Creativity: Supercharge Your Writing, Part I

Creativity: Supercharge Your Writing, Part I

Many years ago I had the good fortune to attend a number of workshops designed to increase creativity. My father taught two of them, and one was with Sidney Parnes, one of the founders of the Creative Problem Solving Institute in Buffalo New York. Through their influence and my own experience, I’m convinced that everyone can increase their creativity. Over the years, I’ve noticed a number of techniques that have been particularly useful for me as a writer.

Write Fast.

When I was in graduate school, I had a wise writing teacher who encouraged us to write as though Death were riding on our tails. To help us generate this feeling, he made us limit the amount of time we had to write. We just wrote full tilt, getting everything out, not worrying about good sentences or bad sentences. We could always go back afterwards and revise all we wanted. The limitation inherent in this approach paradoxically helps ideas flow, bypassing the left-brain and allowing the creative part of your brain to speak.

Brain Storm.

The brainstorming method is based on the idea that quantity yields quality. We often limit ourselves to the first few ideas that come to us, which are often clichés. As my watercolor teacher put it, you don’t find originality until you reach the twentieth idea. An overstatement—but there’s something to it. Here’s the method:

  • Generate as many ideas as you can without judgment or deciding whether they will work. As soon as you apply criticism to ideas, it hinders the flow of them. Brainstorming is like turning on a spigot of hot water. If you apply judgment you mix in cold water and end up with something lukewarm. To release your creativity, ask your, “In what ways might I …” Notice that word “ways.” It asks your brain for lots of ideas, not one or two. Your brain will respond.
  • One outcome of not judging is that a bad idea can often lead to a good idea. Maybe a variation of that bad idea is exactly what you’re looking for.
  • Look at how you might change an element. For years we all ate chocolate chip cookies. Then someone had the brilliant idea of putting chunks in there, and a whole new product was born. In what ways might you apply making something bigger (chips into chunks) or smaller into a scene—a character, a sci-fi technology, etc?

Use Prompt Sheets to explore scenes, characters, and emotions

Over the years I’ve collected a nice set of prompt sheets. Before writing a scene, I fill these out. Generating a multitude of questions, they help me think about scene, character, setting, and plot from a lot of angles. By the time I’m done exploring, the scene is ripe and ready to write. Afterward, I rarely refer to the sheets. I don’t need to. It’s all inside and ready to come out.

Stock the pond.

Julia Cameron, in her fabulous book, The Artist’s Way, encourages artists to regularly go out on artist’s dates. This might be a hike, a trip to a museum, a concert, a play, a poetry reading. The point is that creativity doesn’t occur in a vacuum. We need input and stimulation. We need to see things from new perspectives. If we sit at home staring at our computers all day, we deny ourselves a mother lode of creative energy.


Read, read, read. Many writers even say to read bad writing. Personally, I find that has limited value. And my time is also limited. I say, read the best writing you can. See how other writers render a similar scene as one you’re working on. Look at the ways they artfully portray characters. This doesn’t even have to be a very conscious process though. You brain knows what you’re looking for. You’ll suddenly make parallels and connections, and solutions will come to you. Nothing is more exciting than finding just the right word you’ve been searching for.

Learn where you get your ideas.

I get my best ideas, and solutions I’m looking for, away from the computer. For me it’s usually while walking. For my wife, she’s often in the shower. For her, there’s something about water. Point is, start to notice where and when your ideas come. Build such activities and times into your day.

Keep a notepad on you.

Ideas can be ephemeral. If you don’t write them down, they can be gone within thirty to sixty seconds. That can be devastating when you finally nail just the right line of dialogue. I never go anywhere without a pen and a small notepad in my pocket. Sometimes I’ll stop every few minutes and frantically jot down a word, a phrase, or a sentence.

Keep a journal.

One of the most useful things I’ve done is keep a writing journal. Sometimes I write about my frustration with a particular chapter or character. Sometimes I write about things that are far more personal. Often I’ll brainstorm or work out what direction to take my WIP. Or I’ll pull away from the manuscript file I’m working on and write a scene in the journal. Because anything can go there, I’m free from restraint and let it all hang out. Some of the best writing I’ve done has started in my journal.

Dig deep within your own experience.

The most powerful writing is writing that rings true. If you delve deep into your own loves and hates, your triumphs and disappoints, and yes, your traumas, you will reveal truths about the human experience. When they pick up your work, readers long to resonate with that.

These are just a few of the many tools writers can use to increase creativity. Develop your own. Learn what works for you.

In the words of Jack London, “You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” Hopefully the above techniques will put that club in your hands.

WYNDANO'S CLOAK, by A. R. Silverberry

WYNDANO’S CLOAK, by A. R. Silverberry

THE STREAM, by A. R. Silverberry

THE STREAM, by A. R. Silverberry

Query Rejection: What Now?

A. R. Silverberry, Author of The Stream

A. R. Silverberry, Author of The Stream

Query Rejection: What Now?

You’ve worked hard on your manuscript, writing and rewriting, submitting it to beta readers, then polishing it some more. You’re editor has given it several passes. The manuscript is as good as you can get it, and now you’re ready to try to find an agent. You send out query letters and wait for a response. Flash forward three months. No one has requested your manuscript. Some agents declined by not responding. Others sent a form rejection letter. Still others were kind enough to send a personal rejection.

It hurts. There’s no way around that. But what now?

The above scenario captures my process last fall. My novel seemed ready. I didn’t know how I could improve it. So why did no one bite?

The truth is, you may never know. But let’s look at some possibilities. First, the competition is fierce. Agents are bombarded with one thousand or more queries a year. At those numbers, the chances of getting a manuscript request—much less a deal—are extremely low.

Keep in mind the reasons an agent doesn’t respond favorably to your query. They may be looking for something specific. They may already have a similar kind of story they are representing. They may feel your idea and your writing is good, but that it will be difficult to sell to a publisher.

Another reason for a rejection is that your story may not have adequately engaged the agent or the agent’s assistant. Remember that 1K-plus figure above? They will make a split decision as to whether they want to keep reading. They may not get past your first sentence or your first paragraph, let alone your first page.

Here’s what I did with the rejections I got. First, going into the querying process, I told myself that the worst that can happen is that I’ll self-publish. I did that with my first two novels, and it worked out well. I built an author platform. I’ve got readers who enjoy my writing. So continuing on that road isn’t a bad thing. Adjusting my expectations from the get-go took a lot of the sting out of those rejections.

Next, I looked very closely at the rejection letters that were personal. They were actually quite encouraging. One said my writing was solid. Another said that the concept for the novel was strong. What I take from this is that my query and synopsis weren’t the problem. In fact, there may have been no problem at all. It just might not have been their thing.

But I had a feeling that if I’d really grabbed them by the lapels, I would’ve gotten a different result. So I scrutinized my opening pages. After all, that’s all an agent has, the first five, ten, or twenty pages.

After taking careful stock of the opening—Act I, if you will—I decided to pull the existing chapter one. In it’s place, I wrote three new chapters, and significantly revised the fourth, which previously had been chapter two. Then I went back to my editor, and we polished the new beginning, ironing out all the rough spots, clarifying and tightening the prose.

Is any novel perfect? I don’t believe such an animal exists. (For some reason it does in movies, but that’s another story!) But I believe the rejection process encouraged me to dig deeper and find more to say, to create a stronger set up, to deepen character development and the inner story.

Bottom line? Don’t take rejection as rejection. Take it as an opportunity to improve the story, if you feel you can. I still may not get a positive response from my queries. But I sure feel good about what I’m sending out. Either way, I have a better novel to share with readers, whatever route it comes to them.

Comments welcome, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

WYNDANO'S CLOAK, by A. R. Silverberry

WYNDANO’S CLOAK, by A. R. Silverberry

The Stream, by A. R. Silverberry

THE STREAM, by A. R. Silverberry

Call of Elespen: Keepers of the Wellsprings



Call of Elespen

Call of Elespen

Announcing Call of Elespen, the Epic Conclusion to the Keepers of the Wellsprings Series!

Exciting news! Missy Sheldrake has released Call of Elespen, the fifth and epic conclusion to the Keepers of the Wellsprings series.


A vindictive Sorcerer King with a century-old grudge has spent decades gathering an army obsessed with claiming what their master feels he’s owed. Threatened by his dark dealings and sinister followers, will the Champions of Light succeed in claiming Brindelier’s Wellspring for the Dawn, or will its vast power fall forever into the hands of the unforgiving Dusk?

Make the choice: Dawn, or Dusk, and ally yourself with dragons, fairies, mages, knights, and muses in the epic conclusion to the Keepers of the Wellsprings series.

From Call of Elespen:

“Four offerings claimed. Two left. One, I can easily get. Ceras’lain. The other, Elespen. I don’t know much about that place. Only what I saw from the ship while I escaped from Sunteri. A jungle on either side of a wide river. A city I was forbidden to enter. Forbidden, even though I didn’t even realize it at the time…” -Tib, Dreamstalker, escaped slave

“They know our victory is nearing. They know we’re the Champions of Light. They’d rather keep us here, trapped in their lair, distracted from our quest to restore Brindelier and claim the Wellsprings.” -Flitt, fairy companion to Sir Azi Hammerfel

What reviewers are saying about the Keepers of the Wellsprings series:

“…this book had nice readability and should appeal to a wide range of audiences. Too often fantasy is written far too mature, or too childish. The author does a good job of not talking down to her audience, which leads to this readability range.” Fatho, Amazon Reviewer

“Azaeli is an awesome young lady; one to watch in the role model stakes.” -T.L. Clark, Author

“…an enchanting read from start to finish.” J. Ortiz, Amazon Reviewer

“Epic, Epic, Epic, wow what an incredible book, story and entry to a fantasy realm. This has movie possibilities written all over it. Magnificent writing, adventure with good and evil and some that are in between the two. Dark forces and forces of light. It simply doesn’t get any better.” -Kindle Reviewer

About the Author:

Missy Sheldrake is an author/illustrator who has been conjuring images of fairies in one form or another for as long as she can remember. The wind in the trees and the rich scent of forest earth are her most treasured sources of inspiration, and on most mornings you will find her wandering the wooded paths of her neighborhood, dreaming of the next adventure she hopes to put to the page. She published her first novel, Call of Kythshire, in March of 2015 and intends to keep writing as long as the fairies in her dreams allow it.

Missy Sheldrake, Author of Call of Elespen

Missy Sheldrake, Author of Call of Elespen

Galleries of illustrations and excerpts from the Keepers of the Wellsprings series can be viewed on her website and blog.

Missy can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads, and Pinterest. Her books are available on Amazon.

Read an excerpt from every book in the series, including Call of Elespen, at

The Illuminated Kingdom, by Alina Sayre

The Illuminated Kingdom, by Alina Sayre

The Illuminated Kingdom, by Alina Sayre

The Illuminated Kingdom: The Voyages of the Legend, Book 4

The Illuminated Kingdom, book four of fantasy author Alina Sayre’s masterful series, The Voyages of the Legend, is out! You can win a copy, just see rules below. Meanwhile, more about this middle grade fantasy!


The Vestigia Roi has risen up to retake their home island of Rhynlyr, but all Ellie can think about is rescuing her missing brother, Connor. Guided by a dream of Connor’s whereabouts, Ellie disobeys the Council’s orders and stows away aboard the Legend. But a simple rescue mission quickly goes wrong as Ellie and her friends confront new monsters and old enemies. The crewmembers of the Legend soon find themselves waging a last, desperate battle to save not just Connor or Rhynlyr, but their entire world. As the One Kingdom hangs in the balance, Ellie and the Vestigia Roi must ultimately decide what they are fighting for—and how much they are willing to sacrifice for it.

Advanced praise for The Illuminated Kingdom:

“[An] astounding, imaginative world…” –Readers’ Favorite

Purchase The Illuminated Kingdom:

Amazon purchase link

Goodreads link

Alina Sayre, author of The Illuminated Kingdom

Alina Sayre, author of The Illuminated Kingdom

Author Bio:

Alina Sayre began her literary career chewing on board books and has been in love with words ever since. Now she is the award-winning author of The Voyages of the Legend fantasy series as well as an educator, editor, and speaker. Her first novel, The Illuminator’s Gift, won a silver medal in the Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards and was a finalist in the Shelf Unbound Best Indie Book competition and a semifinalist for the BookLife Prize in Fiction. All four Voyages of the Legend books have received 4- or 5-star reviews from Readers’ Favorite. When she’s not writing, Alina enjoys hiking, crazy socks, and reading under blankets. She does not enjoy algebra or wasabi. When she grows up, she would like to live in a castle with a large library.


Connect with Alina online!



Twitter: @AlinaSayre



E-book Giveaway

Readers, to enter the Giveaway to win a copy of The Illuminated Kingdom, leave a comment on this post! I’ll randomly draw a winner. Rules: Contest ends 9 am, on 11/22. The winner will contact Alina’s directly for a copy of the book. Good luck!


Hall of Heroes, A Fellowship of Fantasy Anthology!

Hall of Heroes

Hall of Heroes

Hall of Heroes, A Fellowship of Fantasy Anthology goes live tomorrow, June 27, including one of my stories, “The Demon Monkeys”! We, the merry scribes of the Fellowship of Fantasy, invite you to help us celebrate. Chat with the authors about the heroes and heroines in their stories, plus enjoy games, door prizes, giveaways, and more! The party is July 1st on Facebook, from 1 – 3 p.m. PST.


Join us here: Launch Party!


Now about Hall of Heroes. Here’s the inside skinny:


Twenty-Seven Thrilling Tales from Amazing Fantasy Authors!

Whether they are unwitting, plucky, or just plain epic, heroes capture the imagination and rescue us from everyday life. With stories set in fantastic, magical realms, gritty urban landscapes, and fairytale kingdoms, our heroes stand fast as defenders of good. Struggling against evil governments, wicked demi-gods, wrathful nature, supernatural con-men, and their own insecurities, each must find the strength to triumph and the will to persevere.

In the second anthology from the Fellowship of Fantasy, twenty-three authors explore the theme of heroes, covering genres ranging from steampunk and fairy tale to urban and Arthurian. These are the heroes you’ve been waiting for.


Enjoy Heroes: A Fellowship of Fantasy Anthology, and join the adventures!


A surprise for fans yearning for more about the world of my first novel: Think of “The Demon Monkeys” as ancient history to Wyndano’s Cloak.


You can find purchase links for the anthology below.


Happy Reading!


Amazon Kindle Edition


Barnes and Noble Nook Edition


Goodreads Link

Coiled Blog Tour

Book marketing is an art, and few understand it or bring more creative energy and imagination to the enterprise than fantasy author, H. L Burke. So when she offered to do a guest a post, I jumped at the chance for her to share a few words on the subject. H. L. is on the Coiled blog tour: a collection of posts celebrating the release of her new YA Mythological Romance from Uncommon Universe Press. Via the links below you will find interviews, informational and entertaining posts about the story behind the story, and of course, sneks. Seven stops on this blog tour contain special Scavenger Hunt Clues, presented by #TheodoretheDragon and #PistachioSnek. More about that below. First, here’s H. L. on book marketing!

Book Marketing


H. L Burke

Honestly, if you asked me the secret to promoting books online I’d say, “Don’t do it.”

Don’t go onto social media to promote. Go and interact, go and be you, but you need to earn your right to sell. Too many writers have a social media presence consisting purely of buy links, reviews, and cover reveals. You’ll find out a lot about where to buy their books, but not necessarily why you should, and definitely not why you should follow them on social media.

If you want to approach social media as an author (to #BeSeen to borrow a theme from Coiled) I suggest three Be’s.


Be Interesting, Be Authentic, and Be Realistic.


Be interesting hits a lot of authors hard because they may not necessarily believe they are interesting. This leads to them parroting links and imitating others just because they don’t know what else to do. After all, there’s nothing shiny about you. People don’t care about you. You aren’t interesting.


Seriously, though, did you write a book?

Is the book interesting? It was interesting enough for you to spend months if not years of your life working on it. Where did that interesting book come from? From you! You produced something interesting. How did you do that if you aren’t at least a little bit interesting?

The thing is, authors are mysterious beings who somehow form coherent novels, when a lot of readers struggle to write emails. Do you do research for your books? Do you keep inspirational images? Do your characters have conversations in your heads?

That’s interesting.


I often suggest writers treat social media like the bonus features on a DVD. Include “making of” and “behind the scenes” content, cut scenes, “cast” interviews. Give sneak peeks of upcoming projects (previews), and let them in on your process.


If you’re shy, let your characters take over. Allow your hero to interact on your Facebook. Have your villain “hijack” your Twitter feed. Have your heroine share images of her favorite weapons on Instagram. My instagram is mostly run by #TheodoretheDragon, a toy dragon who goes on many wonderful adventures which I just photograph and post online.


Another thing to remember is often if it is interesting to you, it will be interesting to your reader. In between projects, talk about things that you find entertaining: books, TV shows, and music that suit the genre, themes, or mood of your book. Share artwork (honestly sourced, of course) related to your books. I’m forever sharing dragon pictures because my readers like dragons. What do your readers like?


Be authentic. Don’t put on a false face for social media. A lot of times this is a defense mechanism, but if you are very uncomfortable doing something or interacting in some ways, stop and find a different approach. Don’t pretend to be something you aren’t (exception, obviously, if you are openly doing the “post as your characters” thing I talked about in the last section).

Also, don’t humble brag (the internet knows about this), and don’t worry about presenting a glistening, perfect facade … or a highbrow literary facade. People hate fake, and it takes a lot less energy in the long run just to be you.

Figure out the tone you feel best represents you. Is it playful? Serious? Snarky? That’s a good place to start.


Be realistic. Consider the hours in a day, your own personality (extroverted or introverted? Better online or in person? Playful or serious?), your honest limitations. Don’t try to do it all. Rather than being spread thin over all the sties, pick ones you feel you can do well—or better yet, enjoy, and just focus on those. Give yourself permission to take time off, save some of your creative energy for writing your next novel.


I’m a big believer in the best marketing being to write books people want to read, so never do anything that stops you from writing. If people read and love your books, they’ll tell other people about them.


Speaking of books people like to read, if you like romantic fantasies, mythological retelling, or books with really big snakes, I think you’ll like Coiled, a fantasy retelling of Eros and Psyche, one of my favorite myths, be sure to check it out and tell your friends!


Thanks so much for sharing your ideas, H. L. You’re truly in an inspiration. Now, about that Scavenger Hunt. Seven stops on this blog tour contain special Scavenger Hunt Clues, presented by #TheodoretheDragon and #PistachioSnek. Look for a photo of either or both of those little guys holding up a note. Each note is part of our secret phrase. When you have all seven pieces of our secret phrase click here and tell us. All correct entries will be put into a random drawing for a signed paperback of Coiled. The winner will be drawn at our Facebook party on June 23rd.

Blog Tour Dates:

June 5 – Liz Delton, Author Interview (scavenger hunt)
June 7 – Monsters, Misfits, Mushy Stuff Guest Blog (scavenger hunt)
June 8 – Brianna Merritt, Book Spotlight
June 10 – Rebekah Gyger, Greek Gods Guest Blog (scavenger hunt)
June 12 – A. R. Silverberry, Guest Blog (scavenger hunt)
June 13 – Heather Hayden, Author Interview (scavenger hunt)
June 14 – Lea Doue, Author Interview
June 15 – Alyson, Author Interview (scavenger hunt)
June 20 – Jebraun Clifford, Guest Blog
June 22 – Laura Pol, Author Interview (scavenger hunt)
June 23 – Olivia Fisher, Book Spotlight

Coiled, by H. L. Burke

Coiled, by H. L. Burke

About Coiled

A healing touch. A hideous face. A looming curse.

As the ugly twin to a perfect sister, Princess Laidra lives her life in the shadows—until her parents offer her as bait for a giant serpent.

Her escape attempt leaves her shipwrecked on a secluded island with only one inhabitant: Prince Calen, who lives under a curse. If anyone looks upon him, he turns into a giant serpent. Speaking to him in the darkness, Laidra sees past the monster to Calen’s lonely soul, and she determines to free him from the magic’s hold.

But if Laidra can’t break the curse in time, Calen will become a mindless creature of scales and fangs forever.

Buy Links
Buy on Amazon

Buy on Kobo, Nook, and iBooks

About H. L. Burke:

Born in a small town in north central Oregon, H. L. Burke spent most of her childhood around trees and farm animals and was always accompanied by a book. Growing up with epic heroes from Middle Earth and Narnia keeping her company, she also became an incurable romantic.

An addictive personality, she jumped from one fandom to another, being at times completely obsessed with various books, movies, or television series (Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and Star Trek all took their turns), but she has grown to be what she considers a well-rounded connoisseur of geek culture.

Married to her high school crush who is now a US Marine, she has moved multiple times in her adult life but believes that home is wherever her husband, two daughters, and pets are.

Follow her personal blog at

Connect with the author:
on Facebook:

on Twitter:

on Instagram:

at her website






April 10 (12 AM)- April 13 (12 AM), 2017, my friends and I at the Fantasy Sci-Fi Network will be celebrating Drop Everything and Read Day. It’s a wonderful reminder to make reading a priority. That’s why we’re hosting an online author event, book sale, and contest with great prizes!  I’ll be doing my author chat at 9:30 AM PST. Rafflecopter, for the contest is below, along with event links.

DEAR programs are held on April 12th in honor of Beverly Cleary’s birthday, since she first wrote about D.E.A.R. in Ramona Quimby, Age 8 (pages 40-41). Inspired by letters from readers sharing their enthusiasm for the D.E.A.R. activities implemented in their schools, Mrs. Cleary decided to give the same experience to Ramona and her classmates. As D.E.A.R. has grown in popularity and scope, the program has expanded to span the entire month of April—offering classrooms and communities additional time to celebrate!

Let’s not stop there. Drop Everything and Read throughout the year. Make reading a regular part of your routine—on your own, with classmates, parents, or friends. So pledge to drop what you’re doing and read a good book.

Organizations, libraries, schools, or bookstores can participate by hosting a Drop Everything and Read event during the month of April. As an individual, you can participate by attending an event in your community or by reading at home with your children, siblings, or friends. Find lots of great DEAR resources on the D.E.A.R. website.


A. R. Silverberry

FSFNet Event Info and Sale Here!

4/12 Chat with the Authors Here!

a Rafflecopter giveaway



Three Collections for Christmas!

Three groups of authors have banded together to put together three awesome Fantasy Story Collections, and now we’re bringing them to you with a chance for you to win paperback copies as well as a $30 Amazon Shopping Spree!
Read on to find out more about the anthologies and enter the giveaway! 



The Anthologies:


From the Stories of Old


In this international collection, new life is given to fairy tales, both classic and obscure.
Mythical creatures put the fairy in Fairy Tale. Mermaids, selkies, and ocean guardians experience the best and worst of humanity; sisters encounter an unusually friendly bear; a brave bride meets a silly goose; and a spinner of gold sets the record straight.
Urban fantasies modernize classics: a Frenchman learns the truth about magic, his past, and his girlfriend; a girl sets out to find love but receives a curse; and today’s naughty list makes Old Saint Nick not-so-jolly.
New worlds bring a fresh sense of wonder! In the future, a young woman fights for her people and herself; a bastard son finds acceptance in a world ruled by women; and a farmer’s wits win the heart of a frosty king.
Discover unexpected twists on old favorites, and fall in love with new tales and worlds to explore!

Fantastic Creatures

Here be dragons … and selkies and griffins and maybe even a mermaid or two. 

Twenty fantasy authors band together to bring you a collection of thrilling tales and magical monsters. Do you like to slay dragons? Or befriend them? Do you prefer to meet cephalopods as gigantic kraken or adorable tree octopuses?
Each story focuses around a fantastic creature from folklore or mythology, and they range from light and playful tales for the whole family to darker stories that may make you wish to leave the lights on. These stories carry the Fellowship of Fantasy seal of approval. While our monsters may be horrifying, you won’t stumble into graphic sex and constant swearing.
Perfect for the fantasy lover who can’t get enough of mythical beasts.

Steampunk Fairy Tales


A toyshop owner builds a set of magic clockwork dolls that delight a factory town. A three-inch tall samurai faces a giant iron ogre with only a sewing needle and a coin. A scientist seeks an antidote to his formula gone wrong, with the help of his partner’s beautiful daughter. All of these stories and more are included in Steampunk Fairy Tales. Written by authors from three different continents, every enchanting tale combines the futuristic Victorian concept of steam and fashion with memorable stories, from the recognizable “Jack and the Beanstalk”, to other popular and unfamiliar works from Germany, France, Italy and Japan. With steam driven gadgets such as mechanical goggles, hoverboards, and an orchestra of automatons. Steampunk Fairy Tales is a charming and unique collection of works for current lovers of the genre, and those just diving in.

Download Volume One for FREE
Purchase Volume Two for 99 cents!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Santa Dragon’s Holiday Contest!

Santa Dragon's Holiday Extravaganza!

Chestnuts are roasting; hot cider is filling the house with allspice, cloves, and cinnamon; gingerbread cookies are turning golden in the oven; and the merry scribes of the Fellowship of Fantasy are ringing in the season with Santa Dragon’s Holiday Extravaganza, 24 days, 24 prizes, and oodles of fun! Each day, enter a new contest and meet a new author. The contest runs December 1st to December 24th. Go the Fellowship of Fantasy Facebook Page to find your stop of the day.


I’ll be hosting my contest on December 4th. I’ll be giving away a signed, first edition of Wyndano’s Cloak. This beautiful hardback book is a keepsake you or a child will treasure! The prize can only be sent within the US. If you win and you live outside the US, I will gift eBook copies of my award-winning novels, Wyndano’s Cloak and The Stream via Amazon or Barnes and Noble. Here’s how to enter:

  • Go to my Facebook Page
  • Like it if you haven’t already done so!
  • Like and share the post about this contest
  • Leave a comment that completes the following sentence:
    • What I most love about fantasy fiction is…
  • Sign up for my Newsletter
  • If you’ve already signed up for my Newsletter, follow me on Twitter and leave your handle in the same comment above.
  • If you already follow me on Twitter then you’re a loyal fan, but leave your handle in the comment section anyway.
  • If you win, I’ll need your email, so DM now your email via this Facebook page.
  • The winner will be selected December 26th.
  • If must must must have a copy of that hardback and don’t happen to be the winner, or you live outside the US, all is not lost. Simply go to my home page, scroll down, and complete the PayPal form. I’ll send you the book lickety split, and can personalize it as a gift in time for the holidays! (For international orders, contact me directly.)

That’s it! Good luck, and let’s talk FANTASY FICTION!

Santa Dragon Holiday Extravaganza

Linda Gray Sexton: Author Interview

Linda Gray Sexton, author of Bespotted

Linda Gray Sexton, author of Bespotted

I’m honored to have Linda Gray Sexton join us today. Linda is the daughter of the Pulitzer-Prize winning poet, Anne Sexton. She’s an accomplished wordsmith in her own right, penning four novels—Rituals, Mirror Images, Points of Light and Private Acts—and three memoirs. Her first, Searching for Mercy Street: My Journey Back to My Mother, Anne Sexton, was named a New York Times Notable Book of the Year and was optioned by Miramax Films. Half in Love: Surviving the Legacy of Suicide, takes a hard look at her struggle with her own mental illness and the legacy left to her by her mother and her mother’s family. Join me now as Linda delves into her life and her work.


From novels to memoirs, your books cover a startling range. How has your writing evolved over the years?


I have loved moving from genre to genre as I have evolved as a writer. I began with poetry in my early adolescent years, working with my mother in her writing room, critiquing both her poems and mine. I guess that was natural enough, considering that she had written two published collections of poetry before she won the Pulitzer Prize. However, when I became older, she warned me that writing poetry might bring me pain in the end: “Don’t be a writer, Linda” she said. “I will follow you around like an old gray ghost.”


After her suicide, I tackled a book her publisher suggested: a volume of her letters with narrative interspliced, so that it would become something of a biography at a time when no biography had yet been written. It was emotionally difficult to explore and write about my mother’s life in detail immediately following her death, but as her literary executor I was determined to make sure it was available for her many curious readers, who wrote to me often inquiring about the depths and facts of her life. Anne Sexton: A Self-Portrait in Letters gave them the taste they craved as they waited for a complete accounting of her life, which did not happen for many years.


My mother was right, of course, about following me around like an old gray ghost. When I first began writing and then submitting my poems, while simultaneously writing Self-Portrait, they were rejected; I was compared, as she anticipated I would be, to her genius as a wordsmith. I knew I should switch, and so, when I was twenty-one, I wrote a non-fiction book about my personal life—that which my mother and I had often focused in our work together. Between Two Worlds: Young Women In Crisis examined the difficulties young women of my generation were experiencing in the early ’80’s, difficulties in balancing career, marriage and family—despite what feminism had taught us and in which we had believed so fervently.


After that, I moved over to fiction, which, besides poetry, was my favorite genre to read. How many hours I spent hunched over Flaubert, Updike, Oates, and so many other accomplished novelists. I developed a passion for the form and just didn’t move away from it for many years, publishing Rituals, Mirror Images, Points of Light, and Private Acts over the course of the next decade.


But then something devastating occurred: the rejection of my two next novels. I did not think I would recover as a writer and found it difficult to move onward with any book at all. But, at last, an idea burst from the deep well that all writers tap for their creativity: I began work on a memoir. Searching for Mercy Street: My Journey Back To My Mother, Anne Sexton was my passion, though I had never before dreamed of writing a memoir. The book was about forgiveness, written quite candidly about my life with my mother. To my surprise, it garnered wonderful reviews and that encouraged me to go onward to another memoir, Half In Love: Surviving The Legacy Of Suicide. Enduring a deep and dark depression, resulting from a bipolar break and a painful divorce, the book took some ten years to write, but with determination and hard work, it was eventually published in 2011.


Then my life took an upswing. I discovered I was able to write about the positive aspects of my childhood—specifically, the joy Dalmatians had brought our entire family, (from the past of childhood through to my adulthood), as true therapy dogs for those of us who needed unconditional love and encouragement. This memoir, Bespotted: My Family’s Love Affair With Thirty-Eight Dalmatians, was published in 2014.


Currently, I am working on another novel, one which is very different from those earlier books, which were about family mysteries and secrets. This one is psychological suspense, a genre I’ve always wanted to investigate, as I also love to read books like this. I am still in the middle of rewriting, but I hope to have my agent take it out to publishers fairly soon.


Having begun writing in 1965, at eleven years old, and still pursuing my craft now, at sixth-three, I do indeed love the art of writing—whatever genre it may take. Poetry, fiction and creative non-fiction all bring me joy and fascination. Writers must be readers, and I have been both for all my life.


You describe the legacy of suicide in your book, Half in Love. How much did the writing of the book provide catharsis versus raising demons?


For me, a book about my family or me does not provide catharsis because the catharsis must already be complete before I begin to write. Otherwise the memoir that results is too much like a diary or journal, whose sole purpose is to vent and, perhaps, only to begin to understand what has happened, or is still happening, to the writer. For me, I must fully understand events and emotions before I begin to write. Otherwise I cannot put them down on the page with candor, self-reflection and the acquired wisdom that may eventually comfort others and bring them to new revelations about themselves. Half in Love helped those who were suffering from depression and thoughts of suicide, as well as family members trying to deal with their disease, because it accurately described the process in a reflective manner, and then offered the hope that I eventually found. When I was in the middle of writing it, if all I had been able to achieve was catharsis, I don’t think I could have offered the help that came with distance from the subject.


What advice would you give to people living under the shadow of suicide?


The best advice I can give is that offered in two of my blogs, published as “newsletters,” which go into intricate detail about the “shadow” of suicide and depression—from both the family’s and the affected person’s point of view. I have been in both places and have a lot to say about them. When National Suicide Prevention Month rolled around this year, I wrote two pieces about the subjects, and received a lot of e-mail from people who found them helpful and inspiring. You can read them on my website, at these two links: First: “Waking Up To Suicide.” And then “Steps To Fighting the Darkness. Read them in the order I’ve listed so that they make sense.


In writing a memoir, I would struggle with the feeling I was violating the memory and privacy of loved ones. I wonder if you encountered that, and if so how you contended with it?


This is always a problem a memoirist wrestles with: how much do you tell, how much do you withhold, how often do you ask those still alive if they approve of what you’ve written.


I basically feel that my memories are my own. I don’t represent them to be factual or an exact truth. A memoir is not a biographer, written by an impartial observer. I like to use the metaphor that a remembered event is often totally recalled differently, even when two people have experienced the same thing. It is as if they have entered the same room, but through two different doors, and thus have a different perspective on what they see.


And so, I only rarely ask those still living what they think of my interpretation of the past. For them, that past is always seen through the lens of their own memories, and so we can disagree and arguments can result. I do offer my galleys to family members who might be surprised about what I have written, as a way of making them feel included in the process, but I never promise to change anything as a result of their opinion. On the other hand, if something they want changed is minor and doesn’t affect my interpretation or recall of an event, I will respect their wishes.


In terms of memories of those who are no longer with us—what memories are there to violate? The memories presented are totally your own and those family members aren’t around to read them. If I have presented such a person fully, with as much candor and honesty as I can muster—keeping away scrupulously from “venting” over past events—then I can feel good about what I am writing. It’s all a question of making sure you are as true to people and situations as you can be—but knowing from the outset that this will be your presentation of all that is past.


Tell us about Searching for Mercy Street and what the title refers to.


Searching for Mercy Street is about my journey back to my mother, and how I forgave her as a parent for her suicide, for her difficulties with her motherhood and for my troubled childhood. It is a memoir about forgiving whomever you have to forgive in your life. It was a hard book to write, but forgiveness was a more difficult emotion to come to in my life. It took me from the time of her suicide to the point shortly before I wrote the book to achieve it.


The title refers to one of her poems, 45 Mercy Street, in which she is looking for “Mercy Street,” a place from her past, and one to which she wants to return, using the metaphor of a house, number 45, on the street named “Mercy.” She is looking for mercy, as well as desiring to experience mercy. The last words of Searching For Mercy Street are:


“Mother, are you listening? Twenty years have passed since you confided that dream to me. I am still the gatekeeper, and I bring you good news. The spirit of the poems does go on past both of us—and many will be remembered in one hundred years.


Mother, I read your words and turn the corner. Here, at last, is Mercy Street.”


You wrote Between Two Worlds: Young Women in Crisis in 1979. How do you see the women coming of age today?


Well, it is a very different generation than mine was. I often hear that young women today don’t identify with feminism at all, and that the young men with whom they may eventually have relationships or even marry, don’t approve of its agendas. In fact, for many in the US today, feminism is a dirty word. This makes me very sad. So much of what we fought for and achieved back in the 60’s and 70’s is now forgotten and taken for granted. There are so many freedoms we all enjoy that were won from a cause well-fought: paid maternity leave for both men and women; some day care centers at your place of employment; pay that quite often equals that of male counterparts, or which is close to that; a reduction in the glass ceiling; opportunities to rise without barriers in a chosen field; laws about sexual harassment. Often, young men view feminists as strident women who are trying to destroy the traditional family, even though there are many self-employed and happy stay-at-home Dads doing a great job. I don’t mean to criticize, but I wish there could be an acknowledgment and some gratitude for everything earlier feminism brought this generation of women. And there is still much work to be done. Who is going to do it? The new generation must. I know I’m going out on a big limb here!


Tell us about Self-Portrait:


Self-Portrait is essentially a biography of my mother, told through her letters. I spent several years going through her archives, looking for the best correspondences and the best memorabilia, all of which would tell the story of her life in an informal manner. Interspersed between the letters is the narrative I wrote to make clear the relationships between the writers, the events that are occurring, or those that have occurred, in my mother’s life. It is a book for those who want to learn more about Anne Sexton, for those who love to read correspondences filled with humor, love and joy, and for those who want to read about the life—personal and poetic—of a creative woman.


What advice would you give to aspiring writers?


I think the most important advice I have to offer is that you must sit down everyday and write something—even if it is something poor that you will eventually pitch into your outbox. Being regular in your writing helps you to keep going, even when there is no “inspiration” to energize you. Writing begets inspiration, not the other way around. Just sit down and begin. You will discover it is not as hard as you think. And if you let days go by with nothing on the page, it will be like starting all over again every time—which is definitely a more difficult process. And even a paragraph counts toward this goal! One more thing: don’t throw anything away, even the most rotten writing. You never know when you will go back and discover a hidden nugget.


Linda, thank you so much for sharing about your life and work. Readers interested in learning more about you and your books can follow the links below:


Purchase Linda’s Books on her Website


Sign up for Linda’s Bi-Weekly Newsletter/Blog



Linda Gray Sexton Biography:


Linda Gray Sexton was born in Newton, Massachusetts in 1953. She is the daughter of the Pulitzer-Prize winning poet, Anne Sexton. Linda graduated from Harvard in 1975 with a degree in literature. She has published four novels: Rituals; Mirror Images; Points of Light; and Private Acts. Her three memoirs include: Searching for Mercy Street: My Journey Back to My Mother, Anne Sexton; Half in Love: Surviving the Legacy of Suicide; and Bespotted: My Family’s Love Affair With Thirty-Eight Dalmatians. Linda is now at work on a fifth novel, and is now a regular contributor to The Huffington Post. You can find her latest article here. She lives in California with her husband and their three Dalmatians.