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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

How I sit down to write my stories - a guest post by Susan Mac Nicol

Today's post was written by guest blogger Susan Mac Nicols, author of recently released Double Alchemy. Of course I LOVE the title! Here is Susan to share a little about her writing process:

Often one of the questions people will ask is me is ‘How do you write- do you have a real idea when you sit down which direction the book is going or do you just type and make it up as you go along?’ The answer to this so far has been the second approach.  I’m not one for plotting in too much detail. I have a few set guidelines I use when I begin and I’ve noted these below.

Characters - I outline about ten lines of the character
·         DOB - Month and year. That way I don’t trip up on their age J
·         Physical appearance - hair, eyes, body shape, anything distinguishing like Cade’s nipple piercing
·         Profession -Cade is an anthropologist
·         Where they work -  geographically and the type of place -museum, office, restaurant etc.
·         Some basic character traits - I actually use star signs to do this so I choose their DOB based on what I think my character is going to be like. Quinn for example was always going to be a Leo both in physical appearance and nature. I had this idea for him being King of the Jungle.
·         If family is going to play an important part in my character’s life, then I’ll jot down a couple of sentences about each of them. Name, sex and a brief description of why they are in the story.

·         My stories usually have the main location in mind when I’m setting the story - for Double Alchemy it was Hampstead Heath in London. Quinn has his house there, the magyckal Sprite pond is there and it’s also where Quinn and Jomo have their office.

·         Other locations I write about arise as and when I need them. The Clapham Common Fairground for example, because I wanted the rather nasty Jeremy found at a local funfair.

·         Scotland was important as Cade is studying the Picts for his dissertation and this is where they originated.

·         I’ll then write about one A4 page of the plot. Very basic details - where they meet, what happens when they do, what I intend happening as they develop, and how the story needs to develop. It’s a very brief skeleton that I use to at least remind me where I want to get to.

Then I sit down with laptop on knee on my couch in the corner of the my lounge, write the first sentence and it all takes on a life of its own and begins to knit together. The characters develop quirks, frailties, strengths and senses of humour, and really become their own people.

It might not work for everyone. I know people who take an inordinate amount of time mapping out their stories using techniques like the Snowflake method.

I do know that for the book series I’m writing, I am going to need to be more organised and structured as writing a series of six books all moving on from one another is a challenge. I bought some story writing software called New Novelist V3 to help me do this and so far I’m pretty impressed with it. It’s very easy to use and as I’m a visual person, this meets my needs.

Susan Mac Nicol was born in Leeds, UK, and left for South Africa when she was eight. She returned to the UK thirty years later and now lives in Essex. Her debut novel Cassandra by Starlight, the first in a trilogy, was published last year by Boroughs Publishing Group in the US. Sue’s latest story, Double Alchemy is her fifth m/m romance.

Sue has written since she was very young, and never thought she would see herself becoming a Romance writer, being a horror/psychological thriller reader all her life. But the Romance genre is now something very close to her heart and she intends continuing the trend.

Sue is a member of the Romance Writers of America and the Romantic Novelists Association here in the UK.

Social Links: Website | Blog | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Pinterest

Here's summary of Double Alchemy:

Powerful yet tormented modern warlock Quinn Fairmont must initiate the silver-eyed Cade Mairston into the world of witchfinders, Withinners, and what can happen when two men fall truly, madly, deeply in love.


In modern London there lurks a warlock, Quinn Fairmont. Dangerous, powerful, tortured, sharing his body with the soul of an ancient Welsh sorcerer, Quinn is never alone—and never wholly himself. He fights against all those who would exploit his kind. He takes pleasure where he can find it.

In the forest of Hampstead Heath, Quinn’s hometown, Cade Mairston appears to him like a waking dream. Lithe, lean and silver-eyed, he evokes feelings in Quinn unlike any other: lust with true affection, immediate and shocking. Cade is clearly more than he seems. And yet, if a man of the world, Cade is innocent. He knows nothing of warlocks, witchfinders or Withinners. He knows nothing of what he is, what he might be, or what he might feel. For him, the story is just beginning. Magyck, peril and passion await.

I'm part of a blog tour arranged by Virtual Writers. You can click the banner to find out more about the tour and to discover other interesting book bloggers. Susan's book can be found here.

Click below for a chance to win an ebook by Susan Mac Nicol.

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Sunday, March 23, 2014

Spring Forward

I hate feeling like I've lost an hour during the spring time adjustment, but I love the energy and growth that spring brings with it. I wish I could say I look forward to spring because I want to go outside and pursue things like hiking or rock climbing but alas, it is not to be.

I like the idea of being an outdoorsy kind of person. 

I can envision myself standing victorious at the top of a mountain, my toned muscles slightly golden (but nowhere near that orange pre-melanoma tan) from my time outdoors. 

I'm breathing deeply and I feel at one with all the creatures of the universe. 

It sounds terrific but the evidence continues to stack up; I hate exercising, as was made clear this morning during a healthy one hour jaunt which was my idea. I have no idea what I was thinking.

This is pathetic but true - the only thing that kept me going was the fact that a cup of coffee and and a bagel awaited me at the bottom of the hill.

The cold and the wind whipping down the arroyo didn't make the walk more pleasant. End of whine.

As usual, the studio of Ink & Alchemy is a hub of activity. As you can see from the first 5 photos in this post, I've recently become smitten with visual journals.  The countertops in my studio are littered with scraps of paper, glue, old books, etc. Sometimes I think making art is really just an excuse to fill one room of the house with as much junk as possible. Old yogurt containers, magazines, a collection of hotel swipe cards, broken computer parts. All very important parts of my creative space.

Unfortunately, I'm just enough of a left-brainer to be driven batshit crazy by too much disorganization and mess so I've been tidying the studio. 

As part of this annoying spring cleaning effort, I've decided to discount all items in my Etsy shop. Enter the code "SPRINGFORWARD" at checkout to receive a 30% discount on any item.

The Don has been hard at work making a few improvements to the studio. I have a new storage area for paper/wood/canvas near the ceiling and brand-new shelves which are already full of delicious art supplies. My artistic support team is pretty incredible. He even did the taxes for Ink & Alchemy today.

I'm still diligently working on my Lifebook 2014 project and enjoying every second of it. I showed a few of the finished projects here and here. You can see everything at a glance in my Flickr portfolio. Here's what I've finished since we last got together:

Setting up a small recording studio has been on my to-do list for quite some time. I've been accumulating equipment and I think I'm almost ready to put it all together and move forward, but to do so required a studio rearrangement that has made an already chaotic space even crazier. I'm still working on this one and will be for some time, I suspect.

In between these various projects, I've always got an art piece or two simmering on the back burner. For me it's nice to move from project to project instead of focusing wholly on one piece from start to finish. For one thing, this is exactly how my mind works - in tiny fragmented bits. Also, moving around give the pieces time to dry (although I've been so impatient lately that I now have a blow dryer permanently installed in the studio) and in many cases, I need some time away from a work to let it percolate before I know what the next step will be.

I'm still writing and I have several drafts that I'd like to bring to fruition in the coming months. I 'm also in the process of hatching a brilliant idea to combine both writing and art. I'm excited!

Peace, paint, & publishing to you!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Drawing hope.

Shawn Van Daele makes dreams come true.

Read the article here.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Jayson James announces his next book.

T.E.D. by Jayson James

From the author of the Finding Our Way series comes a new story. 



Tim is being bullied. No one in high school wants to be known as a tattle-tale and to do so would only make things rougher for him. The repercussions would most likely make him an outcast, and without any friends.

Eric is frustrated with life. His parents are overbearing and if they ever knew the person he really was, they would throw him out of their house. His friends are not much better, they only like him when he is who they expect him to be.

Delsin is gay and ready to come out.  Unfortunately, life at home is on the brink of falling apart with his parents constant fighting. Admitting the truth could bring his whole world crashing down around him.

Each of these three needs to decide whether the risks of being honest about who they are outweighs the importance of being true to themselves. This could mean ruining life as each of them knows it. Maybe it is better to remain miserable in order to play it safe. On the other hand, doing nothing doesn't seem to work either. 

Look for T.E.D. by Jayson James on Amazon. 

And be sure to connect with Jayson James.


Sunday, March 9, 2014

Free comic course

Christina Blanch is leading another free MOOC (massive open online course) about comics—this time with a focus on social issues. It will feature lots of interviews with creators (she knows everyone), and TONS of comic book stores across the country are getting involved, too. Check it out.

Sunday, February 23, 2014


Today's featured artist is Lia Porto.

Lia is based in Argentina and works in mixed media and collage. Her work is informed by nature and takes on organic form.

 Find more about this artist at her website.

The Don and I had much to celebrate during the month of February, so we took an overnight trip to Santa Fe on The Rail Runner. On the drive, we passed some incredible graffiti, most of which I failed to capture by photograph. 

While we were there, we visited SITE Santa Fe for the first time. SITE is a center for contemporary art and is currently housing an exhibit called Feast: Radical Hospitality in Modern Art, which came to them from the University of Chicago SMART Museum. We adore art, but neither of us have much patience for pretension, and we weren't quite sure what to expect. We had a wonderful time. Our tour host was very gracious and in the end, we only wished we'd had a little more time to explore the exhibit.

My past experience with Santa Fe has been limited to the Plaza but this time we stuck to the Railyard district, which was terrific. I loved it so much that I briefly considered pitching a tent on the sidewalk and staying indefinitely. It wouldn't have been terribly difficult to carry out this endeavor since there was an REI conveniently placed near the tracks. In the end, I decided I couldn't live without The Don and came home, although he did offer to come visit me periodically.

We stayed at the Hacienda at Hotel Santa Fe and had dinner at the Amaya restaurant.  

I found my new favorite Flying Star Restaurant.

And we made it home safe and sound.