Keeping us riveted: the art of tension building – Game of Thrones

***Spoiler Alert*** to Game of Throne fans. If you haven’t watched the Season 5 finale, but plan to, then you may want to wait on reading this post until afterward.


I’m sitting at my computer, still reeling from the Game of Thrones Season 5 finale from a few days ago, and even if I am mad as hell that they killed off one of only three characters that deserve a happy ending on that show, I have to say I totally understand why they did it– to keep us interested.

If you read all of the post mortem tweets, you can find all sorts of comments from enraged fans who insist they’re done with GoT. Most of us had finally recovered from Ned Stark’s death in season one.The Red Wedding scene, though still a sore subject, had almost been forgiven. But this…this was going too far.

You want to know what I think? I think those very same people–the one ones who proclaim the loudest that they are walking away from their noxious relationship with GoT–those people will be the first ones to set their DVRs to record Season 6 next March.

A good story teller knows how to keep us guessing. As soon as we’re getting comfortable with the status quo “KABAM” you get stabbed in the gut with a knife…or in Jon Snow’s case…several knives. Ugh, it still hurts just thinking about it.

Anyway back to post. Right. Comfortable is probably not what one feels when watching any episode of GoT, let alone this last extremely brutal, humiliating and graphic episode. Am I the only one who heard a bell ring, followed by the words “Shame, shame, shame!” over and over again as they fell asleep that night? None-the-less, unless you read the books, I bet money that you had no idea that those characters were going to end up like they did. Who in their right mind could guess all that?

That’s what makes the show (and the books) so successful. The tension is always palpable. You can really never know what fate lies waiting in the dark corners of Winterfell, or the frozen ground of Castle Black. It really is a great ride.

Here are a few articles from one of my favorite author bloggers about creating tension in your story:

I haven’t read the Game of Thrones series (it’s on my bucket list), but someone told me that they knew Jon Snow would get it at the end of this season. It was written right in the pages of the book, he said.

I applaud you George R. R. Martin, for knowing your art, and building just the right amount of tension to make me want to throw my remote control at the TV.



Some things I learned about myself in 2013

christmasI can finish what I start! I did it! I finished Misspelled. I got help with the copy editing (as many of my critics suggested) and I’m querying agents as I write this. It was a ton of hard work, and there were times when I wasn’t sure I’d get here, but I saw it through. It’s morphed quite a bit since the first iterations, but I think you’ll like it. I hope you all will.  Here’s a chapter from the final version.

Some other things I discovered about myelf:

I kind of like scary things. Walking Dead, American Horror Story, Paranormal Activity 1-4…bring it on. Just as long as the lights are on, and I can wash it down with an On Demand showing of SNL.

I don’t have to carry my iPad with me everywhere I go. Seriously, who does that? My back is much happier with me now.

I write better in the morning….now if I could only get myself to get up earlier, that would help.

I’m not good at accepting criticism. It takes me at least a week to get over the feeling of self loathing.

I’m the worst public speaker in the world.

I love the idea going for a walk.

I forget how much I love the idea of going for walk, once I’m actually walking.

I like brussel sprouts.

I look more and more like my mom every day.

I will never have a hair do that I’m happy with.

I need to get as good at appreciating my own talents as I am at the self loathing.

Don’t be too serious about anything. If you can’t laugh about something, it’s not worth letting into your life.

So, I suppose the next thing I should do is sit down and write my resolutions for 2014. Hmmm. Nah. I think I’ll just do my best to do my best. No point in starting off the year in disappointment.

Latest excerpts from Misspelled

COVER_06282013022657It’s hard to describe the feelings that engulf you when you finish writing a novel. Just getting to type those words “The End” fills you with a certain trepidation that can only be thought of as weird. I don’t know if other authors feel the same way, but I know I’m overcome with a combination of relief, happiness, fear and dread. Probably because I know that it really isn’t the “end”. There are many, many revisions before I can finally call it a finished first draft. Then I walk away from it for weeks. When I finally get the itch to pick it up again, I’ll read a few chapters and wonder why I even bother. I get depressed, I ponder giving up writing altogether, and then I usually get caught up in some other creative distraction…graphic art, photography and baking were all distractions when I became despondent over this last project. So now I can create my own book covers, which is fantastic, but I also gained like 100 lbs (not so fantastic). But I always end up going back to the writing. Finally, after what feels like ages, I open the manuscript again…and fall in love with it all over again. Most of it anyways. Okay, small pieces of it. But enough pieces, that I’m inspired to tweak it, and massage it until it’s better. Much better.

Of course this massaging process takes another few months, but you eventually get to a new “The End”. And then, guess what? I go through all that crap all over again. (Sigh)

But the despair is less debilitating and the time away from the writing is spent on written inspiration…reading, writing short passage ideas for the second book, firming up the story line. But there’s always time for baking right? Maybe not.

So now I have a really, real first draft. Since I’m going to try going the traditional route this time and find an agent, I’m sending it out for some copy editing. I’m quite certain I’ll be rewriting much of it again, but I’m moving forward. And this is a good thing. I keep telling that to my stomach, upset with churning bile.

At any rate, I’m closer to the end goal (with book 1). I know the title, and have comped up the book cover (tell me what you think of it) and am hopeful that the real “The End” is right around the corner for Misspelled. Now I wait for my beta readers enthusiastic feedback, and the copy editor to gently tell me I suck. Meanwhile, I’m off to start book 2. And here we go again.

Latest excerpts from Misspelled can be read on my What’s Next page.


New excerpt from my next project

It’s hard to believe it’s Labor Day weekend again. When you were young, you barely paid attention to the sayings about how life happened in a blink of an eye, or that time goes by faster and faster as you age. Especially since the people expelling those notions tended to be older than you were back then. And though they had lived longer than you had up to that point, you thought that most of what they said was just sad and, of course, didn’t apply to you. Besides, you thought to yourself, it would be awesome if time went by faster! Then you wouldn’t have to wait so long to get promoted, or make enough money to get that car you always wanted. You could finally meet your dream guy or gal and get married and have kids. You could hardly wait to meet all the good stuff of life head on. Yep, that’s how I saw it waaaay back then. Oh how I long for the days when it felt like 2 1/2 months of summer seemed to last forever.

Now another summer has come and gone, and I feel like I barely have anything to show for it. But do I have time to wallow in my wasted opportunities? Hardly. Sigh. Goodbye Summer, I should have appreciated you more. Well hello there Fall. Please don’t tempt me too much with Halloween sweets and holiday treats. Because before you know it, Spring will be knocking on the door, and Summer will be waiting just around the corner yet again.

Anyway, I’ve posted an excerpt from chapter 4 of my current writing project. I’m currently finishing Chapter 8 (or is it 9?) which should be the last chapter of book 1. And yes, it feels like I only started writing this story a couple of months ago. But alas, almost 2 years have passed already since I put the first pen to paper on this project. Woosh! Dang, life just raced by and almost took my head off!

If you are still young…ah heck, even if you’re old and ragged…seriously, appreciate every beautiful moment and don’t wish too hard for the future to get here. It may be cliche, but life is short, live it well.


“Rose! WAKE UP!” Mom’s voice jolted me from a dead sleep. My eyes shot open. I gasped and felt hot air rush into my lungs. Immediately, I started coughing and started rubbing at my eyes. I could barely open them because they burned so badly. Just then, my bedroom door blew open. I gagged when I saw a shadowed figure rush towards me. I almost screamed until through a squinted stare, I was able to make out Mom’s face. She had Zack tucked tightly to her side. He was coughing uncontrollably, too.
“Rose! Hurry, we don’t have much time!” She said, pulling me from my bed. It was then that I saw the billowing gold flames in the hallway behind her.
We hurried to my bedroom window. I could feel the intense heat on my skin. She must have felt it too because it was then that she swung her arm violently in the air towards the door slamming it closed, shutting out the heat and the flames for a while longer. My coughing got worse. I thought that any minute my lungs were going to explode. When I struggled to open the window, Mom nudged me aside and handed Zack to me. With one smooth movement, she lifted the window pane without even touching it. The heat from inside the room rushed by us and into the night air. Several of our neighbors were standing across the street, staring at our burning home. I waved at them frantically and yelled “Help us!” I turned to face Mom. “We’re going to be rescued!” I said. Then I heard a loud rumbling as the door to my room began to rattle on its hinges.
“There’s isn’t time to wait.” Mom said in a surprisingly calm voice. She took one step backward. “Hold on to your brother, make sure he’s safe.”
Obediently, I tightened my arms around Zack. Then she closed her eyes and began some sort of incantation I’d never heard before. In the full moon, I could see her face flush as she continued to chant. Suddenly, the whole room was cast with a beautiful cerulean blue light.
It was at that moment I realized I wasn’t coughing anymore. I could breathe again. I inhaled deeply, filling my lungs with sweet oxygen. I looked down at Zack, who had also stopped coughing. He rested his head against my chest, his eyes heavy with exhaustion. He looked like an angel with his curly hair and round pink cheeks. It took another second for my brain to register that I could actually see the color in his face. When everything else in the room was cast in a bluish tint, the walls, the dresser, the bed, Mom —there was no hint of blue in Zack’s face. I looked at my own hand. Even in the dim light, I could see the flesh tones of my skin. That’s when I realized that Zack and I were inside some sort of bubble. I looked at my mother as she stood behind the blue translucent wall now separating her from us.


Character writing

I admit it, I’m a horrible (with a capital H) blogger! I see other people’s blogs, and wonder how they do it. How do they find the time or inclination to sit down and type something profoundly interesting about the nothing much on a daily basis? I think my problem is that I spread myself too thin. I can’t concentrate on any one thing for too long. Wait, I think that’s called Attention Deficit Disorder isn’t it? Not good.

At any rate my new writing project has been taking up some of my time. Probably not as much time as it should be though. I have almost 50,000 words, I need to get to 80,000 before I can say I’m ready to take a serious second pass through it. I’ve gotten into a bad habit of getting up and walking away from my computer whenever I hit the slightest wall. And it’s a hard habit to break. But I think instead of heading for the kitchen to eat a snack that I neither deserve nor need, I should force myself to do sit ups. That might be just enough of a deterrent to keep my rear firmly seated in my chair, and my fingers dancing away on the keyboards.

So here’s the long and nebulous way of getting to the reason for my post – character writing.  My mom’s gotten me hooked on Grey’s Anatomy reruns. I watch way too much tv as it is, and the last thing I needed was another distraction. From its onset, Grey’s Anatomy was one of the shows I made a conscious decision to stay away from. Not because I thought it was a bad concept, I mean who doesn’t love watching sexy good-looking people going at it in a hospital? But I stayed away because I had been a faithful E.R. enthusiast (until the last couple of seasons…bleh), and frankly, I resented any show that could even think of replacing it. But my mom, who is retired, has become obsessed with watching it on Netflix. I’m quite certain she is fully intent on watching them in order (season 1, episode 1 to the current season), but since she is a little memory challenged sometimes, she tends to flip around the seasons quite a bit, and the time lines start to get all muddled together. To her this is not a big deal. In fact, I think it makes things more interesting for her as I’m pretty sure she creates her own story lines for the characters in her head anyway. But for me, who needs stories to be told in a specific order, it was frustrating. Not that I write my stories in a precise chronological order, because I definitely do not. But it needs to make some sense in the end right?  Whenever I came to visit, I would sit and watch with her. And because she would watch the episodes in random order, I wouldn’t know if Meredith and Derek were together or not, if Christina was married or not, or if Callie was gay or not. Basically, I couldn’t become invested in the characters because I couldn’t see their development. To me they were just a bunch of randy doctors screwing each other.  And because I wanted to enjoy my visits with my mom, and be able to talk with her about her current favorite show,  I ended up starting to watch the episodes on my own…in the correct order. And only one season in, I’m officially hooked. Okay, maybe not obsessed like my mom is.  I certainly don’t always sit in front of the tv and watch each episode with undivided attention. I usually have it on in the background while I’m doing housework, or editing, but I admit I look forward to seeing how the characters grow and progress. I love it when you start off hating a character and then after getting to know them and spending time with them, they end up being your favorite. That’s just good story writing. I’m excited to see how the surgeons of Seattle Grace Hospital will surprise me next.

Now to the crux of the post…(told you it was a long way to get here)

It’s fair to say characters are the drivers of a story. You have a plot, you have an outline. You may even have a definitive moral of the story. But the character building is what gets you to the end.  As you get to know a character by writing about them -giving them words to say in dialog, describing their expressions and movements – the story changes. The characters themselves take you in different directions. Of course in order to keep the reader interested, the characters have to be believable. That isn’t always an easy task.

I thought I’d take this time to share the character backgrounds for a few of my characters in Finding Normal. I sort of  knew how I saw Emma before starting to write anything, but I had to get through writing the first passage before she truly formed in my mind. I scratched these character prompts onto a piece of paper right after I finished her first memory sequence in the story. I had yet to create the outline for how the story would progress or how it would end up. I just knew I had to get to know Emma more, in order to tell her story, but in the end, she made the story all her own.

Emma Rose Peterson -16 years old, brown hair, brown eyes, slender. Smart, clumsy, awkward. She’s not shy, but keeps to herself. She feels that friendships are complicated. Unapproachable. Has major issues of abandonment. Parents split when she was eight. Spends most of her time at home with her mom. Does well in school. No social skills. Low self esteem. Favorite color is blue. Loves old black and white movies.   Think real love is only in movies or books.

Jackie Peterson – Emma’s mom. Pretty, flirty, fun. Got pregnant and married young. She grew up in a very catholic family with a moderate income. Her parents disowned her when she got pregnant. Loves with all her heart, but doesn’t really know how to be a parent so she acts like Emma’s best friend. Favorite color is yellow.

As you can see these were very simple and the bare minimum. Character backgrounds can be as extensive as necessary to help you create your story. But bare in mind, you might change your mind half way through, and instead of having velvety blue eyes, your character can have dark crazy eyes.  Here’s  a great blog post I found about character writing  prompts.

Alrighty then, I best get back to my new project. This distraction has come to an end.


I looked up the word inspiration and found this:
1. Stimulation or arousal of the mind, feelings, etc., to special or unusual activity or creativity
2. Stimulation of the mind or emotions to a high level of feeling or activity.

Then I looked up the word stimulate:
1. To increase temporarily the activity of (a body organ or part).

And I got to thinking about what inspires me…
Witnessing someone’s kindness
A baby smiling
The sound of the ocean
Watching my mother lovingly tend her garden
Winning at anything
Genuine creativity
Music that makes me move
A story that moves me
Making someone happy
Doing something that inspires others

Inspiration is personal. What “stimulates” your insert body part here can change from one minute to the next. The important thing is to seek out the things that inspire you as often as you can. It isn’t always possible to surround yourself in inspiration every moment of every day- in fact, doing so could cause an over-stimulation of some sort…and that can’t be too good. So let’s say at least once a day get close enough to something inspirational to touch it. Life is too short…and more often than not, too shitty to let a day go by without feeling something as good as stimulation or arousal of the mind, feelings, etc., to special or unusual activity or creativity.

The image I’ve attached is from an article about some guys who were inspired to build a real floating house based on the “Up” house in the Disney/Pixar movie. Click here to link.


The Welcome Christmas Song

There’s nothing like singing a Holiday song to get you into the Christmas spirit!

Welcome Christmas come this way
Fahoo fores dahoo dores
Welcome Christmas, Christmas day
Welcome, welcome fahoo ramus
Welcome, welcome dahoo damus
Christmas day is in our grasp
So long as we have hands to clasp
Fahoo fores dahoo dores
Welcome Christmas bring your cheer
Fahoo fores dahoo dores
Welcome all Whos far and near
Welcome Christmas, fahoo ramus
Welcome Christmas, dahoo damus
Christmas day will always be
Just so long as we have we
Fahoo fores dahoo dores
Welcome Christmas bring your light
(hum next two lines…)
Fahoo fores dahoo dores
Welcome Christmas, Christmas day
Welcome Christmas, fahoo ramus
Welcome Christmas, dahoo damus
Welcome Christmas while we stand
Heart to heart and hand in hand
Fahoo fores dahoo dores
Welcome welcome Christmas Day…
Welcome, welcome X-mas day….

Life is a Roller Coaster

Tiger & Turtle - Magic Mountain

What is it about a roller coaster that is so appealing to so many people? Is it the incredible, freeing sensation of soaring into skies or the the gut clenching fear of plummeting back to the ground that makes people want to wait hours in line just to experience one? I heard someone refer to a roller coaster as a giant version of your dad tossing you into the air when you were a kid. Scientists will say it has something to do with the stimulation of your inner ear. It makes sense, I mean I was the type of kid that loved spinning myself into a dizzy fit, and being flung into the air by my dad – and I love roller coasters.

I suppose there are many things in this world that can simulate that excitement. The exhilaration of a budding relationship can bring you those same highs and lows. Certainly, a gripping movie can make you laugh and cry in a matter of moments. And of course the ebb and flow of a well written novel can be bring you a similar thrill. What is happy without sad? What is love without loss? You’ve heard that saying…life is like a roller coaster. I’ll admit that I’ve been through some crazy twists and turns in my life that have left me nothing but a bad case of nausea. And I’ve climbed to fantastic heights just to fall flat on my rear end many more times than I care to say. So I get the analogy.

But when I saw this article about an art installation in the Rhine, I thought to myself…”Now that is closer to how life is!”

At least in my experience, life doesn’t pull you up to soaring heights – you have to work hard to get there. You climb only as far as your legs can take you. If your lucky, someone might give you a little push, or hold your hand. But for the most part, it’s up to you to get to the top. As for going down? Well I guess that depends on you too. You could decide to play it cautiously, and climb down the steps. Be a little more daring and skip a few steps on the way down, or really take your chances and glide down the banister. Or heck, just jump off the darn thing.

But my favorite part of a roller coaster is that second or two of weightlessness you get right before the plummet. I get the feeling you don’t get that with this roller coaster. Drats! On the bright side, it might be a great way to burn off lunch!

Here’s the article for those of you who are interested:

A Roller Coaster for Wimps: You Walk Instead of Ride by Belinda Lanks

I’m back

Well first, I have to admit that I’ve been very remiss with keeping my blog updated with fresh posts, and I am sorry for that. But I was very open in the beginning when I said that I’m not someone who particularly likes to write about self-centric things. You know there are two types of people in the world – one type that, when faced with one or two challenging situations, seek assurance by shouting their thoughts and ideas from the highest mountain top, and the other type who when confronting those same challenges, tend to retreat and keep their thoughts and feelings closer to the vest. It’s the classic extrovert vs. introvert concept. I am and have always been the latter, so sue me.

So what have I decided to write about on my first return post to pull myself out of my hermit-like existence?  Just a few things that have inspired me and kept me sane these past few weeks.

I’ve read two books. The first was a completely indulgent read that I was prompted to pick up after watching a BBC movie based on the same novel on a gloomy Sunday afternoon.  Mansfield Park by Jane Austen.  I can never get enough of J.A., I love the way her mind worked. I’m always amazed at how she was able to incorporate all the complicated emotions of her characters inside a simple story that keeps her readers riveted even without being action packed.  And the second book, I resisted for as long as I could, but finally gave in. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Why did I resist? I’m not sure. Maybe I wasn’t ready to see that baton of favorite YA book series handed off by Stephanie Meyers Twilight Series just yet. Yes, I know that was years ago, but I was pretty addicted. Kind of sad really, for a woman my age.  At any rate, I decided to hell with it. I need another engrossing story to inspire me and get my own creative juices flowing again. And so help me I totally loved it. I ate it up in just a couple of days. Just like Twilight did for me a few years ago, I think about the Hunger Games characters constantly.  I can only hope that I can give that kind of life to the characters I create.

I got an IPad.  This is something I am very excited about, as I am certain that this instrument will help me with my productivity (in writing and in life). However, the beginning stages of owning one of these you can pretty much categorize as frivolous.  Fun, definitely. But productive, not so much. Right now I’m on the hunt for the perfect writing app. I have Pages and My Memoirs right now, and I haven’t determined which one will work better for me. I’m sure when I have it all perfectly set up, I’ll have to blog about it. But right now, I’m still pretty much app-happy and pushed-content drunk.

I’ve finished another chapter in my current story. Yay!

I’ve been doing some digital fantasy artwork. It’s another creative outlet that I desperately crave at times but unfortunately take up large chunks of precious time that I should be devoting to writing.

I’ve been spending quality time with my mom, watching our hometown NFL team kick butt on Sundays. (Insert sheepish chuckle)

So, that’s it. You are up to date. And yes, I have purposefully left out the details of said challenges that drove me to my introverted ways. Those details are safely tucked away in my personal journal. Of course, I will endeavor to post more and share and express more thoughts on writing and inspirational topics on this personal blog site. But don’t take that as a promise. Take that for what it is, the only thing I can offer…hope.

Remembering, ten years later

As the 10 year anniversary of that terrible and life changing event is upon us, we have been inundated with news articles and reports to remind us of just how scary life in the real world can be. I remember that day clearly. I was at a conference in Atlanta, and when I first heard the news, I remember being confused. What do you mean a plane crashed into theWorldTradeCenter? I imagined the nose of a small Cessna jet jutting into the side of the glass and concrete building with the people inside the plane completely fine and unharmed, poking their bodies half out of the circular-shaped windows with arms comically waving in the air like you might see in a simply animated cartoon. It took a second for the seriousness of the matter to hit me, and then I immediately thought about John Kennedy Jr. and I immediately felt a sadness tugging at me. The idea of a full sized airline jet still hadn’t entered my mind. It was simply unfathomable. There were no televisions near us, and since this was pre-smart phone, we were completely clueless as to what was really happening. It wasn’t until almost an hour later when we starting walking back to our hotel, and we saw a large group of people crowding into a small restaurant bar to watch the live news reports on the television, that we saw the horror and devastation. As I watched the towers come tumbling down, a numbness washed over me. For the rest of the afternoon, I sat there glued to the little tv screen. People gasped, and murmured around us. My colleagues were on their cell phones with their families offering assuring comments like “it will all be okay,” and “I’ll be home soon.”  When I was back in my hotel room, I cried. Not just a few tears. I’m talking about a drop down to my knees, gut clenching kind of sob. A few days later, after they let us fly again and I was home, I cried the same way again.  For several weeks, I found myself emotionally distraught and crying at random moments. I didn’t personally know anyone who died that day, and I am so thankful for that. Because the anguish I feel for those thousands of strangers was paralyzing enough.

It’s now 10 years later. And there have been hundreds of tragedies, including a few personal ones that have affected me since then. Let’s face it, terrible things happen every day and there isn’t all that much we can do about it. Yet, every year around this time we hear stories of the souls that lost their lives in that dreadful attack, and stories about the people they left behind. And every year I find myself crying again.

This morning, I was standing in front of my closet picking out the clothes I was going to wear to work. I had the news on in the background as usual, waiting for the traffic report so I could figure out just how much time I had to lollygag around before I had to start my commute. I was in the middle of contemplating between wearing the grey top or the bluish grey top -because there is a difference and it matters- when on came a news story about 9/11. They talked about how a man, despite being told to stay in the building that day, directed and helped the people he worked with to evacuate, so that by the time the first tower collapsed, they were all safely out of the building. But the former military officer didn’t make it, because he went back in to try and save more people. I realized the triviality of my morning dilemma, and already there were tears welling up in my eyes. I stopped what I was doing and walked over to my television monitor to get a closer look at a picture of this hero.  His name was Rick Rescorla, and he was a veteran and a security officer. I came to find out that the report wasn’t only about his bravery on that day, but that the SF opera had created an Opera based on a book by journalist James Stewart on Rick Rescorla’s life story.  I had to smile as my spirit lifted in the understanding that this glorious spirit will live on. I felt encouraged by the thought that everyone has a story, and whether more of that story is uplifting and inspiring or dark and sad, each life is worth remembering. And moreover, each life is worth living.

Here’s to stories. May they be forever thought provoking and emotionally moving. Here’s to people whose actions and lives prompt us to tell their stories in many different ways. Here’s to the writers and poets who breathe life into written words, and the artists who create visions to relay those stories. After all, everything we create is about life, isn’t it?

Here’s a link to one of the news story about Rick Rescorla :