White houses of Lindos, Rhodes, Greece

Me and Mary Stewart

I read a lot of Mary Stewart books when I was growing up, around the age of twelve. Recently I’ve been re-reading a couple of them, and I’m just now realizing the extent of the influence¬†she had on my writing. She wrote mystery/thrillers with a romantic element, and richly-described, often exotic, locations.

Whether because I just hadn’t experienced as much, or because my imagination was more active and open when I was a teenager, books, movies, and music from that time had a much bigger impact on me than they do now. I’m guessing that’s pretty normal. I knew that Mary Stewart’s books set in Greece (My Brother Michael, The Moonspinners, This Rough Magic) made me really want to visit Greece, which I finally got to do in 2013. I’ve included a couple pictures from that trip. Continue reading Me and Mary Stewart

Plot Decisions

It seems to take me a while to move from scene to scene. I like to be swept along by my story as much as the next person, but I get speed-bumped every time by the question “What next?” I usually have ideas about what could happen, but often they turn out to be impractical for some reason, once I really think them through. Or I get to a decision point and am overwhelmed by the options. What would be the most interesting, most exciting, most character-revealing and plot-thickening path to take? It’s easy to get stuck. So how do I decide what happens next? Continue reading Plot Decisions

On Location: Mali

Map of Mali
Map of Mali, showing the Niger River.

I love to use different locations in my writing. Some are places I’ve been, and some are places I wish I could go. A major location in my current book-in-progress is Mali. Mali is a country in West Africa, whose northern half lies in the Sahara Desert, and is home to the fabled Timbuktu. The Niger River runs through Mali from the south, through the capital city Bamako, up through Timbuktu and then east through the northern city of Gao, then into neighboring Niger. Continue reading On Location: Mali

Cross-Genre Challenge: Action and Fantasy

The series of books I’m working on are solidly in cross-genre territory, which (I hear) is a wild and forbidding place in terms of attracting readers, and in terms of marketing.¬† On the one hand, the books are action/adventure: guns, fights, yachts, and international travel. I do a lot of research to make this stuff as accurate and believable as possible. On the other hand, most of my characters are not human, and the plot is driven by extra-terrestrial concerns. There is magic. In the later part of the series, I plan to have much or even all of the action taking place on non-Earth worlds.

Now, I’m writing these books because this story has captured my imagination for years. I’ve incorporated the things I love, and I love both action and fantasy. Case in point: the two major influences on my imaginary life as a child were Lord of the Rings and Star Wars. To me, this blend of genres is like ice cream and chocolate cake – both delicious on their own, but even better together.

What I’m concerned about is how to write the story so that the genre-crossing is delicious for other people, too. I want to make the blend seem natural, inevitable even, and not jarring and annoying. Not like, say, ice cream and tacos. Continue reading Cross-Genre Challenge: Action and Fantasy

That Sweet Rush

Today I finally finished writing a big scene I’ve been planning, plotting, and starting over for oh… the last month? At least that long. Granted, we did move last weekend, so it hasn’t been the most productive couple of weeks for writing. But I finally made it to the end, after writing all day and part of yesterday, without having any awful realizations. At least twice before I’ve gotten well into the action, after drawing diagrams and everything, only to realize that there’s some terrible flaw in my thinking. Continue reading That Sweet Rush