Guest Post: Kathryn McConaughy


Hey folks! Today we get another peek into these amazing Snow White retellings with a fantastic guest post by the author of Overpowered, Kathryn McConaughy! Just a reminder in case you missed the last post, these are seven Snow White inspired retellings that are part of the Seven Magic Mirrors joint release. You can find more stops on the blog tour here, and be sure to look for information about the giveaway while you’re there!

Overpowered by Kathryn McConaughy

41575887Taliyah bat Shammai is fleeing a terrible crime. Though she has no hope of shelter, she must keep running—for the Avenger will be coming. Even losing herself in the mist-haunted hills cannot protect her for long. But perhaps other criminals can…

Yotam bin Yerubba’la has left his home, his only guide a cryptic dream. Endangered by a perilous secret, he soon finds himself among men with secrets of their own—in a place where trusting others may be his most serious mistake… or his best defense.

Cypress and his band have been mercenaries for a long time. Criminals all, they don’t trust easily and never reveal their hearts. But when a battle goes horribly wrong, each man must decide whether he fights for gold, for fame, or for something yet more rare…

Disguised as a boy, Taliyah finds the outlaw life to be full of more questions than answers. What are those strange tracks around the ruined houses? Why is Yotam so calm in the face of battle? Where are the rest of Cypress’ men? And who is the Avenger?
There may not be much time for Taliyah to find the answers, for war is about to ignite in the hills. And they all will burn…

Add it on Goodreads, or buy it on Amazon today!

Now, without further ado, Kathryn herself on the inspiration of this fantastic historical fantasy!

The Inspiration for Overpowered by Kathryn McConaughy

What inspired Overpowered?  A lot of different things.  I’m never short of inspiration, just short of time to write things down!

Obviously, Rooglewood’s Five Poisoned Apples contest was a big factor, because I had to write a Snow White story.  This was a challenge for me, as I’ve never been a huge fan of this particular fairy tale.  While Snow White is more sensible than many fairy tale heroines, managing to make a new home for herself with her work ethic and housekeeping skills, she is also very naïve, instantly trusting groups of men in the woods and mysterious old ladies. (Can I ask—how did Snow White learn to cook?  You don’t see many princesses in kitchens.) Then she rides off into the sunset with a man whose only credentials are that he can kiss a dead/sleeping woman and that a previous member of his bloodline achieved political power. I don’t think it’s the plot itself that I have a problem with—like Snow White, many people do live life reacting rather than acting—rather, it’s the fact that Snow White’s choices are presented so positively.  “Of course you should marry the handsome stranger.  And of course your friends the dwarves will be perfectly okay with this.”

Ayeh.  So it took me a while to wrap my head around writing a Snow White retelling.  I originally tried writing an SF version in which Snow flees the colony where she grew up after her stepmother tries to have her killed for her planetary corporation shares, but my SF Snow kept coming across as too passive.  So I moved back to my home court—the mythic ancient Near East—and started a version that was set there. I made Taliyah more active from the very beginning, a woman wary and brave, though still a bit too trusting.

The first scene I wrote was the one where Taliyah, my heroine, approaches the outlaw camp and meets my “dwarves.”  I love writing “band of brothers” characters—they play off each other so well. And, as you know if you read “Guardian of Our Beauty,” I find the Late Bronze Age hillmen endlessly fascinating.  I had been reading a lot of books and articles on the relationship between townsfolk and nomads in the ancient Near East, so that information also made its way into the story and into the character backgrounds.  Anyway, in this scene I was able to explore who Taliyah was and how she was going to relate to the other characters. I was amazed that she was able to get Thorn, the band’s paranoid lookout, to talk to her, but their first conversation was wonderful.  After that, I was really excited to be writing her story.

About half of the ideas that took root in Overpowered had been hanging out in my head waiting to be used long before I knew that I would be writing a Snow White retelling.  For example, I’m very interested in the ancient Near Eastern wisdom traditions, whether they be in the Bible or out of it. I think that we often don’t appreciate what a big part those wisdom traditions—whether in the form of proverbs, poems, or parables—played in the lives of the ancient people.  There was one character, a middle-aged man who only communicates in proverbs, who had been living in my head for quite some time. So when I saw an opportunity to drop him into this story (where he would have to stay instead of wandering around in my brain making trouble) I wrote him in. That’s where Willow came from.

Many of my favorite wisdom tales from the Bible use plant imagery.  My favorite of all is Jotham’s cautionary speech to the Shechemites in Judges 9.  Distressed by their support of his murderous brother, he tells them a story about trees.  The trees want to have a king, but all of the trees with good reputations turn down the job.  Finally, the trees ask the bramble to rule over them. The bramble agrees, but pronounces a terrible curse on them if they betray him.  (Basically, Jotham is trying to tell the Shechemites that making his brother king was a bad idea.) I’ve always been intrigued by this tree tale, so I amused myself by giving my “dwarves” tree names in keeping with their appearances and personalities.  The grumpy “dwarf” is named Thorn, the giant is named Cedar, and so on.

Then I thought, “Why not make the homage to Judges 9 more obvious by letting Jotham’s brother Abimelek run around in the background?”  So I put him in. In the Five Poisoned Apples version of the story, you never actually met him, you just got Easter Egg-like references to him and his campaigns through the hill country.

Then Jotham turned up and said, “I’ve just had to flee after giving that tree speech against my brother.  I think I’ll join this outlaw band.” Well. I couldn’t chase him away; he was so friendly and polite. So I thought that he could be a dwarf, and maybe no one would notice that he was a biblical figure.

Then Taliyah started noticing how brave and kind and godly he was.  Long story short, he ended up as the hero of the piece, and I went back and wrote a bunch of scenes from his perspective.

As you can see, Overpowered came together from a lot of different sources—but I think that it really did come together into one integrated story world, a story world that I loved writing about.  In fact, I got so attached to these characters that I’m working on a sequel! I’m very excited to share the story with you all. I hope you enjoy it.

Concluding Thoughts

I had the great opportunity to read this story, and I have to say it was such a refreshing taste of a culture we very rarely read in most fiction, and especially as a fantasy! If you have any interest in the Near East, or fantasy, definitely give this a try!

If any of this has piqued your interest, remember you can add it on Goodreads or buy it on Amazon!

Happy reading!

All About Editing

So. You finished a piece of writing. Congratulations! You’ve made it further than the majority of people who want to be writers. But that doesn’t mean your work is done! You still have to go back and revise and edit. You may have heard writers talking about editing, but do you know the different kinds or when to do what? Do you know what types of editing you can do on your own and when you may want to hire someone or ask for help? If not, today is the day to learn. And if you already know, how about a refresher?

First, let’s distinguish between revising and editing.

  • Revising: This is when you are making changes to your work, such as rewriting characters, scenes, or the entire piece.
  • Editing: These are smaller, more focused and technical changes, such as grammar, spelling, punctuation, and line-by-line style. This may occur at various stages of the revision process, depending on how many revisions the work has been through and how close it is to publication or querying. You may do some of this work yourself, or you may find help from others. Developmental editing (which we’ll get into in a minute) is on the border of these two, as it tackles big picture issues of the story while still being considered editing.

I know, I know. The line is a little tight there sometimes. But both of these are critical to the development of a good piece of work. In fact, revising can fix a bad book. See what Alex Bracken has to say about it:

books made in revisions
Gives us hope for all those horrible first drafts.

Okay. So now that we have editing and revising straight and we understand how important editing is, let’s take a closer look.

Developmental Editor: This person takes your manuscript and looks for overall problems, such as issues with character arcs and development, plot and pacing, and loose ends and holes.

  • This type of editing tends to be the most expensive, but it is vital to the development of the story.
  • This editing should really only be done after several rounds of editing on your own and with critique partners and beta readers. Then you can go ahead and hire one.
  • This may not be strictly necessary to hire professionally if you plan to query, but it is non-negotiable if you plan to self-publish.

Copyeditor: This person looks at your work from a technical standpoint. In this pass of editing, the editor is searching for problems with things like grammar, spelling, and punctuation. They are not looking for big picture issues or style issues.

Similarly, line editing is looking at your work closely on a creative and stylistic level. A line editor will look for overused words and phrases, awkward or overly verbose sentences and passages, run-on sentences, pacing, and confusing writing. They approach with an eye for detail and clarity, looking at the ease of reading your work.

  • The overlap between copyediting and line editing is pretty large, and not every editor will distinguish between the two.
  • The cost for this is often somewhere between developmental editing and proofreading.

Proofreading: This is typically the last step of the editing process, as this type of editor is only looking for things like typos and missed errors from early editing passes. It is the last clean sweep before publishing.

  • Tends to be least expensive.
  • Critical for self-publishing, but still important for querying.
  • The very last step, after all other changes are made.

Whew! Okay. So now we have the types of editing straight, and we understand the difference in content and cost.

But editing can be super expensive, and everyone likes to save a little money. So let’s think about what we can do ourselves versus what we should hire out or ask someone to do for us.

  1. Developmental Editing
    • First of all, NEVER hire a professional to look at a first draft. You are throwing money out the window. Do everything you possibly can on your own and with beta readers and critique partners before spending any money!
    • As I said above, this is a must for independent or self-publishing. Hire a professional!
    • If you plan to query, you may choose to hire someone if you want to spend the money. It can’t hurt, but it’s also not necessary. And it will definitely help you polish up that manuscript!
    • If you want to attempt any developmental editing on your own, I suggest leaving the manuscript out of sight and working on something else long enough to forget the details. You need to look with fresh eyes. Personally, I set a minimum of two weeks, if I can, for shorter works and one month for full-length works before I allow myself to look at the document again.
    • Beta readers and critique partners can offer some developmental editing, if you find the right ones and ask nicely.
  2. Copyediting and Line Editing
    • Probably wait until after developmental editing is done. You don’t want to still be making big picture changes when you’re line editing and fixing grammar; more will likely pop up, and then you’re wasting time, money, and effort.
    • Sometimes we are okay doing this on our own, particularly if we let it sit for long enough and forget it. But it might be better to ask a writer friend or, if you can’t find someone willing, a professional to look over your work. It is hard to see flaws in your own writing, as our brains tend to skip over things and fill in blanks so we don’t always catch common errors.
    • This is a good way to learn how to improve our writing, also, by asking others to critique flaws in our writing style or weaknesses in our knowledge. It will all get better with time!
    • You may consider hiring a professional if you don’t have a friend good at grammar and writing, if you plan to self-publish, or if you struggle with your own grammar and writing style.
  3. Proofreading
    • Do this last. Very last step.
    • Please do not do this on your own. While you may be good at catching errors in other people’s work, as I said above, it is all too easy to miss errors in our own work because of our brains and the closeness to the story.
    • If you have a friend you trust, have them proofread.
    • If you don’t have a friend you trust, hire a professional.
    • If you plan to query, make sure you get someone to proofread.
    • If you plan to self-publish, for the love of all things good, make sure you get a proofreader. This one is especially critical; while one typo may be forgivable, a reader who finds multiple typos and simple mistakes in a finished, published book is less likely to trust your future books and may give up on you altogether. I’ve done it, and I know other people who have as well. It looks unprofessional and messy. Do yourself a favor and avoid the hassle!

That was a lot of information, but understanding the editing process is crucial to producing a polished manuscript, wherever it is destined to be published. I hope this overview has given you a better understanding of what types of editing exist, when you may want to hire a professional, what you can do yourself, and other little details you may not have considered before. Good luck with your own revising and editing, and be sure to leave questions and comments below!



I am currently preparing to offer all three types of editing to writers, for any length of manuscript (though my focus is fantasy). If you are interested, or if you are interested in consulting with me about biology or in need of a map for your world, please keep an eye on my Services page for more information.

Inquiries about services and booking can be sent to

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Author Interview: Sarah Pennington

MagicMirrorsGraphic.jpgIt’s that time again: another fantastic release! A while back, I had entered a Snow White retelling contest. More recently, I shared with you a couple of releases that came from that contest. And now, even more! So if you love retellings, Snow White, or anything in between, this is perfect! I had the great joy of being able to read some of these ahead of time, and I am absolutely blown away!

One of my favorites of this release is Sarah Pennington’s Blood in the Snow, an Asian-inspired retelling that combines Snow White and the Goose Girl. And seriously, this one has such beautiful language and storytelling… one of the best things I’ve read all year.

To help celebrate this release, I had a chance to talk to Sarah herself and give you an inside look at Blood in the Snow. Enjoy!

Interview with Sarah43407030_497763937368798_3651564736744521728_o.jpg

Q: Tell us a little bit about your writing journey. When did you start writing? When did you decide you wanted to publish?

Well, I’ve been telling stories to myself and others for as long as I can remember, but I started writing semi-seriously when I was about eleven or twelve. Then I did my first NaNoWriMo event in November of 2011, and I’ve had at least one story in progress at all times since then.

As for publishing: for the longest time, I fully planned to pursue traditional publishing — I even wrote a blog post about why I wasn’t going to self-publish even though I knew so many people who were doing it. I started to question that decision last January — I can’t even tell you why I suddenly wasn’t sure about my plan, only that I went from feeling very certain that I wasn’t going to self-publish to wondering if self-publishing really was the better option. Then, in April of this year, the results of the Five Poisoned Apples came out, and . . . I didn’t win. But I did achieve Special Unicorn status (which means I got a perfect score from the judge), which meant I had a cover and a story that very easily could’ve made it into the collection. That was two of my self-publishing doubts down. And since Kendra [Ardnek] was running the Magic Mirrors release, that took care of another big concern, marketing. And so, here I am.

Q: Where do you often find inspiration?

Haha, a better question is where don’t I find inspiration? A lot of my ideas come from the music I listen to (which is a very eclectic mix, just saying) or from things in books that I wish the authors would’ve explored more. But I’ve also come up with ideas through random conversations with friends, or from road signs, or just from nowhere in particular.

Q: What are your favorite themes or topics to write about?

So, I typically don’t set out to write stories about particular themes, but there definitely are themes that come up frequently in my writing. One of these themes is the idea of power: types of power, the ways people deal with power, the ways power changes people, and the responsibility and opportunities that power brings. I especially enjoy the contrast between those who seek power and those who are given power without seeking it, which is definitely something that comes up in Blood in the Snow. At the start of the story, Baili has been given a certain type of power that she’s really not sure if she should have or not, and a significant part of the story is her deciding whether or not she’s going to claim the responsibility and opportunity that power gives her or if she’s going to let those things, along with that power, slip away.

Q: What inspired Blood in the Snow? What made you choose an Asian-inspired retelling?

I originally wrote Blood in the Snow for the Rooglewood Press Five Poisoned Apples contest. I wanted to explain the villain’s obsession with being the fairest, or at least for wanting Snow White dead. I tossed a few ideas around at first, including vampire!Snow White and variations on the term “fairest” before settling on the idea of the prophecy with the help of my sister. Then I added the setting because the description of Snow White — pale skin, dark hair, and red lips — fits very well with ideals of beauty in several East Asian countries, plus I thought that an Asian-inspired setting would help set Blood in the Snow apart from some other retellings.

Q: What were your favorite and least favorite parts to write?

My favorite part of writing Blood in the Snow was, without a shadow of a doubt, writing any scene with Chouko and Gan in it. These two are fun even when they’re not in the same room, but put them together and the dialogue practically writes itself. They both have very strong, distinct personalities — they’re polar opposites in some respects, but incredibly similar in others, and that means they play off each other very well.

My least favorite part of writing Blood in the Snow was actually editing the book. The original version of Blood in the Snow was about 30,000 words long, but since I wanted to submit it to the Rooglewood Press Five Poisoned Apples contest, I had to cut it down to 20,000 words. It was a struggle, let me tell you, but building it back up when I decided to self-publish was fun.

Q: Do you have any hints for other projects coming up?

Currently, I’m working on editing Mechanical Heart, a steampunk retelling of Rapunzel featuring a powerless prince and a girl trapped in a clock tower. My goal is to have it finished in time to submit for the next Arista Challenge release, Golden Braids. Aside from that, I’m taking a good look at the novels I’ve written already and the novels I intend to write in the near future and figuring out what needs [to be] written, rewritten, or edited first.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to share with readers?

I’d just like to offer a little encouragement from both Baili’s life and mine: sometimes, what you thought was set in stone is more malleable than you think. Sometimes, a future you thought was decided turns out to be in flux. And that’s ok, because God’s plans don’t change, and He’s the one in control. So sometimes, when things aren’t turning out the way you expected them to, the best thing you can do is to let go of your plans and look for what new adventure you’ve been given. It’s not easy (it’s definitely something I still struggle with and will probably struggle with for most of my life), but it’s worth it.

Concluding Thoughts

Thanks so much, Sarah, for all your inside info and that awesome piece of encouragement at the end. I’ve definitely seen similar changes to my life plans, and I love how stories can help us see we’re not the only ones. Seriously amazing story, and I’m so glad to have had you on the blog today!

Now, for you readers, I hope you have found this as fun and interesting as I have! And if any of this has piqued your interest, be sure to head over and check out the rest of the tour and the other releases in the Magic Mirrors release! PS, there’s a giveaway by five of the authors for paperbacks of their books over at that link.

You can also buy Sarah’s book here.

Happy reading!


Translating Writing Jargon

Are you a new writer? Old writer? Somewhere-in-between writer? I don’t know about you, but when I started writing, all the acronyms and writer/publisher-specific terms confused me like nothing else. They would swirl and dance around my head every time I tried to read something new. I’d have to stop and take a break to figure out what the writer was talking about in the first place. And I never did find someone who took the time to sit down and explain it all.

Well, friends who may still be confused, you are in luck. Today, I am giving you a not-comprehensive guide to jargon in writing and publishing for beginners. I am listing off every acronym and writing term I had to learn (that I can think of).

Let’s start with some common acronyms:

  1. WIP: work in progress. This refers to the piece(s) of writing you are currently creating.
  2. POV: point of view. This is the perspective the writing is from, usually referring to a specific character.
  3. MC: main character or protagonist. This is the main person you are writing about.
    1. Along the same lines, FMC and MMC mean “female main character” and “male main character” (thanks to Hannah on Twitter for this!)
  4. OC: original character. This is something I see more commonly online, like on Tumblr, but it may come in handy to know in the future.
  5. CP: critique partner. This is a person you will hand your work to (often in exchange for theirs), typically after a round or two of editing and revising. They will (ideally) provide feedback on the development of your world, characters, and plot, as well as other detailed feedback on your manuscript as a whole.
  6. ARC: advanced reader copy. These are copies of a book that come out ahead of publication and are given to different readers and influencers (like book bloggers) to gain reviews on sales platforms like Amazon and Goodreads. These copies are not to be resold.

Okay, that’s the acronyms. But what about other terms?

  1. Alpha reader: this has been defined many ways, but the way the sticks out in my head is that an alpha reader is a person within the writing profession (a professional) who reads your work, often before you have done extensive editing work on it. They are typically not paid.
  2. Beta reader: this is kind of like an alpha reader, but a common definition is that these are readers in your target audience who read the story ahead of release after many revisions have been completed. They will offer you feedback, depending on what you ask for, and they are not paid.
  3. Advanced reader: this is a person who reads the book ahead of publication for review.
  4. Filter words: these are words that act as middle-men in your writing, such as “thought”, “saw”, “smelled”, etc. They can place a buffer between the reader and the writing (again, thanks to Hannah! She explained it so well!)
  5. Query: this is part of the publishing process in which a writer will compose a “query letter” and send it to an agent or small publishing house. I could go on and on about this, but that’s the gist of it. We’ll save the detail for another post.
  6. Agent (or literary agent): this is a person who works with authors to take their book to publishers. They must be queried, and the agent must accept the work and sign a contract with the author. They should NOT charge you. They may also work with you to continue editing your work, though you should only present them with something you have polished and completed (non-fiction is the exception, but that’s for another day).
  7. Agency: this is a company full of agents.
  8. Publishing house or publisher: this is a company that produces and sells books.
  9. Traditional publishing: this is the type of publishing many people are familiar with in which books are sold to major publishers by an agent and are released to bookstores and online sales platforms.
  10. Indie (or self) publishing: this is the type of publishing in which the author is responsible for taking the book from concept to available for purchase. They may or may employ the help of editors and designers along the way. This may also be known as independent publishing.
  11. Small press: this often refers to the type of publisher who does not require an agent to submit work. Authors can directly query their work to the publisher.
  12. Hybrid publishing: this is when a writer publishes using both an indie and traditional publishing formula. They have multiple books with at least one in each type of publishing.
  13. Freelance writing: this is work that is done for pay in which the author is self-employed or is writing without a long-term commitment to the company or person publishing the work.
  14. Book launch: this is the process of publishing a book. The launch date is the same as the release date, and the book launch is the work and promotions the author (and any other involved party) puts into generating interest and sales for the release, whether it is pre-sales (before the release date) or after release.

And what about social medias? Spend enough time on any of these platforms, and you’ll find plenty of people in these communities:

  1. Bookstagram: this is a hashtag on Instagram where readers post all about books.
  2. Booktube: likewise, this is anyone posting about books on YouTube.
  3. Authortube: and anyone posting about writing or author-related content on YouTube.
  4. Booklr: this is the Tumblr book community.

Whew! That’s a lot of things. But I am sure I didn’t include everything you may have questions about or experience with. So, help me out!

What other author, book, and writing jargon can you think of that I didn’t mention here? What terms did you have to learn when you started writing? Share them in the comments, and tell us what they are! Or, if you have other questions, let me know and I will do my best to answer them!

The Trouble with Tropes

And yes. This title is totally a play on my favorite Star Trek episode ever, “The Trouble with Tribbles.”

But that aside, today I want to talk about tropes. I’ve been noticing a trend among readers, writers, and audiences of all kinds in voicing an opinion that tropes are bad. But this reasoning has one serious flaw, and I’d like to discuss that today. Tropes exist and repeat themselves for reasons. They aren’t good or bad, they just are. It’s how writers use them that can make or break it.

Let’s take a step back for a second and actually define a trope.

Trope: A pattern or recognizable part of a story, character, etc. that occurs across shows so often that readers and viewers can predict these patterns. These have been made pretty famous by the advent of the TV Tropes website, which lists many common (and less common) tropes.

As I said above, writers seem to be growing more afraid of using tropes in their work. But there’s just one problem. As Brandon Sanderson says,

“Everything is a trope.”
~Brandon Sanderson, Writing Excuses season 13 episode 35, “Cliche vs. Archetype” (a podcast you should absolutely listen to, since it’s 15 minutes per episode and oh-so-valuable to writers)

And how about this post I found on Tumblr recently:

Do you see the issue here? There is very little that is new under the sun, and tropes are things that have become integral to every story. There are so many tropes, in fact, that I would challenge you to find just one story of any length or genre that has absolutely no trope or variation on a trope in it. Hint: if one exists, I can’t find it. And you probably won’t either. But please tell me if you do; I’d love to read it.

Here’s the thing. The problem isn’t with the existence of tropes. It’s with the overuse of tired, worn-out or problematic tropes.

So how do we, as writers, evaluate our work when writing and revising? When do we consider removing a trope? How can you tell if a trope you want to use is something you should avoid or retire?

  1. It’s overdone. Think about recent stories that have been released. What tropes do they have? How have readers responded to them? Take a love triangle, for instance. They were HUGE for a while, but readers are starting to burn out on them. There is also a lot of polarization around it, so you know that some will love it and some will hate it. You need to be okay with whatever reaction you get to the tropes you use.
  2. It perpetuates hate or harmful stereotypes. Let’s face it: there are far too many tropes that support racism, sexism, and other -isms. One I hate is the girl with the glasses trope: a girl removes her glasses and is suddenly beautiful. It’s so harmful, saying that smart girls aren’t pretty, smart girls wear glasses, or you can’t be pretty with glasses. Another related one was discussed pretty extensively by Marina Sirtis, who played Deanna Troi on Star Trek: The Next Generation. Please read this and watch this (they are basically the same, but in different format, for whatever preference you have). It is so worth your time, and I’m not sure anyone has discussed the “pretty vs. smart female” trope better, and how it’s been handled in Hollywood, specifically. But writers are just as guilty of these issues.
  3. Reactions of your beta readers and critique partners say “no”. This is a much deeper topic, but basically, here’s the idea: if your readers are having strong reactions, figure out why. Ask them. Take their comments to heart and decide how to handle them. And maybe it will mean removing a trope or shelving the book altogether.

Here’s another simple question: how do you take something inherently prone to cliche and make it fresh and new? There are two major methods (there could be more, but these are the two I am familiar with):

  1. Context. Trope context is when you use a trope as it is but change the context so that it feels fresh, not tired, old, or cliche. For example, an “after the apocalypse” setting has become pretty common to dystopia and post-apocalyptic fiction (it’s right in the names). But a reader will be more willing to forgive jumping into this worn trope if you make it somehow unique. One example I can think of is the Last Survivors series by Susan Beth Pfeffer. It is post-apocalyptic, but the catastrophe is from a meteor knocking the moon closer to the Earth. It’s not something you see every day, unlike nuclear war post-apocalyptic fiction. Another excellent excellent example I can’t praise enough is the Ashfall trilogy by Mike Mullin, which takes place after the eruption of the Yellowstone Supervolacano (read it!). It is packed full of tropes, but they are so well done and in such a unique and well-thought-out setting that they are some of my all-time favorite books. You have to give readers something special to make the predictability of the story worthwhile. Because let’s face it: tropes mean the reader knows what’s coming.
  2. Subversion. Contrary to context, where you use the trope as is, subversion is when you actively twist the expectation. For example (to use Brandon Sanderson’s example from the Writing Excuses podcast I referenced above), rather than killing the dragon, which everyone expects from the trope that is the Hero’s Journey, the character releases the dragon. It subverts the expectations and makes the story feel new.

There is seriously so much to unpack with tropes, but the takeaway I want you to have is this:

Tropes are not bad, but they must be used with intentionality and sensitivity.

You must pay attention to the tropes you are using and the impact they will have on your readers. You must pay attention to the amount the trope has been used in other media. If you fail to pay attention, you are setting your story up to fail and disappoint readers.

So there you have it! I will probably continue visiting some of my favorite and least favorite tropes in the future, but for now, tell me your thoughts! What comments do you have about tropes? What tropes do you hate or love? Tell me why in the comments!



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My Four Favorite Writing Tools

As writers write more, they eventually start to settle into patterns. This may include how they research, how (or if) they outline, what kind of background work they do before starting, and what order they write in. But one other thing that writers tend to develop as they go is their arsenal of writing tools. Note: I do not mean resources, like websites; that will be a different post.

Today, I wanted to share some of my favorite tools of the trade. These are things I use specifically for each of my projects (some more than others), and do not include reference materials.

Let’s dive right in!

  1. Writeometer: This is an app I keep on my phone that lets you record all your word counts. It’s been incredibly helpful to me during slumps to keep me going, adding motivation and a reward-based system for hitting your goals. Another part that’s super helpful is the ability to track how long it will take to finish a project… and compare it to a deadline, either self-imposed or given to you. Highly recommend!

    Image result for writeometer
    The nifty little logo for Writeometer.
  2. Google Docs: So, it used to be that I used Word for all my writing. Then I tried Scrivener, but I couldn’t quite get the hang of it. Now that I travel back and forth between computers all the time, I’ve found that Google Docs is my favorite place for drafting new stories. They’re easy to share with critique partners and betas, and it has all the functionality I really need. Once I’m ready to put the submission manuscript together, I’ll migrate it to Word, but until then, Docs is perfect.
  3. Pen and Paper: Yup, this one is easy. More specifically, notebooks! I tend to do a lot of research for my stories, and so I need an organized place to take my notes. For every project (as I’ve mentioned before), I pick up a new notebook, one that I love, that I would want to carry around, and that inspires me. Pro tip: I picked this idea up from Alexandra Bracken’s newsletter… if you don’t get that, she’s amazing and shares her own writing tips and progress there. She’s also super nice and down-to-earth. You should sign up!
  4. Pinterest: Finally, one of my first go-tos is a new, fresh, clean Pinterest board for all my projects. I love creating a place with visual inspiration for what I’m working on; it definitely gives me an aesthetic and a mood (like an actual mood board, but digital) for when I need a boost to jump into the world. It’s also a pretty great place to save information and ideas I find online. I’ll share some of my personal boards with you, so you can get an idea of the kinds of things I save.

Pinterest boards for stories:

Pinterest boards for things I might write one day:

Finally, Pinterest boards with writing resources:

  • Things for Writers, or resources the help writers with blogging, general writing, useful websites, etc.
  • Writing Reference, or guides that might come in handy for creating worlds and stories

5. Coffee: …just kidding. But I do love coffee!

So there you have it: my four favorite writing tools. One of these days, I’ll finish compiling my list of favorite writing resources and share it with you. But until then, enjoy these boards and ideas. And share your favorite writing tools with me in the comments!

Blog Tour: Paws, Claws, and Magic Tales


It’s that time again! Time to showcase another new book! This time, it’s a fantasy anthology by the lovely authors over at Fellowship of Fantasy. Feel free to follow the link to see other stops on this blog tour.

If you’re an animal lover and a fantasy lover (like me), then this anthology will appeal to you. This book is packed with sixteen magic tales with cats taking the lead. I have a pre-order link and Goodreads, for your viewing pleasure.

What’s that? You want to know more? Well, how about a blurb for each of the stories in this volume?

The Witching Hour by Savannah Jezowski
As shadows encroach on the city of Lite, one cat stands between humanity and the hounds of darkness. Will true love save the day?

Tail of Two Kitlings by Sharon Hughson
Two kitlings. One tail. A mother’s sacrifice and a brother’s betrayal. Who will survive the Siamese curse?

Black Knight by Laura L. Laura Croman Zimmerman 
When a jingly bell goes missing, there’s only one supercat to solve this crime—the mysterious Black Knight.

Sulphur & Sunshine by Grace Bridges
How to Handle a Dragon, Feline Edition: on a volcanic shore, the accidental appearance of a local fire-guardian has unusual consequences for a street cat.

The Magic of Catnip by A. J. Aletha Bakke
An impulse purchase of catnip leads to unexpected shenanigans.

The Secret Treasons of the World by J. L. Rowan
When Braelin stumbles upon an outlawed Guardian, she must choose between his safety and her own—and the cost may be more than she can bear.

The Poor Miller and the Cat by Lelia Rose Foreman
When a poor miller rescues a cat, it promises to make him a wealthy man. But what is true wealth?

Alex the Cat and Alex the Prince by Ace G. Pilkington
The prince’s parents are telling him he has to marry for money, and his cat says it could cost him his life.

Whisker Width by H. L. Burke
Get a cat they said. It’ll be fun, they said. No one mentioned the portals to a mysterious realm opening up in Kara’s bathroom.

The Honorable Retrieval of Miss Sunbeam Honeydew by Pamela Sharp
When two princesses of the realm claim the same cat, how far will their loyal retainers go to see that each princess gets her way?

The Witch’s Cat by Rachel Ann Michael Rachel Harris
Walk under ladders. October the 13th. A black cat. Perhaps the only way to bring two lovers together is through the worst luck.

The Cat-Dragon and the Unicorn by Janeen Ippolito
Ademis the cat-dragon only wants his freedom but must graciously help a scared unicorn girl who should be glad of his benevolent assistance.

Destined for Greatness by Jenelle Leanne Leanne Schmidt
Kendall knows he is destined for great things. The problem is, the Fates — if they even exist — don’t seem to agree.

Sammy’s Secret by Karin De Havin
A ring is lost. A friendship is ruined. A cadre of cats is on the case!

Death Always Collects by Jeremy Rodden
Loki, a regular old Siamese cat, finds Death looming to take his human. Bargain as much as you want, but remember: Death always collects.

The Wild Hunt by Naomi P. Cohen
When an immigrant violinist’s music enchants a Cait Sidhe, she’s entangled in the secret world of the New York Fae.

Interested yet? What about a Rafflecopter giveaway for a paperback of the book?

Okay, okay, I’m done! But seriously folks, these look amazing. One more time, here are the links: pre-order link and Goodreads. Note that there are two pre-order links, depending on your reading preferences.

Thanks for tuning in, and I’ll see you all tomorrow for our regularly scheduled post!