you and the reader! It’s even more fun when you can share your writing with others, too.
I adore mysteries, and I read all kinds. I hope you enjoy Cybil Lewis’s futuristic thrillers as much as I do writing them.


Learn More about Cybil Lewis at
Learn More about Nicole Givens Kurtz at
Follow Nicole on Twitter @nicolegkurtz
Follow Nicole on Facebook


Thanksgiving Party Talk!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! I hope you’re all having a peaceful and pleasant day. We gathered our authors today to answer another question: We’re all coming over for dinner! What are you serving us?

R S Belcher
I am a bad-ass soup maker. I would make you my famous Raman super soup. It’s good and my kids love it.

Gail Martin
Funny you should say that. I think I’ll make barbeque, macaroni and cheese, maybe some calico beans…

Melissa Gilbert
Probably spaghetti because you can never go wrong with comfort food.

Edmund Schubert
Tequila. (Oh my, Ed…you just want us all to sleep on your floor, don’t you?)

Misty Massey
I have absolutely no Italian heritage that I know of, but somehow I make great Italian food. So we’ll have chicken piccata, tortellini and steamed broccoli. And maybe a lovely tiramisu later.

Diana Pharaoh Francis
White chicken chile with fresh crusty bread with blackberry pie.

Tamsin Silver
Oh wait, that’s not a food…okay… 😉 (No, and Ed has already got us pretty tipsy from his tequila dinner…)
I’d likely do an appetizer of cocktail shrimp, crescent roll bites with a dill dipping sauce, and some veggies/dip. Entrée would be Hot Lime Tilapia, parmesan rice, asparagus, and a side salad. Desert would likely be hot apple pie with ice cream…and brandy, because: John Hartness.

John Hartness
I’m making you bring pot luck. 🙂