March 28, 2014

Learning Craft In Your Dreams

I dream every night. As I wake I’m aware of my dream, though the specifics aren’t always clear. This morning was like that. Since my mind is always active at night, I don’t give the elusive dreams any additional thought.

But today when I walked into the kitchen, past a picture of my mom, one specific moment of last night’s dream slammed back into me.

I lost my mom a couple years ago. Those of you who have experienced loss, know you never, ever stop missing your loved ones. My grief has progressed to the point where I smile whenever I think of her, and only rarely get hit with those aching moments of emptiness.

Last night in my dream, I was sitting cross-legged on the ground. I don’t remember why. I have no clue what I was doing beforehand or what I intended to do afterward. Someone plopped down next to me and I glanced casually to see who it was. It was my mother.

I gasped, “Mom!”

I was confused how she could be there. I knew she was supposed to be dead, but I didn’t know I was dreaming.

And then she placed her hand on my knee. Oh my god, I felt it! Physically felt her unique touch. Gentle and strong. Dry, papery skin. Warm.
My mom and my first born 1992

I’ve never realized before how unique a person’s touch is. But last night when my mom rested her hand on my knee, I realized how completely individual each person is. It's like a fingerprint.

I don’t remember anything else. I have no idea why she came. I don’t remember speaking beyond my exclamation. The immense sense of home, familiarity, rightness that filled me when her hand rested on my knee is the only thing I remember. But it's most certainly enough. I’ll take it!

Give me a minute to wipe my eyes…anyway, the reason I’m sharing this with you is because this one dream moment has taught me something for my writing. Every person’s touch is unique. Really. Truly. My challenge going forward will be to write them that way.

Have you learned a writing lesson from a dream before? Or in some unusual way? I’d love to hear it.

March 19, 2014

Not Writing Takes As Much Discipline As Writing

You’re sitting in a group of friends or family, smiling politely whenever you notice similar reactions from others. Drumming your fingers you think, If I have to sit through another re-enactment of the Christmas of 2002, I’ll scream. All the while your main character is whispering to his leading lady in your head. Crud! He’s saying some really awesome stuff!!!

“Excuse me,” you say. “I need to use the restroom.” You grab your phone/notebook/tape recorder and sneak away.

There are times within the creative process that it is best to decline social invitations. But there are also times when it is really important for you to gag that m.c. and engage in the real world. Dance recitals. School performances. Graduation. Just to name a few.

I’m thinking of this because evening approaches and though I would love to continue to write and create, I also want to live my life and soon the family will be home allowing me the prime opportunity to live my awesome life and gather more writing fodder!

March 14, 2014

The Unfinished Song (Book 1): Initiate by Tara Maya

Today I am happy to feature The Unfinished Song (Book 1) Initiate, by Tara Maya.

I asked Tara to explain the inspiration behind her warrior dancers: The warrior dancers are inspired by several shamanistic practices around the world-- primarily on Hopi and Zuni Kachina dancers, who are usually warriors as well, but also on African secret societies. The members of these secret societies are dancers, sorcerers/shamans and also warriors. I lived in West Africa for about a year, and met several real shamans who belonged to such societies, and was once invited to watch a secret society. I wanted the civilization in Faearth to be closer to this shamanistic understanding of how power works than the usual "high magic" of medieval times, with spell books and formal orders.

Fascinating, right? Thanks for explaining that for us, Tara. Now, more about the book: 


Dindi can't do anything right, maybe because she spends more time dancing with pixies than doing her chores. Her clan hopes to marry her off and settle her down, but she dreams of becoming a Tavaedi, one of the powerful warrior-dancers whose secret magics are revealed only to those who pass a mysterious Test during the Initiation ceremony. The problem? No-one in Dindi's clan has ever passed the Test. Her grandmother died trying. But Dindi has a plan.

Kavio is the most powerful warrior-dancer in Faearth, but when he is exiled from the tribehold for a crime he didn't commit, he decides to shed his old life. If roving cannibals and hexers don't kill him first, this is his chance to escape the shadow of his father's wars and his mother's curse. But when he rescues a young Initiate girl, he finds himself drawn into as deadly a plot as any he left behind. He must decide whether to walk away or fight for her... assuming she would even accept the help of an exile.

Blue-skinned rusalki grappled Dindi under the churning surface of the river. She could feel their claws dig into her arms. Their riverweed-like hair entangled her legs when she tried to kick back to the surface. She only managed to gulp a few breaths of air before they pulled her under again.

She hadn't appreciated how fast and deep the river was. On her second gasp for air, she saw that the current was already dragging her out of sight of the screaming girls on the bank. A whirlpool of froth and fae roiled between two large rocks in the middle of the river. The rusalka and her sisters tugged Dindi toward it. Other water fae joined the rusalki. Long snouted pookas, turtle-like kappas and hairy-armed gwyllions all swam around her, leading her to the whirlpool, where even more fae swirled in the whitewater.

"Join our circle, Dindi!" the fae voices gurgled under the water. "Dance with us forever!"

"No!" She kicked and swam and stole another gasp for air before they snagged her again. There were so many of them now, all pulling her down, all singing to the tune of the rushing river. She tried to shout, "Dispel!" but swallowed water instead. Her head hit a rock, disorienting her. She sank, this time sure she wouldn't be coming up again.

"Dispel!" It was a man's voice.

Strong arms encircled her and lifted her until her arms and head broke the surface. Her rescuer swam with her toward the shore. He overpowered the current, he shrugged aside the hands of the water faeries stroking his hair and arms. When he reached the shallows, he scooped Dindi into his arms and carried her the rest of the way to the grassy bank. He set her down gently.

She coughed out some water while he supported her back.

"Better?" he asked.

She nodded. He was young--only a few years older than she. The aura of confidence and competence he radiated made him seem older. Without knowing quite why, she was certain he was a Tavaedi.

"Good." He had a gorgeous smile. A wisp of his dark bangs dangled over one eye. He brushed his dripping hair back over his head.

Dindi's hand touched skin--he was not wearing any shirt. Both of them were sopping wet. On him, that meant trickles of water coursed over a bedrock of muscle. As for her, the thin white wrap clung transparently to her body like a wet leaf. She blushed.

"It might have been easier to swim if you had let go of that," he teased. He touched her hand, which was closed around something. "What were you holding onto so tightly that it mattered more than drowning?"

Tara’s blog
Tara’s Twitter
The Unfinished Song on Facebook
Barnes and Noble

Initiate is free everywhere except on Barnes and Noble (where it’s $0.99). You can download a free .epub version via Smashwords.

March 10, 2014

Writer's Rebel Creed - March Check-In

Word Count            Submissions              Rejections        Acceptances   

    14188                           2                               2                          1

I've decided to move my monthly reporting to the middle-ish of the month, so this reporting period is only three weeks long. Even so, I'm pleased with the progress. Good word count (most of it last week!) An acceptance is always a nice thing. Like SUPER nice! If you missed that announcement, hop on over to read about it here.

As I've mentioned before, I'm a mother of four. My husband and I like to take the kids out exploring. For a drive to a new destination, on a hike, geocaching, canoeing on a new lake, etc. A couple of my kids like plans. They want to know where we are going. How long we will be there. What the temperature is expected to be. Every little thing. Sometimes, hubs and I will simply answer, "We're flowing!" We make some obnoxious wavy motion with our arms and say it again and again. We know it drives 50% of our kids crazy, while the other 50% are like, "Whatevs! I'm wearing shorts regardless." But we do it to teach the planners to be ready for anything.

This year - I'm flowing. I'm ready for anything. At the beginning of 2014 I made some clear cut goals in my writing life, but I'm willing to change the path I take to achieve them. This is a results oriented year. I think I made some good moves last week to expand my authorial career. Time will tell. 

Do you go with the flow or are you more rigid with your plans?

March 7, 2014

Happy Lumpy Book News!

I'm excited to announce that I have signed the contract for my seventh published book! (Faints dead away)

THE LUMPY DUCKLING: Another Weaver Tale will be published by Guardian Angel Publishing (date undetermined).

If you couldn't tell by the name, THE LUMPY DUCKLING was inspired by The Ugly Duckling. It is a story about best friends. Since I have the best best friend in the entire world, I know how to tell a best friend story. Though the story itself is nothing like our friendship, I did make sure to incorporate letter writing into this story, because my bestie and I live 1100 miles apart and write a lot of letters to each other. Our friendship has grown deeper because of it and I wanted kids to see that there are all sorts of ways to develop a true lasting friendship.

LUMPY will be the third book in my Weaver Tales series. Each book is a stand alone. They are set in the same fictional village of The Tales. The residents of The Tales speak in story and are known as Word Weavers. Each person has their own storytelling voice. Eloise (Wheezy) delivers her stories like they are breaking news! Lawrence (Lumpy) tells humourous stories.

The Weaver's main character Mary couldn't tell a good story to save her life. We don't find out what her story telling voice is until the end of the story.

The Wishing Well's main character, Molly has a standard storytelling voice, but her mother is gossipy and her meanest sister speaks in list poems.

I hope you will take the opportunity to read The Weaver and The Wishing Well before the release of THE LUMPY DUCKLING. They are available in print and electronic books. Blurbs and buy links can be found on my website, or click on their book cover image on the sidebar of my blog. Be sure to like me on Facebook: Kai Strand, Author, or subscribe to my newsletter so that you won't miss any developing news as I step through the publication process on my newest Weaver Tales book.

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March 5, 2014

Even Pantsers Need Goals

Pantser – noun/verb hybrid. 
            Author who does not plan, plot or outline before sitting down to a blank page. One who writes by the seat of his/her pants.

By definition a pantser might be thought of as a whimsical creature. I imagine she frolics through fields of daisies communing with rabbits and all the while arranging copious amounts of very fine words that make up lovely, lyrical stories.

A plotter (one who mulls, plans and outlines) probably imagines a pantser as one who scratches her bum through her saggy, raggedy sweatpants. Sits at the computer, with a cigarette hanging from her mouth, a long ash dangling wretchedly close to the keyboard and has the gall to yawn and sniff before beginning her project.

Reality is actually a bit of both. Without the dangling ash. At least in my case.

I’ve always been a pantser, but I’ve also been a muller. And both of those have worked against me in the past. As a pantser I can write to the moon and back before I finally happen upon the REAL story line. As a muller, I can spend so much time thinking about it, I never do it. This year I’ve changed something that has really helped me to move forward as an author.


I’ve been creating goals for a couple of years now, but this year the goals are more specific. Not so anal that I tell myself I must write 2,000 words a day, but more targeted by project. I’ve also gotten better at incorporating all the non-writing part of writing.

At the beginning of the month, I sit down and decide what I can logically accomplish during that month and what will have the most impact for moving my career forward. I set the goals such as:

Finish 1st draft of novella project (approx 18K words/30 days means I should average 600 words per day. Since I like to take weekends off, I have to spread those 1200 words over the week. This helps me visualize how much I should write to keep it moving forward.)
Complete 2 videos for promotional campaign
Continue 1st draft of ya (some goals can remain ambiguous.)
Finish revision of mg for publisher (add the deadline if you have one so you can work around that hard fast goal.)

Each week I check to make sure I’m moving toward completing those goals. EVERY month something has come up to derail my goals, but that’s why the ambiguous goal is helpful. That one is squishy enough to be cast aside if something completely unexpected comes up and it won’t ruin my psyche to do it. Eventually that ya will move up into the main focus goal, but if it isn’t there this month, it is just filler.

The following month, if I didn’t complete something that is still important to me, I carry it over. However, sometimes I find I didn’t complete it because it is no longer important. Goals are like editing. You have to cut whatever isn’t moving the story (or your career) forward.

Though I haven’t found the benefit to being a plotter, I have found a definite benefit to the structure of sound goal setting. Do you set goals? How do you handle not achieving them?