Category Archives: Books

New-ish Book and Contest Announcement

This week marks the relaunch of my sci-fi novel Sorrow’s Fall. It’s been revamped with a new cover, and brand new content.  With the second novel Sorrow’s Despair well underway, I felt it was time to freshen things up a bit.


So, for those of you who already bought the book, I’m having a contest. All I need for you to do is post picture of you with your book on my wall on Facebook. Simple right. If it’s an ebook show the cover on your device in your picture and you’re in too. At the end of the month I’ll pick five winners at random who will receive their choice of either a signed print copy or a free ebook.

In order to be eligible the cover must be clearly visible.  Submit pictures via my Facebook page. Like my page here: Davonne Burns.

I look forward to seeing all of you! And good luck!

Let’s Get Complicated Part Two: The Positives of Being a Villain

So last time we talked about creating multi-dimensional characters and focused on the protagonist of my novel Sorrow’s Fall.  This week I’d like to help you look for ways to make you antagonist just as compelling and multi-faceted.  After reading my post about Sorrow you are probably wondering what kind of person could possibly be an impediment to him and his goals.  That’s a very good question. It’s also one you need to consider in your own story. For now we are going to assume that your antagonist is another person and not that your character is struggling against nature or something. Nature doesn’t really have a personality, though it might seem like it at times.

In Sorrow’s Fall we are quickly introduced to Qadira Fall. She is the daughter of Lady Zulyekha Fall and the Queen-In-Waiting. She is nearly as powerful as the Barendi Queen herself. She has been raised and groomed to be consummate royalty. She is gorgeous, highly-intelligent and disgustingly wealthy. She also hates Sorrow with a passion. In the book he has no idea why she detests him. All he knows is that she tries to kill him every chance she gets.

She is his antagonist. But outside of her hatred for Sorrow, what is she like?  We know she’s royalty, that she inspires great loyalty among her coterie and that she is driven by the need to save her race. But what core qualities does she possess that take her from just being the person who hates Sorrow to a force all her own?

Last time we started with a negative trait, since most heroes have issues with them. This time lets look at the positive qualities a villain could have.  Yes, even villains have positive traits.  Serious. I’ll prove it.

First I need to figure out her core moral value. The Postitive Trait Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman & Becca Buglisi offers some amazing insight as to why this is so necessary. Not just for villains, but for our heroes as well. In The Positive Trait Thesaurus Appendix B has a method for finding your character’s core moral value. This is the core belief that affects all their other traits.  After making my lovely list of her positive traits I went to Appendix A to see which of them were moral values.  The main one was professional.  I’ll be honest. That confused me. Until I went to the entry for it.  There they list the definition as: exhibiting specialized knowledge and applying it with courtesy and good judgement.

Whoa. Wait-a-minute.  Now I’m more confused. My villain is courteous and has good judgement?  Well, let’s think about this for a moment. She is extremely well educated by the best instructors money can buy. She’s talented, smart, career and success focused, she’s ambitious and mature for her age. She is confident with high self-esteem and is highly ethical.

She’s not sounding very vile.  And if you are not a threat to her, she’s won’t be.  So what associated behaviors might she display where Sorrow can see them?  Lets look at the list.

  • Having the education and knowledge required to be proficient at one’s job
  • Being experienced in a specific field of work
  • Reliability, trustworthiness and honesty
  • Having strong people skills
  • Objectivity
  • Working well under pressure
  • Having a strong command of language and being able to articulate oneself well
  • Adaptability
  • Keeping one’s promises
  • Maintaining control over one’s emotions
  • Being proactive
  • Thinking before acting
  • Treating others with respect and courtesy
  • Being proactive
  • Being a strong listener
  • Assessing the politics of a situation and acting accordingly
  • Using good hygiene
  • Being well dressed
  • Acting appropriately for the situation

I could go on but you get the idea. A couple of the ones I highlighted as far as things Sorrow sees are; being experienced, adaptability, keeping promises, using good hygiene and being well dressed. Each of these things on their own seems pretty neutral or at least positive. So how do we grow her character beyond just being professional?  Well according to Appendix B the next layer beyond the moral core is achievement traits. This was a new thought for me and it took me a little getting used to, but now I see how invaluable it is. So let’s look further into Qadira’s personality and see what achievement traits she’s might posses that build on her core trait of professionalism.

The first one that pops out for me is ambitious but decisive actually wins out as the dominant trait here. Mostly because you can’t get much more successful than she already is, though she does have ambitions. Her decisiveness on the other hand is partly her and partly her upbringing. She’s had to bear a lot of responsibility since she was very young and much is expected of her. Her core value also influences her decisiveness since she is driven by a strong sense of responsibility and has the desire to lead.

Cool, we are on a roll here. Can you see how working from the inmost core trait outward is helping us build her personality and keep her well rounded? Let’s move on to the next layer: interactive.

These traits develop through interaction with others and the world in which the character lives. These traits help her work with her subordinates, handle conflicts, convey ideas and create healthy relationships. So building on our core trait of professionalism and our achievement trait of decisiveness what might be her dominant interactive trait? Here I run across several that are worth noting such as bold, flirtatious, inspirational, patriotic, persuasive, sophisticated and traditional. She is all these traits to varying degrees, but which one is dominant and why? Looking through the book both patriotic and sophistication are good choices, but sophisticated wins.  This is mostly due to her upbringing and the culture in which she was raised. She was brought up to be royalty so sophistication is not only needed, it’s demanded.

Now we come to the out most layer, the identity layer. The book describes this layer as “attributes [that] are tied to a personal sense of identity, leading to satisfaction and contentment with who one is. Traits emerge to allow the character to explore and better understand what makes them unique.” (The Positive Trait Thesaurus 2013, Ackerman & Puglisi, Appendix B page 233). It’s in this layer that I would put patriotic along with traditional. Here traditional actually compliments patriotic. She is very concerned with keeping her native culture untainted by outside influences which is directly tied to politics. She even went so far as to disown her mother who went against the established tradition and is willing to start a war to keep things as they have been.

You’ll notice we’ve not once considered the negative side of any of these traits, yet we already have a very good basis for her character. And she doesn’t seem all that evil does she? 

All of this just from a core value of professionalism.

The Owl and the Raven

“The great destroyers of nations and men are comfort, plenty and security. A coward gets scared and quits. A hero gets scared, but still goes on. ”     – unknown

by Leyla Akdogan

“We make guilty of our disasters the sun, the moon, and the stars: as if we were villains by necessity; fools by heavenly compulsion.” – William Shakespeare

The Owl

Heroes rarely surprise us.  They do what we expect them to.  What is right, what is just, what is honorable.  They may struggle getting there but there is never any real question as to the outcome of their fight.  They may die trying but it will be a heroic death.  But what makes them heroic?  Is it strength, intelligence, wit, loyalty, perseverance, morality, sheer bull headedness?  Is it the fact that they do what is right, not for any benefit or personal gain but simply because it is the right thing to do?

Heroes are rarely seen as such by their peers.  Their actions are often regarded as too avant guard, consider Atticus Finch of To Kill a Mockingbird or Katniss Everdeen of The Hunger Games.  While a hero’s actions might be altruistic, their motives rarely are.    I personally have always been skeptical of the typical hero.  Why would someone go to such lengths for others with no thought of any gain of any kind?  We all want to be at least recognized for our good deeds if not compensated.

The Raven

Villains rarely surprise us anymore.  They are a necessary evil to thwart the hero.  They are crafty, greed, capricious and cruel.  They seem to appear out of the ether, hate already fully born and festering for revenge on the hero.  They will die before they let the hero succeed.  But what makes them a villain?  Is it strength, intelligence, lack of morality, snark, perseverance, sheer bloody mindedness?  Is it the fact that they do whatever they damn well please just for the hell of it, or at least for some principal gain?

Villains rarely see themselves as such.  They are fully justified within their own minds and see their actions as not only right but necessary.  Darth Vader, Shere Khan of The Jungle Book, Moriarty from any incarnation of Sherlock, Sauron of Lord of the Rings. Shall I go on?  You get the idea.  I personally have always hated the one dimensional evil for the sake of being evil villain.  Everyone has a motive and motive implies will and will implies thought and reason.

The Quandary

So who is the Owl and who is the Raven?  Sometimes it’s surprisingly difficult to determine.  This has given rise to the terms anti-hero and anti-villain.  Theses characters are neither strictly one or the other.  They are the vagabond hero and the dubious ally, the thief with a heart of gold and the benevolent overlord.

To illustrate this point I will be drawing on several characters.  Most I’ve discussed before and a couple will be newcomers.  If you are not familiar with my fandoms then beware of spoilers here on out.

First, Megatron.  Yes that Megatron.  By the time we meet him in the franchise he’s a despotic overlord with the mantra ‘Peace through Tyranny.’  A villain’s villain if you will.  Yet we learn that he and his archrival Optimus Prime were once friends and depending on which backstory you prefer, co-collaborators in the rebellion on their homeworld.  In the most recent iteration their friendship fell apart over method.  Megatron, a former slave and gladiator only knew how to achieve his means through violence.  Optimus saw a more peaceful, albeit slower, method through diplomacy.  Neither was wrong in wanting change in their society.  So what made one the hero and the other the villain?  Motive and execution.

Then we have Loki.  In the original works he is not the scene stealing villain from Marvel, but a crafty, cunning and beloved brother.  He’s as mischievous as he is helpful and often his schemes benefit himself more than anyone.  When they do go awry he still manages to find a way to make the outcome work for him.  Yet he allows his jealousy to get the better of him and resorts to murder and extortion.  This doesn’t stop him from helping when a situation calls for it.  He simple will only do it if it in some way benefits himself.  He’s an opportunist.  Again motive and execution come into play.

Now let’s look at Deadpool.  He’s the ‘Merc with a Mouth’ who fancies himself a hero yet can never quite live up to the hype.  When he’s trying his hardest to be the hero is when he fails the most spectacularly.  Its those moments when he stops trying and just does that the hero emerges.  Yet he’s too bogged down by his own demons to ever fully transcend his penchant for indiscriminate violence. He at times both hinders and helps the other super heroes depending on how the situation strikes him and if he can make money off of it.  Much like Loki, he’s an opportunist and will stab a hero in the back as soon as offer a helping hand.  Motive. Execution.

So how do you write a convincing non villain?

Keep them consistent.  Know their motivations, even if they don’t. Make sure their actions are supported by their motives, that they execute their plans accordingly.  Loki and Deadpool are both consistent in that you know at some point they are going to betray you sometimes just for the hell of it.

Killing Sorrow

Something has been nagging me lately.  A disquiet that I wasn’t sure how to quell.  So, this morning I decided to write the final scene of Sorrow’s Fall from Sarin’s viewpoint. This might have been a bad idea because it was intense.

Warning:  Major Spoilers for Sorrow’s Fall including the end and several major revelations.  Do not read if you have not read the book.

The book is only $.99 on Amazon so fix that then come read this. 😉

Below is the music playlist I wrote the scene to.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Killing Sorrow

The air hung thick and heavy with the smell of ozone.  Blaster fire seared the air.  The Hyperian shock troopers were no match for the Sal’Ori but they just kept coming.  Holding a hand to my side to stem the flow of blood I tried to locate Sorrow.  I’d never imagined he would be powerful enough to kill an Ancient.  Even as an Amalgam I’d been helpless before her.  Rinkin and Diedre had received the worst of it. It would take some time to heal from Ophelia’s poison.

Sorrow was several yards away on his hands and knees in the grass.  Qadira stood over him.  She was saying something, but I couldn’t quite make it out.  His dark hair was much shorter, barely brushing his shoulders.  I wondered who had cut it and how they’d known it would hamper him. The dark vest he was wearing glittered with blood, more pooled under him. She’d already stabbed him twice from what I’d seen.  How was he still moving?

“No!” Sorrow’s voice reached me clearly. Whatever she was saying it was upsetting him enough to drive him to speak.  I started forward grabbing up a discarded phase rifle as he got to his feet.  He staggered a few steps his determination flickering around the edges of his aura. It wasn’t as tumultuous as I remembered.  He’d managed to find some emotional balance.

“…the fact that you are already powerful enough to kill an Ancient will please Grandmother.”

I steeled myself and pointed the rifle at Qadira.  “And that is why we cannot ever let him fall into your hands again, Qadira.”

She laughed and took a few steps back as she looked at me.  She wasn’t going to take me seriously.  Swallowing hard I looked at Sorrow.  He was so different now.  Rinkin and Diedre had done a lot to help him but that darkness was still there, just waiting to be unleashed.  I’d just witnessed how devastating it could be. What would happen if it was used-if he was used to further the war? He had no control. He would obey any order given by someone in authority over him.  I would have to report this to Zaryfa.  Her plan had failed. There was no way to save him.

Her only grandson. The first male child born in nearly three generations.  And I was going to have to kill him.  Drake had done too good of a job rendering him useless as anything but a weapon. Even though I had seen the potential within him, he couldn’t see it for himself.  Gods why did it have to be me? The rifle shook in my hands as I selected my new target.  He was facing Qadira his back to me.  He trusted me. Why in the seven Hells did he have to trust me?

He staggered forward as the bolt hit him in the back.  His shock lit up the area blinding me for a moment.  Oh gods.  I pulled the trigger again watching him sink to his knees. Gods this can’t be happening.  Please don’t make me have to kill him. Please.  I’ll do anything. Anything at all just don’t make me kill him.

The choice is not yours child. Zaryfa’s voice reached me from the ship orbiting overhead.  He must die.

But he’s your grandson.

And Qadira is my granddaughter.

Why can’t I kill her?!

We spoke of this Sarin. She cannot become a martyr for the Purists.  He has to die. Implicate me as you must for those who are listening.

Yes, My Queen.

So, you’re going to kill him yourself, is that it?”

Sorrow’s fear and pain was difficult to ignore as I stepped closer to him.  My throat was tight and speaking took effort. “If I have to I will. I may not be able to defeat you right now, but I will take away your chance of using him.  If I had not seen him transform like that I would never have believed it, but he is too dangerous of a being to be allowed to live.  No one should have that kind of power.”

Especially not you, I thought to myself.  She was already more powerful than any Barendi before her.  If she succeeded in gaining Sorrow’s help either willingly or not, there would be no stopping her.  The Hyperia would fall and with it the fragile balance with the outlying systems.  It would be the chaos of the Clan War all over again.  Only this time the galaxy itself might be destroyed.

“You have no idea Sarin.  Why do you think Our Queen destroyed the Aram when she had the chance?  This,” She pointed a finger at Sorrow, “this is the embodiment of what they were.  Beings so beautiful and powerful they had to be destroyed at all costs.  Yet, who could have foreseen the price?  I know why you feel you must rebel.  All the clans are dying out Sarin, not just yours.  The Queen is well aware of this.  That is why she allowed him to be born, why he was not aborted the instant it was discovered what he is.  She will make sure that the clans prosper once more.  The Barendi will once again rule the galaxy as they did centuries ago.  You Baroness, could have your place in that galaxy.”

It wasn’t even a temptation.  She had no idea who was working to thwart her.  I looked down at Sorrow. He was staring up at me blood trickling out of his mouth as he fought to breathe.  I could feel him trying to reach out to me, soft tendrils of disbelief and anguish. He’d thought I was dead. I could see the flicker of relief fading as he continued to look at me. I blinked back tears, forcing down the searing pain in my chest.  I’d already felt him die once, I wasn’t sure I’d survive a second time.  I kept the rifle pointed at him watching the hope fade from his eyes.  His aura was flickering between fear, pain and despair.  I kept myself tightly shielded. If he or Qadira discovered what I was actually doing all our plans would fail.  Xenazia’s mental touch caressed my mind, her concern flooding me.

“Sarin, don’t!”  Xenazia pleaded, “Didn’t you hear what she said!  We could save our clan.  He’s no threat to us any longer.”

“She is a liar Xenazia.  You know as well as I do that we are both dead no matter what happens.  The only thing I can do is make sure Zaryfa cannot use him to make war on the rest of the galaxy.”

“There has to be another way, Sarin please!”

“What other way, Xen?”  I screamed at her part of me needing some outlet for this horrible pain, “Tell me another way then.”

“I . . . I don’t know.”

Qadira snorted, “You are pathetic.  Hurry up and be done with it, or I’ll kill you both where you stand.”

“You are going to anyway so what does it matter?”

She laughed again.  A horrid gloating sound, “I’ll let you live as long as you kill him.”

I let out the breath I’d been holding.  It almost became a sob as I felt Sorrow give up.  His will flickering out like a snuffed flame. I wanted to scream at him to tell him to run, if only to save myself from having to do this. I wanted so badly to touch him.  To comfort him and tell him how much he meant to me.  To tell him that I would always love him, love that part of him that tried so desperately to be more than what he was allowed.  I blinked, tears burning down my cheeks.  Taking a step closer I raised the rifle to point it at his head.  I couldn’t let him suffer any more.  He looked up at me his eyes pleading and my resolve threatened to disappear.

I can’t do this Zaryfa.  I can’t.

There was no answer. I stared down into those deep green eyes and wondered when I’d fallen so completely.

“I never meant to hurt you.” I could barely get the words out, “I wish-I wish so desperately things could be different.  Goodbye, Sorrow.”

Closing my eyes I pulled the trigger.

There was a soft thump.  I didn’t dare open my eyes yet.  Tears were still streaming down, I couldn’t stop them any more than I could block out the cold pull of his energy evaporating as he died.

The rifle thudded to the ground next to me.  Qadira made a soft sound and I opened my eyes to see her kneeling next to him.

“I can’t believe you actually killed him.”  Her voice was soft, full of wonder.  “I’ve always wondered what it would feel like when he died.”

It felt like winter, like the infinite cold of space, like being ripped apart from the inside. Nothing would ever be the same.

“Are you happy now?” I choked on the words.

She cocked her head up at me. “Happy?  You just killed my brother.  My twin brother…this really hurts.”

“You expected something different Qadira?” I’d forgotten about Sher’Ak.  “You spent all those years forging that bond and then expected to be able to sever it at a whim without backlash?”

She got to her feet but I didn’t miss the tremble.  Her eyes glistened as she looked at me. She looked terrible.  It seemed Sorrow had gotten in a few hits of his own.  “I won’t kill you Sarin but you are still a traitor.”

I didn’t move as she turned and walked back toward one of the Barendi drop ships. I wanted to throw up.  Sher’Ak was glaring at me.

“Nicely done Baroness.”

“Do not speak to me.”

“Sarin, lets go. There is nothing more-“

“Just…leave me for a moment Xen.  I need a moment.”

“Of course.”

Sher’Ak snorted.  “Stupid. What a waste. Do me a favor Baroness and never contact me again.  I might kill you.”

I nodded but my entire focus was on Sorrow. Collapsing on my knees next to him I reached a trembling hand toward him.  How had this happened? I could still remember the first time I saw him.  The jolt at realizing who and what he was had left me reeling for days.  I was supposed to be his guardian, not his murderer.  A sob caught in my throat as I ran my fingers through his hair. What was I supposed to do now?  How was I supposed to go on?  Slipping my arms around him I pulled him close.  He was limp and warm and I was reminded of the last time I’d killed him. Stopped his heart with a kiss.  I wasn’t going to get another chance to hold him.  I clung desperately to that memory as I shook with sobs.  He’d always been so brilliant and powerful but now there was nothing.  No bright colors and shimmering energy.  Staring down at him through the tears I knew I would never feel like this about another being. I’d never meant to hurt him.  At least now he felt no pain and could finally rest.

“I’m so sorry-so sorry.”

How long I stayed there holding him, I’m not sure.  When I finally let him go his body was cold, the once brilliant green eyes faded and dull.  I kissed him and brushed the hair back from his face. The blaster burn was an ugly mark on his forehead and I resisted touching it, wanting to erase it.  Doing so wouldn’t fix what I’d done.

“We need to go Sarin.” Xenazia’s voice was soft, her mental touch hesitant.

“I-I can’t just leave him here like this.”

“Sarin, please. He’s dead. There is nothing you can do.”

“Don’t you think I know that?”

Her mental touch faded but she didn’t move away, instead wrapping an arm around my shoulders.  I couldn’t fight her as she pulled me to my feet.

I cannot do this My Queen.

You must child. Believe me when I say it was for the best.


Sorrow's Fall Cover

Sorrow’s Fall is available on Amazon in both paper back and digital.  Audio book coming soon to

Its a Supernatural World After All

This past week I took my girl friend to see The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones.  She’s been reading the books.  I have not. Other than a vague idea that it involved demons and demon hunters I knew nothing about the storyline.    Apparently, this was a good thing since a lot of fans of the books are outraged at the changes made.  Wait, don’t we go through this fan-rage every time a book gets made into a movie?  Harry Potter, Twilight, Eragon (okay that one was really bad) Percy Jackson et cetera and so on.

First off, I enjoyed the movie.  The characters were likable, the acting was well done, the settings were by turns beautiful and gritty, and the action was intense. It was also nice to see that the warlock Magnus Bane was cast as an Asian, specifically Godfrey Gao whom I find hideously attractive.  He scintillated on screen for the few moments we were privileged with his countenance.  Oh, so I have been informed that in the book Magnus is Japanese.  Well good on them casting an Asian at least, even if he is Chinese.

Godfrey Gao as the Magnificent Magnus Bane

Clary’s actress was quite fun to watch and I loved how flippant she was at times.  She didn’t succumb to the standard damsel in distress routine even if she spent the first half of the movie in terrified denial.  She is pretty, but not blonde.  Yay for not blonde pretties! And she’s not afraid to throw a knife at a charging werewolf.  Yay for badassery!

Speaking of blond pretties, Jace’s actor was fun to watch. He’s a smartass but somehow his actor made you feel as though it was his way of protecting himself.  Interesting layering in his performance that I was not expecting from someone so young…and pretty.  I was a little disappointed that he didn’t end up bloodier after the final boss battle. He would be very pretty in red, but that’s my personal er-thing.

The rest of the cast are equally good, no scenes felt contrived or poorly acted.  The plot itself was full of tropes, but without being overly predictable.  I especially liked where and how the special object was hidden.  Having watched it, I am now convinced to go buy the books.

I am rather intrigued by how obsessed we’ve become with the supernatural.  While it seems to be a trend, like superhero movies, it covers every genre from books and graphic novels to television shows and movies.  It seems the more atheistic our society becomes the more these types of shows and books appeal to our fantasies.  That subject might be interesting to explore in another post.

Don’t forget my sci-fi novel Sorrow’s Fall is available on Amazon.  The Kindle edition is only $.99!

Sorrow's Fall Cover

Guest Post by Clare Davidson: Four books for authors (and why I love them)

This week I am very happy to have author Clare Davidson as my guest.  Clare is the author of Reaper’s Rhythm.

When everyone thinks your sister committed suicide, it’s hard to prove she was murdered.

Kim is unable to accept Charley’s sudden death. Crippled by an unnatural amnesia, her questions are met with wall after wall. As she doubts her sanity, she realises her investigation is putting those around her in danger.

The only person who seems to know anything is Matthew, an elusive stranger who would rather vanish than talk. Despite his friendly smile, Kim isn’t sure she can trust him. But if she wants to protect her family from further danger, Kim must work with Matthew to discover how Charley died – before it’s too late.



Clare has been kind enough to give me a list of books she considers valuable resources for a writer.  Without further ado, Clare:


Four books for authors (and why I love them)

There are many good reference books out there for authors, but these are a few of the ones I’ve used (lots), in no particular order.

The Definitive Guide to Writing On Your Terms Using Your Own Honest-To-God Gut-Wrenching Voice, by Rebecca T. Dickson.

Full disclosure here, Rebecca was the editor for Reaper’s Rhythm. However, I paid for my copy of this book.

The focus of this book (as the title suggests) is on writing with your own voice. Rebecca offers a series of tools and exercises that help you switch off the internal editor and trust in your own voice as a writer. It’s a book that helps to free you up to just write. It’s written in a very honest way and includes real examples from real authors. If you’re struggling with self doubt, or even just how to get the ideas from your head onto paper, you’ll find this book really useful.

And yes, I’d absolutely recommend Rebecca as an editor too.

Let’s Get Digital: How to self publish and why you should, by David Gaughran.

This book is really useful for anyone thinking about self-publishing. As the title suggests, it gives some really compelling reasons for why you should take the leap and become an Indie author. After that, David goes through the steps of how to self publish. On top of that, he gives 33 success stories, which are inspiring if nothing else. I loved David’s no nonsense approach and his instructions helped me no end when I was publishing my first book, Trinity.

I’d also recommend David’s latest book: Let’s Get Visible: How to get noticed and sell more books.

Writing Fight Scenes, by Rayne Hall

I bought this book after taking a class with Rayne on writing fight scenes. I never had much confidence with fight scenes, but I kept writing fantasy stories with, you’ve guessed it, fight scenes in. I took the class to help me polish up a fight scene at the end of Trinity and didn’t regret it at all. The book has everything we covered in class, without the critiques. It covers different fighting styles and weapons and the types of vocabulary you should use accordingly. If you write fight scenes, this book is an absolute must.

The Emotion Thesaurus, by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi

This is exactly what you think it is. The book contains a list of emotions, in alphabetical order. For each one, it gives you a definition and lists of physical signals, internal sensations, mental responses, long-term responses, suppressed responses and a tips section at the end.

Obviously, some of the responses are repeated for different emotions – there’s only so many reactions, or gestures we can do. However, used in the context of your own writing, this is a fantastic resource, which can really help you show rather than tell.

It’s My Fandom, Get Your Money Grubbing Hands Off.

As you know, I am a huge geek.  I love my fandoms.  I especially love fan fiction.

There is something raw and visceral about a lot of fan fiction and I don’t just mean the horrid grammar, atrocious spelling and lack of knowledge of basic english.  No, it’s the willingness to push characters and situations to their very limits.  Yes technically it is copyright infringement and yes I understand the legal implications involved.  Though it’s difficult to remain sanctimonious about it when so many famous authors got started in their careers by writing it.  My shortlist:

Yes, you read those names right.  There are many, many more where they came from.  Fan fiction is like training wheels on a bike.  You read or watch something that you cannot stop thinking about. Soon a story blossoms in the dark reaches of your mind and festers there.  You’ve never written anything before.  Never sat on that bike.  Yet you can’t help but wonder where these characters might take you. So you hop on and crash a burn.  No worries, we all are terrible when we first start.  Therein lies the beauty of fan fiction.  It’s a relatively safe place to learn the mechanics of writing outside academia.  You post your story to or or A03 and pray you get feedback.  You will and a lot of it will consist of; ‘This is great. More please.’ ‘This sucks.  You don’t know the characters.’ and the ubiquitous ‘Nice job.’  What really matters is that you are writing.  Because only by writing will you get better.

That’s not the only reason to enjoy fan fiction.  Readers love it too.  It can help fandoms live long beyond their end show or last publication.  It keeps interest fresh and new even when there is no longer any new content from the creators.  You have only to look at the Buffy the Vampire fandom to see this miracle of fan creation at work.  Currently airing or recently published works also benefit from fan fiction.  Go to click on TV shows and see which shows are in the top three with the most stories.  Those shows have the most active fandoms across all social networks.  Check Tumblr if you dare. (I am not responsible for any mental and/or emotional trauma that results.)  I promise you the fandoms are massive and they love to spend money, create memes and sail their many ships.

It’s the spending money part that has caught the attention of Amazon.  They posted a press release earlier today.  Here is the opening paragraph:

SEATTLE–(BUSINESS WIRE)–May. 22, 2013– (NASDAQ:AMZN)—Today, Amazon Publishing announces Kindle Worlds, the first commercial publishing platform that will enable any writer to create fan fiction based on a range of original stories and characters and earn royalties for doing so. Amazon Publishing has secured licenses from Warner Bros. Television Group’s Alloy Entertainment division for its New York Times best-selling book series Gossip Girl, by Cecily von Ziegesar; Pretty Little Liars, by Sara Shepard; and Vampire Diaries, by L.J. Smith; and plans to announce more licenses soon. Through these licenses, Kindle Worlds will allow any writer to publish authorized stories inspired by these popular Worlds and make them available for readers to purchase in the Kindle Store.

So the basic premise is, if you meet their sure to be uber strict criterion you will get your fan fiction published.   Here is the catch taken directly from the Amazon website:

Kindle Worlds for Authors

Kindle Worlds is easy to use. When the Kindle Worlds Self-Service Submission Platform opens, you will be able to upload your story easily—along with a title, editorial description, and other information. Sign up to be notified when we launch the platform.

  • Kindle Worlds will accept novels, novellas, and short stories inspired by the Worlds we have licensed.
  • Using our Cover Creator, you will be able to design a cover for your Kindle Worlds story.
  • World Licensors have provided Content Guidelines for each World, and your work must follow these Content Guidelines. We strongly encourage you to read the Content Guidelines before you commit the time and effort to write.
  • Stories will be available in digital format exclusively on, Kindle devices, iOS, Android, and PC/Mac via our Kindle Free Reading apps. We hope to offer additional formats in the future.
  • You will receive monthly royalty reports and payments for all copies sold.

Start Writing Now

Here are the details that will help you get started:

  • All works accepted for Kindle Worlds will be published by Amazon Publishing.
  • Amazon Publishing will pay royalties to the rights holder for the World (we call them World Licensors) and to you. Your standard royalty rate for works of at least 10,000 words will be 35% of net revenue.
  • In addition, with the launch of Kindle Worlds, Amazon Publishing will pilot an experimental new program for particularly short works (between 5,000 and 10,000 words). For these short stories—typically priced under one dollar—Amazon will pay the royalties for the World Licensor and will pay authors a digital royalty of 20% of net revenue. The lower royalty for these shorter works is due to significantly higher fixed costs per digital copy (for example, credit-card fees) when prices for the entire class of content will likely be under one dollar.
  • As with all titles from Amazon Publishing, Kindle Worlds will base net revenue off of customer sales price—rather than the lower industry standard of wholesale price—and royalties will be paid monthly.
  • Amazon Publishing will acquire all rights to your new stories, including global publication rights, for the term of copyright.
  • Kindle Worlds is a creative community where Worlds grow with each new story. You will own the copyright to the original, copyrightable elements (such as characters, scenes, and events) that you create and include in your work, and the World Licensor will retain the copyright to all the original elements of the World. When you submit your story in a World, you are granting Amazon Publishing an exclusive license to the story and all the original elements you include in that story. This means that your story and all the new elements must stay within the applicable World. We will allow Kindle Worlds authors to build on each other’s ideas and elements. We will also give the World Licensor a license to use your new elements and incorporate them into other works without further compensation to you.
  • Amazon Publishing will set the price for Kindle Worlds stories. Most will be priced from $0.99 through $3.99.

Content Guidelines for Kindle Worlds

  • Pornography: We don’t accept pornography or offensive depictions of graphic sexual acts.
  • Offensive Content: We don’t accept offensive content, including but not limited to racial slurs, excessively graphic or violent material, or excessive use of foul language.
  • Illegal and Infringing Content: We take violations of laws and proprietary rights very seriously. It is the authors’ responsibility to ensure that their content doesn’t violate laws or copyright, trademark, privacy, publicity, or other rights.
  • Poor Customer Experience: We don’t accept books that provide a poor customer experience. Examples include poorly formatted books and books with misleading titles, cover art, or product descriptions. We reserve the right to determine whether content provides a poor customer experience.
  • Excessive Use of Brands: We don’t accept the excessive use of brand names or the inclusion of brand names for paid advertising or promotion.
  • Crossover: No crossovers from other Worlds are permitted, meaning your work may not include elements of any copyright-protected book, movie, or other property outside of the elements of this World.


Well the first content guideline rules out about 90% of all fan fiction ever written. The second one rules out another 5-7% and oops there is number four.  Looks like we are down to 100% of fan fiction currently available on any posting platform being unpublishable by their standards.  They want G-rated fan fic?  Are they serious?  Most of those shows are PG-13 at least.

As someone who loves fan fiction I’m a bit frustrated that they want to monetize something that is free for everyone.  Fandoms and fan fiction are the fan’s domain, not the CEO’s.  We already buy the books and the DVDs, go to the conventions, buy the swag and give them free advertising so why are they trying to take away one of the last free things we have?

On the other hand I have read some fan fic authors that should be published. Like, yesterday.  They are that good.*  Do I think they should publish their fan fiction.  No.  I think they are good enough, talented enough to create their own original work and create all new fandoms for us to run after with open wallets.

Do I think Amazon is in the wrong here?  No, they saw a legitimate way to monetize something that millions of people are getting for free at the moment and also bring great writers to the public’s attention.

Do I have reservations?  Absolutely.  There are a myriad problems that could and will crop up once the platform goes live.  I expect it to crash repeatedly and be so backlogged they shut it down.  Then there is the creative side of things to consider.  Who protects the author and their rights?  35% royalties sound nice until you stop to consider that this is on the NET profit of the story. So all Amazon’s bills have to be paid and the author then gets 35% of what is left over.  I can tell you it’s not always very much.  I get maybe $1.00 per book that retails for $8.50.

As an author is it worth it?  That’s up to you the author, but I would be very diligent about reading the fine print.  Just remember what Amazon put in their press release:

Forward-Looking Statements

This announcement contains forward-looking statements within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933 and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. Actual results may differ significantly from management’s expectations. (Italics mine.) These forward-looking statements involve risks and uncertainties that include, among others, risks related to competition, management of growth, new products, services and technologies, potential fluctuations in operating results, international expansion, outcomes of legal proceedings and claims, fulfillment and data center optimization, seasonality, commercial agreements, acquisitions and strategic transactions, foreign exchange rates, system interruption, inventory, government regulation and taxation, payments and fraud. More information about factors that potentially could affect’s financial results is included in’s filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, including its most recent Annual Report on Form 10-K and subsequent filings.


Now, I’m going to go read some Supernatural Destiel smut while it’s still free.

*EL James is on my shit list too, fyi.

Within You

Cognitive immersion, absorption, deep reading.  Whichever term you use to describe it, if you have ever found yourself so caught up in a narrative that you forget where you are, then you have experienced it.

Reading is a unique experience.  It literally requires us to think differently.  Unlike viewing a movie or a piece of art or engaging in sports it makes us set aside all need to act or react.  Instead we allow ourselves to relax into the narrative, knowing that nothing we do externally or otherwise will change the outcome.  No other medium allows us such an intimate look into the thoughts and motivation of another person.

French novelist Marcel Proust wrote in 1906 “that which is the end of [the author’s] wisdom appears to us as but the beginning of ours.”  In other words, we take the authors words and from their sensory clues build a world and an understanding of how it works.  We learn vicariously through the experiences of the characters.

Editor Peter Dimok made the statement in 2010 that ‘[this] kind of reading, then is a time of internal solitary consciousness in which the reading consciousness is brought up to the level of knowledge of the author-the furthest point another mind has reached, as it were . . .”

Norman N. Holland’s essay Literature and the Brain discusses this phenomenon.   As stated in Nicholas Carr’s blog Thinking about Reading.  (

‘“We gain a special trance-like state of mind in which we become unaware of our bodies and our environment,” explains Holland. “We are ‘transported.’” It is only when we leave behind the incessant busyness of our lives in society that we open ourselves to literature’s transformative emotional power. That doesn’t mean that reading is anti-social. The central subject of literature is society, and when we lose ourselves in a book we often receive an education in the subtleties and vagaries of human relations. Several studies have shown that reading tends to make us more empathetic, more alert to the inner lives of others. The reader withdraws in order to connect more deeply.’

In essence the author has shared their mind with the reader.

There have been multiple studies conducted to measure and quantify how the brain reads and what, if any changes, take place.   Many postulate that deep reading makes us more sympathetic.

Gale Roebuck in her blog post Technology is not the enemy in the battle for the book noted that:

‘Psychologists from Washington University used brain scans to see what happens inside our heads when we read stories. They found that ”readers mentally simulate each new situation encountered in a narrative”. The brain weaves these situations together with experiences from its own life to create a new mental synthesis. Reading a book leaves us with new neural pathways.

The discovery that our brains are physically changed by the experience of reading is something many of us will understand instinctively, as we think back to the way an extraordinary book had a transformative effect on the way we view the world. This transformation only takes place when we lose ourselves in a book, abandoning the emotional and mental chatter of the real world. That’s why studies have found this kind of deep reading makes us more empathetic, or, as Nicholas Carr puts it in his essay The Dreams of Readers, ”more alert to the inner lives of others”.’

Read more:

So what are your thoughts on this issue?  Does reading make us more sympathetic?  Should we be concerned over the ‘fast food’ style reading that permeates our culture now?

Without You

This week I was treated to a massive dose of sanity threatening emotional issues.  Some were happening in real life, the rest happened in two of my favorite fandoms.  I won’t bore you with my real life issues that involve being pregnant and having to move.  However, I was rather surprised by the strength of my reaction to two different story plots.  It led me to wonder what causes us readers to become so emotionally invested in characters that we weep over them as though they were real.

The first thing I realized was that each story line was excellently crafted, the characters expertly fleshed out and realistic.  The fact that both subplots that emotionally devastated me were romantic ones is nothing short of ironic.  I am not a romantic person.  Ask anyone who knows me personally.  Typical romances bore me to tears.

So how did these characters manage to drag me into the narrative and hold me there over months?  Lets look at them.

Let Your Light Shine

First I will discuss Green Lantern: The Animated Series since that was the first blow to hit last Saturday when the final episode aired. Just the fact it was cancelled after one season was harsh enough.  Then I had to deal with the tragedy that was affectionately referred to by fans as Razaya.

Razer and Aya

Over the course of the season we watched Razor grow and change and fall in love with the ship’s AI, Aya.  Both characters started out seemingly one dimensional but very quickly we were treated to various aspects of their personalities.  Razor grew from being the angry Red Lantern to a multidimensional, complex and conflicted individual.  Aya quickly went from the ship’s navigation computer to a full fledged member of the team.  Both made misjudgments  said things that were taken wrong and just generally where adorable together.  All you have to do is search Tumblr for the tag #Razaya to see how much the fans loved this pairing.

There was a lot to love about it.  It was realistically portrayed and organically developed over the length of the series.  Even the creators were surprised at how loved the two became.  So how did they achieve it?

More on that in a moment.  Now on to the second source of my woe.

Never Let You Go

As many of you know, I am a huge Transformers fan and have been reading the current IDW Publishing series Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye.    The past Wednesday the newest issue, #15, was released.  I had been dreading this issue.  Mostly because I knew the happy times were over and things were going to get bad.  People were going to die. And they did.  Horribly in some cases and horribly tragic in others.  (If you have not read the series, please go do so as from here on there will be major spoilers.  You can find the entire run on Comixology.)

One pairing I’ve spoken about before, Chromedome and Rewind pretty much took center stage this issue.  Mostly due to Chromdome’s involvement in the accidental release of the unstoppable and extremely deadly Overlord.  In a scant thirty minutes the entire crew of the Lost Light is subjected to his murderous rampage.  He is only slowed when Rhodimus utters a trip phrase that Chromedome had implanted in his subconscious.  Fortress Maximus, having been released from the brig by Rung, drags Overlord back to the temporal prison he’d escaped from.  It is at this time that Chromedome decides that having the Phase Sixer anywhere near them, even in a prison cell, is too close and goes to jettison the cell.  Except a sword is preventing the mechanism from closing.  Rewind, Chromedome’s life partner, sacrifices himself to get the doors closed and ends up trapped in the cell, floating in space with Overlord.

The phrase that will come back to haunt Chromedome forever.

It’s at this point that Chromedome realizes that Overlord is going to kill Rewind in the slowest and most painful way possible and does the only thing he can think of to spare his lover any more pain.

This panel still makes me tear up.  These two had a very long history together, had been by each other’s sides when they faced death, fought together, with each other and generally behaved like any other loving married couple.  The writer, James Roberts, skillfully wove their relationship into the narrative while developing their personalities and backstory.

Forever and Always

In both of these cases the writers took great pains to make sure the characters were realistic and relatable  None of the characters are human.  Yet we the reader/viewer find ways to identify with them.  Maybe it’s Razor’s rage and inability to control it or Aya’s need to be accepted as her own person.  Or it could be Chromedome’s desire to be useful.  Or even Rewind’s desperation to keep Chromedome safe and healthy when his line of work is so dangerous and mentally detrimental.  It could be all or none of these things.  Either way, most of us have faced something similar at some time in our life and it is by tapping into this that the writers help us to understand and sympathize with the characters.

They created people, not just characters.  Each of them had their own motivations, goals, dreams and flaws.  They each acted and reacted according to what happened around them, just as we all do.  They had emotional, sometimes visceral reactions that ended up leading them to make wrong and in two cases, deadly choices.

We as writers must always strive to give our reader as much emotional input as possible in our stories.  It would be a disservice to our readers to do other wise.  We owe it to them to help them not just empathize, but sympathize with our characters.  Too laugh and cry along with them.  In doing so we build not just an artificial world, but a reader who is capable of much greater sympathy out in the real world.


The Age of the Anti-Hero has been long.   Some credit George Lucas and Han Solo for popularizing the trend that had started first in literature.  Some literary anti-heroes are Victor Frankenstein from Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein;  Jay Gatsby from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby;  Gollum from J. R. R. Tolkein‘s Lord of the Rings series;  Batman created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger; Dexter Morgan from Jeff Lindsay’s Darkly Dreaming Dexter (also popularized as a tv series).

Basically an anti-hero is a hero who sees morals as more of a guideline than an absolute.  They are not averse to breaking laws and bending rules to reach their stated goal.

So what lead to the downfall of the traditional hero?

People wanted someone they felt they could relate more closely too, not some moral ideal.  They wanted a hero that was gritty and as morally corrupt, or at least questionable, as they feel themselves to be.  This trend has spawned a great number of vigilante types in fiction and movies.  While they (usually) make for interesting characters, the type has grown stale and overused due to ceaseless repetition of the same tropes.

As any of you who follow this blog know, I’m a huge fan of villains.  Anti-heroes amuse me because they are pseudo-villains.  Now this is not to say that there aren’t some that I don’t genuinely like.  While they are a grittier, more true to life hero than say, Superman, they still have their issues.

So it was with much surprise and a little chagrin that I realized I had found a true hero that I’m completely in love with.  Let me explain what I mean by true hero and then I will discuss my adoration of this character.

A hero is morally upright, places great importance on doing what is right and just, does everything in their power to help those who are weaker or in maligned condition, they have integrity, honor, are trustworthy and true to their word.  Their sense of right and wrong guides all they do.

I’m getting bored just explaining the term.

But I understand that this is something all of us wish we were and few of us will ever fully accomplish.  So now on to how I fell in love with a hero.

I tend to watch cartoons with my children.  My son had found a newer cartoon on Netflix that I didn’t really pay attention to until he was several episodes in.  I sat through one episode and was hooked.  At first I was more interested in the villains, but then in one episode the hero did something I found shocking.  He made a mistake, an error in judgement that resulted in people getting hurt.  And it hurt him.  He was mortified and humble in is apology.  Something sparked in my mind and I began to watch him more closely.  By the end of the second season I am not ashamed to say that I was an emotional wreck.  I won’t spoil the ending for you but it was not a typical one for a children’s cartoon.

You are probably wondering who I’m talking about.  So please allow me to introduce him:

Optimus Prime in the new Hub series Transformers Prime

Meet Optimus Prime.  At least his newest iteration.  I grew up watching Beast Wars and later Transformers Animated (which I gladly will forget, even when it first was out I got irritated with it) then along came the Bay movies.  But it wasn’t until this most recent aligned continuity (which includes 2 novels, 2 video games, comics and the cartoon) that I feel Optimus really came into his own.  His backstory is much richer and more involved than ever before with two novels explaining where he came from and how he met Megatron.  Previously, we were shown little of how Optimus became leader of the Autobots and came to wage war on the Decepticons.  In the Bay movies he’s not given much characterization other than being a warrior and the leader of the Autobots.  Transformers Prime (TFP) goes way beyond this and even allows us to see him not just as a Prime but as a person.  He has fears, hopes, makes mistakes, gets embarrassed and enraged, but through it all he is still Optimus Prime.

His first self imposed priority is to keep his team safe.  Next he does his best to protect humanity.  Life, all life, is precious to him and he even hesitates to deliver the final blow to his enemies.  He states several times that it is his desire not to kill the Decepticons but  to change their minds.  Being an Autobot or a Decepticon is a choice and one that  carries with it grave consequences.

Optimus might be humble and willing to listen to his team, but that doesn’t mean he is a push over either.  He is not above admitting his mistakes either.  In the final episodes of season one he faces one of his greatest challenges in the form of a god reborn.  Even when facing a figure out of Cybertron’s distant past he displays great courage, honor and humility in addressing Unicron.  If you do not wish to have the show spoiled for you, do not click play.

I’m sure you are wondering just which episode turned my head, so to speak.  Honestly, it was late in season two and the Autobots had just suffered a resounding defeat.  Optimus returned to base wounded and went right back to work trying to decode the Iacon database in the hopes of finding some way to defeat the Decepticons.  It was at this moment I realized just how selfless and self sacrificing he is.  Going back and re-watching the entire series I gained a much greater understanding of him and of his determination.  I gained an all new respect for him as a character once I read the novels. He’s suffered through some horrific things and had immense responsibility thrust on him.  Yet, he hasn’t given up or wavered in his beliefs.

Most heroes seem two dimensional at best.  They seem to be self-righteous do gooders, incapable of true humility even if they are self sacrificing.  Altruism while an admirable quality is often seen as a weakness by most.  Being willing to sacrifice oneself is one thing, knowing the appropriate time is another.  In the novel Transformers: Exodus by Alex Irvine, Optimus makes a very valid point about honor and sacrifice, one that I have never seen put so plainly or even addressed.  He asked a fellow Autobot what the worth of honor was if that honor led to a senseless death that could have been avoided?  It is this attitude that endears him to me.  He sees the bigger picture, he understands that having honor and pride is not enough, it must be tempered with humility and meekness.  Realizing that one cannot always win just because they think they are in the right.  Sometimes losing is just as effective, you allow your enemy to misjudge, miscalculate and overreach.

This does not mean that Optimus has not made errors in judgement or simple mistakes.  He is not infallible and he’s not make out to be.  But he accepts these failures, learns from them and becomes more determined.  He’s not afraid to apologize and admit he is wrong, to his own team or to their human allies.

There are many other reasons why I find him so appealing, but I feel that it is best to discover them on your own.  I’m still getting used to the fact that I adore the big bot.  It’s a testament to the skill of the new writers that they’ve made a hero even I can love.