The Holiday Season

For those of you who know me personally, I might seem like a bit of a scrooge.

All right, so I don’t like Christmas songs (excpet Baby, It’s Cold Outside in all it’s many forms) and I don’t like Christmas movies (except for Love, Actually), but I love candy canes, fudge, and all the important things about the holidays. I believe in the religious importance of Christmas and recognize the other religiously significant things going on over the holiday season. I also love the idea of having a time of year where everyone expresses their appreciation for the wonderful people in their lives.

So, as you can see, I’m NOT a scrooge. Not entirely.

And so, in honor of the holiday season, I’m giving YOU the fans, and opportunity to choose the price of the holiday discount for my novella!

The current price is $3.99, so you guys get to choose what that holiday price is going to be! If you want to buy it but don’t want to pay $3.99, this is your chance to pick the price! Just put the price you think my novella should run for the holidays and I shall make a corresponding coupon for each price that is put into the comments! Minimum price, 99 cents.




Steven Moffat, Be My Writing Husband

This is a plea, sort of like those marriage proposals I dream up for David Thewlis and Alan Rickman while I’ve got nothing better to do (not that there is every anything better to do than that).

I was first introduced to the Doctor Who fandom through – what else? – Blink. I’ve heard a lot of others say that this was their first episode, including many people who agree with me that it’s the BEST intro to the show. My experience was a bit special, with a skipping disc and a fire alarm going off at the WORST possible time, not to mention we were watching it in the middle of the night, of course. But from then on, I was fascinated with the episodes written by Moffat.

I fell even further in love with Moffat in the wonderful BBC series Sherlock. I think we all fell in love with a lot of people through Sherlock, and if you haven’t seen it, SHAME ON YOU.

Anyway, I feel like Moffat the Emotional Troll and The Mistress of Dark Emotion could make an excellent writing marriage. So please, Moffat, hear my plea, and write with me!!!

Or at least entertain the notion.



The Art of the Novella

Here’s my recipe for novella writing:

1. Pick people you want your characters to look like. I tend to pick my favorite actors and actresses. Novella’s tend to have a short character list, so have about half a dozen or less to start with. If you need more characters, you can give them names and rudimentary descriptions as needed.

2. Name your characters. I do this more or less randomly, but if I have a few people I think look related, I might decide to give them the same surname. If I’ve got twins (usually the Phelps brothers) I obviously give them the same surname. If I’ve got someone I want to look like Morgan Freeman and someone I want to look like Alan Rickman, they’re probably not going to be related, so they’re probably NOT going to have the same surname. I say probably because I can always make people of different races related by marriage. I could always toy with stuff like that, but I haven’t done it yet (Just add it to my to-do list!).

3. Decide how your characters relate and interact with each other and their surroundings. Who likes who? Is Character X Character P’s uncle, grandfather, teacher? Do they get along? This can get sort of complicated and lead straight into the next step.

4. Decide on the general plot. Remember those plot diagrams you had to do in secondary school? Yeah, make one of those, at least mentally. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It can even change as you go. But it’s best to have some idea where you’re going before you put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard.

5. Make a list of events. Plot points, events… by character, by anything but chronology even if it’s just by how they hit you in the face as they come to you. Getting them all out on paper in a list is important.

6. Make an outline. Take your list and put it in chronological order. I divide it by chapters, putting one or two of these events in each chapter for a novella, three events in a chapter for a novel. With the novels, I put three sub-events in each event, but as my novella chapters are about half the length, I don’t bother. If your chapters will have different viewpoints, think about this when you divide up the chapters. You don’t want to put an event in a chapter where the POV person couldn’t have at least witnessed it.

7. Write! Write from your outline, write scenes that come to you spontaneously… You can always change things to make ideas you have and like fit in later. Writing is the most obvious step of creating a novella, and yet it’s typically the hardest for the writer to do. I tend to keep my novella chapters around 1500 words long, certainly not often shorter. Fifteen to twenty chapters seem to be a good length, but it will depend on your work, what makes the most sense.

8. Edit and revise. Go back and read the manuscript when you’ve finished. Some people do this with each chapter before moving onto the next, some (like me) just do it all at the end, looking for inconsistencies to fix and whatnot. This is especially important for a novella, which is short enough that even a not-so-careful reader can stop inconsistencies. Have a trusted friend or colleague who’s capable of the work edit and give revision ideas. I use Natalie Cannon (you can too! contact her for details!), and then usually pass it along to other friends and family to have them read it for things Natalie might have missed. This usually has to do with believebility. My parents are nurses, for example, and E. M. McBride is studying hospital administration. They know a lot about health and health care that Natalie doesn’t know about and I know a limited amount about. If it’s about sports, I ask my brothers, or my dad. You’d be surprised what people will catch.

Writing A Personal Bio

No matter what path of writing you will take, you will have to write about yourself, whether it’s the bio paragraph about your life as a writer for your query letter or what I’m working on right now: An “About the Author” section to put at the end of an e-book for all your lovely readers.

It can be surprisingly hard to talk about yourself and your accomplishments. I’m going to use this opportunity to test out a few paragraphs and prove how different they can be, and that there are literally no rules when it comes to “About the Author” (because there are rules for query letters, sadly).

Bio 1: Charlotte Blackwood aka Mistress of Dark Emotion is a fearsome new voice in the published writing world.  When she is not writing so epically that it breaks her readers’ heartstrings, she likes re-reading Harry Potter, going over Hunger Games strategies, drafting marriage proposals to David Thewlis and Alan Rickman, and generally being awesome whilst eating fudge. This is her first novella. (NOTE: This is actually written by Natalie Cannon, my friend and lovely editor. It’s in our attempts to come up with my actual bio).

Bio 2: Charlotte Blackwood is a college student, a life-long reader of tragedy, and one of the crazy people who laughs at the end of Oedipus Rex. In her spare time she re-reads Anna Karenina, enjoys a variety of crime shows, and thinks about what she would do if she found a dead body in a variety of situations. This is her first novella.

Bio 3: Charlotte Blackwood is a life-long Tolkien aficionado, a Wheel of Time junkie, and a girl who wishes she had the hand-eye coordination for archery. When she’s not writing, she is catching up on the world of all things film related, looking up medieval naming practices, and saving her pennies for a comic book subscription. This is her first novella.

A few words of wisdom: if you care about ANYONE in the world reading something in your bio, don’t put it there, because anyone in the world could read it. Literally. Also, if you write a bio that sets you up as the ultimate fantasy author but your book is a modern murder mystery, you need to rethink your bio. Make them want to read your book, and remind them about why you’re qualified to write it. It’s okay to be silly, but if you’re a completely serious writer you might not want to include comedy. I have a hard time taking myself too seriously, so I’m probably going to use some sort of meshing of the first two bios, and although I like the third one and everything written in all three are totally true, it doesn’t suit my novella, which is a modern thriller.

Just relax, think about what you would tell a pen-pal in a first letter, or thing’s you’d say to someone you’ve just met over lunch. Describe yourself, describe what you do and even why, but it doesn’t have to be long, it doesn’t have to be scary, and when you read it aloud to friends and family they should say, “Yup, that’s you!”