Weekly Roundup 9-5-18 Name That Character!

Weekly Roundup is an update on what’s going on in my world. Welcome!

Don’t be fooled – naming characters is more difficult than it would seem. Well, I think it should be if you’re doing it right.

Some authors insist on choosing unfortunate, distracting, or uncomplimentary names for their characters, making the story difficult to read or enjoy. You know the ones I mean:

  • a modern-day protagonist with a nineteenth century moniker such as Gladys or Herbert.
  • a sci-fi hero in the far future with a three-part name only a linguist can figure out.
  • a fantasy epic requiring a pronunciation guide for the MC’s (which, I am sorry to say, seldom helps).

I have my own set of “rules” for creating character names which takes additional time, but I believe it’s worth it. The main idea is to make them easy to pronounce, fit the time and place of the story, and match the character’s personality. The last thing I want to do is cause a reader to take a pass on the book because they can’t get past my attempt to be “creative”, cute, or mysterious.

If you think I’m simply being lazy, you may be right! For me, reading serves as entertainment, so I tend to reject books which force me to work hard to understand them – and that includes character names. I suppose I’m missing out on some great literature by being so picky, but life is short and my brain cells deserve a rest when I’m reading.

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This week has been strange as I began saying goodbye to co-workers and cut ties in preparation for my move. I will miss some people of course, but not the job, company, state, or city! I’ve been here almost four years but knew all along it would be temporary. I’m more than ready to get out of Dodge and start fresh in a new place. Moving is a pain, but being closer to my kids makes it worth the trouble.

I finished a crucial chapter of Traitor’s Moon and will spend today editing. It turned out differently than I planned, but I’m very pleased with it. The next chapter features a shifter memorial service, requiring a careful blend of human and paranormal elements to make it convincing. I look forward to the challenge! Word count is now 64,000.

My third grandchild was due on September first, and we are still waiting. The Doctor says everything is fine and my daughter-in-law is feeling good, but tired. Sadly for me, they live 1300 miles away (though the move will bring me 800 miles closer), so I have no idea when I will see the little one. Perhaps next week I’ll have good news to share!

 

Weekly Roundup 8-22-18 Caring About Your Characters

Weekly Roundup is an update on what’s going on in my world. Welcome!

Creating characters readers will love has a downside in that I grow to love them too. They become something like my own children whom I want to see happy and successful. So what’s the problem?

In my current manuscript, Traitor’s Moon, it became evident early on some of the characters would die. I knew I would have to handle it carefully or risk damaging the story arc and alienating my readers. As much as I want all the good guys to live long and prosper and the bad guys to bite the dust, the story demanded an injection of stark realism. Theoretically it sounds easy enough, but I had no idea it would be so emotionally difficult!

The real kicker is that I haven’t even written this part of the book, and yet I’ve already lost sleep and agonized over what I knew I had to do. Mind you, no major MC’s are involved this time, but the loss will still be wrenching. When I’m writing, and my emotions are engaged, I’m fairly confident my readers will be touched in the same way. This is a good thing of course, but it makes for some very uncomfortable moments as the tears fall and I get all choked up.

Is it reasonable, or even normal, to be so passionate about something which isn’t real? These people don’t even exist for heaven’s sake, so why all the fuss?

As a writer who creates characters out of whole cloth, I can tell you I am emotionally invested in their lives and well-being. If it were otherwise, readers wouldn’t be able to identify with them and the story would fall flat. To be quite honest, I often prefer their company over the flesh and blood beings all around me. So when something bad happens to my loved ones, I’m going to grieve and cry without shame, and hope my readers do too.

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  • Current manuscript: I hit a bump in the road this week with chapter seven of Traitor’s Moon. It’s a common occurrence for me to underestimate how many words it will take to get from point A to point B. There were, I thought, just a few quick threads to cover before the highly anticipated attack scene and its aftermath. I was wrong. The story insisted on telling itself, and I had to follow along obediently or lose some great content. Anyway, those few quick threads became the entirety of chapter seven, meaning the aforementioned scenes will now be featured in chapter eight. Word count now stands at 54,000+.
  • Have a look at some of the great reviews I’ve received this week for Expectant Moon!

“Wow. Just wow. This book was wonderfully written, a ton of fun to read, and the plot was great. I seriously haven’t gotten this much enjoyment out of a book in a long time. I read it through kindle unlimited but liked it so much that I’m buying it. I just have to have this for my permanent collection.”

“OMG, what a wonderful amazing imagination in this book!!! I can’t wait to read the second in this series. Amazing twists and turns.”

“Wow, wow, wow. Absolutely took my breath away…amazing, beautiful, delightful, intense, naughty, and I loved every moment. You Rock!”

  • I love hearing what my readers have to say about my books, as it affirms my work and motivates me to keep writing. I can’t tell you how many times I have been discouraged, only to be uplifted by a great review or friendly email. As a rule, I usually only leave reviews if I can give the author four or five stars. If you feel the need to give a book three or less, consider contacting the author directly to share your concerns, instead of leaving a scathing review. Words have great power so be careful!
  • Bumper stickers are rare these days, but everybody seems to have a T-shirt with something on it. Check these out:

“In my defense, I was left unsupervised.”

“Patience is a virtue, It’s just not one of MY virtues.”

“I turn beer into pee. What’s your superpower?”

“No need to repeat yourself, I ignored you just fine the first time.”

“Some days the supply of curse words is insufficient to meet the demand.”

“I thought growing old would take longer.”

“If I was a bird, I know who I’d shit on.”

“Being cremated is my last hope for a smoking hot body.”

Weekly Roundup 8-8-18 Defining Science Fiction – Does it really matter?

Weekly Roundup is an update on what’s going on in my world. Welcome!

Apparently I missed the memo. There is a long-standing argument going on regarding the true meaning of the term Science Fiction. Really? Is there any good reason to be concerned?

A read an article this week which seeks to parse out the true definition of the term and its competitors. Science Fiction vs. Hard Science Fiction vs. SciFi vs. SF vs. Speculative Fiction vs. Fantasy. Whew! I had no idea the concept was so complicated, but only because we’ve made it so ourselves.

I have some sympathy for the Hard Science Fiction argument, which is defined as stories based on actual science and theory. OK, but that certainly narrows the pool of qualified authors for novels of this genre, unless you happen to be a physicist or expert in quantum mechanics. In addition, it severely limits the type and content of stories, leaving us with limited (and rather boring) possibilities.

Let’s face it – our current scientific understanding does not allow for cool elements such as interstellar travel, shields, fancy weapons, teleportation, terraforming, visits to alien worlds, and all those other fun things Science Fiction is known for. If readers turn up their noses because a book isn’t labeled “correctly”, they cheat themselves out of a lot of wonderful imaginative fiction. Life is too short to be worrying about stuff like this.

I have no problem designating my books as Science Fiction, but if you want to call them SciFi, SF, speculative fiction or fantasy, feel free. I say forget the labels, hop on board, and boldly go where no one has gone before!

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  • Current manuscript – Traitor’s Moon is now in chapter six and I’m on the threshold of some really great action and drama! I can’t wait to see how it all turns out and then share it with my readers. Word count is 42,400+.
  • I heard about some family upset this week involving an unfortunate Facebook post by someone who should have known better. If you insist on sharing your views, make sure you aren’t offending the people closest to you. The whole world doesn’t need to know your opinion on every subject.
  • The move is getting closer each day and I will have to start using my writing time to pack and plan. Bummer! Originally, I was to move at the end of this month, but the Labor Day holiday got in the way and now it won’t happen until the end of September. If I could quit my job now and write all day, the book would be finished by then. (Hmmm…clearly an example of speculative fiction…)
  • August 14 marks my one-year anniversary as a published author! More on that next week.

Weekly Roundup 7-11-18 “The Visit” A blast from the past.

Weekly Roundup is an update on what’s going on in my world. Welcome!

I ran across a bunch of stories and poems I wrote during my school days and chose “The Visit” to share with you today. This one was a 10th-grade English class assignment which I have never forgotten. Enjoy!

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The Visit

I never dreamed I would ever see my home again, but here I was twenty years later on my old street, my thoughts enveloped in times past. I rounded the curve and the full view of the old homestead shot out and drew my breath away.

Strolling up the walk to the door, I could almost feel the earth trembling with joy to see a familiar face. I turned and scanned the yard. Up ahead, the brick patio lay still and warped, obviously long in need of repair. Off to the left was my mother’s redbud tree. I recalled when the beautiful pink blossoms would burst into view each spring, bringing needed color to the just-waking earth. The large oaks, still rich in grandeur, which had graced our grounds throughout my childhood, were dropping their first leaves of the season. Many a year I remember raking their leaves into one huge glorious pile, and in a running leap, fall in childish ecstasy into the crinkly softness of the Autumn gifts.

Pausing before the door, I turned the knob and entered the familiar hallway, worn now from a million steps of past tenants. Slowly I closed the door and let my wandering memories once again renew themselves afresh. Stepping lightly into the living room, I could almost see us on Christmas morning, all sitting on the floor, sleepy-eyed and waiting for the signal form Grandma for us to start opening our gifts. “Ready, set, go!” she would say. Paper flew, and the room buzzed with oh’s, ah’s and thank-you’s. Along the bookcase would hang our stockings, stuffed with assorted goodies and fruit. We never had a fireplace to hang them on, but it didn’t matter much to us where we put them, just so long as they were filled.

I moved on through the dining room, kitchen and family room. The long-gone laughter of our young voices seemed to spring from the woodwork and draw from me a yearning to be young once again. Many times I had eaten, played, laughed, and of course cried in these rooms. Left now were only the cloudy remains of our times together, forever embedded in these walls which could not speak.

Slowly, reverently, I climbed the creaky stairs to the bedrooms above. Starting at the far end of the hallway, I opened a door and looked inside. Here was the first room I occupied as a child with my two older brothers. In the corner once stood our old wobbly bunk beds. I always had the top bunk, but in six years I only fell out of it once.

Opening each door seemed to break the seal on the closed reservoir of my memories. Every thought was relished, pondered, and loved, adding to the mounting joy in my heart. At last, I reached my room. As I peered inside from the doorway, every detail once there came to life. Tears mounted and rolled down my quivering cheeks as I began to fade quickly. For the last time, I looked upon the room I had lived, loved, and died in. You see, they only let you come back for forty-eight hours. I had to wait twenty years for my turn. I guess my time is up now…

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My teacher, one of the few nuns I liked, was primarily responsible for encouraging me to write. She really liked this story (I got an A+), saying: “Oh, tis a truly lovely composition. I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s a heart-string tugger.” I’m sure she was just being kind, as it’s hardly an award-winner, but it has a special place in my heart.

My mother was an avid reader, and I must have presented her with everything I wrote, asking for her opinion. Clear as day, I recall her silence as she read the story, only to start crying at the end. What she never knew was how much time I spent as a child feeling unloved and alone. Secretly, I wished I could either run away or die so that my family would realize they loved me after all and would actually tell me so. That never happened, but the reaction I got from my mom was satisfying on some level. Returning home as a ghost in a story was the closest I ever got to sharing my true feelings.

Other things:

Traitor’s Moon – 25,000+ words and ready to start chapter four, which is mostly about Jack and William as they make an important visit to Arizona to retrieve some of Jack’s past.

Had a great idea to use in a future story which came to me out of the blue while I was at work. Of course, I wrote it down right away, and then spent the rest of the day thinking of ways to use it. Good for my books and distracts me from my job!

Finished a great book titled “Raver: The Horsecaller Book 1” by Candace Carrabus. This romantic adventure fantasy is hard to put down. I love an a author with a good imagination! Check it out HERE.

 

 

 

 

Age-Revealing Words!

I ran across an article the other day which reminded me once again of my age – not a pleasant topic of conversation considering my birthday is this week. Here’s a few words and phrases which will reveal your age:

Fuddy Duddy  – Just say “old fart” and you’ll be understood.

Dear John Letter – if you have to explain what a “letter” is, you can forget the “John” part.

Davenport – stick with sofa or couch to be safe.

Long-distance call – Ha! even the word “telephone” is fading, along with “operator” and “collect calls”.

VCR and Videotape – now inhabiting every antique store in the nation.

Little Black Book – hmmm….perhaps check your contacts list.

Wet blanket – I prefer party-pooper myself!

Making Whoopee – “hooking up” or the old standby “having sex” will get the idea across.

See the full article HERE if you need more!

Anyway, the issue, as it relates to my writing, is the challenge of creating believable dialog for characters who come from outside my own age group. Fortunately, I don’t write for children or young adults so most of my word/phrase choices are at least minimally understandable to my readers!

What can I say? I’m a product of my generation, which includes the way I speak and the words I use to communicate. Now don’t repeat this, but I enjoy utilizing uncommon words or phrases when possible to make the text more interesting. If my readers don’t know what something means, it’s easy to look it up and learn something in the process.

It is thought there are at least 250,000 distinct words in the English language, with 171,000 in current use and 47,000 on the obsolete list. What richness to draw from when writing! So, go head, choose a few antiques for your next book, story, or blog entry which no one uses any more. You can educate your readers AND rescue some perfectly good words from the “obsolete” list at the same time! You don’t want to be a party-pooper do you?

 

Reader Roundup 6-20-18. Using the Contact Hypothesis in Fiction.

Reader Roundup is a weekly update on what’s going on in my world. Welcome!

Several factors came together this week from my own experience, my writing, and from society at large. This post is going to be a bit more personal than usual, but it is a subject close to my heart.

Many authors of gay novels make use of the tension between gay and straight as a theme in their stories, as I myself am doing in my current series, Gladstone Shifters. Why? Despite a general increase in acceptance in recent years, the aforesaid tension remains an unfortunate reality in the lives of GSM (Gender and Sexual Minorities) folk everywhere. It’s been present in my life all the way back to grade school and remains an issue today. Mine is not a unique experience, as many of you know exactly what I’m talking about.

Much of the hostility out there is a result of ignorance and fear, along with a lack of personal connections which put a face on the issue. Incredibly, there are a multitude of straight folk who claim not to know one single GSM person, and yet have plenty to say concerning a subject they know nothing about! As we share our stories, there is a familiar thread which binds many of them together – a change in attitude and position came about only after personal relationships developed. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work this way, even among family members, but the concept has been around since the 1950’s.

The Contact Hypothesis, or Intergroup Contact Theory, is often credited to Gordon W. Allport (1954). The premise of Allport’s theory states that under appropriate conditions interpersonal contact is one of the most effective ways to reduce prejudice between majority and minority group members. If one has the opportunity to communicate with others, they are able to understand and appreciate different points of views involving their way of life. As a result of new appreciation and understanding, prejudice should diminish. Allport also claims that prejudice is a direct result of generalizations and oversimplifications made about an entire group of people based on incomplete or mistaken information.

In other words, (and as common sense would tell us), as we build relationships with each other the fear and misinformation can be replaced with acceptance and understanding. Unfortunately, it’s something of a catch-22 trying to overcome the barriers which prevent the relationships in the first place.

Many a gay person, myself included, has been rejected by a neighbor, co-worker, or family member after our orientation was discovered. Being burned this way makes us cautious and less likely to be honest about who we really are. Meanwhile the straight person has no idea they are rubbing elbows every day with GSM folks, and they continue on blindly with their prejudices based on what they already “know”. One remains in ignorance while the other hides in self-protection. We aren’t going to get anywhere this way!

Without mentioning the Contact Hypothesis directly, I will be using the concept in my current manuscript as part of the story. I want to show what is possible under the right circumstances from both perspectives. Is this pie-in-the-sky idealism? Perhaps, but it presents a positive option to the deadlock we often see in modern society, and I really don’t want to dwell on that any more than necessary! For the story, it will provide a bit of drama, solve an immediate problem, and perhaps plant a seed in the minds of my readers.

NOTE: I am not a trained psychologist or make any claims regarding the usefulness of the Intergroup Contact Theory. I wanted to share my thoughts on the subject because they are germane to the story I am working on and dovetail with my own observations and experiences. Take from it what you will!

For more information regarding the Intergroup Contact Theory, click HERE.

Update on Traitor’s Moon: working on chapter 2, word count: 14,000+, three new characters introduced, Jack and William make their reappearance,  Alaska becomes part of the story. I wish I could write faster, but even then it would not be enough for some of my readers! Good things come to those who wait…

Reader Roundup 6-13-18

Reader Roundup is a weekly update on what’s going on in my world. Welcome!

Seems as though everyone and their mother is trying to sell me their book on how to be a successful author. Much of the material I’ve seen is repetitive, common sense stuff with little value. Allow me to share some helpful gems which are worth repeating – and I won’t even charge you for it!

  1. SLEEP. A consistent sleep schedule with 7-8 hours per night is essential to supply your mind and body with the energy and creativity you need. Shortcuts lead to lethargy, sluggish thinking, and a lack of productivity. No more excuses – DO IT!
  2. STOP. Stop writing before you are finished. What?? The best way to jump-start your writing the next day (and avoid writer’s block) is to stop before you complete the section/chapter you are working on. I find it very helpful to leave myself brief notes which include the things I still want to say, giving me grease for the wheels when I come back to it later.
  3. FORGET. Forget about the guilt if you can’t write something every single day! I work full time and often have days of zero writing. There are enough pressures on my time and psyche, so laying a guilt trip on myself is destructive and pointless. Yes, a serious author must remained committed to the task, but there’s no need to beat yourself up in the process.
  4. COLLECT. I’ve mentioned this before, but always be prepared to record ideas when they make themselves known. Just because you are on chapter one doesn’t mean you should ignore a great idea for chapter six or even the end of the book – or subsequent books if you’re doing a series. Write it down, send yourself an email, record it on your phone – whatever works for you. The point is not to let good ideas get away simply because they occur to you at an odd time. Once forgotten, they may remain so!
  5. EDIT. Go over your manuscript with a fine tooth comb, and then hand it off to a team of beta readers. Make corrections and then re-read the thing from start to finish to see what else you and the others have missed. Repeat as often as necessary to produce the cleanest possible product. If you cut corners here, you are shooting yourself in the foot. Readers will forgive occasional mistakes but they will not give your book(s) a second chance if it is riddled with errors.
  6. COVER. You must have an attractive cover if you expect people to seriously consider looking at your book. Even if your writing is top-notch and the manuscript has been carefully edited to within an inch of its life, you have one chance to grab their attention. Spending the time and money to do it right will pay for itself many times over. Remember this – many potential readers will initially see your book cover in a thumbnail size, so make certain it’s clear and eye-catching.
  7. BLURB. Writing a book description, or jacket blurb, is one of the hardest things an author must do. It has to be brief, yet catch and hold the attention of a potential reader within seconds. It ain’t easy! You are competing with hundreds of other books, and readers are looking at the cover, blurb and price to determine if they want to purchase. If you lose them right out of the gate, all your hard work on the manuscript will be for nothing. Personally, I use my beta readers to help me determine if the blurb is doing its job. If not, I write as many as necessary until they give me a thumb’s up.

There are probably a zillion other things I could mention, assuming I’m even aware of them myself, but this is a good start. The next step is marketing, which is a minefield each author must learn to navigate for themselves without losing limbs, and I’m not going to pretend I have it figured out. For now, focus on writing a great story and preparing it for publication, since that in itself is a huge milestone and worth celebrating!

Do you have tips and tricks to share? Comments/questions? Just want to say hello? I would love to hear from you! Click HERE.

***Update on my current manuscript, Traitor’s Moon. I finished chapter one today and am ready to move on to chapter two! This may not seem like such a big deal, but it’s an indication of real progress. I’m eager to write about new characters as well as old friends from book one who have an integral part in the story.

Reader Roundup 5-30-18

Reader Roundup is a weekly update on what’s going on in my world. Welcome!

Current Manuscript: Traitor’s Moon – Gladstone Shifters Book 2

  • Word count: 2086
  • Now writing: chapter one
  • # of new characters: 3 (this number will grow as I write)

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On the sharing of sincerely held opinions:

The news is full of colorful characters from all walks of life who insist on exposing the rest of us to their thoughts. Those who find themselves in the public eye, and therefore command a ready audience, have a greater responsibility to share their views with caution – yet many seem to feel it is their right to smack the rest of us over the head with what they think.

We all have opinions on things, whether it be politics, religion, entertainment or sports. The issue is knowing the correct time & place to share them and when to keep quiet for the sake of peaceful co-existence. Obviously, some folks just don’t get it.

Personally, I avoid sharing my opinions on divisive issues as it relates to my life as an author. I am a  private person, and too much sharing makes me uncomfortable. This is one reason I do not and will not have a Facebook account. Besides, my readers don’t really want to hear what I have to say on current topics, and I prefer not to antagonize or offend them. If at all possible I want them to have a relaxing and enjoyable experience while reading my books.

Does that mean I will avoid all controversial topics? No, it simply means that if I decide to share my personal thoughts and opinions, I may do so using one of my characters and let the reader agree or disagree as they see fit. I get the chance to share a lot of things this way, yet my readers don’t need to know it was “me” and not a made-up character in a story.

Purposely or not, I believe all authors do the same thing. In fact, it would be almost impossible NOT to allow personal thoughts, attitudes and opinions to leak into the narrative while writing fiction. Every one of my books contain snippets of the real me, making the characters and situations I portray more believable. When not using my own experiences, I borrow from the people I have known or read about over the years.

If the story is a good one, the reader is unlikely to stop and wonder if certain elements came directly from the author. In the end, it hardly matters where the inspiration came from for a particular character or situation, as long as it rings true for the reader and conveys what the author intended. This is part of the mystery surrounding each author’s style and storytelling mojo.

So, if you really want to know, feel free to contact me. I may tell you, but then again, I may not…

Reader Roundup 5-23-18

Reader Roundup is a weekly update on what’s going on in my world. Welcome!

Two things have kept me busy this week: promoting Expectant Moon and thinking deep thoughts about BEAR, DRAGON, and CAT shifters.

As to the first, Expectant Moon has been well received so far and garnered ten five-star reviews. This makes me happy! A recent FREE promotion on FreeBooksy resulted in over 2800 downloads. This also makes me happy! Overall sales are not what I was hoping for. This does NOT make me happy! Until I figure out what I’m still doing wrong, I suppose I will have to be satisfied with whatever I can get. There’s a magic formula of “behind the scenes” tricks for selling on Amazon, and I don’t have it figured out yet. I honestly don’t think it’s the books themselves – it’s the cursed marketing which is giving me fits! Like many authors, managing the business side of writing is a time consuming, confusing, and often frustrating endeavor. I didn’t really sign up for this part, but I’m stuck with it now!

On to more pleasant things…

Now, who doesn’t want to think about shifters?? They are so COOL, and lend themselves to really interesting stories! Some of you are wondering why I am spending time on anything other than book 2 in my Gladstone Shifters series. I have been working on the outline and background material, but have not yet started writing the story because other ideas have been popping up in my brain and I cannot ignore them!

I have found it beneficial to stop and record new ideas whenever they reveal themselves. I always carry a small notebook and pen at work for furious scribbling when no one is looking. Often, I get great ideas while in the shower or on my way somewhere in the car. Even dreams have presented new ideas or helped me solve problems with a current manuscript. Sometimes it’s simply an interesting book title or a general idea I might want to use in the future. Other times, I get the entire story line in a flood and have to hurry up and record it  down before I forget.

The bears are on my mind because I am toying with a bear shifter story for either Christmas or Valentines day (you’re going to love it!). I have dragons on the brain right now because of a series of books I have been reading lately. They too will get their own story in the future – probably a series. Recent articles in the news regarding cougars and lynx got me all excited about cat shifters – particularly because they reside right here in the states.

For those readers who are waiting for more Science Fiction books, never fear! I have some great stories on the back burner, and have been adding new ideas all the time. Imagine vast ocean creatures waiting to get their tentacles on the humans who have invaded their planet. Hey – they just want to talk!

 

The World I Like Best

I have always considered reading as a healthy way to escape for a while. One glance at the news gives ample reason to seek a temporary way to stop the real world and enter an imaginary one. Like a pressure valve, it enables me to face the sometimes harsh reality of life by being able to remove myself from it, even if only for a short time.

It was only recently I understood that writing the story serves a similar purpose for me. One of the perks of being an author is the opportunity to let my mind and imagination LIVE within the story I am creating. Even more, I get to influence each event and character to my liking. It satisfies a bone-deep desire to have mastery over something – anything – since real life gives only a fleeting illusion of any sort of control. It also compels me to keep going, since I miss the characters and the lives I’ve designed for them.

Writers, then, are doubly blessed – or cursed, depending on how you look at it. There is something deeply fulfilling about creating an imaginary world which is uniquely mine. The setting, characters, action, and outcome are all mine to fashion, and I relish in crafting a story in which I get the final say. Nothing in real life allows such complete creativity, enabling me to enjoy not only the worlds created by others, but the ones I craft myself. A double blessing indeed.