Red Lettering

Stories will not be written easily. A story without a heart is dead, and the only place it will get a heart is from the author.

Archive for the month “December, 2014”

Writing on a Deadline

Writing on a Deadline

Writers are known for pushing deadlines as far as they can go. Even when they’re not doing it on purpose, it’s a generally accepted, well-known piece of information that if you are a writer, you will one day find out that you have to write something in a ridiculously  short amount of time.

I, personally, am the type of person who always ends up doing things last-minute. A few months ago I mentioned that I wrote a story for the Speculative Faith Writing Challenge, if any of you remember that—what I didn’t mention was that I didn’t even know of the existence of the contest until afternoon on the day the contest ended. I ended up writing the story (which, admittedly, wasn’t very long) and editing the story in the time remaining before midnight. When the Tales of Goldstone Wood Fan fiction Contest came up, though I planned on writing the story with plenty of time in advance, I ended up changing my story last-minute and writing a whole new short story for the contest that day. About a month ago, I participated in a small, private writing contest and ended up—you guessed it— once more not working on the story at all until the last day.

There have been other times when I’ve pushed deadlines to the limit or barely made deadlines, but suffice to say that I have had some experience with working on tight deadlines, sometimes by my choice and sometimes because that was simply the way it was. I’ve learned what works for me on deadlines, and what doesn’t.

Get something hot and preferably with sugar in it. Coffee, hot chocolate, tea, whatever your favorite is. Prepare to drink a lot of it.

If you’re working on paper, put it on a clipboard and take the little piece of cardboard wherever you go. Don’t set it down for a minute, whether you’re wandering around the house or being still. Whatever you do, don’t set the thing down.   

When you’re on a computer, it’s easier to remember that you’re working on something; computers are considerably harder to misplace than a small piece of paper, so you shouldn’t have to worry about being perpetually touching it. When on the computer, turn on music. If it’s a short story or the end of a novel, you’ll probably find that there is one song that keeps you writing the fastest, and you will end up clicking for it to replay that one song out of ten others that you would normally listen to (while writing my Tales of Goldstone Wood Fan fiction, that one song was Through Heaven’s Eyes, from Moses: Prince of Egypt. I don’t even usually listen to that album while writing, but that song ended up having the perfect rhythm and sound; without it, I don’t think I would have succeeded in finishing in time).

Avoid the internet. No further information required.

Always be aware of how much time you have left, but don’t panic over it. Put a clock where you can glance at it so that you won’t have to waste extra time finding a clock, and be sure to remember that you may need time for editing. If you’re writing it on paper, you’ll also most likely need extra time to type it out.

Remember to keep moving. This advice can be discarded during the last hour you’ll be working on it—at that point, your heart will probably be starting to beat pretty quickly anyway, and you won’t need extra effort to keep the blood flowing. Also keep yourself hydrated—but, again, if you’re like me, you won’t need to remember to do this as your time runs out, because as you get more nervous, you’ll slowly start to consume more and more water.

When it comes time to edit, read it, read it, and read it again. You’ll still miss most typos and the like, so get someone else to read it, too, if at all possible. Turn off your music before editing to slide out of the breakneck speed you were writing in. You’ll still want to go fast, but not quite that fast.

In the end, though, don’t be too horribly concerned if you don’t finish in time; you’ll still have gone through an excellent writing exercise.

What are some things you’ve learned about writing on deadlines? How do you be sure that you’re writing your fastest?

What? You think I’m hinting at something? Well, you may not be wrong…

Writing Prompt: 12-26-2014

Origin: “Forsaken,” by Adele Lorienne. I know neither this artist nor her other paintings, so if you look her or them up, beware. Beware, O people, for monsters lurk in places you may not suspect.

Feeling inspired? Write something from this prompt! You can leave a response in the comments, or move the prompt to your blog and leave a link in the comments.

[I really look forward to being able to read anything you write from this prompt, and I expect to enjoy it very much and for my readers to also enjoy it. That said, please keep everything as clean as it gets because otherwise I will delete the comment or link to your blog.”Only what is good for building up…” If in doubt, ask. My contact information is on the About page.]

Reminder: The Short Story Contest ends on the last of this month, at midnight. If you’re planning on entering it, please make sure to get it submitted on time! 

Putting Writing Second

Putting writing Second

I’ve been considering for a couple of days what would be the best option for a post on Christmas Eve. Here in the U.S., Christmas is one of the most celebrated Holidays we have. Celebrated from one side of the country to another, it’s a celebration where gifts are given, families gather together, people talk about the Birth of Christ, and odd (yet good) food is consumed—but what does this have to do with writers? 

As almost a rule, we writers generally prefer our books over people. Whether we’re reading or writing, we would almost certainly rather do it than socialize, especially when Christmas no longer seems quite as magical or perfect as it used to. Most of us who consider ourselves to be writers love to write. It’s our passion. This set me to thinking about people, words, and extended family; then, eventually after a long and complicated train of thought, of something my pastor says every now and then:

“When people are dying, they don’t ask to see their diplomas or ledgers or certificates. They ask to see people.”

(Paraphrased, because I can’t remember his exact wording.)

Authors are a little more sentimental about their work than other people, but guessing from what I know of myself and other writers around me, we would be the same way. We wouldn’t want our books by our sides as we changed our spiritual address; we would want people. It’s the people who really matter. As writers, while we write for people, it’s easy to forget that the people here and now really are important.

You don’t usually see on a writing blog the advice to stop writing, but I think part of being an author is knowing when to pause.This Christmas, close your laptop. Put away your notebooks. I don’t care if you’re on a deadline unless it’s for midnight tonight — you’ll work it out somehow without writing for one day. Be around the people you love and who love you, and make an effort to be loving to those you may or may not want to be around. If you have to choose between writing and being around people, put writing after the people.

Merry Christmas, folks.

(For those of you concerned about me because I didn’t spend much time talking about the True meaning of Christmas, I have already seen eight blog posts today about it, as have most of you if you follow very many blogs, and we’ll both see more posted tomorrow. If you want to see some of them, just request it in the comments, and I’ll flood you with links.)

Battle of the Castle Nebula Release

It’s my pleasure today to announce to you all the release of a prequel to a novella that I enjoyed very much. This is the day that Stephanie Ricker will release The Battle of the Castle Nebula. 

Final cover

If you enjoyed the world of A Cinder’s Tale in the Five Glass Slippers anthology, explore that universe further in The Cendrillon Cycle, a series of novellas recounting the past and future adventures of Elsa, Karl, Bruno, and the rest of the cinder crew.

Volume I, The Battle of Castle Nebula, makes worldfall on the first day of winter: December 21, 2014.

She has nothing left, not even her dreams. But Elsa Vogel still has her duty, and she will do it, no matter the peril, no matter the anguish in her heart as she leaves her ravaged home planet, perhaps never to return.

And the same tragedy that tore Elsa’s life to pieces also transformed the lives of others. Others who may need a reason to go on living, after the cataclysmic Battle of Castle Nebula…

The Battle of Castle Nebula ebook is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Don’t have an e-reader? Not a problem. Amazon offers a free Kindle app for almost every device.

Find out more by following Stephanie Ricker at her blog, Goodreads, Facebook, or Twitter.

Author Bio:

 Stephanie Ricker is a writer, editor, and tree-climber. She adores the cold and the snow but lives in North Carolina anyway, where she enjoys archery, hiking, and exploring with friends. 

Stephanie’s first novella set in the Cendrillon universe, A Cinder’s Tale, was published in Five Glass Slippers, an anthology of Cinderella-themed stories. Stephanie’s fiction has also been published in Bull-Spec, a magazine of speculative fiction, and in four consecutive editions of The Lyricist, Campbell University’s annual literary magazine. Her senior thesis on Tolkien was published in the 2009 issue of Explorations: The Journal of Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity for the State of North Carolina.


WordPress isn’t friendly to giveaways, but click here for the giveaway! It should take you right to the spot.


Writing Prompt: 12-19-2014

Origin: “Mosquito Probe,” by Eren Arik. I do not know this artist, nor his other work, so if you decide to look him or it up, I would advice caution.

Feeling inspired? Write something from this prompt! You can leave a response in the comments, or move the prompt to your blog and leave a link in the comments. I’m looking forward to seeing what you write. Have fun, folks!

[I really look forward to being able to read anything you write from this prompt, and I expect to enjoy it very much and for my readers to also enjoy it. That said, please keep everything as clean as it gets because otherwise I will delete the comment or link to your blog.”Only what is good for building up…” If in doubt, ask. My contact information is on the About page.]

The Hardest Part of Writing the First Draft

The Hardest Part of Writing the First Draft

No one can deny that writing a first draft is a difficult, oftentimes painful experience. In spite of the fact that many authors consider it to be their favorite part of the process (and almost all prefer it over the dreaded editing), it’s not only pleasurable, it is necessary—which always means it will be hard.

Yet even through the long, sleepless nights, the lips chapped and bleeding from chewing on them (I’m guilty of this one, I’m afraid) and the worry about writing a reasonable climax, there is one thing that claims highest on the list of difficult things.

That, with no contest, is starting the novel.

Some novels start easily. IOTW originally started because I was curious as to what the NaNo Young Writer Program would suggest as my word count goal, so I started typing a random story in a browser on my sister’s computer. Somehow, a one-hundred thousand novel was born out of that. Strong, a novel from a few years ago, didn’t start too well; nor did Prince’s Rose, or Joy of Stars, all of which I had to start over several times on that first night of writing. Sometimes novels start easily, but sometimes—nay, usually, they are difficult to start.

We have to start the novel to go anywhere with it. People come up with bizarre ways of trying to get around the nervousness of beginning a novelnot the least of which ranked in oddity being starting in the middle and then going back to fill in the beginning later. I would think that my brain would die from such a lack of continuity that would result from that—but, worse, some people just give into the nervous, vaguely sick feeling in the pit of their stomach, and they never start what would be a brilliant story.

The truth is that there is only one way to remove this obstacle from your path. That way is to sit down, put your fingers on the keyboard, and start typing. You will have to fight your way through the nerves, for there is no way around them. There is only once chance, and that is to start, and start now. 

Yes, you may delete it. Yes, you may hate it. Yes, it may be horrible. My first few sentences of Prince’s Rose that I discarded ranged from being nightmare-inducing to a Grammar-Nazi to just plain confusing (“Wait… Was the floor creaking? Or was that the clock? Well, something’s ticking, so that must be the clock… Would that make it the floor creaking? All on its own?). It didn’t really matter, though, for those sentences, removed or not, gave me a springboard into the story. When I eventually settled on my final first sentence, I was ready to write the story, and my nerves had subsided.

You will most likely end up cringing at your first sentence at some point, maybe even cringing at the one you decided to keep. But as long as that first sentence is down and being followed by more words, it doesn’t matter, because you will have gotten through the hardest part of writing a novel.

One million miles,

It starts with a step or two.

(Michael W. Smith)

Just start. Take the first step, and write the novel. From this point on, you’re on the journey—it may be hard, but you’re well on your way to victory.

What have been your experiences with starting novels? Any first sentences that you would like to share? (If you share yours, I’ll share mine!)

The Treatment of Henchmen

The Treatment of HenchmenDear Villains (etc., etc.,)

My name is Athelas Hale, the writer and president of The Association for Protection of Character’s Rights (AfPoCR). Recently it has come to my attention that some of you treat your henchmen (etc., etc.,) in less-than ideal ways. While it’s not the AfPoCR’s job to regulate what villains or heroes do, technically, some of us here at the association were concerned about the way you’ve been operating. While, of course, being villains (etc., etc.,) you most likely won’t even open this letter upon receiving it, I do hope that some of you will at least peek at this missive.

Among other behaviors that I’ve noticed, I’ve seen that you have a tendency to kill off your henchmen. Or—worse, some say—you throw them in the dungeon and lock them up for the rest of time. Now, some of you undoubtedly don’t do this, understanding that life isn’t to be wasted (in which case, why on earth are you reading this letter for villains?) but some of you have done it in the past, and will do it again. I could not help but noticed that the logic of this is lacking slightly. Please allow me to explain.

As a villain, you must have a certain amount of henchmen (etc., etc.,) to do things for you. Some of you may prefer to storm the castle alone, but most of you will most likely need a bit of backup. As the treatment of henchmen becomes more widely known across the worlds, less and less people are planning to be henchmen. Some decide to turn into farmers, or heroes—some even decide to become supervillains themselves. The supply is slowly running low, and every time you kill a clumsy minion, you make yet another spot in your army that has no one to fill it. While you might be able to replace him, the fatality of your wrath will not only strike fear into the hearts of your other henchmen; it will also slowly eat away at their loyalty until fear is the only thing tying them to you. While some may consider this to be a good thing, I have found that when faced with two things they fear—you and your enemy who you are riding off to battle—henchmen usually take the easiest, most logical road. They run away from both. While some of you can manage with only a few or no henchmen, if you’re honest most of you will know that you would be proverbial toast without your vast hordes of minions to back you up. Worse, your henchmen might not only fear you, but hate you enough to be willing to stab you in the back when you give them the first opportunity (e.g. the untimely fate of Saruman.)

As for locking your minions up forever, who can afford that? I know most of you surely can’t—the budget has been tight these days for everyone. You either feed them or you kill them, and we’ve been over killing them already. Not only will you be obliged to feed your locked up henchmen, another possibility is that your enemy will be locked up and stuck in the same dungeon. Your henchman, who is now looking for a chance to relieve you of the burden of your head, will be able to not only help them, but be helped by them.

One thing that henchmen have recently been complaining about is their reputation. You, as their overlord, should be looking out for their public image. Henchmen have found a joke circulating around the internet (I’m sorry if that hasn’t been discovered where you are. Even in places without internet, henchmen are picking these things up) about their inability to aim, about their lack of intelligence, about their inability to tell the sound of a rock from the sound of a person invading your fortress. Now, these henchmen try very hard—they really do. Most of your men come from poor families with little education and no place to go, so their inability to read has branded them as unintelligent, and no one ever taught them the basics of patrolling a castle or fighting a war. Unless you’ve created your own version of the orcs (a very clever move on Morgoth’s part), be aware that your henchmen will not only get restless with the continued mockery of the common people, but they’ll also be needing a proper education to do their best at serving you. Train their ears, teach them to read, and most definitely teach them how to properly aim with their weapon. Also, avoid making your henchmen have long shifts while watching important prisoners, as they may grow tired and fall asleep, thus giving your prisoner an easy escape. Please be aware that embarrassed henchmen may hold you responsible for their bad reputation, and may grow too eager to prove themselves. Such plans on the part of henchmen can backfire and damage your whole operation.

We all know that some of you can grow very frustrated with the actions of your henchmen. Yet few of you take the time to move among your henchmen, be there for them when they need you, listen to them when they speak, and pay attention to what they think. Henchmen are most often sentient creatures that need a good leader as much as any of us do. Be that good leader for your henchmen. Give them someone to look up to, someone to trust. Let them know that you, their leader, will always be there for them. Pay attention to the way they think so you’ll know whether to be the caring father of the charismatic captain. Always know if your henchmen are frightened or nervous, and know how to allay their fears. They’ll not only follow you—they’ll love you. They’ll die for you, and not out of fear that’s easily broken; out of a complete devotion to you. Be their family, and they will be yours. Be loyal, and they will be loyal to you. Understand them, and you’ll not only find yourself getting frustrated less, you’ll also be able to teach your henchmen how to best go about the things you want them to do.

Beware, also, of threatening the families of your henchmen. Certainly they love their mum and would do anything for her, but that not only makes them hate you just a little more every day, it also gives your enemies a way of winning their affections. Should your enemy decide to simply rescue the families of your henchmen, you will have just lost your entire army.

Since I’m sure you all have certain supervillain-like duties that need attending to, I shall have to end this letter at that. Please remember, though, all of you villains, evil-overlords, criminal leaders, usurpers, and all the rest of you—always remember that henchmen are worth taking good care of. If you would like to know more, simply go to the AfPoCR’s website (if you can find it; I’m afraid it’s unavailable in many worlds, including but not limited to: Earth, Narnia,* Anthropos,** Amara,*** and Rudiobus****) where you can find a link to purchase the newest guide, The Care and Keeping of Henchmen: A Guide for the Busy Supervillain.


Athelas Hale

(Writer and President of The Association for Protection of Character’s Rights. (AfPoCR))


*Narnia: From The Chronicles of Narnia, by C.S. Lewis. No copyright is intended and no right is claimed to these novels.

**Anthropos: From The Archives of Anthropos, by John White. No copyright is intended, and no claim is made to these novels.

***Amara: From The Dragon Keeper Chronicles, by Donita K. PaulNo copyright is intended, and no claim is made to these novels.

****Rudiobus: From The Tales of Goldstone Wood, by Anne Elisabeth Stengl. No copyright is intended, and no claim is made to these novels.


Character Interview: Abigail Dimond

Happy Tuesday, readers! Today as the first character interview after NaNoWriMo, I have the pleasure of introducing to you Abigail Dimond, of Joy Hartshorn’s novel, Shadow Wings.

Sometimes, in order to save today, you must unbury the past. Abigail Dimond, an ordinary historian, never thought that she’d have to become someone else in order to save today. Well, not literally, but the next closest thing. Through the use of a secret technology only recently revealed to the public, she now must work through the memories and feelings of a woman named Kallie Forbes and work against time to stop needless hatred and evil from spreading any farther.

In a time of micro smart computers and hovercrafts, she must return to the slower pace of the past in order to save many lives, including some that she’s only met in someone else’s memories.


Character Interview - Abigail Dimond


Hello, Abigail and welcome to Red Lettering! It’s an honor to have you here. To start with, could you tell us a bit about yourself?

Abigail: Sure. I’m currently working as a historical researcher and writer for a low key curriculum publisher. I don’t cook very much, and I take the sub stations everywhere that I can.

Interesting. You’re a historian? Why is it that you decided to make that your profession?

Abigail: I decided after going to college for a while and switching degrees for a time. I ended up going to college for six years to receive an undergraduates in History. It really was worth it though, once I finally decided.

History can be absolutely fascinating and definitely worthwhile. Going back to more recent history, what is the first thing you can remember?

Abigail: The first thing that I can remember. . . Probably the sound of running water. My mom had a small water fountain in the living room when I was a toddler, and we moved when I was three, so as far as I can figure it out, that’s my earliest memory.

That sounds like it would be nice. You mentioned your mom… Do you have a family? Could you tell us about them?

Abigail: Well, it depends on how you define ‘family’. I do have a family in the literal blood since, or I wouldn’t be here. I only know my mother, though; it’s very rare for fathers to stay long. In the other sense of family, I there’s a little neighbor girl that I tend to think of as a niece. She lives with her aunt in an apartment a few levels above mine.

I’m sorry about your father… It must be nice to have a little “niece,” though. Under what circumstances do you think it would be right to kill?

Abigail: Oh man. Ethics. Well, I tend to look at it in different ways. If someone’s trying to kill you, then it would be okay because it would be self defense. If someone was trying to invade either your home or your country, then it would be okay because it would be self defense. In a short, it would be okay if it was self defense.

Self-defense. Well, that’s fairly straightforward. Of all the different things in life, what do you value the most?

Abigail: I value life, family, beauty, and truth.

Okay. If you could change any one thing in the past—your past, or in the past hundred years—what would it be?

Abigail: Wow. In the past one hundred years or my own past. . . I would probably go for the past hundred years because then it would also change my own past. I’d probably go for making it illegal for fathers to leave, unless it was for the good of the mother and children.

I can imagine why you would want to do that. Who would you consider a hero?

Abigail: A hero. . . Let’s see. I consider a hero someone who works to make a difference in others’ lives. Ava Roth, the 23rd century’s most prominent advocate for sustainable living, is one of my heroes. As is Emmanuel T Ingram III, the political poet from the 22nd century. He brought back the use of strong metaphors to bring modern problems down to earth.

Both of them sound like interesting people who must have lived in a very interesting time. When you’re extra stressed or tired, where do you go to relax?

Abigail: I go to my room. I have the lavender and orange air scents in there, and a couple soft paintings and sketches to help with the atmosphere. I do everything I can to make my room a safe place with no noise, bright colors, or holographic projections.

That sounds lovely. I should probably let you go now… Thank you for being here, Abigail. I wish you well in the rest of your life.

Joy Hartshorn has been creating stories for as long as she can remember. From creating villages with dolls and having them work together against the odds of being an Ugly Doll and Barbie Doll to run a store, to tales of siblings traveling across a desert that was inside a cellar to a city called Celeste. Now, at the age of 21, she has completed one novel. When she isn’t lost in her own worlds, studying for her college classes, or busy using a notebook and pen, she can be found with her nose in a good book with a cup of either tea or coffee, or else knitting while talking with good friends.

Joy Hartshorn blogs at Tears of a Hawke

Writing Prompt: 12-05-2014

I do realize that it’s very late for a writing prompt (or early for some of you). This afternoon when I would have normally posted it, I opened up my IOTW document and got completely distracted by reading through my novel. I didn’t even remember it was a Friday at all until about thirty minutes ago. Better late than never though, right?


Origin“Eowyn vs. The Witch King,” by Nacho Molina. I know neither this artist nor her work, so if you decide to look her up, I  advise caution.

Feeling inspired? Write something from this prompt!  You can leave a response in the comments, or you can move the Prompt to your blog and leave a link in the comments. I would absolutely love to see what you write!

[I really look forward to being able to read anything you write from this prompt, and I expect to enjoy it very much and for my readers to also enjoy it. That said, please keep everything as clean as it gets because otherwise I will delete the comment or link to your blog.”Only what is good for building up…” If in doubt, ask. My contact information is on the About page.]

Announcement: Short Story Contest


Here it is, folks. Several months ago I mentioned that, in celebration of 50 followers, I would hold a short story contest. Though it took me a long time to get to it, I never forgot about it.

Therefore, today is the day to introduce the first ever short story contest on Red Lettering. 

This is the place where usually people are supposed to wax eloquent on how I now have 69 followers. I am incredibly grateful. 

However I also know that all of you are writers and what you really want to hear about is the writing contest, so I’ll move on to the point of this blog post.

Curtains again - Copy - Copy


Here’s the way it will work: 

At some point in the story, use the piece of dialogue, “Elves don’t carry guns.”

Your word count should be between 100 and 5,000 words. To count your words, simply paste them into a Microsoft Word Document, a Google Docs Document, or here (though I can’t really say I would trust that website enough to put my writing on it).

Submit it to me through email ( by December 31st, 2014. I’ll most likely email you back within a day or two saying that I received it (though I will almost definitely respond faster if you send it in last-minute), but if I don’t, you may want to send it in again, just to be sure.

After the close of the submission period I will post the stories here and readers will get to vote on their favorite story until January 10th. (I’m not sure whether we’ll use an in-post voting widget-thing or if readers will email me with their votes; what do you all think?) I know it may be a long time to wait — a whole month to write and then ten more days until the voting results are released— but since December and January can be so busy, it seemed a better option to give more time than is necessary than less.

There is no fee to enter, and you retain all copyrights to your writing. 

There will be a prize for the winner— a $15 Amazon Gift card.

And if you want it, you can also have a little picture that says you won to put on your blog or download and leave forgotten on your computer. Either way.


Your entries must be clean. Clean, clean, clean, cleaner than a cloud doused in dish soap. One of my readers is younger than eight, and I don’t know about a couple of the other ones. So please, don’t make it so that I disqualify you. If in doubt, ask.

Curtain header


Well, writers? Though I’ve said this many times before, this time I really cannot wait to see what you’ll come up with.

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