A Busy Spring and a Book Launch Sale

I can’t get over how busy the past four months have been for me. While I have been writing a little, editing a lot and formatting books, an equal amount of time (if not more) has been spent offline, away from the computer.

Life is going in the direction I had planned, so I’m far from complaining. However, I am rethinking a few things I had planned.

For instance, I wrote two short novels last year, both under 70,000 words. They were not fantasy and because of advice from other writers and Amazon’s algorithms, I had decided to publish these and others of similar fashion under a new pen name. Of course, a new pen name would create a few challenges of its own, but I was prepared to tackle them.

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Repeating Ourselves Too Many Times in a Novel

Healing StonesOne thing I’ve learned while editing to a specific word count is to provide the information only once. Readers are smart; they’ll understand. If I have 300 words to tell a story, every word matters. I don’t need to say the car was blue twice.

Saying something once in a 300-word story is easy to do because I can see the entire story on one page. I can remember what I’ve said and how I’ve said it. It’s a little more difficult in a 130,000-word novel.

But it’s still important not to repeat things multiple times because readers who read fast or have great memories will remember. Even those with weaker superpowers will notice if you continue to tell them Sarah’s hair was naturally blonde but was dyed green. I know because I read book reviews on Amazon, and I’ve seen many readers complain about the number of times something is stated: How many times does she have to say his eyes were blue? I heard it the first ten times.

That’s an exaggeration, but you know what I mean. More complaints arise when a situation is overstated: I get it; he’s broke and he lost his job at the construction site because he was late two days in a row. Stop telling me that in every chapter!

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Creating Book Covers with Inkscape

I’m always looking for ways to improve the books I write both in content and in appearance. This includes creating better covers with each book written.

Everyone must start somewhere and when I started creating covers more than ten years ago, they looked like an amateur created them. So I pressed on. In February 2012, I wrote about my discovery of using PowerPoint to create covers: Create! Design! Make it so. From this post, it’s obvious my covers still had a long way to go, but I was moving in the right direction: forward.

After eight years of making book covers, banners and promotional material using PowerPoint, I stumbled upon another program that will take my designs to the next level: Inkscape.

Where Did I Discover Inkscape?

I spotted a YouTube video by author David V. Stewart about how he made book covers, so I clicked, watched and fantasized about my own covers. The program he used was Inkscape. His covers looked amazing. He said the program was free on the Internet.

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Brandon Sanderson: Fantasy Writing Lectures

I’ve been watching a series of lectures by fantasy author Brandon Sanderson on the craft of writing with the focus on the fantasy genre. These lectures took place at BYU. Whether you write fantasy or not, much of the writing advice applies to all stories.

I’m working my way through them, but what I’ve learned so far is:

  • I’m a chef, not a cook.
  • Conflict connects characters, setting and plot.
  • Everyone must be good at something.
  • Yes, but; no, and.
  • Captain Jack Sparrow is the perfect character who is incompetent, yet highly proactive, and that’s what makes him (and SpongeBob) interesting and entertaining.

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Fantasy Month Photo Challenge on Instagram

Fantasy author Jenelle Schmidt is celebrating February is Fantasy Month and has posted the Fantasy Photo Challenge taking place on Instagram. If you don’t use Instagram, you can post to Twitter or Facebook, or all of them.

Schmidt has fantastical stuff planned for the month, so check it out.

Free eBook (February 1st, 2nd and 3rd): Destiny Governed their Destiny

February is Fantasy Month

Destiny Governed their Lives short story fantasyTomorrow, February 1st, is the beginning of the 5th Annual February is Fantasy Month. I first heard about this special month three years ago. At that time, I thought of participating, but I think we were two weeks into the month, so I made a post and left it at that.

Last year, I was too busy to take on more work and to be honest, I had forgotten about it until someone announced it. I could have thrown together something, but I chose not to.

This year, I’ve been thinking about fantasy month throughout January, so I think I’m ready to tackle it. I’ll make posts here, but most of my posts and promotions will be on my Diane Lynn McGyver blog and on Twitter. With most of my books enrolled in Kindle Select, I’m able to have free eBook days. This will be the only month of the year (possibly ever) that the full-length novels of the Castle Keepers epic fantasy series will be offered for free.

To start, the first short story that introduced the Land of Ath-o’Lea, Destiny Governed their Lives, will be free to download  from February 1st to the 3rd. It’s available at:

This short story provides the back story for Catriona Wheatcroft, who, unbeknownst to her, will play a pivotal role in the over-all plot of the series.

If you are a fantasy author, are you marking February as Fantasy month? If so, drop me a link in the comments, and I’ll share it.

Magic Rules in Your Fantasy World

I’m not one for strict rules so while watching fantasy author Brandon Sanderson’s YouTube lecture “Magic System”, I kept thinking, The magic in my novels doesn’t have rules.

However, afterwards I considered the ideas he presented and once I broke through the dam, the rules flowed swiftly. The magic within the realm of Ath-o’Lea does have rules. Some are soft, others firm.

Sanderson imparts this sage advice: Flaws are more interesting than powers. Things your characters can’t do are more interesting than what they can do. Flaws and limitations of magic are interesting.

With that in mind, I considered the powers and the limitations used in my novels.

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Supporting Characters Who Stole the Show

When we set out to write a story, we know which characters are the main characters, the ones readers will cheer and invest emotions in. That is until books are turned into movies and actors cast to play supporting characters do such a tremendous job, they steal the show from main characters.

Did you know the main characters in Pirates of the Caribbean were Elizabeth Swan and Will Turner? Jack Sparrow was a supporting character . . . until he stole the show.

Did you know Phil Coulson was only a supporting character in The Avengers. Writers thought it was okay to kill him off . . . until fans rattled their cage to have him resurrected.

The same happened in Thor: The Dark World. They killed Loki, then realised he was too big a character to knock off, and they had to bring him back. He was supporting Thor, but we know how that went down with Loki fans.

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Critical Drinker Inspires a Wins vs Losses List

Shortly before Christmas, I stumbled upon the Critical Drinker, a YouTube critic mostly of films, but he critiques books at times, too. The Drinker is Will Jordan, author of Redemption: Ryan Drake 1. I’ve watched several of his videos for both the entertainment and insight in to how movies were constructed or, in many cases, how they were poorly constructed. As a writer, he comments on character development, plot and other aspects of story building.

His dissection of the three recent Star Wars movies is brutal. I am a huge fan of the original Star Wars trilogy – Star Wars, Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi – and his critiques tell me the new movies are ones I never want to see. In fact, they should be burnt. The stories trampled over our heroes of the past and are extremely disrespectful to their legacy. While I didn’t think it would be as bad as it was, I had an inkling of what was to come.

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The Over-used Trope for Character Development

Over the weekend, I watched Good Will Hunting. No, I’ve never seen the movie before even though it was released in 1997. That was the year I was working 40 hours a week at a garden centre, giving birth to my first child and settling into a new house, so I didn’t watch much of anything.

Throughout the movie, I was waiting for the inevitable. I say inevitable because many of the books I’ve read and the movies I’ve watched the past 20 years have used death to jolt the main character out of their ‘destructive’ daze and into change for the better. I’ve seen it so many times, I can often pick which character will be sacrificed for the good of character development. If it’s a character I’ve invested emotion in, I pull back before the death, knowing it’s coming. If I’m unaware, it feels like a betrayal by the writer.

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My 2020 Goals are About Writing and Living

Today, my mother turns 92 years old. She never thought she’d see this age, yet here she is. Like many of us, we are never aware of what we’re capable of doing. We just do it.

2020 is a transition year for me. There are things that must be done, and only by working off property will I accomplish them. So, this spring, I plan to begin working 40 to 50 hours a week, which will take me away from writing in the short term, yet will deliver me closer to a few long-term goals I want to accomplish in the next five years.

Much like when I worked at the garden centre a few years ago, this job will be physical (my favourite type), and I’ll be outdoors most of the time. It will chew up most of my time from April to December. Then I’ll be free to write through winter again.

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A Look Back at 2019

Eye on the DestinationIf I had to wrap up the year 2019 in one word, that word would be Unexpected.

While many things I expected to happen happened, there were many unexpected things that happened that had never before happened. They were a mixture of good and bad. All I can say is I survived intact, and it’s time to sum them up and keep moving forward.

On January 7th of last year, I posted my epic goal challenge. Here they are exposed like the bare rocks on the seashore.

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Editing the Crutch Word Could

Healing Stones coverDecember has been unexpectedly busy outside my writing life, so I’ve not completed all I planned this month. That includes releasing Healing Stones, book 4 in the Castle Keepers series. The final edits are taking place. It will be released near the end of January.

One of the many edits of a manuscript includes searching for specific words to see if I’ve overused them. These are often called crutch words. A selection of these crutch words are filter words, words that show the story through the lens of a character instead of allowing the reader to experience the story first hand.

Filter words include ‘heard’, ‘felt’, ‘watched’ and ‘noticed’. For a more detailed explanation of filter words, check out my post: Filter Words: Who Knew? Not me.

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Automatic Writing or the Genius Named Jack

Twice within 24 hours this week, I was told, “Like automatic writing.” The first time someone said that was how I wrote, I considered it, but didn’t act to learn more about it. I assumed it was another term for those who wrote without using an outline, a writer who could let the creative juices flow and write that story quickly.

When someone else, unrelated to the first conversation said it, I had to look into it further. I’d never heard of automatic writing. Was it something new? Or something old but had recently made the headlines?

But let’s rewind a bit. My discussion previous to this comment was on writing a story and not knowing where that story was going. While I joked about the genius in the wall named Jack, who hung over my shoulder and told the story for me to record it, it’s actually what happens most days. For a few years, I’ve been saying that I’m not actually creating the story; I’m recording events that have already happened in another time and realm. At least that’s how it feels when I write my Castle Keepers epic fantasy series.

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J. R. R. Tolkien: Evoking Secondary Belief

I love ‘ah-ha’! moments especially when I find an explanation for something I’ve been trying to explain for years. In this case, the reason I write the stories I write has been answered by someone who also writes fantasy novels: J. R. R. Tolkien.

While I do not write in the same style of Tolkien, our goal is the same: to tell a story that evokes Secondary Belief (a belief up until yesterday, I had not heard about).

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