Friday, February 23, 2018

8 Ways To Use Movie Watching To Improve Your Writing

As I'm sure nobody has noticed, I'm a huge movie fan. Particularly superhero movies. Especially The Dark Knight. I am also, according to various reviews of various stories (Colors of Fear and Skies of Dripping Gold), a good writer. Coincidence? I think not!

I'm kidding. Could this be a huge coincidence? Yep.

But, in my case, I do know that watching movies thoughtfully and passionately has taught me many, many different writing tips and tricks. How can you use movie watching as a way to improve your writing? Pull up a chair (or a couch, given that this post will probably end up inspiring you to become a couch potato). Let's talk movies.
8 Ways To Use Movie Watching To Improve Your Writing
1. Pay attention to what's shown on screen. Movies are very intentional about what's shown on screen (the good ones, anyway). It's called Mise-en-scène: Everything that's shown in a scene, encompassing actors, props, lighting, space, etc. Apply this to your descriptive writing. Just as movies are (or at least should be) intentional about what is shown, how it's shown, and when it's shown, so should your descriptive writing follow similar rules.

2. Study the pacing in movies. You can do this for books, but it's easiest to apply to movies because movies can be consumed in around 2 hours and often have fewer subplots than novels. When watching movies, pay attention and ask yourself: When did we first meet the main character? When did the inciting incident happen? When did the climax take place? How did the movie avoid the "middle section lag"? Where there any times I lost interest in the film? Make mental (or physical) notes. This can give you a good idea of how pacing is used to move a story along. You can then take what you've learned and apply it to your story.

3. Study the camera usage in different scenes. This may seem useless to you. After all, you're a writer. Cameras don't enter into the equation. Pffft. That's what you think. Are you ready to learn something cool? Sentence structure can be directly related to camera usage. For instance: Shaky hand-held camerawork (think The Bourne Supremacy) is the film equivalent of using fragmented sentences: They're used in tense, action-packed situations. Long shots (a camera shot that is zoomed way out to show surroundings) is similar to a descriptive paragraph. Close-ups (it's what it sounds like, dummy) would closely match written scenes that convey strong character emotion. If you take note of when and how these different techniques are used, you can apply them to your writing. For instance: Long shots are often used when there's a change in scenery, which would translate to you writing in some description with each scene change. Oh, and speaking of scene changes....

4. Notice when and how movies change scenes. I'm always surprised when I get questions like: How do I jump from one scene to another? Do I have to show everything a character does in a day or only parts? How can I show a passage of time? My answer: Watch movies.
Movies are excellent at changing scenes smoothly, so take note of when and why a scene ends. Look at all of the different ways a passage of time is indicated: Description, dialogue, character demeanor. Use that to guide you through how and when to change scenes in your own story.

5. Watch movies in and outside of your genre. Sure, you can get lots of character, plot, and worldbuilding ideas by watching movies that are your same genre. But you can get even more from watching those outside of your genre. It shakes things up and allows you to see new storytelling techniques that you might not otherwise encounter.

6. Watch terrible movies. Terrible movies are incredibly educational because it helps you quickly find what it is that placed that movie in the Cone of Shame. Are the characters horrible? What made them that way and how could it have been avoided? Is it too slow? How could they have corrected the pacing? Is the world-building confusing (*cough* Looking at you, Netflix's Bright *cough* *cough*)? What caused the confusion and where could it have been corrected? You can do this exact same study with books, sure. But it's a lot easier to sit through a terrible movie in one day than it is to trudge your way through a terrible book in one week.

7. Watch movies from the 40s and 50s and pay attention to the dialogue.
Yes, this tip is incredibly specific. Why 40s and 50s? Because the writing in those movies is unparalleled. And the dialogue, specifically in RomComs, is unmatched. If you've ever seen one, you know what I'm talking about. If you haven't seen one, start with these: The Thin Man, Bringing Up Baby, Arsenic and Old Lace, Double Wedding, Holiday, Desk Set. Note how dialogue is used: Character's don't often say what they mean, and the dialogue is directly tied to pacing, character development, and mood. Also notice how characters move when they talk: Are they sitting, standing, performing an action? What expression is plastered on their face? If you take what you've learned from these movies and try to follow their dialogue rules in your own writing, you can't go wrong.

8. Notice how many people it takes to make a film. Seriously. Watch the credits. Do you see the crazy amount of people it takes to make a movie? The head creator wasn't on their own. You shouldn't be, either. Just as directors and writers have people to talk to about costume design, lighting, character arcs, set design, etc, you should have people you can talk to about: "Is this a stupid idea?" and "How's this character arc?" and "Is this culturally accurate?" and more. And, just like as a movie set is full of people, you should be able to get outside every once in a while and *gasps of horror* be in the near vicinity of other humans. It's a good way to get ideas and, you know, not ruin your health by staring at a computer screen for hours on end.

And those are just a few ways you can use movies to improve your writing. Know of any others? Please let me know in the comment section! I'm always looking for new reasons to see movies. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to watch The Dark Knight. For the 42nd time.

Related articles:
9 Ways to Use Reading to Improve Your Writing
6 Easy Ways to Gain Writing Inspiration

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Some links are Amazon Affiliate. Thank you for your support.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

#ChatWithHannah Ep 8: On World Building, Book-to-Movie Adaptations, and More

Today we talk about world-building, book-to-movie adaptations, how to lead the writer's life when you’re tired and have a lot on your plate, and how to stay focused on a story you’ve been writing for a long time. I also discuss my new found love for attempting digital artwork, as well as what drove me to become a writer.

Posts mentioned in the video: 

How to properly read a manga (I'm not sure why I had such a hard time explaining this concept...It's not that difficult. *sheepish grin*) 

Recommended drama manga: 
The next #ChatWithHannah video is coming out on March 21st, so leave a question below or use the hashtag on social media to get answers. 

The #ChatWithIndieAuthor interview with S. Alex Martin will be up on February 28th, so keep an eye out because it is a great chat. 

Like this video and want to support my writing efforts? Subscribe to my channel or buy my short stories. Or both!

Related articles:
#ChatWithHannah Episode 4: NaNoWriMo Tips, Favorite Movies, and Overcoming Writer's Block
#ChatWithHannah Ep 7: Batman, Large Character Casts, and Concise Short Stories

Enjoy this post? Take a look around. If you like what you see, don't forget to subscribe by email for a new post every Friday!

Some links are Amazon Affiliate. Thank you for your support.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

How to Write A Blog Post When You Have Zero Time or Ideas (A Guide by A Busy, Exhausted Blogger)

Despite what you see on Instagram, the blogger's life is far from glamorous. It's not #fab. Nor is it #flawless or #BloggersofInstagram. It's messy desks, an even messier whiteboard, dirty mugs, half-eaten chocolate bars, and blog post ideas scribbled on random pieces of paper sticking out from underneath the bed, protruding from desk drawers, and smushed between books and dust bunnies.

At least that's what my blogging life looks like. Yes, it is entirely possible that I'm the one blogger who just can't get her act together. This occurs to me as I sit on my bed and ponder my current situation:

It's Thursday and I know I have a blog due to publish tomorrow. I also know that I have to leave for work (#AdultingProbs) and school (#CollegeStudentLife) in about an hour and won't be back until 6:15 PM, at which point I will be too tired and annoyed to write anything (#SoDone). By glancing at my whiteboard, I realize that I have used up all my blog post ideas, so I can't just pull one from there and get to work. This means that I have to formulate a blog post idea and execute it in less than an hour.

Can I do it?

Yes. Absolutely.

How do I know this? Because I've been in this situation about a million times (#NeverLearn).

If you're reading this post, it probably means that you have, too. OR it means that you're here looking to be entertained by my psychotic blogging methods. Either way, you're in for a treat:

Let's talk about how to write a blog post when you have no ideas or time:
How to Write A Blog Post When You Have Zero Time or Ideas (A Guide by A Busy, Exhausted Blogger)
Step 1: Don't panic. Seriously. Your computer can smell fear. Do not give it the upper hand. Approach your computer slowly and calmly. Look it directly in the webcam and let it know who's boss: You. That mess, rumpled, behind-on-everything, blogger.

Step 2: Check your list of ideas. What list? Well, ideally you have a list on your whiteboard or computer (or both) that you add to anytime you get a blog post idea. Though, if you're like me, you've probably forgotten to update it...or nothing on the list is suitable for your current situation, which is: Don't-think-just-write-full-speed-ahead-oh-gosh-I'm-going-to-be-late-to-work-help. If this is the case, then:

Step 3: Think about the quickest, simplest topic possible. The one you know inside and out. It could be a list of comic books and manga you enjoy or twists writers should put on the chosen one trope. It could be a rant on romance in YA novels or maybe you can catch up on one of those blog tag challenges. Something. Anything. If you're still stuck, send out an SOS on twitter like this one:

Step 4: Don't worry about whether people will think it's a cop-out post. This is your blog. If they don't like it, you can show them the door (#IfYouDon'tHaveSomethingNiceToSay). Besides, nobody is reading your blog consistently to try and catch you doing something wrong. Either they read your blog each week because they like your writing or they just pick and choose which posts of yours appeal to them. Either of these reader types will be fine with what you decide to post because one type will love it unconditionally and the other type won't be interested this week, but will try again next week.

Step 5: Write the thing. Now. Right now. Fast and furious. Play some Twenty One Pilots or EDM and get to it. Don't pause. Don't edit. Right down the words as they come to you. If they don't come to you, then chase them down by gulping some tea or scrolling through your Pinterest nerd-references board really quickly (set a timer for 2-minutes). Does what you just wrote suck? Yeah, probably. But keep going anyway (#GoBigOrGoHome).

Step 6: Edit the thing. No macro edits. Don't change entire paragraphs or anything like that. Ain't nobody got time for that. Just edit for typos and sentences that make zero sense (Hint: there will be a lot of them).

Step 7: Throw in some gifs. Because people are visual and it may distract them from all of your typos. And also make your post seem not so incredibly long. Maybe. Probably not. But whatever.

Step 8: Do all those annoying blogger things you have to do. Like creating a cover image, adding labels to your post, customizing the permalink, embedding social media sharing buttons, and making sure that all links open into a new window. Pause and try to recall the other annoying details you always forget.
Oh. Right. Type up an alt text to your cover image so that it looks nice on Pinterest (though they'll probably change the algorithm again, so who knows if this is even worth it?). Add the "related articles" section that you're pretty sure nobody ever pays attention to. Next, add the "subscribe" text at the bottom of the post that you're absolutely sure nobody ever pays attention to. And don't forget your Amazon affiliate disclaimer. You're not sure what exactly the point of it is, but you read somewhere that you could get sued if you didn't, so in it goes. Just in case.

Step 9: Realize that your post will have mistakes. A lot. The number of typos may be unparalleled....In fact, you probably broke some kind of Guinness World Record. But you don't have time to edit it again, sooo....¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Step 10: Freak out because your post will have mistakes. Just a little bit. Though, if you're feeling super tired or super proud of yourself for having pounded out an entire post in 45-minutes flat, you can feel free to skip this step.

Step 11: Congratulate yourself. Who just averted the catastrophe of breaking your "A New Post Every Friday" streak? You. Be proud.

Step 11: Be worried that people will realize that you are a fraud. Panic because what if they find out that you're blogging methods are so erratic? What if they can tell that you just wrote the thing in 45-minutes? What if they put you in Blogger Jail (#Fail)?

Step 13: Shrug it off. Who are they to judge, anyway? Nobody. Can they write a post in 45-minutes? No? Well then. Any criticism isn't really relevent, then, is it?

Step 14: Publish the thing. Slam the "publish" button. Do it. Do it now.

Step 15: Repeat again in a few weeks. Because #LivingOnTheEdge and #Procrastinator and #IDoWhatIWant.

Aaand there you have it. That's how you write a blog post when you have no ideas and zero time. You're welcome.

What does your panicked, procrastinating blogging method look like? Let me know if the comment section below!

Also, I'm curious: Now that I have revealed my writing secrets: How many of you were actually aware of the fact that about 70% of my blog posts are written by the seat of my pants? And that 99% of them are written the day before I publish them? Let's have a show of hands! I must know.

Related articles:
7 Tips for Balancing Your Writing with the Rest of Life
Why You Need to Stop Comparing Yourself to Other Writers (And How to Do It)
Enjoy this post? Take a look around. If you like what you see, don't forget to subscribe by email for a new post every Friday (and the occasional Monday and Wednesday)!

Friday, February 9, 2018

Using Real-Life People to Inspire an Original Cast of Characters - A Guest Post by Hope Pennington

You may be wondering: What? A guest post? What's going on? 

Let me explain.

Hope Pennington is awesome. She, in her awesomeness, has stepped up to cover for me this Friday as I do my event coordinating for WriteOnCon (If you don't know what WriteOnCon is, go watch this video, then register and jump on in! It's not too late!). In this post she talks about how we often overlook some of the best pieces of inspiration for creating a fascinating cast of characters: Our next door neighbors. So hunker down and read this post to learn about all the ways you can use people in your own life to enrich your characters and bring your story to life: 


It's a fact.

Most books have the same 4 characters as every other.
  • The strong young white male hero 
  • The psychopathic young white male villain 
  • The less powerful more charming young white male friend 
  • The young white pretty female friend 
Some people change up one part of the stereotype to be different.

A popular one right now is switching the hero to a strong young white female.

But is being different really the problem here?

Not only are these characters carbon copies of each other which gets old and boring but they are only one story. A story and cast I have personally never seen in my real life.

Are writers so busy watching TV and reading books that show these same 4 characters that they forget the most exciting character of all?...

Their next door neighbors.
Using Real-Life People to Inspire an Original Cast of Characters - A Guest Post by Hope Pennington
If you asked me to write a book using only the people I saw for one day of my everyday life these are the characters I'd have to choose from.
  • A curvy middle aged black lady who's all puns and jokes and works at HEB 
  • Her sister just as curvy who laughs too hard at her sister's jokes, who buys all of her clothes at WallMart and smiles every day of her life
  • A heavy twelve year old boy with a Mohawk, a love of sweets and the most mature, respectful, and confident kindness I've seen on anyone
  • A middle-aged businesswoman who talks fast, frowns, and is always in a rush 
  • A young white couple with a man who bosses around his pregnant, giggling wife until she snaps and barks back, getting her way 
  • A pretty young Hispanic girl, small and laid back who's quite down to earth and comfortable 
  • A young black man with long stylish hair and a new elaborate new thrift store outfit every day with a voice of silk that could put anyone to sleep, a pretty face, who speaks deep proverbs 
  • A middle-aged Hispanic lady who speaks in broken English and thanks everyone for everything every two seconds 
  • A trans woman with the highest IQ on the block, beautiful eyes, and an Australian accent 
  • An Asian dad who wears a sweater even on a hot day and makes passive-aggressive jokes 
  • His quite teen daughter who never talks 
  • His seven-year-old boy who never stops and can't make up his mind 
  • A middle-aged black man with the kindest heart of anyone who's a computer science genius but runs a candy shop as well and loves to make wood crafts 
These are just a few of the people I meet in a day of being me. Imagine if I wrote a book with them as the characters instead of the cliche paper cutouts used and overused by most people?

Not only would my book have a unique and diverse cast, but I didn't even have to make them up. They are more complicated than I ever could've imagined because they are actually real.

You don't have to look far to create an original cast.

And for the people saying I'm trying to force diversity in: These are just the people I meet in everyday life. It seems more like I'd have to force them out if I wrote a mostly male, mostly white, mostly young cast of characters.

And not only that but the stories of the real people around you are more exciting than you could've ever imagined.

I challenge you. For just one day in your life write down a brief profile of everyone you meet and use them (or someone like them) in your next story. Also start taking note of the TV and books you take in and how much their cast and reality align with each other.

You may be surprised at how boring these stories become in light of real characters.

There's just one more group of people that I think you're overlooking when putting together your book who could be of immeasurable inspiration. Your family. You have a people group of diverse personalities who you've spent your whole life with. Ask them how they think. How they process things. Incorporate that into your character construction.

Prepare to see your characters come to life in a way you never thought possible because, as odd as it may seem: 

Truth is stranger than fiction.

And there are so many stories waiting to be told.


Like Hope's writing thoughts? Yeah, I do, too. If you want to obtain more of her awesomeness, you can follow her here: 

Her WebsiteHer InstagramHer Youtube

Related articles: 

8 Different Kinds of Strengths to Give Your Characters
Writing a Compelling Hero: 7 Tips With Examples
Enjoy this post? Take a look around. If you like what you see, don't forget to subscribe by email for a new post every Friday (and the occasional Monday and Wednesday)!

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

All About WriteOnCon: An Epic Online Writing Conference You Should Attend

WritOnCon is an amazing and affordable online writing conference happening from 02/09-02/11. In this video, I tell you all about it: How it works, why you should attend, where you can register, and how to get the most out of the event. I'm the Live Events Coordinator for WriteOnCon, so I know what I'm talking about (which is very rare, so you'll want to watch this video just for that): 
Sound like something you'd like to attend? Awesome instinct! You can register here
And don't forget to spread the news about WriteOnCon so all your writer friends can get in on the action! 

Here are all the promised links mentioned in the above video: 

Going to attend this event? Comment below so I can look for you in the forums and comments sections to say hello! 

Friday, February 2, 2018

Colors of Fear Is Out Now! Join the Release Party Fun!

Colors of Fear is officially out!


*throws confetti*

*runs around in circles*

*falls over* *gets back up* *jumps up and down*

Who's excited? MEEEEE!

You can now grab yourself a copy on Amazon (click here for Kindle and here for paperback) or Barnes & Noble (the paperback version is coming soon to B&N). Pick up an ebook or paperback. Whichever catches your fancy....Though the paperbacks are pretty darn awesome looking, if I do say so myself.
Now, I know it's hard to contain your excitement, but let's focus for just a second so I can announce one special thing:

Live streams! 

That's right. I'm going to do some live streams today and tomorrow as fun little release parties. Want to join in? Awesome! Here's the schedule. Be sure to subscribe to/follow all of the below links so you get a notification when I go live:

Friday, 02/02 at 9:30 AM PST on Youtube
Saturday, 02/03 at 12 noon PST on Twitter
Saturday, 02/03 at 5 PM PST on Facebook

These streams will be roughly 10 minutes long, though they may run a bit longer. They're a place where we can all gather (me in a video and you in the comment section) and throw around questions and comments about Colors of Fear and The Terebinth Tree Chronicles in general. So get ready to read up so you can be prepared for the live streams! Of course, you're also more than welcome to join if you haven't read the story. 

Mark your calendars, follow me on the above social networks, and leave a comment below to let me know that you're coming! I can't wait to chat with you. I've never done a live stream like this before, so it'll be an adventure. 

Okay. Before you all head off, I'd like to mention: I would LOVE your help with marketing this story. Here are some things you can do to help me, Hannah, Your Favorite Blogger, The 
Bestest Youtuber, The World's Most Amazing Author (okay, maybe some of those are a bit of a stretch): 
  • Buy Colors of Fear. Duh. That probably goes without saying, but I thought I'd mention it just in case. 
  • Leave a review. Seriously. It doesn't have to be long, but it will make a HUGE difference. Leave it on Amazon, on Barnes & Noble, and on Goodreads. And no, you don't have to give me 5-stars. Be honest. I promise not to call up my friend Batman and have him beat you up. 
  • Share the book online by sharing the Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and website pages on any and all social media networks.
  • Recommend Colors of Fear on Goodreads. 
  • Tell your family and friends. 
  • Create fanart and post it online. And don't forget to send it to me so I can put it on my website! I LOVE seeing fanart...especially because I can't draw to save my life, so it's fun to see other people's renditions of my characters or worlds. Have questions about character details? Check out the character profile page on my website or leave questions for me below! I'll fill you in on any info you may need. 
  • Blog about it.
  • Youtube about it. 
  • Take pictures of yourself reading Colors of Fear and post it online. This is one of my absolute favorite things, so be sure to tag me in any posts. 
  • Interview me on your blog or Youtube. I'm always up for interviews, so ask away! 
  • Buy a hot air balloon and shower copies down upon all of the peasants. 
  • Test out whatever other fun marketing technique you can think of. 
    Okay, got it? Good. Let's make some noise! 

    But, most importantly: Have fun reading Colors of Fear. I am beyond excited to finally let you into a world that I have been crafting for years. I hope you enjoy!

    Related articles:
    Colors of Fear: Now Available for Pre-Order! 
    Colors of Fear: Cover Reveal and Q&A

    Enjoy this post? Take a look around. If you like what you see, don't forget to subscribe by email for a new post every Friday (and the occasional Monday and Wednesday)!

    Some links are Amazon affiliate. Thank you for your support!

    Tuesday, January 30, 2018

    Colors of Fear: Now Available for Pre-Order!

    Colors of Fear: Now Available for Pre-Order!
    I feel that the title of this blog post kind of gives everything away, so I'm not really sure where to go from here.

    This is awkward.


    Ah, yes. I know. I didn't tell you where Colors of Fear is available for pre-order, did I? Good. I haven't completely cut myself off at the knees.

    Colors of Fear, the YA Christian dystopian short story to release on 02/02/2018, is available for pre-order on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

    If you click on the links (go on, do it), you'll notice these are both ebook versions. What about the paperback versions? Didn't I promise those would exist, too?!

    Yes, I did promise that and no, I haven't forgotten. Calm down. The paperback versions will be available on both Amazon and Barnes & Noble come 02/02. They're simply not available for pre-order, so if you want a physical copy you'll have to wait until 02/02 to order. Sorry. You can always grab the ebook version to tide you over as you sit by your door and wait for the glorious package to arrive.

    I know that 3 whole days is a long, long time to have to wait for what will be your new favorite short story, so I've kindly put together some cool things for you to look at while you suffer. Behold:


    Character profiles: 

    Learn a bit about the characters from Colors of Fear by clicking here



    Kyle Robert Shultz's review on Goodreads. I didn't bribe him to say all those nice things, I promise.

    Live stream: 

    Yeah, that's right. I'm going to be doing live video streams on either 02/02, 02/03, or 02/04 to celebrate the release of Colors of Fear. They'll be quick 10(ish) minute streams on Youtube, Facebook, and (maybe?) Twitter. They'll be a place for you to pop in, leave comments, ask questions, and share thoughts about the release as I respond to them live. It'll probably be a disaster because I've never done a live stream before, but at least we know it'll be entertaining.

    Want to join in on the fun? Please let me know which dates/times work best for you I will try to schedule the live streams when we're all available!

    powered by Typeform

    And, of course, in case you've somehow managed to forget since I mentioned it at the beginning of this post...

    Pre-order links: 

    Barnes & Noble

    Who's excited? Meeeee! Want to help me keep the excitement going? Fill out the survey above, share the Amazon page, share the Barnes & Noble page, pre-order (and then share on social media that you did, in fact, pre-order), share this blog post, tell your friends and family, shout out your thoughts on social media using #ColorsofFear. So many options. Pick one of them (or all of them, if you want to earn the title of Hannah's Bestest Fan).

    Have questions or comments? Please leave them below! I can't wait for Friday, so it would be nice to have people to chat with to distract me from my excitement.

    Related articles:
    Colors of Fear: Cover Reveal and Q&A
    The Terebinth Tree Chronicles #1: Jacket Blurb and Title RevealAnnouncing The Terebinth Tree Chronicles Publication Date of 02/02/2018

    Enjoy this post? Take a look around. If you like what you see, don't forget to subscribe by email for a new post every Friday (and the occasional Monday and Wednesday)!

    Some links are Amazon affiliate. Thank you for your support!

    Friday, January 26, 2018

    5 Tips for Creating Suspense in Your Story: A Guest Post by Aria E. Maher

    Today I'm bringing in an expert on the topic of suspense: Aria E. Maher. She is the author of the most suspenseful book I have ever read: The Tangle. You may remember her from Episode 2 of #ChatWithIndieAuthor. She knows what's what when it comes to suspense (and writing in general), so stop what you're doing an listen up. She's going to give us a crash course on how to create suspense in our writing. 

    Suspense: the thing that keeps you up at night to unholy hours flipping pages because you just have to know what happens next. What every writer wants to hear (besides, of course, that your book shattered the reader’s poor heart into ten thousand tiny pieces with ALL THE FEELS) is that they just couldn’t put the book down!

    But how, you ask, do you get that suspense? Is it just chance, just luck? A lottery that some authors win and some don’t? A piece of knowledge that you can only gain by selling your soul to the Illuminati???

    No, my friend. Not today! I’m here to offer you five solid tips for creating suspense in your story. Here we go!
    5 Tips for Creating Suspense in Your Story: A Guest Post by Aria E. Maher
    1. Let your readers in on the secret. There’s nothing more suspenseful than knowing a secret when the main character(s) are completely oblivious. For example, if your character is wandering around an abandoned castle, certain beyond a doubt that there’s no one else there, but the reader knows that there’s definitely a flesh-eating dragon loose in the castle, they’ll be glued to their seat to see what happens next and if your character survives!

    2. Fear of the unknown. Alternatively, you could totally obscure what’s actually going on and have your character and your reader slowly uncover the truth throughout the duration of the story. Not knowing why something strange is happening will keep the reader flipping pages in the hopes of finding out the truth. But this only works if you as the author actually know what’s really going on, and aren’t just relying on vague or bizarre unexplained happenings to sustain the story. There’s nothing more annoying than getting to the end of an exciting, suspenseful book, only to find out that there are no real answers because it was all a dream. In other words, don’t try to write something suspenseful just for the sake of being suspenseful. Have a real story first!

    3. The calm before the storm. An ominously quiet moment after it seems all the enemies have been defeated. A rest, a pause, a happy scene that lulls your reader into a false sense of security. A scene like this, carefully placed when the reader is expecting something terrible, can be perfect for building suspense. Let the tension build up until the reader is sure that, in fact, nothing is actually going to go wrong… and then destroy everything. The absolute perfect example of a scene like this, the one that made me think of this tip, is from a Bollywood action film called Mission: Kashmir. I won’t spoil anything, but if you ever watch the film, you’ll know exactly what scene I’m talking about. (And I would highly recommend this film, even if you’ve never seen a Bollywood movie before. It is quite violent, and you’ll have to watch with subtitles, but it is very, very good and has many amazing examples of well-done suspense.

    4. Use the five senses. Don’t you forget about description and the five senses! Good description and sentence crafting is essential to writing suspense, as, of course, is the age-old ‘show, don’t tell’ mantra. You cannot create suspense by telling the reader that a situation is tense or suspenseful. You must create that uncertainty in their mind, or that dread. You must paint a world or a scene with words and sentences and paragraphs, and you must do it well. Your reader must be transported into that moment, feeling what the character is feeling. 
    Only then can you create real suspense.

    Bonus Word Crafting Tip: Great writing is all about using every tool at your disposal, whether it’s the length of the sentence or the choice of the words, in order to carefully craft an impactful paragraph, chapter, or, ultimately, story. Here’s a quick tip for using sentence length and description to build suspense. Suspension is all about building up to a climax, all about keeping the reader wondering what will happen next. Longer sentences and more detailed description can be used to create a slow buildup in a tense or suspenseful scene, and when the storm breaks, you can use short, choppy sentences and rapid-fire action/dialogue/etc. to differentiate and help change the pace.

    5. Make people care. Like I said before, don’t try to write something suspenseful just for the sake of writing something suspenseful. There needs to be a good story, and good characters that people can care about. If your readers don’t care about your characters, they’re not going to care what happens to them, and any suspense you try to build will be defeated. So, write good characters and a good story first, and then find the places in the story that could use some tension and work on upping the suspense as much as you can. Remember: Suspense shouldn’t be the focus or the point of the story. Tell a good story first. The readers will be in more suspense, and more likely to keep flipping pages, if they actually care about your characters and story in the first place.

    I hope that you find these tips helpful! Thank you so much for reading, and thanks so much to Hannah for letting me do a guest post on her blog.

    Love Aria and her writing? Yep. I do, too. Be sure to follow her online at the following places: 

    And, of course, you must read her books: 

    But before you click all of those links to behold Aria's awesomeness, don't forget to leave your thoughts below! How do you like to create suspense in your stories? What is your biggest challenge in this area? Let us know by leaving a comment! And, of course, let's say a big thank you to Aria for providing us with these awesome tips! Thank you, Suspense Queen! 

    Related articles: 
    Using Context and Subtext to Raise the Stakes in Your Story: A Guest Post by Malcolm Tolman
    Episode 2 of #ChatWithIndieAuthor: Aria E. Maher + eBook Giveaway of The Tangle

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    Wednesday, January 24, 2018

    Ep 5 of #ChatWithIndieAuthor: J.E. Purrazzi

    J.E Purrazzi writes speculative fiction and is the author of the thrilling and thought-provoking Malfunction universe, as well as the brand-new Raventree Society series. On top of that, she is a fellow Phoenix Fiction Writer. So, to put it simply: She's awesome. In this video, she discusses writing about difficult topics, researching for her cyberpunk series, writing from multiple POVs, and more!

    Remember: You can listen to this chat on iTunes!

    The first episode of The Raventree Society released on 01/23, so go grab yourself a copy! Especially if you’re a fan of CW’s Supernatural.

    Want to check out the recommended reads page that she mentions in the video? Click here.

    Are you following J.E. Purrazzi online? It’s mandatory. Go say hello:
    Find her books here:
    When is the next #ChatWithIndieAuthor episode? What an astute question. Wednesday, February 28th will bring us a chat with sci-fi author S. Alex Martin. Have questions for him? Leave a comment below or on social media using the hashtag!

    Like this video and want to support my writing efforts? Subscribe to my channel or buy my short story. Or both!

    Related articles: 
    Episode 3 of #ChatWithIndieAuthor: Kyle Robert Shultz

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    Monday, January 22, 2018

    Colors of Fear: Cover Reveal and Q&A

    For those of you who haven't been paying attention: Colors of Fear is a YA Christian Fantasy short story I'm indie publishing on 02/02. It's the beginning of a short story series titled The Terebinth Tree Chronicles that will include 5 stories. You can read more about it here.

    For those of you who have been paying attention: I've been slowly leaking information about Colors of Fear for the past few months. So what information are you getting today? 

    Today, friends, you get to behold the glory that is the Colors of Fear cover: 
    Okay, so maybe it's not glory on par with a Van Gogh, but considering I made it myself without harming my ears? It's pretty good. Especially if you take into account the images I created leading up to it. Want to see? Okay. You're allowed to laugh. 

    I drew my first piece using my laptop touchpad, resulting in a blob of colors that would only be considered art if a six-year-old drew it and then showed it to her very compassionate mother: 

    I moved onto a drawing tablet and got this: 
    Eh. A bit better, but I wanted it to match the cover style of Skies of Dripping Gold, so I progressed to the official cover. 

    You can now add Colors of Fear and its cool cover to your Goodreads list, so head on over and mark it as "Want to Read." You know it's true. 

    Now I'm going to smoothly transition to my Q&A. I asked online if anyone had questions about Colors of Fear or The Terebinth Tree Chronicles in general and got a few, so let's get to it: 

    Question by multiple people: Where will it be available to purchase? 

    Colors of Fear (and the next 4 stories in the series) will be available as a Kindle ebook for the majority, a Nook ebook for the Amazon haters, and an iBooks ebook for the hipsters. It will also be available as a paperback on Amazon...and possibly Barnes & Noble (but that one isn't for sure). 

    Question from Emelie: 1) Do any of the good guys have magical abilities? 2) What kind of weapons do they carry? 3) Does the villain work solo, or have a sidekick? 4) Do any of the 5 main characters die?  Don't answer if you can't yet!! 

    1) Yes, some of the good guys have magical abilities and some of them have powers. Some of you may now be thinking: "Hannah, magical abilities and powers are the same thing." Well, not in the Terebinth Tree Chronicles universe. 

    2) Wanderer, the main character in Colors of Fear, carries a dagger that is practically falling apart, along with a bow and stone-headed arrows. The desert where he lives is very low on steel (and supplies in general), so he doesn't have access to a lot of weaponry. Jayel, the main character in story #2, carries a dagger and steel-tipped arrows. The two humans in story #3 and #4 wield swords and throwing knives. And anti-villain in story #5 uses a sword. 

    3) The anti-villain in story #5 is, technically, a sidekick. But she doesn't plan to remain one for long. 

    4) Ha. I'm not answering that. Sorry-not-sorry. 

    Question from Elza Kinde: 1) What were some "spark" ideas that got you started on this story? 2) Do you enjoy world-building? What make yours unique? 3) Why four assassins?

    1) This is something I discuss in the Author's Note for Colors of Fear, but I'll answer it briefly here: My family and I watch a lot of fantasy much so that we noticed a common trend of these short prologue-like clips that play before the movie actually begins. These clips establish the world, the plot, and sometimes the characters (a prime example being the Last Alliance of Men and Elves shown at the start of the Fellowship of the Ring). We dubbed these the Movie Before the Movie and I've always love the concept. So I found myself wondering: What if I did Stories before the Story for The Stump of the Terebinth Tree? And thus this Terebinth Tree Chronicles were born. 

    2) YES, world building is one of my favorite parts of writing. Not to sound pretentious, but: There are a lot of things that make my world-building unique. For one: There are multiple different types of elves (desert elves, wood elves, and a few other kinds I won't mention because of spoilers), rather than the stereotypical tall, beautiful, vegan wood elves. The Terebinth Tree Chronicles also contains multiple religions and sects, which is fairly unusual for fantasy novels...let alone Christian fantasy. The magic and power system is based off of scientific concepts (such as entropy), but with a twist of my weird imagination. Aside from that, there's a smattering of other pieces of uniqueness that you'll discover in Colors of Fear and the following stories. 

    3) The answer to this is weird, so bear with me: I didn't want my group of assassins to get along. I wanted to show what it would look like to have a team of people supposedly fighting for the same thing, but all with ulterior motives, all with different backgrounds, of different races, and of different religious beliefs. So I needed there to be in-fighting, but I also wanted each assassin to have a partner (after all, even assassins need friends). Doing the math resulted in four assassins: Two human siblings and two desert elves. Hopefully that makes sense.

    Question from Beth Wangler: 1) How did you decide to have a main character ruled by fear? 2) What were some challenges of writing an MC with this struggle?

    1) So many reasons. One reason was that I was getting a little tired of the brave, reckless hero. I love that character type, but I wanted to change things up. A more personal reason is that, as somebody with Lyme disease, I make it a point for each of my stories to have at least one ill and/or disabled character. Wanderer isn't disabled in the traditional sense, but he does have some issues going on that I won't go into because of spoilers. On top of that, his younger brother is sick and dying. Because he's in the middle of such a stressful situation, a natural part of his character ended up being that he lives in fear: Fear of the unknown, fear of losing his brother, fear of not being able to make a difference, fear of his own mind. I chose to highlight that fear for all the people out there who are struggling with similar issues. Fear is, sadly, something that most people battle with on a daily basis and I wanted my readers to know that they aren't alone.

    2) Wanderer deals with his fears in ways that I don't necessarily approve of...and definitely in ways that are opposite of how I would handle them. The story is told from a deep POV, so I found that it would take me several minutes to get into his mindset...I couldn't simply slip into it easily and start writing like I can with other characters. He took more work because he's so different from myself. Another struggle was that, because Wanderer is controlled by fear, he doesn't really know who he is.  I know who he is, but he doesn't, so it was interesting to try and balance that while telling the story from his eyes. Unreliable narrators can be tricky like that. 

    Question from K.L.+Pierce: 1) Where did you get the idea of an elf assassin? 2) Also, will the fact that the elf is from a desert setting (rather than the forest) play into how they go about their mission (weapons, skills, attitude towards life, etc.)?

    1) As much as I wish I had a deep answer for this: I don't. I've always enjoyed writing fantasy and darker characters, so I naturally gravitated towards the concept of writing an assassin. As for why he's an elf? I like elves. And that is my incredibly shallow answer. 

    2) Yes. Yes it will. I can't really answer anything beyond that, though. Not this early into the series.
    Aaaand those are all the questions. Have more? Leave them below and I'll answer them! 

    Remember: Colors of Fear release on 02/02. I'll be doling out more information next Monday (as well as randomly on social media), so keep your eyes peeled. Until then: Check out the short story on Goodreads! 

    Related articles: 
    Announcing The Terebinth Tree Chronicles Publication Date of 02/02/2018SaveSave

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