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Overcoming Emotional Wounds: How to Show Your Character Is Beginning to Heal

Photo shows a close-up of the Emotional Wounds Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi. The post title is superimposed on the top.

by Angela Ackerman@AngelaAckerman

When it comes to writing a story where a character is going to work through a difficult past wound, there are two behavioral states to convey: one showing their brokenness and dysfunction, and one displaying hard-won insight, self-acceptance, and increased self-worth, all important aspects of growth.

Ironically, writers tend to struggle more with how to show a character’s healthy behavior than they do the downward spiral. (Maybe after all the lessons on tension and conflict, we’ve gotten very good at throwing rocks? Or we’re just all a bit more sadistic that we’re likely to admit!) Either way, that shove down the hill is less stressful to write than the painful crawl back up it.

Here’s what I know: change is painful, both in the fictional world and the real one. Transformation doesn’t happen overnight. So when it comes to showing our character’s path to healing in the aftermath of a destructive wound, we need to take it slow. Trusting others, especially after one’s been hurt, is hard. And believing again in hope, that a better tomorrow is possible? This is often the most difficult thing of all. Continue reading Overcoming Emotional Wounds: How to Show Your Character Is Beginning to Heal

How to be a #NaNoWriMo Rebel

Photo shows a sign that reads 'No Bicycles, Please" and a bike leaning against a stone wall under it. The post title, "How to be a NaNoWriMo Rebel" is superimposed on top.

by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig 

I’ve never officially been part of National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo: more about the event here. If you’re interested in signing up, here’s how).  Wikipedia’s NaNoWriMo entry explains how to ‘win’ at the event:

To win NaNoWriMo, participants must write an average of approximately 1,667 words per day in November to reach the goal of 50,000 words written toward a novel. Organizers of the event say that the aim is to get people to start writing, using the deadline as an incentive to get the story going and to put words to paper….NaNoWriMo focuses on the length of a work rather than the quality, encouraging writers to finish their first draft so that it can later be edited at the author’s discretion.

To be a regular participant, you are to start on a brand-new manuscript on November 1. I’m always in the middle of a project at that point.  Besides, there’s Thanksgiving to think about.  It’s never been the most convenient time for me. (If you’re like me, there’s also Camp NaNo, in April and July).

But I’ve always fed off of the energy and the writing sprints of the NaNoWriMo community.  I lurk in the forums and get motivated.

I also tend to beat my usual writing goal…by a huge amount.

I’ve also, in the past, looked at it as an opportunity to get other writing-related things done.

NaNoWriMo is well-aware that there are rebels among them.  :)  They have a special forum for rebels that states:

You’re writing a memoir, an essay, a comic, or something else that’s not a novel. Come join the NaNo Rebels and converse with your fellow outlaws here.

Continue reading How to be a #NaNoWriMo Rebel

On Inspiration and Delivery: The Creative Process

Man in hiking gear sits on rocks and views mountains, a lake, and a sunset. The post's title, "On Inspiration and Delivery: The Creative Process" is superimposed on the top.

by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig

Writers sometimes joke that the worst question to get from readers (and one of the most common) is “where do you get your ideas from?”

I recently read Light the Dark, edited by Joe Fassler, (I received a complimentary copy from Penguin editor Sam Raim). One of the cool things about this book is the fact that it has lots of different writers’ thoughts on where they ‘get their ideas from’…and it doesn’t only cover inspiration, but creativity and the artistic process itself.

Inspiration is a tough subject.  It varies from writer to writer. Sometimes, I think, we don’t even realize exactly what inspires or influences us. In Neil Gaiman’s essay, “Random Joy” for the collection, he talks about this: Continue reading On Inspiration and Delivery: The Creative Process

Setting the Scene for Mystery

A wooden dock leads off to some sunset-illuminated water and the post title, "Setting the Scene for Mystery" is superimposed on the top.

The setting for the Sgt. Windflower Mysteries is not just a prop or a way to entice the reader to enter the realm of these books, although I certainly hope that it does. It is much more than that. For me the setting is the story, at least the beginning of the adventure. It is the only part of the story that I control. I get to start the story by setting the scene. Once I begin the journey the characters come and tell me the rest of the story and I just write it down.

It’s been like that from the very first time I sat down on the wharf in Grand Bank, Newfoundland on the easternmost tip of Canada and gazed out into the fog at the blinking lighthouse. Sgt. Winston Windflower almost walked out of that fog and introduced himself to me and started telling me his story. Sure, I get to limit some character’s voices from time to time and maybe I have a little say over the moral lines that I will allow the characters to play within. But once I have the setting, that opening scene, the story flows on its own.

So, for me, the bigger question is not how the setting affects the story, but rather why an author would choose a particular setting. Because once that choice has been made a lot of things flow from that including the physical environment, the weather and what the characters can actually do during the progression of the story line. I chose the Grand Bank area of Canada because it is located in my home province and I wanted to describe the physical beauty of the natural surroundings and tell some of the history of the area.

I have tried to capture the beauty of the ever-moving ocean and banks of fog that linger on the horizon, but words can barely touch the canvas that creation has revealed to us. That’s why I always put a picture on the front cover that illustrates it far better than my words ever could. Like the lighthouse in Grand Bank on The Walker in the Cape and the boardwalk in Burin on The Body on the T. Or the fishermen’s wharf and fishing stages or rooms in Fortune on A Twist of Fortune. All real places that I have visited and that a reader can too by looking at the cover or reading the book.

The setting by the Atlantic Ocean also makes the weather a real character in all of the Sgt. Windflower Mysteries. It is almost always windy and the potential for some form of precipitation is high at any time of day or in any season. Both of those force people inside, sometimes for a meal, sometimes for coffee, sometimes just for shelter from a storm. It allows me to show people in close quarters where their interactions reveal more of themselves, their true selves and their intentions. Maybe even their motives…. Plus, it’s always a great opportunity to show off the delicious cuisine of the local area and maybe even a chance for Windflower to get a piece of his favorite chocolate peanut butter cheesecake.

For me, I simply couldn’t set the Sgt. Windflower Mysteries anywhere but in Newfoundland. It gives it the touch, texture, smell and feel of the ocean breeze blowing in my hair. The salt air wind whipping the bedsheets drying on the clothesline. It makes the characters come alive and hopefully makes them real to the readers as well. Come back to Grand Bank and experience it yourself in the latest adventure, A Tangled Web.

Cover shows a coastal village with the name of the book "A Tangled Web" by Mike Martin, superimposed on the front.
A Tangled Web is the latest book in the Sgt. Windflower Mystery series set on the East Coast of Canada. The previous book in the Series A Long Ways from Home was shortlisted for the Bony Blithe Award as the “Best Light Mystery of the year”.
“Life is good for Sgt. Wind­flower in Grand Bank, Newfoundland. But something’s missing from the Mountie’s life. Actually, a lot of things go missing, including a little girl and supplies from the new factory. It’s Windflower’s job to unravel the tangled web of murder, deceit and an accidental kidnapping that threatens to engulf this sleepy little town and destroy those closest to him. But there’s always good food, good friends and the love of a great woman to make everything better in the end.”
Photo via

Things to Avoid in a Cozy Mystery

A caution sign shows a stick man slipping and falling and the post title, "Things to Avoid in a Cozy Mystery" is superimposed above it.

by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig

Believe it or not, there are ways to make cozy mystery writing complex.  And I think cozies are fairly easy books to write.

At first I titled this post “Cozy Mystery Mistakes,” but I don’t think these things are all necessarily mistakes–they’re just elements that could make for potential problems.

Looking at my list, I’ve done nearly all of them at least once. Continue reading Things to Avoid in a Cozy Mystery